Dispatch from NH Primary: Monday before Election Day

Monday Dispatch – last day before election

Snow expected so we got an early start to beat bad weather.

Met Gov. Christie out of the revolving door into the Radisson in Manchester. Relaxed, friendly, shook my hand.

By the time we walk to Bernie Sanders event at the Palace, snow is falling.
Secret Service searches everyone, even press. Audience of 350, press of 150.

Bernie sounding more nasal than usual, must be nursing a cold.
Memorable lines:

“With the freedom they bought, Wall Street brought this economy into the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.”

“Getting an education in America should not be punished; it should be encouraged.”

Themes are a corrupt American campaign system is undermining democracy.
Democracy is not about billionaires buying elections.

I feel like I’m in a Frank Capra movie and Edward Arnold is about to turn the lights out.

Showtime from 4-6! Guests included Eric Trump, former Congressman, ambassador, and Steve Chaggaris of CBS news. Find on iTunes as podcast or WGCH.com.

We hightail it to Trump rally at Verizon arena, snow coming down. Traffic cop ushers us across a major intersection diagonally across the street- that’s a first. Waaaay around back is press entrance, again secret service, many of them.

It’s a big snow, yet the arena is almost full. Tiny Dancer followed by Andrea Boccelli and the Rolling Stones; I’m at a political rock concert. Crowd a bit scruffy, angry, passionate. The Donald intros his beautiful family, then takes the stage for an hour. Rhetoric in a million directions, constantly interrupts himself with random thoughts and comments, mostly about the nuances and his grievances about the campaign itself. Uses the word “pussy” for mere shock value; the man is a born entertainer, plays to the basest impulses of the crowd. That’s the scary Trump. The inspirational Trump has great ideas and some gutsy convictions. Which one will we get if we elect him?

Tomorrow we begin to find out.


Which headlines will we remember?

The best thing about doing a talk radio show is that I get to decide what you need to hear.  But with so much information coming at us from all directions, what is most important? The Wall Street Journal has a favorite feature on the front page, called “What’s News”.  Daily stories are summarized in no more than a sentence, in no particular order. Among the blurbs are digests of business, politics, health, lawsuits.  Which will have been more important to have paid attention to, ten years from now? Will it be “Dangerous climate change will be essentially irreversible by 2017, the International Energy Agency warned.”  Could it be “A drug that kills fat cells caused significant weight loss in obese monkeys. Human trials could start next year.”  Maybe the most important headline will have been “The US and Europe sought to present a unified stance against Iran following a UN nuclear report. Russian vowed to block new sanctions.”

I ponder the ranking of headlines a lot.  I think about sifting among the news debris for the stories to which we all need to pay attention. Obviously, I cannot answer the question I pose.  If all of us understood the consequences of irreversible climate change, would it really make a difference? Human nature being what it is (rotten),  our lust for creature comforts rather insatiable, I highly doubt that we would change our habits even were we to know the exact date on which all the living creatures on this planet would perish. On the contrary, I can just imagine people taking the opposite tack- living for today in a hedonistic,  devil-may-care fashion.

With the human population surging toward record- breaking levels of diabetes, could it be that a hardly noticed study on obese monkeys will have been the pivotal moment in the fight against obesity? How should I know? I’m still upset about experimentation on monkeys. Why do they deserve to have been force fed to obesity, just so we could find a drug to help us do what we all know we ought to do- shut our mouths and not fill them with sugar every single day? I ask this as a rhetorical question only. Leave the monkeys alone. If you must, experiment on people; we deserve it. Only tell us about it first.

Then there is Iran.  Simple, yet complicated Iran. A President who denies the Holocaust and lives to speak at Columbia University and the United Nations. A saber-rattling , Jew-hating, America- hating, rascist homophobe who threatens the world with nuclear destruction.  Are we to believe his threats?  If so, how dare we not act preemptively to stop him and his army?  If we do not believe the threats, what is the best response?  Do we ignore the bully or stand him down?  President Obama chooses to watch and wait. Watching and waiting can be dangerous. They can mislead an enemy into thinking he has the upper hand.  Perhaps our friends will conclude the same; perhaps they too believe that Iran has the upper hand. As I said, watching and waiting can be dangerous business.

Join me Monday through Friday on the Lisa Wexler Show as we ponder, sift, explore and discover. I promise not to tell you what to think, at least most of the time. I do, however, promise to make you think.






Westport Elections Send a Message to Developers- Beware!

Westport Elections Send a Message

Posted on November 8, 2011 at 10:43pm  Print

Tonight the Republicans won control of two of the three major ruling Boards in town, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Finance. The odds were stacked particularly high against the Republicans for the P & Z Commission since all four of the Republican candidates on the ballot needed to win to flip control of the Board from the Democrats to the Republicans.

With voter registration tipping quite favorably to Democrats in Westport, why did the Republicans win?

On the Board of Finance, the Republicans raised the issue of pension obligations that went undetected by the town and its employees. Able candidates on both sides ran, but my guess is that the town understood that new leadership was the best antidote going forward.  Congrats to all the winners, particularly my good friend Michael Rea.

Why did the Republicans take the P & Z in a clean sweep of all four seats? Save Westport Now. Save Westport Now is an organization devoted to sensible land use planning.  Usually they endorse Democrats, and most of their membership are in fact registered Democrats. This year, they broke with tradition, and endorsed all four Republicans on their own ballot line. Democrats who would never vote for anyone with an “R” next to their name could vote in good conscience for these four candidates who espoused the same opinions on land use issues as the Board of Save Westport Now.

Now comes the real question- Why did SWN and the town throw out the Democrats? In a word, P & Z Chairman Ron Corwin. Ron Corwin’s leadership has brought the town to the brink of catastrophe. He has encouraged developers to submit zoning changes that would forever alter the character of the town. He has held subcommittee meetings during working hours that were almost exclusively attended by developers and their paid consultants.  Corwin has run public hearings with an iron fist and a condescending manner, placating developers and cutting off would be objectors.

Westport is a town that pays attention. Thanks to the able reporting of Chandra Niles Folsom, I was alerted to the substance of new zoning text amendments that  radically changed height, coverage and zone restrictions. Thanks to the beauty of a microphone, I was able to alert my audience to the possibility that the bad guys might win if we did nothing. Listener Gloria Ginter called my studio to volunteer to get signatures on petitions. She collected hundreds in a mere few hours. Save Westport Now became energized. No one, and I mean no one, writes a letter like Sidney Kramer. Few are brighter and more persuasive than Connie Greenfield.

Still, I was worried. Four people on a slate? That meant that the lone Democrat running needed to lose, in order for Corwin to lose his chairmanship.

Tonight at Republican headquarters, my faith in democracy was restored. Enough people cared about this issue to get out and vote. A message was sent.  Westport does not want overdevelopment either downtown or on the Post Road.  We want incremental changes in keeping with the character of the town, as it is. Tomorrow a new day dawns in Westport, and I look forward to the new leadership.

Kudos to Gordon Joseloff, Shelley Kassen, Helen Garten and other Democratic candidates, winners and losers, who appeared at Republican headquarters tonight to extend their congratulations. I really do love this very classy town.

More on McDowell Case- Norwalk Homeless Mom Arrested for Wrong School District

Tonight the NAACP got into the act, funding legal representation for homeless mom Tonya McDowell, who was charged with grand larceny for the offense of lying about her address on a school form application to send her five -year old son to kindergarten in Norwalk.  They retained Attorney Darnell Crossland, who was introduced to the press as the next Johnny Cochran. With all due respect to the late Johnny Cochran, he will be best remembered as the guy who got off OJ Simpson, guilty as sin of the double murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman.  Not sure you want to make that comparison at the outset, if your claim is that Ms. McDowell has been treated unjustly.

The NAACP asserted that Ms. McDowell had been strip searched upon her arrest, and that the officer in charge was instructed to ” search her like they do in Niantic.”  Reportedly, the officer objected, but was told to do it anyway, and complied.  Much hullballoo ensued, rightly so. A strip search for a parent who lied about a school district?  Sounded rather zealous to me, and to many others.  Chief of Police Harry Rilling reviewed the videotape and invited Ms. McDowell’s attorney to see it as well. Conclusion? No cavity search, no real “strip search”.   Did Ms. McDowell lie or were her statements manipulated by others?  At this point, we don’t know.  

 The NAACP also disclosed that Ms. McDowell was questioned by narcotics officers while being charged with this crime, hinting that another agenda was at work by the Police Department, and that they might have been trying to solicit information about drug use in the area. On these facts, the attorney and the NAACP were vague.   Mayor Moccia said  on The Lisa Wexler Show that McDowell was charged with selling narcotics within limits of a school.  More than that, we don’t know yet.

Also disclosed was the fact that the Norwalk prosecutor, Suzanne Mieux, is Mayor Dick Moccia’s stepdaughter.  I didn’t know that.  If so, that might explain Mayor Moccia’s resistance to dropping this case altogether.  He really should.  As more facts come out, it becomes clearer that this woman was singled out for some reason, that she really is homeless, and that the system has utterly failed the little boy.

 I asked Attorney Crosland if  this case was about getting the case against McDowell dismissed, or about making the case that all children should be able to go to whatever school they want , regardless of their residence.  He said that his first duty was to his client, of course, but that there was also a movement to allow residences of grandparents to count as well as parents.  Crosland agreed with this movement. 

Incidentally, Mayor Moccia said that the boy was now attending school in Bridgeport because he was living with his grandmother.  Ms. McDowell contradicted that- she said in fact that they were staying with friends in Bridgeport, not relatives.  The family appears to be truly homeless.  Why won’t Mayor Moccia step up to try and make this case disappear?  If 20 other parents per year try the same thing, and their only punishment is disenrollment, then why make an example of this poor woman?  She needs help, not jail.

Crosland  stressed that he thought much of this was  about tight budgets, about cities trying to save money in tough times. I don’t agree.  Ms. McDowell got caught in the wrong bureaucracy.  A lie to the Housing Authority was not merely a lie on a school application form.  The Housing Authority has legal staff, and they have duties to report falsehoods when they see them.  Once reported to the prosecutor, the issue of judgment arose.  Therein lies the crux. This particular prosecutor chose to go ahead and prosecute this case.  Perhaps if she had done more research about similar incidents in the past, she would have handled it differently. She might simply have brought it to the school’s attention and a due process hearing would have begun, instead of a criminal prosecution.  Now Ms. Mieux’s back is up against the wall.  Politicians like Sen. Larry Cafero are supporting her. She is probably listening only to the people who tell her she is right.  That is what happens sometimes in life. 

 Ms. Mieux, I write this to you. Hear your inner voice and drop the case.  You are going down a road you can’t win.  Homeless parents don’t deserve incarceration, they deserve a hand up.

Norwalk Woman Arrested for Wrong School District?

Maya Angelou cautions to tell the truth, not the facts.  But I like to start with the facts- then maybe, if we are lucky, we can discern some truth.  What we know is that a Norwalk woman, Tonya McDowell, was arrested in Norwalk for lying about her residency so that her five year old son could attend the public schools in Norwalk. She was charged with felony grand larceny for “theft of services” to the tune of over $15,000 which is what Norwalk claims is the cost of one year’s worth of public education.  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/policereports/article/Bridgeport-woman-arrested-for-registering-son-in-1340009.php

What else do we know?  According to Richard Moccia, the Mayor of Norwalk, who appeared on The Lisa Wexler Show , Thursday, April 21, 2011, Ms. McDowell was also arrested for selling narcotics within the proscribed limit of a school.  Ms. McDowell has a criminal record which includes robbery. Ms. McDowell’s last known residency in Norwalk was when she registered at a homeless shelter in 2009.  According to Mayor Moccia, the original criminal complaint came from a private party who complained that she was being physically threatened by Ms. McDowell.  The boy’s father is currently incarcerated.   You can hear the entire interview yourself here:   Mayor Moccia Interview Lisa Wexler Show 4/21 .

So now that we know at least some of the facts, we need to ask: Are these facts relevant?  Do we care about the history or actions of the mother, when the issue really concerns the education of a young child.  Prof.  Boyce Watkins does not think so.  He thinks the mother’s criminal record is immaterial because he believes every child should have the right to receive a great public school education, and in his view, the mom was doing the right thing in lying in order to achieve this end.  Hear his interview on the show as well at  Whole Show April 21 including Prof Watkins .

Why does this case provoke such strong reactions?  Because of Francie Nolan, the heroine of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, whose mother washed floors,  sacrificed, and even lied, so that her daughter could get the education she deserved. We rooted for Francie, we cried when she received that diploma.

This case provokes strong reactions because we all know that where a kid goes to school can determine his or her entire future.  Because we all know that there is injustice, inequity, and too much disparity between our best public schools and our worst ones, often located within blocks of each other. Forget about blocks away from each other- they might as well be worlds away from each other. Because we all know that we have to do better, that no matter what the troubles of the parents, our children deserve better.

Here is the other hand of the story:  The other hand is that adults make choices and those choices have consequences. There are adults that work hard to break the cycle of poverty, drug abuse and crime so that their children can attend better schools, because those adults can afford to pay for them.  For adults  who are poor but who wish for a better life for their kids, there are many government programs and subsidies designed to give those kids a leg up.  Sometimes the kids themselves have to show the initiative and promise, other times it is as simple and as cruel as a winning lottery ticket.

I asked Prof Watkins a pointed question that he could not adequately answer: If you take the position that all kids deserve the best education, then why charge admission of over 50k per year at Syracuse University, where you yourself are employed? Why shouldn’t higher education be subject to the same standard as you would hold the lower grades, and how can you justify earning your salary at an institution which so obviously discriminates on the basis of one’s pocketbook? He couldn’t answer, and neither can we, without admitting something that all of us already know. The world isn’t perfect. Money still buys privileges, including that of a better education. Therefore, one needs to work hard and earn money.  Your other alternative? Don’t have kids you can’t afford to raise.

I can argue both points of view because I’ve seen real life examples of those hard-working adults, and yet I know too that no kid deserves bad parents. No kid should have to be resigned to a fate of hopelessness and poverty because of the unhappy accident of having parents who made poor choices.

What would I do here?  The answer is this particular case seems pretty simple, and I believe Mayor Moccia will do his best to achieve a just result.  On the charge of lying about a school district, an investigation should be held as to where the mother really, truly lives. If she has a residence in Bridgeport, as is being supposed, then her child should go to school there, but the state should be involved to supplement his education with head start, day care and other programs that will be useful to the child and enable the mom to have time during the day to work. The state should help her find a job because with that criminal record behind her, she is virtually unemployable otherwise.  If she is homeless, Mayor Moccia has said that Norwalk has a program to help her and her child enroll in school and job training programs.

On the criminal end? I would drop the charges of grand larceny.  Incarcerating the mom won’t help anyone, and besides, the mother did not do anything to deserve being  jailed. She did not commit an act of violence that would require her to be quarantined from society.  She lied on a school form.  Big deal.  She got caught. I can already hear the pleas of people saying that if she isn’t adequately punished, then what will stop other mothers from doing the same thing?   Nothing ever has and nothing ever will. Until we really address the inequities in our school districts, this kind of thing will keep happening.  It’s hard to blame a parent for trying.

Next stop? Do what is in the best interests of the family.  Maybe this little boy will be tomorrow’s Francie Nolan.

Cong. Jim Himes Willing to Ditch Subs? The Lisa Wexler Show

Today Congressman Jim Himes of the Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District joined us on the phone from DC where he said he was working round the clock to discuss over 600 amendments to the budget thus far.  Six hundred! Sounds like Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade: Into the Valley of Death Rode the  Six Hundred.  Only instead of the Valley of Death, it’s the Valley of Slash and Burn- close enough.

Democrat Himes gave Republican Speaker John Boehner kudos for being the first to inaugurate a budgetary process in which all the representatives have their say, as opposed to just a few committeemen.  Spreading the power around- democracy in action.

Gov.  Malloy sent around a press release today in which he implored Washington to sustain funding of the two Virginia submarines, so important to much of Connecticut’s economy.  So after Cong. Himes told us that he did not think the Obama budget went far enough to cut expenses, I asked him point blank if he supported the Virginia submarine contract.  Here is what Cong. Himes said:

“We can’t have any sacred cows, ..we need to be willing to gore our own oxes  (sic). … My answer, if I am going to be true, if somebody wants to discuss cutting defense products that are made in Connecticut that the Defense Department doesn’t want, I am going to have that conversation… Everything has to be on the table.”

Hear it for yourself in today’s A PieceA Lisa Mini-Podcast:

Lisa Wexler Show/ Cong. Himes Willing to Ditch Subs?

Sounds to me like Congressman Himes may be breaking with the rest of the Connecticut delegation on this one.  Congressmen Courtney,  Murphy, DeLauro, and Senators Lieberman and Blumenthal- where do you stand?

These are the tough calls.  Politicians pontificate daily about the horrid spending in D.C., but let’s face it – we in Connecticut cannot afford to lose one more job, not while our job growth rate is still stagnant.  The question is, why can’t we put people to work building the next generation of energy-efficient coal plants (if there is such a thing) and solar panels, instead of potentially obsolete submarines?

Meantime, today’s show also featured the wonderful Charles Grodin in the studio, and a quick, personal conversation with Sean Hannity.  You can download all at lisawexler.com.

Join us every single weekday for lively, informative conversation on the Lisa Wexler Show at AM1400WSTC and 1350WNLK from 4:00- 6:00 PM EST and on lisawexler.com & ustream.com to hear and see the show on the net.





Gov Malloy says No Tolls For Now, Except…

I had the chance to chat with Governor Dannel Malloy on the show today, Tuesday, February 8, 2011, as did our listeners.  Here are some of the highlights; you can hear the whole interview on the link below:

On liquor stores opening on Sundays, the Governor said, “I’m not spending time on this… If they pass a bill for Sunday sales, I will sign it.” In other words, the Governor has bigger things to worry about.

On tolls, my personal bugaboo, the Governor said  that “the regulatory process takes 4 to 5 years. …Don’t expect anything in my budget about tolls…Tolls are a terrible way to raise money for government.”  However, the Governor said he would consider tolls for specific road- building, like Route 11. As for the big highways, he would only consider tolls if the legislature passed a constitutional amendment requiring that the money collected go only for the specific purpose of maintaining the roads.

Let’s face it , I was relieved.  Nothing makes me angrier than waiting in line for tolls, EZ pass or not.  I just hate them.

In general, Governor Malloy wants people to know that “Connecticut government a year from now will look very different from today.” He spoke about the consolidation of agencies, and immediately after the interview, I received a press release that the Governor is consolidating the Environmental and Energy agencies.   He vowed “not to borrow any money to cover operating expenses” but admitted that “there will effectively be a very large spending cut.”

On the subject of raising taxes, Governor Malloy played coy.  He refused to name specifics, reminding us that his budget will be available next week for all to see and discuss.  When I asked if he would cut our income tax to create a pro-business environment, he said ” I don’t think that’s a terrible idea….[but] does that mean we should let half our populations out of prison, close half our hospitals…?” Stating that “the biggest driver is the increase in medicaid- health care costs”, the Governor offered no solution to this dilemma.  “Do I think Connecticut made some very bad deals? Yes I do”, said Malloy.

The Governor concluded, ” I want people to know that the rules are changing.”

Since we are all in this game, let’s hope we can play by his rules.

The Lisa Wexler show is heard Mondays-Fridays on AM 1400 WSTC/ 1350 WNLK from 4-6 PM EST.  Also live streamed on lisawexler.com and ustream.com.  A PieceA Lisa podcasts are uploaded daily as well. The following link is to the entire interview.