Letters to the Editor - January 19
Sharon’s ‘sorry’ is not a negation of its censorship
As he emerged from the first Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked which did we get, a republic or a monarchy?
Franklin replied, “a republic, if you can keep it.” Four years later, 10 amendments were added to our constitution. The first reads as follows:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This amendment was first for a reason, and it remains the most important in both large and small ways. All over the world, people are taking the values of our First Amendment to heart. They are willing to die for freedoms they have personally never experienced. Meanwhile we, in this country, have allowed ourselves, all too often, to be bullied into polite silence.
Yet neither political correctness run amok, nor holier-than-thou damnations were given the power of prior censorship under the First Amendment (check above). Nothing in our later evolving states rights grant any form of local government the right to curtail the First Amendment.
It is for this reason I call upon the citizens of Sharon to pass on to our elected representatives these words: “We are better than this!”
I’m asking all of our selectmen to simply redress the grievance of censorship in the only way that counts. Display all the political cartoons Dianne Engleke had intended for the December exhibit in the near future. Any gesture, short of that, pays insulting lip-service to our constitution and revokes her freedom of speech and our right to view her work.
A verbal, followed by a written, apology may appease the artist, but this citizen is not satisfied. Whoever found Ms. Engleke’s work offensive enough to remove it ought to know that action defies the First Amendment. To keep the republic we inherited sometimes requires us to act. Make phone calls. Write letters. Talk to our selectmen. Be an engaged citizen!
Bonnie A. Sears
HYSB thanks Hotchkiss School
I am writing on behalf of myself, the Housatonic Youth Service Bureau staff and our board of directors. We would like to express our appreciation to Head of School Malcolm McKenzie and The Hotchkiss School community, including Michael Traggio, for hosting our holiday skating party.
The school opened the doors to Dwyer Rink on Dec. 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and offered the community valuable time on the ice. In total, 109 families enjoyed skating, music and delicious baked goods. Families from all over the area were quick to arrive at the rink to enjoy this New Year’s Eve event. The festive atmosphere made for a day that family members of all ages could enjoy.
Events such as this would not be possible without the support of the school and our dedicated team of volunteers. Among those volunteers, we extend a special thanks to the Curry family for their help in running a smooth event.
The Hotchkiss School is a valued member of our community and we are grateful for their support. The support we receive from the many members of our community — from individuals, to businesses, to private schools — is critical to our mission. Because of this support, we continue to have the ability to serve the children, youth and families of our community.
Trixi Strauss Bird Count full of memories
I would like to thank Marianne Czernin for reminding us of the full name of Audubon’s local Christmas Bird Count. Part of a 100-year-old national bird census initiative, our count, now 51 years old, was in fact named after her mother, Trixi Strauss, in 1987 by the Housatonic Audubon Society, then a local chapter of the National Audubon Society — and for good reason!
Trixi was one of the early, very active members of the Housatonic Audubon Society, and her love of birds was obvious. Not only was she involved with the CBC, but she also organized field trips and was active in the planning of the early Sharon Audubon Festivals; anything to get people interested and involved with birds and conservation.
Coming up to the Audubon Center at an early age, I remember my first Christmas Bird Count with Trixi and her chapter colleagues and Audubon Center staff. I must admit that getting up at 5 a.m. on a dark sub-zero degree day was not all that enticing, but soon, through the darkness, we heard the call of our first great-horned owl of the day, then another, then at a different location, a barred owl! And, as the sun came up, more and more birds made their appearance; the team of birders diligently pointing, listening and tallying.
Back at the Audubon Center that evening, the birding teams arrived to share the traditional pot luck dinner, tell tales of the day and watched eagerly as the final species count for the day was revealed. I was proud to be part of this effort and my first experience with the Christmas Bird Count was a memorable one.
Now, years later, I am grateful to mentors like Trixi, and we all look forward to next year’s Trixi Strauss Christmas Bird Count.
Scott E. Heth, Director
Cordray’s appointment — reasonable act
President Obama has just appointed Richard Cordray as the first director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. It is a recess appointment, something presidents can do when Congress is out of session. The first such appointments were made 200 years ago by President John Adams.
The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau is a key part of the Dodd/Frank finance control legislation, a bill conceived in 2009, after Mr. Obama took office. Dodd/Frank was designed by Democrats to prevent future recessions. One of the jobs of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau will be to stop irresponsible mortgage lending by unregulated mortgage brokers. Unregulated real estate racketeers like Countrywide Financial (which was acquired by Bank of America in 2008) kick-started this recession.
The Dodd/Frank legislation was written in a Democratic-controlled Congress. By the time Dodd/Frank came up for a vote, Republicans had regained control of the House. Democrats had to bargain hard, battling massive lobbying from Wall Street and Republican dealing, to pass even a compromise version of Dodd/Frank. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, however, was still part of the bill.
The bureau by its nature is vulnerable, politically. The director on the Hill will be the point man, and needs to have good credentials. As a former attorney general for Ohio with a record for going after fraud in lending to the public, Mr. Cordray has a national reputation.
The bureau was created to oversee currently unregulated non-banking institutions like Countrywide Financial was. One job of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau will be to write and enforce regulations for non-bank lending institutions, just the way the SEC regulates Wall Street.
President Obama has tried for two years to get the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau off the ground but the process has been roadblocked by Republicans.
The Republicans have done two other things to wreck the Democrats’ efforts to protect consumers. There is now language in Dodd/Frank that specifically forbids the president from appointing a director for the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau without Congressional confirmation. The language is designed to block a recess appointment, but then, this winter, just to make certain the president wouldn’t make a recess appointment anyway, the Republicans arranged to have the Congress gaveled into session and then immediately recessed each day during the New Year’s holidays. This task was performed to an empty Senate chamber by a single Republican senator. In this way, the Republicans claim the Senate is not in recess; that a presidential recess appointment is not in order.
The legitimacy of Mr. Cordray’s appointment will go into the courts. Instead of going after finance predators, during the coming year much time and energy in the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau will be expended defending his appointment. Recess appointments, unless confirmed, terminate after one year. Therefore, while President Obama during the current election season can claim he tried to do right by consumers, ranking Republicans can tell their loan-sharking friends they are saved from possible jail terms.
Wm. Earl Brecher