September 19, 2014

33rd Senate Candidates Clash Over Task Force Appointment in First Campaign Debate

Colin Bennett (Green Party), Republican Senator Art Linares and Democratic challenger Emily Bjornberg in first campaign debate

Green party candidate Colin Bennett, Republican Senator Art Linares and Democratic challenger Emily Bjornberg in first campaign debate

OLD LYME— A legislative appointment to a state task force on children’s jewelry was the focus of the sharpest exchange Tuesday as three candidates for the 12-town 33rd State Senate District seat faced off in the first campaign debate.
Republican State senator Art Linares of Westbrook, Democratic challenger Emily Bjornberg of Lyme, and Green Party nominee Colin Bennett of Westbrook appeared before a crowd of nearly 100 voters at the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School for an hour-long session that was co-sponsored by the New London Day and the League of Women voters. Day editor Paul Chionere posed written questions, most submitted from audience members, to the candidates.

Linares, a 25 year-old incumbent seeking a second term, and Bjornberg, a mother of two who works in the Youth and Family Ministry of Deep River Congregational Church, agreed on some issues, such as support for small businesses, and differed on others, such as the  stricter state gun law enacted last year. Linares had voted against the gun bill, contending it was never fully presented at a public hearing and imposed “unnecessary” restrictions on “law abiding citizens.” Bjornberg, noting she is from a “family of hunters”, said she would have supported the legislation, and contended Linares was not engaged during the crafting and debate on the bill.

Linares called for tighter control over state spending, along with possible reductions in the state gas and sales taxes. Bjornberg promised “fiscal responsibility,” while adding that she would “not balance the budget on the backs of children and senior citizens.”

But it was a question on the environment that prompted the sharpest exchange of the session, with Bjornberg contending a Linares appointment to a 16-member state task force reviewing the safety of children’s jewelry, particularly the presence of cadmium in the jewelry, showed a lack of concern for the environment and children’s safety.

As the ranking Republican member of the Children’s Committee, Linares was appointed to the task force, or allowed to designate a member in his place. Linares named Brent Cleaveland, the executive director of the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association of  Rhode Island.

Bjornberg said Cleaveland is a paid lobbyist for the children’s jewelry business, and has publicly opposed limits on the mineral cadmium in jewelry.  She noted that cadmium has been listed as a potential human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration, and also claimed that Cleaveland has publicly downplayed the hazards of lead. Bjornberg raised this issue during the exchange on the environment, and again in the final minutes of the debate.
Linares said Cleaveland is “an advocate for making children’s jewelry safe.”  Linares also contended a bill that Bjornberg had expressed support for, to ban all pesticides from high school athletic fields, would have imposed a costly new mandate on schools districts in the 33rd District.

Bennett, a substitute teacher who has run for the seat previously on the Green Party line, avoided direct criticism of the two major party candidates. Bennett said he was uncertain whether he would have supported the 2013 gun law, but expressed opposition to plans to expand natural gas service in Connecticut because much of the gas is produced through hydraulic fracking. Bennett also called for expanded investments in clean energy technology and legalization of the recreational use of marijuana as economic development measures for the state.

Bennett will also participate in a second debate scheduled for Tuesday Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at Valley Regional High School in Deep River. Another debate sponsored by the Westbrook Council of Beaches is scheduled for Oct. 6 at the Mulvey Municipal Building in Westbrook. The 33rd District includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook and sections of Old Saybrook.

Connecticut River Museum to Hold Sept. 20 Fundraiser in Essex; “Hottest thing North of South America”

Christopher Dobbs, Connecticut River Museum Director

Christopher Dobbs, Connecticut River Museum Director

According Christopher Dobbs, the Director of the Connecticut River Museum, the museum’s September 20 “Fall Ball” will be the hottest place in the entire Western Hemisphere.

This year’s annual gala starts at 6 p.m. on September 20 at the museum, and it has a colorful Brazilian theme.  According to   Dobbs, “the event provides critical financial support that allows us to maintain the museum’s historic assets and our educational programs.”  The museum served over 20,000 visitors last year through museum visits, programs, and school and youth services.

Tent in which the "Fall Ball" will be held (left) and Connecticut River Museum (left)

Tent in which the “Fall Ball” will be held (left) and Connecticut River Museum

Dobbs said that the museum fills an important role, “celebrating and exploring the history, culture and nature of New England’s most influential and majestic waterway.” According to Dobbs, revenue from this night specifically goes towards supporting “underserved school children, exhibits, and maintaining our three historic buildings, waterfront, and operation.”

The "Mary E," the schooner along side the Connecticut River Museum

The “Mary E,” the schooner along side the Connecticut River Museum

This year, the museum event looks at the sizzling food and dance of Brazil.  The title for this year’s program is “Fall Ball – Rio on the River”, and it will be hosted by WFSB’s Scot Haney.  According to the museum, “The evening of fabulous Brazilian fare begins with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres,” followed by a seated gourmet dinner by Catering by Selene. There will also be “dancing to the music of Brad & Brain and a fabulous auction of luxury travel experiences, original works of art and collectibles.”

There will also be a silent auction at the gala.  Auctioned items include: Four Trophy Club Passes 2015 U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay Tocama, WA; a Fishers Island Club Golf Outing; a Colonial Dinner at Bushnell Farm; a SVX5000 Generator; a Five Night Getaway on Nantucket Island; and many other items.

The sponsors for Fall Ball 2014 are: Essex Wellness Center,  Connecticut Rental Center,  Reynolds’ Garage & Marine, Whelen Engineering Company, Inc., Marcum LLP,  Sullivan Lawn Services,  Tower Laboratories,  A.J. Shea Construction , Bogaert Construction Co.,  Brewer Yacht Yards,  C. Sherman Johnson Co., Caulfield & Ridgway, Inc., Clark Group, The Cooper Companies, Essex Savings Bank/Essex Financial Services, Guest Services, Inc., J. N. Mehler, CFP, LLC, Rings End, Siris/Coombs Architects.

Preliminary Event on Sept. 18

Special patron and sponsor level ticket holders start at $300 and are invited to attend the Patron Party on September 18 at the “historic” Bushnell Farm, which is located at 1445 Boston Post Road in Old Saybrook.  “Step back in time at the beautiful colonial site while enjoying an evening of cocktails and appetizers.  Limited to 100 people,” the museum’s press release noted.

Tickets to Fall Ball are $150 and can be purchased online at ctrivermuseum.org, or by calling the Connecticut River Museum at 860-767-8269.

Regional School District 4 Prevails in Lawsuit Filed by Former High School Principal

REGION 4— A summary judgment from Middlesex Superior Court Judge Julia Aurigemma has ended a lawsuit filed against the school district by former Valley Regional High School Principal Eric Rice, though an appeal of the decision to the Connecticut Appellate Court remains a possibility.

In a decision issued on August 15, Judge Aurigemma rejected claims by Rice that the school district violated terms of his October 2010 release and resignation agreement when it released emails and other information on his brief tenure as the high school principal in response to a freedom of information request from the Hartford Courant. The newspaper published an article on Rice’s departure from the principal position in June 2011 that included information from the emails. Rice, represented by the Hamden law firm Gesmonde, Petrosimone & Srigrinari, filed a lawsuit in December 2011 contending the release of the information violated the terms of the agreement and defamed him. The legal action was also filed against Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy and former assistant superintendent Ian Neviaser as individuals.

After months of proceedings and motions before four different judges, and depositions from Levy and Neviaser, Aurigemma agreed last spring to hear arguments and issue a summary judgement on the case, which was initially listed for a trial at the Middletown courthouse in November.

In the decision, Aurigemma determined the release and resignation agreement between Rice and the school district that was signed before his departure from the high school principal job in October 2010 was “comprehensive,” and under its terms Rice waived any further legal claims against the school district. Under the agreement, Rice, who assumed the principal job in August 2010 and was later a subject of complaints from teachers and other staff, received $62,000 in severance pay and health insurance coverage until he found other employment.

The agreement also included a letter of recommendation which was negotiated by attorneys for Rice and the school district. Rice, a Chester resident, later assumed a teaching position with the West Haven school system.
The judge’s decision also rejected claims that the school district had defamed Rice by releasing the emails and other documents in response to the freedom of information request. Aurigemma determined that all of the documents were from the time period covered by the release and resignation agreement, and that school officials had been “deliberative” in deciding which documents to release to the newspaper. The judge determined that Rice had not been defamed by the school district, or by Levy and Neviaser.

Attorneys for Rice earlier this month filed a motion to appeal Aurigemma’s decision to the Connecticut Appellate Court. A status hearing ion the case is scheduled for Oct. 9 at Middlesex Superior Court.

Deep River Native and Author Henry Stocek Jr. to Present Talk on 1899 Local Bank Robbery

DEEP RIVER— Town native and author Henry Stocek Jr. will hold two events this weekend on his recently published book, :”The Days Of XYZ: Queen Of The Valley”, that tells the story of an 1899 bank robbery in Deep River and the mystery of an unidentified robbery suspect who was killed in the incident and named XYZ by local residents.

Stocek is a former resident and retired teacher who has been living in northern Vermont for the past decade. The book is published by Dog Ear Publishing. The book depicts life in Deep River in 1899, and tells the story of the robbery of Deep River Savings Bank that year where one suspect was shot and killed by a bank guard and later buried at the historic Fountain Hill Cemetery under the name Mr. XYZ.

Stocek will give a talk on the book and the XYZ story on Friday  at 7 p.m. at the Deep River Historical Society’s Carriage House, 245 Main St. On Saturday, Stocek will be doing a book signing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the lawn of Citizens Bank on Main St. Saturday is the town’s Family Day celebration that ends with evening fireworks at Plattwood Park off Route 80.

Essex Savings Bank Donates to Non-Profits

ESSEX – Gregory R. Shook, President & CEO of Essex Savings Bank announced the completion of distribution from the Directors’ portion of the Community Investment Fund amounting to $44,000.  Amounts range from $10,000 to $500.  Total distributions for the year will amount to $223,373 and $3.9 million since the 1996 inception of distributing 10% of after tax net income.  Donations for this portion have been allocated to the following non-profit organizations.

Camp Hazen YMCA * The Chester Historical Society, Inc. * Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, Inc. * Community Foundation of Middlesex County * Connecticut River Museum at Steamboat Dock * The Deep River Historical Society * Essex Historical Society * Essex Land Trust * Essex Winter Series * Florence Griswold Museum * The Ivoryton Library Association * Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center & Theatre * Lawrence & Memorial Hospital * Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts * Lyme Art Association * Lyme Land Conservation Trust, Inc. * Lyme Public Library, Inc. * Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau * MacCurdy Salisbury Educational Foundation, Inc. * Madison Community Services, Inc. * Madison Land Conservation Trust * Middlesex Hospital * Musical Masterworks * The Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library Association, Inc. * Rotary Club of Essex Foundation * Tri-Town Youth Service Bureau, Inc. * Valley Shore YMCA * Vista (Vocational Independent Supported Transitional Alternative).

Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851.  The Bank serves the Connecticut River Valley and shoreline with six offices in Essex (2), Chester, Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook.  Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Department and wholly-owned subsidiary, Essex Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC.  Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities are not FDIC insured, may lose value and are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.

Eastern Connecticut Ballet Partners with The Kate

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Let the dancing begin! In September young dance students from our shoreline communities will soon be putting on ballet slippers for classes at The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. Eastern Connecticut Ballet is proud to offer its Young Children’s Program for ages 3-7 in this landmark theater.

Known for encouraging creativity and fun, the program was voted The Shoreline’s Best Children’s Ballet School by Connecticut magazine. With expert instruction, girls and boys learn basic ballet skills, coordination, and a love of music. The classes provide an excellent foundation for the future study of classical ballet.

Founded in East Lyme in 1992, Eastern Connecticut Ballet is one of the state’s premiere schools for dance with an enrollment of more than 300 students from age two to college-age. From their first steps in the studio to performing onstage, ECB dancers discover the joys of this vibrant art form.

Space is available in classes on the East Lyme main campus as well.

Visit easternctballet.com for information and registration forms or call ECB at 860-739-7899.