Archive | October, 2016


Rep John Larson Appoints Two to Veterans Council

HARTFORD —  Rep. John B. Larson  has appointed two Bristol residents to his Veterans and Military Advisory Council.

Larson appointed Art Ward, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, served as Mayor of Bristol for six years. After serving in the war, Ward worked as a Veterans Affairs Officer with the State of Connecticut, and as a member of the Bristol City Council for 14 years, before being elected Mayor.

Frank Nicastro, a six-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, spent three years aboard a U.S. Navy Destroyer and 24 years in the Connecticut National Guard. He currently represents the 79th District in the Connecticut House of Representatives. Nicastro, who is retiring from the General Assembly at the end of this term, is also a former Bristol Mayor and City Councilman.

“I am grateful that these two Veterans and lifelong public servants have agreed to join the First District’s Veterans and Military Advisory Council,” said Larson (CT-01). “I know that Art and Frank will bring great insight to the Council given their vast experience. I look forward to working with them and the rest of the members of the council to serve our veterans.”

Larson meets with the First Congressional District Veterans and Military Advisory Council in his Hartford Office and in the community throughout the year. Members of the Advisory Council provide Larson with valuable insight and innovative ideas that guide his decision making on veterans and military matters.


Posted in Business, Nation, Neighborhood, PoliticsComments (0)


Murphy, Other Gun Control Advocates, in Search of Political Wins

WASHINGTON —  This political season, gun control advocates are bolstered by Hillary Clinton’s embrace of their issue and an increase in the political cash they’ve raised, even as they continue to be outgunned by the National Rifle Association when it comes to campaign spending.

The gap is closing this year – thanks largely to increased spending by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

By UNclimatechange via Wikimedia Commons

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

But with fewer resources, gun control advocates are forced to be more targeted and strategic than the NRA, even backing some GOP candidates over Democrats with better records on gun control.

So far, the NRA PAC has donated about $578,000 directly to dozens of federal candidates, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

But the NRA’s real clout comes from the more than $22 million it has spent independently of campaigns so far this year. Most of that money was spent on attack ads aimed at helping Republican candidates.

Meanwhile, Independence USA has nearly doubled the $5.6 million it spent at this point in the 2014 election cycle, spending more than $10.6 million to bolster the campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats.

Bloomberg, an independent and a Clinton supporter, has endorsed Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., citing the senator’s leading role on a background check bill after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. His PAC has also released an ad featuring Erica Smegielski, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, saying she’s “grateful” for Toomey.

Bloomberg’s support of Toomey over Democratic challenger Katie McGinty, who has a stronger position on gun control, puzzled many. But he and other gun control advocates are trying to reach out to GOP candidates in order to win Republicans over to their cause, even if it means hurting some Democrats.

Gabrielle Giffords, the former Democratic Arizona congresswoman who was severely wounded in a mass shooting, has endorsed both Toomey and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

Former U.s. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona

Ana Radelat /

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona

Her Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, which has raised $8.2 million, has also spent $2 million in ads in New Hampshire on behalf of Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is seeking to unseat Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

“We have been investing in holding Kelly Ayotte accountable for her support of the gun lobby,” said Mark Prentice, spokesman for the Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC.

Bloomberg’s PAC also has helped Hassan, as has Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn.

Murphy has taken a different approach to helping candidates who would help break the stalemate in Congress over gun control.

With the help of Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Murphy in July established the “Fund to End Gun Violence,” an effort to “bundle” contributions to U.S. House and Senate candidates who would support gun control bills.

Murphy said the idea came to him after he staged a 15-hour filibuster in June to pressure GOP leaders to hold votes on gun bills. He said that two days after seizing the Senate floor, he received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions without sending a single solicitation.

He, Booker and  Schumer are now asking their donors to direct their contributions to other candidates. The senators are not running for re-election this year.

Campaign spokeswoman Laura Maloney said the fund has raised more than $150,000 for endorsed candidates through more than 10,000 individual donations.

“The effort is still ongoing and will go full steam ahead until Election Day as Chris continues to tirelessly work to elect candidates who are committed to ending gun violence,” Maloney said.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy filibusters on the Senate floor Wednesday.


U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy filibusters on the Senate floor in June.

The Fund to End Gun Violence has backed only six candidates, all Democrats. Besides Hassan, it has endorsed Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is running against Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla.; Catherine Cortez Masto, a who is running for an open Senate seat in Nevada; Salud Carbajal, who is running for a California seat in the U.S. House of Representatives; Anna Throne-Holst, who is running for Congress in New York; and Val Demings, who is running for Congress in Florida.

Gary Rose, head of the political science department at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, said  gun control advocates may win some races “here and there.”

“In certain states and districts perhaps, but nationally no,” Rose said. “At the national level, the Republican connection with the NRA is pretty strong, and the Republicans hold both houses of Congress.”

But a few political victories would give the gun control advocates evidence that they can be effective, he said, even if those wins do not result in a groundswell of support for gun control legislation in the next Congress.

Posted in Business, Featured, NationComments (0)

Education Commissioner Launches “Equity” Tour


HARTFORD — Hoping to highlight recent accomplishments in education, Connecticut Commissioner of Education Dianna R. Wentzell on Friday launched an “Equity and Excellence” tour around the state.

The first visit was to a New Britain school to discuss chronic absenteeism, one of the major priorities outlined in the State Board of Education’s new five-year comprehensive plan. The tour will stop at schools throughout the state this fall to highlight different priorities laid out in the plan, which seeks to ensure equity and excellence for all Connecticut students.

On Friday, Commissioner Wentzell was joined by Jill Spineti, president of The Governor’s Prevention Partnership, as well as New Britain school district and community leaders for a brief tour and roundtable discussion at Vance Village Elementary School, which is implementing strategies that are effectively addressing chronic absenteeism.

“It is critical that we all understand the importance of daily school attendance. Even in the early grades, lost time in school can put students at risk of becoming disengaged or dropping out of school down the road,” said Wentzell. “Our five-year comprehensive plan makes combatting chronic absenteeism a priority as we seek to ensure equity and excellence for all Connecticut students. Schools like Vance Village Elementary School show us that when we maintain high expectations for every student and create engaging, diverse, and welcoming learning environments, our students show up and perform well academically.”

“Quality youth mentoring is proven to increase attendance, and students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school,” said Spineti. “Our priority is to provide effective resources and assistance for starting or expanding a school-based mentoring initiative, or aligning an existing program with ongoing efforts to address chronic absenteeism.”

“We are honored that Commissioner Wentzell and President Spineti have chosen to visit with us here in New Britain. We look forward to discussing the Comprehensive Plan and the all of the great things we are doing to reduce chronic absenteeism,” said New Britain Superintendent Nancy Sarra. “Recently, we were awarded the New York Life Foundation Excellence in Summer Learning award by the National Summer Learning Association. This is tied to our Summer Enrichment Experience Program, which is just one of our programs that has helped in a tremendous way in regards to chronic absenteeism.”

The State Board of Education’s Five-Year Comprehensive Plan for Education was developed after a lengthy and comprehensive community engagement effort that included input from community based and philanthropic organizations, professional associations, higher education, parents and students, and the business community.

“We relied heavily upon input from families, educators, and other stakeholders to develop the Five-Year Comprehensive Plan. Members of our local communities freely gave of their time in order to ensure the ideas included in our plan represented the diverse viewpoints within our state,” said Commissioner Wentzell. “These stakeholders’ ideas laid the groundwork for our path toward making equity and excellence in education a reality for every child.”

The Comprehensive Plan provides a roadmap for the State Department of Education to achieve its equity goals by maintaining high expectations for every child, training and supporting great teachers and leaders, and ensuring every public school is diverse and welcoming.

“We have identified several areas where we are shifting our focus to fulfill our promise of an excellent public education for every Connecticut child. One of those focus areas is chronic absence,” said Wentzell. “We want every public school student in our state to be in school and engaged. That means we have to work with families, educators, and community stakeholders to decrease the number of days that students are out of school.”

Chronic absence is defined as missing 10 percent or more days of school for any reason, including excused absences, unexcused absences, suspensions, and other disciplinary actions. Nearly 10 percent of Connecticut Public School students were chronically absent during the 2015-16 school year, and rates were significantly higher in many communities.

Chronic absence is inextricably linked with student performance, and students who are chronically absent are less likely to read on grade level, are less likely to perform well academically, and are at a greater risk for dropping out of high school. Risk factors for chronic absence include poverty, homelessness, chronic health conditions, frequent moves, and disabilities.

The SDE has recently taken concrete steps to address chronic absence.  The state is expanding restorative justice programs, such as the Connecticut School-Based Diversion Initiative, and positive behavioral interventions and supports. Additionally, districts are increasing utilization of the Department of Children and Families’ Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services to respond to mental health crises.

Vance Village Elementary School in New Britain is implementing strategies that are effectively addressing chronic absenteeism. The school’s rate of chronic absence remains around 10 percent, which is on par with the state average. Additionally, Vance has significantly reduced the numbers of in-school and out-of-school suspensions from the 2012-13 school year to the 2014-15 school year. In-school suspensions fell from 60 incidents to 36, and out-of-school suspensions dropped from 47 to 16.

For more information and resources about chronic absence visit here.

Posted in Business, NationComments (0)

  • Latest News
  • Tags
  • Subscribe
Advertise Here