Back in January, I wrote a blog post reacting to the news that ex-Governor Rowland had been given a high-paying job as Economic Developer for the city. My primary initial reaction is that this was a bad idea, and that it was presented in a manner that can easily be described as arrogant. My impression of this being a bad idea has been reinforced by David Randall's article in Forbes Magazine and the commentary on the article in today's Republican-American.
Rowland's supporters (Jarjura, Sasala, et. al.) insist that he can do a great job of luring new businesses into Waterbury. This, in fact, seems to be his job description--to bring in new businesses... but ignore the fact that half the state has a passionate hatred of Rowland. When asked about negative comments towards him and his new job, Rowland claimed that his detractors all lived outside of Waterbury, so their opinions don't count. But isn't his mission to bring outsiders into Waterbury? Surely we could have hired a qualified economic developer who isn't hated by half the state and ridiculed by anyone outside the state who knows who he is. Maybe if the Chamber had advertised for the position, they would have found someone better than Rowland.
The article in Forbes pretty much declares Waterbury to be a bad place for businesses. If Jarjura and Sasala had not given Rowland his new job, the article would never have been written. The adage that any publicity is good publicity might not hold true in this case. The article creates a painful image of Waterbury as a cesspool of corruption, poverty and abandoned factories. This is an image that will stick in the minds of many business people, and it will not help Waterbury.
The worst part of the Forbes articles comes at the end, when we read that Rowland was offered a special discount on a suit and a free lunch. We aren't told how Rowland responded to these offers--maybe he politely turned them down--but for these offers to have been made at all just confirms Waterbury's image of corruption.
[Update, 12:45 pm -- I love some of the comments that are appearing on the Forbes website! There are so many wonderful things about this beautiful city that get overlooked far too often. The article in Forbes certainly was written with an agenda. I had the impression from the journalist and their fact-checker that the emphasis would be political corruption, although they were also interested in the Hillside neighborhood and finding out the name of the train station architects. The brief mention of the clock tower made it into the final article, but the rest over-emphasizes the negative.
A better article on Waterbury for a national audience would highlight the city as one of hundreds around the country that are struggling to improve themselves in an era when the cities are continually abandoned for the suburbs. Waterbury is one of many small cities making progress while facing difficult challenges. The article in Forbes was just a quick slam, taking advantage of one small piece of trivia. I imagine their editors assume that most readers will find it a moderately amusing sidebar.]