Civic Beat

Freedom requires a declaration

Nations are created by civil strife, military rebellion, acts of heroism and acts of treachery. The origin of the United States included them all. This was unique, not only in its impact on the course of world history and the growth of democracy, but also because it all started in one document: the Declaration of Independence.

A year (or so) in review — a cautionary tale

In September 2012, convicted felon Henry Centrella’s scheme was uncovered.

In November 2012, he was put on leave. In January 2013, he was fired. In August 2013, he was arrested. In April 2014, after pleading guilty, he was sentenced to 20 years in jail. By September 2013, changed procedures and multiple safeguards were in place in Town Hall. 

Why procedure matters

Open government is fundamental principle of the American system. Adherence to the trule of law, or procedure, is the bedrock of American democracy.

It is essential in a democratic society that the public business be conducted in an open and public manner and that citizens be aware of meetings, be able to observe public officials in the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. This is the only climate in which democracy will prosper and enable the governmental process to operate for the benefit of the people and with the support of the people.

Mayor Sterling and the infrastructure deceit

More trickery from appointed Mayor Marsha Sterling that piggybacks on citizen concerns about repairing the town.

Half-truths do not promote transparency

Mayor Marsha Sterling has assured us that she is trying to be “clear and transparent.” But actions speak louder than words. Her actions at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, June 2, reveal her willingness to trick the public and tell only those parts of the story that support her intentions.

Money moved around in mayor’s budget

The annual budget is the most significant policy statement from the Board of Selectmen. How money is allocated tells voters what selectmen deem important. That’s policy making and transparency in government.

The newly appointed mayor, Marsha Sterling, proposed a budget that contains a selectmen’s slush fund of $500,000 that she moved from the fund balance, without explanation, so she would have flexibility to spend it without the need for voter approval. What policy this promotes remains unexplained.

Supplemental tax unanswered questions

At the Nov. 18 Board of Selectmen meeting, on the job for just 13 days, the new Republican supermajority used the most significant power they have and imposed a 3-mill supplemental tax, bypassing the town meeting.

The supplemental tax is troublesome for two reasons: the amount of the tax was not substantiated by anyone — even the town attorney and the town manager acknowledged this at the meeting; and no argument was made for why it was necessary at this time (although it was suggested that it would make administrative jobs easier than juggling payments).

Connecticut passes ‘historic’ food-labeling legislation

On June 1, following attempts by both chambers to pass their own versions of legislation regarding the labeling of genetically modified foods (GMO), the Senate voted unanimously to approve a compromise bill supported by House leadership and Governor Malloy.

Advocates have pushed throughout the session to see Connecticut enact first-in-the-nation legislation requiring the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms.

What’s a GMO? Just label it

Finally — growing mainstream criticism of Monsanto’s so-called science of genetically engineered food.

For the past 20 years, independent researchers, farmers and consumers have criticized Monsanto science. Now the New York Times is joining the chorus. Mark Bittman, food columnist for the Times, dismantles the genetically modified organism (GMO) science in his April 2 column, “Why Do G.M.O.’s Need Protection?”

He leads with, “Genetic engineering in agriculture has disappointed many people who had hopes for it.”

Recognizing Law Day

In 1958, the American Bar Association proposed that May 1 be designated as Law Day as the peaceful answer to the traditional May Day military displays in Communist countries, particularly the former Soviet Union. President Eisenhower agreed and thus, the Law Day tradition was born.