For 40 minutes last Friday morning a dozen K-9 narcotics teams toured the parking lots and hallways of Newtown High School. They were there by special invitation of the school’s administration, the Newtown Prevention Council, and the Newtown Police Department. Despite advance notice of the day’s “drug sniff” by the police dog teams, enough evidence was collected to support the arrests of three students and the issuance of an infraction to a fourth on drug-related charges. The sweep of the high school by the police marked the start of what is expected to be a regular program to monitor the presence of drugs in the high school.
In the name of public safety, there are times when we want the police to take control of a situation, sort things out, give orders, and have those orders obeyed. Even if we ourselves ever have the misfortune of being placed under arrest, we should recognize that at the point of arrest the law really does give police wide latitude to do their jobs. There is a time and place for arguing and protesting the particulars of innocence and resisting charges, but it is not when the cuffs are going on. Connecticut has a long tradition of government openness and transparency, however, that has not ceded complete control of the details of arrests to the police — at least not until a state Supreme Court ruling last summer.
The Governor’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission this week released its report and recommendations growing out of its research and discussions in the wake of the 12/14 mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was the third major report to address the tragedy, following the Danbury State’s Attorney report on the crime in November 2013 and the report by the Office of the Child Advocate released late last year. Unlike the first two reports, which offered disturbing investigative details of the pathologies of the crimes and their perpetrator, the advisory commission focused its forensic interest on the responses to the killings by public and private bureaucracies, systems, and ad hoc organizations.
There is no place for you in Newtown if you have a modest income. The houses are too expensive. Rentals are nonexistent. And the town has a set of zoning regulations designed for an affluent demographic that keeps the local population homogeneous and upscale. Fortunately, state law provides a reasonable alternative for developers to overcome the town’s resistance to providing affordable housing. The only problem with all of this, however, is that none of it is true.
If we can believe the lore, there once was a time when one could stand atop Holcombe Hill and see Long Island Sound. These days woodlands block the view, and there are only the seagulls in grocery store parking lots to remind us that we live in a coastal state. And that may be part of the problem, according state environmental officials. When Long Island Sound is out of sight, it is also out of mind in a state bent on robust economic development.
In this relatively snowless winter, we suppose it makes sense that this year’s inversion of our seasonal expectations might itself get inverted with a major snowstorm at about the time when we normally expect a January thaw. Mild winters are not the ones we remember in New England, but they confer blessings on those of us attached to daily routines, and they keep the insurance adjustors at bay. They offer the sort of devalued benefits we take for granted without any special note or accounting. But what of the great disruptions that come sweeping across the Midwest and up the coast setting off blizzard alarms and team coverage in weather centers and newsrooms everywhere? Is there some benefit to the sudden paralyzing complication of a snowstorm beyond the adrenalin buzz?
As town and school budgetmakers assemble the 2015-16 budget line item by line item, they are girding themselves for upcoming hearings on their spending plans, beginning with a February 3 hearing on the school budget. Newtown residents — at least those residents who vote in budget referendums — seem to think their tax burden is heavy enough. They traditionally balk at tax rate increases of anything more than a percent or so. No matter how well crafted or justified school and town budgets may be, they are a hard sell. So we were not surprised to see the eager gathering of local officials at the C.H. Booth Library January 13 to hear the siren call of Robert Santy, president and CEO of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), who defined economic development as “building wealth for a community and its residents.”
There are two ways to look at the recent move by Governor Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature to increase in the state’s minimum wage. It is either a lifeline for those living on the margins of the state’s economy or a rope too short to pull struggling families out of economic hardship and stress.
On January 1, the lowest rate in Connecticut for most hourly wage earners increased from $8.70 to $9.15 an hour. The new minimum wage law will also allow for incremental increases over the next two years, culminating in a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for workers who punch the clock. The increase, according to the governor, will ensure that “no one who works full time lives in poverty.”
Wading into the alphabet soup of Newtown’s zoning regulations can be hazardous to your wakefulness. But as the Planning and Zoning Commission seeks to move beyond its legally precarious AHD with a MUMI-10 as a buffer against the state’s AHAA, which ultimately led to a court-ordered approval in 2011 of an MIHD in Sandy Hook Center, one distinct message emerges from the accumulating jumble of acronyms: Newtown is trying very hard to stay alert to its obligations to provide a wider variety of affordable housing stock to its residents.
The New Year has begun, bringing with it hopes and resolutions meant to erase the folly of the previous year (or years). It is an annual event, celebrated in this part of the world by the turning of the Gregorian Calendar page from December to January.