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Rich Minor in the Morning
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Rich Minor in the Morning

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22-year old challenging state Senator in office as many years

The race for a state Senate district which includes Ridgefield and part of Bethel features a woman who has served in the legislature for 22-years being challenged by a 22-year old.  Republican incumbent Senator Toni Boucher is seeking another term in office.  Democrat Will Haskell is looking to unseat her.


Haskell was an intern in Connecticut and Washington, D.C. for 4th District Congressman Jim Himes and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy.  Haskell grew up in Westport and started knocking on doors to hear from residents about their concerns.  He heard from people frustrated that their train commute to Manhattan takes longer now than it did in the 1950s because Connecticut isn't making long term investments in infrastructure.  He also heard from young people had to choose between advancing their career and starting a family because Connecticut doesn't have Paid Family Leave.  He also heard from students who were worried about school shootings.


Boucher says there was a lot accomplished last session, specifically the bipartisan budget.  Boucher says it made structural changes to help address the budget deficit.  It also included a constitutional spending cap and a bonding cap.  It took out taxes on cell phones, tires and second homes, while returning money to local schools.  Boucher praised maintaining the Medicare Savings Program for 130,000 seniors.  She also touted her bill requiring high schools teach about the Holocaust and other genocides.  Boucher introduced the bill in response to swastika graffiti and other anti-Semitic incidents in the district.


Boucher says the conversation was changed in the Senate because of the 18-18 tie, something that hasn't happened in 100 years.  She says this was critical when it comes to the education cost sharing formula.  Reforms were put in place last session and she wants to continue to improve the system, if reelected.  Boucher says a good educational system attracts businesses and produces an excellent workforce, allowing people to climb the economic ladder.


Education funding reforms are also a priority for Haskell.  His parents are divorced and he was able to go to school in Westport, which had various technology and extra-curricular activities.  But he says it could have been different if he lived with his father in Bridgeport, where students walk through metal detectors every day.  He called it a moral failing of the state that students receive less funding just 15 minutes from their peers.  Haskell says there's so much wasted potential and an economic catastrophe by not investing in the next generation.  He wants a funding formula that's transparent and predictable.  Haskell says schools don't count on a lot of state aid, but they do count on Connecticut delivering what it promises.


Boucher also wants to continue to reform tax policy.  Haskell says the next generation of taxpayers is being burdened by yesterday's mistakes, with $36 billion in unfunded pension obligations.  Promises made in the 90s and money wasn't put into the pension fund, holding the state back today.  He says irresponsible behavior needs to be balanced through creative revenue options.


Transportation is a top priority for Boucher.  She called for more improvements along Metro North rail lines.  When it comes to tolls, she fought against proposals in the last two years.  Boucher says tolls are commonly used, but it's a bad thing for Connecticut because of the high gas tax.  Until that is reduced or eliminated, she doesn't want to entertain the idea.   Boucher says Connecticut has many more taxes than other states, and the income tax has a high bracket.  She says states that have an income tax and tolls allow residents to deduct for various things like medical care.  She says Connecticut's effective rate is higher.  She is also skeptical of a transportation funding lockbox.  Boucher says the language is not perfect, but a move in the right direction. 


Haskell says making sure bridges are safe, rebuilding roads and improving service on rail lines is crucial for Connecticut's economic vitality.  Transportation is the number one thing he heard from residents in the district.  He supports a transportation funding lockbox.  Every dollar taxed for transportation should go toward transportation improvements, according to Haskell.  He says it doesn't seem like a controversial idea, but politics is getting in the way of common sense and decried money being taken out of the fund for other purposes.  Haskell believes more revenue is needed, however because the improvements that have to be made are so great.  He would support toll implementation, if it's done in a way that won't overburden Connecticut commuters.  Right now, he notes that state residents are footing the entire bill for improvements.


Boucher wants to use bonding capacity to pay for infrastructure improvements.  She says bonding should be for priorities, not as a slush fund for special interest projects like tennis tournaments and parking garages.  Boucher called for rail modernization, bridge replacements and school construction projects.


Boucher opposes gambling and illicit drugs as a way to raise revenue.  She would rather renegotiate state labor contracts to make them more in line with municipal employee contracts.  Boucher says balancing the budget through vices, is not something Connecticut should get into, opposing legalization of recreational marijuana and regulation of sports betting.  She would prefer to solve the state's fiscal woes through better state agency management and streamlining services.


Haskell supports medicinal marijuana and doesn't think it's the job of legislators to stand in between doctors and their patients when deciding on cancer treatments or ways to ease PTSD.  As for recreational marijuana, Haskell says Connecticut can't afford to leave money on the table.  He would tax it at the same level as cigarettes and require a minimum age of 21 into any regulation that gets proposed.  Regulating sports betting is a more complex matter for Haskell.  He says the compact with the tribes makes it more difficult, but would like to find a way to bring in revenue from something that people are already doing.


Haskell's mother went back to work two weeks after he was born and doesn't think that's right.  He called for Paid Family and Medical Leave act financed by employee contributions, so that it doesn't unduly impact businesses.


New Milford Mayor hosts coffee & chat event today

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass is hosting his monthly Coffee with the Mayor program today.  The open session for residents to bring up concerns, comments and input on any topic is held in the meeting room on the second floor of town hall.  The Coffee chat event is from 9:30am to 11am.


4th Congressional District debate this weekend

The first debate between 4th Congressional District candidates this election season takes place tomorrow.  Democratic incumbent Congressman Jim Himes is being challenged by Republican Harry Arora.  The debate sponsored by the Connecticut League of Women Voters is being hosted by the Wilton chapter, with support from Wilton High School Model Congress. The debate tomorrow starts at 4pm at Wilton High School.


New Fairfield water testing today

The New Fairfield Water Pollution Control Authority will provide water testing today from 8am to noon.  Residents who picked up a test kit at the Land Use Office at Town Hall, collected a sample based on written instructions, can return the sample to the table at Stop and Shop.  Test results will be mailed to home addresses. There is a $40 fee, and testing is provided by AQUA environmental Labs.


Teal Pumpkin Project returns this Halloween

Kent State Representative Brian Ohler says Halloween can be a tricky time for families managing food allergies.  He touted the Teal Pumpkin Project, which promotes safety and inclusion of individuals managing food allergies. The worldwide movement offers an alternative for kids with food allergies, as well as other children for whom candy is not an option, and is signaled by a teal pumpkin in front of participating homes. Ohler says across the country, one in 13 children has a food allergy – that’s roughly two in every classroom.


26th annual Ghosts of Ridgefield hike tonight

The 26th annual Ghosts of Ridgefield hike is being held this weekend with the Discovery Center at Ridgefield.  The event tonight at Hemlock Hills Open Space starts at 6pm, with tours going out in assigned groups of up to 15 people every 15 minutes.  Reservations are suggested, with a 15-dollar participation fee.  The tours feature characters from Ridgefield’s past, including Colonel Phillip Burr Bradley, Chief Catoonah, Geraldine Farrar and The Leatherman.


Candlewood Lake Authority says FirstLight skirted FERC requirements

The Candlewood Lake Authority is concerned with what the group says is unilateral action taken by FirstLight Power Resources on the Nuisance Plant Monitoring Plan. 

 

The CLA wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expressing disappointment that FirstLight hired a new consulting firm to conduct the FERC-mandated monitoring, without the consultant being approved by a FERC committee.  Approval is required by FERC.  Committee members also were not consulted and did not have a chance to review the modified scope and survey methodology. 

 

The former consultant provided the monitoring for about 10 years.  The CLA relies on the consistent data, program scope and methodology to our nuisance plant management practices, including the successful Sterile Grass Carp Program. 

 

CLA officials say they met with FirstLight to come to a resolution, but none was reached.


Proposed drive-through regulations get hearing in Newtown

The Newtown Planning Director has revised a proposal to allow drive-through window service at eateries located in shopping centers.  The Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on the proposal last night.  It's based on regulations approved in 2016 for Starbuck off Exit 10.  The proposal requires the shopping centers be on lots at least 10 acres large, and not for stand alone structures.  They would have to be on the side of rear of buildings not surrounded by parking spaces.   Only two drive-throughs would be allowed per shopping center.


Annual Ballot Tabulator maintenance performed in Bethel

The Bethel Registrar have overseen annual Ballot Tabulator Maintenance.  There are 2 machines for each of 5 voting districts, plus two for Absentee Ballots and Election Day Registration. The optical scan ballot tabulators are not, and have never been, connected to the internet nor any computer.  Bethel's Registrars and the Town Clerk do not transmit election results from the tabulator via the internet or a wireless network.


Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue gets FEMA grant for equipment replacement

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved a competitive grant application for Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue to cover most of the cost of new equipment.  The Newtown Bee reports that the more than $155,000 of FEMA funding will cover 95 percent of the costs, with Sandy Hook Fire picking up the balance.  The money will be used to replace 16 portable two-way fire radios, 12 firefighter air packs and a thermal imaging camera.  The volunteer fire company will also buy a new “fit tester” which is used to determine how well the face mask for an air pack fits, to ensure a good seal.


New Fairfield reminding residents about authorized storm damage assessors

New Fairfield officials are reminding residents about approved property inspectors looking at damage from the May 15th macroburst.  The town has contracted the services of Michael Cilfone to aid in the inspection process and is the only contractor evaluating storm damage.  The town's assessor is also in the job. 

 

If anyone asks to set up an appointment to revalue properties, New Fairfield residents are reminded to ask for identification.  The scope of work includes physically inspecting each damaged property and reporting the findings to the assessor. Most of the inspections will not require interior viewings.  

 

If property owners feel the need for an interior inspection, they are asked contact the assessor's office to schedule an appointment. The assessor is not performing structural/safety assessments and cannot offer advice on repairs. The purpose of the inspections is to determine if storm related damage has significantly impacted the property assessment.


2nd state House District race a match up for close 2016 race

The 2nd District state Representative race is a rematch of the 2016 contest.  Democrat Raghib Allie-Brennan is challenging Republican Will Duff for the seat, which Allie-Brennan lost by 280 votes.  The district includes parts of Bethel, Redding and Newtown. 

 

Duff says there were a number of successes in the last year.  He touted the elimination of the tax on social security and pensions.  It will be phased out over the next 4 years.  He also touted modifications to the 8-30g affordable housing statutes to combat the problem of affordable housing regulations and predatory developers putting up big developments.  He also touted stopping cuts in school and municipal aid.

 

Since 2016, Allie-Brennan has become more involved in community, as vice president of a board that focuses on of the opioid epidemic in the Danbury area, serving on the League of Conservation Voters and on the Triangle Community Center which helps with the LGBT community in Fairfield County.  Allie-Brennan works for a company that helps small businesses get grants loans from the state.  He says that has put him in a position to see how the state isn’t working for small business and where improvements can be made.  He says DECD had a good program to allow businesses access to capital, but there is some red tape.  He believes the state should be giving more tax breaks to small businesses than to big corporations.

 

Duff opposes tolling.  As for the Transportation Funding Lockbox on the November ballot, he encouraged people to vote for it.  But he says there was no definition for the lockbox so he’s not sure how effective it will be.  Duff compared this to the 20 year battle to get a constitutional spending cap defined and put in place.  Duff called the lockbox a marketing scheme and nothing but flashy words.  He called the bill meaningless.

 

Allie-Brennan is opposed to tolls.  He hasn’t seen a plan for implementation and wouldn’t want to burden people who commute from the district to elsewhere.  Metro North improvements are something that Allie-Brennan would like to see accomplished.  He questioned why the trains are often replaced by buses, why the trip takes so long and why there’s limited weekend service.   He would like to see more transit-oriented development, but trains have to run in order for it to be effective.  He doesn’t want to see rail or bus fare hikes to pay for improvements, focusing instead on fixing inefficiencies.  One part of the budget he’d like reexamined is the $1.3 billion spent on corrections and prisons.  Allie-Brennan says that’s more than what Connecticut spends on education and with crime and prison population down, the spending should be realigned.

 

As for improving rail service, Duff says the legislature only treats Fairfield County as an ATM and puts no money into the region.  He notes that the Danbury area generates a tremendous amount of revenue for Hartford and gets very little back. 

 

Duff says every child has an equal right to education.  He notes that when there are cuts, they go to the lunch programs, ESL, special needs transportation and other services.  Duff says the students who need programs the most are deemed as low-hanging fruit.  He wants the funding formula simplified.  If distressed districts need more help, that should be a separate pool of money.  He notes that Hartford doesn’t have a lot of taxable property because it’s state owned, and does need more money.  But he says the formula has become a political poker chip.

 

Allie-Brennan says the Education Cost Sharing formula is broken and needs fixing.  He says the state cherry-picking funds from a town because they seem wealthy and giving them to another one that needs them punishes towns that are good stewards of local budgets.  He acknowledged that Danbury, which is a small part of the district, doesn’t get full funding and needs more assistance.

 

When it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana, Duff says that’s just giving the go ahead to say that drug use is ok.  He is concerned that waxes and oils have synthesized the narcotic out of the organic material.  He wants the FDA to take charge on the marijuana issue and says it’s a federal issue.  Duff is not inclined to look at new revenue sources and would be apprehensive about bringing sports betting to Connecticut.  He wants to see a bill about where it’s being run; if it will be done in bodegas or OTB-style terminals.  Duff says Connecticut took in more money last year than ever before, but is still in deficit.  He says there’s a spending problem and not a revenue problem.  Duff was critical of state bonding priorities, questioning millions of dollars for Aer Lingus, and money to pay for a splashpad.

 

As for whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana, Allie-Brennan wants to have the conversation.  While Connecticut, needs the revenue, he doesn’t believe this will be the silver bullet.  He can see the positives of taxing it and regulating it.  On the other hand, Allie-Brennan wants any regulations to also take police into consideration.  He wants them to feel comfortable when they pull people over that they are covered.   Allie-Brennan suggests looking at Colorado and Massachusetts as Connecticut moves forward.  Allie-Brennan would also support Sports Betting, noting again that it's not the silver bullet to the budget crisis, but a way to stop taking money from Social Services programs.

 

As a way to improve wait times at the DMV, Duff proposed having a renewal of a license for every five years instead of every four years and then 20% of the line will shrink.  He doesn’t think the impasse with AAA is insurmountable and could renegotiate to have the outside source provide licensing services again.  Allie-Brennan wants to put more DMV services online to help cut down wait times at the DMV.  

 

If reelected, Duff wants to help towns lower property taxes by funding state mandates.  He says that would free up money from local budgets. 

 

Duff also wants to look into making higher education more affordable.  He wants to look at changing or altering some programs to better align teaching with the open jobs.  Duff says investing in the teaching staff and not growing the bureaucracy the administrative class saying they tend to get in the way of professors and teaching staff.  Duff says having autonomy will keep the uniqueness of each state school.  By getting rid of the Board of Regents for higher Education, the four regional colleges and the community colleges would still have to follow the laws and policies dictated by the state.  But he says the Board is more cumbersome than anything else.  Duff says it’s spent millions of dollars and created more obstacles.  He wants to divert funding back to the schools.

 

On the opioid epidemic, Allie-Brennan says insurance should cover people who want to get help.  He also wants to look at criminal justice reform to make sure people that are addicted and incarcerated can get treatment, so they are not put back on the street and into the same vicious cycle.

 

 If elected, Allie-Brennan wants to be part of the energy committee.  He took a course on natural disasters in his senior year and focused on Hurricane Katrina and how to improve response.  Allie-Brennan also worked on energy policy in Washington, D.C. and would like to find ways to lower energy rates and invest more in green energy.


New Milford Police investigating untimely death

New Milford Police are investigating an untimely death.  29-year old James Broderick was found dead Tuesday morning, though police say it's not a murder investigation.  Police received a call shortly before 8am about an unconscious man in a driveway.  Broderick was reportedly found partially in the car and partially outside of it.  The Chief Medical Examiner's Office is investigating the cause and manner of death.  Police are trying to determine the man's whereabouts and contacts in the 24 hours leading up to his death.


Bethel school officials caution against unauthorized fundraiser targeting businesses

The Bethel Superintendent of Schools has sent out a letter to local business owners cautioning them to a soliciting scam.  The Bethel Chamber of Commerce then passed the message along to members.  Bethel school district leaders learned that a group called Sports Media Advertising has been soliciting local businesses in attempt to collect money for a fundraiser they claim is to benefit Bethel High School.  That is not a fundraiser that is authorized by the Bethel School District and Dr Christine Carver says should not be supported. All fundraisers that are conducted by Bethel Public Schools must get pre-approval by administration.


DOT postpones Redding paving project again, moves it to daytime hours

The state Department of Transportation has changed an overnight road paving project in Redding to being done in the daytime.  Route 58 will be repaved between the Easton town line and South Lane.  There will be lane closures starting Wednesday at 7am.  The project has now been rescheduled twice.  The DOT advised motorists to maintain a safe speed when driving in this vicinity and to be aware that modifications or extensions may come up due to weather delays or other unforeseen conditions.


Sandy Hook man allegedly causes in-flight disturbance

A Sandy Hook man has been charged for allegedly causing a disturbance on an inbound flight to Bradley Airport Tuesday night.  State Police Troopers met the plane when it arrived after  air traffic control was notified of a disturbance on board.  Police say 31-year-old Jeffrey Levasseur was intoxicated and disrupting the flight attendants and other passengers.  In the terminal, he allegedly was loud and used profanities.  He was held on bond.


Wilton settles harassment complaint with female detective

WILTON, Conn. (AP) The town of Wilton has settled a harassment and discrimination complaint filed against the police department by its only female detective.

The Hour reports that the Board of Selectmen approved the settlement worth more than $17,500 with Detective Eva Zimnoch in April. The town's insurer paid the sum.

Zimnoch said in her claim that colleagues complained when she started wearing V-neck shirts and capris to work in 2015, even though then-police Chief Robert Crosby approved the attire.

She says colleagues also wore sneakers with no consequence, despite a department ban.

Zimnoch says the department became a ``hostile working environment'' when she took a stand.

The details of the settlement were recently disclosed through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Current police Chief John Lynch declined comment.


Ex-Newtown officials defend handling of shooter's education

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Former educators in the Connecticut town where 20 children and six adults were shot to death in an elementary school are pushing back against a state report that was critical of how the shooter's education was handled.

The former Newtown officials gave state senators Thursday a 22-page rebuttal to the 2014 report by the state child advocate's office on the upbringing and education of Adam Lanza.

The 20-year-old Lanza, who grew up in Newtown, killed 26 people and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

The former Newtown officials cited the school system's efforts to help Lanza with his mental problems when he was in school and called his mother a "tremendous obstacle" to those efforts.

The child advocate's office is defending its report.


Animal shelter involved in legal case with City of Danbury is looking to move

An animal shelter involved in a legal case with the City of Danbury is looking to move to a new location.  Tails of Courage Animal Rescue officials deny allegations in a lawsuit that claims inspectors found animals kept in deplorable conditions.  The adoption organization says they're looking to move because they need a larger kennel.  The Newstimes reports that the group has not yet selected a new location, but must wait until after the Smith Street home sells.  Danbury sued Tails of Courage in July, alleging the shelter violated a cease and desist order.  An agreement was filed in court yesterday allowing city health inspectors to conduct unannounced inspections.  Danbury is seeking a permanent injunction against the shelter, forcing operators to comply with health codes.  An employee facing animal cruelty charges is due in court next week.


State Police Detective brings 4-legged friend to work in Southbury

A dog named Alabama who belongs to a Western District Major Crimes detective in State Police was in the office yesterday and served as a mascot for the Southbury Barracks.  A State Police spokesperson says even though Alabama isn’t a sworn Police K9, he plays a vital role in helping individuals who come to the barracks dealing with extremely difficult situations to feel at ease, especially kids accompanies by their parents. Many of the troopers and detectives working at Troop A were involved in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, so at the discretion of Supervisors, their 4 legged friends can accompany them to help out around the office.

(Photo: CSP Facebook)


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