Monthly Archives: February 2007

Picturing Mark Twain in West Hartford

Back in 1895, Mark Twain signed a picture of himself. No doubt he did that a lot.

One of the photographs somehow landed in a file at the West Hartford library long ago, where it was quickly forgotten until librarians unearthed it as they moved everything out in preparation for the ongoing expansion. Pretty neat find, I’d say.

But what happened next is peculiar and troubling.

According to a story in the Courant, the town shipped off the pictures and other artifacts to an auction gallery in New York City to find out their value and perhaps sell them. Library officials planned to put them up for sale if they could get enough money, though it’s unclear who set the minimum value or why.

Well, I’m here to tell you that we shouldn’t be selling off a signed picture of Mark Twain that belongs to my town. We should be hanging it on the wall of the library as an inspiration to generations to come, a small tribute to the nation’s finest writer, who happened to live just down Farmington Avenue for many years.

I’m perplexed why officials would think of selling it — assuming it’s not worth a vast fortune (which it isn’t) — and am horrified that they are talking about donating it to some kind of charity auction. Yes, really. They apparently think it would be best to let it vanish into some rich man’s home instead of putting it on display in a place of honor in our library, where it clearly belongs.

Twain was a neighbor. Let’s treat him like one, even now.

The picture isn’t a way to raise money. It’s a way to raise our eyes.

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Filed under Library, Mark Twain, News, Town government

Justice has gone to the dogs

The West Hartford woman with 22 little Shih Tzus at home — illegally — still has them despite an order to move ’em out. The Hartford Courant finally bothered to update us today. (It is just terrible at follow-up stories, by the way.)

The woman’s appealing the town’s ruling in court and a judge is letting the dogs stay pending a decision – a ruling that may not come until the end of the summer. Then, of course, she may be able to appeal that judgment, giving the dogs yet more time to stay illegally.

When it’s all done,the dogs will likely be dead.

It’s a great legal system we have that chugs along in slow motion while people go right on ignoring the plain language of reasonable laws.

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Filed under News, Town government, Zoning

Why is West Hartford repeating Southington’s mistake?

In Southington last fall, the Democratic town council decided to enact a new ordinance to freeze the property taxes of low-income elderly homeowners without having an asset test as part of the equation.

That’s exactly what West Hartford is eyeing now.

The council in Southington got a shock, however, when residents banded together to force a referendum on the issue. They wound up killing the measure by a 2-to-1 margin at the polls, partly from seniors upset they didn’t qualify and partly from younger residents angry they were going to have to pick up more of the tax burden.

As best I can tell, and I might be wrong, no town has successfully implemented this freeze idea because there isn’t a good way to do it. Moreoever, as officials have studied it in town after town, they have usually discovered, to their surprise, that existing tax breaks already provide an awful lot of help for low-income seniors.

This isn’t the slam dunk to get elderly votes that town leaders seem to think it is. It’s got the potential to divide our town between old and young, and rich and poor. Let’s not go that way. It won’t work and it’s bad policy.

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Filed under News, Politics, Schools, Taxes, Town government

Why we lost the war

Even though the Bush administration and Sen. Lieberman haven’t yet accepted that the war is lost, it’s clear enough that it is. All you have to do is talk to the returning soldiers. They know there’s nothing left to fight for, nothing there to win. It’s just a question of how much more of our blood and treasure is squandered in Iraq before we leave.

It’s not too early, however, to figure out what we did wrong. That strikes me as crucial if we are to get it right next time.

The answer seems pretty simple, really. We had a choice to make right at the start: were we going to whip Saddam and haul ass out of there, or were we going to occupy the country for the long haul? We planned for the first outcome, then adopted the second path, without a clue what it would take or where it might lead.

It strikes me looking back that we should have declared victory while the crowds were pulling down Saddam’s statues and then gotten the hell out there after putting some vaguely reasonable Iraqi general in charge of the transition to some new and more friendly government.

Why that didn’t happen is probably the administration’s lust for oil. They figured that we deserved it — and they weren’t about to risk having someone else take control of the oil fields. The quick seizure of Saddam’s oil ministry while museums were getting sacked shows where the priority was from day one.

You put oil men in the White House and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they act, well, oily.

Now that it’s all over except the fingerpointing — and watch how the GOP diehards try to blame the Democrats for their own failed war that happened when they controlled the entire U.S. government — we need to make sure that next time a president calls us to go into battle, we have a clear goal to achieve, then leave.

After all, we’re not imperialists. We’re no good at it because we’re not ruthless and we’re not mean. We give, not take. We just have no business occupying anywhere.

And let’s not elect any more of these crazy ass oil men.

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Filed under Iraq war, military, News, Politics, veterans

West Hartford’s anti-war group goes statewide

With town meetings planned in 24 towns across Connecticut on Saturday, the valiant band of anti-war protestors in West Hartford is reaching out. There’s a pretty good story in The Middletown Press this morning that lays out what’s going on at the gatherings, which will include a conference call from Sen. Dodd, Congressman Larson and gone-but-not-forgotten Ned Lamont. I wish them all well.

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Filed under Iraq war, News

Building 18

Just read the sickening, wonderful news story from last Sunday’s Washington Post about the conditions that our wounded troops are living in at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It’s appalling.

These men and women, who have suffered grievously in battle, are living in crappy old apartments with mold, mice, cockroaches and holes in the walls. They’re getting the bureaucratic runaround at every turn. Our heroes are treated like the pests they’re forced to live with.

I’m genuinely outraged. These bastards in Washington are constantly talking about how we must all support the troops — and this is how they treat our wounded warriors just down the road from the White House?

It makes me more convinced than ever that it’s time to stop this crazy war. Our guys are stuck in the middle of a civil war with no real allies, no plan for winning, no idea even what winning means. They’re getting blown away for nothing. And the ones who come back wounded in body and spirit are abused by the very government that sent them off to fight.

Thank God for The Washington Post and its willingness to peak behind the facade to let us know how badly the Bush administration is taking care of our troops. It shows once again what kind of men started and guided this war — officials who don’t give a damn what happens to my fellow Americans who had the guts and sense of duty to put themselves in harm’s way for all of us.

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Filed under Iraq war, military, News, Politics, veterans

Sucking up to seniors

This notion of freezing property taxes for even wealthy seniors who happen to have little income has its roots in the most solid of political axioms: Old people vote.

The town has lots of reasons for wanting to lend a hand to struggling seniors, but one of the key ones is the most simple: politicians want the votes of elderly residents. They vote in astounding numbers and, consequently, have disproportionate clout in political decision-making.

If this tax freeze concept was only about helping seniors who can’t afford their tax bills, there would be an asset test. But it’s not about that. It’s about raking in votes from people who will head to the polls.

Personally, I’d like to see our town officials devote their time and attention to finding ways to hold down everybody’s taxes instead of pursuing a quixotic and pathetic quest to hoodwink us into letting them buy seniors’ votes with our money.

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Filed under News, Politics, Taxes, Town government