Attacks on President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, defenses of the president, praise for the RVNAhealth’s work, Holoocausst remembrance, and perspectives on taxes, spending and schools have livened the letters column in The Ridgefield Press lately.

Here’s a look letters from the last four weeks’ issues of The Press.

April 23 letters

Holocaust remembrance

I’m thinking of Ridgefield and of the solemn Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), as I understand it: a time to remember victims of the Holocaust and the acts of heroism tied to uprising and revolts. The commemoration was established by law in Israel in 1959.

1959. That’s the year I was born. Much later in life I was blessed to have the World’s Greatest Stepfather, Joseph Schneider, whose family included Holocaust victims; and of those who escaped the Nazis, I saw some of his relatives who had their “number” tattooed on their forearm. My life started the same year that death by hate and torture got officially and appropriately remembered.

Here it is 2020. Friends of mine just became first-time grandparents. Another friend just got off a ventilator for COVID-19. Though I do not mean at all to equate the two, I find myself thinking of 1959 and 2020 as having a little bit of a parallel. I see the pattern of birth and massive death are again living very closely. Sometimes, right under the same roof.

In 1990 I went to what was then East Germany, to a Peace with Justice Convention as the representative of the World Council of Churches. I was age 31. I will never forget the sound of the door that slammed with a loud noise as I crossed the border to show my passport to check-point-Charlie. I had not been afraid to go to a communist country until that moment. What if I never get home? The thought passed.

I proceeded to meet my small group of new clergy friends from 12 other countries. We met on Nov 9: The Night of Broken Glass (“Kristallnacht”) and we spent the next 10 days going to synagogues, churches, and other places in East Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, and tiny town I forget the names of. We visited with people who remembered The Night of Broken Glass. And we stayed in their homes.

I added 1 day to the trip to go on my own to visit the extermination camp at Buchenwald. That’s the place where 240,000 prisoners from at least 30 countries were confined, with at least 10,000 shipped to other extermination camps, and 43,000 died right there. I lost my camera but the images of the ovens are etched in my memory.

Back to 2020. My experience at ARC in March was that of people having a great deal of fear. In April, I’m seeing the fear remains but is being overcome by utter and real devastation of health, food insecurity, housing instability, domestic violence, etc. etc.

Looking to May: My hope is that we do not become numb. That we do not let down our guard. That we do not turn a blind eye or cold shoulder to the suffering in our midst. As the heroes did in The Holocaust, I will do my best to not fall into those traps. I will do my best to resist.

I will participate in a service and will light a candle in my home to remember the victims, survivors, and resistance heroes.

As a Christian, I hope the lighting of candles speaks to me and to whatever faith you follow and helps us to pause in deep remembrance of The Holocaust and of the spiritual choices that still exist. We can choose to fall for all kinds of dangerous hate. Or, we can choose to work together — as one human family — created by the one God of us all.

Rev. Phyllis J. Leopold,

Executive Director

Association of Religious Communities

309 Limestone Road, Ridgefield, April 20

Kind police, sad news

During this terrible time of COVID-19, can you imagine what it’s like not to be able to find out what happened to a dear friend?

Gene, a longtime resident of Ridgefield, and my late husband were friends for over 50 years. I kept in touch with Gene via emails, cards, etc. When I didn’t get a response to my last email or my phone call, I became very concerned, but I don’t know his neighbors or any of his family, or any way to check on him.

So, I called the Ridgefield Police and explained that I hadn’t heard from my friend and wanted to find out about him. The officer patched in someone from the fire department, who said they had taken Gene to the hospital, but I shouldn’t bother to call the hospital — they won’t tell you anything! I was anxious and frustrated at that point. I very much wanted to find out what happened to my dear friend.

The police officer was still on the phone and understood how I felt. He said I’m going to send a patrol car over to his address, and I’ll call you back. I was very surprised! In a short while, he did call back and told me that the officer from the patrol car had talked to neighbors and found out that Gene had passed away. Very sad news, but at least I had the answer. I’m sending a special thanks to the kind and understanding officer who went out of his way to help me.

Reade Johnson

Richmond, Va., April 15

April 16 letters

Trump the unready

On Jan. 22, when asked by NBC’s Keenen, “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?” Trump answered “No, not at all, and we have it totally under control.”

On Feb. 19, he told a Phoenix TV station “I think the numbers are going to get progressively better….”

On March 5, he said he “had a hunch” that things would improve.

The results of him ignoring the medical community’s concern, resulted in him doing too little too late to prepare all of us for what was to come.

This has resulted in our county being ill-prepared to deal with this crisis, resulting in far too many unnecessary deaths.

John Katz’s editorial (letter to the editor) a few weeks ago, was absolutely correct.

Joseph Heyman

Ridgefield, April 13

Trump blew it

In February of 2018, the Trump administration declared not to renew funding for the CDC’s pandemic response initiative and NSC programs.

The NSC’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense was created after the 2014 ebola outbreak. It included health and biodefense experts to coordinate U.S. response to global health threats.

In May of 2018, Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer left the NSC in charge of global health security as the pandemic response team was dismantled to save money. No senior administration official was in charge of potential global health security. At the time experts already determined that our country was unprepared for a pandemic or bioterrorism. The disbanded pandemic team was placed into unrelated positions at the NSC.

On Feb. 26, 2020, Trump bragged about dismantling the team. His statements were incomprehensible for a president and commander-in-chief in charge of safeguarding our country. “I’m a business person.” “I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them.” (We have a standing army…) “Some of the people we’ve cut they haven’t been used for many, many years, and if we ever need them, we can get them very quickly and rather than spending the money.”

China reported the virus to the WHO on Dec. 8, 2019. Countries like Germany, South Korea and Taiwan have much lower infection and mortality rates per 1,000 citizens because they believed in their scientists and responded timely to the potential pandemic. Their response to this potential threat was swift and not political.

Trump’s obsession with undoing anything Obama and prior presidents created is endangering our country. His lack of believing in the science and unselfish leadership further cripples the experts and our safety. His divisive behavior continues to stifle cooperation and creates unnecessary bottlenecks.

Peter Geike,

Ridgefield, CT, April 13

Trump’s no savior

Linda Lavelle’s letter in The Ridgefield Press of April 9, 2020, lauds Donald Trump as our savior from the coronavirus. Far from it.

Anyone who’s tuned into Trump’s daily press conferences could clearly see he is incompetent as the leader of our nation, no less for the COVID-19 pandemic. Ask any of our true leaders and heroes, our healthcare providers, what they think.

Or take a look at the narrative put out by the president and his news media supporters while the virus was spreading like wildfire throughout the world and precious time preparing was lost (https://youtu.be/NAh4uS4f78o).

P.A. Torzilli

Ridgefield, CT, April 12

Cut property taxes

In this national crisis, local government needs to step up and help everyone.

The homeowners and especially the senior citizen homeowners in Ridgefield are feeling the acute pain of a fast falling economy combined with high property taxes.

Local government needs to cut property taxes now.

This new national recession will be unique. Senior citizens will lose income and overall wealth, based on declining fixed income investments and dropping home value.

Many other homeowners will lose small businesses or will be temporarily out of work.

Yet property taxes keep climbing and even our sewer fees go through the roof.

Wasteful local spending on public education here in Ridgefield cannot continue with declining enrollment and too many elementary school buildings.

Wilton public schools have shown that a superior education can be provided with costs managed effectively. Why are we not learning their approach?

Cut property taxes now, so we all can make it to a better tomorrow.

Rich Fasanelli

Ridgefield CT, April 11

Fat wasteful budget

The plea from officers from the teachers’ union for special treatment in the budget process should get an “F” in critical thinking — a skill the school system claims to provide to our students. Fortunately, real teachers in the classroom generally perform far better on that dimension than union bureaucrats in public debate.

The union officers characterize the proposed budget as “lean” and “shudder to think of increases in class size averages or the gutting of academic programming.” But they produce no data to support these claims. Even the proposal to freeze the budget at this year’s level would do none of these.

Here are the data. In constant 2020-dollar terms, the so-called lean budget would spend 55% more per student than 15 years ago. Yet objective data show no improvement in student performance over that time, and hence no value for the added money. My personal experience over that time confirms the objective metrics that good education has continued, but it certainly is not 55% better, or even any better, today.

A simple freeze would still deliver an increase in real spending per pupil because enrollment is declining faster than inflation is rising. Under prudent management, class sizes would not rise and no education would be gutted because the 55% increase has been spent on bureaucracy and activities unnecessary for learning. Anybody who has actually practiced lean management would laugh at the notion that this budget is lean. It is fat and wasteful.

When taxpayers of this town are out of work and facing unusual challenges to maintain their health and family life, now is not the time to continue increases in spending without any discipline from critical thinking, which must begin with data.

John Early

Ridgefield CT, April 13

April 9 letters

‘Learning and joy!’

Dear Families, it is an extraordinary time to join a new community and to be a superintendent. I am in awe and admiration of educators across our globe who stand together to transform schools and classrooms.

Together, barriers and obstacles have been torn down and vulnerabilities have taken a back seat to the needs of students, families and the profession. Homes across the world adjusted quickly to the new normal.

I would like to express my gratitude to Interim Superintendent of Schools, Dr. JeanAnn Paddyfote. Through her leadership, I now have the opportunity to look ahead and continue the work in this ever-changing journey.

Over the next few weeks, I will look to find creative ways to connect and collaborate with the Board of Education, staff, students, families and the community. You can expect frequent communication — in doing this, I ask for your patience, as I too am new to this style of social interaction and engagement.

I look forward to getting to know you, and you me, but for now it will have to be through this new digital world.

During these difficult and unprecedented times, the work of the district will continue, albeit remotely.

The road ahead requires the on-going assessment of our practices, modifying and adjusting where needed and navigating the Budget implications of now and the challenges of the future. We will plan and prepare for students' return, and as typical of school districts during the spring season, begin making preparations for the summer months.

As days turn into weeks, and the possibility of weeks into months, creating parallels to the classroom experience will be essential. We will look to foster the learning and joy that students have come to expect from the Ridgefield Public Schools.

I am fully aware of how this unusual moment in history has impacted our students. While I wish we could turn back the clock, the best gift we can give now, is our spirit, drive, and endless energy.

So, yes, it is an extraordinary time — the importance of leadership has never mattered more, and I look forward to serving Ridgefield as your Superintendent of Schools.

Stay safe and healthy.

Susie Da Silva,

Superintendent of Schools

Ridgefield, April 2

Coronavirus Response

Re: John Katz’s letter in April 2’s Press, it appears hatred is still alive and well in Ridgefield.

Besides name calling, he accuses President Trump of knowing the severity of the Coronavirus in January and failing to act. Not true. China discovered the virus in November but covered it up until Dec. 31. On Jan. 7 the CDC organized to respond to the virus. On Jan. 17 they began screening all arrivals from Wuhan at our 3 busiest airports, before there was even one case in the U.S.

The first virus case surfaced on Jan. 21. A task force headed by HHS Secretary Alex Azar was set up to coordinate the government’s response to this virus. On Jan. 20 Dr. Fauci announced efforts to develop a vaccine but on Jan. 26 stated on channel 970 AM that the virus “isn’t something the American public needs to worry about….”

Nonetheless, on January 31 Trump banned all travel from China and took scathing criticism from media/Democrats for this action, accusing him of racism and xenophobia. At that time there were 13 cases in the entire U.S.; 11 were travelers and 2 were their spouses. Trump ordered the CDC to develop testing kits for the virus. Failure to act?

V.P. Pence was appointed to head a full government task force on Feb. 26. Still there were only 15 viral infections in the U.S.

Testing kits were delayed because the FDA, using rules established during the Obama administration’s response to H1N1 and Ebola, prohibited test kit development by private companies not contracted by the CDC. Trump lifted those rules.

Blame China who could have prevented 95% of Coronavirus deaths worldwide. Trump’s team of medical experts has been working 24/7 to fight this pandemic. Try to appreciate this effort and the transparency of daily briefings.

Linda Lavelle,

Ridgefield, April 5

Don’t gut the schools

(Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to the Board of Selectman by the leadership of Ridgefield’s teacher’s union, the NEA-R (National Education Association-Ridgefield), which asked that it be printed as a letter to the editor.)

Members of the Board of Selectmen,

First and foremost, we at NEA-R hope that you and your families are weathering the current situation. The teachers of Ridgefield have rolled up our sleeves and jumped into the uncharted waters of distance learning. This is an overwhelming and ever-changing task and we are all striving for excellence in the true Ridgefield tradition.

In a time of crisis such as this, it is very difficult to think long-term. However, looking even just a little further ahead, we can envision that our students will need a healthy and robust school system to return to — one that will be able to support them socially, emotionally, and academically in recovering from this pandemic. The students of Ridgefield deserve to return to schools that are adequately equipped to support them in their academic pursuits and their social and emotional well being.

While we realize that the economic forecast is concerning, we urge thinking beyond the next few months and even years. Interim Superintendent Dr. Paddyfote already presented a lean budget. While the Central Office Administration has worked to prioritize, our administration, staff, and faculty are already stretched thin in the daily workings of the district.

In addition, we shudder to think of increases in class size averages or the gutting of academic programming available to our students.

Ridgefield has always been proud of its status as a top Connecticut school district - even among the top in the nation. We have been leaders in student activism, creativity, and academic excellence. This takes investment.

We realize these last several weeks have held difficult circumstances for all. But we cannot sacrifice the future of our students. Careful consideration of the investments we must make in our town’s greatest asset —the school system — is crucial. Our students deserve nothing less.

NEA-Ridgefield Executive Council

Jeanne Deming,

Steve Ruland, Robin Collins, Dave Yolen, Mike Hougasian

Ridgefield

Thanks, RVNAhealth!

While the national and state news focuses on the amazing hospital workers, I would like to draw attention to an incredible and devoted team right here in Ridgefield, the RVNAhealth providers.

Between all their in-home services, they make more than 1,000 visits every week. Their newly developed COVID 19 Response Team has taken on management of these folks exclusively to prevent the potential for transmission. This care to a very sick and fragile population has filled a tremendous and crucial need.

To further protect all patients, regardless of diagnosis, all staff making home visits wear expensive personal protective equipment. For the COVID 19 calls, required PPE (masks, gloves, goggles, gowns, etc.) is currently costing as much as $65 per visit. None of this is covered by insurance or any other funding except for donations. RVNAhealth also is offering Advanced Care Planning via telehealth for anyone concerned about these important decisions during this emergency situation.

This unbelievable health crisis has caught us all by surprise and shock. Our lives have been upended and transformed in ways we never could have imagined. We will get through this with the support and caring of so many in our community. And so, I’m giving a huge shout out of “thanks” and “forever grateful” for a job so very well done to one of these groups — the RVNAhealth personnel.

Susan Law

Ridgefield, April 4

COVID-19 and the Navy

Why isn’t anyone asking about the health of all of our men and women serving on the currently active ships of the United States Navy?

Rose Sayers

Ridgefield, April 6

April 2 letters

Trump’s guilt on virus

Is our disgusting, degenerate and demagogic excuse for a President guilty of manslaughter or second degree murder in failing to act upon knowledge he had in January about the pending severity of the Coronavirus, now responsible for not fewer than 2000 deaths?

And yet, Trump TV, the networks and cable continue to further facilitate the fiction that constitutes his daily rallies, masquerading as pandemic updates.

Shameful!

John Katz,

Ridgefield, March 29