Try to turn left at the flagpole. Drive by the high school on your way to work. Try to turn into traffic from any of the businesses near Exit 10. Suddenly, in this fast and distracted world, you will experience that rarest of luxuries: time to just sit and think. This is about the nicest thing we can say about traffic congestion in Newtown.
The arrests in the middle of last week of a Newtown Police sergeant and emergency services dispatcher on federal drug trafficking charges twisted the normal proud narrative we apply to local first responders to a point of painful fracture. The FBI, DEA, and Homeland Security investigations that led to charges against eight Connecticut men, including local police Sergeant Steven Santucci and dispatcher Jason Chickos, concluded that that they illegally distributed steroids and prescription narcotics — the kind of shady transactions we want the police to stop, not initiate.
When the town voted in 2008 to increase the size of the Board of Education from six to seven members, the charter change that accomplished that goal stipulated that the existing 3-3 division of the six seats between Democrats and Republicans be changed to allow a 4-3 partisan bare majority. It is frequently noted, particularly by politicians, that the Board of Education should not be politicized. It was decided, however, that the benefit of greater public participation on the school board afforded by an extra seat would outweigh the distractions inherent in the competition for majority status, especially if the majority is not a very big one.
A close reading of The Bee’s 2015 Guide to Newtown reveals, however, that the partisan split on the Board of Education is currently 5-2, favoring Republicans. How is this possible, given the charter stipulation approved by voters seven years ago?
Received wisdom in this age of politics and polemics holds that we should do unto others before they do unto us: define opponents in the worst possible light before they can define themselves, ignore facts when possible, and make them up when necessary. Above all, never listen to anyone who might hold a contrary view. How nice it has been to discover over the last couple of years just how far Newtown lags behind the political trendsetters, especially when our backward ways will yield for us a tax rate reduction if the $111 million budget is approved on April 28.
Stand for an hour or two in the middle of the Upper or Lower Paugussett State Forest with a petition in hand and see how many signatures you can get for restoring the $2 million cut from funds for state parks and forests in Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal. Better take your binoculars as well and do a little birdwatching to pass the time before you head home with your empty sheet of paper.
Notwithstanding this likely scenario, there is a vast constituency for Connecticut’s wild and natural places. DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee testified to the legislature’s Appropriations Committee last month that Connecticut’s parks and forests attract more than eight million visitors a year.
It was just a month ago that local and state officials huddled around Newtown Director of Health Donna Culbert as she deftly plied an oversized pair of ceremonial scissors to snip through a bow-bedecked red ribbon. It was the official opening of a school-based health center at the middle school. As public facility openings go, this one was much more than the usual brick-and-mortar add-on with which growing towns measure their affluence and/or resourcefulness. This school-based health center occupies a keystone position in the post-12/14 resolve of the town and state to knit up the raveled fabric of mental health assessments and services for children in the state, which failed with such devastating consequence in Sandy Hook.
When people start talking about “rebranding” something, one of two things has gone wrong: the original something in need of rebranding has obvious inherent flaws that require significantly altered perceptions to hide those flaws from view; or that same original something has been so successfully mischaracterized by adversaries that a new light is required to illuminate the truth of it. So when several people at the March 24 community forum on the initial phase of a proposed three-phase community center project suggested that town officials rebrand the plan, townspeople were left trying to decide whether they are about to be deceived about the project or whether they already had been.
It is said two things in life cannot be avoided: death and taxes. That is not entirely true. The truly unscrupulous can evade taxes, or at the very least, a bargain can be struck to make them less onerous. With death, however, there is only one settlement, and that is final.
How we settle the final debt to mortality in the case of terminal illness, and who gets to decide the final terms, is the crux of Senate Bill 668, proposed by three Connecticut senators, Gary Winfield (Tenth District), Eric Coleman (Second District), and Beth Bye (Fifth District), as well as a dozen state representatives, this past January.
The contentious town review of a proposed large-scale housing development on 35 acres off Church Hill Road has inspired a growing contingent of worried residents in the area to study up on sewer systems. The Water and Sewer Authority (WSA) is considering a request from the developer of the multifamily housing complex to extend the sewer district to include the entire parcel instead of just a small portion adjacent to Church Hill Road. The residents are crying foul, saying the request perverts the original purpose of the sewer system serving the center of town.
When Governor Dannel P. Malloy accepted the final report of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission last Friday, the occasion called for both solemnity and congratulations for the depth and scope of the panel’s 277-page report and its long list of recommendations. Even though the report has been released more than two years after the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School, the 16 members of the commission presented it with a sense of urgency, noting there has been, on average, one school shooting every week since 12/14. “We can do something different,” said Hamden Mayor and Commission Chairman Scott Jackson. “We can do something better.” To that, a Newtown resident on the panel, Christopher Lyddy, added, “We have to start thinking much differently and boldly.”