After Connecticut officials won a long, expensive, hard-fought legal battle that cleared the state of responsibility for racial segregation in Hartford-area schools, Gov. John G. Rowland took a moment to savor the victory.
He chose to share the glory with the victorious lead lawyer, presenting Attorney General Richard Blumenthal with a chilled bottle of Mo‰t et Chandon adorned with a festive purple ribbon. Local television stations captured the moment and showed the celebration on their evening newscasts.
The occasion, however, was not universally viewed as cause to celebrate, and proved especially hard to swallow for many Hartford residents. They saw themselves as the losers in the desegregation case filed on behalf of the poor, minority children concentrated in the city's schools. (See Education Week, 4/19/95.)
And their defeat in state court was hardly made more palatable by the sight of public servants hoisting bubbly.
"That was one of the things that really made us angry," said Nora Wyatt, a Baptist minister who serves as the president of the Greater Hartford African American Alliance, one of many community groups that sympathized with the plaintiffs.
The incident helped uncork a torrent of protests against the state and the court's decision. The Governor was also taken to task in a Hartford Courant editorial that questioned his sincerity in addressing school segregation and said the decision "gives us no reason to party."
The Governor has since apologized for his congratulatory gesture, saying he meant only to thank Mr. Blumenthal, not to toast the lawsuit's outcome.
His champagne hangover has proven persistent, however. Mr. Wyatt's group planned another protest for late last week.
Eddie Eagle may be coming soon to a statehouse near you.
The mascot of the National Rifle Association's gun-safety program, Eddie touched down last month in Georgia to watch Gov. Zell Miller sign a joint resolution honoring the program.
Lawmakers approved the resolution after failing to agree on a measure to require gun-safety instruction in school.
The Eagle program, which aims to teach children in preschool through 6th grade that guns are not toys, has also been honored by the legislatures in Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Vermont.
--Peter Schmidt & Drew Lindsay
Vol. 14, Issue 33