December 3, 2021
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
From Inside The Golden Dome
This Day in CT History
Did you miss me?

For ever, I’ve taken the time around thanksgiving off to recharge the batteries and get ready for the whirlwind Christmas holidays. So last week my corner of In the Loop was quiet. Thanks for the moment of R&R!

While on vacation, Patrick and I did some serious TV binging—we revisited that crazy and wild NETFLIX “House of Cards.”

It was so interesting to start over from the first episode and see how much has changed in the politics of our country … and how so much hasn’t changed. Political divisiveness, behind-the-scenes “dirty pool” and backroom power struggles may be at the front of 2021 headlines, but they’ve been a part of the “DC DNA” for eons. What was especially interesting to witness was how the show dealt with the relationships of the media and politics.

When House of Cards started in 2013, social media was just a “thing.” It was something that fledgling, non-journalist communicators were trying to master and that veteran journalists were dismissing as a fad that could never be considered as real news reporting! To say nothing of the fact that Frank Underwood was texting from a Blackberry!

A great line in one of the earlier House of Cards episodes came from a newbie reporter for the Washington Herald, Zoe Barnes. Zoe challenged the status quo, while tangling with her supervisor and colleague, highly respected White House correspondent Janine Skorsky. Quickly, Zoe found herself being marginalized by the news editor for her efforts to market the paper on TV and other social outlets. Her boss said it was unprofessional, and reminded her that only the publisher would be talking to competitor media about the policy of the paper.

Zoe resigned from the Herald to work for the up-and-coming Slugline—a political news website with a renovated industrial dorm-like office where reporters were independent journalists, picking their stories, creating their articles and making their own decisions on what’s legit news and what's not. (Slugline feels like they’re evoking a garage-band, start-up version of The DRUDGE REPORT.)

Started in 1995, the DRUDGE REPORT was operated out of Matt Drudge’s Florida apartment and began covering gossip from Hollywood and DC through the use of the old fashion “stringers” format. In 2010, after it challenged Presidential candidate Barack Obama during his presidential run, DRUDGE added well-known Washington Times and New York Post columnists to its stable, and it really hit the big time—just as House of Cards was about to launch.

Back to Zoe—In a memorable scene, she engages in a fiery debate with her Editor-in-Chief Tom Hammerschmidt about bringing the newspaper into the 21st Century. A great quote emerged when her boss crossed the line and took a “personal swipe” at her. She whipped out her cellphone, crafted a Tweet and said, “These days when you’re talking to one person, you’re really talking to 1,000,” and pushed the send button. To the sound of the infamous “swoosh,” Zoe quits.

Capping the moment, the newspaper's owner, Margaret Tilden, expressed admiration and support for the upstart Barnes, firing Hammerschmidt, citing his refusal to adapt to changing times and unawareness of the changes happening to journalism and its demographics

Fast forward to 2021. WOW did the writers get that right! For all the controversy over House of Cards, namely the lead actor and some of the plotlines, the show was ahead of its time in 2013 with so much insight and vision for what was to come.
In Hartford, the leading political sources for “What’s up” and “Who’s doing what” don’t come from the legacy platforms (see we now call the media outlets platforms!) They come from the Connecticut version of the DRUDGE REPORT—the CAPITOL REPORT—along with the CTNewsJunkie daily digital report and the nonprofit CTMirrorWe find out what's going on from elected officials themselves via Twitter and other digital communications tools, while many of us log into the legacy papers today through their digital platforms.

And keep your eye on CT Publicwhich now offers its content via a robust 48 digital platforms, and has expanded its investigative reporting and launched CUTLINEa monthly deep dive into current issues, ideas and events that are most on our minds in Connecticut.

Times have changed and they keep changing from how we learn about national, state and local governments, how we interface with elections and campaigns and even how the public testifies at the State Capitol. While some may “credit” the continuing public health pandemic, it was only the match that set fire to the status quo. Back in 1995 and then in 2013, it was simmering in the background—many were just not ready for it or even listening. Today the digital world has everyone’s attention.
 
Comptroller Kevin Lembo to Step Down

After over 10 years serving as Connecticut’s Comptroller, Kevin Lembo unexpectedly announced today that he will be resigning his position due to an ongoing medical condition, effective Dec. 31, 2021

As Comptroller, Lembo has overseen several health care reforms, worked to grow the state’s reserves, closed the gap on pension debt and led Connecticut to become a leader in financial transparency. During the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lembo’s office led the effort to grow testing capacity and help Connecticut hospitals and care facilities meet the urgent needs of state residents.

While working with the Governor’s office, over 1.4 million tests were performed under contracts negotiated by the Comptroller and his team. One major new initiative led by Lembo will be launched next year to focus on retirement programs for the many Connecticut workers who do not have a retirement security through their employer. MyCTSavings is a program championed by Lembo and will be administered by the Connecticut Retirement Security Authority, of which Lembo serves as chair.

His successor will be named by Governor Ned Lamont. In a statement, Lembo said “I came into this job believing that Connecticut was capable of great things, and I leave knowing that’s true. I’ve never been more certain that Connecticut’s best days lie ahead, and I look forward to seeing them with my friends and neighbors in the best state in nation.”

For more information on this news, click here.

Congrats to All!

We’ll take this weeks in the loop to offer our congratulations to three Mayor’s this week. The first is to Mayor Ben Florsheim, of Middletown, who announced his marriage to his high school sweetheart Gabriela De Golia. They spent some time in Joshua Tree National Park for their honeymoon recently and we wish them all the best.

Caroline Simmons, the first woman to be elected Mayor of Stamford, had her inauguration this week. The oath of office was taken Wednesday morning in a packed lobby at the Government Center in Stamford. Mayor Simmons told the crowd that her intention in her first few days in office was to ‘roll up her sleeves and get to work on policies highlighted during the campaign.’ Governor Lamont was there for the inauguration and said that ‘Stamford is a young, energetic, optimistic, and expanding’ community and that they now have a ‘young, optimistic, energetic’ Mayor. Mayor Simmons’ run up to the oath required her to defeat an incumbent in a primary and a popular national figure in the general elections.

In Danbury, congratulations are in order to Mayor Dean Esposito, who took the oath of office Tuesday evening. Mayor Esposito emphasized solidarity and his love for his hometown. He was joined by his family during a ceremony that included a walk through downtown Danbury to the Palace Theatre.. Outgoing Mayor Joe Cavo and former Mayor, now DRS Commissioner Mark Boughton were there to participate in the ceremony along with other newly elected officials. Mayor Esposito brought his sense of humor and passion to the crowd and said that he was ‘really honored and proud’ to be the city’s next Mayor. Congratulations Mayor Dean! 
Connecticut's Redistricting Process Episode 3: The Extension

As predicted in last week's column, Connecticut's Reapportionment Commission missed its November 30th deadline to complete the new U.S. House district map. At the Commission's last meeting on Tuesday, they approved a request for AG William Tong to petition the Connecticut Supreme Court to grant the Commission a three week extension to complete the work on this final map. At this meeting, members discussed the challenges they have had with completing the process. The main obstacle was the delayed census data that did not arrive in the commission's hands until months into the process. Despite this setback, the bipartisan Commission is working diligently to complete the final map, and members do not anticipate any deadlock. This extension should give the commission more time to negotiate the new map in good faith.

Now, pundits are trying to answer the burning question to anyone following this process - what will the U.S. House map look like? While Connecticut's population did not change substantially over the past decade, there were great internal population shifts. This makes the U.S. House redistricting process difficult since there is not as much leeway compared to state house and senate districts in terms of deviating from population targets. For example, with the senate map, districts are allowed to deviate from the target by 5% in either direction. With the U.S. House map, each district must have almost exactly 721,000 people in it. You have to hit that number almost exactly. This means that districts will have to be trimmed carefully. According to population totals, U.S. Representative Jim Himes' 4th District grew by 13,000 people, and will need to be cut down, whereas U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's 2nd district will need to be expanded. Stay tuned to see how the process turns out!

If you are interested in exploring the redistricting process, click here to access a free tool called Districtr, which allows you to draw your own map, play around with the districts and see how the population totals move!
December 3rd: A "Lighthouse" For All Outcasts, Far From the Ocean

The Connecticut shoreline is home to many beautiful, historic lighthouses that have steered ships in Long Island Sound to safety for hundreds of years. One of the state’s most historically significant “lighthouses,” however, is located over 60 miles inland — and refers not to a navigational structure, but to a unique settlement established on the fringes of colonial society.

The “Barkhamsted Lighthouse” was the early 19th century nickname given to the community founded by Mary and James Chaugham and their large extended family, located near the base of Ragged Mountain along the Farmington River. According to family lore, in 1740, Mary Barber, a young white woman likely from Wethersfield, fell in love with and married James Chaugham, a Narragansett Indian. Since Mary’s family disapproved of the marriage, the two decided to settle far away from the Connecticut River valley, building their home in modern-day Barkhamsted, which was then a largely unpopulated region on the outskirts of Connecticut society.

Over the ensuing decades, the Chaughams, their seven children, and their children’s children formed the nucleus of a small village consisting of poor whites, Native Americans, and African Americans in northern Barkhamsted. The community earned its nickname in the early 19th century, when travelers heading south on the Farmington River Turnpike used the light from the settlement’s cluster of homes as a “beacon” indicating they were only a few miles away from the nearby town of New Hartford.
Since the inhabitants of the Barkhamsted Lighthouse were, by many definitions, social “outcasts,” they left behind few documentary records for historians to use to piece together their story. In the 1980s, however, an archaeological team extensively surveyed the Lighthouse site, leading to several subsequent excavations that unearthed a mountain of physical evidence that shed light on this reclusive and historically unique community. Archeologists who examined the site wrote that their findings tell “a fascinating tale of a group of materially poor, ethnically diverse, occasionally maligned settlers eking out an existence on what ultimately were the social and economic margins of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Connecticut.” Their findings led to the state of Connecticut officially designating the Barkhamsted Lighthouse site a state archeological preserve on December 3, 2008, protecting the site against disturbances and development. The lives of a once-marginalized group of Connecticans received recognition, and protection, at long last, today in Connecticut history.


The original article from the CT Humanities Council can be found here.
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