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General News

January 29, 2007

Bysiewicz Thanks Volunteers

Courtesy photo

By Rose Mentone

More than 500 honorees from 18 towns came to Quinnipiac University last Friday morning to receive the Secretary of the State of Connecticut Poll Worker Public Service Awards for the 3rd Congressional District. The awards are given for exemplary community service.

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz called the honorees -- more than 840 in all -- “tremendous public servants.” Over the past seven years, she said she has given such awards to over16,000 volunteers. During the ceremony, she called for a moment of silence for the 38 young service people from Connecticut who have lost their lives, as well as two poll workers who recently passed away.

Hamden honorees included Democrats Carol Veno, with more than 15 years of service; Nancy Barr, Mary Ann Buonasora, Mary Cabral, Iris Corriher, Jemma DeLucia, Jean DeMarsilis, Fioretta Dombek-Masler, Elaine Dove, Seymour Hatkin, E. Carol Holloman, Richard Korby, Anthony Mentone, Theresa Schuster, Ann Vining and Dwight Ware, with more than 10 years; Luigi DiSorbo, Francis Lamboley, Elissa Lupi and Peter Vining, eight years or more; Larry Cuomo, Deborah Edery, Shirley Farm, Evelyn Hatkin, Sallie Lowry, Alice Merlone, Stephanie Mims, Bernard Nitkin, Gertrude Nitkin, Helen, Piperas and Martha Seldon, seven years; Jacob Edery, Laverne Johnson, Amy Ruhlman and Gloria Sandillo, six years; Sheila Cooper, William Kennedy, Rose Mentone, Joan Rudolph and Nicholas Vitale Jr., five years.

Retired workers Patricia Buonfiglio, Vincent Vollono, Ann and Carl Cipollini, Josephine Ditta, Henry Blue and Helyn and Pasquale Barbato were also awarded.

And Republican poll workers honored were Robert Anthony, Rose Atchley, Angela and Joseph Bertini, Laura Carlson, Josephine Ditta, Francis Doborowicz, Josephine Durso, Harold and Janet Fitch, Leonard and Mary Grabowski, Karen Grahn, Lucille Holmes, Victoria B. Jarowey, Emily Jenkinson, Laverne Johnson, Robert Marzullo, Anna and Cosimo Melillo, Thomas O’Brien, Myra M. Rochow, Josephine Rosinganna, Bernice Scaramuzza and Francis Tirone.

January 26, 2007

Weekends with Finch

Bud Finch doing what he was born to do. File photo

By Sharon Bass

Due to listener requests and pleas, legendary radioman Bud Finch will double his airtime starting this weekend. His Big Band show “Once Upon a Bandstand,” broadcast over WQUN, will now be heard Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to noon. It used to be on just Saturdays an hour earlier.

“They doubled our time, they doubled our penalty,” said Finch. “The real punishment is to the audience. It’s amazing to me how many people care about a genre that’s so old.”

“We’ve been getting a lot of mail,” said Franz Douskey, “Once Upon” producer, who shares some of the air with Finch. “We have a lot of listeners.”

Yesterday, inside Quinnipiac University’s New Road studio the duo wrapped up their 64th show. "Once Upon" debuted in October 2005. “We’re kind of amazed that people listen to it. We sort of did it on a whim,” said Douskey. “We get people who actually say they dance to our show.”

Producer Douskey. Courtesy photo

And why not? The Hamden guys play those catchy tunes from the ’40s and ’50s, an era when dancing was hot. Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman. “If you walk into Centerville Lumber you can definitely hear the show. Or Apex [Pharmacy],” said Douskey.

All the music comes from Douskey’s archives. He said Grace Recording Studio on Pelham Avenue converts his old vinyl into CDs for the show.

Finch is reportedly the oldest living broadcaster in Connecticut. “I’ve had my 70th birthday and I won’t have it again,” he said about his age.

“People love this thing,” the inimitable radio personality said. “It’s a labor of love. It’s a joy to the community. And I take pleasure in that. Giving something back to the community.” “Once Upon” is 32 minutes music, 15 minutes Finch talk and the rest commercials.

“I started in radio because of the music,” said Finch. In 1939, he went to work for WELI as a student. By 1950, he had his own 15-minute talk-music spot, which was eventually expanded to four hours. He played live piano and organ as well as spun records. In 1996, he retired from the Hamden radio station, which now imports its “local news” from Syracuse, N.Y., and has replaced quality shows like Finch’s with neocon rhetoric.

“Radio was an important thing for the community. We sponsored community choruses. Parties for the children on Halloween and Christmas. Today it’s just a way to make money in a hurry. It was a calling. It was a real profession in those days,” said Finch. “I don’t take pride in radio very much anymore. It caters to the LCD [lowest common denominator].”

When Finch was in the Air Force during World War II, he said he played piano for such greats as the Glenn Miller Band. Those were the days. “Everyone took dancing classes then. New York City had 300 ballrooms. New Haven had about six in its heyday,” the radioman said. Those ballrooms are long gone. “The young people today don’t know how to dance. There’s no steps, no grace.”

Also gone, especially from corporate-owned stations like WELI, are the stories, the personalities, the history of the music played over the airwaves. “You gotta tell those stories,” said Finch.

So he does. On WQUN, one of the last bastions of corporate-free broadcast journalism and entertainment.

For an exhaustive overview of Finch’s life, click here to delve into the HDN archives.

January 23, 2007

Hell Bent on DUIs

Marty Ruff. Photo/Sharon Bass

By Sharon Bass

Marty Ruff -- Hamden police commissioner and president of the Police Commissioners Association of Connecticut -- has just gotten himself another volunteer title: chair of the state operations council of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“MADD works hand in hand with law enforcement and since I’m involved with law enforcement it was a perfect fit,” said Ruff. Unlike many of the organization’s volunteers, he said he has never been affected by a drunk driver.

Still, Ruff seems highly charged to help stamp out drinking and driving and believes MADD is an answer. “MADD seems like the only independent group that is hell bent on ending DUIs,” he said.

Meeting MADD

Over a year ago, Ruff said he began going to MADD events “because I was very much interested in their aggressiveness to curb DUIs with whatever means necessary.” He apparently liked what he saw and stuck around. As the new state chair, Ruff said he wants to garner better recognition for MADD programs.

“I’d like to think I’m pretty well known around the state of Connecticut in law enforcement,” he said. He is serving a three-year term as chair.

“He’s a take-charge kind of person. He likes to accomplish the things he sets out to do,” said Carole Cohen, officer manager at MADD’s state headquarters on North Haven’s Washington Street. The organization has been in Connecticut for 22 years, she said. The threefold mission is to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking and support victims. There are 12 paid employees and about 100 volunteers.

This Thursday, MADD will debut a DUI car device that makes it hard to start the ignition if one is impaired, said Ruff. And a state bill has been introduced that requires judges to make those guilty of DUI buy and install the “ignition interlock device.” Ruff said he’s unsure how it works.

And on March 24 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the sixth annual “Skate for Leah” will be held at the Louis Astorino ice rink. It’s in memory of Leah Hall, a Hamden girl who was killed by a drunk driver when she was 14. Admission is $5 a person.

January 22, 2007

Elks Honors Hamden's Finest

Abner Oakes named citizen of the year.

Story and visuals by Sharon Bass

Known for his deep commitment to the town and affable manner, Abner Oakes, chair of the Veterans Commission, was named citizen of the year Saturday evening by the Hamden Elks before a sold-out dinner crowd.

“I am extremely proud to have served the town of Hamden,” said Oakes, who moved to town 37 years ago. “And I salute my wife and all the support she’s given me.”

Oakes thanks Hamden. Click arrow to listen in.

About 230 wives, siblings, children and grandparents paid 15 bucks a head to watch four men -- Oakes, a cop, a career firefighter and a volunteer fighter, all of whom live and work in Hamden -- walk on stage at the community awards ceremony. Beforehand, folks were devouring pasta, chicken parmigiana and salad when someone pointed to a fire-code sign on the wall in the Elks hall at 175 School St.

According to the code, there’s a cap of 175 people for banquets and dinners with table arrangements. For dancing and/or just chairs (no tables, no dinner), 299 are allowed. While it appeared to the untrained eye that the Jan. 20 event violated the code, Deputy Fire Chief (and chef) Clark Hurlburt said everything was fine because the numerous firefighters in attendance had the right gear on hand should a fire break out. He said that’s an exception to the posted rule.

Deputy Chief Hurlburt serves up a platter of chicken parmigiana.

Mayor Craig Henrici spoke very briefly before dinner as it was his wife’s birthday, he said, and he had to make a beeline to celebrate with her. He ended his comments with, “Mr. Buechele, it’s very good to see you here tonight.”

Mayor Henrici with Councilman Bob Westervelt.

Henrici was not the only one to single out Don Buechele, superintendent of apparatus for the HFD, who was being honored as the “outstanding fireman.” When “outstanding volunteer fireman” John Gustafson took the mic his opening remark was, “First, I want to say Donny Buechele is the bravest person I know.”

Volunteer firefighter Gustafson and his plaque.

On Dec. 28, Buechele was arrested for driving a town vehicle off-duty and out of town while under the influence and crashing it. Despite some public outcry about the 52-year-old receiving the Elks honor, it was clear Saturday night that he is very much admired by his peers.

Even master of ceremonies WELI’s Jerry Kristafer singled out Buechele during his podium time, making puns about the pronunciation of the firefighter’s last name. “It depends on which side of the Q Bridge you’re on,” said the rightwing radio personality. On the New Haven side, it’s boo-shell; in East Haven, it’s boo-chelly.

Seizing a political op, Kristafer announced a possible run for the state Legislature in two years. The room was silent. “That’s a lot of support,” he said sarcastically. “I forget how Democratic a town Hamden is.” Krisafer lives in Hamden. Maybe he’d have a better shot at elected office in Montana.

Officer Battick on his way to the podium.

After Oakes received his plaque on stage, John Battick got his for “outstanding police officer.” He works in the K-9 unit with Cesare. Battick joined the HPD in 1989 when he was just 19. “I gave up my paper route to take this job,” he said, responding to jokes made seconds earlier by Police Chief Tom Wydra about how young Battick was when he became a cop. (Wydra, 36, has gotten his share of “young” jokes, being the youngest chief in Hamden’s history.)

“A lot of my inspiration came from my dad, who passed away when I was only 2,” Battick said. In his short career so far, he’s been awarded letters of recognition and commendations and has been cited by MADD and the Round Robin Association. Battick is also involved with youth sports.

Firefighter Buechele waits on stage.

Buechele was up next. He’s been with the fire department for 25 years and has received a unit citation for a rescue at Sleeping Giant and a medal of distinction for saving lives via cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

“I got my dream,” he said. “I would just like to thank everyone for being there for me.” Buechele said his father was getting an award on the same evening for his 60 years with the East Haven volunteer firefighters, where “Boo-Chelly” started out.

Veteran Fred McCarthy and former Councilman Pat Corso and wife, Gloria.

“I’d like to end with something Winston Churchill said,” said “outstanding” volunteer Gustafson. “‘What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?’” (It’s disputed whether the late British prime minister and Nobel Prize winner actually said those words.)

Gustafson has been with the Mix District Volunteer Fire Company for nine years. He received a citation for rescue from the Connecticut State Firefighters Association, as well as other medals and awards.

Nothing says Hamden Fire Department better than the Wetmore name. (Back row, left to right): Wetmore brothers Jim, fire volunteer extraordinaire Duane and former Fire Chief Paul Sr.; (front row) Wetmore sisters-in-law Beverly (married to Jim) and Councilwoman Betty (wedded to Paul).

January 19, 2007

Election Day Preparedness

Carol Christmas and Kelly McCarthy run last night’s meeting. Photo/Sharon Bass

A tax-relief group changes its name and rolls up its sleeves to try to unseat a council member or two this November

By Sharon Bass

They begged for a phase-in last year after property taxes shot through their roofs after the town-wide revaluation. But only one councilperson was behind them. Feeling the current Democratic-controlled Legislative Council and Democratic mayor have let them down, lied to them and will not serve their best interests, members of Hamden Homeowners for Tax Relief gathered last night to discuss how they could break through the party machine -- or at least scratch its surface.

“I think we should put all our efforts into replacing this Council. They didn’t listen to us [about a reval phase-in] and I don’t think they will now,” said Sherren Adrian.

“The only thing we did was make the current administration and Council look bad,” Kelly McCarthy said about the group’s failed phase-in attempt.

Said Mark Sanders, who spearheaded the phase-in effort, “We’ve concluded it’s time to get rid of them.”

After announcing the group’s name had been changed to Hamden Alliance for Responsible Taxation, Sanders threw out strategies to the 15 who showed up.

  1. Publicly endorse certain major-party candidates who agree with them about lowering property taxes and spending.
  2. Create their own party with their own candidates.
  3. Form a nonpartisan alliance and cross endorse candidates.

“Let’s start looking for candidates. I like it,” said Adrian.

“We need to start identifying people as soon as we can, whether it’s an independent or a disaffected Democrat,” said Sanders.

“How much will it cost?” an elderly HART member asked.

“As much as you want to spend,” said Sanders. He said “someone” was recently approached about running for mayor this year and was told he’d need $100,000 to campaign.

“How much?” a woman asked incredulously.

“You’re not going to go anywhere with less than $50,000,” another male member said.

McCarthy explained that it wasn’t realistic to try to take over the mayor’s office or the entire Council.

“Who’s weak?” said Richard D’Albis, meaning which council people would be easiest to defeat. The group agreed on Gretchen Callahan, 4th District, Mike Germano, 8th District, Willie Mewborn, 5th District, and Berita Rowe-Lewis, 3rd District.

“Any one of them could be beaten with a good candidate,” said D’Albis.

“In my opinion we’d be more effective in supporting the opposition party instead of finding our own candidates,” said Joe LeGrand.

McCarthy disagreed with supporting Republicans or Democrats. “We need to have a slate of people who aren’t beholden to a party but to the taxpayers,” she said. “It is possible for a third party to win. It’s in groups like this that it can happen.” In 2005, McCarthy narrowly lost a three-way 5th District Council race as a Green. Virtually every Democrat in every district scored big that election because of Craig Henrici’s coattail effect. He got nearly 82 percent of the vote in the general election against Republican Dick Reilly and swept everyone in.

“If you endorse a Democrat, how do you know they won’t get swallowed up by the town committee?” said Jan Barber. “[Republican Councilman Ron] Gambardella is the only one who sticks it to them. The others don’t give a damn. I don’t see any Democrats [on the Council] giving a damn, and I’m a Democrat.”

“Unfortunately, we’re going to look at Democrats with more scrutiny than independents or [candidates] from other parties because they’re the party in power,” said Sanders.

Folks nicknamed the current legislative body of 13 Dems and two Repubs the “Stepford Council,” after the 2004 movie “The Stepford Wives.”

Sanders also implored the group to attend Council and Board of Education meetings and to closely follow the budget process, which has just begun. “We want to be involved in the budget. There is a role, in theory, for the general public,” he said.

January 17, 2007

Local Boy Makes Real Good

Kuselias. Courtesy photo

Former Councilman Erik Kuselias hits prime time TV

By Sharon Bass

On Feb. 5, Erik Kuselias kicks off an ESPN2 TV show made just for him, “NASCAR NOW.” It will be broadcast Monday through Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sundays an hour before and after the car race. Some 80 million homes are expected to tune in. And Kuselias is psyched -- in a logical sort of way.

The 37-year-old Hamden native seems to be on an unstoppable roll. Catch these credits:

Bachelor’s degree from Brown University.
Law degree from the University of Michigan.
Member of Mensa, an international society of people with high IQs.
Elected to his first of nearly four terms on the Hamden Council when he was 26 (1995-2003).
From 2000 to 2003, was a partner in the now-defunct Hamden law firm Goldblatt, Kuselias & Rashba.
In 2001, Kuselias and his brother Chris started a sports program on WELI.
A year later, ESPN scouted the “dueling brothers” and created the “SportsBrothers” ESPN radio show for them. (Chris left in 2004 and Erik’s solo show was renamed “SportsBash.”)
Finishing up a doctorate at Columbia Journalism School.
He and his wife, Kristen (Dooley) Kuselias, have two sons, 3 months and 2.5 years.
On Feb. 5, 2007, makes his debut in “NASCAR NOW.”

“They’re building a television set for my show. It’s exciting. It’s a big change,” Kuselias said, the reality of it self-admittedly not yet digested. “I’ve always figured it’s not brain surgery. It’s television.” ESPN headquarters are in Bristol, Conn.

“When I was a little kid I always wanted to be a professional athlete. I wanted to be a quarterback who won the Super Bowl or a player for the Boston Red Sox,” he said.

Reportedly, the Republican wonder kid from Hamden never got into trouble as a kid. Never drank. Never did drugs. Played it clean.

David Bouvier, who served on the council with Kuselias, attested to that. “I grew up three houses away from Erik. He was a good kid. Always into sports. He was never in trouble. He was an athlete,” said Bouvier. “It was nice to have somebody on the council who you knew wasn’t going to try to make you look foolish to score some political points.”

The new TV star said he was always the designated driver. Bouvier said Kuselias had great parents. (They are currently in Florida and were not reachable for comment yesterday.)

Asked about his council days, Kuselias, a 1987 Hamden High grad, said it was more party balanced during his tenure and bemoaned, as many do, the current one-party stronghold.

“We were more of a two-party town when I was there than we are now. I think the town works better when you have a two-party town,” he said.

On the 1997-1999 council there were eight Dems and seven Repubs. “I was in the minority party and I was the chairman of the finance committee. We had balance. We could check each other.  They couldn’t get away with anything and we couldn’t get away with anything,” said Kuselias, who moved from Hamden to Bethany in 2004.

January 16, 2007

‘I Can’t Stand Politicians’

Lucien DiMeo. Courtesy photo

“Finest” former mayor DiMeo talks about himself and then discloses some breaking retail news

By Sharon Bass

“Hamden’s Finest Mayor,” according to HDN readers, was tracked down yesterday at his Fort Myers, Fla., winter home.

“I’m elated over it. I’ve been out of office so long it’s nice people remember me,” Lucien DiMeo, 76, says of winning the contest, during an afternoon phone interview. He was mayor from 1973-1979, Hamden’s third mayor and third white man to be elected to the town’s helm. Six white men and two white women have succeeded him.

He says some considered him a Socialist Republican because of his advocacy for social services. “Some of the more conservative members of the [legislative] council were convinced I was a Socialist. My community development programs. Daycare centers. Elderly lunch program,” says DiMeo, who lives in Hamden during the nice weather. “Keep in mind, the Republican Party then was more conservative than it is now. We were the liberal modern wing.”

Then he switches the topic. Sort of. “I went to Haiti twice as a missionary about 15 years ago to work at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, to help with the construction of an outpatient clinic for tuberculosis. You talk about democracy. It’s not existent there. They’re totally abused. It was terrible,” the former Hamden mayor says.

Little Lu

Born in New Haven on March 30, 1930, DiMeo moved to Hamden when he was 9 months old. “I was walking then and I thought Hamden was the place to be,” he says with an audible smile.

He graduated Hamden High in1950 and got a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Temple University. Then he came home to Hamden. He worked with his dad, James DiMeo, who ran a construction business. The younger DiMeo also joined the Republican Town Committee but is no longer a member. “I can’t stand politicians,” he says.

However, he not only ran three times for mayor, he also served four terms in the state House. The first term was from 1971-’73. Then the state was redistricted and DiMeo says he decided not to run again for state office. And there was also this meeting, see, with former Congressman and University of New Haven president Larry DiNardis, attorney Bernie Pellegrino Sr., Albert Oneeto, a high school administrator, and James Coletta.

“They got together and said I should run for mayor,” says DiMeo. Next thing he knew, he was embroiled in a caucus fight with “the other wing of the Republican Party,” Robert Miller. In the general election, DiMeo beat incumbent Bill Adams (Democratic Hamden mayor from 1967-1973).

“I remember my margin of victory was 7,400 votes. That was the largest margin of victory of any [Hamden mayoral] election until Craig Henrici,” says DiMeo.

“Larry [DiNardis] ran a textbook campaign. It was organized district by sub-district. Issue by issue. We did things that had never been done before,” he says. “Target mailing. For instance, a doctor would get a letter from a fellow doctor who was supporting me.”

After his three terms as mayor, he returned to the state Legislature from 1984 to '88.

DiMeo has also been a business owner during much of his journey. After working with his father, he started a residential and industrial property management company. Twelve years ago he retired. And got bored.

“I came back into the business community about four years ago. I decided I was too young,” he says. He and his sons James and Lucien Jr. along with Joseph Natale are partners in a company that does commercial rehab and brown field work, DiMeo Natale Group at 1351 Dixwell Ave.

“It’s a very satisfactory part of my life, this venture into brown fields, because I’m working with my sons. It’s not a father-son situation. We work as equals. It’s not what daddy says. You no longer treat them as children,” says DiMeo.

He also has two daughters, Denise Kelly of Milford, who works with battered, homeless women in New Haven; and Catherine Craig, a nurse in Vermont. As well as 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Breaking News

Shopping plaza to be?Photo/Sharon Bass

Looks like Hamden might be home to another shopping center. DiMeo Natale Group is cleaning up 1409 Dixwell Ave. -- a 1930 ramshackle industrial-type building on five contaminated acres. It used to be a town dump, says DiMeo. “Whenever there was a hole in the ground people would throw stuff in it.” The remediation, for which he hopes he’ll get a state grant, will require excavation and capping.

Reportedly, two retailers (DiMeo wouldn’t say if they’re national chain or independent stores) are very interested in the property. He plans to bring in a few other shops. But says he’s not sure when the little shopping plaza will rise.

No Regrets

“It’s been a wonderful life. I was a board director at St. Raphael’s hospital. That’s why when I was mayor I wanted to put an outpatient clinic in Hamden. Now everyone thinks these outpatients clinics are the next best thing to sliced bread,” he says. The Miller Library was built under his administration and DiMeo says it was his idea to put an elderly social center in the complex.

Though he says he regrets nothing, he does pine for old Hamden. “I have to accept the reality that Hamden has become urban. But I miss the old Hamden. It was a closer-knit community. We knew each other. You walked home from school, people knew you. If you misbehaved, by the time you got home your mother and father had found out about it. The teachers knew you -- as individuals. I went to Hamden High School and it was a wonderful experience.”

In fact when he became mayor, DiMeo says he appointed a “favorite teacher” to the Library Board.

January 15, 2007

Peace, Brothers and Sisters

Keynote speaker Hamden High principal Gary Highsmith delivers words of humility.

MLK day in Hamden hammered in the hero's peace messages at a very fitting time

The American Dream

When the day of justice is won, and the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination have finally been broken, this man, the great man, will be free; and we will celebrate his spirit because his freedom is our own.

When the day of justice is won, and the song of freedom is ringing, this moment, this historic moment will release our captive souls like a beacon light of hope, and all God's children will not walk alone.

When the day of justice is won, and the wave of righteousness rolls like water down a mighty mountain, this dream, this sunlit dream of souls joined in harmony, will shout from every village, hamlet, state, and city in a symphony of brotherhood.

And when the day of justice is won, and the oasis of freedom flows like a mighty stream, this journey, this supreme journey will have been born from the heat of oppression to forge a new nation that is the American Dream.

-- Composed by Hamden High junior Dan Tebes; inspired by MLK

Story and visuals by Sharon Bass

Today Martin Luther King Jr. was born. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968. A black pioneer challenging racism and championing equal rights for all. And like Mahatma Ghandi before him, King advocated peaceful resistance.

The Vietnam War was raging when the king of civil rights was killed. King had vigorously spoken against Vietnam. Today we're fighting a similar war in Iraq. As Steve Earle wrote in his 1997 song "Christmas in Washington," "Come back to us, Malcolm X/And Martin Luther King/We're marching into Selma/As the bells of freedom ring."

Last Friday, Hamden gave tribute to King through words and music, and the emphasis this year seemed to be more on his mission to create peace.

Hamden High senior Blessing Offer treats the audience to a moving rendition of one of his original pieces.

“At this time, we have the Iraq War and a lot of violence,” said speaker Siraj Muhammed, of Hamden Community Development, likening that conflict with the one in Vietnam. “Martin Luther King was very much about peoples coming together to do some good, moralistic action. We have a challenge today to embody Dr. King’s legacy and to try to do good by the people.”

Another speaker said he thinks King’s anti-Vietnam War “A Time to Break Silence” speech (click here for the video and written words of the April 4, 1967, speech) is more powerful than his famous “I have a Dream” (click here for the Aug. 28, 1963, speech).

The Hamden High School Choir.

"We Shall Overcome," by the Hamden High Choir directed by David Syzdek.

Hamden High Students contributed much to the Jan. 12 tribute to King, held in Thornton Wilder Hall at noon. The choir and jazz band filled the hall with some beautiful acoustics. Musician/composer Blessing Offer, a HHS senior, treated the audience to an original piece, “Vessel.” This very talented young man performed so smoothly and flawlessly. His angst heard subtly and appropriately.

Members of the high school’s Black & Hispanic Student Union read essays that were inspired MLK. One girl quoted King: “It may be true that a law cannot stop a man from hating me, but it can stop him from lynching me.”

High school jazz band led by Richard Hicks.

Town officials put in a few words.

“He led demonstrations peacefully,” said Police Chief Tom Wydra. “Dr. King was the right man at the right time.”

“It’s fitting that we honor this champion of human rights,” said Mayor Craig Henrici.

“If we really love King, we’ll do more than just tolerate King,” said Hamden High principal Gary Highsmith, the keynote speaker. “Society is becoming more intolerant.”

Rev. Sallie Lowry of Parks & Rec was the main organizer of the tribute. As in past years, she orchestrated an emotionally entertaining event -- something the town should be proud of.

“These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light …” -- “A Time to Break Silence,” by Martin Luther King Jr., Aug. 28, 1963.

‘Hamden’s Finest Mayor’

According to HDN readers

By Sharon Bass

Thanks e-readers for voting and taking the time to back up your mayoral choices with such passionate reasons. E-mailed quotes are printed verbatim below. Some, though quite funny, were too nasty for publication (even for Hamden) and potentially libelous, at least in this founding editor’s humble opinion. And many of the 146 votes came without comment.

It proved to be an extremely tight race for "Hamden’s Finest Mayor” between Lucien DiMeo, who got the honor, and runner-up Lillian Clayman: 56-55. But then there was a huge drop to third placer, Johnny Carusone, with 11 votes followed by John DeNicola, nine; Craig Henrici, six; and Carl Amento, John DeNicola Jr., Peter Villano and Dick Harris, with three votes a piece.

Here’s what you wrote.

Lucien DiMeo, 1973-1979 (56 votes):
“His support of senior housing and education has not been matched since!”

“My vote is for Lucien Demaio because the library was built then, even though he also allowed the sale of Sleeping Giant middle school, after recommendations by school/community committees.”

“He was the mayor who brought us all the social services that we now have in the Town of Hamden. A mayor who has had a lasting vision. Thank you Lucien.”

Lillian Clayman, 1991-1997 (55 votes):
“Afraid of no one – especially sacred cows.”

“She refused to play ball with the guys in the back room."

“Best mayor was Lillian Clayman. Maybe you should run a survey for the worst mayor and why. I would vote for worst as Lucien DiMeo for suspiciously selling the Middle school, which was then resold for a profit within 24 hours. Talk about no vision and conflict of interest.”

“As a registered ‘independent’ voter in Hamden, the best, by far, as mayor of Hamden was Lillian Clayman. The only mayor that was so efficient that she never raised our taxes and, more importantly, she never bowed and scraped before our completely inept school supt., Ms Begina. Today we have the worst mayor in Hamden's history. His answer to every problem, is ‘raise taxes!’ What Hamden needs again, is a women to straighten out our fiscal mess.”

Johnny Carusone, 1987-1991 (11 votes):
“I have to vote for the one and only John Carusone. Back in the 80's when he was Mayor, I hosted a local radio show with him called ‘Hamden it's time you knew’ on what is now 1220 WQUN. I don't think I ever met a guy with more energy and points of views on so many issues. There was never a dull moment during that radio show from the tornado of 88' to his battle with Police Chief Ambrogio which I think ultimately became his ‘Iraq.’ He might disagree but I think people got tired of all that fighting amongst the top two figures in the town and decided to move on. The point here though is, his love of the town and commitment to the people of Hamden was and is unsurpassed. He's probably pulling a campaign staff together right now trying to win this award. Go Johnny, Go!”

John DeNicola Sr., 1965-1967 (9 votes)

Craig Henrici, 2005-20?? (6 votes):
“I'll vote for Craig for the following reasons: 1) He left a successful career to serve the Town. 2) He agreed to run, knowing that the Town was in dire financial straits and knowing that he would be unpopular for the increase in taxes that he would be forced to impose on the Town. 3) He has no other political ambitions. 4) Reasons 1) through 3) make him the ideal Public Servant.”

Carl Amento, 1999-2005 (3 votes)

John DeNicola Jr., 1985-1987 (3 votes)

Peter Villano, 1981-1985 (3 votes) “the best mayor was peter villano, who is still hamden's hardest working politician.”

Dick Harris, 1979-1981 (3 votes)

DiMeo could not be reached for comment. When he is tracked down, he will get this certificate:

Congratulations, Mayor DiMeo!

January 12, 2007


A black-gloved mother holds up a sign with her child (bottom right) by her side.

Story and visuals by Sharon Bass

In the wake of President Bush’s call Wednesday for 21,500 more troops in Iraq, anti-war activists around the country held simultaneous rallies at 5 p.m. yesterday. A good 100 stood in front of Hamden Memorial Town Hall. They held signs and chanted while rush-hour traffic on Whitney and Dixwell sent a constant stream of honking and thumbs up.

John Shanley explains yesterday's rally. At the end of the video, 2-year-old Cody says he came for peace. Click the arrow.

John Shanley of Hamden organized the event in conjunction with Moveon.org and Democracy for America. Echoing many, he said he is disgusted and furious that more American soldiers are being put in the middle of a civil war to “die for nothing.”

Henry Kraybill wants Bush O U T.

“I’m in favor of impeaching [Bush] and convicting him,” said retired Yale physics professor Henry Kraybill, 88, of Hamden. “I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.”

Councilman Germano and town employee Don Werner.

“I think on Election Day Americans sent a message about their feelings about the war and I don’t think Bush understands that,” said Councilman Mike Germano, who said he was driving by and noticed the rally. He said he’s been against the Iraq War from the onset.

Every Friday now at 12:15 p.m., Shanley said the names of the 24 Connecticut soldiers who have died in the war and the four who were killed in Afghanistan will be read aloud in front of Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s office at 50 Elm St., New Haven.

Bills against funding more troops have been introduced in the U.S. Senate and House. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) authored one such piece of legislation Jan. 9. A similar one was co-sponsored by DeLauro.

January 10, 2007

Mouthfuls of Sen. Joe

Hamden DTC Chair McDonagh with 5th District Congressman Chris Murphy at last week's D.C. inauguration party. Courtesy photo

By Sharon Bass

The place was Union Station’s East Room in Washington, D.C. The event was an inauguration party for U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who lost last August’s primary to Democrat Ned Lamont but decided to ignore the voters, forming a new party -- Connecticut for Lieberman, which he never joined himself -- in order to run in the general election. The former Democrat grabbed about 75 percent of the Republican vote and 35 percent of the Democratic for his win.

Lieberman’s gum handout. At left, the front of the gum packet. Right, the back. Photos/Sharon Bass

Anyway, at his Jan. 4 shindig, Lieberman handed out little packs of Beechies gum. Two pieces to a pack. It was the junior senator’s way of saying he wants you to stick with him, regardless. Hamden Democratic Town Committee Chair Joe McDonagh attended the celebration, marking the other Joe’s fourth term in the Senate. McDonagh said 400-500 people were there.

“The only Republican I saw was [Connecticut’s 4th District Congressman] Chris Shays,” said McDonagh, who handed out “Joe Gum” in Mayor Craig Henrici's office yesterday. This reporter did not imbibe.

Before the Lieberman party kicked off at 7 p.m., McDonagh said there was one for the new Connecticut delegation from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. There he spotted state party chair Nancy DiNardo, former Congressman Bill Ratchford (1978-1984), Dianne Farrell, who narrowly lost to Shays last November, U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd and Congress members Rosa DeLauro, 3rd District, Joe Courtney, 2nd District, John Larson, 1st District, and the party’s golden boy Chris Murphy, 5th District.

“I got a chance to say hello to Joe and congratulate him,” said McDonagh. “And he greeted me warmly, oddly enough. I supported Lamont” in the general election.

During the revelry Congress was in session, sending most of the Connecticut gang back to work while Lieberman and his hundreds partied on.

January 3, 2007

Hamden’s Finest Mayor?

Former Mayors (left to right) John DeNicola Jr., Johnny Carusone, Carl Amento, Peter Villano and Lucien DiMeo at Craig Henrici's inauguration last year. File photo

Mayors Barbara DeNicola, Lillian Clayman and Craig Henrici. File photos

Mayor Bill Adams with future Mayor Johnny Carusone seated to his right. Photo/Allan Schwartz (A digital pic of Dick Harris was not obtainable.)

John DeNicola Sr. (on left).

By Sharon Bass

Since the HDN readers’ pizza poll was such a success, we’ve decided to keep the contest ball running. As the headline says, we’re now asking whom you think was/is the finest Hamden mayor. Alive or deceased. One term or three. Republican or Democrat. Male or female. Cast your vote here. All votes and comments will be kept anonymous. We love those comments!

Below is the complete list of Hamden’s 11 mayors and years served. The winner gets a certificate designed by HDN's Jacqueline Tucker. In the event he is no longer alive (both female mayors are still breathing), the certificate will go to his family. Note: Prior to 1965, Hamden was governed by a board of selectmen rather than a mayor and legislative council. John DeNicola Sr. was the last first selectman before becoming the town’s first mayor, in November 1965.

Craig Henrici, 2005-20??
Carl Amento, 1999-2005
Barbara DeNicola, 1997-1999
Lillian Clayman, 1991-1997
Johnny Carusone, 1987-1991
John DeNicola Jr., 1985-1987
Peter Villano, 1981-1985
Dick Harris, 1979-1981
Lucien DiMeo, 1973-1979
Bill Adams, 1967-1973
John DeNicola Sr., 1965-1967


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