Category Archives: Hartford Courant

Courant endorses six Democrats for town council

Here’s the Courant’s editorial today:

October 19, 2007


The decay of inner suburbs has foretold regional ills in some parts of the country. That hasn’t happened in Connecticut, by and large, but it is in the state’s interest to keep its inner suburbs strong. West Hartford has been one of the state’s best-run inner-ring communities, even drawing residents from outer suburbs. The town has gained momentum in recent years, and the town council incumbents responsible deserve re-election.

They withstood lawsuits and withering criticism to support Blue Back Square, a smart growth project in West Hartford Center. Now that the $158.8 million entertainment, shopping and residential project is opening, their resolve is being rewarded.

Development efforts are also underway in Elmwood, on Park Road and elsewhere. The town’s schools remain strong and cannot be shortchanged. The Democrat-led council has undertaken an array of other initiatives, from green energy to traffic calming and a bicycle task force. By contrast, the Republican challengers offer few new ideas beyond unspecified budget cuts and efficiencies.

Residents can vote for six council candidates. Nine will be elected, with a maximum of six from one party. The Courant recommends:

Scott Slifka, 33, is a Democrat and a lawyer. Mayor since 2004, Slifka has emerged as one of the top municipal leaders in the state. He is a poised, he listens and he thinks creatively.

Carolyn Thornberry, 59, a consultant, is a Democrat running for her third term. She was behind elderly tax relief, a new senior center and new playing fields, among other things.

Chuck Coursey, 44, is a Democrat who runs a public relations agency. He is seeking a third term, and has been responsible for project oversight of Blue Back Square. He has championed smart growth development in commercial centers and a number of quality of life issues.

Joseph Verrengia, 43, is a Democrat and West Hartford police officer seeking his second full term on the council after being appointed to complete a partial term. Mr. Verrengia switched parties after bucking GOP leadership to support Blue Back Square. He is a budget hawk and has a strong interest in the Elmwood neighborhood.

Shari Cantor, 47, also is a Democrat seeking her second full term. She is an accountant and has played a key role in budget matters.

Tim Brennan, 37, is a Democrat seeking office for the first time. He is a lawyer and the son of two local teachers, and has a strong interest in schools, senior issues and energy policy.

Also worthy of consideration are:

Leon S. Davidoff, 45, a business owner and lawyer. A Republican, Davidoff brings considerable experience, having served on the Newington town council in the 1990s as well as on West Hartford’s plan and zoning commission.

Steven Adler, 46, is a Republican and an insurance operations manager. Currently a member of the zoning commission, he would emphasize fiscal discipline and economic development.

Kelly A. Clark, 29, is a lawyer and a Republican seeking her first term. She is attuned to issues involving younger residents, and has a concern for traffic safety, among other things.

Also running are:

Peter Martin, 30, a lawyer and Republican seeking a first term. He stresses an open budget process and concern about taxes.

Michael Seder, 65, is a Republican seeking his first term. An industrial salesman, he has served on the Ledyard town council, and is focused on fiscal restraint and responsive government.

Joseph Visconti, 50, is a Republican and general contractor seeking his first term. An activist known for his opposition to Blue Back Square, Visconti says he champions fiscal discipline and public involvement in government.



Filed under campaign, election, Hartford Courant, town council

School budget slicing and dicing

At the hearing last night, the Board of Education heard lots of ideas for paring the proposed budget, according to today’s story in The Hartford Courant.

“Hall junior Alex Porter suggested reducing the school year by four days to trim costs,” reporter Fulvio Cativo wrote in his story. He added that school board members said that’s an idea that’s being explored.

Board members “said they would consider eliminating curriculum specialists, cutting the funds for conferences and meetings and discontinuing Norfeldt School’s magnet program,” the story reported.

Bruce Putterman, one of the school board members, said cutting all-day kindergarten is not on the table unless the referendum leads to a defeat for the budget.

Theresa McGrath, of the West Hartford Taxpayers Association, warned, “This is not the year to play politics or scare tactics,” according to the paper. That’s almost funny.

But I especially liked this: “People don’t move to West Hartford for the tax breaks, they move to West Hartford for the education,” said Kiernan Majerus-Collins, one of two Bristow Middle School sixth-grade students, who asked the board to save the Quest gifted and talented program.

That’s right on the money, kid.



Filed under Alex Porter, Board of Education, Bruce Putterman, budget, education, Fulvio Cativo, Hartford Courant, Kiernan Majerus-Collins, News, Norfeldt, Quest, referendum, Schools, Theresa McGrath, West Hartford, West Hartford Taxpayers Assocation

Courant story on racial imbalance in our schools

The Hartford Courant has a must-read story that raises many more questions than it answers about the growing racial imbalance between the schools as a whole because Charter Oak and Smith schools are far more diverse than most of the rest in town. We’ll have to follow up on many of the points in the story, but it’s one of those pieces that everybody who cares at all about the town has to read in order to have a common conversation.


Filed under Charter Oak, diversity, education, Hartford Courant, News, Schools, Smith, West Hartford

A devastating blow to West Hartford schools

Today’s story in The Hartford Courant quotes David Sklarz, the school superintendent, as saying last night that he faces “the most difficult reductions that I’ve had to present” in searching for ways to pare $1.8 million from the next education budget.

Now I could understand why this year posed problems if we were in the middle of a recession, if people were losing their homes and jobs, if everyone was taking a hit. But that’s not the case at all. The stock market’s soaring. Jobs are plentiful (though I recognize good jobs are still hard to come by). The economy is treating us kindly, for now.

So why are we in a budget-cutting frenzy?

Simple: because the town council is more scared of the West Hartford Taxpayers Assocation than it is of the voters.

As a result, it whacked $1.8 million from the school budget, threatening to wipe out Quest, erase extra help for our most troubled schools and even slice away full-day kindergarten at a handful of elementary schools. A disaster looms if these cuts go through.

Yet Theresa McGrath, president of the tax group, told the school board last night to find even more cuts. Why don’t we just put closed signs on the doors of our schools and tell our best and brightest kids to move, quickly, to Simsbury or Farmington? This is all nuts.

The story in the Courant today is typically awful. It mentions that a handful of parents spoke to the board, pleading for some programs. None of them are quoted by name. Only oneschool board members is quoted, so we really don’t know what they’re thinking in any detail either, which is a shame.

I’m afraid that the Courant’s lackluster interest in the crisis facing our town is going to make it so most parents are barely aware of what’s happening, if they know at all. Information is scant — whichever side you come down on — and there’s no place to get the facts that we need.

The one school board member who is mentioned in the story, Terry Schmitt, said the list of proposd cuts is a “classic example of how unfortunately wrong” McGrath is about the severity of what’s at stake.

This is a moment of truth for West Hartford. We need to defend our schools against a spurious attack by council members and self-styled taxpayer advocates that will gut good programs and set back education.

It’s not going to get easier for us in the next few years. If we start scaling back now, we’re in deep, deep trouble.


Filed under Board of Education, budget, David Sklarz, education, Hartford Courant, News, referendum, Schools, Terry Schmitt, Theresa McGrath, town council, West Hartford, West Hartford economy, West Hartford Taxpayers Association

What’s the news in West Hartford?

As a longtime resident who has read the papers avidly for years, I always felt that I had only a slim idea what really goes on in this town. That’s one big reason I started this blog, to help fill the gaps in my own knowledge (and, hopefully, to do the same for others).

After almost a year, I’m still irritated at how little real news about West Hartford is published — maybe even more mad, really, since I have a better understanding of what isn’t written about — but this blog has given me much more insight into my town than I ever dreamed possible. I can’t begin to express my appreciation to such people as Kevin Sullivan, Judy Aron, Chuck Coursey, Rick Liftig and many, many others who are sharing their knowledge and opinions so freely. There’s a conversation happening here that ought to be going on as well in the pages of the Courant and the West Hartford News, but isn’t.

Anyway, I want all of you to know that I’m willing to post pieces on this blog that are mostly just news. If you know about things going on in town that are not being reported, drop me an email at and tell me about it. I can’t launch a big investigation, or even a little one, but I can pass on news that’s not libelous or mean-spirited to whatever readers there are here.

Let’s see if we can’t do even more to fill the gap left by professional reporters who are too busy and distracted to notice much of what’s going on.


Filed under Hartford Courant, News, West Hartford, West Hartford News

Another upstanding West Hartford husband

Passed out, snoring in the wrong house


Filed under Hartford Courant, News, West Hartford

Corporate polluter: The Hartford Courant

I felt sick this morning to find that the oh-so-sanctimonious Hartford Courant had seen fit to seal a square of plastic across a portion of its front page in order to attach yet another annoying ad, this time for a Berlin “active adult” development. Much as I hate front page ads like this — it sure proves how desperate newspapers are to make money — today’s is a new low. In recent months, they’ve put Post-It note ads, which are at least removeable, though still ridiculous.

But by sealing a piece of plastic onto the front page, they have effectively turned a paper that can be recycled safely and efficiently into one that harms the environment. It is short-sighted and the move of an awful corporate citizen to attach permanently these plastic squares to a newspaper. It’s an environmental travesty, a screw-you to every subscriber who cares about our planet.

I hope that every municipality and green group in Connecticut will speak out against this change before it becomes accepted practice.

Perhaps the Courant’s publisher might want to read its editorials sometimes. Live up to your own ideals, Courant, or the shut the hell up.


Filed under Courant, Environment, Hartford Courant, Newspapers, recycling