Letters to the Editor

September 29, 2005

The Issue is the Town Charter

In the next few weeks or so you will have candidates from all political parties knocking at your front door speaking about issues that will affect you. They will speak about lower taxes, beautification of the town, better education, improved roads, economic development and other issues.

These issues are important, and candidates seeking elective office should tell you their position on them. But there is one issue in town that not only affects you but all residents of our community. That issue is Town Charter revision. No one in town government has made any attempt to revise the Charter in years. Charter revision should be on the top of the issue list in this election.

Some people compare the Town Charter to the Constitution of the United States. The town Charter is a formal document confirming the privileges, titles and rights of the town and its citizens, as does the Constitution of the United States. The Charter tells the mayor, legislative council and department heads what they can or cannot do in operating our local government.

The date on the front cover of the Charter is Nov. 8, 1983. The Charter has gone 22 years without being revised. The Charter is outdated and has too many ambiguities in it. The Town Charter needs to be revised for the proper operation of our town government.

We could save millions of dollars over the years in legal costs if the Town Charter was revised. The ambiguity in the Charter causes legal problems. It forces the leadership in town hall to seek legal opinions in and outside of town hall. This legal advice has cost us a great deal of taxpayer money. The Town Charter is difficult to interpret; even legal scholars have a difficult time interpreting it.

I think it's time we fixed the ambiguities in the Charter. That is why I am asking the sitting legislative council to take the necessary steps under Section 19-7 of the Charter to form a Charter Revision Committee before their term of office ends. I am also asking any candidate seeking elective office to make Charter revision his or her issue in this election. Bring Charter revision to the front door of the voters when you walk the streets of town.

And, finally, I ask all citizens of Hamden whether Democrat, Republican or unaffiliated to make Charter Revision an issue. Please speak to the candidates when they come knocking at your door about Charter revision if they forget.

Thomas and Elaine Alegi
Benham Street

September 28, 2005

A Letter to Connecticut's Senators

Dear Senators Dodd and Lieberman,

I am extremely upset with your decision to confirm Judge Roberts. You should be ashamed to call yourselves Democrats, because you certainly do not represent my belief in protecting the rights of all.

Do you realize that by confirming Judge Roberts you set the clock back on the rights of women and civil liberties 40 years?

Doesn't it matter to you that the health care and privacy rights of the daughters and granddaughters of your constituents, and this country, are at stake?

Roe v. Wade is not only about the right of a woman to end a pregnancy, it is about who decides what is best for the woman's health. Even my 8-year-old daughter will tell you that it should be up to the woman, her doctor and her god to decide, not the government.

I encourage all voters in Connecticut to challenge your incumbencies and replace you with candidates who are true Democrats:

o Ones who are not afraid to stand up to the Bush administration's extreme agenda;
o Ones who will fight, continually, for the right of all and not just the privileged;
o Ones who believe that Congress needs to be the check and balance to the executive and judiciary branches, not a rubberstamp.

I have no doubt that Judge Roberts is an intelligent and effective lawyer, groomed for the chief justice position by Rehnquist himself. However, I also believe that he will continue the precedence of the court to undo the work of lawmakers and voters that protect our rights and freedoms.

Even if Judge Roberts is unable or unwilling to discuss how he might interpret the Constitution in the future, I can see from his testimony and opinions that he will tend to defend the rights of corporations, not individuals. If I can see that, why can't you?

Marjorie Clark
Dunn Road

Complain If It's Not Clean & Green

On behalf of the Hamden Clean and Green Commission I would like to thank all of the organizations that sponsored the Hamden Open Space Forum on Sept. 6. It was very informative.

During the meeting, questions were raised concerning blight and zoning enforcement. The candidates spoke of the need for "eyes and ears" in the community to report blighted areas and the need for qualified zoning enforcement officers.

We can all serve our town by reporting blight when we see it. Blight includes overgrown and unkempt lawns, trash on sidewalks, dilapidated buildings, conditions that pose a threat to your safety, health or general welfare and much more. Hamden's anti-blight and property maintenance ordinances were created specifically to help clean up these problems. Filing a report is the first step to improving Hamden's physical appearance and enhancing the quality of your life.

To get a fact sheet on the ordinances and a complaint form, contact the Planning and Zoning Department at 287.7070. The fact sheet lists all the reportable violations. The ordinances are also available at our local libraries. If you are uncomfortable filing a complaint by yourself, talk to your neighbors about signing with you. Property owners should be made aware that their activity is disrespectful of the surrounding neighbors and is not acceptable.

After a violation is reported, an enforcement officer conducts an inspection. If there is a violation, the property owner is notified and given 10 days to bring the property into compliance. If the violations are not corrected within the required time, fines of $100/day are levied until the violation is corrected. A lien is placed on the property if fines are not paid.

The commission strongly encourages all residents to contact their representatives on the legislative council to let them know you want the needed zoning enforcement personnel hired. You can get the name of your representative by calling the council office at 287.2576.

Hamden is a great place to live and work, but properties do not maintain themselves. It's up to all of us to do our part to keep Hamden clean and green.

Diane Hoffman
Wilmot Road

September 26, 2005

Give a Bow, Now

The Hamden Dog Park at Bassett Field is approaching its third anniversary on Oct. 6. The park has been quite a success due to the leadership of the active members of Hamden's R-DOG, the Responsible Dog Owners' Group. Unfortunately, the president of the organization, Veronica Soell, has announced that she needs to step down this October, as she is relocating to Guilford.

The transition period that will take place upon Veronica Soell's leaving is a very important time for Hamden's dog park. Ms. Soell worked diligently with a small group of others for a place where dog owners and their pets could go to mingle with other dog lovers. The animals get to socialize, which is important to their well-being, and the owners can create new friendships. People of the community need to be aware that for the park to continue to serve its purpose successfully, others must volunteer to take on the responsibilities that Ms. Soell must leave behind.

A lot goes into the operation of this park. It is not just a random piece of land that can go uncared for and unsupported. The local bodies of government need to continue to be made aware of the importance of the park as well, and those who benefit from the park need to make sure that this happens.

It is time to call on the dog owners and dog lovers of Hamden to become proactive in the efforts to see the Hamden Dog Park continue to be a success, especially through this transitional period. The responsibilities of maintaining the smooth operation of the park should no longer be left to a small group of people.

If you use this great recreational spot, you should attend R-DOG meetings and events. Bringing your dog to the park and following the rules of etiquette are important and greatly appreciated, but not necessarily enough. Don't just say you support the dog park, actually get involved -- now. There is a meeting on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. at Larson Place on Whitney Avenue. If Hamden residents want their dog park to flourish and want to be an active participant in the cause, they should attend this meeting. We owe it to our pets to show that we care, not just say we care.

Jennifer Fama

September 25, 2005


Let's Come Together

The ad in the local newspaper reads: "Quinnipiac and the community -- proud to call Hamden home." However, an aspect of the university has had a negative impact on the town. Quinnipiac in its zeal to expand has taken in more students than it can adequately house. This has created a domino affect in Hamden.

Senior and some junior students have to scramble to find a place to live be it apartments or houses. So the university, parents and private investors have purchased many homes in town, with one investor from California owning has many as 10. Domino down.

Residents in many neighborhoods are unhappy having to deal with cars blocking driveways, loud noise, late-night parties and trash littering the area. Drive along Whitney Avenue from Sherman to Mount Carmel avenues and all you see is trash with 10 or more cars parked in driveways or on lawns. Many neighbors have sold their homes. Those who are left are frustrated. Domino down.

Zoning laws, which allow only four unrelated individuals to live in a dwelling, are not enforced. Neighbors have notified the police department when a car radio is on at 2 a.m., or the fire marshal when their driveway is block, but this puts a burden on our officials. Domino down.

The residents want their town back. The students want to live on campus. Much has been said about establishing a town-gown relationship. For this to be effective residents, students, town officials and administrators at Quinnipiac must all participate. There must be a partnership between the town of Hamden and Quinnipiac University that shares a common bond and a common vision. Maybe then this resident will be proud to have Quinnipiac in her town.

Joanne Iacobellis
Kenwood Drive

September 19, 2005

A Word From Henrici

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the Democratic Primary on Sept. 13. All 11 candidates ran spirited, issue-oriented campaigns.

I believe this process enhanced our party’s standing in the eyes of every Hamden voter. With the primary behind us, it is now time for our party to focus on the general election in November, and on the challenges and opportunities facing Hamden.

On a personal note, I was humbled by the strong level of support shown to me on primary day. Please accept heart-felt thanks on behalf of my fellow candidates, our volunteers and organization. We are honored by your trust and enthusiasm.

Craig Henrici
Main Street

Move On, Curt

Poor Mr. Leng, I sense he's feeling a bit threatened by my comments ("Roberts, a Safe Choice for Chief Justice," Sept. 17, 2005). I would too with this being an election year. His response to my innocent letter is filled with what we call in the industry "fighting words!"

However, I must bring you back to reality, Mr. Leng. I have no idea what my former and current political involvement has to do with chief judges. I wish I could be so self-important as to have that sort of influence, but alas, I do not.

I am a Republican! Damn proud of it, too! I make no attempts to hide that fact. However, I didn't write this letter based on who I am with the Hamden Republicans, my employment or any former things I have done. I suppose I could start putting my resume at the end of every letter, but then I would go over the word limit.

I'm not writing on behalf of all Republicans in town. I'm sure there are some that disagree with me (and maybe some Democrats that do agree) and that's why I write as just a citizen of Hamden. I don't abuse my position with local politics to get where I am.

I find it interesting that Mr. Leng claims he would like to see a "centrist" nominee and that he isn't a "left-wing radical," however his source of information is from Moveon.org which everyone knows is a radical left-wing Web site. I think I made my argument clear in my last letter as to why I am in support of our president's judicial nominee. Why is it that liberals always have these grandiose conspiracy theories about what the Republicans are doing?

I also think Mr. Leng needs a bit of a government lesson as to what his role as councilman is. Mr. Leng, as councilman-at-large, you are elected to represent all of Hamden to the best of your ability, keeping the best interest of the town in mind. Polarizing yourself as a radical Democrat and forming factions within your own party isn't exactly working for the town. You are there to work for Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens and whoever else is a Hamden resident, not just the people who voted for you. You have an obligation to the entire town. Self-promoting and abusing your status as councilman-at-large, as we have witnessed during your tenure on the council, is highly disappointing. Maybe you should take the advice of the title of the Web site you quoted.

Sarah Morrill
Rockwood Road

September 18, 2005

What's Up With Dems and Eminent Domain?

Writing as an unaffiliated voter in the town of Hamden, I find it quite disturbing that state Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven), majority leader at that, is stalling on an obvious question of the power of eminent domain. To give the government the right to confiscate private property, including your home, is as un-American as I've ever heard of. Using the excuse of not wanting to "rush to judgment" just doesn't wash.

It is reported that so far 11 states have scaled back the eminent domain statutes to not allow private property to be taken and given to those who would show that tax revenue would be enhanced if given this particular property. I would bet the farm that a great majority of states will also follow suit.

I can't help but wonder what state Democrats have up their sleeve in not siding immediately with minorities and working class citizens who would be effected in a most negative way with the status quo of this issue. I find it puzzling at best that Democrats, who usually tout their sensitivity to the plight of the least powerful, would be taking a stalling stance on this un-American law.

I am sure that the new makeup of the Supreme Court will again visit this issue in the near future and it will be adjusted along with the "Pledge of Allegiance" issue. Mr. Curt Leng, it seems, will be greatly disappointed with the new court's decisions, but this is a democracy and the people rule -- not the government as Mr. Leng represents as shown by his title alongside his signature. Let us hope that state Democrats come to their senses and do the right thing -- NOW.

Frank Baldino
Washington Avenue

Just Looking for a Centrist

A letter appeared yesterday in the Hamden Daily News attacking my opinion piece on chief justice nominee John Roberts ("Roberts, a Safe Choice for Chief Justice"). The letter was written by Sarah Morrill, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for the 3rd District council seat in last year's election, who is also a member of the Republican Town Committee.

In her letter, where she asked that I not try to represent the office that I hold, it appears that she forgot to mention these possibly pertinent and obviously partisan facts about her own standing in Hamden politics.

My opinion as an elected official means no more and no less than Ms. Morrill's. That being said, I will certainly speak with the honor of the title that was given to me by a majority of Hamden residents when they selected their town leaders last election. I would expect her to do the same.

Ms. Morrill discusses the "Pledge of Allegiance" in her letter, citing a San Francisco judge who ruled it was unconstitutional to say the "Pledge." I don't know what this had to do with my opinion of Judge Roberts, and I am a strong supporter of the "Pledge," as well as for a moment of silence for people to pray or give reflection, in their choice of manner. Her attempt to imply that I would like a radical left-wing judge is just false. I do not agree with that opinion any more than she does.

What I would like to see, especially for the chief justice position, is a centrist. In this time of great division in our country, we need someone whom both parties can accept with comfort. I don't believe that Roberts is that man. Interesting that just recently Republican Mayor Bloomberg of New York, who agreed with my opinion, publicly opposed the nomination of Roberts. Moveon.org, a political action group, stated the following regarding the hearing process,

"He's directly refused to answer over 100 questions, and evaded countless more. His silence is unprecedented, and for someone nominated to shape the judiciary of this country for 40 years, unacceptable."

I find it completely unacceptable, too.

What I find most disturbing, as I have with many other similar secretive actions that the Bush Administration has taken over the last five years, is the refusal to share important records from Roberts' time as deputy solicitor general, where he played an important policy-making role. What's the big secret? What are his true views? Doesn't the Senate and the American public deserve to know?

For these reasons, I question if John Roberts is the best choice for chief justice. I'm also curious why Sarah Morrill doesn't feel the same way.

Curt Leng

September 17, 2005

Roberts, a Safe Choice for Chief Justice

In response to Curt Leng's letter, "Roberts, a Dangerous Choice for Chief Justice" (look below), I don't find any substantial facts showing John Roberts is a "dangerous choice."

But, I suppose, Mr. Leng would be much more supportive of judges who rule that the "Pledge of Allegiance" is unconstitutional, as recently happened in San Francisco. Maybe U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton, who recently made this ruling, would be more to Mr. Leng's liking? I don't understand, but it seems Democrats feel they have the right to appoint a liberal judge when they're in office and when a Republican is in office.

Judge Roberts has vowed to follow the law, not his personal beliefs, on issues. He has also contended that the chief justice has "a particular obligation to try to achieve consensus consistent with everyone's individual oath to uphold the Constitution" and that would certainly be a priority for him if he is confirmed. He also stated that he tends to take a more "practical and pragmatic approach to things rather than a theoretical or ideological approach."

Let me remind you that Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to answer 60-plus questions during her own confirmation hearings on the basis that in doing so, "she would be giving clues as to how she may rule in certain cases," hence the coin phrase "The Ginsburg Rule."

Judge Roberts' also stands for:

"No one is above the law, including the president." "Everybody should be treated with dignity" (in regards to discrimination against gays in the workplace). He would make every effort "not to become an activist judge." He believes in the separation of power and that it is protective of our individual liberty. He believes the right to privacy is protected under the Constitution. He has said that the 1992 Supreme Court Ruling in Casey v. Planned Parenthood reaffirms Roe v. Wade should be respected. He supports the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposes the use of foreign law in rendering U.S. court decisions. He is a strong supporter of women's rights

Sixty-two percent of American voters think Judge Roberts is qualified to serve as chief justice, including 78 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Independents. Also, more then twice as many voters say Judge Roberts' views are in line with theirs and "mainstream America." I guess most people, like myself, think that making the "Pledge of Allegiance" unconstitutional is just as crazy as not supporting Judge Roberts.

On a side note: I'm not in favor of town officials writing letters to the editor as their position in office. Such as "councilman-at-large," thus implying they are speaking for and hold the option of the entire town of Hamden. As councilman-at-large, Mr. Leng is representing all of Hamden. I don't want Mr. Leng speaking for me on this topic or any. Mr. Leng, may I suggest writing as "citizen" instead?

Sarah Morrill
Rockwood Road

September 16, 2005

Roberts, a Dangerous Choice for Chief Justice

It has been very unfortunate to watch Supreme Court nominee John Roberts artfully dodge question after question at his confirmation hearings recently, but even as he tried, he can't avoid what he's written in the past.

Roberts' writings as an attorney during the Reagan administration have shed light on his sense of fairness, equality, and compassion -- all things that make this country and its people great. As more continues to come out about his record, it becomes more evident that he holds a deep indifference and callousness toward the most vulnerable in our country -- something that the American people rejected long ago. Something that I do not believe in as a progressive Democrat.

What's even more troubling is the White House's refusal to turn over thousands of documents regarding Roberts. What exactly are they hiding?

John Roberts is a sharp politician, smart and savvy, and he has used his skills as a lawyer to skate around many of the questions that would expose his cold views on fairness and equal protection under the law. He has probably used these skills successfully in the past, but now, with such an important history-changing appointment, Judge Roberts should be more open and honest with the United States Senate.

As an American who believes in moral fairness, equality and compassion, I urge the Senate to reject John Roberts. America cannot afford to have a right-wing extreme Supreme Court Chief Justice for the next 30-40 years!

Curt Leng

A Bad Trade at the Polls

I've lived in Hamden for 11 years, which on my block, I admit, makes me one of the newcomers. I'm disappointed with the outcome of Tuesday's primary. Less than half the registered Democrats in town chose to participate at the polls.

Those of us who did seemed to be registering discontent with the Amento administration's record of balancing the books, improving the town's bond rating, building better schools and moving Hamden forward at a time when small towns all over the nation are suffering due to state and federal cutbacks.

In his HDN column ("Amento Defied Hamden History and Lost" Sept. 15, 2005), former Mayor John Carusone calls Henrici's campaign a "textbook effort," and labels Amento's campaign "amateurish." "Textbook" and "amateurish" campaigns have nothing to do with it. Social recidivism and fiscal shortsightedness are the reasons Hamden's Democrats traded a public servant with smarts, guts and a proven record for a will-o'-the-wisp whose big plan is free wi-fi.

A war memorial can be located anywhere. A golf course is not necessarily the best use for the land at the heart of a town. Republican Lite doesn't cut it. Dick Reilly may well laugh all the way to Town Hall this fall.

James Velvet Wimsatt
Central Avenue

September 13, 2005

Ban Cindy? What a Bushian Idea!

I'm not going to make a habit of responding to every one of Sarah Morrill's screeds that seem to appear after one of my letters, but I couldn't let her most recent rant go by without comment ("Ban Cindy on the 18th," HDN, Sept. 12, 2005).

After referring to Mrs. Sheehan as a "Stalinist," she calls for her to be banned from Connecticut. So much for the First Amendment. (Both freedom of speech and freedom to assemble -- wow, you get a two-fer on that one!)

Also, after referring to Mrs. Sheehan as a "Stalinist" she defends the same George Bush whose "public" campaign appearances were carefully screened to ensure that only those wildly in favor of his presidency were allowed to attend, for a carefully cleansed pro-Bush photo opportunity. Not, I suppose, something you would have seen in the USSR.

Ms. Morrill goes on to quote Ann Clouter. I'm not sure who that is. Perhaps she is referring to Ann Coulter, source of heartwarming quotes such as, "We should invade their country, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity," and "Liberals hate all religions except Islam," and "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is that he did not go to The New York Times building." Glad to see Ms. Morrill is getting her information from such a deep thinker.

I'm not here to speak for Cindy Sheehan, but which version of our need to go to war were we using when her son Casey died and Mr. Bush had one of his smirking meet-and-greets with the parents? Was it the discredited "weapons of mass destruction that will kill us all even though there is no evidence of their existence?" The "we have to bring democracy to (at least some of) the Iraqi people?" Or the "war on terrorism?" Do you suppose as Mrs. Sheehan began to recover from the shock of losing a child, that she began to notice that every time one of Bush's reasons to go to war fell apart, a new reason sprang up in its place? Would you suppose that the lack of credibility of this war, with close to 2,000 dead Americans and tens of thousands (no one really knows -- I guess they don't matter) of dead Iraqis should enrage all of us, no less the parent of a dead member of the military?

I'm sorry that Ms. Morrill is so offended by the notion of anti-war sentiment. Perhaps she should get used to it, since approximately 60 percent of Americans say this war is not worth fighting. I, for one, am offended that anyone who disagrees with the president would be called a Stalinist for daring to call him out to explain himself.

John Shanley
Millis Street

September 12, 2005

Ban Cindy on the 18th

I must, again, pick a bone with Mr. Shanley ("Support Cindy on the 18th," HDN, Sept. 11, 2005). The truth, concerning Ms. Cindy Sheehan, is President Bush did meet with her prior to her anti-war, Stalinistic campout, to discuss and express his heartfelt sympathy for her loss.

Lest we forget, the entire nation was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, has been under attack for the past 20 years by Islamic extremists and will continue if we do not fight back. Anyone who has enlisted or plans to enlist into one of our heroic armed forces accepts the danger that they are putting their life on the line in the name of freedom. If Ms. Sheehan was so upset at the war, she should have made her anti-war point before her son even enlisted. As Ann Clouter put it in a recent article, "A lot more mothers will be grieving if our military policy is: No one gets hurt!"

The Constitution states the president has the authority to make foreign policy decisions, yet for some reason liberals think that since they have a grieving mother, the president needs to step aside and let Ms. Sheehan make the United States' foreign policy decisions.

What people also don't know is that according to an article by John Leo entitled "Looking the Other Way," Ms. Sheehan has referred to the foreign insurgents and terrorists in Iraq as "freedom fighters." It's quite concerning to me that an anti-war mother would consider terrorists that blow up children, buildings, cars, buses, etc. as "freedom fighters." Ms. Sheehan has also compared Lynne Stewart, the radical lawyer convicted of aiding terrorists, to Atticus Finch, the heroic lawyer who battled racism in the book/movie, "To Kill a Mockingbird." To top it all off, in an article released by FrontPageMagazine.com, Ms. Sheehan, the Veterans for Peace and Cope Pink have raised $600,000 for "the other side" in Fallujah with full support of Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA)!

The Aspen Times and Denver's ABC affiliate Channel 7 reported both a church and a college have cancelled proposed visits by Ms. Sheehan. A third visit was cancelled, which resulted in Ms. Sheehan removing a visit to Colorado from her schedule all together. From the Aspen Times: "Some 40 to 50 people discussed the issue at a church meeting. Church members threatened to leave the church if it let Ms. Sheehan speak there, said church member Mo Barz."

And Channel 7: "Sheehan was scheduled to speak at Mesa State College on September 15. After the school received several complaints that she would be appearing on campus, the school issued a statement saying it did not support or sponsor Sheehan's visit. Sheehan's camp then canceled the visit and also canceled a stop in Paonia."

Let's not support Cindy on the 18th! Let's follow suit of Colorado and others and ban Cindy from poisoning Connecticut!

Sarah Morrill
Rockwood Road

September 12, 2005

A Vote for Amento is a Vote for Education

I am writing this letter to publicly state my enthusiastic endorsement for the re-election of Carl Amento as our mayor for another term.

Mayor Amento continues to stand strong as a supporter of the public education system. He has been a long-term advocate of all-day kindergarten, preschool, minority student achievement, athletics and the arts.

As mayor, Carl has constructed two new elementary schools on time and budget. Spring Glen and Bear Path are both excellent educational facilities. He also renovated the Hamden High School athletic fields, tennis courts, historic MOM building and has worked diligently to renovate the ice rink.

However, it is Mayor Amento's tireless effort, in spite of organized and unrelenting opposition, to build our new middle school on the Meadow Brook site. Carl deserves all of the credit for this vital project, being constructed at this very moment based on the council's budget. The middle school opposition still exists, with most of it supporting the mayor's challenger in the upcoming primary, Sept. 13.

Regarding the mayor's opponent, he has recently made a number of ill-advised statements. Concerning the construction of Spring Glen School, he states: "... where the old school was demolished with the furniture still inside." The facts are that the school was cleared of any usable contents and furniture. The disposal process was conducted according to Hamden's Town Charter. As to Bear Path School, he states: " ... was completed without being ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, requiring expensive retrofitting." Simply put, his assertion is false.

Also, the mayor's opponent claims "a two-decade record of commitment to education, including a commitment to a school at the center of town." As co-chair of the Middle School at Meadow Brook Action Committee, I can state, without hesitation, that he did absolutely nothing to lend support to the project. He attended only one meeting that I can recall, where he sat with Mr. Bergami, a longstanding opponent to the project and litigation plaintiff. He states that he will end the litigation, however, the suit was already thrown out of court. As council president, he opposed the construction of a new high school in the center of town, and instead supported renovation on its current inadequate site.

Today, a decade later, installing the high school air conditioning is now four to five times higher, and serious issues of current over crowding exist without any ability to expand. His proposal to provide high-speed wireless service ignores that a significant number of our students don't have access to a home computer. Placing the cart before the horse is no way to prepare our children for this new millennium.

Please come out and support Mayor Amento Tuesday, Sept. 13!

James Pascarella,
education advocate


September 11, 2005

Bush Blameless in Katrina Response

This is in response to the letter written by John Shanley, "The Devastation of Hurricane George W." (HDN, Sept. 3, 2005).

I am disheartened that Mr. Shanley is "so ashamed to be an American …" especially with the outpouring support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina from his fellow Americans. What he should be ashamed of is his misunderstanding of the federal government's involvement in this disaster and above all President Bush's action.

In a recent report released last Wednesday by CNSNews.com, research into hurricane and flood damage mitigation efforts for New Orleans showed that local and state officials DID NOT use federal money that was available for levee improvements or coastal reinforcement, and did not secure local matching funds that would have generated even more federal funding.

For example, in 1998 Louisiana's state government had a $2 billion construction budget but allocated less then one-tenth of a percent of that to levee improvements in New Orleans. But managed to find $22 million to renovate a new home for the Louisiana Supreme Court and $35 million towards Phase I of the New Orleans convention center. In 1999 the state deemed the levee project as priority No. 5, aka least likely to receive any funding. In 2001, the Levee Board was forced to defer $3.7 million in capital improvements after residents rejected a proposed tax increase to fund its operations.

No new state money has been allocated to the area's hurricane protection projects as of October 2002.Sunday evening President Bush called Gov. Blanco (D-La.) and advised she should have Mayor Nagin (D-New Orleans) evacuate the city (based on the knowledge that Katrina would be a category 4 hurricane and levees might not hold). Gov. Blanco did not heed President Bush's advise/warning. Instead Gov. Blanco suggested residents leave, and offered shelter at the Superdome and other locations. When residents were told to go to the Superdome or Convention Center, New Orleans had not arranged for any restroom facilities, waste receptacles, sanitary items, medical stations, etc. Gov. Blanco didn't request any of these items until Wednesday afternoon.

Unfortunately for the city of New Orleans, its emergency plan states that only the mayor can make the order of a mandatory evacuation or enforce marshal law. It wasn't until after the hurricane had left its path of destruction did Mayor Nagin order a forced evacuation of the city.

When the National Guard and U.S. Army were deployed to New Orleans, they were greeted by looters, citizens shooting at them and hostile, violent activity. Yet despite the seemingly unwanted help, Americans and the president forged on to assist in any way possible. (On a side note: Bush has visited the disaster area three times now. Mr. Shanley, have you gone?)

In a report by Fox News Channel, Congress (might I add is a Republican majority) rapidly and overwhelmingly voted Thursday night to fulfill an urgent plea for $51.8 billion, adding to $10.5 billion that was approved last week for hurricane victims. Bush signed the bill immediately, saying, "We will continue to help people rebuild their lives and rebuild the region." Thursday night's congressional action made $2,000 available to each family displaced by the storm. Bush pledged to cut through red tape hampering victims from claiming federal medical, food and housing benefits.

Let's be careful where we lay blame. In situations such as natural disasters, there is only so much anyone can do, presidents included. You can only prepare so much for life in general. However, laying blame and pointing fingers is a moot point and serves no good. We all need to focus on moving forward, rebuilding, surviving, hope and faith in our citizens and our government. In response to the criticisms our First Lady Laura Bush said Thursday in an interview with American Urban Radio Networks, "I think all of those remarks are disgusting, to be perfectly frank, because of course President Bush cares about everyone in our country." I know I am very proud to be an American!

Sarah Morrill
Rockwood Road

HDN Good, But Needs Fox

Having just discovered the news page, Hamden Daily News, I must say I am quite impressed. The content is well versed and diverse. If there is a way to make more Hamden citizens aware of this option in cyber space, it would be performing a public service of a high priority. Word of mouth goes just so far and limited in scope. I congratulate the talent behind the idea of informing the local townspeople of the goings on in the town of Hamden, as so many residents are not aware of many issues facing them now and in the future. Hamden Daily News is just the ticket for, not only information, but educating the public of what others are thinking.

The only slight flaw I noticed is providing a link to CNN and, I guess that's OK. But if I had my way my choice would be the No. 1 cable news outlet in the world, FOX CABLE NEWS -- a news organization that is truly fair and balanced as I'm sure Hamden Daily News will strive to imitate on a consistent basis. Objective truth is the benchmark of a quality product in the news industry, a factor that is slowing being filtered by ideology and political bias in today's culture.

Frank Baldino
Washington Avenue

Support Cindy on the 18th

Cindy Sheehan and the Bring Them Home Now tour will be stopping in New Haven on Sunday, Sept. 18, at 3 p.m., on the big stage on the New Haven Green.

The BTHN tour is an offshoot of Camp Casey, Cindy's vigil that took place outside Bush's Crawford, Texas, estate this past August. The camp has broken up into three caravans comprised of members of Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Vets Against the War and Veterans for Peace.

These are people who have served in the military, or have family members in the military, or have lost people they love in Iraq. These caravans are winding their way through the country, stopping in towns and cities along the way to spread their message that this is a war based on lies and that we are wasting young lives on a war that has no apparent plan and no exit strategy.

The three legs of the tour will converge in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24 as part of the massive antiwar rally planned that day at the Washington Monument.

This is a good opportunity for everyone who is outraged by this war, but cannot make it to Washington on Sept. 24, to come out to rally against it. It is also an event that will perhaps make everyone understand that being against the war does not mean that we are against the troops.

As we have seen in New Orleans the past week, the Bush Administration has no qualms about going off on vacation or hitting the golf course while Americans suffer and die, both here and overseas. It is time that they be called to account for their actions (and inactions).

John Shanley
Millis Street

Memo Not So Gray

When Finance Director Don Gray left Center One before the Labor Day weekend, he left a memo for the mayor. I obtained this memo from the town attorney and here is what it says:

"When you and I were discussing my coming to Hamden to help you out because the Town had been without a Finance Director for more than a year, part of our agreement was that I would be credited with three weeks of vacation time upon commencement of my duties as of January 3 2005. Once on staff, this agreement apparently was not conveyed to Personnel or Payroll. However, after numerous discussions with yourself, Personnel and Payroll, I was under the impression that all was worked out to our original agreement. I find today that this is not the case.

I am fed up with this problem not being resolved as well as many other factors with the Town. I took this position on to help the Town out. It is abundantly clear to me that the Town does not want the help. I am leaving today. You may forward my last paycheck to me at my home address as well as my contributions to the Pension Fund along with any interest due and any other remuneration that may be due to me. I am sorry that this has not worked out to our mutual satisfaction."

On Sept. 2, the Hamden Daily News reported that the mayor said, "It's got nothing to do with me. I think people want to jump the gun and turn it into a controversy. I've got people who are trying to create problems before the primary." Apparently, Mr. Gray's departure had everything to do with the mayor. Moreover, to paraphrase a well-known comment, what part of "I am leaving today. You may forward my last paycheck to me at my home address" did the mayor not understand. How could the mayor read the memo and respond to it by saying, "I have something that's worded in a lot of different ways. It's not clear what it is. Don's status is uncertain"? Uncertain, my foot!

Ann M. Altman
5th District councilwoman
Blake Road

September 9, 2005

Made Up My Mind for Mayor

Thank you for your coverage of the mayoral race. You have just helped me make my decision of how to vote in Tuesday's primary. I am relatively new to Hamden (three years) and truthfully had not paid much attention to our town leadership, feeling comfortable with my preferred party being "in charge." The primary process got my attention due to my concerns, as a single homeowner, about property taxes and issues of under-funding of town obligations. On the other hand, I love the quality of life in Hamden and share the mayor's long-term commitment to the environment. I've really been listening to the debate and attended part of the forum on Tuesday but had to leave for another commitment. You covered some of the responses I had missed.

I was stunned by Mr. Henrici's revelation of ageism regarding the hiring of Donald Gray, "A 65-year-old guy from New London? Who would hire someone like that?" Even if the finance director were 65 years old, which he is not, that would not be a disqualifying characteristic for any number of legal, ethical and logical reasons. With age comes experience and wisdom; Mr. Henrici sadly revealed his ignorance of the roles mature adults can and do play in a healthy society.

Secondly, you quote Mr. Henrici as responding to the question, "How are you enjoying the Bush Administration?" by avoiding the opportunity to tell us, as our potential Democratic candidate, what he thinks of this ultra-conservative presidency and how it has affected and/or can be expected to affect the well-being of Hamden's households (See, "Read All About Them," Sept. 6, 2005). I find his response, "I thoroughly enjoy living in America," disingenuous, disappointing and disturbing.

Thank you for helping me decide to vote for Carl Amento.

Sue Fraser Frankewicz
Blue Hills Avenue

Here's the Rest of the Truth

A recent flyer from the Henrici campaign headquarters quoted a comment that I made concerning school building projects. In keeping with the Henrici tactic of using outdated reports and out-of-context statements to try to discredit their opponents, only part of my comments were published. I would like to take this opportunity to correct this deliberate attempt to fool the public.

Mr. Henrici has chosen to include only the part of my statement that appears to further his own ends. This is what he has chosen to print:

"We have not attempted one project in the last six years that has not had serious problems."

This is what I actually said:

"We have not attempted one project in the last six years that has not had serious problems with the air-conditioning and heating systems."

This was during my attempt to convince the council that the installation of such complicated computerized systems requires the services of an independent specialist company that would oversee all aspects of the construction and commissioning of the system, and report directly to the town. This course of action was endorsed by the school building committee, the purchasing agent and the town's construction manager.

Mr. Henrici should be acutely aware of the problems that occur with air-conditioning systems. After all, it was his council that approved a school with no a/c and windows that would not open (Alice Peck). It was his council that approved the a/c system for West Woods School that caused a $100,000 mold problem to develop. It was his council whose refusal to fund enough money to fully air condition all of Hamden High School that has caused a cost of $500,000 10 years ago to balloon to $2.5 million today.

Mr. Henrici should also be fully aware of a/c problems, as he stared at the outside-room air conditioners that incredibly vented into the council chambers for the 15 years that he served. My experience with a/c and heating problems is confined to Spring Glen and Bear Path schools.

I hope that this clears up yet another of the Henrici campaign's attempts to provide the public with only half the truth

Edward Beaudette
Central Avenue

September 8, 2005

Katrina Victims Need Homes, Jobs

My daughter came home with a flier from the West Woods fifth grade asking for items to be donated to the Katrina relief effort. It listed suggested items but did not say where the supplies were going to, and I was slightly alarmed.

Most people don't realize that, although it's well meaning, it's a hindrance to the Red Cross to have to sort through, transport, store and distribute miscellaneous donated items. If we choose to give to the Red Cross or similar disaster relief organizations, it is best to send a check.

However, upon further research I found that Gov. Rell has asked National Guard armories to collect provisions: bottled water, ready-to-eat canned food, batteries, blankets, tents, hygiene items and clothing. Drop-off points are in Hartford, New Haven (all 10 New Haven fire stations), New London, Norwalk, Putnam and Waterbury. There is also an urgent need for boxes at these locations, as well as volunteers to help sort and pack. Twenty-one truckloads of supplies have already been shipped out since Sept. 2. (More info at http://www.ct.gov/governorrell.)

The governor has also just issued a request for Connecticut's children to collect change and donations specifically to fund education in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Since Mother Nature is non-partisan, it is fitting that the Republican and Democratic Town Committee Chairs Mike Iezzi and Joe McDonagh, respectively, have banded together for a town-wide fund-raiser this Saturday at Bob Thomas Ford, 2215 Dixwell Ave., Hamden, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

These are gracious actions, but they are small gestures meant to make us feel good and not too inconvenienced.

If we really want to make a dramatic gesture we, as a community, should adopt at least one family. The city of New Haven is offering to take 100 families! Further, we as a nation have been asked by Democratic Chair Howard Dean to use www.hurricanehousing.org as the conduit for this action. (Gov Dean's message can be read at Daily Kos.)

There must be Realtors among us who could donate rental space. If there are businesses willing to put up money, they must be willing to offer jobs.

Marjorie Clark
Dunn Road


Don't Call me a Liar

David Gould's friends should have made sure that he knows what a rebut actually is before urging him to make one ("Beaudette Doesn't Tell the Truth," Sept. 7, 2005). For the record, a rebut is an action taken to deny the truth of something, especially by presenting arguments that disprove it. For example, I say that I always tell the truth. Mr. Gould's rebut of my statement should be, "No you do not and here are the examples that prove it." I have yet to see any proof positive that I am indeed the big fat liar that Mr. Gould seems to think I am.

I would welcome the opportunity to rebut them in a proper manner if he actually says that I had nothing to do with Spring Glen School, flood control at Austin/Colonial and votes for improvements to Legion field.

By the way, I don't think having an opinion that differs from Mr. Gould's opinion technically counts as lying, but that could be a matter of opinion as well.

As for my being a lying political hack that will say anything to get re-elected, let me rebut that. If I were really a good politician, I would have been the one vote out of 15 not to vote for the middle school at Meadowbrook. Casting a useless symbolic vote based on faulty information and invalid premises would have been the political thing to do. I would have been the lone white knight fighting the evil council and school board. I would have been the darling of Meadowbrook and not the object of their intense antipathy. In the long run, it wouldn't even have mattered because the school still would have been built. That is a fact.

I would have kept all those votes and not had to worry about the education vote because those people would have still stuck by me. My six years on the board of ed and my support for a new middle school would have been enough for them to forgive me. This is in marked contrast to the attitude of most people in Meadowbrook. That, too, is a fact.

Does Mr. Gould think that I was such a fool as to not be aware of the consequences of my vote? I was fully conscious of the fact that those voters would never vote for me again and that they would never let the subject drop. That, too, is a fact as evidenced by Mr. Gould's preoccupation with a vote that I made almost five years ago.

Perhaps when the school is finished and the beautiful park opened for their enjoyment and all their dire predictions do not come true, the people of Meadowbrook will realize that their fears were unfounded and realize that it was never my intention to inflict pain and suffering upon them.

Until then, I can only stand by my convictions and continue to believe that I made the right decision. One last fact. My residential property near a park and a school automatically increases in value. Ask any realtor, and that is a fact that you can take to the bank.

Ed Beaudette
Central Avenue

Shining the Light From the Bully Pulpit

Mr. Beaudette can always be counted on to speak his mind and defend his positions. I admire his candid discussion of town politics with my godson while adjusting his eyeglasses. Tim called Mr. Beaudette on his council attendance. Mr. Beaudette explained he did not attend budget meetings because the council nickel and dimed everything. Tim attended many budget, regular meetings and BOE meetings with me to get extra credit for school. I submit that had Mr. Beaudette attended more budget meetings. He wouldn't have been "in the dark and out of the public eye" as to the action taken at Tuesday's council meeting.

While I'm on my bully pulpit I'd like to respond to some posts on a local message board.

My motion at the Democratic Town Committee meeting to require convention endorsed candidates to refuse any other parties endorsement was not an attempt to embarrass anyone but rather an attempt to prevent embarrassment of the DTC Democrats who would support candidates with money and sweat should at the very least expect the loyalty of their candidates.

Signs! I have personally put up well over 100 -- most in the 9th where I asked and was asked to put up signs while collecting petition signatures. Signs in other districts were installed per requests received at Henrici headquarters. I have noticed signs I put up missing and have had people complain that their signs were missing. I have been flagged down on the road by people who wanted a sign.

Don Werner
Whitney Avenue

September 7, 2005

Parties Unite for Katrina

We are the chairs of the Hamden Republican Party and the Hamden Democratic Party. Most of the time, we are political adversaries, but the need to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina far outweighs any partisan differences.

Both of us have heard from members of our town committees and from citizens who want to help. Now, members of the community have stepped forward, and we are proud to offer our assistance, and grateful to them for this opportunity.

On Saturday, Sept. 10, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., there will be a relief fund drive at Bob Thomas Ford, 2215 Dixwell Ave., Hamden. The drive is being organized by the Hamden Police Department, the Hamden Fire Department, the Hamden High cheerleaders, the Hamden High Athletic Department, and former Hamden Councilman Henry Candido. Bob Thomas has generously offered the use of his car lot for the drive. Many local businesses have already signed on to help, including Shaw's, the Arden House, Bennigan's, Houlihan's and the Salvation Army. By the time you read this letter, we are sure that many other businesses will have joined the list.

We ask every Hamden resident to come by Bob Thomas Ford on Saturday to offer assistance, to donate to this most necessary and honorable effort. Thank you for your help.

Michael Iezzi, chair
Hamden Republican Town Committee

Joseph P. McDonagh, chair
Hamden Democratic Town Committee


'Henrici' Councilors Sneak in Hiring Freeze

Undercover of darkness and hiding from the public eye, the Henrici element on the council demonstrated last night that no level of political hypocrisy seems to be beyond them. In a surprise move, Councilman Leng -- who normally demands reams of written documentation and is notorious for postponing any vote on anything that is not given to the council weeks in advance -- suddenly departed from this tradition and proposed that the council issue a hiring freeze because of the "financial situation" of the town.

This motion, practically written on the back of napkin, was added to the agenda by a two-thirds vote of the council. Councilors Gorman, Noble, D'Andrea, Rowe, Leng and Fitch not only voted to add it to the agenda but also to approve it. This in spite of the fact that there was no actual printed motion given to council members, no written documentation as to the nature of the so-called crisis, no consultation with any department heads and no explanation as to why they have suddenly lost all confidence in the "finely crafted" town budget that they had hailed as their crowning achievement only three months ago!

Let us ask this question: Why, after only three months into their budget with no significant change in spending, no deviation from the mandated spending percentages, did they evidently feel that it is not working as they planned? Why did this fact suddenly reveal itself at the 11th hour after virtually every member of the public had left the room?

Why wasn't this important and suddenly critical issue presented to the council for their examination at the beginning of the meeting? Why weren't the department heads given any notice? Why wasn't Deputy Chief Cahill, who was sitting in the audience, even asked for his opinion as to what effect this measure would have on his staffing? Has the council budget proven to be that ineffective that emergency measures had to be taken? If this is the case, then they look pretty foolish for taking such a great deal of credit for being financial geniuses just a few months ago. What happened to their fix of the mayor's unworkable budget?

If this is not the case, then they are simply trying to manufacture an artificial "crisis" to create a political advantage in their quest to unseat the mayor.

Edward Beaudette
4th District councilman
Central Avenue


Beaudette Doesn't Tell the Truth

Friends have mentioned they feel I should rebut Ed Beaudette's letter ("Let Me Set the Record Straight," Aug. 31, 2005) to the Hamden Daily News, attempting to smear over the truth about him that I mentioned in my first letter to the editor ("Beaudette Won't Get My Vote," Aug. 17, 2005). My only comment about Mr. Beaudette is regarding his statement in your Democratic primary piece ("Read All About Them," Sept. 6, 2005) saying, "I always tell the truth."

I do not believe he has or does tell the trutrh; I believe he will say what's needed to try to get re-elected, that's it. Also, it's obvious that he will never speak a negative regarding Mayor Amento, even if deserved for personal reasons.

Gretchen Callahan seems to be a bright, highly educated breath of fresh air for the 4th District. I urge all Democrats in this district to vote for Mrs. Callahan in the primary.

David C. Gould
Centerbrook Road

September 6, 2005

A Penchant for Distorting Numbers

I have to take issue with a comment made by Mayor Amento in the Hamden Daily News today (See "Read All About Them"). He said, "Since 1990, the town has not made the recommended contribution to the pension plan. In 1998, the year before I took office, the town's contribution to the pension fund was $0."

I have, in front of me, figures provided to me a few years ago by the person who was personnel director at the time (I believe his name was Frank Connolly). These figures are entitled, "Required Supplementary Information; Schedule of Employer Contributions," and include the following percentages of the "Annual Required Contribution" for each year that were put into the pension fund: 1993, 65.7 percent; 1994, 57.8 percent; 1995, 55.1 percent, 1996, 55.2 percent; 1997, 68.5 percent; 1998, 58.8 percent; 1999, 24.7 percent. Then, the first year that Amento implemented his own budget: 2000, 0 percent; and 2001, 0 percent. Thus, for example, the figure for 1993 indicates that the town put into the pension fund 65.7 percent of the actuarially recommended contribution.

Contributions to the pension fund for the years listed were approximately $4 million per year. Specifically, in 1998 the contribution was exactly $4 million and in 1999, in the June before Amento was elected, it was $1.75 million. In 2000 and 2001, the first two years of his administration, NO money was put into the pension fund. His statement about 1998 is a boldfaced lie. Since he is chair of the Pension Committee, this lie is even more outrageous! Moreover, I have quoted these figures so often that nobody in the administration should be unaware of them.

If Mayor Amento cannot even cite historic figures accurately, how much confidence can we have in his present financial statements?

Ann M. Altman
5th District councilwoman
Blake Road

September 3, 2005

Finance Director Not the Council's Fault

The mayor made false allegations about the legislative council's role in "sabotaging" his administration because he continues to have problems answering questions truthfully about the state of the town's finances under his watch, and his apparent inability to keep competent finance managers ("Is There a Finance Director in the House?" Hamden Daily News, Sept. 2, 2005).

The facts say otherwise.

The mayor might need to start looking at himself for the results of the actions he takes instead of always trying to finger point the blame on former mayors, council members, civic associations and veteran's groups. There is no vast conspiracy against Carl Amento.

While the mayor tries to lay blame on the council for the possible departure of finance director Don Gray, the facts speak for themselves:

1) The council approved the hiring of Mr. Gray at the first council meeting after the mayor recommended him.

2) The council approved an increase in the budgeted salary of the finance director from the $80,000 that was approved in the budget to $89,000, upon the mayor's request for the higher salary to hire Mr. Gray, due to the fact that he was an experienced finance manager.

3) The questions the council posed to the finance director regarding the audit this week were a result of a request made by the mayor for the approval of a bid waiver (no competitive bidding for work) for up to $20,000 to hire the accounting firm of the finance director's choice, at a rate of $100 an hour, to assist with the closing of the town's books for the annual audit. An independent audit of the town's finances is completed every year, and in recent years the town has needed outside assistance to complete the preparations for the auditors and the reports have been consistently sent late.

4) The Finance and Administration Committee, which I chair, approved the request for the additional assistance after getting important answers on the public record about the completion date for the audit. It had been stated by the finance director that he might not have the audit ready for the state until June, despite the fact that it is mandated to be at the state by Dec. 31. The item will now go before the full council next week with a favorable committee recommendation for approval. (I voted no in protest because the administration refused to give any timetable for the submission of the audit, even if their request was approved).

5) The finance director gave the council no timeline for completion of the audit despite having the same staffing levels that the finance department had in the previous fiscal year. Following questioning, Mr. Gray stated that the work done on the audit was approximately 5 percent complete, when the town should be 80 percent complete by this time, in the finance director's past experience.

6) Clearly the finance department needs additional help. However, the council, as an overall policy, did not fill most non-public safety vacancies within the entire town government structure this budget year. The reasoning behind this policy was due to the unbalanced budget submitted by the administration, which contained a large tax increase proposed by the mayor. The council did not cut additional positions from the finance department.

7) A staff reorganization of the finance department was briefly discussed during the budget season as an item that the department may recommend to the council . To this date, the council has not received a formal recommendation for any of the changes the director discussed, from the mayor or from the director. It is my understanding that there are also serious labor issues involving the proposal, which some say are not being bargained for in good faith.

8) The council approved a new position in the finance department, entitled deputy finance director, upon Amento's request this term. If the council was trying to hurt the finance department, why would it approve the hiring of a well-qualified deputy director to assist the department?

I am personally offended by the mayor's allegation that the council is here to "sabotage" him. The town's financial status is of utmost importance to me and to my fellow council members. It is appalling that the mayor would accuse 15 independently elected town representatives of tampering with such important matters.

The record shows that throughout the last two years, the council has repeatedly fought back misguided proposals that the mayor has recommended -- ranging from new employees, raises for select individuals and countless proposals that contained waste and unnecessary spending.

Town residents need to look no further than the real record -- the town's audits, the mayor's budget proposals and almost every newspaper article written about the condition of the town finances over the last two years -- to see the true picture of a town with financial difficulties.

Curt Leng
Councilor at-large

The Devastation of Hurricane George W.

I hope that once things begin to settle down along the Gulf Coast there are going to be hearings to find out why FEMA and the federal government have so completely mishandled this disaster. I have never been so ashamed to be an American as I have been the past few days as I watch the poor and disenfranchised -- the folks who could not afford to drive out of town and hole up in pricey hotels -- get a level of service from the federal government that should shame us all.

In the next session, the U.S. Senate will vote on whether to permanently eliminate the estate tax, another handout to the most wealthy and privileged among us. With each one of these tax breaks there is less money for the kind of projects that can only be done by the federal government -- such as the flood control project that could have prevented all this in New Orleans.

Next time that moron in the White House says something like, "We couldn't have known the levees would fail," the response should be, "It was your administration, Mr. Bush, that cut funding to the Army Corps of Engineers for projects like this. It is your administration that has spent $200 billion in Iraq, while cutting funds to a project that was directly addressing the inadequacies in the New Orleans levee system."

The conservatives think that Big Government needs to be choked off, with one method being to starve it of tax revenue. But projects such as the New Orleans levee system is exactly the sort of thing that the private sector will never take on.

Three more years of Bush? God help us all.

John Shanley
Millis Street

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