Calling All Storyteller — Give Us Your Best Story!

Celebrate the Stratford Library’s 125th Anniversary

Library Hosts Zoom Storytelling
Thursday, March 24th from 7-9 p.m.

The Stratford Library invites storytellers of every kind – poets, journalists, filmmakers, dramatists, and comedians, novelists – to celebrate 125 years of the Library with their original stories.  The 125th Storytelling Event will take place on Thursday, March 24th from 7-9 p.m.

In a special Zoom event, held in conjunction with the 125th Anniversary of the Stratford Library, storytellers of all ages are invited to take part online using the theme: THE LIBRARY.

  • What does the Library mean to you?
  • When did you get your first Library card?
  • Is your home library significant in your life?

Any and all memories or original monologues are welcome for the event.

Storytellers can register for the evening at: https://stratfordlibrary.libcal.com/event/8858544?hs=a.

Stories should be no longer than 5 minutes in length.  Once registered, Library staff will reach out and coordinate individual sessions for March 24th.

For further information call the library:: 203.385.4162.

If you ask me…

TheaterWorks of Hartford

“This Bitter Earth”

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

TheaterWorks of Hartford, which managed to struggle through the pandemic with a variety of innovated theatre programming, is currently back to live performances in their beautifully renovated space.  Now on the boards is Harrison David Rivers’ contemporary romantic drama, “This Bitter Earth”.

Taking place over three years (2012-15) in both New York City and St. Paul, “This Bitter Earth” introduces gay couple Jesse (Damian Thompson) a quiet theatre teacher and Neil (Tom Holcomb) a white activist for “Black Lives Matter”.  The initial premise is intriguing as it is Neil trying to convince Jesse to become more involved in racial politics.  The play covers many of the major protests of the period (Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown) and with each event Neil becomes more frustrated by what he sees as Jesse’s political apathy.

Since it jumps back and forth in time for no real purpose that I could understand, we do know the play’s grim outcome fairly early in the game and it’s unfortunate that Rivers’ original premise takes a back seat to speechifying and familiar domestic arguments.  When, at last, Jesse takes a stand it seems anticlimactic and unbelievable given his previous stance to the various horrors of American racial strife that have been depicted.

The play may let its terrific actors down, but both are in fine form and good hands here under the sensitive direction of David Mendizabal.  The men share an easy chemistry and the intimate scenes have passion and sensuality (there is some brief, shadowy nudity) that makes you believe and care about this relationship.

If Thompson seems to be trying harder and pushing at times, it’s probably because Rivers’ script has backed him into a corner.  And, though he does a nice job with a long and sad ending monologue, I ultimately felt I was supposed to be more moved than I actually was.

Set designer Riw Rakkulchon’s handsome bedroom setting leaves room downstage for various other scenes, but it really does not suggest Jesse’s artistic personality. Devario D. Simmons is kept busy with a costume design that covers three years and many costume changes.  Christina Watanabe’s expert lighting design is a marvel of ingenuity flashing back to disco days, protest marches and the present with ease.  In the relatively new position (since #METOO) of Intimacy Director, Rocio Mendez has obviously made his actors very comfortable in the few lovemaking scenes.

“This Bitter Earth” gets its title from the poem by Jalalbad and was also transferred to song and recorded by Dinah Washington in 1960.  The play continues at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street in Hartford through March 20th. For further information visit: www.theaterworkshartford.org or call the theatre box office: 860.527.7838.  Patrons are required to wear masks and show proof of vaccination and photo I.D. at the door.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

Ethics Commission Violation

By Dave Mullane

On February 16th I emailed Thomas Kulhawik, Charles Lindberg and Tim Bishop regarding Joe Bonetatibus being put on the Ethics Commission to replace me in January.  I was never sworn in as a member of the Ethics Commission, and my term expired in May 2021.

It appears Mayor Hoydick appointed another member this month a Michelle Trepasso.  Apparently these appointments were done in violation of the Ethics ordinance since neither Bonetatibus or Trepasso were not vetted by the commission. (2)

Regarding the resignations there was Patricia Gallagher in July right after she was upset about not being able to charge me with a false ethics violation.

In November Secretary of Ethics, Robert Chimini resigned, leaving the commission without a secretary.

You don’t need to elect a President but you do have specific business to attend too.

The Town Clerk does need to swear in current commission members, Bonetatibus and Trepasso in order to conduct business

Then you should elect a Chairman, Vice Chairman and a Recording Secretary. There also needs to be at least one meeting a year in October to set up for the coming year.  (1)  This was never done during my 4 years with the commission.

I suggest that the ordinance be revised so that it does not violate the US Constitution and there is not another farce like the Ethics commission had last summer with me. (3)

Good luck to all of you.

ß 5-29. Ethics Commission Establishment; Membership; Terms; Vacancies; Compensation; Legal counsel

  • The Commission shall elect annually (October meeting) a Chairperson, a Vice Chairperson, and a Recording Secretary from its own number.
  • The Ethics Commission will participate in the vetting process of Commission appointments by interviewing potential candidates to discuss the involvement and commitment of being a Commission member and making recommendations to the appointing person/body.

ß 5-37. Savings Clause

  • Should any provision of this Code of Ethics conflict with any provisions of federal law or the Connecticut General Statutes, the provisions of the federal law or the Connecticut General Statutes shall prevail.

Obituary: Alexander F. Pinto

Alexander Frank Pinto, 84, passed away peacefully on February 18, 2022 with his loving family by his side. Al was born in Bridgeport on March 14, 1937 to Frank and Olympia (LaConte) Pinto. Al was the beloved husband of Mary Ellen (Skene) Pinto, whom he married in 1959. Al and Mary Ellen met at Stratford High on the very first day of high school. Al has been a Lordship resident for over 55 years where neighbors happily called out, “Hey, Al” anytime they saw him doing yard work, getting his coffee and newspaper at the corner market, or attending Mass at Our Lady of Peace Church.
Al was the most loving and devoted father to six children: Ellen, Danny, Jerry, Chris, Michael and Catherine. Al genuinely celebrated his kids’ successes and guided them through any setback with grace and love. Al also had a deep love and relationship with each of his children’s spouses, John, Indah, Melissa, Lauren and Butch.

One of Al’s greatest joys in life was being a grandfather to 11 grandchildren: Natalie, Aaron, Alex, Elizabeth, Cathlyn, Quinn, Lucia, Tate, Marina, Lane and Mac. Even sweeter, was the chance to see his entire family gathered around his pool on summer Sundays and holidays or around his dining room table on a Sunday because Mary Ellen had made “gravy.” (Italians know…) Al was extremely proud of the meeting place his home became to his family, immediate and extended. December 24th was an especially awaited event at the Pinto home where children of family and friends looked forward to a special visit with Santa every Christmas Eve. Al believed in building a strong family and spending time together. He instilled that ritual in his children and grandchildren and they are better for it. Professionally, Al spent many happy and dedicated years working for and managing LA Barnaby & Sons. It was not  uncommon to drive through town and hear him say, “I put that roof on.” He loved being a salesman , interacting with people and making connections that lasted him a lifetime. He prided himself on getting to work rain or shine, always dressed impeccably.

For a few years on Sunday evenings, “Big Al” was a volunteer driver for the Stratford EMS on Able 1. After hosting Labor Day each September, Al and Mary Ellen enjoyed time on the Cape for well-deserved rest and relaxation and to spoil their grandkids with  ice cream and beach time. Al also loved watching a good sporting event on TV or in person. Seeing his own kids and grandkids, play sports brought him immense joy. His children’s friends, teammates and coaches held “Mr. Pinto” in the highest regard.
In addition to his parents, Al is predeceased by his younger brother Frankie, whom he loved immensely and missed dearly. His sister, Catherine, survives him sisters in law Peggy and Lois (Ed), brother in law Jim, and many wonderful nieces and nephews who adored their “Uncle Al.”

The family would like to thank Al’s very kind and dedicated caregivers, Veronique and Nellie, hospice nurse Angela, and longtime physician and friend, Dr. Yousuf Ali. In 2010, Al spoke about living with Wiskott Aldrich Syndrome at the New Horizons New Hope Conference in Chicago. Al is revered by this community as being one of the oldest patients with this very rare blood disorder.

Friends are invited to attend a Mass of Christian Burial on Monday, February 28th at 11:30 a.m. Directly at Our Lady of Peace Church, 651 Stratford Road, Stratford. Friends may call on Sunday from 4-7 p.m. at Pistey Funeral Home, 2155 Main Street, Stratford. The family requests that masks be worn. To promote social distancing, please follow the directions of attendants and signage. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Wiskott Aldrich Foundation at PO Box 156 Austell, GA 30168 in an effort to fund ongoing research and treatment. You may also use this link:

https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E340959&id=5
Visit pisteyfuneralhome.com to express condolences online.

 

Read All About It…

Stratford Crier Participates in Fairfield County Giving Day

Dear Supporters of the Stratford Crier and Stratford Forward,

The Stratford Crier is preparing to launch its Fairfield County’s Giving Day online giving campaign on Feb. 24th — providing community members with a fast and easy way to support our work.

Independent, nonpartisan, online news is more important than ever in these times of great change in our world and our community.  The Stratford Crier’s mission is to restore local journalism to our community; to provide unbiased reporting of town meetings; events; politics; and community organizations; to educate and inform the public; and to encourage civic engagement.

We cannot succeed without the investment of the community we wish to serve. To bring you the best hyper-local, unbiased content, we need your support. If you believe in being up-to-date on all things Stratford, please contribute now

Proceeds from the 24-hour day of giving will support our mission of delivering Stratford news. We have set a goal of $2,500 to support our mission.  Powered by the Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and Champion Sponsor Bank of America, Fairfield County’s Giving Day harnesses the collective giving power of local individuals, businesses and organizations to support nonprofits throughout Fairfield County.

To support The Stratford Crier on Fairfield County’s Giving Day donors can give directly through online Giving Day portal during a 24 hour period beginning at 12:00 a.m. on Feb.24th and continuing up until 11:59 p.m.

Donors can visit : https://www.fcgives.org/organizations/stratford-forward

to make their contributions.

Black History Month

Connecticut Connections

Connecticut is rich with Black history and stories of the trailblazing efforts that African American people have contributed to American History. The Constitution state is well known for African Americans who changed the course of history, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose abolitionist Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped changed the world, the first boarding school for women of color in Canterbury founded by Prudence Crandall, who after a tumultuous seventeen months that the school was open for African American young women, was forced to close because of racism.

But the many unsung African American’s who contributed to Connecticut’s rich history are often over looked.

Stratford is the birthplace and home of Susan Elizabeth Freeman, who served as the Chief Nurse in the first overseas unit of black nurses. Freeman joined the Army in 1941 and was quickly promoted to first lieutenant. She later became the first black nurse to be promoted to captain. The military accepted very few black nurses during World War II.

Captain Freeman was a 1935 graduate of Stratford High School, attended Freedmen’s Hospital Training School where she received her RN degree, and did post graduate work at Columbia, Howard, and Catholic Universities.

Her first assignment in 1941 with the Army was at Camp Livingston in Louisiana, where, during her travel to Louisiana was told in St. Louis that she was not allowed to ride in the Pullman Car, and, after intervention by a friend was told to ride in the Lower 13, which turned out to be a private Pullman berth.

When she first arrived at Camp Livingston then Lieutenant Freeman she, along with other black nurses and doctors, were segregated and only allowed to treat black patients.  After a promotion at Camp Livingston she was shipped to North Africa and spent a year in Liberia.

Capital Freeman was the recipient of many citations and awards, including the Mary Mahoney Award for Service.  After her honorable discharge she returned to Stratford.      She was a founding member of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses and Chi Eta Phi Sorority.  Born on August 4, 1903, she died in 1979 in the West Haven Veterans Hospital.

Connecticut also had one of the most famous regiments during the Civil War.

  • The 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry Regiment, was among the first Union Soldiers to enter a fallen Richmond in 1865, the 29th have not always been lauded or even acknowledged. The troop faced racism, discrimination, and lower pay than white regiments. Still, they fought courageously and were even the first infantry units to enter Richmond, Virginia after it was abandoned by the Confederate Army
  • Stratford has at least two soldiers that were in the 29th ; Mathias Blake, a sergeant in the division, who was mustered on January 5th , 1864, and mustered out on October 24th , 1865. and Edwin Freeman, a black man who was a musician. Musicians did whatever was needed—staffed ambulances, tended wounded, and even fought as the war raged on. Freeman was mustered in on January 2nd , 1864 and was mustered out on October 24th , 1865.
  • Did you know that one of America’s most well-known abolitionists, John Brown was born right in Torrington? In 1859 John Brown lead the Harpers Ferry Raid, an effort to commence an armed slave revolt in the South by overtaking a United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia – an effort that has been recognized as a foreshadowing of the Civil War. The pikes used by Brown and his men were actually crafted by the Collins Company in Collinsville, Connecticut.

More Than A Mattress Sale!

President’s Day History

Source: History.com

Presidents’ Day never falls on the actual birthday of any American president. Four chief executives—George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan—were born in February, but their birthdays all come either too early or late to coincide with Presidents’ Day.

Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February.  Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers.

While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents, past and present.

The story of Presidents’ Day date begins in 1800. Following the death of George Washington in 1799, his February 22 birthday became a perennial day of remembrance.  At the time, Washington was venerated as the most important figure in American history, and events like the 1832 centennial of his birth and the start of construction of the Washington Monument in 1848 were cause for national celebration.

While Washington’s Birthday was an unofficial observance for most of the 1800s, it was not until the late 1870s that it became a federal holiday. Senator Stephen Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas was the first to propose the measure, and in 1879 President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law.

The shift from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day began in the late 1960s, when Congress proposed a measure known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Championed by Senator Robert McClory of Illinois, this law sought to shift the celebration of several federal holidays from specific dates to a series of predetermined Mondays.

The proposed change was seen by many as a novel way to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers, and it was believed that ensuring holidays always fell on the same weekday would reduce employee absenteeism. While some argued that shifting holidays from their original dates would cheapen their meaning, the bill also had widespread support from both the private sector and labor unions and was seen as a surefire way to bolster retail sales.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act also included a provision to combine the celebration of Washington’s birthday with that of Abraham Lincoln, which fell on February 12. Lincoln’s Birthday had long been a state holiday in places like Illinois, and many supported joining the two days as a way of giving equal recognition to two of America’s most famous statesmen.

McClory was among the measure’s major proponents, and he even floated the idea of renaming the holiday Presidents’ Day. This proved to be a point of contention for lawmakers from George Washington’s home state of Virginia, and the proposal was eventually dropped.

Nevertheless, the main piece of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed in 1968 and officially took effect in 1971 following an executive order from President Richard M. Nixon. Washington’s Birthday was then shifted from the fixed date of February 22nd to the third Monday of February. Columbus DayMemorial Day and Veterans Day were also moved from their traditionally designated dates. (As a result of widespread criticism, in 1978 Veterans Day was returned to its original November 11th date.)

While Nixon’s order plainly called the newly placed holiday Washington’s Birthday, it was not long before the shift to Presidents’ Day began.

The move away from February 22nd led many to believe that the new date was intended to honor both Washington and Lincoln, as it now fell between their two birthdays. Marketers soon jumped at the opportunity to play up the three-day weekend with sales, and “Presidents’ Day” bargains were advertised at stores around the country.

By the mid-1980s, Washington’s Birthday was known to many Americans as Presidents’ Day. This shift had solidified in the early 2000s, by which time as many as half the 50 states had changed the holiday’s name to Presidents’ Day on their calendars.

Some states have even chosen to customize the holiday by adding new figures to the celebration. Arkansas, for instance, celebrates Washington as well as civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates. Alabama, meanwhile, uses Presidents’ Day to commemorate Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who was born in April).

Washington and Lincoln still remain the two most recognized leaders, but Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives. Some lawmakers have objected to this view, arguing that grouping George Washington and Abraham Lincoln together with less successful presidents minimizes their legacy.

Give Where You Live!

“Giving Day” at the Stratford Library February 24th

The Stratford Library will be participating in Fairfield County’s Community Foundation annual “Giving Day” on Thursday, February 24th.

This is a 24-hour online event to “Give Where You Live” and support the work of local non-profits like the local Library.

Funds raised on “Giving Day” by the Library will be used for StratCon, a pop culture convention for teens scheduled at the Library next October. The Library’s goal is to raise $2500 towards the cost of presenters, crafts, prizes, snacks, programs, a karaoke machine and more.

Each contribution as little as $10 can make an impact in 24 hours. Patrons can donate directly online by visiting the link on “Giving Day”:

https://www.fcgives.org/organizations/stratford-library-association

Additional information can be found on the Library website: www.stratfordlibrary.org.

Arts Alliance of Stratford Goes All-in for Fairfield County Giving Day

“In troubled times, art is more important than ever”

Thursday, February 24th is this year’s Fairfield County’s Giving Day. It’s our area’s largest annual philanthropic event. The brainchild of the Fairfield County Community Foundation, Giving Day is made possible by the thousands of generous people, families, businesses, colleagues, classmates, and neighbors who join together to support Fairfield County nonprofits.

“We are proud to be part of this fundraising event. We’ve been relatively lucky and have been able to pivot to online classes and workshops, but it’s harder to support our member artists when in- person shows and sales have been so curtailed,” said Mark Hannon, President.

This 24-hour fundraising event takes place from 12:00 midnight Wednesday, February 23rd through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, February 24th. During this time our fundraising portal page is open and we welcome any donation amounts. Every $1 helps to support the arts in our community.

“Creative expression is so important during challenging times, and we hope to be able to do even more programming with the money we raise during this event,” said Hannon.

For more information and to donate, please visit https://www.fcgives.org/organizations/arts- alliance-of-stratford-inc

The Soap Box

Money and Elections

By Timothy Bristol
https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-bristol/

The campaign season will be upon us all soon, and for some, it has already started. Candidates for the general assembly and other statewide offices are holding fundraisers and seeking the Citizens Election Program (CEP) grants. These grants are given out by the state as part of a public financing program for all statewide and general assembly candidates who show that they have enough support to be awarded the grant. This program is unique in the country, and only a handful of states has such a program, and many currently view Connecticut as the gold standard. [1]

The Citizens’ Election Program is what is known as a clean elections program. This means that it is a program meant to keep out corporate contributions to campaigns and not have candidates be in the pocket of big money interests. The way it accomplishes this is to give out campaign grants to qualified candidates. Once those candidates receive the grant, they can’t seek any other money for the rest of their campaign. This also serves to level the playing field because then everyone is running with the same amount of campaign funds.

The Citizens Election Program is regulated by the State Elections Enforcement Commission or SEEC. SEEC’s job is to review grant applications and monitor the required filings of the campaigns to prevent fraud or misuse of the grant money. There are some restrictions on how the money can be spent by participating candidates and it is SEEC’s job to make sure the funds are properly spent. There is a complaint system put together so that citizens can file complaints if they believe there is a violation. SEEC also monitors spending for non-participating candidates in all elections because the CEP is required to be voluntary due to the Buckley v. Valeo supreme court ruling.

Even though CEP is a voluntary program for candidates it still enjoys about 85% participation rate among general assembly candidates. With three-quarters of all candidates using the program the CEP has made Connecticut legislative races the most competitive in the country and has nearly eliminated all contributions to campaigns not made by individuals. [2] The CEP also restricts lobbyist activity and reduces the influence of political action committees in the state.

The program is not perfect however, just like any campaign finance system it can be subject to fraud and abuse. State Senator Dennis Bradley was indicted for campaign finance violations as he “and others entered into a conspiracy and scheme to defraud the Connecticut State Election Enforcement Commission, the Citizens’ Election Fund and the State of Connecticut by making misrepresentations concerning Bradley’s compliance with state election law and the Citizens’ Election Program’s statutory restrictions and requirements in order to fraudulently obtain or attempt to obtain $179,850 in campaign grants.” [3]

Every year hundreds of complaints are filed with SEEC and the commission struggles to investigate them all. SEEC is severely underfunded and understaffed. This is because just after the CEP was passed into law (2008) SEEC had its budget slashed by the legislature the same year and had to reduce staff due to the cuts. There have also been efforts by the legislature to reduce the effectiveness of SEEC at times. [4]

That is why we need to demand the legislature immediately increase SEEC’s budget so that they can do their job in a timely manner. Due to the program’s popularity, SEEC can barely keep up with getting grant applications processed efficiently. They need more funding and more staff to be effective in enforcing the requirements of the program and to protect the program from fraud and abuse. We can’t allow SEEC to be a toothless commission, this program is too important.

[1] https://ctmirror.org/2020/09/14/new-study-cts-citizens-elections-program-has-become-a-national-model-for-clean-elections/

[2] https://ctmirror.org/2020/09/14/new-study-cts-citizens-elections-program-has-become-a-national-model-for-clean-elections/

[3] https://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Bridgeport-officials-campaign-fraud-trial-16746551.php

[4] https://www.courant.com/politics/capitol-watch/hc-pol-seec-working-fast-campaigns-20180614-story.html.