Monday, October 20, 2008

Enfield's David (Mary Ann Turner) Challenges Goliath (Chris Dodd); Goliath Blinks

The town of Enfield, Connecticut has a problem on its hands, the nature of which is the deterioration of the Thompsonville section, once a thriving center of business and social activity.

A number of factors, including an interstate cutting right through the town, and malls that accompanied urban sprawl, combined to isolate the T'ville section as it is called locally. Ultimately parts of the neighborhood declined as businesses left, and some residents followed.

About a quarter of the housing stock in T'ville is owner-occupied, while much of the rest is owned by absentee landlords. The absentee landlords are bearing much of the blame for not keeping their properties up to par.

The housing stock began to decline, and many transient residents replaced those who had left. Drug and alcohol calls soon began clogging the increasingly busy police logs.

The Republicans want a crack-down on crime, increased police presence, and pressure on absentee landlords to clean up and improve their properties. Drug activity and escalating violence that led to a murder in T'ville this summer bolsters their position.

State and federal elections are only weeks away and the local Democrats, who lost control of everything locally last year, are trying to keep two incumbents - Kathy Tallarita and Karen Jarmoc - in the state Assembly. As Democrats, both are members of the majority party that rules what is derisively called Connecticut's Do-Nothing Legislature in Hartford.

Tallarita, a member of the local political machine, whose brother was the mayor until last November, represents the T'ville section.

Tallarita's brother, the ex-mayor, is now on the sidelines - but is a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed by a former supporter with whom the mayor had a public confrontation in 2007. Tallarita, the ex-mayor, reportedly is trying to convince the current Town Council, dominated by the Republicans who swept last year's municipal elections, to pay his legal fees.

To help their incumbents' campaigns, which have focused on bringing more services to T'ville, and to draw attention away from issues that might make voters question their priorities, Enfield's Democrat leaders decided it was time to call in some big time help. Big time as in US Senator Christopher Dodd.

With all that is rumbling around in the background, a nice visit from Dodd seemed like just the thing to focus attention away from years of failed Democratic policies.

Someone should have run that little scenario past local Republican Town Chairwoman Mary Ann Turner first. When Turner discovered that local Democrats had invited Dodd to do a "walking tour" of T'ville last Friday and make a pitch for increased federal services and funding, she went into overdrive.

"Not in my town," was Turner's response, implied if not spoken. She was referring primarily to Dodd's hike.

Turner immediately set about organizing a sidewalk protest to let the good senator know that not everyone in town thinks increased federal intervention, and the resultant increased taxes, are always a good thing.

Besides, Dodd had snubbed the Enfield Town Council delegation in March when council members from both parties traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with government leaders. He had promised to get back to them and reschedule a meeting, but seven months have gone by and Enfield is still waiting by the phone.

Nonetheless, even though Dodd won't meet with the new mayor, Republican Scott Kaupin, he had no problem finding time to go walking in T'ville with a small contingent of Democrats. Or, so he thought.

Long before Dodd arrived, Turner and a band of sign carrying Republicans took up their positions in a parking lot where Dodd was to arrive. That didn't set well with the Dems who confronted Turner, and ordered her out of the area, threatening police action if she didn't leave.

I think the phrase "waving a red flag in front of a bull," might be appropriate here. Being threatened with arrest for exercising her constitutional rights to assembly, free speech and redress of grievances didn't exactly carry the kind of weight the Dems had hoped.

"Go ahead, call the cops," was essentially what she said in response.

After the local efforts were spent, it was time for a Dodd staffer to approach Turner. Sweet talk isn't exactly the best approach with her either.

Not only did Turner maintain her position on the issues with T'ville, she let the staff member know in no uncertain terms how she felt about a US Senator deliberately snubbing the mayor.

After that little discussion, the Dems told Turner they were cancelling the walkabout, and would just meet with Dodd indoors.

Next it was George Colli IV, a Suffield Democrat who is running for the state Senate seat that covers the area, against incumbent Republican John Kissel. Apparently Colli, who has a few problems of his own, figured a few photos with Dodd would be just what the doctor ordered to give his campaign a high-profile backer.

That didn't work either. Colli ended up just one more Democrat who tried and failed.

Ultimately, it was the man himself, Christopher Dodd, who approached Turner to find out just what it was she was protesting.

Turner wasted no time in letting Dodd know she was protesting HIM, and all who were aligning themselves with him, especially with the Countrywide mortgage deal, and the Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae situation, and Dodd taking off for the cornfields of Iowa during the presidential primaries instead of staying home representing his state. That was all in one breath too.

When the dust was settled, Dodd blinked and didn't do the T'ville walkabout. He addressed the Dems indoors, and left for wherever Senators go at the end of a long day. But not before promising Turner that he would call Enfield Town Hall no later than noon on Monday to actually schedule a meeting with town leaders.

Monday noon came, and Monday noon went. No Dodd call.

Turner was right back on the phone to his office demanding to know why Dodd had snubbed her town again!

Finally a call was made.

"Have your peeps call my peeps," was the way the conversation went, or something like that.

In the end, Dodd blinked, Turner did not, but this story really doesn't have a happy ending, yet.

Dodd finally promised to come meet with Enfield officials, but not until after the November elections.

Turner says she isn't holding her breath.


George Colli said...

Mr. Winter,
Interesting article, but not completely accurate. Sen. Dodd never promised to call by noon. He promised to call Monday and he followed through with that promise. He spoke to Matt Coppler, Enfield's Town Manager, on Monday and Mayor Kaupin on Tuesday.

This event was about the future of Thompsonville and the need for Federal, State and Local cooperation to bring the much needed railway into town. It is an issue I have spoken about extensively and have listened to residents on both sides of the political aisle. Feel free to make this into a partisan issue, but I am sure the residents of Thompsonville are yearning for it to get done free from political bickering.

The conversation I had with Mrs. Turner and that the Senator had was respectful and in the end productive. The Senator was running about 45 minutes late because of a prior engagement and stayed 30 minutes longer than planned. While the four people who showed up to hold signs in protest may wish to believe the walk was cancelled because of their actions, it simply was not. We all respected their right to free speech and to demonstrate. The Senator was more than gracious to take about 15 minutes to speak with Mrs. Turner and her fellow RTC members and to listen to their concerns. All and all it was a great day for Thompsonville and for all parties involved.

George Colli

Anonymous said...

It's about time someone confronted Dodd on his inapproprite (to put it midly) behavior. It's time for a change. Next election, vote him out. He's not serviing CT nor the USA very well. As many of the Democrats, he's self serving. Agnes Mercik

Anonymous said...

Colli may think it is good to cozy up to Dodd, but it makes me wonder what we'll get if he is elected. Another Dodd, but in Hartford?

Why does Colli's campaign need Dodd's help anyway? If Colli wants to do something about Thompsonville he can start by telling Dodd to stay home. Typical politician.

Mary Ann Turner said...

Mr. Winter

I was the one who actually talked to Senator Dodd and yes, he did say he was going to call by noon. Interesting Mr. Colli seems to know so much ... I don't remember him standing next to me with the Senator and his aid, Ryan

The walk was cancelled because of a conversation I had with his aide, Lee Reynolds, and explained the Senator's lack of respect to the Town Council for last seven months. Ms. Reynolds made a phone call and came to me and said "the walk is cancelled and you can take the credit."

The Senator did promise to call by Noon and at 1:45 no call was made and I called Lee Reynolds and spoke to her. By 2:15 the call was made, but only to agree to have the aide meet with the Town Council. I do believe even that
has changed and the Senator may just make an appearance in Enfield the later part of November, 2008.

Dodd is the reason the United States of America is in the financial distress we are in. It is Dodd who didn't stop he "giving away" of bad loans to people who couldn't pay them back.

It is Dodd who picked up his paycheck, but forgot to do the work of the people. It is Dodd who should be investigated and take the punishment he
has caused this country to suffer.

And Mr. Colli, I'll take my band of commandos any day when it comes to fighting the wrongs of this country. I'm not one to wait until the tanks roll in to say, "oh we should have done something."

Mr. Colli, as for the Senator being gracious, he was just doing his job. He is suppose to talk to everyone, even the ones who don't agree with him.

The future of Thompsonville is in the hands of the people of Thompsonville and Enfield. The town is on the right track with the funding sources the
Economic Development Office is making available.

It is people like Sue and Kelly who decide enough is enough and step up and be counted ... not politicans who take the credit.

I'll stand with the Kelly and the Sues not some "blow hard" Senator who will promise the world and never deliver ... even a phone call was too tough.

Mr. Colli, my word means something and if I say I'll do something, I do it!

Warm regards,
Mary Ann R. Turner

Mr. Winter,

This is a very interesting article. The future of Thompsonville is very important to the people of Enfield. It's true that T'Ville was once a thriving business area and a great place to live, but many big businesses left (i.e. Bigelow Carpet Factory) and took the sparkle of the area with it. But, the question is, "how are we going to better the Thompsonville community?"
As a citizen of Enfield, who is neither a Democrat or a Republican, I am concerned with the all of the bickering and do nothing politics of Enfield. These political temperments are just the things I teach my history students not to get involved in. This "I'm right, your wrong" - attitude and this "My party is productive, and your party is incompitent- mentality MUST END!
Whatever issues you and the people in this town have with Sen. Dodd need to be put aside for the greater good of the community. For years, the good people of Enfield have been trying to work with their town politicians to revive the sparkle that Thompsonville once had, but as any politician or active member in the Enfield community would know, is the fact that we don't have the financial means to give this section of town the face lift it deserves.
One reason why Sen. Dodd agreed to do the walk through Thompsonville wasn't just to fullfil his supporting duty for his fellow democratic politicians in town, but was mainly to see what he could do to help. As I assume you know, there have been recent talks to build a railway with a station in the heart of Thompsonville. If politicians really cared about reviving this town they would realize this would be great for the area of Thompsonville as it would become an attractive location for businesses because of its easy access-location.
So, instead of welcoming a politician that could provide us with the best possible help to get things like this done in our town, we embarrass him so much that he wants to leave? And, then we applaud ourselves for it? Is that how we solve issues in this town? Is that how we are going to make Thompsonville a better place? As an Independent, I am fed up with this attitude our town politicians have when it comes to getting things done. Let this be a wake up call to all town Republicans and town Democrats in office - STOP THE PARTISAN BICKERING AND HELP US!
Thank you for letting me voice my opinion. I respect all writer's opinions, and we should challenge each other in the most productive way possible. So, Mr. Winter, keep on writing, and we'll keep on blogging!

Tony Allegro

Anonymous said...

Great story and a great job done by Mary Ann Turner. I just wish I could have been there to support her.
I also want to know why Colli said Dodd was "gracious" to talk to Mrs. Turner isn't it his job to listen and talk to everyone in the state of CT not just the Dems? Especially when they have a complaint? When did it become a burden for a Senator to listen to the people? Maybe if Dodd was more in touch with the people of this state and in doing his job as the head of the Banking Commission there wouldn't be a need for $700 billion bailout.

Joe the Plumber said...

Why does Chris Dodd get a free pass on taking gifts from companies that he's supposed to be regulating? Are we supposed to ignore his role in creating the financial crisis?

Look at what's going on in the economy with people losing money in their 401k's. If Dodd did his job, we would not be having the problems that we're facing now.

Let me see if I can address some of your concerns.

1. To dismiss our protest as the product of partisan bickering misses the point. Dodd has engaged in behavior that is highly unethical. His blind adherence to liberal shibboleths has contributed greatly to the creation of the housing bubble and subsequent financial panic. This asset bubble and correction has destroyed people's retirement savings and is the primary reason for mounting unemployment.

2. You are glib to say, "Whatever issues you and the people in this town have with Sen. Dodd need to be put aside for the greater good of the community." Good intentions don't put food on the table and pay the mortgage. Go repeat the quoted statement to the people who have gotten pink slips and see what their response is. They have every reason to be upset with the cowardly, craven behavior that greatly contributed to this crisis.

We are fighting for the folks who have lost jobs and lost retirement income because of Dodd's liberal dogamatism

3. Dodd's special mortgage deal from Countrywide Mortgage was highly unethical… quite frankly it was on par with Rowland's hot tub. Dodd got a deal unavailable to the general public because he holds office as a U.S. Senator. Both in the public and private sectors, it is unethical to accept deals that are unavailable to the general public or your employees as a group.

I would add that the Enfield Democrats lined up the wrong tour for Dodd. As a preparation for permanent residence, they should have taken him down Shaker Road to tour the prison cells at Carl Robinson Correctional Institute.

Some of your comments imply that Republicans stand in the way of progress in Thompsonville. I take umbrage with that comment, because historical evidence does not substantiate such an assertion. The late Mary Lou Strom was a driving force behind efforts to improve policing and revitalize Thompsonville. Under the chairmanship of both Bill Lee and now Darrin Lamore the Enfield Revitalization Strategy Commitee have worked to foster a "Main Street" approach to revitalization. The appropriation for the multi-modal transit center was secured by Rep. Rob Simmons. Personally, I sit on the Board of Directors of the Greater Hartford Transit District -- the agency which received that appropriation --- and will construct and manage the multi-modal transit center.

"The steam that blew the whistle never turned the wheel."

4. Regarding the assertion that Dodd was there to help Thompsonville, that assertion was disputed by his aide Lee Reynolds, who admitted that he was there because it was election season.

Dodd was there to secure votes for democratic candidates, not perform constituent services. If this was a non-partisan event, why were the mayor and town manager absent? Surely, they would be well eqipped to discuss Thompsonville's needs with the state.

5. Dodd has been in Congress since 1980. Why has it taken him 28 years to discover the existence and needs of Thompsonville?

It's quite the coincidence that Dodd realizes that it's time see Thompsonville when he's in state to eleectioneer.

If you ask me, this is yet more election-year grandstanding from democrat pols.

Mary Ann Turner stoppd the democrats from using Thompsonville as a platform for demagogic electioneering.

6. Dodd doesn't have a chance to secure funding for T-Ville. By the time it gets through the bureaucratic oops, he'll be in jail.

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