The I-team’s recent discovery of questionable use of state issued debit cards reminded me of a series of reports I did on government waste when I was a rookie reporter here at Channel 3. It was called “You Paid For It.”
In this week’s Face the State flashback, we take you back to 1993, and the very first YPFI report. You Paid For It was the brainchild of then WFSB news director Mark Effron, and it relied heavily on viewer tips. We set up a hotline, and we were amazed at the response. Before our first report even aired, we received more than 300 phone calls and letters (this was way before e-mail.) Many of the tips came from state employees and contractors who were witnessing our government wasting our tax dollars.
The flashback YPFI focuses on a highway underpass in Windsor that was treated to a, well, beauty treatment, courtesy of the taxpayers. The state paid $1,000,000 to have the underside of the highway covered in decorative stone. Even the contractor thought there was a cheaper way to do it and called the project, a “big waste.”
As you watch the report, you’ll see even the state official had a tough time defending it.
We did several investigations that exposed millions of dollars in government waste. We found brand new cars sitting in a lot, thanks to a purchasing blunder. Another report led us to a state worker sleeping on the job while raking in overtime. We uncovered waste in all corners of the state, and as YPFI grew, more viewers sent in tips. People at the grocery store and Whalers games would come up to me and repeat my tag line, ” You Paid For It.” The series became so popular WFSB even produced a two minute promotion for it that ran during the 1994 Olympic Games. Two minutes is an eternity in television.
You Paid For It resonated with viewers because the economy was in rough shape, and taxpayers were still absorbing the implemention of the state income tax that became law in 1991.
By 1995, You Paid For It had ran its course and was retired. I’d like to think our investigations and our team of viewers sending tips led to a more efficient and frugal state government.
Our I-team still does investigations into government waste, so if you see your government wasting your money, drop the I-team an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch the report right here: http://www.wfsb.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=7975765
Some other reports I’ve done: http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/marking-20-years-at-wfsb/