Residents Deserve a Vote

There is no rule requiring that the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education win the approval of local residents before committing them to plans for a new multimillion-dollar sports field. The nine-member board could vote on the project as soon as Wednesday. In fact, school Superintendent Ian Neviaser, with the support of the board, has been salting away money for the project – to the tune of $2,107,873 — in an “undesignated” fund for years. Clearly, in the short term at least, the cost of the field is unlikely to explode budgets. But whether this amounts to fiscal prudence or fiscal

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Bits and Pieces

But before I go, a little advice for candidates and would-be candidates next go around…. For campaign materials shared across social media, I really would encourage you to avoid shooting your portraits in portrait mode, and shoot your portraits in landscape mode instead. A horizontal aspect is nearly always better across a variety of social media platforms. But as a rule of thumb, if your materials are roughly twice as wide as tall, you’ll rarely, if ever, lose your head.

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CT Examiner Welcomes New Staff

By now you’ve probably read her work. Her story with Julia Werth on the reopening of schools is already our third-most-read story since launching in May 2019. Our newest staff reporter, Emilia Otte, joins the staff of CT Examiner on September 1. Emilia is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College. She earned her masters from NYU in Global Journalism with a focus on European and Mediterranean studies. She has previously written for the Poughkeepsie Journal and Hudson Valley News, and has bylines in Business Insider, Le Monde Diplomatique, Latin American News Dispatch, Civic Ideas and the New York Transatlantic. Emilia

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Cameron: Fare Equity

Ridership on Metro-North is still down 85% from pre-pandemic levels, but in-state bus ridership is coming back… up to 70% of normal from a March low of 40%.  Why the difference?  Because bus riders and rail riders are very different. Surveys by CDOT and Metro-North showed the average income of a Metro-North rider was about $150,000, given that many were living in affluent Fairfield County towns and commuting to good paying jobs in New York City. Bus riders are predominantly working class, urban dwellers who make less money and, in many cases don’t own cars.  They’re not riding the bus

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Privacy and the Public’s Right to Know about COVID in the Schools

As summer turns to fall, and life moves indoors and classrooms across Connecticut reopen, no one should be surprised when the first cases of COVID-19 crop up. But if the recent outpouring of public anger and confusion on social media over an isolated off-season case in East Haddam schools is any indication, you might be taken aback by the outsized, if understandable, uproar as parents and staff come to realize that even in the case of a deadly and infectious disease possibly spreading in the schools, the public’s right to know holds less sway than a patient’s medical privacy. In

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CT Examiner’s Sunday Puzzle

This week’s crossword puzzle from CT Examiner. Send your completed puzzles to editor@ctexaminer.com You can download and print the puzzle here

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Don’t Sweep Tuesday’s Mess Under the Rug

Tuesday’s uncontested primary – with minimal turnout – was a mess. That’s not exactly a surprise. New rules, new procedures, public ballot boxes and a broad shift to absentee ballots – it was bound to cause problems, without adding in the worry of fraud in Bridgeport or slow mail delivery. But let’s not beat around the bush, it’s never a good sign when election workers are spotted dumpster diving for ballot mailers, missing or discarded accidentally, because no one quite agreed on the exact procedures for counting or for disqualifying votes. To be clear, we heard strikingly different stories on

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Hats Off to Lowell Weicker and Thirty Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Thirty years ago this week, by votes of 377 to 28 in the House and 91 to 6 in the Senate, the United States Congress passed, and George Herbert Walker Bush signed, the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of perhaps a handful of the most significant pieces of legislation since the Second World War. The principal author of the legislation was then-Republican Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut. The effort would be joined by prairie populist Democratic Senator of Iowa, Tom Harkin, Senator Ted Kennedy and others who helped craft and shepherd the legislation to a vote when Weicker was defeated

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CT Examiner’s July 4 Puzzle

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. You can download this week’s puzzle here and can find the answer to last week’s puzzle below…

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Before a Second Wave Hits… Repeal the Immunity for Nursing Homes from Civil Penalties

In ordinary times, checks and balances and the separation of powers between co-equal branches of government – legislative, judicial, and executive – are a defining feature of American governance on both the state and local level. But in extraordinary times – states of emergency – governors and presidents have by tradition and precedent been granted great deference to act unilaterally by executive order. As Alexander Hamilton argued in Federalist No. 23 in 1787, because “the circumstances which may affect the public safety” cannot be reduced “within certain determinate limits … there can be no limitation of that authority which is

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New Haven-based Therapist Launches Online Dungeons & Dragons for the Young and Autistic

Talking to Daniel Allen, a 37-year-old recreational therapist with a short but remarkable history of working with children, in Ethiopia in the Peace Corps, for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang and at Yale New Haven, you pretty immediately understand that this is a person who loves the offbeat imaginative side of childhood learning. A self-described “proud nerd,” Allen took the leap from part-time work at Yale New Haven’s Child Psychiatric Inpatient Unit to start Dragon Haven, a new online service that uses games like Dungeons & Dragons to help children build social skills and cope with anxiety. “I

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Year Two

One year ago last Monday, CT Examiner went live with the goal of returning in-depth, nonpartisan, local news coverage to towns across southeast Connecticut. Funded with venture capital from David Kelsey, and edited by Gregory Stroud, CT Examiner began with a staff of two: Cate Hewitt and Julia Werth. Over time, we added a third reporter, Chris McDermott, and a small pool of freelancers, including arts writer Clare Byrne. Who knew that exactly one year later we would have an exclusive one-on-one interview with Gov. Ned Lamont to mark phase of one of the reopening of the economy? What better

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A Closer Look at the Latest Plans to Replace the Connecticut River Bridge

I will cut to the chase. The plan currently on the table to replace the existing historic Connecticut River Railroad Bridge looks to be a good one, but let me break it down to the essentials… Need Why is Amtrak planning to spend an estimated $400 million ($759 million by other estimates) on a new crossing at the mouth of the Connecticut? Well, the existing bridge, which dates to 1907, carries about 56 trains each day on the Northeast Corridor across the Connecticut River — 38 Amtrak intercity trains, 12 Shore Line East commuter trains, and 6 freight trains —

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Taking Stock at CT Examiner

It’s been a year since I hired away Cate Hewitt to be CT Examiner’s Employee #1 on April 1, 2019 and a giant leap of faith that we could thrive where other news organizations have failed in the region. To date, we’re outpacing our year one goals… And have successfully attracted a readership that otherwise might read the New York Times or Wall Street Journal as their “local” paper. Our top ten towns by readership (in order): Old Lyme, Hartford, New York, East Lyme, Essex, New London, New Haven, Clinton, Boston, Stonington. Our regular readerships extends across the state… And

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The Big and Small of Affordable Housing Solutions for Connecticut

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With apologies to Oxford philosopher Isaiah Berlin – who half-seriously split all of human thought into foxes and hedgehogs – those who advocate for a variety of smaller ideas and those who embrace larger singular solutions – if ever there was a ‘hedgehog,’ it’s 8-30g, the state’s 30-year-old affordable housing statute, which grants developers a favorable appeals process if an application for an affordable housing project is rejected without sufficient cause. Like a hedgehog with its quills, that statute gives developers near carte blanche to construct affordable housing in towns with less than 10% qualifying housing. According to Michael Fogliano’s

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The Civil Rights Case for Equitable Housing

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The struggle for equitable housing is inseparable from — but not identical to — the decades long civil rights movement in the United States. No doubt that’s in part the reason that, “Separated by Design,” the recent multipart series on affordable housing by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas is couched in a vocabulary of civil rights. “Housing segregation,” as Thomas phrases the issue of affordable housing. And to be sure, there is ample evidence that the WWI-era introduction of zoning laws in the United States went hand in hand with racial segregation. Until a landmark 1917 decision by the United States Supreme

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Taking Stock of Ethics in Old Lyme

There are, at most, two degrees of separation in the State of Connecticut – less in a small New England town like Old Lyme – so it should come as no surprise to anyone that sitting on an ethics board is a thankless task. Given how rarely the town of Old Lyme’s Ethics Commission actually meets – the last public meeting was on May 7, 2019 – you couldn’t be blamed for wondering whether a town ethics commission is even necessary. In fact, as of 2009 only 70 of Connecticut’s 169 towns had even set up a board of ethics.

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A Tale of Two Projects

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When the Connecticut legislature passed a ban on most pesticides for athletic fields used by kindergarten through 8th-grade students in 2010, who knew (not an entirely rhetorical question) that a common alternative — even for towns less wealthy than Old Lyme — would be to construct playing surfaces out of countless tons of tires recycled into pelletized rubber? Before we agree to Milone & MacBroom’s May 2017 estimate of $990,000, or Milone & MacBroom’s December 2019 estimate of $2.3 million or Board of Finance Chair Andy Russell’s (presumably) more conservative number of “up to $4 million,” for an artificial turf

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The New and the Old of It

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If you read the newspapers in America in 1780 or so – just as the modern familiar incarnation of the Christmas holiday is taking shape – you might be surprised to find that already critics and observers are fretting the loss of the true meaning, the spirit, of Christmas, much as they do today – because loss is not a defect or corruption of the winter holiday, but instead has always been a defining feature of modern Christmas feeling and expression. And it is much the same, the historian Peter Fritzsche explained, with New England. “It is New England and

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Editorial: A Round Up of What’s to Come

With a short legislative session in the spring, state and federal elections in the fall, we’re drawing up plans for nonpartisan election coverage, with the expectation that at least two state senate seats, and two or three house seats in the region will have exciting elections this fall – one insider has suggested privately that one seat, held by a popular incumbent, is a likely flip. Stay tuned. Over the next few months we plan to follow the Hope Partnership project at Spencer’s Corner in Centerbrook – set to begin early this spring – the unresolved State Pier negotiations in

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Karaoke and “Superior” Fried Chicken at Rustic Cafe in East Lyme

EAST LYME — “Myth number one — you have to have the ability to sing,” explained Eric Foster of Old Lyme. “No, you have to make it appear you know how to sing.” The wood-paneled room of East Lyme’s roadside Rustic Cafe was loud with conversation — regulars at the bar, high-tops and cafe tables filled with people eating and drinking. Foster and four friends, joined by two CT Examiner staff, had arrived early for the karaoke, which on Friday begins sometime after 9 p.m. “The room needs to be loud and you need to be with friends, at least

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Happy New Year from CT Examiner!

Not quite twenty years ago, in the dead of winter, in a small newspaper room in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, Russia, I sat reading New Year’s Eve coverage for the years 1903 until 1923 in bound volumes of three or four dozen newspapers from the time. A city of Petersburg’s size had many tens, even hundreds, of separate papers – newspapers for businessmen, for housewives, for industrial workers, for Orthodox clergy, conservatives, liberals, and newly-arriving peasants. There were penny papers, and Jewish papers, evening papers, and morning papers. There were underground papers, papers for the newly-literate, and

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Editorial: Stepping up to Help a Neighbor

Seven months ago we launched CT Examiner with a story by Julia Werth reporting on extensive flooding in the soon-to-be-purchased McCulloch property. At the time there was some push back, that the beavers were beside the point, and a fact of nature — and they were right. Beavers were beside the point, as Julia Werth followed up a few days later bringing public attention to the plight of Old Lyme resident Dave Berggren. The more important story was that Berggern, 81 years old at the time, was on the verge of losing his home, and had already lost basic necessities

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Editorial: Oversight of Education Funding Requires Action By Legislature

When the Regular Legislative Session convenes on February 5, I hope that members of the Education Committee will consider putting in place rules to guide the spending of state Open Choice grant money — about $11 million each year – by local school districts. That’s not to question the value of the program, or to say that the Open Choice program — which helps fund urban students to attend public schools in nearby suburban towns, and funds suburban and rural students to attend public schools in a nearby city — comes at an unreasonable cost. The grant money, which pays

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Editorial: Four Hours with Former Connecticut Port Authority Head Evan Matthews

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Four hours with Evan Matthews on Sunday afternoon and I left convinced that – if the downside risk can be negotiated favorably — the delayed Eversource-Ørsted deal is a good (maybe great) deal for Connecticut. Certainly Matthews – an industry professional with years of relevant experience — believes it’s a good deal and feels blindsided, and aggrieved, by the sudden collapse of the Connecticut Port Authority, in his telling, just as he was hoping to wrap up negotiations on July 1. It’s the first time that Matthews has spoken publicly since July 12, when he was placed on paid leave

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Editorial: Local Oversight and Regional Budgets

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It’s simply unimaginable as part of the budget, anywhere in Connecticut, that a town employee could propose a $2.5 million project, with significant, ongoing and uncertain maintenance costs, as well as ten year replacement costs, and expect to plan and approve the project without early and broad public engagement, and without the promise of a townwide vote. Whether or not a synthetic turf field is a good or bad idea for Lyme-Old Lyme schools, we’ll set aside for a moment. But let’s be clear — a good idea or not — everything about the decision-making process so far gives the

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Editorial: Recapping Election Week

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Monday morning — I hadn’t gotten in to work yet — instead I was out on a rocky overlook at Selden Creek Preserve chatting on the phone with State Auditor John Geragosian about the Connecticut Port Authority audit. He was reassuring. While not characterizing the contents of the referral to the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General, he emphasized that a referral was statutory requirement and routine… don’t read too much into it. Geragosian said had no complaints about the remaining board and staff, whom he described as helpful and responsive. Two days later, a Wednesday, in a meeting room

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Editorial: 5 Questions, a Possible Criminal Referral, 220k in “Contributions from Developers”

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In case you didn’t know, an audit of the Connecticut Port Authority for fiscal years ending in 2018 and 2019 was released on October 31 — a Thursday. The timing was not a surprise – give or take a day – after State Comptroller Kevin Lembo (who has come across pretty darn well in this whole mess) gave the CPA just three days – until Friday, November 1 — to explain why the authority had failed to release accurate financials to his office.  The “incomplete” accounting of expenditures  – among other failings – were acknowledged in an October 18 letter

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