6:32 PM EST, January 9, 2013
State officials know they must respond to the Newtown massacre and do whatever can be done to prevent another seriously disturbed gunman from slaughtering innocent people. It has to be a top priority.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made that clear in his State of the State address on Wednesday. Barely able to hold back tears as he recalled the murders of 20 small children and six female educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, Mr. Malloy vowed to make improvements in school safety, mental health services and gun violence prevention.
Also, as is customary in such speeches, Mr. Malloy recounted the achievements of his two years in office, in deficit reduction, economic development, education, energy, pension fund stabilization and emergency storm response. Mr. Malloy can rightly point to progress in all of these areas.
What he didn't provide on Wednesday was a blueprint for 2013 beyond the Newtown response. Mr. Malloy's budget presentation next month will address the major challenge of a meeting an estimated $1.1 billion deficit in 2013-14. We would also urge his attention to economic development in urban areas and more planning for the effects of climate change.
'VERY DARK ROAD'
Not yet a month removed, the Newtown shootings suffused the moment. Newtown's highly regarded First Selectwoman Pat Llodra and school superintendent Janet Robinson were in the audience and received prolonged and emotional applause. "We have all walked a very long and very dark road together," said Mr. Malloy.
He said the state must do "everything in our power" to see that it never again suffers such a loss, and called for "real steps to make our kids and our communities safer." A Sandy Hook advisory commission and others are working on what these steps will be.
One should be better mental health treatment. Mr. Malloy spoke of the obligation to help when a person asks for or demonstrates the need for treatment. Can the money be found for the services the state needs? It may not be the answer to finding and stopping the next mass shooter, though it could be, but it is something that would help a lot of people.
Mr. Malloy promises to improve school security without, thankfully, arming teachers or posting guards outside every classroom. More than 850 local officials and parents attended a workshop Monday featuring national experts on ways to improve security without turning schools into armed camps.
Several legislators have proposed tightening the state's gun laws. Hopefully lawmakers will make progress in all of these areas.
Mr. Malloy spoke of a holistic approach to economic development, referring to his efforts to attract or retain large companies and small businesses as well as nurturing start-ups. Though this includes investments in cities, we think a direct urban economic strategy would benefit the state in several ways. It would provide jobs where they are most needed, and lessen the demand for social, medical and judicial services that drive much of the budget.
The bungled response to the storms of 2011 led to a stronger and better coordinated defense against Hurricane Sandy in 2012. But it's time to step back and start thinking about what Connecticut should do in an era of rising water levels and more severe and frequent storms.
This should be a two-part process. If we believe, as most climate scientists do, that climate change is related to the burning of fossil fuels, then as a state and region we should look for ways to burn less of it. We must also think the heretofore unthinkable — that we may have to retreat from low-lying parts of the Caonnecticut shore. How many times can some areas be rebuilt?
Many of these matters, from climate control to gun control, need the cooperation of the federal government, at a time when Congress can barely cooperate with itself. The state must do what it can.
Fasten your seat belts; this should be a most interesting session.
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