A Republican candidate for the state legislature said Tuesday that he has spent $59.05 of his own money to set up an Internet website, Rochambeautrail.com, to save the Democrat-controlled General Assembly the trouble — and save taxpayers the expense — of going through with a plan approved by the Senate Monday night: to spend up to $180,000 to establish a historical website to highlight the route that the French general, Rochambeau, followed across Connecticut during the American Revolution.
Greg Bachand, of Wallingford – a 62-year-old lawyer seeking the Republican nomination to run for the 85th District state House of Representatives seat now held by Democrat Mary Mushinsky – issued a press release Tuesday, touting his short-circuiting of the bureaucratic process.
“Bachand Publishes RochambeauTrail.com, saves taxpayers $179,940.95,” was the headline on his release.
His light-hearted publicity ploy came a day after the state Senate voted 31-4 to approve a bill calling for the state to develop an Internet website by Jan. 1 to “to highlight that portion of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail that is located in the state.” The cost of up to $180,000 would be shared equally by the state and federal governments under the bill. One of the four Republican senators who voted against it Monday night said $180,000 seems a “huge” amount to pay for a website, adding that the state’s portion would come from a fund intended to promote manufacturing – not tourism, which is the focus of the proposed website.
The bill now goes to the House. But before it comes up for a vote there, Bachand jumped on the issue Tuesday. He said that it took only five minutes to set up the new website on godaddy.com. His daughter, Tanya Bachand, who is his assistant campaign treasurer, said he gave her the information that he wanted put on the site, and she did the actual setting up on godaddy.com.
The site contains only one historical link, the candidate said in the press release: “to Wikipedia’s entry for the Washington-Rochambeau Route.”
“It’s the least I could do,” he said in his statement. “With Connecticut’s portion of the cost ($90,000) coming from a manufacturing grant fund meant to create jobs in the State, I thought it important to keep that money available for what it was intended, rather than have it frittered away Hartford Style in a boondoggle website that few will care about and fewer will visit.”
The job of establishing the site would fall to the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
During Monday night’s Senate session, the debate ranged from history to frivolity and then to frugality.
Democratic Sen. Gary LeBeau said that Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, the French nobleman and general who assisted the colonists in the Revolution, had camped with his troops on Silver Lane, in LeBeau’s hometown of East Hartford. LeBeau also said that the street’s name is derived from the fact that Rochambeau “paid his troops in silver.”
Sen. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, who supported the bill, later referred to LeBeau as “Senator Rochambeau,” then corrected himself and called him “Senator LeBeau.”
Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said “although I believe it’s important for us to cherish our history … $180,000 is a huge amount of money” to establish a website. Also, he said the state’s $90,000 is coming from the manufacturing grant fund.
The Rochambeau trail isn’t confined to Connecticut. It begins in Newport, Rhode Island, where the French general and his more than 5,000 troops landed by sea. After crossing Connecticut, it continues south through New York, where the French joined the Continental Army of George Washington, and then through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland into Virginia. That’s where combined American and French armies forced British General Cornwallis to surrender in October 1781 at the decisive battle of Yorktown.
Bachand and Republican rival Shauna E. Simon-Glidden are expected to vie for the nomination at May 18 party convention. He said that Mushinsky wasn’t “in office when Mr. Rochambeau gave out coins on Silver Lane in East Hartford,” but he predicted that she would “support spending taxpayer dollars on telling people about it.”
“Here’s the problem,” he said. “Wikipedia already tells us all we need to know about Mr. Rochambeau. It’s not Hartford’s job to go about creating websites about obscure historical figures. … Go see the map [via the website]. It’s got a line on the map that clearly shows he went through East Hartford… And a bunch of other towns too… And the line is blue, how appropriate. It’s already perfect. Why reinvent the wheel?”
“Of course I’m willing to turn ownership of the site over to the appropriate private group when they come forward,” Bachand said. “I will expect them to reimburse me my $59.05, though.”