Against Development

Opinion
by Norah Christianson

It’s interesting that our town motto is, “Offering more from forest to shore.” We Stratfordites like to see our town this way.

In the Town Council Chambers, where most town business is conducted, there is a large mural picturing settlers arriving on our shore—most likely Mac’s Harbor where our first settlers landed in 1639. There is the forest across the river, there is the shore, there is a couple with a child, there is a man kneeling—presumably in prayer, and two other men, one with a musket. We like to see ourselves this way—part of history, pure, idealistic, brave.

On a side wall, there’s a picture of an old white-steepled church—perhaps Christ Episcopal Church on Main—as old-New-England a church as they come. We like to see our town this way.

There are other paintings on the walls of the Town Council Chambers depicting Stratford as we like to think it is—a lovely little town with forest and shoreline. But this is fast becoming a LIE.

Big apartment building, big storage buildings are blocking the sky, shadowing the small businesses and restaurants, gutting our wetlands, tripling traffic flow, polluting, turning our town ugly.

The building of a monumental apartment complex in our town center, where Center School used to be, will destroy the aesthetics, the character, and the atmosphere of our town’s center. And aesthetics does not just mean a pretty face.

There has been several research studies done showing the correlation between improved neighborhood aesthetics and its positive influence on social cohesion, mental health and lower stress. Where people live—the atmosphere, the spirit, the beauty or lack of beauty—affects people’s spirit and mood. Aesthetics are important to the well-being of human beings.

I am ashamed that greed is persuading our leaders to sell our heritage and put up a great looming, oppressive building in our sweet New England town center.

I see the future. I see the future walls of Stratford Town Hall’s Chambers. Instead of the pictures of our hopeful settlers and our old white church, the walls will be decorated (desecrated would be a better word) with pictures of great, flat, soul-less box buildings that block the sun and darken the spirit.

I appeal to the zoning committee, the wetlands committee, any and all committees who vote whether or not to accept plans for these developments, to have some scruples, have some sense, have some heart. Do not continue to approve the despoilment of our town and land.

Call to Stratford Residents: Save our Trees and Climate

Time For A Comprehensive Environmental Strategy

By: Barbara Heimlich
Editor Stratford Crier, Passionate Environmentalist and Stratford Resident

In Chapter 200-Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vegetation, of the Town of Stratford the statutes call on the Town to promote and protect the public health, safety and general welfare of the residents by providing for the regulation of the planting, maintenance, protection and removal of trees, shrubs and woody vegetation within the Town of Stratford.

The Town of Stratford is to “Recognize and appreciate that trees produce oxygen, capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, provide air purification, prevent soil erosion, control flooding, assist in water purification, contribute to the quality of life by providing cooling shade, provide habitat for wildlife, reduce noise levels, and aesthetically enhance the landscape.”

“Preserve and protect trees and their canopies as an important environmental and cultural resource that enhances the Town of Stratford’s natural character and heritage.”

“Protect the people in the Town of Stratford from personal injury and property damage caused by the improper planting, maintenance, protection or removal of trees, shrubs and woody vegetation located on Town-owned property.”

“Protect property values by maintaining a healthy and vigorous community forest.”

Lofty ideas and goals that would enhance our community and improve our economic viability. – If only the Town of Stratford lived up to and enforced their own statutes.

So what is my inspiration to wax poetic about trees in The Stratford Crier?  Was it all of the publicity concerning the lack of and shortage of Christmas trees due to climate change?

No, it was a posting on social media concerning the removal of 2 old growth Maple and 6 old growth Oak trees at Longbrook Park so that 4 new concrete tennis courts could be built, as well as seating and lights. Note: present courts at Longbrook are clay.

I was aware that the Town was spending money (to date listed as $750 thousand just for materials) to restore and rebuild tennis courts within the Town, with a goal of having the Longbrook Park tennis courts become home court for the Stratford High School Tennis Team, which, according to those also following the development, also called for bleachers and lights to be installed as part of the tennis courts being built.

What I did not know was that according to Tucker Chase, a local architect, “There are two existing clay tennis courts on Prim Street at Longbrook Park.   There are eight hard courts at Short Beach.  What these ten courts have in common is that they are ALL unplayable because the surfaces are filled with holes – in particular the clay courts appear to have been a training ground for land mine detonations.  Nets rarely appear at these courts which forces tennis players to compete with the schools for playing time at Bunnell or Flood or go to another town. For years the courts have been deteriorating.  If the town cannot take care of the courts it has in our public parks what will be the fate over time of any new ones?  It appears easier to pay an outside contractor, architect & engineers large sums of money to install something new rather than to maintain the good that we have.  I believe the quantity and diversity of the courts in the town are adequate to serve the tennis playing population, but since all of them are currently unplayable we are in the Catch 22 of a self-perpetuating debacle that the town proposes ‘fixing’ by destroying valuable trees that cannot be replaced.”

The Stratford Crier contacted Town Councilwoman Kaitlyn Shake, who also heads the Longbrook Park Commission.   According to Councilwoman Shake she had been requesting documentation since June, and was just provided information on Monday (December 27th) of the description and location of the trees.

The October 6th meeting of the Longbrook Park Commission it was reported by Park Superintendent Chad Esposito, Parks Superintendent, “Current status of Longbrook Park tennis courts: All bids so far have been over budget of 750,000 – therefore non accepted. Updated plan includes removal of 7 mature trees or more which was not included in original presentation to Longbrook Park Commission. Commission is following up for need of 8-24 review and public forum before any work.”

At the commission’s December 1st meeting Mr. Esposito reported:

“Kick off Longbrook tennis court project meeting was Tuesday November 30th. 9 trees will be removed. 14 trees will be replanted”  Questions and concerns were posed to Mr. Esposito re: (1) color scheme of the tennis courts (2) environmental mailer to area residents re: construction of the new courts (3) parking strategies.”

Ms. Shake raised the complaint that the commission was never informed of the final project plan and reiterated that moving forward updates should be emailed to her directly so they can be disseminated to commission.

This lack of information (how about being branded as transparency?) on the plans, despite no public comment, or supporting documentation submitted to Planning, the Town Council approved the plans and tree removal.

When first submitted to Planning they requested that the plan address the water issues for Longbrook and do an 8-24 Review for wetlands, as the project did not address the water issues that would be affecting the courts.  Despite Planning’s suggestions, the Town Attorneys were sent to the next Planning meeting on September 21st to claim that it did not need to do an 8-24:

(e) Longbrook Tennis Courts (Planning Commission Minutes)

Bruce Jackson, Assistant Town Attorney stated the definition of an 8-24 Review, and explained that the work at Longbrook Park tennis courts is not defined as a “substantial change to the park” but is rather just a change to one part of Longbrook Park.  Ms. Attota (Town of Stratford Planning) reminded members that the Planning Commission is part of the entire Town. The Town Council ultimately chooses whether it should be sent to the Planning Commission, and suggested discussing the matter with Parks Department Mr. Staley (Planning Commissioner) stated that it will he Stratford High School’s home court, but feels the process should be done correctly. Mr. Watson (Planning Chairman) noted that Town Council members are not planning experts. Per Mr. Boyd (Planning Commissioner), the Planning Commission was not aware of the plans until after the 35-day window closed. Mr. Watson accepted a motion by Mr, Gerics (Planning Commission member) to request the Town Council re-visit the Longbrook Tennis Courts plans. Mr. Boyd seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

State Representative Joe Gresko, 121st District, weighed in on the proposal (as has others in response to the call for public comment):

“Although the town council has approved the tennis court project at Longbrook Park, I’m appealing the removal of the eight trees, especially the old growth oak trees, which as you know, are icons of the park.  Having worked together to secure the recent $37K grant from DEEP to plant more trees in Stratford to increase our canopy, these existing majestic trees are already accomplishing that goal.  I realize this last minute objection is not what those who worked on the project want to deal with, but I believe it’s critical to preserve as many old growth trees as possible.”

Representative Gresko continued: As a suggestion, altering the tennis court design and potentially moving it closer to the street would potentially alleviate the tree removals.  Stratford is a great town to live, among the reasons, “offering more from forest (trees) to shore.”

Tucker Chase: “It would make much more sense to repair the clay courts at the Longbrook location and not install any more. For those who want hard courts there are the eight at Short Beach & the eight total at the two at Bunnell and Flood schools.  Preserving the fragile ecosystem we have is worth so much more than pouring more than 500 cu. yards of concrete to replace the irreplaceable particularly when there are readily available alternatives – ie maintain the good that we have and leave the trees alone to do their magical work.”

Tom Yemm: “On behalf of my neighbors and myself, I am requesting a public hearing prior to the removal of the eight mature oak and maple trees in Longbrook Park, adjacent to the existing tennis courts, and posted for removal per CGS 23-59, Chapter 451. I do believe that on any occasion in which one or more of Stratford’s ancient legacy trees is scheduled for removal, there is a need for public input. This is one of those occasions; hence my request.”

For several years I have been following what I view as a reckless tree removal plan that has altered our landscape in town for years to come.  Not only has the Town denuded swaths of what formerly was a tree lined landscape that enhanced our Town’s appearance as a quaint New England town, but very few trees have been planted to replace those cut down

Below are a few examples of the town’s incoherent strategy to:

“Preserve and protect trees and their canopies as an important environmental and cultural resource that enhances the Town of Stratford’s natural character and heritage.”

  • Stratford Forward last Summer did a survey and found over 70 stumps or empty tree sites on Main Street from East Broad  to Lordship.  No new plantings.
  • This year, with the town assuming ownership of the Rebecca Bunnell House (next to Sterling House) we witnessed devastation of  another landmark. Denuding the space and leaving a bare house.
  • To date the following amounts have been approved by the Town Council for tennis court upgrades:
  • Wooster Tennis & Pickleball Courts: Hinding Tennis, LLC proposal dated 7/14/2021 in the amount of $304,410 to transition the existing courts on asphalt into (1) tennis and (4) pickleball post tension concrete courts.
  • Short Beach Basketball & Tennis Courts: Hinding Tennis, LLC proposal dated 6/3/2021 in the amount of $450,000 to transition the existing courts on asphalt into (2) basketball and (2) tennis post tension concrete courts.
  • LED Lighting Upgrade & Associated Site Restoration $ 400,000.00
  • Bunnell Tennis Courts $ 40,000.00

Our Lady of Peace Church:  Three long-established silver maples in front of the Church needed to be removed due to damage sustained during Tropical Storm Isaias.  three new trees are planted at the Church grounds.

Don and Missy Kowalsky, of Stratford, complained that trees on their property pose no risk to the power lines overhead – but Eversource disagreed.  The couple’s property sits on a right-of-way for an Eversource transmission line, 26 trees were marked for removal, with 12 more trees for later.  They had lived in their house for over 30 years and said the area they’re looking at extends from Stratford Avenue (Rt. 130) south to Sikorsky Memorial Airport — essentially all of the South End, not including the Lordship enclave.

A tree-removal campaign in 2016 also didn’t sit well with many in town. They were aghast after seeing Huntington Road and Wilcoxson Avenue denuded of their leafy canopies.

“It has been my practice to deny UI’s removal of any tree that is healthy,” said Christina Senft-Batoh, the town’s previous conservation superintendent and its tree warden. “I deny or request modification for pruning that seems excessive.  She added that homeowners should be vigilant to object to any removals proposed by UI that they do not agree with.

“Even if the tree is a town tree, UI will contact the adjacent property owner for input,” Senft-Batoh said. “The homeowner can object to a removal outright, or request modification to a pruning.”

Kelly Kerrigan is the Town of Stratford current Environmental Conservation Superintendent and Tree Warden and, from personal experience has been receptive to those who contact her regarding tree removal or modification to a pruning.

Eversource, the power company that feeds most of Connecticut, said that it’s concerned about trees that have suffered in the drought years of 2016 and 2017, many of which threaten power lines if they came down.  “Sustained drought conditions in New England followed by above-average rainfall this year, combined with insect infestations, are having a devastating effect on trees,” said Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross. He added that the wet summer has made matters even worse — in their weakened state, their branches now have a heavy crop of leaves.  “Suffering from weakened root systems, these trees are now more susceptible to uprooting,” Gross said.

But walk down Elm Street, and you’ll find a successful objection to removing trees.  In 2016 the town had planned to remove many of the old growth Sycamore trees.  Hundreds of Elm Street residents turned out to protest the removal.  They remain to this day!!!!  Kudos to those dedicated and concerned residents – may they serve as an inspiration to all!!!

Trees “-A poem by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Click here to view the Longbrook Tennis Court Replacement Plan

Stratford Democrats Laugh Out Loud

As Only Fitting Response to Slew of Republican Press Releases

By Steve Taccognia
Chairman
Stratford Democratic Town Committee

As my counterpart on the Republican side so eloquently put it, “it’s that time of year”.  In the last 48 hours, there have been two press releases and I suspect at least one more is brewing while I write this.  In these rambling case studies for thinking before you speak, he simultaneously criticizes one Democratic candidate for not seeking a debate, while attacking a non-partisan organization for actually organizing one.

After criticizing a get-together at which no funds were raised, he calls into question the recording of those funds that didn’t happen.  The Republicans have filed frivolous SEEC complaints against the Democrats in the final run up to election day nearly every year since Lou Decilio has been Chair.

I appreciate the regularity and dedication to performance art that accompany these last gasps of a once relevant political party.  Frankly, from a partisan perspective, I could tee off on this nonsense all day.

Except throwing up distractions rather than solutions isn’t responsible, weak taunting isn’t going to help anyone, and the state in which they have left our town shouldn’t be a punchline.

So, let’s cover these points in one press release instead of three:

Although the Republicans decided not to face the public but rather to hide behind fabricated nonsense, the Democrats, understanding their responsibility and the value of transparency, remained willing to attend the usual debate run by the non-partisan League of Women Voters.  Unfortunately, without a second party, the event was cancelled.

Despite Mr. Decilio’s implications of wrongdoing, rather than a secretive meeting of party insiders and nefarious schemers, on August 15th, much of the DTC was attending a memorial service for a well-respected member of our community.  As a result, a planned fundraiser was canceled, but a handful of people still decided to get together at the end of a long day.  State filings for non-events have never been a requirement.

Strangely enough, there were some things not covered in the recent GOP releases:

Last week, Mayor Hoydick and an entourage of Town Hall insiders…including Mr. Decilio…attended a meeting of South End residents raising concerns about chronic flooding and offered solutions in the form of…flood insurance promotion.

If it feels like you’re suddenly seeing Hoydick signs everywhere, that’s probably because every vacant storefront, derelict property, and empty lot has been covered with them.  I imagine it’s like an artist signing their work.

Last but not least, after getting smacked down by the state, the GOP has been noticeably silent regarding Absentee Ballots after State GOP Chair, Trump Campaigner, and longtime Stratford Partisan Operative Ben Proto wrote his own nonsensical rant seeking to curtail your ability to vote.

So as fun as this is, as we come down to the end of another election cycle, let’s stop with the same old games, the same tired attacks, and the same ineffective leadership.  Let’s choose something better, Stratford.

Moving Stratford’s Election Process into the 21st Century

By: Barbara Heimlich
Editor Stratford Crier

Voting rights – Fair Elections –“The Big Lie” – Voter Repression – currently hot topics with friends, family, and others, most (if not all) display an arrogance using the State of Georgia as an example of backward thinking, and of course the first example they give is the oft quoted “no food and drink to those standing in line to vote”.

Would it surprise you to know that even in a progressive state like Connecticut, we have some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country? We have a chance to change that this legislative session by passing common-sense reforms like automatic voter registration, restoring voting rights for people on parole, and passing a Voting Rights Act to root out racial discrimination in voting.

The CT Legislature House Joint Resolution No. 59 “A Resolution Proposing An Amendment to the State Constitution to Permit Early Voting” is currently scheduled to go before the House of Representative for a vote on Monday.(for the complete bill go to: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2020/TOB/s/pdf/2020SJ-00015-R00-SB.PDF). Our State Representative Joe Gresko is a co-sponsor of this proposal.

The legislature would need to approve the absentee ballot resolution with the support of 75% of lawmakers in order to put the question before voters next year. If they pass it by simple majority, they would need to approve the resolution again in a different session and it would come before voters by 2024 at the earliest. The early voting resolution has already been approved once by simple majority and will be on the ballot next year if the legislature approves it again.

Neither provision is a new debate. Connecticut’s constitution contains specific language on both subjects and lawmakers have tried for years to amend it to make changing voting laws easier. Proponents succeeded in getting the absentee ballot question before voters in 2014, but residents rejected it at the polls.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill believes that voters feel differently now, after a record 35% of voters cast absentee ballots during last year’s election. The state took emergency action in 2020 to allow voters to cast ballots without risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus from other voters. About 650,000 people took the opportunity.

According to Merrill, “Times have changed, I think the 2020 election revealed that people could vote by absentee ballot safely and securely and I think they enjoyed it. They saw that the rest of the country was already doing it and I think it made a difference in the way people thought about it when they saw it in action.”

During a recent public hearing liberalizing the use of absentee ballots (where hundreds of organizations and resident spoke overwhelming in favor of the resolution) — as was temporarily allowed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, said voters in his district were told at the polls that absentee ballots already had been cast in their names. In arguing with Secretary of the State Denise Merrill about the ease of voter fraud, Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, said voters in his district were told at the polls that absentee ballots already had been cast in their names.

Rep.Sampson, who made the statement while participating in the Government Administration and Elections Commission hearing, had to walk back his claim when he “clarified” one instance of voter fraud in his district during the last election occurred when a voter in Prospect showed up at the polls and was told an absentee ballot had already been cast in her name. That individual was eventually allowed to vote”. Forty-four other states have early voting (and yes, including Georgia), at least 29 have no-excuse absentee voting, and 23 have implemented automatic voter registration. It’s past time that the State of Connecticut joins them.

Also making its way through the state legislature is Senate Bill No. 820. This Bill was referred to Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysis for review on 04/21/21. State Representative Phil Young is a Co-Sponsor of S.B. No. 820 which calls for allowing automatic voter registration to go beyond the motor vehicles department to colleges and universities, public libraries and welfare offices. It would also ban guns within 200 feet of the entrance of any polling place – This is common sense – if you can’t have a political sign within 75 feet of a polling place why would you allow a weapon?

The measure calls for making permanent the use of the absentee ballot boxes that were bolted to the ground outside town hall for the 2020 elections. Using federal money, the state purchased 250 ballot boxes at a cost of $2,000 each that were widely used in the August 2020 presidential primaries and November general election. These boxes played a key role in sharply increasing absentee use as some voters, particularly the elderly, were afraid to head to the indoor polls during the coronavirus pandemic for fear of contracting COVID-19. We in Stratford (a town with the most Senior Citizens) should make it easier for our Seniors to vote.

Are we just going to moth-ball these boxes that total $500,000? All 169 towns in the state have at least one box, while major cities like Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford and Waterbury received four boxes each. Stratford had two boxes in front of Town Hall – easy and convenient!

Ken Lesser, a long-time public official in Central Connecticut region, on the Wethersfield Board of Education and has served on the both the Town Councils and the Board of Education in Wethersfield and Newington, in a recent opinion piece in the CT Mirror, called for a three-part plan in the areas of voter registration, early voting and state positioning to our citizen’s participation in the democratic process.

“First, we should pass “opt-out” automatic voter registration (AVR) right away. Currently 16 states and the District of Columbia have approved this policy, meaning over one third of Americans now live in a jurisdiction that has either passed or implemented “opt-out” AVR.” Massachusetts passed AVR in 2018 and it went into effect this January 1. It’s time for us follow their lead and make it easier for people to register. Second, we need to enable and allow early voting processes to become law in Connecticut.”

According to Lesser, since Connecticut’s original DMV voter registration program started in 2016, more than 400,000 new Connecticut voters have used the DMV to register, and more than 550,000 voters have made changes to their registrations. Thanks to Gov. Lamont and the leadership at the Connecticut DMV, who are making our DMV registration processes more customer friendly, automated and streamlined, we could quickly integrate an “opt-out” AVR system into their system and benefit from their technological successes.

Currently 39 states and the District of Columbia allow for early voting. Two more states will provide this option in the coming years. What are we waiting for in Connecticut? We need to make it easier for our citizens to exercise their right to vote and we can accomplish this by quickly passing SJR No. 15 this session. We are behind the times, and we should enact this commonsense reform to allow more opportunity to vote.”

Lesser also suggested that CT move the date of our presidential primaries up to make us the first-in-the-nation to hold both Republican and Democrat presidential primaries. Currently, our presidential primary is held on April 28, missing much attention from the candidates and the nation. “This year, most of the original candidates will have been eliminated by the time our contest comes up. If we make Connecticut the first-in-the-nation on the calendar, we will have more impact in picking the president and bring significant economic benefit to our state.”

“A recent study investigated this question by using a Census Bureau statistical tool called “nearest neighbor analysis” and targeted a broad cross-section of 28 different variables. They found that Illinois and Connecticut are the two state’s most like the U.S, with both having similar proportions of whites, blacks, and Hispanics compared to the nation at large and also demographically similar in terms of median age, median household income, education levels, manufacturing jobs, its share of renters and typical home values.

Unlike Illinois, Connecticut is smaller and manageable enough, both in terms of population and geographic area, to allow for the emphasis on retail campaigning that’s such a big part of the Iowa and New Hampshire traditions. When you add up all the data across all categories, they found that Connecticut is the most accurate and most representative of our nation, with a high level of demographic averageness to the nation and U.S. as a whole, making us the logical choice to be the first-in-the-nation in 2024 and going forward!” (Source Ken Lesser)

I fully support and back the efforts of Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and leaders of the state legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee to update our statutes and improve our currently voter registration processes this session. If you agree reach out to your State Senator and Representatives and let them know!

Joseph.Gresko@cga.ct.gov
Ben.McGorty@housegop.ct.gov
phil.young@cga.ct.gov
dennis.bradley@cga.ct.gov
Kevin.Kelly@cga.ct.gov

Hate is Not a Mental Illness

by Orna Rawls
Marriage & Family Therapist, LMFT

In the weeks leading to Halloween and the election, a friend of mine spotted an effigy of one of the presidential candidates with a knife sticking out of his chest. It was adorning a front yard in a peaceful, bucolic Fairfield County town.

I don’t think it matters which candidate got the knife; what matters is that such a demonstration of blind hate sends a message legitimizing hate and violence to all who pass by and beyond.

Is hate a mental illness as many feel? The American Psychiatric Association concluded that hate is not a mental illness. People consumed by hate may be fearful, unhappy, resentful, chronically angry and/or ignorant. They tend to gravitate towards hate-mongering and racist leaders, but they are rarely mentally ill. Hate, however, with its cousin racism, is a social malaise.

Hate and racism are learned behaviors, best summed up in the lyrics from Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific musical:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

Since hate can be taught, it can and should be untaught. 2nd District Councilperson Kaitlyn Shake suggested the council pass a resolution regarding racism as a public health emergency. I’d add hate, hate-mongering and hate crimes to the resolution. And ideally tack on some programs to teach all ages about alternative emotions.

I’m no Rogers and Hammerstein, but here is my valiant attempt at rephrasing their lyrics:

You’ve got to be taught
To be thoughtful and kind,
You’ve got to be taught
Your neighbor to mind,
You’ve got to be taught,
From year to year,
With compassion and goodwill

The “otherness” to cheer.

 

Election Reflection: Pink is the New Blue?

by Rachel Rusnek

As we wait, with bated breath for the votes to be tallied and the results to roll in, there is some breathing room to analyze the minutiae in the results of the Nutmeg State. A long held Democratic fortress, a refuge for far-left liberal voters, at least how we are perceived on the National stage, election night brought few surprises in overall results. Former Vice President Biden handily won Connecticut’s 7 electoral votes in the presidential race, taking over 58% of all votes cast. What may come as surprise to some, are the bright red splotches in this little blue state.

As of this morning, in over 30 (relatively small) Connecticut towns the current White House occupant led the vote counts by margins in the double digits. Most of these small, rural (for Connecticut), working class towns are not chock full of those millionaires and billionaires, able to take advantage of Trump's lush tax cuts for those flush with cash. So, what is the impetus for Trumpian leanings? What do they see in Big Orange?  This question has plagued me, and no doubt many others, since the initial inauguration. (Remember how huge it was?) It’s not for lack of asking, I have.  I’m sure thousands had inquired, but I have yet to hear an answer besides people “are sick of politics as usual”. While Trump’s politics are certainly unusual, his shortcomings (to be kind), lack of decorum, and outright lies (never mind the racist, misogynistic, anti-science tendencies) lead me to struggle to understand how that makes him a viable candidate to so many. I would love to hear from those voters in New Fairfield (62% Trump), Oxford (60%), Prospect (64%), Wolcott (65%), Harwinton, Sterling, Watertown, Thomaston, Hartland, and Plymouth (all over 60%) and understand what makes them vote for Trump? Heck, even here in Stratford, 37% of voters went Orange. Methinks this is not just a result of the election’s close proximity to Halloween. Somehow, these voters must feel that their lives have gotten better over the last four years, or at least believe the promises that they will.

What am I missing?

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.

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.)