March 23, 2019

Gov. Lamont Amends Education Proposal on Shared Services; Encourages School Collaboration, Reallocation of Resources to Classroom

Governor Ned Lamont (D)

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR NED LAMONT– Governor Ned Lamont today announced that he is submitting revised language to the General Assembly on his proposal encouraging shared services in Connecticut schools. The new proposal, which was developed in collaboration with stakeholders, addresses concerns raised by members of the community while continuing to encourage collaboration and shared services among schools. The governor said that he agrees with many constituents who do not want their school districts to be forced to consolidate operations and is hopeful that the modifications to his proposal address those concerns.

Unlike other proposals, Governor Lamont’s legislation does not force school consolidation. Rather, his bill uses school construction bonds and other funds to incentivize communities to explore cost savings, but does not force regionalization.

“The truth is that our students and teachers are not getting the adequate resources they need in the classroom,” Governor Lamont said. “Sharing certain back-office administrative services and purchasing costs is more efficient for certain schools, and my bill is intended to highlight and incentivize those efficiencies. I’ve also heard the concern that school districts need independence to make the decisions they feel are best. My revised proposal seeks to strike that balance through a collaborative process that preserves the feisty independence of our towns while providing them the tools they need to accomplish our shared vision of focusing resources on the classroom.”

As an example, North Carolina uses one contract for school software throughout the entire state, however in Connecticut there are 170 different contracts and the state is paying a premium. The governor’s proposal creates a bipartisan commission on shared school services, made up of education stakeholders from across the state including parents, teachers, superintendents, and school board members. That commission has no power to force the adoption of its recommendations, but will look around and outside the state to issue advisory reports on how districts can best share services and prioritize money for students and teachers. The towns and the people’s elected representatives will be able to draw on the recommendations that make sense in their local contexts.

The revised language in governor’s proposal:

  • Ensures regional diversity by requiring each of the governor’s six appointees come from a different RESC service area
  • Underscores the non-binding nature of the commission’s recommendations
  • Eliminates requirements that the commission consider redistricting and regionalization in its reports

The legislation, SB 874 – An Act Concerning Education Initiatives and Services in Connecticut, is currently pending in the education committee. The same language is included in HB 7192 – An Act Concerning Municipal and Regional Opportunities and Efficiencies, which is pending in the planning and development committee.

**DownloadProposed revised language to SB 874

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Needleman Proposes New School Regionalization Plan, Public Hearing Today on Another Proposal on Same Subject

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

AREAWIDE — Yesterday State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd) proposed a new plan for school regionalization. His proposal would create legislation tailored to help school districts and municipalities cooperate to share services and resources on their own terms, in contrast to recent legislation that would mandate school changes.

Needleman appeared with East Haddam Selectman Robert Smith, Chester First Selectman Laurent Gister, Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Essex Board of Education member Lon Seidman, Portland First Selectman Susan Bransfield and CABE Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy.

Watch this news clip from NBC to see a summary of what Needleman proposed.

The 33rd Senatorial District includes the Town of Lyme.

Today a public hearing will be held at 11 a.m. in Hartford on HB 7192, AN ACT CONCERNING MUNICIPAL AND REGIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND EFFICIENCIES, a Governor’s Bill dealing generally with regionalization and shared services for local governments

Sections 7-10 of the bill are the same as Sections 1-4 of SB 874, the Governor’s Bill on school regionalization and shared services. If you have already submitted testimony to the Education Committee on school regionalization bills, this is an opportunity to comment before a different committee specifically on SB 874.

– Make sure to read the four sections of HB 7192 (again) and comment on them specifically (of course, you may also comment on any other sections you choose).

– Include only HB 7192 (same as first sections of SB 874) in your testimony, as this is the only language from the three school regionalization bills that is before Planning & Development.

Written testimony should be submitted by 9 a.m. to PDtestimony@cga.ct.gov

Sign-up to speak between 9 and 10 a.m. (lottery) in Room 1D.

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Musical Masterworks Modern Presents ‘Quince Ensemble’ at Lyme Art Association Tonight

Quince Ensemble performs at the Lyme Art Association, March 1. Photo by Aleksandr Karjaka at Karjaka Studios.

AREAWIDE — Musical Masterworks Modern (MMModern) presents the Quince Ensemble,Friday, March 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Lyme Art Association.

Experience contemporary chamber music featuring Quince Ensemble with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang’s love fail, a meditation on the timelessness of love that weaves together details from the story of Tristan and Isolde.

Singing with the precision and flexibility of modern chamber musicians, Quince Ensemble is changing the paradigm of contemporary vocal music.  Described as “the Anonymous 4 of new music” by Opera News, the ensemble continually pushes the boundaries of vocal ensemble literature.

Admission is $35; student admission is $5.  Admission includes a reception prior to the concert at 5:30 p.m; the concert begins at 6:30 p.m. 

After the performance concludes, end your evening with a Three-Course Prix Fixe dinner for two with a bottle of wine for $100 at the Bee & Thistle, only available to MMModern concertgoers.  Make your dinner reservation by calling Bee & Thistle at 860.434.1667.

This special performance has been generously sponsored by The Howard Gilman Foundation and James B. and Alden R. Murphy.

For full details and to purchase tickets, visit Masterworks at www.musicalmasterworks.org or call 860.434.2252. 

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Op-Ed: Forced Regionalization of Our Schools Will be a Disaster For Our Communities

This op-ed was submitted by Tina C. Gilbert of Lyme. It was also sent as a letter to State Senators Paul Formica  (R-20th) and Norman Needleman (D-33rd), and State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd.) Gilbert has children in Lyme-Old Lyme Schools and is Vice-President of LCN USA located in Deep River, Conn.  

I am seriously concerned about the lack of awareness and sense of urgency in the Lyme-Old Lyme communities regarding the proposed Bills to force school regionalization, specifically Bill 454 (SB 738). It is a grave mistake for any tax payer in Lyme or Old Lyme  to think this doesn’t affect them just because they don’t have children attending the schools. We know the chances of this getting approved are strong, if not, at this point, unavoidable.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the recent BOE meeting where I would have addressed my concerns. At the BOE meeting I understand that it was said that Region 18 had “good representation” at last Friday’s hearings on the proposed bills. We had, from my count, 5 children and 5 adults (2 without their children) at the hearing. The town of Wilton, conversely, had well over 100 – if not 150 constituents there. That is good representation. The hearing required three overflow rooms apart from the primary hearing room. Each of them packed with floors occupied by children. I could be mistaken, but I believe that is a very rare occurrence.

Next week, the Committee will vote on whether these Bills move forward. If they vote to move forward, the consequences to our two communities will be devastating and irrevocable. Our local BOE is concerned about the attrition rate of students in Region 18. However, imagine if you will the entire school population coming from the Town of Lyme no longer attending the Middle School or High School. No amount of marketing for out-of-region students or pre-K applicants is going to fill that void. What then are the effects? Jobs gone. Shared programs gone (LYSB). Culture, history, community …. compromised. Taxes increased. Residents leaving. Property values tanking. Parents putting themselves into debt to send their children to whatever private school they can find.
The Town of Old Lyme will follow the Probate system and will be regionalized with East Lyme, Salem and Montville. There will be a regionalized BOE and one Superintendent (that means 3 lose their jobs.) Governor Lamont specifically called out wanting to reduce the number of Superintendents. East Lyme is a large and powerful school. I don’t think it takes a deep thinker to figure out who is going to have more power in the new regionalized district.
We live in the Town of Lyme. We moved here from Deep River so that our children would be in the Region 18 schools. With this forced Regionalization, Lyme will join Deep River, Chester, Essex, Haddam and Killingworth. Children from the farthest reaches of Lyme will be bussed across the river to attend schools there. Bus rides will be well over an hour. Parents who want to be active in their children’s schooling will be challenged with having to follow suit and drive either over the bridge to Rt 9 (and soon pay tolls to do so) or over the bridge in Haddam.  My husband and I recently moved our business to Deep River, so we know how time consuming it is to come back to Lyme Consolidated in the middle of the day for a school event. This is the first year of the last seven that our children have been in the school that we’ve missed nearly every program. Frankly it would be easier for us to have our kids going to school on the other side of the river. But we don’t want that – we moved here for the quality of the education.
From the hearing and follow up discussion, it has become clear that the Forced Regionalization concept is in fact not about the state saving money. The Committee members supporting the legislation made their opinions on that clear. And a Bill supporter who has the ears of these members (including the Chair) put it succinctly as follows:
“Connecticut has too many school districts, and the richest ones are fortresses that have pulled all the ladders up after them while the poorest sink deeper and deeper. Town-based school districts drive wealth inequality and force towns to compete against one another instead of cooperating. Worst of all, they embody institutionalized and systemic racism. They enforce de facto segregation, which is the toxic legacy of redlining and exclusionary zoning, and we will never be able to move forward until that changes.”
In summary, this infers that we residents of Lyme and Old Lyme are a bunch of privileged racists who only want the best for their children and none for others. This tired tactic is offensive and reprehensible.
I am happy that there is broad bipartisan support against these Bills. But that’s not enough. If these Bills fail, the Governor has proposed his own Bill SB 874 with 32 pages of detail on a very powerful school consolidation commission that will make decisions that may or may not have to be put to vote by the legislators. The Governor stated he will sign it into law. There is also discussion of a new Regional Tax layer – to add to our Federal, State and Local taxes – to support all of this.

In the end, Forced Regionalization equals Forced Equalization equals Forced Marginalization. The sum is Disaster to our communities.
The word needs to get out to our communities, so at the very least they are educated on the subject and not blind-sided when they learn of the fate of their children’s education or are shocked when they see their future tax bills.
How can we make this happen? How can we get the word out? We have very little time.
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Region 4 Board of Education Presents Capital Plan, Draft Budget for Public Comment, Wednesday

The Region 4 Board of Education is currently in the middle of budget workshops for the 2019-20 school year. As part of this budget process, the Board is reviewing the recommendations of the Region 4 Grounds & Building Maintenance and Oversight Committee (made up of members of the Region 4 BOE, Administration, and Town Officials) in determining a five-year capital plan.
On Wednesday, March 6, from 6 to 7 p.m. in the John Winthrop Middle School library, there will be a presentation and time for public comment on the capital plan and working draft budget before the Board moves into their scheduled Budget Workshop.
This is a re-scheduled date due to the weather cancellation on its originally scheduled evening.
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Matthew Shafner Memorial Scholarship for Sons/Daughters of Disabled Workers Now Accepting Applications

The Disabled Workers’ Committee, a Connecticut-based, not-for-profit organization, whose mission is to help impaired workers, has issued new criteria for the single scholarship of $10,000 that it is offering to assist a senior high school student resident in Connecticut.  A student qualifies as a candidate for this scholarship if one or more of the following criteria are satisfied by their parent or legal guardian: 

  • is deceased as a result of a work-related injury; 
  • has been found to be permanently and totally disabled from all forms of work;
  • has sustained a work-related injury resulting in loss of a limb or;
  • has sustained a work-related permanent disability that has resulted in an inability to return to their former employment and has suffered a permanent wage loss.
  • the disability must arise out of a workplace injury.

The 2019 scholarship provides $1,250 per semester for four years.  The amount of the scholarship fund is awarded to the child or dependent of a disabled worker, who demonstrates both academic excellence and the financial need to go on to college.  The disability must arise from a workplace injury, and be confirmed by acceptance of the claim, a workers’ compensation final decision or social security award.

“The pressures that fall on disabled workers and their families are tremendous” explained Matthew Shafner in 2010 when he was chairman of the committee. “This scholarship fund eases one of the important financial burdens that disabled workers often face.”  Shafner, a nationally recognized attorney and former Chairman of the Disabled Workers Scholarship Subcommittee, passed away in September 2015. 

Applications are available throughout Connecticut in the offices of high school guidance counselors, labor unions and Workers’ Compensation Commission offices. The applications should be received by April 1, 2019 at the Scholarship fund, Disabled Workers Committee, Inc., c/o Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-law, 2 Union Plaza, Suite 200, New London, CT 06320. A statewide committee of prominent educators will carry out the screening and select the successful student.  

The Disabled Workers’ Committee is dedicated to educating the public about the importance of returning impaired workers to the workplace as soon as possible.  

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Sen. Needleman Joins Essex Town Planner in Support of GIS Expansion Bill

John P. Guszkowski, Essex Town Planner and Government Relations Officer for CCAPA, listens intently while Sen. Norm Needleman (D-33rd) testifies on the hearing related to streamlining GIS systems across the state. Photo submitted.

HARTFORD, CT – Today, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) joined with John P. Guszkowski, Essex Town Planner and Government Relations Officer for the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association (CCAPA), to advocate for legislation Sen. Needleman proposed on streamlining access to geographic information systems across the state. If enacted, the bill would create a more overarching system of access for towns and cities to access the technology and benefit from its use.

Senate Bill No. 550, “An Act Concerning Geographic Information Systems,” would make geographic information system tools and software available to municipalities at a low cost. It was heard Wednesday at public hearing in front of the Planning and Development Committee.

Geographic Information System tools, also known as “GIS,” are digital maps and layouts of geographic areas that can be used by municipalities for a number of purposes, most commonly surveying and land usage planning.

While Connecticut is a small state, current GIS practices indicate that every town in Connecticut has a separate contract, and contractor, for individual use. This process is inefficient, as each town must negotiate separate contracts, and leaves some aspects of the technology unused. Individuals looking to compare geography in two bordering towns have to open two separate services to access it, even if the land is separated by just the town border.

“This is the recipe for poor planning, wasted and duplicative efforts, and a lack of cohesiveness in inter-municipal development and conservation efforts,” said Guskowski in testimony during the public hearing, speaking on behalf of the CCAPA. “It is impossible, under this current system, to know authoritatively, how far along we are, as a state, toward our various conservation and open space preservation goals.”

“Having the state take a leadership role in unifying and coordinating these efforts … is a relatively low cost way to facilitate a major step forward for Connecticut,” Guszkowski continued.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) additionally supported Senate Bill No. 550 on Wednesday. “Given the current budget situation and the prospect of additional reductions in state aid,” CCM said in written testimony, “municipalities are already being forced to consider increases in local property taxes or reducing current services, it is important to make access to the GIS technology affordable to municipalities. Such systems provide opportunities to find efficiencies in information exchanges on land use and other issues between state, regional and local planners and decision makers.”

“We don’t need to have 169 solutions to one common problem,” added Sen. Needleman. “A state-wide GIS system would control costs, allowing the state to negotiate on behalf of towns, and create a more efficient platform, reducing more than a hundred points of access into just one. That would allow towns and cities across the state to work together and collaborate, using this collected information to improve their communities and our state as a whole. I am happy to see the committee consider this bill, and I look forward to working in coming months to make sure it passes.”

Editor’s Note: State Senator Norm Needleman was first elected in 2018 to represent the 33rd Senate District which consists of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook and part of Old Saybrook. Needleman is also the first selectman of Essex, a role he has held for four terms, and the founder of Tower Laboratories, an Essex manufacturing company that employs over 250 people.

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Public Hearing on Chester Plan of Conservation and Development to be Held Tonight

The 2019 Chester Plan of Conservation and Development Public Hearing will be held this evening, Monday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House. This plan outlines the future of Chester for the next 10 years.

ll residents are invited to attend this meeting and give their input.

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‘The Kate’ Hosts Dazzling Oscar Night Party Tonight

OLD SAYBROOK – The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (the Kate) transforms into a glittering, Hollywood-esque venue for its Oscar Night Party on Sunday, Feb. 24, beginning at 7 p.m. at the center located at 300 Main St., Old Saybrook. This annual red-carpet fund raising event honors the Kate’s 12-time Oscar Nominated, 4-time-winning namesake and makes for an entertaining evening.  Proceeds support quality performing arts and cultural presentations at the Kate throughout the year.

“We always look forward to this event to celebrate Katharine Hepburn’s achievements,” said Brett Elliott, Executive Director. “This year is extra special as we’ll be rooting for our friend and 2017 Spirit of Katharine Hepburn Award recipient, Glenn Close, who is nominated for Best Actress for ‘The Wife’.”

Delicious hearty hors d’oeuvres and desserts are provided by Fresh Salt and a cash bar is available throughout the evening as the 91st Academy Awards ceremony airs live in surround sound on the Kate’s big screen. Guests will walk the red carpet, pose for photos, and have the chance to hold a real Oscar, thanks to Devin Carney, state representative and grandson of the late award-winning actor Art Carney. Carney is emcee for the event and a member of the Kate’s board of trustees.

An auction and raffle add to the fun of the evening, as well as Becker’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry of Old Saybrook’s “Mystery Red Box” activity. Sixty jewelry boxes wrapped in vibrant red paper and white bows are available for purchase with each box containing a Becker’s gift certificate and one grand prize box holding a beautiful piece of jewelry.

The Oscar Night Party is sponsored by H&R Block of Old Saybrook, Secor Volvo, Becker’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry of Old Saybrook, Comcast, Gulick & Co., Pough Interiors, and Saybrook Point Inn Marina & Spa.

For information and tickets for all shows at the Kate, visit www.thekate.org or call 860-510-0453.

The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center is a non-profit performing arts organization located in an historic theatre/town hall on Main Street in Old Saybrook. Originally opened in 1911 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Center has been renovated with public funds from the Town of Old Saybrook and donations raised by the Trustees of the Center.

It includes a 250-seat theatre and a small museum honoring Katharine Hepburn, Old Saybrook’s most celebrated resident. As befits an organization born of such a public/private partnership, programming is eclectic, offering something for all ages and income levels on the Connecticut shore and in the lower river valley.

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Courtney to be Keynote Speaker at Middlesex Chamber’s Member Breakfast Tomorrow

Manufacturing Talent Pipeline Workshop to Held After Breakfast

Representative Joe Courtney

MIDDLETOWN — Chairman Jay Polke of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce announced that United States Congressman Joe Courtney will serve as guest speaker at the chamber’s Member Breakfast Meeting on Friday, Feb. 22.

Congressman Joe Courtney was elected in 2006 to represent the Second Congressional District of Connecticut in the House of Representatives. He serves on the Armed Services, and Education and Workforce Committees. Congressman Courtney is Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

“We look forward to welcoming Congressman Joe Courtney as keynote speaker at this event which is sponsored by The Mohegan Tribe. Congressman Courtney’s district includes many county towns within the chamber’s service area. His remarks will touch on the many important issues that he is working on including a manufacturing workforce pipeline as he represents his constituents in Washington D.C,” said President of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Larry McHugh.

The Member Breakfast Meeting will be held at the Red Lion Hotel Cromwell, 100 Berlin Road, Cromwell, with networking beginning at 7:00 a.m., breakfast buffet opens at 7:15 a.m., and the meeting program, 8:00 to 9:00 a.m.

The event is sponsored by The Mohegan Tribe. Cost is $22 for members of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and $32 for non-members. Advance registration required, please register on line: www.middlesexchamber.com.

Immediately following the Member Breakfast Meeting with the Congressman, the chamber will host an Informational Forum for Employers, Educators and Parents focusing on Developing the Manufacturing Pipeline in Middlesex County.

The forum will include an employer perspective and information on the Connecticut Manufacturers Collaborative by Eric J. Brown, Vice President-Manufacturing Policy and Outreach at CBIA; information on Skill Up for Manufacturing and other workforce initiatives By Bill Villano, President of  Workforce Alliance.

Additional speakers include Steven Minkler, Ed.D. Campus CEO & Dean of Academic Affairs at Middlesex Community College, Jeffrey Wihbey, Superintendent at CT Technical Education and Career System, Javette Allen, Principal, at Vinal Technical High School and Michael Hood, Department Head, Precision Machining, at Vinal Technical High School. Dr. Ruth Levy, Superintendent at Regional School District 4 will round out the panel to provide best practices for the comprehensive high schools. A question and answer session will follow the speaking portion of the forum.

For more information on Middlesex Chamber programs and events, visit middlesexchamber.com

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Region 4 Cancels all After-School Activities, Includes Budget Workshop

AREAWIDE — Region 4 has cancelled all after-school activities today due to the anticipated weather, which includes the scheduled Region 4 Budget Workshop with special presentations and public comment time.
A make-up date has not yet been determined.
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SECWAC Hosts NYT Columnist Carl Zimmer This Evening to Speak on ‘Deep History of Global Affairs’

NYT columnist Carl Zimmer will speak on “The Deep History of Global Affairs,” Wednesday evening.

AREAWIDE — The Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) hosts Carl Zimmer to speak on “The Deep History of Global Affairs” at 6 p.m. tomorrow evening, Wednesday, Feb. 20, at Crozier Williams Student Center Building, Connecticut College, 270 Mohegan Avenue, New London, CT 06320. (Map here)  Members and guests are encouraged to RSVP via online registration, but walk-ins will be accepted.

Zimmer is a columnist for the New York Times and the author of 13 books about science. His newest book is She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Power, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity (signed copies of which will be available for sale after the presentation).

Today, global affairs are profoundly influenced by mass migrations, conflicts between ethnic populations, and upheavals brought about by trade and technology. To understand the origins of these forces, scholars usually look back to recent history—a few decades back, perhaps, or a few centuries at most. But new advances in sciences are now allowing researchers to unveil the history of global affairs reaching back tens of thousands of years.

Ancient human remains are yielding entire genomes, making it possible to track the rise of our species from a small band of bipedal apes. Researchers are rewriting the deep history of humanity’s spread across the planet, discovering previously unknown collisions between ancient peoples, and the ways in which new ideas have spread around the world.

A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m., with the main event beginning at 6:00 p.m. The presentation is a part of the SECWAC 2018-2019 Speaker Series.

For non-members, tickets ($20) may be purchased at the door; ticket cost can subsequently be applied towards a SECWAC membership. Attendance is free for SECWAC members (and their guests). Pro-rated half-year membership is introduced in February; half-year membership February through June 2019 is $37.50; $12.50 for young professionals under 35; free for area college and high school students.

Immediately following the presentation, SECWAC meeting attendees have the option for $35 to attend a dinner with the speaker at Connecticut College. Dinner reservations are required via pre-registration and making a payment securely online, calling 860-912-5718, or emailing info@secwac.org (vegetarian option available if reserved in advance).

Zimmer earned a B.A. in English from Yale and worked at Discover, where he served for five years as a senior editor. Since then he has written hundreds of articles for magazines including National Geographic, Scientific American, and The Atlantic. Zimmer’s writing has earned a number of awards from organizations including the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 2016 he won the 2016 Stephen Jay Gould Prize, awarded by the Society for the Study of Evolution to recognize individuals whose sustained efforts have advanced public understanding of evolutionary science. She Has Her Mother’s Laugh was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book ReviewThe Guardian named it the best science book of 2018. Zimmer is professor adjunct in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University, where he teaches writing.

SECWAC is a regional, nonprofit, membership organization affiliated with the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA). The organization dates back to 1999, and has continued to arrange 8-10 Speaker Series meetings annually, between September and June. The meetings range in foreign affairs topics, and are hosted at venues along the I-95 corridor, welcoming members and guests from Stonington to Old Saybrook, and beyond.

SECWAC’s mission is “to foster an understanding of issues of foreign policy and international affairs through study, debate, and educational programming.” It provides a forum for nonpartisan, non-advocacy dialogue between members and speakers, who can be U.S. policymakers, educators, authors, and other experts on foreign relations. Learn more at http://secwac.org.

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Key Healthcare Bills Introduced by Needleman, Move Forward

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

AREAWIDE — State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) has endorsed the advancement of two bills he introduced to the General Assembly this week. On Feb. 13, the Public Health Committee voted to draft two healthcare bills, Senate Bill No. 4, “An Act Concerning the Affordability and Accessibility of Prescription Drugs,” and Senate Bill No. 394, “An Act Concerning Quality Health Care for Women.”

“I’m encouraged to see these bills moving forward,” said Sen. Needleman. “Everyone deserves the same level of healthcare, no matter your gender, your race, your income. These bills help bring us closer to that reality.”

Senate Bill No. 4 is intended to make prescription medications more affordable for Connecticut consumers. According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which focuses on fiscal and economic challenges in the United States, prescription drug spending has grown from $12 billion and 5 percent of total healthcare costs in 1980 to $330 billion and 10 percent of healthcare costs by 2016, and that amount is expected to nearly double in the next decade.

“The ever-rising increase in prescription drug costs hurts everyone, creating a financial drain that negatively impacts the young and old alike,” said Sen. Needleman. “We need to push for a solution to this problem, and this legislation will be the first step toward that. By making prescription medication more affordable for everyone, we can preserve not only our physical health, but our economic health as well.”

Senate Bill No. 394 is designed to give women additional protections against unfair health and wellness mandates. Harvard Medical School said in 2017 that many health and wellness mandates are still lacking for women compared to men, with examples including that 70 percent of chronic pain patients are women, yet 80 percent of pain studies are conducted on men, and that women are seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and discharged in the event they have a heart attack.

“If we believe in fairness, we believe in equal treatment, and yet all too often women don’t receive the same treatment,” said Sen. Needleman. “With this legislation, we counteract these flaws and move closer toward the equality we deserve.”

Editor’s Note: State Senator Norm Needleman was first elected in 2018 to represent the 33rd Senate District, which consists of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook and part of Old Saybrook. Needleman is also the First Selectman of Essex, a role he has held for four terms, and the founder of Tower Laboratories, an Essex manufacturing company that employs over 250 people.

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CT Valley Camera Club Hosts Presentation on Equine Photography This Evening

The portfolio of Sarah Mote, who will speak tonight at the CT Valley Camera Club, includes this photo.

AREAWIDE — The Connecticut Valley Camera Club (CVCC) will host a presentation on Equine Photography by Sarah Grote on Monday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. at the Lymes’ Senior Center, 26 Town Woods Rd., Old Lyme. The public is welcomed to attend.

Sarah Grote is a lifestyle and nature photographer specializing in projects, equine, and event photography. After 20 years in corporate and nonprofit companies in various operational, development, and managerial roles, she decided to follow her artistic dreams and visions based on her Mom’s inspirational quote, “celebrate everything”.

Since 2014, Grote has been the photographer for the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum and the Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue (CDHR).  Her photos and paintings were selected for CDHR’s juried art show “Save a Horse – Buy Art!” in 2015 and 2017.

Her photography was used for the “Demolish or Preserve:  The 1960’s at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion” exhibit, which won the most prestigious award given by the American Association of State and Local History.

In 2018, Grote’s photos were selected for three juried shows at the Mystic Museum of Art, the Essex Art Association Gallery, and The Voice of Art Gallery. She has been a board member of the Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue organization since 2015.

The CVCC, which was founded in 2002, has a simple mission — to give its members the opportunity to become better photographers.  The ways that the club achieves this objective include offering a variety of presentations and workshops to help members expand their technical and creative skills.  During these popular events, members explore such areas as photographic techniques, computer processing, artistic interpretation and commercial applications, often under the tutelage of a professional photographer.

The CVCC welcomes new members at any time. Meetings are generally held on the first Monday of the month at the Lymes’ Senior Center in Old Lyme.

For more information about the CVCC, visit the club’s website at ctvalleycameraclub.smugmug.com.  Meeting dates, speakers and their topics, and other notices are also published on the club’s Facebook page at ww.facebook.com/CTValleyCameraClubPage.

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Chester Synagogue Hosts Exhibition of New Work by Locally Based, Nationally Acclaimed Sculptor Gilbert Boro, Through April 30

CHESTER — When our souls become heavy with life’s burdens, art has the potential to soothe and solace.  Indeed, Pablo Picasso wrote, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” That theme will be explored in an exhibit of new works by nationally and internationally renowned sculptor Gilbert Boro at the Main Street Gallery of Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek (CBSRZ) in Chester, Conn. Boro lives and works in Old Lyme. 

Coming Together, a show highlighting works born out of Mr. Boro’s loss of his wife, is a prequel to the unveiling of the synagogue’s planned “Meditation Garden,” anticipated to open in 2020.

The “Meditation Garden” will feature a large-scale sculpture loaned from Mr. Boro’s Studio 80 Sculpture Grounds in Old Lyme, CT, a park-like setting developed in concert between Mr. Boro and his wife Emily. The original model of the loaned garden sculpture will be donated to CBSRZ.

The show has special significance for Mr. Boro because the synagogue is the repository of a Memorial Light celebrating the memory of his wife of 48 years, Emily Seward Boro. A period of sadness and depression that followed her passing in 2013 acted as a catalyst, Boro says, fueling new creativity culminating in his “Musical Master Works” and “What’s Knot to Like” series. Ten to 15 works of aluminum, steel, and copper from these series, plus a few larger pieces, will be on public display for the first time. 

The Master Works and Knot series are the latest incarnations of Boro’s visual acuity, with a touch of playfulness always present. The “Musical Master Works” series transpired after attending music performances, which fired his imagination to consider what forms and shapes the music might create. The “What’s Knot to Like” reflects the many years Boro was deeply committed to offshore racing and cruising with his wife and family.

Boro credits his interaction with CBSRZ’s designer, the celebrated artist Sol LeWitt, with firing his creative imagination at a young age. “I found LeWitt’s extensive range of artistic expression extremely stimulating,” Boro says. “He inspired me and challenged me to broaden my vision, which resulted in applying my art education to the creation of architecture. Having my sculptures exhibited here has special meaning for me.”

Photography by Christina Block Goldberg will also be part of the show. Goldberg’s captivating images give viewers a unique insight to Boro’s sculptures by zooming in for intimate inspection of the joints and details. They will be printed on thin sheets of aluminum using a dye sublimation process. 

“This exhibit is rather novel,” says the gallery’s curator, Linda Pinn, “in that to a large degree the works to be exhibited will be scale models of the work that he anticipates to place in the garden.”  The “Meditation Garden” is envisioned to draw on the therapeutic power of nature and inspiring capacity of art.  Gardens are a common respite for their calming effect. Art’s power to stimulate and transform our thoughts and beliefs make it a potential balm to sooth our minds and spirits.

Studies now conclude that exposure to creative works are an elixir for our emotions when struggling with anxiety, depression, loss, and pain. Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, said that “variety of form and brilliancy of color in the objects presented to patients are an actual means of recovery.”  Combining the two in a meditation garden, says the synagogue’s art curator, Linda Pinn, is an idea that “goes beyond any specific artist or garden,” she says. “Bringing art and nature together to create a peaceful, contemplative environment where people can walk, relax, and be calm,” will be a respite to escape, recharge, and heal.

The Coming Together exhibit begins with an opening reception on Sunday, February 3, from 3-5 that is free and open to the public. It will be on display until April 30. 

The Main Street Gallery at CBSRZ focuses on art works with themes relating to issues of concern in our society and the world at large. It is always open to the public free of charge, Monday – Friday, 10 – 3, and on Sundays when Sunday school is in session. It is located just off Rte. 154 at 55 East Kings Hwy, Chester, CT. 

For more information visit www.cbsrz.org.

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It’s First Friday in Chester Tonight with Chocolates, Champagne, Art, Music … and More!

CHESTER — Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and the merchants of downtown Chester are sharing their romantic wares and offering tasty nibbles as part of the First Friday festivities tonight, Friday, Feb. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m.

A Dina Varano necklace from her Amore collection.

Jeweler and artist Dina Varano will unveil her annual Amore Collection, a special line she designs every year for Valentine’s Day, with hand-painted cards at her eponymous gallery.

At the art galleries, Chester Gallery and Framing’s new winter show features Chester artists working in a variety of styles and mediums, and the Mid-Winter Exhibit of gouache and oil landscape paintings by Leif Nilsson opens with live music by Arrowhead at Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio and Gallery.
Elsewhere around town, chocolate and romance is the name of the game:
·     To set the mood for romance, The French Hen will be serving decadent chocolate-covered strawberries and Champagne to enjoy while browsing the selection of Valentine’s Day cards and gifts.
·     Strut Your Mutt will be offering tastes of a traditional Brazilian dessert called Brigadeiro, which is Brazilian chocolate truffle.
·     Lark is featuring chocolate bites and wine along with a “jewelry bar” with a special price of buy one, get one for $15.
·     Watercolors of Paris by noted artist Roleen Bisaillon Sheehan will be available at the Shops at the Mill House.
·     The Perfect Pear will be serving samples of Lyra chocolates, a Slovakian chocolate maker with intriguing designs and a delicious taste that is featured in O, The Oprah Magazine. The large bars, regularly $15, will be 20% off through Feb. 14.
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Needleman Announces Bill To Hold Utilities Accountable

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

AREAWIDE – Today, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) announced that he has submitted a bill that would hold utility companies accountable to better serve their customers, requiring them to improve their response times after power outages and increase vital staffing.

“An Act Concerning Utility Response Times For Restoration of Electric Service and Utility Minimum Staffing Levels,” Senate Bill No. 469, would require companies to restore electric service on an improved schedule after power outages, also requiring them to establish minimum staffing levels for line crews.

“In the last several years, response times to perform repair work after storms and outages by utility companies like Eversource have grown precipitously, causing significant delays in restoring power to Connecticut residents and businesses relying on it,” Sen. Needleman said. “It’s no coincidence, I believe, this comes as Eversource continues to reduce its repair staff and equipment, instead increasingly relying on private contractors from outside of their system. Without adequate staff, in the event of severe weather, Eversource will waste time and inconvenience customers.”

The bill’s announcement comes as Eversource is requesting a rate increase from the Public Utilities Regulation Authority, according to the Hartford Courant, citing the increased costs of repairing systems after severe storms. If that rate increase passes, the average customer could see their bill jump $1.85 per month or more than $20 annually as soon as this year.

“Why should Eversource receive a rate increase for this work when it drags its heels doing it in the first place? Connecticut taxpayers and businesses were already inconvenienced when their power remained off for days during these storms, and they shouldn’t be punished twice,” Sen. Needleman said. “If Eversource had invested in effective weather responses in the past, instead of reducing staff and equipment to save money, they wouldn’t need to ask for $150 million in repairs.”

“Businesses lose money every second their power remains out,” Sen. Needleman said. “As a business owner myself, I know these problems first-hand. My manufacturing plant in Michigan has lost power one time in 14 years, while my manufacturing plant in Centerbrook sometimes loses power for no reason at all. Connecticut needs to attract businesses, and unstable electrical systems will only drive them away.”

According to the Energy Information Agency, Connecticut residents are already charged the third-highest rates for electricity in the country in both price and expenditure.

“Eversource should provide the services it already pledges to its customers, not be rewarded for failing to implement adequate weather-related response and repair strategies,” Sen. Needleman said. “When Connecticut taxpayers are already charged one of the highest prices in the country for electricity, they should feel confident their service will remain stable, not prepare for days of outages whenever severe storms rear their head. S.B. 469 will hold Eversource and other utility providers accountable for the services their customers deserve.”

Editor’s Note: State Senator Norm Needleman was first elected in 2018 to represent the 33rd Senate District which consists of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook and part of Old Saybrook. Needleman is also the first selectman of Essex, a role he has held for four terms, and the founder of Tower Laboratories, an Essex manufacturing company that employs over 250 people.

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Become a Middlesex Health Hospice Volunteer

MIDDLETOWN—Middlesex Health’s Hospice Program is looking for volunteers.

Hospice volunteers are an integral part of the Middlesex Health team, and they work with patients and families as they cope with the challenges of terminal illness.

All aspiring volunteers must submit a volunteer application and complete 12 hours of training and a mentorship before they can begin their work. The next training sessions will be held on April 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and April 13, from 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Both sessions are mandatory for new volunteers and will be held in the Randy Goodwin, MD Conference Center.

For more information and to request an application, contact a Middlesex Health volunteer coordinator at 860-358-5700. 

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State Rep. Palm Plans to Host “Listening Sessions” Monthly

State Representative-Elect (D-36th) Christine Palm.

AREAWIDE — Christine Palm, State Representative-for the 36th District (covering the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam), took the Oath of Office Wed., Jan. 9, at the State Capitol. Palm is one of 151 members of the House (the lower chamber of the General Assembly), each of whom represents approximately 23,000 people.

Palm ran as a progressive Democrat who was cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party, and stood for economic security for all workers, affordable healthcare, school excellence, gun safety, enhanced women’s rights and environmental protections. 

Palm has now started meeting with constituents in various locations in her district. She intends to hold these “listening sessions” in coffee shops in each of the four towns in the 36th District during the month of January.

After that, she will hold at least one meeting per month, rotating times and locations throughout the district, including libraries, assisted living facilities and town halls. Residents of any town are always welcome to attend a meeting in another town.

For the month of January meetings are as follows:

Friday, Jan. 11: The Villager, Downtown Chester, 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. https://www.thevillagerchester.com/

Tuesday, Jan. 15: The Nook, 1610 Saybrook Rd., Tylerville (Haddam), 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 22, Savour, Spencer’s Corners, Centerbrook (Essex), 10:00-11:00 a.m. http://www.thesavourcafe.com/

Wednesday, Jan. 23, Whistle Stop Café, Main Street, Deep River, noon to 1:00 p.m. https://www.facebook.com/whistlestopcafect/

“It’s very important to me to hear from the residents – both those who voted for me and those who did not,” Palm said. “Too many people feel government is out of touch with them – that it’s an inaccessible monolith.

She continued, “That’s not the kind of government I want to serve in and I intend to be as responsive as possible. Not only do our residents deserve a State Representative willing to hear their concerns, I need them, too; talking with folks is a great source of inspiration for me. Through casual conversations, I’ve already gotten some ideas for changes we need to make so that government better represents the people. So, I am grateful to all those willing to meet and share their ideas, concerns and experiences with me.”

Once Palm is sworn in, her official State of Connecticut email, phone number, website and Facebook page will go live and she will make them public. For now, residents of any of the towns she serves are welcome to call her on her cell phone at 860-836-2145.

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Third Annual ‘Women’s March on Washington’ Sister Vigil to be Held This Morning in East Haddam

AREAWIDE — Together We Rise – Building Bridges For Justice has announced that East Haddam, Conn., is again registered as an Official Sister Event location for Connecticut, along with Hartford and Kent, for the Jan. 19, 2019, Third Annual Women’s March:#WomensWave March on Washington.

Together We Rise will join more than 650 sister events/marches throughout the World, when an outdoor gathering and vigil will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House & Café, located at 374 Town St. in East Haddam, CT at the junction of Rtes 82 and 151.

Those interested in participating in the Together We Rise Jan. 19 Sister Event vigil should register by going to  https://www.womensmarch.com/2019/ and clicking on Sister Events, and entering zip code 06469. 

Participants are encouraged to arrive early. Parking Monitors will be on site to direct participants to parking venues near Two Wrasslin’ Cats.  Parking in Two Wrasslin’ Cats parking lot is available only to those with disabilities. 

Speakers at the Together We Rise Vigil in East Haddam will include Christine Palm, Marta Daniels and Ella Briggs.

Palm is the newly elected State Representative for the 36th Legislative District covering Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam. A lifelong Connecticut resident and progressive Democrat, her social justice advocacy began in high school when she marched with Caesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. Palm’s work has culminated in her strong desire today to champion public policy that reflects the aspirations and concerns of people in the lower Connecticut River Valley.

Palm has been a journalist, high school teacher, communications manager, and small business owner. Most recently, she has served as Women’s Policy Analyst for the General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children and Seniors, a group that advocates for policies that enhance the safety and economic security of these three under-represented populations. Before that, she was Communications Director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. 

Daniels is a writer, activist, and public historian. Her 35-year professional career has focused on expanding and improving civic engagement in public policy issues on peace, justice, and the environment.

She was director or co-director of half a dozen national and state educational organizations and also served as a consultant for several environmental and humanitarian organizations. Daniels is the author of several books on peace, many research papers and hundreds of articles and op-eds on peace and disarmament, and US-Soviet relations.

Daniels lives in Chester and is an active member of the Chester Democratic Town Committee, the Historical Society, and the Land Trust.

Briggs is the 2019 Connecticut Kid Governor.  She is a 5th grader at Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary Magnet School in Avon, CT.  Ella lives with her family in East Hampton.

In addition to these speakers, music will be provided by Thomasina Levy and Diane Adams. Levy was Connecticut State Troubadour for 2005 and 2006. An award-winning mountain dulcimer player, singer, poet and songwriter, her performances weave together traditional and contemporary folk music.

Adams is a local musician, who has performed at a variety of public events celebrating justice and equality including Together We Rise’s 2018 March for Our Lives event.

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Late Registration Tonight to Sing Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’ with Cappella Cantorum in April 14 Concert

Cappella Cantorum logo

AREAWIDE — Join the Cappella Cantorum Masterworks Chorus for registration and its first rehearsal of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” on Monday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m., at John Winthrop Middle School, 1 Winthrop Rd., Deep River (use rear entrance).

The lyricism and use of orchestral and choral color in “Elijah” reflect Mendelssohn’s genius as an early Romantic composer.This inspiring work will be performed in concert Sunday, April 14, at John Winthrop with professional orchestra and soloists.

Simon Holt of the Salt Marsh Opera will direct. All singers and high school students are welcome; auditions are not required.

Registration is $50 plus cost of music. Late registration is the following Monday, Jan. 14, same time and place. Singers may register on-line or in person at John Winthrop.

For more information, visit www.CappellaCantorum.org or call 860-526-1038.

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Public Hearing to be Held Tomorrow for 9 Town Transit’s Proposed New Service for Disabled

AREAWIDE — 9 Town Transit (9TT) is planning to begin offering ADA paratransit service along the 641 route in February of 2019. This new service will be offered to individuals who have a disability that prevents them from using the fixed route.

ADA paratransit is a reservation-based origin-to-destination service similar to our Dial-A-Ride program. It must be booked at least one day in advance and has a 30-minute pick-up window. The cost is twice that of the equivalent fixed-route fare, currently $3.50 each way.

Unlike 9TT’s Dial-A-Ride, which is open to the general public, ADA Paratransit is only available to people with a disability that have gone through an application process.

ADA Paratransit offers the same hours as Route 641, making it available Monday through Friday 6:20 a.m. until 7:50 p.m. and Saturday 7:20 a.m. until 6 p.m., which is beyond that of Dial-A-Ride.

ADA Paratransit is only available within 3/4 mile of Route 641. This includes the section of 641 serving Madison. Any trip with an origin or a destination beyond this area would remain a Dial-A-Ride trip.

There will be a public hearing on Jan. 15, 2019 at 3 p.m. at 17 Industrial Park Rd, Suite 6, Centerbrook, CT, 06409. 9TT will hear comments and answer questions about their proposed ADA plan and paratransit.

Comments may also be submitted in writing by Jan. 25, 2019 by email to info@estuarytransit.org or mail to address above.

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SE CT Legislators Including Sen.-Elect Needleman, Submit Bill To Allow Online, In-Person Betting at CT Casinos

Press Release) State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and members of the Southeastern Connecticut legislative delegation have submitted a bipartisan bill for the 2019 legislative session that would amend Connecticut’s existing state laws to allow for online and in-person sports betting at Connecticut casinos.

State Senator-Elect Norm Needleman

The proposed law would include age and location verification requirements designed to block online access to persons under the age of 21 from betting on sports.

Since last May, when the United States Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law banning sports wagering, eight states now offer legalized sports betting, including nearby Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. New York has passed enabling legislation but has not yet instituted sports betting, and several other U.S. states – including Connecticut – are now considering it.

Rhode Island – which just launched sports betting in November – estimates it will collect $11.5 million in new state revenue in its first seven months of operation.

“Connecticut needs to play catch-up with surrounding states if we’re serious about modernizing our existing gaming industry. Fortunately, we can do that with a relatively simple regulatory fix,” said Sen. Osten, who represents Ledyard and a portion of Montville, home to Connecticut’s two Native American tribes that already operate gaming casinos.

She continued, “The U.S. Supreme Court decision last year paved the way for the expansion of private-sector sports betting, and I think Connecticut is in a good position to take advantage of that. We have the infrastructure with the tribal casinos, we can use the new revenue, and we’ve got bipartisan support. This should be an early session success story.”

“Neighboring states are already ahead of Connecticut on sports betting, but I think it’s an issue we can quickly catch up on that will have positive employment, economic and revenue impacts on Connecticut, “ said Sen.-elect Norm Needleman (D-Essex). 

He noted, “Two of Connecticut’s top-10 largest employers will benefit from this bill. The U.S. Supreme Court has already cleared the way legally, so I believe it’s incumbent on us as state policymakers to do what’s necessary to remain relevant and profitable in a rapidly expanding new national industry.”

The bill, with the current working number of LCO 578, is co-sponsored by Sens. Osten, Steve Cassano, Paul Formica, Heather Somers, and Sen.-elect Needleman, and by state Reps. Ryan, Christine Conley, Emmett Riley, Joe de la Cruz, Susan Johnson, Doug Dubitsky, Mike France and Holly Cheeseman.

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Professional Nature Photographer to Speak Tonight at CT Valley Camera Club Meeting

The guest speaker at the Monday, Jan.7, 2019 meeting of the Connecticut Valley Camera Club (CVCC) will be professional nature photographer Michael Milicia. He will give a presentation titled, “Focus on Sharpness”.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Lymes’ Senior Center, 26 Town Woods Rd., Old Lyme, Conn. All are welcome. There is no admission charge.

Capturing fine detail is often a critical element of a successful image. This presentation will explore a variety of tools and techniques which help to maximize image sharpness.  Milicia will take an in depth look at the many features and tuning options of today’s autofocus (AF) systems and how to best take advantage of them.

Other topics to be covered will include live view AF, mirrorless AF, back button focus, tripods and heads, long lens technique, handholding, and microfocus adjustment.

Milicia’s love of the outdoors is rooted in his time growing up in the rolling hills of rural Western Pennsylvania. After earning a Computer Science degree at Carnegie-Mellon University, he embarked on a 27-year-career as a Software Engineer which included stints at IBM, Digital Equipment Corporation, and Hewlett-Packard, as well as graduate studies at Syracuse University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

In 2005, he left the software industry to pursue a second career as a Nature Photographer specializing in birds and wildlife.

He strives to create images that include an artistic element and have an aesthetic appeal that transcends their role as natural history documentation.  Motivated by a love of nature, Milicia has a fascination with wildlife, and the never-ending challenge of finding that perfect combination of good light, cooperative subject, attractive setting, and beautiful background that allows him to create an artistically pleasing image. 

His passion for photography is rivaled only by his passion for teaching photography. During his years as a Software Engineer, he was continually faced with the need to analyze complex subjects and break them down in a well organized, step-by-step manner that made them easier to understand and communicate.

He finds that this approach also works quite well when teaching the technical aspects of photography. He enjoys teaching at all levels, whether it is helping beginners get acquainted with the world of digital photography or helping more experienced photographers take their images to the next level.

The CVCC is dedicated to offering its membership the opportunity to become better photographers. The group offers a variety of presentations and interactive workshops to help members expand their technical and creative skills. Photographers of all levels of experience are welcomed. 

The club draws members from up and down the river, from Middletown to Old Saybrook; from East Hampton to Old Lyme; and along the shoreline from Guilford to Mystic.

For more information, visit the club’s website at https://ctvalleycameraclub.smugmug.com. CVCC meeting dates, speakers/topics, and other notices are also published on the club’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CTValleyCameraClubPage.

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Kyle Zrenda Joins Suisman Shapiro as Firm’s Newest Associate

AREAWIDE — Kyle J. Zrenda has joined Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law as an associate on the firm’s civil litigation team, practicing in the areas of personal injury, medical malpractice, and insurance health care law.

Attorney Kyle J. Zrenda

Prior to joining Suisman Shapiro, Attorney Zrenda was an associate at Vigorito, Barker, Patterson, Nichols and Porter, LLP in New York where he focused his practice on construction site accidents, premises liability, motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, and health care law. Attorney Zrenda represented physicians, nurses, medical groups, hospitals, property owners, general contractors, and subcontractors throughout New York and Connecticut.

“We are pleased to welcome Kyle Zrenda to Suisman Shapiro,” said Managing Director John A. Collins, III. “Kyle just obtained an outstanding result in Bridgeport Superior Court and we know that his trial experience will further enhance our litigation team’s approach to aggressively representing our clients.”

Zrenda is Connecticut native who graduated from East Lyme High School. He received his B.A. from Boston College in 2010 and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Quinnipiac University School of Law in 2013, where he was an Associate Editor of the Quinnipiac Law Review.

Attorney Zrenda was admitted to the New York Bar in 2013, the Connecticut Bar in 2014, and is also admitted to practice in the Federal District Courts for the Southern, Eastern, and Northern Districts of New York. In 2017 and 2018, Attorney Zrenda was listed by Super Lawyers as a New York Metro “Rising Star” in the area of personal injury.

Suisman Shapiro is the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut, serving the community for over 75 years with a wide range of legal services.

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Chester Celebrates ‘First Friday’ Tonight

This painting of Chester’s own ‘Starry Night’ is by Barbara Rossitto.

CHESTER – Chester’s First Friday festivities on Friday, Jan. 4, are a great way to kick off the new year with art exhibits, holistic health professionals and some post-holiday sales and deals. Downtown shops are open until 8 p.m., and many of your favorite Chester restaurants will have drink and appetizer specials.

Look for exhibitions at the Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio and Gallery and The CHESTER GALLERY (76 Main Street); discussions with wellness advocates and samples and sales of essential oils and other products at Kismet Chester & GKD Designs (11 Main Street) and Lark (4 Water Street); and holiday specials at The French Hen (14 Main Street),Shops at the Mill House (5 West Main Street) and The Perfect Pear (51 Main Street).

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, on Water Street and on Maple Street.
More information about First Friday is available on Facebook.com/VisitChesterCT or by calling (860) 322-4047.
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Needleman Appointed to Leadership Roles on Two Key State Senate Committees

State Senator-Elect Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

AREAWIDE — State Senator-Elect Norm Needleman (D-Essex) today announced in a press release that he has been appointed Senate Chair of the Energy & Technology Committee, and Senate Vice Chair of the Banking Committee. 

“The towns in our district have gained a leadership presence in policy development for finance, technology, and energy infrastructure,” said Needleman. “My experience in government and business financial management, and my years of working with major utilities and energy providers directly applies to the work of both committees. I look forward to bringing common sense ideas to these important issues.”

The Energy and Technology Committee formulates policies relating to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, energy-related planning, and technology issues. The committee works closely with energy and technology services and utilities, which include electric utilities and cable TV service.

The Banking Committee develops policies relating to consumer credit and lending, business finance, the Department of Banking, all banks, credit unions, securities sales, fraternal benefit societies and secured and unsecured lending.

Needleman expects additional committee assignments to be announced in the near future. He officially begins his State Senate term on Jan. 9 of the coming year. 

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Season’s Greetings

Christmas-Bow-Picture_512x384We wish all our readers and advertisers a wonderful, peaceful and enjoyable holiday season.

Thank you for all your support this past year and we look forward to serving you with even stronger coverage of the towns of Chester, Essex and Deep River next year.

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Letter to the Editor: Needleman’s 2019 Resolution is to be 33rd District’s ‘Common Sense Advocate’

To the Editor:

The holiday season is a time when we enjoy good cheer and look forward to the promise of a bright new year. It is a time when we resolve to do the things that didn’t get done in the old year, and fix the things that need fixing.  

For me, the coming year will be both demanding and promising. On January 9, I will be sworn in to represent the 33rd district in the State Senate, a responsibility that brings with it significant challenges and exciting new opportunities. That’s why my only resolution this year is to be the common sense advocate the towns in our district need and deserve. As your voice in the state senate, I will keep you posted on progress in addressing the issues that concern all of us.

Meanwhile, I hope we can all enjoy the festive spirit and good will that make the holiday season so enjoyable. I wish you and your family a happy and healthy new year. 

Sincerely,

Norm Needleman,
Essex

Editor’s Note: The author is the State Senator Elect for the 33rd District.

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Holiday Boutique Today Benefits Tri-Town Youth Services, Other Local Youth Organizations

Wrap up your gift shopping at the Holiday Boutique on Wednesday! Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

AREAWIDE — A Holiday Boutique will be held  Wednesday, Dec. 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Old Lyme Country Club, 40 McCurdy Rd., Old Lyme.  It is is open and free to all community members.

The event will benefit Tri-Town Youth Service Bureau, Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau, and Old Saybrook Youth & Family Services.

The Holiday Boutique features 18 vendors from Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Florida, and has something for everyone on your list. Items for sale will include jewelry, gifts, hand bags, scarves, soaps, ties, florals and so much more.

The high-end vendors include:

  • CatchAll from Westport
  • Pinky’s from Greenwich
  • The Calvert Collection
  • Nat Fry Woodworking from Haverford, PA
  • Old Lyme’s Allie Fiscus
  • Three Islands from Westerly
  • Lowebows Bowties
  • Patrice Collection from Darien
  • Stix & Stones from Hartford
  • Carlisle clothing and Mali jewelry from New York
  • The Patrice Collection from Darien
  • Katherine Clarkson Studio
  • Tucci Designs from Stonington
  • Savor and Cortland Park from Essex
  • Maggie Lee Designs from Lancaster, PA
  • Cynthia Slack Designs from Bonita Springs, FL
  • Farm to Bath from Thompson
  • Alka’s Indian gifts
  • Make-up demonstrations by Clippers of Guilford.

A luncheon buffet will be available $18.

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SECWAC Hosts Local Independent Expert Tonight, Presents “Cuba, the Conflicted Isle”

Rob Hernandez will give a presentation on Cuba at the next SECWAC meeting.

AREAWIDE — The Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) hosts Rob Hernandez to speak on ‘Cuba, the Conflicted Isle: can it reconcile its past while creating a new future?’ at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the Old Lyme Country Club, 40 McCurdy Road, Old Lyme, CT.

Hernandez, an international business consultant and lecturer on global issues for the National Geographic, universities and corporations, will discuss the current status of Cuba in the context of its historical relationship with the United States. Specifically, he will recount the long and often tortured history of U.S.-Cuba relations, describe the reality on the ground today, and discuss possible solutions to the five decades of seemingly irreconcilable differences between the two neighbors.

Born in the U.S. but raised in Spain and Cuba—and Essex, Hernandez has worked extensively around the world for more than 40 years. An ecologist by education, he spent his early career doing field research and documenting through film and photography many of the world’s more remote places, work that has appeared in many leading global publications.

As part of those endeavors, he spent a year in Africa filming a television special on lions and, in his early twenties, spent two years circumnavigating the Pacific and Indian Oceans in a 29 ft. sailboat.  Since then he has continued to lead numerous expeditions to Africa, the Arctic and Antarctic, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and South America, among others.

This led to a 30-year career at the National Geographic Society (NGS) where he served in numerous capacities, including senior editor of the National Geographic magazine, head of Strategic Planning, and later as Senior Vice President, founder and head of the Society’s International Publishing Division.  In that role, he established NGS offices in more than 35 countries and published books, magazines, maps, DVDs, websites and a broad range of other digital media in over 40 languages.  Totally committed to NGS’s non-profit missions, he was also heavily involved in the scientific, educational, and conservation initiatives of the organization.

Most recently, he completed his career at the Walt Disney Co. where he ran Disney’s Magazine Publishing Worldwide Co. producing more than 400 local-language magazine titles and other publications for sale throughout the globe.

Now semi-retired, he lives in Essex and works as an international business consultant and lecturer on global issues for the National Geographic, universities, and corporations. He has traveled to Cuba often in the last three decades and looks forward to sharing with his insights about this enigmatic island.

Immediately following the presentation, SECWAC meeting attendees have the option for $35 to attend a dinner with the speaker at the Old Lyme Country Club. Dinner reservations are required by Thursday, Dec. 6, at 860-912-5718.

A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m., with the main event beginning at 6 p.m. The presentation is a part of the SECWAC 2018-2019 Speaker Series. For non-members, tickets ($20) may be purchased at the door; ticket cost can subsequently be applied towards a SECWAC membership. Attendance is free for SECWAC members (and their guests). Membership September 2018 through June 2019 is $75; $25 for young professionals under 35; free for area college and high school students.

SECWAC is a regional, nonprofit, membership organization affiliated with the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA). The organization dates back to 1999, and has continued to arrange eight to 10 Speaker Series meetings annually, between September and June. The meetings range in foreign affairs topics, and are hosted at venues along the I-95 corridor, welcoming members and guests from Stonington to Old Saybrook, and beyond.

SECWAC’s mission is “to foster an understanding of issues of foreign policy and international affairs through study, debate, and educational programming.” It provides a forum for nonpartisan, non-advocacy dialogue between members and speakers, who can be U.S. policy makers, educators, authors, and other experts on foreign relations. Learn more at http://secwac.org.

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‘Con Brio’ Presents Second Holiday Concert This Afternoon

AREAWIDE — How do you get into the holiday spirit? Why not ease into the season by experiencing the joy of uplifting seasonal music at a Con Brio Choral Society December concert. The second will be on Sun., Dec. 9, at 3 p.m. at Christ the King Church in Old Lyme. You’ll hear glorious choral music, trumpet fanfares, and even get the chance to sing your favorite carols along with the singers at the concert’s end.

Danielle Munsell Howard, soprano.

Three professional soloists – Danielle Munsell Howard, soprano; Louise Fauteux, soprano; and Allison Messier, mezzo-soprano – will join the 66 voices of Con Brio and the Con Brio Festival Orchestra under the baton of Dr. Stephen Bruce. To open the concert – and herald the holiday season – four trumpets will perform Jan Zelenka’s Fanfares for four trumpets and timpani.

The choral program that follows will feature two baroque pieces performed with soloists and orchestra. The first piece, one new to most, is Czech composer Jan Zelenka’s Te Deum for double chorus. A new edition of this long-lost Baroque masterwork prompted Con Brio to program it. Zelenka knew J.S. Bach and at least once, stayed at Bach’s house in Leipzig, and also knew Telemann and other famous musicians of the time.

The other baroque piece is likely more familiar, the first movement of J.S. Bach’s Cantata 63, Christen ätzet diesen Tag, composed for the First Day of Christmas, 1713.

Soloist Danielle Munsell Howard, soprano, has been praised by Opera News Online for her “bright, pretty timbre and remarkable facility.” She has performed as soloist with the American Bach Soloists, Amherst Early Music Festival, Boulder Bach Festival, the Yale Collegium Soloists, Princeton Pro Musica and a number of contemporary choral and chamber ensembles. Her New York debut singing Melagro in Gluck’s La Corona at Merkin Hall was enthusiastically received, critically acclaimed in the New York Times and recorded live for Albany Records.

Louise Fauteux, soprano

Soloist Louise Fauteux enjoys a diverse career in the arts devoted to education and performance. Her versatility as a soprano includes a performance of Peer Gynt with the New York Philharmonic and actor John De Lancie and a tour of Venice with DiCapo Opera and the Fairfield Chorale. She has also performed as soloist with New Haven Chorale, Concora, the Farmington Valley Chorale, the Connecticut Master Chorale and the Connecticut Chamber Chorus.

Soloist Allison Messier, mezzo-soprano, has performed as an oratorio soloist in numerous major works including the Mozart Requiem with the Clearlakes Chorale in the New Hampshire Lakes Region, the Rachmaninov Vespers with the Boston Russian Choir; Dvorak’s Mass in D and Mass in Time of War with the Bermuda Chamber Choir. Her opera credits include Dido in Dido and Aeneas and La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica with Piccola Opera NH, as well as other works.

As in past years, Con Brio will sing two pieces in the round while the singers are arrayed around the Sanctuary. The first piece is Quem Vidistis Pastores by Richard Dering and the second, Hodie Christus Natus Est by Giovanni Gabrieli. For many regulars, the eight-part early music pieces sung in the round are a highlight of each Con Brio concert.

Allison Messier, mezzo-soprano

Also on the program is Ola Gjeilo’s Serenity (O Magnum Mysterium) and Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, both written for eight parts, Mary Had a Baby, arranged by Craig Courtney, I Saw Three Ships arranged by Mack Wilberg, and Sir Christémas, arranged by William Mathias.

The concerts are on Friday evening, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. and on Sunday afternoon, at 3 p.m. at Christ the King Church at 1 McCurdy Lane, Old Lyme, CT. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased in advance at www.conbrio.org or by calling 860-526-5399.

Con Brio Choral Society is a classical, all-auditioned chorus drawing its 66 singers from 15 towns extending along the Connecticut River from Old Saybrook to Deep River and East Haddam and along the shoreline from Guilford to Mystic.

The group performs with the Con Brio Festival Orchestra and professional soloists under conductor Dr. Stephen Bruce.

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SECSEWAC Hosts Local Independent Expert to Present, “Cuba, the Conflicted Isle,” Tuesday

Rob Hernandez will give a presentation on Cuba at the next SECWAC meeting.

AREAWIDE — The Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) hosts Rob Hernandez to speak on ‘Cuba, the Conflicted Isle: can it reconcile its past while creating a new future?’ at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the Old Lyme Country Club, 40 McCurdy Road, Old Lyme, CT.

Hernandez, an international business consultant and lecturer on global issues for the National Geographic, universities and corporations, will discuss the current status of Cuba in the context of its historical relationship with the United States. Specifically, he will recount the long and often tortured history of U.S.-Cuba relations, describe the reality on the ground today, and discuss possible solutions to the five decades of seemingly irreconcilable differences between the two neighbors.

Born in the U.S. but raised in Spain and Cuba—and Essex, Hernandez has worked extensively around the world for more than 40 years. An ecologist by education, he spent his early career doing field research and documenting through film and photography many of the world’s more remote places, work that has appeared in many leading global publications.

As part of those endeavors, he spent a year in Africa filming a television special on lions and, in his early twenties, spent two years circumnavigating the Pacific and Indian Oceans in a 29 ft. sailboat.  Since then he has continued to lead numerous expeditions to Africa, the Arctic and Antarctic, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and South America, among others.

This led to a 30-year career at the National Geographic Society (NGS) where he served in numerous capacities, including senior editor of the National Geographic magazine, head of Strategic Planning, and later as Senior Vice President, founder and head of the Society’s International Publishing Division.  In that role, he established NGS offices in more than 35 countries and published books, magazines, maps, DVDs, websites and a broad range of other digital media in over 40 languages.  Totally committed to NGS’s non-profit missions, he was also heavily involved in the scientific, educational, and conservation initiatives of the organization.

Most recently, he completed his career at the Walt Disney Co. where he ran Disney’s Magazine Publishing Worldwide Co. producing more than 400 local-language magazine titles and other publications for sale throughout the globe.

Now semi-retired, he lives in Essex and works as an international business consultant and lecturer on global issues for the National Geographic, universities, and corporations. He has traveled to Cuba often in the last three decades and looks forward to sharing with his insights about this enigmatic island.

Immediately following the presentation, SECWAC meeting attendees have the option for $35 to attend a dinner with the speaker at the Old Lyme Country Club. Dinner reservations are required by Thursday, Dec. 6, at 860-912-5718.

A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m., with the main event beginning at 6 p.m. The presentation is a part of the SECWAC 2018-2019 Speaker Series. For non-members, tickets ($20) may be purchased at the door; ticket cost can subsequently be applied towards a SECWAC membership. Attendance is free for SECWAC members (and their guests). Membership September 2018 through June 2019 is $75; $25 for young professionals under 35; free for area college and high school students.

SECWAC is a regional, nonprofit, membership organization affiliated with the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA). The organization dates back to 1999, and has continued to arrange eight to 10 Speaker Series meetings annually, between September and June. The meetings range in foreign affairs topics, and are hosted at venues along the I-95 corridor, welcoming members and guests from Stonington to Old Saybrook, and beyond.

SECWAC’s mission is “to foster an understanding of issues of foreign policy and international affairs through study, debate, and educational programming.” It provides a forum for nonpartisan, non-advocacy dialogue between members and speakers, who can be U.S. policy makers, educators, authors, and other experts on foreign relations. Learn more at http://secwac.org.

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State Senator-Elect Needleman Hosts First Office Hours, Thursday in Colchester

State Senator-Elect Norm Needleman

State Senator-elect Norm Needleman (D-Essex) is inviting the public to ask questions, share their concerns and meet their new state senator during his  first public office hours to be held Thursday, Dec. 6, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the McDonald’s restaurant at 375 South Main Street in Colchester.

For the past 30 years, Sen.-elect Needleman has been the owner and CEO of Tower Laboratories, a pharmaceutical business which employs more than 150 Connecticut residents.  Sen.-elect Needleman serves as a board member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and he is also currently serving his fourth term as the first selectman of Essex

Beginning Jan. 9, 2019, Sen.-elect Needleman will represent more than 100,000 Connecticut residents in the 33rd State Senate District, which includes the Town of Lyme along with Chester, Clinton, Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Deep River, Haddam, Portland, Westbrook, and part of Old Saybrook.

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It’s Small Business Saturday, so Shop Local Today!

Launched by American Express in 2010, when small businesses were suffering from an economy in a recession, Small Business Saturday was created to encourage people to Shop Small and take more holiday
shopping to local businesses that make our communities strong.

Our friends at the-e-list have prepared a list of local businesses offering special deals for Small Business Saturday, which you can find at this link.

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Needleman Wins 33rd Senate District After Recount, This Time by 83 Votes

State Senator-Elect Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

AREAWIDE — Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman has been declared the winner of the 33rd State Senate District by 83 votes after a nail-biting recount involving all the towns in the district, which include Chester, Deep River, Essex, Old Saybrook and Westbrook.

He was originally announced as the victor by 303 votes but a subsequent correction in Essex’s vote count reduced the margin of victory to a number that requires a recount by Connecticut law.

Asked his reaction to the recount result, Needleman responded, “I welcomed the recount, because it assured everyone that every vote cast was counted. I am grateful to the election workers throughout the district who worked so hard to make the recount fair and accurate. We can now move on to the task of being the credible advocate the towns in our district badly need in Hartford.”

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Recount Called in 33rd State Senate District Race

AREAWIDE — Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office said on Thursday that another state Senate race will be subject to a recount.

State election officials said a recent correction to a reporting error in Essex has put the contest for the 33rd District [which includes the Town of Lyme] within a margin that requires a recount. The new tally leaves Essex’s Democratic First Selectman Norm Needleman leading East Haddam Republican state Rep. Melissa Ziobron by 137 votes.

John Heiser of the Essex Registrar of Voters office said …

Read the full article by Clarice Silber, which was published today on CTMirror.com, at this link.

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Charles Sennott, Founder of The GroundTruth Project, to Speak at SECWAC Meeting, Wednesday

Seen here reporting in Afghanistan, Charles Sennott will be the speaker at the SECWAC meeting at Connecticut College on Wednesday

AREAWIDE — The Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) hosts Charles M. Sennott on Wednesday, Nov. 14  when he will speak on “GroundTruth in a Post-truth Era,” at 6 p.m. The talk will be held in the Ernst Common Room at Blaustein Hall in Connecticut College.

An award-winning foreign correspondent and founder of The GroundTruth Project, Sennott will discuss the work of this non-profit news organization around the world. Specifically, Sennott will look at the assault on a free press in the US and globally and how it is impacting international coverage. A crisis in journalism is becoming a crisis for democracy.

Sennott is an award-winning correspondent, best-selling author, and editor with 30 years of experience in international, national and local journalism. A leading social entrepreneur in new media, Sennott started GroundTruth in 2014, and in 2017 launched the non-profit organization’s new, local reporting initiative, Report for America.

Reporting on the front lines of wars and insurgencies in at least 20 countries, including the post-9/11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and the 2011 Arab Spring, Sennott began his career in local news covering cops, courts, and municipal government. Sennott’s deep experience reporting led him to dedicate himself to supporting and training the next generation of journalists to tell the most important stories of our time.

Sennott is also the co-founder of GlobalPost, an acclaimed international news website.

Previously, Sennott worked for many years as a reporter at the New York Daily News and then the Boston Globe, where he became Bureau Chief for the Middle East and Europe, and a leader of the paper’s international coverage from 1997 to 2005.

Sennott has also served as a correspondent for PBS Frontline and the PBS NewsHour. He has contributed news analysis to the BBC, CNN, NPR, MSNBC and others. He is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m., with the main event beginning at 6 p.m. The presentation is a part of the SECWAC 2018-2019 Speaker Series. For non-members, tickets ($20) may be purchased at the door; ticket cost can subsequently be applied towards a SECWAC membership. Attendance is free for SECWAC members (and their guests). Membership September 2018 through June 2019 is $75; $25 for young professionals under 35; free for area college and high school students.

Immediately following the presentation, SECWAC meeting attendees have the option for $35 to attend a dinner with the speaker at Tony D’s Restaurant, New London. Reservations are required at 860-912-5718.

The Ernst Common Room at Blaustein Hall, Connecticut College, 270 Mohegan Avenue, New London, CT 06320. (MAP HERE)

SECWAC is a regional, nonprofit, membership organization affiliated with the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA). The organization dates back to 1999, and has continued to arrange eight to 10 Speaker Series meetings annually, between September and June. The meetings range in foreign affairs topics, and are hosted at venues along the I-95 corridor, welcoming members and guests from Stonington to Old Saybrook, and beyond.

SECWAC’s mission is “to foster an understanding of issues of foreign policy and international affairs through study, debate, and educational programming.” It provides a forum for nonpartisan, non-advocacy dialogue between members and speakers, who can be U.S. policy makers, educators, authors, and other experts on foreign relations. Learn more at http://secwac.org.

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Letter to the Editor: Needleman Says, “The Election Is Over … Let’s Get To Work”

To the Editor:

The voters of the 33rd District have chosen me to be their advocate in the State Senate for the next two years. The depth of my gratitude to the voters and to the hundreds of volunteers who helped throughout the campaign is beyond my ability to express.

The electioneering is finished, and now we will confront the hard work: get the state back on track, and secure a fair share of support for the towns in our district.  My opponent and I differed in our approach to addressing those issues, but we agreed that the core challenge is restoring the state’s financial health and economic vitality. There is no quick fix, but in my view the path we must travel is clear.

First, we have to bridge the partisan divide that stands in the way of good ideas and sensible solutions. Partisan politics have crippled our state, and it should be obvious by now that retreating to an ideological corner is lethal to the kind of cooperation we badly need. As I said throughout the campaign, I will work with anyone who is committed to finding real solutions, regardless of political affiliation.

Second, renovating our approach to developing revenue projections and budgets is vitally important, but is not the only component of the path to recovery. As importantly, the state needs a comprehensive economic development plan that clearly defines strategies and tactics for creating jobs. We need a plan that builds a compelling and durable appeal to businesses of all sizes…a plan that creates a marketing and communications framework for coalescing the state’s many attributes and advantages into a compelling message. Without a comprehensive plan, the road to economic vitality will be random and reactive, instead of well directed and focused.

Third, I will tirelessly advocate to make certain that every town in our district receives its fair share of support from Hartford. The perspective I have gained from real world experience in budgeting and managing town and business operations will add both credibility and impact to the voice our towns have in the State Senate.

But we also need to address issues that go beyond the state’s finances. We can never stop advocating for measures that address the quality of life in our towns: women’s issues; primary, secondary, and higher education; benefits to our seniors; support for small businesses; and job training for the thousands of unfilled, high paying technical and manufacturing jobs.

I make the same pledge to those who voted for me and to those who didn’t: I will listen to your concerns, I will give you straight answers, and I will never stop working for you. The challenges and the issues that concern you will always be my focus.

It is time to bridge the partisan gap and start on the road to finding solutions. I’m optimistic, because I believe all of us recognize that we have to set aside our differences and truly work together.  That’s the approach and the attitude I will bring to Hartford as your state senator.

Thanks to all of you for your encouragement and support.

Sincerely,

Norm Needleman,
Essex.

Editor’s Note: The author is the first selectman of Essex and state senator-elect for the 33rd Senate District.

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All Active, Retired Military Invited to Join Tri-Town Veteran’s Day Parade Today

TRI-TOWN — Tri-Town Veteran’s Day Parade kicks off at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11, down Main St in Deep River.

All active duty and veterans are welcome to march.

Muster at 12:30 p.m. behind Deep River Elementary School.

Ceremony follows at the Memorial Green.

Listen for all church bells to ring at 11 a.m. throughout the towns in observance of the 100th anniversary of Armistice.

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Collomore Concert Series Concludes With ‘Andes Manta,’ Nov. 25

The ‘Andes Manta’ group from the Ecuadorian Andes will play the final Collomore Concert, Nov. 25.

CHESTER — The Collomore Concert Series wraps up its 45th season at the Chester Meetinghouse on Sunday, Nov. 25, with music of the Ecuadorian Andes, played on more than 35 traditional instruments by the music group Andes Manta.

The vibrant and powerful music of Andes Manta is a joyous celebration of daily life. Songs and festivals mark the blessing of a house, the birth of a child, and the cycles of planting and harvesting. Energetic music and dance animate religious festivals blending pre-Colombian and Catholic rituals.

Natives of the Ecuadorian Andes, the four Lopez brothers – Fernando, Luis, Bolivar, and Jorge – form the group.  They are well known all over America for their virtuosity and extraordinary performances. From Carnegie Hall to the Discovery Channel, the National Cathedral to Lincoln Center and in hundreds of schools and universities, their powerful and moving performance has received standing ovation after standing ovation.

As one presenter said, “The crowd would not let them stop. These guys are magic.”

A selection of the instruments played by ‘Andes Manta.’

The four brothers learned their traditional folk music as it has been learned for thousands of years, passed from father to son, and brother to brother. They have played the entire range of Andean instruments since their childhood, but each has specialties.

Fernando specializes in strings, and most often plays guitar, the bandolin, and the charango. Luis is a noted virtuoso on the charango and the quena, the Andean flute. Jorge specializes in the Andean stringed instruments, while Bolivar is a noted wind musician and the featured performer on the ronadador, an Ecuadorian panpipe that is unique in the world for the “chordal” note that it produces.

The Sunday, Nov. 25, concert will be at 5 p.m. at the Chester Meetinghouse, 4 Liberty St., Chester. A reception follows the concert so you can meet the four brothers.

Read more about Andes Manta on the website, www.collomoreconcerts.org. Tickets for the concert are $30 (students, $5). Tickets can be purchased online at www.collomoreconcerts.org using PayPal, or call (860) 526-5162.

The Collomore Concert series is under the auspices of the Chester Historical Society.

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Democrat Challenger Palm Defeats Republican Incumbent Siegrist in 36th District

State Representative-Elect (D-36th) Christine Palm.

AREAWIDE — Democrat Christine Palm defeated one term-incumbent State Rep. Robert Siegrist (R) by 6,930 votes to 6,592 in the 36th House District.  The District includes the towns of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam.

Asked her reaction the result, Palm told ValleyNewsNow.com, “There are those who will say that speaking in terms of “red” and “blue” is counterproductive. But there’s no question that Democrats and Republicans approach problem-solving differently.”

She continued, “My job now is to represent all four towns in a way that is authentic, respectful of differences, and driven by both passion and pragmatism. Enlightened public policy always takes into account the needs of all people — regardless of where they fall on the economic spectrum.”

Palm concluded, “And while I will never please everyone, I intend to be a pro-active leader for all the towns in our district.”

 

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Needleman Wins 33rd State Senate District by 303 Votes

State Senator-Elect Norm Needleman

State Representative (R-34th) Melissa Ziobron.

AREAWIDE — Melissa Ziobron, Republican Candidate for the 33rd State Senate District and outgoing House Representative for the 34th District, called her opponent to concede the race just after noon today.

According to the Connecticut Secretary of State, Mr. Needleman leads by 303 votes, or 0.58 percent, which is just 0.08 percent over the 0.5 percent threshold that would trigger an automatic recount.
Rep. Ziobron stated “I am very proud of the race that I ran and grateful for the tremendous effort from my campaign staff and volunteers. We worked hard, earned every vote and did not give an inch of ground.”
Rep. Ziobron concluded: “I want to thank everyone who has supported me, both in this race and elsewhere, most especially my family.”
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Murphy Easily Wins Re-election


U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy speaks to supporters Tuesday night. Photo by Douglas Healey for CTNewJunkie.

Editor’s Note: We are providing this link to an article by Jack Kramer published on CTNewsJunkie.com Nov. 6, which covers Senator Chris Murphy’s victory.  CTNewsJunkie.com is a fellow member of the Local Independent Online News (LION) publishers national organization and we are pleased occasionally to cross-publish our stories.

HARTFORD, CT — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy easily won a second term Tuesday night defeating Republican challenger Matthew Corey.

Murphy was declared the winner shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Early results showed him with a 3-2 margin over Corey.

Read the full article at this link.

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Vote! Election Day is Today, Polls Open From 6am to 8pm

Tri-Town and Old Saybrook voters go to the polls today in a critical mid-term election.  There are no town elections — all the names on the ballot sheet are for state positions, including that of governor.

Visit this link to read the responses that all six of the local candidates gave to our questions.

Visit this link or click on the “Letters” tab above to read all the letters we have received relating to the elections.  Open any letter on its individual page to read the associated comments.

Polling stations open at 6 a.m. today and close at 8 p.m.  Essex and Chester  residents cast their votes at their respective town halls while Deep River residents should go to the Town Library. Optical scan machines will be used. Voters must present identification.

IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY DONE SO, WE URGE OUR READERS TO VOTE TODAY!

We will publish the results here on ValleyNewsNow.com very shortly after their announcement.

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We Asked, They Answered: The Candidates Respond to Our Questions

In keeping with a long tradition and in the interests of increasing voter knowledge prior to next week’s critically important mid-term elections, we asked all the candidates, whose districts include some or all of the towns in our coverage area, to send us a brief biography and photo, and answer four questions that we posed to them. The questions came from you — our large and diverse community of readers. We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of questions you sent to us, which we interpret as a clear sign of the level of interest in this election, and are extremely disappointed we could not include more of your questions.

We are pleased to report that five of the six candidates responded to our questionnaire and are delighted now to publish their responses.  We would like to express our sincere thanks to the candidates for taking the time to answer our questions and for adhering to our strict word deadlines — 100 words for the bio and 300 words for each response.

The questions were:

  1. What is the biggest problem facing the state, why is it the biggest problem, and what would you do to help solve it?
  2. What do you think of our leadership in Washington?
  3. What policies or infrastructure do you support at the state level for fostering or managing growth in you district?
  4. Why are you running for this position?

The candidates are:

House District #23 (includes Old Saybrook)

Devin Carney (R – Incumbent)

Matt Pugliese (D)

House District #36 (includes Chester, Deep River and Essex)

Bob Siegrist (R – Incumbent)

Christine Palm (D)

Senate District #33  (includes Chester, Deep River, Essex and Old Saybrook)

Norm Needleman (D) Essex First Selectman

Melissa Ziobron (R) State Rep. House District #34

Click on the candidate’s name above to read their biography and responses to our questions.

For the record and again in keeping with a long tradition, we will not be making any candidate endorsements.

Happy reading … and voting!

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Letter to the Editor: Vote Yes on Q2 on Nov. 6 to Protect our Public Lands

To the Editor:

As a strong supporter and user of Connecticut’s wonderful state parks, forests, farmlands and other state-owned recreational and conservation lands (in our area, Nehantic State Forest and Rocky Neck, Harkness and Hammonassett State Parks, just to call out a few of them), I write in support of the public land conveyance constitutional amendment that will appear on our November 6 ballot as Question #2. I urge my friends and neighbors to vote YES. This ballot measure alone is worth a  trip to the polls.

Many people assume that our state-owned recreational and conservation lands are safeguarded for the public forever. Sadly, this is not the case. As things stand now in Connecticut, the state legislature, by simple majority vote,  can sell, swap or give away these lands to private companies or local governments just as it can any other properties that the state owns.
The number #2 ballot proposal, if adopted, would change this. It would amend the state constitution to require a public hearing and a 2/3 vote before the state legislature could take such action. Thus, while not providing absolute protection for publicly-accessible and much-loved  lands, the measure would require direct public input on their fate. It would create an open and transparent process preventing back-room deals.
For many in our community, state parks and forests are our only way to experience nature and the outdoors. For all of us, our state lands are beautiful and unique; they nourish body and soul. They also contribute substantial revenue to the state and to the localities in which they are located.
Please join me in voting YES on ballot question 2 on November 6.

Sincerely,

Christina E. Clayton,
Old Lyme.
Editor’s Note: The author is a former president of the Old Lyme Land Trust.
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It’s ‘First Friday’ in Chester Tonight!

CHESTER — The First Friday of the month means something’s happening in Chester!

The merchants of Chester are kicking off the season of Thanksgiving on the First Friday of November, Nov. 2, by collecting canned goods for Hinka’s Cupboard, the Middletown food pantry. Drop off a can at your favorite shop (or brewmaster), and then enjoy the quaint boutiques, talented artists and the top-notch brewery and restaurants that Chester has to offer during the First Friday activities from 5 to 8 p.m.

Drop-off spots for canned goods include Blackkat Leather(36 Main Street), Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio and Gallery(1 Spring Street), Little House Brewing Company(16 Main Street), The French Hen(14 Main Street), Shops at the Mill House(5 West Main Street), Chester Package Store(1 North Main Street), Lark(4 Water Street), CAIT SHEA + Sprouted(1 Main Street), Kismet(11 Main Street), Lori Warner Gallery and Swoon(21 Main Street), Dina Varano Gallery(27 Main Street), Strut Your Mutt(29 Main Street), Caryn Paradis(43 Main Street) and The Perfect Pear(51 Main Street).

Merchants, restaurants and galleries will be offering food and drink samples, newly introduced products and specials.

The Chester Gallery continues their exhibit “In the Elements” featuring two new Sol LeWitt gouaches, along with other wonderful sculptures, paintings, neon glass, etchings, baskets and more…visit their website for a list of artists! https://www.chestergalleryct.com/artists/

Blackkat Leather will host Aquinnah Jewelry for the evening. Meet Kelly and customize your own tassel keychains in the shop. Spend $100 or more in store and you get to make one on the house.

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Norm Needleman (D) Candidate for Senate District #33

Biography

Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman

Norm Needleman is currently serving his fourth term as Essex First Selectman. He has over 20 years as a leading advocate for small towns, with experience as a Selectman in Essex, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Essex Economic Development Commission, the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments, and Board Member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

Norm founded Tower Laboratories, a manufacturing company, 38 years ago. He and his two sons have built the company to become a leader in its field, now employing over 250 people.

Q1: What is the biggest problem facing the state, why is it the biggest problem, and what would you do to help solve it?

The state’s most immediate problem is the fiscal crisis brought on by years of mismanagement by administrations of both political parties. The harsh reality is that there is no quick fix. Fundamental change is required in the way we manage the state’s finances.

  1. Stop the blame game. We need cooperation, not finger-pointing. The way out of the financial mess is to stop the political gamesmanship that cripples any real chance for cooperation. Inclusion is the only way to forge the dialogue that can resolve difficult issues. No solution to the financial crisis will result without meaningful participation from all stakeholders.
  2. Start with reliable revenue projections. The state has to live within its means. The budget process should begin with revenue projections that are both reasonable and reliable. Overly optimistic revenue projections have caused budget instability, knee-jerk fixes, and fluctuating funding for our towns, making local budgets unstable and compromising delivery of services.
  3. Recognize that shared sacrifice is required. Interest groups, legislators, and the administration must come to the table recognizing an unavoidable reality: we can’t always get what we want. Not everyone will leave the table happy, but all stakeholders have to share the responsibility for putting the state on the road to financial stability.
  4. Start on the road to a proven long-term solution. Job creation through aggressive economic development is the permanent solution to the state’s financial crisis. We need a comprehensive, long-term plan that will define the path to attracting businesses of all sizes and the high paying jobs that come with them. Those businesses want certainty, not a constant refrain of gloom and doom. When a long-term plan is implemented, our state will regain its status as a place where businesses can grow and prosper.

What do you think of our leadership in Washington?

I’m proud of the work being done by Connecticut’s congressional leaders in Washington, Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, and Congressman Courtney. They work tirelessly for the benefit of their constituents in our state. Their work exists in sharp contrast to the thoughtless, damaging and rigidly ideological policies of the current administration. In almost every area…taxation, healthcare, women’s rights, trade and tariff policy, the environment, voting rights, education, foreign policy…the current administration has attempted to implement regressive and repressive policies that punish hard working people. In our district and in our state, businesses of all sizes have suffered economic consequences, and individuals have felt the impact in job losses and price increases for goods and services. The price we pay for current administration policies is made worse by the tone-deaf policies on issues like women’s rights, healthcare and voting rights.  I am grateful to Connecticut elected officials in the Senate and the House, who have worked to battle the rising tide of repressive policies that ignore human values, basic rights, and the economic interests of hard working Americans.

So, the short answer to your question about what I think of our leadership in Washington: I’m appalled and dismayed. But I’m not giving up…I’m committed to fighting every step of the way for state policies that insure safety, fairness and opportunity for every individual in our district.

Q3: What policies or infrastructure do you support at the state level for fostering or managing growth in your district?

Make certain that the towns in our district receive their fair share of support from the state. Every year our district sends tens of millions of dollars to Hartford. And every year, we get less and less support in return. I will work to eliminate inequities in state funding, and make certain that every town in our district gets its fair share of support. As importantly, I will support procedures that result in stable state budgets, so our towns can develop municipal budgets with the certainty that support will not fluctuate in mid-course.

Make economic development a priority. Re-building the economic vitality of our state and our district is key to almost every element of the quality of life here, including infrastructure maintenance, education, the environment, and everyone’s favorite, lower taxes.  I will use my experience as a job creator to build a reality-based economic development plan that will make it easier for small and large business to operate and prosper.

Fix the state’s budget process. Partisan bickering, shortsighted legislators, and knee-jerk reactions to profound economic challenges are what got us into our current fiscal mess.  All of that has to change. Revenue projections have to be realistic, the hard decisions about spending priorities need to be reality-based, and the budget development process needs to be inclusive, not exclusionary. In Essex, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents work together to focus on doing more with less. The result: our taxes are lower than 90% of the municipalities in our state. 

Set an example of non-partisan cooperation. I have built my success in business and government based on inclusion, and listening to ideas, regardless of the party affiliation of the source. Partisan politics got us into this mess…clearly it is the way out.

Q4: Why are you running for this position?

My commitment to public service and civic involvement stems from the lessons my father taught me when I worked in his small grocery store in Brooklyn, New York. He said that everyone has a responsibility to make his or her community a better place to live. To quote him: “”You cant just take…you have to give back.”  I have been fortunate in my life. I have built a successful business, and I have a beautiful family (my partner, Jacqueline Hubbard and 5 wonderful grandchildren). Today, I see a crucial need to give back to the towns in our district, and I am at the stage of my life when my experience will allow me to live up to the teachings of my father.

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Christine Palm (D) Candidate for House District #36

Biography

Christine Palm

Christine Palm is principal of Sexual Harassment Prevention, LLC, which gives anti-discrimination trainings for the corporate, academic and non-profit workplace. Palm served for many years as anti-harassment trainer for Connecticut’s Executive Branch agencies. She was women’s policy analyst for the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors and served as public information officer for the Office of State Treasurer.

She has been a newspaper reporter, high school teacher, marketer of non-profit and cultural institutions, and once owned a bowling alley. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for essay writing.

She and her husband have four sons and live in Chester.

Q1: What is the biggest problem facing the state, why is it the biggest problem, and what would you do to help solve it?

The biggest problem is the state of our economy, which began to tank years ago under previous administrations. Bad policies and irresponsible practices then have resulted in distress now.

The Connecticut I grew up in had a wonderfully diversified economy that stood on five strong “legs”: Manufacturing, Insurance, Defense, Retail/Commercial and Tourism. Many of the companies woven into this fabric were locally owned and run. We have become over-reliant on Fairfield Country hedge funds, have cut tourism spending, and have allowed our once-robust manufacturing sector to falter.

I’m in favor of investing in vocational and technical schools and apprenticeship programs which, when working together with corporations and businesses, will provide a pipeline to employment.

We need to invest in innovative start-ups. For this, I’d also like to see us reapportion the money currently being spent through the “First Five” program in two ways:

First, rather than give $322 million to 15 large companies (as we do now) let’s give smaller (but still critical) seed money to a wider swath of entrepreneurs, and small and mid-sized businesses. Imagine what 320 grants of $500,000 each could do! I would require that an affordable housing component be required, as well as retail activity. These are the two largest drivers of what makes cities and towns attractive to a young, educated workforce.

Secondly, I would use the other half (around $160 million) to defray college debt. With an average debt of $35,000, Connecticut’s young workforce has the third highest burden in the nation. If the State gave that $160 million to 320 companies to help pay off employees’ student loans, nearly 5,000 workers would have a large expense taken care of (and could therefore stay longer at the jobs), and the employer would not have to raise wages in order to compete.

Q2: What do you think of our leadership in Washington?

If by “leadership” we are talking about the president, I believe he is, without a doubt, the worst thing that has happened to our country in generations. He has debased the free press, incited riots and hatred, defended Neo-Nazis, imposed business-busting tariffs, committed sexual assault (and bragged about it), decimated the E.P.A., violated human rights on every front, and is poised to squander the surplus and strong economy he inherited when taking office. What should be of grave concern to our local residents, too, is the fact that his so-called tax cuts will actually add to the burden of middle-class and working families in Connecticut.

If, however, we are talking about our U.S. Congressional delegation, they are a very different story. Rep. Joe Courtney is a personal, lifelong friend and I know first-hand of his integrity and brains. From my work at the Capitol, I have partnered with Sen. Chris Murphy on such important issues as domestic violence reduction and gun safety. They and their Democratic colleagues represent our interests in a moral, effective way.

Q3: What policies or infrastructure do you support at the state level for fostering or managing growth in your district?

Our district is blessed with natural beauty, cultural attractions and vibrant small manufacturers and businesses. We need to invest and protect the interests of all, as we seek ways to attract more business, including retail, to our towns, especially Haddam.

From knocking on people’s doors this summer and fall, I heard over and over again of the need to make the town more vibrant by increasing the tax base, so that middle class families will not continue to bear the brunt of our unequal taxation system.

In addition, we must protect our schools by guaranteeing our fair share of Educational Cost Sharing dollars.

Q4: Why are you running for this position?

From my 10 years in government service as a non-partisan employee of the General Assembly, I saw too many good bills fail because of partisan bickering and the lack of political backbone. I believe we need bold leadership, and to have the chance to represent four river towns is a privilege I take very seriously.

One of my political heroes was Wilbur Cross, who was Connecticut’s governor during the Great Depression. Among his signature achievements were measures related to the abolition of child labor, improved factory safety and the creation of a minimum wage. I think of him when I get discouraged about political inaction and timidity.

Here is a guy who at the height of the worst crisis in memory, inspired people with his optimism: in his famous Thanksgiving address of 1936, he talked about “blessings that have been our common lot and have placed our beloved State with the favored regions of earth.”

But he also spoke of the need for “steadfast courage and zeal in the long, long search after truth.”

I can’t pretend to have Wilbur Cross’ courage or his wisdom. But in seeking to represent Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam at the Capitol, I promise to strive toward them.

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