September 24, 2021
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
From Inside The Golden Dome
This Day in CT History
When Multiple Worlds Become Entwined

It been a pleasure to serve as the Chair of The University of Saint Joseph's Women’s Leadership Center (WLC) for the past three years. The WLC provides established female leaders, emerging leaders and those looking to enhance their skills with a forum, a network and coaching that will assist them with fulfilling their personal goals and professional ambitions.
We kicked off our fifth year of engaging and inspiring women in the Hartford area with a timely and thoughtful series of programs this past week—under the banner of Fostering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Today’s Workforce. Thanks to the sponsorship of The Hartford and the talents and skills of Tai Feaster, Programs Manager of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), participants took part in some interesting and challenging discussions about the importance of creating a workforce that is representative of multiple perspectives and experiences. Participants also discussed how organizational leaders can help drive an inclusive and equitable culture, and gave some pointers on how to expand and enhance equity and inclusion in an organizational diversity plan.
It’s also interesting that an article from Daniela Altimari that appeared in The Hartford Courant this week reported on the fledging class of women candidates of color at the local level in Connecticut. It seems that all politics while thought to be local, just aren’t so. With less than a dozen women covered in the story, it questions what we can all do to encourage, inspire and support not just women, but women of color. Within the Connecticut General Assembly there are 62 women out of 187 members of the legislature, but only 8 women of color. Something’s odd when you look at Connecticut’s census numbers. Even a recent change in Connecticut campaign laws that would allow candidates to use campaign funds to provide childcare while campaigning is a step in the right direction, but it’s a baby step to figuring out how to get more women and women of color to run for public office. 
While census data this past month showed the changes in our demographic of residents by town, we all know that legislative and congressional districts are certainly split across town lines all the time. The Redistricting Commission running at full speed has until Dec 30th to make recommendations for new districts at both the state and federal levels in preparation for the fall 2022 statewide elections. This process is always complicated as one party tries to gerrymander more districts to reflect the voter registration favoring their party. With more eyes and minds focused on diversity, equality and inclusion it will be interesting to see what changes happen across the state as the commission members take their electronic markers and carve the state's 3.6 million residents into nice and neat 151 house seats, 36 senate seats and 5 congressional seats.
It’s a hard decision to give up your privacy, put your family on the front pages of the local paper and find time in between busy careers and family to sign up for a slot on the local ballot. Other than the top elected job in a town or city, it’s all volunteer work. Furthermore, with the rising angst that’s all around us, it’s going to be hard to recruit the best and brightest talents to sacrifice the life they now know. It’s definitely not for everyone. The times are changing and the decision to dip your toes into politics definitely isn’t what it was 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. So when you think of the folks sitting in chairs at the local city council or state legislature or congressional chambers, have a bit more patience, a bit more respect for their choice to serve their community and don’t forget you don’t have to agree, but everyone has the right to an opinion. And while every decision they make isn’t perfect, they are based on the facts they know and what they feel is in the best interest of the community— whether it’s for Connecticut or the local community.
Civility is knowing how to disagree without being disagreeable. Maybe the way to get more women and women of color into elected office is to try being more civil to those who choose to stick their necks out and run. It’s worth a try. 
A Day for More Activity in Hartford 

Monday the 27th will bring a heightened level of activity to the “Capitol grounds” that Hartford hasn’t seen for a while.

The legislature will be convening a special session (ordered by the Governor) to vote on extending his emergency powers through February 15th as variants of the COVID-19 virus continue to raise the rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The Governor issued a letter to legislative leadership this past Wednesday outlining where his priority items will be for the extension of power. Here is a full list of what’s anticipated to be approved.

In addition, the Judiciary Committee has been tasked with offering a public hearing for four final candidates interviewing with the Judicial Department to become the state’s new Inspector General. This position was last appointed by the state’s prior Governor. The hearing will feature a number of interested delegation members' questions given the powerful nature of the position.

While the Capitol and LOB are still limited to being open on the first floor, those with appointments with legislators are permitted elsewhere in the building as long as they are masked. I’ll have my first meeting in the LOB since March 11, 2020 this Monday with a legislator and am certainly looking forward to seeing some familiar office space!
No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

The old adage goes, ‘there’s no such thing as free lunch,’ and that is ringing particularly true for local communities these days. As many of you who have little ones in school in CT know, most schools in CT are participating in the federally subsidized program for free lunch for all students. The theory behind it comes from what is known as ‘lunch shaming,’ which essentially happens when school cafeteria workers are unable to give lunches to kids who don’t have money in their accounts for lunch. This obviously comes with a host of problems for the school, students and parents involved. As congress debates what will end up in the Build Back Better Act, there are many members of congress favoring free lunch for all students continuing as it is today. 

With that decision comes other problems however, because of the fact that many school systems collect poverty data through the traditional subsidized school lunch program. When all students receive free lunch, that data is unable to be collected in that way. When that data is not collected, there are several other state and federal programs that struggle since they rely on that data as a measure of a community's financial health. So, grant programs that have nothing to do with school lunch would have a more difficult time parsing out which communities need additional grant funds. There are currently other models for determining local poverty levels beyond the free and reduced lunch program that may be more widely used if the bill passes. It ultimately may fall to the states to come up with their own program. This will almost assuredly be a widely debated topic in CT as congress mulls over whether or not to expand the free lunch program. 
There's Something in the Air

This past session, the legislature tackled multiple major issues, from legalizing sports betting, to ending the religious exemption for unvaccinated public school students, to the legalization of recreational marijuana use. However, some other issues became overshadowed, such as indoor air quality in our local public schools. SB 288 was raised last session to require local and regional boards of education to maintain healthy indoor air quality in their schools and ensure that their HVAC system is maintained in accordance with Standard 62. Standard 62 is defined as "the American Society of Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning Engineers Standard 62 entitled "Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality", as referenced by the State Building Code adopted under section 29-252.

The bill received copious pieces of supporting testimony from teachers, parents, administrators, health officials, and contractors. Despite this, the legislative clock ran out on June 15th and the bill died before receiving a vote in either chamber. Some posit that the bill died because of the fiscal note attached to it, which would mandate municipalities to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on HVAC upgrades by 2023. Kostya Diamantis, deputy secretary for OPM, has stated that the administration won't be paying for ventilation systems to be replaced, repaired or upgraded during the pandemic just because many local officials haven't prioritized ventilation for years. DPH is allowed to make funding available, but only if it is a "certified school indoor air quality emergency".

Last winter, the Lamont administration surveyed Connecticut's 1200 schools to determine the quality of their ventilation systems, and assess the presence of contaminants such as mold. All but 11 districts responded. Nevertheless, the administration has denied requests since early August to release those responses, stating that they are waiting until their final report required by the legislature. Konstantinos Diamantis, was unable to give a definitive answer on when the study would be released. The last report on school air quality in the state of Connecticut was conducted in 2013. The report indicated that many schools have HVAC systems that are well over 20-30 years old, and are not up to date with modern technology.

It is surprising that there are no air quality requirements in schools despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Be on the lookout this next session for the administration's report, as well as legislation addressing the school indoor air quality issue.

September 24, 1850: Connecticut's Whaling Industry Sets Sail for Extinction

In the 19th century, New London, Connecticut was one of the busiest whaling hubs in the entire world, outranked only by Nantucket and New Bedford, Massachusetts. Whale oil was a crucial and versatile resource that played a huge role in powering the Industrial Revolution, serving as both fuel for lamps and as a lubricant for factory machinery. Whale bones, used to give ladies’ corsets their shapes, also commanded a high price throughout the 1800s.

In 1850, when Connecticut’s whaling industry was approaching its peak, over $1 million worth of whale oil and bones passed through the port of New London in a single year. In the later decades of the 19th century, however, the whaling industry encountered a rapid decline as decades of over-hunting had made whales harder to find, and their byproducts more expensive. Other industries successfully sought cheaper alternatives to expensive whale oil and bone: Lamps were increasingly lit using petroleum byproducts (namely kerosene) and electricity, and fashion designers turned to alternate products like steel and wooden strips to line their corsets.

Thanks to these economic pressures, by the first decades of the 20th century only a handful of Connecticut whaling vessels were still in active operation. On September 24, 1908, seasoned captain James Buddington and his crew sailed the whaling schooner Margaret out of New London.

Unbeknownst to them at the time, they were embarking on the last commercial whaling voyage in Connecticut history. The Margaret’s return to port seven months later, in April 1909, marked the end of 124 years of commercial whaling in Connecticut.

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