The 26th state Senate district includes parts of Bethel, Redding, Ridgefield and Wilton. Two Wilton residents are vying for the post, a three term incumbent, and a businessman.
Republican incumbent Toni Boucher was critical of tax increases over the last several years saying the state budget has also used one-time revenues and borrowing for ongoing expenses. Boucher is calling for comprehensive tax reforms. She gave the example of Rhode Island state employees being asked to forego cost of living increases until the state could balance the pension account in order to save it. She notes that state employees contribute 2%, less than any other state. She said Connecticut should look into raising the retirement age for state workers.
Democrat Phil Sharlach has worked as a consultant and accountant in the private sector, including for Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Deloitte. He also helped facilitated the break up of AT&T into regulated and non-regulated companies. Sharlach says he has several priorities if elected. Among them is increasing Hartford's investment in Fairfield County, optimizing the state budget and bonding and providing support to seniors and veterans.
Sharlach says making sure all children have access to a good education is every parent's top priority. That's why he says fixing failing schools is so important, but not when the solution burdens students and teachers who are already doing well. He calls the implementation of the Common Core curriculum cumbersome and ill planned. Sharlach says teachers should be teaching to students, not to tests.
Boucher is a member of the Education Committee. She touted the addition of preschool slots in the state, consolidating services into the Office of Early Childhood, a concussion prevention bill dealing with school athletics and a sexual assault on college campus bill that protects students. She called the college bill a model for the rest of the country. The Education Committee also dealt with allergies in schools with passage of a bill about Epi pens. She says a bill was stopped to reduce the drug-free zones around schools.
Boucher says if elected to another term she would be interested in researching the possibility of a grade 9-14 school to give students the change to hone their interest and skills set. They would then graduate with an Associate’s Degree. She also wants to address the cost of higher education becoming less accessible to more middle-income students.
Boucher called Common Core a very controversial program. She says some school districts find it helpful, but for others it’s not up to the level they are already operating. She suggest that it be started gradually and not be a one-size fits all program. Boucher says top down management is not the way to improve education in the state.
Sharlach says his 36 years experience as a business executive could help could close a $1.37 billion deficit that the state is facing next fiscal year. He proposed a change to the conveyance tax, a set of two taxes homeowners face when they sell their property. One is paid to the state, and the other to the town.
Sharlach proposes a New York-Connecticut Transportation Authority, a non-governmental independent entity funded through open market financing and public funding. He says it could create a large freight rail system.
Boucher is also a member of the Transportation Committee. She and her colleagues called on federal agencies to intervene and provide technical and financial assistance, which she says worked. She says the new leadership at Metro North seems to be up to the task of addressing safety issues, mechanical issues, oversight and cultural issues. She says Connecticut has the opportunity to go out to bid on a train contract in 2015.
During a League of Women Voters debate, Sharlach said funding of mental health programs was too often short-changed, that most of the state's problems are economic.
Boucher says brownfield remediation work has done a great deal to clean up former brass and wire mill sites. Development of the Georgetown former Gilbert and Bennett site has stalled. She says the original developer didn’t start to build the housing, office space, train station and retail construction that was slated to go in there. Then the economy crashed. There’s a renewed effort to get development moving. She says the state has invested in making sure the roads through the property are up to code when the development starts.
There were some traffic delays on Interstate 84 overnight in Newtown because of bridge replacement work that's prompting lane shifts. The work is being done on the bridge that carries the highway over Center Street. The state Department of Transportation says the work includes relocation of temporary precast barrier, removal of current pavement markings, installation of new pavement markings, and necessary signing modifications.
The traffic shift started at 7pm, with the new alignment in place for 6am.
The bridges being replaced were constructed in the late 1970s. The total cost of the project is about $5.9 million and is expected to be completed by April.
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) A former Easton mother accused of hosting a party for high school students who were encouraged to drink alcohol and have sex has been granted special probation.
Hearst Connecticut Media Group reports that Eliane Mullen of Greenwich on Tuesday was granted accelerated rehabilitation, a program for first-time, nonviolent offenders. Mullen did not plead guilty to the 10 counts of risk of injury to a minor pending but instead was placed on two years' probation.
The charges will be dismissed if she commits no other crimes during probation.
Mullen's lawyer said she is happy to finally put the incident behind her.
Mullen had said the April 18 party ``got out of hand,'' but police said she bought vodka, whisky and a six pack of beer. Police also said Mullen supplied a condom to two teens.
A temporary solution to a road block in New Milford is being put in place. The Newstimes reports that a property owner on Waller Road is allowing the town to clear a wooded area and put gravel down to create a large service truck turnaround location.
The property is on the end of the road where Housatonic Railroad closed the rail crossing this summer. The crossing was closed for repairs by the freight rail company on an emergency order from the state Department of Transportation after a truck reportedly damaged the tracks. Housatonic Railroad decided then to permanently close the crossing.
The New Milford Town Council heard from several residents concerned about trucks and buses going in reverse down the road, creating a dangerous hazard.
The Director of Veterans Affairs for Danbury has passed away. Patrick Waldron died suddenly Tuesday of a heart attack. He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans and Korean War Veterans Association. Waldron was 81 years old.
Former President of Danbury Veterans Council George Smith says a number of veterans were at the VA canteen and were all in shock. He says there's a million stories from veterans about Pat Waldron. Smith was told by a fellow veteran about how he was living in a culvert on the side of the road until Waldron took up his cause, and got him VA disability benefits. Smith called Waldron an incredible guy who was always looking out for veterans.
City Councilman Tom Saadi, a member of the Army Reserves, says he was saddened by the news. He called Waldron a pilar of the community and someone who dedicated his life to serving this country, and serving residents in the Greater Danbury area. Saadi told a story of how anytime they would see each other, Waldron would always tell him what he was working on to help veterans. He called that Waldron's mission, one that he carried out with energy, all his soul and his enthusiasm. Saadi called Waldron's death a great loss for the City and the community.
Former City Councilwoman Mary Teicholz, whose son is in the military, says Waldron was always such an advocate for veterans in the area. She recalled one year asking him to help her organization find a veteran to donate gifts to, and he was right there. She says Waldron went above and beyond to find more funding to help the veteran out. Teicholz organizes the Walk of Honor and the Warrior Award presentation each year, along with the new Walkway of Honor.
A pedestrian was hit by a car in Danbury Tuesday night. Police say the accident happened shortly after 9pm on New Street, right by the fire department.
39-year old Julio Rodriguez of Danbury was driving south on New Street when he hit a woman who was in the road, not in a cross walk. The woman was identified as 42-year old Barbara Mouning of Danbury. Police say it's not clear when she was stopped in the street, but it's believed to be alcohol related.
Mouning is listed in stable condition at Danbury Hospital, where she is being treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Any witnesses to the accident are urged to call Police Officer Glenn Utter at 203-797-4611.
A freshman lawmaker is being challenged by a political newcomer in the 106th state House District. Mitch Bolinsky is the Republican incumbent. He is being challenged by Matt Cole, a recent Western Connecticut State University graduate and social worker. Bolinsky says there’s still a lot of work that he wants to do in the legislature. Some of the areas he’s proud of this past session included toughening drunken driving laws and moving funding forward for the rebuilding of Sandy Hook School. Another initiative he touted was to include private and parochial schools in the state’s program to fund security improvements.
During a candidate forum held last week by the Newtown Bee, Cole said he feels there are no constructive conversations taking place in Hartford. He noted that as a trained social worker, he is adept at working as a consensus. He interned with former state Representative Chris Lyddy.
Bolinsky says Connecticut has an economy that’s not working the way it should be. He says something has to be done to attract business, not picking winners and losers like the First Five program. Bolinsky referring to a program implemented by Governor Malloy that provides funding to companies in exchange for relocating to and within Connecticut. He says lowering taxes, both on corporations and individuals, will make Connecticut more competitive with other states, and a place that people want to live. Bolinsky says making Connecticut more affordable to live and do business here is the first step to growing jobs, gaining employment numbers and getting the state’s economy back on the right track.
Cole says people are struggling because wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. Property taxes for seniors who bought their houses decades ago and aren’t worth what they were, which he says poses a serious burden. He wants to work with Newtown’s Economic Development Commission to learn what he can do to help the town succeed. Cole suggested having a so-called Buffet rule in Connecticut where people making seven-figures or more a year pay more taxes to fund programs that serve the people scraping by or are living in extreme poverty.
Bolinsky says it’s important to get Common Core right. He calls implementation a rushed process and he wants more input from parents, teachers and students. He says it’s very testing intensive and doesn’t have a lot of flexibility for practical learning and creativity in the classroom.
Cole says he likes the idea of Common Core, but that the implementation was rushed. He says there are some pros to it, in that it allows teachers more resources to work with students that are at different levels. He also touted that Common Core develops critical thinking. But he says students were left out of the process of what Common Core standards should look like.
Bolinsky says Connecticut ranks 49th or 50th in terms of infrastructure stability. He wants lawmakers and others to stop raiding the Special Transportation Fund for money to plug holes in the state budget. He believes transportation money should be used for transportation with investments in infrastructure to replace years of neglect. Bolinsky says he was discouraged to hear that the state Department of Transportation has tabled a project to expand Interstate 84 between Danbury and Waterbury from two lanes to three. He says he wants to continue to push for that project to be brought back to life.
Cole says roads and bridges need to be repaired in an effort to attract business to the state. He says people are frustrated with the state of roads in the state. Cole says expanding the highway would be a priority for him. He thinks the roadways should be able to hand the population today, not 40 years ago.
Bolinsky says open space is important to the character of Newtown. In the private sector, he helped write a part of the 2009 Clean Energy Act. It’s now law in California and in Congress to reduce global warming from vehicle air conditioning systems.
Bolinsky says in the wake of the legislature’s work in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook School, and in anticipation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission’s report, there will be more work to address the issues that stemmed from that tragedy. He says with the so-called gun bill adopted last year, by no means does the state have the solutions to prevent another similar tragedy. He says there must be a focus on mental health. He calls early detection key. He wants to see programs implemented that prevent people from reaching the point where they become a danger to themselves or the community. He wants to continue to make schools safe, while making them a happy place for them to learn, grow and prosper.
Cole says the gun law passed last year should only be strengthened. He thinks open carry laws in Connecticut need to change. He also called fore more early intervention for elementary school aged children when it comes to mental health care. Cole says more community support programs and proper funding for those programs is needed. He cited Ability Beyond Disability and other similar organizations in the region having to fold into other groups because they don’t have enough resources or funding. Cole says there is a large underserved population that could benefit from more services.
A panel discussion has been held at CH Booth Library in Newtown by Ben's Lighthouse. The organization was named for Benjamin Wheeler, one of the children killed at Sandy Hook School. The founders say they want to create a positive impact on this community and beyond. The panel was made up of participants on a recent trip through Ben's Lighthouse to Loveland, Colorado where they helped with the rebuilding efforts from last fall's flooding. Last year members travelled to Oklahoma to help with recovery efforts from tornadoes that ripped through the region.
A site walk is being held in Brookfield for companies interested in making bids for work at Cadigan Park. The town is currently accepting bids for Phase 2 of the Parks Revitalization Program. The work proposed is for overall site improvements and new building construction at the Town Beach side of the Park. The pre-bid site walk is being held from 11am to noon at the Candlewood Lake Road entrance . The completion goal for this phase of the work is Memorial Day 2015.
Three Greater Danbury area towns are among those receiving funding from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to preserve open space. There are projects in Redding, Newtown and Morris that are receiving grants from the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program.
DEEP Spokesman Dennis Schain says Connecticut has a goal of setting aside 21 percent of land as permanently protected open space. DEEP prioritizes funding for projects that meet the multiple goals of open space, such as protecting vital habitats, creating and enhancing recreational resources, and protecting our valuable water resources. These open space grants will help the State of Connecticut achieve its goal of protecting 673,210 acres of land by 2023. Connecticut now has 496,948 acres designated as state or local open space lands, 73.8% of the goal.
The grants provide 40 to 60 percent of the purchase price for the land.
The Chestnut Hill Open Space Preserve in the Town of Newtown is receiving a $110,000 grant to purchase the 36.98 acres. This property is located in the southeast corner of Newtown near the Monroe and Oxford town lines, and will add to existing town-owned open space to create an over 70-acre preserve.
The property is within the Halfway River Watershed and contains wetland, vernal pools and deciduous forest floodplains in an undeveloped natural setting. An unnamed tributary to the Halfway River runs through and is likely enjoyed by an Eastern Box Turtle that was recently discovered on the property. The ridgeline topography runs north-south and has a steep slope to the east toward the Halfway River.
The Biehn Property in Redding is 30.704 acres and will be paid for in part by a $170,000 state grant. This undeveloped, mostly wooded property has over 1,600 feet of frontage on Hill Road and about 300 feet on Rail Coach Road.
The topography of the property is heavily influenced by wetlands and three watercourses or tributaries that run to the Saugatuck Reservoir. The property abuts Class I watershed land owned by the water supply company Aquarion. The State of Connecticut has designated Redding as a Water Conservation Area, and acquisition and protection of this property meets several water protection goals and objectives in State and Town recognized planning documents.
The Morris Land Trust, Inc.is receiving $422,500 for the Farnhan Farm Easement to protect 129.8 acres historically used for dairy production and other agricultural fields.
In addition to 38 acres of prime and 8 acres of statewide important agricultural soils, the property is composed of a heavily forested area to the north, 18 acres of wetlands with associated ponds, brooks (Slab Meadow Brook), streams and vernal pools, and habitat recognized for New England Cottontail. The property shares a common boundary with nearly one mile of Class I and Class II watershed land associated with the Pitch, Morris and Wigwam Reservoirs, and has over one-half mile of the Mattatuck Trail located on it.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- In Connecticut's 5th Congressional District, where more than one-fourth of residents rely on Social Security, Rep. Elizabeth Esty has moved the issue sensitive to seniors close to the top of her many disputes with Republican challenger Mark Greenberg.
Esty, seeking a second term, is raising issues such as economic development, gun ownership and transportation. But her TV ads have focused on Social Security, promising unyielding support while insisting Greenberg would undermine it.
"Mark Greenberg in his own words has said repeatedly he considers the system a failure," Esty said in a debate with Greenberg, who responded that he's defending himself against "lies" and believes ways to preserve the program should be debated.
Esty said in an interview that 125,000 of the district's 475,000 residents - about 26 percent - receive Social Security benefits. She said she's voted against cuts in Social Security, including a proposal backed by President Barack Obama to calculate inflation more conservatively, known as "chained CPI" that would result in smaller cost-of-living increases in Social Security.
Many Democrats in Congress and advocates for seniors dislike the chained CPI, opting instead for a more generous cost-of-living increase they say more accurately reflects price increases faced by older Americans.
To Greenberg, the higher proportion of senior citizens is a sign of a lack of jobs and few opportunities for young people to remain. His campaign message, he said, is an "old refrain: jobs and the economy, the inability of young people to stay in Connecticut."
Estimates show that in 2033, the Social Security fund will no longer pay out 100 percent to beneficiaries and drop to 75 percent of promised benefits unless Congress and the president act.
Esty and Greenberg may agree on a possible solution to ensuring Social Security doesn't run out of money by raising a limit on taxed income to bring in more revenue. The policy, known as lifting the cap, would tax the wealthy who do not pay Social Security tax at certain levels at the same rate as middle-income workers.
"I think that is a much fairer way to do it," Esty said.
Greenberg, who has advocated for gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security eligibility to 70, said he will listen to proposals to lift the cap.
"The bottom line is I'm willing to discuss an increase in the cap as well as an extension from 67 to 70," he said.
Other issues in the race focus on the slow economic recovery and gun control in the district where 20 children and six educators were killed in their elementary school in December 2012.
Greenberg stresses gun safety and the need to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental health problems. Esty supports an expanded federal background check and closing loopholes allowing sales at gun shows intended to evade background checks.
Democrats may be optimistic about their prospects in the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has canceled its television reservations in the district, instead reserving $500,000 for ads in Iowa for the last two weeks of the election there.
For Greenberg, the campaign is his first after failing before to win the Republican nomination.
"I'm in unchartered territory," he said. "Someone's got to do the dirty work."
The Newtown Board of Selectmen has received an update from the Newtown Permanent Memorial Commission. Kyle Lyddy told the Board that they are still in the information gathering stage. They communicate with the 26 families monthly to keep them informed of the process. Emergency service groups, parents of children enrolled at Sandy Hook School on 12-14 as well as school staff have been sent a survey.
The Commission has created subcommittees to discuss location, family outreach and communication.
First Selectman Pat Llodra told Lyddy that the Selectmen would not put a deadline on the group because this is meant to be a long and deliberative process. The Selectmen encouraged the Commission to speak again with Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech and other groups again about what worked for them and what regrets they may have.
"Sacred Soil" from the school site is being held for the Commission.
Two parents of children who were killed at Sandy Hook School are headed to Washington state, the site of the latest school shooting. Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, whose sons Daniel and Dylan died on 12-14, are travelling to Washington state.
Last week one student shot and wounded five peers, two fatally, and took his own life. There is a ballot initiative in Washington state expanding background checks on firearm purchases.
The parents formed The Sandy Hook Promise shortly after they lost their sons to share their stories with others and to help put an end to gun violence. Barden says they will be there to honor children who have had their lives cut short by gun violence, to share their stories and to urge Washington residents to vote for the ballot initiative.
One week from today is Election Day and several towns, including Bridgewater, are voting on questions as well as candidates.
Bridgewater is taking up the issue of allowing alcohol sales in restaurants and cafes in town following proposals from two developers to open restaurants if they could have liquor permits. Bridgewater is the last dry town in the state.
Residents are being asked a yes or no question on the November ballot. A yes vote would allow restaurants to sell alcohol between 11 am and 11 pm Monday through Thursday, from 11 am to midnight Friday and Saturday and from noon to 10 pm Sunday. It would also allow for the sale of alcohol from 11 am to 1 am on New Year's Eve.
The issue was going to be voted on in February, but town officials wanted to reexamine so-called Blue Laws.
This would not allow for package stores.
One week from today is Election Day and several towns, including Ridgefield, are voting on questions as well as candidates.
In Ridgefield, residents will be asked about a land sale next week. It's 12 acres off Old Quarry Road, the former Schlumberger site. The land and some of the buildings would be sold to Sky Dome LLC for $3.45 million. The Philip Johnson building and three other buildings would be restored and retained at buyer’s expense.
The deed prohibits resale for development outside current zoning.
Ridgefield bought the 45 acre property several years ago for $7 million. A 5 acre parcel was previously sold and proposals are being considered for another 10 acres to be sold.
The Danbury Fire Department is applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for funding through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. If awarded, the Department will use the money for equipment, including air packs to help the Volunteer Department finish their replacement program, and the "jaws of life" tools.
Air packs cost a few thousand dollars a piece.
The funding request is not exceeding a million dollars, with FEMA picking up a majority of the costs--leaving Danbury's share at 10-percent. The Fire Department's budget will be reviewed to see if there is funding that can be used toward the City's share.
A New Milford man has been arrested for stabbing another person early Saturday morning. New Milford Police were called to Two River Lane on a report of a man aggressively waving a knife at residents and damaging a vehicle shortly before 3am. A man was transported to the hospital with wounds to his leg and arm. Police say 27-year old Joel Aldea Figeroa, who lives on the street, was charged with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, and threatening.
Two young men are running to represent Danbury's 109th state House District.
Democratic incumbent David Arconti says public service is important to him and he’s made good relationships with representatives on both sides of the aisle, which has allowed him to deliver for Danbury. He says he’s tried to focus on constituent services, for example offering to meet in person rather than address complicated issues over the phone. He says that’s a great way to learn first hand what people are going through.
Republican Josh Stanley is a 24 year old who graduated from Danbury High School in 2008 and then from Western Connecticut State University with a Small Business Management degree. He is a contractor and foreman who works for his family’s paving company.
Last session, Arconti says he was very proud to help secure $1.2 million for construction of the Healing Hearts program building under the umbrella of Western Connecticut Regional Hospice. It’s the only program of its kind in Connecticut. He says this saves the state money in mental health services with these services being provided by a non-profit, at no cost to clients. They have working groups from 9/11 and from 12/14. He also touted being able to help bring funding to Danbury to fix the roof of the Danbury War Memorial, which is the City’s emergency shelter, and for infrastructure improvements at the Armory, which is being operated by the Harambe Youth Center.
Arconti says a new Education Commissioner coming in next year will be the most important appointment coming up. He hopes it’s a classroom friendly Commissioner. He also wants to work to get teach evaluation system right. He says tying that to standardized tests is not the best route to accomplish that.
During a forum sponsored by the PTO, Stanley said travelling across the state, it’s easy to see that each town is different from each other. He notes that there are also income gaps and it’s not fair for the state to make broad assumptions of how much each school district needs in terms of funding. To make up shortfalls in the Education Cost Sharing formula, Stanley suggested that students and the community pitch in. Stanley pointed out that a few years ago, Danbury High School was going to have to cut freshman sports because there wasn’t the funding for it. He says the athletes went out and held car washes and other fundraisers to save the program.
Stanley was also asked about the Common Core initiatives implemented in the state. He says teachers need to be able to teach, let them decide how best to do what they do. He gave a personal example of growing up with dyslexia, being in a high math lass and a low reading class. He credited his sixth grade teacher for working with him and administrators to make sure scheduling conflicts weren’t an impediment to his success.
Arconti says the state is slowly but surely making its way out of the recession. But he says there’s still plenty of work to be done. He touted some companies coming to Danbury, specifically Eastern College Athletic Conference and New Oak Capital. He also touted the state funding for Cartus to retain and create jobs over the next few years in Danbury. He would like to examine the Business to Business tax and Estate Tax. He predicts next session will be the session for property tax reform.
Stanley says Connecticut needs to be a more business-friendly state if more jobs are going to be created here. He says he knows first hand about the high taxes levied on businesses. Stanley also said he would like to take on the issue of Danbury generating a lot of revenue for the state, but not getting as big a return as municipalities that send less money to Hartford.
Arconti related the story of a constituent who is an occupational therapist and reached out to him. In 2013, copayments on physical therapy were limited to $30. He says the constituent told him that their benefits are similar and patients have told her that they can’t afford to continue the necessary outpatient rehab because of the high copayments by insurance companies. He went to the legislature’s Insurance Committee, made a case and that passed both the House and Senate unanimously.
Pomperaug High School in Southbury was evacuated due to a mercury spill .It seems a student brought a mercury thermometer into school and it broke.
The student was transported to the hospital as a precaution.
The school will remain evacuated as school officials wait for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to clean up the mercury spill.
State Police are assisting DEEP with the hazardous material situation.
Dr. Stacey Gross, principal of Ridgefield High School sent out a message to parents saying there was a light smoke condition in the school library around 7am that resulted in the evacuation of the building. It was due to a malfunction of a heating unit in the library. Power to the unit was shut down and smoke was cleared from the library.
The Ridgefield Fire Department metered the rest of the school for harmful gasses and checked for smoke. The entire building was deemed safe and all clear and students and staff re-entered the building by 7:35am. The principal says there may be some residual odor in the library or adjacent rooms but they have been assured there is nothing harmful present.