Wednesday, January 9th, the 2013 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly convenes. People who have been reading my blog regularly will recall that I ran for State Representative last year, and if I had been elected, I would be getting sworn in on Wednesday.
Yet when I tell people about my campaign, I often tell them, that while I didn't get elected, I did win. I won by getting a chance to discuss important issues that our state faces. I won by giving voters a choice, even if they didn't end up choosing me. I won by having an opportunity to encourage people to become more involved in their government.
In one of my final campaign pieces, I encouraged people to stay involved. To start attending school board meetings, events at their places of worship or social clubs in their community, perhaps even attending town halls talking about what is going on up in Hartford.
Since election day, a lot of things have gone on and there are many things that the people in our community should be talking about, so I've set up an event that will take place at a local restaurant.
The first Citizen's Town Hall in the Woodbridge, Orange, Derby (and perhaps Hamden, Bethany, etc), will be Thursday 1/10 at 6:30 at Wheelers. Join us. Let's talk about the legislative agenda and what you'd like to see happen.
My mother died in a car accident during Hurricane Sandy. We lost power at our house, and gathered with our community to get through the difficult time. It was right before Halloween and the Woodbridge Volunteer Fire Department had a special gathering for the community to come together.
Today, a different Sandy is on our minds, the shooting Sandy Hook Elementary School. Many of us have friends from Sandy Hook. Many of us are parents trying to find ways to talk with our kids about the horrible shooting that took place there. Many of us are struggling with our own grief, trying to be strong for our loved ones.
Yesterday, at work, I shared thoughts from our chief behavioral health officer on how to talk with children about what happened at Sandy Hook. He said to reassure our children that they are safe and to review safety plans with them. He said to limit exposure to TV and other media. He said to talk with other adults about our own reactions.
So, my daughter spent last night with her papa, a retired Bethany Volunteer Fireman. He had been watching too much news and was grieving for the people of Sandy Hook. My wife urged them to watch 'Elf'. Towards the end of the movie, singing Christmas carols and believing in Santa is what saves the day.
Perhaps we need a little bit of that right about now. Today, at the Woodbridge Volunteer Fire Department, Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit. There will also be a clinic on car seat safety. Then, Sunday afternoon at the First Congregational Church there will be carol singing.
So, for the victims of Hurricane Sandy and of shooting at Sandy Hook, I'll paraphrase the great editorial from years ago…
Yes, Sandy, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Sandys. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
A gunman in Sandy Hook took the lives of some of its children, but the eternal light with which childhood fills the world has not been extinguished. It shines in the bravery and kindness of the Woodbridge Volunteer Fire Department. It shines in the carols that members of First Church will sing Sunday afternoon. It shines in the light of candles on the menorahs and advent wreaths across Woodbridge.
Yes, Sandy, there is a Santa
Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.
The young men and women of the Amity High School Chamber Choir stood on the stairs of the Thomas Darling house, their faces scrubbed, shiny and expectant as they looked to their director standing at the bottom of the stairs. A large crowd had come in from the neighboring room with the cookies and punch to hear them sing. Several held up their cellphones to record the performance.
For over two decades the chamber choir has sung in this house. The house itself has stood in Woodbridge for over two centuries. While the cellphones recording the performance and the handheld video games of some of the younger folks attending the open house are new additions, there was something timeless about the event.
The pure a cappella carols, and later, the carol sing around piano in a different room harkened back, not to a simpler time, for life has always had its struggles, just different struggles. Instead it was a reminder of what we have in common, gathering around in friendship and music, appreciating beauty and the hope and joy we can find, if we take a moment to look.
After they sang, the choir rushed off to their next event in Orange and others lingered to share stories of the history of Woodbridge.
Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.
Thursday night was busy in Woodbridge. I'm told there was a back to school event for some Amity parents. My daughter, Fiona is in fifth grade, so on the top of my list was the Beecher Road School Parent Teacher Organization. The meeting was well attended with many parents eager to make a difference in the lives of their children and their community. The great success of the Ice Cream Social was announced; it raised approximately $1,200 for the PTO. There were also discussions about various other fundraising opportunities, such as the program at Stop and Shop where the grocery store contributes some of its profits to local schools. Parents need to sign up each year to continue to participate, and the program isn't just limited to parents. Anyone can participate and, with no extra effort or cost, contribute to the PTO.
Also attending the PTO meeting was the new principal, Gina Prisco. She spoke about various improvements at the school, such as new signs and maps to make it easier for visitors to find their way around. She brought the sort of enthusiasm and vivacity to the meeting that we have come to expect from our superintendent, Dr. Guy Stella. Unfortunately, Dr. Stella couldn't make the meeting because of a conflict.
It was also announce that there would be a ribbon cutting for the new playground this morning. Unfortunately, I'll need to miss this due to work commitments.
From the PTO meeting, I rushed over to the Warm Hearts, Warm Homes fundraiser for the Woodbridge Town Food and Fuel program. The event took place in the new tent next to the pool at the Country Club of Woodbridge. The event was well attended and helped illustrate some of the vision for the town and the club that are leaders have been working on. This was the event that Dr. Stella was at and it was good to see him, along with First Selectman Ed Sheehy, and various members of different town boards and commissions.
On a personal note, my daughter Fiona had her appendix out a week ago, and I greatly appreciated the kind words so many friends shared at the event.
A great school, a great recreational facility being revitalized, and opportunities to help those less fortunate than ourselves; it was a wonderful, though hectic, evening to appreciate some of the best that Woodbridge has to offer, and I wish more people would take advantage of all the town has to offer.
As the Fourth of July celebrates wind down and we return to our regularly scheduled summer activities, I thought it would be useful to reflect on how the two should be related. One of the great slogans of the American Revolution was "No taxation without representation". While everyone wants their taxes to be as low as reasonable and taxes is always an issue in campaigns, I want to focus for a moment on the final words of the phrase, representation.
I am running to represent the people of Woodbridge, Orange and Derby in Hartford. To do this, I need to spend time getting to speak with and know as many of the people as possible. The fireworks in Orange provided a great opportunity to do this. As I walked around the crowd, I asked people where they were from to see if they would be in the 114th Assembly District. Orange is now split into parts of three different districts, so I asked people from Orange if they knew who their State Representative was. Many did not.
I had heard, years ago that as many as 80% of people don't know who their State Representative is, a disappointing number I found hard to believe. Yet as I talked to the people at the fireworks, it seemed that this may be accurate.
We have people represent us in our local government, up in Hartford, and down in Washington because most people are too busy with their daily lives to be fully involved with legislative processes. A representative democracy is a good way of governing, but to work well, we should at least get to know our representatives and share our thoughts with them.
At a minimum, we need to get out and vote, yet turnout in elections is horribly low. What we really should be doing is meeting those that wish to represent us at campaign events and town committee meetings. As part of my campaign, I've spoken at town committee meetings in Woodbridge, Orange and Derby. I've gone to campaign events for Rosa DeLauro and Chris Murphy. I hope many of you will consider doing the same. The next Woodbridge Democratic Town Committee meeting is Monday at 7 PM at the Senior Center in Woodbridge. It would be great to see more people attend.
As we look at the Revolutionary war slogan of "No taxation without representation" and seek ways to achieve the most reasonable tax rates, let us not forget the other side of the quote. Let's work together to make sure that we elect officials who will represent all of us.