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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Liquor Sellers Get Tips at Fake I.D. Forum

Liquor Sellers Get Tips 
at Fake I.D. Forum
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – For the dozen or more representatives from local bars and restaurants, it was a helpful crash course in knowing how to spot fake I.D.’s but also a refresher on liquor sale and distribution guidelines.

Held Tuesday April 12 at Fairfield University’s Alumni House facility on 1073 North Benson Road, the Fake I.D. Forum was an initiative aimed at curbing drinking by individuals under the age of 21 by educating local providers of alcohol. The morning session was hosted by Pam Paulmann, the Program Coordinator of Fairfield Corps, a coalition on campus funded through a grant by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The session featured Fairfield Police Dept. Lt. Tom Mrozek, a fake I.D. expert, and Stanley Buck, Jr., Supervising Agent with the State of CT Dept. of Consumer Protection Liquor Control Division, who spoke about state laws governing the sale of alcohol.

“This event is a follow-up to an April 2 Training Intervention Procedures program,” said Paulmann, “which guided servers on the sale and distribution of alcohol. We’re trying to engage the entire community and have everyone do their part in allaying issues.”

Sitting in, Todd Pelazza, Director of Public Safety at the university, said he just wants to keep students safe. “We find that most underage students that have alcohol on campus purchase it off campus,” he said. “Our goal is to increase awareness in the community on how to spot fake I.D.’s. With the enhanced ability of computers and graphics, people find it easier to produce fakes. We do find on occasion an incident of a student on campus with a fake I.D.”

Presenter Mrozek said the university, in fact, had a particularly troublesome occurrence about five years ago. “There was a kid with a big picture of a Connecticut driver’s license on his wall,” he said. “He’d have kids come in, take their photograph against it and print out a license from his computer. He kept everything on there, so we were able to round everyone up.”

Mrozek said there are many different approaches underage students use to try and get liquor illegally. “Students that are of age love to lend out their I.D.’s,” he said. “Others get I.D.’s from the Internet. When you do a search for ‘Fake I.D.’, about 6,000 companies come up. Some kids use a brother or sister’s license, and those are the toughest to catch.”

The officer said fake Connecticut licenses are rare as the state is a good watchdog. On the other hand, fake New York licenses are common, but also easy to spot. “They are indestructible,” he said, “so if you can peel up a corner or it de-laminates, it’s a fake.”

Other states use certain printing processes or imagery to deter license forgers. “Massachusetts loves microprinting,” Mrozek said. “They feature a little black line across the face that reads ‘Dept. of Motor Vehicles State of Massachusetts’. Maine has a certain brightness and clarity to the top portion of its license.”

With Internet-oriented I.D.’s, there are certain graphics that make them easy to spot as fakes. “Many use symbols like padlocks, keys and eagles, or words like authentic and genuine,” said Mrozek. “If you see these on licenses, it’s a quick tip-off.”

Server compliance statistics that co-presenter Buck shared certainly stressed the importance of verifying I.D.’s. Of 492 establishments that were checked in 2010, 124 failed for selling alcohol to minors. This led to 11 permit revocations, 196 suspensions and over $313,000 in civil penalties.

Buck said there are I.D. checking guides that servers can buy which provide examples of various I.D.’s and false elements. He said servers can seek to obtain an Age Statement from someone they suspect is using a fake I.D., too, which can offer legal protection.

Buck also emphasized to servers that they should know their permits inside and out, so they are not risking other penalties. Citing a few examples, Buck said, “Restaurant permits apply to what happens within the four walls of the facility, but don’t apply to a patio. A separate patio permit must be obtained to allow people to take drinks outside the four walls. In café situations, a facility must close after legal drinking hours and employees are prohibited from having an after-work drink if it’s after legal hours.”

Jim O’Neil, a bartender at Archie Moore’s, said, “It’s good to know what the police want us to look for. We never really have a problem, but part of that is keeping up to date through programs like this.”

Seed-to-Seed Library Buds at Pequot Presentation

Seed-to-Seed Library Buds at Pequot Presentation
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Southport, CT – You can be-leaf that the audience was green with excitement about the launch of the Fairfield Organic Teaching Farm’s new Seed-to-Seed Library.

On Wednesday evening, representatives from the Farm and Fairfield Public Library held an introduction to the initiative at Southport’s Pequot Library. About 50 gardening enthusiasts showed to get an overview of the program, meet a handful of eco-friendly and natural food vendors, buy seed packets and hear garden writer and lecturer Tovah Martin speak about garden stewardship. The launch preceded a program orientation that will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, April 16 at the Fairfield Woods Library branch at 1147 Fairfield Woods Road.

“Our goal is to have every single household in Fairfield start a garden,” said Nancy Coriaty, Deputy Town Librarian. “If we can be our own sustainable garden center, that would be cool.”

Coriaty said that thousands of seeds will be available at the Woods Seed Library, made possible through a grant from the New England Grass Roots Environment Fund and seed donations from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. in Mansfield, MO, Comstock Ferre in Wethersfield, CT, and Renee’s Garden in Felton, CA. Funding also afforded seed cabinets and upcoming summer workshops.

Jennifer Cole, VP at Fairfield Organic Teaching Farm, said, “This is the first ever seed library in Fairfield. By taking the seeds out, planting and then bringing seeds back, all become part of the same community. You know exactly what your seeds are… that they’re organic. At the supermarket, you don’t know what you’re getting.”

To inspire both blossoming and veteran green thumbs, lecturer Martin showed slides of some of the most noted gardens around the U.S., which included Millstream (CT), Lynwood Gardens (NY) and Wing Haven (NC). She also made suggestions about how you should approach gardening and strategies for success. “You need to interact with your garden and exchange love,” she said. “It’s a relationship. And know who you are, do your own garden. I decided I was a colorful person. Not all the colors in my garden go together, but I don’t care what anyone thinks.”

Martin stressed good stewardship. “If you don’t love these things, they’ll be gone,” she said, noting that tubers like Dahlias, which need to be maintained annually, can be among the first to go if untended.

Martin added that you should aim to create gardens that someone may want to take under their wing in the future. “You have to get your seeds and keep them going,” she said. “We cannot depend on catalogs to preserve plants we think are important. We’ve got to do it ourselves.”

The advice resonated with event attendee Joe Puma, a member of the Greater Bridgeport Men’s Garden Club. “It’s fascinating to think of maintaining plants from one generation to the next,” he said. “My grandson comes over to my house and digs in the garden, and that’s exciting for me. One day, he may carry on the tradition.”

Another attendee, Peter Lamastro of Fairfield, is already putting Martin’s recommendations in practice as the new garden coordinator at Roger Sherman Elementary School. “We’re getting the garden started for the year,” he said. “All the classes are planting seeds and will contribute. We try to add an educational aspect to the process, tying it into the classroom. It would be nice for the kids to take what they learn and apply it at home.” 

Tomlinson Murals a Rediscovered Treasure

Tomlinson Murals a Rediscovered Treasure:
Paintings commissioned 
74 years ago by W.P.A.
(Appeared on front page of 
Fairfield Sun 4/14)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – The large murals had hung there for nearly eight decades, mostly ignored and neglected, until Michael Tetreau and other Fairfield Board of Finance members were on a budget-related tour and happened to eye them. Now they are a focus of town-wide attention and their preservation is in active discussion.

The murals

There are five murals in all, covering 248 square feet of space at the tops of the walls in the lobby leading into the auditorium at Tomlinson Middle School, 200 Unquowa Road. They depict the history of Fairfield in Colonial days and were painted by George Avison, an artist that had lived in Norwalk. He was commissioned by the Works Projects Administration back in November 1935 to produce the art and finished in 1937. They were placed in the school, which was then Roger Ludlowe High School, upon completion and have hung there ever since.

To the far left as one enters the lobby, the first scene shows Major Israel Bissell on his ride from Boston to Philadelphia, carrying news about the battle of Lexington and Concord and spurring Colonists to take up the cause of independence.

Of the three murals that sit atop the doors into the auditorium, the mural at left is an early scene from Dwight Academy, showing Dr. Timothy Dwight teaching his first class at Greenfield Hill.

The center mural shows the arrival of Roger Ludlowe, John Mason and followers at the original site of Fairfield as the settlement was founded.

The mural to the right depicts George and Martha Washington visiting Fairfield and being received at the home of Eunice Dennie Burr.

The fifth mural, which hangs above a doorway leading to a corridor and the main part of the school, shows a scene of the Great Swamp fight between the settlers at Southport and the Pequot Indians, a conflict that signaled the end of the Pequot War.

The first look

“It was late February when we visited the school with regard to a capital project to repair some of the façade,” Tetreau recalled. “During the tour, we happened to be standing in the auditorium lobby and I looked up and at the paintings. They were the same paintings I remember from my school days at Tomlinson back in the mid-60s. We suspected they were W.P.A. posters and that they might have value or historical significance. I sent out an email to many friends around town trying to determine if anyone knew anything about them or could suggest next steps in determining their significance and how to go about preserving them. Kathie Griffin was one person I contacted and she had a friend at the Fairfield Museum and History Center, Kathleen Bennewitz. On March 17, Kathie, Kathleen and I, along with Tomlinson Principal Connie Dawson, met at the lobby to take a closer look at the murals.”

A serious initial concern was about the art being out in the open, exposed to dust and dirt, particularly as the murals were already showing signs of wear and tear. Most alarming, though, was how close they were positioned to sprinkler heads in the lobby ceiling. “If the sprinkler system were to go off,” said Tetreau, “they would be destroyed forever.”

Tetreau said Bennewitz took several photographs, noted the artist and said that she would conduct some background research, unaware at that time of the W.P.A. connection. It was Tetreau’s hope that a way could be found to store and preserve the art and, if they really proved to be valuable and significant, to perhaps create a fundraiser effort to save and restore them. He also hoped it would be possible to find a more appropriate place to have them displayed so that all of Fairfield could enjoy them.

Recently endorsed by the Democratic Party to be First Selectman Ken Flatto’s replacement as interim First Selectman when Flatto takes his new job in the Malloy administration, Tetreau said he also reached out to Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Title about the artwork and potential next steps. To date, Title has been buried with budget-related priorities but Tetreau expected they would connect soon.

For her part, Principal Dawson always felt that the murals were very special. She shared with Bennewitz what she knew about the school’s history to aid in her research. This included the knowledge that Roger Ludlowe High School was built in 1925 and that the auditorium was an extension established in 1931. This helped Bennewitz in initially dating the pieces.

Bennewitz, an art historian, was particularly wowed by the murals. “When I first saw them, I was really amazed,” she said. “I knew right away that the art had been made for the lobby as it framed the space and complemented the architecture. I could also tell by the style that they dated back to the 1930s.”

A connection established

It was Fairfield Museum volunteer Barbara Bryan that found a key link that helped in identifying the murals. “Connecticut State Library Archivist Mark Jones had initiated a statewide inventory of W.P.A. artwork, so we had already been focused on the subject matter,” she said. “In our research, we uncovered the Federal Art Project record cards for art that had been placed in Fairfield public schools. These included cards specifically identifying the five murals.”

For each commissioned artwork, the record cards identified artist, title of the work, size, date completed and site where placed.

What was more surprising was that the record cards indicated three other murals had been commissioned for the school as well as one for Dwight, one for the former McKinley School and no less than 11 for the former Lincoln School. The latter had been located on Fairmont Terrace but was torn down in 1960 and is today the site of Lincoln Park.

Coincidentally, in the past week, Fairfield resident Raymond Rasmussen donated to Fairfield Museum one of the 11 W.P.A. works that had been at Lincoln. The piece, titled “Buoys”, a watercolor painted by Beatrice Cuming and completed in Sept. 1937, was initially owned by Peg Nemec, a longtime Fairfield principal at several schools in Fairfield.

Bryan said the W.P.A. period was an interesting time in history and that the commissioned artwork was just one small part of W.P.A. activities in Fairfield in the years 1934 to 1942. “The public works activities were much of what today’s Public Works Dept. is responsible for, including bridge repair, tree planting, grounds maintenance, engineering, etc. Artwork was included as part of the federal government’s efforts to put Americans back to work during the Great Depression.”

In fact, it was the first time in the nation’s history that the government hired hundreds of artists to produce artwork that would be “pleasing to the eye and that could inspire faith in democracy.” Artists were paid an hourly wage and, in all, some 15,000 artworks were created in towns across the country.

“It’s been interesting to suddenly have all this buzz around W.P.A. work,” said Bryan. “We would love to know the whereabouts of the remaining paintings dedicated to the Fairfield schools,” she said, “not so much to have them be part of a museum collection but to just know that they have survived. The state library just wants to inventory them.”

Bennewitz thought that it was wonderful that the artworks had been in the public school for decades inspiring children both visually and historically. She added, “This is an important renewed awareness of something that was ‘lost’ in our collective modern memories and is important for the whole community to celebrate.”


W.P.A. Artist George Avison (1885-1970)
The artist responsible for creating the five murals that today hang in the lobby outside the auditorium at Tomlinson Middle School was born in Norwalk, CT on May 6, 1885. He attended public schools and graduated from Norwalk High School. As a student, he often wrote adventure stories, drew murals on blackboards with colored chalk and, while sitting at trolley stops, sketched passengers.

After graduating, he received art training at the New York School of Art, also known as the Chase school, under William Chase, Robert Henri, Kenneth Hayes Miller, F. Louis Mora and others. He also worked in the studios of Edward Ashe and Frederick C. Yohn, the famous historical painter and illustrator.

Avison was a charter member of the Silvermine Guild of Artists in New Canaan and several other local clubs, leagues and centers. In the 1930s, he worked for the Public Works of Art Project, which led to his working with the W.P.A. Federal Arts Project and resulted in the murals placed at Tomlinson. His mural work is noted for its accuracy in historical detail and a realistic presentation of subject matter.

Over the course of his art career, Avison moved from illustration to landscapes, seascapes and marine paintings, and finally to portraiture. He died in Norwalk in May 1970 at the age of 85.

Social Media Guru Exposes Gen-Z ‘Digital Natives’

Social Media Guru Exposes 
Gen-Z ‘Digital Natives’:
Talk profiles tech-bred kids, 
helps bridge generations
(Posted to 4/13)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Individuals born after 1990, collectively known as Gen-Z, are the most connected and engaged generation to ever exist. Older generations often resist the technologies in which these youth are immersed, creating divides in households wherein young and old co-exist.

At a talk early evening Wednesday in the Rotary Room at Fairfield Library’s Old Post Road main branch, social media marketing strategist Ann Marie Brucia profiled these young “digital natives” and helped the modest gathering of adults understand what mediums they are using. Her presentation was the final session of four that began in January and navigated a path from Social Media 101 and focus on Facebook to creating a family brand using social media.

“This is where the world is moving,” explained Brucia. “Why fight it? Why not join it? You may find that it opens up lines of communication that you didn’t have before.”

Attendee Roy Martin, of Fairfield, was a prime example of an older person that had not embraced certain new technologies like texting, Facebook and instant messaging, but was at least open to learning more about them.

“These young people are not aliens,” Brucia coached. “They just came into a techno-oriented environment and, through interaction, have a greater understanding of its concepts. It’s difficult for Baby Boomers (individuals born in the period 1946-1964) to change the way they do things and adapt to this environment. In fact, there’s a whole different thought process between digital natives and Boomers, or ‘immigrants’ as we’ll call them.”

In terms of a communication comfort zone, for instance, a native prefers texting, chat, Facebook, Twitter and email, while an immigrant favors the telephone or in-person meetings. Digital abbreviations like native-speak “LOL” are considered juvenile and unprofessional by immigrants. For a native, multi-tasking means Facebooking, texting, instant messaging, listening to music and doing homework, while driving and talking on the phone is the immigrant interpretation. Even the term “friends” takes on a different definition, meaning public peer groups to natives.

Technology usage studies amongst natives reveal some impressive numbers. Seventy-five percent of 12-17 year olds own cell phones, and 88% of them use text messaging. Teens send an average of 3,146 texts a month; kids age 9 to 12 send 1,146 a month. One billion people, half of which are under age 16, participate in virtual worlds.

The danger with cell phones and kids, said Brucia, is the wide degree of access they have. “Cell phones have essentially become mobile computers with Facebook, MySpace, photo and video sharing, web browsing, texting and even GPS. Often parents don’t realize the capabilities of their children’s phones. It’s a good idea to keep an open line of communication about the technologies, particularly where privacy settings are concerned and for Internet safety,” she said.

Brucia added that these technologies provide opportunities for typical adolescent self-expression and can be a great development tool, but that parents almost have a social responsibility to be connected with their children on Facebook and discuss their online presence. “This is happening whether we like it or not,” she said.

Besides participating in a social network, Brucia advised reviewing cell phone bills for text messaging totals to determine children’s activity level and to help family members to be aware of privacy controls, practice responsible online citizenship and be cognizant about the permanence of online communication.

At the same time, Brucia advised, “Embrace the technology, send your first text if you never have and have fun.”