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NATIONAL

COLT: LEGEND & LEGACY

LEFT TO DIE

THE MARK OF UNCAS

SCHEMITZUN!

USS NAUTILUS

CONNECTICUT

AS WE TELL OUR STORIES

BETWEEN BOSTON & NY

CONNECTICUT  & THE SEA

CRUSADERS & CRIMINALS

EAST OF THE RIVER

FROM HERE TO THERE

THE GREEN

THE NEW PEQUOT

SUBURBIA

FOR THE KIDS

NARRATOR: More than anything else, the suburbs are about our kids and how we seek to secure their future.

JONI ZARKA (Farmington Resident): I have young children and Iím raising a family and I happen to think that the suburbs, the best place to raise children. If I were at a different point in my life, my husband and I if we were a young couple or if we- our children were gone and we were near retirement, we may not be living in the suburbs. We may be living in a city or somewhere else. But for me I just wasnít willing to take a chance with my children by raising them in a city. I just felt a little safer raising them in a suburb.

LYNNE VALENTE: Even though Paulís mom got mugged, it wasnít the crime that brought us out. It was the schools. And there was no families. You wanted other families, you know, you want your kids to play with other kids. And thereís no sense of community that way.

MICHAEL DALY: Itís just how we live and itís just one less stress. I always still think that the lifeblood economically and socially does come from the city and it is important to us, but Iím not going to risk the family, my family living in some of these problems.

JAY GITLIN: There is a very strong sense of community here but where do you find it? Itís in the schools. A lot of suburbs are like this. Weíve sort of re-conceptualized what community is. Those are the centers of social activities and thatís the center of public discourse. It may be a limited public discourse, but thatís where it is. And people do come together and they tend to come together around their kids.

NARRATOR: Have we really done the best for all of our kids by living in the suburbs?

The landmark Sheff vs OíNeill case has focused attention on the quality of education and lack of diversity in state schools.

Schools in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport are now nearly 100% minority enrolled, while the outer-ring suburban schools remain overwhelmingly white.

BUD BRAY: In the morning, I have a route driving a school bus in New London in which Iíll pick up the offspring of the more affluent citizenry of that community. These are largely White students whose parents are obviously well educated and they live quite well. In the afternoon I pick up inner-school children that go to an elementary school who live in dilapidated all too often unsafe, unsanitary, inner-city housing; single parent offspring, a host of problems you can see in their eyes that they suffer. The irony is that within the same community are both the suburbanites and the urban dwellers and what they reflect are unfamiliarity with each other. They largely donít know each other.

JACK HASAGAWA: I believe firmly that you can't have a world class education unless that education addresses what kids have to do when they get out of the school. And one of the things that kids have to do when they get out of school is to be comfortable, to be able to form meaningful relationships for a variety of reasons with people who are different from them.

JOHN BRITTAIN: This has an impact upon the economic conditions, too, because the students who are not graduating with any educational ability from the urban areas are needed to supply the greatest work force of the future.

THE COMMON GOOD

NARRATOR: The pursuit of the good life in the suburbs reflects a classic American conflict Ė how to balance the welfare of the family vs. the common good of the statewide community.

HERB JANICK: I donít think the aspirations to live in this kind of place should be criticized. Theyíre not totally negative. I think what they do though is they encourage us to develop this morality. People donít invest in the problems of others. It encourages this privacy and this kind of encapsulation that I donít think is healthy because we all live in a larger community and this makes it easy for us to forget that.

BUD BRAY: As a younger man I was inspired with the idealism of the Ď60s. Now I realize that thereís a part of all of us that is motivated to get to the suburbs, have a nice house on a cul-de-sac, lots of privacy, a pool in the back yard. I had to make the decision not too long ago whether one of my daughters was gonna attend an inner-city school or a suburban school to complete her high school education. And I must confess that when it came down to it, I did probably the exact thing that I suggest we should not do and I opted for the suburban experience for my daughter. I can understand the difficulty of making a decision that would necessarily cause risk to you and your loved ones.

NARRATOR: Can the good life in Connecticut survive?

LAURA WIER CLARKE: Weíve built ourselves into a corner or a suburban box and itís going to take a while for us to dig our way out of it. So many small towns are going to be absorbed right into a continuous suburban development of what we see around us, that Connecticut will lose the character that we associate with the state. We consider that character to be one of Connecticut's really strongest assets, not just culturally, but economically.

MATTHEW NEMERSON: If we donít change the direction weíre going we may destroy the wonderful things that we have. Eventually the quality of life, the picturesque sense that you have of the community that is not urban will be destroyed. It will be a different kind of urbanity. It will be 8 lane roads with one story shopping and strip malls and office parks as far as the eye can see and then off in the distance somewhere crowded streets with again, one family houses on them

And that will be bad for cities and for the suburbs that are destroyed.

ROBERT DECRESCENZO: To a certain extent people think you can put walls up around the central cities and the problems will never get out to some of these outlying suburbs. I could tell you theyíre wrong.

JOHN BRITTAIN: Until they come together towards some priority policy to reinvigorate the urban cities, this state is continued on a destiny for a collision course in time between the haves and the have-nots.

SANDY KLEBANOFF: All of us have come to understand that without the city none of us really can survive. But preserving what's precious about those individual boundaries yet finding ways to do things with a larger grouping, that's our challenge. Because if we all turn inward, we can't make a go of it anymore. We just can't. It's clear to me that the trick in all of this is to make sure that we don't do what I call level down. The suburbs have got to continue to provide the kinds of services that people want. And we don't want to become slums and we don't want to become havens of crime and gangs.

JOHN BRITTAIN: I think there is room for the suburbs to stay as they are and to be nice places to live, perhaps, with a slightly enhanced diversity. I think what we have to do is restore and reinvigorate the cities to make them alive and more vibrant, too, and to begin to have some of the schools, that are just as good if not better than suburban schools so that we can attract suburban parents to bring their children to school when they come to work and to take them home when they return to.

MATTHEW NEMERSON: I think that in five years you will see people literally saying, "Letís see if we canít not only save money which is politically very popular, but letís create more of a sense of community." Whether we ever get to the point of giving up control of zoning, of schools, that will be one of the real tests and I think a lot of people say that may not happen. Now the next step, which is very difficult, is to articulate talking about integration - integration by race, integration by ethnic group and integration by income group. And I think that thatís the kind of leadership that has to come from religious leadership. It has to come from business leadership. And I think ultimately it has got to come from statewide political leadership.

JAY GITLIN: But we need a way to think about these things that will not take away peopleís sense of protection. And not seem to threaten what theyíve built and what theyíve framed in a very private way.

JEFF DAVIS: People have to be able to talk about things, get some sense of comfort not only for where we are now but for what our options are, for where we go in the future. I think the more and more that we force the dialogue, that we put issues out in front of people, the more and more theyíre going to begin to understand that they have common interests in trying to solve problems on a regional basis. Whether it be in the courts or whether it be house to house or whether it be here in the General Assembly or whether it be in the Governorís office. Unless there is a continued pressing on all those different fronts, we will continue to fall further behind the rest of the states in this nation and it will continue to suck more tax dollars needlessly out of our pockets.

MARC SHAFER (West Hartford Resident): And if all of us move to the suburbs we can all go awww, you know, and just pretend thereís not a problem here anywhere. But thatís what the problem is is that everyone is just trying to run away from it. Everyone is just trying to say, "OK. Iím moving as far away as I can from this problem and itís just not gonna catch me for a long time because by the time it catches me Iím gonna be 90 and I donít care." You know, so at some point we have to rise up and try to stem this thing. We have to say, "What are we gonna do about this?"

PRODUCTION CREDITS

 


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Last modified: September 03, 2012