Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Perhaps A Peace Offering Is In Order

The lunch time crowd in front of the Connecticut Financial Center must have been horribly disappointed Wednesday.

Twelve days earlier, Mayor John DeStefano and two top executives with the United Illuminating Co. had done their best impression of World Wrestling Entertainment’s "SmackDown," trading angry words over what kind of impact that UI’s plan to move its headquarters to Orange in 2012 would have on the city. All that was missing was the steel cage, the fake blood and the men in wrestling tights.

But with James P. Torgerson - president and chief executive officer of UIL Holdings Corp., UI’s corporate parent - and Anthony Vallillo, president of the utility company, otherwise occupied in New York City on Wednesday schmoozing with potential investors regarding an upcoming stock offering, things took a decidedly more restrained tone.

Yes, DeStefano and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal are still calling on UI officials to repent and change the ways. And, yes, the mayor still is determined to keep using Vallillo’s choice of transportation - a Jaguar - not only as a symbol for the company’s alleged greed, but as a verbal weapon to keep flogging UI's president with.

But at the same time, both DeStefano and Blumenthal seemed to be taking great pains to avoid demonizing the company as a whole.

For his part, Hizzoner offered to meet with Torgerson and work out a deal where UI employees would get the same discount for parking that New Haven employees do, provided they use city-owned parking facilities.

The mayor was short on specifics in terms of what kind of savings that might yielded for UI employees. But the offer was a nice subtle touch that showed DeStefano was listening at the common man at the May 8th press conference: UI employees on their lunch hours had complained about the cost of parking in the city compared to the free parking they would get at a new headquarters in Orange.

DeStefano also refused to take what would have been a easy shot at one of UIL Holdings corporate directors.

The Connecticut Financial Center is owned by members of the Chase family, who are major players in the state’s business community. A member of that family, Arnold Chase, serves on the board of directors of UIL Holdings.

DeStefano said he has no reason to believe that Arnold Chase is putting his role as a corporate director ahead of the family’s commitment to the city of New Haven.

"It’s in his best interest, in the family’s best interest, in the ratepayers best interest to keep them (UI) in that building," DeStefano said of Arnold Chase, who is president of Gemini Networks, a broadband telecommunications provider.

Blumenthal did his part to keep the good will theme at the press conference going by saying the UI "has been ill-served by the people who have spoken for it."

He said that the company’s rank-and-file workers are dedicated to their jobs and the commitment to keep electricity flowing. Those employees, Blumenthal said, should not have to endure the public’s wrath, which he said should be focused on UI’s corporate leaders.

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