By the spring of 2014, Officer Thomas Bean had been off the duty roster of the Newtown Police Department for more than a year. The post traumatic stress disorder he suffered following the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings had disabled him to the point where he could no longer work in his chosen career as a police officer. He had struggled with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts since responding to the mass murder of 20 first graders and six educators. He told the General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee at that time that he faced an uncertain financial future — a future that would be far more secure with common sense workers compensation laws on the books covering PTSD for first responders.
It is the time of year when we dig our fingers into the soil, plant seeds, and hope that they will flourish. We look forward to the bounty our gardens will provide. While not the agricultural community that it once was, Newtown is still a place where backyard gardens proliferate.
The simple joy of biting into a sun-ripened tomato or snacking on the sweetness of just-picked berries is a joy, even for those who can afford the best of produce in the off-season. For those who are on a fixed or suddenly reduced budget, the flavor of fresh produce is more than a joy; it is a gift.
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.