Local Headlines Archives for 2014-10

Two veteran lawmakers vie for McKinney's open state Senate seat

Two veteran lawmakers are seeking to get out of the state House of Representatives and into the state Senate.  With the retirement of Senate Minority John McKinney from the 28th Senate District, there is an open race.  Republican Tony Hwang and Democrat Kim Fawcett, both from Fairfield, are looking to fill the role, which represents a part of Newtown. 

 

Hwang says an immigrant experience and upbringing in urban schools helped shape the person he has become.  He was first elected to his House seat in 2008.

 

Fawcett was first elected to her House seat in 2006. Fawcett says recent Metro-North failures have propelled both the management of the aging train system and its much needed, long-term investments into the spotlight.  She says she understands the critical need to get Metro-North back on track serving commuters and assuring safe and reliable service, in party because Fairfield has three train stations but also because her husband commutes to New York City.

 

Hwang says during his time in the House he has fought efforts to raid the Special Transportation Fund and supported increased spending to keep trains safe and on time. He wants to empower the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council to require a constitutional amendment to protect transportation funding, and make safety and on-time performance top priority.

 

Hwang says from No Child Left Behind and the Common Core Curriculum Standards to the new Teacher Evaluation procedures, educational decisions are not being made where they belong – with  teachers, parents, and administrators.  Hwang says he will support legislation that returns decisions regarding education to those groups, ending what he calls the “one size fits all” mentality of bureaucrats.  He wants to modify the teacher evaluation process to make it more fair and equitable for Connecticut teachers and to ensure that curriculum standards are stringent, yet age appropriate.

 

Fawcett says while the intent of Common Core education standards might have been laudable, the implementation has not lived up to expectations.  She says many dedicated teachers are feeling demoralized and devalued.  Fawcett says part of the problem with the implementation is that it came at the same time that Connecticut put new standardized tests in place and a new teacher evaluation system.

 

Hwang says he is proud to have helped Housatonic Community College obtain a portion of a $17.8 million grant to build a state of the art manufacturing education center.

 

Fawcett says she's proud of legislation passed last session to help children including a new law which allows trained school officials to administer epinephrine to students experiencing severe allergic reactions for the first time.  She co-sponsored a law to improve how colleges respond to sexual assaults, intimate partner violence, and stalking by creating campus resource teams trained to properly respond to these incidents.  Another bill she has personal experience with is one that deals with properly preventing and treating a concussion.  Her children are both student athletes who have suffered concussions.  The bill requires the State Board of Education to develop a concussion education plan and calls on coaches to provide youth athletes and their parents or guardians with information on concussions.

 

Hwang is touting his work on economic issues while serving in the state House.  He says he helped draft legislation that will eliminate nearly a thousand pages of state regulations identified as obsolete, duplicate, excessively burdensome, or otherwise ineffective or unnecessary.  As Co-Chair of the legislature's bipartisan Bioscience Caucus, Hwang says he was able to spearhead legislation to make Connecticut a world leader in bioscience research. The law strengthens the State’s capacity to create competitive investment tools, attract additional federal and private dollars.

 

He also says he advocated for legislation to empower those with developmental disabilities to achieve a sense of independence and enriched living through work.  He says the legislation will allow community non-profits to support and coordinate employment opportunities for the developmentally disabled.

 

Fawcett is touting her work last year chairing an Affordable Housing Working Group that explored policy initiatives aimed at bringing smart growth, transit-oriented development, and an increase in affordable housing options to the state.

 

When it comes to passage of Connecticut’s comprehensive gun legislation last year, Fawcett says it was a victory for advocates of gun safety.  But she says other less well-known components of the legislation are equally important in curbing gun violence.  She pointed to key provisions that lay the groundwork for improving school security and addressing gaps in youth mental health services.  Fawcett says the ultimate goal must be to do a better job identifying young people who are struggling and to find effective ways to intervene and provide treatment when necessary.

 

Hwang says the gun legislation debate was one of the most emotional and grueling exersize lawmakers could have gone through.  He voted for the bill says he and will not support any repeal effort.  He says it's important to reach a compromise to protect second amendment rights.  He says moving forward, there are pieces that need to be better addressed.  Hwang says that includes mental health, removing the stigma and offering a collaborative support network.  He also wants another look at gun security storage.  When it comes to school security, he says there needs to be a balance of cost to municipalities are not overly burdened.

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Two Wilton residents running for 26th state Senate District seat

The 26th state Senate district includes parts of Bethel, Redding, Ridgefield and Wilton.  Two Wilton residents are vying for the post, a three term incumbent, and a businessman.

 

Republican incumbent Toni Boucher was critical of tax increases over the last several years saying the state budget has also used one-time revenues and borrowing for ongoing expenses.  Boucher is calling for comprehensive tax reforms.  She gave the example of Rhode Island state employees being asked to forego cost of living increases until the state could balance the pension account in order to save it.  She notes that state employees contribute 2%, less than any other state.  She said Connecticut should look into raising the retirement age for state workers.

 

Democrat Phil Sharlach has worked as a consultant and accountant in the private sector, including for Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Deloitte.  He also helped facilitated the break up of AT&T into regulated and non-regulated companies.  Sharlach says he has several priorities if elected.  Among them is increasing Hartford's investment in Fairfield County, optimizing the state budget and bonding and providing support to seniors and veterans.

 

Sharlach says making sure all children have access to a good education is every parent's top priority. That's why he says fixing failing schools is so important, but not when the solution burdens students and teachers who are already doing well.  He calls the implementation of the Common Core curriculum cumbersome and ill planned.  Sharlach says teachers should be teaching to students, not to tests.

 

Boucher is a member of the Education Committee.  She touted the addition of preschool slots in the state, consolidating services into the Office of Early Childhood, a concussion prevention bill dealing with school athletics and a sexual assault on college campus bill that protects students.  She called the college bill a model for the rest of the country.  The Education Committee also dealt with allergies in schools with passage of a bill about Epi pens.  She says a bill was stopped to reduce the drug-free zones around schools.

 

Boucher says if elected to another term she would be interested in researching the possibility of a grade 9-14 school to give students the change to hone their interest and skills set.  They would then graduate with an Associate’s Degree.  She also wants to address the cost of higher education becoming less accessible to more middle-income students.

 

Boucher called Common Core a very controversial program.  She says some school districts find it helpful, but for others it’s not up to the level they are already operating.  She suggest that it be started gradually and not be a one-size fits all program.  Boucher says top down management is not the way to improve education in the state.

 

Sharlach says his 36 years experience as a business executive could help could close a $1.37 billion deficit that the state is facing next fiscal year.  He proposed a change to the conveyance tax, a set of two taxes homeowners face when they sell their property.  One is paid to the state, and the other to the town. 

 

Sharlach proposes a New York-Connecticut Transportation Authority, a non-governmental independent entity funded through open market financing and public funding.  He says it could create a large freight rail system.

 

Boucher is also a member of the Transportation Committee.  She and her colleagues called on federal agencies to intervene and provide technical and financial assistance, which she says worked.  She says the new leadership at Metro North seems to be up to the task of addressing safety issues, mechanical issues, oversight and cultural issues.  She says Connecticut has the opportunity to go out to bid on a train contract in 2015. 

 

During a League of Women Voters debate, Sharlach said funding of mental health programs was too often short-changed, that most of the state's problems are economic. 

 

Boucher says brownfield remediation work has done a great deal to clean up former brass and wire mill sites.  Development of the Georgetown former Gilbert and Bennett site has stalled.  She says the original developer didn’t start to build the housing, office space, train station and retail construction that was slated to go in there.  Then the economy crashed.  There’s a renewed effort to get development moving.  She says the state has invested in making sure the roads through the property are up to code when the development starts.

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Patrick Waldron, Danbury Veteran's Affairs Director, dies at 81

The Director of Veterans Affairs for Danbury has passed away.  Patrick Waldron died suddenly Tuesday of a heart attack.  He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans and Korean War Veterans Association.  Waldron was 81 years old.

 

Former President of Danbury Veterans Council George Smith says a number of veterans were at the VA canteen and were all in shock.  He says there's a million stories from veterans about Pat Waldron.  Smith was told by a fellow veteran about how he was living in a culvert on the side of the road until Waldron took up his cause, and got him VA disability benefits.  Smith called Waldron an incredible guy who was always looking out for veterans.

 

City Councilman Tom Saadi, a member of the Army Reserves, says he was saddened by the news.  He called Waldron a pilar of the community and someone who dedicated his life to serving this country, and serving residents in the Greater Danbury area.  Saadi told a story of how anytime they would see each other, Waldron would always tell him what he was working on to help veterans.  He called that Waldron's mission, one that he carried out with energy, all his soul and his enthusiasm.  Saadi called Waldron's death a great loss for the City and the community.

 

Former City Councilwoman Mary Teicholz, whose son is in the military, says Waldron was always such an advocate for veterans in the area.  She recalled one year asking him to help her organization find a veteran to donate gifts to, and he was right there.  She says Waldron went above and beyond to find more funding to help the veteran out.  Teicholz organizes the Walk of Honor and the Warrior Award presentation each year, along with the new Walkway of Honor.

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Political newcomer looks to unseat freshman lawmaker in Newtown

A freshman lawmaker is being challenged by a political newcomer in the 106th state House District.  Mitch Bolinsky is the Republican incumbent.  He is being challenged by Matt Cole, a recent Western Connecticut State University graduate and social worker.  Bolinsky says there’s still a lot of work that he wants to do in the legislature.  Some of the areas he’s proud of this past session included toughening drunken driving laws and moving funding forward for the rebuilding of Sandy Hook School.  Another initiative he touted was to include private and parochial schools in the state’s program to fund security improvements.

 

During a candidate forum held last week by the Newtown Bee, Cole said he feels there are no constructive conversations taking place in Hartford.  He noted that as a trained social worker, he is adept at working as a consensus.  He interned with former state Representative Chris Lyddy. 

 

Bolinsky says Connecticut has an economy that’s not working the way it should be.  He says something has to be done to attract business, not picking winners and losers like the First Five program.  Bolinsky referring to a program implemented by Governor Malloy that provides funding to companies in exchange for relocating to and within Connecticut.  He says lowering taxes, both on corporations and individuals, will make Connecticut more competitive with other states, and a place that people want to live.  Bolinsky says making Connecticut more affordable to live and do business here is the first step to growing jobs, gaining employment numbers and getting the state’s economy back on the right track.

 

Cole says people are struggling because wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living.  Property taxes for seniors who bought their houses decades ago and aren’t worth what they were, which he says poses a serious burden.  He wants to work with Newtown’s Economic Development Commission to learn what he can do to help the town succeed.  Cole suggested having a so-called Buffet rule in Connecticut where people making seven-figures or more a year pay more taxes to fund programs that serve the people scraping by or are living in extreme poverty.

 

Bolinsky says it’s important to get Common Core right.  He calls implementation a rushed process and he wants more input from parents, teachers and students.  He says it’s very testing intensive and doesn’t have a lot of flexibility for practical learning and creativity in the classroom.

 

Cole says he likes the idea of Common Core, but that the implementation was rushed.  He says there are some pros to it, in that it allows teachers more resources to work with students that are at different levels.  He also touted that Common Core develops critical thinking.  But he says students were left out of the process of what Common Core standards should look like. 

 

Bolinsky says Connecticut ranks 49th or 50th in terms of infrastructure stability.  He wants lawmakers and others to stop raiding the Special Transportation Fund for money to plug holes in the state budget.  He believes transportation money should be used for transportation with investments in infrastructure to replace years of neglect.  Bolinsky says he was discouraged to hear that the state Department of Transportation has tabled a project to expand Interstate 84 between Danbury and Waterbury from two lanes to three.  He says he wants to continue to push for that project to be brought back to life.

 

Cole says roads and bridges need to be repaired in an effort to attract business to the state.  He says people are frustrated with the state of roads in the state.  Cole says expanding the highway would be a priority for him.  He thinks the roadways should be able to hand the population today, not 40 years ago.

 

Bolinsky says open space is important to the character of Newtown.  In the private sector, he helped write a part of the 2009 Clean Energy Act.  It’s now law in California and in Congress to reduce global warming from vehicle air conditioning systems.

 

Bolinsky says in the wake of the legislature’s work in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook School, and in anticipation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission’s report, there will be more work to address the issues that stemmed from that tragedy.   He says with the so-called gun bill adopted last year, by no means does the state have the solutions to prevent another similar tragedy.   He says there must be a focus on mental health.  He calls early detection key.  He wants to see programs implemented that prevent people from reaching the point where they become a danger to themselves or the community.  He wants to continue to make schools safe, while making them a happy place for them to learn, grow and prosper.

 

Cole says the gun law passed last year should only be strengthened.  He thinks open carry laws in Connecticut need to change.  He also called fore more early intervention for elementary school aged children when it comes to mental health care.  Cole says more community support programs and proper funding for those programs is needed.  He cited Ability Beyond Disability and other similar organizations in the region having to fold into other groups because they don’t have enough resources or funding.  Cole says there is a large underserved population that could benefit from more services.

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'Ben's Lighthouse' holds discussion about community mission

A panel discussion has been held at CH Booth Library in Newtown by Ben's Lighthouse.  The organization was named for Benjamin Wheeler, one of the children killed at Sandy Hook School.  The founders say they want to create a positive impact on this community and beyond.  The panel was made up of participants on a recent trip through Ben's Lighthouse to Loveland, Colorado where they helped with the rebuilding efforts from last fall's flooding.  Last year members travelled to Oklahoma to help with recovery efforts from tornadoes that ripped through the region.

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Social Security is issue in House race

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- In Connecticut's 5th Congressional District, where more than one-fourth of residents rely on Social Security, Rep. Elizabeth Esty has moved the issue sensitive to seniors close to the top of her many disputes with Republican challenger Mark Greenberg.

 

Esty, seeking a second term, is raising issues such as economic development, gun ownership and transportation. But her TV ads have focused on Social Security, promising unyielding support while insisting Greenberg would undermine it.

 

"Mark Greenberg in his own words has said repeatedly he considers the system a failure," Esty said in a debate with Greenberg, who responded that he's defending himself against "lies" and believes ways to preserve the program should be debated.

 

Esty said in an interview that 125,000 of the district's 475,000 residents - about 26 percent - receive Social Security benefits. She said she's voted against cuts in Social Security, including a proposal backed by President Barack Obama to calculate inflation more conservatively, known as "chained CPI" that would result in smaller cost-of-living increases in Social Security.

 

Many Democrats in Congress and advocates for seniors dislike the chained CPI, opting instead for a more generous cost-of-living increase they say more accurately reflects price increases faced by older Americans.

 

To Greenberg, the higher proportion of senior citizens is a sign of a lack of jobs and few opportunities for young people to remain. His campaign message, he said, is an "old refrain: jobs and the economy, the inability of young people to stay in Connecticut."

 

Estimates show that in 2033, the Social Security fund will no longer pay out 100 percent to beneficiaries and drop to 75 percent of promised benefits unless Congress and the president act.

 

Esty and Greenberg may agree on a possible solution to ensuring Social Security doesn't run out of money by raising a limit on taxed income to bring in more revenue. The policy, known as lifting the cap, would tax the wealthy who do not pay Social Security tax at certain levels at the same rate as middle-income workers.

 

"I think that is a much fairer way to do it," Esty said.

 

Greenberg, who has advocated for gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security eligibility to 70, said he will listen to proposals to lift the cap.

 

"The bottom line is I'm willing to discuss an increase in the cap as well as an extension from 67 to 70," he said.

 

Other issues in the race focus on the slow economic recovery and gun control in the district where 20 children and six educators were killed in their elementary school in December 2012.

 

Greenberg stresses gun safety and the need to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental health problems. Esty supports an expanded federal background check and closing loopholes allowing sales at gun shows intended to evade background checks.

 

Democrats may be optimistic about their prospects in the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has canceled its television reservations in the district, instead reserving $500,000 for ads in Iowa for the last two weeks of the election there.

 

For Greenberg, the campaign is his first after failing before to win the Republican nomination.

 

"I'm in unchartered territory," he said. "Someone's got to do the dirty work."

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Permanent Memorial Commission gives update to Newtown leaders

The Newtown Board of Selectmen has received an update from the Newtown Permanent Memorial Commission.  Kyle Lyddy told the Board that they are still in the information gathering stage.  They communicate with the 26 families monthly to keep them informed of the process.  Emergency service groups, parents of children enrolled at Sandy Hook School on 12-14 as well as school staff have been sent a survey. 

 

The Commission has created subcommittees to discuss location, family outreach and communication. 

 

First Selectman Pat Llodra told Lyddy that the Selectmen would not put a deadline on the group because this is meant to be a long and deliberative process.  The Selectmen encouraged the Commission to speak again with Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech and other groups again about what worked for them and what regrets they may have. 

 

"Sacred Soil" from the school site is being held for the Commission.

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Two Sandy Hook parents to travel to Washington to talk gun violence prevention

Two parents of children who were killed at Sandy Hook School are headed to Washington state, the site of the latest school shooting.  Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, whose sons Daniel and Dylan died on 12-14, are travelling to Washington state. 

 

Last week one student shot and wounded five peers, two fatally, and took his own life.  There is a ballot initiative in Washington state expanding background checks on firearm purchases. 

 

The parents formed The Sandy Hook Promise shortly after they lost their sons to share their stories with others and to help put an end to gun violence.  Barden says they will be there to honor children who have had their lives cut short by gun violence, to share their stories and to urge Washington residents to vote for the ballot initiative.

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Two twenty-somethings face off for Danbury's 109th District House seat

Two young men are running to represent Danbury's 109th state House District. 

 

Democratic incumbent David Arconti says public service is important to him and he’s made good relationships with representatives on both sides of the aisle, which has allowed him to deliver for Danbury.  He says he’s tried to focus on constituent services, for example offering to meet in person rather than address complicated issues over the phone.  He says that’s a great way to learn first hand what people are going through.

 

Republican Josh Stanley is a 24 year old who graduated from Danbury High School in 2008 and then from Western Connecticut State University with a Small Business Management degree.  He is a contractor and foreman who works for his family’s paving company.

 

Last session, Arconti says he was very proud to help secure $1.2 million for construction of the Healing Hearts program building under the umbrella of Western Connecticut Regional Hospice.  It’s the only program of its kind in Connecticut.  He says this saves the state money in mental health services with these services being provided by a non-profit, at no cost to clients.  They have working groups from 9/11 and from 12/14.  He also touted being able to help bring funding to Danbury to fix the roof of the Danbury War Memorial, which is the City’s emergency shelter, and for infrastructure improvements at the Armory, which is being operated by the Harambe Youth Center.

 

Arconti says a new Education Commissioner coming in next year will be the most important appointment coming up.  He hopes it’s a classroom friendly Commissioner.  He also wants to work to get teach evaluation system right.  He says tying that to standardized tests is not the best route to accomplish that.

 

During a forum sponsored by the PTO, Stanley said travelling across the state, it’s easy to see that each town is different from each other.  He notes that there are also income gaps and it’s not fair for the state to make broad assumptions of how much each school district needs in terms of funding.  To make up shortfalls in the Education Cost Sharing formula, Stanley suggested that students and the community pitch in.  Stanley pointed out that a few years ago, Danbury High School was going to have to cut freshman sports because there wasn’t the funding for it.  He says the athletes went out and held car washes and other fundraisers to save the program.

 

Stanley was also asked about the Common Core initiatives implemented in the state.  He says teachers need to be able to teach, let them decide how best to do what they do.  He gave a personal example of growing up with dyslexia, being in a high math lass and a low reading class.  He credited his sixth grade teacher for working with him and administrators to make sure scheduling conflicts weren’t an impediment to his success.

 

Arconti says the state is slowly but surely making its way out of the recession.  But he says there’s still plenty of work to be done.  He touted some companies coming to Danbury, specifically Eastern College Athletic Conference and New Oak Capital.  He also touted the state funding for Cartus to retain and create jobs over the next few years in Danbury.  He would like to examine the Business to Business tax and Estate Tax.  He predicts next session will be the session for property tax reform.

 

Stanley says Connecticut needs to be a more business-friendly state if more jobs are going to be created here.  He says he knows first hand about the high taxes levied on businesses.  Stanley also said he would like to take on the issue of Danbury generating a lot of revenue for the state, but not getting as big a return as municipalities that send less money to Hartford.

 

Arconti related the story of a constituent who is an occupational therapist and reached out to him.  In 2013, copayments on physical therapy were limited to $30.  He says the constituent told him that their benefits are similar and patients have told her that they can’t afford to continue the necessary outpatient rehab because of the high copayments by insurance companies.  He went to the legislature’s Insurance Committee, made a case and that passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

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Danbury attorney challenges two-term inumbent in 2nd House district

A Danbury lawyer is looking to unseat a two-term incumbent in the 2nd House District race.  The district includes parts of Bethel, Danbury, Redding and Newtown. 

 

The Republican incumbent in Dan Carter, who says there’s been a lot done, but a lot left unfinished.  He says the nearly $3 billion deficit needs to be tackled.  Some of the accomplishments he cited from the last session was strengthening protections from domestic violence on college campuses, stopping a bill that would turn gift cards into cash and regulating compounding pharmacies in the state.  He says across the district demographics are pretty similar and people want the same kinds of things, even though there might be disagreement on how to get there.

 

Democrat Candace Fay is a Danbury resident who has an undergrad and law degree from UConn.  She says she is running because she wants other people to have the same opportunities and experiences that she was fortunate enough to have here.  She also wants Connecticut to be a place where people like her parents, who are retirees, can continue to live on a fixed income.

 

When it comes to the budget, Fay says some money could be reallocated to priority items like toward transportation and education.  She wants to increase the frequency of Metro North trains on the Danbury branch.  Fay says if there is more of an investment in the education system, more students will stay in Connecticut and employers will want to move to the state.  Fay says when businesses look to locate in a particular place, they look toward transportation and education.

 

Carter says education reform may be the hallmark of the next session.  He says it’s gotten to a point where the ECS formula needs to be scrapped.  He says it’s being underfunded and created an overreliance on property taxes and municipalities aren’t getting what they need.  He says Common Core has some good concepts, but its implementation has become a heavy-handed checklist.  He says it also cut out teachers in its design.

 

Fay says the Common Core initiative did not go over well with teachers.  She believes the intent is good, but it was not well implemented.  She does not support teaching to a test because what may be an achievement for one child is not the same achievement for another child of the same age.  She wants to get input from educators about how to improve public schools.  Fay would put more money into vocational training noting that it’s not a bad thing that not every student is college bound.  She adds that would add manufacturing jobs to the area. 

 

As for student loans, she thinks it’s important to invest in students so they invest in the state.  She says it could be employers sort of recruiting students in a similar process to the NBA or NFL recruits their athletes and maybe pay a portion of their student debt.  Fay says if there was a job at the end of the tunnel, that would be the most promising future.  Fay says Connecticut has a hard time keeping young people here that the state educates.

 

When it comes to transportation, Carter says aging infrastructure is just part of the problem.  He says the Transportation Fund being tapped for other items is also a problem.  Carter says the MTA might not be the best option to run Metro North in Connecticut in the future, but all options should be on the table.  He wants federal legislators to bring back federal dollars to improve the Danbury branch.

 

Fay is not a proponent of border tolls, but if they did come back she says in-state residents shouldn’t be charged. With electronic tolling, a picture of an out of state license plate could be taken, similar to a system in Florida.  She would want the funding to go toward road maintenance.  She says this would be especially helpful because of the high volume of tractor-trailers using the roads to go between New York City and Boston, creating damage and not being charged.  As for the argument that border tolls would hurt businesses in the region, like the Mall, she says New Yorkers are used to paying tolls and a 50 cent toll would still cost less than New York Sales tax.

 

Carter says the next budget could make or break the state.  In order to recover faster, he says spending needs to get under control. 

 

Fay believes in preserving open space and protecting the water resources in the state.  She thinks education is the key to promoting alternate energy and energy efficiency.  She notes there are tax breaks that many people don’t take advantage of for replacing windows and doors. 

 

There’s a constitutional amendment question on the ballot that carter says would take the constitutional protections out of the constitution and into the hands of the Secretary of the State and the legislature.  He believes in no-excuse absentee balloting, but this would take the state down a path that’s ripe with fraud.

 

Many of the candidates who represent Newtown were asked about the gun bill approved last year.  Carter says the debate was very emotional and done so fast, there were many good things missed.  He says no one really has the appetite to touch it again.  He says gun trafficking is a problem, people with mental illness still have the ability to get guns and he would have liked to have seen those two topics addressed.  He also wants better coordination of care for people with mental illness. 

 

Fay addressed the three areas being discussed by the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission: mental health services, school security and gun safety.

 

Fay does pro-bono legal work through the Probate Court system with guardianship of intellectually disabled and conservator applications based on a mental incapacity.  She says there are resources in the area, but not enough available.  She is calling for more home-based mental heath services, pointing out that an inpatient hospital is not always the best setting.  She also says it’s expensive.  She says more field workers, therapists, social workers and psychiatrists so there’s someone working with a person on a more day-to-day basis.  She suggested consulting with clinicians about whether more frequent follow-ups are needed.

 

Fay is a proponent of School Resource Officers.  Her brother was an SRO in New Canaan for several years.  She says funding from the state could make it an easier decision.  She says this creates a nice liaison between children and the police department, almost becoming like another guidance counselor.  With that in mind, she says kids are also being raised that police officers are there for children and the protection the community.

 

When it comes to the gun control legislation passed last year, she supports it fully and says she would not do anything to weaken it or repeal it.  She called it inappropriate that her opponent voted against it, given that part of their district includes Newtown.  She says she has not heard a good argument for why someone would need 30 rounds of ammunition at one time or an AR 15.  As for universal background checks, she cited the case of a Torrington teen who was blocked from being able to purchase a gun.  The teen had discussed plans to shoot students in Danbury and Torrington.   She believes people have the right to bear arms, but that there can be restrictions on that with regard to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have firearms.

 

There was a recent dustup over social media over gun safety.  A woman tweeted about Carter’s answer during a League of Women Voters forum on the topic from 2012, held before the shootings at Sandy Hook School.  He said that education on how to safely handle a firearm is important and suggested working with the NRA to bring the programs into the schools.  Carter tweeted: “Both sides are against reasonable solutions, so they are all accountable for gun deaths-NRA, NAA, CAGV.”  Those groups being the National Rifle Association, the Newtown Action Alliance and Connecticut Against Gun Violence. 

 

Fay issued a statement in response to the tweet: “As the representative of part of Newtown, Rep. Carter’s assertions illustrate his poor judgment, and his lack of respect for the people of Newtown.”

 

Carter says what he meant by the tweet was that the anti gun groups and the NRA are on opposite sides of the debate and won’t come together, blocking lawmakers from getting substantial gun legislation through in Hartford that he says would actually save lives.

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Artificial turf for community center field being considered

Interest in turning an athletic field in Redding into an artificial turf surface is being gauged.

 

During the latest Redding Board of Selectmen meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commissioner said that even though the Redding Athletics Fields Committee was disbanded, there is still interest in converting Redding Community Center Athletic Field #2 to a turf surface. 

 

A state grant covering about a third of the cost is set ot expire next July.  If private funding could be raised to cover another third of the cost, the Commissioner said Redding could ask residents in a referendum for the balance of the funds needed.  The estimated cost of the project is $900,000 to $1.2 million. 

 

The Redding Athletics Fields Committee previously set up a 501C3 Account to collect donations and has a small balance. 

 

The topic will be discussed further at the next Board of Selectmen meeting.

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Three area legislators running unopposed for state seats

There are three legislative candidates in the Greater Danbury area who are not facing a challenge from a major party candidate.  Among them is Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan.  The Republican recently took part in a forum sponsored by the Danbury PTO.  He was asked about the Education Cost Sharing Formula and says one of the big challenges is that the City is scored in a less favorable fashion for more money.

 

He gave the example of New Britain being a smaller community than Danbury, but receives significantly more money than the City.  He says that's because the demographics of New Britain supposedly demands more money.  But McLachlan pointed out that the 25th most richest person in the United States lives in Danbury and his value in income is averaged in with everyone else's income.

 

McLachlan says that's not an equitable way to calculate funding. 

 

New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith says Danbury and surrounding towns are not receiving the funding they should be.  He says the smaller towns are left out because the theory in the ECS formula is that if the schools are performing well, they don't need more funding.

 

Smith says the formula has been changed every year since 1988.  He calls is a complicated formula that doesn't serve anyone well.  Smith says there are too many unfunded mandates, the formula is also a disincentive for districts to save money.  He says they can't reduce their budget from the prior year unless they get permission from the state Education Commissioner.

 

Redding Representative John Shaban is also running unopposed.

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Sandy Hook panel considers hearing in Newtown

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A panel created to develop policy recommendations following the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings is looking into a holding a hearing in Newtown, although commission members cautioned Friday against scheduling such a meeting close to the upcoming second anniversary of the tragedy.

 

Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Chairman Scott Jackson said it needs to redouble efforts to communicate with victims' families after some complained that not enough information was reaching them. A subcommittee was asked to look into logistics for holding a Newtown meeting to gather input from victims' families and others.

 

Christopher Lyddy, a commission member and former state representative from Newtown, urged a meeting be held well before the anniversary of the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre of 20 children and six educators.

 

"We're approaching an anniversary," he said. "For many people in Newtown, that anniversary starts well before 12/14."

 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy established the 16-member advisory commission to make recommendations in areas including public safety, mental health and gun violence prevention. It has been meeting since January 2013.

 

While some commission members said victims' relatives may want to avoid the publicity of an open hearing, Jackson said the commission would accept communication in any form.

 

Jackson said his commission is not likely to finalize any recommendations until after the release of a report from the Office of the Child Advocate, which has been reviewing the shooter's schooling records.

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Freshman lawmaker challenged by New Milford Board of Finance member

Republican Cecilia Buck-Taylor was elected in 2012 to the 67th district House seat, having prior experience serving as vice-chair of the New Milford Town Council.  She is a member of the Finance, Environment, and Judiciary committees.  She says there were quite a few bills that were passed last session that's proud of including one dealing with veterans and increasing their employment opportunities.  Buck-Taylor touted her work in bringing grant funding to New Milford for brownfield remediation.

 

Democrat Gale Alexander has been on the Board of Finance for the past 12 years, has run mayoral and state senate campaigns and holds a teaching certification.

 

He says the municipal tax system is antiquated, assessment methods from the 18th century.  He says with the new economy, there’s still manufacturing and agriculture, but more businesses without a real property for municipalities to tax.  He says that creates an imbalance between businesses that are heavily capitalized and retail businesses.  He says the current system dealing with property tax is based on a property assessment that doesn’t really represent the people.  He gave the example of retired people who own homes equivalent to their neighbors who may be still working.  He is suggesting an alternate income tax based on the Grand List and mil rate.  He would substitute property value numbers with income value numbers.

 

Alexander says that would more equitably spread the tax burden across the base.  He says farmers for example would gain from this.  Agricultural land is taxed at a lower rate, but he says a New Milford resident can’t put a building up for his product because his taxes would go up.  Alexander says farmland preservation plays into his push for a change in taxes.

 

She supported a Task Force being created to review the state's tax structure.  She wants unfunded mandates to be examined as well.  Buck-Taylor says the pension fund is underfunded.  She says the state should live within its means, and that isn't a matter of wanting something and raising taxes in order to get it.  She was also critical of taking money from designated funds to pay for other items and services. 

 

When it comes to education reforms, Buck-Taylor says there is more to be done and some things that should be undone.  She does not support Common Core, in part because there was no public hearing before it was implemented.  She doesn't believe in having one-size fits all.  She hopes another look at Common Core will be made.  She says the Educational Cost Sharing formula is woefully under funded .  She notes that the formula for children with learning disabilities is not done in an equitable manner.  She believes the state should give the towns the support they need to give education to kids in a fashion the town knows is the right way.

 

Alexander says he wants to look at changing how high schools are evaluated.  He says technical education system and community colleges play an integral role in the future of Connecticut.  He says there are jobs in manufacturing that are going unfilled because there are no programs to train new workers.  He says these offer an alternative path to success in life.  Alexander says attending college is sort of expected today, but some students end up leaving after a couple of years and a lot of student loans.  He says that leaves kids with tremendous debt, no degree and no prospect to a good job to pay off that debt because of a push toward four-year colleges.  He says one-size does not fit all and there are plenty of jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.

 

Buck-Taylor says she would support an expansion of Metro North's Danbury branch up to New Milford, and would like to see rail service provided all the way to Massachusetts.  She says Connecticut's roads and bridges are rated as some of the worst in the nation, in part because hundreds of millions of dollars are taken out of the Special Transportation Fund and put into the general fund.  Buck-Taylor says when something reaches desperate conditions, the state bonds for it and then residents will have to pay interest on it.  She says businesses aren't happy with the conditions of the roads and trucks having to use local routes to avoid congestion. 

 

Buck-Taylor hopes now that the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has had time to review the issues connected to the 2012 shootings in Newtown, she hopes school safety and mental health will be addressed .  Years back the state closed a lot of the mental hospitals in Connecticut and she says people were dumped out onto the streets.  She wants a look taken at that, and also at children who are transferred from one school to another that people know are in trouble.  She was critical of the so-called gun bill being passed by emergency certification with no committee review and public hearing.

 

Alexander touted constituent service as what he would most like to bring to the district.  He says there has to be a concerted effort to be in touch with the people you represent.  He encouraged people to stay involved and voice opinions on what is effecting day to day life.

 

Buck-Taylor wants to increase opportunities in the state for veterans, businesses and seniors.  She also wants to educate and protect children in a fiscally responsible manner so that the state can somehow come up with a tax system that relies less on property taxes.  She wants to continue to work to keep farmlands productive and in a low-tax environment.

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Bethel fire leaves 18 people without housing

An apartment fire in Bethel has left several people without housing.  A fire broke out in the storage area in the basement of 97 Grassy Plain Street shortly before 7:30 Wednesday night.  Bethel Police officers helped evacuate residents and then the fire department put out the blaze.  A smoke detector in the basement alerted residents to the problem. 

 

Fire officials say the basement sustained extensive fire, heat and smoke damage. 

 

18 people from 12 apartments were not allowed back into the building because of smoke damage.  The Red Cross is assisting the families. 

 

The cause of the blaze is being investigated by the Bethel Fire Marshal's office.

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Fuel cell to be installed at Danbury Mall

A fuel cell is being installed at the Danbury Fair Mall.  The Mall's owner, Macerich Corporation, will be gathering with business and city leaders this morning for the announcement.  The 750 kilowatt fuel cell program is being powered by Bloom Energy. 

 

Officials say the project will provide the 1.3 million square foot building with clean, reliable energy while reducing carbon emissions by nearly 3 million pounds each year. 

 

The Mall recently installed LED lighting outside the facility and will be installing solar panels on the roof next year.

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'Real Housewives of New Jersey' reportedly to serve prison term in Danbury

A federal judge announced Wednesday that she was told "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice will be assigned to a prison camp facility in Danbury, and must report there on January 5th.  She was sentenced to 15 months in prison for bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy. Her husband was sentenced to 41 months. 

 

The couple pleaded guilty in March, admitting they hid assets from bankruptcy creditors and submitted phony loan applications to get 5 million dollars in mortgages and construction loans. 

 

Some former infamous Danbury Federal Correctional Facility include Watergate conspirator G Gordon Liddy, hotel mogul Leona Helmsley, Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon, singer Lauren Hill and Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman.

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Political newcomer challenges 6-term incumbent in 138th district

State House and Senate positions are on the ballot in November.  WLAD is profiling the candidates running in the 138th state House District of Danbury, Ridgefield and New Fairfield.  Six-term Republican incumbent Jan Giegler is seeking reelection.  She is being challenged by Democrat Henry Hall. 

 

Giegler says she has a leadership role in the GOP caucus, has worked in a bipartisan manner and worked with constituents to cut through the red tape of state bureaucracy .  She says during the last session, it was a challenge being in the minority.  But she thinks a lot was accomplished by working across the aisle on the Public Safety Committee.  Giegler says she has always tried to be an advocate for fiscal responsibility and to keep Connecticut a place that people want to call home.  But she says the state has been going in the wrong direction when it comes to creating jobs and being a competitive business environment.

 

Hall is a 30 year Danbury resident who worked for GE Capital, and United Health among other companies.  Hall says he decided to run to giveback to the community and try to make a difference.

 

Jobs, transportation and public safety are his key platforms.  He says historically the biggest industries in Connecticut have been insurance, finance, precision manufacturing and defense.  He notes that they are not hiring as fast as they used to, and he would like to expand what the state is known for.  Hall says more must be done to bring in jobs in the biosciences, digital media and renewable energy.

 

Giegler says the Transportation Committee has dealt with a number of issues in the past year.  One was the issue of border tolls.  She says they are not the answer and the Danbury area would be unfairly impacted by their implementation.  Metro North has been a big issue.  She says there is no representation from Connecticut on the Metro North board, so there is no local control of decision that are made in New York.  But she says with the new President of Metro North, there’s been a more open dialog.

 

Hall says the problem with Metro North is that it’s run out of New York and Connecticut doesn’t really have a say in what is being done.  He would like to see other contracts looked into.  There are things that can be done about congestion, he says including ridesharing, shuttle services and opening the existing railway that runs into Brewster.  He says transportation dollars need to be brought to this side of the state because I-84 is well above capacity.  He says the wear and tear on the roads caused by truck traffic can be reduced by increasing freight rail.

 

The 138th is a multi-town district stretching from Ridgefield through Danbury up to New Fairfield.  Giegler says having the district redrawn two years ago, she’s working with a priority school district in Danbury and other schools that aren’t.  When it comes to funding for the communities, Danbury as a city is entitled to certain bond money where Ridgefield and New Fairfield can use Small Town Economic Assistance Program grants.  She says there are different concerns when it comes to policing as well because New Fairfield has a Resident State Trooper office.

 

Giegler says there’s been a push for regionalization at the state capital, including the attempted closing of the Southbury State Troopers Barracks on weekends.  She fought against that.  But she touted the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials regional planning group in their efforts working together.

 

Regionalization has a lot of advantages including for many services.  He says it can help reduce costs when it comes to road salt, dispatch services and the like.  But he notes it’s not a panacea.

 

Hall says every Connecticut resident needs to be provided with the opportunity for quality affordable education from pre-k through the workforce years.  He says the forecast for the economy over the next 25 years predicts that people will have two or three careers.  He says that shows a need for continuing education.  He calls education one of the cornerstones of a prosperous Connecticut.  Hall would like to see scholarship programs increased.  He also suggests low-interest loans would be helpful to reduce the cost of a college education.

 

She is interested in tackling some broad priorities if elected to another term.  One is to reduce the state’s deficit.  Another is getting businesses in the state on track to growth again.  In a wrap up message, she asked that constituents understand the issues and how people vote on a particular bill.  She notes that there are bills that have pieces she would like to vote on, but other parts that would be detrimental to the community.  She cited budget bills, in order to implement them, there are a lot of last minute add-ons that unnecessarily inflate spending.

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New daytime shelter opening for Danbury homeless

A new “day shelter” for the city’s homeless will conduct an open house to introduce downtown Danbury business, nonprofit and community leaders to the program.


The Good Samaritan Center’s overnight seasonal shelter will be open year round once it opens next month. The shelter provides beds for 14 men amd previously was operated during the winter by the Jericho Partnership.  This new daytime shelter is housed in the seasonal overnight shelter on Maple Avenue in Danbury, across the street from the Good Samaritan Mission. 

 

Executive Director Mark Grasso says it provides a place for the homeless to connect with community providers, activities and housing, along with faith-based counseling. 

 

The open house is November 5th from 4 to 6 pm.

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New Sandy Hook School site work has begun

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) Site work has begun for construction of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School replacing the building where 20 children and six staff members were fatally shot nearly two years ago.

Consigli Construction Co. officially received the job and a Newtown building permit on Tuesday.

Architect Bob Mitchell said an official groundbreaking was not scheduled partly to protect the privacy of the Sandy Hook community. He expects the community will be invited to visit the site.

Construction will begin in March.

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Ridgefield police to investigate High School hazing

A police investigation has been launched into alleged hazing incidents last week involving Ridgefield High School students.

Principal Stacey Gross said the alleged hazing involved a small number of athletes and non-athletes last Wednesday night into Thursday morning. The incidents did not occur on school grounds. The incidents occurred during Ridgefield's Spirit Week, a series of themed days held at the high school to boost and express school pride.

Gross read a letter Thursday to students over the intercom, stating she had learned that "a number of incidents of hazing, bullying and intimidation have taken place in association with some of  the  athletic teams involving athletes and non-athletes." The letter was also sent home to parents.

 

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Candidates forum being held in Newtown

Candidates looking to represent Newtown in the state House are gathering Tuesday night for a forum.


The annual candidate forum is being hosted by The Newtown Bee.  Like many other towns in the region, several state house districts represent parts of town.  The 2nd district is currently represented by Republican Dan Carter.  He is being challenged by Danbury attorney Candace Fay. 

 

The 106th District seat is currently held by Republican Mitch Bolinsky.  His challenger is recent West Conn grad Matt Cole. 

 

The 112th district is an open race with the retirement of longtime representative DebraLee Hovey.  Republican JP Sredkinski, a Monroe Town Council member is looking to fill the vacancy.  Democrat Jen Aguilar, a Monroe Youth Commission member. 

 

The forum at Edmond Town Hall is at 7:30pm.

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4th Congressional District candidates meet for debates

The first two debates between 4th Congressional District Representative Jim Himes and Republican challenger Dan Debicella have been held.  The first was a telephone town hall sponsored by the AARP.  The next was held in Wilton Sunday. 

 

Debicella, who ran for the position in 2010, says safety and transportation are key issues.  He wants to invest in smart maintenance to make sure roads and rails are safe.  He says that will go a long way in making sure commuters stay safe.

 

Himes says he's worked hard on Metro North issues.  He and others in the Connecticut delegation pushed for new leadership at the railroad, who has met the demand to install "positive train control" devices on all trains.  Himes says those devices will sense if there is an impending derailment or crash coming up regardless of the conductor's attentiveness.

 

They also addressed Social Security.  Himes says in about 30 years Social Security will begin to pay out more than it brings in, if nothing is done.  He says some equitable and fair reforms will need to be made, but not privatization proposals made by the Republican party.

 

Debicella says he would not vote to raise the retirement age to support Social Security solvency.  He advocated for a plan to have Social Security increases attached to prices not wage, which he says will lower benefits to wealthier people who don't need it.

 

Another of the topics covered was economic recovery.  Himes says there is a long way yet to go, but there has been progress.  He cited 10 million private sector jobs added, an economy growing at about 3-percent and a declining deficit.

 

But Debicella says Connecticut is 50th out of 50 in terms of job creation and people can't save for retirement unless the economy robust.  He proposes closing loopholes for special interest groups and lowering tax rates for the middle class and small businesses, paid for with the loophole closures.

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Western Connecticut State University receives $3 million donation

Western Connecticut State university has received its largest donation to date.  $3 million from the Macricostas Family Fund has been contributed by Brookfield businessman Constantine “Deno” Macricostas.  University spokesman Paul Steinmetz says the gift will support the university's travel-abroad program and additional scholarships.  The gift will also support a lecture series intended to bring renowned speakers to the university for the benefit of students and the community.

 

The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Board of Regents for Higher Education acknowledged the gift and approved renaming Western's largest school to The Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences. 

 

West Conn President Dr James Schmotter says Macricostas represents the classic American immigrant success story and provides an inspiration to the university community.

 

Macricostas emigrated to the U.S. from Greece in search of a better life. While attending college he earned extra money as a fry cook at a local diner on weekends. He saved enough money to start his own company in 1969, Photronics, Inc., which manufactures photomasks, a component in the creation of silicon computer chips. The company remains headquartered in Brookfield with additional operations in Idaho, Texas, Taiwan, Korea and Europe.

 

Macricostas explained why he and his family decided to support WCSU with this gift.  “We live in a competitive and challenging world that requires growing our knowledge and increasing exposure from each generation. Our family takes pride in helping to support the great work of Western Connecticut State University in preparing students for active participation in our global society.”

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Danbury, Whalers reach agreement on back payments owed and future payments

The Danbury Whalers and City officials have reached an agreement for the security and public safety policies for the 2014-15 hockey season.

 

The Danbury Whalers will pay in advance of each game for fire watch and police presence. The Whalers have put a sizeable downpayment on the debt owed, and will take part in a payment plan to pay off the back monies owed to the City.  The Fire Marshals will not have to be present at every game based on attendance and other circumstances.  That will be determined on a game-by-game basis.

 

Police officers and a fire marshal are at each of the 30 home games, but for the past three seasons the team has not paid in full for those services.  As of the stand off in February, the Police Department was owed more than $73,000. More than $24,000 was owed to the Fire Marshal's office.

 

The Whalers said during the stalemate, that the decision about public safety protection is being applied selectively to the team.  There was a question on if state statute actually left the staffing numbers to police and fire chiefs.  Statutes say the amount of protection necessary should be determined by the Chief or Superintendent of a police department.

 

In March, Fire Marshal James Russell told a Council committee that fire watch is needed at all games to look for locked or broken doors, which he says have been found routinely.  The watchmen are also trained to address other public safety issues.  If attendance is less than 500, the event only requires one Fire Marshal. Police Chief Al Baker told the ad hoc committee that events like hockey games require four police officers and one supervisor, due to the size of crowds, past activity and the potential for firearms.

 

The Luxury Box area is operating under a temporary Certificate of Occupancy.

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5th Congressional District candidates square off in debate

The 5th Congressional District candidates gathered in Danbury Thursday night for a debate. 

 

When it comes to firearms, both Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty and Republican challenger Mark Greenberg said they support universal background checks for gun purchases.  They did however spar over being forthright on the issue and NRA ratings, with Esty leading off.
 
"I do wonder if you've been sought and received the support of the National Rifle Association, an 'A' rating, which is tough to get these days.  So I am surprised by that answer, but pleased to welcome you to those who understand that we can protect the 2nd Amendment and can protect children." 
 
Greenberg responded:
 
"I wish Congresswoman Esty had asked my opinion about it, because I have never said that I was against it.  As a matter of fact I was as shocked as everybody was to get the 'A' rating from the NRA since I didn't seek it.  I didn't even fill out their questionnaire .  Maybe I'll be downgraded to an 'F' after tonight, I don’t really know.”
 
The pair also said there needs to be stronger funding, more services and better screenings for mental health conditions.

 

One topic they addressed was immigration.  Esty says she is co-sponsoring a bill that's already been approved by the Senate.

 

"It has an earned path to citizenship, it deals with security at the borders, unified families, ensures people pay taxes and get in line."

 

Greenberg says two things need to happen, and then the undocumented immigration situation can be addressed.

 

"Streamline the process so folks who want to come into this country, can come in without much delay, legally.  We also have to make sure our borders are secured.  For many reasons.  We have to make sure diseases don't find their way over our borders, we're dealing with this right now."

 

The candidates were asked about accountability.  Esty brought up Greenberg's testimony in former Governor John Rowland's recent corruption trial where he was approached by Rowland for campaign consulting in 2010 disguised in a business deal, which he turned down.

 

"For someone who would describe themselves as essentially 'gutless', I think goes to the heart of the questions about whether an elected official will stand up and do the right thing, even if it's political peril for themselves.  Even if they might lose the election."

 

Greenberg said having principals means not airing a false commercial about Social Security, and quoted the Hartford Courant. 

 

"All of Greenberg's words have been presented in dramatically misleading fashion in support of an overall claim that Greenberg wants to end Social Security's guarantee.  That is unsubstantiated by the facts.  Accordingly, we rate this ad: False."

 

Greenberg also said he believes members of Congress should only run for reelection once.

 

The candidates also discussed transportation issues.  Greenberg noted that he was one of the people stranded on Metro North a few months ago when the Walk Bridge in Norwalk got stuck in the open position.
 
"Connecticut is beautifully located between Boston and New York, we have to make sure that our infrastructure is operating properly so we can stay competitive .  We have to make sure our roads are working, we have to make sure that they are safe for the public.”
 
Esty called Metro North a lifeline, but one that can’t run on 1950s infrastructure.
 
"It needs to be faster than it was in the 1940s.  We are a great enough country that we can aspire to speed and safety.  I am a cosponsor of a rail safety bill that will put additional funds in and ensure we have positive train controls, which would have prevented the fatal accident that occurred last year.”
 
One of the questions that the candidates were asked was if they are better off now with health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, or worse off.  Esty gets her insurance through her husband’s job.
 
"I don't participate in the government subsidized health care.  I get it through my spouse, and it is largely the same as it was before.”
 
Greenberg, who has 5 children with his wife, says he is paying more and getting the same coverage by going from a group plan to an individual plan.
 
"My insurance premium for a family of 7 was $2,000 a month with a very small deductible.  I was forced to go into a plan where the insurance premium is $1,650 per month, but the total of the co-pays and deductibles are $6,000 a year.”

 

 

The debate turned to foreign affairs.  Greenberg says he warned about ISIS two years ago and says they need to be stopped through whatever means possible, including airstrike and arming moderates in Syria.

 

"I think to a large extent, we're dealing with a problem that shouldn't have been the problem had we acted properly two years ago, had we not created a vacuum by evacuating out of Iraq."

 

Esty says she supports air strikes, but is wary about putting boots on the ground without a clear military objective, calling for Congress to vote on that.

 

"I don not support the arming and the training of Syrian moderates.  I voted against that request from the President, and I did so because our experience has not been good with those efforts."

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New Fire Chief, Assistant Chief sworn in for Danbury department

New leadership has been sworn in to office this week at the Danbury Fire Department.  The confirmation of the new Chief and Assistant Chief were made Tuesday with the oath of office taken Wednesday.  Mayor Mark Boughton spoke about Training Officer Mark Omasta's promotion to Assistant Chief.  He says Omasta was one of the best, if not the best, training officers the City has ever had.

 

 

Boughton told the City Council this week that Chief TJ Wiedl has done exemplary work. 

 

 

Former Fire Chief Geoff Herald spokes during the City Council meeting and said with these two promotions, the City will have professionals with a true understanding of what the fire service means to Danbury.  He said these two men will step up and serve the City in an exemplary fashion.

 

Boughton says no one wants to see a fire truck pull up to their house, but if it has to happen, Danbury has the best.  He noted that TJ Wiedl and Omasta have weighed in on budgeting issues, getting grant money and finding efficiencies within the Department.

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Malloy, Foley clash over Newtown school shooting

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley on Thursday exchanged some of the strongest words yet in their continuing debate over Connecticut's response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, with the candidates accusing one another of grandstanding on issues that arose from the massacre.

 

Foley reiterated his complaints that the legislation passed in response to the December 2012 shooting, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead, would not prevent a similar massacre. Foley argued the state should have focused on improving access to mental health services, rather than taking rights from gun owners.

 

An incredulous Malloy remarked how the shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, had access to mental health care. He blamed Lanza's introduction to an "arsenal" of weapons his mother had bought and did not lock up.

 

"Sometimes I can't believe the things you say Tom," Malloy said. "The young man who used these unbelievable weapons, that could get hundreds of bullets off in just a few moments, had all the access he ever needed to mental health. His parents were wealthy. They had great insurance plans."

 

Foley, who often speaks about his personal experiences of seeking care for a sister with psychiatric issues, said Malloy was wrong and Lanza's mother had attempted to find appropriate services for her son. He said other parents, including those with insurance, face challenges finding the appropriate care for their troubled children.

 

"I know from my personal experience, I think it's rather insulting for you to say as the governor of this state - and I know it isn't true - that families have access to the mental support that they need," Foley said. "You're grandstanding sir. You are grandstanding. You know nothing about what you're talking about."

 

Malloy fired back that he hadn't offended families with his remarks, saying it would have been "a good idea" if Lanza's mother, Nancy Lanza, had locked up her guns.

 

"Somehow you want to pretend that it was his mental health problem that was totally responsible and it had nothing to do with those weapons, those magazines that carried over 30 shots, which he changed, and changed and changed again as he killed children," said Malloy, later adding: "Don't show-boat this Tom. You have your beliefs, and I have mine."

 

Connecticut's wide-ranging law expanded the state's ban on assault weapons and now includes the type of gun Lanza used. It also banned large-capacity ammunition magazines. Malloy also pointed out how a person's mental condition can now prevent them from buying a gun in Connecticut.

 

"That's in the law Tom. That's in the law," Malloy said.

 

The hourlong debate, sponsored by the Connecticut Broadcasters Association, was aired live on several state TV and radio stations. It highlighted the animosity that has grown between the two men, who also faced one another during the 2010 race for governor.

 

Malloy rebuffed Foley's proposed truce against "negative and false attacks," claiming the Greenwich businessman has spent two years attacking his integrity. Malloy said Foley only wants to call a truce now that a new Quinnipiac University Poll shows he no longer has a lead in the race. A survey released Wednesday indicates the race is dead even.

 

"You're like that bully in the play yard who wants to call peace now," Malloy said.

 

Foley called Malloy's TV ads targeting him "insulting," taking issue with the one that questions his business record and claims he put profits before people at the companies he owned.

 

"Listen, I think negative attacks reflect the personality of the candidate and what people will and won't do," he said. "It tells you something about the values and principles and underlying personality and temperament of the candidate. I think what Governor Malloy has done here is cheapen the debate."

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Former WLAD Personality dies

Former WLAD Personality Vinnie James Melillo has passed away after a long battle with cancer. Melillo  is best remembered as the Host of the "Vinnie James Bargain Express" where listeners called in to banter with him and to sell or trade used items.  WLAD's CEO and General Manager Irv Goldstein says he was a huge personality and a real larger than life character.

 

Melillo also had a long career on the sales side of the sanitation business. 

 

Funeral details are not yet available.  Vinnie James Melillo dead at the age of 74. 

 

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Brookfield School Superintendant fired

The town of Brookfield has fired its school superintendent.

A  panel of the Board of Education voted 6-0 last night  to terminate Anthony Bivona's $228,000 a year contract.

Bivona had been on administrative leave since May. An audit last year showed district overspent its budget by $1.2 million in the prior two years.

Bivona had argued that he wasn't responsible for the shortfall and pinned the blame on former business manager, Art Colley, for improper accounting and financial management practices he did not disclose.

Colley resigned after the auditors found improper overspending and unauthorized use of town money.

The board found Bivona was ultimately responsible for the district's finances.

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Residents camp out at new Chick-fil-A in hopes of free food

Brookfield area residents camped out at the former Burger King parking lot on Federal Road last night to be the first in line for the new Chick-fil-A restaurant.  The First 100 celebration, the chain's signature grand opening event, awards the first 100 people in line with free meals for a year. 

 

The new restaurant is bringing 80 jobs to Brookfield. 

 

The operator of the franchise collected children's books at the site yesterday to donate to the Brookfield Public School District.  Chick-fil-A's "The Book House" program makes a nearly 3-foot structure out of reclaimed wood to serve as a free library exchange.  People are able to leave one of their books and take a different one from the shelves.

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Newtown teen named National Student Poet

A Newtown High School junior has started her year as a youth ambassador for poetry and the art of language.  15-year old Ashley Gong was introduced as part of the newest class of National Student Poets by First Lady Michelle Obama during a White House ceremony last month.  Each student read original poems for the first lady and guests.

 

Ashley won a gold medal for her free verse poem at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and as one of 35 semi-finalists she then submitted more poems to go on to become a finalist.  The five young poets were appointed by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

 

As youth ambassador for poetry and the art of language, the National Student Poet will lead readings and workshops at libraries, museums and schools throughout the Northeast region. The five 15- to 18-year-olds participated in readings at the Library of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education in addition to their White House reception. 

 

First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a poetry reading in honor of the 2014 National Student Poets (from left: Cameron Messinides, Madeleine LeCesne, Ashley Gong, Julia Falkner and Weston Clark) in the Blue Room of the White House, Sept. 18, 2014. (Photo by Paul Morse for the National Student Poets Program)

 

Ashley grew up surrounded by language, as her parents, first generation immigrants, would often read Chinese poems to her when she was a toddler. Despite this early exposure to poetry, it wasn’t until more recently that Ashley discovered her passion for poetry, which is currently her go-to medium for creative expression.

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5th Congressional District debate tonight in Danbury

This is the season for debates as candidates look to get some name recognition and face time with voters before election day.  The League of Women Voters is holding a 5th Congressional Debate tonight.  Incumbent freshman Democrat Elizabeth Esty is looking to be elected to a second term.  Republican challenger Mark Greenberg is looking to unseat her.  Greenberg lost primaries in 2010 and 2012 for the same position.  

 

The two have already sparred over trivia things such as campaign contribution buttons on websites and emails about serious topics and also the number of debates that they would participate in.  Their campaign commercials have focused on Social Security, veterans and the in-fighting in Congress. 

 

The debate tonight is at the Portuguese Cultural Center at 7pm.  The panelists will include reporters from WLAD, the Newstimes and the Tribuna.

 

There is also a petitioning candidate in the race, John Pistone of Brookfield.

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Edmond Town Hall no longer a Newtown polling location

Edmond Town Hall in Newtown has been deactivated as a polling location.  The Newtown bee reports that while the building is ADA compliant as a public gathering space, it does not meet the stricter ADA standards as a place for residents to cast ballots.  District 3-2 will be voting at the Reed Intermediate School's cafetorium.  That is the current polling location for the Second District.  The Registrar of Voters office will send out notices by mail to voters effected by the change.

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Ridgfield officials narrown down bids fo Schlumberger land

Two of the five bids for 10 acres of the Schlumberger site in Ridgefield have been eliminated by town officials, according to the Ridgefield Press.  Meetings were held last week by the Board of Selectmen with the developers interested in buying the site off Sunset Lane, which is zoned for multifamily housing. 

 

The remaining possibilities include Quarry Park Properties of Ridgefield which came in with the highest bid on a plan for 21 condos and 19 townhouses.  Charter Group Partners of Brookfield proposed 59 condo units while Toll Brothers of Newtown proposed 23 townhouses and 17 condo units. 

 

Each of those bids came in at about $4 million.

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WCSU to host 'Compassion Conference'

A Compassion conference is being held this weekend at Western Connecticut State University.  The annual event is being held Saturday by the WCSU Center for Compassion, Creativity & Innovation.  The title of the conference this year is Compassionate Strategies for Mental Wellness.

 

Those in attendance will choose three workshops or discussions in which to participate for each of three sessions.  A panel discussion will be led by mental health experts.  The keynote speaker will be the program director of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. 

 

West Conn professor Dr Chris Kukk says the mission of the conference is to address issues of mental wellness and illness through practical means.

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Final playground in honor of Newtown victims opens

WATERTOWN, Conn. (AP) The 26th and final playground built in memory of the Newtown school shooting victims has opened in Connecticut.

Volunteers and relatives of Dawn Hochsprung gathered in Watertown on Sunday to dedicate the playground in her honor. Hochsprung was the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, where she, 20 first-graders and five other educators were shot to death in December 2012.

There are now playgrounds for each of the 26 victims. They were built under the Sandy Ground Project, which constructed them in areas of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey affected by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Hochsprung's daughter Erica Smegielski tells WFSB-TV the playground is a fitting tribute to her mother and her grandchildren live only minutes away.

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Gold Star Mothers honored in Putnam County

The Putnam County Joint Veterans Council and others have gathered to honor Gold Star Mothers. 

 

Gold Star Mothers was loosely organized in 1925 by a Washington, D.C. woman who lost her son during World War I.  She named the organization for the Gold Star that families of deceased veterans hung in their windows.  Today, there are approximately 1,000 Gold Star Mothers across the nation. 

 

Gold Star Mothers' Day was held in Kent, New York last Sunday and featured members from West Point. 

 

County Executive MaryEllen Odell says these women reach out to others who've lost a child while in service to their country and dedicated their lives to visiting and caring for all veterans.

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Danbury Firefighter of the Year honored by Exchange Club

The Exchange Club of Danbury has honored their 2014 Danbury Firefighter of the Year.  The award was presented to Gabe Rivera last night.  Committee chairman Joe DaSilva says Rivera has worked as a firefighter and trained as an apparatus operator.

 

Fire Department spokesman Steven Rogers says when the need arose, Rivera transferred into the Dispatch Center as an Emergency Telecommunicator.

 

Rivera was raised in the Bronx, Pound Ridge and Bedford, New York.  After High School in 1995, he joined the United States Marine Corps, serving in Signal Intelligence in places such as Italy, Spain and Turkey, assisting with the enforcement of the No-Fly Zone in Northern Iraq.  Prior to his work in Danbury, Rivera joined the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department in 2000.  He served administratively as President of the Department, and operationally as a Captain.  He also served as a project manager for building a new Mahopac Fire Headquarters at a cost of $5.7 million. 

 

He still volunteers with the Mahopac Department.

 

Rivera was instrumental in assisting the department in the implementation of three new software platforms, as well as preparing the department in its transition to a consolidation dispatch center at the police department.

 

The awards banquet was held at Anthony's Lake Club.

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Cadigan Town Park improvements complete, beach side up next

Improvements to Cadigan Park in Brookfield have been completed and the park is open.  There were two new artificial playing fields designed for football, soccer and lacrosse.  The park also now features a tennis court, basketball court and a new irrigated natural turf softball field. 

 

Walking and jogging paths have also been completed. 

 

The Candlewood Lake side of the area will now be fixed up with the town beach being rebuilt with a retaining wall, new landscaping and erosion controls.  There will also be a new multipurpose services building. 

 

Brookfield officials say all of that work should be completed by Memorial Day weekend.

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Final 'Sandy Ground' playground being built

The final of the Sandy Ground playgrounds is now being built. 

 

26 playgrounds in all are taking shape around the region, showcasing the likes and interests of each of the 20 children and 6 educators killed at Sandy Hook School.  The Sandy Ground Project, an effort spearheaded by the Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association of New Jersey, have playgrounds in communities in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, linking the two tragedies that have a name in common. 

 

The final playground is being dedicated to Principal Dawn Hochsprung.  It's at Veterans Park in Watertown Connecticut.  The ribbon will be cut this weekend. 

 

Each playground takes about a week to build. They are all handicapped-accessible and have similar swings, slides, balance beams and monkey bars.

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