Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Town Hall Meeting State Senator Suzio

State Senator Len Suzio invites you to attend a Town Hall Meeting

Please join us as we discuss the recent jobs bill passed in special session and to discuss policy ideas in preparation for the 2012 general legislative session.

  • Thursday February 2, 2012 - 7 – 8:30 pm Middletown Town Hall 245 DeKoven Drive Middletown, CT

Event Is Open To The Public

For more information contact: Chris Diorio atchris.diorio@cga.ct.gov or 1-800-842-1421

Boys Tap Dance Class Starting

There's a new tap dance class for boys (ages 7 to 13) starting at Vinnie's Jump & Jive this Friday at 5:45 pm. The teacher is Lynn Agnew, a veteran dance instructor - I've been taking her Wednesday evening tap class** and she's a terrific teacher. The boys class is perfect for complete beginners or boys who've had a season or two of dance class.

There's something about giving boys a space to learn tap that's all their own - and it's an option that's been lacking in Central CT (believe me, I've been looking.) More so, it's hard to find kids' dance classes that focus on solid technique instead of preparing for recitals - that's much better for any dancer in the long run.

Lynn runs her classes on a month-long cycle - it's a drop-in class and you don't have to pre-register. Each week, in addition to learning basic steps and combinations, you'll learn a bit of a routine, adding more each week. Then it all starts over the next month. She's great at managing different skill levels in the same class, so you're always moving forward. You'll need tap shoes for the class (here's an opportunity to patronize the Dance Outfitters in Main Street Market, 386 Main. But let me know in the comments if you'll need a boys size 5M - we've got last year's pair sitting here.)

When my 9-year-old saw what I was writing, he wanted to contribute his own review. Here it is:

"It's like....fun because you're learning new things and the music isn't what comes out of the radio - it's tapping music. Sincerely, Kobi. (I vote 5 stars)."

It's $12 per class, or $40 if you pay for a month at a time. For more info on the class, call Lynn at (860) 343-3635. Vinnie's Jump & Jive, at 424 Main Street, is a community dance hall that offers classes and participatory dance events. There's info on more of Vinnie's offerings at www.vinniesjumpandjive.com, but the website is not as up-to-date as stopping by for a monthly calendar.

**Calling all hoofers old and young - Lynn runs beginner (7 pm) and intermediate (8 pm) tap classes on Wednesday nights at Vinnie's - awesome!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Oddfellows to present “The King(Lear)” Featuring John Basinger

“Attend the Lords of France and Burgandy, Gloucester.” And so begins the journey of "The King." Is this the definition of insanity? Is this man the reincarnation today of the real King Lear? Is this man an actor who, having performed Lear so many times that he can't get out of the role? Is this man simply one of us obsessed with the tragedy of life, both then and now, that he is compelled forever to repeat his errors?

“The King (Lear)” will be performed Thursday February 9, Friday February 10, and Saturday February 11 at 7:30pm.

The play, conceived and adapted by John Basinger, is the story of King Lear, from one man’s perspective – Lear’s. The performances will benefit Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater. The production is directed by James Stidfole.

Said Basinger, “I had really decided that to take on King Lear for a full production in 2009, I needed to begin learning the part so I could fully commit. It took me a good year, year and a half to get it all in my head. When it looked like the production would falter after Jeffery [Allen] left, it struck me that it is really an odd play – so much of the play goes on around Lear and is enacted by other characters. Having done all of Paradise Lost as a live performance, recreating the characters, it wasn’t much of a leap to say, this could be done with [King] Lear.” Basinger describes The King as a “one character play, whose sole character speaks only Lear’s lines.”

Basinger might be best known throughout central CT for his marathon performance of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” from memory. Basinger began his career in theater 43 years ago with the National Theater of the Deaf, touring a good portion of the world with them. Since that time he has appeared in movies, taught theater at Three Rivers Community College, slammed poetry and wrote and directed plays, most recently the outdoor historic drama, “Benedict Arnold: A Brave Revenge” presented in Groton in 2003.

Artistically, Basinger believes that there is a wide range of interpretation that can be brought to this character through this adaptation. “Certainly, you can see doing it as an exercise in theater – how to solve the problem of Lear. There is a problem with Lear, a serious problem. It has been cobbled together from several pieces. There is not an explanation of Lear’s dilemma. It is right there. Other than being the inciting incident for all of this other action, you don’t need Lear. He is not an agent of action. He gives away his power at the beginning, and then we don’t need to listen to him rant and rave. So part of this is an experiment for how to explore Lear.”

Tickets are $25.00 for adults and $12 for students and can be purchased by calling the box office at (860) 347-6143 or online at www.oddfellows.org

Oddfellows programming is made possible through the generous support of the CT Department of Education, the CT Commission on Culture & Tourism, The Middlesex United Way, The Stare Fund, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, Pratt & Whitney, J. Walton Bissell Foundation, CDBG Scholarship Program, WESU 88.1FM, Triple Frog, Comcast and the Daphne Seybolt Culpeper Memorial Fund.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

From 1912: Democrats Will Take The Offices

The following is an excerpt from an article published exactly 100 years ago today, in the Hartford Courant on January 29th, 1912.

The open, unabashed discussion of city positions as political plums ("all republican heads to drop") is astonishing. Some readers might respond with relief that in 2012 a city engineer is not hired or fired because of political leanings. Others might long for the day when the patronage was in the open, for all to see.


The question uppermost in local political circles just now is what action the new city council is going to take in regard to the republican office holders. The city council is now evenly divided, Mayor Fisk, a democrat, having the deciding vote. There is a well-defined rumor to the effect that all republican heads are to drop, except that of Street Commissioner John Cantwell. John W. Glynn, one of the newly elected democratic councilmen, is said to be firmly committed to the support of Mr. Cantwell for the place. Dr. James A. Lawton and Ernest Umba were similarly inclined, but have since yielded to the persuasions of the their democratic colleagues.

The new council will elect a democratic corporation counsel it is said, and the members are wavering between Lawyer Elmer G. Derby, who may be said to represent the Fisher wing of the party, and Lawyer J.J. Dempsey, who has never allied himself with the Fisher influences. No appointee has been mentioned for sealer of weights and measures. The new city engineers is to be Joseph M. Lacey, a popular young democrat, who is now a representative in the state Legislature. James E. Boylan will be appointed building inspector, and Dr. Parkinson will be re-elected as milk inspector. The post of city stenographer is undisturbed by politics.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Snowdrops on Miles Avenue

These snowdrops are blooming 4-6 weeks early!

East Main Street Drug Bust

From the Middletown Police.

On January 27, 2012 the Street Crime Unit with the assistance of the Patrol Division executed a Search and Seizure Warrant at 71 East Main St. Second Floor Rear. The Search and Seizure Warrant was to include the person of Zachary Thomas age 23, the residence, and two vehicles a 1998 Jeep Cherokee registered Paulette Thomas of 71 East Main St. and a 2008 Dodge Charger registered to Tashiemia Dempsey of 1 Russell St Apt.#11.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cypress Grill Features Eric Kuhn Band Sunday

From Trevor Davis

The 7 piece band of Eric Ward Kuhn mixes folk, jazz, rock and political humor; quite funny and current, actually, and quite good.
Piano, bass, drums, guitar, female vocalist, sax and trombone, and, of course, Eric singing, too.
It's a 4-6 PM show, and it's free!
Great food and drink at the historic Cypress Grille & Restaurant on Route 17, south of downtown Middletown.
Music samples

Letter to the Editors: Concerned Parent still has unanswered questions regarding DEAL Program closure

The following letter was submitted to the Eye by Bielefield Elementary parent Jane Majewski, the mother who started the recent online petition concerning alleged mismanagement on the part of three administrators of the BOE administration overseeing Pupil Services and Special Education Services. It should be considered as an opinion piece; the verification of any facts & responsibility of claims made rests solely on the author. This letter, and others submitted by readers, are posted as a courtesy to readers,a and not necessarily the opinion of the team of regular bloggers or blog editors of the MiddletownEye.

Recently there has been much conversation about the closing of the DEAL program housed at Lawrence School and its possible impact on the current issues being faced at Farm Hill School.

At the last Board of Education meeting Dr. Frechette cited a report from the Connecticut State Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education, that covered a March 20 -24 monitoring site visit. As a result of that visit, Middletown was told that it "...needed to decrease the number of students in all disability categories who spend time in segregated settings as defined as students who are educated with their nondisabled peers." The report went on to say "This plan is to support the increase of students being appropriately educated in the district and within the general education environment that have otherwise been sent out of district or educated in separate classes due to behavioral needs or cognitive disabilities."

This is in direct contrast to the Cambridge report posted on the Lawrence School website. Within this report one sees a very different perspective to that of the BOE Administrators claim that they needed to disband the program. Allow me to highlight some of the statements on this report.

"In addition to its own regular student population the school provides education and support for 30 students in the Daily Experiences/Activities for Living Program (DEAL). These students would otherwise be placed out of district because of their significant learning and emotional needs. This is a district wide program that serves all 8 elementary schools in Middletown and which provides students with strategies to enable them to return to regular education, classrooms in their own schools."

"What the School Does Well.
The excellent behavior management strategies that are consistently demonstrated by staff ensure that the school is a calm and safe environment where students behave well, forge excellent relationships and learn the difference between right and wrong.

The school provides well for all students but particularly for those in the DEAL program to enable them to return to regular education, classrooms in their own schools. The learning difficulties experienced by students include autism, neurological impairments, emotional disturbance, intellectual disabilities and medical fragility".

At the recent Board of Education meeting Ted Radzka stated there was an increase in budget needs due to (amongst other things) an increase in cost to out of district placements and magnet school placements.

This is the reason why I became vocal about the issues facing Farm Hill. As a parent of a child in the DEAL program I was not told the DEAL program was being closed. It was just done. This is the lack of communication that parents are frustrated with. The conflict between the contradicting statements of the Cambridge report and the Administration is what leaves parents without a sense of trust.

Allow me to connect some dots. The DEAL program was closed. The children became ICM students at Farm Hill and Bielefield. The recommendations of Izzy Greenberg for redistricting (and closing of DEAL was under this) was not implemented. Farm Hill school did not have the staffing or resources to ensure a safe transition of this redistricting. Now, we have a divided confused community. As a direct result, children that would have been sent to DEAL are being sent out of town (farther away from our community) and the cost is increasing. More parents are applying to magnet schools for their mainstream children (myself included), cost is increasing.

No one is able to tell me where the ICM children's home schools would be. This is due to confidential laws that protect the children. The same administrators who fight to protect confidentiality of their clients have not fought to keep them safe and in an appropriate environment.

Why was DEAL really closed?
Why cant it be brought back?
If it worked (excellantly according to the cambridge report, staff and parents) why not keep it? It saves the taxpayers money and provides a nurturing and safe learning environment for all of our children

Jane Majewski

Former Convicted Murderer and Mother of Murder Victim to Speak at Shiloh Baptist Tomorrow

Reprinted from Creedible, CT @ Prayer
Two people whose lives have forever been changed by murder, Fernando Bermudez, who spent 18 years in prison for a murder he did not commit and Victoria Coward, whose teenage son was murdered, will join forces in Middletown on Jan. 28 at Shiloh Baptist Church.
Saturday, January 28th @ 4:00pm
Shiloh Baptist Church
346 Butternut Street

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sunday at First Church: February 5 , the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Come Worship in the Warmth
of the Parish Hall

Contribute to
the Souper Bowl of Caring

First Church of Christ,
Congregational (UCC)

190 Court St.
Middletown, CT

During the coldest months of the year, we worship in our Parish Hall, entering through a "back door" on the left side of the church. This year, worship services will remain in the Parish Hall through March 11th. Worship begins at 10 a.m. with our Interim Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Brenda Pelc-Faszcza.

First Church is an Open and Affirming church. No matter where you are in life's journey, you are welcome. Sunday school meets during worship and child care is provided.

Prelude: A Festive Intrada, Cynthia Dobrinski
The Heart in Hand Bell Choir
Hymn: In Christ There is No East or West
Offertory: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, arr. Charles Maggs
The Heart in Hand Bell Choir
Hymn: I Come with Joy
Anthem: Let Us Break Bread Together, arr. Leland Sateren
The Senior Choir
Hymn: Help Us Accept Each Other

Scripture Reading: Galatians 3:23-38 (“In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek…”) ; John 17:20-26 (“That they may all be one..”)

Sermon: A Communion Story. There are a variety of ways in the world that Christians practice Communion, and some of them may challenge us more than others. But by whatever method, our coming together to the Table is meant, each time, to reconstitute us as the Body of Christ: to make us one again, across all the divides that we can think of. In this, the sacrament means to help us do the same in life – to come together in, from, and to one Source, “across all ages, tongues and races.” As in worship, so in daily life: liturgy is not only an experience in itself, but also practice in what we strive for in all of life.

The Sacrament of Holy Communion will be served.

Church School: K-5 ~ Communion and Special Music

SOUPER BOWL of CARING collection TODAY. Lord, as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us to be mindful of those without even a bowl of soup to eat.

In Romans 12:13 we are told: "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." This congregation certainly obeys that command. On Super Bowl Sunday, we will join with other churches, schools and organizations across the country to fight hunger and poverty with the Souper Bowl of Caring. It is a grassroots, faith-based crusade against hunger. All donations received will be given to St. Vincent de Paul Place to continue their effort in feeding the hungry in Middletown.

Shawn Strickland is Outstanding Leader for Middletown on the Court

The point guard is the floor general who teammates look to for leadership on the court. They are the primary ball handlers and initiate the offense, and on defense their peskiness and hard effort causes poor execution and turnovers. The point guard exists within the flow of games, and understands when to get teammates going on offense and when to take over games themselves. For better or worse, they are the emotional leader of the team. The average point guard certainly doesn’t possess all of these ideal qualities. If a team has a point guard who possesses even one or two of these qualities then they will be pleased. But a point guard who is all this, and more, is special. He is a difference-maker. Shawn Strickland, the junior point guard and captain for the Middletown High Blue Dragons, is just that.

Meanwhile during the BOE Meeting....

Meanwhile, at the new Comcast studio in Cromwell, while the BOE meeting was going on Tuesday, two Middletown mothers were guests on the cable access show "The Edge" hosted by Jonathan Pulino and guest co-hosted by Councilwoman Debra Kleckowski filling in for regular host William Wilson. Jane Majewski, mother of two children attending Middletown public schools, one with autism, and organizer of the online petition written about previously in the Eye, calling for the termination of the three administrators in charge of special education services for Middletown because of what she calls their negligence in failure to address the needs of her son by elimination of the DEAL program. The DEAL program was a program made up of special classes taught by teachers trained to handle children with various learning and behavioral disabilities that was housed at Lawrence Elementary to serve all Middletown elementary aged special needs students.

Farm Hill School Interim Principal Named

Mark Proffitt, former principal of both Lawrence and Spencer Schools, has been named the Interim Principal of Farm Hill School, effective next Monday. He fills in for Patricia A. Girard, who is beginning an indefinite leave of absence on Monday.

Michael Frechette, Superintendent of Schools, praised Proffitt in a letter, "Mr. Profitt has a long-standing tenure in our district as a very successful principal and teacher."

Izzi Greenberg Named City's Person Of The Year

The Middletown Press has selected Izzi Greenberg as its Person of the Year. The Press article notes the keystone role she has played in bringing vibrancy to the north end of Main Street, through a successful farmer's market, education, arts program, the skate park, community gardens, and more.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's all good, but we know they really gave her the award because of her awesome contributions as an author for the Middletown Eye!

Congratulations to Izzi!

Wilsons Win Approval For Majestic Oaks Subdivision On South Main

The Planning and Zoning Commission last night unanimously approved a large subdivision off of South Main Street, near the Durham town line. 32 lots were originally applied for, but the developer reduced it by one in response to concerns expressed by the Conservation Commission. The developer also eliminated a narrow strip of deeded open space which neighbors were concerned would attract undesirable activities.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Large Crowd Disappointed at Board of Ed Meeting

It was standing room only at Tuesday night's regular Board of Education meeting. Much of the standing was done by the five media camera crews and a handful of print journalists who also attended the meeting. The mood in the room was rather tense, and the crowd was prone to several instances of loudly spoken comments in response to something said by one of the board members.

The Superintendent's inability to answer any of the specific questions posed to him regarding the use of "time out" rooms at Farm Hill Elementary School seriously disappointed and/or angered the parents in the audience. The agenda was re-arranged to allow the Superintendent to present his report on Farm Hill immediately following the adoption of the agenda (view the report here, look for the Talking Points, Farm Hill School link). Most of the Superintendent's report contained information that had been shared with parents at the Farm Hill PTA meeting on January 12th (coverage of that meeting can be found here). Upon the conclusion of the update, BOE Chairman Gene Nocera commented that due to on-going investigations, the board's discussion of what was happening at Farm Hill would be limited to the Superintendent's Report. Nocera did promise, however, that a full public discussion would follow the conclusion of all investigations. [Author's note: this statement was not well received by the audience.]

Animal Science Adult Education

Classes are being offered to provide continuing education for interested people involved with the fields of agriculture and animal science. Classes will be held on Tuesday nights (with the exception of Thursday, 1/26)* from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. There are no fees for any of the classes. Please register early so that we may plan for seating and materials. A minimum of 10 pre-registrants may be required in order to hold most classes.

La Boca Heads South of the Border

Longtime residents of Middletown have a habit of calling businesses in town by whatever store used to occupy that location.

Modern conversation drops references to Matt's Music (now "Joe Riff's") and Sear's Auto (now "Attention to Detail" on DeKoven Drive.) I recently heard someone refer to Mikado's Sushi as "you know - McAndrews...." and I sometimes send my husband down the block to pick something up from "Pelton's" when I know perfectly well he'll be going to Rite Aid.

Those who lived in Middletown through the 1980's have fond memories of the original "La Boca", a favorite mixing spot for town-gown conviviality. It's been "the new La Boca" ever since the current incarnation opened a decade or so ago - but now they're moving south of the border (of Washington Street). They're anticipating a March opening in the spot where Public used to be (you know....the Bob's building.)

And what new business will occupy the vaguely Spanish white stucco building owned by the Poliner brothers? I have no idea ....but I have a pretty good idea what we'll call them for at least the next few decades!

Sunday at First Church: January 29 ~ Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Come Worship
in the Warmth

of the Parish Hall

First Church of Christ,
Congregational (UCC)
190 Court St.
Middletown, CT

During the coldest months of the year, we worship in our Parish Hall, through a "back door" on the left side of the church. Worship begins at 10 a.m. with our Interim Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Brenda Pelc-Faszcza.

First Church is an Open and Affirming church. No matter where you are in life's journey, you are welcome. Sunday school meets during worship and child care is provided.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Historical Society Presents: A Life of the Land: Connecticut’s Jewish Farmers

From Deborah Shapiro, Executive Director Middlesex County Historical Society

In the 1880’s, thousands of Eastern European Jews began fleeing the pogroms that resulted in death and the destruction of property. Many arrived on America’s shores with little more than the contents of a small trunk. The Jewish Agricultural Society in New York began an effort to settle some of the new immigrants on farms in Connecticut. One area the society chose was centered around Colchester, Lebanon, and Montville. The story of these families and how they owned, worked the farms for generations, and developed the resorts of Moodus will be the subject of a talk given by Mary Donohue, the co-author (along with Briann Greenfield) of A Life of the Land: Connecticut’s Jewish Farmers on Tuesday, January 31 at 7 pm. at Congregation Adath Israel, 8 Broad Street. The evening, which is sponsored by the Middlesex County Historical Society in conjunction with the Adult Education Committee of the synagogue, will include a book signing by the author.

Mary Donohue is the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer for Grants and Senior Architectural Historian for the State Historic Preservation Office of the Department of Economic and Community Development and has had a 30-year career in historic preservation. Under her leadership, surveys were completed for town greens, municipal parks, and outdoor sculpture, and she oversees the state’s historic preservation grant programs. Ms. Donohue is an award-winning author and a frequent contributor to “Connecticut Explored” magazine.

Following the talk, participants will also be able to view the museum at Congregation Adath Israel, one of the largest and most comprehensive displays of Judaica in the state. The program is free and open to the public. The synagogue is handicapped accessible and parking is available on Old Church Street along the South Green. For further information, call the Historical Society at 860-346-0746.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Much Ado About 32-Lot Subdivision at Conservation Meeting

The regular monthly meeting of the Conservation Commission earlier this evening was a full house with a record number of residents, nearly two dozen, turning out to hear a presentation, ask questions, and voice concerns
about a proposed 32-lot subdivision off of South Main Street named "Majestic Oak Estates." The land owner, Attorney Ralph Wilson, presented to the Conservation Commission a modified plan that was approved by the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency (IW/W) at its meeting of September 7, 2011 and is scheduled to be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) on this Wednesday, January 25th.

Wesleyan Institute For Lifelong Learning Announces Spring Classes

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Q&A: Xavier Captains Look Back on Memorable Careers

The quarter of AJ Cosenza, Stephen Russo, Greg Brown and Kris Fogarasi have provided Xavier swimming with leadership both in and out of the pool this season. The Falcons senior captains are key swimmers in events like the 200 IM, 100 fly and 200 medley relay. More importantly, the captains have been great leaders for a young team that experienced significant change coming into the season. Suffice to say, Xavier’s 4-2 start wouldn’t have occurred without them. Last week at practice, the group sat down to discuss the season and their experiences on the team.
The team is 4-2 in what is supposed to be a rebuilding year. How would you assess the season so far?
AJ Cosenza: We knew coming into the season that a lot of things were different and that this was meant to be a rebuilding year. I think we’re doing very well and we’ve gotten better as it’s gone on.
Stephen Russo: There have been a lot of guys who got a chance to swim more and prove themselves this season. We’ve had a lot of meets with great performances.
There were a lot of changes with the team from last year to this year. You guys had some strong swimmers graduate or leave the team and Coach Manos took over right before the season when Keith Nichols stepped down. How tough was it for all that to happen, and what’s the change to Coach Manos been like?
AC: It was tough to see Coach Nichols go, but having Coach Manos and Coach Applegate has been great. They do a really good job of teaching stroke technique. Everyone’s improved in that since the start of the season.
Greg Brown: We all really like Coach Manos. From the start everyone clicked with her and Coach Applegate, and she’s helped our swimmers to improve. It’s showed up with how good guys have been doing in the meets.
What is your favorite part of being captains?
Kris Fogarasi: I really enjoy leading by example. I try to challenge my teammates and set an example for them to follow in the water.
GB: Being on the team is like being part of a second family. You really get to know one another and experience all the meets and practices together. It’s so much fun and we’re all sad that it’s going to be over soon.
Do any of you have one favorite moment from your years on the team?
SR: Definitely the Glastonbury meet two years ago. The atmosphere was crazy and we won by six points. That was a lot of fun and it was a huge win.
GB: Even the parents were doing cheers. When the parents are doing cheers you know a meet’s intense.
KF: I’ll actually say the win against Shelton a few weeks ago. We were down going into the very last relay and won the meet on the last leg. It was a huge boost for the team.
What are your plans after graduation? Are you going to swim in college?
KF: I’m going to Northeastern. I’m not going to swim on the main team, but I hope to keep doing it at the club level.
SR: I’m gonna go to Roger Williams and I’m definitely looking to swim for the school.
GB: I’ve been considering a few schools and haven’t made a final decision yet. I’m leaning towards Swarthmore right now. I hope to swim there or another school at the Division III level. I don’t want to give it up.
AC: Yeah, I haven’t made a final decision on a school either. But I could definitely swim on D-III level too.

Around the Garden

Juxtapositions often make one stop and think – a pair of contrasting paintings in a museum, side by side, can be more than the sum of the parts. On Thursday, my thought-stimulators were a pair of speakers, separated by hours and miles, but both talking about plants.

Dr. Louis Magnarelli, Director of the CT Agricultural Experiment Station, spoke at the CT Tree Protective Association’s annual meeting on Thursday. One of his topics was the newly discovered Boxwood blight, which appears to have arrived in Connecticut via a shrub shipped here from England. To date, approximately 100,000 blighted nursery-grown boxwood shrubs have had to be destroyed in this state alone.

That evening, Tom Christopher, a nationally-known garden writer, spoke to members of the Middletown Garden Club and their guests at deKoven House. Exhorting gardeners to exercise sustainable practices, Tom described how he had had little luck growing tomatoes until he researched and bought tomato seeds appropriate for a short growing season.

Even as I nodded my head, regretting my 20 years wasted trying to grow tomatoes (average yield – two per plant), I suddenly thought back to that nasty Boxwood blight. And I thought about the Hemlock woolly adelgid, which arrived in the U.S. aboard an imported Japanese hemlock tree. Or the Chestnut blight, which wiped out several billion chestnut trees after arriving in New York with a shipment of Asian chestnut trees.

While Tom’s point was that buying seeds and growing your own tomatoes lets you select from the huge array of plants that may be better equipped to grow in your yard than the three or four varieties sold at the local nursery, there’s a lot more sustainability in that choice. First, you are buying something that costs almost nothing to ship and which has scarcely any carbon footprint.

The plant you grow from those seeds can be coddled (or not) in your own seed starting location, without the pesticides a grower would normally apply repeatedly until the plant is ready to ship. Packing materials for seeds usually consist of a paper envelope, so no new plastic pots are needed. You will most likely recycle pots from your own collection (or if you need recycled pots, just call me!)

But by far the best reason for growing from seed is avoidance of diseases and pests. While it is possible to get seed contaminated with bacteria or viruses, those are usually only of concern if you are eating the sprouts, as in the recent broccoli sprout scare in Germany.

Two years ago, the tomato crop in Connecticut was mostly wiped out by Late Blight, a nasty soil-borne fungus that arrived here in tomato plants sold at a big box store. As many of us try very hard to eat produce grown locally, a disease such as Late Blight also devastates the local farmers who want to satisfy that market.

Growing plants from seed also improves the diversity of our gardens. Instead of growing monocultures of one or two varieties of a species, we can grow enough variety to deter pests and diseases. The Irish Potato Famine should have been instructive in this area: although dozens of varieties of potatoes were grown in their native Central America, the popular food staple in Ireland consisted of just one variety, which was repeatedly cloned through the practice of saving seed potatoes for replanting the following year. This lack of genetic diversity exacerbated the effects of the introduced Phytophthora blight, and led to death by starvation for millions of poor Irish farmers.

The international movement to save seed is an important effort, one we may all depend on if things go awry with the genetically-modified seed industry. If your mailbox isn’t bursting with seed catalogs at the moment, check out the Seed Savers Exchange website for glorious inspiration. Seven kinds of beets, 42 different beans, nineteen eggplants – including Red Ruffled, aka Hmong Red – what could be more fun than making all those choices?

And remember that growing from seed needn’t be limited to vegetables – my current project involves a bunch of beech tree seeds. I’ll be reporting on their progress over the weeks to come.

From 1977: Union Finds Resignations Racist; Workers Dissent

The following article is from 35 years ago today, appearing in the Hartford Courant on January 22nd, 1977. It was written by Lincoln Millstein.
The president of the Municipal Employees Union said he believes the resignation of 17 City Hall workers from the union Friday were prompted by a recent controversy over Martin Luther King's birthday.

Some of the workers who quit gave other reasons.

"I guess segregation still lives," Pillarella said, adding that officials of the union, Local 466, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employes, are reviewing whether the members can legally withdraw.

"Let them leave. We have no use for those kind of people," Pillarella said. The union president is convinced that the reason behind the resignations is that some City Hall workers were upset that Monday was declared a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King.

"I don't believe that there is wide dissension in the union. These are just a select few." Pillarella said. "This is just 17 out of 400 members of the union."

However, besides the 17 workers who pulled out of the union Friday, others in City Hall also said they are contemplating doing the same.

All of the workers said there was no one reason for their actions but that there has been a general dissatisfaction with the way the union leadership has handled matters.

One employee said Thursday night's action by the union to raise dues from $6.25 a month to $7 was the "Straw that broke the camel's back.

"By quitting the union, I automatically give myself an $84 a year raise," Mel Imme, who is considering resigning, said Friday.

the resignations came in the form of letters to Finance Director James Reynolds, asking him not to withhold weekly dues from pay checks. Reynolds said he intends to comply with the requests until he is told otherwise.

One City Hall employe, Mrs. Joan Robinson, of the Finance Department, had resigned last week. She said Friday she resigned because she believes Local 466 no longer represents her adequately.

Mayor Anthony S. Marino said he greeted news of the resignations with mixed motions [sic].

"It shows that there is a big rift in our city employes, and I don't like that," Marino said. "The administration did nothing to encourage this."

One Building Department official said the union has shown more concern for part-time workers and workers in the field than for City Hall workers. He also said some members have not felt good about the union's strong demands when the city is not in a position to meet those demands.

those who resigned Friday included five from the Public Works Department, five from the Water and Sewer Department, three from the Building Department, one from the Municipal Development Office and one from the Parks and Recreation Department.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

MHS Fundraiser

Come Support Middletown High School



Enjoy a night off from cooking with delicious New York Style Pizza,

amazing entrées, fresh salads and unique paninis, in a casual dining restaurant!



MONDO will donate 10% of all sales on January 24th, from 4pm-Closing, to MHS Project Grad to aid in its efforts to raise funds for a SAFE GRADUATION PARTY for MHS Students.

View full menu at www.mondomiddletown.com

10 Main Street • Middletown, CT 06457

Take-out Orders - 860-343-3300

(Free Parking in rear of builiding)

Snow? Circus!

The Circus is in town - and still on schedule for tonight at Oddfellows Playhouse.

The Traveling Circus performs Adscensio at 7:30pm.

$15 Adults and $8 Students/Seniors.

Sunday at First Church: The Third Sunday after Epiphany

January 22, 2012
Worship begins at 10 a.m.
The Second LessonFinding Direction

First Church of Christ
Congregational (UCC)

190 Court Street
Middletown, CT

First Church is an open and affirming church. Wherever you are on life's path, you are welcome here. Worship begins at 10 a.m. with our Interim Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Brench Pelc-Faszcza. Sunday school meets during worship and child care is provided.

During the coldest months of the year we move to worship in our Parish Hall. (Worship services will remain in the Parish Hall through March 11th.) Come worship with us this Sunday in the Parish Hall.
Prelude: Praeludium I, J. S. Bach Hymn: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You
Hymn: You Walk along Our Shoreline
Offertory: Prelude in D minor, J. S. Bach Hymn: Sent Forth by God's Blessing
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:14-20
Sermon: The Second Lesson--When Jesus calls the first disciples to follow him, their response appears to be immediate, unhesitating, easy. But it wasn’t, really, as the rest of the gospel stories make clear. Spiritual awakening always involves the effort of passage from one place or stage to another. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says, “We are impatient…. but it is the law of all progress that it passes through some stage of instability…” So, to follow Jesus means to allow ourselves to be disoriented in some way, so as to be reoriented in a new way.
Moment for Mission and Second Hour Art Show
During worship, we will hear from a guest, Brian Zelesky, of the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and celebrate the renewal of First Church’s Covenant with CJTS. During Second Hour, we will enjoy a display of art pieces created by the boys from CJTS. These pieces, among others, will also be available for purchase. Please come and enjoy the art – and maybe you will take one of the pieces home with you. Both the image at left and the image of Jesus with the cross images of creations of the boys of CJTS.

Friday, January 20, 2012

MHS Girls Basketball Young But Talented

Coming into the 2011-12 girls basketball season, Middletown Head Coach Rob Smernoff wasn’t really sure how his team would fare in the CCC South. The Blue Dragons were a young and largely inexperienced squad with a starting lineup that featured only one returning player. Would the Blue Dragons be able to play together as a team? Would every player be able to contribute despite their inexperience? And would Middletown be ready and able to respond in close games and pressure situations when the time came? These were the questions facing MHS in November, and the team has answered them with a resounding yes.

After defeating Platt 37-29 at home Tuesday night, MHS is 8-4 on the season. With the victory, the team qualified for the Class L playoffs and are on their way to earning the most wins of Smernoff’s five-year tenure. The Blue Dragons have won six of seven, with their only loss coming at Plainville two weeks ago. At 5-2 in the CCC South, MHS is behind only Plainville and undefeated Berlin in the division.

“We’re on track to being the team we hoped we’d be,” said Smernoff. “The best thing is that all 12 of our players have contributed in their own way.”

At the beginning of the season Smernoff saw an inexperienced team that struggled to play together and was easily intimidated by formidable opponents. He doesn’t see that team anymore.

“Early on we were intimidated when we played New Britain and Berlin and lost,” said Smernoff. “Until you go through the pressure of playing an opponent like that you don’t know what it takes to handle it and win. Since then our players have matured and improved a lot. They understand how to handle close games and trust each other as a team.”

The coach cited the Blue Dragons win at Malony on January 10th, which he called his favorite game of the year, as one in which his team showed toughness and poise. Middletown used full-court pressure to outscore Maloney 20-7 in the fourth quarter, coming back to win 49-39.

“Nothing was going right for most of that game,” said Smernoff. “The kids got past it and stepped up huge at the end to get a big road win. They showed their maturation that night.”

Smernoff has had to do a lot of coaching with this squad, which started only one senior versus Platt along with two sophomores and two juniors. Zenobia Adgers is the lone senior who plays regularly for the Blue Dragons alongside a regular rotation that mostly features sophomores. While some coaches would be endlessly frustrated beginning the season with such a green team, Smernoff has embraced the opportunity to lead fresh faces.

“The great thing about having a young team is that they’re willing to learn and listen,” he said. “When a player’s coached by the same person for all four years there might come a few points where they zone a coach out and ignore their instructions, but that isn’t happening on this team. These players try extremely hard and are very coachable.”

MHS has relied heavily on junior captain DeAsia Lawrence. In a breakout season, the speedy guard has been a force on defense and especially on offense. Lawrence has been the team’s go-to player all year and scored 78 points in the last four games. She’s also the team’s floor leader.

“DeAsia is a really good player,” stated Smernoff. “We focus on trying to get her a lot of good looks on offense. We want her to take over games, and she’s finally starting to recognize how to do that.”

Smernoff also praised senior guard/forward Zenobia Adgers and sophomore guard Mikaela Cody, calling them glue players who can contribute in every facet of the game.

Their Head Coach still believes the Blue Dragons need to improve in a number of areas. While he says that MHS has great team speed and should always be quicker at all five positions to opponents, rebounding is a huge concern for a team that lacks much height. And Smernoff is concerned about his squad’s ball-handling and still well aware of their lack of experience. But with Middletown steadily improving and having already qualified for the state tournament, Smernoff can look ahead and see his team making a strong showing in the Class L tournament.

“E.O. Smith is a huge favorite, but Class L is wide open,” he said. “I could see 25 teams that can all beat each other. It’s going to be based on the draw. But if we can avoid E.O. Smith early and get a favorable draw, I can definitely see our team winning a few games. I just hope we finish the season strong enough to earn a home game in the tournament. Our team and especially our supporters would really deserve it.”

Pearl Street Drug And Child Endangerment Arrest

Police arrested Bonnie Provost, 43, at 226 Pearl Street on Wednesday, for possession of narcotics, use of drug paraphenalia, and risk of injury to a child.

The Middletown Press reports that Provost failed to pick up her 8-year old son from Macdonough Elementary School, and police found her at her home, disoriented and confused.

Cable Advisory: Scholarships, Grant to Oddfellows PSA, Comcast Move

Last night the Northern Middlesex Cable Advisory Board got to see the result’s of its $2,500 grant to Oddfellow’s Playhouse. Oddfellow’s Director Matt Pugliese expressed his jubilation with the results of the 3 public service announcement’s that Oddfellow’s was able to shoot using the funds donated by the Board. Puglieses came armed with a ipad to show the 12 members one of the 30 second professionally directed PSA's that will be used in commercial campaign’s to attract new student’s to the youth theater program. Pugliese said “ In 2009 about a third of our student’s received some sort of scholarship help based on financial need, this past year that number is almost half. We at Oddfellow’s will never turn a child away because of inability to pay; but to be able to do that we need to be able to attract donors, get grants, and attract new students who are able to pay full tuition to be able to offer that cost. The building collapse last year really hurt us financially, and I cannot thank the Board enough for this contribution. With it we were able to make 3 PSA’s – two 30 second spots and a 4 minute long historical overview of Oddfellows. We will be using these on our website, and in the future possibly be using them for TV air time. Thank you all.” A number of board members expressed their eagerness to continue to help Oddfellows and expressed the desire to incorporate the PSAs as commercials aired during their personal cable access shows on Comcast. Pugliese said he would make the PSA’s available and they are now also available for the public to see on Oddfellow’s YouTube channel.

Board member William Wilson discussed plans to create a scholarship in honor of longtime Comcast cable access volunteer and Middletown resident Justin Hinze who passed away two days before Christmas in 2010. “ He was a wonderful person that was bullied at school, but learned to be himself around the Comcast set. He found his place on camera and developed his own show. Making a scholarship that his mother will have input on that’s available to students in all 5 towns that this board serves is a true honor to his memory.” The scholarship will be available to residents of East Hampton, Middlefield, Middletown, Portland, Meriden & Cromwell student’s graduating in 2012. The Board hopes it can make the scholarship offering an annual event. The Boards is currently developing the criteria for which a student will qualify for the scholarship and plan to distribute it to all the high schools where it will be offered.

John Barrow, general manager at Comcast gave his report and invited the public to attend an Open House January 31th at the new Comcast studio location. Anyone wishing to have his or her own cable access show is encouraged to come to the open house as well. Comcast previously located on Tuttle Rd. in Middletown has moved to a brand new facility on Willowbrood Drive in Cromwell. Barrow discussed the new features of the facility that were not available at the old location. The new Comcast Service Center & Studio has a state of the art lobby with 4 TV’s where customers can try out 3D TV and HDTV viewing. There is also a kiosk which customer’s can use like an ATM and directly pay their bill with cash or credit cards in person. There is also a service desk with staff where customer’s can address their cable & Internet issues if they are unable to resolve their needs by phone. The new studio is a huge upgrade from the previously aging studio in Middletown. New features include but are not limited to direct intercom from director to on set, fully functioning digital sound, and inputs for digital media from laptops. Previously any media that an access show’s producers wished to air had to be manually transferred by cd or sometimes vhs tape. The new studio is available to for the public access productions.

CA Board chairman Jon Pulino expressed what was on many of the member’s mind that evening and has been a topic of discussion at almost every meeting for over a year. When will AT&T Uverse have the public access channel? Barrow’s said, “Corporate is working on it but still in negotiations.” Barrow’s later reminded the Board that for other CT town’s some negotiations had gone on 2 years. Treasurer and the most tenured member of the Board Middletown resident John Schilke explained to me after the meeting that the negotiation is out of the hands of the local Board and local Comcast branch, it is something that the national At&t corporation and Comcast have to reach. Currently, Comcast airs Common Council, BOE and P&Z ,and other municipal meetings on the cable access channel, an agreement that has yet to be reached would allow At&T Uverse subscribers to have this channel also. I asked Schilke, retired director of Video & Digital Communications at Yale, what about the possibility of live internet streaming and archiving of these sessions, and he said as far as available technology it is certainly in the realm of possibility of as a service that Comcast could offer if it chose to do so. The Board cannot mandate what services are offered, but citizens can come before the Board to make suggestions or ask questions.

The meeting closed with a motion to move the public session to the front of the meeting, which passed unanimously. Resident’s with issues with their Comcast cable or internet service who have exhausted trying to resolve their billing or service problem by phone can appear before the Board and speak with the Comcast liaison directly to resolve their issue. The Board, as mandated by the FCC acts as advocate for the five surrounding towns.

Open House New Comcast Studio & Service Center –Willowbrook Drive, Cromwell

January 31, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

The Oddfellow’s PSA made possible by the Northern Middlesex Cable Advisory Board


Two More Ideas for Smart Growth in Middletown

Green Parking Lots

"Green Parking Principles Putting Parking Lots to Work" (Landscape Online article)


"Unwanted McMansions? Make Them Affordable Housing" (October 2011, WSJ blog)

Adscensio! Tonight!

and Tomorrow!

The Traveling Circus presents Adscensio!
Directed by Dic Wheeler
Friday January 20 - 7:30pm
Saturday January 21 - 7:30pm
$15 Adults / $8 Students & Seniors

Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater
128 Washington Street

The Traveling Circus Company is comprised of students that have spent many years in the Children’s Circus of Middletown and CT School of Circus Arts, training under the direction of Dic Wheeler (ARTFARM) and Joel Melendez and Heidi Kirchoffer (Matica Arts). The company is comprised of Middletown residents Richard Carnegie III, Denzell Dempsey, Evan Knoll, Zachary Moeller-Marino, Nathan Linklater, Chris Wilkins , Durham Resident Rebecca Weir, Hartford resident Malaika King and Cromwell’s Jasmine Peck.

Photo Credit: Rob McGuinness