Monday, May 2, 2016

Elimination Of Parking Fund And Increased Penalties For Late Payments To Be Considered

Mayor Drew's draft ordinance eliminating the parking fund
As part of his budget address (here), Mayor Drew included three ordinance changes. One of them would double the penalties for late payment of parking fines, and another would divert revenue from parking fees and fines into the general budget of the city.

Parking Fees And Fines To Go To the General Fund
The Parking Fund was established in 2009, for the express purpose of expenses broadly relating to parking (signage, equipment, salaries, debt on bonds for capital improvements, etc). In addition to paying for parking-related expenses, the city has appropriated $450k from parking revenues into the General Fund every year since its inception.

The existing ordinance allows the city to add to the fund, but allows expenditures from the fund only after review by the Parking Advisory Committee.  Money that remains in the fund after the direct payment into the General Fund, and paying for debt service on parking-related bonds and for Parking Department salaries was allocated to the Parking Department for improvements to the City's parking infrastructure.

The first proposed change to the ordinance would eliminate all restrictions on Parking Fund expenditures. If the revision passes, the expenses of maintaining the city's parking infrastructure would instead need to be allocated by the Council on a case by case basis. If the city eliminated staff in the Parking Department (or even if it eliminated it altogether, returning responsibility for parking to the Police Department), the savings would not be required to be used for parking, they could be used by any other city department such as Public Works, Police, or Education.


Geen Thazampallath, Parking Director, said that the parking fund, as originally envisioned, provided the Department with the flexibility to do small projects related to parking. It has been used to pay for signs that direct visitors to parking and other locations downtown, and has been used to purchase and install cement flower planters.  However, Thazampallath said that currently there is very little spendable money in the Parking Fund, minimizing the practical effect of its abolition. The parking revenue is currently about $1.2M per year; Thazampallath thought it was reasonable that Mayor Drew and Common Council would covet that money to pay for other city expenses.

Increased Revenue From Fines
The second ordinance would reduce the grace period for paying fines, and double the penalty for late payment of fines. The fine would remain as it is today, but only if it is paid within 7 days, instead of the 14 days currently. After 7 days, the fine would double, and after 21 days, it would double again. For example, parking overtime in a metered space currently costs $10 if paid in the first two weeks, and $20 if paid after that.  Under the proposed ordinance, that same violation would cost $10 if paid in the first week, $20 if paid in the next two weeks, and $40 if paid later than 3 weeks.

Geen Thazampallath, Parking Director, said that the proposed changes are "part of raising revenue." He pointed to the budgetary crises in funding at the state level, "we have to anticipate structural changes [in how city services are funded]."

Council Members Claim Free Parking, Except Bartolotta
Thazampallath said that most Council members are exempt from any parking tickets. Some Council Members have two license plates on the do-not-ticket list. The 2-plate list is mostly Republicans, including Giuliano, Pessina, and Salafia; it also includes the Democrat Chisem. Council members with only one license plate on the do-not-ticket list include the Republican Kleckowski, and Democrats Serra, Daley, Blanchard, Faulkner, and Nocera.

Only one Council person is NOT on the exempt list, Thazampallath said, "Councilwoman Bartolotta chose not to submit her license plate [to the do-not-ticket list]."

He further said that he did not think the list of do-not-ticket license plates played much of a role, "Honestly, I don’t think this list comes into play maybe once or twice a year…a pure guess but I’m extremely confident it isn’t misused or over used."

He said there was no mechanism for monitoring the time or frequency that cars on the do-not-ticket list would have otherwise received tickets.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Beautifying Harbor Park

City residents are invited to attend a planning session for
Harbor Park with the Middletown Garden Club, the City of Middletown Planning Department, and the Conway School of Landscape Design.

Two sessions will be held:

Thursday, May 5, at 6:30 pm at the Senior/Community Center, 63 Durant Terrace, and

Thursday, June 9, at 6:30 pm in the Hubbard Room of Russell Library, 123 Broad Street.

A team of graduate students from the Conway School have taken on the project of interpreting the community’s vision of an improved Harbor Park; the project is under-written through the Susan B. Wasch Riverfront Development Fund, which is managed by the Middletown Garden Club. The goal is to increase usage of the park and expand opportunities to enjoy the waterfront through active and passive access to natural resources.  


The Conway School, located in Conway, MA, offers masters’ degrees in ecological design. Their mission is to explore, develop, practice, and teach design of the land that is ecologically and socially sustainable. The Middletown Garden Club, a 501(c)(3) organization, has worked to beautify the city of Middletown for over 100 years.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Who in the What is Poetry? at Russell Library Today at 2:00pm

Susan Allison
Russell Library will host Middletown's Poet Laureate Susan Allison in a discussion and celebration of poetry today, Saturday, April 30, at 2:00pm in the Hubbard Room.

This is a workshop for people who are curious, or who want to share their own poetry, or a poem they've memorized and wish to recite.

Susan Allison says that,
"There will be time to discuss what we believe poetry is...read alouod some of our favorite poems, and workshop poems of our own. All are welcome to come join in, share, and learn about an ancient tradition that has survived into a thriving artform."

No registration is required. Refreshments will be served.

“You Campaign in Poetry. You Govern in Prose.”-- The Colonel Carries On #29

By Dot-Edy Yoo


Epigraph: “The plural of anecdote is data.” --Ray Wolfinger (1931-2015)


Raymond Wolfinger, the late political scientist from Berkeley, apparently said it first. Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Dictionary of Quotations, e-mailed Wolfinger in 2003 and got the following response:

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Weekend of Folk at The Buttonwood Tree

The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center
605 Main Street / PO Box 71, Middletown, CT 06457
www.buttonwood.org / 860.347.4957 
The Buttonwood Tree ... Rooted in the Arts
... Counting our Blessings!

Happy Arbor Day! 
April 29 is dedicated to celebrating the importance of trees... 
including The Buttonwood Tree!

Friday, April 29
8 pm $10
Greg Wilfrid and Friends
Greg Wilifred 

Greg Wilfrid’s (The Jolly Beggars) performance will feature storytelling songs, folk ballads, and audience participation songs as well, for the members of the audience to take home to their friends and families and share with the world.

Saturday, April 30
8 pm $12
Cathy Kreger and Caroline Doctorow
 
On Saturday April 30 The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts and Cultural Center will present a concert featuring two well known Long Island based singer- songwriters, 
Cathy Kreger and Caroline Doctorow.


More Events this Week

Saturday, April 30
9:15 am Donations Welcomed
 Transitional Tai Chi with Mike McEwen
10:30 am $5
Aligned with Source with Annaita Gandy
Topic: Channeling Higher Frequencies

Sunday, May 1
7:00 pm $5 Suggested
Great Make Believe Improv Show
Featuring: Just Add Water (Yale's esteemed improv comedy group)

Monday, May 2
7:00 pm $5 Suggested
Anything Goes Open Mic
8:00 pm Free
Moments of Gratitude

Tuesday, May 3
6:00 pm Donations Welcomed
Laughter Yoga 
& Color Me Calm
7:00 pm
Vegetarian Potluck 

Thursday, May 5
7:00 pm $5 Suggested
Bob Gotta's Acoustic Open Mic

 
 

Designer Furniture Company to Hold Grand Opening In Support of HDSA



Budget Hearing Draws Another Crowd

The Common Council held a meeting last night to allow public input into the budget hearing. It was attended by most Council members; the only ones that were missing were Phil Pessina (R), Carl Chisem (D), and Grady Faulkner (D).  About 100 people attended, and 40 people addressed the Council.

The comments were on three topics: education, union jobs in the schools, and the arts. 

Schools and union jobs
Seven people spoke on behalf of the employees who are part of local union 466, representing clerical and custodial workers. 466 union members are paid by the Board of Education but are covered by a union contract with the City. The Board of Education does not have hiring and firing authority over them, this is held by the Mayor. [Thank you to anonymous for correcting an earlier version of this paragraph.]

Lori Pelletier, President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, addressed the decision by the Board of Education to use outside contractors such as Sodexo to work for the city, advocating for more "in-house", union employees.

She said, "Concerns have been raised ... [about one of these outside contractors, Sodexo]", she offered no specificity about who raised those concerns, or what they were.  She went on to bemoan the privatization of public services, pointing to the "debacle at the DMV."  She said, "public employees are vested in the system, they are vested in your people, not an outside corporation."

Christine Bourne, vice-president of Local 466, said that 9.5 custodians was not enough to maintain the schools.  Several custodians emphasized how important it was that the schools employed enough custodians. Denise Privett said her building was understaffed, "I need help." 

The custodians and their union leaders addressed their comments as much to the School Board as to the Common Council. The union leaders in particular perceived inefficiencies in the Schools, Bourne said, "Waste doesn't have to happen."  They also claimed that city employees could provide better and more efficient services than Sodexo. Jeff Daniels, President of the local 466 union, said, "Sodexo is not a savior for us." 

The Arts
Eight local artists and arts supporters spoke on behalf of arts funding in the city budget. Reasoned pleas came from several artists known far beyond our city, including Noah Baermann, Marcella Trowbridge, and Kate Ten Eyck. Each of them said that the vibrancy of the arts in our city was the

most important reason they chose to make Middletown their home. Along with several members of the city's Commission on the Arts, and other residents, they asked the Council to maintain its budgetary support for the arts. 

Schools, parents and teachers
About 25 speakers advocated for full funding of our city's public education system. The speakers were about evenly divided between teachers, parents, and children. Most of the adults acknowledged that the budget was difficult, but all said that the schools needed to be fully funded.

Teachers and children spoke about the importance of what goes on in the class room. Steve McKenen, a teacher at Woodrow Wilson, pointed to the importance of paraprofessionals to help teachers when there are multiple students in the class room who need his help, "I've got only two hands and one head."


Parents' comments were more pointed. Several parents referenced a meeting last week, when Council Members and the Mayor offered testimonies about the budget, and interviewed the Schools' administration about their budget. At that meeting, Councilman Tom Serra said he was, "quite frankly annoyed with the public."

Four different parents looked directly at Serra and told him how offensive it was to be told that they were annoying. They sent the annoying comment back at Serra, and added "irritating", "exasperating", and others. Brian Kaskel said that some of the synonyms he wanted to use were not suitable for broadcast.

Selena Chapman said, "I'm going to be annoyed voting for you."  

A Look At All The Voters



There are 24,575 registered voters in our city, but not all of them voted in the presidential primary this week. The largest group of non-voters are registered "unaffiliated" or registered with the Green, Independent, Realistic Balance, Working Families, or another political party.

A total of 70% of registered voters did not vote, either because they were not registered Democrat or Republican, or because they chose not to vote.

Fewer than 1 in 20 of the registered voters in our city voted for Donald Trump.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Who in the What is Poetry? With Susan Allison at Russell Library

Poet Laureate of Middletown Susan Allison
Who in the What is Poetry? is an open discussion and celebration of poetry for beginners, poets, experts, the curious and the frustrated. There will be time to discuss what we believe poetry is, read aloud some of our favorite poems, and workshop poems of our own. All are welcome to come join in, share, and learn about an ancient tradition that has survived into a thriving artform.

Susan Allison, Middletowns’s first Poet Laureate, wrote and read the poem, Here we are Now in a Moment Like this One in honor of the inauguration of newly elected city officials last November. This past February she visited the Russell Library on Take Your Child to the Library Day, reading a poem entitled Wild Blue that she had written for the occasion. 

Drop-in, no registration.

Middletown On the Move Update

PRESS RELEASE
April 27, 2016

Middletown on the Move needs your help! Public survey, call for photos, and save-the-dates for upcoming events.

“Hearing directly from the people who live in these neighborhoods is the only way the City can make investments that will have the greatest positive community impact,” said Middletown Mayor Daniel T. Drew, “and the City appreciates any information that residents can provide.”  The City, with its Middletown on the Move initiative, is asking residents to get involved in the planning and improvement of their neighborhood.  Residents can visit www.middletownctonthemove.com or check out our Facebook page facebook.com/middletownctonthemove/.  On the website, visitors can take a short survey to share a bit about who they are, what they do for recreation, and how their neighborhood can be improved.  This survey will supplement the resident survey conducted last Fall.

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words
Is there a particular place in the City you love to visit, walk or ride your bike? Do you have concerns about a particular intersection, local park, building or sidewalk?  Share your experiences with a photo and add your voice to it if you like! 

§  Post to Facebook, and then share with the Middletown on the Move page
§  Post to Instagram, Picasa, Flickr or any other photo sharing website, and use the tag #MiddletownCTontheMove
§  E-mail your photos to: Patrice.Barrett@MiddletownCT.Gov

Save the Dates
The City is hosting a series of events to help engage residents in planning for brownfield redevelopment and neighborhood improvement.

Brownfield Bus Tours
Saturday, May 14, 2016
10 am - 12 pm and 1 - 3 pm
There will be two identical tours.  Space is limited, reserve your space today.  Join Middletown on the Move Staff to learn about brownfield redevelopment opportunities, and how these underutilized properties can become neighborhood recreation assets. To reserve a spot, register on line at www.middletownctonthemove.com/events  

Open Houses and Public Forums in 3 neighborhoods
Drop by any time during an open house to share your ideas and learn about Middletown on the Move.  Explore different ways to make small public spaces more fun and active and about health issues in your community.  Plenty of games, activities and information for the whole family!

Discussions during the open houses will help shape the conversation during the public forums in the evenings and address brownfield redevelopment opportunities, neighborhood concerns, and steps the City is taking to improve the quality of life in Middletown.

Downtown - Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Open House from 11 am to 3 pm
·       Riverview Center Terrace (located between the Police Department and Amici Grille)
Forum from 7 pm to 9 pm
·       deKoven House – 27 Washington St

North End - Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Open House from 11 am to 3 pm
                  And Forum from 7 – 9pm
·       Both at Middletown Community Health Center - 675 Main St.
·       Visit a pop-up park across the street at Main and Grand during the Open House!

South End - Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Open House from 1 – 3 pm and Public Forum from 7 -9 PM
·       Both at Middletown Senior Center - 61 Durant Pl

For more information, contact Patrice Barrett at Patrice.Barrett@MiddletownCT.Gov or at 860-638-4836

About Middletown on the Move:
Middletown on the Move is a grant project funded by the Centers for Disease Control ATSDR division and looks at specific redevelopment opportunities in Middletown’s Downtown, North End, and South End neighborhoods to create greener, healthier places to live and work.  The goals are to develop: a healthier environment, a network of streets and recreational spaces where people can safely walk, ride, play, shop, and dine, a stronger economy, and more vibrant neighborhoods.

The City is planning many ways to get Middletown moving, including investments in existing parks and open space, riverfront development, and exploring ways to improve connectivity throughout the City. Middletown on the Move is building on these efforts by working with residents to develop new recreational opportunities on currently underused brownfield properties.

Why does the City care about reusing brownfields and increasing opportunities for active living? Recently, in 436 Middletown children ages 3 to 5, 30% were overweight or obese. A major contributor to childhood obesity is a lack of safe outdoor space to play and be active. The three target neighborhoods have a median income 43% lower than Middletown as a whole (US Census). Poverty can be an indicator of poor health, particularly when neighborhoods have environmental concerns and public safety issues. Reusing brownfields can help clean up our environment, improving health and recreation opportunities, and remove unfair blight for nearby residents.

Middletown on the Move is about EVERYONE!  The City seeks involvement from local residents, particularly those living downtown and in the North and South Ends. Over the next six months, residents and businesses will have a chance to learn more about the opportunities for brownfield redevelopment, talk about their personal experiences in these neighborhoods, and share ideas for making the city healthier, friendlier, and safer for walking, biking, and being physically active.  Because decisions made through

This project will result in an actionable agenda to transform particular vacant or underutilized properties into places that can improve quality of life. Members of the project Stakeholder Committee include: City of Middletown Planning, Conservation and Development, Public Health  and Recreation & Community Services departments, ProHealth Physicians Middletown, North End Action Team, Middlesex Coalition for Children, Opportunity Knocks; Middletown Youth Services,  Middletown  Community Health Center, YMCA; Wesleyan University; and the Senior and Disabled Communitiesin Middletown.



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

MxCC Students Inducted into Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society

MxCC’s Phi Theta Kappa co-advisors Dr. Eva Jones and 
Dr. Lin Lin (standing, right) join Dr. Steven Minkler, MxCC’s 
academic dean, in congratulating the 70 new student inductees. 
In recognition of their academic excellence, leadership, fellowship, and service, 70 Middlesex Community College students were inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society during a ceremony held at the College on April 22.  As new members of the award-winning Beta Gamma Xi Chapter, these students are now part of the largest international honor society for two-year colleges.

Phi Theta Kappa has been an active part of the MxCC community for more than 20 years.  During this past academic year, student members participated in the state-wide Community College Completion Corps event and completed the Honor in Action Project on “The Cresting Point,” a documentary film about the feasibility of solar power use on a college campus.  They also attended regional and international conferences, and held fundraising events for the MxCC Foundation’s scholarship program.
MxCC President Dr. Anna Wasescha
addresses the 70 students inducted 
into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
 
This year, under the direction of co-advisors Dr. Lin Lin, Dr. Eva Jones and Ms. Landi Hou, MxCC’s chapter earned the highest Five Star Level Chapter designation for the first time – recognizing the chapter’s high level of regional and national engagement.  The chapter also received the Honors in Action Distinguished Theme Award, and Connecticut C4 Participation Recognition.  Co-Advisor Dr. Lin received the New England Region Horizon Award. 

Inductees from Middletown are:

Jessica Marquis
Katarzyna Rembielinska               
Summer Burke 
Michelle Leone
Kim Blasco          
Dylan Williams  
Michael Stielau
Lauren Goodale               
Edgardo Contreras         
Sarah Lombardo              
William March III             
Jeanne Elise Nocera       
Malgorzata Leniart