Long Awaited Dog Park is a Tail Wagging Success

By Bob Levine

After 12 long years Jared’s Dog Park finally opened to the public on Saturday, August 8th. The Park, located at 700 Peters Lane in Stratford was the culmination of years of planning and “jumping through hoops” by the Stratford Dog Park Action Committee.

Jared’s Dog Park is approximately 2 acres of fenced in natural forest landscape for dogs and their owners to exercise, play and socialize! There are separate areas for large and small dogs (dogs under 30 pounds and over 30 pounds), a double gated entry/exit area for safety, water fountains (available Spring/Summer/Fall), agility/play structures created by local youth Scout groups, memorial benches/gardens and much more!

Jared’s Dog Park was named after Jared Levine, a lifelong resident of Stratford who attended Chapel Street School, Flood Middle School and graduated from Bunnell High School with honors. Levine was passionate about caring for others. He became the youngest EMT for the Town of Stratford when he was 16. He served for 5 years and received the Florence Silvestri Award for Bravery. Between High School and College Levine served as a volunteer firefighter.

Jared was a volunteer at the Audubon in Fairfield, Trumbull Animal Shelter and TAG. He loved going for hikes at Roosevelt Forest, target shooting at a local range and fishing with his Dad. During a gap year between high school and college he served as a volunteer fireman in Nichols. Jared completed two years at Sacred Heart University and wanted to become a carpenter. He followed his dream of becoming a Master Craftsman. After apprenticing with several craftsmen he opened his own home improvement business.

Jared died in 2016 at the age of 36 from complications from an untimely auto accident where he was injured by a drunken driver in a 2014 crash.

His happiest days were spent walking the trails in Roosevelt Forest with his fur babies! This park will allow his memory to live on and provide the people of Stratford a place where they can let their dogs run free and socialize with others.

Thank you for helping to make this dream a reality. The park is open from Sunrise to Sunset, all dogs must be licensed and vaccinated and wearing their tags while in the Dog Park.

“It is our hope that this park will allow his memory to live on and provide the people of Stratford a place where they can let their dogs run free and socialize with others.” Robert Levine, Jared’s father

All of the initial and ongoing costs associated with Jared’s Dog Park is paid for through fundraising efforts, including costs for annual maintenance and operational costs of the park (fence repairs, waste bags etc.).

Thank you for helping to make this dream a reality. Donations may be made by sending a check to: Friends of Jared’s Dog Park, 17 Matthew Drive, Stratford, CT 06614. Or through PayPal: jaredsdogpark@gmail.com, paypal.me/jaredsdogpark.

Rosa DeLauro vs Margaret Streicker

Running for Congresswoman for Connecticut’s 3rd District

by Rachel Rusnek
Project Management at UConn Health

Rosa DeLauro, incumbent Congress woman for the 3rd District, covering central and coastal sections of Connecticut, is running this year to hold her seat against newcomer Margaret Streicker.

DeLauro, a long time New Haven native, boasts 30 years of political service in the district. Her legislative priorities, illustrated by her sponsored bills, have included health, labor and employment issues, agriculture and food safety, taxation, and government operations.

DeLauro has been an active representative for the district throughout her tenure, in fact between Jan 1991 to Oct 2020, DeLauro missed only 1.9% of the 19,021 roll call votes, which have occurred during her tenure, below the median of 2.3% among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving.

DeLauro is the current Co-Chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Other issues identified as a part of her platform include national investment in education, health, and employment, oversight of food and drug safety, and support for working families. She supports raising the minimum wage, access to paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, and equal pay for equal work.

Prior to her congressional service DeLauro worked as the first executive Director of Emily’s List, an organization devoted to increasing the number of women who serve in elected office. She also served as Chief of Staff to former Senator Dodd, and successfully directed the national campaign to end military aid to Nicaraguan Contras, a rebel group known for terrorist tactics and human rights violations. DeLauro has an MA in International Politics from Columbia, and a BA in History & Political Science from Marymount College. She also attended the London School of Economics.

The 2020 challenger, Margaret Streciker, (formerly Margaret Streicker Porres), is a real estate heiress and daughter of John H. Streicker, chairman of the Sentinel Real Estate Corporation, a large real estate company that manages over $5 billion in assets.

Streicker runs her own real estate holding companies, operating primarily in New York, and now Connecticut. She is most well known in New York and real estate circles for her former company, Newcastle Real Estate Services, which was embroiled in scandal in New York for continued violation of State statues and tenants’ rights until it was dissolved in January 2019. Top level employees of the former company including David Drumheller, the former head of operations, have been accused of participating in kickback schemes and price fixing to illegally deregulate apartments. Streicker currently operates Newcastle Connecticut as well as Fortitude Capital, which focuses on
properties outside of the Northeast.

Prior to her foray into campaigning, Streicker received her undergraduate degree from Princeton, where she is a noted donor. She completed master’s degrees in architecture and Real Estate Development at Columbia. Streciker formerly taught at Columbia as an adjunct assistant professor in the Graduate School of Architecture, where she taught residential and assets strategy courses as recently as Fall 2019.

Streicker has identified healthcare, seniors, taxes, and job creation as primary her primary focus. She has also invested heavily in her own campaign, funneling $1.6 million of her own money into its coffers, $1.15 million of which was transferred just this month.

Ballot Snafu Again in Stratford

Nearly 280 voters in a Stratford have been listed in the wrong state House of Representatives district for years, and local voting officials are trying to sort it out after 59 absentee ballots for Tuesday’s election were given out and 45 received in Town Hall.

The Registrar’s office is once again scrambling to fix the absentee ballot error. This isn’t the first time a mistake was uncovered and some fear this latest error could have affected the last three election cycles.

The apartment complex, constructed in 2013 on the former Keating Ford property, had been given ballots for the 120th House of Representatives District, and should have been given ballots for the 121st House of Representative District.

The 121st District race is between third-term Democrat State Rep. Joe Gresko and challenger Republican Ed Scinto. Current Democrat State Rep. Phil Young is once again being challenged by Republican Jim Feehan in the 120th.

Young’s Republican opponent Jim Feehan was out door knocking and uncovered the address error. His campaign reported the issue to the Stratford Town Clerk. According to various news reports, the apartment complex address is in between both the 120th and 121st house districts. Rick Marcone, the Democratic Registrar, admitted people who live in the apartments were assigned to the wrong district, which means they may have voted with the wrong ballot for 3-election cycles.

Lou DeCilio, the town’s Republican voter registrar, said late Wednesday afternoon that leaving the apartments out of the correct district in previous elections could have affected the Young-Feehan races of 2018, where voters were given the wrong ballots on election day. DeCilio claims that he didn’t know if it has been that way since the apartment was built, ”At least we caught it in time for Election Day.”

“This is a human error thing, but it has to be remedied very soon,” said J.R. Romano, Republican State Chairman. And they will be given the right ballot.

“This is a difficult situation,” Young said on Wednesday. “The apartments were built in 2013, so since then, they’ve been voting in the wrong district. This is a screw up that no one seems to be able to answer for me. When I heard about this today, I felt my stomach drop.”

In a news outlet interview State Representative Phil Young said, “They found that out the day of the election. This time luckily it’s six days before the election. This has to do with the registrar of voters not doing what they are supposed to be doing.”

“They are in the process of fixing it now,” State Representative Joe Gresko said Wednesday afternoon. “We have a couple of days to figure it out.” According to the Secretary of the State the 8 wrong ballots – which can be identified by their bar code – will be set aside and hand counted in case of a challenge. Gabe

Rosenberg, counsel for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, confirmed the mix-up was a districting error. According to Rosenberg, it’s new housing that was put into the wrong House district, stressing that state law directs town voting officials (our Registrars) to reissue correct ballots and use the serial numbers on the erroneous completed ballots to track them down and void them.

The registrars began to investigate the apparent mix-up early on Wednesday and went to the complex after explaining to the state what the problem was. Voters are being offered new ballots.

Click here to read Stratford Town Democratic Committee Chairman Steven Taccongna’s Letter to the Mayor’s office. 

KBC Electronics Wins Cal Ripken Tournament

Stratford Cal Ripken team, KBC Electronics, defeated DJ’s Roofing to clinch the 2020 Fall Ball Championship, Minors Division (10U) on Sunday, October 25.  The Tournament was held at Clover Field in Stratford.

The score was 3-1.

The Tournament involved eight teams from five towns.  In order to reach the tournament finals both KBC Electronics and DJ’s Roofing had to defeat two teams from Oxford, and Bethel and Woodbridge, respectively.

The regular season consisted of 8 games for each of the Stratford teams, with each team’s only loss coming to the other Stratford team.

Front Row, L – R

Neko Passaro, Tyler Maseto, Ryan Poling, Michael Weaver, Riley Saint, Tyler Patenaude

Middle Row, L-R
Jayden Ortiz, Amare Dupree, OJ Cusick, Jack Madar, Vinny Fuentes, Alden Clark

Back Row, L-R

Beth Madar (Coach) Michael Madar (Coach)

Jillian Poling (Coach) Shawn Poling (Coach)

Missing: Ethan Trasy

Stratford School Update: Coronavirus Data Dashboard

As of Thursday, 32 Bunnell High School students were in quarantine, and four Bunnell community members — two students and two teachers — were isolating after testing positive.

Five students at Flood Middle School were quarantining as of Thursday as a result of testing positive for the virus, as were four Lordship Elementary School students, one Nichols Elementary School student and one Stratford High School student. Three Stratford High School staff members were in isolation after they were confirmed to have the virus.

Fifteen Stratford High School community members and 14 people associated with Flood Middle School were in isolation as of Thursday after close contact with a person who tested positive.

The large number of quarantines comes as the district moves forward with plans to switch from a hybrid learning model to a schedule that would bring students into the classroom four days per week, despite vocal opposition from teachers and community members.

Candidate: Philip Young

Note: All Stratford candidates running for office on November 3rd were sent a Stratford Crier questionnaire. Candidates Jim Feenan, Rick Marcone, Kevin Kelly, and Ed Scinto did not respond.

Name: Philip Young

Office: State Representative 120th District

Have you held office before? If yes, when and what?

Yes, Stratford Town Council District 6, 2015-2017. Current 120th State Representative since March 2017.

Whether you have held office or are running for the first time, what is an accomplishment or project for the town that you are proudest of?

One of my favorite accomplishments actually in Stratford was seeing the mayor to prevent the sale of the Water Pollution Control Facility, and the subsequent town referendum to stop the sale. Both were successful.

What made you decide to run for this particular office?

I really want to work on policy issues that will benefit the town of Stratford, as well as the citizens of the state as a whole.

What would you like to accomplish if you are elected?

Update recycling laws and get away from single stream recycling. Introduce a law called the “Cure Act”, which would change the way disease is treated. It would look for the cure of Diabetes and other pre-conditions instead of maintenance-based approaches. Pass legislation for early voting in CT.

What’s more important for Stratford right now: building new homes and commercial space or rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts?

Both are important, but since Stratford has a lot of properties that are brownfields, I’d like to see them rehabilitated, with new entities to go onto the tax rolls.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

Probably donate half it to the Sterling House so they could expand their youth programs, and the other half to the Baldwin Center to expand their programs for the elderly.

How do you plan to engage Stratford residents and make them a part of your decision making process?

My staff sends out almost daily updates on issues I am working on. I’ve also held community meetings at the library, Baldwin Center and Sterling House to hear what Stratfordites are concerned over. I also work very hard to answer questions sent to my email.

What is one of your favorite things/places/events in our community?

Long Beach, for a good hike or just soaking up some sun.

Candidate: Dr. James Simon

Note: All Stratford candidates running for office on November 3rd were sent a Stratford Crier questionnaire. Candidates Jim Feenan, Rick Marcone, Kevin Kelly, and Ed Scinto did not respond.

Name: Dr. James Simon
Office:  Democrat running for Registrar of Voters

Have you held office before? If yes, when and what?

I served as Assistant Secretary of the Environment in Massachusetts, focusing on brownfield remediation issues (like the AVCO property). My varied experience gives me many other ways to view voting issues: as an Associated Press political reporter who covered elections for 10 years … as a nationally known and published expert on how to get young people more involved in voting … and as a university Dean and professor who uses his doctorate in public administration to study government. I also am proud of my volunteer work for the Stratford Library, the town’s Greenway Committee, and others who need help.

Whether you have held office or are running for the first time, what is an accomplishment or project for the town that you are proudest of?

When Karen, Chris and I moved back to Stratford in 1997, we realized you could make a big impact without holding public office. At that time, the town made plans to widen beautiful Whippoorwill Lane to make way for a gas pipeline; since the pipeline company was paying for alterations, the town announced plans to chop down dozens of trees on the lane. I helped organize neighbors, met at Boothe, formulated plans to get press coverage, testified at public hearings, and shamed the town into backing off – which they did.

What made you decide to run for this particular office?

Every other town in Connecticut has part-time Registrars of Voters. But our Town Council has been spending $300,000 a year to pay four (!) full-time Registrars, with benefits. The result: it has cost Stratford five times more per voter to run the Registrar’s office than neighboring Trumbull. Out of the 150+ towns in Connecticut, guess how many have followed The Stratford Model. None! We continue to be the only town to waste your taxpayer money on full-time patronage jobs instead of using it to protect and expand voting.

What would you like to accomplish if you are elected?

1. Give myself time to fully understand what is involved in the Registrar’s position.

2. Begin work to roll back the Registrar positions to part-time status, adding any needed
additional part-time workers in election seasons.

3. Restore integrity to the office. Make sure the Democratic Registrar keeps an eye on the
Republican registrar, and vice versa, consistent with a watchdog role.

4. Use my experience in public administration to update the voting rolls, lobby the state
legislature to make mail-in voting easy and permanent, protect voters’ rights, expand
voting access, and look for ways to further automate the registration process.

What’s more important for Stratford right now: building new homes and commercial space or rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts?

This is well beyond the role of the Registrar. I would hope any such decisions are made with an eye toward generating more business revenue to help the town balance its books and reduce the sky-high property taxes in town.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the town any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

Bring in economic development experts to help generate a marketing plan for the town, rooted in the goal of making Stratford a destination for the arts and young families, tied to the terrific new plan to rebuild the Shakespeare Theatre.

How do you plan to engage Stratford residents and make them a part of your decision making

I don’t understand why the Registrar’s office does so little in social media to reach out to voters and remind them of voting rights, rules and procedures. At the very least, we should have an interactive Facebook page and website that provides expanded information, allows you to ask questions, and encourages voting.

Call me an idealist, but in this polarized age, I also would hope the Registrars could have a non- partisan citizen advisory board to study ways to expand the scope of the office, such as innovative ideas to engage/excite high schoolers about civic life and their privilege/duty to vote.

What is one of your favorite things/places/events in our community?

As I recently wrote on Facebook, a hidden treasure here in District 8 is the Sikorsky Estuary Walk, which allows you to walk or bicycle from Ryders Landing, under the Merritt Parkway Bridge, and up on the bridge as you walk to Milford. It’s safe, free … and it brings back memories of the 200 times I did it with my beloved dog Diesel before he passed on.

Candidate: Joe Gresko

Note: All Stratford candidates running for office on November 3rd were sent a Stratford Crier questionnaire. Candidates Jim Feenan, Rick Marcone, Kevin Kelly, and Ed Scinto did not respond.

Office: State Representative District 121

Have you held office before? If yes, when and what?

Two and a half term incumbent as State Representative for the 121st House Assembly District. Also, former Fifth District Town Councilperson and Inland Wetlands Commission member

Whether you have held office or are running for the first time, what is an
accomplishment or project for the town that you are proudest of?

Securing the state bond funds for the expansion/renovation of Sterling House. The town icon is a beacon for sports, services and learning.

What made you decide to run for this particular office?

A promise I made to my predecessor, former State Representative Terry Backer. Also, having worked at the State Capitol, I was familiar with the process and excited about helping our town at the state level.

What would you like to accomplish if you are elected?

Continue increasing the education funds Stratford receives from the state. Also, protecting the phase out of state income tax on social security and pensions. (We are in year two of four-year phase out)

What’s more important for Stratford right now? Building new homes and commercial space or rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts?

I prefer rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing existing homes and commercial areas, like the former Mobil Films Division on Lordship Blvd, which is in the final stages of demolition.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

I would divide the funds between projects that when completed, would add to Stratford’s appeal. I secured $1 million in state bond funds for the Connecticut Air & Space Center a couple years back. I would add to that fund to highlight Stratford’s place in aviation history. I’d also purchase some parcels of land that would add to the footprint of
Roosevelt Forest and try to purchase some land around the South End Community Center so it could be expanded.

How do you plan to engage Stratford residents and make them a part of your decision making process?

I engage Stratford residents through email, e-blasts, FB posts and State Capitol updates they receive in the mail. Many constituents also contact me on my cell phone. I respond to emails and phone/text messages myself.

What is one of your favorite things/places/events in our community?

Stratford Point is a favorite because of its scenic beauty and work done to reclaim the land following remediation. I joined volunteers over the years to remove invasive species, plant natives and plant beach grass to halt beach erosion.

Know Your Town: The Arts Alliance of Stratford

by Mark Hannon
President of the Arts Alliance of Stratford

The Arts Alliance of Stratford, was conceived as a way to support and foster the growth of the arts, educational and cultural experiences in the Stratford. The Alliance creates collaborations among professional and emerging artists of all mediums, patrons of the arts, businesses, schools and community organizations, as well as by advocating for the arts.

The Alliance was born in 2007, originally as the Stratford Arts Guild, a vision of resident Debbie Gilbert, to see a unified “place” for the arts and artists. Acknowledging an abundance of talent in the performing, writing, music, and visual arts, she envisioned that all could participate as artists, audience and supporters, creating economic benefit for the community. “We need look no further than our neighbors in Bridgeport and Milford to see how partnerships among government, the business community and the arts attract people to visit and spend their money,” said founder and current VP/Treasurer, Debbie Gilbert. In 2014 the name of the organization was changed to the Coastal Arts Guild of CT to reflect its focus on regional partnerships.

Debbie took a hiatus and Mark Hannon, the current President, fulfilled Debbie’s vision for the Alliance by receiving 501c3 charitable status. He continues to work tirelessly, leading the Alliance by providing art opportunities to the community and its members. Other Board members include Secretary Anne Mulligan, Education Director Megan McCool, and members at large Vinny Faggella, Colin Healey, and Margaret Bodell.

In “normal” times, the Arts Alliance hosts monthly member meetings at Sterling House; participates in many high quality juried craft shows; produces International Make Music Day (a town-wide celebration on the summer solstice that happens around the world); makes field trips to museums and plein-air painting locations.

In addition to creative classes and workshops, they sponsor a series of business workshops for artists, in conjunction with SCORE. It also partners with Artists for World Peace, a Middletown based organization that sells donated 6”x6” canvasses from their moving Peace Wall to raise money for humanitarian causes.

Early in 2020, The Alliance officially partnered with Sterling House and renovated the exhibition room into an art gallery, where future shows, music recitals, poetry and play readings can take place. The room historically hosted art shows but in recent years had been used for many purposes, including an annual youth and adult art show in June. The Alliance proposed adding a program of community and member art shows at other times during the year. An advocate of the arts herself, Executive Director Amanda Meeson saw tremendous value in a partnership with the Alliance and it was made official just prior to Covid-19 shutdowns.

In recognition of this partnership and moving activities to Sterling House, The Alliance changed its name again from the Coastal Arts Guild of CT to Arts Alliance of Stratford.

This year, The Alliance, like so many other organizations, pivoted to offer programs online. Figure drawing on Zoom has been very successful. It created additional opportunities to bring in artists and models from all over the country. Make Music Day was presented virtually in June. It hopes to host a virtual visual art show before the end of the year. The Alliance is recruiting teaching artists to offer programming remotely and planning a journalism project with the public high schools.

As a creative partner in the Town of Stratford, Arts Alliance of Stratford, along with the other arts organizations, envisions Stratford as an arts destination. With many natural and creative assets, Stratford has an abundance of talent to share. The Alliance actively supports and advocates to make Stratford a destination for those who enjoy the arts, and to drive economic success.

The Alliance is currently continuing its monthly member meetings over Zoom, on the first Tuesday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00. Included in the meeting is a monthly art challenge to create a piece of visual, written or musical art around a theme and the opportunity to present and critique members’ current work.

For more information please visit ArtsAllianceofStratford.org.


Extra, Extra! CAN’T Read All About it

by James Simon
Candidate for Registrar of Voters

In the past, Stratford politicians had to worry about their mistakes and scandals being exposed by The Connecticut Post, The Stratford Star, even The Stratford Bard (for those of you who go back to the 1970s as I do). Today, the Stratford mayor and Town Council operate largely in the dark, without the spotlight of a lot of press coverage. And we Stratford residents pay the price.

We are not alone. “Thousands of local newspapers have closed in recent years,” the Brookings Institute said in a report on “news deserts” last November. “Their disappearance has left millions of Americans without a vital source of local news and deprived communities of an institution essential for exposing wrongdoing and encouraging civic engagement. Of those still surviving, many have laid off reporters, reduced coverage, and pulled back circulation. “Over 65 million Americans live in counties with only one local newspaper—or none at all,” the report said.
News organizations are having trouble surviving in this digital age when Internet users expect their content to be free. The Post has a terrific reporter assigned to Stratford in Ethan Fry.  (Disclaimer: Ethan was a student of mine at Fairfield University). But the newspaper, trying to survive, has put many of his stories behind a paywall called CtInsider; you must pay a fee to access these stories, in print or online.

It is a tough choice for The Post. Should it make its stories available for free on the Internet, allowing Facebook to steal them, or charge a token fee for stories in hopes of generating a revenue stream. The next time you take one of The Post stories and post it online, you should recognize you are stealing the Post’s content, its intellectual property that it paid to collect, and giving it away for free, making it even harder for The Post to survive.

Meanwhile, The Patch provides free, online coverage, supported by online ads. But while its Stratford reporter, Anna Bybee-Schier, does a good job in covering events, she must juggle many other duties and does not have the time to look behind the scenes of what is happening in Stratford.

When it comes to broadcast news coverage, Channel 8 is rarely in town, and Cablevision Channel 12 is now located on Long Island and does little more than occasionally send a cameraman to get some Stratford footage for the anchor to read over.

The problem becomes more acute when one political party controls both the mayor’s office and the Town Council, as the Republican party currently does. The lack of news coverage works to the advantage of the Republicans; I was not surprised when they eliminated funding for the twice-a-year Stratford Calendar newsletter that was delivered to homes. That publication did not contain news stories, but it provided some social glue for Stratford by providing information on town agencies and groups like Sterling House that interact with the public.

Again, the party in power is often better off with as little coverage as possible. There are some who argue The Stratford Star went under because town politicians pulled the required town advertising that helped the paper survive financially.

Reporters also depend on the opposition party to highlight problems and shortcomings in local government. The GOP dominance has been so great that Democrats have had trouble in being heard when they challenge Republican policies that prevent members of the public from engaging with council members at council meetings.

There are thousands of Stratford residents interested in town politics. Given the lack of options, many have gravitated to the two dozen free Facebook groups, most of which have a clear angle, bias, or orientation that makes them an unreliable source of information. Other town residents get their information by signing up for the Mayor’s weekly e-mail blasts; like all public relations efforts, you should not expect an even-handed presentation of information.

Without the spotlight of press coverage, I am always impressed when townspeople can band together and use Internet petitions and similar techniques to get politicians to slow down and listen to the people. In Stratford, we saw it recently when the mayor’s office withdrew its proposed $1-a-year giveaway to a developer of the former Center School property. We also saw it when the developers of land across from Christ Church were forced to slow down and take into consideration the protection of the landmark house on that site.

Into this breach comes The Stratford Crier. It promises to be an independent source of analysis and information on town issues, putting a spotlight on municipal government and providing the adversarial relationship that the press and government should entertain. I believe very much in the libertarian theory that if there are numerous voices, the truth is more likely to emerge. Stratford could use more such voices.

(Eds note: Dr. James Simon was a political reporter with The Associated Press for 10 years.
After spending 25 years as a college journalism professor and as a dean, mostly at Fairfield
University, he won the Democratic primary for Registrar of Voters in August 2020 and will be
on the town-wide ballot this November.)