Saturday, November 30, 2013

MHS Project Graduation Auction December 7

MHS Project Graduation 
Saturday, Dec 7th at 6:30pm 
The Italian Society of Middletown 
72 Court St

Friday, November 29, 2013

Community Health Center Commemorates World AIDS Day Monday

From the CHC
WHAT: In recognition of World AIDS Day Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC) and Oasis Wellness Center will host a memorial ceremony and unveiling of the newest section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on December 2nd. CHC staff and patients along with local community members and business leaders will gather at the health center on Main Street in Middletown to share in the moving unveiling of a 12ft by 12ft square of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, commemorating patients who have lost their battle with HIV/AIDS. The evening will pay tribute to World AIDS Day through a musical and visual commemoration, featuring personal narrative from patients afflicted with HIV/AIDS, a visual presentation of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, live musical entertainment including a performance by an African Drumming Troupe led by Wesleyan alumnus Abraham Adzenyah. The evening will conclude with a ceremonial reading of the names on the quilt.

WHEN: Monday, December 2nd, 2013, 5:30 pm WHERE: Community Health Center, 1st Floor Community Room, 675 Main Street

WHY: According to today there more than 1.1 million people in the United States who are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 5 (18.1%) are unaware of their infection. World AIDS Day was first celebrated in 1988, the same year that the International AIDS Society was formed. It has since become one of the most recognized international health days and a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on and celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt was conceived in November of 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones. In 1987 a group came together in San Francisco to give life to the Quilt, and document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had died of AIDS, and to thereby help people understand the devastating impact of the disease. Today the Quilt is a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic. More than 48,000 individual 3-by-6-foot memorial panels — most commemorating the life of someone who has died of AIDS — have been sewn together by friends, lovers and family members.

CHC’s Oasis Wellness Center is committed to detecting HIV/AIDS as early as possible, preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, initiating the most effective evidence-based treatment, and ensuring that persons living with this chronic disease receive the most holistic, compassionate, and comprehensive set of services available. Located in Middletown, the Oasis Wellness Center is a social support center for people living with the virus and is a critical source of care, case management, and social engagement.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Prevention Mini Grants Available

The Middletown Substance Abuse Prevention Council has released its 2013-14 mini grants to the Middletown community. Grants for up to $1000 can be used to support prevention or youth development based activities and programs locally. The short and easy RFP can be found here:

Please contact MSPAC Co-chair Justin Carbonella at Middletown Youth Services at 860-854-6030 or The grant deadline is Friday, December 13th.

Arts Award Nominees Sought

Our City's Arts Commission annually presents an Arts Advocacy Award to an individual or group who has significantly contributed to the city’s cultural and artistic enrichment and/or has shown extraordinary support and initiative for the arts.

This year the MCA is seeking public input on nominations for the award. Commissioners would like to see who community members believe has made a positive cultural or artistic impact on the Middletown community. The nominee need not reside in Middletown but should be an individual or group that has made an outstanding impact on the arts in this city.

 In 2012, The Buttonwood Tree and the Greater Middletown Concert Association received the award. In 2011, composer Neely Bruce and the Mayor's Ball Committee earned distinction.

 Email suggestions to City Arts Coordinator Stephan Allison at no later than Dec. 17. Please identify the town you live in.

 The MCA will be presenting its award honoring this year's recipient in a local ceremony open to the public coinciding with National Arts Advocacy Day March 24-25 in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

All-You-Can-Eat Place Goes Broke After Visit from UConn Football Team -- Popcorn by The Colonel #72

Epigraph: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” --Bilbo Baggins, part of his speech at his 111th birthday party

Center For The Arts Gets Large National Grant

Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts has received an unsolicited national grant award of $400,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Foundation, which supports performing artists in contemporary dance, jazz, and theater with the creation and public performance of their work, and the organizations that nurture, present and produce them; has announced today that five arts organizations will receive a total of $3.5 million in funding to help them further develop their long-term capacity to respond to changing conditions in the performing arts sector and the world at large, including those related to demographics, audience behavior and the impact of technology.

 Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts is one of the five grantees. The other four organizations are the American Repertory Theater (Cambridge, Massachusetts), the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Ashland, Oregon); the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, D.C.); and On the Boards (Seattle, Washington).

“This initiative recognizes and supports organizations that have proven, time and again, that they are leaders and innovators in their fields," said Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. "We understand that most organizations do not have enough, if any, ‘change capital’—funds that they can devote to maximizing their adaptability. With that in mind, these awards are intended to further fuel the ability of these five organizations to position themselves to respond to changes in their respective environments.”

“This exciting award really speaks to the CFA’s tradition – 40 years and counting – of building a community of creativity and experimentation,” said Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth. “Under Pamela Tatge’s leadership our Center for the Arts has found ways to engage an increasingly diverse audience. An award like this also recognizes and supports Wesleyan’s extraordinary commitment to the arts.”

“This grant came as a complete surprise to me and the staff of the CFA,” said Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University. “We are honored to be recognized in this important way. This grant will allow us to lay the groundwork for continued innovation and exciting programs that serve the campus and community, and advance the creativity of Wesleyan faculty and students and the talented artists we bring to campus.”

Notable recent initiatives of the Center for the Arts include the Creative Campus Initiative ( including the Feet to the Fire program (, and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (

The grants were not open for application. Instead, an anonymous panel identified five organizations that have demonstrated a sustained appetite to innovate and experiment in ways that inform and lead their respective fields. Each organization will go through an organizational self-analysis, followed by an external assessment. Then they will develop and implement strategies and tactics to best enhance their long-term capacity to adapt.

The grantees will receive support over a period of up to four years. Appropriate uses of this money include, but are not limited to, staff expansion, creation of capital reserves, professional development, technology, board and staff retreats, convenings and consultants.

Monday, November 25, 2013

New Board of Education re-elects Dr. Gene Nocera as Chairman

A new Board of Education met for the first time on Tuesday evening (11/19).  Newly elected members Vinnie Loffredo and Linda Szynkowicz joined newly re-elected members Sheila Daniels and Franca Biales and the rest of the board in unanimously electing Dr. Gene Nocera as Board Chairman, Sheila Daniels as Vice-Chair, and Ed McKeon as Secretary.  "I am thrilled and honored in this position," Dr. Nocera commented, "and I will try to do my best."

In District Highlights, MHS Athletics/Activities Director Mike Pitruzzello reported that the fall season is going very well for MHS athletes.  Additionally, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) considers the MHS Athletic Complex as one of the finest facilities in CT, and so MHS has been asked to host:

  • Girls and Boys soccer semi-finals and final state championships
  • Girls volleyball semi-finals
  • Girls and Boys fall and winter diving championships
  • Semi-final state football championships
  • Three of four state track championships
  • Girls softball state tournament games
  • Boys baseball state finals at Palmer Field
Additionally, the track and four tennis courts at Woodrow Wilson Middle School will be re-done (including new fencing) this spring, with a projected completion date of June 2014.  These new facilities will be open for public use during the summer.  The six tennis courts behind Keigwin Middle School are scheduled to be redone over the summer, and Pitruzzello is trying to work out a deal with Portland High School so that MHS can use the Portland courts for practice when Portland is away.  Currently, MHS shares Wesleyan's courts with Wesleyan, Mercy and Xavier.

David Reynolds, Coordinator of Career and Technical Education, highlighted Middletown's #3 ranking out of more than 150 schools on the Connecticut Statewide Career & Technical (CTE) Assessment.  In the last four years, Middletown rose from a state rank of 89th in 2010 with only 33.33% of students scoring at or above the threshold score to 80th place (30.22% at threshold) in 2011, to 17th place (67.14% at threshold) in 2012, to 3rd place in 2013 with 141 out of 177 students (79.66%) scoring at or above threshold.  Canton High School took second place, with 17 of 20 students (85%) scoring at or above threshold, and Griswold High School took first place, with 66 of 77 students scoring at or above threshold.  Reynolds was quick to point out that MHS had more students at or above threshold than the #1 and #2 schools combined, and that Middletown scored #1 in the "Areas of Concentration" of Natural Resources and Video Production.  Furthermore, no other school had more "Areas of Concentration" in the top 10 than Middletown (8 of 11 areas tested).

During the Public Session, three MHS students complained about the lack of late bus transportation after school.  Senior James Robinson, Junior Gabriela Mikunda, and Sophomore Carolyn Reid told the BOE that students were discouraged from participating in after school activities because of the length of time it takes to get home on the one bus provided (up to two hours for some students).  The three students also described unsafe conditions such as overcrowding, students sitting in the aisles, and "unbearable" behavior such as screaming, yelling and pushing.  The students asked the BOE for a second late bus, noting that Woodrow Wilson Middle School's late buses were not crowded and possibly could be reassigned to MHS.  

When Robinson, Mikunda and Reid finished speaking, they left the Council Chambers and Transportation Director Marco Gaylord quickly followed after them.  Gaylord told the students he had heard no complaints about late busing, and he asked who else they had talked to about these issues - the answer was no one.  Gaylord also asked if the students knew which specific days had overcrowding and behavior issues so he could pull and review the video footage from those days - again the students didn't have specifics.  After instructing the students to tell an administrator at MHS then next time an issue happened with the late bus, Gaylord also promised to check into the need for more busing and to provide additional transportation if it was necessary.  During his Transportation Report to the BOE, Mr. Gaylord repeated what he had heard from the students and told the Board that he would look into the reports of overcrowding and poor behavior and take immediate action to correct the situation: "We're going to address it and make some positive changes. We want to help kids participate in after school activities."

Superintendent Pat Charles shared her 2013-14 goals with the BOE, noting that she's really focusing in on 4 areas to concentrate effort and effectiveness.  These goals are:
  • Increase student achievement and reduce gaps between subgroups
  • Provide the resources necessary to ensure educational excellence in a safe and healthy learning environment
  • Hire and nurture high quality personnel in all positions
  • Promote our schools and build public support and pride in our educational system

Assistant Superintendent Enza Macri updated the Board on the transition to the Common Core Curriculum and the new testing procedures.  While each elementary school now has the necessary computers to conduct the Smarter Balance testing (no more CMT testing as that applied to the old curriculum), Macri shared several concerns about the new testing: "The test requires use of a mouse, and our younger students are used to tablets and touch screens.  In one place, there is a split screen and you have to scroll down though two separate but side-by-side screens.  I'm worried our students don't have the mouse skills to do that."  While time limits no longer apply to the various tests, 3rd graders, for example, have 7 hours of testing, with only one set of 25 computers for each school.  Students also cannot go back and check their answers - once they move on in the test, they cannot back up.  Macri has been taking sample tests for each grade in order to train teachers on how to help their students prepare to take the tests, but she has a growing list of concerns about whether students will be able to transmit correctly the knowledge in their heads to the computer program.

In financial news, the District budget is showing an anticipated balance of $219,790 as of October 31st.  As it is very early in the year, this balance is not expected to remain, especially since additional paraprofessionals need to be hired (more than what was originally budgeted).  In comparison, at this time last year, the district budget had a $1.2 million deficit.  Not included in these budget numbers is the $1.2 million spent on mold removal in several of the schools during this summer.  Currently, insurance has only covered $460K in the remediation costs, with another $120K approved but not yet paid, and $200K more still in negotiations.

Lastly, the Board discussed committee assignments and approved the following:

            Committee                                 Chair                            Members

            Budget                                       McKeon                       Loffredo, Szynkowicz
            Communication                         Hart                              McKeon, Wynn
            Curriculum                                Biales                            Daniels
            Facilities/Feasibility                   Loffredo                       McClellan, McKeon
            Policy                                        Daniels                         Hart
            Transportation                           Szynkowicz                 Wynn
            Negotiations                              n/a                                Biales, Hart, Daniels
            ACES                                                                             Loffredo
            Cultural Council                                                             Hart
            TEMS (Thomas Edison Middle School)                        McClellan
            Agenda Set                                                                     Nocera, Daniels, McKeon

The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 10th at 7pm in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall.  Superintendent Charles is scheduled to present her 2014-15 recommended budget.

A Middletown Eye?

This EYE reporter was lucky enough to crash her husband's business trip to London, and today's sightseeing took us to the London Eye (the giant Ferris wheel with amazing views of London).

I jokingly said to my husband that Middletown needed an Eye (ha ha, it has one already), and he looked at me strangely and asked what there was to see.

Good question.  Obviously Middletown is no London, but there is a certain attraction to Ferris wheels no matter where you are.  Maybe we should consider such a thing as part of the riverfront development?

Or maybe this town isn't big enough for two Eyes...

This week at the Buttonwood...

Tuesday, November 26

S.W.E.E.T. Potato Society Meeting
6 - 8 pm, free

Sisters Working, Educating, & Evolving Together is a 501(c)(3)women╩╝s organization working and striving to help our community of women to succeed in every way. With the support the S.W.E.E.T Potato Society women can learn to rebuild and grow their lives anew.

Friday, November 29

MHS Art Club Opening7:30 - 9:30 pm

The Middletown High School Art Club will be exhibiting its third student sponsored gallery show at The Buttonwood Tree during the month of November. The show, led by Senior Angela Byrd, will display an array of student art work celebrating Middletown High School. The high school’s Art Club was founded in 1931 by Mary E. Bennett. Bennett began teaching art at Middletown High during the turn of the last century and continued to educate Middletown students through the 1940’s.

Saturday, November 30

Qigong / Tai Chi
7:30 - 8:30 am, free

Practicing Qigong will help relax your body and mind by combining simple, gentle stretching movements with focused breathing.

Community Yoga
8:45 - 10 am, free

From the thousands of practice hours on the mat, Terri Johnson brings a deep understanding of the yoga experience to her classes. She will be teaching a unique and varied Vinyasa Flow style as it allows her to unify her appreciation of the benefits of the different types of yoga.

*No Aligned with Source today*

Mary Ellen Lonergan Trio
8 pm, $10

Jazz vocalist Mary Ellen Lonergan will be performing songs from the Great American Songbook and Standards. Alex Nakimovsky will be joining her on piano, and Phil Bowler on bass.

Reserve your seat!

Sunday, December 1

Food Not Bombs
1 - 2 pm, free

“Cooking for Peace and Social Justice.” Food Not Bombs shares food about 1 pm in front of the Buttonwood. Anyone is welcome. Consider yourself invited to help us prepare vegetarian food at the First Church on 190 Court Street at 11:30 am.

John Basinger Performs: Paradise Lost
2:30 pm, free

John Basinger will perform from Book 11 from Paradise Lost at 2:30pm for a FREE show. John Milton’s epic poem comes to life when Basinger offers his perspective and unique understanding. Books will be provided to follow along.

Great Improv Society Meeting
7 - 9 pm, $5

Here at GMBS Headquarters, the improv keeps coming in, and we’re slaves to the production line. Made from 100% fresh suggestions and sharp wit harvested from years of experience, we are committed to delivering a product of the highest quality that you and your family will enjoy!

Project for Public Spaces Introduces Proposals for Redeveloping Middletown's Riverfront

The Riverfront Redevelopment Committee hosted a presentation by two consultants from Project for Public Spaces at a public meeting Wednesday night at Russell Library. Meg Walker and Elena Madison provided an overview of a draft report PPS wrote containing preliminary recommendations for redeveloping Middletown’s riverfront.

Walker and Madison used on a detailed PowerPoint presentation to outline these recommendations. Project for Public Spaces redevelopment concept focuses upon ten riverfront sites that are capable of becoming lively destinations.

“Our organization’s goal is to help Middletown develop a community vision for its riverfront,” said Walker. “Our recommendations will hopefully assist Middletown in creating vibrant destinations that strengthen its community, attract residents to the riverfront and set the stage for private development.

The locations PSP focused upon in its report stretch from Harbor Park in the west to just east of Connecticut Valley Hospital. The locations are: Harbor Park, Union Street, the Peterson Brothers Electric site, the OMO Manufacturing Site, the city’s sewage treatment plant, and along River Road where both Jackson Corrugated Container and the Rushford Center are currently located.

Walker and Madison spent a large amount of time discussing PSP’s recommendations for improvements to Harbor Park. Both women said that it is the first riverfront destination that Middletown should focus on developing.

“By making Harbor Park more attractive and bringing it to that next level, Middletown can lay the groundwork for more improvements to destinations further down the riverfront,” said Walker.

 Walker and Madison said that the fundamental key to developing Harbor Park is converting its walkway into a continuous multi-use trail that is not broken up to the Arrigoni Bridge. By doing so, visitors will be able to easily go to and from Harbor Park by foot, bicycle and pedicab. They then discussed possible ideas that the city could pursue for revitalizing Harbor Park, including building recreation areas, adding floating docks, and holding seasonal community events such as a harvest festival and a Christmas light show.

Walker and Madison also discussed the idea of having Union Street become a chief access point to the river in detail. Walker said that possible improvements that could be made to Union Street include building an arch/gateway leading to the river, adding trees and more lighting, making it more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists, and converting the boat houses alongside the street into one large complex that can serve multiple crew teams.

Other ideas Walker and Madison introduced included building a nature center or environmental education museum at the current location of the Rushford Center, developing a public green at Summer Point, and developing a concert space on the roofs of what is now the sewage treatment plant. The roofs would be connected by a zip line. Spaces for recreation areas and holding community events and a variety of businesses could be located all along the riverfront.

The city voted in May to hire New York-based PPS for $75,000 to advise the city on a year-long redevelopment concept for the waterfront.

PPS developed its preliminary recommendations through public meetings and workshops with city officials and residents that took place at the end of September.

PPS will give its final presentation to the Riverfront Redevelopment Committee at its next meeting on Dec. 3.

The Draft Report is available here.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wear Your Goldang Seatbelt!

The Middletown Police Department is joining with hundreds of other law enforcement agencies across the country in renewing a pledge to save lives by intensifying efforts to enforce seatbelt laws-among all motorists and around the clock-during the 2013 Click It or Ticket mobilization, which runs from November 26 – December 1, 2013.

To learn more about the Click It or Ticket campaign and the lifesaving benefits of wearing your seatbelt, please visit

Friday, November 22, 2013

City Little League Softball Team Goes Undefeated

From Dave Pawlak, Manager MLLMajors Fall Softball 2013.
Middletown Softball Majors (10-12 year olds) completed the perfect season on November 2, 2013. Our record was 20-0. The girls competed in the Wallingford Fall Ball League which consisted of 11 teams from 4 districts. The players worked hard at practices and came together strongly at game times. Every game showcased plenty of timely hits, defensive plays and solid pitching. Sportsmanship, camaraderie and a pure love of the game was also exhibited during this perfect season.

These young ladies took great pride in representing MLL and our City. The assistant coaches, Paul Shettleworth and Linda Culup, parents, grandparents and I are very proud of this team and what they have accomplished. A season I will never forget. A tremendous thank you goes out to all who helped the team this fall.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Russell Library News (Very Good News)

The person on the left is Chris Angeli, former Head of Circulation at Russell Library. On the right is Brandie Doyle, who has just been named the new Head of Circulation at the Library.  Ms. Angeli is now Head Librarian at Milford Library. Below is the press release (thanks to the Middletown Patch for the photograph):

Russell Library Promotes Brandie Doyle to Head of Circulation Services
Russell Library in Middletown, CT has announced the promotion of Brandie Doyle to Circulation Services Department Head.  Among other duties, she will be responsible for supervising Circulation staff; planning and managing the circulation of materials; registration of borrowers, and interlibrary loans; overseeing maintenance of the adult circulating book collection; and selecting materials for the adult fiction collection.

Brandie was the Business and Career Resources Librarian with Russell Library for two years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Bachelor of Social Work degrees from Arizona State University in 2006.  Brandie earned a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Simmons College in 2011 and completed the New England Library Leadership Symposium in 2013. She is Chair of the Connecticut Library Association’s Customer Service Committee and a member of the American Library Association, Public Library Association, New England Library Association, and Connecticut Library Association. She has also written for Public Libraries Online, the companion website to the print publication Public Libraries. Her contributions may be found at

This week at the Buttonwood Tree...

Friday, November 22

Jacob Smullyan Classical Piano
8 - 10 pm, $10

Classical pianist Jacob Smullyan will return to the Buttonwood in a program including one of Beethoven’s earliest masterpieces, the Sonata in E flat Op. 7, and one of Schubert’s last, the c minor Sonata, D958. Also on the program will be works by Webern and Brahms.

Reserve your seat!

Saturday, November 23

Qigong / Tai Chi
7:30 - 8:30 am, free

Practicing Qigong will help relax your body and mind by combining simple, gentle stretching movements with focused breathing.

Community Yoga
8:45 - 10 am, free

From the thousands of practice hours on the mat, Terri Johnson brings a deep understanding of the yoga experience to her classes. She will be teaching a unique and varied Vinyasa Flow style as it allows her to unify her appreciation of the benefits of the different types of yoga.

Aligned with Source Workshop for Empowerment
10:30 am - 12:30 pm, $5 suggested donation

This week's topic: In Gratitude for Abundance & Thanks. In this Thanksgiving week, let every moment be a moment in gratitude.  Join in contributing to Peace and Abundance in our World.  Bring a list of all that you are Grateful for; all that you recognize as Abundance in your life.

Joe Fonda @ The Buttonwood
8 pm, $10

Joe Fonda joins with Jazz legend Harvey Sorgen and the “Mexican Guitar Wizard” Omar Tamez, for an evening of Jazz, Blues, Mexican Folk music and everything in between. This trio is a sight and sound to behold, so don’t miss out on an evening of great music and fun!

Reserve your seat!

Sunday, November 24

Food Not Bombs
1 - 2 pm, free

“Cooking for Peace and Social Justice.” Food Not Bombs shares food about 1 pm in front of the Buttonwood. Anyone is welcome. Consider yourself invited to help us prepare vegetarian food at the First Church on 190 Court Street at 11:30 am.

John Basinger Performs: Paradise Lost
2:30 pm, free

John Basinger will perform from Book 11 from Paradise Lost at 2:30pm for a FREE show. John Milton’s epic poem comes to life when Basinger offers his perspective and unique understanding. Books will be provided to follow along.

Vote On Replacement P&Z Members Postponed

At Thursday's organizational Common Council meeting, the vote on replacement members for the P&Z was delayed after Republican Council members expressed a concern that the vote would be illegal, and could cause legal challenges to every P&Z decision thereafter.

Council member Jim Streeto expressed his confidence that the meeting and the vote was legal, but he deferred to the opinion of City Attorney Brig Smith who said it would be wise to delay the vote until the first regular Council meeting (December 2), because he did not have time to thoroughly research the consequences of a vote at last night's meeting.

The Council voted unanimously to delay the vote until December 2.

The meeting progressed in fits and starts after the Democratic caucus asked for a recess to consider a letter delivered to the Council by Planning and Zoning alternate Beth Emery.  The letter expressed Emery's willingness to serve as a regular Planning and Zoning member.

After the caucus, the meeting flow was then interrupted by the challenge to the vote.

The vote on organizational matters proceeded as planned, and progressed quickly, after which the meeting was adjourned.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What? Council to Nominate Russo For Vacant Planning and Zoning Seat?


You can't make this stuff up.

Stephan Devoto was dutifully elected to the lone, vacant Planning and Zoning seat open to a Democrat in the recent election.  He received more votes on the ballot than any candidate, save the mayor.

I believe he received those votes because he's perceived as honest, fair, cooperative, smart and independent-minded.

At the first meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, last week, Devoto was robbed of an opportunity to become chairman.  He had the votes lined up.  With alternate Beth Emery sitting for the seat vacated by Carl Chisem, who had just been elected to the Common Council, Devoto had engineered a bi-partisan vote, and constructed a bi-partisan leadership team.

Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men...

Carl Chisem showed up and took his seat at the meeting (something he apparently, legally had the right to do).  He insisted he was doing his duty.  To whom he was doing his duty became clear later. With Chisem sitting, and unlikely to vote for Devoto, the meeting dissolved.  Republicans left the meeting, leaving it without a quorum, saying that any decisions made would be questionable because of Chisem's insistence on sitting on the P&Z and on the Common Council simultaneously.  No one in town can ever remember an elected candidate insisting on serving in two capacities.

No vote was taken.  Opportunity for a bi-partisan commission lost.

Conveniently, Chisem resigned his seat the next day.  Doing his duty, no doubt.

Conveniently, because by the time the next P&Z meeting is held, the Common Council will make a resolution to fill that seat conveniently vacated by Chisem.  The Common Council meets tonight at 7 PM in Council Chambers.

According to the agenda for that meeting, the Council is set to nominate Dan Russo to the vacated seat. This is not unusual, in that the Council often appoints the candidate who received the second highest number of votes in the election.  Devoto received 4083 votes.  Russo received 3589, and the next highest Democratic candidate, Robert Blanchard received 3405.

However, there is also a history of the Council selecting an alternate member of the Planning and Zoning Commission over the highest vote getter.  Quentin Phipps' appointment to a P&Z seat comes to mind.  In the current case, such a member, Beth Emery, exists, and she is willing to be seated as a full commissioner.  She's also capable, attending meetings regularly, carefully following planning and zoning proposals, and asking good questions.

By the way, Beth Emery received 4523 votes when she was elected in 2011.

But the Council plans to appoint Russo.

We all remember Dan Russo.

He was a strong proponent of the zone change to allow Centerplan a clear path to development on Washington Street.  He was a proponent despite hours of cogent testimony from opponents to the zone change.  He was a proponent despite the fact that the development would hurt the neighbors, the neighborhood and a unique historic district.  And in his defense of the zone change, he made statements that showed he truly didn't understand the change, or its effects.

Russo has also missed 40% of the meetings he was supposed to attend as an elected member of the P&Z.

In the past, Russo has been chastised by his fellow Democrats for supporting Joe Lieberman for Senate, when the official Democratic candidate was Ned Lamont.  Interestingly, Russo was chairman of the Democratic Town Committee at that time.  In that role, he also nominated himself as chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Russo also appointed himself the barometer of what a "true Democrat" is when, in a primary campaign against Democrat Stephan Devoto, he made it clear that he thought Devoto was not a real Democrat, and was in fact (horrors!), "a Republican."

With Beth Emery as a capable candidate to fill the vacancy on the Planning and Zoning Commission, one can only imagine that there is an ulterior motive to appoint Russo.  Russo is unlikely to vote for Devoto as chair.

If they feel compelled to, the Council could provide Russo the opportunity to serve by appointing him as a P&Z alternate, after they appoint Beth Emery to the permanent seat.   If Russo accepted the position as alternate, it would demonstrate his willingness to serve the community.  Such selflessness is uncommon in politics, but it would be a meaningful gesture that politics of self-interest can be trumped by community service.

Ed McKeon is cofounder of the Middletown Eye.  He is a friend and associate of Stephen Devoto, and worked to help Devoto get elected.  Stephen Devoto did not ask or advocate for this commentary tobe written.  McKeon has also been an active opponent of commercial development in the historic neighborhood on Washington Street.  McKeon is also a lifelong Democrat, and a member of the Board of Education.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Experimental Music Weekend at Wesleyan

Soprano saxophonist/composerJasmine Lovell-Smith came to study at Wesleyan University in the Fall of 2012. A native of New Zealand, Ms. Lovell-Smith has lived in the United States since 2010 and released her initial Stateside CD with her Towering Poppies quintet, "Fortune Songs", before undertaking her studies.  Over the past 15 months, she's been studying, composing and being part of the extensive University music community.  I met Ms. Lovell-Smith at the Middlesex Fruitery and she informed me of the following event.

This weekend (Saturday 11/23-Monday 11/25), the Wesleyan Experimental Music Group presents a 3-night Festival dedicated to "Dualities", musical conversations for 2 instrumentalists or voice atThe Russell House, located at the corner of Washington and High Streets in Middletown.  Saturday's sets will commence at 9 p.m. with operatic vocalist Stephanie Lavon-Trotter with pianist Ben Zucker performing the songs of Wesleyan composer Nathan Friedman.  They'll be followed at 9:30 by Menschenduett, the duo of composer/clarinetist Sean Sonderegger and Nathan Friedman (here on clarinet) playing a blend of original compositions and improvisations.  At 10 p.m., Jasmine Lovell-Smith joins forces with pianist Cat Toren (who is also a member of Towering Poppies) to create their own blend of lyrical improvisations.

Sunday evening will belong to the duo of Christopher Otto (violin, left) and Kevin McFarland (cello), members of JACK, a rising contemporary string quartet.  The duo will play a set of music by the weekend's featured composers. The music begins at 9 p.m.

Monday evening, there are 2 sets opening at 9 p.m with the combination of Daniel Fishkin (daxophone?) and Matt Chilton (woodwinds, voice).  The Festival closes with Sam Pluta (electronics) and Peter Evans (trumpet), creating a whirlwind of sounds.  Evans, whose Zebulon Trio joins forces with Dave Leibman (saxophones) and Ron Stabinsky (piano) to perform at Firehouse 12 on Friday November 29, is one of the more interesting brass players on the contemporary music scene.  He's also a member of Moppa Elliott's Mostly Other People Do The Killing, a pre-emminent jazz quartet.

The Wesleyan Experimental Festival is free and open to the public.  If you need directions, call The Russell House at 860-685-2000.

Riverfront Draft Report Released

The Riverfront Redevelopment Committee will meet Wednesday evening to review the work of Project for Public Spaces, the consultant hired by the city to help guide Riverfront planning.

The meeting is open to the public.

November 20th, 2013
5:00 -7:00 PM
Hubbard Room, Russell Library

The Draft Report is available here.

“A Burrito is a Sleeping Bag for Ground Beef” -- Popcorn by The Colonel #71

"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible."  - George Orwell, 1946

“I said, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period. Didn’t I mention that the word ‘period’ means ‘when monkeys fly out of your ear’?” --Outlier

“‘Getting one’s poops in a group’ is no less vulgar than the expression it attempts to avoid or improve.” --Margery Gorrish

If something is buried on the Red Planet, and you dig it up, have you unmarsed it? --Astrognome

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” --Robert Louis Stevenson (died at 44; wish he had lived at least another 30 years; his unfinished novel was cuts above Treasure Island and Kidnapped, which were both really good, though Scottish)

Fleishig and Milchig were both in the restaurant business, but never lunched together or shook hands. Why?

“More people have seen Anthony Weiner’s private parts than have bought insurance in the federal marketplace.” --Outlier

Article headline: “Walmart’s Latest Scheme.” What are the odds that the story will be favorable to Walmart?

“Patience, too, is a form of action.” --Auguste Rodin

“Patience is not the only virtue: they also serve who cannot stand and wait.” --Roy Marshrigger

“What is written without effort is read without pleasure.” --Samuel Johnson

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer gagged by police or one free to write but with nothing more to say?” --Kurt Vonnegut

“Write the truth, however dry, but not dull lies. Lie interestingly. Do not compound mendacity with tedium.” --Quill Press

“Yonder stands your orphan with his gun/ Crying like a fire in the sun.” --Bob Dylan

“Who was sad that the Prodigal Son returned?” “The fatted calf!” --The Merry Christian

“As far as I'm concerned, 'whom' is a word that was invented to make everyone sound like a butler." --Calvin Trillin

“How are the Mets doing today?” --Moe Berg’s last words, 1972

“Go veggie.” --Sir Paul McCartney, on what tribute Linda would have liked best

“Your Computer Could Be a Trisk!” --The Galactic Times

Crow kills on Boston-area roads are mostly from truck impacts, not car impacts, because Boston-area lookout crows can cry “Cah!” but not “Truck!” --Dolly Menurkey

Advice to the stumped poet: “In a pinch you can rhyme ‘hackneyed’ with ‘cack-kneed.’” --Tree Fanatic

“Long afterward, they found my missing horse, but he wasn’t the same.” --Sentence torn from context

“In Australia, ‘floppies’ are called ‘stiffys.’ I don't know where I am going with this.” --entire comment on blog entry on British computer slang site re phrase "floppy disk"

“Language is the only homeland.” -Czeslaw Milosz, writer, Nobel laureate (b. 1911)

Deke Hoven visited Middletown from Amsterdam recently and said we spelled his street name wrong.

“What cannot continue, will stop.” --Herb Stein’s Law

“There is life after losing one of your antennae.” --Little Man from Mars

“What is going on in that bizarre crying baby video?” --Alice Gooteh

“On the issue of gambling revenue, New York is expecting a receding tide to lift all boats.” --Commenter
“Bah! Humblebrag!” --Ebenezer Scrooge, editing press release
“Bath Time for Baby Sloths -- Too Cute” --link we didn’t click
“He’s so out of touch, light from touch takes years to reach him.” --Twisted Sifter
E-mail The Colonel. You know you want to. Just put an @ sign between Col.T.H.Clapping (yes, with the dots) and, and Bob’s your uncle (variant: Fanny’s your aunt). Or comment online and share. Please use dashes or asterisks in swear words, or Jen Alexander will clean your crock.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Down in the River on Wednesday (not Tuesday!)

Apologies for the earlier version of this article, which had the date wrong.  Mea Culpa.

On Wednesday evening, the Riverfront Redevelopment Committee will hear preliminary results from the Project for Public Spaces.

PPS, an NYC-based consultant group, has engaged in a roughly 5-month study of Middletown's riverfront, gathering community input by holding focus groups and two well-attended public forums.  The preliminary report will offer their thoughts on how to make our riverfront a dynamic public place; they will issue the final report in December, after considering public feedback on their suggestions.

The public is welcome at the meeting, which will take place from 5 to 7 pm, November 20th, in the Hubbard Room at Russell Library.  The preliminary report is available as a PDF, and can be obtained through the planning office.

Join Us for a Public Forum on Transportation

The public is invited to a free presentation and conversation with the CT League of Conservation Voters (CT LCV) about connecting and preserving our state’s communities with better transportation. The forum will be held tomorrow, November 19, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the deKoven House Community Center.

"Getting Where You Want to Go," will explore the upfront and hidden costs of our present transportation system on the state’s economy, public health and natural resources. It will also present a vision for a new, 21st-century system that promotes livable communities, enhances public health and our economy, and preserves our environment--all while moving people and goods to where they need to go.

The presentation is based on a new publication by CT LCV, available for free download at

Hosted by The Rockfall Foundation, this forum is free. Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Registration is not necessary but appreciated: contact Tony Marino (860)347-0340;

For more detailed program information and for directions to the deKoven House Community Center, please visit Rockfall’s website at

Established in 1935, The Rockfall Foundation is one of Connecticut's oldest environmental organizations. Its mission is to be a catalyst - bringing people together and supporting organizations to conserve and enhance the county's natural environment. In addition to its grants awards, Rockfall also sponsors educational programs and symposia. It is headquartered in  the historic deKoven House Community Center on Washington Street, which it maintains and operates as a community center with meeting rooms and office space for locally-based environmental groups.