Letters to the editor
chants a symptom
of bigger problem
On May 30th, the Fairfield Prep lacrosse team defeated Staples 11-10 in overtime. It was a magnificent win for the Fairfield team, but a horrible loss for our community. As reported by people who attended this match, a group of fans from Fairfield Prep, known as the Bomb Squad, yelled anti-Semitic chants and slurs when Jewish players had the ball or scored a goal.
Some people might dismiss this as an isolated incident and blame rowdy teenagers cheering for their friends to win a game, but for me, this is a symptom of a much greater problem. This incident is sadly part of a trend that is surging in our society and in our country. Last year, the Anti-Defamation League reported that anti-Semitic incidents dramatically increased by 57 percent across the country. Forty-nine of those incidents occurred right here in our home state of Connecticut, including acts of vandalism and harassment. A recent study released this past April, showed that nearly two thirds of American millennials don’t know what the horrific concentration camp Auschwitz is, and 22 percent of American millennials said they haven’t heard of the Holocaust.
I applaud the recent legislation signed by Governor Malloy requiring local and regional school boards to include the study of the Holocaust and other genocides in their curriculum. This is a great step forward, but what happened at that lacrosse game shows us that legislation is not enough. We need to work holistically. We need to educate parents, teachers and community leaders to serve as role models to our children. We need students, adults, staff and coaches who are prepared to stand up to bigotry and hate in any form and stop horrendous acts like this while they are happening.
Anti-Semitism is not only a Jewish problem, it is a problem that impacts all of us. Throughout my career, I have worked with wonderful and committed Jesuit ministers. They were loving, caring and embodied the values of compassion and tolerance taught by St. Ignatius of Loyola. They taught me that any action aimed to demean the dignity of another person has no place in our society. These Bomb Squad students showed that we have a ticking bomb in our hands. I call on our local authorities, leaders and parents to investigate this incident so that the instigators and participants in this hateful act can be shown there is no place for this kind of hatred and cruelty. We must do everything in our power to dismantle this bomb before it explodes in our midst.
Kids in juvenile justice system have fallen through cracks
In the last minutes of the 2018 legislative session, we got a state budget. Legislators showed commitment and determination in reaching a bi-partisan agreement. The dust hasn’t cleared yet — there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding what got funded and what didn’t.
It is all too evident, however, that even dust-settling won’t clear away a fundamental reality: despite the new budget, children have fallen through system cracks due to a failure to plan and budget appropriately to meet the behavioral health needs of children in and at risk for being in the juvenile justice system. This includes substance abuse treatment services for youth that often are tied to underlying mental health issues.
State agencies, charged with developing the transitional plan for closure of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Training School (CJTS), had two years to do so. The governor and legislature had three budget debate seasons to ensure dollars were allocated to create alternative programs, services and facilities before CJTS closed. But, in the end, the job did not get done and cracks opened. Something was lacking. What was it?
At least two things were missing: a leadership entity that provides overall guidance to agencies, e.g., a children’s cabinet or planning council or its equivalent whose purpose is to ensure planning and availability of dollars for system reforms which reach across multiple child serving systems to meet the needs of youth; and youth and parent/family participation at planning and decision-making tables.
Establishing a leading children’s entity that provides accountability and guidance to multiple state agencies may also be vital. Requiring collaboration between agencies is not enough to prevent failure in planning and too little funding next time. Equally situated state agencies neither have the ability to tell other agencies what to do and when, nor singular accountability for getting the job done. State dollars are scarcer and effective solutions must be shared among agencies for meeting the behavioral health needs of children no matter which system children find themselves in. And yet, state agencies continue to operate in “silos,” perpetuating lack of coordination and fragmentation in and between our child serving systems.
Linking existing children’s oversight or advisory councils and placing them under a lead agency or entity for purposes of planning and budgeting may be a way to accomplish this needed leadership. The new Office of Health Strategy, which was recently granted authority during this legislative session to carry out statewide health data collection and analysis, may be well situated to play such a leadership role on children’s behavioral health and related issues.
Time to curb transportation pollution
The cars, trucks, buses and trains that make up our transportation system are responsible for more pollution than any other sector. Tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide are Connecticut’s largest contribution to global climate change, but our vehicle emissions are also directly responsible for problems in our communities.
Pollution from transportation is a leading cause of asthma, strokes and heart attacks in the state, and our most vulnerable populations are being hit the hardest. It’s time we get serious about cleaning up Connecticut’s transportation system, and we don’t have to look far to find the solutions.
Connecticut residents are exposed to health risks every day from passenger vehicles spewing nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (which cause smog), particulate matter pollution, as well as greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
While Connecticut’s overall carbon emissions have declined since 1990, largely due to reduced pollution from power plants, transportation emissions have increased. In 2015, transportation accounted for 41 percent of the state’s carbon emissions. Our lack of action to curb transportation pollution has come with staggering health costs. Vehicles are responsible for 69 percent of Connecticut’s nitrogen oxide emissions, a leading cause of asthma.
As of 2014, 9.6 percent of children and 9.2 percent of adults in Connecticut suffer from asthma — both of these figures are well above the national average. Asthma-related trips to the hospital and emergency room in 2016 resulted in $135 million in medical bills in Connecticut. Making matters worse, this health and financial burden is not evenly spread out across the state; communities of color face a disproportionate share of the health costs.
As a nurse who spent years working in critical care and cardiology, I know firsthand the health impacts from exposure to ozone and particulate matter pollution. Seeing a young child with asthma struggling to breathe, a person with chronic respiratory problems requiring a ventilator or someone suffering from a cardiovascular event is devastating. Poor air quality exacerbates disease symptoms and can even cause sudden death. Cleaning up our transportation system is the best thing we can do to reduce harmful emissions and improve the health of thousands of Connecticut residents.
Connecticut is a member of the 11-state Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), which hosted a regional listening recently at the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) headquarters. The purpose of these sessions is to identify potential policy approaches to bring about a cleaner and more resilient transportation future across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. These meetings are moving the needle in the right direction.
Implementing clean transportation solutions across Connecticut will mean fewer delays, safer travel, improved health and fewer climate impacts.
Now is the time to make Connecticut a cleaner and healthier place to live when it comes to transportation.