October 1, 2022

Op-Ed: ‘Why Do They Believe They Need a Gun?’ Thoughts From Across ‘The Pond’ on America’s ‘Gun Culture’

Editor’s Note: We received this opinion piece from a reader in England.

Photo by Bo Harvey on Unsplash.

I’m not sure how welcome a contribution from overseas will be. After all, criticism from outside can tend to overlook shortcoming closer to home. But the so-called “gun culture” of the USA (which I’m certain doesn’t affect the whole population) is one of the consistent puzzles that baffles us on this side of ‘the pond.’

Owning a gun for hunting, or for shooting at the range in a rifle club, seems perfectly normal – although, in reality, what proportion of gun owners actually do use their firearms for this purpose?

And how many just buy a gun because they “want one”? And is it really so that some members of the public actually own a gun for supposed self defense? At home? Or do they actually take it out with them? I suspect this idea astonishes non-Americans more than anything

The question we in the rest of the world always ask is “Why do they need a gun at all?”

Or “why do they believe they need a gun?” What it is about this owning a lethal weapon, or a whole arsenal of them?

We never seem to get any answers – not sane ones anyway.

Apart from in certain trouble spots or former trouble spots around the world, this “gun culture” is unknown.

In my entire life (I’m British incidentally and almost 72, having always lived in England), I’ve never met a single person who owned a firearm – and as far as I can see, that’s perfectly normal outside the US.

Presumably this would be unlikely in the US, with 400M guns in circulation? But that’s well over one each for every man, woman, child and baby! I read last week that 42% of American households own a gun. I thought it a misprint. No! 4.2% surely? Or 0.42%?

That is simply jaw-dropping. Impossible, surely?

Doubtless every possible reason is being thrown about in your country at the moment for the reason(s) behind America’s incomprehensible “gun culture.”

Are we really being asked to believe that a constitutional clause drawn up in the 1770s – intended to apply to 1770s life and conditions – is still trotted out as a reason for this madness?

Overall, I suspect it’s the general standard of education in the US that’s at fault in the long term. (Not with fine universities but with the ordinary education across the board). With any reasonably-educated person, the penny would soon drop.

Of course, it’s hardly the fault of the poorly-educated that they are so. But if educational standards were raised right across the board, the worst of the problem would disappear – in time.

Every gun shop would eventually go out of business. The very notion of an accessible gun shop in a main street or shopping center (sorry, mall) is utterly unknown in most of the civilized world. It needs a very, very long-term goal. And that’s got to be education I think.

Until then, the gun culture will ensure mass murder continues indefinitely in America. The terribly sad certainty is that there are little school children who play, laugh and learn at school today, who will shortly be riddled with bullets.

A certain fact.

The very idea of having to “protect” or “secure” a school is lunacy! Policemen actually allocated to a school? What??

There’s no point at all in trying to keep guns only in the hands of the sane and away from the mentally ill. In any other country in the world, the acquisition of guns by the public would simply be considered utterly insane anyway.

It’s your business, not ours, but your friends over here are long past scratching their heads. We tend to tap them knowingly now.

After four years as a rogue state, the rest of the world had looked forward to America catching up with civilization again, but every time absolutely nothing – nothing! – is done after these senseless tragedies, we begin to wonder. Unfortunately, the expression one hears about the US again and again these days is “backward” or “third world.”

Yet it needn’t be so, surely?

Written not in anger or even as criticism – just so sadly.

Op-Ed: Are We a Civilized Country?

Lest we forget … then Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal  led a group of local citizens including former Old Lyme Selectman, the late Mervin Roberts (in foreground) to Newtown, Conn. to offer Old Lyme’s sympathies in respect of the 26 teachers and students killed Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School. File photo published Dec. 2012.

Editor’s Note: Tom Soboleski of Ivoryton, Conn., submitted a powerful op-ed to LymeLine.com after the Sandy Hook massacre. We published ‘Proposed Path to a Safer Society’ on Dec. 20, 2012. In light of yesterday’s tragic events in Uvalde, Texas, Soboleski contacted us yesterday to ask if we would consider re-publishing it and we immediately agreed. He has added a new introduction.

Are We a Civilized Country?

Eighteen school children murdered in Texas. What kind of society do we live in? What kind of society tolerates school children being slaughtered; not to forget the hundreds of others in Buffalo and numerous other cities? Clearly we are an uncivilized society; one that is disintegrating more by the day.

Ten years ago I wrote the following in reaction Connecticut’s own incomprehensible nightmare.

Nothing has changed. We’ve become numb and routinely tolerate the slaughter of innocents. I stand by every word.

Proposed Path to a Safer Society
(First published on LymeLine.com Dec. 20, 2012)

Sandy Hook School is an earthquake that shakes the soul of human decency. My response:
I acknowledge the right to have a hunting rifle and a pistol for self-defense. The right to self-defense is a root of liberty. Equally important is a coincident right of people who choose not to own a gun: the right to live in a safe and secure society.
This right is an indisputable expectation.
While I realize this is an ideal that will be difficult to fulfill, we must, for the sake of human decency, respect, and compassion, strive to create such a society. To not strive for this goal is disrespectful and inconsiderate to all people who want to live in peace.
My proposal to create an environment that begins to lead our society down this path is as follows:
1. A gun is not sporting equipment. To equate a gun to sports is akin to saying it is no different than a tennis racquet or basketball. This is an insult to humanity. There is no comparison because their designed purposes are so different – fun and games versus a killing implement.
2. Any weapon that is capable of firing multiple rounds in rapid succession should be outlawed to anyone other than military, law enforcement or security personnel. No one in a civil society should have such a weapon, for its sole designed purpose is to kill. For hunting and self-defense, there should be no need for anything more than a single-shot pistol or rifle.
3. Any weapon that uses multiple round magazines or any type of device that loads more than six bullets at a time should be outlawed. Reasons stated in item 2.
4. Anyone caught in possession or ownership of these outlawed weapons and ammunition would be in violation of the law and should be punished with extensive community service or imprisonment.
5. Anyone who currently owns such weapons described in item 2 should be paid to turn them in. They should not be grandfathered.
6. Extensive background checks should apply to 100% of sales in any form for the purchase of legal pistols and rifles.
7. A permit is required to fish. A permit should be required to purchase ammunition.
8. Internet sale of any weapon and ammunition should be illegal.
I urge everyone with a strong opinion on this subject to voice their opinion to their representatives and senators. Time is of the essence. Do not let this moment and these memories fade.

Op-Ed: Eliminating Mask Requirement in Lyme-Old Lyme Schools is Premature, Shortsighted

Compared to the peak of the Omicron surge three weeks ago, case numbers are decreasing — both locally and nationally.

Compared to where we were before Omicron — from summer through Thanksgiving — case numbers are still high.

With that said, we are seeing fewer people getting COVID, and that positive trend is likely to continue. The period of the pandemic where masks are required is definitely drawing to a close.

Recently, the school board and the superintendent announced that they are lifting the mask requirement on February 28th. There are a range of problems with their communication, including the fact that they will stop reporting positive cases in schools in a timely way this spring, but this piece focuses on the specific issue of the mask requirement.

The decision to eliminate the mask requirement — made largely without feedback from the larger school community — is premature and shortsighted. Unfortunately, both their choice and the process of making that choice are consistent with the district’s refusal to commit to layered mitigation strategies throughout the pandemic, and especially during the recent Omicron surge.

Since January 2 and February 18, 2022, the district has reported 138 people who have tested positive for COVID. Because the district chooses not to do systemic testing in schools, the real case count is probably higher. But the reality is we don’t know what’s happening in the schools relative to COVID. The lack of testing, the continued positive cases, and the generally vague communication from the district doesn’t create trust.

Students and staff are on winter break from February 18th through the 28th. Lifting the mask requirements on February 28th means that students will be bringing back any exposure that they might have had over their holiday and dropping it into the school environment. This is incredibly unfair to people who take reasonable precautions, because in a pandemic individual choice impacts community realities.

Because the superintendent and school board are choosing to lift the mask requirement on the 28th, they are making schools the place where risk and benefit both get inequitably redistributed. People who haven’t taken precautions against COVID, and people who aren’t wearing masks, will expose people who have taken precautions to greater risk. Conversely, those who have taken precautions and weak masks are actively creating a situation where everyone has lower risk of exposure — including those who take no precautions.

This is where the lie of “individual responsibility” against the backdrop of a global pandemic becomes obvious: we have a collective obligation to each other, and people can use their individual choice in a way that undermines the long term safety of the larger community.

Lifting the mask requirement now disproportionately and unfairly impacts people who need to take additional precautions because they are immunocompromised, live with someone who is immunocompromised, or is at a greater risk for negative outcomes from COVID.

The way forward is obvious: keep the mask requirement in place a few weeks longer, into mid-March. This approach gives cases an additional few weeks to subside, would allow the weather to become warmer so people can make more use of outdoor spaces, and would avoid the impact of people bringing their exposure back to the schools after the break.

Additionally, the district should put a mask requirement in place for the week following Spring Break. Cases have generally surged after breaks, and we have no reason to assume differently.

And, of course, if case numbers don’t subside in schools, or if we have another spike in cases when the next variant arrives, we need to look at layered mitigation strategies, including improved air filtration and requiring mask use.

Everyone wants to return to some version of “normal” – whatever that is. But by prematurely removing masking requirements, the district ensures that any return to “normal” will remain more elusive than it needs to be.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of William Fitzgerald of Old Lyme. 

Op-Ed: Lampos Makes His Case, ‘I’m Not Running “Against” Anyone, But Rather “For” Old Lyme’

Jim Lampos

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by Jim Lampos, who is the Democratic-endorsed candidate for Old Lyme Selectman and also for one of the two seats on the Old Lyme Planning Commission.

I am honored to be on the ballot for Old Lyme’s Board of Selectmen this November 2nd.  The Board of Selectmen has been meeting since our town’s founding over three hundred years ago, and our democratic institutions predate the founding of our nation by over a century.   Indeed, Old Lyme has one of the oldest continuous forms of democratic government in the world.  As a historian, when I read meeting records in our town hall archives I am struck by the degree to which decisions made long ago continue to resonate and influence our daily lives. From mundane tasks such as building roads and bridges to the pressing issues of the day, addressed in the Lyme Resolves of 1766 which outlined principles that still guide us, one thing is clear: Things we do and say in our civic life matter. And sometimes, it’s the things we don’t do or say that matter even more.  

Our times call for a broad perspective, and a willingness to listen, learn, and adapt.  As a small businessman who has successfully navigated the challenges of the Great Recession, the early days of the pandemic, and now the disruptions of the re-opening—I know that each day will present a new set of challenges that will call upon all of my skills and life experience. 

The education and training that has served me well as a businessman is even more applicable to the job of selectman. I received my B.A. in political sociology from Brandeis University, graduating Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa. I was awarded a Kaplan Fellowship to attend the New School where I received my M.A. in policy analysis and was inducted into Pi Alpha Alpha, the national honor society for public affairs and administration. I worked on various urban renewal and planning projects in New York City, such as the successful redesign of Union Square Park, and served as Director of Development for Community Access, a nonprofit agency building housing for the homeless and mentally disabled. I am currently serving as an alternate on Old Lyme’s Planning Commission, and along with running for selectman I am also running for a full term on the Planning Commission.

I was born and raised here in Southeastern Connecticut, and have been living in Old Lyme for over 40 years—first as a summer resident, and since 2005 as a full-time resident with my wife Michaelle and our children Phoebe and Van. We chose to live in Old Lyme for the same reason so many others do: the transcendent beauty of our natural environment, our excellent school system, great institutions such as the Florence Griswold Museum and cultural events such as the Musical Masterworks concerts, and most of all, the proud tradition of our civic life. I’m not embarrassed to say that I love our town, and I’m not speaking rhetorically when I say that I’m not running “against” anyone, but rather “for” Old Lyme. In that spirit, I am reaching out to all residents regardless of party affiliation and asking for your vote.  

In the coming years, we will be facing challenges that we’ve never faced before. The “disruptive” technologies that have upended so much of our economy and daily lives will soon be transforming real estate and development. Climate change will be placing much of our low-lying coast in peril and testing our infrastructure. These challenges will require creative, forward-thinking solutions, backed by the support of informed and unified residents if we are to maintain our treasured small-town ambience and sense of place. We must look to the future, respect the past, and work to preserve our natural environment and natural resources. We must support our arts community and all of our businesses, including the farms which were so invaluable to us during the pandemic. We must continue to invest in our schools and find ways to develop new housing opportunities in neighborhood-appropriate ways so that our young families can stay here and our older residents can retire here in comfort and security, and we must do all of these things while being mindful of social equity and justice, because that is who we are as a community. I believe that my running mate, first selectwoman candidate Martha Shoemaker, and myself, along with the entire Democratic ticket, are uniquely qualified to guide us through the coming decade and make our town an even greater place to live. 

I look forward to seeing everyone on the campaign trail, and to serving our town on the Board of Selectmen and Planning Commission. 

Op-Ed: Save Our Beautiful Dark Skies From The Threat Of Light Pollution

Editor’s Note: This Op-ed was submitted by Alan Sheiness of Lyme, Conn.

How often have you stopped to notice how wonderfully bright and alive the stars are in our peaceful town of Lyme, especially once turning off one of our ‘major thoroughfares’ like Rte. 156 or Brush Hill Rd.?

That dark sky up there is a part of our world. It is as much a gift to us as are the forests, the trails within those forests, the rivers and waterways, and everything else that makes Lyme special.

As part of the Sustainable CT effort (sustainablect.org) we seek to inform the public about light pollution and how to arrest its insidious spread across our region.

What do I mean by light pollution? Light pollution is what occurs when a preponderance of lighting, and poorly-designed lighting fixtures, create a glare both locally and across entire swaths of geography, which renders the night sky as a dim shadow of itself. 

The universe is ours to behold just for the simple act of looking up at night. Except, in so many places all over the country and indeed the world, light pollution is removing those vistas much as deforestation and asphalt and other aspects of modern life remove the natural wonders that are part of our terrestrial consciousness. 

Guarding against light pollution really comes down to two simple principles: do not light what does not need to be lit, and when you do need to light something, do it with a source that is effective and efficient.

Our little town, because of its almost non-existent commercialization and heavy forestation, is indeed a miraculous enclave from the typical onslaught of ineffective lighting. We need to keep it that way. 

We can do so by ensuring that all new lighting projects, residential and commercial, take light pollution into account, protecting the night sky, no different than protecting a watershed or any other natural habitat. To the extent that existing installations are night sky-unfriendly, we should consider replacing those fixtures over time with ones that do a better job pointing down with an efficient light source. 

Our environment makes Lyme what it is, and we can be a leader in the sky just as we are on the ground. Please endeavor to learn more about the beauty of the night sky and the threat of light pollution.

A great place to start is here: International Dark-Sky Association.  Also, you can experience the splendor of our night sky first-hand, with experienced astronomers as your guide, by signing up for future observing sessions hosted by the Lyme Land Trust at lymelandtrust.org

That look up there is through a window into our universe, and it should be our intention to keep that window pristine for ourselves and our future generations.

About the author: Alan Sheiness is a 10-year resident of Lyme, Conn., and treasurer of the Lyme Land Trust. Among other interests, he is a life-long astronomy enthusiast and astrophotographer. He has documented lunar eclipses, solar eclipses, the Venus transit of the Sun, a Mercury transit of the Sun, many of the planets, star clusters, and nebula; all admittedly decidedly amateur in result, but rewarding nonetheless. Sheiness is a promoter of dark skies and interested in establishing a new Astronomy Society in Lyme as an adjunct activity within the scope of the Lyme Land Trust. Contact him at alan.sheiness@icloud.com.

Op-Ed: Connecticut May Have ‘Reopened,’ Be ‘Returning to Normal’– But Don’t Criticize the ‘Still-Masked’

In May, Connecticut’s COVID-19 protocols for masks and face coverings were relaxed to coincide with newly-modified Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, and the new, less stringent, rules then became effective statewide. 

Masks are not required for anyone outdoors, and the “vaccinated” are not required to wear masks indoors. Conversely, the “unvaccinated” must still wear them indoors.

Masks, however, may still be required in many settings, including healthcare facilities, public transit, and facilities that house vulnerable populations. Businesses and government offices have the option to require that masks be worn.

You can review these new rules in detail at: https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/Covid-19-Knowledge-Base/Latest-COVID-19-Guidance

Despite all that, there are good reasons why some of the “fully vaccinated” may not embrace this “return to normalcy”. You will recognize them both by the masks that they may still wear, and their adherence to the old social distancing guidelines.

Is this excessive caution, or just an abundance of caution? 

“Who was that masked man?’ (The Lone Ranger; 1949-1957)

Unfortunately, people with autoimmune diseases (e.g., Type 1 diabetes, lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis), and organ transplant recipients, who take immunosuppressant drugs, may manifest a significantly reduced antibody response to the COVID vaccines. The National Institutes of Health estimates that nearly 23.5 million Americans (about seven percent of the population) suffer from an autoimmune disease; and the prevalence of those diseases is rising. 

Connecticut has heart and kidney transplantation centers at both Yale New Haven and Hartford Hospitals. Each year, about 2,000 heart transplants are delivered in the United States; and the number of kidney transplants has increased annually since 2015, reaching nearly 25,000 in 2019. Yale New Haven Hospital is the largest kidney transplantation center in New England.

Further, while more than 174 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose — about 65 percent of the adult population — there are still significant gaps at the local level. To illustrate that point, CDC data indicate that less than 30 percent of the population is fully vaccinated in nearly 1000 counties, many of which are rural and economically disadvantaged and concentrated in the Southeast and Midwest. The data also demonstrate a common political link to those shunning vaccination. 

In contrast, 60 percent of the Connecticut population has been fully vaccinated, and two-thirds of residents have received at least one dose.

Note that a single dose of a two-dose vaccine will provide some protection, but not nearly at the level achieved after the second dose. Of course, medical and public health professionals recommend getting fully vaccinated, especially now, with the continued emergence of troubling mutations.

And so, as much of the country emerges from masking and social distancing, under-vaccinated pockets in the U.S. still threaten to bring the virus roaring back; and, last Thursday, CDC Director Walensky announced that the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has increased 10 percent, certainly fueled by the hyper-transmissible (i.e., highly contagious) delta variant spreading among the unvaccinated.

Although recent data indicate that our current vaccines are still effective at preventing severe COVID-19 caused by the delta variant that would require hospitalization, there is a concern that the vaccines might lose their effectiveness if new variants continue to evolve and spread in the unvaccinated.  

We need to get all Americans vaccinated. This is neither new information, nor partisan politics. I am not suggesting that everybody masks-up again. I do, however, want you to be aware and remain safe.

As you might have guessed, I am one of those “fully vaccinated,” who still wears a mask in a very crowded areas, and washes my hands frequently. 

Blanche Dubois, in the Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire, may have actually had the right vaccination message: “Whoever you are, I have often relied on the kindness of strangers.”

Editor’s Note: Thomas D. Gotowka, who wrote this op-ed and lives in Old Lyme, writes a regular column for LymeLine.com titled, ‘A View From My Porch.’ His entire adult career has been in healthcare.

Op-Ed: Since Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Have Been Open All Year, Why Has OL Park & Rec. Summer Camp Been Cancelled?

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by Melissa Chapps of Old Lyme. It was updated May 10, at 1:40 p.m.

Being the only school district in the region to offer full-time, in-person learning, from the start of the school year, Old Lyme chose to be “all in”. In doing so, we have been the leader in how it is possible to safely reopen. We have been the model, not only to our neighboring towns, but to the State as a whole. We were the example for other towns to follow. We understood that this was vital for our children’s educational, social, and emotional development and pledged to do whatever it took. Hence with the tremendous effort of our entire community – our citizens, administrators, teachers, parents, and, most importantly, our children – we have gone above and beyond to make it happen.

Thus, with Connecticut recording not only its lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in weeks, but also the highest vaccination rates in the country, we were going into summer with a sense of confidence and optimism. The State is reopening, school sports have resumed, restaurant and social gathering restrictions lifted, masks mandates eased. Our new normal was emerging. And after such a challenging year, and the State’s emphasis on local, affordable summer programs, and making the accessibility of such options a top priority, children were looking forward to summer day camps …well, that is, except if you live in Old Lyme.

After being the leader all school year, and after our children proving that they can succeed indoors, Old Lyme now says that the risk of COVID-19 exceeds the benefits of offering its Parks and Recreation Summer Day Camp. The reality of it is they never seriously gave it much consideration to begin with. 

This lack of endeavoring was most evident in the recent Old Lyme’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting as constituents were turned away and told that they could not physically attend a meeting that was listed as public on the town website, with the location listed as Meeting Hall on the town calendar, and verbally told by the Selectmen’s office that they could appear in person. We were shut out, left to watch from the windows, directed that we could only call in, as the Commission met inside, unmasked, in a room filled with empty chairs. To say we were bewildered was an understatement.

We were there for our children to show support in the reinstatement of the Summer Day Camp. And while we are thankful that the Commission insinuated that they are now open to entertaining ideas, it is marked by great skepticism. The fact that the Summer Day Camp program was not a top priority months ago is a shame and a true let-down by our leadership. We never imagined that our town, which proudly stood as a model all school year, would stop now, as the entire rest of the State paves the way. Our communal efforts thrown to the wayside. As parents, the thought that Old Lyme would not run its Summer Day Camp never even crossed our minds. The idea that we would abandon our “all in” philosophy just because the school year is over was unfathomable. That should have been reason enough to make sure it happened. 

While the Commission asserts that the risk of COVID-19 is far too great for the Summer Day Camp, these same concerns are obsolete when it comes to sports. The fact that so much energy has been, and continues to be, focused solely on ensuring the safe resumption of sport programs and the “fair” usage of our town facilities, from lacrosse to soccer to rowing, is hypocritical. The notion and seemingly justification, of having 225 children playing lacrosse, albeit not all together at the same time, but instead having contact with other children, from other communities, in the playing of such games, while advocating for the equal distribution of playing fields, even calling out other town’s “unwillingness”, thus necessitating us to play throughout the region, and then coming back into our schools and our community is “safer” than running our Summer Parks and Rec Day Camp is nonsensical.

And that is just one sport – it does not even take into account all the hundreds of contacts from all the other sports, from players to spectators, and consequential other points of contact from restaurants to stores, wherein the numbers in totality are virtually immeasurable. But then the Commission has the audacity to imply that contact tracing is only an impediment to the Summer Day Camp – this defies logic. It shows a true lack of rationale and undermines what is even of the Commission’s stated concern. 

The Commission then tried to briefly, and selectively, talk COVID facts, again with only reference to its effects on the Summer Day Camp, as if sport programs are somehow immune. They brought up outdated and inaccurate data, while mentioning recent articles in the paper about other towns, the same towns that we play all our sports in and vice versa. Perhaps they did not realize that in doing so they are not only undermining their agenda against the cancellation of the Summer Day Camp, but they are belittling our remarkable accomplishments, for yes, our neighboring towns have struggled, but this should only strengthen the call for our local Summer Day Camp.

And perhaps they are not aware that many of us actually work on the frontlines and know the real data firsthand. They also failed to examine the toll COVID-19 has had on our children’s mental and emotional health – and how the research overwhelming demonstrates that the continuation of social and enrichment programs, such as the Summer Day Camp, is so desperately needed throughout the summer.

As such, we would like to offer some viable options to implement to ensure the successful and safe reopening of our Summer Day Camp. We can look at the actions our schools and of our children who have proven they can do it – and no, we do not have to worry about them “hugging” as one Commission member tried to use as an excuse. Our children have exemplified all school year they have what it takes to make this possible. We can also look to how our neighboring towns, who once looked to us, are running their programs. We present these options as a starting point and welcome the Commission to build upon them:

  • Push back start date and end date by 1 week
  • Reduce/Limit the number of attendees
  • Restrict residency in that Old Lyme Parks and Rec. Summer Day Camp would be for Old Lyme residents only, and Lyme Parks and Rec. would have to run their own program separately for their residents
  • Use cohorts wherein children are grouped together by grade groups with limited number of children per group
  • Utilize all the town facilities, not just the high school, but all schools and parks
  • Have a large pavilion-style tent for rainy days activities while splitting/rotating gymnasium usage at said locations
  • Require that all employees must be vaccinated
  • Utilize and collaborate with the Ledge Light Health District for contact tracing and inquire about PPE needs and availability
  • Require not only that all children wear masks, but they must provide backups
  • Increase enrollment cost – even though our surplus from last year should cover much of any added expense
  • Ask for volunteers and community involvement of participating families; The residents of Old Lyme have a strong communal foundation, and many would happily give their time and/or resources, donate PPE and cleaning supplies, and more – this is supported by the over 130 signatures collected in support of running our Summer Day Camp 

In closing, we think it is important to note that we are in no way trying to suggest that sport programs should not run, but instead we are trying to uphold equality for all programs. The Parks and Recreation Summer Day Camp was the only safe, affordable, and consistent program for the children within the community, to stay within the community all summer long. And the only sustainable option of those children who do not play sports. By sending our children to different weekly camps throughout the region, it is not only significantly more costly, but we are also expanding our exposure and putting our children, their families, and the community at undue risk

As a community we should stand together and acknowledge the social, emotional, and psychological impact that all our local programs have on our youths. They need this now more than ever. 

It is our hope that we can work together for the betterment and empowerment of our collective community.

Let us be “all in” together.

Op-Ed: Faculty, Staff at Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Deserve Cash Bonuses

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by William Fitzgerald of Old Lyme. 

In Old Lyme, we claim to value education. Now is the time for us to step up and show we mean it. The Board of Education recently put out a request to crowdsource gifts for teachers. While this gesture is well-intentioned, it’s not enough. Our school staff – every adult who worked in the building, from the custodial crew to maintenance to the kitchen staff to guidance counselors to admin assistants to tech staff to teachers and admins – stepped up under the most challenging conditions this country has seen in a generation. Their effort and care deserves cash bonuses.

Currently, the district site lists 306 people. Let’s assume, for the sake of overestimating, that the full number of people supporting our kids in the district is 350. Estimating high, paying each staff member a bonus of $1,000 would cost $350,000. A bonus of $2,000 per person is $700,000; and a bonus of $3,000 per person is just over a million dollars.

We have the money to do this. The current budget contains a little over 1.7 million dollars in unspent funds “returned” to Lyme and Old Lyme. Returning “unspent” money is an annual ritual; between 2017 and the current budget the district has refunded amounts ranging between $647,000 and $1.7 million (see footnote, below). This money is cash that has already been taxed from the townspeople, and allocated via budgets. The towns or the district could pay every staff member a $3,000 bonus and still leave $700,000 of that 1.7 million untouched.

If the school board wants to solicit matching donations from community members, the contributions could potentially be routed through the Lyme Old Lyme Education Foundation, where these community contributions could be a tax writeoff. This assumes that the LOLEF would be willing to serve in this role, but it seems a natural extension of their past work and aligned with their general mission.

Given what things have been like since March 2020, I can’t imagine that our school board and superintendent would want to do anything except show our school staff that they are appreciated via this one time cash bonus. Frequent objections to doing something different include that it’s too hard, or that there isn’t enough time, or that the politics of the budget process are too complicated.

However, our teachers, our admin staff, our custodians, our kitchen staff, our tech staff did not have the luxury of these excuses. Their work was unreasonably hard, and they did it. They did not have adequate time to plan for the continual shifts and disruptions caused by Covid – and they showed up and excelled. Our staff had to navigate the impacts of the political quagmire that marked our national response to Covid – and they showed up and made it happen, under circumstances that were and continue to be unreasonably difficult and complex. 

The commitment, professionalism, and follow through of our staff should be matched by this board, and the town selectmen.

In January, in the middle of the current pandemic, this school board committed nearly 2.5 million dollars for an artificial turf field. If we can afford millions for fake grass, we should be able to afford thousands for actual people.

Pay school staff a one time bonus for their work during the pandemic. We have the money, and they earned it.

Author’s footnotes:

School budgets listed on the Region 18 district website go back to the 2019-2020 budget, which allows us to see “returned” funds starting on 6/30/2017.

The budget overview pages are here:

Carry over funds from 2017 and 2018:

  • 6/30/2017 – $1,101,399
  • 06/30/2018 – $804,212

Carry over funds from 2019:

  • 06/30/2019  – $647,155

Carry over funds from 2020:

  • 06/30/20 – $1,725,886

The district has not yet released a projection of unspent funds for the current fiscal year ending 6/30/2021, but if past patterns hold there is potentially an additional $650,000 to $1.1 million dollars in play.


Op-Ed: Systemic Racism and Old Lyme — Past, Present and Future


This op-ed was written by the ministers of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme:- Rev. Steven R. Jungkeit, Ph.D. (Senior Minister), Rev. Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager (Senior Associate Minister), and Rev. Carleen Gerber (Associate Minister.)

As the death of George Floyd, and now Daunte Wright, once again dominates the news cycle, so too local communities throughout the United States are called to continue the work of addressing the inequities and injustices caused by systemic racism.  Thankfully, in many places, that work didn’t begin with the death of Mr. Floyd – it has been happening all along.  Still, the horrific footage of that event, together with the killing of Daunte Wright, underscore both the urgency of the work, and the sheer scale of it.  The roots of systemic racism run deep, and they are pervasive.  Those roots run deep throughout the entire country, but they are especially pervasive in local communities.  Old Lyme, Connecticut, is not an exception.

To say that a community (or a country) is afflicted with systemic racism is not the same as attributing racist behaviors to individuals.  While it might be true that some individuals do exhibit racist behaviors, and while it is also true that most people possess unconscious biases in need of examination, systemic racism is far more subtle.  It has to do with who benefits most from our economic system, our educational institutions, and our business practices.  It has to do with the availability of health care, and the location and availability of housing.  It has to do with transportation and environmental resources.  Countering systemic racism involves discovering where blockages toward racial justice exist, and then doing the hard work of reshaping and reforming those structures in order to create communities that are inviting, fully responsive to the diverse needs of those who live there.

Old Lyme, along with the entirety of the Connecticut Shoreline, has a long history of systemic racism that has gone largely unnoticed and unaddressed.  Historical research discloses that the wealth of the town was built through trade with the West Indies, islands where slaves were worked to death on sugar plantations.  Barrel staves were made in Old Lyme, which were then shipped to Barbados from the Lieutenant River and the Connecticut River.  Molasses, converted from the cane sugar harvested by enslaved Africans, came back in those barrels, which was then converted into rum.  Communities all over Connecticut supplied the West Indies with agricultural products, which were then converted into molasses, and then rum, and then the purchase of human beings.  Old Lyme, together with other Connecticut towns like Old Saybrook, Wethersfield, New London, and many others, played its part in that global relay system.

But Old Lyme didn’t simply profit from a slave society that was far away.  It was a slave society.  We can document as many as 160 enslaved people – and likely more – that lived in this town alone.  Many, if not most, of the towns along the Connecticut Shoreline have similar numbers.  The first minister of the Congregational Church in Old Lyme owned at least one enslaved person, named Arabella.  A prominent member of the town in the early 18th century sold a three year old child, named Jane, away from her mother, writing in the deed of sale that she was sold in order to have and to hold, to be possessed and enjoyed.  The largest slave holding family in New England, the DeWolfs, built an integrated empire of slaving in Bristol, Rhode Island in the 18th century, but they got their start in Old Lyme – one of the early family patriarchs is buried in the Duck River Cemetery.  At least three enslaved people lived on the site where the Congregational Church now stands.  At least five enslaved people lived in the house that now serves as the parsonage.  Several more lived on the site of the town library.  More still lived at the site of what is now the Florence Griswold Museum.  That’s merely a handful of the human beings who were enslaved in Old Lyme.

But it’s not only enslavement that occurred in Old Lyme.  Redlining did too.  Property records exist from the mid-20th century that prohibit the sale of houses or land in Old Lyme to people of color.  Such records raise questions about precisely what is meant when contemporary residents deploy language about “preserving the town’s historic character.”  What does “character” mean, precisely?  Can that “character” be separated out from the history of systemic racism that took place in Old Lyme?  Given the evidence of systemic racism in Old Lyme, are there not aspects of the town’s “historic character” that we might wish to address, change, and overcome?

The Resolution on Racism as a Public Health Crisis currently before the town’s Board of Selectmen is a way of publicly acknowledging the ways structural racism adversely affects the bodily, emotional, and spiritual well-being of people of color, an acknowledgment that should not be controversial.  Passing it would acknowledge that structural racism exists throughout our country, including in places like Old Lyme.  It would send a clear message to the people of color and minorities who do live in the town that local leaders actually care about their well-being.  It would do the same for the people of color who work in town, but live elsewhere.  But more than that, passing the resolution would send a signal to those living in other communities that Old Lyme understands the conditions that far too many people face in Connecticut and in the wider United States.  Finally, it would help to acknowledge this town’s complicity in the very formation of structural racism, a complicity in which it is not alone.  Sadly, failing to affirm that Resolution declares the opposite: the desire to retain the town’s “historic character,” together with all that phrase implies.

Passing a resolution is a largely symbolic activity.  Still, we believe such passage would be a substantive step toward lasting change.  But clearly more work is needed if we are truly to address the inequities that have existed in Connecticut, and in Old Lyme.  That work would include a public education program to learn the history of enslavement in Old Lyme.  It would include building a curriculum that would teach that history to our children.  It would include an active campaign to invite people of color to live in our community, and to take part in our educational system.  And it would include a commitment to building affordable housing, which, it should be noted, would also benefit many within this community who already face precarious housing.

We believe it is time for Old Lyme to lead on issues surrounding structural racism.  The murder of George Floyd and the murder of Daunte Wright, together with the public reckoning that such violence has unleashed, has created an opening toward greater honesty, empathy, compassion, and justice.  Mr. Floyd’s death, and Mr. Wright’s, is nothing short of a tragedy.  Indeed, it is more than that – it is a national emergency.  With that tragedy and with that emergency, we have an opportunity to work toward a greater and more inclusive public good, one in which towns like Old Lyme become the hospitable and welcoming communities that we most deeply wish to be.

Editor’s Notes: We welcome comments on any article published on LymeLine.com but we would like to remind readers that our policy on comments states that you must provide your first and last name, and an email address that we can verify. Comments will not be published under a pseudonym. Personal attacks on anyone or any group or organization, especially on other commenters, are not permitted. Also, we will not publish comments that are abusive, defamatory, indecent, libelous, obscene, off-topic, pornographic, profane, threatening, unlawful, vulgar, or otherwise objectionable.

Op-Ed: Thoughts on ‘Suckers’ and ‘Losers’

“Suckers and Losers”?

I am outraged; and saddened. 

If you’ve paid any attention to the national news, you know that The Atlantic recently carried a report by editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, who cited sources who stated that the president canceled his visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he believed the Marines who died in the battle of Belleau Wood during World War I were “suckers.” According to the report, Mr. Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” 

Mr. Trump lashed out at Goldberg, calling him a “slimeball,” adding that it was, “a fake story and a disgrace,” written by a magazine that probably was not going to be around much longer. He has made similar comments about the New York Times. Unbelievably, he went on to say (i.e., “Tweet”): “Steve Jobs would not be happy that his wife is wasting money he left her on a failing Radical Left Magazine that is run by a con man (Goldberg) and spews FAKE NEWS & HATE. Call her, write her, let her know how you feel!!!” Holy Cow … again, the specter of strong women?

Jeffrey Goldberg is a solid, well-respected journalist. The Atlantic began publication more than 150 years ago. The Atlantic’s founders include Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

The following are my memories, but relevant to how I’ve reacted to this reprehensible White House issue. These memories are special to me, but certainly not unique amongst American families. 

My father’s life was interrupted by some action in “harm’s way” in World War II and the Battle of the Bulge. He was a member of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”; my grandparents prayed, and he eventually came home. My Dad was neither a sucker nor a loser.  

I had a close friend growing up, who, when I left for University, made the decision to enlist in the Army. Killed in action, Gary John Shea’s name is engraved on Panel 61E Line 2 of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, DC. I have visited the Memorial and seen the engraving. His death was a tragedy. He was neither a sucker nor a loser.

Each of our military services has a creed, or oath, that provides a value structure by which our men and women live and serve. 

In Gary’s honor, I paraphrase the Soldier’s Creed: “I am an American Soldier. I serve the people of the United States. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy.” Does the White House know this? Deployment of the military at racial justice protests is not mentioned in the “Creed”, “even as photo op props.” 

I also served, but never in harm’s way. My active duty years were mostly at the Naval Hospital at NAS Pax River, MD. In my clinical capacity, I once had the terrible honor to examine the burned remains of a Naval aviator in order to officially confirm his identity. His A-4 Skyhawk had gone down. His death was a tragedy. He was neither a sucker nor a loser. 

The A-4 is the same aircraft flown by another Naval Aviator and an American hero, Senator John McCain. He was neither a sucker nor a loser.

My son and his wife are graduates of the Naval Academy.  Brendan served on fast attack nuclear submarines. He claims to have once seen the “bright lights” of Murmansk. Emily was involved in missile testing on surface vessels.

Having fulfilled his active duty service commitment, Brendan continues his relationship with the Navy, in his role at JHU’s Applied Physics Laboratory. He works closely with them to develop “strategies and systems that support our Sea Control Mission”.  

My son-in-law is a Royal Air Force squadron leader and recently completed a multi-year tour as RAF liaison officer to the USAF at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. “Ruggy” has the dubious distinction, as a citizen of the United Kingdom, to have flown his USAF F-15E Strike Eagle over Syria and Iraq with the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It is a tradition to have an American flag in the cockpit for later presentation to family. We cherish that flag.

Brendan, Emily, and Ruggy are intelligent and honorable leaders and warriors, who have served to defend the United States. They are neither suckers nor losers.

I despair at the utter callousness and disrespect exhibited by a Commander-in-Chief who sees fit to use descriptors like “suckers and losers” as a means of insulting those who served in our military. 

Editor Goldberg had received some criticism for not naming his sources, although the Associated Press has corroborated the report. 

However, the history of disparaging rhetoric that has emanated from Mr. Trump, alone gives credibility to The Atlantic report. I will not bother to cite all of his words and the times that this president has made degrading, and insulting remarks about the military and its leadership.

However, the names that come to my mind include Alexander Vindman, John McCain, Generals Mattis, McMaster, and, just recently, Kelly. His words and feelings are clear.  To the best of my knowledge, nobody in the Trump family has served, which amazes me. Consequently, he has absolutely no reference point on the role or concerns of family who support our men and women, who may serve in harm’s way. How did my daughter, Erin, feel when Ruggy was flying over Iraq and Syria? How did my wife handle Brendan’s undersea deployments during silent periods? 

I have to wonder: “Where are his close advisors?” 

The VP has not served in the military, although his father served in Korea, and his son with the Marines. Mike Pompeo is a graduate of West Point and has served as an Army officer.

Why won’t you guys ask this president to cease his reprehensible insults?

God save the United States of America!

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka, who is a resident of Old Lyme.

Op-Ed: A Gardener, “The Gardener’s Tale,” and Structural Racism in Our Towns

Editor’s Note: The author of this op-ed, Joseph CL Merola,  MD, MPH, is an active member of the Old Saybrook March for Justice.  He lives in Old Saybrook and is a semiretired Obstetrician and Gynecologist, having most recently practiced, taught and served as Chairman of the Department at the St. Luke’s University Health Network in Eastern PA and Western NJ. Dr. Merola also has been a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and Clinical Professor at the Temple University School of Medicine. He has an abiding interest in the public’s health, particularly for women and children, and for distributive justice in health care.           

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash.

At this time of year, I’m in my glory as an avid gardener in Coastal Connecticut.

So grateful to my Italian father and grandfather for sharing and showing, by example, a gardener’s passion  (and frankly requiring  me to participate by helping to sow, nurture, weed and pick!) Arising from that hands-on education comes a now more natural understanding of the elements of the growing environment for seeds and plants … temperature, soil quality, water, sun and organic principles. 

So here we are again, in early September, with an abundant harvest of herbs, greens, root vegetables, peppers and array of tomato varieties, sizes and colors. And we can still look ahead to corn, squashes and pumpkins for the fall.  How wonderful! But, giving credit where credit is due, these “fruits of one’s labor”, and their quality, begin and depend on the all-important environment.

So, let’s consider for a moment “The Gardener’s Tale,” an allegory, first appearing within an article in the American Journal of Public Health in 2000, authored by Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, PhD, MPH, the former President of the American Public Health Association and a Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. (An Abstract, and access to the full text is available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446334/ for further reference.) 

She develops a context for understanding racism on three levels. First is Personally Mediated Racism, i.e. intentional or unintentional prejudice and discrimination, including acts of omission and/or commission, structural boundaries, and societal condonation.

The second is Internalized Racism, wherein the members of the race in question accept notions of their own lesser intrinsic worth and ability.

The last is the so evident Institutionalized Racism, shown by sub-optimal material conditions (access to quality housing, education, employment, a clean environment and particularly health care). Also included in this category is similarly differential access to power, resources, information, and a “voice.”

As a demonstration, Jones presents the referenced allegory of a Gardener with two flower boxes, one with fresh, rich soil (and beautiful red flowers) and the other, unknowingly at first, with old, poor quality soil (and similarly poor quality pink flowers.) 

Personally Mediated Racism is reflected in the Gardener’s discard of the scraggly pink blossoms before going to seed, or removing pink scattered seeds that might be blowing into the more fertile soil. 

Internalized Racism here relates to the pink flowers telling the bees not to pollinate them with pink pollen, as they prefer red pollen, and thus red flowers.

The allegorical equivalent of Institutionalize Racism is most poignant … with the two flower boxes historically keeping the soils, seeds and flowers separate by color, the oversight of the gardener in not addressing the soil differences in the first place, and the belief that red flowers were intrinsically better!

This summer a light has dramatically been shone on our own “gardens”, in our own shoreline towns. The marches for social justice, arising from the Black Lives Matter movement, have grown in size and number. Privileged people, not directly impacted by racism, have materialized and raised their voices against racism. This has been a powerful maker! 

Towns across Connecticut, including New London, have adopted resolutions claiming that “racism is a public health crisis,” and used the opportunity for town hall conversations to bring about change. Why is all quiet in the Old Saybrook, Essex and Old Lyme Town Halls, despite their own residents’ protests and affirmation?    

Clearly, “the Gardener” here is our local government. They have the power to consider, act, and openly declare racism as a reality, a grave concern, and a public health crisis. They have the power to allocate more resources to mitigate this dilemma. Among other outcomes, these could take the shape of education, public culture, affordable housing and accessible healthcare. 

But, why are they so quiet? 

We need open recognition, and declaration: our various garden environments for growth must be optimized, and not different. Our racial soil quality, particularly new and fertile soil, is needed to permit pink flowers to flourish, as well as red. Then, flowers of all colors can be recognized equally, and have the same opportunity for contributing to a brighter and more meaningful life.  

Op-Ed: An Open Letter to all the States on the Mandatory 14-Day Quarantine List

Anyone traveling to Connecticut from the states in red must quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

UPDATED 08/10: New Comment — Hi! This is Connecticut. You know, the little northeastern state with great pizza, high quality of life, and New England charm? Doesn’t ring a bell? We’ve got small cities and a beautiful shoreline and grouchy people and … still no, huh?

Okay, fine. We’re the one between Boston and New York with the traffic jams. Know who we are now? Good.

We’re having a hard time understanding why you let things get this bad. There’s a lot about the rest of the country that doesn’t always make sense to us, like the distinct lack of split-top hot dog buns west of the Hudson, but usually we just chalk it up to regional differences and get on with our lives.

But this is different.

The coronavirus is still raging out of control in most states, five full months after it first started showing up in the United States. In other parts of the world, things are actually going back to normal. In Taiwan they’re having baseball—with fans in attendance! And we here in the Northeast were actually on the same track.

We were beating this thing! We were hit early and we were hit hard, just like our neighbors in New York, but we had smart, capable people in government and brave, hard-working healthcare personnel, and by May we were seeing a dramatic drop in cases and deaths.That downward trend continued until mid-June, when things kind of stalled out.

Now our numbers are going back up. It’s slow, but it’s steady, and we’re bracing for it to get worse before it gets better. Given how bad things got for us in April, and how hard our people worked and how much we sacrificed, this is absolutely gut-wrenching.

Was it all for nothing?

Do you realize that by bearing the brunt of the first wave, the people of the Northeast bought you precious time to prepare? We had only days to decide what to do as the virus spread, undetected, through our population. Everything happened here in two panicky, rushed weeks in March, and then we shut it all down and coped as best we could.

You had so much more time. You could have prevented the virus from ever becoming as bad as it was here.

But what did you do with all that time? Did you ready mask mandates, did you make sure to close bars and beaches, did you get what equipment you could for your hospitals and educate your people?

No. Too many of you decided that it was more important to protect the economy than the people. Too many of you fell for the anti-science, culture-war nonsense coming out of the mouth of the president. And look what’s come of that—the economy is still in ruins, and there are 150,000 Americans dead.

That’s why we’ve had to make our list. If anyone travels from one of those states to Connecticut, they’re required to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

But it’s not like we can put up guard posts on I-95 and I-84. We can’t wall ourselves off from the rest of the country. So the virus is coming back in, and descending on a population who thought, rightly, that they had done their job to defeat it already.

We’re not going to jump up and down and yell about how this is all your fault, even though we’d be justified in doing so. We will share what we’ve learned, and hope you can turn things around before they get even worse.

Masks and shutdowns work. Educating the people works. The leaders of states suffering from the virus now must not be so afraid of the political consequences of doing the right thing, of leading, that they simply allow people to die. Mandate masks. Shut down the economy. Close the bars. Forget about school. Test, report, and trace. You have to.

But here’s the most important and painful lesson we learned: you are on your own. The federal government did not care if we got PPE and ventilators. The people at the very top in Washington were content to let us die because of politics. They don’t care, and help is not on the way.

Which means it’s up to you, and only you, to stop this thing. We believe in you. You have a friend in us, and we’re rooting for you all the way.

Just please, for goodness’ sake, cancel your travel plans.

Editor’s Note: (i)This column was originally published Aug. 4, on CTNewsJunkie.com. It is republished with their permission.

(ii) Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats. Follow her on Twitter @whateversusan.

It’s Juneteenth — But What Does That Mean? (from ‘The Boston Globe’)

LYME / OLD LYME — To be honest, we have never mentioned Juneteenth before on LymeLine.com but, in a sign of the times, we feel we can’t let this day pass us by this year without comment.

Quiet, overwhelmingly white Lyme and Old Lyme have already displayed a remarkable awareness of the changing world in which we are living with rallies for racial justice in each town on the most recent two weekends.

Something is happening — even in our peaceful, rural backwaters — that is touching the community conscience and sparking action.

We stumbled on this powerful opinion piece by Adrian Walker titled, What we celebrate this Juneteenth, published yesterday (June 18) in The Boston Globe, which digs deeper into this ongoing phenomenon and explains the history of Juneteenth far better than we are able.

Walker says,  “And this Juneteenth finds Americans in the streets, joined again in a battle for that elusive idea of freedom. Fighting, once again, for true equity in the land where all of us were created equal. As much as anything, Juneteenth is an observance of promises still waiting to be delivered.

He concludes, “If we are lucky and brave and bold, this insane year of pandemic, uprising, and upheaval might be another beginning. Americans stand on the shoulders of idealists, but grounded in the realities of the oppressed. Juneteenth, from its beginning, has been a monument to that tension.

For once, that drama is front and center.

Read Walker’s full column at this link.

Op-Ed: Old Lyme EDC Completes Fact-Finding Stage of ‘Smart Growth’ Development Plan, Seeks Additional Public Input to Move Forward

Editor’s Note: The authors, Justin Fuller and Howard Margules, are the Co-Chairs of the Old Lyme Economic Development Commission.

The Old Lyme Economic Development Commission (EDC) launched three initiatives as its first step in crafting a “smart growth” economic development strategy for Old Lyme focused on maintaining the small-town character and charm of our unique town.

We realized the success of the plan depended upon providing opportunities for the public’s voice to be heard. Therefore, we designed the project with this in mind.

The three studies are now complete, and we are pleased to share the results with you.

We believe the findings in these reports will provide essential insights for not only the mission of the EDC but also will provide valuable information for the town’s other boards, commissions, and stakeholders.

The EDC has two main goals: first, attracting new businesses that fit the character of Old Lyme, and second, supporting existing businesses. These studies provided information essential in meeting these goals.

We were delighted by the community’s high level of participation, and we sincerely thank those who participated in completing the survey and to the SWOT attendees who gave up a portion of their free time to share their ideas with the commission.

We are committed to turning these findings into recommendations aimed at enhancing our town’s future.

Our efforts were greatly assisted by Advance CT (formerly known as the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, CERC) in crafting these three reports. They provide a comprehensive sound foundation to build upon, but will require adjustments for the impact of COVID-19.

We recognize the business and economic landscape will be altered, which will require adjustments to our future plans. We believe we are in a better position to confront the “new normal” that will result from the impact of the virus by having the results from these projects as a baseline to work with.

We invited all residents and all businesses to complete an Economic Development Survey, which provided the entire community an opportunity to weigh in on a variety of issues that will help shape the future of Old Lyme.

The response was overwhelming and the results of the Survey are contained in the report at this link.  Seven hundred and thirty surveys were completed (we anticipated 150 responses), the largest percentage response of any of the approximate 80 municipalities Advance CT has surveyed.

We conducted two economic Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) workshops designed to obtain feedback from a broad cross-section of town stakeholders, including a variety of businesses, residents, town leaders, nonprofit organizations, and clergy. The SWOT workshops gave additional opportunities for these stakeholders to dive deeper into critical issues.

The Old Lyme Economic Development Study provided valuable data and expert analysis of current economic conditions and recommendations for the future economic development of Old Lyme. It generated professional analysis and recommendations that will aid us in examining business opportunities that are both realistic and are a good fit for Old Lyme.

in carrying out our two EDC goals of both providing support to existing businesses, and attracting new business, while being mindful of maintaining the charm and character of our beautiful town.

Looking to the future, we will be discussing a game plan at our next meeting and the initiatives we have described here, which have already been implemented, will play a vital role as we move forward. In a nutshell, the EDC is now transitioning from gathering information to generating recommendations for a “smart growth” economic development strategy,

Our goal will be to come up with a specific recommendations for economic development keeping in mind our two EDC  goals of supporting existing business and attracting new businesses while being mindful of maintaining the charm and character of our beautiful town.

We will recommend that we include a vision statement that includes defining  both “the character” of Old Lyme and our sense of community.

We encourage you to review the results of all three reports. We welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Please feel free to email us at edc@oldlyme-ct.gov. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks again for your participation and interest in the future of the Old Lyme, a town we all treasure.

Op-Ed: We Are Suffocating From Racism, But There is Hope for Resuscitation

Rev. David W. Good, Minister Emeritus of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme

Editor’s Note: The author, Rev. David W. Good, is the Minister Emeritus of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.

When I was a senior in high school in 1967, our social studies teacher and debate coach, determined to teach us the importance of being engaged in the great struggle for human rights, taught us about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and a student, Ruby Bridges. Daily our teacher would ask us the same question raised by the ancient Greek philosopher, Thucydides, “When will there be justice in Athens?” The answer: “When those who are not injured are as indignant as those that are.”

The message was clear. There is such a thing as “White Privilege,” and those of us who are white have a moral responsibility to work for a “more perfect union” — to listen to people of color, to acknowledge our own complicity in racial injustice, and together with those who are injured work to transform our society.

Sadly, here in 2020, we are still dealing with the same racial injustices, police brutality, economic inequity, environmental travesties, failure of political leadership and the passivity of far too many that has characterized our nation for much too long. If we want there to be justice in our cities and towns, now is the time for those “not injured to be as indignant as those who are.”

For those of us who are Christian, we must show righteous indignation for a U.S. president who would defile our sacred spaces and use the Bible not only as a prop but as a weapon. For centuries, the Bible has been used in such a way. Bigots have held up the Bible to establish racist systems of slavery, Jim Crow and Apartheid. Biblical illiteracy has been used to articulate theologies of entitlement that have red lined Jews, people of color, women, Muslims, Native Americans and those of different sexual identities.

If President Trump would only open the Bible, he might read the prophetic indignation of Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream” or the lyrical vision of Isaiah, “they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain” or the teachings of Jesus and the primacy of love. Not love in general but love in great specificity, love “for those who are hungry and homeless.”

Sadly, we are led by a president who doesn’t listen to the wisdom of the prophets and has proven himself to be neither Republican nor Democrat, neither conservative nor liberal. Our collective voices, those of all political persuasions, need to rise in indignation against the creeping fascism of our president and those who would enable it.

The body of George Floyd should serve as a tragic metaphor for the broken body of our nation. We are suffocating from racism.

But, thankfully, there is hope for resuscitation.

In one of her books, Arundhati Roy writes,

“We must tell stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe… Not only is another world possible; she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”

I can hear her breathing when I see police officers put down their batons and shields and, with tears in their eyes, hug people of color in the streets of our cities.

I can hear her breathing when I see the number of young people — white and black and brown — standing up against gun violence.

I can hear her breathing in soldiers “who more than life their country love” and so break their silence for the human rights violations they have witnessed.

I can hear her breathing in health care workers who love “mercy more than life.”

I could hear her breathing when I took part in a peaceful march for justice in Old Saybrook, led by Maryam Elahi, a longtime human rights activist and teacher in our communities.

I can hear her breathing in the people of war-torn Syria who, despite their own tragedies, have created memorials to George Floyd.

I can hear her breathing in the strident, indignant testimony of Greta Thunberg who has quickened the conscience of those who struggle for environmental justice.

I can hear her breathing in our precious teachers who keep alive the ancient wisdom of those such as Thucidides.

To honor the tragic death of George Floyd and so many others who have died, we all need to do what we can to breathe life into the body of our nation.


Op-Ed: TV News? Turn it Off

Jim Cameron

I can’t watch TV news anymore.

I used to be a news junkie, a control freak who thought that by knowing everything that was going on everywhere in the world I could somehow control it.  Hah!  Was that ever a naïve view.

Having worked in local and network newsrooms, what was coming over the AP and UPI newswires was like heroin for my news habit. 

I used to read two or three newspapers a day, listen to CBS Radio Network news almost hourly and never miss the networks evening newscasts … at least two or three of them a night, including the BBC. 

But now, I know that none of that matters.  My world has shrunk to the size of my house and I don’t need to know anything happening in the world that doesn’t directly affect me and my family.   

It was Simon & Garfunkel, who said, “I get the news I need on the weather report.’  My information consumption pattern is only slight larger now.  But it’s only “news I can use”… news I need to know.

Are my town’s parks still open?  What hours is the grocery store open?  Are my immediate neighbors OK?  Is my family alright?  That’s hyperlocal news.

I am so tired of watching CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell start every newscast with an emphatic “Breaking News!”, only to regurgitate hours-old stories that could be “news” only to someone living under a rock.  And I won’t even go near CNN or Fox News.  Their coverage is purposely designed to scare me and keep me tuned in for more.

I don’t trust TV news anymore.  Not the networks, not the local Connecticut stations and certainly not our local cable company’s offering.  So I’m not watching any of it. 

And forget about the rumor-mongering on social media.  “Unfriend” and “unfollow” are my defensive mechanisms there.

But I still read the papers, on paper and online.  I try to catch New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings and anything that Dr. Fauci has to say.  C-Span and CT-N are my few remaining “reality TV” options as they are unfiltered and non-opinionated.  Just give me the facts.  Don’t tell me how to think.

(At this point, dear reader, you can stop reading this screed if you think I’m telling you how to think … but you’ll miss the good part.)

Over 30 years ago I changed my life in a program led by a simple prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change.  The courage to change those I can … and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s known as The Serenity Prayer and it has brought me a lot of inner peace in the past few weeks. 

I know I’m not in control in this crisis, beyond protecting my family and myself as best I can.  I can’t change this virus, its lethality or effect on my community.

But I can keep my social distance, maintain my immune system, get plenty of rest and just take this world one day at a time.  Beyond that, I’m resigned to my fate and I hope that’s a sign of wisdom.

There’s no planning for the future … next week or next month.  It’s just making the most out of every single day.

And by avoiding the hysteria of TV news, my shrinking world seems a little less crazy and a lot more calm.  And that’s kinda nice.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  For a full collection of  “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

Op-Ed: Old Lyme is in Good Hands; Keep It That Way by Ignoring Mis-truths, Giving Reemsnyder, Nosal Another Term

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by Eileen and John Mueller of Old Lyme.

There is a broad consensus in Old Lyme that our town is doing very well. Our mill rate is low, our quality of life is high, and our schools are among the best in the state.  Under the leadership of Bonnie Reemsnyder and Mary Jo Nosal, infrastructure has been maintained, economic development has been encouraged, and the high-speed rail threat was stopped in its tracks.  Why, then, should there be a change at Town Hall? Tim Griswold and the Republican Town Committee have offered no strategy for the future; indeed, it seems they would like to roll back progress, and in the absence of a substantive plan they are trying to seek your vote by questioning Bonnie’s character.

Anyone who knows Bonnie, or who has worked with her over the 16 years she has led the town (8 of those as First Selectman), can vouch for her absolute integrity.  It is truly unfortunate that the Washington practice of manipulating the truth has seeped into Old Lyme with the innuendos and mis-truths spread by the RTC. If you want to review the relevant facts, they can be found here on the Democratic Town Committee’s website.  Suffice it to say, Bonnie engaged in no illegal or unethical conduct and has always represented herself and the Town of Old Lyme with the highest of ethical standards.

Contrast this with the behavior of Tim Griswold and the RTC.   Although their campaign slogan is “absolute integrity,” they apparently have no interest in following Connecticut law regarding campaign financing.  They have utilized contribution and election forms, and advertisements that omit the legally-required disclosures. More concerning, Tim is both the treasurer of the RTC and a candidate for two offices it is funding.  This is a blatant violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 9-606(d), which provides in part that “A candidate shall not serve as the candidate’s own treasurer.” If these violations were not intentional, they nevertheless raise serious questions about Tim’s understanding and compliance with the law and the likelihood that he would exercise the care, diligence and attention to detail required to discharge properly the duties of first selectman or treasurer. 

With many rumors and misinformation flying around town, we sought out clarification and here are the facts that should correct the following false claims:

  1. What is the status of the plan for Halls Road? Currently, there is no master plan for Halls Road.  Although the ideas shared with the public by the Halls Road Improvements Committee have enjoyed widespread support, the committee is still in the process of gathering public input and has not begun to put a plan together.  Whatever plan is developed will not position the town as a developer nor impose any obligations on private landowners. Instead, the purpose of the plan will be to provide additional opportunities for the business owners to improve their properties, if they choose.
  2. What about sewers? Bonnie has not discussed and is not advocating sewers to any portion of Old Lyme other than the beach area.  David Kelsey’s CT Examiner asserted that Dan Steward, First Selectman of Waterford, had made a contrary claim in his interview.  The reporter made an error and Dan Steward sent the reporter a correction. Subtext of the correction read, “My discussion with the reporter was very generic when it came to sewers, and I did not intend to imply that Bonnie has talked to me about any plans to sewer areas of Old Lyme other than the current beach community project.”  Rest easy homeowners, there are no discussions to expand sewers in Old Lyme.
  3. What about affordable housing? Bonnie supports affordable housing generally but expressed no view regarding HOPE Partnership’s proposed project and she took no action with respect to town approvals.  Bonnie has never concealed the fact that she, like other local first selectmen and Devin Carney, our state representative, sat on HOPE’s honorary advisory board.  

We’re grateful for the hard work and dedication demonstrated by Bonnie and Mary Jo, and felt it is important that our community members have the true facts, not the false or misleading information that is perpetuated by some in the community.  If this behavior is what the RTC means by “Absolute Integrity,” we suggest you take another look. Change for change’s sake makes no sense.  

The continued health of Old Lyme can be assured only with a vote for Bonnie and Mary Jo on November 5.

Op-Ed: A Conversation That Needs To Occur

This op-ed was submitted by R. A. Nixon of Old Lyme.

I attended the debate Wednesday evening between Bonnie Reemsnyder and Tim Griswold.  In listening carefully, one issue stood out like a sore thumb: Our First Selectwoman repeatedly claimed that recent actions taken by the Town were only conversations based on input from her constituents – the people of Old Lyme.  She addressed the questions on Affordable Housing, the Halls Road Improvement Plan, and amalgamating the Old Lyme Police with the East Lyme Police Department in this manner. She kept saying: These were conversations that needed to occur.  If you attended the debate or see it televised later and are not well informed, you could infer that she has only undertaken such initiatives based on a groundswell of public interest. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ms. Reemsnyder was fully in support of and behind the Affordable Housing project next to Exit 70.  That project which was in every way inimical to the interests of this town, had overwhelming opposition from the citizens of Old Lyme. Most people are in favor of affordable housing, but not in an unsafe location.

The Halls Road Improvement Plan currently being developed with the Yale Urban School of Design at Town expense is a pet project of Ms. Reemsnyder and a few carefully chosen allies.  This Master Plan, as she called it, was developed without the support of the majority of the private land owners along Halls Road (a State road). There is ample resistance to this foolhardy exercise by town residents as well.

The latest Yale School renderings of the plan are completely incongruous with the charm and rural character of Old Lyme.  Check this out before you vote. 

The concept of scrapping the Old Lyme Resident Trooper Police System and having Old Lyme’s Police become subordinate to the East Lyme Police Department was not the brainchild of town residents.  Rather, it was Ms. Reemsnyder who promoted this further concept of regionalization (loss of local control). True leadership is listening to the needs and desires of the citizens, the taxpayers, not leading the Town down rabbit holes.  This is the conversation that needs to occur.

Tim Griswold is an experienced Town Leader in Old Lyme with a proven track record of fiscal discipline and sound management practice.  He will listen to the needs and desires of the people in this town before setting new courses for the Town. 

Put simply, I want straight talk from our First Selectman, not hollow platitudes and schemes inconsonant with the special character of Old Lyme.  I expect other voters will feel the same way if they know the facts.

Vote for Tim Griswold for first Selectman on November 5th.

Opinion: Vote Tuesday in Old Lyme’s Referendum on Sewers, Then Respect the Result

OLD LYME — Tomorrow Old Lyme voters will go the polls to decide whether the Town of Old Lyme should bond $9.44 million to fund the installation of sewers on three streets in Sound View. The facts of the proposal have been widely reported, for example, Mary Biekert of The Day authored a comprehensive article on the subject published Saturday on TheDay.com at this link.

As a community newspaper that cares passionately about the community we serve, we never endorse politicians and rarely choose sides in town referenda. Therefore, we will not be making any recommendation on how you should vote tomorrow, but we will, however, take the opportunity to make a few comments.

This sewer issue has polarized the town with the residents of Sound View understandably not wishing to pay the whole installation cost of sewers saying that is unfair and the cost should be divided between all town residents.  Meanwhile, most townspeople, excluding the Sound View residents, do not see why they should pay for someone else’s sewers when no one would pay to fix their septic system if it failed.

It is important to remember that the Town is under a state mandate to install the sewers and so doing nothing is not an option. The volunteers on the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA)  have dedicated an incredible number of hours to this project and our impression is that they have no political agenda. Rather, they are simply hard-working individuals trying to solve an extremely challenging problem and we salute their efforts. If the referendum fails tomorrow, there seems to be a fairly general consensus that the costs will rise in any subsequent plan.

Some have argued that the Town, that is, all Old Lyme residents, should be paying for the work in the streets since they are town-owned and the Sound View residents should only be paying for the hook-ups to their houses. This sounds logical but does not seem to follow the precedent set elsewhere in the state, nor significantly in the four other beach associations in Old Lyme that have already signed on for sewers to be installed at their own expense.

We have enormous sympathies for the residents of Sound View, who — if the referendum passes — will have to pay a median cost of over $31,000 to pay off the loan that the Town is taking out on their behalf. This can be paid in full right away or financed over 20 years at 2 percent interest. The key question is what is a home worth after sewers have been installed?  The assumption is that the sewers will increase the value of any house by more than the homeowner has paid. No one other than the owner benefits from that increase in value, but we also recognize many of the houses in Sound View are never sold but passed down from one generation to the next.

Finally, we are intensely distressed by the deep rift opening up once again in our community over the sewer issue. We recall the green ribbons of yesteryear when residents publicly displayed their support of the first school building project brought to referendum by Region 18 to the anger of those who were not in favor of the proposal. Those were difficult days with palpable mistrust and resentfulness on both sides. 

But back then, there was no social media to fuel the argument and too much has been said on the sewer issue on this virtual town square, some of it inaccurate and/or laced with political venom. This mounting tension spilled over into last Monday’s Special Town Meeting at which  procedural confusion sparked some most unfortunate behavior.

There is no place for this in our beloved town so, regardless of how you are going to vote tomorrow, let us quietly and respectfully take our differing opinions to the ballot box … and then treat the result in the same manner.

Responding to Last Weekend’s Mass Shootings, Sen. Murphy Authors Op-Ed in ‘The Hill’ Titled ‘The Violence Paradox’

US Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

WASHINGTON –- Following last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), authored an op-ed in The Hill focusing on America’s unique legacy of violence and how Congressional inaction is a signal of endorsement to would-be shooters. Since his time in the Senate, Murphy has been a vocal critic of our nation’s gun laws and have proposed commonsense gun violence prevention legislation.

Excerpts from the op-ed are below and can be viewed here.

“It is a deeply uncomfortable fact that inside some humans lies the ability to rationalize the decision to walk into a Walmart or a crowded bar and start firing a wildly lethal weapon indiscriminately, with the goal of ending as many lives as possible.”

“But as these slaughters – from Newtown to Orlando to Las Vegas to El Paso and Dayton – continue unabated, we need to start asking questions about what within our own makeup explains this mass shooting epidemic, and what control society has over these outlier actions that seem, with each new mind-bending massacre, less like outliers. The answer is that violence is inside us, but so is the ability to end this epic-scale carnage.”

“First, we must face a foundational fact – humans are uniquely hardwired for violence.”

“Our rates of violence over the millennia have gone up and down, but long ago, humans figured out that violence was an effective means of social and economic advancement.”

“Here in America, our legacy of violence is even more pronounced than the rest of the world. Once Europeans landed on the continent, violence as a means of social order became standard order.”

“First, it was the settlers wiping out the local tribes, then it was slaveowners using massive scale violence to enslave African-Americans, and then ethnic groups turned on each other, using violence to contest economic and social space in America’s crowded cities.”

“Along the way, it was the guns that made it easy for the dominant groups to control the subordinate groups. One historian suggests that without the flood of weapons that came with America becoming the early home of the global arms industry, America would be 50 percent less murderous over our long history.”

“Here in America, we are nowhere near as violent as we were in our early years, in large part because of government intervention. It is not a coincidence that the two steepest periods of decline in the rate of murder in the United States occurred right after passage of the two most significant gun laws in our nation’s history – the first national firearms control acts in 1934 and 1938, and the background checks and assault weapons ban bills in 1993 and 1994.”

“The success of those two legislative efforts to significantly depress violence levels in the United States should give us hope as we grieve over these most recent American mass shootings.”

“Laws that keep weapons away from dangerous people, and keep uniquely dangerous weapons – like the AR-15 – away from everyone, work.”

Data shows that states with tougher gun laws have lower gun murder rates. At the federal level, during the 10 years of the assault weapons ban, America’s mass murder rate was almost half that of the following 10 years.”

“At the federal level, during the 10 years of the assault weapons ban, America’s mass murder rate was almost half that of the following 10 years.”

“As the minds of these mass shooters descend into a dark place, unimaginable to you and me, where they rationalize the decision to exorcise their personal trauma through mass violence, I believe they take note of the silence at the highest levels of their nation regarding the choice they are contemplating.”

“Yes, presidents and governors and senators send out statements condemning each mass shooting, and offer “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families. But these are empty words, and everybody knows it, especially after no actual policy changes are enacted as the mass shooting era continues to grip America.”

“The absence of any interest in passing laws to condemn mass shootings sends a signal of unintentional endorsement to would-be mass murderers.”

“When it comes to the instincts that lie inside humans, this weekend’s shootings represent one side of the coin. But on the other side is our ability to stop violence. It’s our choice which side lands face up.”

Read the full op-ed here.