The Stuff Legends Are Made Of
December 24 2005
The Dec. 18 editorial "One Whale Of A Tale," explaining the characteristics of the tusk of the narwhal, brought to mind Bill Faude's reopening of the famous Steward Museum at the Old State House a few years ago.
Mr. Faude was quoted in The Courant as having acquired almost all of the exhibits and curiosities necessary except for a two-headed pig and the horn of a unicorn. I immediately called him and told him I had such an object mounted in my den and I would be happy to donate it to his museum.
My husband, a dentist, had been stationed on a glacier in Greenland during World War II as a lieutenant commander with the U.S. Coast Guard. A patrol boat had caught a narwhal, which is the only one-tusked species of whale, and my husband sent the tusk to me.
Mr. Faude was delighted. He and an aide lovingly wrapped it in a huge silk cloth, transported it to the Old State House, had an elegant blond mahogany and glass case made to house it and displayed it upright for all to see.
The October 2001 edition of Antiques Magazine has a picture of this horn of a unicorn at the museum in the article "The Restoration of Joseph Steward's Hartford Museum" by Wilson H. Faude.
Positive Step For Hartford Schools
I have been a Hartford resident for more than 25 years and have observed, as well as battled for, a school system that would be responsive to the needs of all residents.
I can recall many ups and downs, but unfortunately, more downs than ups. I can recall circumstances where the city's governing body was frequently at odds with the leadership of the school system.
Given this background, I strongly endorse and support the newly acquired position of Mayor Eddie Perez as chairman of the school board. I trust that this new position will lead to the kind of positive interaction among all sectors of city government, as well as the state Department of Education, that will generate innovative and positive changes in the school system.
There are some very good things occurring in some of Hartford's schools that should be continued, encouraged and supported. There are also new areas of focus and programming that need to be explored.
I heartily endorse this new position and will encourage the residents I know to do the same. I trust that the Court of Common Council as well the school board will give their enthusiastic support. Support does not mean rubber-stamping, it means consensus-building. The task is not easy, but now the mayor is in a position to do things through solid leadership that could never have been attempted before.
Let's all get on that track of progress with common goals and common vision that will accrue to the benefit of our children and grandchildren.
Mohamoud D. Ahmed
Unworkable License Law
As a 25-year police veteran, I take exception to the analysis of The Courant's writers in seeking to blame the police for a law that is so fraught with bureaucracy that it is virtually impossible to meet [Page 1, Dec. 20, "Losing Licenses Not So Automatic"].
The administrative per se law is designed so that it places an extreme burden on individual police officers and departments. The law gives police departments three business days to forward paperwork to the Department of Motor Vehicles; otherwise there is just cause to have the license suspension dismissed. In the real world that police officers operate in, it's not always possible to meet that deadline.
Many DWI arrests are made as a result of motor vehicle accidents, and often, it's not possible to provide complete reports in such a time frame. However, many state legislators are attorneys. Therefore, is it any wonder that many of the laws that police are sworn to enforce have loopholes built in for attorneys to drive through?
Police officers, when called to appear at the per se hearings, are basically the ones who are put on trial. Defense attorneys, who are supposed to be limited to what they are allowed to ask officers, essentially have carte blanche to call into question not only the officers' conduct prior to and during the arrest in question, but also their entire police careers. In my department, one attorney even issued a subpoena for an officer to bring in the entire Intoxilyzer machine along with a copy of every drunken-driving arrest report that he had completed in a 20-year police career. This is utterly ridiculous.
I also call attention to Public Act 05-215, which changed the charge for people operating with a suspended license. Prior to this act, someone who had his license suspended was charged with operating under suspension and was issued a summons to appear in court. The new act, which went into effect Oct. 1, apparently now gives these same operators 60 days to continue driving, during which time, if they are stopped, it is an infraction: operating without a license, a $158 fine. If the General Assembly and the DMV are so concerned about drunken drivers operating on our streets, a law such as this would not be on the books. This act also allows individuals who have had their licenses permanently revoked (often for drunken driving) to reapply for them after 10 years. Is this getting tough on drunken drivers?
A solution to this problem would be to stop making police officers out to be the bad guys and put the onus where it belongs: on the drunken driver. Take out the loopholes and give the police a workable drunken-driving law. Forgetting to check a box or giving a second breath test one minute early should not be causes in and of themselves to dismiss a drunken-driving suspension.
Obviously police officers need to be more cognizant and aware of their responsibilities. However, the DMV and the legislature must give us the tools to properly do our jobs so that these menaces are taken off the streets.
Lt. Patrick J. Droney
Enfield Police Department
No Need To Extend Deadline
Town clerks have a prominent and distinguished role in the administration of elections in Connecticut. Most recently, as president of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association, I served as an appointee to the federal Help America Vote Act Commission. Participation in this process has helped town clerks statewide to become involved with and informed about this landmark effort to modernize the election process.
One of the major reasons for passage of HAVA in 2002 was to provide the more than 200,000 people with disabilities living in Connecticut with the chance to vote without needing assistance from someone else in the voting booth. This needed to be changed, and HAVA changed it, guaranteeing free and independent voting for all citizens, regardless of physical ability. This begins in 2006.
The Dec. 13 editorial "Extend HAVA Deadline" chose to focus on the misguided desires of a small group that's intent on touting a company that failed to meet state and federal requirements and failed to respond to the voting-machine bid.
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, like many of her counterparts across the country, led a good-faith effort to find HAVA-compliant voting technology through the state bid process. Nine companies responded to the bid, and Secretary Bysiewicz is expected to announce the winner soon. To extend the deadline for a company that failed to bid would not be fair to the companies that responded in a timely fashion. In addition, extension of the deadline would mean that citizens with disabilities would continue to be disadvantaged in the voting process.
The Courant noted that there are "reputable critics" raising questions about the use of computerized voting machines vs. optical scan machines. The fact is that Secretary Bysiewicz is recommending an option that would permit the use of both technologies. This option is possible because several years ago, the office of the secretary of the state approved an optical scan voting system, supplied by LHS Associates, which meets all state and federal requirements. As many as 10 towns in Connecticut already avail themselves of the optical scan voting technology.
In early January, Secretary Bysiewicz will send a letter to all municipal leaders with a proposal to use the voting machines selected by the state bid process or a combination of optical scan and computerized voting technologies. According to the secretary, she will use the federal money she was able to secure to buy the voting systems for municipalities.
We regret that the information in The Courant's editorial was not an accurate depiction of the status of HAVA in Connecticut.
Sandra Hutton Russo
Connecticut Town Clerks Association
The writer is city and town clerk of Middletown.
Make Our Forests Accessible
Regarding two articles in the Dec. 18 Place section:
I stand behind Connecticut State Forester Don Smith ["If You Love Our Forests, Let Them Stand"] and Adam Moore, executive director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association ["Developer, Spare This Vital Industry"] in calling for protection of our forests.
As an advocate for Great Pond Forest in Simsbury, I know about the apparently irreversible presence of encroaching development. Also, as a neighbor to a state forest, I readily share Mr. Smith's view that we are blessed in Connecticut for the quality-of-life benefit that the forests provide. I have even come to appreciate Mr. Moore's view of both the environmental and economic benefits of logging to our state. However, I offer a somewhat less expensive alternative to Mr. Smith's recommendation that the way to preserve our forests is to "be the strongest of advocates for the renewal of our cities." I believe the answer in preserving our forests is making our forests more accessible.
The problem is that many Connecticut residents cannot either readily indulge in the recreational activities that our woodlands offer or regularly enjoy a simple walk in the forest. The strongest advocates for protecting our forests are those of us who have the good fortune of living near, in and around people-accessible state forests. When logging was perceived somewhat incorrectly as a threat to the beauty and integrity of Great Pond Forest, my Great Pond neighbors were more than ready and willing to fight for its protection.
During the last legislative session, the Department of Environmental Protection suffered another budget cut. It is astonishing that in the State Parks Division's total budget, there is no money available to repair, place or replace a simple park bench. Those of us who have had the pleasure of visiting our national parks know that what makes them so enjoyable is not only the environment but also the available conveniences, from toilet facilities to well-marked nature trails, accommodations and a variety of off-road activities - from mules and horses at the Grand Canyon to snowmobiles in Yellowstone.
Our state forests certainly are a precious heritage. But if I am excluded from enjoying this heritage, it is somewhat irrelevant to me whether I am excluded because of fragmented development, because of logging-only activity or simply because of a lack of trails and facilities.
The people of Connecticut can become the strongest of advocates for preserving our state forests and woodland parks. But this advocacy will not occur if we regard our forests as background scenery or like a family heirloom in an upstairs closet. It will occur only when the our forests are an open resource that residents can readily and frequently access and enjoy.
With greater usage and accessibility, there will be support for preservation, and residents will insist that DEP be well staffed and well funded.
School Shouldn't Develop Property
Ethel Walker School, a prestigious all-girls school, is planning to develop hundreds of acres of pristine open space in Simsbury with 122 suburban castles. This is being done to correct shortages in the school's endowment. For a private educational institution to attempt to resolve a short-term cash-flow problem by massive and irreversible development of greenfields is reprehensible.
Housing developments like this do not come down in Connecticut; they usually multiply. The proposed development would entail not only 122 large-scale homes, but most likely more than 500 people, at least 300 automobiles and acres of compacted lawns and the accompanying chemical treatments. The effect of this development on the fragile Stratton Brook watershed, home to a state park and vibrant populations of native brook trout (among numerous other species) would be devastating and permanent.
Recent studies show that human impact (lawns, pavement, homes and so forth) of this size leads to extirpation of wild brook trout, the state's only native trout and an emerging indicator of a steady deterioration in the state's rivers and streams.
The school plans to develop the land over a period of several years to capitalize on rising home prices; coldly treating the delicate landscape like a financial annuity or asset. This brings to mind an oft-repeated quotation of President Theodore Roosevelt: "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired in value." Natural assets such as the Stratton Brook watershed should be protected and preserved for future students, town residents and wildlife alike, and not manipulated and sold in a financial marketplace.
Schools should serve as models for their impressionable students, demonstrating careful environmental stewardship at both a local and global level. A school, whose board and alumni ranks includes the who's who of corporate America, clearly has numerous other options to increase its endowment. It should not take out its past fundraising failures on the wild brook trout, white-tailed deer or the countless other species that rely on this unique watershed for survival.
Eastern Water Project
Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant