When the next legislative session begins in Hartford on Wednesday next week, Governor Dannel P. Malloy will outline his priorities in his formal budget message. The extent to which Newtown and the 12/14 tragedy in Sandy Hook has aligned priorities for the governor and legislators will be obvious. Building on a legislative package enacted last spring that brought significant changes to the state’s mental health system, the governor will once again be highlighting more than $7 million in new mental health initiatives over the next two years backed in principle by legislators on both sides of the aisle.
When Governor Dannel P. Malloy appointed the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission a year ago, he charged the panel with “taking a broad systemic approach in crafting the recommendations that will lead to comprehensive legislative and policy changes that must occur following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.” He explained that this included “ensuring that our mental health system can reach those that need its help.” Like everyone else who has tried to answer the ultimate 12/14 question — why? — the commissioners are keenly interested in Adam Lanza’s motivation and state of mind as he headed off to the Sandy Hook School that tragic morning. The panel last week secured a promise from the shooter’s father to turn over some of his son’s treatment records. Presumably, this narrow focus on Adam Lanza’s pathology has some relevance to the panel’s “broad systemic approach” to policy recommendations.
A hearing was scheduled for Thursday in Hartford Superior Court as The Bee went to press this week for arguments over whether a lawsuit challenging the equity of funding the state’s public schools filed in 2005 will finally go forward or be delayed for more than a year. The court challenge filed by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) and 18 plaintiffs, including towns, cities, elected municipal officials, and the state’s two teachers unions, alleges that state government underfunds local school districts by about $2 billion, according to a cost study conducted the year the suit was first filed. The state is arguing, however, that a trial should not commence using eight-year-old data that ignores recent school reforms and funding increases. Incidentally, the proposed 15-month delay would also push the trial to after this year’s state elections.
The State of Connecticut has banned flying ice this winter — and every winter from now on. The new law took effect last week just in time for the year’s first big storm. It will levy fines — up to $1,250 for drivers of commercial trucks — for failure to clean snow and ice from their vehicles. So-called ice missiles can pose significant hazards for motorists traveling at high speeds on the interstates, so the law seems like a sensible deterrent to those who need the prospect of stiff fines to focus their minds on safety — at least the safety of those in their rear view mirror. Still, the idea of legislating away the hazards of flying ice in Connecticut in the wintertime seems a bit quixotic.
“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” —Hal Borland
As a journalist, author, and full-time observer of rural Connecticut for several decades prior to his death in 1978, Hal Borland became an expert on the coming and going of years. Much of his wisdom and experience was derived from the vicissitudes of life on a small farm in Sharon, where natural processes preside and the status quo is defined by change itself.
The Newtown community has spent a lot of time in the past year thinking about how to define itself in the wake of an event that shattered nearly every notion the town had about the status quo...
Newtown begins 2014 next week with more momentum and resolve than any turning of the New Year we can remember. Coming off a year in which stock-taking was a daily priority and not simply saved for last days of December, the community is primed to get started.
First on the agenda is establishing the financial framework for getting things done. The Board of Finance, Legislative Council, and town administrators are already laying the groundwork for months of budget reviews and deliberations. The conversation tends to be numerical, transforming the real stuff of community — like snowplows, patrol officers, and soccer fields — into dollars and cents, return on investment calculations, and that oft-cited, never-quantified bang for the buck. That is to say, it is not the most stimulating conversation for those of us who are not budget wonks.
A panel of local officials hosted multiple press conferences this week, trying earnestly to satisfy the curiosity of the assembled media about all things Newtown as the community approaches the first anniversary of the deadly 12/14 attack on Sandy Hook School. In recent weeks, these same officials have been trying to reserve the actual anniversary date as a day of private reflection and commemoration for the community. The press conferences were an attempt to preempt a repeat of the media crush that swamped the town a year ago. “We can’t choose to not have this horrible thing happen to us. It happened. We cannot make it un-happen,” First Selectman Pat Llodra told the journalists. “But we can choose how we react to it.”
The days of reckoning following December 14, 2012, led nearly everyone to the same conclusion: We can do better than this. No matter what the issue — gun violence, mental health, school security — there was an overwhelming sense that perhaps something had been overlooked that could have secured for that infamous date the blessedly obscure status as just another Friday.
The search for facts and insights has even extended to the question of how much information is enough in the quest to better understand what happened.
As the people of Newtown prepared for their Thanksgiving celebrations this week, the community once again found itself in the spotlight. This time, the nation’s attention was drawn to the release on Monday of a long-anticipated report by the state’s attorney investigating the 12/14 shootings at the Sandy Hook School — the event for which no one gives thanks. The 48-page summary report, and the voluminous ancillary appendices, were served up to the waiting media, which after months of subsisting on the drip-drip of leaks by anonymous sources were thirsty for the flood of details of this unfathomable crime. For Newtown, however, the important details of that day are written in deeply etched personal remembrances: sights, sounds, and particularly the faces of friends, of family, of children. These faces are the essential aspect of all that we give thanks for this Thanksgiving.
Both the great problems and the great blessings of the world are myriad. The alchemy of transmuting the former into the latter seems to cost us nearly all of our political capital these days — an investment we claim to make in the name of progress. But as we have seen in the past 11 months, the great problem of gun violence and the renewed debate over it sparked by the 12/14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School has not blessed us with progress or even a semblance of serious dialogue on the issue. Sadly, many of our most pressing problems are now thrown into great polemical ruts, where everyone clings to orthodoxy and no one gives an inch. After nearly a year of trying to navigate these ruts in the name of the innocents lost last December, Sandy Hook Promise has emerged with a new idea. Start the conversation not at points of departure, but at points of convergence: parents’ love for their children.