Municipal Lobbying Group Launches TV Ad Campaign

Hartford Courant, January 13, 20016

By Gregory B. Hladky

HARTFORD — The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the main lobbying group for cities and towns, is launching an unusual $100,000 TV and Internet advertising campaign to "raise overall awareness" of CCM's role and its goals.

The campaign includes a general 30-second television spot touting the organization's efforts to "improve everyday life for every resident of Connecticut." The ads are scheduled to run over the next 30 days, CCM officials announced Wednesday.

A different 3 1/2 minute video that will be posted on municipal websites and on social media is a cartoon designed to educate the public about how important it is for the state legislature to continue to allocate aid to cities and towns. It also urges citizens to contact their lawmakers to prevent the General Assembly from making any more cuts in state aid to municipalities.

The cartoon features a white-haired, cigar-smoking character representing state government and lawmakers, a figure who happily accepts wheelbarrow-loads of local tax dollars but scowls when giving back any of the money as municipal aid. "Municipal aid cuts aren't a spending reduction at all," the video's narrator explains to viewers.

"It is the state's way of shifting a greater burden back on our towns that still must maintain vital basic services." "It's not about anybody in particular" at the state Capitol, CCM Executive Director Joe Delong said Wednesday of the cartoon. Delong said the video was created to be "kind of entertaining … to create some discussion."

"We think it's a little different way of doing things," said Delong. He said the cartoon is aimed at Connecticut citizens who care about what is happening with state and local government but "aren't policy wonks like us." According to Delong, the $100,000 ad campaign is being paid for through CCM's money-making activities, such as its insurance program for cities and towns, rather than from dues CCM's member municipalities pay.

The thrust of the cartoon is that when the state cuts municipal aid or approves new "unfunded mandates" on municipalities, the only thing local governments can do is raise local property taxes. But Delong said the video isn't intended to directly pressure members of the General Assembly when they come to Hartford next month for their 2016 legislative session.

Delong said recent cuts in state spending to deal with a projected budget deficit have resulted in $20 million in reductions in state aid to municipalities. "I don't think it's a huge organizational shift," Delong said of the new ad campaign. "This is a community-based campaign. … It's outreach to the community," he said. The 30-second TV spot will be run on all of Connecticut's major network stations, and on various cable news channels in Fairfield County.

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