When Mary Lyons made it known she was no fan of the deal for Connecticut's new football stadium, the retired educator found herself ejected from the game.
The call against her came Jan. 12 at Connecticut's Old State House. A gathering there had just watched Gov. John G. Rowland put his signature on legislation to build a $374 million stadium in Hartford for the New England Patriots. When Mr. Rowland offered to take a few questions from reporters, Ms. Lyons' hand shot up.
She wanted to ask the Republican governor how he could justify the expenditure when the state's schools and other human services were in need of more money. But she never got the chance.
When Mr. Rowland got to Ms. Lyons, he asked her if she was a member of the press. When she replied that she was not, a state trooper assigned to the governor's security detail whisked her away from the event. Before she was out the door, Mr. Rowland suggested that if she wanted to make a statement she could hold a press conference of her own.
And that's essentially what she did. Outside the room, the 66-year-old Ms. Lyons quickly found herself fielding questions from journalists who had witnessed her removal. As a result, she and her views got coverage in state newspapers, on the radio, and on television. "The press was very nice, I must say," said Ms. Lyons, who retired last June from the 25,000-student Hartford public schools system.
A spokesman for Mr. Rowland said the trooper who escorted the 5-foot-4 woman from the event acted appropriately. "You have to keep in mind that, from a trooper's perspective, he had no idea who she was or what her intentions were," Dean Pagani said. The incident was "unfortunate," he added. "Any time somebody disrupts an event like this, it is sure to make news, so I suppose she accomplished her mission," he said.
If the event was restricted to the press, Ms. Lyons claims she didn't know it. Active with the Stop the Stadium Coalition, Ms. Lyons continues to fight the deal. She calls it "an absolutely disgusting thing to be doing, to be setting up luxury boxes in a stadium when we're short on teachers and short on textbooks."
--Jeff Archer [email protected]
Vol. 18, Issue 20, Page 9Published in Print: January 27, 1999, as State Journal