Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Superintendent is Super Teacher

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo, shown above and at right in a classroom, was a guest teacher at Katherine Brennan School this week as part of Teach for America Week. Mayo, who has been schools superintendent since 1992 began in the district in 1967 as a science teacher at Troup Middle School; he was later chairman of the mathematics and science department at Troup and then became assistant principal of Troup, then was principal of Jackie Robinson Middle School. After completing a post-doctorate fellowship at Yale University, he then held several administrative positions before becoming superintendent.

Monday, April 28, 2008

City official tells of death threat

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— Kica Matos’ life changed the day she received a death threat.
In late July 2007, as New Haven’s controversial municipal ID program was unfolding, Matos returned to her city office to find a police officer waiting for her.
He told Matos, the community services administrator for New Haven, of an e-mail addressed to her from a Ventura, Calif., man. It had been sent to her former place of employment.
“You need to be taken by the United States citizens and killed as an enemy to this nation that you are,” it read, as the author railed against the ID card, which is available to all residents, including illegal immigrants. The threat has since been turned over to the FBI.
Matos, testifying Friday in a hearing before the state Freedom of Information Commission, said for some time after she received that e-mail, she found it difficult to be alone outside and she limited appearing in public with her toddler son. To this day, Matos said she won’t use the City Hall garage on weekends when there is no security guard.
Matos was one of two main witnesses to testify Friday before an FOI attorney and a commissioner, who are considering a request by Dustin Gold of the Community Watchdog Project, an anti-illegal immigrant group, and Chris Powell, for the names and addresses of the 5,561 residents who have purchased the ID cards.
The city has been advised by James Thomas, the state commissioner of the Department of Homeland Security, not to release this material as it could put the cardholders in danger, while it might also kill the ID program, which he endorsed because it encouraged illegal immigrants to come forward and report crimes.
In a break from the daylong hearing, the fourth day of testimony in two months, Matos said she was “terrified,” after receiving the e-mail, one of many threats and incidents of harassment she was subjected to after the card went into effect.
In testimony April 11, James Johnston, a retired federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement supervisor with 29 years experience, disagreed with Thomas’ ruling and said he did not consider that any of the virulent messages sent to the city constituted real public safety threats.
Sherman London, an FOI commissioner in attendance Friday, after hearing the e-mail sent to Matos, remarked, “That’s a death threat.”
Matos said she was not just concerned with the potential threat to illegal immigrants who might be identified if the list of cardholders was released. “The risk extends to everyone,” she said, pointing to recent home invasions in the state and her concerns about pedophiles.
She also described the genesis of the program and the reasoning behind it.
“We didn’t do it to be trendy or to be different. We thought it would be a practical way to try to address public safety issues and help immigrants to integrate into the life of the city,” Matos said.
The other main witness was Jessica Vaughan, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Immigration Studies, who said she was an expert on immigration law enforcement, policing and public safety.
Vaughan said the best study she found says that immigrants don’t report crimes because of the language barrier and lack of trust and knowledge of the justice system. She also said providing a municipal ID card to illegal immigrants could help people mask their identities.
Vaughan said there was no empirical basis that New Haven’s ID program would contribute to public safety, but London questioned how a program that is the first in the country can be evaluated. “It seems to me, the police chief (Francesco Ortiz Jr.), in his testimony, found it quite valuable,” he said. Assistant Attorney General Steven Strom said the ID program is a local attempt to engage the trust of immigrants. “Perhaps New Haven is on the cutting edge,” said Strom, who added that clearance rates of crimes are up since the ID went into effect.

Program gets city students excited about math

By Amanda Howe
Special to the Register

More than 160 middle school students, along with the rare fourth- and fifth-grader from 15 New Haven public schools gathered at Yale University Friday to compete in something that they have grown passionate about: math.
Yale senior Brian Edwards put the Mathcounts Outreach program here together last year; it gets students in the New Haven public middle schools more involved in math.
“What Brian has done is set up an organization that will continue once he graduates,” said Lou DiGioia, executive director of Mathcounts.
Edwards said he got the idea to begin the program from his own experience of being a “Mathlete” in his middle school in New York City and through mentoring students in New Haven.
“When I was a sophomore in college I was at an after-school program and we were doing this exercise where you would say what your favorite subject is. Mine was math. I then asked the kids if they were familiar with Mathcounts and they were not,” Edwards said.
DiGioia said the first three different tests students took Friday were written.
“The first, called the Sprint Round, involved word problems which students couldn’t use calculators to solve. The second, called the Target Round, allowed students to use calculators, and the third, called the Team Round, allowed students to work in teams to solve problems together,” DiGioia said.
Following the three tests, the student from each school with the highest score went into the “Countdown Round.” DiGioia said the round is like a ladder. The 15th-ranked student would go up against the 14th-ranked student and whoever won that round, which was best of three, would go up against the next student in ranking.
Mathcounts, in its second year, had two former middle school students attend Friday.
Addie Mitchell, now a ninth-grader, noted the competition held at Yale’s Becton Center Davies Auditorium, was a lot bigger than last year.
Renqinq Wu, also a ninth-grader, said she was excited to watch schools battle it out and was impressed by the increase in the number of schools and students this year. Both attended Hooker Middle School and won last year’s Mathcounts Outreach contest with their team. Ciara Moran, an eighth-grader at Truman School and a competitor in the Countdown Round, said she joined because she was told she had the potential to do well at math. She described the tests taken so far as “easy.” Bill Piel, a math teacher at Sheridan Academy for Excellence, described the math that he teaches his students involved in the program as “harder than what they would be doing in class”.
“It’s exciting for me to see all of these kids excited about math,” Piel said. “What Brian is doing is great. He’s getting all of the (city public schools) to participate.”
Piel recalled there was a time in the 1980s when the Mathcounts program was in New Haven schools, but said it wasn’t as big as it is now.
Nationwide, Mathcounts has been operating for 25 years. Although Mathcounts Outreach is only in its second year of operation here, DiGioia is certain it will grow.
Amanda Howe is a Register Intern.

City’s housing director leaving after 3 years of progress

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— Housing Authority Executive Director Jimmy Miller will leave his post at the close of 2008, after three demanding years steering the troubled agency out of scandal and mismanagement.
“I thought it would take a lot of work. … I didn’t realize the shape the authority was in,” Miller said.
Miller had intended to stay in the position for only three years when he took the job in November 2005, he said.
The Alabama native joined the authority as it was still reeling from the ouster of former director Cynthia Newton and her deputy, Ed Schwartz, who allegedly downloaded confidential government files in order to cheat on federal housing inspections.
Reviews from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at that time were dismal. Numerous aging properties failed inspections and the agency received low marks for fiscal management. The Housing Authority was placed on HUD’s “troubled” list for poorly managing its Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.
“Projects were dormant for years,” Miller said. “We took some programs from scrap.”
“More things are being done in a more efficient way. It’s never going to be exactly what everybody wants, but I think he’s done a great job,” said Louise Persall, tenant member of the Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners.
Yul Watley, president of the Tenant Representative Council at Westville Manor, said Miller “has done a tremendous job.”
“He’s always on call. Any issues I have, he’s right on them, any issues with windows or walls or roofs. Anything I say I need to better the quality of life for residents, he was there to give,” Watley said, praising in particular installation of security cameras. “He gave me his cell phone number. … I never had any other (director’s) cell phone number, and I’ve lived in public housing all my life.”
Most recent HUD assessments show improvements at the authority. The authority’s Section 8 program was recently removed from the “troubled” list, and a March review from HUD commended improvements over the past year, while noting concern over Miller’s departure.
“The agency as a whole is moving in a positive direction, with the realistic recognition that there is still more work to be done,” the report says. “Many of the positive changes that have occurred at HANH over the past year appear to be directly the result of Mr. Miller’s vision, guidance and dedication to improving the agency. With his imminent departure in December, the selection of the next executive director will be extremely important given the agency’s history.”“I’m a work horse, not a show horse,” Miller said. “I’m a task master. I am demanding. I have high expectations for this agency. ...We’re trying to provide housing for people who can’t have housing without our input; that’s a serious endeavor.”
It’s a drive that stems in part from a personal understanding of what it means to live in substandard housing.
Miller grew up in an Alabama home with no dry walls, indoor plumbing or running water until he was 14. “When it rained, we’d get snakes in our kitchen because they’d seek dry ground,” he said.
“Those things are seared into my memory. I can see them and feel them right now today. You never forget that. Not having adequate food, clothing. Being ridiculed by other children for not having those things,” he said.
Throughout his childhood, his parents stressed, “If you want to escape this life, do one thing. Get an education,” Miller said. He was first in his extended family to read or write. “I know you can break the cycle of poverty and get out of it,” he said.
After 2 1/2 years working late hours six days a weekMiller said he looks forward to spending time with his family, who live in New York. “I thought I would get home a few days now and then. I never get home.”

Inmate files suit against city’s narcotics squad

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— A state inmate jailed for violating special parole has filed a 31-page, hand-written lawsuit claiming members of the New Haven narcotics squad planted drugs on him during an arrest.
Jewu Richardson, who also uses the name Corey Johnson, is representing himself and is seeking $1.5 million in damages.
The 29-year-old has named as defendants seven current and former police officers, including former Lt. William White and former Detective Justen Kasperzyk, who are awaiting sentencing on federal corruption charges. Richardson filed the suit in March.
The lawsuit focuses on two encounters with police. In one, he claims that Kasperzyk, during a January 2006 encounter in Newhallville, planted a bundle of drugs in his coat and, after Richardson protested that they weren’t his and were planted, Richardson claims the detective told them “that they are going to be my drugs” unless Richardson provided police with information that would lead to the arrest of a drug dealer, shooting or other major crime.
Some of the accusations leveled by Richardson, even if they were true, would be beyond the three-year statute of limitations. He claims, for instance, in another encounter, that in 2000 Kasperzyk and another detective, Karen Bell, arrested him for selling drugs to an undercover police officer and then he was allegedly punched and kicked by the two detectives after he refused to “snitch” on other people in crimes.
Other accusations, as he attempts to paint a picture of a pattern of harassment by Kasperzyk and Bell, do not necessarily violate any federal statute.
“As you know, it’s a pro se plaintiff and he’s made a lot of allegations,” said city Corporation Counsel John Ward. A pro se plaintiff is one whom represents them self in court and does not have an attorney.
“The first thing that we have to do is make some investigation into it,” Ward said of Richardson’s claims, adding, “There is nothing to suggest that any of this is true as far as we’re concerned.”
The defense for Kasperzyk and White will have to be farmed out to a private firm because of the “obvious conflict,” he said.
The conflict arises because both were arrested by the FBI, fired from the department and are receiving pensions. While both are awaiting sentencing, White’s sentencing is scheduled for today.
Bell, after being promoted to sergeant, retired from the department on a disability last year.
Neither Bell nor Kasperzyk could be reached for comment. Richardson is incarcerated and does not have an attorney.
Richardson’s father, identified in court documents as Neil Richardson, is a state judicial marshal who the son claims saw him in the lock-up after the alleged 2000 beating and insisted on being present when detectives conducted a strip search to look for contraband. Reached at work, the elder Richardson declined to speak over the phone and said he wasn’t available to speak in person.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Firefighters’ group does its part to extinguish hunger

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— In tough financial times, unexpected pennies from heaven, or in this case, unexpected dollars from the Fire Department, can help feed the hungry at local soup kitchens.
Four city soup kitchens and a homeless shelter got some unsolicited assistance this week from an organization that is relatively obscure outside the fire service.
Not many people in the general public may have heard of the New Haven Firemen’s Benevolent Association, a fraternal organization of city fire officers founded more than 150 years ago to financially support firefighters’ widows and injured firefighters and their families, and to promote goodwill and a positive public image of the profession.
The soup kitchens and a historic downtown church got recent calls from the fire marshal’s office, but it wasn’t for fire code violations.
The benevolent association donated $200 each this week to the Community Soup Kitchen, 84 Broadway; Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, 311 Temple St.; Beulah Heights Soup Kitchen, 782 Orchard St.; Immanuel Baptist Soup Kitchen, 1324 Chapel St., and St. Mary’s Church, 5 Hillhouse Ave., on behalf of the Columbus House shelter.
“We know that times are tough. There are a lot of people going hungry these days and we want to do whatever we can to help you,” said Assistant Fire Chief Ron Dumas during an informal gathering at fire headquarters.
The benevolent association has been around since 1849 and is comprised of about 80 fire department officers. It meets once a year, in December, to select to whom to give money. The nonprofit organization funds its charity through donations and investments.
“This is more than just a check,” said Bethany Watkins, the director of the Immanuel soup kitchen, which serves about 100 meals every Sunday. Immanuel Baptist just lost its patriarch, the Rev. Curtis Cofield.
“This is just perfect timing to keep his memory alive. Reverend Cofield has done a lot for this city.”
The Community Soup Kitchen is the oldest soup kitchen in New Haven, serving breakfast and lunch five days a week since 1977 and nearly 60,000 last year.
“This came completely out of the blue. We got a phone call the other day saying, ‘We want to help you,’” said coordinator David O’Sullivan.
“Soup kitchen is a misnomer because we serve a full-course meal,” said President Lucille Alderman, clarifying the record.
Ironically, O’Sullivan added, “We never serve soup.”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It's S'more fun under the sun

The solar way:

Using only the power of the sun, Barnard School fourth grader Nigel Johnson this week helped to make s'mores - for the non Scouts out there that means melted marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers - during the school's celebration of Earth Day.

Furry, feathered and finned are friends in this classroom

Celebrated teacher talks with the animals

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — From three buckets of just-hatched salamanders and a giant African millipede, to hamsters Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, it’s likely Marjorie Drucker’s classroom at Barnard Environmental Magnet School houses more fish and furry creatures than students.
It’s a balance that seems to work.
“I like school better than my house,” said Barnard school third-grader Rockeim Dukes, who stayed behind in Drucker’s room organizing a stash of markers as his classmates poured into the adjacent school courtyard to honor Drucker, the school’s science magnet coordinator.
The Connecticut Science Teachers Association named Drucker the 2007-08 Middle School Teacher of the Year, and Barnard school celebrated Wednesday, singing songs about the earth, and planting an azalea in Drucker’s honor.
“You’re filling these young folks’ lives with interesting, exciting education. You are a role model,” Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo said.
Barnard students visit Drucker’s classroom at least once a week to chart progress on several classroom projects and feed their favorite creatures.
This Friday, Barnard students will release inch-long salmon alevin (some just emerging from their yolk sacs) into waters at Devils Hopyard State Park in East Haddam.
“Certain kids love certain animals,” Drucker said. “Some love the koi fish, some love the hamsters.”
On Wednesday morning, Drucker was paying particular attention to “Franklin” the turtle, feeding him carrots, peas, tuna and banana.
Franklin headed straight for the banana, then plunged his face and foot into his food.
“He loves banana,” Drucker said.
Drucker will be honored April 30 at the CSTA award dinner at the New Haven Lawn Club.

Developers line up for Coliseum site project

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— The city has an array of Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts investment groups and architects to choose from as it begins the process of identifying a preferred developer for its most important tract of open land — the Veterans Memorial Coliseum site.
In answer to a request for qualifications, the city received six responses, with three of them a partnership of local architects and engineers who propose to work in tandem with out-of-state investors.
As it did with the entrepreneurs who were in the mix to develop the former Shartenberg site at Chapel and State streets, the Economic Development office will work with a small group of officials and interested parties to vet the applicants.
Generally, the city would like to see a dense development of housing, commercial and retail development on the 4.5-acre Coliseum site, which is bounded by South Orange Street, North Frontage Road, State Street and George Street.
Also part of the development is the Long Wharf Theatre, which plans to relocate from its original site at the food terminal on Sargent Drive. The theater has laid out some basic size requirements and its parking needs, while a fund-raising study found it is capable of bringing in the $35 million needed for the project.
The demolition of the Coliseum was completed in August 2007. The site is now a surface parking lot that will serve commuters and construction workers until other garages are built.
The teams the city is considering are:
‰Archstone (New York City), CA White, Charter Realty, Pelli Clarke Pell Architects, Diversified Technology Consultants
‰Related Companies LLP (New York City) and Robert Orr & Associates LLC (New Haven)
‰The Richman Group Development Corp. (Greenwich), McCormack Baron Salazar, Fusco, and Herbert S. Newman and Partners.
The single entities include: Heyman Properties LLC (Westport); Northland Investment Corp. (Newton, Mass.); and Avalon Bay Communities Inc. (Shelton).
Many of the names are well-known locally, including New Haven firms: CA White, Pelli Clarke Pell Architects, Fusco, Robert Orr & Associates and Herbert S. Newman and Partners, while Diversified Technology Consultants is located in North Haven.
All of them have been involved in Greater New Haven residential and institutional construction.
Joan Channick, managing director of Long Wharf Theatre, said they soon will put out a request for proposals for an architect so a designer for the new theater will be in place by the time the city chooses a developer.
Kelly Murphy, city economic development director, was pleased with the submissions.
“I’m very happy with the number of responses and the quality of the teams,” Murphy said, particularly in uncertain economic times. “I think it says a lot about New Haven.”
Murphy said it took about a year from the time Becker and Becker submitted its plans for the $160 million, 450-apartment building at the Shartenberg site to get through the approval process.
A construction fence now wraps around the site, and the developer is starting utility work and improvements to a delivery tunnel on the land.
Murphy said approvals for the Coliseum site are likely to take longer, since it is larger and more complicated with the inclusion of Long Wharf Theatre.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Calling all City Point and Hill Alums!

Back in the day: In this 1952 photo, l to r, Paulie Owens, Skippy Launder, Nicky DeMatties, Jacky Rafferty, Jimmy Casey and Ronnie Treanor are shown in their St. Peters graduation picture.

The City Point/Hill Group Reunion will be held at 6 p.m. on May 22 at Anthony’s Ocean View, 450 Lighthouse Road, Dinner is at 7 p.m.
This will be the group’s third annual evening meeting and more than 400 people are expected to attend. Most attendees grew up in the City Point/Hill section of the city in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s. The cost for the event is $45.00 per person. For reservations, send a check payable to Hill Reunion to Nick DeMatties,140 Captain Thomas Blvd., #409, West Haven, 06516. No tickets will be sold at the door. For more information call DeMatties at (203) 932-1528 or email him at dematties@comcast.net.
In October 2007 the reunion group made donations to St. Martins, New Haven Boys & Girls Club and Ronald McDonald House. Its Web site is http://www.newhavenhillcitypoint.com.

Feds: White just a crooked cop

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — Detective William “Billy” White was not a gang-busting supercop whose inexplicable lapse of judgment at the end of his storied career should be weighed against a lifetime of good.
Rather, a federal prosecutor argued, he’s a crooked officer who betrayed the public trust and tarnished his badge out of nothing more than personal greed.
Days after White’s attorney filed a glowing 440-page sentencing memorandum and exhibits seeking to convince the judge to give a lenient sentence to the former detective, who was a 39-year veteran at the time of his 2007 arrest, the prosecution offered its counterpoint and a far less charitable depiction of White.
“He had the power to enforce the laws but his actions reflect a belief that the laws did not apply to him. He violated the public trust, and the damage in many ways is simply not quantifiable because the public perception becomes not simply that White committed crimes but that police officers cannot be trusted,” said Nora R. Dannehy, acting U.S. attorney in Connecticut. Dannehy prosecuted the FBI’s probe into corruption in the New Haven Police Department’s now-disbanded narcotics squad.
White, 64, is to be sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in New Haven, and Dannehy argued in court documents that he should be sentenced to 37 to 46 months in prison, the sentence for which guidelines call. White’s attorney, Hubert Santos, will argue for less.
In her 38-page memo, Dannehy directly rebuts some of Santos’ arguments, which are supported by more than 100 letters of support from family, friends and retired colleagues who say White’s well-documented work during his long career should be taken into account during sentencing.
Simply doing the job a police officer is paid to do shouldn’t be rewarded with a lighter sentence, she said.
She also dismissed Santos’ suggestion that untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from the murder of White’s son Tyler in 1994 might have contributed to White’s bad judgment and criminal actions.
White was charged with taking bribes for years from bail bondsmen to track fugitives who jumped bond, and for stealing money planted by the FBI in a sting operation started in July 2006 after a state police sergeant working with city narcotics officers reported potential corruption and began cooperating with a secret investigation.
In his sentencing memo, Santos cited two mental health professionals who said White’s lapses in judgment were consistent with PTSD, as was White’s intense interest in the undercover officer’s (fictitious) sob story of deep financial problems brought on by two troubled daughters.
The prosecution said evidence and secretly recorded statements show, however, this was not some short-lived scheme driven by White’s belief the undercover officer needed money.
In fact, White openly bragged to the undercover officer that he made $50,000 to $60,000 from the bondsmen over the last five or six years finding fugitives, and in the 1980s boasted that he took kickbacks from bondsmen for tipping them off about prisoners who needed bonds, prosecutors contend.
Those statements, Dannehy said, makes White’s assertions in his plea bargain that his corrupt arrangement with the bail bondsmen began only in 2006, “ring hollow.”
Two other police officers, former detectives Justen Kasperzyk and Jose Silva, pleaded guilty in the probe and Silva already is serving his sentence.
Bondsmen Robert Jacobs and his sons Paul and Phil also pleaded guilty, although Paul Jacobs is trying to withdraw his plea.
Santos did not return a call seeking comment.
Evan as Santos included hundreds of praising letters from supporters, including current New Haven police officers, White’s son, Detective William White Jr., and union president Sgt. Louis Cavaliere, and accolades from White’s personnel file, prosecutors included in its memo excerpts from hundreds of wiretaps and recorded conversations to show a consciousness of guilt and disregard for law and people’s rights.When the FBI barged into police headquarters last March and arrested White and Kasperzyk, details of the schemes made national headlines and prompted the city to hire a national consultant to help determine what went wrong -- and what was wrong -- at the police department. While some people downplay the seriousness of the bail bond scheme since capturing wanted fugitives was for the public good, the prosecution Monday said that misses the point.
Dannehy gave this analysis: Bondmen make money writing bonds and, in assessing risks of posting an individual bond, the Jacobs knew they had a police officer “in their pocket” if the defendant jumped bail.
The bottom line, she stated, was that “a wealthy person was able to buy a cop” and that White “put his own greed above the law.”
The evidence, Dannehy contended, doesn’t depict a good cop who made a bad choice.
While White was not charged with civil rights violations, he apparently suspected that Kasperzyk had planted drugs and framed a defendant during a November 2006 drug raid in the Hill neighborhood and tacitly approved.
When asked by the undercover officer if the drugs in question were really found in the closet where Kasperzyk claimed, Dannehy said White replied, “I guess it came out of there now,” and laughed.
“The evidence reflects that White was a corrupt police officer who accepted bribes in return for the exercise of his police power and during the course of the investigation showed little respect for the rights of individuals or the court system.”When the FBI planed $27,500 in a rented car in the Long Wharf area, Dannehy noted, White pulled the hood from a sweatshirt over his head, tied a bandana around his face and donned gloves to steal it. Initially, he took only part of the money fearing the informant who the undercover sergeant told him had tipped him off would get killed if all the money went missing. They later returned and took the rest and White wrote “estupido” on the money bag to throw off drug dealers. He didn’t know the drug dealers were fictitious and the FBI taped the incident.
When he talked with the undercover sergeant about where to hide the stolen cash, White made a telling statement that undercuts any PTSD argument, Dannehy said.
“I am too old to be arrested,” White said.

State’s high court hears appeal on right to ‘adequate’ education

Yale students fight for students' rights
By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— Yale law students argued before the state Supreme Court Tuesday in a far- reaching case that seeks to secure Connecticut students’ right to a suitable education.
The state argued students may have a right to an “equal” education, but denied the plaintiffs’ claims to an adequate education, an argument that met stiff questioning from the court.
“As long as it’s equally bad, it’s OK?” Justice Joette Katz asked.
Assistant Attorney General Gregory D’Auria, representing numerous state defendants, including Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the state Board of Education, countered, “If it’s equally bad, the Democratic process will correct that.”
“It’s not that it doesn’t matter,” he said. Rather, educational quality should be determined by the legislature, not courts.
On Nov. 22, 2005, 15 families and the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding filed suit in Superior Court seeking to secure a right to an adequate education, “more than mere minimal skills,” the suit claims.
“If a right to education doesn’t include a right to be prepared for work or a right to go on to higher education, it is hard to imagine what a right to education might mean,” said Yale law student David Noah.
“Connecticut’s educational system must prepare children who will, as adults, function as responsible citizens, compete in obtaining productive employment and advance through higher education,” the claim says.
However, money currently provided to local districts by the state is “arbitrary and not related to the actual costs of providing a suitable education,” the suit claims. “By failing to maintain an educational system that provides children with suitable and substantially equal opportunities, the state is violating plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”
Plaintiffs hail from the state’s urban and poorer regions, including Bridgeport, Hartford, East Hartford, New Britain, Plainfield, New Haven and Windham, where access to modern and adequate libraries, textbooks, special needs services, highly qualified teachers, remedial assistance, appropriate class sizes and extracurricular activities is limited, the suit claims.
In September 2007, a Superior Court judge ruled against the plaintiffs on three of four counts in the case, finding there was no constitutional right to “suitable educational opportunities.” The third count, pertaining to rights to equal education opportunities, is pending.
The plaintiffs won an expedited appeal before the Supreme Court, which will determine whether struck counts may proceed.
Don’t rush to judgment before the plaintiffs get to present evidence,” Weare argued.
Yale law students, high school students and CCJEF members packed the courtroom beyond capacity Tuesday, forcing court marshals to order those unable to find seats to leave.Also in attendance was 95-year-old retired Judge Simon Bernstein, drafter of the state’s constitutional education clause. Bernstein has filed a brief in support of the plaintiffs’ case, claiming legislation he proposed was intended to ensure all students receive a good education “that prepares them to participate in the civic life of their community.”
“When I proposed the legislation, I didn’t think in terms of adequacy. I spoke only of good education. I wasn’t concerned with a minimum…I’m no expert in education, but it’s obvious the results aren’t adequate,” he said.
CCJEF Tuesday issued five questions to Rell, asking her to “publicly commit today to the principal that every Connecticut child has the right to an adequate education.”
Rell spokesman Adam Liegeot said Rell had not read the letter and had no comment.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

Rell taps rail expert to become DOT chief

By Ed Stannard
Register Metro Editor

Connecticut’s transportation system would go in a new direction under the transportation commissioner nominated Tuesday by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Joseph F. Marie of Scottsdale, Ariz., is director of operations and maintenance for the regional public transit system for the METRO light-rail system in Phoenix. He has 22 years of mass-transit experience, primarily in rail systems, according to a statement issued by Rell’s office.
“Joseph Marie is a seasoned, proven administrator with a strong background in public transit, which really is the future of transportation in Connecticut,” Rell said. “Reforming and refocusing the DOT continues to be one of my top priorities.
“We all understand what is at stake and what is required. We know that a modern, integrated transportation system of roads, rails and airports is fundamental to a strong economy,” Rell said.
Rell added that Marie “has the vision, organizational skills and experience” for the job.
Marie’s most recent project was directing the startup of a $1.4 billion, 20-mile light-rail system through Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe, which is scheduled to open later this year.
Marie has held senior transit positions in Minneapolis, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and has worked in private industry.
He would succeed H. James Boice, who has served as interim chief of the DOT since Ralph J. Carpenter retired in December.
“I am eager to work with the talented, dedicated employees of the Connecticut DOT,” Marie said in the release.
Marie could not be reached for comment.
“I have a deep appreciation of the challenges they face,” Marie said. “I know how important it is to succeed — and I know by working together and by listening and leading that we can accomplish our important mission of transforming the delivery of transportation services in Connecticut.”
Marie will move to a state with major needs in both mass transit and highway infrastructure, including recent revelations that a planned rail-maintenance facility in New Haven will cost triple its original budget.
The state is dealing with major highway issues, including a lack of bids to build a new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge and construction flaws in an Interstate 84 widening project.
State Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, co-chairman of the General Assembly Transportation Committee, said he expected Marie’s lack of highway experience would surface during nomination hearings.
“I think that with the proper surroundings that will be around him … I think that Connecticut will do fine,” Guerrera said. He added, “We need somebody with some rail experience to move Connecticut to that next leap.”
Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot, who is chairman of the METRO board, called Marie “the best of the best.” Simplot said Marie is highly competent as well as a great manager.
“He is one of those rare people who truly can cover all aspects of the job,” Simplot said. Simplot said he was not concerned about Marie’s lack of highway experience. “Given the breadth of his experience, he’ll get the job done,” he said.
Marie has worked for rail equipment manufacturers Bombardier and Siemens. A Massachusetts native, he earned a master’s degree at Pennsylvania State University.
“Joe not only understands the vital importance of building a comprehensive and integrated system of transportation infrastructure and services, he has spent his career implementing and managing those systems,” Rell said.
Ed Stannard can be reached at estannard@nhregister.com or 789-5743.

Animal rights activists raise awareness

Group claims use of animals in experiments is unethical

By Eliza Hallabeck
Special to the Register
The “blood” on the “mouse” in the cage outside 300 George St. on Tuesday was actually red face paint, and her ears and nose were part of the costume worn in protest against animal testing.
Chelsea Rhodes, a member of the Yale Affiliated Animal Rights Network and the senior administrative assistant for the Sociology Department at Yale University, said the protest was planned for World Week for Animals in Laboratories, which began April 20.
“I figure an hour of sitting on concrete isn’t nearly what the animals have to go through,” Rhodes said from inside a rectangular wire cage.
In addition to her mouse ears and nose, Rhodes wore a fake prison uniform to signify YAARN’s feelings toward animals being used in laboratory experiments.
For one hour, three members of YAARN stood, or sat, on the corner of George and College streets as they passed out pamphlets and discussed animal testing with passersby.
Joseph Klett, a graduate student at Yale University’s Sociology Department, said the group’s aim was to raise awareness of the cruelties of animal testing.
He said the group wanted people to know that, “animals are being tested right next to their own homes, in their own neighborhoods.”
Klett said he launched YAARN in September when he started at Yale University. Rhodes said until then there were many groups, but there was no specific animal rights group with which people could connect.
Animal testing is being “perpetrated on people’s behalf and with their tax dollars,” said Justin Goodman, a research associate for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Goodman alleged that Yale University practices animal testing in its laboratories.
Tom Conroy, a spokesman for Yale University, said in a prepared statement, “The use of animals in research at Yale is regulated federally by the National Institutes of Health and the United States Department of Agriculture.”
Published research from Yale shows mice and rats are used in laboratory experiments. In one case, the research published online said mice had holes cut into their heads so drugs could be administered directly to their brains.
The online publication was released in April 2007 by the Yale University School of Medicine. It was titled, “Cytisine, a partial agonist of high affinity nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, has antidepressant-like properties in male C57BL/6J mice.”
But Conroy, speaking on behalf of Yale, said that nearly all medical advances of the last century would have been impossible without animal research.
One of the New Haven residents who passed by the demonstrators on Tuesday shared the same opinion.
“Even in the bad there is good,” said Joel Vetsch, 28, “and we don’t always get to agree with it.”
“There’s this slippage in ethics, where we think, just because they aren’t human, they don’t matter,” Klett responded.
Eliza Hallabeck is a New Haven Register inter

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Beach on Pope

Pope Benedict XVI’s U.S. visit stirs memories of 1979 road trip
All of this hubbub over the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to America takes me back to a memorable Monday in October 1979 when I was blessed by another pope.
It now seems odd that I would choose to take the train to Boston on a day off to see Pope John Paul II. I am not a Catholic; I am an agnostic.
Nor was I assigned by the New Haven Register or any other publication to report on the event.
I think it came down to this: It was a happening, and I love Boston so much that I would use any excuse to go there. I also like riding in trains.
I wish I could dredge more details about that day. I do vividly remember the rain; everybody on Boston Common was drenched. The souvenir button I bought of the pope’s smiling face still has its original water stains.
According to the Boston Globe, more than 400,000 people jammed the Common for the city’s first and only papal visit. All of us standing there in the pouring rain were part of a gigantic communal Mass.
The area was chock-full of vendors. In addition to the papal button, I purchased a T-shirt that said: “I was blessed by the pope in Boston.”
I capped off the day by taking in a show by the punk band the Plasmatics. They were notorious for the ranting antics of their lead singer, Wendy O. Williams, and for stunts such as chain-sawing guitars, sledgehammering TV sets and blowing up cars, all on stage.
I can’t say I remember much about that show either, which was at the Oxford Ale House on Whitney Avenue. I think its space is now occupied by Gourmet Heaven.
Regardless of my memory lapses, I think I’m on solid ground stating I am the only person to see the pope and the Plasmatics on the same day.
‰ ‰ ‰
My column last week about another field trip or pilgrimage, to Dealey Plaza in Dallas, elicited several phone calls from conspiracy buffs. They insisted I am dead wrong in changing my long-held view and thinking Lee Harvey Oswald might have been the lone gunman in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
In addition, Frank DePino of Hamden e-mailed me to say he believes it’s more than coincidence that dozens of witnesses to the event were “bought off and killed.” (Gerald Posner in his book “Case Closed” did address these “mysterious” deaths and laid them to rest, less mysteriously.)
Jeff Gordon of Orange, a site planner, said the fact that the motorcade was re-routed to go closer to the Texas School Book Depository, where Oswald had his perch, makes him think there might have been a conspiracy.
I told Gordon I need far more than that to believe in a conspiracy.
John Seiffer of Milford wrote to recall his time living in Dallas and a group tour he took with a professor who had been a reporter on the scene Nov. 22, 1963.
As he led the group to sites such as the jail ramp where Jack Ruby shot Oswald, the professor said that through the years, many conspiracy buffs had shown him their “evidence.” But he continued to believe Oswald acted alone.
‰ ‰ ‰
Our besieged planet received a wonderful pre-Earth Day present last week from the New York Department of State when it rejected the proposed Broadwater floating liquefied natural gas plant on Long Island Sound.
Let’s hope the Broadwater executives give up the idea and don’t file an appeal. The people of Connecticut and New York don’t want this thing.
According to a Yahoo! survey, more than half of Americans have no idea that April 22 is Earth Day. Also, 44 percent don’t plan to do anything to acknowledge the day.
But Ikea, which has an outlet in New Haven, noted in a press release that 92 percent of its customers have stopped using plastic bags — because Ikea now charges 5 cents per bag. (Ikea will eliminate all plastic bags starting in October.) Clearly, this is the way to get Americans to curb their plastics addiction: Make ’em pay for it. Other stores should do the same.

Another follow-up: New Haven’s Daniel Smith, who has made many trips to Iraq to photograph the war’s impact on its people, reports he has been offered a media job in Baghdad and will move there soon.
More details to follow.
Randall Beach can be reached at rbeach@nhregister.com or 789-5766.

SCSU mourns, celebrates life of graduate

Cristina Cortese and her courage were an inspiration to many

By Eliza Hallabeck
Special to the Register

Before there were lime green wristbands and before Courage for Cristina became a slogan known across the Southern Connecticut State University campus, Cristina Cortese was a beloved daughter and friend to many.
On Monday, about 150 family members, friends and members of the SCSU community gathered at the rugby field to celebrate Cortese’s life. Cortese died April 13 from thymic carcinoma, the rarest and deadliest form of thymus cancer. She was 22.
Cortese graduated from SCSU last year, months after she learned she had a terminal disease. On Jan. 7, 2007, doctors told Cortese, of Tolland, that she had had the cancer for a year; until then Cortese thought she had bronchitis.
But “cancer wasn’t all that Cristina was,” Cortese’s mother, Lisa, reminded the crowd that gathered Monday.
By the time Lisa Cortese spoke, “Amazing Grace” had been sung and friends had already spoken about her daughter.
“You have been one of my life’s greatest treasures,” Lisa Cortese said, speaking the words to her daughter.
Last May, when Cristina was about to graduate, the SCSU community came together to create Courage for Cristina. The fundraiser was put together by her friends to raise money for expensive treatments.
Lime green wristbands and shirts that said “Courage for Cristina” started showing up around campus. The event brought eight performances, ranging from musicians to comedians, to the stage of the SCSU Lyman Center for the Performing Arts.
“Even though we knew it was coming,” Lisa Cortese said, “I can’t believe it just happened.”
During her college career at SCSU, Cortese played on the rugby team.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to surround her,” Lisa Cortese said.
The team attended her funeral and the gathering Monday.
Kate Marsland, an assistant professor of psychology at SCSU who was close to Cortese, said, “In addition to her electric smile, what I remember about Cristina was her approach to life,” her clear goals and vigorous determination.
“Along the way I have learned far more from Cristina Cortese than I ever taught her,” Marsland said.
Lisa Cortese said over the past year there have been at least 10 to 12 people at her house every day, and hundreds have stopped by to support the family.
“Our Southern family came to our home,” Lisa Cortese said. “We will never forget the love you have shared with our family.”
The family gave lime green flowers for the female members of the rugby team, and distributed cards of gratitude from the Cortese family.Cortese’s aunt, Debra Maccoy, who couldn’t attend Monday’s gathering, said by phone Monday that she was an “unbelievably wonderful child.”
Maccoy is donating a copy of “The Giving Tree” to the New Haven Public Library in Cortese’s memory. The Student Government Association at SCSU also will present a scholarship in Cortese’s name for the first time next month. The Relay for Life, which will take place May 3 at the Jess Dow Field at SCSU, has been dedicated to Cortese’s memory this year.
The last days for Cortese were tough. Lisa Cortese said her daughter spent the nights crying from the pain. For 21 days, she went without food and water at home because she didn’t want feeding tubes, and finally, her mother said, she let the family say goodbye.
“She knew if she could bear the pain long enough for us, then we would know it was her time to go,” Lisa Cortese said.
Cortese told her mother last month, Lisa Cortese said, that she couldn’t die.
“I know,” Lisa Cortese responded.
Cortese then told her mother that she was the rock that held the family together.
“I know,” her mother responded again.
Eliza Hallabeck is a Register intern.

Festival ‘a world tour’ in back yard

By Donna Doherty
Register Arts Editor
— The themes of art and spirituality, art and technology and the aesthetic of the future and events exploring them were revealed Monday like so many Russian nesting matrioshka dolls, for the 13th annual International Festival of Arts & Ideas, which runs June 14-28.
Calling the festival “a world tour in your back yard,” Executive Director Mary Lou Aleskie, shown above, outlined the ambitious festival program that launches on the Green with the culmination of The Big Read event, which this year is examining author Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”
“This year, all the work will be influenced by two cornerstone projects,” said Aleskie, “The Big Read, which kicks off May 1 at the Shubert Theater with scholar Mark Schenker, and from that you’ll see themes about liberties and the future that permeate the festival. And Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s ‘613 Radical Acts of Prayer,’ a community project which looks at prayer and social action.”
The latter event will run throughout the festival and bring together hundreds of “citizen-dancers” for the festival’s grand finale.
Bookending the festival start and finish are American premieres of two acclaimed theater events from Ireland and Great Britain, two of four major theater events added in response to media and public feedback from last year.
Aleskie said because of the city’s rich cultural offerings, the festival needs to stretch itself. “It’s very hard for us to add value unless, in fact, it’s extraordinary, and that’s what we try to do,” she said, noting two Pulitzer Prize winners, a Nobel laureate and a former U.S. Poet Laureate among participants.
The festival renewed its relationship with Long Wharf Theatre, which is co-producing and providing the venue for three of the theater events — most notably, the American premieres of Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company’s production of “The Burial at Thebes,” the new translation of Sophocles’ “Antigone” by Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, on the opening weekend, and Sebastian Barry’s “The Pride of Parnell Street,” from Dublin’s Fishamble Theatre, running the second week through the closing weekend. Eastern European playwrights will be featured in the Long Wharf co-produced “Global Scenes” international play reading series. The playwrights, as with many of the major events, will also be featured in corresponding ideas forums.
Among notable figures, who this year will examine topics from the presidential election to Muslim identity, is boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in a panel discussion about habeas corpus, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Art Spiegelman and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon.
Other dance highlights include Australian dance company Chunky Move’s “Glow,” in which every performance is unique, and Apparatus Theatre Group’s “Doors,” which Aleskie called “surreal and whimsical.”
Musical heavyweights include Rosanne Cash, “cello goddess” Maya Beiser and jazz musician Ben Allison. Opera lovers will have their choice of the traditional, with mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, or the funky, with the East Village Opera Company’s rock versions of classic arias that Aleskie called “Puccini meets Freddy Mercury.”
Also, free daily events on the Green, the Courtyard Concerts and the restaurant and walking tours are back.
Donna Doherty may be reached at (203) 789-5672 or ddoherty@nhregister.com.

High court to hear arguments on legality of school funding

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— Yale law students will argue before the state Supreme Court today TUESDAYagainst what they claim to be a state educational funding system that unconstitutionally denies students in poorer municipalities “suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities.”
On Nov. 22, 2005, 15 Connecticut families and the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding filed suit against numerous state parties, including Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the state Board of Education, asking the court to declare the current education funding system unconstitutional.
“The level of resources provided by the state’s education funding scheme is arbitrary and not related to the actual costs of providing a suitable education. By failing to maintain an educational system that provides children with suitable and substantially equal opportunities, the state is violating plaintiffs’ constitutional rights,” the suit charges.
State officials however deny the state underfunds local schools.
“The issue is the state’s ability to provide more than it already does,” said state Department of Education spokesman Tom Murphy. “The state is a partner in financing public education. The issue is affordability, and that’s where the tension continues to be.”
Rell spokesman Rich Harris contends Rell, “has done more to equalize and improve state funding and the fairness of state funding for education than anyone since the (Educational Cost Sharing) formula has been created. Not only did the money go up, but the accountability standards went up.”
Plaintiffs hail from the state’s urban and poorer regions including New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford, East Hartford, New Britain, Plainfield, and Windham, where access to modern and adequate libraries, textbooks, special needs services, highly qualified teachers, appropriate class sizes and extracurricular activities is limited, the suit claims.
In New Britain’s Lincoln Elementary School in 2003-04, for instance, 50 percent of kindergarten students attended preschool, compared to the state average of 63 percent. Only 68 percent of the school’s teachers hold master’s degrees, compared to the state’s average of 80 percent.
In Danbury’s South Street Elementary School, 60 percent of students attended preschool. While kindergarten through sixth grade schools statewide provide an average of 985 hours of instruction, in 2003 South Street provided only 966, the suit charges.
Inadequate and unequal educational opportunities have resulted in lower test scores and graduation rates in under funded districts. Connecticut has the widest achievement gap nationwide between its poor and more affluent students.At the core of the claim is the allegation that the state’s school funding mechanism shortchanges poorer districts and must be changed.
Connecticut public schools are primarily funded through local property taxes and through the state’s Educational Cost Sharing grants, allocated to municipalities annually.
Along with mayors and legislators throughout Connecticut, Shelton Mayor and CCJEF President Mark Lauretti is wrestling with his city budget.
“Despite spending nearly two-thirds of our local budget on the schools, our effort is quite simply not enough to meet the educational challenges we face in turning out a youth workforce that can successfully compete in the global economy,” he said.
In September 2007 a Hartford Superior Court judge ruled against the plaintiffs on three of four counts in the case, finding there was no constitutional right to “suitable educational opportunities.” The third count, pertaining to rights to equal education opportunities, is pending.
The appeal will be argued by Yale law students Neil Weare and David Noah before the state Supreme Court at 10 a.m. today. TUESDAYA decision is expected this summer.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or at ebenton@nhregister.com.

Medical community grieves for student

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— The Yale medical community came together Monday to grieve for one of its own after a graduating student died following an accident near Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Mila Rainof, 27, died less than 24 hours after she was hit by a car while trying to cross South Frontage Road near York Street at about 10 a.m. Saturday.
“We are really, really suffering. The faculty who mentored her are torn apart,” said Nancy Argoff, assistant dean for student affairs at the Yale Medical School.
Argoff said it appears Rainof’s view of the street was obstructed by a truck leaving a hospital loading dock at the intersection.
The assistant dean said after the light turned green, Rainof ran across the street and while two sport utility vehicles were able to avoid her, the driver of a third car accelerating to get into the left lane and onto the highway hit the student.
Argoff said reports she received came from hospital emergency personnel who had talked to police investigating the accident. Rainof suffered severe head injuries, Argoff said.
Police spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said they would have no comment until the accident reconstruction team has a more definitive picture of what occurred, which could take weeks.
“I think the take-home message is that this is a tragic accident. The person who hit her must feel horrible,” Argoff said.
The loading dock at York Street and South Frontage Road has been a problem for some time, as trucks making deliveries to the hospital have to back up across South Frontage, blocking and slowing traffic, while vehicles jockey to funnel onto Interstate 95. Construction of the hospital’s cancer center one block away has added to the congestion.
Part of the cancer hospital project however, is a new arrangement in which trucks will be able to drive directly to new loading docks under the Air Rights Garage.
Rainof, a native of Santa Monica, Calif., was scheduled to begin her residency in the fall at Alameda County Medical Center’s Highland General Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine in California.
Argoff said several of Rainof’s friends, including a roommate who was in Australia and another friend in Chile, were returning to New Haven after hearing of the accident. The young woman’s boyfriend is also graduating from the medical school.
The faculty and students got together Monday afternoon at the school to support each other and to be informed of counseling services available at Yale.
“It’s not what any of us are used to,” Argoff said of the death of someone at the beginning of her medical career.
Alexander Park, a third-year medical student at Yale, had this to say about his friend in a posting on Facebook: “Shed not for her the bitter tear, nor give your heart to vain regret, tis but a coffin that lies here, the gem that filled it sparkles yet.”
Rainof’s parents donated her organs as a way to recognize their daughter’s dedication to service and helping others, the dean said.
As part of a requirement for all medical students, Rainof wrote an observation about the cadaver she worked on in her training at the university.
“As I slide the scalpel along her palm, I cannot help but think about how I cannot comfort her, cannot save her, much in the same way that some doctor in some hospital failed to save her before. And in the back of my mind, the place where I shelve all quiet failures, I hope more than anything that someone loved her enough to make up for what I have done,” Rainof wrote.
Elizabeth Benton contributed to this report.

Friday, April 18, 2008

City Point and Hill neighborhood alums hold reunion next month

NEW HAVEN — The City Point/Hill Group Reunion will be held at 6 p.m. on May 22 at Anthony’s Ocean View, 450 Lighthouse Road, Dinner is at 7 p.m.
This will be the group’s third annual evening meeting and more than 400 people are expected to attend. Most attendees grew up in the City Point/Hill section of the city in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s. The cost for the event is $45.00 per person. For reservations, send a check payable to Hill Reunion to Nick DeMatties,140 Captain Thomas Blvd., # 409, West Haven, 06516. No tickets will be sold at the door. For more information call DeMatties at (203) 932-1528 or email him at dematties@comcast.net.
In October 2007 the reunion group made donations to St. Martins, New Haven Boys & Girls Club and Ronald McDonald House. Its Web site is http://www.newhavenhillcitypoint.com.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Artspace seeks info on stolen figure

By Donna Doherty
Register Arts Editor
— There’s a man missing from The Lot.
And if anyone sees him or knows of his whereabouts, Artspace gallery would like to know about it.
Several weeks ago, Leslie Shaffer, executive director of Artspace, which runs The Lot, a public art space at Orange and Chapel streets, noticed that a carved wooden figure with a tree emerging from its chest, one of the key components of artist Baptiste Ibar’s “Guided Men” installation, was missing.
Shaffer emailed the discovery to the Brooklyn-based Ibar, who has added pieces over the months to his work, which was installed in February as a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.
A statement released by the gallery Monday said, “We are not interpreting this theft as a direct comment on the theme of the piece, more likely it was an easy item to abscond with. ... His installation and the message he intended are still represented, however lacking from the loss of this integral element.”
The piece was secured to the ground only by the tree through its middle, which is also missing. The gallery has liability insurance, but it doesn’t cover The Lot, because it is a public space in which Artspace is granted air rights and use of the telephone poles and the ground.
Shaffer said that anyone with information about the piece should contact the gallery at (203) 772-2709.
Shaffer expressed disappointment about the theft, which was reported to police, though no formal complaint was made. She said that, when informed of the theft, Ibar regretted that he had not secured it better, adding, “but somehow I thought people were very respectful with the last piece.”
Ibar made one of his first forays into public art last fall during The Lasso Project, a public art project held in various outdoor sites during Artspace’s City-Wide Open Studios event. Shaffer said he asked to create something for The Lot.
“No one did anything the last time,” Shaffer said. “They left it clean and respected. I think this a problem with public art,” she continued. “I think a lot of artists consider going out and placing things in the environment, but have had a problem with graffiti and destruction. ... We want to continue to offer quality programs at this level, but it’s difficult to find artists when things disappear.”

Steel costs led firm to yank bridge bid

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— The increasing cost of raw steel scared off the low bidder for work on the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, officials said.
The Walsh Construction Co., which had submitted the low bid of $110.5 million for the foundations for the south span and the Interstate 95 and Interstate 91 north ramp of the bridge, withdrew its bid after being asked to extend it two weeks.
Judd Everhart, Department of Transportation spokesman, said refusing to extend a bid until the DOT sought more answers from Walsh was very unusual.
Walsh, which has offices in Boston and Chicago, apparently had discussed a price for steel with its suppliers that the suppliers would not hold beyond the original April 2 date of the contract, state officials said.
Donald Gillis, vice president of Walsh, said since bids were submitted to the DOT on Feb. 13, there had been two cost increases for steel and another was expected May 1.
“Anything you can attach a magnet to is just like gold,” said Gillis from his office in Boston. “It’s very, very problematic,” Gillis said of bidding on projects with a lot of steel.
The state DOT had a project escalator for the 3,000 tons of steel plate girders that will be part of the superstructure, Gillis said.
But the cost of an another 10,000 tons of steel for the deep shafts in the river and reinforcing steel was not protected. Walsh decided it was too much of a risk with prices up $2,000 a ton since the beginning of 2008 for raw steel before it is fabricated.
Gillis said he hasn’t seen cost increases like this since 2003 when he remembers three price increases in one day. He said his company is the seventh largest construction company in the country.The second low bidder is Cianbro Construction and Middlesex Construction Corp., which in a joint venture had bid $137.5 million.
H. James Boice, acting DOT commissioner, said the state is proceeding to award the contract to Cianbro and Middlesex and was coordinating this with the Federal Highway Administration, which is funding 80 percent of the cost of the contract. “They are anxious to get started. They will be in the water this summer,” Brice said.
The acting commissioner said the $27 million increase in cost to the state “won’t have a significant impact on our capital program this year.”
Gov. M. Jodi Rell wants a detailed answer on the bridge project by Friday.
Brice mentioned the changes with the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge at a legislative hearing on the ballooning cost of railyard maintenance facilities in New Haven, which will cost $1.17 billion, rather than the initial expected cost of $300 million.
The DOT is now looking at 10 percent inflation, rather than 3 percent, for multi-year projects and smaller increments of bonding for planning purposes.

City urged to reclaim connector

Ex-Milwaukee mayor says it can be done

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— If you think it’s impossible to deal with a state bureaucracy and reclaim the land from a freeway that cuts through your city, think again.
John Norquist, the former mayor of Milwaukee and the president of the Congress For New Urbanism, is living proof it can be done, and he came to New Haven Wednesday to encourage those who want to engage the same battle in this city.
Referring to the Route 34 connector, which splits the Hill and Dwight neighborhoods, as the “disconnector,” Norquist told the 50 or so city officials and residents gathered at Career High School to “move quickly” to take back the 10 acres that drain traffic off Interstate 95 to downtown.
“It’s obviously just a blight. New Haven will be a sensation all over the world if you remove the disconnector and put the street grid back,” Norquist said.
The former mayor led the long effort to remove Milwaukee’s Park East Freeway, which freed up 26 acres of land for new development there and has already attracted over $300 million in construction.
Depressed limited highways have been reclaimed around the country and converted back to landscaped streetcapes with a mix of small-scale retail, commercial and residential, based on the traditional model of main street development in the United States common until modernism took shape in the late 20th century.
NOther success stories involve Harbor Drive in Portland, Ore., Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco, the West Side Highway in New York and the Cheonggye Freeway in Seoul, South Korea.ew Haven already has participated in one study and is starting a more detailed one to quickly end the I-95 turnoff to downtown New Haven and reconnect Orange and Temple Streets across what is now a freeway.
Norquist’s first piece of advice to New Haven was to “roll it (the connector) back as close to the interstate as possible.” His second suggestion: “Don’t contemplate it forever.” The area in question extends east from the Air Rights Garage to Orange Street.
Bringing back the street grid will absorb traffic and distribute it more evenly, just as it has done in other cities, Norquist said, pointing to Chicago as a good example.
Hundreds of homes and businesses in the Oak Street neighborhood were razed in the 1960s and ’70s to create the connector under New Haven Mayor Richard C. Lee, a road that was originally scheduled to connect to West Haven.
A No Man’s Land for four decades, the highway extension plan was finally abandoned in 2004 and the strip of land turned over to the city. Separate plans to reconnect the area west of the Air Rights Garage and fill this additional 26 acres with housing and retail are in the beginning stages.
“Dick Lee caused a lot of damage, although he thought he was doing good,” Norquist said. He blamed the changes on a planning movement that created sterilized streets with no connection to the built environment.
However, he said, a political system that underwrites highways to the detriment of building small-scale city streets is beginning to change. “The ingredients that created sprawl are now in decline,” Norquist said. “It can be done. You can get back to that urbanism that we had in the past.”
Alderman Allan Brison, G-10, and Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, D-14, did not have to be convinced of the need to reclaim the freeway, but both were concerned that the models used by the city to show potential future growth in the area seemed to imply a series of high-rises.
City Economic Development Director Kelly Murphy said the graphics are only meant as “placeholders” for development, and she favors small-scale neighborhood friendly growth.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

State budget chief takes fall in rail fund deficit

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— Budget chief Robert Genuario Tuesday took the blame for not telling legislators sooner about the large funding shortfall the state is facing to construct the New Haven rail maintenance facility, which is already a year behind schedule.
While the General Assembly in 2005 authorized $300 million in bonding for the massive project behind New Haven’s Union Station, the projected cost in 2008 dollars is now estimated at $732 million, but officials said the more accurate figure, with 10 percent inflation, is hovering at $1.17 billion over the next 15 years.
There is a need, according to Genuario, for legislators to authorize soon another $252 million in bonding to put out contracts and start construction of the first phase by spring 2009.
“I should have done a better job of anticipating the need for a (bonding) request this year. I failed to do that in a timely manner,” said Genuario, head of the Office of Policy and Management.
He knew of ballooning cost estimates as early as 2006, but simply didn’t believe them and worked for a year to lower them, he told a joint meeting of the legislature’s Transportation and Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees Tuesday.
Angry lawmakers railed against this latest Department of Transportation problem and wondered if they would have been informed at this point had they not started exercising stricter oversight.
“I have never seen anything of this cost magnitude,” said Rep. Cameron C. Staples, D-New Haven, the committee co-chairman.
He found it “unfathomable” the DOT had not earlier factored in such things as a walkway over the tracks now identified as necessary for worker safety.
Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford, said the latest DOT problem is worse than the massive infusion of money needed to fix faulty drainage along Interstate 84.
“It represents a systematic failure of planning and administration. ... This speaks to a basic inability to project and administer their core functions,” McDonald said of the DOT.
The multifacility project on the 70-acre rail yard will be built to accommodate 342 rail cars the state ordered, with an option to buy 80 more. About one-third of the cars, part of Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s $1 billion plan to enhance commuter rail service on Metro-North, are set to arrive in 2010, but the first phase of the maintenance facility won’t be done until 2012.
McDonald and others said the need for more bonding authorization was apparent last year and should have been addressed then. He also pointed to an August 2007 letter from Peter Cannito, president of Metro-North Railroad, in which Cannito expressed concern the state will not have adequate facilities to maintain the new cars.
Acting DOT Commissioner H. James Boice said his agency has since worked out an arrangement with Metro-North that is adequate as long as the first phase stays on schedule.
McDonald said the cars need major maintenance every 90 days. “No one has explained to us how they think they can scale this back without compromising the project,” McDonald said.
Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said Rell should name a new head for DOT, which would be its fourth commissioner in a handful of years.
Rell has also asked an independent consultant to review the rail maintenance project, but Duff felt this was a “totally political decision. They are trying to save face. We don’t need them to save face, we need them to come up with solutions.”
Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Rell, however, said it will not cause delays.
Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, said a new method of estimating DOT costs was needed; Boice agreed.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or moleary@nhregister.com.

Homicide victims’ families find space to grieve

Statewide advocacy and support group fights for rights of those left behind
By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— Betty Barrett has anonymously gone to Superior Court to witness court proceedings involving the still-uncharged people she believes are responsible for her daughter’s arson death.
When Frederick Smith walks down the street, he sometimes wonders whether the young man who just passed him is the “joker” who shot his son twice in the back.
Pamela Harris asks God to grant her the ability to forgive the young man who shot her son in the back of the head, but forgiveness and peace have been hard to find in three grief-filled years.
Together, each month, these families who lost a loved one to homicide meet at police headquarters to seek comfort and solace, share stories and grief and bare their souls in front of people who they know will understand.
Today, Survivors of Homicide Inc., a Wethersfield-based advocacy group, will meet at the state Capitol as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week to raise awareness about crime victims and promote strengthening victim rights’ laws and penalties for offenders.
SOH Inc. advocates for crime victims and families of homicide victims to be stakeholders in prosecutions with full access to all court proceedings and meetings in judges’ chambers; passage of a law to require judges to post a picture of all manslaughter or murder victims at trial in view of the jury; better compensation for survivors who lost a breadwinner; and limitations on people convicted of murder and manslaughter to file habeas appeals.
On a local level, SOH sponsors support groups in New Haven, New London, Southington and Manchester for survivors.
Danielle Rae, of Milford, joined the group to help her cope with the 1991 murder of her brother in Houston and went on to become the SOH president.
Last week, a dozen people from New Haven, Waterbury, Bridgeport and New Canaan met at police headquarters on Union Avenue.
Some lost loved ones recently. Others’ losses were a decade ago, but emotions were equally raw.
Shirley Banks lost her 20-year-old daughter, Regina, to a bullet in 1991 in New Haven. After she died, Banks grew closer with her daughter Rachelle, who then was shot to death in 1994.
Jackie Denese of Bridgeport was on a cell phone with her son, Clarence “Chucky” Jones, when a man inside the sport utility vehicle in which he was an occupant shot him in the head and dumped him outside.
Chris Noel-Bentley, of New Canaan, lost his child last August while she was in the care of his estranged wife and police continue to investigation, although they tell him little anymore because of his emotional investment. It was his first survivors meeting. “I do cry most days,” he said. Sometimes, like a song on the radio, can trigger it. “I dream about him a lot. I juts needed a safe place to come.”Each family’s experience is different. Betty and Bob Barrett’s 39-year-old daughter, Kathy Hardy, a mother of three, died in a 2006 arson fire in Branford. Bob Barrett said some friends started avoiding them because they didn’t know what to say. No arrests have been made.
Smith, whose son Terrence Driffin was killed last year on Shelton Avenue, is dreading the one-year anniversary and at times, anger overwhelms him.
“I’m ready to go vigilante, but I have to think about these two,” he said, motioning to his wife and daughter. “Can’t do nobody any good sitting up in Camp Whalley.” The New Haven Corrections Center is on Whalley Avenue.
Harris’ son, Eddie Washington, died three years after leaving a Hillhouse High School basketball game in New Haven. He was giving friends a ride in a car and one accidentally shot him in the head.
The friend is serving a 10-year sentence. People say time heals all wounds, Harris said, but even three years later, there are times “when I really don’t know whether I want to live or die.”
“I asked God to take the hatred out of my heart for him, but it’s not easy. When you got to come face-to-face with the person that killed your child in the courtroom, all you can see is blood,” she said.
The survivors’ meetings, she said, provide a supportive environment where you can tell your story “50 million times” and people won’t get tired of hearing it because they went through the same thing, she said.
“Sitting here is great for us. We get to vent. We get things out of our systems and there’s an understanding that we’re not alone. There are times that you feel like there’s no one else who understands or cares. It’s nice to come here.”
“It’s a club that you don’t want to belong to,” said Betty Barrett, “but everyone (there) has gone through it.”

Take a peek

New Haven is an exciting and vibrant community, here's a look at some of the action in recent days. All photos by New Haven Register staff photographers.

Holocaust journey ‘finds’ kin

Talk held at Southern Connecticut State University

By Amanda Howe
Special to the Register
What set out to be an 8,000-word story for the New York Times about how six members of his family died in the Holocaust turned into a book about Daniel Mendelsohn “schlepping” all over the world to find out who six of his family members were and not how they died.
Mendelsohn this week shared the story of his book and the journey he took to write it to an audience at Southern Connecticut State University Student Center Theater that included students, faculty and members of the community.
“The book is not at all about the Holocaust,” Mendelsohn said. “It’s about how the Holocaust touches lives even now—and how I schlepped all over the world, literally, to find the story of my relatives.”
The lecture was part of Southern’s “Genocide: Weeks of Reflection and Remembrance,” and the University-wide Lecture Series, founded in 1995 by David Pettigrew, SCSU professor of philosophy.
“Our aim is to attract two or three speakers each year who enhance the intellectual and ethical culture of the university, as well as the local community,” Pettigrew said. “In particular, we look for individuals who have responded to tragic events with intelligence and grace, who can foster hope and help us recognize and share our responsibility for our human community, its past and destiny.”
Pettigrew said Mendelsohn has been able to do that and pointed to his book, “The Lost.”
“History and theoretical works generally provide us with an abstract, impersonal analysis of the significance of major events, such as the Holocaust,” Pettigrew said. “But what is often lacking are the personal stories involved. Mendelsohn provides us with remarkably moving descriptions of the impact that the Holocaust had on his family. His writing enables us to respond on a profoundly human level.”
Mendelsohn began his lecture with a reading from the first two pages of his book, which illustrated the “old Jewish” people in his family.
The book’s inspiration, according to Mendelsohn, came from very early in his life. He said when he was a child visiting his “old Jewish” relatives, some of the women would cry when they saw him.
The reason for the tears, according to Mendelsohn, was because he resembled a man, his great-uncle, who had died during the Holocaust in Bellacor, Ukraine.
Mendelsohn said he always knew that his great uncle had died in the Holocaust along with a wife and four teenage daughters, but never knew more than that.
“It’s important to know that no one ever told me I couldn’t talk about (my uncle). I just knew. I just had a feeling about it,” Mendelsohn said.
The time to get answers to questions never asked, Mendelsohn said, was when his grandfather committed suicide.
He said in going through his grandfather’s home, he stumbled on one of two wallets he had always carried, yet no one ever questioned why there were two.
“I opened the second wallet and found letters from his brother, begging him to help him and his family get out of Bellacor,” Mendelsohn said.
The idea that his grandfather never talked about his brother, and may have killed himself because of years of guilt he felt, plagued him, Mendelsohn said.
So Mendelsohn set out on a journey to Bellacor, Sydney, Israel, Stockholm and Minsk to talk to anyone who could answer questions about who his family was and how they died.
Of all the people Mendelsohn met, he said only six of them are still alive today, but all have e-mail accounts.
“I visited Australia and Denmark recently and we all e-mail. Yes, Bellacor has Internet access. We turned into a real community,” Mendelsohn said.
Mendelsohn is a humanities professor at Bard College. Before he took his teaching position, he was a journalist and was published in the New York Times, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Nation and the Paris Review.
Amanda Howe is a Register intern.

3 bidders seeking food service pact

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— After four extensions pushed the initial deadline back over a month, final bids from companies vying for the city’s school food service contract were due Tuesday.
City purchasing agent Michael Fumiatti will read the three submitted proposals before passing them to a review committee.
The city received bids from current contract holder Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp, New York-based Chartwells, and New York-based Whitsons Culinary Group.
Fumiatti also met with representatives from four firms Tuesday interested in the school facilities and energy management contract, also currently handled by Aramark.
Bids are due April 29, and only the four firms in attendance at Tuesday’s 11-minute meeting may apply.
Interested firms include Aramark, Branford-based OR&L Facility Services, Maryland-based Sodexo, and Bridgeport-based AFB Construction Management.
Representatives questioned Fumiatti briefly on details of the city’s request for proposals, asking for a list of school buildings, Aramark’s current agreement, details of minimum staffing requirements and current energy costs.
Facing mounting union discontent, New Haven Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo announced earlier this year the district would re-bid the food service and facilities management contracts. It’s been several years since the city re-bid either contract, Fumiatti said.
New contracts begin July 1.
The aldermanic Education Committee held a public hearing last month on food and facilities management, but continued the hearing after school and Aramark officials did not attend. Aldermen have requested Aramark’s contracts, expenses, and an audit of the school lunch program, and asked for the bid process to be suspended until committee members could meet with school officials regarding the bid process.
The continued hearing is slated for 5:30 p.m. April 29 at City Hall, where a resolution calling for “broader standards in review of proposals” and a full aldermanic hearing on the food and facilities contracts is expected to be considered.
But according to Fumiatti, once the bids are opened, it’s too late to change the review process. “The only thing that could happen could be negotiated in or out with the selected vendor,” he said.
“We never had any direct authority over what the school system does in terms of bidding this out to begin with,” said Aldermanic President Carl Goldfield, D-29. “You’re not going to turn around this ship and get the kind of food service and food I’d like to see the schools engage in overnight. The kind of standards we’re talking about aren’t necessarily going to be applied this bidding cycle,” he said.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Passover practice

Orange school treats pupils to matzah and more
Pupils at Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy recently held a model seder in preparation for the 8-day Passover Holiday that begins with the first seder on Saturday evening. The model event prepared pupils for the “real thing” school officials said. Pupils had a palatable preview of the matzah, the unleavened bread that the Jews baked in haste as they left Egypt, and maror, the bitter herbs, symbolizing the harsh enslavement. Passover celebrates the Exodus of the Jews from Egyptian bondage over 3,300 years ago.

Southern trying to fit Chinese into permanent course offerings

By Ben Johnson
Special to the Register
— The 16 students studying Chinese at Southern Connecticut State University this semester are in an unusual situation: courses in Chinese are not officially offered.
Add to this that SCSU’s only current instructor in that language will soon return to China and the result is that the future of the university’s language course offerings is uncertain.
While the Foreign Language Department has offered Chinese I and Chinese II since 2006, the classes are listed provisionally as Special Topics, taught by guest teachers on one-year rotations. Despite strong faculty and administration support, and increasing demand, permission to launch a formal program with permanent courses and full-time faculty has been slow in coming, according to Foreign Languages Department Chairman Carlos Arboleda.
When instructor Ning Liu arrived to begin teaching last September, the two Chinese courses offered were not listed in the course catalog. Only four students enrolled. This semester, the courses are listed and persistent students were able to find them in small print of the Foreign Languages section. This time, registration for Chinese I jumped to 13 students.
Along with greater enrollment came a diverse range of students.
“Last year most of my students were seniors, majoring in Asian Studies,” Liu said. “This year the students come from very different majors: sociology and management and psychology and even math and international business, a lot of majors, and some of them are freshmen.”
Also, as a reflection of growing interest in Chinese language and culture, Liu said those enrolled in this semester’s Chinese I class range from undeclared undergraduates to graduate and adult students, with an equally wide range of interests.
Ryan Newton, a graduate student in psychology, is taking the course in preparation for a year abroad in China’s Henan Province where, he said, he will serve as an English instructor.
“My interest is in educational psychology, and so much of the focus now is on cross-cultural, so that’s what drove me to look at these other programs,” Newton said. “Spanish is useful, too, but I thought in this global environment, so much of the population speaks Mandarin, why not try to learn it?”
Robert McFarlane, a senior and physics major, said he was drawn to study Chinese by a longtime interest in martial arts. He said he hopes learning the language could give him an edge if he were to decide to move to China to train.
“I wanted to take it for my language course when I got to the school,” he said, “but they didn’t offer it at that point, so I took Arabic, and after I finished Arabic I saw an advertisement in the hallway for this class, so I decided to take it anyway.”
Others said they see the Chinese courses as an opportunity for personal enrichment. Jonathan Beauchamp, a retired high school teacher of Spanish and French, said he is auditing the course in preparation for a two week visit to China in June.
“We’ll be in Beijing and Shanghai, just touring, and I thought I would try to pick up some of the language,” he said. “Provided I don’t get completely swamped by the end of the semester, I might decide to continue with it.”
Many students expressed hope that the university would soon grant Chinese language courses the same official status as its other language programs.
“If we have so many other languages like Spanish and German,” said freshman Rong Pan, “wouldn’t it make sense to offer Chinese as a major? In a university this big, you have to offer more choices to people.”
Yet despite growing interest, Chinese has not found a permanent place in SCSU’s curriculum; nor does it have a permanent teacher. Liu, a professor of English from Suzhou, in China’s Jiangsu Province, will return home in June. Like her predecessor at SCSU, Yuying Gao, Liu is a visiting international scholar whose one-year appointment was negotiated with China’s Hanban Chinese Guest Teacher Program. The program is designed to establish new Chinese language programs abroad, but not to staff them indefinitely.
Mary Ann Hansen, world language consultant to the state Department of Education, who traveled to China along with SCSU Vice President Ellen Beatty and helped bring Chinese teachers Gao and Liu to the university, said she felt that the two guest teachers should set the stage for an official Chinese language program.
“What we did,” she said in a telephone interview, “is we tried to jumpstart the process by bringing in a volunteer teacher from China.”
The decision whether to make the program permanent now rests with SCSU’s Undergraduate Curriculum Forum, and many faculty members and administrators hope to see an official program as early as next Fall. Arboleda and International Programs coordinator Linda Olson, both members of SCSU’s International Programs Steering Committee, are spearheading the effort.
“I brought up the idea of whether we should, as a committee, support Chinese,” Olson said, “and it was unanimous. Everyone said we have to support Chinese, there’s no way not to support Chinese at this university, and that’s a very diverse committee.”
The Steering Committee’s recommendation, however, must contend with the constraints of a limited budget, Arboleda said. A full-time professor would likely cost the department at least $45,000 per year, he said, at a time when the university’s existing language programs remain understaffed. If approval for a full program were not to come in time for the fall term, Arboleda said he hopes at least to hire an adjunct t professor, which would cost the university only about $8,000 per semester. That is less than the amount spent on international guest teachers who, according to the Hanban program’s requirements, not only receive pay but also must be provided with housing and transportation at university expense.
Above all, students and faculty alike said they hoped that official courses with permanent faculty would give the Chinese program much-needed stability.
“To me, I think the most important thing is continuity for the students,” Liu said.
Some students expressed concern that lack of constant faculty could make an already difficult language even harder to learn.
“With a language such as Chinese, I think it’s important to have the same professor going through,” said Beauchamp. “With Spanish or French it’s a little easier, since you don’t have to go through the alphabet and the whole business, but when you’re leaning something completely new, I think it’s important to have continuity.”
Regardless of this year’s coming budget decisions, Liu said demand to study Chinese would be sure to keep rising among incoming students. “More and more students are taking a Chinese course in high school, in middle school,” she said, “so there will be more and more students who know Chinese and want to learn more Chinese.”
Hansen, who has now seen two visiting teachers come and go, agreed.
“This is an area where the university system needs to step up to the plate,” Hansen said.

Ben Johnson is a student at Southern

Allegations of favoritism stall controversial tow program

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— City Hall Friday halted its controversial Plate Hunter program after learning that the Rev. Boise Kimber, two state marshals and city Tax Collector C.J. Cuticello were involved in canceling tows for politically connected scofflaws.
Kimber, a fire commissioner and pastor at First Calvary Baptist Church, owed $350 in unpaid parking tickets when the Plate Hunter spotted his white GMC Yukon next to a fire hydrant outside Portofino’s restaurant on State Street at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday.
Towing operator Lombard Motors called parking enforcement officer Velisha Cloud at City Hall to authorize the tow, said Michael Piscatelli, director of transportation, traffic and parking.
But before Lombard could tow the SUV, state Marshal Peter Criscuolo, North Haven Democratic Town Committee chairman and North Haven fire commissioner, intervened.
“Our understanding is although they started to tow the car, it was stopped, and the car was released, and that was inconsistent with the tow authorization,” Piscatelli said. “The owner of the car engaged the tow truck company, the marshal, and through that exchange, the car was released.
“The marshal used poor judgment in this case,” he said.
It was not an isolated case.
Tuesday night on River Street, tow trucks prepared to haul away a car owned by prominent city businessman Marc Suraci. But before towing operators could hook the car onto the truck, a conference call between Marshal Mike Deangelis, Cuticello and Kimber took place, and the tow was called off, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said.
“This is unacceptable and unfair to the taxpayers of this city,” DeStefano said Friday. “There needs to be absolute fairness in this process and we will take sufficient time over the next several days to ensure this.”
Suraci could not be reached for comment.
The Plate Hunter program has been suspended through April 23 while city officials investigate the possibility of further similar incidents, and review towing policies with staff.
“I don’t believe you can conclusively know what happens out in the neighborhoods. We’re not with these individuals with cameras to know that. That said, we’ll make every reasonable attempt to ascertain whether this is more than just two incidents,” DeStefano said.
“I’ve asked traffic and parking to re-document all our procedures as to how these things are called in and confirmed, to make sure that the sheriffs and tow operators and staff in the tax and traffic offices clearly understand the policies of the city,” DeStefano said.
Criscuolo was “verbally reprimanded” but remains on the job. DeStefano said he discussed the case with Cuticello and considers the matter closed.
Kimber refused to comment on the case Friday. City spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said he paid all but $30 of his outstanding parking tickets Friday. The Yukon is registered to First Calvary Baptist Church, according to DMV officials.
Kimber’s appointment to the Board of Fire Commissioners expires February 2011.
“There is a provision under the charter under which he could be removed for malfeasance, which involves a Superior Court process. I don’t know if this rises to the occasion,” DeStefano said.
Criscuolo remained unapologetic Friday. “I’m not apologizing for what I did. It was a judgment call I made,” he said.
“We err on the side of caution. If we know where the car is going to be tomorrow or the next day, it’s not like we have to take that car today,” he said. “If I know that I can come tomorrow to your office, your house, to take that vehicle, there’s no need to dispute back and forth and waste time. I don’t have to punish you. It’s not like we’re in the middle of a war zone. I know where you are, I’ll come tomorrow ... if you’re telling me the tickets were paid.”
A witness who asked not to be named claimed the incident lasted an hour, with Kimber and Criscuolo coming in and out of Portofino’s numerous times. Eventually, Criscuolo drove Kimber’s car to the lot behind the restaurant, the witness claimed.
“All the people in the restaurant and bar were watching it like a show,” the witness said.
Former West Haven Mayor H. Richard Borer also had a view of the scene from his table at Portofino.
“There were no antics, no banging on the hood. It was gentlemanly. He walked back in and sat down. ... (Kimber) had his napkin from dinner in his hand,” he said.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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