Sunday, March 31, 2013

From 1913: Easter In The Churches

The following is an excerpt from an article published about 100 years ago today, appearing in the Hartford Courant on March 24, 1913. The Courant routinely published articles on church activities.

Easter Sunday was appropriately observed in the local churches yesterday, elaborate musical programs being the order at most of the services. At the First Baptist Church, the ordinance of believer's baptism was administered to three, while in a number of the other churches new members were received. Tuttle's Orchestra assisted the choir in the music in St. John's Church at the 10:30 mass, which marked the opening of the forty hours' devotion. Special services were held in the afternoon at both the North and South Congregational churches, at the former the choir rendering a cantata "The Resurrection" by Manney, while at the latter T. Alexander Matthew's cantata, "The Life Everlasting" was given.

The annual carol service at Holy Trinity was held at 3:30 o'clock and as usual the church was crowded. A chorus of thirty-five voices rendered Adam Gelbel's "Light Out of Darkness" at the First Methodist Church in the evening. At the high celebration at the Church of the Holy Trinity in the morning the choir was assisted by an orchestra. Special exercises were held in a number of the Sunday schools in observance of the hundredth anniversary of David Livingstone. The programs at the South Congregational and First Baptist schools were particularly elaborate. Professor William North Rice of Wesleyan spoke at the special Easter services of the Connecticut Industrial School for Girls in the afternoon. There was also a cantata "The Morn of Hope," by the girls. At the Italian service, at the First Methodist Church in the afternoon the new pastor, who is to succeed the late Rev. Armando Natali, preached his first sermon. The choir of the Swedish Lutheran Church of Portland rendered a special Easter program at the Middlesex Hospital in the afternoon.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Unearthing Community: Archaeology of the Beman Triangle

Unearthed in the dig, photo by Bill Burkhart
The Middlesex County Historical Society, located in the General Mansfield House, 151 Main Street, will be the first stop for the exhibit, “Unearthing Community: Archaeology of the Beman Triangle.” The public may view the exhibit beginning Saturday, April 6 through the end of May. Museum hours are Monday – Thursday, 10 am to 3 pm and the first Saturday of the month, 12 pm to 3 pm.

Alice Threw the Looking Glass - It's Not a Typo

Oddfellows Playhouse’s Junior Repertory Company will present Alice Threw The Looking Glass: A Parody of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style by John Walch.  The comedic combination of the world of Alice in Wonderland and grammar rules will run April 4-6 at 7:30pm. 

First-year college student Alice is in serious danger of failing her English course when she follows her composition paper into the trash -- and ends up in a hallucinatory world where the rules of grammar are turned upside-down.  If she wants to pass, she'll need to deal with gunslinging run-on sentences, thugs hawking colloquialisms, fearsome Modifier Leeches, and more.  Inspired by Lewis Carroll and parodying the grammar and writing style bible The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, this witty comedy explores the fantasy world of language in all its grotesque mutations.

The Junior Repertory Company is comprised of students in grades 5-8, from 10 different towns throughout central Connecticut.  The Junior Repertory company brings to life challenging and fun theatrical productions appropriate for audiences of all ages. 

The production runs Thursday thru Saturday, April 4 through April 6.  All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $15 for Adults and $8 for Students/Seniors.  Anyone bringing a canned food item for Amazing Grace Food Pantry will receive a $2 discount on their ticket.  Tickets are available online at or by calling 860-347-6143. 

The production is made possible by major support from CT State Department of Education, Middlesex United Way, The Stare Fund, Pratt & Whitney, the Middletown Commission on the Arts and Daphne Sebolt Culpeper Foundation.   Media support is provided by WESU 88.1FM. 

On a Clear Day you can see ..

Ravine Pond Bottom.

Ravine Pond Ducks.

Stone near Ravine Pond.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Drew To Propose $137.9M Budget

Mayor Dan Drew gave his annual budget address last night in the Council Chambers. In attendance were members of the Common Council, the Board of Education, and the Planning and Zoning Commission. Drew is proposing a budget that will require a 0.9 mill rate increase, property taxes would rise by 3.3%. Drew said, "This will be an increase of only $2.85 per week for the average homeowner ..." In conjunction with the budget release, Drew said he would issue "an executive order implementing a hiring freeze for all but critical positions."

South Fire Flower Sale

Members of South Fire District Local 3918 are holding an Easter Flower Sale this weekend, featuring Tulips, Easter Lilies, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Geraniums.

All proceeds go to local charities such as: Amazing Grace Food Pantry, Middlesex Cancer Center, Middletown Little League, Adopt-a-Family Program & MDA.

South District Firehouse
445 Randolph Rd

Date and Time
March 28 - 30, 2013
8 AM  to  7 PM

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Local residents needed for historic cancer research effort

from the Middlesex Hospital's newsletter:

Middlesex Hospital and the American Cancer Society are joining together to provide an unprecedented opportunity for local residents to participate in a historic study that has the potential to change the face of cancer for future generations. Men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer are needed to participate in the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3).
CPS-3 will help researchers better understand the lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer.

CCP's Did You Know? Fact #15.

This week’s fact highlights Wesleyan Athletics’ partnerships with local elementary schools. Beyond their presentation at Woodside, Athletics sends out students on a weekly basis to join the elementary schools during recess. You can check out their Harlem Shake video with Macdonough students here.

A large force behind this partnership is Jeff McDonald, who holds several titles at Wesleyan, including Assistant Football Coach and co-advisor for Wesleyan’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee. In his article printed over at Middletown Patch, McDonald details the symbiotic relationship between Wesleyan Athletics and Macdonough School. We implore you to jump over and learn more about this dynamic partnership.

Creating Something Out of Nothing

The following is the opinion Matt Pugliese, Executive Director at Oddfellows Playhouse

There are many skills and benefits that children receive from involvement at Oddfellows Playhouse and in theater arts programs.  Creativity and imagination are some of the first benefits people list when talking about the value of a theater arts education and experiences.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to appear on WNPR’s Where We Live with John Dankosky to discuss the topic of creativity.  The discussion between panelists Constanza Gowen-Segovia (CO LAB), Louise Loomis, Ed.D (Thinkwell Center) and the Watkinson School Creative Arts Program students has really stuck with me. (Listen here) It was a broad, wide ranging discussion and we only began to touch the subject of creativity.

I have been thinking a great deal about creativity in the wake of our conversation, and how to re-frame what it is that we do at Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater. In particular, I’ve been considering the way society values creativity.  It is very much in the forefront  of our current economic environment to talk about the new economy, and the importance of innovation.  "Innovate" is simply another way of saying "create".  So, if we are going to prepare our young people to be innovative, we need to build their creativity. 

Creativity is something that you need to practice.  As with any skill, one needs to work to develop and refine creativity.  That is one of the  benefits of continued involvement at Oddfellows Playhouse and in theater.  It is an opportunity for a young person to have their creativity exercised.  Just as students go to sports and music practices, creativity and imagination need to be exercised and pushed to the limit. 

All of the “creating” that goes on in each rehearsal comes with other benefits as well.  Students become quick thinkers, they improvise and they learn to work through scenarios in advance and feel prepared when something unexpected happens.  This helps them learn to handle the anxiety that comes along with so many aspects of life—such as a school project, a business presentation, speaking in front of colleagues or sharing an original idea. 

Oddfellows’ spring session begins the week of April 1, and is full of opportunities for children ages 3-18 to exercise their creativity.  The youngest students in Pre-K, Kindergarten and Grade 1 have classes that are designed to get them used to using their creativity and sharing it with their peers.  Think of it like riding a tricycle, then a bicycle with training wheels.  Students in Story Starters (grades 2-3) can create a Mini-Production based on the West African folktale of Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters.  Not only are they creating characters and story, but they are considering a “Cinderella” tale from a different cultural point of view.   The Kids Company (grades 4-5) can explore Fundamentals of Musical Theater and Comedy and Improv.  Junior Rep (grades 6-8) can give their imaginations a serious workout with How To Deliver a Monologue and Intro to Playwrighting.  Our Teen Rep (grades 9-12) also has an opportunity to discover their unique voice with Intro to Playwrighting and Intro to Directing classes.  Complete class descriptions and information can be found at .  Registration is available online or by calling 860-347-6143. 

Senior Thesis Exhibitions Start This Week (through April 21)

For the next four weeks, Wesleyan will celebrate the talents of seniors in the Art Studio Program of the Department of Art and Art History.  There’s a new exhibition every week, with opening receptions every Wednesday from 4pm to 6pm. This week (through Sunday, March 31) features theses by Allison Kalt, Tiffany Unno, Ilyana Schwartz, Anna Shimshak and Christina You. CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talked to Tiffany Unno and Anna Simshak about their work in the exhibition in this entry from the Center for the Arts blog.

“Figures” by Ilyana Schwartz ’13
Week one of the Senior Thesis Exhibitions includes diverse media, from process-focused wood blocking to conceptual photography. Earlier this week, Tiffany Unno and Anna Simshak took a break from installing and chatted with me about their work. Ms. Unno's  "Excavations" disintegrates the boundaries between drawing, print-making and sculpture, and Ms. Shimshak’s "Translatio Corporis" is a photographic thesis that provides an intimate examination of Catholicism in a modern world.

Commission Rules Against Proposal For Zoning Change

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to deny a proposal to restrict commercial development from the residential area around Wesleyan. The Commissioners' vote came without any deliberation or discussion, after they had listened to over an hour of testimony from residents concerned about their neighborhood, from property owners looking to sell property for its maximum possible price, and from the lawyer representing a developer who has proposed a shopping strip abutting the residential neighborhood.

The Character of Middletown
The proposal was in the form of a zoning code text amendment submitted by Ed McKeon. McKeon is a resident of the Wesleyan neighborhood and a member of the Board of Education. McKeon's text amendment would stipulate that land in the ID (Institutional Development) zone be governed by an RPZ (residential) zone rather than the MX (mixed use) zone if the institution was not using the property. Residences could be turned into many commercial uses under an adaptive re-use provision, but property would not be able to be used for drive-through banks or used car lots, currently permitted in the MX zone.

McKeon admitted that he had an ulterior motive in proposing this change, "I proposed this change to the ID zone as a reaction to the proposal to expand the commercial impact of the MX zone. ... I propose this change in the ID zone as a way to consider some things that are at risk. The character of Middletown, the character of of our neighborhoods, the lives of our core-city and nearby residents..."

McKeon read from the document that guides all decisions by Planning and Zoning, the Plan of Conservation and Development, saying, "additional protection in an ID Zone fits firmly with your guiding principles." He pointed to multiple passages that emphasize the importance of encouraging owner-occupied homes in the downtown historic residential areas.

Jenn Proto presented research on the economic value of historic districts to the city. She cited an extensive study of real estate values in several towns in Connecticut which demonstrated that protection of historic neighborhoods increased the value of real estate. Proto suggested that this was in part because protected neighborhoods offer stability and predictability to potential home buyers.

"The green elephant"
Ralph Wilson is a land use attorney representing Bob Landino, who has proposed developing a shopping center on Washington, between Pearl and High Street. Wilson repeatedly stated that the proposed zoning code text "makes no sense." He also pointed to the Plan of Conservation and Development for support. His primary argument was that it was wrong to reduce the possible uses of land, calling McKeon's proposal "down-zoning".

Two property owners who have agreed to sell their land to Landino also spoke against the zoning code text change.

Lee Osborne is a former chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, he justified his opposition by emphasizing the importance of commercialization, "The elephant in the room, ladies and gentlemen is money. If you look at all these areas that have been zoned MX for years, why haven’t [businesses] been built there? Because it doesn’t make financial sense! Why is there now a movement to do something on Washington Street? Because, at 22,000 cars a day, the people interested in leasing property there, are saying, ‘that’s where I want to be’."

He went on to dismiss business opportunities on Main Street, "They’re not interested in being on a vacant store front on Main Street because they cannot have the drive-through and they don’t have the volume of traffic going by to make this happen."

John DeSena did not speak to general principles, he said he was opposed to the zoning code text change because it would stop him from doing whatever he wants with his lot, "I want to be able to do what I want to do with it. Not what other people want to tell me what to do with it."

DeSena said that he had a plan, "Me and Mr. Osborne got together, we approached a developer, we’re trying to do something. Now I think that it’s unfair that so many people want to stop me and Mr. Osborne and the other woman from what we want to do with our pieces of property."

Stephen Smith, a resident in the area, spoke near the end of the hearing. Smith seemed to appreciate Osborne's bluntness, but he urged the Commission to look beyond money, "I appreciate Lee bringing up the money. Because there’s an elephant in the room and it’s green but I don’t see how that concerns you. You voted previously to amend zoning code that will now will allow Lee to make more than market value. But now you also have now diminished the value of someone else’s property. Someone else’s property is worth considerably less."

Smith called on the Commissioners to take a proactive role in City Planning. He decried the process in which a developer and then an individual separately proposed what he considered flawed zoning code text changes. He said, "It’s out of control." He called on the Commission to table the McKeon proposal and to turn their energy to Planning, "You should table this, you should not do this, and you should stop letting other people do your job."

"All those in favor..."
After the public hearing was closed, Commissioner Nick Fazzino tried to introduce a motion to deny the proposed text change. After some confusion, Commissioner Molly Salafia very clearly read the entire text change and made a motion to approve it, so that the Commission could proceed to a discussion and then vote.

Chairman Rich Pelletier waited for discussion or comment on the proposed amendment. None was forthcoming, so he called for a vote. The text change was defeated unanimously.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Signs of Spring

I love living in Westfield for many reasons: one of the most important is the wildlife I see on a regular basis.  My family loves to spy foxes, swans, beavers, and wild turkeys.  We especially love wild turkeys.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I encountered the fine specimen pictured below.  He is not a wild turkey - I'm pretty sure he escaped from the farm near where I was driving.  We never did see the object of his affection, but we stopped for a few minutes to admire his strutting and gobbling.

Admittedly, the weather has not felt very spring-like, but that didn't seem to bother this guy.  I know my children have been anxious to be outside in the warm spring sun, so here's to a fine Easter weekend and warmer weather just around the corner!

Mayor Invites Public To Thursday Budget Address

From the Mayor's Office:
Mayor Daniel T. Drew will be giving his budget address on Thursday, March 28, 2013, at 7 pm. in the Council Chamber. The Mayor will be inviting the Council Members, Board of Education Members, Planning & Zoning Members, Teachers unions, PTA presidents, Fire Union, Police Union, Local 466 and Teamsters. Members of the public are invited.

Folk, Jazz, and a Celebration of Spring: This Weekend at the Buttonwood

The snow is (mostly) gone, April is around the corner... Time to come out of hibernation and head on down to the Buttonwood Tree for music, laughter, and fun!

Sing your heart out with Deni at Karaoke this Wednesday, March 27 at 7 pm. Bring your friends and belt it out! Free.

Is poetry more your style? Try the Campus Slammer on Thursday, March 28. Starting at 7:30 pm, college students from across Connecticut will vie for the honors in this battle of words, sharing slam stories about "Branching out". $5 suggested donation; click here for more information.

On Friday, March 29 is our first concert of the week, a folk double bill: Chelsea Berry featuring Joe Wilkins. Doors open at 8:45. Chelsea is a singer-songwriter from Alaska who moved to the area to attend Berklee College of Music, and she now lives on Boston’s North Shore.  Joe Wilkins is a multi-instrumentalist living on Boston’s North Shore. He writes and records his own music at Rocky Top Studios in his home town of Gloucester MA. $10; click here for more information.

Come Saturday morning for spiritual and physical empowerment. Qigong starts at 7:30, followed by Community Yoga at 8:45, and then the "Aligned with Source" workshop at 10:30. This week's theme is 'Co-Creating a Beautiful World'.

Jen Allen will be joining us on Saturday, March 30 at 8 pm. Jen Allen is a jazz pianist whose debut solo album “Pieces of Myself” was released in June 2011. This show will be filled with joyful music with Henry Lugo on bass, Ben Bilello on drums and  Kris Allen on alto sax. Click here for more information,

Then on Sunday is The Buttonwood's Balkan Beltane featuring the Underscore Orkestra! Join us for this celebration of life and rebirth! We will begin with a potluck at 2:30, followed by a music and dancing at 3:30. The Underscore Orkestra is a Portland, OR based band, playing a blend of Balkan, Klezmer, Gypsy Jazz and Swing. They have been performing for the past 7 years, touring all around the world, and have played everywhere from intimate coffee shops to huge outdoor festivals. Guaranteed to get you up and moving whether you like to swing dance, Balkan folk dance, or just go out and shake it! Click here for more information.

Did You Know? Fact #14.

Today's fact highlights the Service-Learning Center, which integrates experiences outside the classroom with an academic curriculum taught within the classroom. 
As one form of experiential education, Service-Learning seeks to broaden students understanding of course content through activities which are, at the same time, of service to our city. Through structured reflection on their service, students are able to test and deepen their understanding of theoretical approaches in virtually any discipline.
Service-Learning courses start either of  two ways: when an interested faculty member looks to incorporate a service component into their academic offering, or when a community organization identifies a need and the Service-Learning Center works with a faculty member to create a course that addresses or contributes research to that need. To learn more about the Service-Learning Center, including past courses, projects, city partnerships, and opportunities, you can go to their website here.

Wonder Drugs You Can Clap -- Popcorn by The Colonel #37

SPOILER ALERT: no quirky humor in this piece.

No, this is not The Colonel

The Colonel is not a member in good standing of "our culture's paranoia about germs" (Jessica Hertzstein's phrase), but like many, he abhors needless death. Here are some nuggets he found interesting and more or less stole. Hope he did so artfully, for he hates typos with a pageant and avoids misspellings like the plaque. Now the real beginning:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Creem Elected

Edward Creem has been elected to the South Fire District Commission by a vote of 155 to 97.


Information technology (IT) continues to be at the top of job lists across the United States, and many people are preparing for careers in this high-demand field.  To explore some possible paths, including the high-growth area of health information management (HIM), Middlesex Community College’s Computer Club is hosting its second annual “Network Event.”  This free event, which is open to the public, will be held on Saturday, April 13, 2013, in the Founders Hall cafeteria from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  Guests include successful IT professionals who work in networking, security, database administration, mobile web development, programming, and desktop support.  A presentation will be given by the Connecticut Health Information Management Association (CTHIMA). For more information, contact Prof. Donna Hylton at or (860) 343-5774.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

From 1913: Uncle Horace Johnson Warns Wilson To Take Fur Overcoat

The following article is from about 100 years ago, published on March 2nd, 1913, in the Washington Post.

Middletown, Conn.,--Uncle Horace Johnson, the aged weather prophet, who predicted the storm at President's Taft's [sic] inauguration four years ago, when Chief Willis Moore and other government weather sharps promised a fair day, has written to Woodrow Wilson, advising him to take his fur coat with him to Washington, as in all probability he will have to wear it next Tuesday.

Uncle Horace, who is in his eighty-ninth year, has been forecasting weather conditions for 75 years, and ever since his predication of the blizzard of 1888 farmers throughout the State have placed great faith in his predictions. For upward of half a century he has made his home in Middle Haddam, living in a bungalow on the banks of the Connecticut River.

Friday, March 22, 2013

South Fire District Election: Ed Creem Statement

Submitted to The Eye by Ed Creem. The Eye welcomes statements from any candidate for elected office.

Retired Middletown radio broadcaster and Cromwell Police Dispatcher Ed Creem has announced his candidacy for a vacant seat on the South Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners. A Special Election will be held on March 25th to fill the vacancy created by the resignation last month of Commissioner Joseph Sarcia. Creem recently submitted his notice of candidacy letter to the Fire District.

Creem is a long time attendee at South Fire District Commission meetings and frequently comments on district activities during the public comment portion of the meetings. He recently served as a citizen member of the Fire District’s Bylaws Committee. He has resided in the South Fire District since 1990 and has been a property owner in the district going back to 1984 when the corporation he headed purchased the former WCNX Radio Station. During his time at WCNX, Creem held the dual roles of President/ General Manager and News Director. Since retiring from WCNX in the early 1990’s after 35 years in radio and television broadcasting, Creem has had two additional and overlapping careers.

Throughout the 1990’s Creem worked for William Raveis Real Estate, first as a Residential Agent in the Middletown office and later as a specialist in the firm’s Corporate Relocation Department in Shelton where he was responsible for all corporate owned and bank foreclosed properties in New Haven County and portions of Middlesex County.

In 1994 Creem joined the Cromwell Police Department as a Dispatcher. He was the senior dispatcher when he retired from full time work six years ago, although he still is employed on a part-time basis. Creem has deep roots in Emergency Service having spent 20 years as an EMT with a large Volunteer Ambulance Service in Westchester County,
New York. He also served as the agency’s President and Board Chairman for many years and as Vice Chairman of both the Westchester County and Hudson Valley Regional EMS Councils.

Creem, who has a Bachelors Degree in Economics from St. Michael’s College in Vermont, is a native of Waterbury, CT. His varied career has included stints as a daily television host in Burlington, VT, as a local news reporter in Vermont, New York and Connecticut, several years as Manager of the largest FM Radio station in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley and a dozen years as co-owner of a fast food restaurant. He also has held elective office as a City Councilman in Peekskill, New York where overseeing the Budget of the City’s Fire Department was part of council responsibilities.

Creem is married to Cheryl Harris Creem, a former employee of the South Fire District, and whose roots in the South Fire District go back multiple generations.

Pat Braxton Lights Up Buttonwood with Jazz Favorites - Saturday: Children's Show & MHS Students

It's another full weekend of happenings at The Buttonwood Tree
Located in the former Arriwani Hotel, next to It's Only Natural market, TBT has a great vibe, awesome acoustics, and is a wonderful way to meet others in our community. As a way of saying "Thank You" to patrons, TBT started a Bonus Book program which gives you a free book for attending shows (restrictions apply). 605 Main Street,, 860-347-4957.
Art Gallery and used book store opens at 10 am Mon - Sat. 

Tonight, Friday March 22, Pat Braxton brings her group to play our favorite jazz standards.    Find out more here / Reserve your seat

Saturday: Qigong, Yoga and "Aligned with Source" Empowerment Workshop - Topic:"Identify & Honor Your True Worth’. Start at 7:30am, stay the whole morning!
   Visit Buttonwood's website here

Susan Peak’s Stupendously Wonderful Music Show  
Susan PeakSongs range from instructive to just plain fun; from ladybugs to glaciers, you’ll learn something while playing and singing along!”  

Children's show at 2 -3 pm   Free drinks for the kids!

A one hour interactive extravaganza of silliness and song. Audience members become part of the show as they find themselves dancing, clapping, playing percussion, and maybe even barking along with the music! Susan’s songs encompass a range of styles including rock, folk, blues and reggae. In addition to her sparkling originals you will hear some old and new favorites, all designed to keep your feet movin’ and your spirits high. Guaranteed to be a great cure for the winter blues! Family pricing.   Read more here

Saturday evening:
Matthew Terrell Presents "To Be Announced" 
7pm  $5.

This event is an artistic performance of music and poetry, performances are all by local young talents. This event is independently put on by Matthew Terrell and the “To Be Announced” group (eleven performers in all).

Student Poets: Evan Knoll, Nathan Linklater, Jonah Allen, Aja Gaskins, Olive Kuhn, Mark Sumner, Ian Carlucci, Gabby Forrest, Matthew Terrell (MC)

Musical Performers: Thomas Hadley and Jake Cunningham (Corporal Candy/T Titty)
Thomas Hadley’s music is lo fi noise pop trip hop

The Buttonwood Tree is supported by the City of Middletown's Commission on the Arts, the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, Johnson Consulting, The Coffeehouse Recording Studio, Middlesex Music Academy, O'Rourke's Diner and our members - Join as a member here

Dazed, Disgusted and Disappointed But Not Done

I have been a vocal opponent of the MX zone change because it will change the character of Middletown by bringing high-volume, high-traffic, drive-through restaurants and retail to neighborhoods where they haven't existed before.  I wrote this commentary the day after the March 13 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting but waited to publish it so that I'd be sure it wasn't fueled solely by anger.  I also had the opportunity to watch the video of the meeting again, and my opinion hasn't changed.

--> At the February 27 Planning and Zoning Commission meetings, proponents of the now-adopted MX special exception change, spoke repeatedly about the faith they had in Commissioners to make the "right" decision. I guess that worked out for them two weeks later on March 13. The rest of us may be on the road to losing our religion when it comes to the democratic process in our little town. For two meetings in a row, hundreds of people opposed to the change packed Council Chambers.  At the first, forty spoke passionately and cogently about the looming change.  At the second, they sat disconsolately as the Commission, directed by our town planner, bumbled their way through the creation of a frankenzone (available now for public view on the P&Z website). As a group, they seemed not to be aware of their duty, their own zoning code or of Robert's Rules of Order.  The chairman frequently appeared befuddled by his fellow commissioners, by the tangle of amendment pasted upon amendment and by his very duty to run an orderly meeting. Dozens of my neighbors have asked me to try to explain how an elected board could so recklessly ignore their sworn responsibility to represent the rights, health and safety of residents by accepting a custom-constructed special exception designed to trample landowner rights, create health hazards and promote traffic gridlock and risk to pedestrians. Such an explanation would need to defy logic. The amendments to the original amendment were a carefully-constructed set of misdirections to allow a zoning sleight of hand.  The new amendments were designed to appear as though commissioners addressed community concerns, without really doing so.  This approach allowed them to look residents in the eye while they offered nothing new:  - We will protect historical buildings, but only those on a list which does not include those buildings which stand in the way of Centerplan's development. - We will direct traffic on and off the state highway, even though in previous meetings it has been stated that the state DOT will be unlikely to grant such access.  In which case traffic will flow, heavily, down side streets. - We will create parking pods instead of one big lot, but those pods can still be placed between the street and the building, just like they are in all strip malls.  - We will prevent the horrible rise of used car lots, ambulance garages, ugly cinderblock buildings, and gas stations, except, that the new code doesn't give commissioners any further authority to do any of that.  - We will retain the authority to judge developments case by case, unless the development just so happens to fit the prescripts of the special exception.  - We will allow the public to comment at every future hearing on a special exception.  Unfortunately, residents have now seen how easy it is for the Commission to disregard public opinion. Commissioner Emery proposed several exceptions which would have protected neighbors, but found her exceptions blocked by the town planner and her fellow commissioners.  She suggested:   - Let's take some time, vote this down now, and write some good code, and they responded that it was their right to offer on-the-spot amendments.   - Let's add some controls on air pollution for the health of residents, and they responded that it would be too complicated, and difficult, and they'd have to do some research and write some meaningful standards, and besides, air pollution comes from Hartford and New Haven and Danbury.   - Let's limit business hours and they responded that such restrictions were too limiting, and that business hours should be considered on a case-by-case basis.   - Let's change the minimum frontage and building size and they responded by making required frontage smaller, but could not, and did not, offer any evidence in design or usage why such an alteration made any sense. The final vote, obscured as it was in a cloud of mumbles and confusion, was disappointing, but not surprising.  Most commissioners appeared to have their minds made up before they entered the room. The amendments that planning staff added to the original special exception amendment, were delivered at the last minute, and while it made substantial changes to the language of the original application, it was not offered for public inspection, or public hearing at any point during the proceedings. The vote to accept the amended amendment came before the new language was ever read out loud, even once, in the public meeting, or into the public record. It came after a two-week break between hearing and vote during which commissioners concocted language (a knowledgeable lawyer called it a “Trojan Horse”) which would allow them to defend their acceptance of the Centerplan-authored code and state publically that it was the best thing for the families and children of Middletown. The vote came after dozens of well-prepared residents offered testimony in opposition to the MX change, and then had their testimony dismissed as less valid than the support some commissioners cited in private phone calls, letters and conversations with unidentified proponents of the plan. What now? You can help.  Call zoning commissioners today, and ask them to try to explain what happened. Take notes. You can attend the next Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, when a proposal to limit the uses of ID Zone buildings (part of the MX zone), will be proposed. You can also contribute to a fund to offset legal fees associated with an appeal of the MX zone change.  Write a check to Jennifer and Jared Proto, 390 High St., Middletown. You can vote.  Half of these P&Z seats will be up for election this November.  Remember the names of commissioners who voted against the public good. It's our town, and I don't know about you, but I'm not prepared to cede control to an influential developer with deep pockets.

Last Days of Winter

It’s not winter that bothers me so much, but the sleepy expedition of summers arrival.

I enjoy fall.  And like the holidays leading up to the New Year.  January is fine also.  But going through February and March is a drag.  I am just tired of gray skies, skeleton like woods, and cold windy weather. 

I am ok with snow.  It breaks up the mundane and is useful for sporting and play.

This video focuses on these last days of the winter season while I took a walk down Main.  Nobody wants to be on the street.  We hurry into our cars and buildings.  But after all the gray and gloom there is growth and hope.

P.s. I know this video isn't all sugar and spice but that is soon to come. :-)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

CCP's "Did You Know?" Fact #13

The "Did You Know?" Campaign highlights partnerships, connections, and collaborations between Wesleyan and the greater Middletown community. Every Tuesday and Thursday we will post a fact and send it out to WesLive, Middletown Eye, Middletown Patch, Facebook, Twitter, and beyond.

This week's fact highlights a local enterprise with an alumni connection.