Friday, August 30, 2019

Let There Be Forums

There will be three more Democratic mayoral candidate forums before the Democratic primary on September 10.  These forums will occur on consecutive days immediately after the Labor Day weekend on September 3, 4 and 5.  All candidates have been invited to appear, but some candidates have declined to appear at some of the forums.

There has been one previous forum, sponsored by the Middletown Democratic Town Committee.  Ben Florsheim and Geen Thazhampallath appeared at that forum.  Mary Bartolotta and Billy Russo declined the invitation claiming that because it was being held at a lecture hall at Wesleyan, they considered it a hostile environment and would not appear.

Florsheim and Thazhampallath have agreed to appear at all three forums.

NEAT (North End Action Team) FORUM TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 3, 7 PM, MAC 360 Gallery, 650 Main Street

This forum was originally advertised as including only Democratic candidates Ben Florsheim and Billy Russo. It may be Russo's only appearance at a forum having declined invitations to three others. Since the early publicity, Geen Thazhampallath has confirmed that he will appear.  The forum will be conducted by NEAT members.

MHS (Middletown High School) STUDENT FORUM, WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 4, 7 PM, Middletown HS Auditorium

This forum was organized by a group of MHS students.  Geen Thazhampallath and Ben Florsheim both agreed to appear early.  Russo declined the invitation claiming it would be detrimental to his campaign to appear at any forum (he later agreed to appear at NEAT), and Bartolotta declined because she claimed to have no available time in her schedule before the primary.  Bartolotta and Russo turned down four offered dates (8/26, 8/27, 9/4, 9/5).  Full disclosure, two of the students organizing this event are my kids, but I have nothing to do with the event.

AAUW (American Association of University Women) FORUM, THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 5,  6:30 PM, Keigwin School Auditorium

This forum was organized by the AAUW with promotion by the League of Women Voters.  As expected Florsheim and Thazhampallath accepted immediately.  Organizers have convinced all candidates to appear.

The Rockfall Foundation Selected as Stop & Shop Community Bag Program Beneficiary for September

$1 Donated for Every GIVE BACK Bag Purchased in September at 416 E. Main S&S

The Stop & Shop Community Bag Program, which launched in May 2019, is a reusable bag program that facilitates community support with the goal to make a difference in the communities where shoppers live and work. The Rockfall Foundation was selected as the September beneficiary of the program by store leadership at the Stop & Shop located at 416 East Main Street, Middletown. The Rockfall Foundation will receive a $1 donation every time the $2.50 reusable Community Bag is purchased at this location during September, unless otherwise directed by the customer through the Giving Tag attached to the bag.

"It was a wonderful surprise to hear that we were selected for this program, and equally wonderful to see Stop & Shop proactively supporting the environment and the community," said Amanda Kenyon, Grants & Communications Coordinator for The Rockfall Foundation. "Every donation received by Rockfall goes directly into our programming, including our grant-making for environmental projects and community programs such as our free Repair Cafes that give new life to people's broken and worn out items, keeping them out of the trash."

Founded in 1935 by Middletown philanthropist Clarence S. Wadsworth, The Rockfall Foundation is one of Connecticut’s oldest environmental organizations. The Foundation supports environmental education, conservation and planning initiatives in the Lower Connecticut River Valley through public programs and grants.  In addition, The Rockfall Foundation operates the historic deKoven House Community Center, which offers discounted meeting rooms and office space for non-profit organizations. 

For additional information about The Rockfall Foundation, please visit or call 860-347-0340.

For more information on the Stop & Shop Community Bag Program, visit

Opinion: The Democratic "Old Guard", Part III

The following is Part III of a series of observations about our city's politics, submitted by John Milardo. Milardo is a retired Middletown City employee of the Parks Department.  He currently serves on the city's Pension Board.  He regularly publishes his opinions in a newsletter entitle "And Justics For All."  This is excerpted from his latest edition.

In Part I, Milardo provided his perspective on the causes and effects of the changeover in the Democratic Town Committee in 2018. He then focused on one of the four candidates, Bill Russo.

In Part II, Milardo provided his perspective on the reasons why Bill Russo became Director without meeting the previous requirements of the job.

In this final installment, Milardo asks whether Russo is using city resources for is own personal benefit, and whether the city is using taxpayer dollars to enrich associates of Russo and Gerry Daley. 
A director who wants everything squashed that happens in his department.  His motto is “what happens at the yard (Highway Division), stays at the yard!”  Transparent and honest government?  I don’t think so.  So, help you if you make waves.  You’re then placed on his list as “the enemy”, and treated as such.

This from a guy who uses City owned property to make his campaign videos and take photos.  Rules are there to overcome and ignore.

Just like the following Parks Code rule:
§ 214-14 Commercial uses.  A.  The use of City parks, City recreational areas and City beaches for private gain and/or commercial purposes is prohibited….
I believe he’s in violation of the code.  Using city property for your videos, probably while working, is the definition for “private gain”…… a mayoral seat.

Recently, the city bought back their once owned property on Butternut/Thomas Streets from a private commercial business, and Director Russo’s best friend and a close associate of Gerry Daley’s.  That price was around $30,000 for the land when the city sold it.  Now we are buying the same land and a garage with a price tag to the public of -- $435,000.  And it was a sweetheart deal.  The owner of the site is able to lease back the building from the city for $1.  Supposedly, Director Russo’s department will use the site once it’s available and vacant.  Currently, no one knows when that will be.

Apparently, conflict of interest isn’t in his vocabulary.

Because Bill is running for mayor, no one’s request for a favor is being ignored.  I understand that he is ordering his department to perform work on private property off of Mile Lane.  Anything for a vote on the taxpayer’s dime.

Just look at where his campaign money is coming from.  The pay to play network of the companies, consultants, vendors and contractors who do business with his department.  Those on the list will be taken care of, not the “regular” taxpayer.

Mayor Drew touts what a great administrator Bill is.  If that’s the case, why then are there still unfinished roads and road bond money dating back to 2005?  Between 2005 through 2013, he has $3,446,537 of unspent road repair monies in existing Bonds.  Bond debt we paid for and are still paying for.  This does not include 2018 unfinished road work of $15,748,006.  Good administrator?  I say no!  Finish ALL the road work please!

Two rumors; 

First there is one which has Russo appointing Dan Drew as the next Public Works director if Bill becomes mayor.  Drew is about as qualified as the present director.

The second rumor is that if Russo does become mayor, his cohorts will fight for him not only to collect the mayor’s salary, but also his pension at the same time.  Currently, the City of Middletown Pension Plan does not allow for double dipping, as the mayor position is considered to be an employee and exempt from collecting both at the same time.  Mr. Russo would have his wages reduced from $150,000 per year to $80,000+ if he becomes the mayor. 

Do your homework and elect the best person to lead our city into the next decade.  It isn’t Bill Russo.

In Brotherhood and Sisterhood.  Stay strong, stay involved, seek the truth!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this newsletter reflect the opinion and view of the author and should not be construed as fact of advice.  The author is a lifelong Middletown resident and taxpayer, and is sharing his opinion as such.  The opinion and commentary do not reflect of any political party, organization, or citizen group.  This newsletter reflects commentary and opinions which the author wishes to share with his friends.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Repair Cafe and Reusable Bag Collection Sept. 21st

Additional repair volunteers are welcomed. Call 860-347-0340 or email to volunteer.

Opinion: The Democratic "Old Guard", Part II

The following is Part II of a series of observations about our city's politics, submitted by John Milardo. Milardo is a retired Middletown City employee of the Parks Department.  He currently serves on the city's Pension Board.  He regularly publishes his opinions in a newsletter entitle "And Justics For All."  This is excerpted from his latest edition.

In Part I, Milardo provided his perspective on the causes and effects of the changeover in the Democratic Town Committee in 2018. He then focused on one of the four candidates, Bill Russo. He concluded Part I with the question of how Russo became Director of the Public Works Department.
Bills rise to fame came rather quickly.  He stepped over many more well qualified employees when he was appointed the Assistant Superintendent of Streets and Highways.  Employees who were already top of the line heavy equipment operator/supervisors with many more years of city service.  Russo didn’t have to work his way up through the ranks, he just knew the right people.

Now it’s payback time, and they want him to head a Democratic slate so the old guard will remain in control of our town.  I can assure you he won’t make a decision without their approval.

According to records, he never had to test for the Public Works directorship in 2004.  He was the acting Director for a very short time and just appointed by then mayor Domenique Thornton.  No posting for the vacancy, no other applicants.  It was the same for the Deputy Director of Public Works position he was given in 2001.  He had friends in high places pushing for him.

The job description for the Directors position is as follows:
Minimum Training and Experience Required to Perform Essential Job Functions. Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering with level course work in the field--- and eight years of progressively responsible engineering/administrative experience or any combination of education and experience that provides equivalent knowledge, skills and abilities.  Position requires a Professional Engineering License and the possession of a valid Connecticut driver’s license.
No matter how you cut it up and dissect it, he didn’t, nor does he today, possess the MINIMUM qualifications to hold this job.  He does not possess, as required by the job description, a Professional Engineering License.  Did not earn and graduate with a Bachelor’s degree.

Did not/does not possess “any combination of education and experience that provides EQUIVALENT knowledge, skills and abilities.”  Last time I looked it up, equivalent means EQUAL!  I believe he is the only Public Works director in the state that is not an engineer.  Kind of explains why his department hires so many consultants and outside firms.  Most of the same names that are contributing big money to his campaign.

Now, your question to me is how did he get this job while only having a two-year Associates degree?  Because Bill knew and hung out with the right people.  Politicians like a yes person, and that’s what they have with Bill.  He doesn’t have a single original thought of his own.  Everything goes through certain politicians and his closest friend(s) first!

Projects such as the Parks renovations were started by other administrations, but Dan Drew gives Bill all the credit.  Dan Drew recently heaped credit to Bill and Gerry Daley for getting Middletown such a fine trash removal contract.  It’s election year and Dan wants his boy elected.  My question is why did it take Director Russo fifteen years to negotiate a good contract with the same trash company we’ve been using all these years?

He came right out and said they spent millions of taxpayer money on Palmer Field renovations to look like Major League Baseball park Camden Yard of the Baltimore Orioles.  Gee, isn’t that nice?  Bills favorite baseball team.

So how does a person with no qualifications become a director?  You have to be connected to those who have power.

As Director of Public Works, he can never be found while on the job, not even by his own office.

Not until now, because he’s running for mayor.  Now, every call and job are being done ASAP!  This from a guy who walked out on Commissioner Bartolotta because she wanted answers during a Public Works commission meeting and he refused to give them to her.
Tomorrow, in Part III, Milardo examines some of Russo's actions in light of his campaign for mayor, and reveals two rumors about actions Russo might take as mayor.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this newsletter reflect the opinion and view of the author and should not be construed as fact of advice.  The author is a lifelong Middletown resident and taxpayer, and is sharing his opinion as such.  The opinion and commentary do not reflect of any political party, organization, or citizen group.  This newsletter reflects commentary and opinions which the author wishes to share with his friends.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Outdoor Movie, Friday, August 30 • Amazing Grace, Aretha Franklin

It's the 1972 recording of Aretha Franklin singing gospel in Watts, Los Angeles.

According to Rolling Stone, this movie is "the closest thing to witnessing a miracle — just some cameras, a crowd and a voice touched by God."  Here's the trailer.  The audio recording became the bestselling gospel album of all time, but the film was lost to history until digital restoration made it possible to release it last year.

Starting at 8 pm, outdoors at the corner of Grand & Main.  Presented by Community Health Center.

Free Movie!  Free Popcorn!  Bring your family, blankets & chairs and enjoy the last weekend of summer!

Opinion: Open Letter to Bartolotta

Submitted by Richard Mackin.
An Open Letter to Mary Bartolotta ,

I want to start by acknowledging that I don’t think you should be mayor.

Nothing I have see or heard about you suggests that you care about all of the residents of Middletown. I am frustrated by your unwillingness to meet with the citizens of Middletown in public forums and your inability to answer questions put to you on public online forums. If there was any doubt in my mind, you calling me “Rick” when my name was properly spelled right above where you were typing sealed the deal.

I understand that you might not be comfortable with social media, but in 2019, that’s a major aspect of society, and if you in any way seek to direct the outcome of the future, you need to be willing to understand the present. In any case, if you can’t or won’t engage with people, you need to have an assistant who can. If you are unable to have a competent staff, well, maybe you should not be a mayor.

One of the major issues that has marked your campaign is that your husband has chosen to make public online posts, which, while others have said they were hateful and bigoted in various ways, I will note that they neither show good judgment nor a basic sense of decency. In any case, they do not instill a sense that he is interested in protecting people who are not conservative hetero-normative Americans, and I am suspect that his definition of “American” is as broad as mine.

I understand that your husband is a different human than you are, and that each human has different values, but you have chosen to make someone who made those choices your life partner. If you don’t share his values, why are you married? Furthermore, I understand that every American has the right to free expression, no matter how ugly the things they express are. That said, every human also has responsibility to care and nurture other humans. People who choose careers that are, in theory, rooted in the idea of “serving and protecting” the citizenry have further levels of responsibility to, well, serve and protect citizens.

It should go without saying that this is several levels past “don’t publicly mock them.” When provided with the chance to denounce these posts, your response didn’t suggest that you understood how they could possibly be deemed upsetting to anyone, so much as that you seemed frustrated that you had to deal with the situation.

In any situation involving politics, people will disagree with one another. I don’t ever expect to live in a situation where I agree with any choice an elected leader makes.

When I lived in Portland, OR, I felt close enough to then mayor Sam Adams that when we met at an event, we hugged. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t write him the occasionally strongly worded email. But it did mean that when I did, he responded in ways that made me aware that even if he disagreed with me, he heard me. Perhaps more important, he was WILLING to hear me.

When I asked you a series of questions about how you plan on working to ensure all residents of the city felt safe and secure, your response was a sort of which you spelled my name wrong. How did you think that exchange went?

Do you really WANT to be in charge of the city? Or does it just seem like a nice job because it means you are important? When a would-be constituent reaches out to you, are you pleased to see civic engagement, or are you frustrated that you have to DO something. My experience with you strongly suggests the latter.

There are several reasons why I asked you on Facebook what you are doing to ensure the safety and well-being of all Middletown residents. One is because you have chosen to self-select your public appearances, so I could not ask these things personally. I don’t know how much you understand about marketing, advertising, and branding, but I’ve worked in these fields. If people don’t feel like they can communicate with you, they find ways to communicate about you. The latter road tends to involve less flattering comments.

The other reason I asked you about safety and security comes back to your husband’s posts and your passive defense of them. Your eventual response was:
“Establishing a community review board for incidents involving the police. This is an issue that I have been pursuing in close coordination with Rep Quentin Phipps over the past couple of years. Middletown can be proactive on this issue by being a leader on community policing and building a healthier and sustainable dialogue between our police and our residents. Accessibility and transparency are crucial in building a stronger relationship based communication and trust.” 
There’s a lot to unpack there.

“Establishing a community review board for incidents involving the police.” You do understand that “wait until an incident that involves police to happen, then review it” isn’t making going to make people feel safe. Imagine if a restaurant advertised “Come eat here, we have doctors on hand in case you get sick.”

“Middletown can be proactive on this issue by being a leader on community policing and building a healthier and sustainable dialogue between our police and our residents.” Honestly, I don’t want to hear about what Middletown CAN be, I want to hear about what Middletown WILL be. I want to hear about what specific steps are planned to make that happen. For instance, I asked a version of the same questions in an open-ended Facebook post, and part of one response from a friend who is not a politician was:
“Mandatory de-escalation training for city police, require police to keep firearms locked in the trunk of their car unless it becomes clear that lethal force is required, establish unarmed community assistance division, and establish special mental health response teams. Police funding tied to officer violence and mandatory replacement of chief if precinct shows pattern of excessive force.” 

It’s not that those are necessarily the best ideas. I bring this up because a random friend of mine was able to come up with a more specific and doable plan for something she has general concern about, as opposed to her trying to convince me to vote for her.

I agree, there should be better dialogue between police and other citizens. Show me what that will look like. While I’m on the subject, are Middletown Police being trained in communication modalities such as NonViolent Communication? Racial sensitivity? Noting how stressful being an officer is, is there both easy access and motivation to get counseling? Would the Police Department be interested in Meditation or Mindfulness training? (If the answer to the latter is yes, I have been teaching meditation over a decade and would love to provide this service.)

“Accessibility and transparency are crucial in building a stronger relationship based communication and trust.” This is 100% true. But given what I’ve pointed out previously in this letter, do you think this describes how you have been engaging the citizens of Middletown as a mayoral candidate thus far?

That all said, if you still want to discuss things in person, I would love to, on one condition. I would like to meet downtown and chat while we do a neighborhood cleanup.

In a mutual love for this great city,

Richard J. Mackin

Fall registration live at Oddfellows Playhouse

Registration is now open for fall classes and productions for young people ages one to twenty at Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater in Middletown. Most programs start September 16. Space is limited, so register soon to ensure your place.

Programs are offered in theater, circus, music and dance for toddlers through age twenty. Oddfellows, founded in 1975, is Connecticut’s oldest and largest theater for young people. Here is a rough breakdown of this fall’s highlights for each age group, starting with teenagers:
  • The Teen Repertory Company, which offers classic and contemporary performance opportunities for ages 14 – 20, will be mounting a main stage modern adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. Auditions are September 16 & 19, 6:30 – 8:30 pm (attend one of the two evenings); production dates are November 14 – 16 & 22 -23.       
  • Circophony Teen Circus, also open to ages 14 – 20, offers an 11 week fall circus training program culminating in a Circus Showcase on December 6.  Circophony meets Tuesday & Wednesday evenings, 6 – 8 pm. Students may enroll for one or both evenings. Both nights will provide general circus and acrobatic training. Tuesdays additionally offer students the chance to focus on either Contortion & Flexibility or Juggling. No experience required.        
  • A new Teen Hip Hop Dance class for ages 12 – 18, taught by Felicia Goodwine. Thursdays, 5:45 – 7 pm (preceded by Hip Hop Dance for ages 8 – 11 from 4:30 – 5:30 pm).      
  • Technical Theater and Design class is also new this year, offering young people ages 12 – 20 a chance to learn the basics of stagecraft and theatrical design in an inclusive, hands-on environment.        
  • Classes specifically for ages 12 – 14 include Introduction to Filmmaking on Tuesdays, 4:30 – 6 pm, and Acting and Scene Study on Thursdays, 4:30 – 6 pm. Both of these are 8-week classes which will culminate in a Share Day presentation. Either of these classes is great preparation for the Junior Repertory Company winter mainstage production (for ages 12 – 14) of Lord of the Flies. Auditions will be December 12, and the show will run March 12 – 14.

For ages 6 – 11, classes are offered Monday through Thursday starting at 4:30 pm. These classes can be extended for Middletown public school students through Oddbridge, a program which provides bus transportation from Middletown schools, a snack, and arts, academic support and team-building activities until formal classes begin at 4:30. Classes this fall include:        
  • For Stage One (ages 6 – 8) classes include Expressionism: Writing, Painting, Acting! on Mondays; Sing! Dance! Play! on Tuesdays; Introduction to Circus on Wednesdays; and Introduction to Theater on Thursdays. Additionally, Stage One students may receive one-on-one music lessons from Wesleyan Music students through the Musical Mentoring program on Wednesdays. All Stage One classes run 4:30 – 5:30 pm.        
  • Stage Two (ages 9 – 11) classes include a Mini-Production, Grimmer Tales, which is a Halloween-inspired tribute to the Brothers Grimm. The program meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:30 – 5:45, and will culminate in a performance on November 9 at 2 pm. This age group is also offered Musical Mentoring on Mondays, Circus Arts on Tuesdays, Comic Acting on Wednesdays, and Hip Hop Dance on Thursdays (the Hip Hop Dance class is open to ages 8 – 11).

New this Fall are Saturday Circrobatics classes for ages 1 to 8. This 8 week series starts October 5 and each level offers a fun and age-appropriate combination of circus, acrobatics, movement and games. All classes are taught by Megan Berritta, director of the Teeny Tiny Circus Troupe at the Children’s Circus of Middletown. The Circrobatics Fall line-up features:        
  • Itty Bitty Circrobats (with Caregiver) for ages 18 months to 3 years. 9 – 9:45 am        
  • Intro to Circrobatics for ages 3 – 5. 10 – 10:45 am        
  • Beginner Circrobatics for ages 6 – 8. 11 – 11:45 am

All classes meet at Oddfellows Playhouse, which is located at 128 Washington Street in Middletown. Tuition varies from program to program, from $25 to $250, and financial aid is available to any family that needs it. To register, go to, email, or call (860) 347-6143.
Tuition partially covers Playhouse programs. Oddfellows Playhouse programs and financial aid are supported by the Connecticut Office of the Arts, the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch (Youth Violence Prevention), the Middletown Commission on the Arts, the City of Middletown Health Department, the Stare Fund, The Fund for Greater Hartford, the Neighborhood Assistance Act, Middlesex United Way, Community Foundation of Middlesex County, the George A. and Grace L. Long Foundation, Middletown Youth Services Bureau, Maximilian E. and Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Thomas J. Atkins Memorial Trust Fund, Stop and Shop, Nihla and Bob Lapidus Foundation, Evan Knoll Memorial Fund, Price Chopper Golub Foundation, and many generous individual donors.

The Middletown International Film Festival Schedule is Set!

The Middletown International Film Festival begins October 1st
The 11th annual Middletown International Film Festival is a collaboration between Russell Library, Middlesex Community College and Wesleyan University. All films begin at 7pm. This year's line up of films, speakers, dates and places is as follows:   

October 1: The Hubbard Room, Russell Library, 123 Broad Street
Loveless (Russia, 2017, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsex, 127 mins.)
Still living under the same roof, a Moscow couple of is in the final stages of a bitter divorce. Under those circumstances, as both have already found new partners, the insults fly in this toxic familial battle zone, always pivoting around the irresolvable and urgent matter of the custody, of their 12-year-old only son. Unheard, unloved, and above all, unwanted, the introverted and unhappy boy feels that he is an intolerable burden, what his parents don't know is that he has heard their argument confirming these facts. As a result, the couple finally realize that their son has been missing for nearly two days, it is already too late. 
Speaker: Victoria Smolkin, Associate Professor of History, Wesleyan University

October 8: Chapman Hall, 100 Training Hill Road, Middlesex Community College
Capernaum (Lebanon, 2018, directed by Nadine Labaki, 126 mins.)
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Nadine Labaki's CAPERNAUM ("Chaos") tells the story of Zain, a Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the "crime" of giving him life. CAPERNAUM follows Zain, a gutsy streetwise child as he flees his negligent parents, survives through his wits on the streets, takes care of Ethiopian refugee Rahil and her baby son, Yonas, being jailed for a crime, and finally, seeks justice in a courtroom. CAPERNAUM was made with a cast of non-professionals playing characters whose lives closely parallel their own.
Speaker: Bruce Masters, John E, Andrus Professor of History, Wesleyan University

October 15: Chapman Hall, Middlesex Community College, 100 Training Hill Road
I Am Not a Witch (Zambia, 2017, directed by Rungano Nyoni, 93 mins.)
Following a banal incident in her local village, 8-year old girl Shula is accused of witchcraft. After a short trial she is found guilty, taken into state custody and exiled to a witch camp. At the camp she takes part in an initiation ceremony where she is shown the rules surrounding her new life as a witch. Like the other residents, Shula is tied to a ribbon which is attached to a coil that perches on a large truck. She is told that should she ever cut the ribbon, she'll be cursed and transformed into a goat.
Speaker: TBA

October 22: Hubbard Room,  Russell Library, 123 Broad Street
Roma (Mexico, 2018, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, 135 mins.)
Winning director and writer Alfonso CuarΓ³n follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. Delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him, CuarΓ³n draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s.
Speaker: Maria Ospina, Associate Professor of Spanish, Wesleyan University

October 29: Chapman Hall, Middlesex Community College, 100 Training Hill Road
Shoplifters (Japan, 2018, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, 121 mins.)
After one of their shoplifting sessions, Osamu and his son come across a little girl in the freezing cold. At first reluctant to shelter the girl, Osamu's wife agrees to take care of her after learning of the hardships she faces. Although the family is poor, barely making enough money to survive through petty crime, they seem to live happily together until an unforeseen incident reveals hidden secrets, testing the bonds that unite them.
Speaker: Scott Aalgaard, Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies, Wesleyan University

November 5, Hubbard Room, Russell Library, 123 Broad Street
Summer 1993 (Spain, 2017, directed by Carla Simon, 97 mins.)
Frida, a six-year-old little girl, leaves Barcelona and her grandparents for the countryside, after her father and her mother have died from a mysterious illness. Taken in by her uncle and aunt, Frida discovers her new environment, an old farmhouse in the mountains, close to a dense forest. Her new "parents" prove friendly, and have a three-year old daughter who could be Frida’s playmate. For another child less unhappy than uprooted Frida, this would be the most idyllic of stays, a kind of permanent vacation. But Frida is disturbed and if there are undeniably good times at her new "home", there is also the unexpressed pain which makes her both sad and badly behaved.
Speaker: Olga Sendra Ferrer, Associate Professor of French, Wesleyan University

Opinion: The Democratic "Old Guard", Part I

The following is Part I of a series of observations about our city's politics, by John Milardo. Milardo is a retired Middletown City employee of the Parks Department.  He currently serves on the city's Pension Board.  He regularly publishes his opinions in a newsletter entitled "And Justice For All."  This is excerpted from his latest edition.
Middletown has a history of being a very Democratic town.  Until recently, the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) was historically, “old guard” democrats.  Many of the Councilmembers and mayor’s cronies were on the DTC, which ensured them nominations every election.

Very rarely would the old guard allow new blood into the DTC to run for political office.  The old guard had their collective grips wrapped around the throats of democratic voters.

Same old people for every election.

That dramatically changed this past year when new Democratic voices held a coup of the DTC and replaced the old blood with new.  A new progressive slate took control of the DTC, much to the chagrin of those removed.  That’s why there are four, originally five, Democrats vying for the mayoral position this election year.  Thrown off the DTC were Robert Santangelo, and Mayor Daniel T. Drew, as well as many of their supporters and Gerry Daley’s supporters.

Gerry was not removed from the DTC, that’s why it is very hard to understand why such a devoted Party man went rogue and joined forces with someone other than the endorsed slate.  I have confidence the readers will be able to figure that one out after viewing his article.

A primary will be held on September 10, 2019 to choose a democratic mayoral candidate.  I don’t ever remember these many candidates, Democratic or Republican, running for the mayoral seat.  Democrats for mayor are Mary Bartolotta, Geen Thazmapallath, Ben Floreshiem and William Russo.  Of these four, Russo is the only one connected to the old guard.  His connections to the old guard run deep as do the monetary connections.

Mr. Russo is the Director of the Public Works department for the City of Middletown. He doesn’t make a move without the old guard’s knowledge and their approval.  They convinced him to run for mayor, so they could stay in power.

Why would Gerry Daley, Robert Santangelo, or Dan Drew want Russo to run?  Because they would be able to control him.  These three have hitched their wagons to Russo in an attempt to keep the power.  All four of these individuals love to wield their power.

Bill owes them because they gave him the directorship of the Public Works department.  I say “gave” because in my opinion he never earned it.  Mr. Russo went from the street sign maker for the Public Works department to the Director.  How?
Tomorrow, in Part II, Milardo explains how Mr. Russo went from street sign maker for the Public Works department to the Director.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this newsletter reflect the opinion and view of the author and should not be construed as fact of advice.  The author is a lifelong Middletown resident and taxpayer, and is sharing his opinion as such.  The opinion and commentary do not reflect of any political party, organization, or citizen group.  This newsletter reflects commentary and opinions which the author wishes to share with his friends.

Opinion: Bartolotta Fights For Rights

Submitted by David Roane
Councilwoman Mary Bartolotta has been fighting for the rights of Middletown residents for the past eight years. Specifically, she has been a champion for the issues deepest to my heart: minority rights, veteran’s rights, and senior rights. I urge members of these communities to support Mary’s campaign for Mayor.

Mary has displayed her commitment to racial justice while on the Common Council and continues to do so on the campaign trail. It was Mary who introduced a fair housing ordinance banning housing discrimination based on an individual’s race, gender, or sexual orientation. This commonsense piece of legislation knocks down a barrier for minority communities to find stable homes.

Several years ago, Mary began working to establish and build the necessary support for a community review board for incidents involving the police which I believe will help create a much needed dialogue around racial justice in Middletown.

In addition to be being a person of color and a senior, I count myself as lucky to be one of the many citizens of this city who have served bravely for our country. Mary will work for us because her drive to help veterans is personal. Mary’s childhood experience of watching her brother struggle has shaped her greatly and given her a lifelong commitment to veterans and their families.

Mary has a proven record of supporting veterans and seniors. Most recently, Mary introduced new tax breaks for local gold star families and for Middletown seniors.  As Mayor, I know Mary will continue to find new ways to support those who have served.  We need elected leaders who stand up for Veteran’s rights, and Mary will not let us down.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Opinion: Florsheim's Vision For Our City Shows He Belongs In Middletown

Submitted by Noah Baerman.
I am writing to offer a counterpoint to the narrative I have been hearing about Ben Florsheim, candidate for mayor, that emphasizes the comparatively recent planting of his Middletown roots. I do not see this as a disadvantage, much less something that should limit serious consideration of his qualification to lead our city.

I have been a Middletown resident, voter, and taxpayer for 21 years. Technically that represents less than half my life, so I lack the born-and-raised connection to the town. I didn't grow up attending Oddfellows Playhouse, though my wife worked there and served on the board. I didn't attend Middletown High, though my kids did. I didn't do my childhood research projects at the Russell Library, though I now curate a musical series there. The point is that we have chosen to make Middletown our home and to engage with the city in that way. In this way I feel particularly frustrated by the suggestion that Ben's connection to Middletown is lacking because he was a Wesleyan student who fell in love with our city and chose to stay. He cares about Middletown and has ideas that show a clear understanding of and devotion to our residents and a vision for a future that improves upon things while acknowledging that which is already thriving.

If voters prefer the ideas of other candidates, it is their democratic right to vote accordingly, but I hope the final weeks of the primary process can move forward with a focus on the issues and not subtle or overt attempts to discredit Mr. Florsheim's legitimacy as a candidate.

Forest City Farms Tour

The Rockfall Foundation’s September Meet Your Greens will be on Thursday, September 19 at Forest City Farms, 1100 River Road, Middletown. Join us for a farm tour, picnic, and conversation 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Tour starts at 6pm. BYOB, food, and chair. Forest City Farms is an organic farm focused on growing heirloom vegetables, flowers, and culinary herbs to serve the local community. Join us for networking and to see this community farm in action! Rain cancels.

Meet Your Greens: Middletown Green Drinks is a monthly event providing networking opportunities for anyone who is interested in making connections and exchanging news about emerging environmental issues to help keep Lower Connecticut River Valley communities green. An official location of Green Drinks International, this informal monthly gathering of people drawn from the community, nonprofit groups and the business world offers time to brainstorm ideas and plant seeds for collaboration. All are welcome and there is no admission fee, unless otherwise noted. For more information, please visit The Rockfall Foundation’s website.

Monday, August 26, 2019

OPINION: How Will They Be Leaders If They Won't Speak in Public

Disclaimer: Aidan McMillan is a junior at Middletown High. He is the son of Ed McKeon, contributor to the Middletown Eye, and endorsed candidate on Row A for the Common Council. This piece was originally published in the Middletown Press.

A group of five classmates, along with my brother Dermot, and I, all Middletown High School MHS students, set out to create a public forum for the Middletown mayoral democratic primary candidates. It was harder than expected.

We wanted to create a discussion centered around youth and our public school system moderated by students from MHS. We hoped for a way to offer Middletown residents information about their Democratic mayoral candidates. We sent email invitations to the four candidates, Mary Bartolotta, Ben Florsheim, Bill Russo, and Geen Thazhampallath. My schoolmates Ryan, Evan, Jewel, Nora, Ani, Dermot, and I would write questions and organize the event. 

My parents support Ben Florsheim, as do parents of two others in our group. One supports Thazhampallath. The other two sets of parents are not committed.

I told my father, Ed McKeon, a Democratic Town Committee-endorsed candidate for common council, not to interfere.

All of us are leaders within our school and community and were trying to offer an opportunity for Middletown residents to hear the candidates, not to prop any up, or criticize them. We invited all four candidates by email. Florsheim and Thazhampallath responded with enthusiasm within hours. They said that they were proud and excited to participate. The other candidate, Bartolotta, and Russo did not give a response.

The next day, we called the Bartolotta and Russo campaigns but still neither responded.

Because we still hadn't received a response, we found Bartolotta at her home and handed the letter to her in her driveway. We soon received a call from the Bartolotta campaign. A campaign staffer said Bartolotta was unable to attend any of the four dates or any date or time leading up to the election. 

After three unsuccessful attempts getting a response to our invitation, we found Russo in his office and he too declined to participate in the forum.

We left our encounters with many questions: How are these candidates going to be our leaders if they won’t come out and speak in public? As mayor, conflict is inevitable. Conflict must be dealt with through discussion and resolution. We have learned to be leaders, to organize, to plan and to be on top of current events and issues. But we were stopped by people older than us, accusing us of being manipulated by other adults.

The experience has been disappointing and disheartening, as teens we were trying to be independent and take initiative. We attempted to create a positive political event. Two candidates provided positive affirmation, two ignored then disappointed us. We still want this event to be an improvement to Middletown, not another political drama. And we want it to be one where voters can consider the ideas of all four candidates.

Commemoration: First African Slaves Arrive, 1619, Hampton, VA

Bell ringing and singing
"We Shall Overcome."
2019, Middletown, CT
First Church on Court Street.

Opinion: Bartolotta Combines Experience With Heart

Submitted by Ellen Ornato.
I've spent considerable time getting to know Mary Bartolotta, the endorsed Democratic candidate for Mayor in Middletown. I'm very impressed by her commitment to shaping the future of our city through collaboration with people from all walks of life, her deep understanding of the city’s budget and government operations, and the diversity of her private sector experiences.

Mary offers Democrats a clear choice in the upcoming September 10 primary for Mayor, in terms of experience, integrity, and focus. Mary makes sense.

Consider the following:

Municipal Leadership Experience: Mary has been a Democractic member of the Common Council for nearly 8 years, voting her mind and her conscience (not always the party line).
  • She was instrumental in protecting our children by helping pass an ordinance eliminating the use of toxic pesticides on our playing fields.
  • She is passionate about following the recommendations of the Conservation Commission for open-space acquisition (and for keeping politics and favoritism out of open space purchases).
  • She heads the building committee on the new middle school plan, proving that she can and will work collaboratively with the Board of Education. Choosing a candidate for Mayor who has significant experience as an elected official makes sense.
Personnel Experience: Mary has a private sector background; she has been responsible for recruitment, hiring, training, and professional development for a retail business with 21 stores.  Choosing a candidate who has human resource experience and who’s committed to hiring the most qualified person for each position makes sense.
Finance Experience: Mary understands how profitable businesses run and is very motivated to reduce waste and increase the value of each dollar in the City of Middletown’s $166M budget.  Choosing a Mayoral candidate who understands each line item and has worked on every budget since elected makes sense.
Heart: Mary cares about all of Middletown’s residents. She brings a high level of empathy and perspective to conversations about helping all of our residents thrive. Her supporters represent the diversity of our city, who support her based on her character, her commitment, and her follow through. Her heart and actions support those whose needs go unmet, whether it’s children in our schools or the elderly. That makes sense.

There are position papers on Mary’s campaign website regarding some of the major issues facing our city. Mary offers many distinct differences from the other candidates—relevant experience, heart, and a commitment to positive change.

Please vote for Mary Bartolotta, the Mayoral candidate who “makes sense,” on September 10th in the Democratic primary.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Wadsworth Mansion Open Air Market Today

The annual end-of-summer Farmer's Market and community celebration at Wadsworth Mansion takes place today, Sunday, August 25 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Hundreds will attend for locally-grown food and locally-made crafts, music and arts.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Tasty Chicks Comedy at Oddfellows tonight

Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater presents an evening of comedy with stand-up comedian Sara Shea and Tasty Chicks Comedy 🧁

Doors at 7 pm
Show at 7:30 pm

Sara Shea is a stand-up comedian currently based in the Hartford, CT region. Sara has starred in her own Bananas! Clean Comedy special, been featured in Best of Bananas Comedy: Bunch Volume 3, and can be heard on I ♥ Radio, and Tunein Comedy Radio. She's performed at clubs, colleges, and festivals across the country, most recently the Charm City Comedy Festival in Baltimore, MD.

π˜π˜Œπ˜ˆπ˜›π˜œπ˜™π˜π˜•π˜Ž Matt Woodland! Matt has been performing stand up comedy over the past few years, operating predominantly out of the Western Ma area. He produces several shows in the Northampton area, including long standing monthly shows at Luthier's Co-op & Iconica Social Club.

π˜šπ˜—π˜Œπ˜Šπ˜π˜ˆπ˜“ π˜Žπ˜Œπ˜œπ˜šπ˜›π˜š Emma Schmidt and Izzy da Rosa!

π˜π˜–π˜šπ˜›π˜Œπ˜‹ π˜‰π˜  π˜›π˜π˜Œ π˜›π˜ˆπ˜šπ˜›π˜  π˜Šπ˜π˜π˜Šπ˜’π˜š πŸ‘―‍Aviel Stern & Tricia D'Onofrio!


Purchase tickets 🎟online or at the Door!
$15 or $10 with 3 Canned Goods πŸ₯«πŸŠπŸŒ½

**All donated canned goods will be taken to the local Middletown food bank Amazing Grace Food Pantry
See Less

Friday, August 23, 2019

Opinion: Thazhampallath Brings Competence And An End To The Status Quo

Submitted by Welles Guilmartin.
I endorse and ask you join me in voting for Geen Thazhampallath for Mayor, Line 1D, on September 10. I am a retired accountant with a unique, nearly 20-year involvement and intimate knowledge of Middletown’s downtown needs, as a one-time downtown property and business principal and as a citizen member of various parking advisory and study committees. Over the years, I’ve been a part of many official studies, seen ideas come and go, and had many parking quandaries and questions left unconfronted or unanswered by City government.

I believe all that changed in November 2011, with Geen’s return home, from managing town services in Stratford, Connecticut, where he was an administrator for a variety of town services including the town’s rail station parking.  Getting Geen back to Middletown, to his hometown, where he is a product of our public schools and is now raising his own family, to lead this small, but critical operational department, essential to downtown commerce, beautification and functionality, has been a turning point. 

I know that parking is a prickly topic but to be honest we couldn’t have asked for a more professional, open, competent, caring and relatable person to return home to take on this thorny matter. Just look at the following small sample of what he has done to make seemingly lemonade out of lemons:

  1. Implemented a mobile parking app, a point of sale credit card payments approach and the ability to make payments, obtain permits and enter appeals online that provide Middletown parkers modern and digital ways to do business with the City. This type of modern movement isn’t exactly common place for our City government where it seems progression and innovation are the exception not the modern rule;
  2. Implemented an integrated security camera infrastructure that provides for the public safety backbone and utility for many City departments not just parking. Again, integration and cooperation hasn’t always been our City government’s hallmark where silo departments are the norm; 
  3. Moved forward, from concept to actuality, physical improvements, that many of us have long wondered, what was taking so long? For example, in the lots near Kidcity and Russell Library we’ve seen improvements and now have 110 spaces open along Dingwall Drive, one block off Main Street. 

I admit, not all is perfect, but at very least, with Geen’s leadership we are constantly moving forward and always have an eye on tomorrow. Today, I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that our parking lots are better lit, safer, have better traffic patterns, more green plantings, stroller accessibility and pedestrian connections to Main Street like never before. Quality of life issues and small details matter to Geen. I know these considerations sound basic, but unfortunately, that has not always been the case of many our City government’s projects or solutions.

I have worked closely with Geen for 8 years now and I find he listens, researches points, but most important, Geen thinks Middletown! By that I mean he has a way of openly, transparently, caringly, competently seeking best practices but implementing locally viable solutions.

Now, we need this type of leadership in our Mayor’s Office. Join me on September 10th in voting Line 1D for Geen Thazhampallath for Mayor, ending the status quo, and moving Middletown forward.

Anthony Mangiafico, Endorsed Common Council Candidate, Row A

Why am I running for Common Council?

 I started my career in journalism, as a newspaper reporter, so facts matter to me. I have spent most of my career in education. I was a classroom teacher for 10 years and I am now a principal. I completed my doctorate from UConn last year and my dissertation detailed the achievement gap and the inequity in education. My work with children, teens, and adults, has showed me that not everyone has the same opportunities, especially when not starting on equal footing in kindergarten. I work with adults who were not successful in high school the first time around and are now trying to earn a high school diploma or GED later in life, sometimes in their 40s, 50s, or beyond.

There are not many educators in positions of power in this country. Yet these members of Congress, the General Assembly, and Common Council are making decision about school resources, school safety, and school curriculum. As someone in the field, I know I can advocate for our children and our schools basing my decisions on my experience. Two of my educational priorities will be to push for universal pre-kindergarten and enhanced summer school option for students who are not on grade level.

It is also time to develop a plan for the riverfront. Whether that means a river walk with shops and cafes or preserving it as open space and creating hiking trails is something that the residents of Middletown need to decide. From talking to voters, many seem to favor a smart mix of both, as long as families are at the core of whatever is decided.

We must be business friendly. Businesses are welcome in Middletown. That should be my motto. I was very pleased when my barber, MC Barber, informed me that he was opening up a new location on Main Street because he has family members who owned restaurants on Main Street and he knew how happening our downtown is every day and every night.

Our environment is always something I will consider as a Common Council member. We need to consider all measures to curb our carbon imprint. More electric vehicle charging stations across town and solar panels on municipal buildings are two ways we can start to alter our dependence on fossil fuels.

Over the past month, as I have campaigned for others and started talking to voters, I have noticed a lot of anger between Republicans and Democrats. I know we have differences, but I look forward to hearing from all residents of Middletown. I was recently told, “I’m with Trump. I hate all you Democrats.” I refuse to believe that this is how most people feel about opposing parties.

I look forward to hearing from you either via the Middletown Eye or on my Facebook page, or via email,

Thank you.