The chairman of the Fairfield Board of Education is looking to unseat the incumbent Republican state Senator in the 28th District, which includes Newtown. State Senator Tony Hwang faces a challenge from Democrat Philip Dwyer, who served the community through the YMCA and three different elected offices.
Hwang says he wants to bring greater transparency, sustainability and predictability to the state budgeting process. He says the way tax revenue and resources are managed, and how spending is allocated impacts every facet of every community. He says the current budgetary process is broken because all parties involved aren't brought to the table. Hwang says cutting school budgets, impacting municipalities and those most at risk is flawed. He says the most vulnerable; the developmentally disabled, seniors and hospitals need to be protected. He says the state is in a crisis and lawmakers need to send a message that they are working together to create an environment where businesses and people can sustain themselves in Connecticut. He says government needs to be accountable to the people they represent.
Dwyer says community engagement is important to quality of life in the state. He wants to help the legislature have a better understanding of local school districts. Job development is also a focus for Dwyer. His top priorities are improvements in public schools, job growth, transportation and services for those most in need.
There is a court ruling making its way to the state Supreme Court about education funding fairness and other reforms to the education system in Connecticut. Dwyer says the judge made it seem like it's a question of rearranging allocations between rural, suburban and urban. But he says it goes much deeper than that, it's about closing the achievement gap in all districts. He says there are achievement gaps across the state. Dwyer says that's where the focus of the state should be when it comes to educating all children.
Hwang agrees with a state judge who ruled recently that Connecticut's education funding formula needs to be reformed. He says it's become a political doling out of favors without true application. Hwang says there's a lack of equity in the current system. But he was critical of the school construction funding part of the ruling should be allocated based upon the wealth of each community. He says schools are built for every future child who may use that school. Hwang also disagreed about special education funding reforms. He says every child deserves a quality education and should have an opportunity to live a fulfilled life. Hwang says America's greatness is predicated on the quality of educational foundations, and that shouldn't be allowed to lapse into mediocrity.
Dwyer says government works best when it takes care of those most in need. He called for better services to those who need mental health services and those who are not as financially well off as others. He says the state can't grow jobs without a strong transportation system.
Hwang says mental health is a critical component to everyone's well being. He says mental illness is no different than physical ailments, and efforts should be made to eliminate the stigma. He called for education, supportive services and counseling. He says the Be Kind Program and initiatives started by Sandy Hook parents in the wake of tremendous tragedy are making people's lives better.
Dwyer says Connecticut has a big budget problem. His career has been spent balancing budgets while preserving services for those most in need. He says there are tough decisions and prioritizations that have to be made.
Hwang says the state taxes far too much and spends too much. He believes the state has to balance needs against wants. Before tolls or a mileage tax can be taken seriously, Hwang says the Special Transportation Fund needs to be used solely for transportation infrastructure projects.
Having affordable health care costs is a concern. Dwyer says the Board of Education has found a way, working with employee groups, to make changes to health insurance plans that saves them money, saves the town money while preserving the basic services they want. He touted the state for passing Partnership 2.0 for making it possible for the Fairfield school district to $3.5 million on health insurance costs. Employees saved $800,000.
Hwang says some bills he's proud of working in a bipartisan manner include protecting the state's waterways. He says the Long Island Sound Plan maps out the topography and the shipping routes that can boost the state's commerce while protecting the waterway. He also touted legislation to give financial assistance to firefighters who suffer from certain diseases as a result of performing their jobs. He also praised the School Safety Zero Tolerance bill. He says there's been a rash of threats of violence against schools. He says the financial trauma to first responder resources and the emotional trauma to students, faculty and parents causes havoc and is not a laughing matter.
Dwyer says Connecticut's gun safety law isn't about gun control, it's about gun violence prevention. He says Connecticut is number 2 in terms of responsible actions taken. He says there are more steps that can be taken to change the gun culture in the country, and to put laws on the books that help communities be safer. He notes that a majority of those in the gun sale industry are responsible make sure people have background checks. He wants bad actors in the gun sales industry to be held accountable to higher standards.
Hwang called on his fellow lawmakers to be models of cooperation and compassion to make positive contributions to the state. In walking the district, he's learned that people don't begrudge paying their fair share of taxes. But he says they don't believe their tax dollars are being spent properly, efficiently and respectfully. He says government has a role in ensuring the most vulnerable are protected, that public safety is upheld and the infrastructure is safe. Hwang says government has a responsibility to stay out of people's lives and empower businesses, but not be the solution to growing jobs. He's also heard that the unrelenting burden of taxes and regulations are driving people from the state. He wants the state to reign in spending and treat each tax dollar coming in as any other household does.
A jury has found a Danbury teen guilty on a manslaughter charge. 20-year old Emanuel Harris was tried as an adult even though he was 17 when he was accused of stabbing 17-year old Luan Pitol in 2013.
The two groups of friends got into an argument after a soda can hit the ground near one another after a dance at the Harambee Youth Center. Each group went on their way, but they came together on Wooster Street.
Harris allegedly stabbed Pitol and another teen in the backs. He was also found guilty of assault for slashing another teen. Harris will be sentenced on December 13th.
A Danbury nanny charged with dozens of counts of risk of injury to a minor will have the case decided by a judge rather than a jury. During a court appearance Tuesday, 32-year old Lidia Quilligana opted to have a Danbury Superior Court Judge decided the case. She was arrested last March after being allegedly recorded on a nanny camera beating and burning a 3-year old girl in her care.
At the time, she said the child accidentally touched the hot stove while she was tending to the other children.
Quilligana gave birth in December while being held in custody on $1 million bond. She faces up to 10 years in prison on each of the 23 risk of injury charges filed against her, and up to 20 years in prison on the assault charge. She rejected a plea deal in April.
The next court appearance is set for December 6th.
Twin brothers wanted in connection with a September bank robbery in Connecticut have been arrested in New York.
Connecticut State Police announced on Twitter that Vince Rollins and Vance Coffin were arrested in New York on Tuesday and are awaiting extradition.
The two 50-year old Norwich residents were wanted for a bank robbery in Canterbury on Sept. 23. They had last been seen driving in a black SUV in the southeastern part of the state. State police issued an announcement Monday that said the brothers were "considered armed and dangerous" and advised anyone spotting them not to confront them but to call police instead.
(Vance Coffin, Vincent Rollins)
The Putnam County Sheriff says the pair was captured the town of Southeast Tuesday after they were found sleeping in a stolen car. Connecticut State Police notified the Sheriff’s Office at about 11:30am that the men were believed to be somewhere in the area of Brewster.
The Sheriff’s Office dispatched about a dozen investigators and plainclothes deputy sheriffs. They located the fugitives about an hour later in a 2010 Toyota Corolla parked off the side of Old Milltown Road in Southeast, near the East Branch Reservoir.
The men were taken into custody without resistance.
The car had been reported stolen from Colchester, Connecticut on October 17th. A North Carolina license plate on the car belonged on another vehicle stolen from a car in Newton, North Carolina around October 21st.
Coffin and Rollins were both charged with felony criminal possession of stolen property and misdemeanor criminal possession of stolen property.
A 30-day public water supply emergency has been declared by the state for the City of Danbury. This follows an order locally for residents to conserve water. At that time reservoir levels were at 66% of full capacity, which is approximately 11% below normal for this time of year.
The City's Public Utilities Department says water supply reservoirs are approaching critically low levels.
The state Department of Public Health declaration is valid for 30 days, but the City can apply for additional 30 day extensions, up to a maximum of 150 days. The order means that Danbury can tap Lake Kenosia to bolster the water supply.
Danbury also provides water to certain portions of Bethel and Ridgefield.
The current drought conditions are taxing many of the state’s reservoirs and forcing public water systems to ask for an emergency declaration to protect their supplies. This is the third such order.
A New York woman wanted in Bethel has been arrested as a Fugitive from Justice. New York State Police arrested 58-year old Rosemarie Castillo of Pawling on Wednesday after an investigation revealed that Bethel Police had a warrant for her arrest.
The warrant was for a 6th degree larceny charge.
Castillo was arraigned and ordered held at Dutchess County Jail on $50,000 bond while awaiting extradition to Connecticut.
Monroe firefighters are reminding people of the importance of having carbon monoxide detectors in their homes after an oil burner in a Moose Hill Road home experienced an internal catastrophic failure Saturday night and led to a sudden release of highly elevated carbon monoxide.
Monroe fire officials say the family wasn't home at the time, but their alarm company reported an activated carbon monoxide alarm. Using gas detection meters, firefighters detected carbon monoxide levels of 450 parts per million; a level that can cause severe illness after one to two hours of exposure.
Firefighters, wearing breathing apparatus, shut off the furnace and ventilated the home for over an hour.
Fire officials say homeowners should have working carbon monoxide detectors on each level of the house, including outside of the bedroom areas. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, colorless, and odorless gas generated when fossil fuels burn incompletely. Carbon monoxide can begin to cause nausea, headache, dizziness, and difficulty breathing that can lead to unconsciousness and death.
A Brewster man has been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into prescription drug sales in the Town of Southeast and the surrounding area. A Putnam County Sheriff's Deputy with the Narcotics Enforcement Unit learned that a man was selling pills in June,
The deputy was able to arrange a purchase of Zanax pills on Thursday after gathering evidence.
20-year old John Power was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute. Both are felony counts. Power was arraigned and released without bail for a future court appearance.
Wilton Police have arrested a Bridgeport woman on a larceny charge. Police determined that 36-year old Hannah Henry stole money and checks from her elderly patient while she was working as a home healthcare aide. Henry was also charged with Identity Theft, and Forgery. She was arraigned in Norwalk Superior Court yesterday after failing to post a $10,000 cash bail.
The League of Women Voters of Fairfield County hosted a debate on Sunday night between 4th District Congressman Jim Himes, the Democratic incumbent, and his Republican challenger John Shaban. Shaban is a state Representative from Redding. Himes is seeking a 5th term in office. Himes repeatedly cited remarks made by Republican Donald Trump and the Republican majority in the House as being problematic. Shaban fought back each time saying that in his opponent's first term there was a Democratic President and majority in both chambers.
The candidates were asked about specific action to update Social Security so that it is financially sound and beneficial for recipients.
Himes says solvency is one of the essential things, and something that the Presidential candidates haven't talked about. He says if nothing is done, some 25 years from now, benefits will have to be scaled back so about 70-percent of what people are expecting. Himes says now is the moment to deal with it by making relatively small adjustments. He would raise the cap on which income is no longer subject to payroll withholding tax. He would support measures that would have the wealthiest Americans pay an increased tax rate on Social Security earnings or scale back their Social Security benefits. He said he wants to be careful when talking about the retirement age, but would raise it when in combination with a progressive change in contributions. Himes opposes privatization of Social Security.
Shaban says means testing makes sense on the receiving end or the cap end. He called it a math problem, not a political problem. He says changes for people who are getting ready to retire in the next 10 or 15 years would not happen. But he would like to see a discussion about raising the retirement age, linked with a scaled pay out system. He says the rate of benefit could change depending on how early a recipient takes pay outs. Shaban opposes privatization of Social Security because that flies in the face of why the system was set up in the first place.
Several questions about immigration were posed. One was about how to balance reforms to the system with needs of constituents.
Shaban says people who are here are constituents, part of the fabric of the community and citizens. He says almost everyone comes from a family of immigrants. He called immigration a political football that's been kicked around for some 25 years. Shaban would like to take what he called a "stand up and stand out" approach. He wants to make it easier and more efficient for people who have come to this country legally to gain citizenship, noting that it shouldn't take a decade to get through the process. He says the millions of people here illegally will not be deported en mass, that's not the first step. He says there may be a small fine, but those residents should then go to the back of the line and go through the citizenship process. If people here illegally don't pay their taxes or commit a crime, then Shaban says they should be deported.
Himes says one of the first things that has to happen is a change in the way people talk about immigrants. He says building a wall is not a constructive policy. Himes also said there shouldn't be a religious test to keep Muslims out of the country. He says he would have voted in favor of a bill approved by the U.S. Senate, but never came up fro a vote in the House. The bill would have done three things including provide more money for border security. But he says a majority of the undocumented aliens didn't cross the border, they overstayed their visas. Himes says as long as employers continue to pay the undocumented, they will come. The bill would have provided technology and systems that would allow employers to know if employees were entitled to work, and penalties for those who break the law. The bill would have also included an earned path to citizenship.
Himes says "The Dreamers", children who were brought to this country by their parents and know no other home, should be taken care of. He says his opponent was wrong to oppose a bill in the General Assembly giving in-state tuition rates to children living in Connecticut who were brought to this country illegally by their parents.
Shaban says the blame can't be placed on the Republican majority, because Himes had a Democratic majority during his first term. He says it's against federal law to provide different benefits to a federally funded institution. Shaban says the state Attorney General agreed. He called for an expedited path for The Dreamers to gain citizenship.
Climate change was also addressed.
Himes says climate change is real and human caused. He says scientific consensus is behind that belief. Himes says the bizarre weather is proof of climate change. He called it a profound problem that's been too long in addressing because so many people have denied it exists. He says increased standards for automobiles has helped reduce the effects of climate change. He also touted a bill he helped get passed which would increase home and office efficiencies. Savings would be shared with properties that increased their energy savings. He says battery technology was improved for cars, which has started to bend the curve. Himes wants to reduce carbon-based energy sources and nuclear energy and move toward renewable energies.
Shaban is an environmental lawyer and sits on the Environment Committee in Hartford. He says it doesn't matter if climate change is man-made or not, it's happening and needs to be addressed. Shaban says carbon in the atmosphere is a problem and needs to be addressed. He says there are things that can be done to move toward to renewable energy. Shaban says a carbon tax doesn't really work because carbon is being emitted by everything that burns and everything that breathes. He called for long term production tax credits. Shaban says companies don't know if tax credits will stay in place so they're not sure if they'll be able to invest. He noted that the General Assembly passed the Long Island Blue Plan to protect the shoreline and figure out what's changing in the water of Long Island Sound.
The candidates were asked if they support gun control legislation, and if so, what type of restrictions.
Shaban says he's already supported gun control legislation. Shaban worked on the 2013 gun bill approved by the General Assembly. He says what makes a device dangerous is the person holding the device, but he does believe some controls are needed. He touted legislation for better background checks, safe storage and better security at schools. Shaban also touted better mental health screenings. But he says if the laws can't be funded, they won't do anyone any good. He says people lose focus of what needs to be done to deter a majority of gun violence, stemming the illegal flow of guns across the state lines. Shaban called the walk out by Himes on a 'moment of silence' an inappropriate reaction. He says Himes should have instead pitched a bill. Shaban says if he is elected he would push for a bill to stop the illegal trafficking of guns across state lines.
Himes agreed with Shaban that nothing is getting done in Congress, and there will be more 'moments of silence' as a response to non-stop violence. He says now is not the time to stop talking. Himes said he made the 'symbolic gesture' to protest an abdication of duty. He says those so-called stunts didn't accomplish a lot, but if enough of them occur eventually the chambers will act. He says the walk out, sit in and filibuster mattered. If reelected, Himes says he will continue to sponsor every bill he can that will end gun violence and continue to raise symbolic hell. He says the majority of gun violence is not illegally trafficked guns citing suicide, San Bernardino, Orlando and Columbine.
Himes did commend Shaban for voting for the Connecticut gun safety bill. He said it was a courageous vote for a Republican. Shaban says they’re saying the same thing, but there’s a difference between talk and action. He said it wasn’t a tough for him as a Republican, it was a tough vote for him because a lot of kids got killed and he had to look at their parents each day when they came to Hartford. Shaban says if the bill was just about device restrictions, they missed the point. He noted that it was also about mental health, school security and funding. He called it groundbreaking legislation, which is almost meaningless because of a lack of funds.
The next question was about the Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United. The ruling holds that political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections.
Himes says he opposes the ruling and would like to see it reversed. He says money is not the same as speech. He called for similar controls to the Connecticut public campaign financing system.
Shaban says there is still room under the decision to make things more transparent. He says it takes a long time to reverse a case and would prefer to see a campaign financing system. He also called for term limits. Shaban says there’s nothing illegal about large campaign war chests, but the optics are funny.
The Affordable Care Act was the next topic.
Shaban says it has to be repaired and then replaced. He says repeal and replace doesn’t work because that leaves a coverage gap. He says some people have arguably benefited from it, but vastly more people have been hurt by ACA. Shaban says the premise of the ACA didn’t pan out. He says there needs to be interstate commerce, plan clarity and torte reform. He says there has to be an Exchange, but coupled with a competitive interstate marketplace. Shaban cited studies finding the cost as $1.2 trillion to implement the ACA and insure 20 million people, but if the Medicaid limits had only been increased it would have cost $116 billion. Shaban says a top-down, one-sized fits all federal government doesn’t work.
Himes says it’s profoundly wrong to say that more people have been hurt than helped by the Affordable Care Act. Himes says the uninsured rate is down and millions of people have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act. He says there is no perfect legislation, and noted that there are problems in the small business and individual market. Himes says the donut hole for Medicare beneficiaries is gone because of the Affordable Care Act. He wants to keep the good parts and look for ways to draw more healthy people into the market. Himes says some 30 states haven’t expanded Medicaid as they were invited to do under the ACA.
A question from the audience was about what the one thing that Congress needs to tackle. Himes says too few Americans are feeling the benefit of economic recovery. He’d like to see an investment in national infrastructure to help people more productive. Himes says he’s tried to bring in federal resources to create construction jobs, but he’d like to get ahead of some problems like the Walk Bridge failure. He says rebuilding highways, railroads and laying fiber optic cable, the government is helping to put people back to work. Himes says when the economy tanked in 2008, government missed an opportunity to put people to work and bring the nation’s infrastructure into the 21st century.
Shaban says the question is who would manage the resources to do that. He says the biggest challenge is how to keep the federal government as small as possible. Shaban says he has more trust in Redding’s Democratic First Selectman to manage resources than all the Republicans in Congress. He notes that right now Connecticut residents send dollars to Washington, DC and only get pennies back. He added that the money comes back with strings attached. He says things are managed better from the ground up with a limited government. Shaban says model of the FAST Act is a classic example. He was critical of the Hartford-New Britain busway, which was built with federal money. He says the $600 million project was a waste and a failure because there are no jobs in either city. He says it would have been less of a waste to build the same busway between Stamford and Bridgeport. Shaban says Congressman Larson was in Hartford lobbying to get the busway pushed through, but if he had been in Congress he would have been fighting to get the busway in Fairfield County. He called the 4th District a cash machine for the state and for the country. Shaban also said the federal Department of Education should be phased out and the money returned to the states.
Himes countered that it’s easy to criticize how politicians spend money. He also said it’s not true that Connecticut only gets pennies back on the dollar. He says people don’t like politicians because they play fast and loose with the facts. Himes says a lot of the federal money that gets sent back is for Medicaid and food stamps for people. He says getting more of that back would not bode well for the state’s wellbeing.
A question was posed about hacking and cyber security. Shaban says intellectual property laws need to be beefed up. Himes says everything will be networked soon and he’s been pushing for an international agreement like the Geneva Accords, which he’s dubbed E-neva Accords. He says there needs to be agreement on the rules of cyber warfare, which includes agreeing not to attack critical infrastructure anymore than it is permissible to bomb a hospital. He says an agreement to go after the rogue hackers needs to be reached. Himes has a new cell phone, because his old cell number got posted during the DNC hack. He called cyber security a huge economic and job opportunity.
A political newcomer and a former Selectman are vying to fill an empty legislative seat in Bethel. The 2nd State House District seat is being vacated by Dan Carter. Democrat Raghib Allie-Brennan and Republican Will Duff are each seeking to be the area's next legislator.
Allie-Brennan grew up in Bethel, went to St. Mary's Church and did mission trips across the country. During his senior year at Mary Mount Manhattan College, he took a course on natural disasters, with a focus on Hurricane Katrina. He became passionate about protecting cities below the sea level, Homeland Security and government oversight. Allie-Brennan served on the Bethel Inland Wetlands Committee. He also worked as a legislative aide in Washington, DC.
Duff is a former member of the Boards of Education, Selectmen and Tax Review. He says the state has been taking advantage of residents, and notes that area towns aren't getting their moneys worth out of Hartford.
Allie-Brennan says millennials, seniors, middle class families and businesses are all being pushed out. He wants to go to Hartford to shake things up because the majority incumbents have dropped the ball. Allie-Brennan says the welfare of the state is at stake.
Duff says Connecticut is one of only four states that tax social security income and pension revenue. He called it immoral and says he wants to eliminate that tax. He also wants to look at affordable housing laws to strengthen municipal sovereignty over zoning decisions.
Education reforms will be a big topic in the coming session. Allie-Brennan says good schools attract more families. He says Bethel has a great special education program, but there's a lack of funds. He says fighting for funding fairness will be one of his top priorities.
Duff says there is no concrete formula to the Education Cost Sharing money. He says the ECS is robbing towns like Danbury and Bethel. He says every child is equal and deserves the same amount of funding.
When it comes to transportation infrastructure improvements, Duff says the big problem is that there is no more money. He says bridges and road aren't the only infrastructure in need of upgrading. He wants to the full Danbury branch line of Metro North to be electrified. Duff says the idea of a mileage tax is insane. He doesn't want to raise the gasoline tax anymore.
In order to attract business to Connecticut, Allie-Brennan wants to have more walkable communities and better rail service. He says the Bethel Train Station is very crowded and would like to make the most of the current resources. He called for Metro North to double track, electrify and move people in and out as quickly as possible. He notes that traffic congestion is a deterrence to business growth. He wants to study how to fund infrastructure improvements. Allie-Brennan also called for the Transportation Fund to be used only for transportation projects.
Duff says the experiment over the last six years of the state taxing itself into prosperity has been a failure. He wants to look at why Connecticut is so expensive to do business. He says there are layers of taxes that are prohibitive. Duff says simplifying the tax code is a major part of it. But he also called for severe cuts to stop the cycle of deficits year after year.
Allie-Brennan says it's unfortunate that Connecticut is in a place where the state has to aggressively incentivize businesses. But he says through energy grants, tax incentives or equipment grants can be incentives for businesses.
Opioid addiction needs to be addressed as well, according to Duff. He called it an epidemic that affects entire families. He says there are programs that need better funding to help end the opioid addiction.
Allie-Brennan says he's been going door to door in the district to see what the priorities of the constituents are, because he wants to represent their agenda and not impose his own priorities. A topic he sees a place for bipartisanship work is on Transit Oriented Development. He says good families are attracted to Bethel and more jobs need to be attracted to help keep families in town.
Duff says the race is one of experience. He says that's the key to being a good legislator in Hartford.
When it comes to the recently enacted gun laws, Allie-Brennan says he doesn't want to turn the clock backwards. He says people he's talked to want to move forward. He says that includes talking about mental health care.
A Danbury man who allegedly robbed an acquaintance has been arrested. Danbury Police received a report of a robbery Friday at a shopping plaza on Mill Ridge Road. The victim said that 23-year old Tyrice Mouning told him to go to the back of the store, that he had a gun, and demanded money. The man reportedly pushed Mouning, but then gave him more than $100.
Police were called Saturday after people spotted Mouning back at the plaza. He fled when officer arrived, and tried to go out a back door of a deli.
Officers were able to handcuff him, but he ran away. Mouning was caught and transported to the police station where he was charged with robbery, larceny, assault, threatening, interfering with officers and possession of a controlled substance.
He was held on bond.
The Danbury Dog Park is now open on Miry Brook Road.
The City Council approved the use of the land off Miry Brook for the dog park in April 2015. Construction began in June of this year. Council President Joseph Cavo says the off-leash dog park will be a great addition to the diverse recreational inventory in Danbury.
Mayor Mark Boughton says he's excited to provide a place for Danbury dog lovers to exercise their companions. He says dog parks are one of the fastest growing recreational spaces that a community can provide for its residents. Danbury saw a 6.5% increase last year in the number of licensed dogs in the city. Boughton says this is the largest completely fenced in off leash dog park in Western Connecticut. The Southbury dog park is larger, but bordered on one side by a river.
Part of the advocacy for the dog park came from an 8-year old boy. Jacob Saadi, son of Councilman Tom Saadi, had a class assignment to write about a problem in Danbury or something the City was missing. Jacob wrote about the need for a dog park, and after turning in the assignment to his teacher, sent the letter to the Mayor.
The dog park contains two fenced in areas; 0.82 acres for small dogs and 1.1 acres for large dogs (20lbs and over). Water is provided on site and the park is open from sunrise to sunset. The project cost about $150,000. Most of the cost was for fencing. The funding came from left over money in an old recreational bond.
An environmentally sensitive area is protected with fencing.
Residents will not be allowed to park on the side street due to airport restrictions. The FAA did sign off on use of the land for a dog park.
Danbury Firefighters stopped a car fire from spreading to a house this morning. Firefighters responded to a 911 call from Davis Street around 11:30 this morning. The first responders found a 2008 BMV heavily engulfed in flames in the driveway close to a house. The fire was quickly knocked down. No injuries were reported.
(Photos Courtesy: Danbury Fire Department)
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Republican challenger Dan Carter took each other to task during an hourlong debate that touched on a range of issues, including gun control and the federal health care law.
The Sunday debate, the only one between the nominees, aired live on WFSB-TV.
Blumenthal criticized Carter, a Bethel state representative, for his 2013 vote against a gun control package passed after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and his opposition to a law confiscating guns from alleged domestic abusers served with a temporary restraining order.
"I think the NRA already has enough friends and defenders in Washington," Blumenthal said, referring to the politically influential National Rifle Association.
Carter said Democrats have done nothing to address illegal gun trafficking while making money off the gun control issue.
"That bill that I voted against in 2013 would have done nothing to prevent Sandy Hook from happening," Carter said.
Carter criticized the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature legislation, saying it has failed to reduce the cost of health insurance. He said families and small businesses have seen their premiums and deductibles "go through the roof."
Blumenthal acknowledged the law needs improvements but said it would be a disservice to roll back coverage guarantees for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
"I'm not willing to throw those people out of health insurance," Blumenthal said.
The Senate race has been low-key. The well-known Blumenthal, who is seeking re-election to a second six-year term, has raised much more money than Carter and has been running a series of TV ads.
As of September 30, Blumenthal had $4.7 million in cash on hand while Carter had $35,014.
The 24th state Senate District includes Danbury, Bethel, New Fairfield and Sherman. Republican incumbent Mike McLachlan is seeking a 5th term in office. He is being challenged by small business owner Democrat Ken Gucker.
A Deputy Minority Leader, McLachlan is ranking member on the General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections Committee. McLachlan says there are more challenges ahead. He says there seems to be much more cooperation now to come up with ideas to address runaway spending.
Gucker is a small business owner who was a volunteer fireman in New Fairfield who now lives in Danbury. He's been an advocate locally on land use, environmental and historical issues. He cited the saving of the McLean house, stopping a zone change in the Long Ridge neighborhood and the Cotswold property.
When it comes to education reforms, McLachlan says two major education judicial decisions have been handed down in the last 40 years and they have been largely ignored by the legislature. Now that there is a third court ruling, which is headed to the state Supreme Court, McLachlan says he fears the General Assembly won't take it seriously. McLachlan says Danbury is dramatically underfunded compared to similar municipalities. He notes that special education is woefully underfunded.
Gucker called the education court ruling a mixed bag. He says the Education Cost Sharing formula does need to be addressed. But he disagreed with the Judge's ruling on special education reforms. As someone who has dyslexia, he says a different method of learning may be needed. He credited good teachers and an involved mother for not being passed over. He says children with special needs need to have all available resources.
Gucker says it sounded an alarm bell for him when Danbury officials approved spending $50,000 to hire a lobbyist to send to Hartford. He says the legislative delegation should be lobbying on behalf of Danbury. He says that money would have been much better spent in the schools.
The state has a Transportation Fund now, which is supposed to be a lockbox. But McLachlan says Governor Malloy's administration has taken, on average, $75 million a year from that fund to pay for other items. He says government needs to be responsible with transportation priorities and buckle down. He called the constitutional lockbox proposed recently a gimmick.
Gucker wants to see improvements to rail infrastructure. He says there's more of a need for rail than there has ever been. He says it's sad that more Danbury area residents travel to Brewster to use Metro North than take the Danbury branch. He would prefer a better option so people don't have to travel as far in their cars just to get on a train. While improvements are being made to the exit 5 and 6 area, he would like to see more being done. Gucker opposes a mileage tax and bringing back tolls. There's other infrastructure that he would like to see improved, including WiFi to attract businesses.
McLachlan wants the legislature to focus, like a laser beam, on the Interstate 84 corridor. He says the amount of traffic is dramatic, and the lack of resources is equally as dramatic. McLachlan says the state has spent tons of money on projects that he believes is misguided. He cited the $675 million busway between New Britain and Hartford. He would have preferred that money spent on adding a third lane all the way from Danbury to Waterbury and for the planning stages to redesign the MixMaster in Waterbury.
New Fairfield officials have been fighting for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to ban walk ins to state parks after they are closed to cars. McLachlan says there were meetings with DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee last year, and new regulations were promised for the 2016 summer season. But McLachlan says Klee dropped the ball. There are some simple fixes to take care of the problem and DEEP needs to not drop the ball again. He says he is disappointed in the agency's follow through.
Gucker says Candlewood Lake is special to him because he learned how to swim in that lake, and then became a water safety instructor and lifeguard. He would like to see greater enforcement of and communication with the lake's owner FirstLight Power Resources. He says last year's winter drawdown, done to kill off the invasive Eurasian water milfoil, wasn't done because of pump damage. He would have liked FirstLight to go ahead with the drawdown to also fix the pump.
McLachlan serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Finance Revenue & Bonding Committee. He says he is trying to keep a close watch on state borrowing and notes that Connecticut is exceeding the state's capacity to pay back the amount of money owed.
Gucker says the state can't cut its way to having balanced books; and that bringing in more revenue is the way. In order to do that, he wants to provide people with a living wage. He says low wage jobs means more people reliant on programs like HUSKY and food stamps. He says having a living wage will be less of a drain on Connecticut's resources. Gucker says top down economics doesn't work. He also encouraged people to shop local as a way to help the economy.
Gucker says small businesses aren't getting enough help. He related the story of a friend who purchased a dilapidated business in order to help improve the quality of life in a neighborhood, but he can't get assistance. He called for tax deferrals and assistance getting through the bureaucratic red tape.
The state does encourage some areas for development and some for open space. McLachlan says the state requires each town to have a Master Plan of Development. McLachlan says the Stony Hill corridor has been a high priority for commercial development, but the challenge has been nearby residential neighborhoods.
Gucker encouraged people to vote down the entire ballot, because the state races are the candidates who can affect Connecticut resident's lives the most. As he's been out campaigning Gucker says he's been hearing that people feel like they haven't been heard in Hartford.
Ballots for every town in Connecticut are now available for viewing online.
There are a lot of bubbles for people to fill out this coming Election Day. In Danbury there are bond issues to be decided, Newtown residents will be voting on Charter revision questions and several towns including Bethel are selecting a new Probate Court Judge.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says having the sample ballots posted gives the state’s two-million registered voters an opportunity to get familiar with the general election races before November 8th. With many offices on the ballot this year, Merrill says a little preparation never hurts. She encouraged voters to see who is running and to get comfortable with the ballots they'll be using on Election Day.
Voters can check their registration status online and find the location of their polling place.
Danbury's Public Works Director was asked recently by City Councilman Duane Perkins about what can be done about a spate of water main breaks.
Antonio Iadarola says some water main breaks are unavoidable, for example when there's a stub coming off the main that doesn't get picked up in the Call Before You Dig process. He says that's what happened by Exit 6 when a million gallons of water spilled into the street.
Iadarola says it's a complicated issue. He noted that no contractor purposely tries to break a water main because it creates havoc. But if the City sees an intentional disregard for Call Before You Dig markings, they will go after the contractor and also file a complaint with Call Before You Dig. Iadarola says Call Before You Dig investigates those contractors who continuously disregard the markings.
He says the look at each case on an individual basis.
When the City loses a significant amount of water, large valves have to be closed. If they're closed too quick, Iadarola says the valve will blow apart. He says the City has one of the best Water Departments in the state so they work quickly, while not damaging the infrastructure. He says it's a balance to close the system without damage so there aren't more significant issues.
Iadarola says both plants were affected, and they couldn't keep up making water because of the amount of loss. He says it's a dangerous situation because if the wells that feed the entire city go dry, air and contaminants would have been put into the entire distribution chain.
All of the appropriate alarms went off, staff went to their posts and the plants came right back online. Iadarola says they were able to maintain usage across the board, except for the piece that broke.
A former Bethel restaurant owner has been spared prison time on sexual assault charges. Antonio Fernandes was sentenced yesterday to a 10-year suspended prison sentence and three years probation after pleading no contest to two counts each of sexual assault and unlawful restraint.
Fernandes used to own Tonelli's, which has since closed.
A jury deadlocked two years ago, and a mistrial was declared. The original charges against him were 1st degree sexual assault, but that was reduced to 4th degree counts. The unlawful restraint charges are felony counts. Fernandes was arrested in 2013. Two female employees, who recently had become roommates and shared their stories, said that he sexually assaulted them inside the restaurant the year before.
Terms of probation include that Fernandes won't be allowed unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18, including relatives. He will not have to register as a sex offender.
The two candidates in the 5th Congressional race met for a debate in Danbury on October 20th.
One of the issues they discussed was gun control. They were asked specifically about closing the background check loophole. Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty says when the law was passed 20 years ago, very few people bought anything on the internet. She compared it to a terrorist going to an airport and choosing to go through a security check or walk right onto a plane with a bomb. She says Congress is responsible to ensure that law enforcement has the resources they need to make sure felons, the mentally ill, and domestic abusers don't have access to guns. She also said that if someone is too dangerous to fly, they are too dangerous to buy a gun.
Republican challenger Clay Cope says gun control is a three-pronged issue. He says there is a mental health issue, a failure of the FBI to keep track of criminals, and a need to keep the 2nd Amendment in tact. Cope says background checks are a matter of due process. He wants to make sure citizens rights are not infringed upon by new laws. As First Selectman in a town with a Resident State Trooper, Cope is also the Chief of Police. He has to sign every gun permit. Every time Congress makes a move toward violating someone's 2nd Amendment rights, he inevitably gets an influx of gun permit applications. He knows there is a vetting process in place for those applications.
Esty says Cope is woefully ill informed. Since 12/14, Esty says there have been 100,000 Americans who have died from gun violence. She says the problem is that someone could go to the equivalent of "guns.com" and buy whatever they want without showing an ID. Esty says ATF, the FBI and others are saying that this loophole is something that can be fixed.
Cope said that Esty should be focused on issues directly impacting the 5th District, and not helping 18 other states get the same strict gun laws that Connecticut now has. He said the shootings in Orlando, hit close to home for him as a gay man. Cope looked at his challenger and said that he didn't feel safer after the sit-in she and other Democrats held on the House floor. He would have instead immediately had meetings with the FBI about why they took the gunman off their watch lists.
Esty said for the 5th District, to represent Newtown, it's incumbent upon someone running for Congress to know details on these laws.
Cope says as he's travelled around the district, people are passionate about their 2nd Amendment rights. He noted that he doesn't have people coming up to him and asking for stricter gun controls. What he's heard is "don't take away my rights".
The discussion turned to mental health services.
Esty says part of the problem is the stigma associated with mental illness. She and Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Tim Murphy have been working to craft a bill to provide wrap around resources for families dealing with mental health issues. She called for first aid-like classes for teachers and coaches to look for signs in changing behavior in teenagers.
Cope says he has a similar philosophy. His mother is a marriage and family counselor. He says it's important to get those who need help, the help they need. Cope says that's mirrored in the opioid addiction crisis that's seen across the country. He says addiction can be tied to mental health issues, noting that his family has dealt with this problem. Cope is referencing his brother, who has a learning disability and was medicated through much of his early life and susceptible to drug addiction. Tim Cope soon turned to criminal activity to support his drug habit and used several aliases to try to cover his tracks. Clay Cope was one of the aliases he used. These events happened more than 30 years ago. Clay Cope shared this story during the primary race to clear up claims made by a challenger earlier this year. He said at the time that his family does not know where Tim is, or what might have happened to him.
Cope says the biggest challenge to mental health services, is funding. He supports "Did You Know" campaigns. Cope says if people know where they can go to get help, another big challenge can be overcome.
The pair was asked what changes they would make to the country's immigration system.
Cope wants current laws enforced, steps taken to seal the border to keep illegal immigrants from coming in and to reform the process for people to become citizens. His partner is here legally from Peru, but can't get his citizenship. He says people are coming into this country illegal because they're not able to become citizens. For one friend's parents, he says it it took 17 years.
Esty says the current system is broken. She wants to secure the border, keep families together and give them a legal path to citizenship that includes paying back-taxes if any are owed. She says farmers in the district can't find legal labor to do the work. Esty says the dysfunctional system forces them to make a choice between hiring illegally or being uncompetitive. Esty said she supported a comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced by Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio in 2013.
The economy and changes to the tax code were also addressed.
Esty says the tax code is massively complicated and needs to be streamlined. She says the system rewards companies for shipping jobs overseas and has a lot of unpredictability. Esty specifically mentioned research and development tax credits that are subject to an end date, which she says makes companies uneasy about making investments. She says good policies make a difference in creating jobs. She added that fewer tax lawyers and more innovators are needed.
When it comes to taxes and spending, Cope says this is one of the places where Republicans and Democrats differ. But he says simplifying the tax code is a point they can agree on. He owned a small business and had to navigate import taxes for garments. He called the tax system wildly complicated.
Cope says the tax and spend philosophy doesn't work. He wants to keep spending down and to keep government as small as possible.
Transportation and infrastructure are a top concern for people in the district.
Esty says she helped craft legislation for the first long-term highway bill in almost 10 years. $3.5 billion for Connecticut was included in the bill. She notes that bipartisan support on the Transportation Committee was key to getting laws passed. She also sits on the rail subcommittee. Esty says speedy and safe rail are needed. She advocated for Positive Train Control technology to prevent crashes like those seen recently on Metro North and New Jersey Transit. Esty proposed high-speed rail from New York City to Danbury, Waterbury and Hartford and then on to Boston.
Cope says the condition of the roads is so poor, and they don't ever seem to be repaired. He says the priorities need to be shifted back to taking care of the roads. He is against bringing tolls back to Connecticut because it would cripple border towns. He opposed the I-95 toll study that Connecticut recently committed funding for.
If reelected, Esty says she wants to focus on "info-structure", giving an examples of the electric grid and the internet. She says energy is key to the rapidly evolving economy. Esty says an aging electric grid is subject to failure, and to cyber attack. She says briefings on the vulnerability of the electric grid were alarming.
Cope says paying for improvements is a challenge. He is in favor of a pay-as-you-go system. In Sherman, he's been able to keep taxes flat or reduced and change the rating outlook from negative.
The questions moved to foreign policy and the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
Cope says Syria is a crippled, flawed state because of Obama Administration policies. He says the focus should be on rooting out ISIS. Cope says not all Syrian refugees want to kill Americans, but this country has to be concerned with the ISIS terrorists who want to throw Americans off buildings, referencing some videos posted to Youtube showing that tactic. He called for a multi-national effort to come to a solution, saying ISIS is a deadly challenger.
Esty says Syrian refugees should be welcomed to this country, after a thorough vetting. She believes refugees from war-torn countries should be welcomed. She added that given America's leadership position in the world, it's imperative to this country's moral position to accept refugees. Esty says it takes two years to come to America from Syria. Those seeking to come here must be in a Syrian refugee camp and vetted by international experts. Militarily, Esty says a no-fly zone is something that should be considered.
Cope said something he would have done differently than Esty was on the Safe Act. He would have voted for it, siding with Congressmen Jim Himes and Joe Courtney. Cope says he doesn't feel safer knowing that the pause button wasn't pushed on Syrian refugees coming in. He did agree though with bringing people in safely and legally.
While they agreed on some policy issues, there was a difference of opinion about the Affordable Care Act. Cope called Obamacare an epic failure and would like to see it replaced. A Sherman resident shared with him that their family's premium was $570, but it's now tripled and is the same amount of money as their mortgage payment, with fewer benefits. He would like to see private market solutions implemented. He doesn't think there should be government-required insurance. Cope says somehow the Affordable Care Act became the wildly Unaffordable Care Act.
Esty says the Affordable Care Act is doing a lot of good for a lot of people, but it's not perfect. She compared it to Medicare, which got amended over and over again like any big piece of policy will. She touted a change getting rid of a medical device tax, and noted that the Affordable Care Act has been especially beneficial for people with pre-existing conditions. Esty says the private marketplace was the system before the Affordable Care Act and led to more emergency room visits.
The candidates were also asked about education equality among the states and how to address college debt.
Cope says education is a state and a local concern, but it should not be a federal government concern. He wants dollars redirected to states and towns to take care of education. Cope compared education to shopping local, saying no one knows better what students need than local boards of education. He also called for colleges and universities to tighten their belts when it comes to administrative costs.
Esty says there was bipartisan support to change the No Child Left Behind Act to give more autonomy to states and municipalities. Despite the laudable goals of No Child Left Behind, Esty says it wasn't working. In 2013, she fought to keep the interest rates from going up on student loans. She proposed allowing young people to refinance private sector student loans and allowing people with older federal loans to refinance. She says community colleges need to remain affordable, and technical high schools need to be kept open.
Cope says it's crippling for a young person to come out of college in debt, but there are things that cane be done to help them. He says raising awareness about the best fit for students is one strategy. He noted that there are some students in traditional colleges who could be better served by vocational schools.
A question was also asked about the Trans Pacific Partnership, TPP.
Esty voted against TPA, Trade Promotion Authority, and said she would vote against TPP. She said she came to that decision after meeting with people across the district, and recognizing the fact that Connecticut is an export state. She says any trade deal needs to be good for Connecticut working families. As she understands TPP, she says it doesn't do enough for labor standards, environmental standards, stopping currency manipulation or dealing with consumer health issues and consumer safety.
Cope says he is opposed to TPP, in part because it was negotiated in secret. He says in light of the failures of NAFTA and Obamacare, he's skeptical of it working. Cope says there's no rush to pass this through. He also pointed out poor enforcement from other countries. He wants U.S. interests fully considered. He also doesn't like the exclusion of the U.S. justice system.
An audience member posed questions about air quality and clean air.
Cope says those aren't priorities he's heard from people in the district. He called it an interesting question, but one that hasn't been brought up to him.
Esty says air doesn't stop at the borders and water doesn't respect state boundaries, but notes that Connecticut remains downwind from some coal plants. She says children in Connecticut have higher asthma rates and that's why states can't be decentralized. She says Connecticut is not isolated from the effects of what other states do or don't do.
Cope says truck idling bills and clean diesel acts to replace public works vehicles with outdated engines have been a boon for Connecticut.
Esty says there are members of Congress who don't believe in climate change and pushed Cope to answer whether or not he believes in climate change. Cope responded that the climate has changed, but he can't say the cause of it. He reiterated that this hasn't been an issue people in the 41 towns in the District have pressed him on. Cope says there are much bigger issues that are important concerns for people.
Each candidate was asked what his or her first piece of work would be in the new session. Esty says she would reintroduce a comprehensive background check bill. She says 189 bipartisan cosponsors signed on to the last gun safety measure. Cope says he would address illegal immigration and how to create legal immigrants. He says the system is terribly flawed and it needs to be addressed in a bipartisan way.
In closing statements, Cope said continuing down the current path of increased spending and taxes will not improve people's lives. He says there's evidence under Governor Malloy that that is not the solution. He called for a fresh start and a new direction with a commitment to serving the people's needs and not the special interest's needs. He believes the problems and challenges facing Americans are not insurmountable if there is a move toward focusing on solutions and working together. To make Washington work and to change Washington, Cope said people need to change who they send to Washington. He asked for the chance to make his brand of small town customer service work in Washington.
Esty says the election is about the future of the country, and whether to move forward together or turn on each other. She doesn't want to blame the other guy, but to work to make things better. Esty touted legislation she's been able to get approved ranging from aid for farmers to helping fuel cell companies. She says the district is wonderfully diverse. Esty says hard work and knowledge are needed to work across the aisle to get things done. She thanked constituents for the honor of serving them, and asked for the opportunity to continue to do so.