New Swap Shack Open

Middletown’s new Swap Shack at 185 Johnson Street (part of the city’s transfer station) is open just in time for Christmas. There are lots of toys and other times for free pick-up. Pictured below are the new building and some of the offerings inside.  For information on what kinds of items can be dropped off, and where larger items like furniture can be donated or dropped off, click here.

Who’s Walking In Portland?

In its mission to promote healthy and eco-friendly activities like walking and bicycling, Portland’s Complete Streets Group wants to celebrate those who already engage in these activities and serve as an example for others. Shown here is Jeff Burgess who walks 4 miles on Main Street every day, from Edgewood Road to the Arrigoni Bridge and back, in any weather. He said, “After I retired, I started walking to get in shape. It clears my head and gives me time to think about things or listen to a podcast. The round trip takes me about 1 hour and ten minutes, unless I run into someone along the way and stop for conversation.”

Asked if anything along the way interfered with his enjoyment of walking, he cited broken and uneven sidewalks in some places and property owners who don’t remove snow and ice after storms in the winter. As for any tips he’d offer as encouragement to others to start walking, Jeff said, “Try out Main Street. It’s flat. Take it slow at first and gradually increase your distance. It might be tough to get started, but once you get moving, you’ll enjoy it.”

NRG Power Plant Tax Agreement Terminated in June

NRG power plant in Middletown as seen from the Air Line Trail in Portland. Photo by John Hall

The Jonah Center recently learned that the tax agreement between the City of Middletown and Middletown Repowering (the NRG entity that proposed a new 375 MW gas turbine at the plant on River Road) was terminated at the June 7 meeting of Middletown’s Common Council. The issue was not on the meeting agenda, but rather was “taken off the table” during the meeting.  It passed unanimously.

This is good news for those who are concerned about climate change and local air pollution, and for tax payers. (The agreement froze taxes at the 2019 level until the project became operational.) Still, in light of the high level of public engagement in the preceding months, how and why the agreement was terminated without our knowing about it and without a public statement is a bit of a mystery,. Continue reading

Ask Common Council to Support TCI

The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) is a carefully constructed regional plan to  reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.  If  implemented, TCI will create allowances for the wholesale distribution of oil and gas, place a fee upon those allowances, and invest the resulting revenue in clean public transportation, electric vehicle infrastructure, and non-motorized transportation options such as bike routes. Over time, the allowances will decline and the cost will rise, to ensure lower emissions from transportation.

The emission reductions will occur because the revenue from the sale of allowances will be invested in clean transportation. For example, more electric school buses will use less gasoline and diesel fuel. That will also reduce emissions of particulate matter (PM) that are so harmful to respiratory health, especially for children whose developing lungs are especially vulnerable to particulate matter pollution. Asthma is often a direct result of PM pollution, and diesel school buses are notorious emitters of PM.

In short, TCI will produce a double benefit: 1) reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and 2) reduce air pollution that is especially harmful to children and low income residents of who live near highways and congested streets where air pollution is the worst.

In the 2021 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, TCI was vigorously opposed by Republicans and the oil and gas industry who called it a disguised gas tax that would lead to exorbitant gas prices at the pump that would ruin the economy and hurt the poor. But TCI actually includes a mechanism to ensure that the wholesale fees will not raise gas prices by more than 5 cents per gallon. And if Republicans really wanted to help the poor, they could 1) expand the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit that would offset a higher price for carbon, and 2) relieve the poor from the harmful effects of air pollution.

Since retail gas prices have risen in the past months, TCI is sure to face stiff opposition from its usual opponents. But if we delay climate action until a time when it is easy, painless, and convenient, we can be sure that no action will happen.

Urge Middletown’s Common Council and Mayor Florsheim to urge our local legislators and the leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly to pass legislation to enact TCI.

 

 

Finally, It’s Becoming A Reality

The City of Middletown is now constructing a walking trail to the top of the retired landfill — a project that the Jonah Center has been advocating since 2005. The views from the top are spectacular, and sure to be a magnet for residents of the North End and elsewhere.  We will let our readers know when the trail is open for public access.  Below are some pictures of the site taken 16 years ago, when our project advocacy began.

On November 6, an article on the project appeared in the Middletown Press.

View from the landfill mound south to downtown.

View from the landfill mound looking north over the Floating Meadows (Mattabesset River). Cromwell is in the background.

Aerial view of the landfill mound (center).

“Bugsgiving” at Wesleyan, 11/20

Fun, educational, and delicious – learn about why edible insects are the future of food from one of the world’s foremost leaders in the industry. Come join us to learn about the many benefits of entomophagy (eating insects) and to taste some delicious insect-based dishes prepared by chef Joseph Yoon! There will be activities, tastings, and more! Please bring a chair/blanket and your friends and family for our Bugsgiving picnic, and RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bugsgiving-tickets-19186267542.
 
Chef Joseph Yoon founded Brooklyn Bugs in 2017 with the mission to normalize edible insects, and has worked closely with museums, universities, and institutions to fundamentally change the way we can reimagine them as a sustainable, nutrient dense, and delicious sources of protein. His work has been featured on PBS Nova, The New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, BBC, Popular Science, Live with Kelly and Ryan and much more.

Declaration of a Climate Emergency — An Update

On September 8, 2020, the City of Middletown Common Council voted unanimously to pass a Declaration of a Climate Emergency “that threatens the existence of our civilization and the natural world.”  The declaration included bold statements of resolve: to make the declaration the “foundation up which the City of Middletown shall develop future priorities, legislation, policies, plans, budgets, and actions; to end City-generated greenhouse gas emissions by 2030; to establish plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by both the City and the wider community; and to advocate for coordinated climate action at the regional, state, and federal levels.”  The Declaration included recognition that environmental justice is a racial justice issue and that “an equitable transition to a fossil-fuel-free economy requires full community participation.”

Over the past year, we haven’t heard much in terms of follow-through on the Declaration. Continue reading

Portland Receives National Roadway Safety Award

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the Town of Portland’s Complete Streets achievements in recent years. This National Roadway Safety award recognizes the town’s sidewalk replacement program, road improvements, digital speed sign installation, bicycle routes, and the Air Line Trail.

The Jonah Center is proud to have played a role in all of these developments — in the formation of the Air Line Trail Steering Committee and the Complete Streets Group in 2014, and by urging the town to take advantage of a state-sponsored road safety audit that qualified the Town for 2 Connecticut DOT Community Connectivity grants.  John Hall and former Jonah Center Board member Bob Herron co-chaired the Sidewalk Committee.  Portland citizens and Town officials have been very supportive and resourceful in support of these initiatives.  Congratulations, Portland.

Shown below at the Award Ceremony are (from left to right): Rosario Rizzo, Air Line Trail  Committee; Lou Pear, Air Line Trail Committee and Selectman; Midge Malicki, Alice Schumacher, and Kathy Herron of the Complete Streets Group; Bob Shea, Public Works Director; Susan Bransfield, First Selectwoman; Jim Tripp, Selectman; and Mary Dickerson, Economic Development Consultant.

Speak Out For The Environment

In light of increasing threats to the environment and inadequate response from all levels of government, the Jonah Center and Ecoin (the Environmental Collective Impact Network) are ramping up citizen action.  We need more people to get involved, and we need to focus and coordinate our efforts more sharply.

In short, WE NEED YOUR VOICE. You can join this effort by filling out the questionnaire below. Tell us what you care about most — enough to send an email about it.  Stay informed by joining our email lists — if you aren’t already on them.  THANK YOU.

Help Us Make A Better World

A Sad Sight at West & Middlefield Streets

A land parcel at the intersection of West St. and Middlefield St. in Middletown (just west of the Aldi’s and CVS development at West & Washington) was approved for 17  town houses by Inland Wetlands and Planning and Zoning in recent years. Now the property  is now for sale by the owner. (See rendering of project below.)  Apparently, there are no regulations to prevent tree removal when there is no immediate construction planned. The photo below and commentary are from Ecoin member Zoemma Warshafsy, who lives nearby.

The majority of this property was nicely wooded with large mature trees that have now all been clear cut and stacked in giant piles. This area now looks devastating and the clear cutting was a complete waste of forested area along a sensitive river habitat. There is trash everywhere on the property as well. It has been like this for about two weeks and there is currently no sign of activity for further cleaning up the property. It could sit like this for years if it is not bought. Clear cutting before a property has a buyer is a terrible process that has no clear benefits for the environment or the adjacent land owners. What a sad sight to see every morning.

Middletown’s Clean Energy Task Force Kicks off Funding Campaign and HeatSmart Program

The City of Middletown, through its Clean Energy Task Force (CETF) and its CHEER Middletown program, has partnered with SustainableCT’s Matching Grant program and People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE) to provide important energy-related programming in the City of Middletown.

CHEER is CETF’s program helping local residents address health and safety barriers in their homes in order to facilitate energy efficiency improvements and improve access to lower cost renewable energy. The HeatSmart program helps residents explore ways to improve how they heat and cool their homes by using efficient, electric heat pump systems.  Together, the programs provide information and resources including educational events, home energy assessments, and connections with energy and remediation experts as well as local heat pump installers. Continue reading

City Implements Complete Streets Improvements on Spring Street

Congratulations to Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim and the Public Works Department for supporting and implementing the Complete Streets Committee’s recommendation to reduce cut-through traffic on  Spring Street by making it one-way eastbound between High Street and Rome Avenue.

The Complete Streets Committee pushed to include a westbound bike lane in the one-way section, since Spring Street is included in the Air Line Trail – Farmington Canal Connector Route and is important for bicyclists riding from Portland into Middletown. The City decided to include bike lanes in both eastbound and westbound directions, which will reduce illegal parking that narrows the travel lane. In a WTNH News 8 interview, the Mayor supported the development of off-street parking in the area to address the need for resident parking. Continue reading