After his transforming night with the Spirits Past, Present, and Future in Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge realized he had some shopping to do, and clearly the notorious penny pincher was ready to shop big. He knew exactly what he wanted and where to get it — a couple of streets over.
Scrooge would seem an unlikely poster boy for Small Business Saturday two days after Thanksgiving. But as so many people have learned since American Express started the Shop Small initiative five years ago to highlight local shopping opportunities, it is possible to do some big shopping right in the neighborhood. For some people, like Scrooge himself, a significant shift in perspective is required.
We expect the town officials we elected last week to collectively serve us in ways that are spelled out in detail in our town charter. We also expect them to serve as our proxies at long, and often boring, meetings we really would rather not attend. We do a lot of boring things in our lives: grocery shopping, raking leaves, (some) school assemblies, (some) school classes, waiting in lines for any number of errands. These are all tasks that suck time from our days and weeks. We do them, though, because we know, ultimately, they benefit us.
There is a certain irony to the controversy that blew up on social media in the final days of this year’s local election campaign over the leak of confidential digital communications of the Board of Education. A school board member eventually identified himself as the source of the leak in the face of a pending investigation of the breach by the school board. David Freedman explained that he hoped to underscore the hypocrisy of his board’s allegations of “back room politics” by other elected officials; his leaked e-mail from the Board of Education’s former attorney, which in turn solicited e-mailed comments on an upcoming board discussion on terms of the superintendent’s contract, eventually ended up on Facebook. Mr Freedman saw this digital discussion as a circumvention of the “proper process” of conducting an executive session in a duly warned board meeting. However, the leak itself, followed by the release of a text message on an associated topic by board member Kathy Hamilton that also ended up on Facebook, went so far beyond the bounds of proper process that Mr Freedman’s point was quickly drowned out in the subsequent din of condemnation.
This is an odd political year in Newtown, and we’re not just talking about the date, which is indeed an odd number indicating local elections. There is very little actual drama in the races up and down the 2015 ballot. Republican First Selectman Pat Llodra has no opposition to her reelection bid. Seventy percent of the candidates for the Legislative Council will be elected, and for the four Board of Education candidates, the success rate will be 75 percent. When The Bee was trying to decide on a race to highlight for its annual candidates’ forum, it settled on the Board of Finance race, where Republicans and Democrats each fielded four candidates for the four vacancies on the board. Still, the forum revealed a remarkable bipartisan consensus on most financial issues facing the town. The relative calm in this election has left Newtown’s political parties talking about partisanship itself.
The series of forums hosted by the Community Center Commission continues to bring suggestions regarding the use of the $15 million gift from GE to the town. A recent survey also solicited public opinion. Before they make any recommendations, commission members are “listening,” according to Commissioner Brian Leidlein. Who they hear may influence the future of this center and determine if it is a facility that unites or divides the town.
When neighbors suffer, Newtown has a history of stepping up to help; where we have been the recipients of generosity beyond imagining, we have worked to pay it forward. The world now presents us, blessed to live in relative safety, an opportunity to reach out far beyond our borders.
As a man accustomed to scanning spreadsheets full of discouraging numbers — about rising costs and diminishing revenues — Governor Dannel P. Malloy was uncharacteristically buoyed this week by a statistical report by the FBI that included some encouraging numbers about crime rates in Connecticut. Violent crime in the state has dropped by nearly 10 percent for the second year in a row with 236.9 violent crimes per 100,000 persons in 2014, lower than the aggregated rates in New England (287.2), the Northeast (322.5), and the United States as a whole (357.7). Nationally, the number violent crimes declined by one-tenth of one percent; in Connecticut, the rate dropped 9.7 percent.
The Planning and Zoning Commission is currently engaging in a strangely inverted process of overseeing a development proposal for the area of Exit 10 at Church Hill, Edmond, and Commerce Roads. Instead of receiving a specific and detailed development plan — in this case for commercial uses — it has received a proposal for a “design district” that will eventually contain those new, but still undisclosed, commercial uses.
More than 125 people turned up at the Rock Ridge Country Club Saturday morning for a breakfast fundraiser in support of the Third Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, which will take place on December 9 in Washington, DC. The event, hosted by The Newtown Foundation, drew a crowd of engaged and committed advocates for curbing gun violence.