June 22, 2011
By Ken Krayeske • 11:00 PM EST
"Uninsered attorneys?" State representative Kelvin Roldan's Frankie isn't for his error-filled website, but for his abuse of franking privileges. Either way, trust him as Hartford City Treasurer like you would Paul Silvester. Not ever.
This week sees the resurrection of an old 40-Year Plan favorite, the awarding of the Frankie.
Only elected officials who grossly abuse the Franking Privilege – the ability to send mail to constituents on the taxpayer dime – earn Frankies.
It has been quite some time since we awarded a Frankie, largely because perennial Frankie honoree Mayor Eddie Perez has been convicted, and has not been sending those obnoxious four-color flyers.
Ahh, but Perez taught his mentees well, and the winner of this special Frankie for Toeing Line of Unethical and Illegal is (drumroll, please) Kelvin Roldan, Democratic State Representative from the fourth district in Hartford.
About three weeks ago, Roldan used taxpayer monies to send out a simple black and white 8.5” x 5.5” postcard touting his success in “Job Creation Measures.” Trust me, if Roldan did anything worthwhile on job creation, it would have been news, and he wouldn’t need a frank to tell you what he’s been up to.
The only news Roldan made recently was a day on the Hartford Courant’s web cycle as a hypocrite. Roldan and his side-kick attacked Mayor Segarra for an alleged conflict of interest. (Conflict of interest disclaimer – my fiancé works in Mayor Segarra’s administration, and I abstain from covering the Mayor’s office).
But please, dear reader, recall Roldan’s deafening silence during the torturous fall of Perez. Roldan said nothing when everyone and their brother called for Perez's resignation. Or think of Roldan’s silence on state Rep. Hector Robles dishonor.
Why does Roldan remain mum about Robles’ termination as a cop and arrest on theft charges and refusal to resign from elective office? If you’re going to call ethics on one person, call ethics equally on everyone. To challenge one enemy on ethics and not any allies abuses honor as a hammer for political gain. This rank opportunism is one reason citizens and columnists loathe politicians like Roldan.
When Roldan came out against Segarra, he was posturing for a run at city-wide office. Which office, we couldn’t be sure. With last week’s announcement, he says he wants to be City Treasurer. We should trust Roldan in the City Treasurer’s office like we might trust Paul Silvester. Not. Ever. Never.
And this is why Roldan wins the Frankie for Toeing the Line of Unethical and Illegal. Roldan knew he was running for office. He has been angling for new office for a long time. Yet he sent out campaign literature disguised as a frank just in time to skirt the line on the franking laws and avoid a complaint to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
State law sets the rules. Specifically, Connecticut General Statutes Section 9-610(d)(1) says: “No incumbent holding office shall, during the three months preceding an election in which he is a candidate for reelection or election to another office, use public funds to mail or print flyers or other promotional materials intended to bring about his election or reelection.”
Eddie Perez took a lump on Sec. 9-610(d)(1) at least once. It is clear: no franking 90 days before an election. Ahhh, but the mayoral primary isn’t until September 13, so 90 days is June 13 give or take, and Roldan beat that by about a week. Legal. But ethical? He has been mulling a run for office for months. He knew it, but is within the letter of the law. Or is he?
If this was a state election, he'd be in violation of C.G.S. Sec. 2-15a. The legislature imposed a July 15, or 120 days before the election deadline for franking privileges on itself in even-numbered years. For me, Roldan deserves ignominy for abusing taxpayer monies to send his weak resume to voters prior to an election, when we are cutting state jobs and benefits everywhere. Bad use of tax money.
No other legislators I know have sent out a frank recently. I didn’t get one in my district from Rep. Doug McCrory or Sen. Eric Coleman. But they're not running for city office, are they? The info Roldan shared with constituents hardly impacts the daily lives of those grinding out the poverty of the Second Great Depression in Hartford.
The address side of the postcard features Roldan’s smiling mug, in a suit and tie, in front of the Connecticut flag. That will keep food off the table.
The text next to Roldan is laudatory: “The legislature tackled one of its biggest challenges – finding ways to encourage job growth in the face of a slow economic recovery.” Roldan, knowing his constituency, prints both Spanish and English.
On the reverse, Roldan touts four job creation measures, but not any bill numbers, so we can’t easily fact check what they are or how he voted on them.
Job creation measure one has a lot of fives: $50,000 can be used by 50 manufacturers with 50 or less employees for five years to reinvest in their businesses. $50,000 a year is less than a job with benefits.
Visionary would be Roldan leading the way on a massive publicly-funded green jobs program to decimate the unemployment rate in Connecticut.
Job creation measure two actually comes from an executive branch agency - the Department of Economic and Community Development. Unless there is legislative input, I don’t see how Roldan takes credit for DECD’s efforts to push industry needs into our higher education system.
Visionary would be Roldan undertaking an effort to demand civics education at all levels of Connecticut’s public education system. DECD’s agenda shows why the American Bar Association laments the inability of children to pass tests about American civics, history and self-government. But then if people knew anything about democracy, or even voted in number, Roldan would never get elected.
Job creation measure three is $25 million set aside for brownfield remediation. Brownfields are former industrial sites so contaminated that only public monies can fix them.
Visionary would be Roldan instituting policies that prevent industries from privatizing profits and socializing losses. Companies pollute our earth, take off, and stiff taxpayers with the bill. This should be illegal, and companies should be penalized for this.
This is corporate rights over human rights. Given Roldan’s unspecified desire for power and promotion within the electoral system, it hardly surprises he would miss the real issue of brownfields remediation: wealth transfer from public to private, from poor to rich.
We need to stick companies with the bill. Understanding that some of the companies are out of business, let's go after the deep pockets of the current polluters instead.
Visionary would be Roldan attacking the biggest brownfield of them all - nuclear power plant. We need to shut Millstone down, and force the energy companies to remediate it now while they are still around.
Job creation measure four is student loan reimbursement of up to $2,500 or five percent of annual tuition for four years for green tech studies.
Visionary would be Roldan championing a program to redistribute the wealth of Connecticut’s ten billionaires to fund free higher education for all. Education is a human right. The United States is one of the only countries in the western world to force students into debt for an education.
We need state representatives calling for free college tuition, not giving $2,500 on a $25,000 in-state tuition bill at UConn for green jobs only. This piecemeal approach to college tuition helps no one. The longitudinal study on this bill will be interesting.
Visionary would be college graduate Roldan fixing the errors on the front page of his official state website. (I know - glass houses, right? But the 40-Year Plan doesn’t have paid staff.) If Roldan can’t oversee his staff to fix his website, how do we expect him to oversee the executive branch or the city treasury?
A Roldan website highlight: “PROTECTING CONSUMERS FROM UNINSERED ATTORNEYS.” Or this one: “Legislation to protect kids from sex offenders receives public.” Public what? And he wants us to trust him to invest public pension funds as City Treasurer?
Roldan perseveres with a website saying: “I am currently exploring a potential run for city-wide office.” Ambition blinds candidates and voters.
A state representative who beat a sketchy competitor by three votes in a cloudy election should be fighting to prove he deserves his seat. Instead, Roldan sends voters a pathetic love letter showing how little leadership skills he has, and how little he understands the real issues facing this city.
Oh, and don’t forget to cut out the part of Roldan’s postcard that asks for your feedback. Kelvin, I’m saving the stamp, and sending you this Frankie instead.