August 12, 2008
By Sharon Bass
A constitution is a breathing document. Like anything that breathes, it needs checkups from time to time. See what’s working. See what’s not. Make updates. It’s been a quarter-century since Hamden touched its local charter. It’s been breath-less. It needs major surgery, but politics keeps getting in the way of doing the right thing.
The local Democratic machine doesn’t want to open the document's 29 pages. After all, the machine controls the mayor’s office, the Legislative Council and the Board of Education. In other words: The Town. So why mess with the charter?
Meanwhile, the people are getting screwed.
I believe we should re-sculpt our charter to reflect the 21st century and to fix the ills in our town government. Congrats to community activist/lawyer Mark Sanders for starting “Charter Reform Now.” He’s begun a petition to force the resistant council to open the damn charter.
Here are some changes I would like to see:
An honest, exhaustive checkup for the book that outlines the way Hamden does business is way overdue. Please join Sanders in his struggle to make the town open up the charter, and then let's hope the council will do the right thing.
January 20, 2008
By Sharon Bass
OK, so first readers of the New Haven Register get a botched-up, misleading endorsement for Mayor Craig Henrici last fall. Even when notified via letters to the editor of the black-and-white mistruths in the endorsement, I was told the Register editor said nothing further would be printed in the paper about the Hamden mayoral race until afterwards. The mistruths will stand.
OK, then I read the Register’s Jan. 16 editorial headlined, “Mayor uses own car, saves town money,” with the subhead, “Henrici’s elimination of town cars pays off.”
My head is spinning. What does allegedly saving the town money have to do with the controversial mileage logs the mayor has been submitting since July 2007 (the real point of the Register’s editorial)? Why, that’s the same illogical explanation the mayor’s spin team has been feeding the local media. (Click here, here, here, here and here for background stories.)
The NHR editor has to know those two statements are unrelated, but uses them anyway to buttress his opinion that people should mind their own business about Henrici’s mileage logs. They’re asking too many questions.
Such as, why were the logs withheld for over three months (and after the November election, where Henrici had a tough battle)? The Hamden Daily News began sending Freedom of Information requests in early September ’07 and also filed an official FOI complaint. The logs arrived in mid-December. That doesn’t make a news outfit suspicious?
Instead, the editor tells “Henrici’s critics” to park the mileage issue. Nothing was done wrong. Leave the mayor alone. After all, he did start that ambulance service for seniors.
Oops, that’s right. There is no municipal ambulance service (one of Henrici’s ’05 campaign promises). In the Register’s endorsement, it praised the mayor for establishing that service. One of the uncorrected mistruths.
Like the endorsement, the “leave the mayor alone” editorial is also faulty. For instance, it says the 48.5-cents-a-mile reimbursement Henrici is supposed to get for business travel does not include gas.
“He pays for his car’s insurance, maintenance and gasoline,” writes the editor. A quick call to the Internal Revenue Service or a discussion with any of the millions of American workers who have been reimbursed for business trips would have pointed out that the 48.5 cents not only covers insurance, maintenance and gas, but also wear and tear, depreciation and the cost of a lease.
The ongoing dispute over Henrici’s mileage logs is about the way he submitted them. He jotted down, and was reimbursed for, every mile put on his car each month instead of itemizing business trips, as is required. His spin team said he didn’t know what to put on the forms (click here to see the ridiculously complicated town-issued mileage log), and that he was told to do the best he could, and that the legislative council never specified which miles should and shouldn’t be claimed.
Back to the Jan. 16 propaganda piece. The NHR editor writes, “The Legislative Council sets the rules for the mileage reimbursement. Under them, Henrici only lists his beginning and ending odometer readings each month. Critics of the practice say there should be more detailed information about the mayor’s travels.”
Like proof that he put in more than 20 or 30 actual business miles a month instead of claims he made of up to 1,700? As for being on call 24/7 -- another explanation being used for the scantily filled out logs -- I’d like to know if Henrici has ever responded to a business emergency after work hours. I’d also like to know about the business trips he’s made since July 1, 2007. He should be forced to divulge that information. This is the public’s business, even if the Register doesn't agree.
The Reg editor is also wrong when he says council rules only require “beginning and ending odometer readings each month.” There are no such rules. In fact, the council did state during last spring’s budget deliberations that the mayor would be reimbursed for business miles. Business. I remember hearing that. Councilwoman Betty Wetmore told me she remembered it being stated. Unfortunately, budget-deliberation meeting minutes are not recorded verbatim as council meetings are.
The media are charged with bringing out the truths no matter whom they piss off. To dig. To question. Not to park it. We owe it to the public. Nothing will change if the truth is not sought after and revealed.
I think the New Haven Register should park its own corporate butt to rethink its editorial mission -- and to consider using facts, instead of spinning wheels, to support its opinions.
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