August 20, 2021
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
From Inside The Golden Dome
This Day in CT History
CHOP, CHOP this Week was a Busy Week 

After a couple of sleeper weeks, CT government has been busy as the summer comes to an end and folks look forward to schools reopening and the fall arriving. Many large companies were planning a return to the office after Labor Day, but given the unsettledness caused by the delta variant, most have postponed this event until later in October.  

This week Governor Lamont made his long awaited declaration on the return to school, and will allow for the current mask requirement to hold through the remaining days of his emergency powers. This either flips the decision to the legislature after the governor’s powers run out, or it lets local schools make the choice for their towns. It’s controversial for sure – the activists either for masks or against masks are out and about at school boards and rallying in their communities. Without the governor calling for a statewide mask policy many chief elected across the state are calling on the governor to make the call. Others, especially in the larger and bluer cities and towns, have made the call for their constituents and are comfortable with the decision. A few outbursts have been recorded at local town council meetings, but for the most part those mayors who picked up the cause did so with a majority of their residents. 

Still, within the legislature no such mandate is even under discussion as far as we know. The first floors of the building remain open but there have been few, if any, meetings or gatherings over the past two months since the buildings on the capitol campus were reopened to the public. Legislative employees are back in and out of the building but it’s still somewhat of a ghost town.

Today we expect an announcement that ALL state employees will need to have their vaccination by the end of September – which is coming from a compromise between the state employee unions and the governor. I wonder what he had to give up to get them to agree to that since the other large employee union, the teachers’ union, still has not enforced mandatory vaccinations. Many of the public and private colleges and universities have been announcing a mandatory vaccination requirement for students to return to campus. 

Speaking of unions – whoa …. Just today news filtered out that there’s was a bit of a turf battle inside the AFL-CIO this past week. The building trades, who seem to be more conservative versus the AFL -CIO (whose largest union membership is made of state employees and nonprofit health care workers) were silently at odds, it seems, over lack of support on key issues for the building trades groups this past session. As the AFL-CIO was putting all their eggs into securing a mandatory paid family medical leave program and increasing minimum wage laws, they seemed to ignore the needs of the building trades in the areas of construction, economic development and infrastructure. Seems as if a vote on Wednesday was a long time coming. After some backroom negotiations and warming of past relationships, all’s well in the brother/sisterhood of the unions. The building trades decided that after the past session, they did get the support of their brethren and will remain just one big happy family!  Good to know. 

The last interesting development this week comes after last week’s column on the census data and redistricting. As I mentioned there was a gathering of Latina leaders in CT to discuss the emergence of women of color in upcoming state wide elections. It seems as if the meeting was well in the works driven by the Lt. Governor’s office well before the census data was but served as a rocket to get folks engaged. Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz hosted the zoom meeting and used the growth across the state of the Latino population as a reason to get more women engaged and running in 2022. Experiences were shared, recommendations were given on how to get engaged and what would be necessary to secure the nominations in their local towns. 

Right now there are 30 Latina women elected to local office in CT, and that’s not good enough, said the Lt Governor. It will be interesting to follow this initiative and seeing where it goes.  
So as they say - the dog days of summer are upon us but these puppies were very busy this past week! 

Attorney General Tong calls for Investigation into Eversource's Marketing Tactics
Attorney General William Tong joined the State Office of Consumer Counsel on Wednesday calling for an investigation into Eversource, Connecticut's largest utility company. This comes after former state representative, and current journalist Kevin Rennie posted an article, stating that the company used misleading information to get customers in South Windsor to convert from oil to natural gas. Allegedly, Eversource sent postcards to these customers announcing that the town "will permanently pave your road in September, so you must sign up for natural gas by August 7, 2021." The mailer continued" Once your road has been resurfaced, it will be several years before the pavement can be opened again due to the town's paving moratorium. If your current heating equipment fails... you will not be able to connect to natural gas." The Attorney General said that Eversource's "high-pressure marketing tactics are nothing short of alarming." Eversource apologized, stating that the repaving letters were sent in error.

This latest controversy comes with unfortunate timing for Eversource, who underwent multiple investigations due to the company's response to Tropical Storm Isaias last summer. PURA, Eversource's regulatory authority, ordered a reduction in Eversource's return on equity by .9% due to "inactions or deficiencies" that created a significant risk to public safety. This Sunday, the state is forecasted to be hit by Tropical Storm Henri. Some meteorologists believe that the storm could knock out power for up to 49% of customers for ten days in southern parts of the state. This presents an opportunity for Eversource to respond adequately and regain public trust.
Municipal Leaders Decide How to Deal with Cannabis-Smoking in Public Spaces

The recent recreational cannabis legislation passed by the General Assembly requires that any city or town with a population over 50,000 must "designate a place in the municipality in which public consumption of cannabis is permitted." There are 19 municipalities in Connecticut that fit that requirement, and each one is deciding how to best implement this law.

Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu notes that this provision only applies to municipalities that choose to regulate the public use of marijuana. Therefore, if Bristol were to choose to regulate public marijuana smoking, they would have to create a special designated area for cannabis smoking. The Mayor also stated that anywhere smoking is prohibited, marijuana would be prohibited as well.

New Haven and New London are offering similar plans, where restrictions will not extend beyond the current restrictions on smoking tobacco in public places. This would mean that bars, restaurants, parks, and playgrounds would be off limits.

In Middletown, Mayor Ben Florsheim is taking a different approach. "Our attitude has been to wait and see, and if there are issues, then we can look at instituting restrictions,” Florsheim said. “We’ve previously explored bans on cigarette smoking in public parks or sidewalks, but after talking to our health and police departments, there were real questions about whether enforcing a law like that would be a good or equitable use of resources.”  

Some community leaders are very concerned with the idea of public consumption of marijuana. David Melillo, of Clinton Youth & Family services, believes that if kids see people smoking pot in the street or at a park, it creates the perception that it is 'fine and normal'. He is worried that it will cause an increase in under age use of marijuana. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as communities get used to the newly legal use of marijuana in their municipalities.

Republicans Retake Greenwich Senate Seat

Tuesday night, Republican Ryan Fazio declared victory over his two opponents, Democratic Nominee Alexis Gevanter and Democratic petition candidate John Blankley. This special election was called after former State Senator Alex Kasser resigned the seat due to a complicated ongoing divorce. Kasser, who first won the seat in 2019, was the first democrat to hold the district's senate seat since the Great Depression. Candidates Fazio and Gevanter both focused on public safety as a primary issue for their campaigns. Gevanter worked for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, and declared her intent to focus on gun safety initiatives. Fazio received endorsements from both Greenwich and Stamford police unions, and spoke about safety in terms of supporting law enforcement.

The candidate selection process for this seat began in July. At the republican nomination meeting, Fazio won the nomination over his challenger Leora Levy, 20 votes to 9. State representative Harry Arora, who had signaled interest in running for the seat, dropped out before the nominations were conducted, stating his dismay over "delegates making their choice based on loyalties and personal relationships."

As for the democrats, their nomination process was much more complex. In early July democrat John Blankley suspected that the party would support Alexis Gevanter for their candidate. Much to the dismay of his democratic colleagues, he decided to run as an independent, thus "splitting the ticket".
Despite Blankley taking votes away from Gevanter, it would not have made a difference in the outcome of the election if all of the write-in candidate's votes went to the nominee. Fazio received 8,911 votes, Gevanter received 8,459. If you add Blankley's 408 votes to Gevanter's, you get 8,867 - close, but no cigar.
August 20th, 1787: Connecticut Inventor Breaks the Rule of Wind Over Water

During the Age of Sail, all people who traveled by water did so at the mercy of wind and tide. Too little wind, or wind from the wrong direction, brought delay or disruption to the best-laid plans. Too much wind brought danger, and sometimes even death and destruction. No trip was predictable. When it began and ended was subject to the will or whim of capricious winds. This remained true for thousands of years, until a Connecticut-born inventor showed there was a way to break the rule of wind over water.

That man was John Fitch, who today in 1787 successfully sailed America’s first steamboat up the Delaware River in hopes of gathering financial support from influential members of Congress. Born in Windsor, Connecticut in 1743, Fitch displayed an insatiable drive for dabbling in mechanics at an early age. As a young man, he tried his hand at a number of seemingly unrelated occupations, working alternately as a clockmaker’s apprentice, a sailor, silversmith, and brass-maker. In 1769, he moved to New Jersey, and from there joined the Continental Army when the Revolutionary War broke out several years later. As the war drew to a close in the early 1780s, Fitch was captured by a band of Indians while surveying land in what is now Kentucky. While his captivity was short, the experience left an indelible impression on him: Fitch later claimed that the unique design of his first steamboat, which featured oar-like paddles instead of a paddle wheel, was inspired by the sight of dozens of Indians paddling canoes up the Kentucky river.
A woodcut depicting one of John Fitch’s early steamboat designs, from the December 1786 issue of The Columbian Magazine.

By the mid 1780s, Fitch had created a workable design for a steam-powered ship, but found it difficult to obtain financial backing to produce his designs on a larger scale. In 1787, with the help of a Philadelphian clockmaker, he constructed a 45-foot-long working model of his steamboat and named it the Perseverance. On August 20, Fitch conducted a live demonstration of what is widely recognized as America’s first steamboat along the Delaware River, in front of delegates who were in Philadelphia as part of the Constitutional Convention. Impressed at the sight of the curious craft chugging up the river at a speed of four miles per hour, the delegates showered Fitch with plenty of praise — but little else.

While Fitch continued to improve the efficiency of his steamboat over the next several years, the fruitless pursuit of both financial support and legal protections for his invention left him exhausted and frustrated. In 1791, the newly-formed U.S. Patent office finally granted Fitch a narrowly-defined patent for his steamboat — on the very same day that it awarded similar patents to three other Americans for steam-powered vehicles that Fitch felt copied from his original designs, instantly negating any business-related advantages Fitch hoped to gain with a patent under his own name. Despite his groundbreaking innovations in steamboat design, Fitch continued to be plagued by financial setbacks for the rest of his life, and he died in relative obscurity in 1798

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