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September 28, 2006

Campaign ’07s

Tax-relief group sends message that elected Democrats cannot be trusted and need to be voted out of office next year

By Sharon Bass

Soundly turned down Sept. 5 by the Town Council for a reval phase-in, Hamden Homeowners for Tax Relief assembled last night vowing to keep up the fight. They want people to hear them. And join them. And be enraged with them that the Democrats in power are “liars” and should be thrown out next year.

“We did elect them but they are not representing the people,” Sandy Friday said. “So it really is taxation without representation. And Mark [Sanders], I can’t thank you enough for all the work you do. It gives me a tiny bit of hope.” Friday and Sanders were two of 28 who showed for the meeting in the Miller Senior Center.

Sanders had challenged the administration’s assertions that a property revaluation phase-in would not result in much savings for homeowners. He presented his analysis at a meeting, but there has been no substantial political will for a phase-in. After the Sept. 5 vote on the matter, Sanders discovered information that would counter one of the administration’s reasons a phase-in wouldn’t work: the town would lose some state PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) dollars for tax-exempt Hamden real estate, like Quinnipiac University and churches. Sanders said his calculations show the town would actually gain $1 million in PILOT bucks with a phase-in.

“[The new PILOT information] will further expose the lie,” said Sanders. “So maybe those who still have some faith in this administration” will lose some of that faith.

He gave the tax-relief group that “tiny bit of hope” Friday spoke of, that the issue isn’t dead. “If it’s the right thing to do, we need to keep pushing,” said Sanders. “I hope people aren’t getting weary of this. It’s still possible.”

“Here we are. Waiting for the Legislative Council to do the right thing,” said Kelly McCarthy. “Realistically, I don’t think [the phase-in] is going to happen. But I’m going to make sure everyone knows how much they would have saved.”


“Is there any way a town conspiracy is going on?” an elderly woman asked. “Is there any legal recourse?”

“I haven’t looked into that,” said Sanders, a lawyer. “Unfortunately, this is just the rough and tumble of the political process. I don’t know as I stand here if there are any laws that are violated” by the Council nixing the phase-in. “I don’t know of any recourse but the ballot box.”

McCarthy said if they sued the town the taxpayers would foot the legal costs. “This is really one of the reasons this is such a terrible situation,” she said. “We’re stuck with who was elected.”

“Let’s march on city hall,” belted out Friday.

“We really don’t have any allies but the Republicans,” said Carol Christmas, a founding member of HHTR. “We’re stuck with who we have.” The two Council Repubs, Betty Wetmore and Ron Gambardella, were the only ones to vote for the phase-in.

Friday gave the group marching orders. Pass the word around their neighborhoods that the Democratic-controlled Council won’t offer tax relief. Make them aware of how much their tax bills went up this year. Help pass out fliers promoting HHTR. And get involved in phone banks to get people to come to meetings.

“My neighbor is angry,” a man said.

“My neighbor doesn’t know what’s going on,” another said.

“We need to shake away people’s apathy,” said McCarthy. “We don’t understand what the [politicians’] aversion to saving money is.”
September 15, 2006

One of Three

Real-deal Murphy. Photo/Sharon Bass

Hamden Dems turn out for congressional candidate Murphy

By Sharon Bass

Chris Murphy might be a politician worth watching. About 35 Hamden Democrats squeezed into the living room of 119 Filbert St. last night to do just that.

The 33-year-old Cheshire lawyer, who’s already spent eight years in the state Legislature, is taking on Republican Congresswoman Nancy Johnson in the 5th District. The Hamden Democratic Town Committee “adopted” Murphy as its congressional candidate to hustle for.

Although Hamden is in the 3rd District, a group called the Hilltop Brigade -- inspired by New Haven Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro last fall to help Dems take back the U.S. House -- has been lining up volunteers statewide, like the Hamden Democrats. The idea is to direct campaign energy on the Democratic candidates who are trying to overthrow the state’s three Republicans in Congress. While DeLauro and 1st District Congressman John Larson are also up for reelection, their seats are considered quite secure.

Fifteen Democrats need to be elected to Congress this November in order to wrest control from the GOP. Connecticut is seen as a battleground state.

So Curt Johnson invited Murphy to his Filbert home to energize the local troops.

A year ago, Murphy said, people basically told him he was nuts to think he could beat Johnson. But he said that didn’t deter him. According to a recent poll, his opponent is just five points ahead of him, he said.

And Murphy’s track record, so far, is one of winning -- at times against unlikely odds. He seems confident and strong in his political convictions -- as well as in himself -- and delivers his points well.

“Chris’ career has been the definition of meteoric,” said state Rep. Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden). He and Murphy served one term together in the state House. Murphy had ousted a 14-year incumbent in his first run. That was 1998. Four years later, he was elected to the state Senate, where he is serving his second term. He chairs the Public Health Committee, and much of his platform is on health care.

“He is the real deal,” said Sharkey. “He is the guy you want fighting for you in Congress. This is going to be one of the 15. I guarantee it.”

The Real Deal’s Spiel

“I think we’re in a battle right now over the soul of this country,” Murphy said. “I think on issue after issue [Johnson] has fallen in line with the Republicans in Washington. She not only enables, she now is a difference maker.” Meaning she has cast deciding votes on pivotal bills.

“I view health care not as a privilege but as a right. Nancy Johnson’s health care system is one that makes no sense,” the candidate said. It benefits the wealthy HMOs and pharmaceutical industry, he said.

“We have to lay out a positive agenda,” he continued. “The most important thing we can do as Democrats taking back the house is to ask questions.” Questions about the war in Iraq; Bush’s Medicare D prescription plan, which was crafted to boost drug companies’ bottom line much more so than seniors’ and those with disabilities; ending “our addiction on foreign oil.”

“Have the guts to tell people what we think about this war,” said Murphy. “Change the entire political landscape. I would like to let the Iraqis know when we’re going to stand down.”

The revved-up state senator said he’s been knocking on doors and rounding up volunteers. He’s embarking on a 41-town, 41-day tour. Murphy said he’s running a grassroots campaign; 75 percent of his contributions have come from Connecticut residents while 75 percent of Johnson’s have been from D.C. lobbyists and PACs.

“You don’t beat Nancy Johnson on TV. You match her on TV. You beat her” on the local level, he said. So far, Murphy said he’s raised $1.6 million to Johnson’s $3.5 million.

DTC Chair Joe McDonagh is called Murphy’s “battalion chief” in his role in the Hilltop Brigade. “This is an opportunity for us to make a change to stop some awful things going on in Congress,” McDonagh said.

The brigade’s other adoptees are Joe Courtney who is challenging Republican incumbent Rob Simmons in the 2nd District, and Diane Farrell who’s opposing Republican incumbent Chris Shays in the 4th.

September 14, 2006

Honoring Freedom Fighters

Kerry Kennedy Cuomo with Schweitzer director David Ives. Photo/David Amrani

Author of peace activist book speaks at QU

By David Amrani

The muggy night is thick as a woman stumbles backwards out of her house, sobbing as she lands in a cloud of dust and tries to wipe away her tears with her sari. The man speaking rapid Indian and waving his arms to match his wavering voice follows closely. There’s a wooden club in his right hand, and with every step he comes closer to the woman with wild motions.

“You have dishonored us!” he bellows, the whites of his teeth and eyes flashing against his dark complexion. “You are useless!” The stick collides with the side of her head, and she knows no more.

Every 15 seconds another woman is battered and beaten somewhere in the world. This was one of the points made by Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, author of “Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World,” when she spoke at Quinnipiac University’s Alumni Hall Tuesday evening. There was not an empty seat in the house and plenty of people sat on floor.

“We have to be angry enough to speak out,” Cuomo said. “Violence against women is the largest socially tolerated form of discrimination.” In countries all over the world women are treated like objects, and discarded like them, too, when their novelty or usefulness has worn off, she said. There is also an astonishing number of honor killings -- crimes committed by the victim’s family members to settle a dispute if the woman in question is seen to have caused the family to fall from grace.

Cuomo spoke of a man in Ghana who, having stolen from a village merchant, was cursed by him. Fearing this curse, he went to a soothsayer who told him that the only way to right the wrong would be to sacrifice his next born female child. Soon a girl was born, and the man brought her to a priest who, instead of simply sacrificing the girl, took her into his harem (yes, the priest had a harem). At 12 she was raped for the first time, and over the next seven years was taken repeatedly against her will. When she was 19, she managed to escape and told her story time and time again to anyone in the government who would listen. Due to her perseverance, within weeks she had a law passed forbidding sexual slavery in the country of Ghana.

Of course, violence against women is not the only problem Cuomo addressed. Day after day, both men and women are persecuted not only for their gender, but also for their religion, their race or their political beliefs. Cuomo also related the story of a man from Kenya, who, having disagreed with the Kenyan government, was imprisoned and put on death row. A fellow inmate was executed soon after, but there was such a swell of protest against the unjust death that it was politically impossible for the government to carry out this man’s sentence, and he was set free. Who was responsible for this swell of protest? You may be surprised to know that it was American college students.

Yes, against what we may believe (or perhaps parallel to it), the world does take in our every word. We are listened to, and each of us has a voice. Cuomo said, “We have a responsibility to be informed.” With so much free access to information of any sort, the victims of crimes against humanity assume we know full well about what’s going on and, because of this, we support the governments that oppress them.

But there are people like the woman from Ghana, who champion the rights of every man and woman to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In a Judeo-Christian society, Cuomo remarked, we view saints as “untouchable,” trapped in marble and stained glass. We can only get close enough to catch a glimpse, and hear the exalted tales of their glory and triumph.

The reality is, however, these “freedom fighters” whom Cuomo wrote about in her book are living saints. “Gifts from God,” as she put it. Every one of us has the capability of becoming one. Every one of us has the ability to help this fragile group of lost souls that we call humanity. But, she challenged, do we have the interest?

Perhaps that was the most important question Kerry Kennedy Cuomo posed Tuesday night. Do we have enough interest in the lives of other people to do what we know in our hearts to be right? Becoming informed is key. Start by checking out organizations like Human Rights First and Amnesty International.

“If that’s all you do, great,” she said.

America used to be the land of freedom for all who sought it out. Today women and children are refused entrance at a shocking rate, the author said. Refugees fleeing sexual crimes are held under suspicion of terrorism. In the armed forces, over 30 percent of female veterans sad they had been sexually violated, raped in many cases, during their time in the service, said Cuomo. America is no longer a land for everyone who is truthfully in need of it.

“We have a responsibility to be informed,” she said. When people sit by and do nothing, they are allowing crimes across the world to continue and go unpunished. Are people going to continue to allow this to happen? Or will they, as she quoted Langston Hughes, “make America America again?” Cuomo said we must always remember we have a voice.

Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, is the founder of the Robert Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and serves on the advisory board for the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University.

David Amrani is a student at Hamden High School and an HDN contributing writer.

September 12, 2006
Pills & Pot

From Police Headquarters:

Three narcotic sting operations carried out Sept. 8 netted 20 morphine pills, 17 bags of marijuana and about $700, according to Hamden police.

Lt. Lupo, investigators DeLieto and Jones of the Street Crime Unit and Officers Ryan, Baris and Shepard of the Neighborhood Interdiction Unit conducted the stings at Hamden locations. Three of the five arrested live in town.
  • Quinton Jones, 25, of 680 Mix Ave. was charged with possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of marijuana within 1,500 feet of a school, possession of marijuana with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of a school, interfering with an officer and reckless driving. Jones was held on a $25,000 bond.
  • Terrence Jefferson, 38, of 24 Helen St. was charged with possession of narcotics, possession of narcotics with intent to sell and failure to keep narcotics in their original container. Jefferson was released on a written promise to appear.
  • Scott Stein, 25, of 130 West Shepard Ave. was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and held on a $250 bond. (All were given a Sept. 22 court date.)

September 8, 2006

Recalling Irv

By Sharon Bass

Those who knew Irving Saslow call him a mentor, a gentleman, a politician with nary a detractor -- and a huge devotee of the University of Connecticut. In fact, of all the positions the Hamden politician/insurance man held, making it onto the state university’s board of trustees might have been his most cherished.

Even in his passing -- Saslow, 87, died Tuesday -- his alma mater was not forgotten. Memorial contributions are earmarked for UConn’s Babbidge Scholars Recognition Fund.

“He was a great guy. He was very energetic and a Democrat in every sense of the word,” said Bernie Nitkin, treasurer of the Hamden Democratic Town Committee and a friend of Saslow’s since childhood. The two met as students at Hillhouse High in New Haven. Saslow graduated in 1937; Nitkin a year later.

“And very fair in all his dealings, whether you were a Democrat, Republican or independent,” said Nitkin. “I’m just sorry he is gone. We were personal friends, also.”

A year after graduating UConn in ’41, Saslow went into the Army. Eventually, the Waterbury-born man served on the Hamden Legislative Council, Zoning Board of Appeals, was Dunbar Hill PTA president, chaired the HDTC for eight years, put in 11 years as a fire commissioner and in 1983, was appointed to UConn’s board and then to the university’s Athletic Advisory Committee. He also sold insurance in town.

“He’s somebody who loved UConn,” said Town Clerk Vera Morrison, who first swore Saslow onto the Fire Commission in 2000. “Every time I spoke to Irv Saslow, he was going to a game at UConn or supporting the team in some way. He loved serving on the Fire Commission, too.

“He was always a gentleman and always asked about your family,” Morrison added. “And he loved the town of Hamden.”

Nitkin credited Saslow with giving the party a needed shot of adrenaline when he chaired the town committee from the mid ’70s until 1983, and for being instrumental in getting Dick Harris elected mayor in 1979.

Gloria Sandillo said she last talked with Saslow about a month ago. She was vice chair of the DTC under Saslow’s watch.

“He never put a square peg in a round hole. Never,” said Sandillo, who works in the mayor’s office. “I used to be able to call Irving and complain to him. He was a political friend and more. I miss him terribly.”

Town Risk Manager Art Giulietti remembered Saslow for his sense of humor. “He was a great storyteller,” he said. “He had a million stories to tell and was a good judge of people’s character and ability.”

“It’s hard to imagine a [committee] chair that didn’t have enemies, but I don’t think he did,” said current DTC head Joe McDonagh. “He was a really nice fellow. He was always very helpful to me. Anyone who knew him knew he loved UConn. I think he was disappointed in me that I didn’t go to UConn. But I never heard anybody say a bad word about Irv.”

Former town committee chair and current secretary Rose Mentone said Saslow was a mentor to her and many other politicians.

“He was astute. He was a gentleman all the time I knew him. He never raised his voice. He got his point across and ran the party well,” she said.

Asked if she could relate any colorful anecdotes about Saslow, Mentone said, “I just remember having good times with him at the state conventions. There were free promotional items and he made sure everyone got to the right booths and stuff.”

Tony Mentone dittoed his wife’s assessment of Saslow.

“I went to him and I said, ‘OK, I want to be a councilman.’ Irv said unless it’s a matter of personal principal or has a direct influence on my district [the 8th], I should vote with the party,” Mentone said. “It was pretty good advice, it turns out.

“He wanted nothing more than to be a trustee at UConn. He had some kind of affinity for education. He wasn’t your typical backroom politician screaming and yelling. Irv was just low-keyed. He didn’t twist your arms or anything, like the old-time politicians did.”

A funeral service will be held for Saslow at 10:30 this morning at Congregation Mishkan Israel, 785 Ridge Road.

September 7, 2006

Locate (Where) These (Were)

Words and pictures by Betsy Driebeek
Back in the ’70s, my great aunt had a real hard time throwing away Cool Whip containers. Little did I know then, that by filling up her basement with a collection of those and other food containers she was actually saving the environment.

I've also been collecting a not-so-common item since I was 13. It started on a trip to Williamsburg, Va., with my family. We ate at the Plantation Restaurant in Virginia Beach. My paper placemat was adorned with pretty fish, lobsters and netting. My dad picked it up upon leaving and thus started my restaurant placemat collection.

Over the years I have amassed about 800 and sorted them into categories: solid colors; maps and games and doodles and facts, like the U.S. presidents; lobster-eating tutorials; types of covered bridges, breeds of horses and dogs; and the Chinese Zodiac.

On each placemat, I write some info on the back -- name of restaurant (if it is not already printed on the front), location, date and whom I was with. The collection is sort of like a restaurant diary.

So, I was thinking of restaurants that used to be in Hamden like the Seafood Peddlar, Pippins, New Deal, Bimonte's, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Sean's, Ambassador, Home Village, "R" Place, the many names that have adorned the sign at what is currently Contrassegno's and others. Then I thought of my placemat collection and wondered how many displayed the names of defunct Hamden restaurants.

Above, you will see 10 of them. Two have enjoyed more than one location in town. The first reader who correctly identifies the 12 restaurant sites will win one of those fabulous Hamden Daily News mugs.

May the sense of location be with you.

Warrant 'Sting' Nets 10 Arrests

From Capt. Ron Smith:

On Sept. 5, the Hamden Police Department formed a "warrant squad" to serve outstanding arrest warrants. The squad consisted of 18 officers led by Lt. Michael McNeil. Nine arrest warrants were served and one drug bust was made when a warrant was being issued. The warrants were served in Hamden and neighboring cities.

Three of the arrested are Hamden residents:

  • Dawn Cretella, 40, of 2506 State St. Cretella was charged with violation of probation. She was detained on a $40,000 bond and given a Sept. 18 court date.
  • Anne Inzero, 42, of 365 Mather St. Inzero was charged with failure to appear in the first degree. She was detained on a $5,000 bond with a Sept. 18 court date. While arresting Inzero, officers found narcotics in her possession. She was subsequently charged with possession.
  • Anthony Zumbo, 44, of 91 Costanza Court. Zumbo was charged with two counts of failure to appear in the second degree. He was detained on a $15,000 bond and given a Sept. 19 court date.


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