Letters to the Editor - The Lakeville Journal - 10-1-20
Sharon Hospital: an important community resource
The Sharon Hospital is an important part of our community. Most residents (and many visitors) in the Northwest Corner have used the hospital for many reasons, among them emergencies visits to the ER, sophisticated medical testing, routine blood tests, and, of course, the delivery of our children. Many rely on the hospital’s rehabilitation services.
My late husband, Walton Green, and I fought hard to keep the Sharon Hospital nonprofit. We worked on this for years with several other concerned citizens. Walton would be delighted to see that the hospital is now nonprofit again, and under new management led by Dr. Mark Hirko. Maria Horn, our State Representative, has complimented Dr. Hirko for his community spirit, wanting to include all the towns, and address their interests and concerns. I hope this means that the hospital board will include local residents to represent us.
Walton was born in Sharon Hospital, and Maria Horn is committed to keeping the maternity unit at the hospital open. It is vital to provide a safe and nearby place for local mothers to deliver their babies. And with more younger families moving from New York to our towns, there will be more need for the maternity unit at Sharon Hospital.
Maria Horn also supports the community’s need for Sharon Hospital to provide COVID-19 testing at the hospital for all residents here in the Northwest Corner so we can get a grip on COVID-19 in our area. I commend the hospital for making this available.
How to vote this year
This is the year 2020, coincidentally a number that corresponds with perfect vision. In the future, if your child or grandchild or a friend asks how you voted, how will you respond?
We are in the midst of major national crises — the coronavirus pandemic, personal and public health concerns, economic hardships, Black Lives Matter social justice reforms and climate extremes from superstorms, drought and wildfires. The right to vote for our leaders is essential to our democracy. It is necessary to think critically and see clearly to choose the best qualified officials for our government to preserve, protect, and defend us.
Former speaker Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.” Begin with the candidate for the 64th State Assembly District in Hartford. The incumbent, Maria Horn, in her first term, has practically become indispensable, serving on the Appropriations (as vice-chair), Environment and Judiciary committees. A resident of Salisbury with her husband and their three grown children, Maria is a graduate of Princeton with a law degree from the University of Chicago. She has the personality to win friends easily and professional skills to grasp the legal and fiscal implications of statewide legislation, as well as the temperament to share the natural conservation concerns of her constituents in the Northwest Corner. Maria’s weekly newsletters are regular and detailed communications — about meetings, announcements, available services, and agency contacts. They are useful to foster a sense of community among people of all ages in rural areas, in small to medium-sized towns and cities.
Of course, this is a presidential election year. Also on our ballot are our representative in Congress for the 5th District, our state senator as well as State Assembly District representative and our local Registrars of Voters.
Applications to vote by absentee ballot are being mailed to all registered voters. They should be completed carefully and returned promptly to the Town Clerk in each district. (It is a secret ballot and party affiliation or unaffiliated status does not affect eligibility to vote.) Completed ballots may be mailed in via the Post Office, or placed in a drop box at the Town Hall. To vote in person on Election Day, Nov. 3, the polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Masks and social distancing will be required.
Frances R. Besmer
Heal the country
Every day it becomes more clear
That we have everything to fear
Insanity belongs in an asylum ward
So for all time, he can be stored
Never to utter his stupid thoughts
Just examples of his mental moss
Let the country mend and heal
Church bells ring and loudly peal
Return to a country that we can be proud
Let’s get together and sing out loud.
Now more than ever, Jahana Hayes for the 5th
Normally, you wouldn’t use your local newspaper to try to tell people how to vote, any more than you’d talk politics or religion at a dinner party. However, our District 5 has a Congresswoman in Jahana Hayes who’s perfectly qualified to meet the demands and challenges of this troubled moment and we must not lose her, especially not to an opponent who is running one of those “say anything” campaigns we’ve been so often “treated” to lately. I’ve had enough of that to last a lifetime, haven’t you?
We don’t dare watch this one from the sidelines. I hope you’ll make your plans to vote now.
We mustn’t lose Jahana Hayes, not when the important questions before us are the economy, women’s issues, race, education, policing, opportunity, and health care. She knows these issues as well as anyone could, because she’s been living them her whole life long. She’s a woman, who’s African-American, whose life of public service as a talented and inspiring teacher won her the National Teacher of the Year Award, who now has two years of Washington experience under her belt, so she knows the ropes but isn’t part of “the system,”who’s married to a police officer, who has four children of her own, who knows a lot about making a good life and a valuable contribution even if you had to start from scratch, because she did it herself, who can lead others by example as they seek to make the honest best they can out of their chances, and who’s smart, hopeful, optimistic, and realistic. Just the way a teacher should, she has a great well of empathy for other people’s ambitions and struggles.
Maybe most important of all, she has shown, by her actions in Congress in the last two years and by showing up all everywhere around these parts, what it is to be a Representative who’s working for all the people in her district, from the urban centers to the country villages and everything in between. If that weren’t enough, she’s just a good, good person.
If you don’t like this intrusion on the peaceful reading of your local paper, I understand. It’s my paper, too. But these aren’t normal times, when one of our two parties is too craven to call out their own candidate by name even when he will not unequivocally support the basics of democracy itself: that the one who gets the most votes wins and that he, like every president going back to George Washington, is fully committed to the peaceful transfer of power.
Please be sure to vote for Jahana Hayes. We need her now more than ever.
Holley Block not the right fit for affordable housing
The Town of Salisbury needs to review the economics and risks before proceeding with the Holley Block project.
The Planning and Zoning Zoom meeting will be continued on Oct. 8 after proper notice has been given to the abutting neighbors. There were many letters in favor of the Holley Project as we and many of our neighbors would like to see affordable housing proceed. However, there were several letters opposing this specific project, which can be read in the P&Z meeting documents on the town’s website.
Some were from business owners who feared a loss of business from the lost parking spaces and the construction process. One well-reasoned letter came from the former owner of Pastorale who would prefer to see an affordable house built on Perry Street across from her house rather than on Holley Block. She cited the importance of parking to existing businesses and the value of parking in the revitalization of the Pocket Knife Square buildings.
Another, from an attorney, noted that the proposed building is by no means in the Federal or 18th-century style stipulated by the donor of the property. In fact, the new building looks very much like the building that the donor directed to be torn down in her written bequest to the town.
The architect presented that multifamily and affordable housing exceptions in the new Pocket Knife Square Overlay district allowed for a building with less than five units rather than the 13 proposed, only half of which would be affordable. He paid no attention to the surrounding buildings and so did not show that the building was contextual in character. There is parking for 24 cars, 13 of which are required by zoning.
There was much discussion about parking and traffic on Millerton Road. The main entrance is off Holley Street but a second driveway exits directly onto Millerton Road. The traffic consultant estimated traffic on Millerton Road at 5,000 cars/day and Route 41 at 8,000. I question the town’s potential liability if this building proceeds and accidents occur when a future tenant exits the driveway onto Millerton Road, which we already know is dangerous.
The consultants were unable to provide information on the cost of the project or estimates for the market-based rents. At the close of the meeting, the chair directed the consultants to provide information on costs to ensure the long term compliance with affordable housing criteria. Affordable housing needs to stay affordable.
I think the costs, financing and risks of all affordable housing projects should be publicly disclosed. I would like to encourage a discussion of the best way to provide affordable housing in Lakeville and Salisbury including single family conversions, the Pope property, Pocket Knife Square and the Holley Block. This project has not been compared with alternatives. Decisions on the Holley Block should not proceed until the report and discussion of the Pope property is forthcoming.
Trump not a supporter of veterans
As most people know, Brian Ohler is running against Maria Horn for State Representative. We know too that Ohler is a twice wounded vet, yet we have not heard from him about Trump’s disgusting, unAmerican comments referring to wounded and dead vets as “losers and suckers.”
The Atlantic Monthly article that reported Trump’s comments was not discredited. His aides have just remained silent, which is not the same thing as a repudiation. We also know he already called Senator John McCain, a five year POW in Vietnam, a “loser.” Such language is Trump’s M.O.
I would assume that Ohler has to be personally offended, as any vet should be. Why then has he not called Trump out on denigrating the most fundamental American principle — service to one’s country?
What is personal courage if not speaking truth to power?
Here’s how to have your vote counted
The good news is that everyone wants to vote this fall including me, so I wanted to check that my voter registration mailing address was right. I wanted to know that my absentee application would arrive at my current street address. So to check, just call your Town Clerk or Registrar. If it’s not right, they will fix it.
You, too, can check that you are registered to vote by going to www.voterregistration.ct.gov
When you are ready, be sure to deposit your application and later on your absentee ballot into the dropbox outside YOUR town hall, not just any dropbox. It will ensure your application and ballot are processed quickly.
The vote counting won’t begin until election day. Some states start counting the absentee ballots in advance, but not in Connecticut. Any vote that is received by 8 p.m. on election day will be counted. Also, if you have sent in your absentee ballot and change your mind, you have until 5 p.m. the night before Election Day to retrieve it from the Town Hall.
Hopes this helps, fellow citizens.
October: a time of beauty, transition
Especially in New England, it is easy to consider October as a month of harvest, beauty and transition. In the Jewish faith and others, a time of reflection and renewal is marked as well.
A few decades ago I wrote to newspapers and started sharing the idea through flyers and notes of “Acorns to Oaks Networking” to highlight the gift of each person and nature in a forest of friends, growing from acorns to trusty oaks.
All people are counting in critical ways, whether for the census to assure services and funds (with a final filing date of 9/30/20) or voting locally and nationally if registered.
Acorns to Oaks Team Outreach (A-2020) is an umbrella term to count not only people on the planet in a meaningful effort to help one another but factors in aspects of permaculture with the ethics of “people care, earth care and resource share.”
I have much more on these ideas and hopes to create practical networks on Livfully.org and welcome support at email@example.com to enrich the U.S. of A-Miracle at this time.
“Oaktober 1st, 2020” is an official time to recognize the A-2020 efforts and join in making this a movement to sweep the country and wider world online.
The mission is to appreciate everyone and all biological parents, others who nurture and care for children.
We can all benefit from considering the legacies of each person’s family and community. Now is the time to network among educational, spiritual, legal and social groups and forces.
We can create a caring, capable citizenry with respect for nature, animals of all kinds and the climate conditions in which we live at this critical time in our collective human family journey. Thanks for sharing the road and mission as team players in all walks of life.
Catherine Palmer Paton
Keep Hayes as CT rep for the 5th District
Sept. 23 is not a good day in American history. On Sept. 23, 1955, the men who killed Emmett Till were acquitted. On Sept. 23, 2020, the men who killed Breonna Taylor were acquitted. So much for the arc of history over 65 years.
Where does the state of Connecticut stand in its progress over this time?
One measure of where we are now is the delegation we send to Washington. The population of Connecticut is one-third minority, but until two years ago, we had no minority representation. That was when Jahana Hayes (D-5) was elected to Congress. Hayes is up for reelection and her record show that she deserves to be reelected because she focuses on the needs of her constituents.
When people think of our state, they may picture historical town greens with white churches, or the shore with beaches and sailboats, or the tree-covered mountains that are the foothills of the Berkshires. In fact, the majority of people live in cities, small and large. When we consider the broad range of people in the 5th Congressional District who enrich our culture and contribute to our economy, we need to think about who is watching out for constituents’ daily needs.
That is the kind of legislation Hayes focuses on in Congress: The National Apprenticeship Act, to support moving people from school to work; The Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, aimed at creating jobs by updating our energy infrastructure; better health care for veterans; and protections for pregnant workers. These are practical measures that affect people’s daily lives. That’s one kind of representation the people of Connecticut need and Hayes works across the aisle to bring it about. Let’s keep CT moving forward by sending Jahana Hayes back to Congress.
Red states, blue states, succession cities?
United we stand, divided we fall. People of South Dakota, New York and Alabama are Americans. People of California, Texas, and Maine are Americans. From sea to shining sea we are Americans. Essential workers, professional workers, hard workers are Americans. Pro Choice, Pro Life, Pro Bowl are Americans. Catholics, Muslims, Jews, atheists are Americans. Red, Black, Brown, White are Americans. Opera buffs, sports fans, hunters are Americans. Straight, gay, trans are Americans. Fighting fires, surviving hurricanes, helping hands are Americans. Doctors, electricians, hair dressers are Americans. Big city, little town, farmers are Americans.
Peoples of Wyoming, Washington, and Michigan are Americans. Bikers, joggers, couch sitters are Americans. Readers of Ludlum, Faulkner and comics are Americans. Tall, short, invisibles are Americans. First Class, coach class, non travelers are Americans. People of Massachusetts, Louisiana, New Mexico are Americans. Dwellers on Main Street, 5th Avenue, Oak Lane are Americans. Fish eaters, beef eaters, vegetarians are Americans. Creative, practical, funny are Americans. Right handed, left handed, ambidextrous are Americans. Descendants from the North, South, East, West – immigrants all- are Americans. Independents, Democrats, Republicans are Americans. Crown thou good with brotherhood, sisterhood, neighborhood Americans. From spacious skies no state is blue or red, no city is succeeding, no county is despicable. We are all Americans. We are all America. United we stand, divided we fall.
Taxpayer money would be better spent elsewhere
The Northwest Hills Council of Governments (NHCOG) recently received a payment of $400,000 in CARES EDA Funding “to update economic development plans and fortify programs to assist communities in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.”
How has the NHCOG spent this money? It has allocated $148,000 (37%) of the CARES funding to support NW Connect, a private corporation promoting a municipal fiber optic network that would provide internet access but no cable television. And in fact, this is not the first time that the NHCOG has given large amounts of capital to support NW Connect; during the past four years, the NHCOG has funneled all of its funding to improve broadband in the region, totaling at least $300,000, towards the company’s efforts, and has provided consultants and staff for its operations. No other private, non-501(c)3 entity in Litchfield County has received anywhere near this level of support and preferential treatment from the NHCOG.
Despite receiving all of this funding, since its 2016 incorporation, NW Connect has laid no fiber, nor has it connected one residence or business, nor has one town signed on to the prospect of building its own network.
There is a reason for this: It’s not worth the financial risk. In Municipal Fiber in the United States: An Empirical Assessment of Financial Performance (2017), Christopher Yoo, Professor of Law at UPenn, writes: “Many cities managing these projects have faced defaults, reductions in bond ratings, and ongoing liability, not to mention the toll that troubled municipal broadband ventures can take on city leaders.” He cites specific examples that are quite sobering: “Marietta, Georgia sold its system for $11.2 million at a loss of $24 million . . . Provo, Utah sold its system for $1, leaving behind $39 million in debt . . . Quincy, Florida, incurred $5.1 million in debt . . . $6 million in operating losses,” and the list goes on, including Burlington, Vermont, who recently defaulted on its indebtedness.
Professor Yoo adds: “The lack of any appreciable demand for gigabit applications in countries that have large-scale fiber builds … raise serious questions about whether the gigabit speeds associated with fiber are needed.” Steve Simonin, a former cable network engineer, and Chair of the Litchfield Cable TV Advisory Council, agrees with Professor Yoo: “We don’t need a redundant fiber network and a municipal network could bankrupt our towns.” Area providers currently offer fiber optic services to businesses, and Optimum has pledged to bring fiber to all of its customers in the near future.
So why are we essentially serving as NW Connect’s “angel” investors, putting enormous amounts of our taxpayer dollars into such a high-risk venture, a venture that, if it ever provides any return, would only benefit those residents in a town that opted to build a municipal network?
The NHCOG’s next Zoom meeting is Oct. 8. Please urge your representatives to reconsider allocation of the $148,000 ($100,000 has not yet been disbursed), and discontinue taxpayer support of NW Connect.
Vote for Ohler, reduce Florida plates in CT
Do you wonder why we saw so many Florida license plates around the Northwest Corner this summer? According to the Census Bureau, Connecticut lost population for the 6th year in a row during the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Many Connecticut residents are making Florida their primary residence. There were 18,291 in the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year up from 11,249 the previous year. That’s a 63% increase.
Tossing around a lot of statistics can make your eyes glaze over. Pointing fingers and placing blame doesn’t help either. What we should consider in our local northwest Connecticut election this November is who can start to turn things around. Brian Ohler has been a life-long resident of the Northwest Corner. He returned after a 12-year military career to finish his bachelor’s degree and work on two Masters degrees. He has already served one term as the representative of our 64th District and was a member of the Appropriations Committee and chair of a subcommittee.
The first priority is to figure out why more people are leaving Connecticut than moving here. United Van Lines is a St. Louis based company that tracks their customers’ reasons for moving. In their last survey 37.3% of Connecticut residents said they left because of jobs, 34.8% left for retirement and 23.8% left because of family. Only 9.65 cited making the change for lifestyle. Of the people who moved to Connecticut 59% said it was because of a job. Since we have many more people leaving for jobs than coming in, our priority has to be bringing more jobs to the state.
Currently, a public safety and public health professional, Brian Ohler has had experience in operating a business and understands what is needed to help bring jobs back to Connecticut. Instead of voting in an increase for state employees during this difficult time of COVID like our current representative did, Brian would vote in a fiscally responsible manner. Instead of grappling with tough budget issues, Maria Horn took the easy route by voting to raise taxes by $2 billion, all during the time of COVID and in spite of the fact that many small businesses were barely surviving and some closing their doors.
According to the economics firm DataCore Partners Connecticut’s job growth never exceeded 1% between 2011 and 2020. That was a time the nation as a whole enjoyed explosive job growth. Brian will address these difficult budget decisions with fiscal prudence so that Connecticut businesses will once again grow and attract more jobs to our state.
Connecticut has so many advantages in education, medical facilities, recreation resources, climate, transportation and more, there is no reason we can’t come up with fresh thinking to stop our drain of jobs and residents and turn our state into a magnet for growth and prosperity. Vote for Brian Ohler to help stop the exodus from Connecticut. Brian will help bring jobs back to our wonderful state.
How about a third political party?
As I drove to Torrington today to do some shopping I noticed that many homes along the route had sprouted political signs indicating who the homeowners were supporting in various elections, on both the federal and state levels. “Wow, we are divided even in our little Northwest Corner towns!”, I thought to myself.
The increasing polarization of American political parties and ordinary citizens makes me increasingly worried. History has given us many examples of how this situation ends. In China in the beginning of the 1600s members of the Ming government divided into two parties that each trumpeted their moral superiority and degraded the reputations of their opponents. The upshot was that government came to a standstill. Inability to compromise meant that no one was making any decisions, and so the country became ripe for the conquest by the Manchus from the north.
In Chile the politics of the 1960s and early 1970s led to polarization of the three political parties and a set-up due to the staggering of different kinds of elections that led to complete gridlock. This paved the way for General Augusto Pinochet’s military coup of 1973. I’m not saying that we are at risk of invasion from the north or a military coup, but I want to remind Americans about what happened to us in the 1860s.
It seems to me that what we need is a third political party. I know, we’ve tried lots of them before but I believe they all failed because their platforms were extreme. What about a Unity Party? What would happen if the individuals of our town Democratic and Republican committees came together (they are each other’s neighbors, after all) to forge a political platform that both could support? What if this process spread beyond the local?
I believe several things would be essential to make this work: First, that everyone believes that our country has an important problem and that it is “my” fault as much as the other guy’s. Second: a willingness to compromise. Third: a trained mediator. I personally, as a liberal Democrat, can think of several ways in which I would be willing to compromise with Republicans.
I would appreciate it if even just a few people would consider this proposal.