‘Anatomy of a Crime’

Melinda Tuhus, Sept. 11, 2023 blog

We four grannies deployed before dawn on a road near the Mountain Valley pipeline right-of-way across the Green-brier River, each with one foot inside a concrete barrel, sitting in our famous rocking chairs, holding a banner that said Rocking Chair Rebellion. Ahead of us was another rocker holding a sign in bold red letters, STOP ELDERS AHEAD, so cars coming our way would have plenty of notice to stop. Another two women locked down to the drill that was preparing to bore under the Greenbrier – a beautiful river I’d walked along last year as part of the Walk for Appalachia’s Future that, at 162 miles, is the longest undammed river in the eastern U.S….

We stopped work for a total of five hours, and were charged with trespassing, obstructing an officer, and violating West Virginia’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, which had just gone into effect. All misdemeanors, although the cops said we’d be charged with domestic terrorism felonies if we didn’t leave, and that was a possibility. These new laws in many states around the country are meant to intimidate folks from taking action to protect the real critical infrastructure – the pure, delicious drinking water, clean air and beautiful mountains. The MVP is being built across the steepest terrain in the country, threatening landslides. Thanks to the blog Heated, I learned that a peer-reviewed study in 2021 found that the MVP has the highest landslide risk out of all the long-distance gas pipelines in the U.S. ​
And then there is the karst, which makes the river one of the worst possible places to drill. …This green “moonscape” of collapsed craters is a unique problem for development as … it is impossible to tell how large a cave system is by looking at the surface, and developers often build their structures too close to the open spaces beneath the ground.

There’s also a big problem with the coating on the pipes having deteriorated after they sat in the sun for five or six years. Best practice is to recoat them at the factory, but the company is just burying some of them without recoating at all, increasing the risk of ruptures and explosions.

So, building the pipeline is the real crime, and could only finally go forward when the US Congress, at Sen. Joe Manchin’s bidding (with full backing from Sen. Chuck Schumer and President Biden), took the matter out of the hands of the Fourth Circuit appeals court (which had consistently ruled against the MVP, for its many violations). Then the US Supreme Court approved all the remaining permits…

What is the role of nonviolent direct action (NVDA) in campaigns to stop the fossil infrastructure that’s killing the planet and ruining the lives and livelihoods of local residents? … One local woman told me we have to keep disrupting because we can’t just let it be built without doing everything in our power, nonviolently, to stop it. … Sitting on the wide porch, looking out over the beautiful mountains, the fog and the nighttime stars, I felt very much a part of a wonderful community where people love and support each other. Also, I haven’t laughed so much maybe ever. It gives us the strength to go on.

Read the article in its entirety: www.melindatuhus.net/blog.

Preserving Kensington Playground: Why it Matters

Jane Comins, Friends of Kensington Playground

Kensington Playground will continue to be a playground! Thanks to everyone who supported this effort. Our focus now shifts to making it a great space for the children of Dwight. This summer we planted shrubs and perennials in the park with our URI [Urban Resources Initiative] intern. We are surveying community members to set the agenda for major improvements to the playground. We continue to host family-friendly events in the park, such as our upcoming Pumpkin Festival on October 28. We will also continue our campaign to make sure the City has at least one fully equipped public playground in every neighborhood, as more than half of New Haven neighborhoods are missing equipment.

Please join Friends of Kensington Playground on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, from 6-8 p.m., at St. Paul’s UAME Church’s Fellowship Hall, 150 Dwight Street, for a conversation about “Preserving Kensington Playground: Why It Matters.” Speakers for the event include Attorney Keith Ainsworth, Dr. Robert Dubrow of the Yale School of Public Health, and Walker Holmes of The Trust for Public Land. Look for details of our event in the calendar.

If you can, please help us retire our debt for the cost of the lawsuit. You can learn more about our efforts here:  https://www.kensingtonplayground.org.

The Freedom to Read, Speak and Dissent Is Essential to Our Democracy. Take action 4-5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29

If you’re concerned about censorship and the curtailment of the free flow of ideas in the United States, please join this action:

Friday Sept. 29, 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Yale’s Sterling Library, The New Haven Free Public Library and Yale’s Beinecke Plaza

Current threats to libraries and librarians are a sign of democracy in peril. This project is a participatory expression of the Freedom to Read statement originally written by and for librarians and publishers in 1953 and updated in 2023. This project is a rally presenting selected fragments from this timely manifesto.

The event will begin in the vicinity of Yale’s main Sterling Memorial Library, continue to the New Haven Free Public Library and culminate at the Beinecke Library, to coincide with a reception for the exhibition Art, Protest, and the Archives, a collection of artifacts documenting myriad voices of dissent throughout the past century.

4 p.m. Participants congregate at the Women’s Table fountain near the entrance to Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library (120 High St.), pick up signs, each containing a word from selected fragments of the Freedom to Read statement. These words combine to make short statements about censorship, free expression and Democracy.

Participants display their signs in a march — led by local drummers — from Sterling Library to the New Haven Free Public Library (133 Elm Street) and finally to Beinecke Plaza (119 Wall Street).

At the Public Library and then at Beinecke Plaza, participants compose their choice of phrases using the texts provided.

5 p.m. With a drum roll, the participants use supplied prompts to compose the actual phrases from the Freedom to Read statement. The event ends with participants silently encircling Beinecke Library, then placing the signs as readable texts against the Noguchi wall.

Over the next few days, the public can re-order and alter the placards in whatever manner they choose, thereby creating new messages from new voices; an exercise in free speech.

5:30 p.m. Event ends; Beinecke reception continues until 7 p.m.

Conceived by Class Action Collective

Pamela Hovland [email protected]
David Comberg [email protected]
Tom Starr [email protected]
Jackie Thaw [email protected]

Park Saved; New Housing Plan Dropped

Thomas Breen, NH Independent, June 15, 2023

A Boston-based affordable housing developer (TCB) has dropped its plans to buy the Kensington Street public park between Chapel Street and Edgewood Avenue in the Dwight neighborhood to construct 15 new apartments in its stead — prompting the Elicker administration to move to end a related years-long lawsuit on the grounds that the contested public greenspace will remain public and green.

On Thursday afternoon, city spokesperson Lenny Speiller announced via an email press release that The Community Builders (TCB) no longer plans to build 15 new income-restricted apartments atop the Kensington Playground site.

Kishaun Jenkins celebrating “the coolest spot to be.” (Thomas Breen photo)

The upshot: After nearly three years of political and legal debates on the matter, Kensington Playground will remain a public park. TCB will not be building any new apartments atop the site. And the city will not be selling the park to any other developer.

Patricia Wallace, a long-time Dwight neighbor and the lead plaintiff in the state lawsuit, welcomed the news of TCB dropping its park-to-housing development plans and of the city moving to end the court case.”Housing can be built on other City-owned land in neighborhoods with ample green space.”

Wallace’s group, https://www.kensingtonplayground.org, is still raising money to cover the legal costs of pursuing the lawsuit, and also plans to fundraise for a new playscape to be built at the park.

Local attorney Keith Ainsworth, who has represented the friends group in its years-long legal challenge to the city’s sale of the park to TCB, also heralded this latest turn in the case as ending up with the right result.

Read the article in its entirety: https://www.newhavenindependent.org/article/park_saved_new_housing_plan_dropped

Director of Christian Community Action Praises work-ready program STRIVE

Excerpts from Rev. Grubb’s speech at recent STRIVE (a work-ready program) Graduation, of which three CCA residents took part.

I’m here because I believe in the opportunity that all of us have to grow, to develop, to find purpose, to try new things, to be excited about life and to think about that better future. Each and every day, all of us make choices—large ones and small ones. Small ones like “What am I going to have for breakfast?” Large ones, “Ok. I’m going someplace special today so I need to dress up.” Significant choices and even insignificant choices. Life-changing and life-sustain-ing. Sometimes, those choices are temporary—like a living situation—and sometimes they are permanent. Sometimes, the choices are “the best under the circumstances.” Sometimes positive. And sometimes, not so positive. We even make choices that are based on selfishness. And sometimes, particularly parents, make choices that are selfless, for the betterment of their children, their growth and development, opportunities and their best future.

left to right: Sandra Plessinger, Dir. of Workforce Development CRI; Dawn Staton, STRIVE Trainer CRI; Tirra Jones, Graduate; Wanda Lary, Sr. VP of Workforce Development CRI; Rev. Bonita Grubbs

Aspirations—all of us have them. But unless they move to action, they are simply things in the cloud. Our choices are [not only] to live…but to be alive. You know what it means to feel alive—you’ve got purpose and meaning…To work and to prepare for work—in many ways that is what the STRIVE Program has attempted to do and will continue to do.

To be a person of hope even in the midst of challenges. Because all of us have our ups and downs in life. But, to hold on to that hope is critical to taking any future step, whatever that step may be, especially one that is in a positive direction. To play for fun…but also, to play to win—that takes determination. To work to win. That requires aspiration—you gotta want it. If there’s something right in front of you that you really want and it’s yours to possess, the only required [thing] is the action to receive that which is in front of you.

And all of the graduates today and graduates of STRIVE in the past—who have been able to make it through to the end—had a plan, had a purpose, had a desire, and yes, were encouraged to take the step, knowing full well that you are not walking this road alone. The evidence for me is here today.

Local Bus Riders Express Frustration with Return of Bus Fares

by Megan Vaz and Yash Roy, Yale Daily News, April 6, 2023

Connecticut buses bore a new message for riders this weekend: “Fares restart April 1.” After almost one year of free public buses across the state due to a surge in oil prices and record-high costs of living, travelers across the state had to resume paying fares for buses on Saturday. Connecticut legislation to extend free public bus fares stalled as New Haven State Rep. Roland Lemar, who co-chairs the state legislature’s transportation committee, argued the state did not have enough funding to pay for the program.

Proponents of extending the state’s free public bus system have argued that the program helped alleviate cost-of-living worries as Connecticut residents have faced inflation of six to eight percent, an average rent increase of roughly 20 percent and stagnating wages. Moreover, local bus riders have expressed frustration over the state’s decision to deprioritize accessibility while managing one of its largest budget reserves in state history.

“Statistically, this also translates to disproportionately punishing poor people, women, young people, seniors, and Black and brown people,” said local bus rider Stasia Brew-Kaczynski. “We need authority figures to stop thinking with car-brains and start looking for every opportunity to reward and incentivize people moving without private cars and trucks.”

Now that the fare-free program has expired, most travelers must pay $6.40 for an All-day 2 Zones pass, with prices increasing for each additional zone. Riders may also purchase 31-day passes, which range from $108.80 to $204 based on the traveling zone range…

According to the nonprofit Datahaven’s 2023 Community Wellbeing Index for the greater New Haven area, about 34 percent of local adults making under $30,000 per year experience “transportation insecurity” without reliable access to a vehicle. Black and Latino households are far more likely to lack access to a personal vehicle, especially in those without any employed adults.

Some bus riders told the News that they are experiencing homelessness and heavily relied on the fare-free program for access to food, job opportunities and medical appointments.

King Latif Manns, an unhoused person who rode the bus regularly before fares were announced, told the News that he thinks fares will hurt those of lower socioeconomic classes most. Latif Manns has stopped riding the bus since the change.

“I feel they should think about how many people they were helping and how many people suffer at the fact that the buses started faring people,” Latif Manns said. “It’s tax money, but also, we, the people, are the taxpayers.”

[Article can be read in its entirety at  yaledailynews.com/blog/2023/04/06/local-bus-riders-express-frustration-with-return-of-bus-fares/]

Tax Day Lesson Takes On Austerity

by Laura Glesby, New Haven Independent, April 18, 2023

Connecticut is the wealthiest state in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Wilbur Cross junior Dave John Cruz-Bustamante told a crowd of educators gathered across the street from their school. “But you wouldn’t know that from looking at our desks.”

On Tax Day Tuesday afternoon, Cruz-Bustamante joined 50 educators and allies at a rally to call on the state to tax the rich — and pour more funding into public education. The rally featured unions representing New Haven teachers (New Haven Federation of Teachers, or NHFT), paraprofessional educators (AFSCME Local 3429), and community and state college professors (AFT Local 1942 and SEIU Local 1973) — all of whom called for the state to address aging facilities, low wages, and rising tuition across public education institutions in the state.

Ahead of the deadline to file taxes, ​“I scraped together my pennies to pay what I owed,” said Eric Maroney, a Gateway Community College English professor and union leader, as attendees began to gather. ​“I don’t mind paying my share, but I’d like it go to toward helping people in my community.”…
NHFT President Leslie Blatteau and 4C’s faculty union President Seth Freeman offered a Tax Day ​“lesson” to rally supporters.

They started with two vocabulary words: ​“austerity,” or severe restraint in government spending, and ​“equity,” or fair and just opportunities. After Blatteau and Freeman defined the terms, the speakers who followed illustrated their own experiences of what austerity looks like.

For Cruz-Bustamante, an elected student representative on the Board of Education, ​“austerity” means leaky roofs and broken bathroom locks in the Wilbur Cross building.

For Wilbur Cross teacher and counselor Mia Comulada, it means overcrowded classrooms and growing teacher burnout.

For paras [paraprofessional educators] union President Hyclis Williams, austerity means ​“low-wage exploitation” of her colleagues, many of whom live below the federal poverty line….

At Wilbur Cross, Comulada said, an influx of immigrants from Central America and the Middle East has led to more English language learners and more students recovering from stress and trauma.

Meanwhile, at Southern, Bonjo described, more than half of students are people of color, many are parents, and a large number are the first in their families to attend college. And at Gateway, ​“many of our students work two, three jobs,” said Maroney….

In a state as wealthy as Connecticut, Cruz-Bustamante said, ​“We deserve schools that look like palaces.”

[Article can be read in its entirety at https://www.newhavenindependent.org/article/in_tax_day_lesson_educators_call_for_funding]

Community-Unity Page – Our Readers’ Voices

The PAR Newsletter has always seen as its mission the bringing together of activists by sharing reports of the events and ongoing work of groups to build a progressive community.

We recognize that within activist circles and the broader population, many complex issues can sometimes divide us and require ongoing dialogue.

In this spirit we would like to present a new feature in the PAR newsletter that will act as a place to express differing views on controversial issues.

We would like this to be a page where groups and individuals focus specifically on their own positions on these issues, points of possible unity with others, and not as a place to criticize other groups or individuals with whom they disagree.

How are YOU analyzing various current events? Articles should be between 200 and 350 words and sent to [email protected]. Discussions of such issues may help people find common ground and programmatic unity to further the causes dear to our hearts or at least clarify differences.

We hope our readers will take up this offer and present their analyses in our newsletter. The PAR Planning Committee looks forward to providing a forum for all to sort out controversial issues and build a stronger progressive community.

Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide Holds Press Conference; Members Testify at Public Hearing Feb. 27

by Joan Cavanagh, Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide

Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide (PAMAS) held a press conference at the Legislative Office Building on Feb. 27, just before a public hearing before the Public Health Committee to discuss this year’s assisted suicide bill, SB 1076. Co-sponsored by Second Thoughts Connecticut, speakers included Cathy Ludlum, a Second Thoughts leader; Dr. Diane Meier, Director Emerita and Strategic Advisor at the Center to Advance Palliative Care and Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and PAMAS members Nancy Alisberg, Elaine Kolb, and Joan Cavanagh. (You can watch the press conference at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgO544V5M6k, thanks to Stanley Heller, who videotaped it.)

Six PAMAS members also testified against the bill at the public hearing, including Alisberg and Cavanagh as well as Deborah Elkin, Paula Panzarella, Monica McGovern, and Frank Panzarella.

The Public Health Committee, unfortunately, passed the bill at a meeting where none of the legislators who spoke even mentioned the many objections raised not only by PAMAS but also by disability justice activists. We expect that it will now be taken up by the Judiciary Committee. Please, write to members of that committee immediately and let them know that you oppose it, even if you are not in their district.

(The entire list of members can be found at cga.ct.gov/jud). If you can’t write to all of them, at least be sure to write to your own representatives and senators.

For more info, email [email protected].

Gateway Protesters To State: Don’t Hike Our Tuition

by Yash Roy, New Haven Independent, Jan. 27, 2023

Gateway Community College student and Board of Regents student representative Alina Wheeler lives on the edge — of affording to be able to stay in school, of being “just poor enough” to have her healthcare covered as she works towards graduating.

She and fellow community college students in similarly pre-carious spots are now worried they might not be able to finish out their educations thanks to a potential increase in tuition that could be coming down the pike now that the CT State Colleges and Universities Board of Regents has announced plans to raise tuition at state universities by 3 percent.

Wheeler and roughly 50 students, professors, high school teachers, community members and SEIU union organizers voiced those fears Thursday night [Jan. 26] during a protest outside of Gateway Community College’s campus downtown on Church Street.

They called on the Board of Regents to stop tuition hikes, and they criticized state government for failing to tax its wealthiest residents fairly, all while many students of color and from marginalized backgrounds struggle to attend college. The protesters also called for the state to put together a long-term plan to make state colleges free and increase investment in public education…

Adilene Rodriguez, a recent graduate of Hillhouse High School, spoke [at the protest]. Rodriguez said she hopes to study criminology. She said she’ll likely have to go to work instead. As an immigrant, she said she is not eligible for federal financial aid. She said both of her parents work two jobs and 80-hour weeks.

“I don’t even know if I want to go to college anymore even though I’ve dreamed of studying criminology since I came here from Mexico,” Rodriguez said. “My family just can’t afford it and I have younger siblings who also want to go to college.”

Rodriguez called on the state to lower costs and make education accessible to students like her.

[Article can be read in its entirety at newhavenindependent.org/article/protestors_demand]

Nonprofit Organization Needs Help to Continue

Are you interested in helping rebuild the board of a New Haven-based 501(c)(3) that has an activist history of working with and helping a variety of local progressive groups? Five or more people are needed who are willing to commit to monthly meetings, take on organizational and administrative tasks (i.e., prepare agendas, chair meetings, plan activities, etc.), review bylaws and prepare for membership meetings to elect board members. Individuals and organizational representatives welcome – one representative per organization. Interested? Reply by Wednesday, March 1. For more information, call Paula at 203-562-2798.

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