Letters to the Editor
March 31, 2008
After reading recent articles and editorials in the local newspaper concerning Hamden's Town Hall/police station, I am disturbed by the direction and speed the town of Hamden is proceeding. I have also reviewed the conceptual designs posted on the town website, and these plans have only further raised my alarm.
The proposed plans to insert and add on a police station to our historic Town Hall -- the very symbol of our local government and the center of our town -- is extremely lacking in rationale. The current plan, as designed, will overwhelm the existing Town Hall and detract from its architectural character as well as its civic purpose. A dozen jail cells adjacent to Council Chambers hardly seems a good fit. Pasting on a modern structure that cannot possibly compete with the character and materials of an 85-year-old historic structure is simply very difficult to pull off successfully or cost-efficiently.
Perhaps most upsetting is how the proposed plans completely violate many of the planning principles the town recently proposed to introduce during its planning "charrette." (Results of the charrette are also posted on the town website.) It’s my understanding the town spent a fair chunk of change to hold the charrette and rewrite the zoning code to strengthen Hamden's centers through a concept called "Smart Growth." Unfortunately, there is nothing "smart" about the currently proposed design.
What I find most disturbing is that the plan tears down several historic buildings (we just don't build ‘em like we used to) and replaces the buildings with a parking garage that takes away valuable street frontage. This large parking garage will detract from the character of our downtown. Perhaps this is why the designers have attempted to hide the structure behind a large dirt berm.
Can you also imagine the danger to people on the sidewalk and to vehicles on Dixwell a police vehicle responding to a crime will impose, when it barrels out of the garage, crosses the sidewalk and goes right out into the intersection of Dixwell and Whitney? Again, this parking garage for 200 vehicles not only violates the proposed changes to the zoning code, it will also cost a fair penny. Is this yet another example of one branch of Hamden town government not talking to the other?
I don’t intend to blame the designers for the current proposal, in fact, I believe they have been hamstrung in providing the best, cost-effective solution, by what appears to be a political compromise.
It would be wonderful to renovate and restore Town Hall to be a symbol of our government and the center of our town, as well as update our police facilities. However, these two worthy goals should remain separate, as should the buildings. Compromise may be essential in politics, but it just never works in building and architecture. I'm afraid the "compromise" that has currently been proposed will not serve the police, local town government or least of all the people of Hamden well.
The rationale for the Henrici Administration’s sudden rush towards a new combined Town Hall/police station after two years of total inactivity is the urgent need for a new police facility.
Everyone agrees that a new station is long overdue and should be constructed as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the decision to combine these two disparate projects will achieve this result. In fact, it is more likely to retard the progress of both.
New construction is invariably easier and more predictable than the renovation of an existing structure and usually less expensive. There are few unknowns. A purpose-designed structure is not handicapped by the burden of forcing an existing building to serve a purpose for which it was never designed.
Renovation and demolition of existing structures is fraught with peril and I speak from experience. As former chairman of the School Building Committee, I can tell you that the construction of the new Spring Glen School on virgin land that had already been environmentally evaluated was much easier and proceeded more quickly than did the renovation and expansion of the Bear Path School.
In spite of intensive pre-testing, the demolition of the old Spring Glen School revealed hidden environmental problems, which resulted in higher costs but did nothing to delay the new school. Original hidden design defects at Bear Path discovered after demolition and renovation had begun resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs and did impact the completion timetable.
It is not too hard to imagine that problems with the complex Town Hall renovations -- environmental, traffic and/or funding -- will create significant delays in the timely completion of an unrelated and simpler police station.
Why should we take such a chance? What are the advantages of combining these two projects and how were they determined? So far, the Henrici Administration has provided no facts to prove the validity of its argument. Where are the results of the evaluations of other possible sites? Were any actually ever done?
The Henrici Administration has a history of capricious decision-making and a penchant for financial wishful thinking when it comes to expenditures and revenue projections. There is no reason to believe that it is any more accurate now than it has been in the past.
As I stared at the exterior elevation drawings for the proposed new police station, listened to the architect ramble on about historic preservation guidelines for new additions -- matching but not matching, contrasting but paying homage to modern but traditional -- and watched the confused faces of the Town Building Committee members last Thursday, I was reminded of a phrase we used in architecture school when someone pinned up something not quite right and tried to cover their sloppy work with verbiage: “Sounds good, looks bad.”
From the questions, it was clear that many at the TBC meeting were desperately trying to figure out why they didn’t like what they saw on the drawings and supposing that the answer must be cosmetic -- or shall we say “where to put the marble.” But the aesthetics in this case cannot be fixed by ornament or material choices.
As was correctly noted by the architect, it is not affordably possible to match a 1924 building. The problem is inherent with the initial choice of building footprint, elevation lines and massing. Architecturally, the addition wants to be very separate from our historic Town Hall. Programmatically, however, it has been melted together. Herein lies the dilemma. It is very hard if not impossible to add this kind of significant addition right next to a historic building and not destroy it in the process, which is a good enough reason not to try it in the first place. Another is that it jeopardizes several historic preservation funding opportunities.
Add in the disgrace that other historic buildings, including the original Miller Library, are destined for the wrecking ball. At last week’s TBC meeting, the architect finally consented that putting 45,000 square feet of new building and over 200 parking spots on this small site and squeezing new offices into less than ideal spaces in an 84-year-old building have been considerably constraining. And, as we will learn about everything from access codes to ventilation ductwork, it will be considerably expensive.
By giving the architects a fait accompli and rejecting an open and collaborative design process, we have squandered their potential and our benefit for finding the best solution. We may figure out a way to make this plan less awful but not a way to make it good. Our police, the citizens of Hamden who will pay for this and our children deserve it to be good.
After I walked out of the meeting last Thursday evening and crossed the street (I have no objection to using the library parking for Town Hall meetings), I stood across from our wonderful Town Hall, perfect as is, and the beautiful original Miller Library gifted to the town by the family of Willis Miller and the contributing but less stately architecture of 2900 Dixwell Ave. These buildings provide a strong and pleasant historical streetscape and are the survivors as well as the new anchors of the Main Street we miss and we want back.
The answer for preserving history and making a great new police station here was surprisingly easy to see. Go, stand across from the site and tell us what you see.
March 27, 2008
What an audio/video -- "Like Husband" (Bill Clinton)/"Like First Lady" (Hillary Clinton). I can't wait for the audio/video: "Like Wife" (Michelle Obama): "I have never been proud to be an American until now."
Imagine, she's been privileged to have had an Ivy League education, is a multimillionaire, lives in a mansion and has never been proud to be an American until now. True, I can't identify with her life.
"Like Husband" (Barack Obama): "I have never been in the presence of Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- neither in public nor in private -- when he made controversial statements," referring to statements made by Wright such as "God damn America" and "It's America's fault we were attacked." Of course, someone on his staff must have told him that no one was going to believe his denials, lies, when he belonged to that controversial church for 20 years. So he was forced to admit he was, indeed, present. Remember when Obama said Wright was his mentor? Now Obama tries to liken his pastor of 20 years to a "crazy" relative.
After 9/11 Hillary Clinton, on the basis of all available information, voted to give the president of the United States of America the power to go to war (no political grandstanding). Obama has said he wouldn't have done so. He must have made Rev. Jeremiah Wright (his mentor) proud.
March 26, 2008
I attended the Town Council budget meeting Monday night and made a brief plea for fiscal restraint. Sadly, my voice was one of few who were concerned. After all, the proposed increase is less than 1 mil.
Yesterday, I took a detailed look at the Board of Education budget and realized things were much worse than I thought. To call the proposed BOE budget “pork barrel spending” would be too kind. From this taxpayer’s perspective it looks more like a combination of pure greed and indifference to the plight of the public at large. Don’t they get it, these are hard times and everyone, including the BOE, must share the pain?
First of all, only about 10 percent of the population is students but the taxpayers at large, including many retirees and single people, bear the cost burden. It is ludicrous when parents and particularly teachers argue for more and more funding, considering their vested interest. No argument that education is important to our society, but at some point the public needs to say “NO MAS” to runaway spending. NOW is time to hold the line on the BOE budget.
Teachers' salaries continue to be the No. 1 expenditure. This year’s cost is about $34 million. The proposed budget would raise their pay by $1.833 million or 5.4 percent. Administrative salaries are currently $4.2 million, and support personnel about $9 million more. All are growing substantially with particularly big, double-digit growth for tutors, aides and maintenance workers. The budget has remarkably low numbers for non-wage spending including books, supplies and unrealistically low energy costs. It is clear to me that the primary concern of the BOE is to increase salaries.
The majority of taxpayers work in the private sector. For years their wages have been stagnant and benefits have eroded systematically. Yet public employees, particularly those in the BOE, have been generally immune to the squeeze.
That situation must end. Some will argue that the myriad union contracts demand the increases. The town still has the option to hire and fire. If the unions continue to be greedy we must cut jobs to balance the budget. Others will argue that the town must elevate the school system at any cost. The bottom line is that Hamden is not a wealthy town and may not be able to compete with richer ones.
The BOE may be the biggest problem but they are not the only problem with the budget. Increases in police, fire and public works total another $1.375 million, and anticipated increases in fringe benefits may total as much a million more!
Do we need to remind Mayor Henrici and the Council that their constituents are the residents/taxpayers, not the town workers?
March 25, 2008
After reading Mr. McDonagh’s critique of the Hamden Daily News, I wonder if Mr. McDonagh has his own bias about the HDN. At no time in the past few years have I read about Mr. McDonagh raising any concerns about how other newspaper reporters write about the Hamden Democratic Town Committee.
In the past few months, I have spoken to a few HDTC members and they have told me that there is a division in the HDTC. That division comes from people who at one time supported Mayor Henrici and who no longer do.
I hope you realize, Mr. McDonagh, by you criticizing the HDN for not using people's names in the article "We Have Been a Family of Winners," you have opened the door for people in this town to criticize you if you ever write anything without using a person's name to reference to. I personally don’t think that was too smart of a thing for the chairman of the Democratic Party in this town to do. But I may be wrong.
Mr. McDonagh, I am at the bottom of the Democratic Party food chain and I know of a division in the party, so sir I suggest that you take the blinders off your eyes and maybe you will see the division in your party also.
Or maybe, sir, you do see the division and you didn’t like that the Hamden Daily News pointed that division out to the public. And if that is the case, sir, your bias of the HDN is also showing.
March 24, 2008
Although we Democrats appreciate the coverage in the Hamden Daily News of the Hamden Democratic Town Committee meeting, your article was marred by inappropriate editorial comments that should have no place in a news article.
In your very first paragraph, after noting that all five officers were elected unanimously, you nevertheless wrote, "Though the divisions within the party seem as intact as ever ... " Really? What seems as intact as ever is the Hamden Daily News' bias. No evidence is provided in your article of these divisions. No quotes are provided, not even the "anonymous source" quotes that, unfortunately, the Hamden Daily News relies on so frequently.
The Hamden Daily News has an important role to play in Hamden, but continued editorializing and biased coverage undermines that role.
Joseph P. McDonagh
March 18, 2008
I read with interest former Mayor Carusone's latest column in the Hamden Daily News. While I continue to appreciate the contributions the former mayor makes to the political dialogue in our town, I do want to correct one historical inaccuracy in his column.
He states: "The Republicans ran a one issue campaign" in last year's election. As campaign manager for mayoral candidate Ron Gambardella in the last election, I do wish to correct this attempt at "revisionist" history. I know this, because I was there.
While his campaign last year was not victorious, Mr. Gambardella did have the closest election in 10 years (roughly 651 votes separating the two candidates -- turning around an 8,000-vote loss for the Republicans two year's prior). Ron's campaign offered many new ideas for Hamden, not only on taxes.
After seeing how the last few months have gone for this administration, one thing is clear. Hamden would be far better off today with Ron Gambardella as our mayor.
First, Ron promised to work across party lines and not submit a budget which raises taxes. As we see with the mayor's recent budget request of yet another tax increase, Ron was right when he suggested during the debates in October that the mayor would once again come to the taxpayers for more money. (By the way, all Hamden residents should know the mayor did take the significant raise from last year. I guess Hamden taxes are just too high for him and he needs the extra money to pay them. What a luxury!)
Second, Ron promised to open up the lines of communication between residents and their town government by creating a local street and sidewalk commission to take the politics out of road and sidewalk repair. He also promised a vehicle for the public to help shape education policy by creating an education task force to work with the BOE to find creative ways to do more, with less. These ideas give residents more input in the process and their government.
He also sought to eliminate wasteful spending on items such as a "help desk." He thought the department heads were in the best position for determining how best to achieve additional savings and to meet the needs of residents.
Third, Ron promised to end the era of cronyism which has plagued Town Hall under this administration. As one can clearly see, this continues today with the firing of Gina Cahill, an extremely well-qualified animal control officer, the latest dog-dumping fiasco by the animal control officer and others, the removal of independent-minded commissioners who won't simply toe the party line (Mr. Conklin from Inland Wetlands and Mrs. Helou from the Building Committee). A Gambardella Administration would have been a fresh start in restoring townspeople's faith in their local government.
Fourth, Ron has proposed charter revision. He believes power should be shared. He is a proponent of budget referendums and will work with the council to help this process move forward. He recognizes that the current stranglehold of power concentrated in the hands of a few have brought Hamden to the brink of economic ruin for the taxpaying public.
Finally, Ron supports having Hamden's police station at the old Dadio Farm. Helping to revitalize the Putnam Avenue corridor along Dixwell Avenue is good for Hamden and good for a segment of the town that has long been ignored by this and prior administrations.
I do hope that Mr. Carusone does his homework next time. There were many new ideas and solutions offered for Hamden in the last election by the Gambardella campaign. I can tell you one thing Mr. Carusone and I both agree on is that next year's election will be quite interesting.
Judging by the numbers from the past election, coupled with this administration's abysmal record, Mr. Carusone is right. There will be a change in leadership in the next election. If Ron Gambardella is elected the next mayor, Hamden taxpayers will finally be put first!
Mr. Alexander wins the obfuscation award. Even though in my letter I said "earn" and should have said "taxable income," he is trying to direct attention away from the fact that Democrats are increasing taxes on middle-income wage earners.
Both Obama and Hillary have promised to reduce taxes for the middle class and then they voted to increase taxes on the middle class. People can easily find out if they are in the "28 percent bracket" by looking at their tax return before sending it to the IRS. If you are single and your taxable income is more than $31,850, or married and more than $63,70, you would be due for a tax increase according to the Democratic plan.
I don't consider that being rich but apparently Mr. Alexander and the Democrats do. And if either Obama or Hillary are elected president you can be sure there will be more tax increases to come.
March 17, 2008
Mr. Bill Fasula writes "all you rich people making more than a whopping $31,850 per year would get a tax increase if the Democratic plan is enacted. Your tax bracket would go from 25 percent to 28 percent."
Earning $31,850 does not put anyone's income into the 25 percent bracket! A simple calculation shows that a single "rich" person earning $31,850 has only $23,100 taxable income, after standard deductions and exemptions, and pays less than 10 percent in taxes. Even if this person earned $40,601, he/she would still be paying less than 11 percent in taxes and only $1 of the income would be taxed at the 25 percent rate. The same facts apply to married couples.
I guess Bush Republican voters use Mr. Fasula's type of calculations for doing such a great job with the economy and putting our children and grandchildren into unsustainable debt.
March 14, 2008
According to the Associated Press, Senate and House Democrats are proposing to raise taxes on those nasty rich people: "Under both Democratic plans, tax rates would increase by 3 percentage points for each of the 25 percent, 28 percent and 33 percent brackets. At present, the 25 percent bracket begins at $31,850 for individuals and $63,700 for married couples."
This means all you rich people making more than a whopping $31,850 per year would get a tax increase if the Democratic plan is enacted. Your tax bracket would go from 25 percent to 28 percent. And if you live in Hamden, your taxes are going up by almost a mil [under the mayor's proposed '08-'09 budget].
According to the Democrats, you're living in luxury and can afford to pay more.
March 10, 2008
What a glorious morning, the morning after the Ohio primary! We're still with Hill!
Yes, after 9/11 Hillary Clinton did use good judgment when on the basis of all available information (by the way, what was our celebrated free press doing?) she reached across the aisle and voted to give the president of the United States of America the power he requested. It's not her fault that Bush was president with an administration that was later unmasked as devious and inept.
When Hillary is president, I believe that if she ever needs that awesome power herself ( these are troubling times) the Republicans will remember her bipartisan vote and will reach across the aisle and for the sake of all Americans give her a united front, too.
What is the reasoning behind Henrici-Gorman-Fitch being against a brand new police-fire-animal shelter on Putnam Avenue? The location is perfect and the land is ready to be built on. The town desperately needs all three facilities. It is the most cost-effective approach and it would take the least amount of time to build the desperately needed complex. There’s good access and plenty of parking.
Why are Henrici-Gorman-Fitch so much against a brand new, functional complex that they are refusing to provide a cost comparison study for taxpayers? They are pushing their agenda of demolishing two historical buildings and build a monster addition with a parking structure next to our Memorial Town Hall. We’ll never see the end of cost overruns, and the day of a completed new police, fire and animal shelter will never come.
They claim to save $1 million on land sale but don’t hesitate to spend at least $5 million extra on a parking structure in the center of town. They’ll put jail cells next to Town Hall. Don’t we still remember the mismanagement of the new middle school? Did we forget the shameful saving attempt on dog-dumping?
This ignorant behavior, again, will not serve the police, fire, animal lovers or taxpayers. It looks like, sounds like the bad dog-dumping policy. History will repeat itself once again in Hamden and the price tag is ours for incompetent planning and spending. Click here to sign a petition against the police project at the center of town.
Richard and Marianna D’Albis
March 7, 2008
I'm a dog person. A big dog person. I was born at St. Raphael's in 1968 and have lived in Hamden since 1971, so I can truly say I'm a lifelong resident. That said, I've got some things that need to be said.
First, a mea culpa from anyone, someone, about this dog-dumping thing is both appropriate and needed for closure. I make mistakes all the time. We humans tend to make mistakes, and what makes us better is learning from these mistakes. Somewhere along the line somebody had an idea that didn't work. It happens.
What should follow is something along the lines of, "I thought it would work better, I was wrong. I corrected the problem." Or maybe, "I'm really sorry; that is not what I thought would happen, it was my intention to save money," or something like that.
Until that happens, the dog issue is still an issue. I can live with a dog warden, excuse me, ACO, making a mistake. What I don't like is one who makes a mistake then blames someone else. Somebody come forth and own up. Then build this shelter.
Elijah Antonio Bradley
March 4, 2008
How come ACO Chris Smith gets the luxury of an investigation (see Mr. Henrici's public response to Council member Colaiacova posted March 2 here in the Hamden Daily News), while former ACO Gina Cahill and emergency services volunteer Neil Gorfain are let go without any notice (or reason, at least given publicly)? Yet various positions throughout the town are continously filled without any Council input or approval.
I'm very confused. I keep hearing words like "investigation" and "communication breakdown," but I never hear anything of substance afterwards.
Wasn't there supposed to be an investigation into the mayor's mileage issue? Another investigation into questionable Parks & Rec expenditures (as a result of an audit)? And now ANOTHER probe into the dog-dumping issue? It just seems to me that as one new issue crops up, the others are left behind (and conveniently forgotten) with no answers (at least for the public to hear!).
Seriously, what is going on in this town? And why are we all just sitting by and letting it happen?
First, I really enjoy reading the Hamden Daily News. I am a longtime supporter of Hamden athletics, having played for Hamden High School in the 1960s, and currently have a grandson playing for Guilford Youth Football.
I am writing to share my feelings regarding the selection of Scott Benoit as the new Hamden High School football coach. Word is out in Hamden and Guilford that Benoit, currently the Guilford High School head coach, will be announced as the Hamden coach within two weeks. This is all happening, unfortunately, before the first interview has even taken place.
I am not happy with the decision to hire Scott Benoit. I have always felt that the best choice would be an in-house candidate; a Hamden educator.
How can Hamden High Athletic Director Jeanne Cooper take a coach away from a still-building and somewhat struggling Guilford program? Guilford has low numbers, regardless of Benoit's four years-plus presence, and needs continuity in coaching to keep improving.
Benoit will bring both of his coordinators with him to Hamden. This is piracy. Cooper has recently responded that whatever it takes to be competitive is acceptable. Sadly, Hamden sports has become more like professional athletics and less about what is best for young men and women.
Coach Benoit has done a remarkable, but yet unfinished, job in Guilford both with the high school and the youth programs. His departure would decimate the Guilford program.
Please look elsewhere for the next Hamden High School football coach.
March 3, 2008
I'd like to thank you for your dedication in getting out the truth about the dumping of the dogs in the landfill in Hamden. We who love and rescue dogs really appreciate everthing that you have done to call attention to the plight of these poor unwanted souls.
I want to commend you for breaking this [dog-dumping] story and making a difference. I do not live in Hamden, but found it refreshing to read the Hamden Daily News and see someone reporting with an eye on the truth and not afraid to speak it.
Thank you. At least the city will stop its disgusting practice of dumping dead dogs and maybe will actually try to find homes for the adoptable.
Karen J. Moulton
After attending the Feb. 25 Town Council meeting, it's clear the issue of Hamden's dead dog disposal policy is yet to be resolved. Mayor Henrici missed an opportunity to address concerned citizens when he chose to let Animal Control Officers Smith and Gimler and Police Chief Wydra assume the cleanup and damage control duties that evening.
The policy was reversed, with no admission that dumping dead dogs in the landfill wasn't the best idea of the Henrici Administration. Thank you to the Hamden Town Council members for addressing the policy, and thank you to Sharon Bass for uncovering and reporting the story.
The dogs are now buried and the dead animals in North Haven's animal shelter freezer will be cremated. Dead companion animals and small wildlife will be cremated going forward. We may never know the entire truth behind the issue -- how many dogs and cats were actually disposed of in the landfill, when the last animal was dumped, and if Public Works employees were aware and refused to bury the dogs.
What we do know is Hamden, now more than ever, needs its own animal shelter. We need a shelter so that our animal control officers can effectively perform their duties of protecting the public from nuisance animals and protecting the companion animals of Hamden's citizens. We need a shelter where a volunteer program can assist our animal control officers in finding homes for abandoned animals by publicizing and networking animals in need, through fundraising to support the shelter in programs designed to educate the public about responsible animal ownership and enable people to keep their animals in times of adversity, to name a few.
It works. Visit the East Haven and New Haven animal shelters and see what a cooperative effort between staff and volunteers can accomplish. See the pride of the community when people are given the opportunity to become involved, an opportunity not available while our dogs and cats are housed at the North Haven Animal Shelter.
To Ms. Marchand's comments, we live in a community funded by tax dollars paid by all of Hamden's citizens. We will all never agree on how those tax dollars should be spent. The cost to euthanize and cremate those 17 animals was approximately $1,700, a pittance of the proposed education budget of $77.7 million. It is a sad statement when $1,700 is too high a price to pay for decency.
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