Author Archives: Matthew Kauffman

UConn-Notre Dame, Minute-by-Minute

by Categorized: Data, Sports, UConn Date:

A nail-biter ’til the end – and then a heart-breaker for Huskies fans.

UConn-South Carolina, Minute-by-Minute

by Categorized: Data, Sports, UConn Date:

It was a close game – for 19 seconds. But after that, it was all UConn, as the women steamrolled over South Carolina to advance to the Final Four for the 11th consecutive season.

Surprise! People are Moving Out of Connecticut

by Categorized: Data Date:

United Van Lines, which moved about 110,000 people from one state to another last year, keeps tabs on where folks are going and where they are leaving. And it will come as a surprise to no one that more people are packing in Connecticut than unpacking in the state.

Connecticut ranked fourth among states with the highest percentage of outbound moves, at just over 57 percent, meaning roughly four people moved out for every three who moved in. More specifically, United had 1,229 customers move into the state, and 1,637 move out.

Only New York, New Jersey and Illinois had more lopsided numbers. Illinois, at the top of the list, had 63.4 percent of relocations occuring with the state in the rearview mirror, meaning there were nearly two outbound moves for every inbound move.

At the other end of the scale, Vermont was the most popular of the 48 contiguous states, with more than two inbound moves for every outbound move. Other popular states: Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and South Dakota – each of which had more than three inbound moves for every two outbound moves.

In Connecticut, 55 percent of inbound moves were made for job reasons, compared with 40 percent of outbound moves. About 9 percent of new residents cited retirement as the reason for the move, compared with 24 percent of movers leaving the state.

The data, of course, are not a complete picture of interstate relocation, capturing only those moves involving one professional mover. That could skew the data by over-representing wealthier movers – overstating the number of moves out of wealthier states.

But the numbers should still set off alarms in those states with significant imbalances – including Connecticut, which has been on the high end of the moving company’s list every year since 2011.

Click the map below to see data on each state’s moves. States shaded green had a net inflow of movers, with bright green states having at least 55 percent of their moves inbound. Red states had a net outflow, with bright red states having at least 55 percent of their moves outbound.

They are Sworn to Uphold the Law. So How about Obeying the Freedom of Information Act.

by Categorized: Government, Law Enforcement, Public Safety, Transparency/FOI Date:

A number of our law-enforcement employees – those folks who are paid by us for the sole purpose of serving us – have been working extra-hard lately devoting scarce time and resources to blocking our ability to hold them accountable.

For the second time this month, the state Freedom of Information Commission has had to waste its time instructing civil servants, once again, that we, as the bosses of every single person in public employment, have a legal right to know how our employees are performing the jobs we pay them to do.

And now comes word that the under-resourced Commission will have to do it again sometime down the road, based on the groundless refusal by state police to release an internal affairs investigation of two troopers who are accused in a civil suit of trumping up charges against an East Hartford man.

These issues have been settled dozens and dozens and dozens of time by the Freedom of Information Commission. And The Scoop has written on the topic multiple times. But while public employees and their lawyers are obligated to know and obey the laws of the state, the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act just don’t seem to sink in.

So as we’ve done before, here’s yet another primer on why it’s not an invasion of privacy when we the bosses want to check up on the employees we collectively hired. Continue reading

UConn-Mississippi State, Minute by Minute

by Categorized: Data, Sports, UConn, Uncategorized Date:

It took the UConn women more than half the semi-final game to find their mojo and produce 20-plus minutes of nail-biting competition. But Mississippi State met them basket-for-basket, and Morgan William’s buzzer beater in overtime ended the Huskies’ legendary 111-game winning streak – and created a new legend of her own. Read Paul Doyle’s on-the-ground account here.

Hover over the chart below to see the minute-by-minute score. And use the scroll bar or arrows in the bottom chart to see how individual players performed during the 45 minutes of play.

The Government Instinct for Secrecy Backfires Once Again

by Categorized: Education, Ethics, Government, Legal Affairs, Media, Transparency/FOI Date:

Partway through the state Child Advocate’s devastating report on Hartford schools’ failure to protect students, there is a line – almost a throwaway line – illustrating how little respect some public employees have for the citizenry that employs them and pays them.

After school principal Eduardo Genao was caught sending creepy messages to underage girls, the school system quietly took steps not to fire him, but to slide him into a different six-figure job with less direct access to teenagers. Genao, who initially demanded no more than an oral reprimand, ultimately agreed to a vaguely worded written reprimand letter, and made one more request to settle the matter.

“Through his union representative, Mr. Genao requested that the district take an ‘aggressive approach’ to any Freedom of Information Act request regarding the matter,” the Child Advocate’s report states. “A district note accompanying the letter of reprimand included a written caution that the matter must be kept ‘very confidential.’ ”

By law, of course, the misdeeds of a public employee must be kept “not the least bit confidential.” But officials with something to hide have rarely felt any loyalty to the mandates of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, or the many decisions of the Freedom of Information Commission explaining again and again that, with limited exceptions, the public gets to know what’s going on in their government.

In 1993, the Connecticut Supreme Court wrote forceful language explaining that secrecy is not permitted when it comes to the misdeeds of those who draw a salary from the taxpayers. “When a person accepts public employment, he or she becomes a servant of and accountable to the public.  As a result, that person’s reasonable expectation of privacy is diminished,” the high court wrote. “The public has a right to know not only who their employees are, but also when their public employees are and are not performing their duties.”

Case closed, right? And yet, year after year, the Freedom of Information Commission has to quote those words to remind bureaucrats who they work for, and order them to release records to the public.

Hartford school officials were not bound by Genao’s request almost a decade ago that they work aggressively to keep his past a secret. But last year, when my colleague Vanessa de la Torre sought the school system’s investigative records, the district’s initial response would surely have pleased Genao.

After two weeks with no reply, the school system’s labor relations specialist declared that “Pursuant to the review of the Office of the Corporation Counsel, there are no other documents response to your request that can be released.” Days later, the Corporation Counsel’s office provided a “privilege log,” declaring that every remaining document was exempt from disclosure under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which limits the disclosure of students’ personally identifiable information.

The Courant pushed back. Though we’re not lawyers, we know the law, and told the city’s lawyers: “Portions of the document may well be exempt under FERPA, but our request covers the segregable, non-exempt portions, which it would be illegal for the district to withhold. Is the district refusing to release redacted versions of these records?” The city’s lawyers continued to insist that every word of every document was exempt from disclosure.

But we – as the saying goes these days – persisted. And ultimately the city’s lawyers acknowledged that the law was on our side, releasing records with the names and other identifiable information about students redacted, as we had asked for all along.

Had the instinct for secrecy not been so strong when the district was investigating Genao’s disturbing behavior in 2007 and 2008, a full airing of his behavior might have forced him out of his job. A 13-year-old girl might not have been traumatized by the sexually explicit texts he is accused of sending her just last year. Genao might not be facing criminal charges in that case. And the city of Hartford, as well as the school board, school superintendent and other officials, might not be defendants in what could be a costly lawsuit.

When will they ever learn?

How Much Did Your Vote Count in the Presidential Election?

by Categorized: Data, Government, Politics Date:

With this year’s divisive election leading to a divided result – with Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote and Donald Trump winning the presidency – calls are rising once again to scrap the electoral college system.

Some of this is Monday-morning griping; had the results been reversed, it would surely be Trump’s supporters suddenly aghast at the way we’ve elected presidents since the ratification of the 12th Amendment in 1804. But it is undeniable that the electoral college system is a departure from the traditional one-person-one-vote philosophy that typically guides democracies.

How big a departure? To quantify that, we measured the relative value of each state’s voters in this election by calculating how many votes for the winning candidate were required to procure each electoral college delegate.

Three factors affect the weight of a particular state’s voters:

Voters in small states have an advantage – because delegates are assigned based on the number of each state’s representatives and senators in Congress. Representatives are apportioned based on population, but every state has two senators regardless of  population. So, for a tiny state with a single representative, adding two more delegates triples the number of electoral college votes for that state – thereby tripling the potential power of its voters. But in a huge state such as California, with 53 representatives, the addition of two more delegates increases its electoral college power by only a few percent.

Voters in states with low turnout relative to population have an advantage – because the fewer votes cast, the more weight each individual vote carries. The electoral college delegates are assigned based on a state’s total population. So in states with low voter turnout – either because of below-average voter eligibility or below-average voter registration or simply because residents didn’t go to the polls – those who do cast ballots carry more weight than voters in high-turnout states.

Voters in states where the margin of victory was narrow have an advantage – because the victor in each state (with a couple exceptions), wins 100 percent of that state’s delegates whether that candidate swept 80 percent of vote or won with a tiny plurality. So the closer the race, the smaller the number of votes for the winner. And the smaller the number of votes, the more weight each vote carries.

Those factors can move in different directions and occasionally cancel each other out. In Texas, for example, the state’s large population weakened the value of each vote. But the state also had low voter turnout, increasing the value of each vote. The result: one vote for Trump in Texas carried almost exactly the same weight as the average of all winning votes across the country. And California, despite being the most-populous state and producing a larger than average margin of victory for Clinton – factors that pushed down the weight of each vote – had such low voter turnout that each individual vote for Clinton ended up carrying 22 percent more weight than the national average.

But while there is variability among the factors, a state’s small size is clearly the most significant in boosting a state’s relative power. The three states whose voters carried the most weight in the electoral college all have a single representative, but three delegates: Alaska, Wyoming and Vermont. Alaska also had a smaller than average margin of victory for Trump and a smaller than average voter turnout, making its voters the most heavily weighted in the election, with each vote for Trump counting for 2.8 times the electoral-college power of the average vote nationwide.

At the other end of the scale, Clinton voters in Massachusetts – with high voter turnout, a higher-than-average vote spread and a slightly above-average population – carried the least electoral-college weight, with each vote counting for about 70 percent of the average power of votes nationwide.

Put another way, in Alaska, one electoral college delegate was assigned for roughly every 43,500 votes for the winner, while in Massachusetts, it took about 178,600 winning votes to produce one delegate.

The map above shows the relative weight of votes for the winning candidate in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. States shaded progressively greener had higher weights; states shaded progressively redder had lower weights. Click on a state to see its winner and the relative value of its votes for the winner. There’s a clear geographic split, with most Western states being over-weighted and most Eastern states under-weighted, with the exception of small New England states. That is primarily a reflection of most of the Great Plains states.

In Reliably Blue Connecticut, a Shift Toward Red

by Categorized: Data, Politics Date:

It was no surprise that Hillary Clinton won Connecticut’s seven electoral votes Tuesday, but looking under the hood of that easy victory shows a clear shift to the right for most – but not all – of the state.

Here’s a town-by-town breakdown of Tuesday’s vote for president, with greater support for Clinton shown in progressively bluer shades, and greater support for Donald Trump shaded progressively in red. Click on a town to see its vote totals. (Towns in yellow were late reporting complete results.)

As expected, the major cities were solidly blue, as were the ring towns around Hartford, most shoreline towns and the northwest corner. And there was no shock in Trump’s edge in a swath of towns from Trumbull in the south to Hartland in the north.

But there were surprises Tuesday. Trump’s dominance in much of Eastern Connecticut was a dramatic improvement over Mitt Romney’s showing four years ago. And on the flip side, Clinton fared much better than Barack Obama in Fairfield County, and also had stronger support in the Farmington Valley. It may be that while both Romney and Trump are extremely wealthy, Trump’s populism resonated in rural towns far better than Romney’s silver-spoon persona. And Clinton’s friendliness toward Wall Street could explain her strong showing in the Gold Coast.

To gauge how broad Trump’s support was in small towns this time around, here’s a clickable map showing the Obama-Romney race in 2012, where nearly the entire eastern half of the state either favored Obama or gave Romney only a slim margin.

To fully appreciate the depth of the swing, this map shows the vote shift between the two elections, with redder towns showing a stronger shift to the Republican candidate and blue towns showing a strong shift Democratic. In many eastern towns, Trump had a double-digit percentage advance over Romney’s 2012 support. But in Fairfield County, Clinton enjoyed an even bigger swing in votes, helping her to win a majority in all the southern Fairfield County towns that have reported.

Did the New York Times Break Connecticut Law in Disclosing Trump’s Tax Return?

by Categorized: Business, Ethics, First Amendment, Legal Affairs, Media, Politics, Transparency/FOI Date:

The New York Times has a widely shared piece this morning, disclosing that Donald Trump reported a nearly $916 million loss on his income taxes in 1995 – a financial drubbing that The Times said could have allowed him to wipe out any income-tax liability for 18 years.

Partisans on both sides are engaged in typical partisan hysteria, and some are wondering on social media: Is this sort of reporting legal?

The story included copies of Trump’s state tax returns from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Most people in my profession have salivated over the thought of gaining times_trumptaxaccess to tax filings for those whose background we’re investigating. But personal tax returns naturally are confidential, and the Department of Revenue Services would promptly laugh at us if we asked to see them.

So was The Times on shaky legal ground in publishing Trump’s Connecticut Non-Resident Tax Return?

Laws are often open to interpretation, but the answer is probably not. Yes there are state laws that provide penalties for disclosing tax information; no, those laws probably don’t apply to The Times.

Section 12-15 of the Connecticut General Statutes makes it illegal to inspect or disclose “return information”  – including the sort of information The Times reported. But the law’s prohibition is limited to current and former state employees and to others who have authorized access to the returns (such as contractors hired to help process or store returns). Those with unauthorized access – including The Times – aren’t covered by the law. (Connecticut’s law is substantially similar to the federal law on tax-return privacy.)

So if a state official provided the document, that individual may have broken 12-15, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. But that law doesn’t appear to apply to The Times or its reporters. (That said, it seems unlikely the document came directly from the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services; The Times indicates that all three tax returns arrived together in an anonymous package on Sept. 23.)

But if an anonymous tipster broke the law in leaking the records, is The Times still on the hook for publishing them? Again, probably not – although lawyers for Trump have threatened legal action. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court considered a case in which a Pennsylvania radio station broadcast a recording of an illegally intercepted cell phone call between union officials during a contentious contract negotiation. The union officials sued, but the court sided with the radio station, ruling that journalists cannot be held liable for publishing illegally obtained information related to legitimate matters of public concern, so long as the journalists did not participate in illegally obtaining the information.

“Privacy of communication is an important interest. However, in this suit, privacy concerns give way when balanced against the interest in publishing matters of public importance,” the court wrote in Bartnicki v. Vopper. “A stranger’s illegal conduct does not suffice to remove the First Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern.”

The heated debate over the propriety and relevance of The Times’ story will likely go on. Just perhaps not in a court of law.

Since 1997, More the 1,000 U.S. Officers Have Been Murdered

by Categorized: Data, Law Enforcement, Public Safety, Uncategorized Date:

The policemen gunned down in Dallas Thursday night join a long and sad list of officers intentionally slain year-after-year in the line of duty. From 1997 to 2015, according to FBI statistics, 1,005 members of U.S. law enforcement members were “feloniously killed” – and a surprisingly large number died in ambushes.

Over the last two decades, officer murders peaked in 2011, when 72 were slain. Preliminary numbers for 2015 are far lower: 41.

Those numbers are a fraction of all law-enforcement deaths. Intentional killings account for about a third of the officers who die in the line of duty, with many more dying in car accidents and from job-related illnesses. The overall numbers have dropped dramatically from spikes in violence against police in the 1920s and 30s, and the 1970s.

While deadly encounters during traffic stop may seem to be the most common scenario in which officers are killed, they account for fewer than one in five slayings. Since 1997, more officers were killed in ambushes – including unprovoked attacks and cases in which officers were lured into danger – than during traffic stops. About one in 13 killings occurred while police were responding to a domestic dispute.

Firearms were used in 92 percent of all murders of police since 1997. Handguns were used most often, although rifles and shotguns were used far more often with cop killings than with homicides in the general population. In recent years, about 7 percent of firearm homicides were committed with rifles or shotguns. Among killings of police, long guns were used more than four times as often.