In the new horror film Bird Box, Sandra Bullock must navigate a post-apocalyptic world blind-folded so as not to see inter-dimensional creatures so horrifying they drive normal people insane.
The film has inspired the best and brightest of today’s youth to film themselves trying to walk around blind-folded and posting it on YouTube. It has become known as the “Bird Box Challenge.”
In Connecticut politics, however, lawmakers have their own Bird Box Challenge.
It’s not new, they’ve been doing it for years. It goes like this: propose a monumentally bad bill and then act shocked and surprised when the public gets upset – as if they couldn’t see it coming.
People are angry about putting tolls on every single highway? Good Lord! Who’d have known!!
Residents don’t want to merge their town school districts with larger cities? Zounds!
Not everyone wants a state property tax? This is insane!
The lawmakers feign shock and surprise and then issue the usual plea of “It’s only a proposal, things change, we have to have the conversation,” or “That’s not what the bill says, the language hasn’t been drafted yet.”
It’s difficult to tell if they think they’re fooling anyone but themselves.
That’s because many people in the state aren’t wearing blindfolds. They can see what’s coming, and it’s driving them just a little nuts.
Sen. Bergstein argued at a town hall style meeting in Stamford that her tolling bill didn’t actually call for 82 toll gantries on Connecticut's highways.
Sure, it just authorized the Connecticut Department of Transportation to install tolls. Anyone with two eyes can see that, given the chance, CT DOT will probably follow the recommendations in its own study.
(Bergstein kept the blind-fold tight by setting rules for how the public behaved in her meetings).
When Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, proposed a bill forcing towns with less than 40,000 people to merge the schools with larger districts, a lot of people became upset. Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, ran interference and said it was only a proposal, a conversation starter, certainly nothing to be worried about.
But people are not blind to the fact such school consolidation could potentially tank their real estate values or end up bussing their kids to far away schools.
(Incidentally, Looney’s bill was written with a mistake, mandating school consolidation for every district with less that 40,000 students – literally every school district in the state -- so somebody wasn’t looking).
And, of course, there is the bill to establish a statewide property tax on houses and motor vehicles.
Who could have foreseen that residents and small-town officials would immediately recognize this as a transfer of money from towns to cities, which would drive up their town's property taxes to make up for the loss?
Elections have consequences and so do bill proposals, particularly when there is a single party in power. Proposals signal where lawmakers want to go, regardless of whether or not they actually get there this year.
Yet, the powers that be act like it is the public who has gone insane to even care about these concepts, to even look beyond the general language of these bill proposals.
So be it. It’s a crazy world, after all -- a world where young people emulate a movie and walk the streets or drive a car while wearing blind folds, necessitating Netflix to issue a public warning.
And it’s a world where state politicians put on blindfolds and conduct their own Bird Box Challenge to see just how close they can get Connecticut to the edge of a cliff.