Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Experiment is Over

That's right - CD (Clearly Derby) is done with government. When CD was started 1 year ago our purpose was to test the following hypothesis: If citizens are provided with easier access to local government then they will participate more in local government.

My answer to the above question is NO. Granted CD was small and we only did this for a year but I still failed to see any correlation between availability and interest. There were a few flickers, here and there, but not enough to warrant another year of testing IMO.

However, I do see a lot of interest on the part of Derbyites, and others in the Valley, to socialize and help each other out. I love doing my facebook page, and I've grown very fond of all the peeps, so I am going to convert Clearly Derby, using the same name, into something different. I've looked at everything else out there and feel that there is already plenty of coverage for the news and general social interactions such as charity events and parades. We also have many talented photographers that provide us with beautiful images of our Valley, all the time.

So, I'm picking people! I'm going to model CD after People magazine and I will thoroughly 'examine' the people of Derby - all of them - the good and the bad, old and young, native and newcomer, alive and dead, Italian, Polish, Irish, and Latino.

This will be generally fact-based but I will be throwing in some innuendo and a little gossip here and there too.

Oh, and we'll still have our games and our prizes. In fact, I'm going to be adding some new ones too.

From now until January 1st I'm going to be a slouch. I'll do the contest on Monday and do the occasional post - but not the whole enchilada yet. I need a break!

Love you all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bread and Honey

Emotionally, holidays are a difficult, weird time for people - yet they make us whole.

I really enjoy performing the ritual tasks of getting ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas - shopping, and cleaning, and cooking; they make me feel grounded.

Each year I send my husband out on Thanksgiving morning to buy bread for our big meal. He can never remember which bread to get. So yesterday when I did my shopping I found the bread that I like and I took a picture of it with my iPhone. Voila - it's this bread, dear! That should make the Day go a little smoother.

But just as I'm feeling all perky and ready to kick some housecleaning butt ... I get a call from our doctor's receptionist. She yells into the phone at me ... "Barbara, honey, you have an appointment tomorrow at 9:45!!!!". I swear she sounds just like Wolowitz's mother on Big Bang Theory.

I take a deep breath and explain that I'm not Barbara, I'm definitely not her honey, and I have no appointment tomorrow. This doesn't faze her at all ... "Honey, I have you down for tomorrow". I see that I need to be a little more direct. "NO!!!". Now I get, "Honey, calm down!". I finally am able to get her to check her calendar and see that I'm not Barbara and my husband has an appointment tomorrow, not me.

I'm going to go mop the kitchen floor.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ghost Towers in Our Hearts

When I visited Franklin Court in Philadelphia, several years ago, I was struck by the power a silhouette can have over us.

Benjamin Franklin's home was destroyed by fire in 1812. In 1976, for our nation's bicentennial, they wanted to reconstruct the house in honor of Franklin but they only knew that it was a 3-story, 10-room building, its approximate size, and where it once stood. So the renowned architect, Robert Venturi, designed a "Ghost Structure" to stand where the house had been and to represent it. It is truly beautiful and powerful.

Since 9/11 there have been many things to represent our extreme sadness and horror surrounding that terrible day. We have many wonderful pictures of the ruins right after the attack and the brave men and women working there. We've had the beautiful beams of light shooting up where the towers once stood - in their own right a stirring silhouette. Now we have the new memorial.

They say if you lose your true love then your heart is changed, forever. For those of us who were alive on 9/11 and were paying attention, our hearts have been changed forever too - we now have a Ghost Structure - 2 towers - superimposed on our hearts. I think that is the way it should be.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What I said.

I was recently quoted in the article, "Valley tax scandals in spotlight; thefts, improprieties in towns breed mistrust", that was published in the New Haven Register on Sept 2. The Register quoted me correctly and used my quote appropriately but I still felt a pang because the need for editing, by any newspaper, waters down one's thoughts. Below are the 4 questions from the New Haven Register together with my unedited answers:

Q1. What do you think can be done to prevent anything like this from happening again?

Ans: For prevention we need to review our outstanding audit findings (and every city and town has outstanding findings) and shore up any holes.

Q2. How have these scandals affected the reputation of your town/city?

Ans: I don’t think it has affected any single town’s reputation but it has eroded trust, even more, in the local government system, deserved or not.

Q3. As a taxpayer, do you feel betrayed by these events, and have you lost faith in the people entrusted to handle your taxes?

Ans: I don’t feel betrayed and I haven’t lost the faith because I know that the people entrusted to handle our taxes are, for the most part, hardworking honest people.

Q4. How rare do you think something like is, espcecially effecting three (actually, four Valley towns with Oxford) almost hitting at the same time?

Ans: It’s not a coincidence that it hit us all at the same time. Oxford’s problem came out first with their Tax Collector and that caused all of the other towns, and some of the local newspapers, to take a closer look at their own operations, and so the dominoes started to fall. It’s human nature ... we get complacent, things start going awry, we notice it, we look around and find other related issues, we fix it, and we start all over again.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Who do you listen to - who do you trust?

I don't use TV or print newspapers for my news - I find everything I need online. However for the national political conventions I prefer to find a good TV channel, leave it on all evening, and check in periodically.

But I couldn't find a good channel last week!

Some channels have a liberal bias and I don't trust what they say or like their style of reporting. It doesn't work for me.

Some are too conservative and I'm afraid they'll just tell me what I want to hear. That's not good for me either.

Some claim to be fair and unbiased. I think that's very hard to achieve so I tend to question everything they say too. It makes me uncomfortable.

I ended up channel surfing and came away from the whole GOP convention process highly unsatisfied. I'm trying to think of a different way to approach the Democrat convention this week.

Truth isn't that easy to find.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Don't Make Fun of Derby!

Bad things [and good things] happen everywhere. Derby doesn’t have any corner on scandal, crime, or strange happenings. We are just a small town with problems much like everyone else.

I ran through the last month’s stories on the Valley Indy to get an idea of how “badness” seems to be distributing itself amongst the Valley towns that VIS covers. Let’s see:

- Bombs found on several lawns (and not just in Derby, by the way).
- $2.7 Million owed because of a housing discrimination suit that was lost.
- Irregularities with money handling are being sorted out in the Tax
Collector’s office.

- A drug clinic wants $500k+ from the city claiming that there was illegal
language used in the law that kept them from opening their doors in Ansonia.
- The Tax Collector’s office is under criminal investigation because of
irregularities found there.
- Nolan field ripped up by vandals.

- State police are investigating the alleged theft of hundreds of thousands of
dollars dating back to at least 2009 from the Shelton finance department.

- Vandals go after above-ground swimming pools.

- The former Tax Collector pleads guilty to [significant] embezzlement charges .

- High School football coach resigns amid investigation into possible CIAC
rule violations.

So, give us a break!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Is That a Fact?

Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

Ronald Reagan said, "Facts are stubborn things."

When it comes to our children we are often guided by our feelings and opinions rather than the facts. When confronted with the dilemma of how to fund education in a horrible economy, we use emotional arguments such as "we can't afford to put a price tag on education" or "we have to fully fund education - it's for our children".

What are the facts here in the Valley?

> All of our towns spend more than half of their tax revenue on education and when they have to cut back on their budgets, other services, not education, are the usual targets.

> The average taxpayer does not want their taxes to go up.

> Public education is not meeting our standards or goals, i.e. we aren't doing a great job.

> A clear correlation between dollars spent and educational quality has not been shown.

Those are the stubborn, unique facts surrounding education today - in the Valley and elsewhere across the Nation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time to Try Something New?

We're looking for a new Superintendent of Schools (Supt) in Derby, our fourth one in a decade.

For our hiring process first we decide on what we are looking for in a Supt. The Board of Ed has the most say in this regard. Then we hire a professional search team to find some good candidates. Finally we look those candidates over carefully and make an offer.

So why do our Supts keep leaving before making the improvements they promise us and that we so dearly desire?

Are we looking for the wrong attributes? We always stress experience and someone who will "enjoy" working in a smaller, more challenging school district. So we end up with middle-aged individuals with lots of experience and who are artful in their response to the "Don't you just love little Derby"? question.

Fair enough. What kind of experience are we getting though? Are they good educators? Absolutely. Nice people? Yes. However, their experience (and age) lead them to follow the same patterns they've followed before - get settled in, see what needs fixing, try to get more money from the city to fix it.

This recipe is doomed to fail because Derby ain't rich! And, Derby isn't a stable, white-collar community (like the new Supt has usually come from). So when the new Supt realizes after a few years that he/she can't possibly succeed given the problems/funding in Derby ... they leave.

So, let's change our parameters! Let's hire a superintendent who is young, who has a fire in him/her to affect reform, who is local and knows the Valley, who will want to dig in and make this work. Someone who is pro online learning and not afraid to battle for regionalization.

Let's not hire the "same" Supt again or history will just repeat itself.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Is One Enough?

You've probably heard this story before, but it's a good one. The original is attributed to Loren C. Eiseley and is called "Star Thrower". The following is my version:

A young boy walks along a beach littered with hundreds of starfish. They've been washed in on the tide and stranded. Exposed to the growing heat of the day they'll soon die.

The boy sees an old man further down the beach. The man is stooping to pick up starfish and then tossing them, one at a time, back into the ocean. When the boy reaches the man he asks him why he is throwing them back.

"They'll die here on the beach", the man answers. "I'm trying to save them".

"But, there are so many", says the boy, "You can't save most of them!".

The man bends over and picks another one up. He tosses it into the waves. "There", he says, "I saved that one".

This story is about making a difference, even a small one. If Clearly Derby reaches just one person and makes them think about how the government belongs to them and how they can have a voice, then that will be my little contribution - and it's enough for me.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Who Is Lonely?

As the internet and social media become more integrated with our lives, are we becoming more or less lonely?

Many of us who enjoy cyberspace tend to stay at home more and increasingly our children sit with their iPads while the swings and slides stand silent in the backyard.

Yet, our network of friends expands via social media, and as we become more aware, through online media, of what's happening in our own neighborhoods and towns, many of us venture out more than we used to.

And now, as the internet becomes more and more mobile, will we just resume our old ways and bring the internet with us?

I think human nature will have its say; extroverts will always find a way to socialize and introverts can always find a place to hide.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Is Culture the Right Path?

At one of the Derby Concerts on the Green recently, I commented to a friend that I was uncertain about which things to share on Clearly Derby. I'd been feeling like I was covering too many cultural events instead of concentrating on the workings of local government.

He asked me why I was including these things then. This was an easy question to answer - because people love the cultural stuff - the music, the art, the contests, the humor - all of that. Most enjoy it more than the politics.

My friend added that he's always felt, as an artist, that the path to peoples' political conscience is through their culture. First you have to find out what's important to their hearts - then you can talk to their heads!

I felt better after this conversation - I think I'm on the right track.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Are We Obsolete?

To hold a public meeting we must post an announcement of the meeting on the outside door of City Hall 24 hours before the meeting is to take place. Why, and does this make sense anymore?

What if we said, to hold a public meeting we must post an announcement on that door AND the person calling the meeting, e.g. the chairman, must publish the agenda online or in a local paper (or preferably both), including a brief description of how any matters coming up for a vote, in that particular meeting, might affect the citizens?

And (let's just go crazy here) what if we video taped the meetings and made them available online or on public access or at the library (or all of the above)? Then one could watch the meeting when they have time, if they are so inclined. Ken Hughes looked into this when he first took office and found the price tag too high. I wonder what the public thinks?

Just sayin ...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Who is Responsible?

We are so busy - we have more to do to keep up and make ends meet than ever before. Most people have fallen into the habit of either not voting or else voting without knowing who or what they are voting for. They then feel like they've done their government/political homework and they can move on to more important things.

This works pretty well, locally and nationally, when not much is going on. When there are big problems though and we aren't paying attention - then we probably aren't going to be happy with the results.

So, who's minding the political store for us? Do we need citizen watchdog groups? Can we get more citizens involved in the political process? The clergy is unhappy when people just show up on Easter Sunday. We elected officials are unhappy when people just show up for the annual education budget.

In Derby we're reeling from the tax and sewer usage increases this year. What happened? Did the system of local government fail us? Or were we just not paying attention?

It would be great if we could start a dialogue about this.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Five Fairy Failures

We all have unreasonable expectations at times about certain things and we seem to believe that our needs will be magically met. It's as if we believe in fairies and we hope that they'll show up in the cover of night and fix our problems.

One of my favorites is the Diet Coke Fairy: just drink diet coke with whatever you eat and you will somehow stay slim. Failure.

One of my least favorites is the Whining Fairy: don't take any reasonable action, just whine and hope someone will accommodate you. Failure.

We also have a Valley Fairy: we don't have to be responsible for our shortcomings because ... we live in the Valley. Failure.

One very dangerous character is the Right-Fighter Fairy: I don't have to contribute to a solution, or ever go with the flow. I just have to always be right. Failure.

The scariest fairy of all, to me, is the Someone Else will Pay Fairy: Are you broke? Get the City to pay for it. Is the City broke? Get the State to pay for it. Is the State broke? Get the Feds to pay for it. Somehow the Fairy will fill these institutions' pockets with money to solve our problems. Nevermind that the money is coming from us all the time. Big Failure.

So be careful next time you wish on a star - your dreams may not come true.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Choices We Make

Today is our 12th anniversary, Tony and I. What a great choice I made! I think a truly outstanding partner has to always have one's back, be loyal to a fault, and be one's cheerleader for life. I am truly blessed to have found these qualities, and so much more, in this man that I adore.

And what, you might ask, does this have to do with local government? Ha, everything. It's the choices we make, you know.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

On Our Honor

I was taught, as a child, to honor my parents, my country and my country's flag. I've found others to honor along life's way - but only those that were deserving of that respect.

I believe that Tony Staffieri, our Mayor, the hardworking leader of our community, is deserving of our respect and I think that those who dishonored him with their insinuations that he was lying about the Domurad affair - or worse, that he had forged documents - owe him an apology.

I have tried to keep quiet during this legal process because I believed that the courts needed to sort it out. There may be a cost to the City for this but I ask you, what price should one put on honor?

If Derby is to move forward and become stronger it must take more care in how it treats those who are trying to make Derby better. This is the way we can honor Derby.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thoughts on Money

In Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, there is a quote I love: "Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver."

Last night, at the Tax Board meeting, there were many opinions voiced, some for giving the schools more money [because it's the only option] and some for taking away the money [because our seniors can't afford higher taxes].

There was only one, lonely dissenting voice who said something like ... don't give the schools more money because it will just encourage them to continue on the same failing educational path ... take away the money and let us learn to be more resourceful, let the community realize that we have to share resources with other towns. Thank you Emre Akter for providing that voice, but I'm not sure that anyone heard you. Emre, by the way, is a well-educated teacher who isn't afraid to speak up.

We have some very talented, devoted teachers and administrators, but they are spending our money, not their money. When are our school officials going to start driving the education bus instead of being passengers on the money train?

I looked at the audience last night. I saw hardworking folks that more than likely grew up without a lot of extra money. I looked at the audience and saw the heart of Derby - good, honest people from a beautiful city whose roots are buried in a blue-collar, industrial past. I saw people who understand the value of money and know that money is only a tool.

I love it that so many people came out last night and voiced their opinion. Let's do it again, real soon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mission Impossible

Parents, school administrators, and teachers, among others, want to increase our school funding every year. These are usually big increases of at least $1 million. This year they requested a little more than $620,000. The rationale behind these requests is that the Derby Schools are historically underfunded and they never quite catch up and that without more money we cannot provide a good education for our children. Many of these school funding advocates show up at the Tax Board budget workshops and hearings to speak their mind. I highly respect these people for their commitment to our children, although I don’t agree with their logic.

A large portion of Derby taxpayers want us to hold the mill rate down, i.e. hold taxes down, even if it means less school funding. These people don’t tend to go to the workshops or hearings and that is a pity.

Then we have the political side. Incumbents tend to keep the tax rate low while potential challengers try to drive up the rate as much as possible.

The ideal solution, put forth by many thinkers, is that we need to grow our grand list so we can afford to fully fund our schools and our public services without overburdening our taxpayers. I would have to agree with this idea but I don’t see where a significant amount of business is going to come from in order to meet that objective. Our economy has been flat for almost 5 years now.

We have our developer, Eclipse, for downtown. That could be our answer to a greater grand list. However, in order to bring that project to fruition we are going to need a City united, not a City divided. I’m not seeing that.

Making this all work truly seems like an impossible mission to me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Best Darned Peeps in the World!

I have such great peeps on Clearly Derby - I'm truly blessed! They take time out of their busy lives to pay attention, if even for a few moments each day, to a facebook page/blog dedicated to the topic of local government!

We have no fashion, no pop stars, no pizza offers, none of that good stuff - we mostly have meeting notices and polite discussion about what we're doing wrong and what we're doing right. Once in awhile we have something a little more exciting - but not that often.

So, why do people continue to follow this page? My theory is that I only have 195 fans so far but they are the best fans out there. I'll take quality over quantity any day.

Please don't feel bad peeps if you are working and can't get to a meeting! Just the fact that you check into facebook to see what's going on means that you care about Derby and you are on the road, if not there already, to being well informed.

You are the best! Take a little bow.

Monday, May 21, 2012


We held a Public Hearing tonight for Derby's proposed City Budget. The idea is that citizens will come forward and comment on the budget and the taxes so the Tax Board can see if they are on the right track. Nobody came.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why May is Important to Derby!

Rob Novak, one of the Derby Community Endowment fundraiser committee members, has done some research for us! Thank you Rob!

"As the lilacs, which were first introduced to the British colonies by Dr. John Durand of Derby in 1680s begin to bloom, we reflect upon other events that took place in May in the City's history. There are traditions which have passed, such as the Yale's "Derby Day" regatta, as well as those which thankfully continue, such as the honoring of veterans' sacrifices in one of the oldest continuing Memorial Day observances in the State. Here are some little known tidbits highlighting Derby's history of generosity and public service in the month of May:

- May 13, 1675 – Derby incorporated as a Town
- May 27, 1847 – A public meeting is held at Birmingham Congregational Church (Second Congregational Church) to raise funds for the victims of the Irish Famine.
- 1859 – A private citizen, Mr. H. Atwater, donates the funds to replace the “Liberty Pole” on Derby Green ( Birmingham ). At 136’ high, it is the tallest flagpole in Connecticut , and is a local landmark for years.
- May 27, 1909 – It is announced that the yet to be opened Derby Hospital will change its name to Griffin Hospital, after one of its major benefactors, and that its board of directors will be 1/3 each from Derby, Ansonia, and Shelton.
- 1910 – Derby residents band together to beautify the Derby passenger station grounds, turning an ugly mess into one of the most attractive spots in the City.
- May 10, 1912 – Col. H. Horton Wood dies in Brookline , MA . He donated the funds which built the Derby Public Library a decade earlier, in memory of his late son.
- May 26, 1932 – At this time, the John H. Collins American Legion Post continues to distribute used clothing to needy families in Derby . They are also maintaining gardens for food.
- May 4, 1933 – The Derby Relief Fund, a pre-New Deal local charitable group designed to keep unemployed men working and feeding their families, employed 82 people this week, a record, and paid them $550.40 Most of them are working on beautifying local cemeteries and improving Academy Hill Road at this time.
- May 16, 1935 - The St. Mary's Church Community House opens on Seymour Avenue , free of debt, in the former Fitch Smith mansion. Outbuildings have been removed, and there is a tennis court and picnic grounds. The residence has been remodeled, with 2 kitchens, restrooms, sitting rooms, and 2 large meeting halls or ballrooms. This is where St. Mary’s St. Michael's School is today.
- May 2, 1957 - John H. Collins Post, American Legion, is soliciting funds to build a new home on Caroline Street .
- May 20, 1957 – The Grassy Hill Men's and Women's Club donate a new stretcher to the Storm Ambulance Corps
- May 31, 1957 – It is announced that the Housatonic Council, Boy Scouts of America, will conduct a campaign to raise $200,000 to purchase a camp site in Goshen, as wel as construct buildings, and buy equipment there.
- May 31, 1958 – After a year of fundraising, formal ceremonies are held to lay the cornerstone of the new home of the John Collins Post American Legion Post on Caroline Street .
- May 1960 – Griffin Hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary, and opens a newly constructed wing which includes the newly inaugurated Self Care Unit.
- May 13, 1960 - An anonymous donor has come forward to donate the cost of installing a water dispenser at site of old town pump on Derby Green, at corner of Elizabeth Street and Fourth Street . (I believe the donor was later revealed to be a member of the Yudkin family)
- May 26, 1960 – At its 44th Annual Meeting, the Directors of Recreation Camp approve capital fund drive to replace buildings which have been in place since the Camp started in 1916.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Easy Way Out

We love our children - no doubt about that! We know that a good education is the most wonderful gift we can give our children for their future. I would think that our citizens in general, and parents in particular, would be willing to do whatever it takes to make sure our children are taken care of. But, time and time again we choose the easy way out and try to throw more money at the problem. Why on earth do so many of us think that giving the schools more money each year will produce better results? We've been doing this for decades and the results are pretty flat. So, why give them more? Because it's easier than looking deeper and working harder. Education has become a huge, voracious, poorly managed industry that can't deliver. We have good teachers but we don't know how to deploy them. We have enough money but we don't know how to invest it. We have good administrators but they don't have any motivation to try something [radically] different. Children are not the same as they were even 10 years ago. The education system needs to drastically change to effectively deal with these "new" children. Parents need to get much more involved. Taxpayers need to say, "no more money - try something else!". Educators need to be bold and dare to fly in the face of tradition. We need to think about this and work on it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What About Derby?

I went to the Board of Aldermen meeting last night to see what was up. The room was filled to the max and beyond. I understand that the Mayor has supporters and non-supporters. That's why we have an election every 2 years. When someone doesn't have enough support then they lose the election and the new person steps in. It didn't bother me that some Staffieri non-supporters were there and gave their opinions. What got to me was their display of raw hatred for Tony and their contempt for the office of Mayor. One person was so worked up that she was pacing at the back of the room actually shaking. Another person leaned over the back of the chair in front of her and raised her fist and made catcalls. I wanted to take pictures of this but was a little afraid to do so. Our Aldermen didn't fare much better. They were dignified for the most part but they were not looking out for Derby in my opinion. They want to force Domurad back into his position. So we're going to have a City within which two major players aren't on the same page, at all? Is this good for Derby? Joe Coppola, our corporation counsel, who is paid to protect Derby, repeatedly advised the Aldermen to not discuss the details of Domurad's departure in public because of likely civil litigation. He advised them that it was not in the best interests of the City. They didn't listen - in fact they laughed and made jokes about this. They don't care if Derby is sued and our taxes go up as a result? Really? I must liken last night's "performance" to a bunch of school yard bullies trying to get their way and not caring who they hurt to do so. And, much like school yard bullies, enjoying the whole thing way too much. I apologize if the above comes across as partisan. I've often said that both parties in Derby, and the independents as well, are fine people and I will say that again, but I cannot keep quiet about what I saw last night. The Mayor(s) of Derby, past and present, don't hold us back - this kind of behavior by a handful of those lusting for power is what holds Derby back.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our Love Affair (with Dogs)!

Yup, just keep up with the news - dogs are everywhere! Remember the old Kevin Bacon "degrees of separation" thing? I think the dogs are easily ahead of Bacon at this point. I had dogs when I was little and living on a farm. We had Australian Shepherds which were quiet, gentle, and hardworking, but now I'm too busy to take care of dogs and I think they take a lot of care and loving to be happy campers. So, since I don't have dogs now, I thought I might be a good test subject to see how many degrees of separation an average, non-dog-owner has with what's in the news. Let's give it a try: 1. Dog sitter suspected of burglary. 1 degree! I do dog sitting sometimes for my daughter's pet care business. 2. Dog bites person (multiple stories). 1 degree! My mother was once attacked by dogs while riding her bike. 3. Dog bites other dog (multiple stories). 2 degrees! I haven't seen this but have heard about it first hand. 4. Dogs can walk "here" but not over "there". 1 degree! I walk. 5. Dog trouble at the pound(s). 1 degree! I get cats from pounds. 6. Lost dog (multiple stories). 1 degree! My in-laws found/adopted a dog. 7. Dogs take part in weddings (multiple stories). 1 degree! Our daughter used her dog, Jack, as the ring bearer. 8. Dogs protect us (multiple stories). 1 degree! I interviewed the new Derby police dog after he was sworn in. ... and the list goes on. Dogs, you gotta love em!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Clearly Upset

See this guy? He's clearly upset. When we hear about stuff that hits us in our heart we get upset. The problem is that we get emotional without knowing the facts.

In all this mess about the Derby Dog Pound I'm not seeing many facts. I'm seeing a lot of allegations and innuendo. The most important question is whether the animals were being cared for properly. We need facts about that.

It's not about how modern or elegant our Dog Pound is. One comment was that it smelled like urine inside. Really? Animal "places" - like zoos too - smell bad.

It's not about Klapcik's people skills. He may not be a people person - anyone can tell you that. But he is a person of integrity, a hard worker, and a responsible person who took good care of the animals given the meager resources he had.

Here's an idea for all of you who are upset. Why don't you show up at one of the Tax Board meetings where we are putting the City Budget together. There are 2 more workshops, a prelimary budget vote, a Public Hearing, and a final budget vote all taking place on subsequent Tuesday evenings at 7pm at City Hall. Come tell the Tax Board, tell the Police Department, tell the Mayor, that you would like more funds dedicated to the Derby Dog Pound!

The teachers and school administrators show up to ask for more money for the schools. They, along with the parents, are the children's advocates. Where are the animals' advocates. That's clearly how it works folks.

Friday, March 23, 2012

No Dogs in Derby!

I was very sad about the decision last night, made by the Derby Board of Aldermen, to ban dogs from our Greenway, but I commend alderman Gerckens for sticking to his guns and casting the dissenting vote.

Hey, I'm not worried about the dogs - they'll get their exercise one way or the other.

I'm not worried about the people who own dogs - they'll find a place to take their dogs - in fact, it looks like there is a dog park on the horizon very soon.

I'm WORRIED about the fact that the majority of Derby's citizens love dogs and have dogs, yet we can't all get together to find a way to share the Greenway. This is not the Board of Aldermen's fault - they are reacting to the problem with the only tools they possess ... ordinances.

And I hear you muttering under your breath that there is too much attention being paid to this issue of dog poop. NOT! This issue is just an example of how difficult it is to get everyone to do the right thing, to enforce laws that we shouldn't need in the first place, and in general work together as a community should. I'm not just picking on Derby either - this problem is universal.

Do we have to put cameras up at every traffic light to keep people from running red lights and endangering our lives? Is our inner compass somehow so skewed that a lot of us just don't care about how are actions affect the rest of the world?

Friday, March 16, 2012

How Education Works

I reported to my first bingo duty last night at St Mary/St Michael's school in Derby. I'm a volunteer there to support my 2 grandchildren who attend this fabulous school.

I'm always blown away every time I go to the school to pick up the girls or attend to some chore. They have found the answer to what a school needs to be to get results.

First of all, everyone at the school, whatever their involvement, cares about these children very much.

Second of all, there is learning going on there. There is obvious discipline, focus on the task at hand, and a strong core of educational ability in those who are teaching.

And what I notice most is that the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all involved in the school!

I was a little concerned last night because it was my first bingo experience and I didn't know everyone that well but they made me feel so welcome! Thank you Patsy Gerckens, Michelle Iacuone, Cindy Clark, Linda Coppola, and everyone else involved. Your school rocks!!

PS, I caught our Alderman, Art Gerckens, mopping up afterwards - doing his part. Nice to see.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Readiness for Disagreement

I said to a friend, just the other day, "Clearly Derby is a real hard sell - I'm wondering if people are interested in local government or not".

My friend answered (and I am paraphrasing him): It's not that people aren't interested in local government, it's that they don't think anyone will ever agree to anything so what's the point in wasting one's time. The people of Derby, like in many small towns, are a contentious bunch. They would rather argue about who is right than work together.

That got my attention. While the readiness for disagreement is obvious, I'm not so sure that we prefer to argue rather than move ahead and accomplish something.

Is it maybe that our arguers have a louder voice than the rest of us? Are they turning us off to a sense of community? Or have we discarded our dreams for a better tomorrow and the contentious are just filling the void with their conflicting viewpoints?

I'm thinking that the Cleary Derby experiment needs to go a little deeper. What's going on out there?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where did that Budget Come From?!?

Time to learn about the birds and the bees dear citizens. Where do City Budgets come from anyway? Each city and town are a little bit different but I'm going to describe Derby, CT's budget process because that's the one I'm very familiar with.

First, each department within the City puts together a proposed budget for their department. This will include everything they need to operate from July 1 of the current year through June 30 of the following year. These budgets are submitted to the Finance Dept at City Hall and passed along to the Chairman of the Tax Board. This generally happens in February.

Next, the Tax Board holds workshops, about once a week starting in March. Each Dept head is assigned to a workshop date and they come before the Tax Board to talk about their budget and answer questions. If someone wanted to know about how Derby government works and why we spend what we do - these would be the meetings to attend!!

After talking to all of the departments about their needs and getting an estimate of what revenue we can expect from property taxes, the State, and so forth, the Tax Board continues to have workshops through April to deliberate on how much we can afford and whether or not we need to raise the mil rate in order to finance Derby's operations. This goes on through April.

Finally a special meeting is held to approve a preliminary budget. A few days later a public hearing is held to allow the citizens to comment on the preliminary budget. There will be another meeting, or two, after that, culminating in the adoption, by the Tax Board, of the final budget. By state law it must be in place by late May or early June, depending on that year's calendar.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Endowment - We're Getting One!

An endowment is a fund that is set up to benefit an entity. Monies are donated and placed in the fund and the fund is administered by a financial institution. The interest earned by the investment of the funds is then distributed, usually annually, back to the entity that the fund was created to benefit.

In our case, a fund is being set up to benefit Derby, in particular its schools and its beautification. The Valley Community Foundation will administer the fund. Derby already has an endowment set up with the Valley Community Foundation for the Sterling Opera House and the Derby Community Endowment will work in much the same way.

Mark Nichols, former Tax Board member, came up with the idea, early in 2011, to set up a community endowment like many of our neighoring towns are doing. Mark is working with an endowment committee made up of city officials (the Mayor, the president of the Board of Aldermen, the chairman of the Tax Board and the Board of Education, the Superintendent of Schools) and active citizens such as Beth Colette, Nelson Cummings, Rob Novak, Dr. Anita Dugatto, and of course, Clearly Derby! As you can "Clearly" see - this is a non-partisan endeavor!

In a future blog I will share some of our plans!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Local Politics - The First Responders

Local politicians are always invited to attend the different "Old-Timers" dinners given by the firehouses in Derby. I'm sure this tradition is shared by most of the New England cities and towns as well.

Storm Engine Co #2 had their dinner this past Saturday. They a great door prize (iPad!), prime rib, and a really good comedian. I went with my husband and we had a great time.

So, why do the firemen invite the politicians? They don't need to curry favor with us because we love our volunteer firemen - they take care of Derby and they aren't expensive. What's not to like?

I think it's because the firemen are not only the first responders when there's a fire or other disaster, they are the first responders in the political process as well. They are members of the community that are doing what we all need to do - be involved. And that is what local politics should be all about.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Were We Just Bored?!?

Look at this room. What's missing? There's nothing to do. No big-screen plasma TV - no TV at all. No video games. No ipads laying around. No phones to talk to friends or send messages. No laptops. No wii. No nuthin. Nada.

There are no people in the picture either. Where are they? Where have they gone? I think that maybe they're at a local government meeting. They are probably at the Town Hall attending a meeting of the City Council.

Or maybe they are at a church meeting, volunteering somewhere, or taking a class at the local community college.

What worries me is that maybe they are out doing these things because they were bored at home. We think back on those "old days" before television and computers and we think that was swell. Mom did some sewing after dinner while Dad read the paper and smoked his pipe. The kids did their homework and then played a board game or read a book before going to bed. Everyone was there for suppertime and there was some meaningful conversation.

I say that a steady diet of that had to get boring sometimes and therefore people went out into the community more - to find something interesting to talk about and do.

We don't have to do that anymore - we have everything we need right here. Or do we?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are You Coming?

The experts say that people will only participate in society if they understand the benefits of doing so and they believe they have a chance of achieving their objectives.

This makes a lot of sense! Would you write a letter to the editor of a newspaper with no circulation? Would you help clean up a river when there's no plan for keeping it up? Would you vote if you hated all the candidates? Would you join a committee with no objectives? Would you run for a public office that held no power?

If our public institutions are healthy and their missions are clear, then there must exist many opportunities to work with these entities and make our future brighter. If we are turning away, instead of joining up, is it because we are too busy to participate or have we lost our faith in the objectives and solutions?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Must Clarity be Absolute?

Although the military has stated that they do not censor news [prior to and during a war] but merely review it, since the invasion of Grenada, in 1983, they have given a clear signal that they will not yield power to the media again. The idea being that you can't very well sneak up on the enemy and out maneuver him if CNN, with cameras rolling, is riding shotgun at the front of your column.

How does this relate to us in Derby? We've been trying, since forever, to bring in a good firm to develop our downtown. There are some strategies used by local government to attract these kinds of developers, and some methods used by the developers to accomplish their work. For example they need to buy land and attract business to their project.

The public, anxious to see some progress after so many years, is understandably wanting a great deal of information about the project's status. It seems obvious that some details would have to be kept from the public, but whenever the withholding of information is sanctioned that opens the door for potential manipulation of the facts.

The above suggests, to me, that clarity cannot be absolute in most cases, especially during war or the negociating of important business deals. The question becomes, rather, how much needs to be shared to safeguard the public's best interests?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

10% Off When you Vote at WalMart!

I went to the New Haven Register's Citizen's Agenda Project forum tonight in Milford. It wasn't a huge gathering but there was a nice mix of people there.
- Reporters and staff from the Register.
- A representative from the League of Women Voters.
- A representative from Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit lobby and advocacy organization founded in 1970 and now 400,000 members strong in 36 states.
- A very young lady (I'm thinking 9 or 10 years old) who hosts her own weekly radio show and has interviewed Governor Malloy and on down.
- State Rep, Kim Rose, from the 118th Assembly District
- Myself, representing Clearly Derby
- Several members of the public

We talked about which issues have been most popular in previous forums and from online data gathering - most on the voters' minds: the economy, unemployment, health care reform, the national debt, and the banking/financial industry.

To that we added education, how much is spent by candidates, taxes, ...

I introduced the Clearly Derby concept - bringing local government to the people - and everyone seemed interested in this. This turned out to be a good segue into the discussion of how to get greater voter participation. Here are some of our thoughts:

- everyone is too busy to follow what's going on
- the people have lost their confidence in government so they don't want "to play"
- voters won't participate unless they see solutions they can believe in
- we need to break things down (issues and candidate info) for greater transparency
- and my personal favorite ... let's put the polling places in WalMarts and give out 10% off coupons for first time voters! Why not?!?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Civic Pride

There are some emotions that are truly universal: The love felt by a mother for her precious child, the utter despair of a broken heart, the thrill of winning a prize, the joy you feel when your loved one comes home from afar, or the desire to protect things that are weaker than you.  

On Clearly Derby, the fans and I are trying to pick out a new profile picture.  We want something that represents Derby well and that's because another universal emotion, civic pride, is in play.  This is our home and we want to put our best foot forward.  We want validation.

I am thinking that civic pride will be what ultimately unites Derbyites and brings them to share some common goals.  We are a feisty, headstrong bunch of Yankees around here, but, that pride in Derby is really strong too.

If you look around at our local government you see Irish, Italians, Polish, Hispanic and more.  You see white and black, young and old, men and women, Democrat, Republican, and Unaffiliated.  So, I think it's safe to say we can work together - if we can ever decide what exactly we want!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How it's going

Clearly Derby has been up for a little over 2 months now and we have 111 fans.  Not a huge number - Starbucks has 28+ million - but I'm pretty happy with our number, for a few reasons:

  • We are new page with a new concept - it will take awhile for people to "get us" (and hopefully not run away when they do)
  • We haven't promoted the page yet in any significant way.
  • Our target audience, Derby CT, is a small city with only a few thousand citizens who have facebook accounts.
  • Our "product" is not sexy because local government is not sexy.  

So, given the above, I think that 111 fans is like a small mob.  And you have to take into account that a Clearly Derby fan is worth at least 10 fans on a normal page.  Our fans are that good and that loyal.

Our biggest challenge on Clearly Derby is much the same as that in the public (and private) schools.  Our subject matter is just not that exciting so we have to use some "bait" to get our "customers" interest.  We have to be careful to not make the "bait" too much fun or else our students, and facebook fans, become much more interested in the fun and games than the subject itself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

So hard to keep up!

You may remember that I stated, when I started Clearly Derby, that I wanted to address the peoples' complaint that local government isn't transparent enough.

My hypothesis was that if we pay attention, go to a few meetings, read the news, ask questions, and generally inform ourselves of what's going on then the transparency could be discovered right there all around us.

To test my theory I started Clearly Derby with the objective of trying to keep track of meetings and all the government events that are happening.  In other words, Clearly Derby would become the model informed citizen of Derby.

Well, I want to tell you that this isn't as easy as I thought it would be!  If I were working full-time and had young children to care for, I simply could not keep up with what's happening in Derby!  There are so many meetings, and so many questions, and so many ongoing projects, and so on and so forth.  It becomes a full-time job to just keep track of everything.

I will keep going with Clearly Derby but I feel I've tested my theory and found it lacking.  I will continue with Clearly Derby for my own enjoyment and to share what's going on for your benefit as well.  Together I think we can make government more transparent, if not crystal clear.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Back to the Blog - ROI you say?

I'm ready to start some regular blogging.  Look out!

I was thinking about ROI (Return on Investment) lately.  People seem to either love social media and fully believe in its power or else they scoff at it.  The first thing they will say is that it's impossible to show that the use of SMM (Social Media Marketing) gives you any ROI.

Since I just spent major hours, over several months, trying to promote a political candidate using SMM, I wondered, was this time wasted?  My candidate won, but I don't know that SMM had anything to do with that really.  It could have been the mailers, lawn signs, and talking to the voters by going door-to-door.  These are tried and true methods for winning.

But I had an epiphany the other day!  I was thinking, if you are a good Christian you expect to go to heaven (that's your ROI for being devout).  But you don't know that you'll go to heaven, or that there even is a heaven for sure.  It feels right, your family does it, and the Bible tells you it is so - so you go for it.  But you have no guarantee.

Here's another good one: if you exercise and eat right then you'll be healthier and live longer - that's your ROI for all the celery and jogging.  Are you sure about that?  It seems to make sense - it seems logical - but they are always changing the rules about what to eat, how to exercise, and whether you should be extra thin or not.  It doesn't seem like they are so sure.

I don't think one should scoff or opt out of something that seems logical and looks promising just because one can't pinpoint a precise ROI.  For the most part, we have to have a little faith and use our heads - there are no guarantees!