Letters to the Editor

What is Gerrymandering?

By Tim Bristol

I have studied what is called gerrymandering of voting districts in the course of my research. Many people know the term but don’t know exactly what it means. It comes from the name of Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts + salamander, from the supposed similarity between a salamander and the shape of a new voting district on a map drawn when he was in office (1812), the creation of which was felt to favor his party; the map (with claws, wings, and fangs added) was published in the Boston Weekly Messenger, with the title The Gerry-Mander.

Gerrymandering is a practice intended to establish an arguably unfair political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating the boundaries of electoral districts. Many people think it is just a national issue but it is an important local issue as well.

There are 2 specific tactics when it comes to gerrymandering: cracking and packing:

  1. Cracking: dividing up opposing voters into districts so that they will be a minority in those districts.
  2. Packing: putting as many opposition voters as possible into as few districts as possible so that they will win the fewest seats and be a minority in representation.

Gerrymandering creates misrepresented districts and legislatures that don’t represent the people.

The new Town Council that gets elected on November 2nd will vote on the district’s new map for the next 10 years. The Republicans gerrymandered the districts for the last 20 years. The Clearest example is District 2. We need to fix the districts and make them better represent their neighborhoods.

Letters To The Editor

by Steve Taccogna
Chairman
Stratford Democratic Town Committee

Recently, CT GOP Chairman Ben Proto released a statement condemning the involvement of Democratic Town Committee Chairs in disseminating Absentee Ballot applications to registered voters in their municipalities.

His complaint is based on the erroneous assumption that the Town Committees are not disseminating the applications to request absentee ballots from Town Clerks in a responsible manner, and that because of this, we’re assisting in some sort of vote tampering.

In true Republican fashion, Ben Proto has turned what we should all be celebrating as a win for voters and for democracy into an opportunity to complain about expanded voting access.

Let’s be clear – what he’s talking about is not the ballot itself. Both Democratic and Republic town committees have been doing their part to ensure that registered voters receive the application for the absentee ballot. No Town Committee has contact with the ballot itself, nor with the voter when they prepare their ballot for submission.Look,

I don’t trust a mechanic that won’t give me an itemized bill. I don’t trust a doctor that won’t explain the purpose of a test they want me to take.  And I sure as hell don’t trust a politician that doesn’t want people to vote. So I have a few suggestions for Mr. Proto on how we could solve this problem that’s been keeping him up at night:

1. Get the CT GOP on board with allowing mail-in voting and no-excuse absentee ballots universally, as is currently done in 34 other states.

2. Update the process for absentee voting. Rather than fearmongering around archaic clerical nonsense, make it easier for people to vote and allow the state to operate a modernized ballot application process.

3. Allow the Secretary of State’s office to send applications to all registered voters. No need to worry about us pesky Town Committee Chairs anymore!

4. Thank your local Town Clerks and their staff who, thanks largely to the outdated methodology, are buried in days of thankless toil to make sure that as many citizens as possible are able to safely cast their vote.

The indictment made by Mr. Proto that enabling more voters to participate in an election is somehow partisan or unfair would be laughable if it weren’t so repeatedly and predictably sad.

The GOP loves to point to low voter turnout as a symptom of the ills of our modern society, but when opportunities come around to allow greater voter engagement, they balk for one reason only: they know if everyone votes, the GOP loses.

A wild haymaker of an attempt to create confusion amongst registered voters and suppress turnout by an increasingly irrelevant GOP is the only partisan activity at play here.

Do better, Ben.

Letters To The Editor

Plan to Combat Stratford’s Persistent Economic Woes

by Immacula Cann

In the face of Mayor Hoydick’s failed leadership, and as the endorsed mayoral candidate, I am releasing my five-point plan to rescue Stratford’s ailing economy. On the state’s “distressed municipality” list for the second year in a row, Stratford faces fewer jobs, higher taxes, and — without a change in leadership — is at serious risk of continuing its ongoing cycle of decline.

“It’s important voters know about Mayor Hoydick’s record of failure, but equally important that they know how I intend to fix it as the next Mayor of Stratford,” said Democratic mayoral nominee Immacula Cann. “This plan is realistic, attainable, and finally leverages Stratford’s tremendous potential and natural advantages towards making life better for our residents and families.”

The Cann Economic Plan, to be implemented starting Day One of my administration, follows:

  • Hire an Economic Development Director & Chief Innovation Officer to expand opportunities, effectively analyze data, and enhance town operations
  • Invest in families with the creation of a Stratford Land Bank, similar to other towns, and fully engage the CT Green Bank & CT Redevelopment Fund
  • Leverage all available state and federal grants and allocate funding appropriately throughout the year, addressing long-standing issues
  • Create a Manufacturing Jobs Pipeline, with youth training, to keep families here, improve earning potential, and create the workforce businesses need
  • Offer smart, targeted tax breaks and small business grants, including $10k in startup support, to attract new businesses and invest in existing companies

“Mayor Hoydick claims we’re thriving, but under her administration we’ve lost over 1,000 jobs and our unemployment has soared above the state average,” said Stratford Democratic Chair Steve Taccogna. “And she wants us to be happy about a revaluation that shifts the tax burden to struggling families?  That’s failing, not thriving.  Either she’s unaware and needs to go, or she knows, hasn’t done anything about it, and really needs to go.”

 

Letters to the Editor

Yes” to Outdoor Dining, but “No” to Amplified Outdoor Entertainment

by Joseph Gerics

In May of 2020, recognizing the crisis Connecticut’s restaurants were facing due to Covid 19, Governor Lamont wisely loosened restrictions on outdoor dining.  Expanded outdoor dining has been a great benefit to Stratford residents and restaurateurs. Diners enjoy the ambience and increased security of eating outside. Restaurants have grown their businesses significantly and are far busier. No problems such as patrons consuming alcohol beyond outdoor dining areas or blocking access to sidewalks have been reported.

Restaurant owners deserve the opportunity to solidify their gains. So, anticipating the end of Lamont’s executive order, they are lobbying the town to loosen its current regulations. Stratford’s regulations presently limit outdoor seating to 20% of indoor patron floor area. This is too restrictive and should be expanded to protect restaurateurs’ investments in outdoor dining and their expanded customer base.

However, restaurant owners are also lobbying to end the prohibition on outdoor entertainment. They propose to change zoning regulations by removing the text, “There shall be no live or recorded music played or projected outside the establishment.”

This current language protects residents living next door from amplified loud bands, DJs or karaoke, and removing it would make addressing noise complaints far more difficult.

Things in Stratford have been quiet for the last few months, but earlier this summer there was significant noise from amplified outdoor entertainment at the Seawall and Stratford Center.  Prior to the pandemic, restaurants at the Dock Shopping Center and Short Beach also played loud music outside.

A number of Stratford restaurants are nestled in residential areas. The restaurant owners’ proposal would give them blanket permission to play amplified music that would impact nearby residents.

Stratford already has a process in place for restaurant owners wishing to offer outdoor entertainment: they can apply for a permit to do so. Nearby residents then have the opportunity at a public hearing to address the proposal’s impact on the neighborhood’s quality of life. The Zoning Commission then decides how best to serve the common good. This process should not be short-circuited by granting all restaurants a blanket permission for outdoor entertainment.

Proponents of such a blanket permission argue that existing noise ordinances protect neighborhood interests, but this argument is not reasonable. The police department is unlikely to prioritize noise complaints on a busy weekend night when such complaints are most common.

Enforcement involves workability issues as well. The Stratford Police Department would have to invest in a number of sound meters at the cost of several hundred dollars each. Moreover, a number of police officers would have to be trained and certified in their use in order to enforce the ordinance. This would be a questionable use of the town’s limited financial and staffing resources better spent elsewhere.

Stratford’s neighboring municipalities protect residential neighborhoods by limiting or prohibiting outdoor entertainment. Trumbull permits it only in one location along Route 111, and Shelton permits entertainment at venues on Bridgeport Avenue.

Stratford has no local roadway comparable in width or traffic speed to these streets. One Shelton establishment bordered by residences has a permit only for low-level background or acoustic music.

Fairfield does not permit outdoor entertainment except for one annual event at a bar in a residential neighborhood. Despite heavy regulation by police, this event is widely considered a blight on the neighborhood.

Bridgeport and Milford do not permit outdoor entertainment. Stratford likewise should continue to restrict outdoor entertainment.

Background or acoustic music that does not impact neighboring properties can be allowed. But amplified music such as karaoke or rock bands belongs indoors and should be allowed outdoors only if a permit is granted.

The Zoning Commission had planned a public hearing on this topic in October, but it has been removed from the agenda. Concerned residents should follow the agendas posted on line to see when it will be discussed.

Joseph Gerics sits on the Town of Stratford Planning Commission and is running for the position on November 2nd.

“Distressed Municipality”

Stratford Residents Have Suffered from Laura Hoydick’s Failed Leadership

by Immacula Cann

On Tuesday, I and Stratford Democrats are announcd a major voter education initiative around Stratford’s status as a “distressed municipality.” Under Mayor Laura Hoydick’s failed leadership, Stratford was for the second year in a row placed on Connecticut’s list of “economically distressed” municipalities. The first step towards a state takeover of municipal finances, this serious designation will have lasting impacts on our town.

“‘Distressed municipality’ is a dry term, but buried underneath it is real human suffering,” said Democratic mayoral nominee Immacula Cann. “Mayor Hoydick has done a very good job of talking around its significance, and all too poor a job of getting us out of this mess. Each year Stratford loses more small businesses, and when they go, they take jobs and dreams with them. I’m concerned she’ll welcome a state takeover to bail herself out on the backs of our most vulnerable.”

“Distressed municipalities” are defined by their low educational attainment & wealth, their aging housing stock, and their high unemployment & poverty. The designation diminishes potential investment, deters business from relocating, and ultimately leads to a cycle of decline that becomes harder and harder to reverse. Its significance is far too often lost on the voting public, and can ultimately lead to a state takeover, creating crushing tax burdens and crippling unions.

“Talking to my neighbors, they all agree that we should be doing better given our location and our natural assets,” said Democratic Town Council candidate Kathleen Callahan. “Similar towns are not facing the same challenges we are. We’ve all learned in our lives that a problem cannot be addressed until it is acknowledged and named. We cannot continue to pretend all is okay — we must accurately assess where we are.”

Campaigning this week, Democrats, who have knocked on thousands of doors, will continue educating voters that “distressed municipality” isn’t meaningless jargon. It means fewer jobs, diminished town services, and higher taxes. The record is clear: under Mayor Hoydick’s failed leadership, Stratford’s fortunes have turned only for the worse.

Kaitlyn Shake for Stratford Town Council District 2

by Kelly Griggs

When my husband and I were looking to make a home we decided on Stratford. We liked everything the town had to offer – hiking in Roosevelt Forest, beaches down in Lordship, activities at the library, and local events.

As we’ve grown our family, we’ve only become more sure that Stratford is our home. It’s important to us that we feel safe, secure, and heard by our town officials and representatives. We participate in local elections and care about who represents us.

With Kaitlyn Shake as our Councilwoman, we know we have someone looking out for our best interests. Whether it’s a concern about a construction project impacting our neighborhood, addressing issues about town spending, or providing an appropriate response to the COVID pandemic, we know Councilwoman Shake has our back. Her repeated efforts to get the mayor and town hall to protect our residents with common sense mask mandates and other public health measures make me feel safer in an unsure world.

Kaitlyn Shake’s repeated calls on Town Hall and Mayor Hoydick to institute a town-wide mask mandate for the safety of so many children and people who are unable to be vaccinated indicates a concern for the greater good. She uses sound judgment, facts, and listens to her fellow Stratford residents to push for changes that make a real impact.

With the local election coming at such a pivotal time in our town and country, it’s imperative that we keep people in office that truly care about us. Kaitlyn Shake has demonstrated her care through her actions, commitments, and calls for accountability.

I have every confidence that when she’s re-elected on November 2, 2021, my neighbors and I will continue to be seen, heard, and respected.

Letter to the Editor

by State Representative Ben McGorty
122nd District

Dear Friends,

When the Connecticut House of Representatives next meets on Monday, September 27th, it will be in a special session to vote on a seventh extension of the Governor’s emergency powers, this time at least until February.

The Governor insists that Connecticut’s public health and civil preparedness emergency declarations must be extended, but our neighbors to the north in Massachusetts have still managed COVID effectively in their schools and workplaces, even though their Republican Gov. Charlie Baker ended his state’s emergency declarations months ago.

Meanwhile, the true emergency facing Connecticut – the erosion of our public safety in the face of rising violent crime and a wave of juvenile car thefts – has gone unaddressed, largely thanks to Democratic inaction in the legislature.

If you agree with me that this emergency can no longer be ignored, visit www.StopCarThefts.com and write a message to those lawmakers still on the fence about protecting your safety.

Take Action Now
Please don’t hesitate to contact me regarding this or any state issue.

Sincerely,
State Rep. Ben McGorty, 122nd District

SNAP Benefits Expanded

by State Representative Joe Gresko (121st District)

Dear Residents,

I am pleased to report that the Biden Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have approved a significant and permanent increase in the amount of food stamp assistance (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP) available to families in need.

The pandemic further confirmed what activists have been saying all along: inadequate assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) forced many households to simply go hungry as the funds dwindled toward the end of the month.

Starting in October, SNAP benefits will rise an average of 25 percent—a permanent change that will benefit our nation’s 42 million SNAP beneficiaries. As a result, the average SNAP benefit – excluding additional funds provided as part of pandemic relief – will increase by $36.24 per person, per month, beginning October 1, 2021.

This additional assistance will help individuals and families maintain a healthy diet and keep food on the table both during and after these uncertain times.

Connecticut’s SNAP program, including information on how to apply for food assistance follows:

Eligibility: Income Limits
To receive SNAP benefits in Connecticut, household income and other resources have to be under certain limits and are reviewed. For some households, there is also an asset limit.

Table 1: SNAP Income Eligibility Limits – Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021
Household Size Gross monthly income
(130 percent of poverty) Net monthly income
(100 percent of poverty)
1 $1,383 $1,064
2 $1,868 $1,437
3 $2,353 $1,810
4 $2,839 $2,184
5 $3,324 $2,557
6 $3,809 $2,930
7 $4,295 $3,304
8 $4,780 $3,677
Each additional member +$486 +$374

The gross income limit does not apply to households in which at least one person is 60 years of age or older, or receives disability income. However, all households are subject to a monthly net income limit. The net income limit is equal to the current Federal Poverty Level and is the amount left over after certain deductions are allowed. These deductions are established by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Details can be found on their website at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/SNAP/

Asset Limits
There is no asset limit EXCEPT for households whose gross income is more than 185% of the Federal Poverty Level. For those households, total assets including cash, savings accounts, stocks and bonds cannot be more than $3500. We do not include the home the client lives in as an asset, nor do we put a lien on the home. We also do not count vehicles or retirement accounts, such as IRAs. Again, these asset limits only apply to households whose gross income is more than 185% of the Federal Poverty Level.

A “household” is all the people who live together and buy and prepare food together. Once a household meets the eligibility requirements, we calculate the amount of the household’s SNAP benefit based on the household’s income and certain allowable deductions for shelter, dependent care expenses, medical costs and child support payments to others outside the household. Shelter costs are rent and mortgage payments, heating or cooling not included in rent, and utility and monthly telephone services charges.

SNAP Benefit Amounts
The recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 increased the maximum and minimum SNAP allotments households are eligible to receive. This increase is in effect from January 1, 2021 – June 30, 2021. The maximum SNAP benefit amounts are listed in the table below.

For a household of: The maximum SNAP benefit is:

1 $234 monthly
2 $430 monthly
3 $616 monthly
4 $782 monthly
5 $929 monthly
6 $1,114 monthly
7 $1,232 monthly

For more information about income limits and benefit amounts for households of 8 or more, or for any other information about SNAP, please call 1-855-626-6632.

As always, please feel free to reach out to me at the Capitol at 800-842-8267 or email me at Joseph.Gresko@cga.ct.gov.

Stratford Physicians Ring Warning Bell

Immediate Action Required

The Covid Crisis Continues – Please Save a Life

by Barbara Weber-Chess MD & David Chess MD
Stratford CT

Like all of you we are sick and disgusted with COIVD.  We all have COVID burnout.

However, COVID is not done with us.

This month alone there have been over 9000 new Covid Infections in Connecticut with 55 vaccinated people dead.

The NY Times reports that yesterday in the United States there were 155,000 new cases (3 times as many people as reside in Stratford) reported and 1266 people died.

What do these numbers mean?  This week 10 of our troops died in combat and this is a tragedy, we will mourn them as heroes.

The death of the 55 people this month in Connecticut is also a tragedy. These are avoidable deaths. This doesn’t have to happen. These are horrible losses for families. These people are young and old. Our Intensive care units are filling up again. Our Pediatric Intensive care units are filling up. Our children are at great risk.

Our 14 year old went to an introductory program for high school on Friday. She was incredibly excited and nervous. She very much wants to be back at school after more than a year of virtual classes. She truly missed the socialization. She wore her mask.

Let us share with you the activities (all well intentioned).

  • She sat next to other students – right next to them, in the bleachers in the gym, where there was no distancing, social or otherwise.
  • They had a series of “icebreaker” activities to encourage the kids to get to know each other.
  • This included high 5s, fist bumps, telling each other their stories, group hugs to burst balloons, and giving each other a massage.
  • Masks went up and down.
  • Whenever people spoke, especially the teachers and their assistants, they would take their masks off
  • About 20 to 30% of the students were wearing their masks below their chins.
  • This was an indoor event.

This was a potential super spreader event.

There was no distancing. (Delta variant needs at least 6 feet of distancing).

There was physical contact.

Masks were inconsistently used.

As physicians and parents we are overwhelmed by the thoughtlessness of our schools at this truly dangerous time.

We know people are concerned about their child losing a year developmentally, educationally, socially. We are much more concerned about our daughter losing her life.

We can make up a year, we can’t make up a life. The Delta variant is spread extremely easily by vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. Each potentially exposed child in school can bring that virus home to innumerable family members and friends, many of whom are quite vulnerable to serious complications of COVID or death.

It is well past time for us to take this infection seriously again. It is time to offer a virtual option to those who are uncomfortable sending their children to school due to the inability of the school to protect their children from infection.

Many may say that the level of distancing is not practical when all of the children are attending classes, walk in the halls, etc. A virtual option means having smaller classes, making it safer for those who attend school in person, and will give comfort to those families that can support in the home schooling.

Stratford, like many communities, is again in a “red zone” even before the school year begins. There are children about to be placed at serious risk for long term and serious illness, as well are their at-risk family members at home..

Parents are given assurances, but those assurances are false in the case of COVID / Delta variant, with regard to the reality of distancing, consistency in masking and ventilation / barriers in the classroom. The measures being taken are demonstrably inadequate.

Call to Action. Please reach out and mobilize.

  • We need to get our Board of Education to rethink their strategies.
  • We need to reach out to our mayor and representatives.
  • Reach out to the governor.

We need to demand a remote option. We need to act before there are more avoidable, preventable deaths. (Fairfield just created this remote option this week).

Please keep safe and demand our children’s safety!

Addressing Rising Car Thefts

by State Representative Joe Gresko, District 121