Saturday, May 05, 2007

Enfield Blast From 2004

Law Tribune Montessori columns

Cool Justice
Revenge Of The Nerds & Losers

Law Tribune Newspapers
September 6, 2004

The Red Guards of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution had nothing on the nerds and losers who make up many so-called Historic District Commissions in Connecticut.

Under the murky cover of ambiance, aesthetics and historical integrity - subjects about which they demonstrate little understanding - these minions of the in-crowd routinely trample on the civil and property rights of ordinary citizens. Woe to the uninitiated who come before such agencies just trying to improve their property. If they don't belong to the right club, drink at the same parties or have political juice, they are screwed. It doesn't matter what precedents might have been set or what is fair and just. These "Hysterical District Commissions," as they are commonly known, just make it all up as they go along. In some cases, they or their colleagues at town hall will even lie about their intended victims.

In the name of justice and historical accuracy, I say we lock the heads and arms of these evildoers in the stocks at town greens every Friday in Connecticut. Mere public ridicule might not be enough, however. In some cases, burning at the stake is clearly justified.

I could pick virtually any town, but let's start with Enfield. Just as in any small town, there are movers and shakers - those whose voices in public and in private carry more weight than they should in a democracy. When they tell politicians and town officials to jump, they jump.

Not everyone jumps, though. In Enfield, it was a few nuns who said, "We are holding our ground. We are going to protect our children."

These nuns are the Felician Sisters who established a school in town in 1944. That was more than 25 years before the Enfield Public Schools introduced kindergarten. At one point, the Sisters served 312 kindergarteners for the town.

Town leaders and the Hystericals demonstrated their appreciation in recent years by claiming the Sisters had operated the school illegally. It has been a Montessori School since 1965. Luckily for the Sisters, archives document state certification to 1944.

An engineering study conducted this year shows that children are at risk because of limited parking that causes backups on busy Route 5. The Sisters want to plant grass over a parking lot near the front of the property and move parking to the back. The Hystericals have denied parking proposals three times, saying, among other things, that the ambiance would suffer. They say the ambiance would suffer because the parking would be moved virtually out of sight and the children would be safer. It doesn't matter that another nearby school, a nursing home and a physical therapist all have parking in front.

To understand this illogic, one must understand politics.

The next door neighbor, Big Anthony Troiano, owns a lot of businesses and property in town. At one point, Big Anthony and his partners owed the town about $40,000 in property taxes, but the town still paid them about $180,000 over two years to repair cop cars and other vehicles.

Big Anthony told the Hystericals "historic vegetation" would be destroyed if the nuns put a parking lot behind the school. They listened and no one howled in laughter. This historic vegetation sprang from grass seed planted a few months ago. It must be different from the historic vegetation that Big Anthony surgically removed a few yards away for his cabana and pool.

Cool Justice
Party Down With Sister Anastasia

Law Tribune Newspapers
September 13, 2004

The hottest hunk of woman I've encountered lately - outside of family, of course - is Sister Mary Anastasia.

I felt the light of Sister Mary Anastasia shine on me during a recent visit to the Montessori School she runs in Enfield. She has been teaching there for 36 years, helping toddlers and somewhat older youngsters learn words by touching and feeling and seeing.

Her order, the Felician Sisters, has been running schools at the site since 1944. It's on Enfield Street, a major road with big houses and big lawns and lots of traffic.

These days, Sister Mary Anastasia jets around in a walker. "I could never sit in an office all day," she tells me. "Life begins at 60 … " Her body is frail and worn, but this person is one of the strongest, brightest and warmest people I have ever met. She is a humble jester. She is tough and beautiful. She is a quiet and relentless warrior.

Sister Mary Anastasia convinces me that if God loves the meek, he most certainly loves those with backbone. For Sister Mary Anastasia is taking on a rotten town government filled with gutless worms who are living off taxpayers and failing to stand up for what is right and good.

I talked to a cop about this school. He knows a child who attends. He knows that the parents must drop off their child very early to avoid congestion and safety hazards. He was very friendly and outgoing during this portion of the conversation.

Then, I asked him about the political juice of a few people who don't want the nuns to relocate their parking lot from the front to the back of the school. The sisters would replace the gravel in front with grass, and expand parking in the back. The cop's tone changed. "I don't know anything about that," he said. The conversation was over.

"We have a solution, but they [the Historic District Commission] won't let us do it," Sister Mary Anastasia told me. "That's what I don't understand. This is our first experience with politics. This whole fiasco doesn't make any sense."

Three times the Historic District Commission rejected the parking plan.

"We have pre-schoolers," Sister Mary Anastasia said. "With these big vans, you can't see those little kids. We're lucky we haven't had a serious accident."

I asked Richard Tatoian, the Historic District chairman, about an engineering report showing children are at risk because of traffic back-ups.

"That was their opinion," Tatoian said. "Safety issues are not paramount." I asked Tatoian, as I had asked the cop, about the political juice of the next door neighbor - large landholder and business leader Anthony Troiano -- who has vigorously opposed the plan.

"That had no effect that he is a property owner and a businessman," Tatoian said.

Yeah, that's a good one. Or, if I may say so politely, I'm skeptical.

In Enfield, Big Anthony Troiano gets what Big Anthony Troiano wants. If he wants a zone change for a business, he gets it. If he wants hundreds of thousands of dollars of town business while he and his partners are tax delinquents, he gets it. If one of his buildings gets shut down for cocaine trafficking, he gets a deal with prosecutors to find a new tenant. And if Big Anthony wants the Historic District Commission to stomp on a parking plan the nuns have for kids, that's what happens. I went to see Big Anthony at his house, left a card and then called one of his businesses. I'm still waiting to hear back.

Meanwhile, there's a slight chance a judge will see what is going on here and do the right thing. The Felician Sisters have filed an appeal with the Superior Court. Let's see how much taxpayers want to pay to subsidize Big Anthony and his minions in the war against the nuns and their students.

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