Thursday, November 26, 2015


Thanksgiving may be the ultimate "throwback Thursday". In that spirit, we reprint below the first article published on Thanksgiving in The Middletown Eye. It appeared on November 27th, 2008, and was written by V. Bomare.
With the beginning of a new and brutal recession come new behaviors. If there is a bright side to tough times, it is clear that many people seem to be spontaneously thinking about those who will suffer disproportionally during this economic downturn. I am seeing this at work, where pleas for the United Way are more forceful and heartfelt than in years past. I am also encountering this phenomenon in unexpected circumstances. As “payment” for a recent martial arts training session organized by a friend here in Middletown, participants were told to bring canned food, which was subsequently delivered to a local shelter.

This is seemingly a time both for generosity and for “the new austerity.” And this makes sense for many reasons. My parents, who are retired, are feeling the pinch because they rely (as do many other people in their 70s and 80s) on IRA accounts that now generate more anguish than income. Where I work in Middletown, salaries have been frozen to make up for budget shortfalls. But comparatively speaking, we are lucky. Other friends and family members, who work in the arts or the financial industry, are more concerned about losing their job.

To consume (which is to say, to be a consumer) during such tough economic times often seems in bad taste. The scandal of the material becomes the most acute during the holiday season, of course. In our family, we have long felt like Christmas has gotten out of hand, particularly during “boom times.” Ten years ago, we abandoned the “every person gets a present” way of celebrating the holiday; instead, everybody gets a “person” to whom s/he gives a present. The booty under the tree has been cut down by ¾ and nobody complained, not even my two kids.

But this year, members of my extended family are discussing doing away with all presents. As I have suggested above, this is clearly an esthetic, moral, and financial decision. The “green” and “Zen” side of my mind is actually quite receptive to this idea. No presents means a beautiful emptiness: no plastic packages strewn about the floor, no crumpled wrapping paper, no mess, etc. At the same time, the portion of my brain that is more pragmatic and attached to my Middletown zipcode realizes that this is precisely the time when we should actually buy a few things.

What concerns me, in particular, is that people (like me) who are probably the most willing to give up holiday giving are also the most likely to frequent local shops. National behemoths like Wal-mart will weather this storm, perhaps quite nicely, but will local bookstores and small businesses? Going against much of what I have preached over the years, I plan to argue against a presentless Christmas. When negotiations commence today (around the turkey) I will make a forceful case for a locally purchased holiday.

Cat Tales ~ Cat of the Week ~ MAGGIE!!

Cat Tales ~ Cat of the Week!!

Aren't I absolutely beautiful? I was adopted out of Cat Tales as a kitten, but unfortunately I was returned. The house I lived in was too active for me with a dog and children and it stressed me out. I am very calm now back here with my friends. I am very sweet girl who loves to cuddle and love attention!  I'd love to hug you and give you kisses. However, I need a quiet home. I am such a sweetheart and I hope someone out there will be able to open their home and heart to me. I have so much love to give you in return!

No Dogs / No Children​

Phone:  (860) 344-9043

William Shatner And South Fire Tips On Turkey Fryers

From the South Fire District.
Everything is better deep-fried, and a Thanksgiving turkey is no exception. But with that delicious cooking method comes a myriad of risks.

According to data from State Farm, more cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. November is the number one month for grease and cooking related fire and December is the second highest month.

If you plan to deep-fry your holiday bird, be sure you know how to safely use the fryer, and take these precautions to protect yourself, your guests and your home:

 1. Keep outdoor fryers off decks, out of garages and a safe distance away from trees and other structures.

 2. Make sure the turkey is thawed and dry before cooking. Ice or water that mixes into the hot oil can cause flare-ups.

 3. Watch the weather. Never operate a fryer outdoors in the rain or snow.

 4. Place the fryer on a level surface, and avoid moving it once it’s in use.

 5. Leave 2 feet between the tank and the burner when using a propane-powered fryer.

 6. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid overfilling. Oil can ignite when it makes contact with the burner.

 7. Choose a smaller turkey for frying. A bird that's 8 to 10 pounds is best; pass on turkeys over 12 pounds.

 8. Never leave fryers unattended.

 9. Purchase a fryer with temperature controls, and watch the oil temperature carefully. Cooking oil that is heated beyond its smoke point can catch fire. If you notice the oil is smoking, turn the fryer off.

10. Turn off the burner before lowering the turkey into the oil. Once the turkey is submerged, turn the burner on.

11. Wear goggles to shield your eyes, use oven mitts to protect your hands and arms and keep a grease-rated fire extinguisher close by.

12. Skip the stuffing when frying turkey, and avoid water-based marinades.

13. Keep children and pets away from the fryer at all times.

14. Once finished, carefully remove the pot from the burner, place it on a level surface and cover to let the oil cool overnight before disposing.

15. Opt for an oil-less fryer. This uses infrared heat, rather than oil, to cook the turkey.

Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

- South Fire District

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

December 2: Winter Songs - Koliada and Music from the Carpathian Mountains

Winter Songs: Koliada and Music from the Carpathian Mountains

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 8pm
Memorial Chapel, 221 High Street, Middletown
$15 general public; $13 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

The Koliadnyky, five male singers from the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine, will sing traditional winter songs from the village of Kryvorivnia, accompanied by a “troista” (trio) of instrumentalists, and special guests including bandurist Julian Kytasty, members of Hartford's Yevshan Ukrainian Vocal Ensemble, and Wesleyan’s own a cappella group Slavei.

The Koliada is a winter ritual that coincides with Christmas, but pre-dates that holiday in some parts of Eastern Europe. High in the Carpathian Mountains, in the Hutsul villages where the oldest songs are preserved, Koliada is considered to be the most important event of the year. Groups of male singers visit each family and sing ancient songs that are believed to hold special powers. According to tradition, spring and the harvest will not come unless the songs are sung in every household.

The performance will be followed by a reception in the Zelnick Pavillion.

Presented by Yara Arts Group. For more information please click here.

Co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts, Music Department, Russian House, Russian Studies, Slavei, and the Ukrainian Self Reliance Credit Union.

Local Campaign Financing Reform Discussed

There was lively disagreement on introducing a program of campaign finance reform in Middletown elections, in a discussion sponsored by Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG) at the DeKoven House last night.

Meghan Hassett, a community organizer for ConnPIRG, moderated the discussion, which included two city residents who have played an important role in election reform, Representative Matt Lesser, and Common Cause Senior Vice President Karen Hobart Flynn.

Lesser, who represents half of our city at the State capitol, credits his involvement in state government to the introduction of the Citizens Election Program (CEP). The CEP provides taxpayer funded grants to candidates who raise a specified amount of money in small donations ($5 to $100) and who pledge to forego contributions from corporations and lobbyists.  Lesser said that the CEP had made it possible for new individuals to be elected, and as a result the Legislature was younger, included more women, and was more diverse.

Flynn worked for 10 years with a variety of groups to pass the CEP. She emphasized that election financing programs like CEP were entirely voluntary, they provide incentives for participation but candidates are free to stay out of them.  She pointed to a recent New York Times article that identified just 158 families who have contributed half of all funding for the 2016 presidential candidates. She said that when the wealthy few dominate the money, the politicians are inevitably more concerned with the desires of these mega donors than with the needs of ordinary voters, "It's no wonder people are disengaging."

Hassett asked the panelists why there should be a focus on campaign finance at the local level. Lesser immediately responded, "It's the unfinished business." The 2005 state legislation that led to campaign finance reform specifically granted cities and towns the right to enact similar programs. Very few municipalities did.  Flynn said there were many different models that could be considered, based on what cities such as New Haven, Seattle, Los Angeles, and others have implemented. One model might be a grant system that requires a minimum qualifying number of small contributions, another might be a system in which small donations are matched by grants.

There were about 20 residents in attendance. One of them, Joe Milardo, vociferously protested these campaign finance reform ideas, even as he at the same time agreed that it should be individuals, not corporations, who finance elections. He asked what the problem with the current system was, and said he felt the Middletown elections had always been fair. He asked whether it would be fair for a Democratic and a Republican candidate to receive the same amount of money if the city has twice as many Democrats as Republicans.

Another resident, Steve Angle, noted that the question, "what is fair" is a difficult one to answer. He said that even if public financing did not have any direct effect on the outcomes of elections, it would still provide a huge benefit to residents, who would know that decisions made on their behalf would be less likely to be influenced by corporate campaign contributions.

Council member Gerald Daley expressed his skepticism that voters would support the use of tax money on elections, "The problem is that there's a lot of people saying, 'fill the potholes on my street' [before spending money on campaign signs]."

Lesser summed up the feelings of many others in the room, "However expensive elections are, not having clean elections is more expensive."

Hassett closed by pointing to upcoming opportunities for those interested in Middletown campaign finance reform to become involved. There is a letter to Mayor Drew, as well as a petition, calling on him "to stand up for the voices of your constituents by supporting the enactment of a small donor campaign financing program in Middletown."
Author's disclosure. I support a change in Middletown's ordinances that would reduce the influence of corporations on our city's elections. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

TONIGHT! Local Campaign Finance, A Community Discussion

From Meghan Hassett, ConnPIRG Organizer.
WHAT: Community Discussion: Taking Democracy Back from Big Money!
This is a community discussion in our city on the issue of big money's influence in our political process and what can be done about it on the local and federal level, specifically solutions like small donor empowerment programs.

Now that Mayor Drew has won reelection by a strong margin, we have a great opportunity to strengthen representative democracy here and nationwide! It's time for Mayor Drew and the City Council to take bold action towards ensuring that the voices of Middletown people are heard in our political system, by making our city a leader in campaign finance reform.

Activists, media, elected officials, Wesleyan students and faculty, and Middletown residents are coming out to hear about the problem of big money’s influence in our democracy and solutions to amplify the voices of regular people.

A municipal-level small donor empowerment program in Middletown would allow candidates to run viable campaigns and focus on representing their constituents, and also would mean that regular people could feel like their voice matters in our political process. This event will bring the community together to hear about this issue and how we can create campaign finance reform legislation in Middletown.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 24th at 7PM
WHERE: deKoven House Community Center, 27 Washington Street
SPEAKERS: State Representative Matt Lesser, ConnPIRG Organizer Meghan Hassett, more TBD!

Rep. Matt Lesser Given CT NARAL's Highest Honor

From the office of Matt Lesser
State Representative Matthew Lesser (D) has been given NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut’s 2015 Catherine Roraback award for his pro-choice leadership in the state legislature. Rep. Lesser was honored at the organization’s 23rd Annual Catherine Roraback Awards Ceremony.

“I want to thank NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut for honoring me with the 2015 Catherine Roraback award. 50 years ago, the Supreme Court struck down a Connecticut law outlawing contraception and it was Attorney Catherine Roraback who secured that victory for reproductive rights,” said Rep. Lesser.

“It is a shocking and unfortunate fact that in the year 2015, we are still dealing with other states and a Congress that would like to ax funding for women’s healthcare and prevent access to contraception. We must remain vigilant as these fights move to the Supreme Court.”

The Catherine Roraback Awards are given to individuals and organizations that have demonstrated leadership, courage and activism in the struggle to protect privacy rights, the legal right to obtain an abortion, and access to reproductive health for all women.  The awards are given in honor of Catherine Roraback, the civil rights attorney who successfully argued before the US Supreme Court, in Griswold v. Connecticut, that the right of married couples to obtain contraception is protected under the privacy rights established in the Constitution. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Griswold decision.

Throughout his tenure in elected office, Rep. Lesser has been a strong supporter of women’s reproductive rights and freedoms. This year, Rep. Lesser lent his voice to call attention to the work of so-called crisis pregnancy centers, some of which provide inaccurate medical information to pregnant women seeking help.

In addition to his support of reproductive choice, Rep. Lesser has been a strong supporter of paid family and medical leave, believing that parents should be able to stay home with a newborn child without the fear of missing out on a paycheck or getting fired.

"Representative Matt Lesser is a consistent leader on access to reproductive rights.  We are proud to honor him for his commitment to ensure Connecticut women have access to accurate, comprehensive reproductive health care," said Shannon Lane, Board Chair of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wesleyan President Responds to Demands By Students of Color; Students of Color Reject Response

Wesleyan President Michael Roth has responded to demands by students of color at Wesleyan for more inclusion and equity on campus.

The response, printed in full below, was sent in an email to students and subsequently published on student alternative newsblog, Wesleying.

In an updated post, on their website, students of color rejected Roths response, which he delivered, as demanded, within 48 hours of the first demand.  In their rejection, they state: "President Roth's response proved him incapable of addressing exactly how the university has neglected each marginalized community on campus both in the past and in the present, and in doing so, he failed to produce a detailed action plan committing to the demands set forth..."

The group also threatened "further action."

Discussions of the original demands and Roth's reply has been a hot topic on faculty email forums with professors challenging one another over the demands, and the action Wesleyan should take.  One facebook post challenges a professor who has raised the issue of "reverse racism."

Below is the response delivered to students by Michael Roth:

Dear friends,
On Tuesday I joined a few hundred Wesleyans, mostly members of the student of color community, who walked in protest through the main part of campus to the front of South College looking for a renewed commitment to equity and inclusion on our campus. Racism remains a significant fact of life for many of our students, faculty and staff—both within and beyond the borders of our campus. And even to say that is not to say enough. Here is how Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it: “racism is a visceral experience…it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this.”
While Wesleyan has long fought against discrimination in many of its forms, it is clear that we have also perpetuated some of them. We must not look away from this. As an educational institution that depends on free inquiry, it is our duty to do more. And so, it is with this in mind that I—together with members of cabinet—have examined the 5 demands of the student protesters.
The first, the demand for equity and inclusion, we embrace wholeheartedly, even as we acknowledge that for many students of color and their allies, we have not lived up to our own rhetoric. All of the other issues connect back to this one.
Demand #2 is a statement of accountability for the ways in which I and my administration have failed to meet student expectations or unwittingly hurt certain students by expressing sympathy for some people and principles and not others. I have tried to call attention to serious issues and tragedies here and around the world, but I understand that some feel I have defended those in positions of privilege at the expense of others. This has never been my intention. Sympathy is selective, to be sure, but I am happy to recognize that the circles of concern in the Wesleyan community are very broad. Indeed, as I write this many of us are focused on the hostage situation in Mali, yet another in a series of brutal terrorist attacks.
I continue to defend freedom of expression, and I also continue to recognize that not everyone has equal access to the tools for making use of that freedom. I will continue to support those who want to speak out with views that may be at odds with the campus mainstream. That’s a simple commitment to free speech, and I view it as core to the educational enterprise. Professor Jelani Cobb, among others, has taken a somewhat different position, offering a strong argument about the issue of free speech being a “diversion” from questions of racism. Last week I reached out to him, and he will be visiting campus on December 2 to meet with faculty and students so that we can all engage in the conversation on these issues.
There are many ways in which I (and frankly, everyone at the University) can benefit from criticism. It’s how we/I learn, and that’s what a university is about. By learning from one another, from keeping our conversations robust and meaningful, we will become a more equitable and inclusive place.
The proposed job description in the third demand is for an equity advocate, and it includes things that some staff are already doing. We will learn from students what needs are not being met now and what particular programs would be most helpful in the future. A related example (though not part of the students’ list) is our authorization to hire a new person with inter-cultural expertise in Counseling and Psychological Services. We authorized this position because dialogues with students identified a strong need, and we will continue our discussions about additional resources that will help all thrive at our university.
At the heart of Demand #4 is the establishment of a multicultural center. We look forward to talking to students about what this space should look like and how it might be staffed. We have some ideas in this regard, but we need more detailed student input before moving forward. We will be convening a group of staff, faculty and students early next semester to make recommendations. Before the end of this academic year, we should have plans we can implement. As we develop these ideas, we will want to know how we will be able to determine if such a Center is successful.
The fifth demand is for a vehicle for addressing faculty and staff bias and discriminatory behavior. We have to communicate better about our existing resources, because students already have the ability to report such incidents through Maxient. In addition students can use their course evaluations to describe these issues. We currently are running a pilot program for a new course evaluation form. I have asked the Provost to scan current evaluations for incidents and patterns, and we commit to using our reporting vehicles for evidence of troubling trends.
We must also remember that there are legitimate concerns about anonymous criticisms damaging those at whom they are leveled without giving those accused an opportunity to defend themselves; we must be sure to protect the rights of students, faculty and staff, especially those whose views are not aligned with those of the majority. Many have begun a discussion about how we might learn from various reporting mechanisms while building in the appropriate protections. Prejudice in and out of the classroom is real and causes harm; people sometimes discriminate against others or act to marginalize them. We can address incidents when we know about them.
Although not specifically called out in the list of demands, in order to become more inclusive we have much work to do in regard to low income and first generation students. Enhancing financial aid through enhanced internship opportunities and reduced family payment contributions should make our community more equitable. We are working on plans right now to ease the economic burdens on those of our students most vulnerable to financial exigencies.
Although we will not always agree on how to frame particular issues or which tactics are most effective, I do not see the marchers and myself as adversaries. At the beginning of this week I “encouraged Wesleyans to stand up and make themselves heard.” I vowed to listen, and I will continue to do so. We now have more concrete tasks in front of us. With your continued support and input, we will continue our work and together make progress on these crucial issues. We will not look away from this.
Michael S. Roth

Middletown Police Snag 544 in Weekend Stop and Shop Stake-Out

Members of the Middletown Police Department, and several volunteers, spent the weekend at the doors of Stop and Shop, on East Main Street, questioning likely suspects who would donate to the annual turkey drive.

As a result, the department collected 544 frozen turkeys which were loaded into a truck and will be distributed in partnership with the Middletown Community Thanksgiving project, to families in need during the holiday.

MPD also collected $707 in donations for the cause.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

30th Annual Holiday On Main Kicks Off Friday

From Jeff Pugliese, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce
Thomas Byrne, Chairman of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Central Business Bureau, announced Holiday On Main Street will kick-off on Friday, November 27 from 4:00 p.m to 8:15 p.m. The Holiday on Main Street Committee, chaired by Al Santostefano and co-chairman Rich Greco, in conjunction with the City  and the Commission on the Arts, invites everyone to ring in the festive season by attending the three tree-lighting ceremonies and parade along Main Street. Last year, over 2,500 people were able to enjoy the holiday sights and sounds on the South Green and more are expected this year.

At 4:00 p.m. in front of Middlesex Chamber, there will be wagon rides until 5:00 p.m. and the Kiwanis Club of Middletown members will be selling Hot Pretzels & Popcorn. In front of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Middletown High School Crew Team will be selling Hot Chocolate, Coffee & Desserts. At 5:00 p.m. Middletown Area Transit Holiday Bus will shuttle people to the South Green for the Carol Sing and First Tree Lighting.

The Carol Sing with the Middletown High School Concert Choir will begin at 5:00 p.m. prior to the tree-lightings, directed by Michael Gosselin and the Woodrow Wilson 7th & 8th Grade Chorus. The Keigwin Middle School Chorus will appear, directed by Ali Sinicrope sponsored by Commission On the Arts, with Emcee Don DeCesare from WMRD / WLIS Radio. The Cat in the Hat and Splat the Cat arrives on a wagon ride with 3rd grade Middletown students, who were chosen by their teachers because they show good citizenship, good behavior, is respectful to others and demonstrates the spirit of giving in everyday life.

The first Tree-Lighting at 6:00 p.m. will be the big tree on the South Green and will be led by Mayor Daniel Drew and Santa Claus along with Alexis Volpe, Miss Middletown Outstanding Teen 2016.

After the Tree is lit on the South Green, there will be a Parade up Main Street led by the Middletown High School Band and Santa Claus to the Middlesex Chamber where the Tree on the roof will be lit at 6:15 p.m. for the second Tree-Lighting of the night followed by free pictures with Santa, wagon rides for the whole family until 8:00 p.m.

At 8:15 p.m. there will be festivities in front of Eli Cannon’s Tap Room at 695 Main Street for the third and final Tree-Lighting of the night.  Here, Santa will arrive to light the Tree and there will be elves on hand to provide all children with complimentary popcorn, cookies, hot chocolate and other treats.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Vintage Players Presents “Stage Whispers”

"Stage Whispers," a heartwarming, funny, and poignant evening of original one-act plays by Carolyn Kirsch, will be produced by Vintage Players on December 12, 2015 at 7:30 pm at Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington St., Middletown, CT. 

These three new works feature the talents of John Basinger, Patricia Farrell, Susan Hall, Carolyn Kirsch, and Jane McMillan (all of Middletown). Two of the plays have been developed as a collaboration between Mr. Basinger and Miss Kirsch.   

Admission is $25, and all proceeds will benefit the Children's Programs of Oddfellows Playhouse. Refreshments will be served. 

Tickets must be purchased in advance and can be obtained by contacting Pat Farrell at (860) 214-3758.

See you at The Playhouse!  

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at Russell Library!

Watch the book come to life at the Russell Library!

On Sunday, November 22 at 1:30 pm. The Hampstead Stage Company will present The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, their first installment in their series of adaptations of the beloved Narnia saga by C.S. Lewis. 
Step with them through the door of an old wardrobe and enter a snowy world laced with fantasy and wonder.  There you will meet quite the cast of magical creatures as you accompany two intelligent and imaginative children, Lucy and Edmund, on their adventures.  This delightful story is entertainment for the whole family, while still providing insight about the emotional climate of childhood during World War II.  Additionally, the play uses elements of traditional English folklore, Greek mythology, and of course 20th century literature to educate the audience.
Drop-in, no registration. 
The Hubbard Room, Russell Library, 123 Broad St., Middletown. Ages: 5 and up. 
 Sponsored by The Friends of The Russell Library.