Student productions at Wilton High School range from splashy musicals like last year’s “West Side Story,” performed in the state-of-the-art, $10 million auditorium, to weightier works like Arthur Miller’s “Crucible,” on stage last fall in the school’s smaller theater.
For the spring semester, students in the advanced theater class took on a bigger challenge: creating an original play about the war in Iraq. They compiled reflections of soldiers and others involved, including a heartbreaking letter from a 2005 Wilton High graduate killed in Iraq last September at age 19, and quickly found their largely sheltered lives somewhat transformed.
“In Wilton, most kids only care about Britney Spears shaving her head or Tyra Banks gaining weight,” said Devon Fontaine, 16, a cast member. “What we wanted was to show kids what was going on overseas.”
But even as 15 student actors were polishing the script and perfecting their accents for a planned April performance, the school principal last week canceled the play, titled “Voices in Conflict,” citing questions of political balance and context.
The principal, Timothy H. Canty, who has tangled with students before over free speech, said in an interview he was worried the play might hurt Wilton families “who had lost loved ones or who had individuals serving as we speak,” and that there was not enough classroom and rehearsal time to ensure it would provide “a legitimate instructional experience for our students.”
“It would be easy to look at this case on first glance and decide this is a question of censorship or academic freedom,” said Mr. Canty, who attended Wilton High himself in the 1970s and has been its principal for three years. “In some minds, I can see how they would react this way. But quite frankly, it’s a false argument.”
At least 10 students involved in the production, however, said that the principal had told them the material was too inflammatory, and that only someone who had actually served in the war could understand the experience. They said that Gabby Alessi-Friedlander, a Wilton junior whose brother is serving in Iraq, had complained about the play, and that the principal barred the class from performing it even after they changed the script to respond to concerns about balance.
“He told us the student body is unprepared to hear about the war from students, and we aren’t prepared to answer questions from the audience and it wasn’t our place to tell them what soldiers were thinking,” said Sarah Anderson, a 17-year-old senior who planned to play the role of a military policewoman.
Bonnie Dickinson, who has been teaching theater at the school for 13 years, said, “If I had just done ‘Grease,’ this would not be happening.”
Frustration over the inelegant finale has quickly spread across campus and through Wilton, and has led to protest online through Facebook and other Web sites.
“To me, it was outrageous,’’ said Jim Anderson, Sarah’s father. “Here these kids are really trying to make a meaningful effort to educate, to illuminate their fellow students, and the administration, of all people, is shutting them down.”
This isn't the first time this idiotic principal has trampled on the student's right for free speech.
The scrap over “Voices in Conflict” is the latest in a series of free-speech squabbles at Wilton High, a school of 1,250 students that is consistently one of Connecticut’s top performers and was the alma mater of Elizabeth Neuffer, the Boston Globe correspondent killed in Iraq in 2003.
The current issue of the student newspaper, The Forum, includes an article criticizing the administration for requiring that yearbook quotations come from well-known sources for fear of coded messages. After the Gay Straight Alliance wallpapered stairwells with posters a few years ago, the administration, citing public safety hazards, began insisting that all student posters be approved in advance.
Around the same time, the administration tried to ban bandanas because they could be associated with gangs, prompting hundreds of students to turn up wearing them until officials relented.
“Our school is all about censorship,” said James Presson, 16, a member of the “Voices of Conflict” cast. “People don’t talk about the things that matter.”
In an abrupt change from her original plan, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Friday that her proposal to eliminate the car tax would apply only to the first $30,000 of a car's fair market value.
The revision came in response to criticism by Democrats that Rell's plan would disproportionately favor the rich, who sometimes own numerous highly expensive cars. Her amended plan came less than one week after The Courant reported that residents of Greenwich own 2,337 cars that are worth more than $50,000 each. The town's vehicle roster includes 39 Rolls-Royces, 40 Maseratis, 90 Bentleys, 94 Ferraris, 931 Porsches and 3,474 Mercedes-Benzes.
This proposal has no chance in seeing the light of day simply because Rell's plan includes eliminating the $500.00 property tax credit.
Some Democrats scoffed at the idea, saying that Rell is backpedaling in an attempt to salvage her proposal.
"Last month, I said the governor rolled out her car tax on flat tires," said House Speaker James Amann, one of the leading car-tax opponents. "Putting a doughnut on one of the wheels doesn't make it roll. What about the basic inequity of someone with one car vs. a wealthy person with three or four? It's a minor adjustment to a badly flawed proposal."
Rep. Christopher Caruso, a Bridgeport Democrat, rejected the statements by Republicans that urban Democrats should favor the car-tax elimination because of the high tax rates in the cities. He charged that Rell's new plan will not work because it still relies on eliminating the popular $500 property tax credit as a way to make up for losses as a result of ending the tax on vehicles.
"It doesn't resolve the problem for urban dwellers and the middle class," Caruso said Friday. "People in Bridgeport don't drive Bentleys. They don't drive Porsches. They don't drive BMWs."
It's simple, as long as the governor continues her quest to eliminate the $500.00 property tax credit, the Democrats will never allow this proposal to see the light of day.
...and lets not get into how eliminating the tax would hurt cities and small towns.
Murphy comments regarding Iraq Supplemental Appropriations Bill vote
Friday, March 23, 2007 Time: 6:55 PM
Understanding the message from November's election, Democratic Congressman Chris Murphy casted his vote in favor of the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations Bill, a binding resolution which places a redeploy date for American troops in Iraq.
Congressman Murphy issued the following press release after casting his vote in favor of the bill.
"I am proud to have voted for the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act today because it supports our troops before, during and after their service to this country.
"Nine years ago on this floor, Congressman Floyd Spence, the Republican Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, had this to say about the bill withdrawing American forces from Bosnia . 'The time is long overdue for Congress to express its will on behalf of the American people.' I couldn't say it better myself.
"In this place, the People's House, the will of the people must mean something. Elections must mean something. And if the 2006 election represented anything, it was that the American people were tired of the lack of oversight and accountability from this Congress, and they were tired of a war with growing numbers of casualties, and mounting costs with no end in sight. They asked for a new direction from this Congress, and The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, is the answer to their call.
"There are many of us who feel uncomfortable giving this President another dime to spend to perpetuate this misguided and shortsighted strategy in Iraq . But I come here to support this legislation because for the first time since the start of this disastrous engagement, Congress is making sure that any further spending on this war comes with unprecedented support for our troops and veterans, and a real plan to redeploy our forces and resources to fights that we can still win.
"This Administration has been wrong on just about everything about Iraq - there were no weapons of mass destruction, we were not welcome as liberators, the country has plunged into a civil war, and we have no exit strategy.
"The days of issuing a blank check to this Administration with no questions asked are over. As we enter the fifth year of this war, people in Connecticut and across the country demand a change in our policy in Iraq . This bill is the change that they asked for."
Congressman Murphy held a press conference in which he answered questions about his vote as well as President's threat to veto the bill. Here's highlights of his presser.
Finally, Congressman Murphy went on television and offer these brief remarks to WTNH.
Chris Murphy to hold press conference on Iraq Supplemental Appropriations Bill
Time: 9:40 AM
Today, I'll be joining Rep. Chris Murphy's press conference in which he'll answer questions regarding the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations Bill currently being debated in Congress.
As you know, the people want a change in the way things are done in the state and country. Last November's election was a wake-up call to the Republicans that the people outright rejected their political philosophy with the Democrats gaining majority status in Washington and gaining SUPER majority status in Connectiut. In the state, no other place was the outright rejection of a political party more evident than in Danbury.
On a national level, the pro-war, pro-illegal immigration enforcement Congresswoman Nancy Johnson suffered a massive defeat by Chris Murphy losing to the Democrat on EVERY voting machine in Danbury despite the GREAT DEAL of local support by Mayor Boughton. On the State level, outspoken local anti-immigrant critic and Republican Common Council member Pauline Basso negative immigration smear campaign against State Rep./Deputy Speaker Bob Godfrey failed to impress anyone and ultimatelty proved worthless, as she was unable to muster more than 1,000 votes on election night. The 107th110th 109th "journeyman," Common Council Republican Gregg Seabury's last ditch effort to run an anti-immigration smear campaign against Democrat Joe Taborsak also failed to impress anyone and also resulted in an embarrassing defeat that hopefully puts Seabury's quest of becoming a State Rep finally to rest. Finally, Jason Bartlett's hard fought victory over Republican Phil Gallagher ended a sweeping day for Democratic Party which was echoed in other races throughout the country.
From November, here's Danbury Democratic Town Committee chariman Joe DaSilva analyisis on the local and national races.
The Democrats know that the public expects a change in direction on several key issues, the biggest being the war in Iraq. The Iraq Supplemental Appropriations Bill is the Democrats latest attempt to bring change and accountability to the management of the war. The bill faces opposition from the Republicans who are united against it as well as several Democrats who are undecided in supporting the binding resolution that calls for a deadline for combat troops to leave Iraq.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said they're at least one or two votes short of the 218 needed to pass binding legislation with a firm deadline -- August 31, 2008 -- for combat troops to leave Iraq.
The deadline is contained in a supplemental funding bill -- legislation that President Bush has promised to veto if it contains such a provision.
The biggest resistance isn't coming from the other side of the aisle -- although Republicans are mostly united in opposition -- but rather from a handful of undecided Democrats, including freshmen Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Brad Ellsworth of Indiana and Hank Johnson of Georgia.
The list has grown smaller. Rep. James McGovern, an anti-war Democrat from Massachusetts who had been on the fence, agreed to vote yes.
"I have come to the conclusion that defeating the supplemental bill before us today would send a message to George Bush and Dick Cheney that they will continue to have a free pass from this Congress to do whatever the hell they want to do," McGovern said during Thursday's floor debate on the measure.
McGovern's not the only one. Rep. Elijah Cummings, an anti-war Democrat from Maryland who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said he's been getting mixed signals from constituents.
But Cummings said he's ready to vote yes, insisting that Democratic leaders have not twisted his arm.
"A vote against the supplemental would cause us to have a stripped-down bill, and there would be no voice saying, 'Mr. Bush, stop this war immediately.' "
If the Democrats have the votes, then the bill will be voted on later today. As a preview to Murphy's presser, from yesterday's House session on the proposed bill, here's Congressman John Larson (D-1st Dist) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd Dist) offering their remarks on this important bill.
Yesterday I made my way up to Hartford and joined some of the Connecticut's best bloggers on a tour of the State Capitol.
I'd like to thank the great Spazeboy for arranging the tour courtesy of Rep. John Geragosian (D-New Britain) and over the next few days, I'll provide a more detailed report of everything that happened (including the usual video).
A new attempt to build the Super 7 highway between Danbury and Norwalk has apparently met the same old end — it went nowhere.
State Rep. Antonietta Boucher, R-Wilton said Wednesday the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee has refused to consider a proposal to put the Super 7 plan back on the state Department of Transportation’s list of highway projects/ The committee’s deadline for acting on any bills was Monday.
Boucher said that should end talk of reviving a Rt 7 highway this year. While Norwalk officials still support the idea, other towns along its route — Danbury, Redding, Ridgefield and Wilton — oppose it, in thunder.
Boucher said there is a chance that the proposal’s backer, State Sen. Robert Duff, D-Norwalk, could try to attach it as an amendment to another transportation bill. But she said that never get through both houses of the General Assembly.
Lawmakers yesterday ap proved a num ber of bills to im prove the state's bus and rail ser vice, but a controversial proposal to revive the Super 7 highway was not voted out of committee.
Supporters of the long-stalled highway between Norwalk and Danbury vowed to keep fighting for it after learning that the legislature's Transportation Committee did not approve it before yesterday's deadline.
Lawmakers who opposed the Super 7 bill said the committee's actions prove the state's focus has shifted to mass transit and away from super-highways.
"It's going to take some time before we have shovels in the ground, but I'm going to keep fighting for this until the session ends," said Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, who proposed the Super 7 bill. "This issue is far bigger than just a bill. The outcry we got, both for and against the Super 7, shows what an important topic this is for people."
More than two months remain in the legislative session, and the Super 7 bill could be attached to other "vehicles," Duff said.
But there is too much opposition and not enough money to build Super 7, critics said.
The project has been stalled for more than 50 years by environmentalists and residents of Wilton, Redding and Ridgefield. The state owns about 60 percent of the land needed for the project, which would cost more than $1 billion to finish.
The state should be focused on improving rail service and the existing Route 7, said Rep. Antonietta "Toni" Boucher, R-Wilton.
"Let us now all work together to make much needed improvements to our area's infrastructure," Boucher said. "Imagine how much can be accomplished if we presented a united front in promoting these worthy projects," such as widening the existing Route 7, completing the Merritt Parkway-Route 7 interchange and improving Metro-North Railroad's Danbury line.
Three things: 1.) driving on Route 7 is horrible 2.) taking the Metro from Danbury to Norwalk is even worse than driving and 3.) the people in the Danbury area have suffered from years of empty promises from elected officials who promised time and time again to work on a solution to the problem.
Oh, it's that great time when my harddrive is full and I have to archive endless amounts of videos to DVD. Well, you know what that means, all video footage that I shot will be placed on hold until I have room on my system to process the data.
Dealing with digital video requires a great deal of harddrive space which is something in short supply (it doesn't take me very long to fill 360 gig of space). I swear, I'm going to need to build a server for storing this stuff as burning DVDs takes forever. It's going to take me a while until I can post my footage on the recent meetings at City Hall including the ad-hoc committee on grant agencies as well as the recent meeting of Planning, Zoning, and EIC.
I'm really sorry and I'll work as fast as I can to free up the space.
Rep. Shays was on Hardball on MSNBC yesterday to talk about his position on the Iraq appopriations bill that is scheduled to be voted on in the House tomorrow.
In about five minutes, he was able to make the following range of points:
1. He said he is "a strong no" on the legislation because the proposed timeline for redeployment is "too quick," but that "we do need timelines," but that Congress has no authority to propose such timelines, and any such proposal needs to come from to the President.
2. Asked if he would support a war that lasted until the end of 2008, he answered enigmatically: "If it's a war where we're starting to make progress, obviously, it's easy to support it. If it's a war where Petraeus's plan is not working out well, then obviously, it's going to be very difficult to want to support it."
3. Presented with poll numbers showing that 83% of Shiites and 97% of the Sunnis in Iraq want U.S. troops out, he responded that a majority of Iraqis still "don't want us to leave until we get the job done." But then he called for Pelosi to allow a vote on his proposed amendment to the Iraq bill, which would require "a plebiscite in Iraq and if 60 percent of the Iraqis don't support our being there, then we just leave and get out."
So here's the current Shays position on Iraq as I understand it:
He thinks we need timelines, but he wants them to be drawn out until at least late 2008, and he wants the President to introduce it, not Congress. But even though he claims a redeployment of troops by March 2008 (as the current bill requires) would be too quick, he won't admit to wanting troops in Iraq past March 2008, because, he says, of the possibility that the war just might be even less popular by then. Finally, he strongly believes America has a solemn duty to Iraqis to stay until the "job is done," but feels very strongly that if 60% of Iraqis decide in a vote they want us to leave then we should "just leave and get out," regardless of the level of "doneness" of said undefined "job." Meanwhile, he brushes aside polls taken recently that indicate that about 90% of Iraqis do want us out right now.
That's why he'll be voting for more war tomorrow.
It's better when you watch Shays move his mouth and makes his plea for more war.
Kenneth Krayeske, the political activist and blogger whose Jan. 3 arrest while taking pictures of Gov. M. Jodi Rell's inauguration parade raised concerns over civil rights issues and the actions of police, won dismissal Wednesday of the charges against him in Hartford Superior Court.
Prosecutors at first offered only to nolle the charges of breach of peace and interfering with police -- that is, to not prosecute them but reserve the right to reopen the case for about a year -- on the grounds that Hartford police were in a "no-win" situation because they would have been strongly criticized if something happened to Rell.
But Krayeske's lawyer, Norman Pattis, pushed for an outright dismissal, saying it was Krayeske who was in the "no-win" situation because he was a nonviolent citizen exercising his First Amendment right by taking pictures of Rell for his website, www.the40yearplan.com.
Pattis added that Krayeske should not have been identified as a threat to Rell, as he was by the state police, in a two-page security flier they prepared for police on parade patrol. The flier included information about Krayeske's past public criticism of the governor and two color driver's-license photos of him from motor vehicles department records.
Prosecutors then agreed to the dismissal, which did not involve any waiving by Krayeske of his right to bring a wrongful arrest suit in federal court. He said afterward he had not made a decision about legal action, and for now wanted merely to focus on his studies as a law student.
Congrats Ken! It's a great day for free speech as well as a great day for the blogosphere.
One of the State Reps who has been critical of Krayeske's arrest is East Haven's Mike Lawlor (99 Dist) and he issued this press release moments ago.
"It's very good news that prosecutors dropped the charges against Ken Krayeske and that the judge dismissed the case. For more than two months, everyone who was familiar with this incident had said that there was absolutely no probable cause to charge Ken Krayeske with any crime. It is also clear to me that Krayeske was singled out irresponsibly by state and local police because of his political views and prior political statements and activity.
The bad news is that state and local taxpayers will bear the cost of this violation of Ken Krayeske’s constitutional right. The good news is, that the governor, the legislature and law enforcement agencies can and will make sure this never happens again.
There are bills currently before the legislature expanding civilian oversight of these types of ‘intelligence’ activities and over the ability to hold non-violent arrestees on very high bonds for very minor charges."
Here's a flashback of Lawlor's press conference days after Krayeske's arrest.
In regards to the city's early budget proposal, remember this post.
As for the budget, presentations sound great but as with anything, the proof is in th details. Democratic minority leader Tom Saadi was quick to touch on this point last night.
Democratic caucus leader Tom Saadi said he and fellow Democrats will evaluate the budget in detail over the next month, but he fears the final numbers will change if the Gov. M. Jodi Rell's proposed budget is not passed.
"This budget relies on the governor's funds. While that reliance may be 80 or 90 percent right, we are going to have to make up the difference," Saadi said.
The Senate Democrats called for a wholesale rewriting of Gov. M. Jodi Rell's $17.5 billion budget proposal Wednesday, saying they oppose virtually all of her tax proposals and significant parts of her spending plan.
Following their first detailed caucus since Rell announced her proposal last month, the Democrats emerged Wednesday afternoon to say that closer scrutiny of the governor's budget has revealed a series of flaws.
"It turns out that there's a lot less than what meets the eye," said Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, the highest-ranking senator. "This is going to be a very difficult budget year. ... This budget has a lot of flaws that did not reveal themselves immediately."
Standing next to Williams at a press conference at the state Capitol, the co-chairwoman of the legislature's tax-writing committee, Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, said Rell's tax plans are "a real gut-punch to the middle class and to the poor."
The Democrats "just couldn't sanction" Rell's 10 percent, across-the-board increase in the state income tax, the repeal of the estate tax, and the phase-out of the popular $500 property tax credit, Daily said. She also cited opposition to the elimination of the personal property tax on cars, and using annual revenues from the casinos to help pay for the car-tax elimination.
...and do you recall the video post that featured Democrat State Rep Bob Godfrey and Republican State Senator David Cappiello's comment regarding the city budget (hint: the term "irresponsible" and "folly" were used)?
Leaders said while they are receiving more state education money, they are losing a combined $60 million in other areas, such as aid for road improvements, that results in a loss of funding for many towns and cities.
State Sen. David Cappiello, R-Danbury, a ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, said he was concerned state residents could "get the shaft" by facing both a higher income tax -- an increase to 5.5 percent is proposed in the governor's budget -- and higher property taxes.
He noted that while Newtown would pay an additional $6.1 million to the state in income taxes, the town is facing an overall reduction in state funding. About 142 municipalities in the state are in a similar predicament, he said.
"The majority of towns will pay more in income tax than they will be getting back in education funding," Cappiello said. "How is that fair, when cities like Bridgeport get $80 million in additional education funding with little accountability of how that money is spent?"
Are you're not getting the point yet...PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE FOLLOWING
Some committee members were concerned that municipal leaders are including the proposed increase in state aid in their local budgets, while assuming the cuts in other areas will be restored later in the legislative session.
"It's a bit unwise to rely on the governor's numbers this year," said state Sen. Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield, chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. "It has a very uneven increased distribution. There is still a long way to go before the budget is completed."
Newtown First Selectman Herb Rosenthal sums it up best...
Rosenthal said that municipalities have difficulties in developing their budgets and estimating state aid, because the local budgets are completed months before the state budget is approved.
"The problem for us is that we have to use something," he said, adding that officials in his town usually use conservative estimates.
"We wait as long as we can to set the mill rate. If there is a big difference in what we were expecting to receive from the state, then we would have to go back to the taxpayers and set a higher rate," he said. "I don't think they'd be too happy about that."
In other words, early budgets are unreliable since municipalities don't really know what type of state aid their getting from the state and why you should wait as long as possible in order to get more accurate numbers from the state legislature. This is EXACTLY the point Godfrey raised in the videoclip and why he's deeply troubled with the timing of the mayor's budget proposal (watch the video again).
I really hope your paying attention...we'll beat that horse again later.
Ad-hoc committee on grant agencies provide fireworks (and other tidbits)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007 Time: 9:46 PM
With everything going on this week (and it's only Tuesday), I'm having a hard time keeping up with processing my videos. I attended tonight's ad-hoc committee on grant agencies in which the Hispanic Center's funds were placed on hold pending a committee review.
I'll give more details as well as post the entire ad-hoc committee meeting as well as some details surrounding changes at the Hispanic Center, news regarding the heli-port deabte, more overdevelopment madness, and new details surrounding the Dunkin Donuts dream tomorrow.
On September 26, 2007, ten plaintiffs filed suit in response to an arrest of aday laborers at a public park in Danbury, Connecticut. Plaintiffs amended their complaint on November 26, 2007.
The amended complaint states that plaintiffs sought to remedy the continued discriminatory and unauthorized enforcement of federal immigration laws against the Latino residents of the City of Danbury by Danbury's mayor and its police department.
Plaintiffs allege that the arrests violated their Fourth Amendment rights and the Connecticut Constitution because defendants conducted the arrests without valid warrants, in the absence of exigent circumstances, and without probable cause to believe that plaintiffs were engaged in unlawful activity. In addition, plaintiffs allege that defendants improperly stopped, detained, investigated, searched and arrested plaintiffs. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights when they intentionally targeted plaintiffs, and arrested and detained them on the basis of their race, ethnicity and perceived national origin. Plaintiffs raise First Amendment, Due Process and tort claims.
Plaintiffs request declaratory relief, damages and attorneys fees.