Thursday, April 30, 2009
What's Goin' On (Part 3) This Weekend 5/01-03
If you hemmed and hawed about purchasing tickets to the Greater Middletown Concerts Association's Friday night presentation of "La Traviata", it's too late. GMCA's chief mover & shaker Barbara Arafeh and her devoted minions went out and sold every seat in the house, all 700 or so in the Performing Arts Center inside the new Middletown High School. To join the waiting list, call 346-4887.
The Friends of the Russell Library hold its "Bag Book Sale" this weekend (but not Sunday) during regular Library hours (9 a.m, - 6 p.m. Friday, 9 - 5 Saturday, 9 - 8:30 p.m. on Monday.) Great values abound along with much fine reading. Call 347-2528, ext 135 for more information.
The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street, presents an evening of "Gypsy jazz" when the trio known as Ameranouche plays on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Composed of Richard "Shepp" Sheppard (lead guitar), Ryan Flaherty (rhythm guitar), and Xar Adelberg (double bass), the trio has been charming audiences with its fine acoustic music since 2004. The music is a blend of flamenco, French chanson, American soul music, bop, and more. Their 3rd CD, "La Foule" has just been issued and they'll be playing many of the tracks on this evening. For more information, go to www.ameranouche.com/.
Friday at 12:30 p.m., Buttonwood Tree director Anne-Marie Cannata will be my guest on "Best of the Valley-Shore", heard on both WMRD-AM 1150 and WLIS 1420-AM. We'll chat about plenty of upcoming events but especially the "Tribute to Susan Allison" on Friday May 8.
Wesleyan will be a busy campus on Friday. At 5 p.m., the new exhibition in the Zilkha Gallery opens at 5 p.m. with a reception and Curator Talk. "Global Warning: Artists and Climate Change" is a large scale show that aims to "increase awareness of climate change through challenging content that is laced with poetry and aesthetic power." Included in the show are works in a variety of media from the past three decades by Marion Belanger, Lorraine Berry, Diane Burko, Nancy Cohen, Helen and Newton Harrison (one of their works, "The World Ocean is a Great Draftsman", is pictured above), Chris Jordan, Aviva Rahmani, Lenore Malen, Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Frances Whitehead. The exhibition, part of the University's "Feet to the Fire: Exploring Global Climate from Science to Art" initiative, will be on view through May 24. Gallery hours are 12noon - 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (12noon - 8 p.m.on Fridays.)
Also part of the "Feet to the Fire" programming, Native American composer Barbara Croall has been commissioned to compose a new work on global climate change that will be performed by the Wesleyan University Orchestra, under the direction of guest conductor Roy Wiseman, at 8 p.m. Friday in Crowell Concert Hall. According to the website, Croall is Odawa and balances her time between work in outdoor education rooted in traditional Anishhinaabe teachings and composing music. She has been actively performing and composing for Anishhinaabe musical instruments and for European classical instruments since 1995. Her music for soloists, small and large chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, film, dance and theater have been premiered internationally and across Canada." The program will also feature works by the winners of the Wesleyan Orchestra Concerto Competition. The event is free and open to the public.
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Patricelli '92 Theater, the student choreographers from the Wesleyan Dance Department present the Spring Dance Concert. For ticket information, call 685-3355 or go online to www.wesleyan.edu/cfa.
The Fishbone Cafe, 120 Court Street, presents the "Sweet Sue" Terry Quartet Friday at 8:30 p.m. Joining the fine saxophonist (a graduate of the Hartt School of Music) will be Michael Musillami (guitar), Joe Fonda (bass) and George Schuller (drums.) For more information, call 346-6000.
Saturday events include The Wesleyan Collegium Musicum performing at 7 p.m. in Memorial Chapel, High Street. The WCM is an ensemble "dedicated to exploring and performing the diverse vocal and instrumental repertories of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods of European music." This fine performance is free and open to all.
The Buttonwood Tree welcomes the trio of Ben Ross (harmonica), Phillip Greene (keyboards) and Shula Weinstein (cello, guitar) for an evening of blues, classical music and more. The Saturday performance begins at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 347-4957.
Sunday, there will be a "Chamber Music Extravaganza" at 2 p.m. in The Russell House, 350 High Street. Students of Anthea Kreston and Jason Duckles (2/3rds of the wonderful Amelia Piano Trio) will perform and the free event is followed by a reception for all.
At 7 p.m. in the World Music Hall, one can enjoy the Spring Taiko Concert, featuring students of Mark H Rooney of Odaiko New England. If you've not experienced Taiko drumming, it's both brash and subtle, alternately thundering and precise. For ticket information, call 685-3355.
Police See Pattern in Downtown Neighborhood Break-Ins
"We already have an arrest warrant for one individual based on the recovery of a piece of jewelry from a Wesleyan burglary," he said. "But it's probably the work of two or three individuals.
"Last night it was just crazy," he said, about the five break-in calls the department received in the neighborhood. "Most of the houses this individual or individuals broke into were occupied. Usually burglars want to make sure the houses are empty. They'll stake out a house, or knock on the front door to be sure no one is home. For that reason we suspect they were under the influence of narcotics or alcohol that made them careless. We have a few people-of-interest in mind.
"In some cases our dog was able to track these guys from one house, to the next house they had entered," McKenna said.
McKenna said the investigation of these crimes is currently at the top of the department's daily list.
"I'm encouraging the midnight shift to be very vigilant. To make their presence known, and to just pound the area," he said. "And we encourage residents to report even the slightest thing that makes them suspicious. If they have a name, or a lead, or a tip they can call the detective bureau or the front desk number (344-3200).
A Disquieting Night in the Village
Another Break-in In the Village District
The clock read 1:10 AM, when the first wave of drunken Wes students hit my block of Pearl Street. They were exuberant with the end of classes, the beginning of the "reading" period, the onset of Spring and the availability of cheap beer on Main Street.
I wasn't angry, simply resigned. After a semester of brain-numbing academic work, a little release is essential.
"Reading period," is it? I don't think any of them were discussing Voltaire.
The second wave was a bit noisier, and the only coherent conversation I could make out was a young man who said, "It's because you're a girl," and the young woman he was accompanying said, "Exactly."
By the time a surge hit Broad Street, I was happy that they had decided on a route that didn't take them down Pearl. But I had my light on and I had Dennis Lehane's Darkness Take My Hand open, and was frankly freaked-out by this tale of a serial killer stalking Boston.
I was wired on a dose of decongestant, so I knocked back a hunk of the mystery before my eyes got heavy at around three. On the threshold of sleep, I heard feet scraping down the length of my gravel driveway. The motion sensor spotlight on the backporch clicked on, and I was down the stairway with my heart racing. But whoever set the motion detector off, was gone. I paced from window to window fueled to a buzz by adrenaline.
I sat in the front bay and watched as a huge oppossum ambled across the street. A Jeep Wagoneer circled the block twice. A Wes Public Safety cart passed a young man in hip-hop regalia who was walking down the middle of the street texting and drawing hard on a cigarette. A small grey car pulled into a neighbor's driveway, then backed out, traveled down the street a few hundred yards, and pulled in and out of another neighbor's driveway.
The adrenaline was just easing off when Lucy's cell phone began to ring at 3:45. It was her mother's alarm company. Her burglar alarm on Mansfield Terrace had been tripped, and Lucy's mother wasn't answering her phone.
"You've got to get over there," Lucy insisted. "I put on my sandals, grabbed a sweat shirt, and a length of sawed-off shovel handle and drove the six blocks to the house.
Tiny Mansfield Terrace was lined with six Middletown Police Cars, and an equal number of officers with flashlights blazing. One of the officers had a dog.
When I explained who I was, an officer told me that my mother-in-law was safe in her room, that they were sweeping the house and yard.
"We're trying to pick up a scent with the dog," he told me. "So if you could stay here for a moment, so we won't confuse the dog."
I'm always in favor of not confusing the dog.
Jane emerged from the house, and was invited to sit in one of the squad cars. The officer behind the wheel pulled down the street so she could talk to me. When he got next to me he rolled down the window, hooked a thumb in Jane's direction and asked: "Do you think you'll be able to post bond."
The joke helped crease the tension.
When we went back into the house, the officer took us into the basement and showed us how the burglar used a glass cutter to remove the laundry room window, entered, and when he or she couldn't get into the house (the door at the head of the stairs was bolted), the burglar had exited through a hatchway, which likely set off the alarm.
"It's the third one this evening," the officer said. "Same busted window. Same sneaker prints."
A house had been entered on Liberty Street, and one in a neighborhood closer to the Wesleyan campus.
There are a rash of break-ins, house entries, and burglaries in the neighborhood over the past week or so. Two car break-ins in the Pearl Street, College Street neighborhood. A mobile home entry. A house burglary on College.
The police officers indicated that this kind of crime spree is usually the work of a thief or two, and not necessarily an indication of a wider crime wave.
I sat and read Darkness Take My Hand at Jane's until I nodded off at 5:35. Jane woke me at 6:00 to let me know the sun had risen to make the neighborhood appear safe again.
Lock your doors. Arm your alarms. Leave your porch light on, and call the police (344-3200) if you notice anything suspicious.
Swine Flu Advisory
Wesleyan's First-Ever Reggae Festival
NOTE: The Eye has just been informed that the festival is open to the Wesleyan community only.
City turns down opportunity to purchase St. Sebastian School Building
The Johnson School (see correction below)
St. Sebastian School will close at the end of this school year, a decision of the Norwich Diocese, previously reported in the Middetown Press. St. Sebastian School was founded in 1944, and occupies a building which was built in 1872 as The Johnson School, part of the Middletown public school system. It is on Durant Terrace, just behind Illiano's Pizza on S. Main Street. When St. Sebastian bought the Johnson School building, the sales agreement stipulated that if the building ceased being used for education, the city would have the right of first refusal to purchase the building from St. Sebastian. Councilman Gerald Daley speculated that the city had sold the school to St. Sebastian for $1.
With the closing of the school, St. Sebastian has offered the building to the city for a price of $1.3 million. Planning Director Bill Warner said that all departments had contemplated possible uses for the school building, but none foresaw a benefit to the city. Councilmen Daley and Ron Klattenberg pressed Warner, but it seemed apparent that the building is too small, not handicap accessible, and in an inconvenient location for use as a senior center, city school, administration building, or any of the other possible city uses. The F&G Committee voted unanimously against purchasing the school.
Note added: I have posted a correction of several mistakes in the above information. The most important to note is that the school building was the home of Eckersley Hall, built in 1870. The Johnson School (1872) was on Green Street. Both schools are on the list of Middletown Historic Properties.
George Dunn, Director of Emergency Management, was at the F&G meeting to gain approval for a grant and for waiving a bid requirement. After those were approved, he took the occasion to discuss Middletown's response to the Swine Flu pandemic. He said that he has assembled a crisis management team which includes representatives from the Health Department, emergency responders, the hospital, and the school system. Dunn said that all parties are working well together, and that Middletown was working closely with 7 regional towns.
Dunn said that the situation was evolving quickly and unpredictably, "By tomorrow it might be completely over or ten times worse." Daley cautioned that there is a "need to create a balance between too much panic and burying our heads in the sand." Dunn said that it was approaching the time for emergency responders to wear protective equipment (masks), and that the F&G committee would possibly be receiving a request to purchase additional equipment if the situation becomes worse.
Riverview Parking Garage and other requests
The committee approved the request by Public Works for $35,000 from the General Fund to be used for structural repairs and improvements to the Riverview Parking Garage, to be paid back upon receipt of state funding through the Local Capital Improvement Program (LOCIP). The committee also approved $40,000 to be disbursed to Public Works to cover a shortfall in the budgeted funding for sand and salt.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Lawrence Elementary Cleans Up on Earth Day
On Monday, April 20, 2009, a group of 3rd and 5th grade students from Lawrence Elementary School volunteered to pick up trash along Kaplan drive across from the school. Mrs. Gaboury, a 3rd grade teacher at Lawrence and Mr. Biernat, a parent volunteer took the students to help clean up this area in Middletown to celebrate Earth Day.
We would appreciate it if you would include this in your paper. We love to hear about the positive things happening in our community and were so please that these students so enthusiastically did their part to "clean up the earth". The above note was submitted by a 5th grade student, Arianna Biales.
Appearing in the picture: Back Row- Mr. Biernat- 1st grade parent volunteer and Bonnie Gaboury- 3rd grade teacherMiddle row: Sean Lenehan, Zachary Montalvo, Nolan O'Reilly, Kiana Aravalo, John Carlson, Parth Kekare, Ryan Lau, Veronica Meyer Front row: Nicole Hauck, Arianna Biales, Jayden Coughlin
Rockfall Foundation Awards 2009 Grants to Middletown Groups
Middletown, CT—The Rockfall Foundation recently awarded grants to six Middletown groups in support of local agriculture, food security and environmental education and outreach projects.
A total of nearly $9000 will be distributed in Middletown in 2009, with the one-year grants ranging from $500 to $2500. This represents more than half the total funds awarded this year by the foundation, which has provided environmental education and planning grants to organizations and towns throughout Middlesex County since 1971.
Anthony P. Marino, Chair of Rockfall’s Grants Committee, said that “Our choices continue to reflect Rockfall’s focus on grassroots programs that encourage residents to spend more time outside and to better understand our communities’ natural resources and unique character,” The foundation, says Marino, seeks programs that inspire both young and old to go outside, take a walk or trail hike, paddle a local river and dig in the dirt. “Direct, hands-on experiences often translate into life-long appreciation and care for our natural world,” explains Marino. “The heart of our mission at Rockfall is to encourage long-term stewardship of our county’s natural environment.”
The Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District has received a grant to produce a guide and presentation on how to control invasive plant species in private yards, which will be an invaluable resource for ecologically minded gardeners.
The city of Middletown will use one if its two 2009 Rockfall grants to produce a detailed city walking guide.
[ related story in Eye http://middletowneyenews.blogspot.com/2009/04/walk-ct-to-be-featured-in-westfield.html ] “Development of a comprehensive walking guide to the city can go a long way toward getting residents out of their cars and into a more active lifestyle,” believes Leslie Lewis, director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s WalkCT project. “I believe this is the first step (no pun intended) toward making the city the first WalkCT community in the state.”
The Jonah Center for Earth and Art received a grant in general support of environmental education and outreach projects, particularly those that will involve school children. Programs that engage children are of special interest to Rockfall. "Through Rockfall’s K-12 grants- to- schools initiative we hope to encourage educators to incorporate nature lessons into their classrooms,” explains Marino. “Groups like the Jonah Center provide valuable experiences and resources for teachers who may not have time to develop their own materials or programs.”
A number of this year’s grants also reflect Rockfall’s new specially-designated interest in encouraging local farming and sustainable agriculture in Middlesex County, especially through the marketing and distribution of locally-produced foods. “Middletown has always valued local farms for their beauty and the diversity of foods they bring to our tables and local restaurants,” says Jane Harris, Chair of Rockfall’s Environment and Education Committee and a member of the Grants Committee. “Now there is more awareness of just how vital local farms can be to keeping food costs low while safeguarding the health of our natural resources.”
Middletown’s Department of Planning, Conservation and Development has been awarded a Rockfall grant to bring farmers, land-use commissioners, city officials and the public together in a series of facilitated meetings called charettes to explore how to establish a sustainable farmer’s market in Middletown.
Another Rockfall grant will support Wesleyan University’s Long Lane Farm’s expanded program to assist food security programs in Middletown. “With the help of the Rockfall Foundation, Long Lane Farm is embarking on another phase of its development,” believes Dr. Barry Chernoff, Director of Environmental Studies at Wesleyan and a project participant. “The Farm has made a decision to substantially increase its ability to provide food that it grows for low income families through organizations such as The Amazing Grace Food Pantry, as well as others. According to Chernoff, the new effort seeks to respond to “the true need that is building in our communities for free food for people who have been hurt by the economic depression that our country is in.”
With its grant from Rockfall, the Russell Library will plant a few seeds of its own that may help nurture a new generation of local farmers. On library grounds, the Green Children ecology group will grow a variety of vegetables from around the world and teach its young farmers how to prepare a variety of ethnic dishes with their harvest.
While modest, the foundation’s grants often provide critical seed money and support for groups that don’t have large budgets or staff to attract major benefactors or grants. Such funding is difficult to acquire in times of economic cutbacks and belt tightening.
A recent national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press revealed in January that protecting natural resources and major environmental issues such as global warming are no longer considered to be important priorities by the American public as concerns over the economy and job losses predominate. “This reinforces the importance of not only continuing but strengthening our mission here in the county,” believes Rockfall President Brian McCarthy, “especially through our grants program. “Our goal in the next few years,” he explains, “is to increase membership and donor support so we will not have to turn away any worthy applicant in the future.”
Rockfall 2009 grants also were awarded in Middlesex County to the Connecticut River Museum, the Town of Essex, the Essex Land Trust, Incarnation Center and the Henry Carter Hull Library.
Founded nearly 75 years ago by Middletown resident Clarence S. Wadsworth, Rockfall is named after the falls in Wadsworth Falls State Park. In addition to its grants program, the foundation continues to preserve and help sustain open space land holdings in Middletown and support the Wadsworth/Kerste deBoer Arboretum, a Wadsworth legacy property on Long Lane, which will mark its 100th anniversary this April.
Rockfall is headquartered in the historic deKoven House on Washington Street, which it maintains and operates as a community center, and provides office space for locally-based environmental groups.
Every fall, the foundation sponsors an annual symposium that explores issues related to municipal growth and how to balance conservation and economic development. This year’s symposium will focus on the economics of greening for towns and businesses, and will be held at Middlesex Community College on October 9th.
Grants are awarded by the foundation annually. Application information and schedules are available by calling the office at 347-0340 or visiting the website http://www.rockfallfoundation.org/.
Energy Boom on Film
'Crude Independence' - Film night at Wesleyan
CFPA is sponsoring a showing of the award winning movie Crude Independence on Friday, May 8th at 7:30 pm at Wesleyan University.
The film is the work of Wesleyan senior Noah Hutton. The evening will begin at 7:30 with Noah discussing the film and its production. Noah will also participate in a Q&A after the film.
Place: Wesleyan University, Exley Science Building, Room 150, 265 Church Street
Time: 7:30 PM, Friday, May 8th.
Admission: CFPA members - $5, non-members - $10, seniors - $7, free admissions for both if you bring a friend who joins CFPA that evening.
For more information, call 346-2372.
Parking is available on campus behind the Exley Building on Lawn Avenue.
Read more about the film here and check out the film's website.
Residents Speak Out on City Budget
After weeks of meetings, and the formulation and delivery of a proposed budget by Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, the Common Council welcomed residents to express their views on the budget Tuesday evening.
Forty-six members of a packed gallery spoke, the majority backing proposals to save the arts, save the town's baseball programs, and to save grants to residents involved in those programs. A number of people also gave heartfelt appeals to save funding for a domestic violence treatment program.
Supporters of the arts showed up dressed in red shirts, kerchiefs and noses, one arrived on stilts, and spoke about the need to continue promoting Middletown as an arts community.
Dic Wheeler, who helped found programs at Oddfellows, and the Children's Circus, and is now the director or Art Farm, which presents Shakespeare in the Grove, was passionate about his desire to see art funding continue.
He noted that the new 4-to-1 ratio (organizations must raise four dollars for every dollar of city funding), for receiving grants, double the previous ratio, would likely put some arts organizations out of business.
Wheeler, and a number of others also emphasized that a proposal to scrap the sliding scale would hurt those who need the programs most.
"I thing it would be tragic," Wheeler said. "It would kill these programs to take away the sliding scale."
"What your doing is taking kids with not a lot of options," Izzi Greenberg of NEAT said. "And you're giving them less options. It disproportionately affects kids most at risk."
As passionate about funding were backers of baseball programs in town who claimed that the funign scheme, and the closing of Palmer Field on weekends would take a huge toll on their programs, some of which have served the town for many decades.
Perhaps the most heartrending testimony of the evening came from advocates for the domestic violence treatment program which would lose $26,000 in funding.
Program director Michelle Waldner, of the Community Health Center said that the program last month helped 376 victims, took 236 crisis calls and sheltered 10 residents including children. Several of those residents testified as to how the New Horizons program changed, and in one case saved, lives.
Resident Jennifer Saines suggested that the town should reconsider its use of fleet vehicles, and abandon the use of school buses to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. Saines also encouraged full funding for Russell Library.
"It's the jewel in our crown," she said.
As the evening drew to a close Planning and Zoning Commissioner Quentin Phipps encouraged the Council and the mayor to be creative in their approach.
"We have a major opportunity here," Phipps said. "We can do what's fiscally responsible and do it in a socially responsible way. And we need to protect those who are most vulnerable."
Bill Pomfret, who had testified early in the meeting about his desire to see Palmer Field remain open on Sundays closed the meeting on an optimistic note.
"I'd say confidently that I'm the oldest one in the room," Pomfret said. "I played ball with Lincoln. And I sat here all night listening to all these good ideas, and I've come to a conclusion. We've got one helluva good town here. You're our leaders, and you've got some hard work to do. We all want money. Good luck to you."
State Speaker of the House Chris Donovan Talks Budget
Middletown's freshman legislator invited Speaker of the House Chris Donovan to address citizens on the state budget, and there were few surprises in his address.
Donovan explained that state revenues are down severely, that the Democratic legislator and the Republican governor have offered up clashing budgets which begin at a very different premise. The Dems are projecting an $8-9 billion deficit over the next three years. The governor sets her budget assuming a $6 billion deficit over the same period.
"She's about a billion short in each year when it comes to her budget," Donovan concluded.
Donovan entertained questions, mostly from elected officials in the room. Council member Tom Serra asked about the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program through which Middletown is regularly shorted by the state. The current governor's budget cuts even deeper.
Council member Gerry Daley suggested that the state should only pay PILOT money, in full, to facilities for which they promised a 100% reimbursement, like the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in town.
Donovan was not optimistic that such a plan would work.
Durham's first Selectman Laura Francis asked when the budget would be complete, because an unfinished budget hamstrings municipalities. She also asked if the state would consider backing off unfunded mandates.
Lesser handled the mandate question, noting that a package of mandate relief was on the way. Donovan would not promise that the budget would be completed on time.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
South Fire District Approves Budget
Voters in Middletown's South Fire District have given overwhelming approval to the proposed 3.8 million dollar budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. In day long balloting today the budget was approved by a 3 to 1 margin, 801 Yes to 267 No. At a brief meeting following the vote, the Board of fire Commissioners formally adopted a mil rate of 3.377 for the coming fiscal year, a slight decrease from the current mil rate of 3.381.
Lesser, Bysiewicz to Discuss State Health Plan at Russell Library
What's Goin' On (Part 2) Thursday April 30
Wesleyan Professor of Music Anthony Braxton presents the first of his 2 Spring "student" concerts at 7 p.m. in Crowell Concert Hall. The "Small Ensemble" concert showcases Braxton's saxophone playing and compositions alongside student and guest musicians. The show is free and open to the public.
At 8 p.m. in the World Music Hall, The Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble presents classical music and dance of Central Java, under the direction of I. M. Harjito, Sumarsam and Urip Sri Maeny. This event is also free and open to the public and is a great opportunity to learn about another culture.
Clarification on Today's Middletown Press Article
An article published in today’s Middletown Press (DARE Program Slashed From Proposed Budget) wrongly took words that were not mine and attributed them to me.
In the article, it appears as though I was speaking about tonight’s city budget hearing. In fact, I was not interviewed for the story. The information attributed to me was actually taken from an email I received (and forwarded to NEAT’s members) from Dic Wheeler, of Artfarm.
I do believe that it is important that people come out and speak about the proposed budget, but NEAT’s positions is slightly different from Artfarm’s. I’d like to take a minute to explain our positions.
NEAT is most concerned about funding to the Summer Arts Programming and the City's Matching Grant Program.
As for summer arts, families that live in the North End would be most affected by any changes to the sliding scale that is offered for summer arts programming. Many North End kids take part in those programs, run through the city Arts Office (including the Summer Circus), and wouldn't be able to if not for the financial aid that is offered. For many parents, the summer program is the only affordable option, giving kids a chance to participate in summer programming, and parents a way to work. It must be maintained.
Additionally, NEAT receives funding through the Middletown Commission on the Arts and the Youth Services Bureau for our Arts in the Garden Series and our Youth Leadership Initiative. If the matching grants and after school challenge grants ratio is changed to 4:1, small organizations like NEAT (there are a lot of us in Middletown!) would be unable to participate, leaving some effective, well-deserving programs unfunded.
I do urge each of you to come out to support the much-deserving groups in Middletown that are working hard to ensure that every city child has access to quality arts programming. And, though it wasn't my idea, I encourage you to show your unity and wear red.
North End Action Team (NEAT)
North End Clean Up A Success
It was a great day in the North End on Saturday where 150 people volunteered to do some spring cleaning.
Here's a slideshow of some of the people that were out that day. I'm sorry I didn't make it to all corners of the neighborhood with my camera....there were some great scenes to be seen.
There were volunteers from the NEAT/Wesleyan Mentoring Program, Earth Ministries and the Jonah Center out of First Church, the Middletown Garden Club, and a group of youth doing a "30 Hour Famine" from East Hampton and Haddam. There were also other individuals from Middletown who came in to lend a hand as individuals. Residents got a chance to work alongside Dan Drew, who is running for Mayor this year, and Councilman Santangelo, who is a North End resident. Even the kids had fun working alongside the principal from Macdonough School, Jon Romeo, who spent hours helping out at the Erin Street Garden.
Most importantly, though, were the many residents who organized the day, spread the word to their neighbors, and went door to door, helping to clean the sidewalks and yards of their neighbors. It was a great event that helped the community, but more importantly, helped to build community.
A big thanks to Sherwin Williams Paint in Cromwell for donating supplies, to Kim O'Rourke and the City of Middletown for picking up the extra trash and helping with logistics, to Dominoes, Sammy's Pizza and Illiano's for donating Pizza for the Lunch, and to all of those who came out to help.
Council and Mayor Wrangle Over Budget Process
The Common Council held an unusual addendum to their set of budget meetings because of an unusual budget process adopted in an unusually stressful budget year.
The meeting, which was held, ostensibly, to explore the process by which the mayor created his budget, and by which he negotiated potential concessions from a coalition of city unions, shed more heat than light on the topic.
As a symptom of a budget being created in a very difficult budget-year, which happens also to be an election year, the meeting was rife with political undercurrents.
The Common Council, which has been a target of criticism by the mayor and unions, for their handling of current budget, exploited the workshop as a way to turn the criticism back on the mayor, and to provide their perspective on issues expressed by the mayor in his budget meetings with the public.
One thing every member of the Council found it important to say was that they appreciated the effort of the union coalition to work hard to find areas where savings and concessions could be made.
Commissioner Gerry Daley fired the first salvo, accusing the mayor of presenting the Council with a budget which did not contain important details.
"I don't know how we as a a Council can work with a budget where that information is not readily available," Daley said.
He went further, stating that the proposed budget would eliminate 6 police positions, 13 teacher positions, eliminate swimming at Crystal Lake and curtail some senior activities.
Council membr Phil Pessina rose to Mayor Sebastian Giuliano's defense making it clear that the teaching positions could only be determined by a decision of the Board of Education.
Giuliano, for his part, explained and reiterated consistently throughout the meeting that his budget was a recommended budget, and that, in the end, the Common Council was the chief fiduciary agent for the city, and that any decisions to cut services or programs, or add them back in, is a Common Council decision. But...
"If the Council doesn't approve (the concessions made with unions) everybody goes back to where they were," he argued. "And $1 million in concessions go away."
Among the facts that became clear in the contentious give and take is that a coalition of city unions agreed on a plan that includes some concessions (furlough days, higher co-pays for some), and some recommendations (eliminating swimming at Crystal Lake, requiring adjusted payment for summer camp). (EDITOR'S CORRECTION) The council is free to reject the recommendations, but must accept all four parts of the concessions offered in order for the concessions to remain in place.
"If we're going to take A," Council member Vinny Loffredo simplified. "Then B must be part of it."
The coalition package also extends a "no-layoff" clause for union members through 2011, when it currently ends in 2010.
Loffredo suggested that the concession package contained fewer concessions than might be expected, trading layoffs and pay freezes for furlough days, while creating an additional benefit for the union.
"We're trying to deal with a budget for 2010," he said. "But we're setting up conditions that could have an effect on the city if there were more dire conditions in coming years."
Giuliano contends that the budget proposal would save $1 million dollars if enacted. Daley countered that there would still be a 4% tax increase.
"What do taxpayers get for the 4% increase," he asked the mayor.
"We'll provide them with the essential services they get now - public safety, infrastructure. We'll keep the parks open. We'll keep the schools open."
By meeting's end, it was clear that the Democratic members of the Common Council were most unhappy with the process by which Mayor Giuliano gathered information, negotiated with unions and created a budget.
Democratic members took the opportunity to complain to the mayor about a non-meeting he held on January 21 and to castigate him for publicizing the fact that Democratic Council members refused to attend the meeting. They also chided him for portraying the Council as fiscally irresponsible in a series of budget meetings the mayor held with the public. They criticized the inclusion of inflammatory language in the "side letter" or memorandum of understanding with the union. They accused him of claiming savings for positions outside of his purview. And they claimed that he lacked vision in his boast that he was streamlining government.
"There's a tone being set," Loffredo noted. "It's very disturbing. We've got hard work to do with this budget without taking cheap shots."
Giuliano defended his negotiations with the unions, and repeatedly explained that, in the end, the Council would have to consider his suggestions and make their own decisions.
On Tuesday, the public is invited to provide their input to the budget process in Council Chambers.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Carpenter Bees Swarm at Williams and Main
The past couple days there have been great swarms of well over a hundred carpenter bees at Spear Park and the Senior Center at Williams and Main. They have basically made the entire park uninhabitable. I'm going to call the city but as a resident of a home that was once attractive to carpenter bees, I'm concerned that in a city full of older homes that might have some soft wood, this "bloom of carpenter bees" may keep us on our toes. The bees are in the park right now because they are attracted to the older benches, but only so many can nest in one space, so they will start branching out. We have already seen a couple buzzing around our porch at Church and Broad, looking for someplace to call home.
Carpenter bees do not feed on wood but nest in it. They find soft wood (either old wood or expensive cedar trim in my case at my Enfield home) drill a hole about 1/4 inch wide, then burrow and create chambers. They can rapidly create colonies drilling thru the side of your house, all the while there is only this 1/4 inch hole. They do leave sawdust as residue but who looks for sawdust on their lawn trying to keep up with mowing and gardening?
I know swine flu is just around the corner (:}, but I would advise folks in the Village District to walk around your homes a couple times this month and look for sawdust on the grass, and bees that look like bumble-bees but are darker and fly well above the ground and hover around your home.
Tim Roaix. email@example.com
What's Goin' On (Part 1)
As most of us understand, it's not easy to put a value on the arts. Yes, there are ticket sales but that's the end result of a long process that starts with ideas, rehearsals, advertising, promotion, salaries (in many instances) and competition. Yes, we know when we walk out after a Chorale concert or an Oddfellows production or a night of dance at Wesleyan or see a video from the Green Street Arts Center or attend the city-wide Arts Exhibition or hear John Basinger's amazing work on "Paradise Lost", we know how good it feels to do those things in our home town. Think of the many people who come in from out-of-town. Many of them buy dinner in one of our fine restaurants and shop in out stores, pay for parking, and walk through the town. In a report to the Middletown Commission on the Arts, commissioner Joyce Kirkpatrick stated that the arts brought over $1,000,000 dollars to the city - and that was over 7 years ago!
If you can't attend the meeting but you want to help the cause, call or write the members of the Common Council (click here for more information.) The Mayor has spoken by presenting his budget and now it is your turn. No matter what happens this year, many of us involved with the arts in the area are really scared about 2010-11 budget, especially in light of the current recession. But, one year at a time.
Back to the events:
Poet-translator Linda Zisquit will read at 8 p.m. in The Russell House, 350 High Street, as part of the Jewish & Israeli Studies Program at Wesleyan. Zisquit, the author of 3 collections of poems, has translated the works of many modern Israeli poets including Yehuda Amichai, Yona Wallach and Rivka Miriam. She also edits an Israeli poetry magazine and runs ARTSPACE, a gallery for contemporary art in Jerusalem. Her reading is free and open to the public.
Toumani Diabate is a master of the kora, the 21-string harp unique to West Africa. He is among the first artists responsible for introducing this beautiful instrument to audiences around the world and has collaborated with with many renowned artists including Bjork, blues master Taj Mahal and jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. Aside from being a player of exceptional virtuosity and creativity, he was born and has lived all his life in Mali's capital city of Bamako, where he is at the vanguard of a new generation of Malian griots (bards). The griots are constantly looking for ways of modernizing while still honoring their traditional music. Winner of the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album, Diabate also plays vital roles as bandleader, teacher, musical conservationist and composer.
Diabate is appearing at Wesleyan this Saturday evening May 2 at 8 p.m. as the final show in the 2008-09 Crowell Concert Series. He'll be leading his 11-member Symmetric Orchestra, an Afro-Pop ensemble that can and should rock Crowell to its core. Diabate is a stunning player and one will hear what sounds like American folk and blues music in his Malian songs.
The "Pre-concert talk" will feature Associate Professor of Music Eric Charry at 7:15 p.m. For ticket information, call 685-3355.
Dispatch from Suburbia
I found the source of the dead animal smell in the refrigerator. I’d been looking for days. I finally opened the cheese drawer, and Eau de Microbe hit me bang in the kisser. It was the decayed St. Andre I’d bought for guests about a month ago. I’d been saving the cheese they didn’t eat, on the grounds that it cost too much to throw out. I didn’t eat it, because high fat cheese makes my stomach hurt. Eventually, it got shoved to the back of the drawer, where it had plenty of time to sulk and plot revenge.
“Aha!” I said to the dog, who is a great listener.
Emboldened by this success, I decided to fix other nagging problems in my life. So I jettisoned three burdens that had been weighing on me heavily. I had known for weeks that I needed to say no to three people whom I like and admire. Saying yes instead of no to them would have kept me out of the house three nights a week and cost me money I don’t want to spend. Nonetheless, I’d been agonizing over saying no, for weeks.
So I said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that,’ to someone who does good works and had asked me to join her. And to someone else I said, ‘Really, I feel very bad about it, but I have to resign from this group.’ (Not Oddfellows, by the way.) And to yet a third person, I said, ‘I thought I would be able to hire you to do some work for me, but I can’t after all. I’m sorry.’
In other words, I did what I am always telling my husband, children and friends to do: if you can’t do something, or don’t want to do it and don’t have to, or thought you wanted to but then changed your mind, just say so. It’s your life, and life’s too short. Why do things that make you unhappy, when love and decency don’t require you to? Whoever is being turned down won’t fall apart. At worst, he or she will be grumpy for a bit, and then go back to worrying about his or her own stuff.
After practicing for one morning what I’ve been preaching for years, I felt faint. I went out into the front yard to get some air, and to look for portents of doom. I checked to see if the maple tree had begun to shed human tears. Nope. Were the daffodils nodding in time to that song I can’t get out of my head? Hard to tell, but I decided to ignore them. My dog, the good listener, did jump up and bite me on the elbow. Maybe that was my karma, of the rare, fast-acting and relatively painless variety. Maybe not.
Mural Project in North End
From the Green Street Arts Center:
The Green Street Arts Center is launching the Green Street Community Mural Project, an eighteen month-long art program that will culminate in a large public mural, to be installed in the spring of 2009 on the corner of Main and Green Streets in the North End. The Green Street Community Mural Project is made possible by a $10,000 grant from Citizens Bank and the Citizens Bank Foundation, who are the project’s lead sponsors.
Led by mural artist Marela Zacarias, the project’s participants are a diverse group of Middletown children, their families, professional artists, Wesleyan students, and other community members. A core group of students in Green Street’s Afterschool Program will work with the artists on the project regularly.
The primary goal of the Green Street Community Mural Project will be obvious to every driver and pedestrian who passes Green Street. According to Zacarias, “This mural will brighten Main Street with the colorful art of our students. It will also help to raise awareness of the wonderful activities that the Green Arts Center offers for the Middletown community.”
Over the summer of 2008, themes were finalized and designs drawn up by current Green Street students. In the words of Ms. Zacarias, “The ideas for the murals come from a variety of sources: The group that I work with (in this case, ten 4th graders), the wall and its particular characteristics (location, size, windows, etc), and my own artistic interpretation. Sometimes I feel like a channeling device: All the information comes through me and it comes out as visual images on a wall.”
The advance work of the Mural Project crew wrapped up last fall and this winter is the execution. This entails priming, painting, and sealing plywood panels that are to be permanently screwed into the brick on the north side of the building at the intersection of Main and Green Streets.
An important objective of the project lies, not just in the finished product, but in the process. The Green Street Community Mural Project intends to provide hands-on artistic and civic education to young people who desperately need both—like the ones who first sparked an idea in the mind of Green Street Artistic Director Janis Astor del Valle in autumn of 2007.
According to Astor, the seed of the Mural Project was planted by a group of young vandals. The Middletown Press ran an article about the teens, who had been arrested in Middletown for graffiti in public spaces. Recalling TATS CRU, a group of Bronx-based professional muralists whose work in aerosol changed the perception of graffiti as art and who she’d met while working at a youth development organization in the Bronx, Astor felt inspired to approach the Middletown Youth Services Bureau’s David Blumenkrantz and Justin Carbonella. Thus the Community Mural Project was born, charged with the mission of channeling the youngsters’ creativity from blight into beauty.
The final unveiling will take place at the annual Green Street Arts Festival in June 2009.
About Marela Zacarias
Zacarias graduated from Kenyon College with a major in Social Movements through Art and Religion. She did her thesis on Mural Art as a Tool for Social Change, and has gone on to teach mural art in Washington, DC, Mexico City and she is now teaching in New Britain and Hartford, Conn. Since graduation in May of 2000, she has become a recognized artist, having painted more than a dozen murals in the United States and Mexico.
Visit http://marela.org/ for more information.
About the Green Street Arts Center
Wesleyan University’s Green Street Arts Center, which opened in January 2005, is a vibrant center for arts education, serving residents of the neighborhood and the region. It is a project of Wesleyan University in collaboration with the City of Middletown and the North End Action Team (NEAT). Programming in the former schoolhouse at 51 Green Street includes an afterschool arts education program and a wide range of affordable classes and workshops for children and adults in music, dance, visual arts, theater, sound recording, media arts and creative writing. Visit http://www.
Wesleyan respecting the Community: Respect Is Earned. A Commentary.
I would like to start out by saying that having a college of the magnitude of Wesleyan can be an asset to the residents of the City of Middletown, but has and continues to also have a small group who give the college a bad rap.
City Arts Budget Facing Huge Cutbacks
Please come to support the arts on Tuesday, April 28th - 7 pm at City
Hall on Dekoven Drive.
The more people that come out especially wearing red to show alliance
with the Arts - the better the chances for the survival of many of our
local arts organization, and for other artists as well. Those
supporting Oddfellows Playhouse will also be wearing red noses. Thanks
for your efforts, and even if you can't make it in person, a letter to
the Common Council WILL HAVE A HUGE IMPACT - and your good thoughts
will help too! Thank you!
The Mayor and the Common Council have some tough decisions to make in
deciding where our limited tax dollars and will be spent in these
1) The Mayor has recommended cutting the Arts "support services"
budget line from $70,000 to $35,000. This is the line item for all
GRANTS to groups and individuals, matching funds, Oddfellows outreach,
North End Arts Rising and Challenge Grants to support events like
ARTFARM's Shakespeare in the Grove. In addition, the Mayor's budget
recommends that all grants must be matched 4:1. So a young artist
applying for a $500 grant would need to come up with $2000 additional
dollars. That's a tough challenge for an individual artist or a small
2) For Kids Arts the Mayor's budget recommends tripling the current
fee and abolishing the sliding scale for low and medium income
families. This would effectively destroy programs like the Children's
Circus and NEAR's Summer Arts programs that have been a vital part of
the City's cultural life since the 1980's. Kids Arts exists in this
town -- and is a national model for town/non-profit partnership --
because it makes arts experiences available to all kids in the
3) Community Cultural events line cut from $19,650 to $7,000 --
eliminating everything except Fireworks!
See the City Arts department online for more information.
If you can't make this meeting, your letters to the Common Council
members will help them know how many people believe that Middletown
Arts are important to the health and well being of our community. The
arts bring in many more dollars than they receive.
Milardo's View on Union Involvement in Budget Reductions
His latest issue, which was published on April 24, gives his take on the "concessions" and reductions that a coalition of Middletown unions have proposed to reduce the city budget.
Some of these proposals have proved to be controversial (closing Palmer Field on Sunday, charging 100% for all labor and costs for tournaments).
We understand what the Common Council has been saying, that we are in “tough economic times”, and to get out of it will “take tough decision making.” We have put our heads together with the City and brainstormed to come up what we think is a viable plan for not only today, but for the future. We understand it is hard for people to accept and understand change. As the Marine motto goes; “Adapt and overcome!” That is what we think we have done. It was our initiative to assist the City of Middletown during these tough times. No one held a gun to our head; they just asked.
The Common Council will address some of these issues in a budget hearing tonight at City Hall in Council chambers at 7:00 pm.
Walk CT to be featured in Westfield
- A web-based guide to the walking routes in Connecticut. This web site is under construction now, the goal is to have in a single, easy-to-find location all of the paths and trails for walking (two example walking routes)
- Family Rambles are family-friendly hikes on the last weekend of every month. One hike is to be offered in every county. Family Rambles are listed on the CFPA web site.
- Walking as an integral part of a city. The goal of this program is to bring together all of the elements of the city, including municipal governance, schools, civic organizations, etc, to foster walking for pleasure and transportation. Middletown is the pilot city for this program!
Tonight at the Westfield Residents Association quarterly meeting, Walk CT Director Leslie Lewis will give a presentation on all aspects of the program, focusing in particular on the efforts to promote walking in Middletown. Everybody is welcome to attend the WRA meetings.
WRA Quarterly Meeting
Monday, April 27,
3rd Congregational Church, Miner Street
7:00 PM (WRA business)
7:30 PM (Public Meeting)
Leslie Lewis, WalkCT Director
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Car accident at Broad and College
Middletown Police Ticket Food Not Bombs
In open defiance of a city Health Department order to cease serving prepared foods to those gathered at their weekly meal, the local Food Not Bombs chapter found themselves visited Sunday by the Health Department and the police.
Three police officers, summoned by Public Health Sanitarian Manfred Rehm, wrote citations to local resident Fred Carroll and Wesleyan junior Michelle Markowitz for serving food to the public without a permit. The citations contain fines of at least $100 and up to $300.
The meal began without incident as Wesleyan students arrived with fruits and vegetables, most of which are excess from the Wesleyan Co-op, and then set up tables to serve salads, rice and a cake.
When Rehn arrived, he saw the prepared food and called in the police.
Middletown Police Officer White arrived first, asking for a responsible party to step forward.
"Who's in charge here," he asked.
"We all are," came the response from several of the people in attendance.
White asked that the prepared foods be taken away, and when they weren't he called reinforcements.
"It's like a cookout," said local resident Martha Allen. "When you cook out in your back yard it's the same damn thing. We're just having a cookout. People are hungry, and they need food. The soup kitchen don't open until 5 o'clock."
Markowitz, who was at the rally with several other Wesleyan students, most members of Food Not Bombs confronted Rehm.
"When there's not enough money, food becomes a privilege, and that isn't good," she said. "Food should be a right, not a privilege."
Despite the presence of the sanitarian and the police, people continued to serve themselves and eat as the city officials tried to determine what to do.
"I used to think there was a food shortage," Markowitz said. "But what I discovered is that there's an excess of food in some parts of society, and that a lot of food goes to waste. This is just re-distribution of food that would be wasted."
"We have so much extra food," said Wesleyan junior Chloe Bolton. "It would be a shame not to share it. And it's a great thing to get together and break bread."
When Police Officers determined that Carroll was at a meeting between the Health Department and Food Not Bombs, he was taken into a police cruiser and issued a ticket. Markowitz, who also took responsibility for delivering food was also cited. She was driven away in the cruiser to fetch her identification from her room at Wesleyan.
The Food Not Bomb members have been warned for weeks that the city considered them to be outside of regulations. They were offered the opportunity to prepare foods in the St. Vincent de Paul kitchen but refused when they were told St. Vincent would have to assume complete liability for the meals served.
"We didn't think it was fair for them to have to take on all the responsibility," Wesleyan student Daniel Schniedewind said. "We don't want to threaten their license or operation."
"I don't think we've ever issued a ticket before," Rehm conceded. "Most people cooperate when they're cited. It's the political agenda of this group. They just don't want to comply. I think they wanted this to happen."
Several of the people partaking of the food were surprised that the city was spending time shutting down the operation.
"When did it become a crime to serve food to hungry people?" Allen asked. "There's got to be other things to worry about at city hall. We're going to keep coming. They'll get tired before we do."
The Food Not Bomb volunteers agreed that they would return next Sunday to share another meal.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
CT Letterboxers Converge on Middletown
Letterboxer and his daughter sport patches collected from the Department of Environmental Protection, LbCT organization, and others.
Letterboxing is a wonderful way to commune with like-minded souls and get the entire family out for an active and fun day in the outdoors. It turned out to be a perfect way to get the word out about Middletown's successful conservation program.
Members of the Conservation Commission Ellen Lukens and David O'Brian
Poster collection of trail stamps from all of the letterboxers who attended the Conservation Commission's Spring Launch today. Thank you all!