Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Celebrations Good and Plentiful

Between the Haunted Boathouse on the River, the Haunted Mansion Bash (sorry no photos), and the first Trick or Treat in McCarthy Park, Middletown abounded with Halloween activities.

Radio Drama Tonight

Oddfellows Playhouse and WESU 88.1FM will haunt your Halloween with a LIVE performance and RADIO broadcast of Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater's War of the Worlds tonight @ 8:30 p.m.

On stage at:
Oddfellows Playhouse
128 Washington Street
Middletown, CT

On air at:
88.1 FM
or listen on-line at

Directed by Oddfellows’ Producing Artistic Director Jeffrey Allen and featuring the voices of popular talent Richard Kamins, Virginia Wolf, Daniel Nischan and John Whalen, with the Sound Foley of Mick Bolduc, Oddfellows Playhouse and WESU 88.1 FM will provide listeners with a classic Halloween experience.

From 1900: Ann Martin to go to Middletown

The following article is from exactly 110 years ago today, published in the Hartford Courant on October 31, 1900.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Annual McCarthy Park Cleanup a Huge Success

McCarthy Park, Middletown's downtown park, enjoyed another annual scrubbing today. The path from High Street to the park was raked and re-mulched; the sidewalk along Hotchkiss Street was edged and swept; the earth around the new London plane trees was raked and de-stoned; the McCarthy Park sign was cleaned off; and the tennis/basketball court was swept and raked and cleared of broken glass and plastic etc. And to make it all worthwhile, the Friends of McCarthy Park brought donut holes, super chewy gluten-free cookies, cider donuts, coffee, apples, watermelon, and apple cider. A great time was had by all.

A special thanks to the Wesleyan Frisbee Team, who came out in force to help McCarthy Park neighbors. If you ever want to watch some awesome frisbee action, come down to the park and watch these kids get horizontal! They practice several times a week.

Don't forget: Tomorrow is Halloween! (As if!) Kick off your fright-filled day with an afternoon of trick-or-treating at McCarthy Park. Join community members and enjoy spooky activities, gooey treats, refreshments, music, and much more! Show off your scariest costume and meet neighbors at Middletown’s largest downtown park. All ages welcome, and stay as long as you’d like! The Public Cultures Sociology class at Wesleyan University is hosting this event to celebrate Halloween, bring awareness to McCarthy Park, and promote a sense of community among Wesleyan students and the greater Middletown area.

Free Seasonal Flu Clinics on Tuesdays in November

Dates, Times and Locations:
  • November 2: Durham Activity Center (second floor), 350 Main Street, Durham, 3:00-8:00 pm
  • November 9: Coles Road Fire Station, 105 Coles Road, Cromwell, 3:00-8:00 pm
  • November 16: City Hall Council Chamber, 245 Dekoven Drive Middletown, 3:00-8:00 pm

Must be over two years of age and in good health
No residency required
Limited vaccine supply
No appointment necessary: first-come, first-served

For more information, call (860) 344-3595

Sponsored by MDR (Mass Dispensing Area) Region 36:
(Towns of Cromwell, Durham, Haddam, Middlefield, and the City of Middletown)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Annual Halloween Parade Brings Trick or Treaters to Main Street

They wandered from Brewbakers to O'Rourkes, and with 85 stops on Main Street, and slight detours (21 stops in City Hall alone), trick or treaters roamed downtown dragging bags heavy with chocolate and gummy delights.

The annual Halloween Parade, was sponsored by the Middletown Parks and Rec department and the Downtown Business District who provided a kickoff treat and a map to every group who stopped in Park and Rec offices on Riverview Plaza.

(Mayor Sebastian Giuliano with Twindiana Jones and the Killer Bee)

TONIGHT: Groundbreaking Short Films at Green Street

File Under Miscellaneous: Short Films at Green Street

Friday, October 29 | 7 pm
Suggest donation: $5

Explore the Native American/First Nation experience, past and present, from the perspective of two provocative filmmakers.

Join Green Street tonight at 7pm for the next event in this fascinating and informative series. Montreal-based writer and director Jeff Barnaby (Mi’kmaq) will discuss The Colony and his new film, File Under Miscellaneous, both of which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. File Under Miscellaneous received a warm reception at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and has been called “a dark SciFi gem” by critic Todd Brown. Barnaby’s psychological thrillers will make you reconsider stereotypes of what Native/First Nations art “should be.” In addition, there will be a screening of Bruce Curliss’ (Nipmuc) short film Survivor,
which deals with the atrocities committed against the Nipmuc at Deer Island. On October 30, 1675, Native people from what is now South Natick were removed to Deer Island in Boston Harbor. Without adequate food, clothing, or shelter, the majority of the people—mostly women, children, and elders—perished.

Director Jeff Barnaby was recently interviewed by The Hartford Courant, click here to read the article.

(Viewers should note that The Colony and File Under Miscellaneous are not suitable for viewers under the age of 18 without parental accompaniment.)

Man Arrested For Firing Gun On Main St

From the Middletown Police Department

On October 29. 2010 at approximately 1:43 am,  Middletown Police Officers responded the intersection of Grand St. and Main St on the report of the accused, Thomas, firing a gun in the air.  Thomas was apprehended by police.  A witness positively identified Thomas as the person firing the gun in the air.   A revolver was located in the grass near Thomas with five spent shell casings and four live rounds the serial numbers had also been removed from the revolver.  Thomas admitted to being at the Main St bars earlier in the evening and had the odor of alcohol emanating from his breath. 
Thomas told officers that he was involved in a fight on Main St, but would not provide any further information regarding the fight.
Grand St is a mostly residential street and several residents were awoken by the sound of gun shots.  

Donald Thomas Jr.  age 34
88 Kearney St 2nd floor
Terryville, CT

Charges:  Criminal possession of a pistol or revolver
                Altering Firearm ID Marks
                Carrying w/o permit
                Unlawful discharge of Firearms
                Reckless Endangerment 1st
                Carrying while under the Influence
                Breach of Peace 2nd

Court Date:  10/29/10
Bond:  $250,000

Halloween Happenings

Halloween Parade on Main Street - The Middletown Parks and Recreation Department is sponsoring this third annual event today (Friday October 29).  Children under 12, accompanied by a parent, can stop at the Park and Rec office on Riverview Plaza and pick up a map of participating downtown businesses where trick or treaters can stop for treats between 1-5 PM.

Wadsworth Haunted Mansion Costume Bash - Friday, October 29, 2010, 8:00 PM - 12:00 AM
The mansion gets haunted with a Halloween Bash not to be missed! Show up in your favorite costume for dancing, food, cocktails, door prizes and more! Palm readings and portraits will also be available! This event is a fundraiser for the Conservation Fund of the Friends of Long Hill Estate which supports the work of the Wadsworth Mansion. It will be a ghoulish good time...don't miss it!  Cash Bar.  21 Years or Older Only.  Light Fare is included. Tickets are $35.

The Haunted Boathouse: A Night in the Asylum - Looking for spooky and fun time this Friday or Saturday (October 29-30) night from 6:00 to 11:00 pm?  Come on down to Middletown's Harbor Park and take a tour of the Haunted Boathouse. Members of the Middletown High school crew team have transformed their boathouse into a creepy adventure, guaranteed to scare and delight teens and adults alike. The all-new production, A Night in the Asylum, was written, designed, and acted by the students themselves. A $5 donation helps benefit the crew team's operations and a nonperishable food donation is requested for the Amazing Grace food pantry in memory of MHS Alum Nora Miller. May not be suitable for younger children.

Trick or Treat at McCarthy Park -Sunday, October 31, 2–4pm,  McCarthy Park, Hotchkiss Street, Middletown, CT, Between High Street and Hotchkiss Street (off of Church Street)

Kick off your Halloween with an afternoon of trick-or-treating at McCarthy Park. Join community members and enjoy spooky activities, gooey treats, refreshments, music, and much more! Show off your scariest costume and meet neighbors at Middletown’s largest downtown park. All ages welcome, and stay as long as you’d like! The Public Cultures Sociology class at Wesleyan University is hosting this event to celebrate Halloween, bring awareness to McCarthy Park, and promote a sense of community among Wesleyan students and the greater Middletown area.

North End Farmers' Market Season Finale

Today from 10 to 2 in front of It's Only Natural Market, 575 Main Street

You don't want to miss it! Several fantastic guest vendors are joining us--Crystal Pistritto with beautiful hula-hoops, Whey Better Farm with soothing soaps, and Tschudin Chocolates with dessert delicacies. Plus, First and Last Tavern will serve up their tasty, soul-warming chili, voted best in this year's Middletown chili cook-off! This week is also your last chance to use WIC and Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program checks before they expire.

We would like to thank everyone involved with the market--vendors, volunteers, musicians, and all the shoppers that took time out of their busy Fridays to stop by. It's been great to see the North End Farmers' Market become a popular Middletown shopping destination as well as a great place to gather with friends over lunch and live music. Have a warm and healthy winter--we'll be back next year!

Pumpkin Festival on Saturday at Long Lane Farm

There will be live music, food, tours of the organic farm, and activities for all ages. Bring a can of food to be donated to Amazing Graze.

The Festival is from 12PM to 4PM. Long Lane Farm is at the corner of Long Lane and Wadsworth Street.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Navarati Festival Underway at Wesleyan

For more information visit the Wesleyan CFA website.

Trick or Treat At McCarthy Park

Sunday, October 31, 2–4pm

McCarthy Park, Hotchkiss Street, Middletown, CT
Between High Street and Hotchkiss Street (off of Church Street)

Kick off your Halloween with an afternoon of trick-or-treating at McCarthy
Park. Join community members and enjoy spooky activities, gooey treats,
refreshments, music, and much more! Show off your scariest costume and meet
neighbors at Middletown’s largest downtown park. All ages welcome, and stay
as long as you’d like!

The Public Cultures Sociology class at Wesleyan University is hosting this event to celebrate Halloween, bring awareness to McCarthy Park, and promote a sense of community among Wesleyan students and the greater Middletown area.

Puorro Denies Police Ordered to Attend Council Meeting

Today the Middletown Press published a piece which reports that Council member Hope Kasper claims that police officers were paid and assigned to attend the Council meeting, as a show of support, for Acting Chief Patrick McMahon, who was being considered for the permanent position.  McMahon was rejected by the Council as chief largely as a protest against the process by which he was chosen.

Yesterday, while pursuing the same story, I interviewed Detective Derek Puorro, who is the police union president, and who attended the meeting.  He said that only one officer, the Sargent-at-Arms, was ordered to attend the meeting.

"Everybody was there of their own free will," Puorro said.  "Nobody was ordered to go."

As the Press story indicates, some of the officers at the meeting were "on the clock."   Puorro contends that no members of the force were paid overtime while attending the meeting.

"Surely the chief would never authorized payment of overtime for attendance at the meeting," Puorro said.

Puorro noted that the police union as a body does not endorse, or offer negative opinions of chief candidates.

The accusation about police attendance at this meeting has been forwarded by three sources to the Middletown Eye, and is one of several "confidential" accusations that have surfaced since the Common Council meeting. 

Parking Request Forwarded By Finance and Governance

The Finance and Governance Operations Committee forwarded a request by Tom Hartley, Middletown's Parking Director, to conduct an engineering study which will provide a "service assessment" of the town's existing parking arcade on Dingwall Drive.

F&G approved the $6,500 expenditure for the study after questioning Hartley about a previous study.

"I don't want to pay for something we've already paid for," F&G member and Common Council member Gerry Daley said.  "We paid for a study back in 2008.  What did we pay for then, and what has changed?"

Hartley explained that the 2008 study provided information about needed repairs, such as resurfacing the roof and fixing leaks in the arcade (work that is currently underway), but that "it did not go into details of what we have to do in maintenance over the next five years."

The Common Council will have to vote to approve the expenditure for the study.

F&G also forwarded a request for $740,000 to complete citywide parking upgrades which will include metering, lighting, security and gates for all lots, and will allow for a rate structure which discounts parking in lots over parking on the street.

"It provides the opportunity for people to choose between convenience and value seeking," Hartley said.
The change in parking rates is designed, among other things, to encourage employees of Main Street businesses to park in long-term, off-street parking.

F&G Committee member Phil Pessina emphasized that some of that responsibility ought to be borne by business owners.

"The chamber has got to get more assertive with employees," Pessina said.  "And these restaurants have to tell employees 'you cannot park here.'"

Well, Water

The Water Department requested a temporary shift in personnel which would unfreeze a frozen position and create a temporary position to allow the Water Department to anticipate staffing increases now that new wells at the Kleen Energy site are coming on line.

The two new wells, one owned by Kleen Energy, and one given to the city by Kleen Energy, will be staffed by Water Department personnel.   Under the agreement, Kleen Energy will pay for all water pumped from either well.

Klattenberg Mum on Conservation Funding
(hed suggested by G. Daley)

F&G approved forwarding a training request for Public Works Department diesel mechanics, and asked that a certification training request by the IT department be forwarded to them by email for consideration.  However another request for Recycling Coordinator Kim O'Rourke to renew membership with the Connecticut Recyclers coaliation was denied after a motion proposed by Daley failed to achieve a second.  The $125 fee was denied because it did not lead to certification of any kind.

"We pride ourselves on being a leading community as regards environmental consciousness," Daley said, as he urged his colleagues to second his motion.  He chided F&G committee chair Ron Klattenberg who is known in town as an environmental champion.

"I can't believe it...$125," Daley said as the motion was disregarded.

Planning and Zoning Approves 2-Family House on Farm Hill Road

The Planning and Zoning Commission met for about 30 minutes on Wednesday evening. It approved a 2-family house to be built as a replacement for a previous 2-family house on Farm Hill Road , to be built by Jean Gullitta. Commissioner Catherine Johnson requested that the house be placed exactly according to the site plan, which put the house closest to the street, with a garage and parking in the rear.

Two high school students attended the meeting, fulfilling part of the requirement of Mr. Bardos' American Studies class. Shane Jacobs and Alex Dykas listened attentively throughout the meeting. When I asked them afterwards whether they were surprised by anything, they said, "It was quick."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Macdonough Teacher Honored!

Originally Posted in the Macdonough School Blog

Joanne Jukins received recognition last night (Tuesday, Oct. 26)  as a "Local Hero" by the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Connecticut. 

A reception was held at the Governor's Mansion where Ms. Jukins was honored during an awards ceremony.  Governor Rell made a surprise appearance and shared a moment with Ms. Jukins after the ceremony.

The Local Hero award is presented to teachers who exhibit tremendous dedication to their profession and outstanding efforts in servicing their schools and communities. To further recognize Ms. Jukins for her hard work, RMHC awarded a $500 grant to Macdonough School in her honor.                   
                                                                   During the presentation, Joanne was described "..As a learner who takes advantage of opportunities for new learning. As a a mentor, who shares knowledge with colleagues. As a model citizen, who is active in PTA events and rarely misses an evening school activity. Above all, as a superior teacher, who gives individual care to each of her students and creates an environment where her students can excel..."

Milardo Last to Receive Reprimand from AFT

A reprimand, issued by Sharon Palmer the president of AFT Connecticut, a union representing teachers, healthcare workers, public employees and higher education employees, and directed to MMPA President John Milardo, was received and read by a raft of people before Milardo ever got a copy.

The letter, which was published by the Middletown Press today in an article detailing an ongoing war of words between Milardo and Democratic members of the Common Council, was sent by Palmer to an email list which included this blog, the Hartford Courant and at least one member of the Middletown Common Council, among dozens of others.  The email list is one compiled by Milardo, and used to distribute his occasional MMPA Newsletter.

Milardo's name was not on the email list.

"I finally had a copy forwarded to me from someone who received it," Milardo said in a phone interview today.

The reprimand received wider distribution once it was emailed (the Middletown Eye had at least two copies forwarded), and was used as a basis for a critique published here and in the Middletown Press by Common Council member Hope Kasper.

Milardo received his official copy of the complaint today in the mail with a note from the post office that the letter was found floating loose amidst the mail.

"We're meeting Friday with Sharon Palmer at the AFT to discuss the matter," Milardo said.  "I don't understand the basis for her letter.  She's never been to Middletown to meet with our union.  Much of what she accuses me of is wrong.  And I don't understand why, as a union colleague, she didn't bother to call and check before she wrote the letter."

"We sent the letter based upon a complaint," Palmer said.  She refused to name the complainant.  "We sent the letter, and we called and left a message to tell him the letter was being sent."

When questioned why a letter of reprimand would have been distributed so widely before the person it was addressed to had seen its content, Palmer confirmed that she would be meeting with Milardo to discuss the matter on Friday.

"We do what we think is appropriate," Palmer said when asked if it was common practice to widely distribute a letter of reprimand to such a wide audience.

United Way Looking For Volunteer Tax Preparers

Here’s a way to make a difference at tax time – volunteer to become a tax preparer and you can help working families get back the money they’ve earned. Free tax preparation services are available during the tax season through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) to ensure that working families and individuals are filing for the tax credits they have earned. It can also help people save up to $150 in tax preparation fees. 

In 2010, local VITA sites helped 211 residents of Middlesex County file their taxes for free. Those who qualified for refunds or tax credits received an average of $1,898 back. The total amounted to $362,540 – that’s money getting back into the hands of working people who have earned it. Of those served, there were an additional 113 dependents, mostly children, who were impacted by the program.

The program is looking for volunteers at the VITA sites located in downtown Middletown to provide free basic tax preparation for eligible taxpayers from January 22 – April 12, 2011. Volunteers should be available to help 4 hours per week, during the evening or on Saturdays during this time period.

Volunteers must complete a training and be certified by the IRS. The training will be held from January 3-6 and 10-13, 2011 in the evening. Volunteers must attend 4 consecutive sessions. You will be trained to let filers know if they qualify for additional tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. Anyone with an income below $50,000 is eligible to make an appointment for this free service.

Volunteer qualifications are: basic computer skills for inputting tax return information; knowledge of the most elementary tax forms in helpful; ability to deal with the public in a helpful and supportive manner; be friendly, dependable, and flexible. Basic tax training, interviewing skills training, and certification will be provided. No accounting experience necessary.

Volunteer tasks include:
·       Attend basic and/or refresher tax law training and certification on either January 3-6 or January 10-13, 2011. Instruction on the use of tax preparation and electronic filing software is included.
·       Successfully pass a test on required tax law knowledge. Online practice sessions available as preparation.
·       Interview clients to determine that all income, deductions, and allowable credits are claimed.
·       Enter information in the computer software program. All the math calculations are done by the software.
·       Maintain confidentiality of all client information.

For more information or to sign up contact David Morgan at or (860) 346-1522.
VITA is a free program offered by the federal government. The local Middletown VITA sites are coordinated by Middlesex United Way and the Middlesex VITA Coalition.

"A Society Should Not Be The Agent of Death"

Michael Roth, President of Wesleyan, introduced Elie Wiesel to a rapt audience of 600 students, faculty, alumni, and community members on Tuesday evening in the Wesleyan Chapel. Speaking of Wiesel's life work against war, genocide, and hatred, Roth said, "He goes on telling the story, he goes on teaching, he goes on writing. Because he sees the work is not yet accomplished."

Wiesel is a Romanian born Jew who at the age of 15 was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp; his mother, father, and sister were murdered by the Nazis. Wiesel has spent his life since then as a journalist, educator, and prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction books. Wiesel is currently a professor of Humanities at Boston University.

In an interview prior to his address, Wiesel said that until 3 days ago he had been planning to speak on the more general topic of "Building an Ethical Society". He said that when he learned about the brutal murders in Cheshire, and the current sentencing phase of the trial of one of the men, he decided to speak about capital punishment as well.

While calling for the establishment of an ethical society and the abolishment of the death penalty, Wiesel acknowledged he could inadequately address the husband and father whose wife and daughters were murdered. In the interview, he said, "It would be almost obscene to plead [with the survivor] for morality." He said he could only ask, "Do you really think that capital punishment would bring her back to life?"

Wiesel wove a story of history, of himself, and of his vision for a moral society in a speech that enraptured the audience with wisdom and wit. The story telling and the wit are difficult to convey on the computer screen, but here are some of his comments.

One of the first stories of the Old Testament is about the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.
In the original, the Lord addresses Cain after his killing and says, 'The voice of thy brother's bloods crieth out.'
Wiesel's interpretation: "Whoever kills, kills his brother. Whoever kills, kills not only the person but also the children that person would have had."

"It is the law which makes a society a moral or immoral society."

"Law should celebrate life."

"Death should never be the answer, not in a moral and civilized society."

Wiesel said that he took his mantra from Leviticus (19:16), "Thou shalt not stand idly by."

In response to a question from a student, he urged students to do the same. Specifically, he said that students should keep learning and moving, "Information in itself is not enough--it must be turned into knowledge....knowledge has a metaphysical component. Knowledge itself is not enough, it must be turned into sensitivity. Sensitivity itself is not enough. It must be turned into commitment. Well, I just gave you a plan, that should cover your life."

(top photo by Brian Stewart)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

IDS Canned Food Drive and Tag Sale to Benefit Amazing Grace Food Pantry

The Independent Day School in Middlefield is hosting a canned food drive and tag sale to benefit Amazing Grace Food Pantry this Saturday, 10/30, from 9am - 12pm.

Please bring a non-perishable food item as your "ticket" to the tag sale. The following items are particularly needed at the food pantry: tuna, peanut butter, beans, soups, canned fruit and veggies, cereals, pasta, pasta sauce, juices and rice.

IDS is located at 115 Laurel Brook Road, Middlefield, CT.

An Informative and Lively Meeting

A Report on the Oct. 25th Meeting on “The Intersection of Education and Juvenile Justice System” at First Church

From Elizabeth Bobrick

A panel discussion before an audience of about 50 sparked some heated responses last night at a meeting organized by Betsy Morgan of The Middlesex Coaltion for Children. The panel consisted of Abby Anderson, Executive Director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, Hannah Benton, Esq., of the Center for Children’s Advocacy, Annie Hillman of Connecticut Voices for Children, Marta Koonz of One Caring Adult, and South Windsor Police Ofc. Caleb Lopez, representing the Connecticut School Resource Officer Association. Ofc. Lopez is an SRO in the South Windsor district.

Ms. Anderson said that the number of referrals of children into the system has “drastically increased” in the past decade although there was little to no data kept on the reasons for referral, which include “truism, absenteeism, and school-based arrests.”

Ms. Koonz spoke of the need for a change in “school climate,” which she defined as the atmosphere created by the way in which every member of the school community perceives and relates to one another. Changing school climate, she said, is more cost- and time effective than procedures for suspension or expulsion, and allows teachers to focus more on teaching rather than discipline.

Ms. Betton cited a Yale University study of prevention measures applied in the Bridgeport school system that showed significant academic gains in 6th to 8th graders when the school focused on prevention rather than suspension as a means of behavior modification. Children with learning disabilities require particular help with learning appropriate behavior in order not to be suspended, as many of them are.

Ms. Hillman said that more and more kindergartners were being suspended for behavior issues. Suspension, she said, prevents students from learning how to improve their behavior, especially at such a young age.

South Windsor Police Officer Lopez was the last to speak, and remarks were largely the focus of the evening’s discussion. He was asked to explain the role of a Security Resource Officer. He replied that an SRO was “a uniformed, sworn police officer whose task is to serve a school or group of schools.” SROs, he continued, ideally employ a “triad philosophy,” in which they are “one-third law enforcement officer, one-third teacher, and one-third counselor.” He said that he mediates disputes between students, counsels them individually, consults with parents, and gives them advice about keeping their kids safe. He does home visits and works with social service providers working with families. He added that “sometimes we have to put on our police hat only when everything else has been tried.” Nonetheless, he said that a police officer should not be the first responder to a disciplinary situation. When asked if SROs increase arrests because they are present in schools, he said that “some problems were there all along” and that police officers, “because of their training,” recognize when behavior has reached the point where police intervention is necessary. Ofc. Lopez acknowledged that SROs do not always function in the ideal way he described. He emphasized that his organization has trained officers who volunteer for unpaid, 48 hour training sessions in order to work as SROs. The number of officers who want to participate exceeds the number of programs available.

Ms. Betton noted that she had seldom seen the “ideal situation” that Ofc. Lopez presented. She sees a lack of communication between the schools and the police, and little training, guidance, and “unclear expectations” for SROs.

When the question and answer session opened, Maria Masden Holzberg asked for details about SRO training, and asked if Ofc. Lopez wore his gun to school. Ofc. Lopez, answered in detail about the training, and said that as a uniformed police officer, he was required to carry “the tools of my trade.” She noted that he was not allowed to carry his gun to every courtroom, but was still allowed to carry it in school.

Audience member Anthony Glenn asked if there were SROs in every community, and if not, why not. Ofc. Lopez replied that the town’s budget limitations could be a reason, as well as “perception that an armed officer does not belong in school.” Mr. Glenn then asked if Rocky Hill (a system without SROs) had different results in school suspensions and arrests. All panelists agreed that there was not enough data kept by schools to do comparative studies, and that what data there is was of dubious accuracy.

An audience member who left before this reporter could get her name was openly scornful of Ofc. Lopez’s ability to function with what she said was no training as an educator. “Do [SROs] even have a college degree?” she asked. Ofc. Lopez replied with information about his training and certification and requirements for recertification. Ms. Anderson had noted at the beginning of the meeting that there is “no requirement in Connecticut that teachers have training in classroom management,” although such training would reduce behavior problems.

Middletown child psychiatrist Paul Sadowitz asked Ofc. Lopez, “How have these three jobs of teacher, counselor, and law enforcement officer fallen on your shoulders? Why is the SRO doing all this work?” He said that the schools were “abdicating responsibility” by turning this work over to “the man in blue.”

Some audience members who spoke declined to give their names when asked. One spoke of statistics that showed most arrested and expelled students were minorities, and said that having more minority teachers and staff would improve school conditions for minority students. Another asked the panel for details about the nature of the interventions prescribed, but was answered mostly with generalities about the importance of intervention. One who left before this reporter could get her name said, “We need laws about parental involvement,” because unless parents hold responsibility, “the schools are some kind of shadow government.”

Larry Owen noted that the panel of “white women and a police officer” reflected what students see in school. Schools need to “stop all the programming,” he said, and hire more minority teachers. At the same time, however, he said he discouraged minority teachers of his acquaintance who lived in southern states from moving to Connecticut because “they don’t want you here.”

MHS principal Robert Fontaine was present, and stayed well after the meeting, talking with audience members, as did MHS Dean of Students Sheryl Gonzales, Justin Carbonella of Middletown Youth Services and BOE member Sheila Daniels. She was the sole member of the BOE present. None of the four spoke publicly.

When I contacted Ms. Daniels later, she told me that the BOE was working with various members of the school system’s administration to implement the kinds of changes recommended at the meeting. They had initiatives in place to recruit minority faculty and to reduce school suspension. The BOE had made “a concerted effort” that resulted in ongoing professional development with the goal of school climate change and training in classroom discipline methods. She agreed with the need for parental involvement, but noted that parents must join the process voluntarily. The BOE felt that the SRO should be the last responder to student behavior problems, not the first.

An earlier draft of this article said that it was the principal's decision whether or not to have an SRO in the building. That is the case in Hartford, but not in Middletown.

Today is the Last Day to Register to Vote in Next Week's Election

This is for all the procrastinators out there!

The Registrar of Voters is holding special hours today (October 26), the last day to register to vote before next Tuesday's important election.
Register to vote at City Hall until 8PM tonight.
Registration is easy, simply stop by City Hall on DeKoven Street any time before 8PM, fill out a brief form with your drivers license and the last 4 digits of your Social Security number, and you're all set to participate in the election next week.

There are many close races which will affect the future of Middletown, ranging from State Representative to Governor to U.S. Senator. Take part in choosing your elected officials.

November Recycling Center Hours

The Middletown Recycling Center is open Monday – Friday 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and every Saturday through November 7:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon.  

It will be closed Thursday, Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.

It will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 25 & 26 for Thanksgiving. It will be open Saturday, November 27th.

Starting in December Saturday hours will change to the first and third Saturday of the month 7:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon.

For more information, contact the Public Works Department at 860-344-3407.

Westfield Candidates Forum a Lively Event

(Left to right: Matt Lesser, John Szewczyk, Paul Doyle, Joe Serra, David Bauer, and Dom Mazzaccoli)

All of the candidates running to represent the Westfield portion of Middletown turned out to make one of their final public pitches for votes on Monday evening, at a candidates forum hosted by the Westfield Residents Association. About 40 residents heard them discuss issues quite similar to those being discussed in statewide races in Connecticut and elsewhere: creating jobs, balancing the budget, and the value of previous government service.

Dom Mazzacoli (R), running to unseat Senator Paul Doyle (D), opened the forum by saying, "I'm running because we are moving in the wrong direction." Doyle countered by listing his experience and accomplishments over the past 4 years of serving his district, he said that he was most proud of the work he had done to help persuade the Army to move a training facility from Boardman Lane to its current site on Smith Street.

In the 33rd District, challenger David Bauer (R) promised that he would work harder to get Middletown a higher amount of Educational Cost Sharing revenue from the State, he would exert an effort to bring appropriate development of the Aetna property, and he would fight during the upcoming redistricting to get Middletown more favorable district lines. Joe Serra (D) touted his roots in the city, "I was born and raised in Middletown. I spent 37 years at the Public Works Department... I'm the senior member [of the delegation] in terms of time and age, and so they listen to me."

In the 100th District, John Szewczyk (R) is challenging one-term incumbent Matt Lesser (D). Szewczyk told the audience that if elected he would cut the budget by consolidating duplicate state agencies. In a departure, he said that the role of the government was not to create jobs, but rather to invest in infrastructure which would in turn promote economic growth. Lesser said that his first term was not an easy one, having started at the beginning of the economic downturn, but he said, "At the end of the day we were able to protect the city of Middletown [from significant cuts in funding]."

Jim O'Rourke, running for reelection in the 32nd District, spoke of issues on which he had worked with Westfield Residents in the past. Referring to a Dainty Rubbish landfill, he said, "We worked together on the Mt. Trashmore on Newfield Street." He expressed pride in endorsements he has received from environmental groups, "Environment has been one of my key things."
Disclosure: I am vice-chair of the Westfield Residents Association.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Go Wes!

In our effort to cover more football-related Wesleyan news, I bring you this report from Saturday night's Athletics Hall of Fame dinner at Beckham Hall. In addition to honoring a number of alumni athletes and former lacrosse and soccer coach Terry Jackson, the dinner also honored Wesleyan's 1969 undefeated football team.

At least one member of the team, then-sophomore running back David Revenaugh '72, continues to live in the Middletown area, and he was joined by more than 25 of his teammates who returned to campus for Homecoming Weekend. I caught a shot of David listening as John Biddiscombe read out the storied accomplishments of the team.

Here's an excerpt from the excellent article in the evening's program, describing that year's battle with Amherst:

As good as Wesleyan's 4-0 record was, the fifth game changed the tenor of the season and the opinions of many. Wesleyan hadn't beaten Amherst at Pratt Field in 14 years. They were powerful and widely favored. Once the game started, however, Amherst's Homecoming crowd was subjected to a one-sided contest, a 28-13 Cardinal triumph, that prompted headlines such as, "Wesleyan upsets," "Wesleyan slams," and "Wesleyan stuns." The Wesleyan defense intercepted Amherst five times and recovered three fumbles. Panciera threw three touchdown passes and Revenaugh ran for 130 yards and caught two touchdown passes. In a season of unexpected events, the biggest game of the year was never in doubt, and Wesleyan was a very serious 5-0.

In the end, the 1969 team was undefeated, untied, Little Three champs, and winners of the Lambert Cup. Coach of the Year went to Don Russell and four players were elected to the All-New England team.

Congratulations to David and the rest of the 1969 team!

Forum on Education and Juvenile Justice Tonight

From Elizabeth Bobrick:
There will be a public forum entitled, "The Intersection of Education and Juvenile Justice" tonight.
5:45 light dinner
6:00 forum
First Church of Christ Congregational
190 Court St (between Main and Broad)

Note address: 190 -- NOT 90 -- Court St.

Candidates Forum in Westfield Tonight

The Westfield Residents Association is hosting a candidates forum at its quarterly meeting tonight. This is a great occasion to meet the men and woman vying to represent most of Middletown in the State Capitol. All are welcome to attend the WRA quarterly meeting.
Fellowship Hall
3rd Congregational Church
94 Miner Street
(1 block from Westfield Fire Station on East Street)
The candidates forum will begin at 7:30, after a brief WRA business meeting and a break for refreshments.

Most of the candidates for offices representing Westfield have confirmed they will be at the meeting:

State Senate, 9th District
  • Paul Doyle
  • Dom Mazzacoli

State Legislature, 32nd District
  • Jim O'Rourke
  • Christie Carpino

State Legislature, 33rd District
  • Joe Serra
  • David Bauer

State Legislature, 100th District
  • Matt Lesser
  • John Szewczyk

Governor Candidates Address Mental Health Issues

Candidates for Governor, Republican Tom Foley,  Independent Tom Marsh and Democrat Dan Malloy took questions from a large group of mental health advocates at the Keep the Promise Children's Mental Health Forum at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Friday.

There was general agreement among the candidates that in an era where a multi-billion dollar deficit is expected, that the state could not abandon its commitment to mental health services.  All candidates also agreed with the forum sponsors that community-based mental health services offered by not-for-profit and non-state agencies often provided these services more effectively and efficiently.

These sentiments echoed the words of Keep the Promise leaders Eric Arzubi, Alicia Woodsby and Jan van Tassel.

"The emotional-behavioral health of our children is central to the future of our State," Arzubi said.  "It affects school outcomes, physical health, the economy, drug and alcohol use, family life and public safety."

"We made promises as we moved people out of long term institutions," Malloy said.  "And we didn't keep our promises.  We have slowly starved those (not-for-profit) agencies who have provided those services.  We've got to find a way through the budget crisis that does not do further harm to the safety net.  And this is the safety net."

Marsh also agreed that keeping promises is at the heart of solving a problem which he characterizes as a government unwilling to make good on the words they legislate.

"It ends up in the hands of very financially-strapped municipalities to handle these problems," Marsh said, attacking the State Legislature for passing unfunded mandates which must be instituted by cities and school districts without state funding.  "If the school environment is the right place to handle these services then lets keep the promise of funding."

Foley talked about being the primary caretake for a sister who was diagnosed as a young women with bipolar disorder and "spent 40 years in and out of institutions."

Foley acknowledged that the crippled economy and the large state deficit, which he said was significantly smaller than the $5.5 billion projected by candidate Marsh, will make finding a solution difficult.

"We're not going to solve the financial problem on the backs of the needy," Foley said.  "And that includes children and mental health issues.  My plan is to move more of these services into the community.  They do a better job and cost less."

Prior to the governor candidate forum, leaders and guests of Keep the Promise emphasized that chronic underfunding has crippled the mental health system, particularly as services became sorced to community and not-for-profit organizations.  These organizations, speakers noted, provide services for far less than state services, and yet faced initial underfunding, and five years of flat funding.

While the forum advertised that it would be addressing bullying as a mental-health issue, the topic was barely touched-upon by the candidates.  Malloy indicated in his closing remarks that bullying was an important issue and that "we need to do something about it."  Marsh indicated that the state's bullying law was another example of the legislature creating a law which had to be administered by already-strapped school systems.

Alycia McClain, who has complained to the Middletown Board of Education about a bullying situation involving her daughter, and her mother Alexa McClain, spoke with candidate Malloy after the meeting.  They told Malloy that the Middletown Board of Education had not, according to them, taken appropriate action in the bullying of her daughter.  Malloy explained that he was not governor yet, and wished there was something in his power he could do to help.  The McClains gave their names to a Malloy staffer who promised to address their issues in transition to office if Malloy is elected.

"We're not talking about spending more money," vanTassel said.  "But spending less money smarter."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Monday at the Russell Library: Climate Change and Energy Options

Monday, October 25, 7pm
Hubbard Room, Russell Library

William Trousdale, Wesleyan Professor Emeritus of Physics, and Marvin Farbman, former Director of CT Legal Services, lead this seminar series. The first session on October 18th focused on global warming and a profile of energy use. The second meeting is Monday 25 October and will consider the history and future use of nuclear energy. The last session on Monday, November 8 will examine the pros and cons of solar power along with other energy choices.

Middletown High at the Head of the Charles Regatta

Milardo Responds To Kasper Allegations

Commentary by MMPA President, and city employee John Milardo

I read Councilwoman Kaspers article hoping to hear something different from the democrats on the Common Council, and understand why they have turned into this vegful, self serving group of politial bullies, with only one aim: to force their decisions onto everyone else.  I define 'everyone" as our local labor organizations, and the general public.

Ms. Kasper has now gone on attack mode, to protect herself, and her policial cronies.  I will address her comments one by one.

Ms. Kasper states several times, I am Superintendent of Parks, and my wife is Director of Personnel.  What's her point?  I have been a city employee for 4 decades, and met my wife while working.  I don't see that as a concern to anyone, just as Councilwoman Kasper doesn't and didn't see that as an issue when she and her husband both worked for the City.

The Councilwoman states I am abusing city resourses and time, as a Union representative.  As for performing Union acitivities during work, (as well as my private time), there is nothing illegal about it.  If it were illegal, she would have made a complaint several years ago.  Maybe I should not conclude she would know what is legal and illegal?  After all, she refused to step down from an elected post on the City of Middletown Retirement Committee, fully knowing her two year term had expired by almost 10 years!  And then tried to stay on without a proper election called by the City Unions.  She should be ashamed of trying to say someone else is violating anything!

I am still an active Union member/official; maybe over active?  There are a couple of diffences between how Ms. Kasper and myself perform(ed) Union activities.  When Ms. Kasper was an AFSCME Union member and City employee:  she was removed as a member in good standing by her union, for life!  Do you know how bad a person has to screw up to be thrown out of their own Union?  What I am trying to achieve is a new way of doing things in our City, through Union acitivies and assistance from Middletown taxpayers.  I am not doing it by sucking up to any of the local town committees and their members to make a change.  It should come from the average blue collar worker and taxpayers in our town.  That is who I am trying to enlist.

Another difference between Councilwoman Kasper and myself is; when the Director of Personnel and I married, one of us dropped our medical coverage (and didn't have to); to save the taxpayers the cost of two health insurance policies for one family.  Councilwoman Kasper and her husband, also a retired City of Middletown employee, both have kept their medical insurance coverages, just so they don't have to pay the $5 co-pays of their city provided health visits.  Ms. Kasper thinks nothing of letting the taxpayer pay thousands of dollars extra for her two full health insurance coverages, so she can save $5 for an office visit.

As for the Councilwoman stating how much I, as Parks Superintendent made in overtime in the year of 2008, I don't know if it's accurate, but I will tell you, I and the entire Parks & Recreation Maintenance Division work a lot during the year, as do many other City departments and their employees.  Ms. Kasper, as a Council member knows the reason why?  We are woefully understaffed, and have been for many, many, years.  We have 14 employees, and should have at least 30.  You do the math to find out how the work will get done.  It is an ongoing issue which the Common Council has not, and will not address.

I am not sure exactly what her implications are regarding my wages, and "special interest groups" have in common?   My wages and other information is open for public reveiw.  I am not hiding anything; never tried to, or have.  Is the Councilwoman saying I am the only MMPA or AFSCME employee who should not recieve overtime wages according to their bargaining agreements?  I believe she is fine with everyone else earning overtime (including herself when she was a City employee): the exception would be the MMPA President because he is going against the "Democratic Machine".  Gee, do you think she's is trying to defame me because I have the audacity to open my mouth?  How dare I!

In her capacity as a Council person, she is inferring there is something wrong or illegal with my earning overtime.  If she has facts to base her comments and implications, Councilwoman Kasper needs to file a complaint and bring it forward.  That is of course, if she is not just flapping her lips to take the heat off herself and her colleagues.  If her commentary is factual, she must bring the complaints to the legal process.  She took an oath to uphold the laws of Middletown and the United States of America; it is demanded of her to come forward and proceed with her findings; she was elected to a position, "by the people".  If she doesn't, then it is my duty to bring a complaint forward; against her!  (Point of Information:  Anything I mention or state as fact in any of the MMPA news letters, or commetaries, can be backed up.)

The "special interest" groups I refer to in my past letter regard those who claim to be non-profit, but make a profit and recieve tax abatements.  Or, the profitable entities who contribute to their political elections, and recieve monetary incentives by the Councils actions.

Please Hope, don't comment again, all you are doing is proving my point.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

McCarthy Park Gets Trees

Things are happening at McCarthy Park, which is known to many as City School Field. A group of neighbors have been working for many years securing funds from the Middlesex County Community Foundation and Community Development Block Grants to improve the quality and accessibility of the park. In a previous round, the handicapped-accessible ramp was rebuilt; and extensive improvements were made to the landscaping and drainage between the two levels of the park. This round has seen the resurfacing of the tennis and basketball courts, and the installation of a swing set. The swings have already attracted young parents and youngsters to the park. Most recently, this past Wednesday, four "London plane" trees (similar to sycamores) were planted along the edge of the park, by Hotchkiss Street. A special thanks to Ken Ahnell of Middlesex Alternatives to Incarceration for providing equipment and volunteers.

Here is a slide show of the planting.

Stay tuned for bike racks, benches, and some nicer fencing along the edges. But no need to wait for these—come on over and bring a ball! Many thanks on all these fronts to Middletown’s Park and Rec Department and to Michiel Wackers of the Planning Department.

[Information and photos for this story provided by John Elmore and Jennifer Saines. Full disclosure: I am Jennifer's spouse.]

Middlesex County Historical Society Honored by State and National History Organizations

The Middlesex County Historical Society was honored to receive an Award of Merit at the annual state meeting of the Connecticut League of History Organizations at the Old State House in Hartford in June. The Society’s Civil War initiative, which includes the current exhibit “Hard & Stirring Times: Middletown and the Civil War,” the placement of the exhibit on its website,, and the development of curriculum using the Society’s Civil War archives for the local middle and high schools, was cited for recognition.

The American Association for State and Local History presented the Society an Award of Merit at that group’s annual meeting in Oklahoma City on September 24. Terry L. Davis, President and CEO, wrote, “The AASLH Leadership in History Awards is the nation’s most prestigious competition for recognition of achievement in state and local history. We congratulate you for the work that has brought this honor.” The full list of Connecticut honorees can be found at

The initiative was funded by a grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council with matching support provided by the Middlesex County Historical Society’s Antique and Classic Car Show Committee and many private donations.

The exhibit can be viewed at the Society’s headquarters, The General Joseph Mansfield House, 151 Main Street, Middletown. Museum hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 10 to 3, and Friday, 10 to 12. Genealogical and archival research is available by appointment.