Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Charter Revision Referendum Questions At Common Council Tonight

The Common Council will vote tonight on very important revisions to the Charter that determines how our city is governed.  The ultimate decision on Charter revisions is made by voters in a referendum in November, the Council is the gate keeper, it determines what questions residents will be able to vote on. The resolution before the Council does not follow all of the recommendations of the Charter Revision Commission.

A Council-appointed Charter Revision Commission held six public meetings to discuss the Charter, it discussed 29 possible changes, and recommended 14 (draft report). The Council gave feedback to the Commission, rejecting some of its recommended changes and recommending one of its rejected changes.

The Commission has now reconsidered those Council recommendations, and submitted its final report. The report includes the following substantial changes to our governance:

  • Mayor's Term: 4 years (it is currently 2) (this was widely supported on the Commission and the Council)
  • Council's Term: 4 years (currently 2) (this received only very narrow support on the Commission and the Council)
  • Eliminate Treasurer as an elected position (this was the only question that generated wide-spread public opposition, it was rejected by the Council, but remains in the final report)
  • Increase Mayor's salary to $100,000 per year, and add Tax Shelter Annuity of $15,000
  • Raise Council's borrowing limit to $1M
In its final report, the Commission explicitly recommended that the first two questions be separated on the ballot. They did so because the level of support for each was so different.

The Resolution that the Council will vote on tonight separates the questions in a different manner than was recommended by the Commission:

  • “Shall the Charter be amended to provide for a term of four years for the following elected officials of the City of Middletown: the Mayor, Common Council, Treasurer, Board of Assessment Appeals and Registrars of Voters?
    YES NO"
  • “Shall the Charter be amended to raise the bond limit for which the Common Council can approve spending without going to referendum to $1,000,000?
    YES NO”
  • “Shall all other amendments to the Charter as stated in the Final Report of the Charter Revision Commission and adopted by the Council at its September 2, 2014 meeting be approved?
    YES NO”
The proposed first question does not give voters the option of changing the Mayor's term without also changing the terms for all of the other elected officials (even if it passes, elections would still need to be held every 2 years, as the Planning and Zoning Commission, and Board of Education, members are required to have staggered terms by state law).

This proposed third question does make the changes obvious to voters, and it combines several different types of changes into an "...all other amendment to the Charter as stated..." category. One received general support but is a categorically new item for the Charter (the Mayor's salary is not currently set by the Charter and this would increase it), one was met with public opposition (the elimination of the Treasurer as an elected position), and the others might be considered technical ("City Attorney" would now be called "General Counsel", there would be only 3 polling places for off-year elections to the Board of Ed and P&Z, etc). 

The Council meets at 7PM in Council Chambers, City Hall. There is a public hearing at the beginning of the meeting, at which all residents may speak. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Remembering Martha

Submitted by Brian Stewart. 
The Eye welcomes signed submissions. 
Today is the 100th anniversary of the passing of Martha, the last passenger pigeon. Martha was the last one of a species that was once probably the most numerous bird in the world, and possibly the most numerous bird that ever lived. I think it worthwhile to spend a while learning about these amazing birds and pondering their demise and its implications. A superb editorial appeared yesterday in the New York Times; I recommend it highly.
Martha in 1914
from Wikipedia, "Martha (pigeon)"

Passenger pigeons were much larger than the mourning dove they otherwise resembled. They fed on tree nuts such as beechnuts, acorns, and chestnuts. Highly social birds, they flew in vast flocks at speeds as high as 60 miles per hour. They ranged widely east of the Rockies, and their flocks darkened 19th-century skies, especially in the midwest. The enormity of these flocks is difficult for us to grasp now, as it was even at the time. In his 1831 Ornithological Biography, John J. Audubon wrote
The multitudes of Wild Pigeons in our woods are astonishing. Indeed, after having viewed them so often, and under so many circumstances, I even now feel inclined to pause, and assure myself that what I am going to relate is fact. Yet I have seen it all, and that too in the company of persons who, like myself, were struck with amazement.
 He went on to detail these enormous flocks:
The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse; the dung fell in spots, not unlike melting flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of wings had a tendency to lull my senses to repose.
Audubon went on to estimate that a flock might contain over a billion birds. Indeed, the largest flock of these birds was described in 1855 as being a mile wide and 300 miles long, and estimated to consist of 3.5 billion birds, undoubtedly a significant fraction of their entire population at the time.

You will not be surprised to learn that these birds were a force of nature. Nesting flocks could cover hundreds of square miles and contain over a hundred million individuals. They were obliged to roost on top of one another when migrating, and even heavy tree branches broke under their weight. There could be a foot of dung beneath roost trees. Needless to say, the forest ecosystem was altered by their presence, and it is thought that white oaks gave way to red oaks as the dominant oak species in the eastern forest at least in part because of the loss of their presence.

By 1870, their population was in steep decline. Such huge populations undoubtedly fluctuated even without human intervention, but habitat loss as forests were cleared for farming, combined with the mechanized slaughter of these birds, was their undoing. The slaughter was vast in proportion to the size of the flocks. When migrating flocks passed, entire towns would eat only pigeon meat for weeks. Hogs would be fattened on them, and barrels stuffed with them would be shipped by rail to the cities. The Wikipedia article on these birds documents the ingenuity and ferocity with which the birds were exterminated by a public that could not imagine the threat it posed to the birds.

The decline turned catastrophic between 1870 and 1890, so that by the turn of the 20th century, there were none left at all in the wild. There was no Endangered Species Act to protect them; early efforts to stop the slaughter were met with skepticism that so numerous a bird could possibly be threatened. By the time their plummeting numbers resulted in genuine efforts at their conservation, their numbers had fallen too low for them to reproduce. By 1900 only a few birds remained in captivity, and in 1914 Martha died of old age in the Cincinatti Zoo.

The loss of the passenger pigeon played a role in the establishment of the conservation movement around the turn of the 20th century, a movement that culminated in the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Yet we learn our lesson only slowly and incompletely. It took Rachel Carson's 1962 Silent Spring to prompt action to protect birds from the DDT that weakened the shells of their eggs. The 1972 Clean Water Act led to a partial restoration of the nations polluted rivers, including our Connecticut River. More recently, we have dug up our streets to separate the storm drains from the sanitary sewers to reduce the risk of raw sewage ending up in the river and Long Island Sound. Our conservation efforts are partially offset by our growing impact, and there is more work to be done.

But some now argue that we cannot afford these protections of the natural world. In one sense they are probably right: as our impact increases, and once-plentiful resources become harder to secure, the remaining ones become more expensive. If we insist on steadily rising consumption as our measure of quality of life, the only way forward will be to weaken protections for the natural world so that all natural resources can go the way of the passenger pigeon. And then we will go, too.

River swallows flocking in the lower
Connecticut River, 8/26/2014
I note that the same interests that argue we must weaken protections for the natural world often also argue that resources, particularly fossil fuels and minerals, are effectively limitless. That might be true in a way, but only if we are willing to sacrifice everything to get them. We have ocean drilling platforms that operate in a mile of water and drill another five miles because the "low-hanging fruit" of shallow, land-based petroleum reserves has been throughly exploited. And the risk attending such operations has been clear since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Fracking and other innovative methods to secure energy are evidence of our ingenuity but also of our insatiable need in the face of depleting resources.

I will end on an upbeat note. Those wishing to observe vast flocks of migrating birds should consider visiting the lower Connecticut River in the coming few weeks. There you can see huge flocks of migrating river swallows. These flocks consist of more than a hundred thousand individuals; their majestic swooping flight as they gather in the reeds at dusk is breathtaking. They are visible only from the river; one very pleasant way to see them is to book a three-hour cruise with Connecticut River Expeditions.

It is hard to know what to preserve if we do not know what we have.



The Middletown-based Cat Tales Non Profit Rescue are desperately trying to find homes for 3 cats who will be homeless as of Monday 9/1. Their former owner, a local priest, had to give them up to a foster home a year ago, because his parish no longer allowed animals.  Now, the woman who was permanently fostering them is moving and cannot take them with her. They will be homeless again as of Labor Day!! Cat Tales is seeking permanent adoption for these cats ASAP.  

These 3 cats are very sweet, in great health and up-to-date on their vet visits & shots. They need a quiet home with someone who will give them as much time as they need to adjust. 

Shalom, Shimon and Rifka need a forever home ASAP. We really would love to keep them together, but know it may not be possible. The two 2-year-old cats, who are siblings, Shalom and Shimon, need to stay together. Rifka, the female 8-year-old, can be taken alone, although Cat Tales is hoping the trio will be adopted together. 

For information, call Cat Tales (860) 344-9043, email info@CatTalesCT.org

Psychic Medium LISA LANNO on Sept 13 in Portland ~ only $39.50 for a Reading and Wine-tasting (5 wines) ~ Benefit for Cat Tales

Psychic Medium LISA LANNO on Sept 13 in Portland
Only $39.50 for a Reading and Wine-tasting (5 wines!)
Benefit for Cat Tales, a feline non profit, no kill rescue and shelter

MPD's Mine Resistant Armored Vehicle

MRAP, photo from http://defense-update.com/
In the wake of a military style response by the police to street protests in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been bipartisan concern over the use of military equipment by municipal police departments.

The Defense Department provides this equipment for free, under a program dating back to 1990. Some of the equipment given out is not weapons related, it includes clothing, first aid kits, gloves, rucksacks, etc.

However, the list also includes armored trucks, M16 semi-automatic rifles, and grenade launchers, and the equipment comes with few restrictions or requirements for training.

The Connecticut Post has published an article on the surplus military equipment now owned by police forces in our state.

The Middletown Police Department owns only one military surplus item, a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP), with a listed value of $733,000, which it received on February 13th of this year. In comparison, Meriden received equipment worth $176,000, including two dozen M16 rifles, a grenade launcher and several trucks. West Hartford has a grenade launcher, M16 rifles, and ammunition.

I emailed Lieutenant Heather Desmond, spokeswoman for the MPD, about our city's new vehicle. Her reply is below.
Well, we just got it and had it painted. It’s in our back lot with the rest of our equipment. It will be used primarily with SWAT, but it would be used in a big snow storm, like the one we had two winters ago. It’s good for up to six feet of snow. So it could be used to get someone to medical attention in bad weather, it could be used in SWAT call outs depending on the scenario. The vehicle is called an MRAP. There was an overstock with the government so they were offered to police departments at no charge. We just had to pay to ship it here. As for training it will be incorporated in the SWAT training. It would also be to use in an active shooter incident since it’s armored. If an officer or civilian was injured but there was still a potential threat then we could utilize the vehicle to get to the injured person safely.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

WILL Fall Courses

Submitted by the Wesleyan Institute for Lifelong Learning (WILL)
 Enrollment is now open for Fall 2014 courses.

The Saturday Institute - Epidemics: Past and Present We will discuss how epidemics affected communities like Middletown as well as the nation as a whole. And we will address the question: Are we prepared for the next pandemic? The day will end with a bus tour to local places associated with epidemics and will feature stories of Middletown victims and the doctors and nurses who fought to save them.
Saturday, November 1, 2014, 9:15 am-3pm, Allbritton Center, Room 311 | $110

 In addition to the full-day course, several short courses are also being offered. These courses meet on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown. Classes are scheduled in the afternoon and early evenings. Parking is available and classrooms are accessible.
· Crime And Punishment: A Mystery Tour
· Exploring The Challenges Of Personal Finance
· Henri Matisse: From Fauve To Modernist Art
· “Painting For The People”: Lithography In France In The 19th Century
· Hyphenated Americans: Contemporary Stories Of Lives Lived Between Two Cultures
· All About Food: Healthy Cooking
· Keeping Your Nerve: A Fiction-Writing Workshop
· Travel With A Geologist; Pluto’s Realm, Poseidon’s Trench, And Apollo’s Temple

 The Institute was chartered by Wesleyan University in 2009 to provide educational opportunities to members of the community outside of formal degree-granting programs. Space is limited. For more information or to register for a class, please visit www.wesleyan.edu/will or call (860) 685-2273.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Opinion: Conservation Group Fails Fairness Test

The following was submitted to The Eye by Molly Salafia. The Eye welcomes all signed articles.
To the Editor,

I was troubled to learn of the "bipartisan" Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) endorsements of local candidates for the State Senate and House.The issue is that not one of the local Republican candidates received the League's questionnaire. Specifically those representing districts which include Middletown, Angel Fernandez (R-100th District), Linda Syznkowicz (R-33rd District), and Len Suzio (R-13th District) did not receive CTLCV's survey; a fact confirmed by campaign representatives upon my inquiry.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Middlesex Community College Foundation Hosts Third Annual Red Moon Fest

On September 6, the Middlesex Community College Foundation will host its third annual Red Moon Fest. The Red Moon Fest is an evening celebration that benefits Middlesex Community College students and programs. The event includes a live and silent auction, a performance by a local jazz trio, and features an assortment of wine, beer, savories, and sweets. The event will be held in Chapman Hall from 6 – 9 p.m. For sponsorship, advertising, auction donations, or to purchase tickets ($60 each), contact Corey Martell at 860-343-5701 or visit mxcc.edu/redmoon.
This year, the Red Moon Fest is also a celebration of the Health and Life Science Initiative at the College. This new initiative is a federally-funded program to expand health and life science learning and training opportunities for MxCC students. Portland residents Dr. Virginia Nunez Olson and Dr. Robert Olson, co-owners of Pieper-Olson Veterinary Hospital, will serve as 2014 honorary co-chairs. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will be dedicated to enhancing this new program.
Live auction items include a seven-night vacation at the Beso del Sol Resort in Florida (airfare not included), seven-nights at a Cape Cod resort, a long weekend in Maine during peak foliage season, a South African Safari (airfare not included), and two opportunities to name a street on the MxCC campus for one year.
The silent auction features a variety of items donated by local businesses including restaurant gift cards, artwork, hotel stays, museum visits, and tickets to sporting events and theater performances. Additional items will be added to both auctions through the event date.
The MxCC Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt public charity dedicated to the support of Middlesex Community College and its students, who come from throughout Middlesex, New Haven, and Hartford counties. The Middlesex Community College Foundation raises funds to support for student scholarships, faculty development, instructional and technical equipment, public lectures and programs that contribute to the quality of life here in Connecticut.

Summer Sounds Series in Harbor Park! The Middletown Symphonic Band - September 2


The Final Performance of the Series is taking place under the pavilion located between the Mattabesset Canoe Club and the City Boathouse. This location is about 200 yards south of the location we've been using this year. There is lawn seating around the pavilion.

The Middletown Symphonic Band closes out the 2014 Summer Sounds season with a concert of popular tunes celebrating their 35th anniversary on Tuesday, September 2nd.

Kickin Chicken, serving chicken/fish/pork chops/sandwiches and more, will be onsite offering food to feed your body while the music feeds your soul.

Performances take place at Harbor Park this year. It's a great place to hear the music, enjoy the views of and along the Connecticut River, and have a picnic! It's all free and brought to you by the Middletown Commission on the Arts.

Rain location is the South Church sanctuary at the corner of Main and Union Sts. across from the South Green. If unsure of the weather/location, visit arts2go.org for an update.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cat Tales ~ Cat of the Week ~ SABLE!!! Support your local all feline non-profit, no-kill rescue and shelter!! ADOPT TODAY!!

My name is Sable!
Can I Come Home With You?

I am an 11-year-old female kitty and I am best described as dainty and sweet! I am a bit shy when you first meet me, but once we are friends, I will greet you with a sift meow and will be so happy when you pet me.

My friends at Cat Tales tell me I should be in a fancy cat food commercial because I am so beautiful with my long, black fur and pretty yellow eyes.

I will be content as the only cat in the house, however if you have a cat-friendly dog, that’s okay with me!  Children and loud noises scare me, so I would do best in a quiet home.

If you are looking for a sweet, new kitty, please come and meet me, Sable!

Please call Cat Tales at (860) 344-9043 or

Email: Info@CatTalesCT.org to inquire about Sable!

Ambassadors Arbo And Downs

Rani Arbo and Dave Downs were named Music Ambassadors for the city, in a ceremony in City Hall on Wednesday. Mayor Drew and Stephan Allison, coordinator of the City Arts Office, introduced the two musicians, who have been performing in our city and beyond for several decades.
Mayor Drew, Stephen Allison

Arbo sings, fiddles, and strums with her band Daisy Mayhem, playing small venues and large festivals to great acclaim all over North America. This summer she sang at the Art Farm production of King Lear, at Middlesex Community College, and at the Lunenberg Folk Harbor Festival in Nova Scotia, among many other places.  Daisy Mayhem's most recent recording is Some Bright Morning, released by Signature Sounds to widespread critical acclaim. The band describes it as agnostic gospel revival music.

Downs is a singer and songwriter who has performed at coffee shops around the city. He is a prolific writer of songs that chronicle the history and places of Middletown. Despite his now elevated status as a Music Ambassador, Downs said he is unwilling to relinquish his title as CEO of CHUSA (the Connecticut Highly Unsuccessful Songwriters Association). Dave was profiled last year in a highly unsuccessful media outlet.

Allison credited Mayor Drew as the creative force behind the award, and announced that the City Hall telephone system would be playing recordings by these two musicians for the next year.  When callers are on hold, they will henceforth no longer be subjected to music which the Mayor called "horrible", but will instead hear loops of music by Arbo or by Downs.
Dave Downs, Stephan Allison, Rani Arbo

Arbo and Downs each gave a broad thanks to the city for its support of the arts. Arbo's remarks focused on the community of artists that call our city its home.
This is a great place to be an artist, a great place to be a musician. The fact that the city has collectively put the arts community forward, not just the two of us, but the whole arts community, as an ambassador for the town to bring people here, and taken time and money to celebrate--it says a lot. It brings new people to town. It gives people who live here many ways to celebrate their collective culture ...
It’s collaborations with Wesleyan, with chorales, and there’s classical music and jazz and herb gardens. The amount of effort that Middletown puts forth is not lost on anyone. And it’s a pleasure and honor to be part of that community and to share and to benefit from the feeling of being in an arts community, which not every town can offer.
The ceremony closed, fittingly, with an Arbo-Downs duet, an inspired rendition of the Irving Berlin classic, Blue Skies.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Auditions for Circophony Youth Circus September 9

Performers of all variety between the ages of 12 and 18 are encouraged to audition for Circophony Youth Circus Company.  Auditions for the 2014-15 season will be held Tuesday, September 9, 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington Street in Middletown.

Circophony is a select youth circus company committed to providing first class training to aspiring circus performers while creating an exciting new show which will tour to schools, clubs, fairs, corporate events, festivals, and perhaps even the 2015 American Youth Circus Festival.
Circophony is a collaboration between ARTFARM and Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater. The Company is open by audition to young people ages twelve to eighteen. Prior circus experience is not required.
Young people selected for the Company receive a rigorous combination of circus training, physical conditioning and rehearsal/production experience. Members are expected to arrive punctually, attend all rehearsals and performances, work hard, be strong team players, and train independently outside of rehearsals.
If you do not have circus experience, a background in dance, gymnastics, theater, cheerleading, parkour, hooping, magic or serious physical activity is helpful. The show is directed by ARTFARM’s Executive Director Dic Wheeler, who has been performing, directing and teaching circus in the United States and Europe for thirty years. Dic is the founder of the Children’s Circus of Middletown and ARTFARM’s Circus for a Fragile Planet, and is a member of the American Youth Circus Organization and American Circus Educators Association. Circophony’s Lead Trainer is circus performer and teacher Allison McDermott, an acrobat, aerialist, graduate of the Professional Track Program at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Vermont, and Director of the Advanced Circus Program at the Children’s Circus of Middletown.
Circophony is in its third season, though the Oddfellows Traveling Circus has been around since 2001. The 2013-14 show was Circus in Wonderland, a circus inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and the previous season Circophony toured Circophony’s Vaudeville Circus, a celebration of Vaudeville.
General Auditions for the Company will be held on Tuesday, September 9, 6:30 – 8:30 pm. Auditioners should call or email to pre-register, arrive early, dress to move, and plan to stay for the entire two hours. Each auditioner must prepare and present a one minute solo performance showcasing your best circus skill or skills. Solo should have an entrance, series of events/tricks leading to a climax, and an exit. Music, props, costume are all encouraged. Show us what you can do and demonstrate your ability to create original material.
Circophony’s new show will open in December at Oddfellows Playhouse, then be available for touring through June. Rehearsals will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 6 – 9 pm, starting September 16. Tuition for the entire season is $300.
For more information about auditioning for Circophony or booking the 2014-15 touring show, contact ARTFARM (info@art-farm.org) or Oddfellows Playhouse (info@oddfellows.org).