Cove River

On Wednesday at 7pm The Land Trust of West Haven will hold its annual meeting in the hall at St. John Vianney Church and West Haven residents are cordially invited to attend. The topics of the evening will be the Cove River Historical Site and the Cove River Project.

Cove River runs from Savin Rock past Ken Strong Stadium and the High School to halfway up through the backside of Painter Park. There are large patches of marshy land on both sides of it. It’s all designated open space land. There is an entrance to it through a trail off of Platt Avenue to the left of the gas station. My understanding is that people go in there from time to time to look for ancient Indian artifacts like arrowheads, and to do a variety of research.

Barbara Barry, Land Trust President, will kick off the evening at 7pm and Catherine Iaccarino will follow her with a lecture on the historic background of the Cover River site. At 7:30 Kevin Dickson, WHHS Environmental Science and Ecology teacher, will talk about the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) initiative and how a course instructed by Southern Connecticut State University Professor Scott Graves has led to WHHS students performing research that contributes to the Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program. GLOBE is a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program. It’s vision promotes and supports students, teachers and scientists to collaborate on inquiry-based investigations of the environment and the Earth system working in close partnership with NASA, NOAA and NSF Earth System Science Projects in study and research about the dynamics of Earth’s environment.

You can see the projects WHHS students have done by going to http://www.globe.gov/explore-science/student-zone/project-spotlights. It really is pretty impressive. Some of the projects include: The Effect of Fox Inhabitance on Cove River Sustainability; The Effects of Runoff on the Water Quality of Cove River; Land Use at the Cove River Historical Site from the Time of Indigenous Societies through Modern Day; Invasive Plant Species at Cove River; and The Impact of Climate Change on Canopy Growth.

I have lived relatively close to the Cove River for most of my life and I have never explored it. Mostly because it seems like a big swamp to me. It doesn’t look like it would be easy to get around in it, and it seems a little scary to me, too. Never know who or what’s in there. But of course that’s my ignorance. So I am looking forward to learning more about the Cove River and the land around it with the hope of getting enough of a comfort level to go in there and take a look around. The presentations at the meeting should be interesting, so I hope to see you there.

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Assimilation is at Hand

Yesterday I read the article the Register ran on the school uniform policy at Forest School. I had to wait a day before writing this post so I could calm down. I keep hoping that I won’t have to continue to talk about the school uniform policy being foisted on the residents of West Haven because parents will wake up and realize that having the City dictate how they should dress their children is insulting, unnecessary, and extremely controlling. I can’t be the only one that thinks that my child’s right to a pursuit of happiness guaranteed her under the Constitution should not be violated by the city mandating what she must wear to get a public education afforded her by the hefty taxes I pay in this town.

“West Haven school uniform policy working” is the headline. It has been just one month that the kids have been in school and already success is at hand? What does “working” mean exactly? That everyone (except the few poor families who can’t afford it) has kowtowed to the command and make their children wear the uniforms? Forest School principal Tom Hunt is quoted in the Register saying, “As the days go by, the compliance is greater and greater.” I’m a Star Trek fan and this reminds me of the Borg’s mantra “resistance is futile.” The Borg are cybernetic organisms that take over other species and “assimilate” them into the collective and connect them to “the hive mind.” Watch out kids, you will be assimilated.

Let’s keep in mind that Forest School is an elementary school. The oldest children are in the fourth grade and 10 years old. Are the kids there so out of control that the only course of action is to mandate uniforms like they are in jail? I simply can’t imagine that is the case.

The one thing I find interesting about the article is that the “school board had previously considered a uniform guideline for the entire district, but many parents fought it.” So the BOE decided to push it through at Forest. Why? Curiously that school has the highest percentage of minority students at 76%. By the way, that’s what I would call a majority. I can’t help but wonder if all the parents there – not just the vocal few in favor of the uniforms – feel comfortable voicing their opinions or making waves.

According to Principal Hunt, “I have no dissenters at all in the building.” That’s because my child no longer goes to Forest. But when she was at Forest for the first two days of school, she did not wear a uniform. I told School Superintendent Neil Cavallaro that it would take no less than a court order to force my child to wear a uniform. I guess we will have to see what the “data” shows from what I fear will be a very anecdotical rather than rigorous study. According to Hunt, the staff is “seeing a change in kids” and that the uniforms have a “calming effect, almost.” Really? And it’s all due to the uniforms the kids have been wearing for a mere 30 days. Just remarkable.

I can’t help but wonder about what hell will break loose when they try this at Carrigan, Bailey, and the High School.

Posted in The Bad | 9 Comments

Tattoo Talk

Is a tattoo parlor and skateboard shop good for the center of West Haven or not? The merchants downtown don’t think so according to the article last week in the Register. I’m not so sure I agree with them.

A Pew Research Poll done in 2010 states that 23% of people in this country have a tattoo. That’s just about one out of every four people.  It breaks out by age like this:  18-29: 38%; 30-45: 32%; 46-64: 15%; 65+: 6%.  The number of people with tattoos has grown exponentially in the past few years. One trip to the beach and you realize just how ubiquitous tattoos have become – and those are just the ones you can see. It’s a huge industry with impressive revenue attached to it.

But are tattoos seedy or art? Some feel tattoos still have a negative quality to them. Tim Wrightington, a West Haven resident and political critic, puts forth an interesting scenario in his online comment about the article, “Sailors can come in on a boat at the new bulk head on Water St., get inebriated at one of the drinking establishments in the area, get a tattoo downtown, pick up a hooker at the new train station and take her to the old Yankee Inn.” That’s one way to look at it. But no matter what you think about them, tattoos are here to stay. People from all walks of life have one or more of them. They are now so prevalent in society that they have become commonplace and accepted as the norm.

So why not have one at 479 Campbell Avenue? There was a tattoo parlor across from the green in New Yale Haven. It did not make it there as a business, but I know of no complaints about it being in that location. One of the merchant criticisms of the tattoo shop being in the center of West Haven is that it “doesn’t fit in with downtown economic goals.” I’d be very interested to know what those goals are, and why it does not fit in with the Dollar Store, multiple bars, Rent-A-Center, and nail shops in the same area?

My problem isn’t with the tattoo shop. It’s with our Planning and Development department and the Zoning Board of Appeals process. Clearly there is a lack of communication between all the stakeholders in our city. The process is flawed and needs to be fixed so everyone who wants to put their two cents in about business in West Haven can have their say before it’s a done deal. It’s embarrassing after the fact to try to stop the tattoo parlor from setting up shop. It’s not fair to them, and it certainly doesn’t do much to promote West Haven as the friendliest city in the state.

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Fight Club

I learned about the videos of teenagers fighting on September 13 from an email I received from a friend who had seen them. She was concerned and wanted my advice on what to do. I watched the three videos (which since have been taken down) and was deeply disturbed by what I saw. Two white teenage girls, different ones in each, were fighting each other on school grounds while a group of boys and girls watched. I told my friend I wanted to talk her about them before I did anything. The rest, as they say, is history, because the news broke on Channel 8 that weekend.

What I find remarkable about the whole sad situation is the reaction of some in our city. In reading the article in the Register, I was appalled by the remarks the Board of Education Chairman Mark Palmieri made. “The thing is, there’s nothing going on.” Really? I think the videos prove otherwise. Fellow BOE member Dorinda Borer had the common sense and concern as a parent to notify the police when she was made aware of the situation. For this she gets criticism? As Ms. Borer points out, “this is a national issue that was occurring in our backyard. You can’t address issues if you don’t recognize them.”

Palmieri says he is “concerned about ‘copycat issues’ since other students may hear about the videotaped fights.” I think Mr. Palmieri is out of touch with reality. Teenagers have been fighting since the dawn of time. They have sex and drink and do drugs, too. Some do more than others. Of course, some don’t do any of it, but they are in the minority. Add easy access to technology into the mix and you get videos of them fighting and being naked. It is naive and just plain old dumb to think it doesn’t happen. The recent firestorm around these fight videos provide the perfect opportunity for parents and teachers to talk to teenagers about all of these issues. We should be coming together as a community to figure out how to deal with the situation instead of pointing fingers.

Posted in The Bad, The Ugly | 1 Comment

Italian Festival & WHEAT Concert

The schedule for the WHEAT concert was misreported to me. Fast Lane will start at 6pm and the Navels go on at 8pm.

The Italian Festival has been pushed to Sunday, same time, due to high wind forecast for Saturday.

There are two fun events coming up  – West Haven Italian Street Festival is scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 8, and a benefit concert will take place the following Saturday, Sept 15, for WHEAT food bank. I am looking forward to going to both of them and are keeping my fingers crossed that the weather cooperates.

The West Haven Italian Street Festival takes place on lower Campbell Avenue, and runs from noon till 10 p.m. It will feature Italian music, a variety of food booths that cook up some of the best food in West Haven, crafts and other vendors, as well as amusements for kids. So bring the whole family for lunch or dinner! I try to go every year and I always have a great time. I also usually run into some friends I haven’t seen in awhile and that’s always a good thing.

And the following Saturday, Sept.15, the city is holding a benefit concert for WHEAT because it has recently experienced a food shortage. In fact, it shut its doors for the first time in 38 years on July 31. Luckily some very generous residents of West Haven and Connecticut Food Bank scrambled to stock the shelves and WHEAT reopened the next day. But we don’t want to see that happen again! So please come out on Sept. 15  and support this event. There are now 3,000 households in our city counting on us to help them with food and other necessities.

The four-hour show will feature two bands and will take place in Old Grove Park. My favorite local band – The Navels – will be playing. They cover a lot of Stevie Nicks plus some other great rock-n-roll, too. Be sure to bring the kids because they can go up and play the tambourine with the band. My daughter and I have had a lot of fun with them over the years. They kick off the party at 6pm, followed by a set played by Fast Lane at 8pm. The rain date is Sept. 17.

Please be aware that to park, both residents and non-residents will need to pony up a $5 contribution, and all that money will go to WHEAT. In addition, it would be really appreciated if people could bring nonperishable food, too. Every little bit helps, so please do what you “can.”

Both events are a wonderful way to enjoy these last beautiful days of summer!

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Commissioner Picks

I read the two articles in today’s Register about the new commissioners picked for the Housing Authority and the Allingtown Fire Department with interest and some concern. In the Housing Authority piece, I see that Mayor Picard has picked all his cronies for the commission. I also noted that Jasmine Nugent did not resign as asked by the mayor and will remain on the commission. Very interesting. But my eyes really popped out of my head when I saw how much the recently retired Executive Director Michael Siwek hauled in for pay! Somewhere between $188,973 and $230,000. Holy cow. And apparently that just was not enough money since he allegedly needed another $22,000 to gamble with at the casinos. I hope the new commissioners realize that their role as commissioners is to oversee all aspects of the Housing Authority. They need to take their jobs seriously and implement some much needed checks and balances.

As for the Allingtown Fire Department, I will give the mayor a pat on the back for not re-upping the existing commission members, with the exception of current Chairman Ronald Walters. He was kept for the sake of continuity. Fingers crossed he has the mental capacity to keep things on the straight and narrow so we won’t end up with yet another debacle on our hands. I am concerned, however, that the mayor has picked Stella Cretella and Martha Bell to be on this commission, too. Both were appointed to the Housing Authority Commission. Are there no other people in our city of more than 55,000 that can serve on a commission without overlap? Is the mayor so concerned about losing control that the needs to have this level of overlap on commissions? I have been told that Cretella has known Picard since he was a little tiny baby. In the past, Picard has tried to push her on the Police Commission no less than three times to no avail. Let’s hope she has the credentials to do the job and not just kowtow to what the mayor tells her to do. But I fear I may be expecting too much.

I think the biggest shocker for me, after learning about Siwek’s exorbitant pay, is that a nineTEEN year old is being appointed to the commission. I certainly do not want to be accused of ageism, but come on. How much experience and wisdom is a 19 year old going to be bringing to the table? Again, are there no other people better qualified for this role? I agree with At-large council member David Forsyth’s quote in the Register – “I don’t think working on a mayor campaign qualifies you for a commission.” Or is that exactly what it does take?

A drum roll please! The winner of the primary contest is Paul Studdard. Congratulations Paul! Paul guessed 1,800 residents would come out to vote. He was the closest to the 3,739 (plus about 350 absentee ballots) that voted in total.

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Another Black Eye

My plan for today’s post was to write about the primary that took place yesterday, but I was shocked to see the story in today’s Register about the Feds raiding the West Haven Housing Authority offices. So I’ll get to the primary in a minute.

It has been alleged that Executive Director Michael Siwek took $22,000 via a business credit card and profited by using his personal business to do Housing Authority repairs. Apparently the West Haven Housing Authority has been under surveillance for several months and these accusations are in the HUD report. The first thing that comes to my mind is how does this happen? The answer is that there has been no proper oversight of the West Haven Housing Authority for quite some time now. Whose fault is that do you think? Could it be Mayor Picard’s fault? He is supposed to be leading and managing our city. And are there any other organizations in our city that need better oversight? At the very least, I hope this embarrassing scandal prompts the mayor to take a good look around town.

The mayor is quoted in the Register saying “The Executive Director has announced his plan to retire at the end of the summer. I am now requesting the voluntary resignations from all the Commissioners so that we can move forward with a goal of greater oversight, management and accountability at the Housing Authority.” Way too little, way too late. I am curious why Siwek gets to retire, and was not fired? I also find it interesting that the Commissioners’ names are not mentioned in the Register article, nor in the mayor’s press release, and no one seems to want to say Siwek’s name either, they just refer to the “Executive Director.” Why is that? The commissioners’ names are Genevieve Canny, Theresa Sansone, Jasmine Nugent, Willie Holmes, and Adrienne Hurlburt. They all reside in West Haven. I have to laugh at the “goal of greater oversight . .” part of Mayor Picard’s quote. Since there clearly has been ZERO oversight, I think that any oversight would be an improvement.

I agree with former City Council Chair Ed O’Brien, and mayoral candidate in the upcoming November election, when he stated in the Register comments section online, “It actually took a federal law enforcement agency to raid the Housing Authority offices to motivate the mayor to do something about this? This is not leadership! If the raid never happened, would the mayor have ever put a stop to it? Oversight was and is never a priority to Mayor Picard, but this time he cannot say he didn’t know.”

So, what about that primary? I spoke with democratic registrar Michelle Hufcut and she said that there was only about a 25 percent voter turnout of registered democrats and republicans. Shameful. However, one positive thing to come out of the primary is that the residents of the 116th District got a choice of candidates. Dave Forsyth and Lou Esposito are just one vote apart (in favor of Esposito), so there will be a recount. I think that is saying the folks in Allingtown aren’t all that pleased these days with the incumbent.

Deb Evangeliste lost the race for democratic registrar by only 227 votes. Luckily for Patty Horvath, who will be the new democratic registrar come January, the mayor’s supporters in the 9th and 10th districts came out to vote. In the past few elections the numbers have been getting closer and closer and it seems like the mayor is losing some ground. You only have to read my previous posts to understand why that is happening.

The lucky winner of the primary contest announced in a previous post here in my blog (the person guessing closest to, without going over, the total number of primary voters, wins lunch with me) will be announced the week of August 27!

Posted in The Ugly | 5 Comments