May 27, 2008 * MAY IS NATIONAL BICYCLE MONTH*
By Ken Krayeske • 2:45 PM EST
Mass media personalities have a responsibility to hold people in positions of power accountable. WPLR morning show hosts Chaz and AJ continue to land great interview subjects, yet they continue to grant deferential treatment to these public officials.
And the big picture - particularly on transit - flies right by. Let me say that I think Chaz and AJ have the best morning show in the state. But they still don’t meet the standards that our democracy should demand on its airwaves.
Consider this critique of their 50,000 watt press releases not just in the interest of deflating hot air bags, but in the interest of improving what is already good to become better.
For example, Tuesday morning, Chaz and AJ gave outgoing Speaker of the House Jim Amann at least 30 minutes of air time, where he answered live listener calls.
Compare that to the time they gave my attorney, Norman A. Pattis, last week. Not only is Norm funnier than any politician I have ever met, but he actually attempted to discuss a potential ethical lapse of a state cop who landed his fiancé by getting her phone number in exchange for not giving her a speeding ticket.
With Rep. Jim Amann, Chaz and AJ and crew played no such hardball. They even introduced him as a gubernatorial candidate. Voter fatigue has already set in on the presidential election, which is six months away, why on earth do we want to create a perpetual campaign for governor, which is two years away?
When Amann revealed that Gov. M. Jodi Rell purchased 20 or so hybrid vehicles designed to run on ethanol, but that no ethanol fueling stations exist in Connecticut, Chaz and AJ didn’t ask him how is the legislative branch going to check the executive branch’s excess here? Nor did they ask how he would prevent such a dismal performance if he were executive.
They bitched about the gubernatorial gaffe throughout the show, but jeez, Amann bears some responsibility for good governance as the head of the legislative branch. He got a free pass to campaign against Rell.
Earlier in the interview, Amann criticized Rell/Rowland’s performance on the $200 million boondoggle from CRRA, and tried to compare the lack of cost overruns at Yankee Stadium versus the massively blown budget at the new rail yard in New Haven.
And Amann also claimed that Rowland’s $57 million juvenile training school was gathering dust. As far as I know, it is still packed with young blacks and Latinos. In fact, Connecticut has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country for young blacks and Latinos.
Haven’t the Democrats learned that it is a little too late to pin Rowland’s corruption on Rell? She has her own treasure trove of ethical missteps. But the phones were ringing.
A caller from from Torrington who had a job in Wilton, but couldn’t find affordable housing there, wanted to know what the picture for mass transit was.
Bleak. Amann offered that a spur rail line runs from Waterbury to Bridgeport. But, yeah, that’s insufficient. The transit picture in morning show land only gets worse.
After Amann’s free pass, Paul Vance, state police spokesman, discussed highway safety over the holiday weekend. If we ever needed an adversarial meeting of the press and power, it is with a state cop spokesman.
Vance reeled off grim statistics – seven fatalities on Connecticut roadways this weekend, 1217 speeding tickets, some 1,300 moving violations, and 66 drunk drivers apprehended at sobriety checkpoints.
Anyone want to play devil’s advocate and discuss the Fourth Amendment implications of random searches? OK – so Constitutional Law may not be for morning show jocks. Let’s stick with being press flacks for the powerful.
Perhaps worse, Chaz and AJ walked us all right into the coming authoritarian structure, complying dutifully when Vance said “We need the press and public” to create safe roadways.
Let me clue you all in on a dirty little secret – highways will never be safe. A certain number of deaths are expected in the engineering specs for freeways. Our system of transportation has a death ratio implied.
It was a virtual guarantee that people would die on the roads this weekend. It happens all the time. Cars are the number one killer of young people in America. Period. We have 9/11’s once a month on our highways across the country.
But I won’t count on Chaz and AJ to comment on it. They earn their money from morning traffic reports and SUV commercials for bad ideas like the “Let’s refuel America” campaign. Here’s Jeep offering a 12,000 mile $2.99 a gallon gas guarantee for SUVs. If it isn’t stupid subsidize really, really inefficient modes of transportation because we can’t change, I don’t know what is.
So here’s the crux of the biscuit: why can’t Chaz and AJ put together the big transportation picture? Even Paul Krugman from the New York Times understands that the age of the car must come to a close. Connecticut won’t leave it without kicking and screaming.
We have a mode of transportation in Connecticut which kills people by its very existence. To fuel that, we violated international law and started a war, and now that fuel is costing us an arm and a leg. And Chaz and AJ can’t ask why Metro-North doesn’t run from New Haven to Hartford?
Perhaps it is this deference that allows them to continue to fill their guest spots with seeming A-Listers. Tomorrow they will interview the Daily News White House correspondent, and a local television personality. Great. Same mass media points of view.
How about guests with fresh points of view that could benefit your politically-savvy audience? Paul Bass, Melissa Bailey or even Melinda Tuhus, a transportation expert, from the New Haven Independent? Heidi Green of 1,000 Friends-CT? A representative from Elm City Cyclists? Tri-State Transportation? Transportation Alternatives?
Please, talk to someone, anyone who is not already on the airwaves. It’s like oxygen.