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Once is Never Enough . . . Or . . . Another Day, Another SEEC Filing April 28, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 9:38 pm

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There I was, minding my own business, strolling across the street to get my mail and wondering how I was going to manage to pay any more bills when . . . Surprise! Surprise! There in my box was another complimentary copy of our illustrious new hometown news source, the Bethany Beacon! How could one small town be so lucky as to get a double dose of so much toxic venom in one month?

I checked the front page to see if this one was clearly labeled with the organization and the treasurer paying for the campaign literature and was not disappointed – Nope! It was, yet again, printed on the very back page, on the bottom, in tiny point lettering. It was, yet again, illegally impersonating a real newspaper (and yet again I have already printed out the paperwork to file my second complaint with the State Election Enforcement Commission.) If there is one thing we have all learned from this election, it is NOT illegal to lie in campaign literature, but it is illegal to try to camouflage said campaign propaganda by not labeling it thusly.

I couldn’t bring myself to read the entire piece of “literature” because I find the nastiness of the tone so upsetting. I’ve lived in Bethany for 15 years and have never seen anything like this. Hell, as a journalist I’ve covered elections in Milford, Stratford, Hamden . . . seriously politically contentious cities . . . and I’ve never experienced anything quite as vicious as what the Republicans are doing this election season. What ever happened to running on your merits? Your accomplishments? Your qualifications? Your ability to trash your opposition with nasty half-truths? Oh wait, they’ve got that covered . . .

Despite my reservations I perused the front page during lunch (again, a front page devoid of the appropriate identifying information) and almost choked on my spinach salad.

The headline read, “Working to Obtain Transparency of Town Finances.” Did they really want to go there? Once again they are trying to accuse First Selectman Derrylyn Gorski of hiding, embezzling, misappropriating, or whatever, state grant money awarded to us to build a highly anticipated community center that a bipartisan committee has devoted THOUSANDS OF HOURS to bring to our town. A completed investigation cleared Gorski of any wrongdoing and firmly stated that she didn’t have to give the Republican selectmen or the town treasurer access to any of it. Which was cool, because here’s what was happening behind the scenes and the reason the funds had to be kept separate.

At a BOS (Board of Selectmen) meeting, the Republican selectmen stated that they had no intention of ever signing any checks made out to any vendors involved with the airport hangar project, of which they do not approve. They then followed up with an email to Gorski emphasizing their intentions. Because for some reason they don’t feel we deserve a community center (you know, like every other town has) they planned to stall the entire project. By then, they had already refused to sign other checks and held up payments to town vendors, causing quite a bit of embarrassment for everyone; they weren’t bluffing. The selectmen had proven more than capable of holding town money hostage.

At this point, you may still be wondering why our first selectman didn’t race right down to the bank to give away signing privileges to anyone who wanted them . . . but I hope not . . .

I’m not sure why the Republican selectmen take such issue with Bethany having nice things that are paid for by grant money. Whatever party you belong to, the truth is we have a first selectman who knows how to write for grants and get them. Grants are FREE MONEY. The Republicans keep making snarky comments about Gorski’s “pet projects,” such as the playground and the hangar. Someone has yet to explain to me . . . why the hell don’t Bethany resident deserve these things, paid for with FREE MONEY, maintained by the public works department whose job it is to do this, anyways (it’s not like they had to hire any extra people to babysit a playground 24-7.) We use the new pavilion! We use the playground! We use Lakeview Lodge! And we will use the community center when it’s done!

But here’s what really irks me – I know, you thought I’d already spewed that out . . . but . . . no . . .

The residents of Bethany voted to approve the hangar project at a town meeting, with the stipulation that it not be started until the majority of the funding was in place. The STEAP grants kept coming, the funding was complete, THE STATE HAD ALREADY APPROVED THE PROJECT AND THE VENDORS. The facility was going to be built at no cost to the town . . . and despite the will of the townspeople and the state which funded the project, the Republican selectmen were going to deny payments . . . LEGAL AND NECESSARY PAYMENTS . . . to the vendors doing this service for our town. I mean, it’s not like anyone was going to sue the crap out of Bethany to get their money and cost us even more than what the referendum did (see previous blogs.)

I dunno. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m a little overly sensitive in my menopausal years. But if you want to get snarky about transparency with the town’s money, well, there’s  a little more transparency for you!

But enough of this – I’m going to feed my horses and then take a walk up to the airport grounds and admire our new community center as it grows before our very eyes. I voted for it, you know . . . oh yeah, all of us did . . .

 

New Town “Newspaper” Has a . . . Dishonest Streak April 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 3:20 am

beacon 1As the editor of the Bethany Bulletin, former editor to the Bethwood Patch and former contributor to the Amity Observer, I have followed town politics for years because of my work. Aside from that, I am not a remotely political person. However, I try very hard to be an honest person, and when I see dishonesty, especially on the part of people whom we count on to be truthful, I am appalled. The Bethany Beacon, our new fake town newspaper, arrived in my mailbox and while I normally toss campaign literature without reading it, the newspaper format upset me . . . I didn’t want anyone thinking I had anything to do with it as I do edit the legitimate town newsletter. Aside from being dishonest, it was also done illegally as according to state statute any multipage campaign literature must be clearly marked on its face with the organization and the name of the treasurer. This information was located in minuscule print on the bottom of the back page, which, along with a fake Letter to the Editor, seemed designed to deceive residents into believing this was actually NEWS. So, using all of my accumulated knowledge from attending meetings and reviewing meeting notes over the years, here is the actual truth about the content of our new and illustrious town newspaper, the Bethany Beacon. Follow along at home if you didn’t use your copy to line your bird cages, and I will start with the front page headline:

Voters say “NO” to Higher Taxes

Misleading Headline – Should have been “Voters said “No” to desperately needed road repairs . . . by accident”

This is the article that tries to say the Republican selectmen saved us scads of money by calling for a referendum, reducing the budget increase from 4.5% to 1.8%. But here’s the truth:

The junior selectmen voted for a referendum one week before the Town Meeting without notifying the Republican controlled Board of Finance, their own people. The budget failed the vote and went back to the BOF to be reduced. Most things in the budget are fixed or essential expenses and couldn’t be touched except for the roads budget. The previous year the town had been part of a pilot project for road pavement management which was presented at the town meeting. Residents spoke in favor of the work and the funding. Every vote to spend the money was an “Aye”. And then – all of this work and promise was completely undone by the last-minute referendum, which forced the BOF to ax the roads funds. The referendum vote had nothing to do with saving tax money and everything to do with losing badly-needed road repairs.

Bethany Needs Solutions, Not Excuses

Anyone who attends Bethany’s BOF meetings and town meetings knows we don’t exactly have a fat budget. Most of the boards and committees are submitting flat budgets as it is. The town had no control over the increase last year as most of it came from increased enrollment of Bethany students entering the Amity school system. Debt service can’t be touched. As the BOF found last year, the only place to cut the budget was roads, and RESIDENTS ARE AGAINST THAT! But because the budget hacking was done at a BOF meeting and not a town meeting we lost our say.

TAXPAYERS PAY FOR AIRPORT HANGAR PROJECT

This would be funny, except it’s not. The town didn’t have to pay for the removal of contaminated soil because of the community center. They had to pay for it because IT HAD TO BE DONE REGARDLESS. The hangar was condemned and had to come down. When they removed the cement slab they discovered that two administrations ago, gas tanks had been removed and the area wasn’t remediated, leaving contaminated soil. WITH OR WITHOUT THE REBUILD THE SOIL HAD TO BE REMOVED. Period. Exclamation point. WTH?

Road Repair Money Used for Airport

Here’s the continuation of the misleading “Taxpayers Paying for Hangar” headline, except this one is a flat-out lie. Like, pants-on-fire lie. The money for the removal of the soil came from the contingency fund, which, had the selectmen paid attention at the BOS meeting where it was discussed, they might have remembered. The engineering costs came out of the “Consulting Engineer” line item in the budget. The road budget wasn’t touched, it had already shrunk dramatically because the Republican selectmen forced a referendum, not because of the airport hangar.

Smart Budgeting to Support Students

Well, everyone likes this idea, except the school board is completely separate and the selectmen don’t have a lot to say about it, aside from requesting the BOE budget be kept as low as possible. After that, it’s all up to the school board members. The townspeople voted against an addition to the building and that ended that – none of the selectmen had anything to do with it.

Improving Town Services While Saving Money

About four years ago Derrylyn Gorski looked into curbside recycling and found it would cost the taxpayers a half mill in taxes, which was pretty steep. There is now a bipartisan committee working to find a remedy. Don Shea is a really nice guy, but he’s only one of a group doing the work. Claiming so much credit for the efforts of many is  . . . tacky.

Preserving Open Space

Here is where they accuse the first selectwoman of trying to bring high-density housing to town. The story is this – years ago a private, non-profit organization was looking to build affordable senior housing in town near the airport. Because it was private and there would have been no federal regulations, it would have been legal to restrict it to Bethany residents or relatives of Bethany residents. A bipartisan committee including residents who lived near the site was organized to study it. There were problems with the septic, so it was never even presented. But – if you claim you want to take care of Bethany’s seniors, providing affordable housing for them is not a bad place to start . . . nor a bad use of a little open space . . . oh yes, and for the record, the only high density housing project in town, Green Haven, was approved by the Republican led P&Z. Which is fine by me – I kinda liked the idea.

Gorski Resigns as Leader of CMED

This one is kind of fun. CMED is an organization of 18 towns who all pay for emergency services response – when you call 911 that’s who puts the patch through. New Haven and West Haven had threatened to withdraw from the group, which meant as some of the largest users who paid the most money into it, the remaining budget would not be sufficient to provide services to the other towns. Since it appears that CMED may no longer be able to provide 911 services to Bethany, it makes no sense for Gorski to continue to donate her time to them. The “article” tries to infer that Derry Gorski was somehow responsible for the demise of the organization. Wildly misleading – like everything  else in this “newspaper.”

And there you have it. My intention is not to be nasty – I like everyone involved, and I believe they are good people. But . . . if you run for public office you should base your campaign on ideals and ideas, maybe even offer a PLAN or two. I don’t know whose idea this was or who wrote the copy for it, but I saw none of that in the Bethany Beacon. The only apparent plan was to spread as many lies about the opposition as possible, displaying a total lack of integrity, and worse – the Beacon was an insult to the intelligence of every member of this community in its assumption that we would actually believe all that crap.

There are still a few weeks left in this campaign; I hope this was the last piece of campaign literature of this kind. PLEASE let it be he last. Far too many of us were embarrassed to see this degree of maliciousness happening in our beloved Bethany.

 

A Tale of Town Meetings, Referendums and the Responsibility of Being American May 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 2:36 pm

On this Memorial Day weekend I am grateful to those who made unspeakable sacrifices so that we may continue to have the abundant freedoms we enjoy, and sadly often take for granted, in this country. For me, few things are as important as the freedom of speech and of the press, as these are the tools we were given by our founders that enable us to question hypocrisy, expose fraud, fight tyranny, and yes, even express our own opinions without fear.

This weekend, I am writing a blog BECAUSE I CAN. How lucky am I? How lucky are you?

I am not a politically active person. I never have been (although I do follow politics because, well, everyone should.) You will NEVER see my name on a ballot, although for a dozen years you may have seen my byline on hundreds of articles covering local politics in more than a dozen towns. I work hard to be unbiased and present the views of everyone involved, and I seldom write an opinion piece about politics, aside from one snarky column about Milford Public Works pretty much napalming the courtyard at the Parson’s Complex.

Last week I wrote a blog about showing up at Bethany Town Hall to vote on the budget only to learn I wasn’t going to get to vote, and that the Board of Selectmen had voted two-to-one to send the vote to a referendum. I wasn’t the only one who was angry. On my way in I passed a mess of people who were storming out, not so much because of the referendum, but because they were not told about the change. I was also pretty pissy. Think about being told someone was throwing a birthday party for you complete with a chocolate mousse cake from Julia’s Bakery, only to be told as you walk through the door that they’d decided to serve the cake in two weeks, instead, so here, have a glass of lukewarm water. With a slice of old lemon in it. Drink it and like it, dammit, it’s for your own good.

I then wrote a blog that clearly stated I was pissy about the lack of communication, NOT about the referendum. The way selectmen Aileen Magda and Don Shea handled the situation may not have been illegal, but it was inconsiderate and unprofessional. Am I going to stamp my feet and call them names? Not at all. I think they made a really poor decision, but the truth is, I like Aileen and Don and I believe they truly care about our town. However, after a dozen years of covering local politics in the New Haven and Bridgeport area and seeing the good, the bad and the indifferent, I have developed an opinion. Because I am lucky enough to live in the United States, I get to write it and post it. So here’s what I believe, and it has less to do with politics than with being considerate and polite.

If Aileen and Don have a long-held belief that the townspeople of Bethany are best served by a referendum to pass the budget, that’s great. However, if this is the case, something as important as such should really have been part of their campaign, and our first shot at voicing our opinion of this would have been in the voting booth. I don’t remember seeing anything about it in their campaign literature, but if I am wrong, I would appreciate being corrected.

If, as they say, they were approached by many townspeople requesting a referendum due to their inability to make the annual town meeting, that’s totally valid. BUT . . . say 50 people spoke to them about it. That’s hardly a representative number. Neither is100. In fact, it wouldn’t matter how many people approached them because there was nothing official or documented about it (and those who don’t want a referendum didn’t have a voice – why would they approach anyone about anything when they were still under the assumption they would get to vote at the town meeting?) In any case, if they believed the right thing to do was to call for the referendum I would hope they knew this more than a week before the meeting. In fact, instead of sending out a mailing about the airport hangar, which the town had already voted on and approved (I not only covered that meeting, I voted “aye”) they could have broached this subject instead.

I stated in my previous blog that even though the selectmen couldn’t act until the call to meeting was signed, they could have given a heads-up as to what they were going to do at the April 28 selectmen’s meeting since being the majority on the board made it a done-deal. I could still have gotten that information into the Bulletin, which didn’t go to press until a few days afterwards. Aileen’s suggestion to send the Bulletin to press a few days early (actually, more than two weeks) was impossible. Period. A town mailing ($700) could have been done, but after a Monday night vote the soonest it would have hit mailboxes was Friday or Saturday, possibly as late as Monday, and that’s if the printer wasn’t backed up with other work. A reverse 911 call, as mentioned at the town meeting, is hardly appropriate. When I get one of those I just about pee my pants as I’m sure there’s a tornado approaching, a gunman running loose on school property, or at the very least, an Amber Alert. No thanks . . . I have far too many panicked moments in my life without that.

So I will repeat what I’ve already stated – if there was no way the town could be adequately informed about this dramatic change in the town meeting agenda, then it shouldn’t have been done. The more professional options, if a referendum means that much to the selectmen, were to discuss it as part of their campaign, send out a mailing well in advance, give a heads-up at an earlier board of selectmen’s meeting, and if none of that could be done, don’t do it at all. They will be in office for another entire year during which this could be addressed, and even better, they could have worked to give Bethany voters a say as to whether or not they want a budget referendum by making it a ballot item; then we would really know if the majority are in favor of it.

I will vote on the budget whether it is at a town meeting or a referendum. Period. If the voters of Bethany unanimously decide they want a referendum, that’s just peachy. I have no problem with that. But the way it was handled was sloppy, unprofessional and impolite and made a lot of people angry on both sides of the political aisle.

In a blog, Aileen wrote about her feelings that the board of selectmen was being run in an unprofessional manner. I don’t know if that’s the case as I have not attended any meetings this past year, but if it is true, the antidote to that isn’t more of the same.

But this Memorial Day, I have a voice and I have a vote, and I am not afraid to use either. I am one of the most fortunate people in the world; I am an American and I am not afraid to use the power that our Constitution gives me. And above that, I am not afraid to say I would appreciate a little consideration and forethought by those who represent me in Bethany Town Hall because I take my voting very, very seriously.

And lucky you, you get to voice your opinion, too. In fact, in honor of those brave individuals who died to preserve our freedom, maybe you should. But please, a little consideration . . . let’s be polite.

 

 

Bethany Town Meeting Hijacked by Republican Selectmen May 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 11:21 pm

After attending last night’s Annual Town Meeting, still reeking of barn, horses and other assorted farm odors, I sat up in bed for an hour fighting back the journalist in me. It was an ugly, bloody battle, and in the end, I lost. I had toyed with ways to word the op-ed piece I would write if still at a regular news group instead of the non-political Bethany Bulletin newsletter. I toyed with “Bethany Held Hostage by Political Terrorists,” but that was a little extreme and clearly a side-effect of the large glass of red wine I sucked down upon arriving home. And yet . . . this morning . . . it still seemed vaguely appropriate and that was after my third cup of coffee, which sadly did not get rid of my headache from the red wine . . .
But let’s back up to last night . . . I finished teaching my therapeutic riding students before 7:30 pm, took care of the horses, raced back to the house, brought Petunia Buttercup (a 550 pound pig) into the house for the night, put blankets on outside pigs, fed parrots, and, in short, raced around like a nutcase so my husband and I could get to this meeting and be a part of the vote we love so much . . . how cool is it we live in a place with a town hall form of government where “Aye” holds so much weight? And where, when we arrive an hour late to a meeting wearing dirty jeans and work boots, topped with worn flannel shirts, not a single person looks at us askance or with judgment . . . only last night, we arrived to learn that there would be no vote on the budget.
“Incensed” does not touch the way I felt.
So here’s the story I have pieced together as to how this came about. The Board of Selectmen held a regular meeting on May 12. There was no agenda item regarding a referendum, but at the end of the meeting Selectman Aileen Magda made a motion to take the town budget vote to a referendum. She was corrected and told she had to first make a motion to add the topic to the agenda, which was done, and then there was discussion, followed by a vote. She and Don Shea, the Republican selectmen, voted yes, while First Selectman Derrylyn Gorski voted no. Aileen and Don said their reasoning was because many people could not make it to a town meeting in the evening and more people could vote on the budget at a referendum as they could vote during regular election hours. Also, they said the senior bus would not run at night when so many seniors don’t like to drive (under special circumstances, if needed, the bus actually could be used in the evening.) Whatever. There was absolutely no effort made to inform the public of this change, and only a few residents knew there would be no budget vote at the meeting.
There had also been no mention of a referendum at the Board of Finance meeting when public input from the Town Budget Hearing had been incorporated into the budget. The request for the referendum had come out of the blue, with no hope of stopping it.
So here’s what happens next . . . the referendum, which is set for June 2, will cost $2,000 for staff, ballots, etc. The postcards to inform voters of the referendum will cost about $700 with postage. Several scenarios would follow. If the budget passes, the town has to meet again to vote on the capital projects. That will require a mailing of several pages at a cost of about $1,200. If there is another referendum requested to vote on the capital expenses, there is an additional post card mailing at $700 followed by another $2,000 to staff and supply the polls.
IF THE BUDGET DOES NOT PASS AT THE REFERENDUM . . . there will have to be another referendum (see pricing above) and we start from scratch This can go on for a long time, at pretty significant expense, until a budget does pass.
But wait . . . there’s more. Because the town tax bills must be in residents’ mailboxes by July 1. If the budget passes the referendum, it’s still two weeks before the town can vote on capital expenses, bringing us to mid-June. Codes that would have to be entered to add the new discount to tax bills for seniors, if the budget passes as-is, and then everything gets sent out to a vendor for printing, bringing us in just under the wire, IF THE PROCESS IS COMPLETE AND WE HAVE AN APPROVED 2014-2015 BUDGET. If we don’t, the real problems begin. The tax bills will have to go out regardless, but using last year’s budget, which was approved using a pre-reevaluation grand list that was much higher than this year’s. Tax bills will not reflect true tax payments until the budget is approved, and then, a revised bill will have to be sent out at a cost of an extra $5,000, followed by a lot of confusion for residents getting this second bill.
All of this is expensive and sloppy, and it gives me yet another headache which, when I am done writing this, I will try to drown in a large glass of red wine, but first . . . my own, insignificant opinion as to what happened in my beloved town of Bethany.
I truly don’t care what political party anyone is in. I was raised by staunch Republicans who proudly wore their NRA patches on their jacket sleeves. I have always been registered as an independent and split my tickets all over the place, and only recently registered as a Democrat so I could experience voting in a presidential primary, which was a delight, as I LOVE to vote. I repeat – I DON’T CARE WHAT PARTY ANYONE IS IN. And I happen to like all of the people involved very much. BUT . . . on the evening of May 12, when the referendum won the vote at the board of selectmen meeting, it totally smacked of passive aggressive manipulation and political grandstanding. Everyone knows we have no traditional press coverage in this town and the Bulletin had already been delivered for the month. There was absolutely no way to get the word out to the town, and there was no attempt made, (although at the town meeting Aileen did mention perhaps a reverse 911 call could have been placed explaining it, but that the possibility wasn’t discussed at the board meeting.) Knowing that no one would know what they were walking into when they showed up at the town meeting, the selectmen still voted for a referendum. Why? They couldn’t possibly have come up with the idea on the night of May 12 and just tossed it out there for kicks and giggles. They HAD to have had a clue weeks earlier, when we could have included it in the Bulletin and informed the public. Even if they couldn’t vote for it earlier, Don and Aileen knew they were going to win it 2-1, so why not give their fellow townspeople a heads up? It would have been the polite thing to do . . .
I know that at Board of Finance meetings and the town budget hearings Aileen has lobbied to get rid of the Bethany Bulletin as she feels it’s just too expensive for the town to carry (with ads and absorbing the monthly cost of Seniority, it doesn’t cost any more per year than what the minimum referendum process will be, about $6,000.) It’s no skin off my teeth as I do it as a volunteer and it would free up about 25 hours of my month if she actually won that battle. However, if an ill-informed public was what the founders of our country had in mind, they wouldn’t have penned their famous little ditty about freedom of the press.
I understand the selectmen’s point about involving as many people in the budget vote as possible, but their approach was absolutely wrong and pissed off a lot of people, me included. The potential for a referendum should have been addressed months ago, publicly, and not snuck by at the end of a meeting. And here’s what really upsets me (yes, there’s more!) Every town resident had plenty of notice of the town meeting, in accordance with state law. I am flat-out busy from 4:30am to 9pm at night with my many jobs and duties. I made attending the Bethany Town Meeting a top priority and turned my life upside down to get there to vote, to the point of offending nearby residents with the odor of horse manure on my boots. If I can figure out how to get there, just about anyone can.
There.
Rant over.
Excuse me while I pour that big glass of red wine . . .

 

Saying Goodbye to Sue September 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 8:45 pm

Sue’s Eulogy, for those who could not be there . . .

Sue's rainbow as we exited the wake

The Wizard of Oz once said to the Tin Man, “As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.”

The Tin Man had taken a long and treacherous trip down the Yellow Brick Road only to be told his fondest desire was going to cause him a lot of heartache. Which we all understand, as everyone present today has, at one point or another, walked the Yellow Brick Road of Life with the very special Susan Ives.

There are so many things about Sue that we will carry forever in our hearts. She always thought the best of everyone and worked hard to see things from their point of view . . .  right up until they proved her wrong, of course. She may have laughingly called herself Silly Sue, but she was wise enough to understand who she should spend her time with and whom she shouldn’t.

Sue always made everyone feel comfortable in her presence, and thought more about other’s feelings than her own. Even as she was dying, most of her fading strength was focused on making sure the people around her were at ease with what was happening. Sue was fine with impending death, and looked forward to being with friends and family who had crossed over before her. She often told us not to worry, she’d be right there, working hard for all of us from the other side. And we know this it true, because Sue always kept her promises; we have a dedicated heavenly advocate watching over our shoulders every moment of every day.

Sue’s obsession with making sure people were comfortable even extended to this eulogy . . . she requested it be kept short so no one would become uncomfortable sitting in the wooden pews for too long. Most of us, however, would probably agree if anyone deserves a long and splendid tribute, it’s Sue, and since she’s unable to tell us to stop making a fuss over her at this precise moment, we’re going to make sure we all leave here satisfied with these memories of her.

We’ll start with the ruby slippers. Over Sue’s hospital door hung a pair of ruby slippers, reminding staff that Sue was at risk of falling. This wasn’t news to any of us, as over the past 25 years or so we’d all seen her walking around on crutches more times than we could count. The hospital falls were different, however, as it wasn’t just Sue being klutzy – it was Sue trying to hold onto her last bit of independence and do things for herself. Heaven forbid she be a bother to anyone, especially for something as mundane as getting to the bathroom.

As the cancer progressed for Sue, the attack on her bucket list reached fever pitch. While Hawaii was out of reach, Bermuda beckoned and Sue packed up her shorts and wheel chair for the vacation of a lifetime with her family.

When the Red Sox were playing, she was there as often as possible. Her daughter Jamie remembers what they refer to as “The ULTIMATE trip to Boston.”

“She had a 5 star hotel with down comforters and pillows in a room literally next to the elevator.
The Red Sox won AND Big Papi hit a home run (which Tom bet a dinner at Papi’s restaurant if Ortiz came through). Then there was room service breakfast. And giving Jamie a heart attack when she put Sue on the elevator, said “push the door open button”, then turned to get the luggage on said elevator and turned back only to see the doors close and hear mom’s fading voice say, “I’m sor..r…y………”

And then the life-long wait for her duck tour was over. She had an ear to ear grin the entire venture and Jamie occasionally pretended to look at scenery because her eyes were welling up to see her mom so happy.

Sue even managed to sit in a car for a six hour trip to Virginia. She didn’t necessarily get to see a baby alpaca be born, but she got to hold a 4 day old cria on her lap, and it was a beautiful picture.

When looking back through her high school yearbook, Jamie noticed that her mom had crushes on nearly half the boys in her class. Right up to the end she would turn back into an awkward teenager when reminiscing. Sue was around 60 when she met the movie star Keir Dullea for the first time, and even though she’d had a week to get used to the idea of meeting her teen crush from the movie David and Lisa, her hands shook, her knees knocked and her voice trembled. She actually had to sit down and compose herself afterwards, yet she smiled for weeks afterwards and treasured the moment.

Sue’s life revolved around those she loved so beautifully and well – her children, her family, her friends and her animals. She was always at her children’s sporting events, drama productions and band performances. She often became assistant coach or stage manager, never turning down an opportunity to be involved in their lives. Sue was the ultimate cheerleader.

She took in a pair of unwanted cats, one of which turned out to be diabetic, and scheduled her life around his injections. She adopted a PMU colt that was destined for slaughter and obsessed over his soft hooves and sore back. She purchased an alpaca that she kept in VA with her brother Chuck and Sister-in-law Sue, visiting every year and making a fuss over Miss Wise’s babies. Sue was the superlative mother to all.

Lori Warner sent this Sue Story in an email to Jamie:

Your mom taught me through her actions that all children need to be protected as if they were our own, and often put herself in an uncomfortable situation so I could be spared embarrassment or discomfort. She really listened when I talked and I knew whatever I said was safe.
I would babysit for you and one day you were in a bad mood and your mom said, “It’s okay of you don’t give me one now, but sometime today I need a hug.” You went upstairs, but 15 minutes later you came back down and silently walked over and hugged your mom for a long time. Then without a word you went back upstairs with your shoulders a little lighter. Sue explained that she never wanted you to do something you didn’t feel, but she had told you what she needed. When you felt it was the right time, you’d hug her because you wanted to, and then she was happy.

Sue made me see that the best mothering is based on intuition, communication, and knowing your audience!

She taught me that simple things are sometimes the most meaningful, that casual conversations and treating people with respect, no matter their age, can make a huge difference in someone’s life. This is how she taught me how to be the mom I wanted to be.

Kathleen Schurman remembers when Sue met her horse, Bart, for the first time. Life had taken a difficult turn for Sue, and she was very depressed. It took several months to convince her to come to the farm to see the first three of what would become many rescued horses. Sue finally agreed to visit on her mother’s birthday, and when she first laid eyes on Bart, she began to cry and said, “If only I could have that horse, I know I would be happy again.”

Kathleen looked at her and said, “If that’s all it’ll take, then he’s yours!” And thus began the greatest love affair of our Sue’s life as she was never as happy as when she was when with the pony she had wished for since she was a child.

Sue grew weaker ever day, but Jamie remembers those days when her mom could get to the farm to see her “boy.”

“Nothing compared to the smile she had when around Bart. Their first reunion was in late February. It was the first time she’d seen him since October of 2009. Bart sniffed and snorted with happiness, then removed his mom’s hat and was startled by her “Darth Vader” appearance, but he rubbed his muzzle over her head and realized she was the same handicapped woman who loved him unconditionally. Just without hair.
The second visit – same huge grin!
The third and last visit, now wheelchair bound, was the biggest grin ever. It even surpassed the duck tour grin!”

It was only a few weeks later that Sue checked off the last item on her bucket list, a visit from a special relative, and said, “I can go now.” She tapped the heels of her ruby slippers together one last time and said, “There’s no place like home.”

The Tin Man looked on, oil can at the ready, and said, “Now I know I have a heart, ’cause it’s breaking . . .”
In the end, her spirit remains. Which one of us hasn’t felt her lurking over our shoulder in these past few days since she left us?

We imagine that soon after crossing to the other side, aside from a visit to her beloved Bart, who would have been her first visit after embracing Jason and her parents, she managed to get in a trip to Hawaii and Ireland, the two “misses” on her bucket list.

In the past months Sue managed to orchestrate quite an elaborate funeral production. Every single thing she wanted- the Calvary tribute, the flowers, donations and the songs were all hand-picked by her. Even the things Jamie wasn’t sure could be accomplished, such as the writing of this eulogy by one of her best friends to the musicians and even a freak weather event like Hurricane Earl and a gigantic rainbow last night as people began to exit her wake. . . all lined up with little effort. Sue could not have made a more grand exit.

And if anyone deserves to make it to the Emerald City in such fine style, driven in a cart pulled by the Horse of a Different Color, it’s our Sue.

 

Desperate last-minute horse rescue attempt thwarted August 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 2:54 pm

This little mini mare is going to slaughter. FOR WHAT??????

Early this morning a small group of people lined up, checkbooks in hand, desperate to rescue 60 horses crammed into a small kill pen on the Tennessee/Kentucky border. Despite days of pleading with the owner, half the horses were loaded into a stock trailer bound for a Canada slaughter house, while the other half awaits a similar fate tomorrow morning.

The herd includes thoroughbreds from the racetracks, quarterhorses from family back yards, and even a brown and white paint mini, hardly worth turning into steak for the foreign meat market. Most of these horses are young, healthy and broke to ride, but that won’t save their lives.

I own a small horse rescue in Bethany, Connecticut, where I have 10 horses rescued from this same kill pen. We brought them to Locket’s Meadow Farm about a month ago, and have been rehabilitating them to be used in our lesson program or adopted out. As of this week, the kill pen owner has decided to no longer allow us, or anyone else, to rescue these horses from death and refuses to let us purchase them at the usual price, which is just over the per-pound rate the slaughter buyer pays.

The situation for equines in this country has never been more dire as more and more people are devastated by the economy and forced to get rid of their horses. Since there is no market to sell them, they send them to auction hoping they are going to a good home, but instead, they are bought in large lots and sent to kill pens and then on to the slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico. In this case, ignorance is bliss.

For some horses, there is no hope; but for the ones in Kentucky, there are people ready and waiting to get them out and give them a new life. Can you please, please look into this and possibly help save the rest? The nation needs to know what is happening right under their noses, and people who give up their beloved horses should understand the fate of their pets if they can’t find a better option than auction.

I have attached links to some stories done locally about these rescues. We have tried everything, the only option we have left is to let the country know what is happening and hope they are as outraged as we are. Thank you for anything you can do.

Shantal Bordeaux Rosales has been coordinating the rescue attempts from her nearby home in Westmoreland, Tennessee. Her phone is 615-427-1505, but she is hard to reach today due to the drama.

PLEASE SEE:

http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/new_haven_cty/Bethany-horses-tagged-for-slaughter-rescued

http://www.newhavenregister.com/articles/2010/08/10/aa1horses081010.txt

Sincerely,

Kathleen M. Schurman
Locket’s Meadow Farm
755 Litchfield Turnpike
Bethany, CT 06524

locketsmeadowfarm@yahoo.com
http://www.locketsmeadowfarm.com

 

Charity vs. Greed vs. Ethics . . . or lack thereof – how DO we save the horses? August 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 4:05 pm

I rescued two pregnant mares last week for $400 each. This one is now $550. Do we know when we are being GOUGED? So repulsive of this kill pen owner . . .

A few years back we rescued a dozen horses from a North Dakota PMU ranch that had recently been dropped by the Premarin industry. The rancher’s family had raised horses for several generations and had started supplying urine to Wyeth Ayers maybe a decade earlier, investing in huge pee barns (don’t ask, you don’t want to know right now) and taking out big loans to make their facility current with North American Equine Rancher Association (NAERA) codes. Then they dropped them and the rancher was stuck with a lot of debt, little income and a mess of pregnant mares. We helped them out the first year, and assumed they would sell their horses off and get out of the business.

The next year, the rancher called and asked if we wanted any more of his horses as he’d bred them all again. About a hundred of them. I was appalled, and replied that we would not help him, please stop breeding, for God’s sake, there’s no market for all those babies. He said he was behind on his loans and he’d have to sell them for slaughter. I felt sorry for the horses, but I was not going to help someone who did not help himself. Months later I found out he had contacted a California rescue and convinced them to help place his horses, and every year since, he tells them the same story – help place them or he’ll send them to slaughter.

It’s easy to coerce us, because as a group, we bleeding heart animal rescuers can’t stand NOT to save the lives of these animals. BUT, in allowing ourselves to be held over a barrel and forced to become the bread and butter of breeders who don’t know when to quit (the market for foals was drying up long before the economy tanked since there are just way too many of them) we are aiding and abetting crimes perpetrated by lazy and manipulative jerks.

Last week we rescued a batch of horses from a kill pen in Tennessee. We all busted our butts to raise the funds to get them out before they shipped. In the end, there were only six horses left, not enough to make it worth sending them to the slaughter house in Canada. Somehow, this pissed off the owner of the pen, and he decided to raise the prices for the bleeding-heart-animal lovers, so horses that cost $300 to get out last week (slightly higher than the per-pound rate for the slaughter house) now cost $600. When you add in shipping, there is little hope of rescuing these beautiful animals from death, and at the end of next week he’ll sell them for the usual per-pound amount to the killer buyers.

All right everyone, raise your voices . . . can we all shout “scumbag” at the top of our lungs? And there is nothing we can do about it, except, perhaps, NOT rescue these poor horses (how bad will we feel then?) so that this creep understands we can’t be forced to our knees in the name of compassion and kindness for helpless creatures in distress. But what will it really matter to him as he will get his money anyways from the killer buyers?

 Does this make your head spin? It makes me nauseous . . .

I’m not sure what anyone can do about this. Pressuring this guy won’t matter, he’ll “punish” us by not letting us save these poor horses. If we keep paying these amounts to rescue them, there’s a good chance he’ll raise the prices even more, assuming we’re all stupid enough to pay anything to save a horse from death. The sad thing is, we can’t. It’s not only wrong to play this guy’s game, it’s unethical to allow a greedy dirt bag to grow wealthy because we care. It feeds the cycle in kinda the same way buying puppies from puppy mills perpetuates the suffering of hundreds of thousands of dogs, even though we feel we are saving a mill puppy (by paying full price for it in a pet shop, of course!)

 The only hope for the horses of this continent is for us to start an all-out campaign to stop the over breeding of every kind of horse, in the same way activists have worked so hard to do the same for cats and dogs. The difference here is that while most people put horses in the same category of sentimental value as a cat or dog, they don’t meet the same end as our smaller house pets, whose lives end with a humane injection and a pain free death. Feel free to Google how horses are slaughtered, and watch the videos if you like, but it’s not my cup of tea. Just know from the time they are packed into filthy kill pens, then stuffed into trucks and shipped four thousand miles with no food or water, then packed into slaughter yards, terrified and most often very ill . . . well, you get the drift . . .

And it’s all because there are way too many horses. WAY TOO MANY HORSES. The answer is not slaughter. The answer is education. It will takes decades to fix it, but we need to start now. Meanwhile, we are left with an age-old problem that I don’t know the answer to . . . greed. Anyone have any idea how to address that? Because I’m at a loss . . .

 

 
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