Two years ago, when the governor signed Public Act 12-152, An Act Concerning the State’s Open Space Plan, the new law was heralded as evidence of Connecticut’s enlightened approach to conservation. Not only was the initiative seen as an endorsement of the state’s goal of extending open space protections to 673,210 acres — 21 percent of the state’s area — by 2023, it was intended to foster the same kind of strategic planning to open space protection that is normally accorded to land development. Specifically, it called for integrating open space acquisitions with the critical environmental need for protected wildlife habitats and ecosystems. The idea was to facilitate the efficient flow and operation of natural systems just as we might for transportation systems. It is a great concept, which according to a report issued by the Connecticut Audubon Society last week, is not working out in practice.
It has been about nine months since the Board of Selectmen appointed 12 volunteers to the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission. We learned from the panel last week that in that time, the commission has begun an “outreach process” to various groups in the community that will last for several months. When they were first appointed, First Selectman Pat Llodra warned them that the process of forming some kind of consensus on a community memorial for those lost at the Sandy Hook School on 12/14 would take time. It is clear from the commission’s great caution and care in approaching their task that they took the first selectman’s words to heart. In fact, in the preface to a list of frequently asked questions released by the commission last week, we discovered that “it has yet to be determined if a memorial will be constructed in the community.”
Once a pushcart gets rolling, you never know where it is going to stop. That may be the essential lesson of the Reed Intermediate School’s Pushcart Day. The end-of-the-school-year event has raised thousands of dollars over the years for causes ranging from autism research to the Women’s Center in Danbury. In the past two years, however, the impact of this annual fundraising effort has been amplified and redirected to children in West Africa where their charitable giving is not just lending a helping hand but transforming lives
There is a certain subset of Newtown inhabitants who don’t need signs or maps to identify Church Hill Road. They see the churches from stone steps to spires, and their own heart rates and respiration tell them it is a hill. They are sidewalk walkers. We see them every day from our office perch on the eastern slope of Church Hill within earshot of the snap of the town’s famous flag — just below where the sidewalk ends. Unfortunately, it is not the magical and poetic place made famous in every child’s imagination by Shel Silverstein. In the final 300-foot stretch to the top of the hill, where vehicles crowd simultaneously left and right to negotiate the tricky and busy intersection, pedestrians must leave the curb, join the fray, and hope for the best.
At the end of next month, the highway account of the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of money. Another fund for mass transit is scheduled to meet the same fate in October. Governor Dannel P. Malloy warned last week that protracted partisan paralysis in Congress could imperil more than 80 state highway, bridge, and rail projects, valued at $650 million, scheduled to start in the next fiscal year. This comes at a time when the federal Department of Transportation rates three-quarters of Connecticut’s roads as being in poor or mediocre condition. US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told the governor July 3 that the continuing political stalemate in Washington “is not something you can afford.”
Almost as soon as the armed assault on Sandy Hook School abruptly ended on December 14, 2012, cascades of information flowed outward to the world — some of it false, some of it true, some of it useless, some of it essential. Concurrently, there was an emotional response that was beyond telling but which moved with such power and force that it perturbed the flow some of the most useful information at a critical time for those victims’ families at the center of the tragedy. That was one of the poignant insights shared last week with the governor’s appointed Sandy Hook Advisory Commission by David and Francine Wheeler, parents of Benjamin Wheeler, who died at the school that tragic morning.
Newtown’s congressional representatives announced ten days ago that the town had secured another federal grant — this one $7.1 million from the Department of Justice — for mental health services and school safety measures. It is the latest infusion of money from the government in the wake of the December 2012 tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, following earlier grants from the Office for Victims of Crime and the US Department of Education’s School Emergency Response to Violence program totaling $4.7 million. No one was prepared for the local horror of 12/14, and nothing seems to impel the flow of federal money like after-the-fact “precautions” in the wake of profound tragedy.
This is the season when, after years of having their heads filled with ideas, ranks of graduates put on caps and gowns and contain their excitement long enough to hear a succession of speakers offer a few final insights before they step out into the future. Whatever the horizon looks like from beneath the mortarboard this year, two things are certain: the future is brighter with a college education and a college education is now so expensive that its financial obligations are likely to be a part of that future for a long time to come.
The streets have names like Old Farm Road, Washington Square Street, Fairfield Circle, Primrose Street, and Loop Lane. It sounds like a nice neighborhood, except no one lives there.
When Newtown bought the 186-acre Fairfield Hills core campus from the state in 2004, the $3.9 million purchase embodied the town’s hopes for an enhanced community through a variety of desired development, from athletic fields for the young to facilities and programs for senior citizens — but no housing.
We publish The Newtown Bee this week on June 6, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy. It was the largest seaborne invasion in history, which ultimately restored the French Republic and set the stage for the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. Few who took part in Operation Overlord are still alive. Those who survive are in their 90s, and the passage of time quiets their first-person stories of this historic date. No one gave voice to the wartime experiences of GIs in World War II better than Ernie Pyle, the Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent for the Scripps Howard newspaper chain, who was himself killed in action by Japanese machine gun fire on a small island near Okinawa in April 1945. To remind ourselves of the incalculable personal sacrifices made by ordinary soldiers for the greater cause of humanity, we offer this column by Ernie Pyle about what he witnessed on the beaches of Normandy that June 70 years ago: