Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Opinion: Florsheim Is an Engaged Leader

Submitted by Shanay Fulton, North End resident.  Fulton is a Democratic Party endorsed Row A candidate for Planning and Zoning Commission Alternate.
I chose to write to you expressing my hopes that we elect Ben Florsheim as the new Mayor of Middletown. Why? Ben is a fresh face, he’s young, he’s enthusiastic, and honestly the most engaging of all the candidates. In my opinion, his youth, the fact that he is Wesleyan Grad, and that he has lived in other places before choosing Middletown are all positive reasons to have him be our next Mayor.

Government and politics has in recent times been targeted towards “more youth involvement and voice”. Or the coined phrase, getting youth to “Rock The Vote!” Well a young, but very much experienced Mayor would most definitely get youth participation. The laws that are proposed affect youth, why shouldn’t the face of our community represent those youth? I am a 37-year-old woman and a mother. His age does not impact my belief in him. If anything, it demonstrates to me and my children that leadership can start at a young age.

This town is full of the older generation and longtime residents that have had years to step up and make a difference. Now that a younger, “not born here” candidate with fresh idea has chosen to do so there’s an issue and those individuals suddenly have so many progressive plans for their longtime place of residence.

Ben could have chosen anywhere in the US to attend school for 4 years and reside after those 4 years. He chose Middletown, CT. As a community we should be looking at that and thanking him for choosing our town to make his home. We claim to want students to stay in CT after graduation, but we call them outsiders when they do, creating division and promoting age discrimination. Ben became involved in the community he’s called home for nearly a decade, almost as soon as he arrived.

Ben kicked off his Mayoral campaign and door knocking in the North End, focusing on residents often left out of political conversations and showing a desire to include all residents in his plans for Middletown. Ben has also been the only candidate I’ve known to participate in Street clean-ups, talk to the community, and support small, local North End businesses along with help from his supporters like myself.

He has been so dedicated to Middletown that he has canvassed our entire 42.3 sq mile radius not skipping a beat-be it rain or shine in 90 degree weather, wearing a smile. Overall, Ben has taken his passion for government and the people across our entire state. That’s proof that Connecticut IS his home. And he’s here to stay.

Sign of the Times

click to enlarge
Political signs have been sprouting on lawns and at businesses this week.

As candidate for mayor, Bill Russo has touted his support for women's rights and paid family medical leave.

However, proving the adage that politics make strange bedfellows, Russo has placed one of his largest campaign signs under a Trump 2020 flag, at Charton Apartments on Newfield Street.

Ted Charton is one of the city's most visible supporters of Donald Trump, with large "Trump 2020" flags flying at several of his properties.

Following a landslide which partially blocked the Coginchaug River in March of 2010, Charton was the beneficiary of at least $15,000 of work done by the Public Works department.

Bill Russo is the Director of Public Works.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Superintendent Announces Significant Achievement Advances In 2018-2019 School Year

In a preschool letter to parents and students, School Superintendent Michael Conner announced significant improvements in achievement and performance at all grade levels as measured by Connecticut's required testing.

There was overall improvement of 4% in grades 3-8 in ELA (English Language Arts), and 3% in math.

At Woodrow Wilson Middle School, the improvement was even more pronounced with a 10% boost in ELA and an 8% boost in math.

At the preschool level, 90% of eligible three and four-year olds participated in a program to increase school readiness with more than 38,000 books read, and 10.8 million words mastered.

Conner ascribes the advances to the cooperation of students, parents, teachers and administrators in innovative approaches to teaching and learning that have been instituted over the past year.

L.A.M.F., at MAC650 last Saturday

L.A.M.F.  Performance
Rips the Bounds,
                  Steals the Show!

 (Looking for Photos of this Live performance--got some?)

Opinion: Florsheim Brings Honesty and Integrity

Submitted by Bobbye Knoll Peterson, an endorsed Democratic candidate for Common Council.
The question was recently raised why I, as the Vice Chair of the Democratic Town Committee and an endorsed candidate for Common Council on Row A, am supporting Ben Florsheim and have chosen to work for his campaign. I welcome the opportunity to answer that question.

The simple answer is that I believe in Ben, I share his vision for Middletown, and have no doubt in
his ability to continue to move the city that I love in a positive direction.

The longer answer is that nearly two years ago I made a commitment to members of the Democratic Party in Middletown that I would work for change as the party’s new Vice Chair. I have worked to fulfill that commitment by helping elect progressive candidates with shared values. I am proud of the work that I did to elect Mary Abrams as Middletown’s new state senator, and am equally proud of the work that I am doing on Ben’s campaign.

Ben has shown honesty and integrity that is rare in those who aspire to elected office. I have seen Ben put thought and time into the conversations he has with everyone he comes into contact with, Middletown voter or not. I am confident that Ben will use the experience that he has acquired over the last five years working for Chris Murphy to move Middletown forward.

I have no doubt that as Mayor Ben will be accessible to all of his constituents. I also believe Ben has the skills and temperament to address issues in city government that have been allowed to fester for far too long.

These are all qualities that I want in the next Mayor of my city, and I am willing to put my time and energy into seeing the person who embodies them elected.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Jazz Up Close August 22: Bass Clarinet & Baltimore

We are lucky people living in Middletown Connecticut in that we have a vibrant arts scene, we have Wesleyan University and its concerts spaces, galleries, and theaters, we have the Russell Library, and we have Noah Baerman (pictured left).  Mr. Baerman is a composer, educator, pianist, author, and the creator of Resonant Motion.  Resonant Motion is a record label, a place for visual artists, for writers, for performance artists, and for collaborations.  Noah is artistic director and the producer of Jazz Up Close, a series of concerts presented in the Hubbard Room of the Russell Library, 123 Broad Street in Middletown.  Now in its fifth season, the series has brought world-renowned artists to perform, talk about their work, and to answer questions from the audience.  The artists usually are joined by the pianist/curator along with his longtime collaborator, bassist Henry Lugo.

This coming Thursday August 22, Jazz Up Close welcomes bass clarinetist, composer, and social activist Todd Marcus.  Mr. Marcus, a native of New Jersey, has lived in Baltimore, MD, for over two decades and works tirelessly in the Sandtown-Winchester/Upton section of the city to bring about positive change.  You may recognize that area because it's where Freddie Gray died in police custody in 2015 and where massive riots followed in the wake of the event.  Mr. Marcus, who is half-Egyptian, had moved to Baltimore to go to college but left after two years, settled down in the community and went to work with the non-profit organization Intersection of Change – click on the name to see all that the organization does to help its community.

In early 2018, Todd Marcus released "On These Streets (a Baltimore Story)", an instrumental recording interspersed with audio clips from those very streets.  While some clips present a neighborhood in the midst of exploding and trying to deal with the eruptions of emotions, the music has a power and stories to tell on its own.  At one time, the community's main thoroughfare, Pennsylvania Avenue, was alive with nightclubs, concert halls, theaters, and businesses, a hub of and for the African American families and working people.  Many Black artists played there, influencing generations of musicians and artists.  Mr. Marcus takes his compositional cues from the socially conscious music of Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, and Duke Ellington.  On previous recordings, he has explored Middle Eastern music, especially on his 2014 Jazz Orchestra recording "Blues For Tahrir", and he will play several of those compositions during the concert.

The program starts at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.  This event is supported in part by the Middletown Commission on the Arts and the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, along with the Shoreline Arts Alliance.  Bring open ears and a curious mind, Jazz Up Close will do the rest.

Here's one of the audio clips and the musical story that follows:

Fall Concerts at Russell Library

Craig Harris opens the Fall Concert Series on September 14 at 2pm.
Beginning on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 2:00pm with a concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival, Russell Library will present four concerts and an Indian dance demonstration this fall. Programs at the library are sponsored by the Friends of the Russell Library and are free. All concerts take place in the Hubbard Room. No tickets or registration are necessary.
The list of concerts is as follows:

Woodstock: A 50th Anniversary Celebration Saturday, September 14, 2pm:    Craig Harris, a master percussionist, educator, author, photographer, and radio host, incorporates rare recordings, archival video, insightful storytelling, singing, and guided music-making in a program that not only will stir memories of Woodstock but will provide a new perspective.

Pianist Mark Valenti    
Sunday, October 27, 2:00pm.
Coming from Chicago, Pianist Mark Valenti will present a variety of works from the classical repertoire. He has performed in France, Belgium, Hungary, and Luxembourg as well as for former First Lady Barbara Bush in Washington, D.C.  He has performed live on WFMT classical radio and has done extensive work with Gregory Hines, Frank Foster, and Al Grey. Formerly a Professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Xavier University in Chicago, and the Loire Valley Music Institute in France, Mr. Valenti currently teaches at his studio in Chicago.

Indian Classical Dance Demonstration with Sarada Nori:            
Sunday, November 3, 2:00pm.
Traditional dancer Sarada Nori will be demonstrating Kuchipudi, a classical dance from Andhra Pradesh. Sarada Nori Akella is an accomplished Kuchipudi dancer with a Masters degree in Arts. Sarada was sponsored by the Government of India to perform in Kuchipudi dance ballets in Singapore and Mauratius.

Ensemble Aubade                
Saturday, November 23, 2:00pm
Boston’s Ensemble Aubade (Peter H. Bloom, flute; Francis Grimes, viola; and Mary Jane Rupert, harp) plays all across the United States. Recent appearances include the Saint Louis Art Museum, The Robert H. Wood Great Artist Series (NY), The Webster Series (Hanover, NH), The Master Arts Series (Knoxville), Westminster Fine Arts (Des Moines), and many other venues.  The group has been hailed for “intensity, imagination, skill, and finesse…shimmering grace” and “rich interpretations and beautiful contrasts”. 

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem           
December 15, 2:00pm.
Harmony, rhythm, indelible songs – these are the hallmarks of Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, the New England based folk quartet now in its 15th year. From the Newport Folk Festival to the California World Music Festival and beyond, this band’s steadfast brew of wit, camaraderie, and musicality leaves audiences everywhere humming and hopeful, spirits renewed.

The Buttonwood Tree Hosts Touring Tex-American Duo

This mighty powerhouse duo will be presented by The Buttonwood Tree Saturday at 8 pm.
Reserve your seat here

This Texas Americana husband and wife duo have been touring nationally for four years by way of House Concerts, Listening Rooms, and Small Theatres. Standing apart from the typical duo, they provide a captivating and engaging musical experience, with unique instrumentation, soulful vocals, and rich harmonies that deliver an unexpectedly large sound, all the while weaving their message of community and resilience through powerful storytelling and deep connection. They provide their audiences with an immersive and exciting concert experience.


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Friday, August 16, 2019

Downtown Outdoor Movies, corner of Grand & Main

The free Family Film Festival begins Friday, August 16 on the green at the corner of Grand & Main Streets.

Bring a blanket or chair.  Free popcorn is provided!  

Monsters Inc. at 8 pm on Friday, August 16

Coco at 8 pm on Friday, August 23

Amazing Grace (Aretha Franklin concert movie) at 8 pm on Friday, August 30

Presented by the Community Health Center.

Buttonwood Hosts Tremendous Cast of Local Musicians

It was a surprise to us to find out how many talented players will be performing tonight at The Buttonwood Tree! While our good friend from It's Only Natural market, Waberi "Dawn" Jordan would be sufficient on her own, adding a cast of singers from NYC and our esteemed musical friends, Scott Kessel, Nat Holmes and Kālidāsa, just knocks this show out of the park!  And for a $12 seat, this show can't be beat!  Reserve now here! Seats will be assigned, first in, first up. Let us know who you want to sit with if reserving separately. 

More than a beautiful voice and a guitar, Waberi performs music that is reflective of a complex narrative, gently sculpted around jazz, blues, and her own style that makes Jordan highly sought after as a featured vocalist and collaborator. Some of the most innovative and exciting new musicians, from multiple genres, has garnered Waberi a swiftly growing international audience from Los Angeles and New York to UK, France and Amsterdam.

“If one were to describe Waberi’s Sound, one might say that it is an Inter-Galactic fusion of deliciously playful rhythm splashed across a Cosmic canvas on which her voice shines through like a symphony of Angels dancing through the air…”

Joining her tonight for this one-time only group will be her daughter,  the talented filmmaker, activist and singer, Sabaah Folayan along with:
Shena Verrett (guitar, vox from Savanna, Georgia)
Meryl Jefferson (violin, from NYC)
Scott Kessel (percussion)
Nat Holmes (bass)
Kālidāsa (Flute)

Doors at 7, refreshments and plenty of FREE PARKING next door behind It's Only Natural market.
For more info and to reserve your seat, visit Buttonwood.org

Opinion: Ben Florsheim Brings Our City Forward

Submitted by Anthony Mangiafico, an endorsed Democratic candidate for Common Council.
From the moment Ben Florsheim called me to inform me he was thinking of running for mayor of Middletown, I have been a supporter. Ben brings his political experience working with Sen. Chris Murphy along with his energy, education, and passion into a mayoral race that has gotten dirty because of a man who will not participate in a debate.

We need new leadership that has a plan to make our city live up to its full potential; an open, welcoming, and vibrant community willing to embrace new projects and new ideas. That’s Florsheim for Middletown.

Bill Russo has been complaining that the process to select the endorsed Democratic candidate has been dishonest for months now. Yet Mr. Russo could not be bothered to attend the mayoral forum that three other candidates attended, Valeka Clarke, Geen Thazhampallath, and Ben Florsheim, and did not even attend the July nominating convention.

His disdain for fellow Democrats leaves many voters pondering—why exactly is Mr. Russo running as a Democrat?

Ben Florsheim has many sharp ideas that will direct our city into the future. He supports our superintendent’s, Dr. Conner’s, vision for our public schools and wants to discuss smart riverfront development. He wants to build on the Middletown-Wesleyan partnerships and focus on bringing in in more businesses to Middletown; not just Main Street, but all across our vast city.

When Mr. Florsheim lost the Democratic Party endorsement by one vote, many of us started collecting signatures for him. We stood in front of grocery stores, we attended events such as the Farmer’s Market on Main Street, and went door to door. Mr. Florsheim collected the signatures he needed and they were verified by the Registrar of Voters.

I taught second grade for many years, and it may come as a surprise to Mr. Russo that “F” comes before “R” in the alphabet. The election rules state that petitioning candidates appear on the ballot in alphabetical order. It is really that simple. Mr. Russo is attempting to distract the public from the fact that he refuses to participate in any public debates.

On Sept. 10, my family and I are voting Florsheim for mayor and I hope you will too. Let’s put dirty politics and broken promises behind us, and fight for Middletown’s promising future.

Angry Russo Attacks Planning and Zoning Candidate

A successful petition campaign for Planning and Zoning has led to surprising effects on the position of the names on the September 10 ballot.  Kellin Atherton is challenging Richard Pelletier, Thom Pattavina, Beth Emery, and Catherine Johnson for the Democratic endorsement. This means that mayoral candidate Bill Russo will no longer be on the ballot's Row B with 9 other candidates who are running together with him (Courant article).

In a press release, Bill Russo lashed out at Atherton and Democratic mayoral candidate Ben Florsheim.

Russo, who has petitioned to force a primary election for mayor, implied that there was something  dishonest about Atherton's petitioning to force a primary for Planning and Zoning Commissioner.  Russo said, "We're running an honest campaign ...  in just one weekend we collected signatures for Bill and his slate and earned placement on Row B."

Russo accused Atherton of colluding with Florsheim and playing dirty tricks, "... he's trying to abuse a loophole in the law to be listed alongside Bill's slate for Treasurer and Common Council ... This isn't how we do campaigns here in Middletown."

Atherton said he was surprised to see Russo's angry accusations, "Quite honestly [I was] startled by the tone and demands in today’s press release from Mr. Russo."

Atherton pointed out that the candidates on Russo's slate collected an average of 100 signatures each, qualifying all 9 of them for the ballot, while he and other volunteers collected almost 1000 signatures to qualify just one person for the ballot. He pointed out that Russo's campaign has raised almost $50,000, with an average donation of $380, while he has raised less than $2500, with an average donation of $49.

Atherton said he would not be cowed by Russo, "Working families across our city ... will be strong in the face of candidates with so much money and so much anger."

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Opinion: Florsheim Cares About All Residents

Submitted by Sigrid Atherton.
What I know about Ben Florsheim can be best explained by an afternoon he spent at my house the weekend after July 4th. My husband and I had worked for weeks to introduce Ben to Westlake area residents. We knocked on our neighbor’s doors, made flyers, and invited everyone over for a meet and greet with a Mayoral candidate.

I spent the morning of the event cooking enough food to feed several dozen people. We set up a tent in the driveway and waited. We waited and waited. Ben was there, patiently waiting with us for someone to arrive.

Finally, a kind woman arrived. She was a neighbor and member of a local union.  Ben spent an hour listening to her and discussing his ideas for Middletown. Over an hour later as we packed up, another neighbor stopped by to talk about her young children and how difficult it can be to find good quality child care. Ben listened and talked with her for over thirty minutes.

Ben could have been out canvassing, reaching many more potential voters. It was, after all, a beautiful Saturday in July. But he stayed at our house talking with these few neighbors, one at a time.

Ben not only cares about Middletown as a whole, but he cares for each individual resident. I know based on this experience that he is genuine and sincere.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Solar for All

Think you can’t afford solar? Think Again. Final month of the Solar for All Middletown campaign

The City of Middletown’s Clean Energy Task Force and its CHEER program are partnering on the Solar for All Middletown campaign to bring solar and energy efficiency services to all homeowners, especially low and moderate-income families. Solar for All is a nationally-recognized program supported by the Connecticut Green Bank and PosiGen to lower energy bills and increase home affordability.

The program offers an affordable 20-year solar lease and energy efficiency services with a savings guarantee for all homeowners regardless of income or credit score. This means no hefty down payment, no credit check, no financing needed. 

Homeowners who may have been ineligible before can take advantage of this opportunity to lower energy costs. 

The campaign kicked off in May and runs through the end of August - with the possibility of an extension into September if demand is high. Don’t hesitate to get more information today. 

Please call Community Marketing Coordinator Susan Young at 203-308-0876, visit www.PosiGen.com, or visit our information tables at ACE Hardware located on South Main Street, Bishel and Smith on Main Street, and the Wadsworth Mansion Open Air Market on August 25.”

Friday, August 9, 2019

Super Saturday Open Registration for Fall Classes at Middlesex Community College

Middlesex Community College is a great place for those looking to boost their earning power after high school without needing to attend a four-year institution. You can earn an associate degree or a certificate in a variety of educational programs and be ready to work in two years and sometimes much less. New and continuing students, who have completed their application and have been accepted to MxCC, can register on Saturday, August 10 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 100 Training Hill Road in Middletown, or click here to get started. Classes begin August 27.