On Friday, February 28, I experienced the terrible task of accompanying the Ghazal family to the sentencing hearing for convict Frankie Resto, the criminal who was found guilty of the murder of the husband and father of the family, Ibrahim Ghazal. For 18 months I have met frequently with the family and watched their anguish and bewilderment. On Friday, it all came to an emotional conclusion as they sat in court and watched the judge pronounce sentence on the murderer, Frankie Resto.
While the family was very disappointed with the final sentence (53 years in prison for Resto) there was one bright ray of sunshine in the courtroom for them and for me to see. As I sat next to the widow and the Ghazal children I saw many officers and detectives from the Meriden Police Department file into court to watch the final proceedings. They were there to support the family and to see justice done. They sat right behind the Ghazal family in the courtroom. I can’t explain how pleased the family was and how proud I was to see the men and women who protect our community take a personal interest in this case.
As a community we all should be grateful for such dedicated personnel who protect Meriden families.
To all of those officers and detectives attending the trial proceedings on Friday, I want to express loudly and clearly, Thank you, the men and women of the Meriden Police Department, for your dedication to justice and protecting our community! Meriden is fortunate to have such dedicated public servants.
Len Suzio, Meriden
It’s not about blight. It’s not about safety. Why are we only inspecting Meriden rental units if it’s about safety? Are owner-occupied units less important to city staff? What do you think of when you think of blight in our city? If you’re like me, you think of vacant houses, boarded-up windows, trash in yards, couches and old tires left on the street because someone was too lazy to visit the landfill or dispose of them properly. I don’t think of a ripped window screen or dingy paint in a rental unit as blight.
There are people in this city that would have you believe that any changes to our certificate of compliance program will result in blight — that supporting local landlords and making it easier for them to develop properties in our city is a bad idea. Those people are just plain wrong. None of us wants to see blighted properties anywhere in our city. The reality is that is we want investors to purchase the blighted properties that do exist, renovate them, and bring in good, new tenants. We have to support them, make changes to our current way of doing things, so they know they are welcome — and then (and only then) we will see our neighborhoods begin to change for the better.
Investors can change a neighborhood by improving the housing stock, bringing in better tenants and managing these properties to be successful for all of us. Don’t believe me? Just read the studies that the city paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for. They all say the same thing: Call your City Councilor today, and tell them you want Meriden to support good landlords!
Ross Gulino, Meriden
I had to laugh when I received a taxpayer-paid-for promotion piece for our Democratic State Senator, Dante Bartolomeo. The cause of my humorous reaction was her recitation of legislation intended to promote jobs. The wording in her flier implied that she had worked with “Democrats and Republicans to launch and expand” these programs. My understanding is that all the “job-creating” legislation she touted was passed before she was even in the State Senate. Adding to my laughter was the fact that all those programs had been supported and voted for by her Republican predecessor, former State Senator Len Suzio. What an irony! Does this mean our State Senator will endorse Suzio for State Senate, should he decide to run again? Suzio initiated the legislation to bring more than $2.6 million of additional annual state funding for the Edison Middle School and, as everyone knows, he led the fight to cap the petroleum gross receipts tax on gasoline. Those are real accomplishments directly attributable to Suzio. Many of us hope he runs again. Now I believe that our current State Senator will support him.
Connie DeMatteo, Meriden
Looking at the R-J, 3-1, pg. 1, image of Frankie Resto during his sentencing for the murder of Ibrahim Ghazal two years ago, I was struck by the uncanny similarity of image between Honey Boo Boo, television’s precocious, chubby-cheeked rapscallion that infests television channel surfing each week, and the chubby-cheeked, cool-eye-glassed, checkered-shirt-and-solid-tie-wearing murderer who was being sent to the equivalent of a “time out.” Only this “time out” had the imprimatur and thumb-print of the state Department of Correction sentencing guidelines and the application of the risk reduction credits calculus. Oh, if Honey Boo Boo only knew about this when being sent to her time-out space.
Risk reduction credits; now there’s the rub, as Shakespeare might have said. But there is an enormous difference here; or is there? When Honey Boo Boo is released from her time out, recidivism is understood and expected; that’s why the punishment term somewhat matches the crime. In the Resto case, there is an enormous difference, and the effect of the early release guidelines for felons here in Connecticut. Felons who use a firearm in a crime should be handled with more finality in mind. Recidivism, in this particular case, got Ghazal killed. Risk reduction credits might have also played a role in his murder. A nanny-cam image of Honey Boo Boo knocking over a vase might pass as being an accident. The images on the Ghazal store’s security camera appear to show premeditation. How does that fit into the risk reduction credits calculus?
Lawrence Singer, Wallingford
Columnist Jeffery Kurz mocks Wallingford Mayor Dickinson’s concerns about online property information (R-J, 2-28). The regional database project will benefit SCRCOG member towns in various ways from public safety to planning. Mayor Dickinson’s support for that project and concerns for individual privacy/security are not inconsistent. I applaud his opposition to putting official records online.
Ordinary citizens rarely need to access either their or others’ property records. Online records would be convenient for real estate agents and lawyers. There’s a price for convenience. Kurz belittles Dickinson’s reference to Russia (a “friend,” Kurz, in light of recent events?). The mayor’s point was about far-away people having instant access to Wallingford property records; he could just as well have cited India, Nigeria or Jamaica, among others. Many scams originate overseas; scammers use readily available Internet information sources, including Google Earth or Zillow.
For example, a “property deed” scam targets new home buyers. Just this week I read about a “lottery” scam involving telephone threats if the potential victim doesn’t pay the “fees” to receive “winnings,” and the scammer describes the victim’s house, or local landmarks, in detail. Why should our local government facilitate online availability of accurate, and even more detailed, information to benefit special interests, marketers or criminals?
Many people seem resigned to loss of privacy/security resulting from ever-more data being put on the Internet. Perhaps they feel that misuse of already accessible information is inevitable, so it doesn’t matter if official public records are exploited as well. But it does matter. I believe that government owes a duty to its citizens to safeguard their records that corporate entities may not.
I am thankful that one elected official in one town in one state cares enough about the privacy/security rights of individuals that he’s willing to buck the “put ‘em online” tide.
Patricia J. Kohl, Wallingford Unresponsive?
I could not sit by and do nothing as I read Tom Fitzgibbons’ letter (R-J, 3-1) implying that Meriden City Councilor Cathy Battista has not been responsive to the Hourigan Drive sewer issue. I find it hard to believe that Battista would have purposely not responded to a constituent concern or complaint. In fact, I don’t believe it. She always works hard to connect with her constituents on issues that are important to them and strives to do this at all times. She has been nothing but vigilant and hard-working in her efforts to deal with the controversial Hourigan sewer issue. There would be no reason to imply she purposely “hasn’t replied.”
Battista has done her homework on this issue and is continuing to explore this matter with seriousness and professionalism, as she has always shown. The facts are this: she has attended multiple Public Utilities meetings, has met with the Water Department and City Engineer and has talked to many residents behind the scenes, and is continuing to do so. She is planning on having an informational meeting in April on the Hourigan issue for all residents. How is this being unresponsive?
Battista is always responsive and dedicated to listening to her constituents about any issue. To even suggest she is the only councilor not to reply is incorrect when, in fact, she has always been responsive. Anyone that knows her, knows what a diligent, thorough person she is. She is known for doing research on issues. I thank Councilor Battista for all her efforts.
David Morassini, Meriden
Just a note about natural climate changes being periodic cycles. This is true, and such changes have been scientifically traced back thousands of years. Our present trend is warming (polar vortex, and all), and the natural next change should be cooling.
I have seen the encroachment of sea water engulf coastal neighborhoods in Labrador and Newfoundland; a fish factory with its dock and first floor totally under water; a brick building which will soon collapse. (I have a friend whose father worked there in the ‘50s.) My point is, even if you believe it to be a hoax — there is warming going on! (Just think: What if it isn’t a hoax?)
John Francis, Meriden
‘Our good city’
Dave Swedock is off the mark again. In one of his hastily prepared letters to the editor (R-J, 2-26), Swedock blasts Meriden City Councilor Steven Iovanna and local landlord Ross Gulino for their stance on the city’s Certificate of Compliance program. He misses the point when he talks about the neighborhood police program, blight and ending inspections altogether.
Meriden landlords don’t want to end the C of C program. They just want to make some changes that will help entice more investors to our city and help the current landlords continue to improve our housing stock and bring good tenants to live in our good city. Meriden landlords are proud of the job that the Meriden Police Department, and especially the neighborhood officers, are doing to keep us safe and develop strong relationships with the community. Meriden landlords don’t want to see blighted properties in our good city any more than Swedock does. We want to improve our good city, and we need to help and support Iovanna and landlord Gulino in this effort.
Hats off to Gulino and Iovanna for seeing a program that can be improved and putting in the time to make our city better.
Tony Saia, Wallingford