Carolyn Milazzo

21 posts

Lazy Investigation Leads to Flawed Editorial

By Nichole Berklas

The editorial published April 12, 2018 in the Hartford Courant regarding the paid family leave bill currently being reviewed by the Connecticut legislature was patently false in its analysis.
The Editorial notes that while there are “humane reasons to support the paid family leave bill in the legislature” the overwhelming reason not to is that the “state is broke.” It then spends a number of paragraphs detailing how expensive the paid family leave bill will be for the State. This analysis fails to note one simple and important point: THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT WOULD NOT PAY FOR PAID FAMILY LEAVE.
The proposal includes a very small tax taken from each worker’s check, which is then put into a reserve to fund future paid leave requests. In fact, employees will not be able to access the funds for a year after the tax begins, so that the reserve accumulates to insure sufficient funds to cover not only the requested leaves but also the additional State workers required to administer the program. How do we know this simple fact? An actuarial analysis was commissioned by the legislature in 2015 that determined whether such a program would be sustainable ( Moreover, we have actual real life proof in the long standing programs in both California and New Jersey.
Contrary to the conclusion made in the Editorial, paid family and medical leave is a clear solution to some of Connecticut’s fiscal struggles. With our neighboring states either now offering paid family and medical leave or on the eve of passing such a program, our lack of this clear and necessary program creates another reason for young people to take their educations and leave the State. No one should have to choose between their job and their family or health, and when our neighbors do not require young, mobile future leaders to make such a choice, Connecticut becomes the clear loser.
Moreover, as the Editorial itself notes, this is the “humane” decision. Unlike the alternative proposal discussed in the Editorial in which business owners would be given a tax credit for providing paid leave to their workers . . . the current option neither requires a payment on the part of the employers nor does it remove the tax revenue from that State. This really is a proposal that should easily garner support as it allows the State to do the right thing by giving workers an opportunity to address the reality of family and medical needs, while not asking either employers or the State to foot the bill.
It is one thing to disagree with the analysis that has been prepared, or even have concerns over the value of such a program, but it is just laziness on the part of the Editorial Staff to not investigate the actual proposal for paid family leave and the supporting analysis for the bill. I urge you to take two minutes and review the real facts on paid family and medical leave found on the Connecticut Campaign for Paid Family Leave website or Facebook page.
Nichole Berklas is CT NOW representative for Campaign for Paid Family Leave.


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Sandy Hook Victims Want Help

By Carolyn Milazzo Murphy

Sandy Hook School shooting survivor Mary Ann Jacob, left, with Bill Sherlach, whose wife Mary was killed in the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting.

You might expect Mary Ann Jacob to be discouraged about gun control.

Five years after surviving the Sandy Hook School shooting massacre by locking herself and 18 children in a storage closet, Jacob is dismayed by the number of school shootings, but believes history will show Sandy Hook was a major turning point in the gun control fight.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Jacobs said. “It’s going to take awhile, because we have to change a whole culture and its way of thinking. But I think when we look back in a generation, we’re going to see that Sandy Hook was the major turning point.”

Jacobs attended a screening of the acclaimed 2016 documentary Newtown Wednesday night at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport to highlight the importance of citizens, particularly women, in the gun control fight. The event was co-sponsored by the HHC journalism department and NOW’s Connecticut chapter.

I fixed my eyes on Jacobs, a library aide at Sandy Hook at the time of the shooting, as she fielded audience questions after the film. Dressed stylishly in a teal blouse, black sweater and slacks, and composed, she shows no outward signs of surviving the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.  

She has no medals to show her bravery, no purple heart to show the deep psychological wounds she suffered when 20-year-old Adam Lanza burst into the school on Dec. 14, 2014, killing 20 first-grade students and six staff members before killing himself.

But like her hometown, Jacobs was forever changed that day. She’s a survivor and a hero, shepherding 18 children to safety. And after walking around for months shell-shocked and just trying to get through the day, she and other Newtown survivors, relatives and friends emerged with a mission: tougher gun laws to prevent future tragedies.

Jacobs and other Newtown teachers and staff didn’t think they could return after the shooting, and hiring substitute teachers and aides was considered. But they decided if parents could put kids on the bus and kids could come to school, they could return too. And they did, setting up a makeshift school in the next town. Jacob said not much learning took place for about three months after the shooting, noting everyone just tried to get through each day.

She noted a rough winter blessedly led to many snow days, sparing the school from regimented weeks. Ordered, regular schedules were the last thing the kids or staff needed. They just needed to be together and heal as best they could.

“There wasn’t one week until about May where we had five days of school in a row, and that was such a relief because I don’t think we could have survived five consecutive days of school,” she said.

Though mounting gun violence makes us feel helpless and afraid, Jacob said we can and must do more. In the wake of the Parkland, FL., school shooting, three times as many calls supporting the NRA are coming into lawmakers as those supporting gun control. If you want to make a difference, Jacobs said, you’ve got to speak up and make your voice heard. You can’t expect others to do it for you.

“Don’t be a slacktivist, someone who doesn’t do anything,” she said. “This problem is not going to disappear. If there’s going to be change, it’s going to have to be a grassroots, bottom-up effort.”

It’s true. Connecticut chapter NOW president Cindy Wolfe Boynton was expecting a standing room only crowd given the timing of the screening. Just weeks after gun control rallies in Washington, D.C., and around the country mobilized the movement, Boynton expected to build momentum, particularly among women.

But about half the seats were empty, evidence of good intentions, but complacency. When I asked if a friend who had indicated she was attending was there, Boynton shook her head. “Not here,” she said. “Everyone always says they’re coming, but . . .”

Though Newtown is heartbreaking with its stories of lost children, shattered families and beautiful community crushed by a crazed gunman, you’re struck by the love and resilience of the community. Parents like Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley of the Sandy Hook Promise, who work tirelessly for tougher gun laws. Loved ones like Bill Sherlach, whose wife Mary, the school psychologist at Sandy Hook, was one of the victims.

Co-founder of the Sandy Hook Promise, Sherlach said he’ll never stop fighting for tougher gun laws because he owes it to his wife, who worked at the school for 18 years and loved the kids. Though progress is slow, he said he’s heartened by a Sandy Hook Promise program in schools that teaches children and teachers to look for signs of potential problems in students – alienation, isolation, poor communication and socializing skills – prevent potential disasters.

“We’ve got to look out for each other, and we’re teaching kids and teachers to notice signs,” he said. “I know of at least three shootings that were thwarted because of this program.”

All positive signs, but not nearly enough. I dreaded watching Newtown, but I’m glad I did because it’s motivated me to get more involved in the gun control movement. I’ve been as big a slacktivist as anyone else. It’s not only time to get involved, it’s long overdue.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is blog editor.


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It’s a busy week. Here are just a few things on our radar:

LESSONS OF NEWTOWN: Join Connecticut chapter-NOW President Cindy Wolfe Boynton and journalism students at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport for a free screening and panel discussion of the documentary Newtown from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday. The screening and panel discussion will be held in the Events Center on the 2nd floor of Beacon Hall, 900 Lafayette Blvd., Bridgeport. Ample free parking is available in HCC’s garage.

FUNNY BONE: Check out the Queer Queens of Qomedy’s show at 4 p.m. April 15th (Sunday) at the Hartford Funny Bone, 194 Buckland Hills Drive, Manchester. The show features comedians Poppy Champlin, New York comedian Kathy Arnold, and Boston comedian Chloe Cunha. A Rhode Island-based comedian for 30 years, Champlin calls the show feminist comedy. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $40 for VIP admission, which includes a meet and greet before the show, wine and cheese and preferred seating. More info:

LOBBY FOR PAID LEAVE: Join the 4-week fight for paid leave. Weekly lobby days every WEDNESDAY beginning 4/11 and ending 5/2. Each week highlights a different aspect of paid leave and why it’s so critical for Connecticut workers, families and businesses. RSVP and you’ll get additional details. More info:

STEINEM SPEAKS: Legendary feminist Gloria Steinem is the keynote speaker for the Hartford YMCA’s In the Company of Women Luncheon Thursday at the Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Blvd., Hartford. The event starts at 11, with lunch and program from 12:30-2 p.m.

CT-NOW ON ESTY: CT-Now President Cindy Wolfe Boynton shared her thoughts on the scandal surrounding U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty on WFSB-Channel 3’s Face the State. If you missed it, click here:


Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is blog editor.


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Do Business & Friendship Mix?

By Carolyn Milazzo Murphy

Have you ever started a new career or business, and been disappointed when your friends – the ones you thought would be your biggest supporters – didn’t quite meet your expectations?

This came up during a recent discussion with a friend. One of her close friends launched a new business, and has approached her several times seeking her financial support. My friend isn’t in a position to support her friend’s business, but isn’t sure how to get her point across without hurting her feelings.

This is straining their friendship. Her friend was counting on her support. But should you feel obligated to buy something you don’t want or need to keep your friendship intact? How do you say no to a friend without hurting her feelings? Has this happened to you, and how do you handle it?

This comes up a lot in my circle because I’ve been mostly a stay-at-home mom for the past 20 years. Once the kids get older and are in school all day, lots of moms try to re-enter the workforce. The problem is many employers don’t want anything to do with us because they think we’ve been sitting home doing nothing all day. We have that dreaded hole in our resume, and nothing will make it go away.

Many of my friends are whip smart and left lucrative careers to raise their kids, but shift careers and trajectories to relaunch. We think (hope) that our friends will support our new endeavors, assuming they’re as eager for us to thrive as we are. When they don’t, it can lead to disappointment, rejection and anger.

This happened to me when I launched my own yoga business. Many friends and acquaintances assured me that they’d support me and attend my classes, but few did. They had no obligation to attend my classes. After all, they pointed out, there are so many exercise classes out there and so little time.

But it stung. A lot. I took it personally, and felt very let down. I had counted on a cadre of people – the ones who seemed so supportive when I was newly certified – to support me. What really hurt was when I’d see their yoga mat in the back of their cars. I knew they were going to class, just not mine.

Of course, it’s business, and some people are better at handling rejection than others. I realized I’m not cut out to teach yoga. I love going to classes, but teaching it? That’s a very different story and maybe the best lesson I took away from the whole experience.

Everyone has her own talents and gifts. Teaching yoga isn’t one of mine. I don’t know why we have such unrealistic expectations of our friends when it comes to business or jobs, but we do. When our friends don’t support us, we feel like they’ve abandoned us and want us to fail. Perhaps a little more understanding, grace and honesty on everyone’s part is needed. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is CT-NOW blog editor.

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Over 50, Who Will Hire Her?



                           Angela Pascopella

By Angela Pascopella

I lost three things last fall:

  1. My job of 16 years.
  2. My mother to cancer.
  3. My youth (I turned 50).

I lost them in that order. I guess you could say I’m in full-on mid-life crisis.

My mother’s passing is the most traumatic, and has left a hole that will never heal. But being an unemployed woman over 50 in this job market makes every day more challenging. Landing a job in journalism or marketing at my age sometimes feels next to impossible.
I left my old job after 16 years. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. I was managing editor of a trade publication and enjoyed the work. But it became clear that it was time to go.
Over the past 28 weeks or so, I’ve applied for about 20 jobs, using Indeed, Glassdoor and creative circle sites. Of those, I’ve interviewed for about seven. No luck yet.
I really don’t know why I’ve been denied, why no one wants to hire me, but I have my hunches. I’m 50. I have “too much experience” for some jobs, but “not enough” for top editor jobs. I also sense that I’m limited in logistics. Commuting to New York City would be a long haul, but I’m willing to do it. I also want to leave the K-12 publishing industry, which has been my life for 16 years and where I have the most recent contacts. I’d rather not travel for work.

I recently started looking at other job sites, including CareerBoutique. That’s when the potential jobs sent to me started to get nutty. I’ve so far been “advised” of jobs in waste management, the U.S. Postal Service, mailroom clerk and a Lyft driver. I’m not knocking these jobs. I just don’t think my writing/editing experience fits.
Some might think I need to apply for more jobs, that it’s a “numbers game.” But I’m determined to find work that pays the bills and makes my heart sing. I’m striving to find editing or writing work that will make a difference – in social justice, the environment, law or health sciences. I’m also looking to work in communications or public relations at an independent school, using my extensive experience at a K-12 trade publication. I’ve sought out a head hunter agency for that position. I’ve had some phone interviews, but again, no job offers.
In my research for this piece, I wanted to find some facts about the job-seeking arena. I found a few stories on “what not to do” in finding a job, “how to build a stellar resume,” or “common mistakes” job seekers make and how to avoid the pitfalls.
Here is one I found, eh-hem, from the American Association of Retired Persons: “8 Common Mistakes Older Job Seekers Make.” (I refuse to think I’m even close to this cohort of people. Some would call it denial.)
Here are some mistakes, according to the AARP story:
Kicking back and taking a break.
Not me. I’ve been freelancing for Discovery Education, writing a few blogs for another K-12 technology company, and most recently, started taking a course to potentially pursue patient advocacy in a hospital. [This idea surfaced after my mother was in and out of three hospitals over the last two weeks of her life. Two of the three were horrible experiences – as my mother was neglected and pretty much pushed out, without getting the proper treatment.] The world, or at least the United States, needs more patient advocates! I figure that my 30 years of work experience and my communication skills would benefit me in this position.
Using dated email accounts.
Right. So this was something I didn’t realize until my sister-in-law, who works for a non-profit for children and families in California, advised me that my very old “Yahoo” account was an “Absolutely NOT” sign on my resume when I sent applications for jobs. I immediately created a gmail account, which seems to have made the difference between no bites and some bites.
Missing a digital presence.
I have bolstered my LinkedIn account, have done some tweeting (though, I could do more), and have reached out to writer friends.
Lacking salary flexibility.
Nope. I’m fully aware that I need to lower my expectations in this area. However, the tricky part is not sounding too desperate or refusing to value my own worth. When I interviewed for an associate editor position with a national consumer publication last fall, the editor was quite impressed with my skills and knowledge. He essentially told me that I could “do this job, no problem.” But he worried for me – how considerate! – that it was too “low” for me. I tried to reassure him that it certainly was not, that the work would be fun and challenging, and that the publication was something I’ve always wanted to write for! Even as a child!
But after a writing and editing test, he told me they changed their minds, and they were not going to hire anyone for the job after all.
I didn’t know if he was being honest, but I did start to see the same job description on a jobs site on a “freelance” basis. So maybe, it’s true. Maybe they didn’t want to pay the very costly health benefits?

I know I’m a good worker bee. I’m conscientious, thorough, detailed, intelligent, witty and knowledgeable.
For the next potential employer, I’d really like to include some of these qualifications, just for that shock value I like to throw out:
I grew up [in the 1970s] thinking I had to please everyone BUT myself. Translation: I will work so hard for you and, in turn, get the job done no matter what.
I was bullied as a kid. I was beat up once and a few adults/teachers took advantage of me emotionally. Translation: I’m one tough cookie.
I often resorted to playing by myself because my siblings were older. Translation: I can be creative and/or work on my own when given the freedom.
I rarely received awards or even a pat on the back for doing well in school or doing anything positive at all. Translation: I don’t need praise or encouragement. Just give me a salary and health benefits.

Upon reflection, maybe I sound too pathetic.

I still receive unemployment checks, thanks to the state of Connecticut. But it doesn’t even cover my and my husband’s health insurance premium costs every month.
So, some advice from that AARP story that I referred to above? The story mentioned how readers should check out the AARP’s Job Board.
Huh. Maybe it’s time to embrace that site now.

Angela Pascopella is a 29-year veteran of journalism, writing and editing. She is studying patient advocacy via the Beryl Institute, hoping to find a job in helping patients and/or finding full-time editing work at a worthy organization. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and their adopted dog.

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Live Free Or Diet


Intuitive Eating coach Elizabeth Hall wants to change the way you look at food.

I notice women’s bodies, and I suspect that you do too.

We can’t help it. We’re a product of western culture and its emphasis on physical appearance. When someone loses weight, we notice and compliment her efforts. In our own way without even realizing it, we’re perpetuating and encouraging the idea that being thin deserves praise.

I am guilty of doing this too. Over Christmas, I saw one of my sisters who I hadn’t seen in a few months. She was thinner, and I asked if she had lost weight. “Yes, I lost 10 pounds during a program at my gym,” she said. “That’s good, but don’t lose another pound,” I said. “You don’t want to become too thin because it will show in your face.”

I shared this little conversation with Intuitive Eating coach Elizabeth Hall, and was met with prolonged silence. I knew I had blown it, but I wasn’t really sure why.

“Why are you commenting on someone’s else’s body?” Hall asked. “Weight should really be left out of the conversation.”

This, of course, is easier said than done in our weight obsessed culture, where losing weight tops the list of New Year’s resolutions, and triple zero is a clothing size. It’s particularly hard for women who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s in the ultra-thin days of Twiggy and Cher. Raised on the notion that you must be thin to be attractive, many women double up their weight loss efforts in their ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.

The result: an increase in rail thin older women who are so skinny you cringe and suspect they might suffer from an eating disorder. Though often associated with adolescent girls, post menopausal women are also prone to eating disorders. Like puberty, menopause brings with it changes in mood, hormones and fat distribution. As women age, they tend to put on weight in their mid-section – the last place they want it.

Faced with the prospect of getting older and heavier, some women step up their dieting and exercising regimes during menopause, intensifying a hostile relationship with food and weight that has dominated their lives.

“Women in their 40s and 50s are dieting more than younger women because they grew up in the diet culture in their 20s and 30s,” Hall says. “I know of women in their 70s who are still counting calories and dieting. Life is short, and food is pleasurable. People shouldn’t be afraid to eat and enjoy food because they’re afraid of getting fat.”

Hall is on a mission to help women break the diet cycle, helping them make peace with food and their bodies. She gently guides women away from dieting, teaching them ways to trust their bodies – and food cravings – and engage in life more fully. She’s also working to end size discrimination, which she claims is the most prevalent and accepted form of bias in the United States.

Hall hopes the documentary Fattitude will help her get her message out. She’s bringing Fattitude to the AMC Plainville 20, 220 New Britain Ave. Plainville, on April 19th at 7:30 pm. The event features a one-night screening of the 90-minute documentary aiming to change biases and stereotypes about fat. A brief question and answer session will follow.

Hall is excited to bring Fattitude to Plainville, but notes she needs to sell at least 100 tickets for the film to run. If you’re interested, you can buy tickets at

Hall’s road to intuitive eating is based on her own lifelong battle with food. A chronic dieter from about age 13, Hall got the message early and often that small is better than large. Hall tried desperately to conform to what she believed her family and society expected from her. It wasn’t until she reached age 40 that she realized that her relationship with food had to change. Her website,, features her motto: “Live free or diet.”

Hall became an intuitive eating coach about two years ago, counseling most of her clients by phone. Her initial 20-minute phone consultation is free. A minimum three-month commitment is required from clients.

“I always struggled with my weight,” says Hall, 47, a mother of three from West Hartford. “I was a larger size person from a young age and got the message that I should weigh less. A lot of us don’t even realize that we’re getting this message because it’s completely internalized. It’s just been ingrained in us from a very young age.”

Though women have been judged on their appearance throughout history, Hall claims pressure to be thin began in earnest in the 1920s with insurance companies’ weight charts and influence from the fashion industry. Television, movies and magazines featuring thin – and ultimately gaunt – models helped perpetuate the movement throughout the 20th century.

Hall claims that intuitive eating works where diets fail because it focuses on each person’s body and nutritional needs. People learn to listen to their bodies instead of eating foods prescribed on a diet. Hall says her approach works better than diets because 95 percent of people who go on diets gain weight back within five years.

Hall said television – and now social media – has a major impact on women’s body image. Countries like Fiji had never seen a case of anorexia until western TV came to their country, exposing them to women’s bodies in the United States. Anorexia’s emergence in Fiji demonstrates the power that media has in holding women to certain standards, Hall says.

“There’s an over-emphasis on size and weight in this country,” Hall said. “I think weight should just be left out of the conversation. I want people to realize that all bodies are good.”

Tomorrow: A closer look at “Fattitude.”

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is blog editor.

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The Lesson of MADD

Poster boards of drunk driving victims line a conference room at MADD Connecticut chapter headquarters in East Haven.

If you grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, you know at least one person who was killed in a drunk driving crash.

For me, it was a beautiful girl with red hair and fiery spirit the year behind me in school. I didn’t know her, but knew who she was. She went to my church and was part of a large Irish brood known by everyone in town.

She was killed after the car she was riding in slammed into a tree late one night returning home from her summer job. In an instant, she was gone.

Back then, our attitudes and laws about drinking and driving were pretty lax. We hopped into cars after partying without thinking about crashing or getting arrested. One of my friends from Fairfield Prep drank so much one night that he passed out at a toll booth on the Merritt Parkway. No one took his keys, or called his parents. They simply shook him awake, and told him to move on.

Did I drink and drive? Yes, I did. I wasn’t drunk, but I would fail today’s standard for designated drivers, which is no alcohol. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth. We were all a little dense back then.

Today, we know better. Drunk driving laws have been toughened, lowering the standard for drunk driving from .10 to .08 in Connecticut. Stricter penalties, mandatory jail time for repeat offenders, and ignition locking devices are in place to keep drunks off the road. But MADD’s biggest achievement may be in changing attitudes.

Beer cups after a road race.
Today’s teens, young adults and parents are much more aware of the dangers of drinking and driving.  Designated drivers are assigned or overnights arranged at friends’ houses keep kids safe after a night of drinking. Schools have also jumped on board, hosting alcohol free post-prom and graduation events.

It’s worked. Today, half as many people are dying in DWI/DUI crashes in Connecticut as 1984. MADD is proof that you can make inroads and save lives if you’re persistent.

MADD is proof that change is a slow process borne of years of conviction and dedication. It shows that change can happen if people make enough noise that lawmakers must listen.

It’s proof that if laws and attitudes about DWI can change, stricter laws can be adopted to prevent gun violence in schools. It won’t happen overnight, with one day of student walkouts or one national march. Like MADD, gun safety advocates must gear up for the long haul because changes take time, a very long time.

MADD started with one California woman, Candy Lightner, who took her devastation and anger over her daughter’s 1980 death in a DWI crash and sprung into action. Lightner’s 13-year-old daughter was walking to a church carnival when she was struck by a repeat DWI offender. Lightner committed herself to changing attitudes toward DWI, which she termed society’s only acceptable form of homicide. Today, MADD is among the largest non-profit advocacy groups in the nation.

Like Lightner, Janice Heggie Margolis unwittingly stumbled into her role as Connecticut chapter MADD president.

Eric Zimmerman was killed by a drunk driver in Milford, CT. I covered his court case, and interviewed his heart-broken mom.
While working in a hospital emergency room one night, a 4-year-old boy was rushed in and later declared dead after a DWI crash. The boy was standing on the passenger seat, and catapulted through the windshield on impact. Janice, a registered nurse, went to break the news to the driver: the boy’s father, who was too drunk to comprehend what he’d done.

“I had a baby at home so I had to do something,” she said.

Instead of a nursing career, she committed herself to MADD. She was still saving lives, but in a different way. She admits she was green when she started out. What did a nurse know about the court system? She credits court officials and judges with showing her the ropes.

Over the years, Janice, 66, has been a tireless victims rights advocate, appearing in court, working with families and lobbying for tougher DWI laws. She can take pride in her work, which has drastically cut the number of drunk driving deaths in Connecticut.

Janice attributes the reduction to public awareness, ride services like Uber, and interlocking devices requiring people who’ve been arrested for DWI to blow into them to start the ignition.

If you’re arrested for drunk driving, your car is equipped with an ignition interlock device requiring you to breathe into it to start it. You pay for the device, but like many things, people figure out ways to circumvent it. They have other people blow into it, or borrow cars without the device. Sadly, someone who wants to drive drunk can always find a way.

Though often feeling as though she taking three steps forward and two back, Janice said she’s seen progress since the late 80s. Between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2017, ignition interlock devices stopped 144,010 intoxicated drivers in Connecticut. That’s 144,000 times that people were too drunk to drive, and tried to do it anyway.

The number of drunk driving deaths is also dropping. In 1984, 252 people were killed in DWI crashes. In 2016, that number dropped to 100. But it’s a constant fight. And Janice points out that no devices prevent people from driving under the influence of drugs, another major road hazard.

One of the conference rooms at MADD headquarters in East Haven is filled with poster boards bearing the images of people killed in drunk driving crashes. I asked Janice how she handles sitting in the room. The images of smiling faces whose lives were tragically cut short is haunting. But Janice doesn’t see things that way.

“I see it as I’m having lunch all these people every day,” she said. “It’s an honor to sit in this room and honor their memory.”

Today, Janice is the oldest MADD president in the nation. But if you think 35 years is enough or she’s thinking about retirement, you’re wrong.

She’s made inroads, yes, but there’s so much more to be done. And as she’s proven, she’s in this for the long haul.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is blog editor for NOW-CT.


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Clearing Up Paid Leave Myths

By Nichole Berklas

It’s time to clear up some myths about paid family leave.

SB-1: An Act Concerning Earned Family and Medical Leave and H.B. 5387: An Act Concerning Paid Family Medical Leave, are set for hearing Thursday at 2:30 p.m., and making their way through the legislative process. With the public hearing fast approaching, it’s time to clear up the following misconceptions.

  1. We already have FMLA, that is enough.  Check out our earlier blog for more details on this issue- the short and sweet answer is NO.
  2. What employees will be eligible?  Any employee who has earned $2,325 in the highest earning quarter within the five most recent completed calendar quarters is eligible, and their eligibility is determined based on earnings with multiple employers.  
  3. What if YOU are the employer?  Needing paid leave does not restrict itself to employees only.  Self-employed people may choose to opt into the program should they want a safety net in the event (or when) life rears up!
  4. If you take leave, what do you get?   Employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, with an extra 2 weeks available if there is a serious health condition with a pregnancy that results in incapacity.  Employees receive 100% of their weekly wages, up to a cap of $1,000 per week.
  5. This seems great, BUT CONNECTICUT HAS NO MONEY.   The advantage of this program is that it is not dependent on the financial viability of the State.  The program is funded by a small employee premium of 0.5% of weekly earning, up to the SSI limit on deductions.  While the program will be administered by the CT Department of Labor, and will require personnel to administer, the costs of this administration has been factored into the program itself.  Start up costs will be funded by bond allocation, and premiums will be collected for a year prior to claimants being able to draw upon the fund, which will allow the program to be self-sustaining  and cover benefit claims as well as staffing needs.
  6. This will hurt businesses, and we certainly can’t afford that NOW.  When workers don’t have access to paid leave, they are more likely to leave their jobs.  Improving worker retention has real monetary benefits to employers large and small. After 10 years of paid family leave in California (the state with the longest existing program), employers overwhelming report positive or neutral impacts on their business and note increased morale and productivity in employees.

Nichole Berklas serves as Connecticut NOW’s representative to the Connecticut Campaign for Paid Family Leave.


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Making Her Mark

A few months ago, I was going through a tiny Will Smith jag.

After the song “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” (I know, dumb title, dumber song) came on the car radio, I came home and wanted more Smith. I’ve always loved the song “Men in Black,” though I’ve never watched the movie. I then played “Miami,” Smith’s tribute to the city’s tropical climate, fancy cars, lavish homes and beautiful women.

As “Miami” blared, my 16-year-old daughter came into the kitchen. “I don’t like the way he’s talking about women,” she said. “He’s just talking about what they look like. That’s wrong.”

Yes, he was and it is. I wasn’t paying attention the lyrics, which are pretty tame by today’s standards. But she noticed. And though I’ve never discussed objectifying women with her, I’m happy she’s aware of it and knows it’s wrong. Like most teen-agers, she gets a lot of information online. This was one time I wasn’t upset that she spends too much time on her laptop.

But I thought about it, and realized that I’ve dropped the ball discussing women’s issues with her and my 20-year-old son. I realized if I don’t bring up the way things were and are, who will? I shouldn’t depend on others to do my job. I think I was suffering from a bit of complacency like a lot of women today.

Fortunately, March is a good time to change because it’s Women’s History Month, 31 days devoted to recognizing our struggles and accomplishments. Originally launched 40 years ago as National Women’s History Month, the designation expanded to include the entire month of March in 1987. This year, International Women’s Day is Thursday, March 8th.

Women’s organizations, colleges and universities, schools and public libraries are hosting speakers, workshops, essays and poster contests to mark the month. Organizers say this year is particularly important because of the #METOO and #TIMESUP movements. The issue of college date rape is also hitting close to home with the trial of a former Yale student accused of sexually assaulting a classmate while she was intoxicated. Though many colleges and universities are addressing this issue, it remains a deeply troubling problem nationwide.

I plan to seize this opportunity to discuss women’s issues with my kids. I may even bring them to one of the many events being held this month. Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live is hosting three conversations with prominent Connecticut women from very different backgrounds.

In the Making Her Story series, host Lucy Nalpathanchil will ask each about the journey that led to her success in business or non-profit work. The series opens tonight with Teresa C. Younger, who has served as President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, the oldest women’s foundation in the United States, since 2014.  The event (reception 6 p.m., followed by talk at 7 p.m.) is at Gateway Community College’s Curran Family Community Center, 20 Church St., New Haven. Tickets are $10.

I’m also going to tell  my kids about growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, and the inroads feminists made for us. I didn’t burn bras or march – I was only in my early to mid-teens at the height of the movement – but I do have my own stories. I entered Wheaton College, an all-women’s college (now co-ed) at a time when colleges and universities were still “going co-ed” and grappling with the transition.

People often ask me if I played golf in college, but I didn’t because there was no golf team. This wasn’t the exception back then. Women were treated like second-class citizens. We were paid less than men, barred from joining civic groups like the Rotary Club, and blocked from certain jobs.

I grew up in an era when men and women were treated differently, particularly in sports. I’m old enough to have watched the original Battle of the Sexes between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973. I’m old. Heck, I’m old enough to have played tennis against Patty Ann Meyer, one of the founding members of the Virginia Slims Tour. She can still beat me with one arm tied behind her back, but you get the point. We are not that far removed from those days, but people have short memories.

My husband was part of the first co-ed freshman class to enter Williams College in the fall of 1971. During his four years, the ratio of men to women was 3-1, and it took years for the classes to even out. Though many feared that going co-ed would lead to the admission of women with inferior academic records, the opposite was true: most of the women admitted during the transition were highly intelligent and more studious than their male counterparts.

Did they have a point to prove? Absolutely. As any hiker will tell you, it’s a lot easier to navigate blazed trails. Take a look at some of the activities planned this month. There’s a lot to celebrate, but many trails that still need to be marked.

Carolyn Milazzo is blog editor for CT-NOW.



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Why Paid Leave Matters

Matt Laufer with his mom Jane Miller Laufer in a recent Facebook post.
Jane Miller Laufer is in crisis mode – again.
Nearly 15 years after her son Matt was paralyzed in a devastating car crash on Interstate 95, Jane is by his side as he battles acute respiratory failure. The condition causes a build-up of fluid in the air sacs of the lungs, preventing proper exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen.
For nearly eight months, Jane has worn two hats: devoted and loving mom to 38-year-old Matt and registered nurse/case manager for her gravely ill son. She’s where she needs and must be, but it’s been a huge emotional and financial strain on Jane and her family.
She’s living apart from her husband, Dan, and the couple have put their fledgling women’s clothing business LuLaRoe on hold. After exhausting 16 weeks of unpaid family leave time and paid benefits, Jane, 59, recently resigned as a full-time registered nurse to care for Matt. She pays Cobra for her health insurance.
“It’s been a huge financial strain,” she said.
 “I’m exhausted physically, but more so emotionally on this roller coaster ride of good days and bad days,” she said. “Matt’s diaphragm, although not fully paralyzed, has atrophied over the years. He has chronic end stage respiratory failure. Slow, steady decline is anticipated. Matt’s need for continuous care will remain unchanged. At some point, he most likely will choose the option of hospice, but currently, he wants to try to enjoy whatever quality of life he can.”
Jane is a staunch advocate of paid family leave in Connecticut, saying that four months of unpaid leave is woefully inadequate when dealing with a chronic health condition. She supports caregivers being eligible to receive up to one year of paid family leave.
Though anyone can find themselves in the sudden role of caregiver, studies show the issue affects far more women than men.
About 66 percent of caregivers are women. The average caretaker is a 49-year-old woman who works full time and provides up to 20 hours of unpaid care to her mother. And while men are also caretakers, women provide 50 percent more time caregiving than men.
NOW’s Connecticut chapter supports paid family leave, which is being considered under a proposed state law. NOW-CT believes paid leave would give caregivers financial security during medical or family emergencies.
In Connecticut, employees can take up to four months of unpaid leave for a medical or family issue, such as an illness, accident or the birth or adoption of a child. But a proposed state law would provide a minimum of 12 weeks of paid leave for people who stay home for family or medical emergencies. (For a rundown of the proposal, see below.)
A handful of states currently provide paid medical leave. CaliforniaRhode IslandWashingtonNew Jersey, and New York –  and the District of Columbia – have laws that provide paid family leave laws.
A public hearing on the proposed bill in Connecticut is at 2:30 p.m. March 8 at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Bill supporters are urging residents to attend the hearing to share their stories with legislators.
Jane said having to worry about losing her job was an additional burden while caring for Matt. She said she was filled with anxiety about quitting her nursing job, but had no choice.
If she couldn’t provide round the clock nursing care, Matt’s only option would be admission to a nursing home that accepted patients on ventilators. Jane said that was out of the question.
“There is no way I was going to put my 38-year-old son in a nursing home,” Jane said.
The Laufer’s life changed permanently in May, 2003, when Matt was paralyzed in a car accident while driving to work on Interstate 95 in Fairfield. With traffic at a standstill due to an accident ahead, Matt sat in gridlock in the center lane. Glancing in the rear view mirror, Matt saw an 18-wheel truck barreling toward his car. The truck struck with such force that it pushed Matt’s car beneath an 18-wheeler ahead of him, pinning the car beneath the trailer bed.
Matt’s injuries were catastrophic and permanent: six of seven neck vertebra were crushed, paralyzing him from the shoulders down. He was a paraplegic at age 23, but determined to live as independently as possible. After living with his parents for two and a half years and being cared for by Jane, he moved into his own house, where he lived with the help of aides for his basic needs.
His health took a sharp downward spiral last August when he was hospitalized for acute respiratory failure. A tracheostomy tube was inserted to create an opening in his airway, and he was placed on a ventilator. Jane said the disease is slow and progressive.
“I feel fortunate to be able to provide the care that my son requires,” Jane said. “But the hardest part about being a “Nurse-Mom” is knowing that the outcome will not be positive for Matt in the long run. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.”
Below are highlights of the proposed Family & Medical Leave Insurance Program being considered in Connecticut.
●A serious health condition
●The birth or adoption of a new child, or foster care placement
●To provide caregiving to a family member with a serious illness
●To serve as an organ or bone marrow donor
●To care for an injured service member
●For issues associated with domestic violence
●Must work for an employer of two or more
●State and municipal employees who are covered by collective bargaining contracts can opt into the program through the collective bargaining process
● Self-employed people may opt in
● Includes job protection for workers who have worked for an employer for at least 6 months and 500 hours
● An employee must have earned $2,325 in the highest earning quarter within the five most recently completed calendar quarters
● Earnings may be with multiple employers
● Workers may use leave for the reasons defined in CT’s FMLA with the addition of caring for a sibling, grandparent or grandchild, a child of any age and any other individual related by blood or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship
● Employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. An employee can take two extra weeks if there is a serious health condition with a pregnancy that results in incapacity
● The waiting period before using leave is 7 days
● Employees will receive 100% of their weekly earnings, up to a cap of $1,000/week.
Source: Connecticut Campaign for Paid Family Leave.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is blog editor for NOW-CT.

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