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.”
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.