West Hartford Rep. McCluskey to Leave Legislature for Malloy Administration

From a press release:

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor-Elect Dan Malloy today announced that he has chosen State Representative David McCluskey to join the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Board of Pardons and Paroles is an autonomous state agency which possesses discretionary authority to grant pardons for criminal convictions and to grant parole to appropriate offenders.

Representative McCluskey will complete his current term as a state representative, but will resign his member-elect status and will not be sworn in to a new term in the State House.

“David has been a committed public servant for a long time, and I appreciate his willingness to continue that service as a member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles,” said Governor-Elect Malloy. “Representative McCluskey will walk a fine line in this new role, ultimately making decisions that will help keep the people of the State of Connecticut safe, while allowing those people who have served their time to become a contributing member of society. I believe keeping people safe is a critical function of government, and I believe in having a second chance society. The two are not mutually exclusive.”

“I’d like to thank Governor-Elect Malloy for his confidence in me in this new role,” Representative McCluskey said. “It’s one in which I believe my experience working with the State Police Union will be helpful, but also my time as a state legislator, considering a number of criminal justice issues and programs. I come to this new position with a sense of responsibility both toward the citizens of Connecticut, as well as those in our society who have served their time and ultimately seek to rejoin society as a contributing member.”

Representative McCluskey graduated with Honors from the University of Chicago with a Degree in Political Science. He received a Masters Degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. As a longtime member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, Representative McCluskey worked to strengthen Connecticut’s ethics, elections and contract laws to restore public confidence in state government. In 2009, he was chosen to be a Deputy Speaker, by Speaker of the House Chris Donovan. Through most of the 1990s, Representative McCluskey was the Director of Public & Political Affairs for the Connecticut State Police Union. In that position, he helped pass significant legislation including the prohibition of ticket quotas and banning the use of hand-held radar – a potential cause of cancer for police officers. Representative McCluskey also organized the opposition to the first-ever layoff of state troopers in 1991. He was also successful in protecting the Hazardous Duty Workers Compensation benefit of State Troopers despite a dramatic reduction in other Workers Comp benefits in 1993.

West Hartford State of the Town Address Set for January 20th

WEST HARTFORD, CT — The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce will present the 2011 State of the Town Address with Mayor Scott Slifka on Thursday, January 20, 2011. The luncheon will take place at the University of Hartford’s 1877 Club Restaurant in the Gray Conference Center from 12:00p.m. – 1:30p.m. Registration will begin at 11:30p.m. Sponsored by Renbrook School, the Annual Address will take a candid look at West Hartford and the town’s plans for the next decade. Questions will be taken at the end of the program.

Registration will begin at 11:30 am and lunch will be served at noon. The cost for Chamber members is $15; $25 for non-members. For additional information or to register, please visit www.ExploreWestHartford.com and click on the Calendar date for details.

Personal Finance: How Fast the Markets Recover

A look at how the markets have rebounded through the years.

provided by Marc A. Sack

The stock market is amazingly resilient. You might be surprised at how fast the stock market can change … for the better. Let’s look at how the market has recovered remarkably – and quickly – from some notable downturns.

2008-2009. The collapse of the subprime mortgage markets triggered a recession and made 2008 the poorest year for stocks since 1931. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 10% in June 2008 and fell 10% again in October 2008, losing 19.12% for the year. On March 9, 2009, the major U.S. indices closed at 12-year lows with the S&P 500 at 676.53.1,2,3

Then the market took off. Investors who swore off stocks in early 2009 lost out on one of the great rallies. From the March 9 lows to the end of 2009, the S&P 500 soared 64.83% while the NASDAQ gained 78.87% and the Dow gained 59.28%.4

2001-2002. After the four-day closure of the stock market following 9/11, the Dow fell 685 points to 8,920 on September 17. It kept falling, losing 14.26% in a week to close at 8,235 on September 21. But what happened next? A huge gain. The Dow closed 2001 at 10,021 – a 21% rebound in less than three months.5

There were more challenges ahead. On October 9, 2002, the Dow had fallen to 7,286. But on Halloween, the Dow sat at 8,397 – a 10.6% gain in 22 days.5

As for the people who panicked and bailed out of the stock market, they ended up kicking themselves: in 2003, the DJIA gained 25.3%, the S&P 500 26.4%, and the NASDAQ 50%.6

1987. October 19 was Black Monday: in a contagion of selling exacerbated by unchecked computer technology, the Dow lost 22.6% in one day, falling to 1,738, a 508-point loss.7 (That would be akin to a 2,400-point one-day drop today.) The S&P 500 lost 20.4%.8 By comparison, the initial “Black Monday”, the stock market crash of 1929, represented a 12.8% market loss.9

Then the recovery kicked in. During the next two trading days, the Dow gained nearly 300 points – and it closed 1987 at 1,939, gaining back all of the loss and ending up 2% for the year.10 By January 1990, the DJIA was at 2,800.11

If you were fortunate enough to invest $1,000 in the S&P 500 index at the close of Black Monday and reinvested your dividends, you would have wound up with about $10,800 20 years later.7 If you had invested in the Dow stocks a week before Black Monday, you would have lost 30% on your investment in the crash … but if you held on, your investment would have gained 462% over the next 20 years.10

1974. With investors fretting over rising inflation and the energy crisis, the Dow loses 30% of its value during the first three quarters of the year. Suddenly, the Dow gains 16% in October.12 In early December 1974, the Dow is at 577; in July 1976, it hits 1,011.5

So while the Dow, S&P and NASDAQ have been through some rough periods (and even a poor decade), the important thing is how they have climbed historically.

On August 12, 1982, the Dow was at 777. On January 14, 2000, it was at 11,722.98. That’s a 1,500% gain in 17½ years.13 This is why people stay in the market through the downturns. This is what the market is capable of achieving. There are periodic descents, but history is definitely on an investor’s side.


Marc Sack is a Representative with NorthStar Wealth Partners/LPL Financial and may be reached at www.NSTARWP.com, 860-665-7737 or msack@nstarwp.com.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is comprised of 30 stocks that are major factors in their industries, and widely held by individuals and institutional investors.

The Nasdaq Composite Index measures all Nasdaq domestic and non-U.S. based common stocks listed on The Nasdaq Stock Market.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is an unmanaged index generally representative of the U.S. Stock Market.

Citations.

1 cnbc.com/id/28451744 [12/31/08]

2 allheadlinenews.com/articles/7013587460 [1/3/09]

3 money.cnn.com/2009/03/09/markets/markets_newyork/index.htm [3/9/09]

4 cnbc.com/id/34645043 [12/31/09]

5 the-privateer.com/chart/dow-long.html [6/30/08]

6 upi.com/Business_News/2003/12/31/UPI_NewsTrack_Business/UPI-75601072911443/ [12/31/03]

7 sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/10/18/BUODSRIN6.DTL&type=printable [10/18/07]

8 foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4026 [10/07]

9 money.cnn.com/2004/10/26/markets/1929crash/ [10/26/04]

10 articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/Dispatch/BlackMonday20YearsAfter.aspx [10/19/07]

11 answers.com/topic/closing-milestones-of-the-dow-jones-industrial-average [7/3/08]

12 money.cnn.com/2008/06/27/markets/bear_market.moneymag/index.htm [6/27/08]

13 answers.com/topic/closing-milestones-of-the-dow-jones-industrial-average [7/3/08]

West Hartford Residential Electronics Recycling November 6th

From a press release:

Residential Electronics Recycling Collection will be held on Saturday, November 6, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the Public Works Facility, 17 Brixton Street. The Residential Electronics Recycling Collection includes computers, monitors, printers, cell phones, TVs, VCRs, copiers, fax machines, radios, stereos, telephones, electric typewriters, answering machines, copiers, pagers, modems, tape players, compact fluorescent light bulbs and nickel cadmium batteries (rechargeable). All information contained on hard drives is erased to the Department of Defense standards. E-Waste material collected is not shipped to third world countries where environmental safe practices are not followed. No appliances (other than microwaves) or Freon-containing equipment will be accepted. Proof of residency will be verified at the event. NO COMMERCIAL ELECTRONICS WILL BE ACCEPTED. For more information, go to http://www.westhartford.org/publicworks/ElectronicsRecycling.html

BULK PAPER SHREDDING: The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, Connecticut’s recycling leader, is now offering bulk paper shredding and recycling for residents (NO COMMERCIAL SHREDDING). The November 6th event will take place at The Home Depot on New Park Avenue. CRRA has contracted with Cheshire-based SHRED-IT to provide this service. Residents of participating towns can bring SHRED-IT anything made of paper, especially items that could be used to steal an identity. Plastics must be removed before bringing the paper for recycling.

For electronics recycling, CRRA contracts with Eco International, the nation’s leader in electronics recycling, to keep these items out of the waste stream. At its facility in Vestal, N.Y., Eco dismantles items into raw materials, such as copper, steel, aluminum, glass and plastic, and sells them to firms who turn them into new products. Information about Eco International can be found at http://www.ecointernational.com/about.php .

Connecticut Energy Assistance Program Applications Available at West Hartford Town Hall October 29th

From a press release:

The Town of West Hartford, in partnership with the Community Renewal Team, will be hosting an “ENERGY BLITZ” event on Friday, October 29, 2010, from 12:00 noon until 5:00 PM.

Interested residents can come to room 400 in the West Hartford Town Hall at 50 South Main Street, West Hartford and complete an application for the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP). Those approved will be awarded financial assistance in meeting their energy costs for the upcoming heating season.

CEAP income limits are much higher than most people would expect. For example, a single person can earn up to $31,712.72. For a household of two, the income cap is $41,470.48; for three the income cap is $51,228.45 and for four the income cap is $60,986.00.

Required documentation:

  • proof of a Social Security Number and date of birth for EACH household member
  • proof of current income; for each adult in the household – pay stubs for the most recent four weeks prior to the application date and or proof of ALL other income or benefits
  • most recent CNG bill and/or CL&P bill *** the utility bill for the heat source MUST be in the name of the applicant and that service MUST be active on the date of application those who use deliverable fuel such as oil, kerosene, wood, propane must provide the name of their fuel supplier
  • applicants who have their heat included in their rent must bring current proof of their rental agreement; i.e. their lease and most recent rent receipt
  • Most recent statements for all bank accounts and credit union accounts
  • DSS ID card (if applicable)

Invasive Plant Removal Party, October 30th

From a press release:

Help native plants regain territory by joining other volunteers to remove non-native plants at a West Hartford Land Trust work party on Saturday, October 30th from 9 a.m. to Noon. Refreshments will be supplied. Please bring your own tools including gloves, shovel, and mattock (pick axe) and wear sturdy shoes, long pants and sleeves. Our goal is to remove the plants by the roots to prevent regrowth.

Volunteers will help remove Japanese knotweed, Asiatic bittersweet, winged euonymus (burning bush), privet, multi-flora rose, honeysuckle, and Norway maple in an effort to restore the area to a more natural ecosystem. Where invasive plants take over, they change ecosystems, crowd out local plants and displace native wildlife.

The WHLT is a conservation association dedicated to protecting and preserving open, undeveloped land in the Town of West Hartford. Our mission is to enhance the quality of life in our community through acquiring, conserving and preserving open space in West Hartford.
For the October 30th work party, meet at 1157 Farmington Avenue (park along the street) the entrance to the WHLT property is located at the rear of the home located at 1157 Farmington Avenue.

To register, call Jim Macosko at 860-216-5669 or e-mail him at jim@macosko.net.
INVASIVE PLANT REMOVAL WORK PARTY – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30th 9 A.M. -12 P.M. (noon) AT 1157 FARMINGTON AVENUE, WEST HARTFORD.

CTWatchdog: Vehicle Title Delays, 2nd Opinions, and the Low Fat vs. Low Carb Debate

By George Gombossy, CTwatchdog.com

When Mary Huben purchased her 2010 Ford Edge in early February, she was told it would probably take as long as six weeks before the actual title could be provided because the state Department of Motor Vehicles had a backlog.

Huben, of Guilford, waited until the end of August before asking my help to get the title to her car, which she had of course paid for, insured and registered seven months earlier.

She told me that she had called and visited the dealership – Ford of Branford – on several occasions complaining about the lack of title, as well as contacting the DMV and Ford Customer Care, “all at no avail.”

“It is now almost 7 months later and I would like to return the car for a full refund as I cannot sell, transfer or donate it,” a frustrated Huben wrote me.

I contacted the dealership’s new general manager – Anthony Pizzimenti – who said he had no idea why Huben had not received her title. He said he had only been at the dealership for a couple of months and was trying to clean up a few messes that were left for him.

It turned out, Pizzimenti told me last week, that the DMV paperwork for Huben’s car had been filled out incorrectly at the dealership and that is why DMV had not sent her a title.
He had the paperwork resubmitted, had his staff make numerous calls to DMV to speed up the process and on Sept. 18 Huben received her title.

I know most people don’t like to cause public disturbances, but if it had been me who didn’t get a title after a couple of months, I would have gone to the dealership on a busy Saturday and very loudly complained about the service I was getting. Guaranteed that title would have gotten to me quickly.

GET EXPERT 2nd MEDICAL OPINIONS

If you or your loved one has a serious or complicated illness, you may want to consider paying extra to have a group of experts review the medical tests and come up with a consensus based on the latest research.

One of the newer firms providing this kind of service, ExpertConsensus, will provide the patient and the treating physician with custom research reports for $1,000 to $5,000. The company says the reports will provide “an unbiased and in-depth overview of any disease condition.”

“These research reports can identify new and emerging treatment options and help individuals identify alternatives that may not yet be the standard of care,” the company says.

The company’s chief operating officer, Jean-Luc Neptune, MD, MBA, said in an interview with me that for a fee starting at $10,000 and running to as much as $30,000, his staff will provide its ultimate service, pulling together your relevant medical files, gather a team of top doctors and researchers.

His staff then brings the doctors together and moderates the panel discussions, summarizes the results, and assists the patient and the treating physicians in following up on the recommendations of the experts.

Other companies also provide second-opinion advice. Among them are Best Doctors, a Boston-based provider of medical consultations, and the Cleveland Clinic, according to the Sept. 19 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. That report is a good place to start your research, if this type of service could be of assistance.

When it comes to a serious illness, and considering how many doctors have conflicts of interests, such unbiased advice, combined with the latest research, could mean the difference between life and death. It also could help in avoiding painful treatments that don’t prolong life but instead result in a lower quality of life.

WHAT IS MORE EFFECTIVE?
Low-Fat or Low-Carb diets

That is a tough question.

Not even Consumer Reports Health folks can give a definite answer, other than to suggest following whichever one works for you.

The latest study, which CR says is of good quality, and which also considered cholesterol and other biochemical markers, indicated the two kinds of diets came in at a “dead heat.”

“People following either the low-carb or low-fat diet had lost on average 7 percent of their body weight by the end of the study—an overall weight loss of around 15 and a half pounds,” CR said.

“The diets were only part of the story, though. Both groups of people also followed an intensive lifestyle training program, to help them break unhealthy habits. Other studies have shown this can help a lot when trying to stick to a weight-loss diet.

And the naysayers aren’t completely wrong. On average, people lost more weight in the first year, then put some of it back on in the second year. So maintaining a healthier weight is still a problem.”


George Gombossy can be reached at george@connecticutwatchdog.com or you can send him a letter at Connecticut Watchdog, PO Box 23, East Longmeadow, Ma., 01028.

He will respond to as many inquiries and complaints as time permits. Please check out ctWatchdog.com for other consumer, health and finance tips.

West Hartford Ceramic artist Susan Perl Exhibition Opening at Congregation Beth Israel October 22nd

From a press release:

Ceramic artist Susan Perl of West Hartford will hold an exhibition of her work in the Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Community Learning Center, Congregation Beth Israel, 701 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. “Nature of Clay” will open on Friday, October 22, 6:30 p.m. at Beth Israel and will run through Friday, December 10.

Ms. Perl’s ceramic work finds its inspiration in the manifestations of time’s passage, including the processes of growth, transformation, erosion, and decay. Each of her one-of-a-kind tiles is made from slabs of terra cotta or stoneware clay, formed by hand, and fired multiple times using natural oxides, organic material, and hand-mixed glazes. Firing temperatures vary from 1900 to over 2100 degrees, resulting in unique and varied surface treatments. Her sculptural work often takes on human characteristics, while some resemble pod-like forms that appear swollen from inner pressure. Her work breathes with a certain rhythm, much like a life force coming from within. She likens each piece to a song, pulsing in a display of forms and colors, dancing in silent celebration.

Susan Perl is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She has taught at RISD, Swain School of Design, Danforth Museum School, Farmington Valley Arts Center, and the West Hartford Art League, and has had her work displayed in galleries from Connecticut to California. She is a two-time recipient of the TPI Art Award and has won many graphic design honors, including those from Graphis (Switzerland), Hatch (Boston), New York Art Directors Club, and Print Magazine.

Admission to the exhibit is free of charge. For more information contact Beth Israel, bethisrael@cibct.org, 860-233-8215 x230, or visit www.cbict.org.

ING Hartford Half Marathon Will Close Some West Hartford Roads Saturday

From a press release:

The ING Hartford Half Marathon will come through West Hartford on Saturday, October 9, 2010. 6,000 runners will be on West Hartford roads. These roads will be closed to vehicular traffic during the race. To assist you with your travel plans on October 9th, please see the road closure list by clicking here.

For best access around the route, it is recommended that the Sisson Avenue highway entrances and exits be used.

The following are the street closures and times:

7:30-9:00 AM – Parkville Area including Park Street in Hartford
7:30-9:30 AM – Whiting Lane School Area including Park Road, South Highland, Boulevard/South Quaker Lane
8:00-9:30 AM – Morley School Area including North Quaker Lane, Fern Street, northbound lanes on Trout Brook Drive from Fern St. to Albany Ave. (southbound lanes remain open)
8:30-10:30 AM – Albany Ave. between Steele Road and Trout Brook Drive, eastbound lanes closed, westbound lanes open
8:30 AM-1:00 PM – Elizabeth Park Area including Steele Road, Birch Road and the interior of Elizabeth Park

For more information and a detailed map of the streets used for the race, please visit http://www.inghartfordmarathon.com and click on the Community Section. For questions, call 860-652-8866.

The ING Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon runners support over 20 local and national charities and have raised over $4 million for these nonprofit organizations. Click on the Charity Section of the website to learn more.

Personal Finance: Why You Shouldn’t Withdraw From Your 401(k)

By: Marc Sack, Northstar Wealth Partners

Recently, you may have heard about a spike in 401(k) withdrawals. The evidence is not merely anecdotal. Fidelity Investments recently issued its 2010 overview of the 401(k) accounts it administers and found that 22% of participants had outstanding loans from these retirement savings plans, with the average loan at $8,650. In 2Q 2010, a record 62,000 of Fidelity’s 401(k) participants had taken hardship withdrawals – a jump from 45,000 in the preceding quarter. (Footnotes 1 & 2 below)

If at all possible, you should avoid joining their ranks.

The persuasive argument against a 401(k) loan. If you borrow from your 401(k), you are opening the door to some big risks (perhaps not immediately evident to you) and you may pay some severe opportunity costs.

What if you lose your job?
That’s an all-too-common occurrence right now. If you get laid off or leave your job and you have an outstanding 401(k) loan, guess what – you usually have just 60 days to pay it all back, 60 days without income from work. Well, what if you don’t pay it all back? The outstanding loan balance may be recharacterized as a 401(k) withdrawal. If you are younger than 59½, you may be assessed a 10% federal tax penalty on the “withdrawal amount”, which by the way would be taxed as ordinary income. (1,2)

What will you do with the money?
Will it be invested in anything? If not, it will not be exposed to growth opportunities. When you take a 401(k) loan and use the money for an expense, you are forfeiting its potential for growth and compounding. (Think: how much could that lump sum grow over 20 or 30 years if your account returns 5% or 8% a year? Do the math, look at the potential.)

The terms of a 401(k) loan are less than ideal.
You can’t deduct interest on a 401(k) loan, and that interest is typically one or two points above the prime rate. Here’s another thing few people realize about 401(k) loans: when you pay the money back, you pay it back with after-tax dollars. Ultimately, those dollars will be taxed again when you take a 401(k) distribution someday.(1,3)

The compelling case against hardship withdrawals
Sometimes these are made in worst-case scenarios – someone is being evicted or foreclosed on, or needs money to pay medical bills. Sometimes people think hardship withdrawals are “good debt” – they make these withdrawals in order to pay college costs or buy a house. Well, here are the reasons that you might want to look elsewhere for the money.

You may not be able to get a hardship withdrawal
Some 401(k) plans don’t allow them. Many do, but you will have to satisfy some IRS rules. Hardship withdrawals can only be made to pay medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, to pay qualified tuition expenses, to pay funeral/burial costs, to buy a home, to make home repairs, or to stop eviction or foreclosure on a primary residence. Beyond those IRS requirements, the company you work for might have its own stipulations. Some firms won’t give an employee a hardship withdrawal unless the employee can demonstrate that no other source can provide the needed funds.(2)

You may not be able to withdraw as much as you want
Okay, let’s say you are able to take a hardship withdrawal. The money is considered a retirement plan distribution. By law, your employer has to withhold 20% of it because you aren’t making a trustee-to-trustee transfer with the funds. Are you younger than 59½? If so, you may be hit with an additional 10% tax penalty for early withdrawal. Regardless of your age, the amount you withdraw will be taxed as ordinary income. So besides the potential subtractions above, you’ll lose even more of the lump sum you pull out to income taxes. Only in very rare cases can you get a hardship withdrawal without penalty (court order, total disability). Even in those circumstances, the money is still taxable.(2,4,5)

You can’t pay the money back
It would be nice if you could, but you can’t. To add insult to injury, after you reduce your retirement savings through the hardship withdrawal, you typically can’t contribute to your 401(k) for the next six months. (2,50

Knowing all this, would you still consider these moves? Is it worth it to possibly do harm to your retirement savings potential? There are alternatives. Talk to a financial services professional – you may be pleasantly surprised to learn what other options might be available.

Citations.

1 kiplinger.com/columns/kiptips/archives/what-you-need-to-know-about-401k-loans.html [8/20/10]

2 moneywatch.bnet.com/retirement-planning/blog/what-works/more-folks-raiding-401k-accounts/466/ [8/30/10]

3 bankrate.com/finance/debt/avoid-401-k-loan-to-pay-credit-card-debt.aspx [4/8/10]

4 fool.com/personal-finance/taxes/2005/05/23/job-changes-and-your-401k.aspx [5/23/05]

startribune.com/lifestyle/yourmoney/100647994.html [8/14/10]


Marc Sack is a Representative with NorthStar Wealth Partners/LPL Financial and may be reached at www.NSTARWP.com, 860-665-7737 or msack@nstarwp.com.