Here are some recent stories you might have missed from around Connecticut:
Surely you congest!
If I told you traffic on Connecticut highways was getting better, would you believe me? Probably not, and I wouldn’t blame you. I drive on them too. But the American Transportation Research Institute recently released its annual list highlighting the most congested bottlenecks across the country. Things are actually clearing up (in some places).
Connecticut had seven of the worst 100 areas back in 2017, then six in 2018, but only three in 2019. To be fair, Hartford and Stamford are still bad and getting worse. The analysis is based on truck GPS data from over 1 million heavy-duty trucks traveling through 300 locations on the national highway system. — MW
Here’s how Connecticut placed during the past three years on the American Transportation Research Institute’s list of the country’s 100 Top Truck Bottlenecks:
11. Hartford: I-84 at I-91
37. Stamford: I-95
49. Norwalk: I-95
14. Hartford: I-84 at I-91
43. Stamford: I-95
47. Norwalk: I-95
56. New Haven: I-95 at I-91
64. Waterbury: I-84 at Route 8
74. Bridgeport: I-95 at Route 8
24. Hartford: I-84 at I-91
44. New Haven: I-95 at I-91
67. Stamford: I-95
81. Waterbury: I-84 at Route 8
82. Norwalk: I-95
89. Bridgeport: I-95 at Route 8
100. Charter Oak Bridge: I-91
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The bell tolls for tolls
Speaking of our highways: After more than a year spent campaigning for them, Gov. Ned Lamont abandoned his push for trucks-only highway tolls in Connecticut. “I have a legislature that doesn’t want to make a choice at this time,” Lamont told reporters from Hearst Connecticut Media and others in late February. He added that he would turn to alternative sources of funding for his plan to upgrade the state’s highways and railroad lines. “I’ve lost patience. I think it’s time to take a pause. If these guys aren’t willing to step up and vote, I’m going to solve this problem,” he said. — EO
He put the time in the coconut
One hundred years after West Haven resident Vincent Nitido invented the Mounds bar, a ceremony was held to honor him at City Hall on the biggest chocolate and candy holiday of them all. This past Valentine’s Day, Mayor Nancy Rossi read a citation to 85-year-old Vincent Nitido Jr., the son of the inventor: “On the centennial of your father’s iconic confectionary invention, the great people of our city join me in admiring his ingenuity in bringing his vision to fruition. We are proud of your father’s inspiring contributions to our local identity. We are also proud of you for preserving his daring legacy and undying spirit for generations to come.”
The dark chocolate-coated, shredded coconut-filled candy bar that Vincent Nitido invented in 1920 originally sold for 5 cents. Mounds was eventually purchased by New Haven-based Peter Paul Candy Manufacturing Co., which made Mounds and, later, Almond Joy in Naugatuck for decades. Since 1988 the brand has been owned by Hershey, which shut down the Naugatuck plant in 2007. — MW
Circus fire victim still unidentified
The DNA of two unidentified female victims of the 1944 Hartford circus fire whose bodies were exhumed in October does not match the DNA of a granddaughter of Grace Dorothy Fifield (pictured). Fifield went missing after the fire, which killed more than 160 people, and is one of five people still listed as missing. “Most likely, the remains of Grace Dorothy (Smith) Fifield were originally misidentified and released to the wrong next-of-kin,” Chief State Medical Examiner James Gill told the Hartford Courant. “If the two exhumed women can be identified, it may help find what happened to Grace Dorothy (Smith) Fifield.” The state will work with the DNA Doe Project to do advanced genetic testing in an attempt to match the DNA of the two unidentified women with any relatives who may have used a DNA ancestry service. The process is expected to take several months. — EO
Will this watched pot ever boil?
A year ago, rising enthusiasm for legalized adult-use marijuana led to hope for supporters, but in the end, neither the House nor Senate could muster a vote. The thinking over the summer was maybe they’ll mount another effort in 2021, certainly not in the election year of 2020. At best, supporters figured we’d see a bill for a constitutional amendment — which would go before the voters in 2021 at the earliest. But then in the fall, Gov. Ned Lamont started pushing the issue more seriously as part of a multi-state approach, especially with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who vowed to pass a marijuana bill this year. And so this spring, Lamont’s bill, sponsored by the top four Democrats, has wended its way through the committees.
Some say the momentum is real; others see the same fate as 2019, as no Republican is on board and more than a few Democrats have what stoners might call paranoia, or outright hostility. The bills would allow a tightly controlled number of dispensaries with separately owned, in-state growers. Expungement of old criminal records would be part of the plan. Black clergy, highly influential for the urban vote, remain divided. Some Republicans hint that they could support a “grow your own” legalization bill, though that seems unlikely to happen. Hey, the state needs the cash. How much could be had? That’s another source of debate. A national advocacy group says Connecticut could clear $170 million a year, but proponents in the legislature see a much lower take. It’s not about the money, they all say. — DH
Social media’s shooting stars
Last October, we published our list of “The Influencers,” Connecticut’s social media superstars who are amassing large online followings for content ranging from fashion to food. It’s time to add two more names to the list.
First up is a 15-year-old dancer from Norwalk named Charli D’Amelio, who might be one of the biggest stars in the world right now, at least among Generation Z. Between late 2019 and early 2020, D’Amelio appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for Sabra hummus, danced with her personal hero, Jennifer Lopez, and took the court during the NBA’s Slam Dunk contest. How’d she get to do all that? D’Amelio, who’s danced competitively since age 5, “blew up” last year on the hottest new social media platform, TikTok, which features short music-related videos. People can’t get enough of her dance moves; D’Amelio was closing in on 35 million followers and 2 billion likes in early March. She’s also a star on Instagram (over 8 million followers) and YouTube (over 1 million followers). D’Amelio, who wants to be a professional dancer, isn’t the only member of her family who’s big on social media. Her older sister, Dixie D’Amelio, has over 13 million TikTok followers. Even their father, Marc, who made an unsuccessful state Senate run in 2018, and their mother, Heidi, have hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers.
The “queen of TikTok” is joined in the social media stratosphere by the “Shirley Temple King,” 6-year-old Leo Kelly of Fairfield. Like D’Amelio’s dancing, it’s another simple concept — Kelly reviews Shirley Temples. His honest, adorable assessments of drinks from local restaurants like Flipside Burgers and Plan B in Fairfield and Eli’s on Whitney in Hamden have garnered his parent-managed Instagram account about 280,000 followers. He charmed on the Ellen show in early February, and he’s also received attention in People magazine, Yahoo News and E! Online, among others. His reviews are usually pretty generous, but Kelly brings out the barbs when necessary. A review of a Cumberland Farms Shirley Temple-flavored soda earned a #gross verdict. — AY
The latest professional sports team to take the field in this state is also the newest franchise in Major League Lacrosse — the Connecticut Hammerheads, who will call Fairfield University’s Rafferty Stadium home. Each squad in the six-team league plays 10 games between May and August. The opener for Connecticut will be May 30 in Fairfield.
MLL’s inaugural season was 2001 and the Bridgeport Barrage was one of the original teams, but they relocated to Philadelphia in 2004. “Connecticut is a hotbed lacrosse community and is home to many of the top youth, club, high school and college programs in the country,” team president Ian Frenette said in a press release. Hammerheads coach Bill Warder played for Bridgeport in 2001.
Blue and yellow team colors pay homage to the state flag and the hammerhead was chosen because of the proximity to Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean (and because Whalers, Whale, Bluefish, Navigators, Sound Tigers and Sea Unicorns have been done). — MW