November 29, 2020

Archives for September 2020

Partnership for Social Justice to Hold March, Teach-In on Desgregating CT, This Evening in Old Lyme

Signs were held high at a previous rally as the marchers crossed Main Street in Old Saybrook.

AREAWIDE — The Lyme-Old Lyme (LOL) Partnership for Social Justice and the Old Saybrook March for Justice are co-hosting a march and “teach-in” focused on desegregating Connecticut on Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 5:30 p.m. in front of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.

Participants will meet at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme at 2 Ferry Rd., then march to Old Lyme’s Memorial  Town Hall, where the “teach-in” will take place. All are welcome.

All are requested to wear masks at the event.

Speakers anticipated to address the crowd include:

  • Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens from CT Fair Housing
  • Luke Reynolds from Desegregate CT
  • Tony Lyons from the HOPE Partnership
  • Sadie Frankel, a local high school student
  • Dave Rubino, candidate for District 23 State Representative
  • Rev. Steve Jungkeit from the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme

The LOL Partnership’s mission is to educate residents on important topics of social justice and call attention to opportunities where citizens can support local, state and national social-justice efforts. 

For more information, visit the Partnership’s Facebook page at this link or send an email to LOLPartnership4SJ@gmail.com

The Old Saybrook March for Justice is an inclusive and welcoming coalition of friends and neighbors, who care deeply about basic human rights.

Their mission statement states, ” We are outraged by centuries of structural racism in this country. We stand with Black Lives Matter. We listen, learn and act. We understand that silence is not an option. We aim to be allies and antiracist. We are respectful, nonpartisan and inclusive. We welcome all who share our values. We educate ourselves and join in weekly marches.”

The schedule for subsequent marches is as follows:

Wednesday, Sept. 30:  Deep River – in front of Town Hall with speaker Professor O’Leary.

Wednesday, Oct. 7: Old Saybrook – in front of the Kate with speaker Professor Blight, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Frederick Douglass.
All marches are on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
For further information and to raise any questions, email osbmarch@gmail.com with any questions.
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Needleman Endorsed by Independent Party in Re-Election Bid to State Senate

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

AREAWIDE — State Senator Norm Needleman has accepted the endorsement of the Independent Party as he continues his quest for re-election to the Connecticut State Senate.

Sen. Needleman, who announced his candidacy last winter, was unanimously renominated by the Democratic Party to run in the 33rd Senate District. First elected in 2018, Sen. Needleman represents the towns of Colchester, Chester, Clinton, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

“I’m proud and excited by the Independent Party’s endorsement of my campaign,” said Sen. Needleman. “The Independent Party represents an electoral system that encourages different points of view. As someone who is results-oriented and who believes in common-sense solutions, I believe that listening to different points of view works in the best interests of my constituents That’s the mindset I will take back to Hartford if I’m re-elected in November.”

Sen. Needleman serves as Chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, and has recently taken the lead in developing the “Take Back Our Grid Act” which will hold utilities more accountable to ratepayers in Connecticut.

In addition, Sen. Needleman is Vice Chair of the Planning and Development Committee and a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding, Transportation and Commerce Committees.

Sen. Needleman founded and runs a manufacturing company, Tower Laboratories in Centerbrook, and is currently serving his sixth term as First Selectman of Essex.

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Join Essex Land Trust for an Outdoor Hike This Morning at Johnson Farm

ESSEX — The Essex Land Trust is starting up its outdoor hikes, with the first to Johnson Farm, Sept. 19, at 10 a.m. Hikers will discover the new pollinators’ meadow at Johnson Farm, a 49-acre property of fields and forest in Ivoryton.

There is new field of goldenrod, which with any luck, will be resplendent yellow, providing a natural resource for many bees, butterflies, moths and dragonflies, members said in a statement.

The trail system includes a woodland trail through the deciduous forest located on the east side of the property. An intermittent stream runs through the northern boundary of the property which also includes a vernal pool. The farm is a wonderful reminder of Connecticut’s farming heritage.

The property’s elevation ranges from 90 ft to 250 ft., which provides spectacular views northeast to the Connecticut River Valley, members said.

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Chester Reopens ‘First Friday’ Tonight, First Time for Event Since March

Chester’s Main Street will be bustling during ‘First Friday’ tonight, Friday, Sept. 4.

CHESTER, CT — The downtown Merchants of Chester are thrilled to host their first First Friday since March this evening, Friday, Sept 4, from 5 to 8 p.m.

The organizers of this family friendly event are aiming to keep everyone extra-safe so … masks must be worn at all times while in town for ‘First Friday’ and all attendees are requested to stay socially distant, especially if they are enjoying one of the four music performances taking place throughout town.

Also, attendees are requested to respect the stated capacity of each space as noted at the entrance. Shops will all be open late and many will offer special sales or featured artists.

  • Chester Gallery is hosting and exhibition titled ‘Chester Artists: Past, Present and Up & Coming,’ along with sculptures by Connecticut-based artists throughout the grounds.
  • Dina Varano is having an ‘Arm Party’, showcasing her newest bracelets.
  • Little House Brewery is celebrating its second birthday with a special birthday brew.
  • Lori Warner Gallery + Swoon Boutique are having a sale of the current Ann Lightfoot jewelry collection and all Clare V bags through Tuesday.
  • Leif Nilsson of Spring Street Studio invites the public to listen to Arrowhead and Friends six feet apart on the porch while enjoying some of his oldest and the newest paintings of his home and travels.
  • There will be four acoustic musicians stationed around town, filling the streets with their
    acoustic sounds. As already mentioned,
    >Guitarist Leif Nilsson will play from the front of his Spring Street Gallery above the Chester Wall
    >Local guitarist, Mark Fornwald will play from the porch of Chester Gallery
    >Cellist Julie Ribchinsky from Ivoryton will be on the porch of the Hive
    >CT natives guitarist Pat Brennan and bassist Wallace Stelzer will perform a mix of the Great American Song Book, Jazz Classics, and Bossa Nova from the stoop of 1 Main Street

Downtown restaurants are booking up fast, so prompt reservations are recommended.

All visitors to Chester are required to wear masks over their nose and mouth and stay socially distant from one another.

Visitors that feel unwell are asked to stay home.

In addition to on-street parking in Chester, there is free parking available in the town’s public lots on Main Street by the cemetery, at 20 Water Street and on Maple Street.

More information about First Friday is available on http://Facebook.com/VisitChesterCT or by emailing chestermerchants@gmail.com.

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Op-Ed: A Gardener, “The Gardener’s Tale,” and Structural Racism in Our Towns

Editor’s Note: The author of this op-ed, Joseph CL Merola,  MD, MPH, is an active member of the Old Saybrook March for Justice.  He lives in Old Saybrook and is a semiretired Obstetrician and Gynecologist, having most recently practiced, taught and served as Chairman of the Department at the St. Luke’s University Health Network in Eastern PA and Western NJ. Dr. Merola also has been a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and Clinical Professor at the Temple University School of Medicine. He has an abiding interest in the public’s health, particularly for women and children, and for distributive justice in health care.           

At this time of year, I’m in my glory as an avid gardener in Coastal Connecticut.

So grateful to my Italian father and grandfather for sharing and showing, by example, a gardener’s passion  (and frankly requiring  me to participate by helping to sow, nurture, weed and pick!) Arising from that hands-on education comes a now more natural understanding of the elements of the growing environment for seeds and plants … temperature, soil quality, water, sun and organic principles. 

So here we are again, in early September, with an abundant harvest of herbs, greens, root vegetables, peppers and array of tomato varieties, sizes and colors. And we can still look ahead to corn, squashes and pumpkins for the fall.  How wonderful! But, giving credit where credit is due, these “fruits of one’s labor”, and their quality, begin and depend on the all-important environment.

So, let’s consider for a moment “The Gardener’s Tale,” an allegory, first appearing within an article in the American Journal of Public Health in 2000, authored by Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, PhD, MPH, the former President of the American Public Health Association and a Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. (An Abstract, and access to the full text is available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446334/ for further reference.) 

She develops a context for understanding racism on three levels. First is Personally Mediated Racism, i.e. intentional or unintentional prejudice and discrimination, including acts of omission and/or commission, structural boundaries, and societal condonation.

The second is Internalized Racism, wherein the members of the race in question accept notions of their own lesser intrinsic worth and ability.

The last is the so evident Institutionalized Racism, shown by sub-optimal material conditions (access to quality housing, education, employment, a clean environment and particularly health care). Also included in this category is similarly differential access to power, resources, information, and a “voice.”

As a demonstration, Jones presents the referenced allegory of a Gardener with two flower boxes, one with fresh, rich soil (and beautiful red flowers) and the other, unknowingly at first, with old, poor quality soil (and similarly poor quality pink flowers.) 

Personally Mediated Racism is reflected in the Gardener’s discard of the scraggly pink blossoms before going to seed, or removing pink scattered seeds that might be blowing into the more fertile soil. 

Internalized Racism here relates to the pink flowers telling the bees not to pollinate them with pink pollen, as they prefer red pollen, and thus red flowers.

The allegorical equivalent of Institutionalize Racism is most poignant … with the two flower boxes historically keeping the soils, seeds and flowers separate by color, the oversight of the gardener in not addressing the soil differences in the first place, and the belief that red flowers were intrinsically better!

This summer a light has dramatically been shone on our own “gardens”, in our own shoreline towns. The marches for social justice, arising from the Black Lives Matter movement, have grown in size and number. Privileged people, not directly impacted by racism, have materialized and raised their voices against racism. This has been a powerful maker! 

Towns across Connecticut, including New London, have adopted resolutions claiming that “racism is a public health crisis,” and used the opportunity for town hall conversations to bring about change. Why is all quiet in the Old Saybrook, Essex and Old Lyme Town Halls, despite their own residents’ protests and affirmation?    

Clearly, “the Gardener” here is our local government. They have the power to consider, act, and openly declare racism as a reality, a grave concern, and a public health crisis. They have the power to allocate more resources to mitigate this dilemma. Among other outcomes, these could take the shape of education, public culture, affordable housing and accessible healthcare. 

But, why are they so quiet? 

We need open recognition, and declaration: our various garden environments for growth must be optimized, and not different. Our racial soil quality, particularly new and fertile soil, is needed to permit pink flowers to flourish, as well as red. Then, flowers of all colors can be recognized equally, and have the same opportunity for contributing to a brighter and more meaningful life.  

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Valley Regional High School Graduates 11 Eagle Scouts

The Valley Regional High School Class of 2020 graduating Eagle Scouts gather for a photo. Front row (from left to right) Edward Lenz, Sean Davis, Jared Hart, Anthony Joia. Middle row (from left to right) Michael Raymond, Gavin Hauswirth, Ryan Shasha. Back row (left to right) Joseph Thomas, Sam Rutty, Carl Neubert III, and Gehrig Beighau. Photo by Michael Rutty.

TRI-TOWN — Belated congratulations to the 11 members of the Valley Regional High School Class of 2020 for earning the Eagle Scout rank!

Having 11 Eagle Scouts in this year’s graduating class is over double the national average for youth earning the highest rank in Scouting. Earning the Eagle Scout rank is an outstanding and prestigious achievement that takes many years of work to complete.

The Eagle Scouts are members of Troop 12-Essex, Troop 13-Chester/Deep River, and Troop 38-Westbrook.

Valley Regional High School Class of 2020 Eagle Scouts, their service project and the year they earned the Eagle Rank:
Gehrig Beighau – Troop 12 – WWII Lego Diorama at American Heritage Museum – 2019,
Sean Davis – Troop 13 – Bushy Hill Nature Center Amphitheater Improvements – 2020,
Jared Hart – Troop 13 – United Church of Chester Sign Roof & Lighting Improvements – 2020,
Gavin Hauswirth – Troop 13 – McKinney Nature Center Observation Platform – 2020,
Anthony Joia – Troop 13 – Plattwood Park Walking Trail – 2019,
Edward Lenz – Troop 13 – John Winthrop Middle School Farm Classroom Arbor with Benches – 2019,
Carl Neubert III – Troop 13 – Hamburg Fairgrounds Directional Signs – 2020,
Michael Raymond – Troop 13 – CT State Police K-9 Obstacle & Training Course – 2020,
Samuel Rutty – Troop 13 – Haddam Neck Fairgrounds Memorial Benches – 2017,
Ryan Shasha – Troop 12 – Essex Veterans Memorial Hall Step Replacement – 2020,
Joseph Thomas – Troop 38 – Westbrook Town Green Conduits – 2019.

To become an Eagle Scout, a Scout must earn twenty one merit badges and advance through the seven Scout ranks by learning Scout and Life skills while simultaneously providing leadership to their Troop and service to their community. One of the final requirements for the Eagle Rank is to show leadership in and complete a service project that benefits the Scout’s community, school, or religious institution; all work must be completed prior to the Scout’s eighteenth birthday.

Boy Scouts of America serves the youth ages 11-18. The purpose of the Boy Scouts of America is to help youth to develop their character and life skills all while having fun. There is much emphasis placed on assisting the Scouts to develop into strong healthy citizens who will lead our communities and country in the years ahead.

The Boy Scout of America methods help to promote these ideals through the challenge of putting them into practice with the Troop Program. This is done in a way that is both challenging and fun.

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Letter From Paris: Back to Normal in France? Not Quite …

Nicole Prévost Logan

A Cannes Film Festival turned virtual,  the Roland Garros tennis tournament and Tour de France bicycle race both postponed until September?  France will definitely not be the same this  summer!

Tourism and culture are two of the main sectors of French economy and the pandemic has inflicted a direct blow on both of them.  Hundreds of festivals, sport events, art shows, plays, and concerts or activities linked to historical monuments had to be drastically reduced, presented behind closed doors, or totally cancelled, putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work .

But you would not think there is a virus going around when you see the way the French behave.

In Paris, restaurants and bistros spread their terraces across the sidewalks and into the streets.  They mark their space with bushes and flower beds.  Beach umbrellas add color to the scene.  Taking advantage of the warm weather, Parisians hang out outside.

Away from the cities, the French have been seeking  the calm of the countryside, enjoying family gatherings and organizing barbecues with  friends .

Young people could barely wait for the end of the lockdown to have fun in Paris … to huddle on the banks of the Seine or the Canal St Martin, to congregate in open spaces and dance into the night, or to flock to discotheques.  Meanwhile, St Tropez, down on the Riviera coast in the far south of the country, became a particularly hot spot.

People were reluctant to take the subways and, as a result, car traffic has surged.  Bicycles have taken over Paris.  It is likely that this trend will persist, virus or not.

Barely out of the lockdown, one thing was on everybody’s mind … the next vacation.  Every day the media tempted the viewers with sights of clear waters, beaches, and cool mountain trails.  This year the French seem to have rediscovered their own country and become the only tourists there.

It was to be expected that such behavior would have an impact on the evolution of the pandemic.  Clusters have multiplied throughout the country, which led to the specialists warning that the virus was still active.

But the present situation is quite different from what it was at the height of the crisis back in March and April.  The number of  deaths, or severe cases, being treated in the hospitals remains very low.  A general lockdown appears to be out of the question today.

Hospitals are better prepared and treatments made easier for the patients.  Masks and testing are more available.  Central government and local authorities adjust their policies to manage the pandemic in a more flexible way.  For instance, as of this week , Paris and several other large cities require masks to be worn outside in crowded areas.

From this overview of the pandemic in France, let us now change scenery and take a look at some highlights of life in France and Europe over these past months …

Every six years in France, the people are riveted by municipal elections. There are 36,000 communes in France headed by a maire assisted by a conseil municipal. The wide spectrum goes from the highly political Paris town hall, employing 40,000 people — Jacques Chirac headed that institution before becoming president of France — to the tiniest mairie.

The small village on the Dordogne, where one of my daughters lives, had been dormant for the past four decades with an unopposed maire at the wheel. This year however, things were different. The ballot took place in a heated atmosphere.  Participation was high. The scene was like a microcosm of French politics … and the maire was defeated.

In early July, Edouard Philippe stepped down as prime minister. A growing feeling of insecurity and violence has damaged the authority of the French executive. President Macron decided that a major reshuffle was required to bring new faces and methods and thus energize the government prior to the next presidential election.

Even a new voice was welcome. Jean Castex comes from the Pyrenées region and has a southern accent, which the French usually associate with vacations on the Mediterranean. Castex nevertheless is a product of the élite schools, a graduate of Ecole Nationale  d’Administration (ENA). As a high-ranking official, he has held key positions at the very center of power at the Elysée Palace.  He is an old pro — although he does not sound like one.

Over in Poland, Ardrzej Duda, leader of the conservative party Droit et Justice (PIS), was reelected as president on July 12.  The very small margin of his victory – 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent – suggests that it is only a question of time until a liberal, pro-European movement, possibly headed by Rafal Trzaskowski, defeats the authoritarian executive.

In Italy, meanwhile, after 14 months of the disastrous government of populist Matteo Salvini, Giuseppe Conte brought  appeasement as a centrist prime minister, who works well with Brussels.

At 5.30 a.m. on July 22, the 27 members of the European Union (EU) met  in response to a Franco-German initiative.  It was the longest summit in EU history.  Arduous  negotiations produced a  stimulus of 390 billion Euros in subsidies and 360 billion in loans.

The recovery plan of the EU — labeled “Next Generation EU”– is ambitious.  At its core is  a  “Green Pact.”

The plan, which will be implemented gradually along with each year’s budget, includes support of the health system, innovation assistance to viable companies, aid to farmers and fishermen, and 100 billion to help pay for widespread partial unemployment.

Banking rules will be made more flexible to facilitate the borrowing by entrepreneurs.  Right now the European Central Bank (CBE) enjoys a high credit rating, which helps the borrowing process. Margrethe Verstager , Executive Vice President of the EU Commission, will promote a Digital Single Market.

Alstom — a French multinational company operating in rail  transport markets — bought the Canadian company Bombardier.  The merger will create a rival to the giant China Railway Construction  Corporation (CRCC). China is continuing to make inroads in Europe and just invested in Portugal’s trams.

Overall the numbers of the European economic recovery are impressive:  together Brussels plus the 27 EU national governments will inject 40,000 billion Euros into the economy — far more than the US or even China

The “frugals”– the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Finland — fought tooth and nail against transfers of funds from the richer North to the South.  Dutch prime minister Mark Rutt stressed that the 750 billion Euros were not a blank check to weaker economies like Italy’s  — whose vertiginous debt is 240 percent of its GDP — but an investment plan to be controlled by Brussels.

Concessions had to be made.  The “frugals” received a rebate in their annual contribution to the European budget.  But the real beneficiaries are Poland and Hungary, who keep receiving money in spite of their frequent violation of the rule of law.

Recent developments show how fragile — but also resilient — the EU is.  Even the “Eurosceptics” do not want to let go of  their profitable membership in the “club .” But the real strength of the EU is that it constitutes a huge market, the largest trading block of the world.  The richer EU economies need the tariff-free Single Market.  Germany relies particularly on Lombardy  for its exports.  Maybe the EU should learn from  Alexander Hamilton who advocated the “mutualization” of the sovereign debts of the States to make the federation stronger?

And finally … on Aug. 21, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel met at the medieval Fort de Brégançon, the summer residence of French presidents.  On this late summer day, they seemed to enjoy this picturesque spot on the Mediterranean  to meet for five working hours.  They reiterated the unity of their policy at this complicated time.

At unprecedented speed, France and Germany led the EU in its mediation to support the protests following the Belarus elections.  They also acted swiftly also in flying Alexei Novalny, who is in a coma, to a hospital in Germany for treatment of a possible poisoning by the Russian government.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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