Soaring population

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The news of late has been refreshingly positive when it comes to bald eagles in Connecticut. In a recent issue of state-produced Connecticut Wildlife magazine, Brian Hess, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said that 2019 saw several records set for bald eagles. Populations across the country have rebounded in recent decades after the banning of the pesticide DDT, which devastated the raptor numbers. — EO

In 2019 … 

… there were 64 active eagle territories in the state (the previous record was 55). The number of bald eagle territories more than tripled in the past decade.

… 81 chicks hatched (previous record: 68)

… 45 nests successfully produced chicks (previous record: 38)

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54 Connecticut towns or cities were home to eagle nests in 2019 (includes nests that did not produce chicks)

State wildlife officials are looking for help to collect information on the state’s bald eagles. You can report nest locations and eagle sightings starting in early spring. For more info: go to ct.gov/deep/baldeagles or email Brian Hess at brian.hess@ct.gov.

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Schooner or later

In 2012, three divers from Sound Underwater Survey discovered a shipwreck off the coast of Goshen Point and Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford. Some estimates list the number of wrecks in Long Island Sound in the triple digits, so identifying these ships is no easy task. As Taylor Hartz of The Day reported in December, the seven-year mystery was solved when one of those divers, Mark Munro, sifted through the archives of The New London Day and Naugatuck Daily News from October 1898.

The newspaper clippings tell the story of a 74-foot schooner, the Oscar C. Aiken, carrying 120 tons of coal bound for Newport, Rhode Island. It struck a rock near Plum Island, but the captain and crew made it to shore safely and, along with Goshen Point residents, watched their ship sink into the Sound. Munro described the wreck to Hartz as “a pile of nut coal 80 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 4 feet tall.”

The most striking piece of history contained within those 19th-century newspaper clippings is the gravity of the factual errors. The Naugatuck Daily News reports an unknown schooner going down “and those aboard drowned.” The New London Day account says it was “generally thought” the ship that went down off Goshen Point was the schooner Connecticut. “The Connecticut is owned and commanded by Captain Davis of this city and was loaded with 170 tons of coal for this port. She carried a crew of four men.” — MW

High light

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The long-awaited re-lighting of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, located on the 366-foot summit of East Rock in New Haven, took place in January.

Recent night-time travelers along interstates 95 and 91 in New Haven might have noticed a new source of light punching through the darkness. Starting in January, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument atop the 366-foot summit of East Rock has been relit after being in the dark for more than a year. And it’s brighter than ever, with new LEDs spotlighting the 110-foot monument and its Angel of Peace statue. The lights went dark after the electrical system was knocked out by a lightning strike. Dedicated in 1887 to honor the soldiers and sailors who fought in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, the monument was last worked on in 2010. But the restoration did not include upgraded electrical components. The new system is both more efficient and better protected against the elements. Special care was taken during installation, including keeping the beams of light directly trained on the monument and not the sky, which could disrupt the flight of migrating birds and night hunters such as owls. — AY

Desegregating the suburbs 

In late January, Gov. Ned Lamont told the Connecticut Mirror that he wants to tie state spending on transportation upgrades in affluent communities to local approval of more affordable housing projects. The statement came on the heels of a series of articles published by the Mirror and ProPublica showing that exclusive zoning regulations in wealthy towns designed to prevent affordable housing have made Connecticut one of the most segregated states in the nation. The reporting found that since the 1980s almost $2.2 billion in low-income housing tax credits have been awarded to construct 27,000 affordable housing units in the state but just 10 percent were built in wealthy towns. In a recent federal study of 21 states, Connecticut had the second-highest concentration of affordable housing in high-poverty neighborhoods. It trailed only Mississippi.  —  EO

Looking for leaders

Activists who see the white-male dominance of Connecticut’s elected leaders may disparage the hopes of the push for more women and people of color in political office. After all, both U.S. senators, the governor, three of five U.S. House members, the Democratic heads of the state Senate and House and the mayors of every city except New Britain are white men. Movement failure? That’s not how Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz sees it. As co-chairwoman of the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls and as a pol who crisscrosses Connecticut daily, Bysiewicz is eyeing the next level. Middletown, Manchester and New London, among other places, elected African-American women to their municipal councils, some for the first time. Check back in a couple of years, Bysiewicz says, and the picture at the top may change. “This is the farm team coming up,” she says. — DH

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Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz speaks at the West Haven Black Coalition's 34th annual tribute to The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the First Congregational Church in West Haven in January.

 Sheff v. O’Neill settlement 

This winter a judge approved a settlement in the Sheff v. O’Neill desegregation lawsuit. The famous case was first filed in 1989 on behalf of public school students in Hartford where schools did not receive the same funding as more affluent areas. At that time there were no magnet schools in the Hartford metro area. Now there are 39, but the terms of the settlement call for adding more than 1,000 new magnet school seats and improving the school choice lottery system. “This settlement places Connecticut on a pathway to end 30 years of litigation. Most importantly, it greatly expands opportunities for Hartford students to attend excellent schools in diverse settings,” Attorney General William Tong said in statement announcing the settlement. — EO

School Desegregation Hartford

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong speaks outside the Connecticut Supreme Court on the new agreements reached in the long-running Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation in January.

School mascot controversy

The bitter debate over high school athletic teams in Connecticut using Native American-related names and mascots continues to develop.

Killingly’s board of education voted 5-4 to reinstate “Redmen”  in January after the eastern border town competed briefly as the “Red Hawks.” The Killingly Education Association, representing more than 200 district educators, condemned the move, and the Killingly High School chapter of the National Honor Society said students will refuse to use the name.

Manchester High School, formerly the Indians, also became the “Red Hawks” at the conclusion of the 2018-19 school year after students campaigned for the change. However, in this instance the Manchester school board voted unanimously in favor.

The Mohegan Tribe announced in January it no longer supports the use of Native American-related team names, which includes the hometown Montville High School Indians. In an attempt to potentially end the debate once and for all, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz and fellow Democratic state Rep. Bobby Gibson have proposed a statewide ban on Native American nicknames. Maine is currently the only state with such a ban in place. — MW

Homes of the stars

Are Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen moving to Connecticut, or not? In October, rumors surfaced that the New England Patriots quarterback and supermodel (respectively) had just purchased a $9 million Greenwich mansion. Then we heard that the home was purchased, just not by the power couple. In January, a radio host said they had moved in. But a day later, another sports personality claimed the report was bogus.

If they do move in, Tom and Gisele will join a long list of celebrities who reside at least part time within our borders. So in the sporting spirit, let’s take a look at which Connecticut county boasts more stars — Fairfield or Litchfield? (Mind you, even after hours of Googling, we might have missed a few stars here and there. And yes, celebrities live in other counties, just not as many.)

Litchfield County: Conan O’Brien, Christine Baranski, Jasper Johns, Michael J. Fox, Meryl Streep, Mia Farrow, Christopher Meloni, Denis Leary, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, Seth Meyers, Stephen Sondheim, Laura Linney, Henry Kissinger, Sam Waterston, Daniel Day-Lewis and Rebecca Miller

Fairfield County: Bobby Bonilla, Gary Dell’Abate, Regis Philbin, Diana Ross, Stephanie Seymour, Wanda Sykes, Allan Houston, Ron Howard, Mark Teixeira, Vince McMahon, Rob Zombie (a Litchfield County transplant), Michael Bolton, Harry Connick Jr., Ann Coulter, Brian Williams, Suzanne Collins, Christopher Walken, Christopher Plummer, Keith Richards, “Judge Judy” Sheindlin, Paul Simon and Edie Brickell

Final Score: Litchfield 18, Fairfield 22

Now we just need to know if, like Brady and the Patriots, Greenwich and Fairfield County are going to run up the score. — AY

This article appeared in the March 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram@connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.