Ali Oshinskie | Connecticut Public Radio
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Ali Oshinskie

Reporter, Naugatuck River Valley

This is Ali Oshinskie.
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Ali reports on the Naugatuck River Valley with an emphasis on work, economic development, and opportunity in the Valley. Her work has appeared on NPR, Marketplace, and The Hartford Courant.

Before coming to Connecticut Public, Ali served as a fellow on New Hampshire Public Radio’s The Exchange, producing candidate conversations for the 2020 Presidential Primary. She worked for the New England News Collaborative’s NEXT podcast with host John Dankosky. She interned at Marketplace Morning Report with host David Brancaccio and for Connecticut Public’s talk shows, Where We Live and The Colin McEnroe Show. Ali founded and ran Podstories, a podcasting company.

Ali’s photography won first place for Spot News Photo in the 2019 Distinguished Journalism Awards from the New Hampshire Press Association. Her writing will be a published in Fast Funny Women: 75 Essays of Flash Nonfiction coming in March 2021. Ali enjoys growing vegetables in her backyard, giving things found in the trash a second life, and a good pair of boots with arch support.

You can email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org and follow her on Twitter at @ahleeoh.

Ways to Connect

The day after the 2016 presidential election, David Nastri, like many, couldn’t believe his candidate had won. Then he ran into one of his friends. She was crying, in disbelief that so many Americans had chosen Donald Trump.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

As elections officials process over 600,000 absentee ballots across Connecticut, some mistakes have cropped up. Municipal clerks in four communities say the number is relatively small, and most resulted from human error and computer glitches -- not fraud.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro has condemned a graphic image of her circulating on the internet. In the photo, DeLauro’s head is pictured as if decapitated and being held by the statue of Christopher Columbus that formerly stood in Wooster Square in New Haven. 

Absentee ballot packets include an inner envelope, outer mailing envelope, a mailing label and barcode. The barcode on the inner envelope acts as a form of voter identification.
Connecticut Public Radio

Lyda Ruijter is living in a world of envelopes. She’s the town clerk in Stamford, and she wants voters to know how important those envelopes are to their absentee ballots.

“Many people think of the absentee balloting process: ‘It's just an envelope and you put a stamp on it and then you put the ballot in it.’ But the tracking is the hard part and the complex part.”

The absentee ballot hand off from city clerk to registrar in the August 11, 2020 Primary. The bill introduced in a special session would allow municipal clerks to prepare for this hand off as early as the Friday before Election Day.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Voting by mail is a much more popular option this year due to the coronavirus. A special legislative session this week could take up a bill that would give local officials a head start on preparing absentee ballots for counting.

Protestors block the traffic on Chapel Street in New Haven. The demonstration was gathered a day after a grand jury in Kentucky indicted one police officer involved in the raid that left Breonna Taylor dead.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Protesters gathered in New Haven Thursday night, blocking traffic and demonstrating in response to the charges in the fatal Louisville police shooting of Breonna Taylor.

School buses
Yehyun Kim / CTMirror.org

 

More than a dozen schools in Connecticut have gone remote in recent days as COVID-19 outbreaks flared up. Public health officials and school administrators spent the summer trying to craft plans that would avoid shutdowns and keep students in school as long as possible. Other schools seem set on staying open even if their plans don’t end up working out. 

Students get off a bus on the first day of school in Connecticut. The first few days will be about setting expectations for mask wearing and social distancing according to superindendents.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

The first day of school always comes with transition. But as districts across the state open up classrooms and laptops this year, back to school will require a different kind of adjustment given the ongoing pandemic. Superintendents say they have a new set of expectations for the first few weeks of school. 

By the first day of school, Waterbury Public Schools had yet to contact the entire parent population. 10% were still unresponsive to what the district classified as repeated attempts.
Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

The start of school always means a flurry of communication between the district and parents. This year, that communication has become both more important, and infinitely more complicated, as coronavirus restrictions change all the usual procedures. In Waterbury, some parents and schools are struggling to get on the same page.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

As in-person learning continues throughout Connecticut, at least eight schools have closed their doors temporarily or imposed restrictions after confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

Students get off the bus at Prospect Elementary School Tuesday. Buses were sparsely populated, and many parents chose to drive their children to school.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Brian McGovern reached out of his window to tape a sign to the outside of his mom’s car as they pulled into the parking lot at Prospect Elementary School on Tuesday. In his best fifth grader handwriting, he wrote his name, year and classroom so he could be identified and guided to the proper entrance.

“Are we doing this right?” asked his mother, Liza McGovern.

A street in Hamden is blocked off. Severe storms Thursday knocked out power for about 30,000 electric customers.
Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

Governor Lamont declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon after surveying damage from a severe thunderstorm Thursday night. Maps provided by United Illuminating show that much of the damage was concentrated in Hamden, North Branford, North Haven and East Haven. The storm has not been confirmed as a tornado. 

Senator Richard Blumenthal tours a USPS sorting facility in Hartford. Sorting machines from this location were taken apart in recent months and left in pieces in the parking lot as part of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's efforts to update the service.
Chris Collibee / Blumenthal Courtesy Photo

After touring a sorting facility in Hartford Thursday, Senator Richard Blumenthal said he’s more worried than ever about the United States Postal Service’s ability to handle mail for this year’s election. He said postal workers hoped that new sorting machines would replace ones recently removed, to help them do their jobs more efficiently.

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

Severe thunderstorms swept through Connecticut Thursday, knocking out power to more than 50,000 homes and causing areas of significant damage, particularly around the towns of Hamden and Branford. Gov. Ned Lamont announced he was deploying National Guard troops to help with storm cleanup, clearing downed trees and allowing utility crews to secure power cables. 

File Photo, July 30, 2020: Mirtha N. Aldave, a Hartford HS bilingual teacher showing support as the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and AFT Connecticut organized a car caravan past the Governor's Residence.
Joe Amon / New England News Collaborative

Parents and relatives got to see what life will look like for socially distanced students at Bridgeport’s Central High School Monday. Superintendent Michael Testani led a group through sparsely furnished classrooms and into a cafeteria marked with caution tape. 

Students around the state must wear a mask on school buses this fall and some districts will employ a monitor on the bus for the first two weeks.
woodleywonderworks / Flickr

Parents across Connecticut are concerned about their children being exposed to the coronavirus in the classroom this fall, but the threat may start before they even get there. The level of safety precautions on school buses will vary from district to district, but most can expect to see mask wearing and thinly populated buses.


Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

A Connecticut postal union official says sorting equipment dismantled under orders from new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy as part of his controversial cuts in service has not returned to operation despite DeJoy’s suspension of the cuts Tuesday.

Joan Levy, director of the Connecticut State Postal Workers Union, said two machines in Wallingford that could process 35,000 pieces of mail an hour were taken apart and left in pieces. 

Thomas Gilmer was running for the Republican Nomination for the Second Congressional District. He was arrested Monday night and dropped out of the race Tuesday.
Wethersfield Police Department

Thomas Gilmer is neck and neck with Justin Anderson in the Republican primary for Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District. Though Gilmer dropped out of the contest Tuesday, the race appeared headed toward a recount as a final tally incorporating absentee ballots was underway Thursday.

Assistant City Clerk May Reed, center, hands off the absentee ballots from Tuesday to Head Moderator Kevin Arnold, left.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

The last absentee ballot dropped off on Tuesday arrived at the New Haven City Hall of Records by bike. With a minute to 8 p.m., the voter threw down her bike and practically dived at the ballot box as City Clerk Michael Smart came by to lock up.

A box of absentee ballots waits to be counted at the New Haven Hall of Records Tuesday night. Ballots postmarked by Tuesday and received by Thursday will be counted. But ballots put in the mail Tuesday may or may not arrive in time.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Absentee ballots in the mail for this week’s primary elections have to be postmarked by Tuesday and delivered by Thursday to be counted. But some ballots postmarked on Tuesday may not have made it through the U.S. mail in time to reach municipal clerks’ offices by Thursday. The responsibility for timely ballots lies somewhere between the voter and the postal service.

Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Voters go to the polls today in an unusual election year. With over 300,000 absentee ballots requested for the primary elections, much of the voting has -- or should have -- already happened. But between delayed ballot mailing and postal service disruptions from Tropical Storm Isaias, many voters received their ballots late.

Official Ballot Boxes outside West Hartford Town Hall have sped up the town clerk’s process of accepting absentee ballots, according to Essie Labrot, West Hartford Town Clerk. Voters can drop ballots in the boxes up until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Putting a
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

As of Friday, the town of West Hartford had received about 2,000 of 10,500 absentee ballots requested for Tuesday’s primary elections.


A ballot drop box outside of Woodbridge Town Hall.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

There’s a primary next week. And though absentee balloting has been the talk, the question now is whether the power outages caused by Tropical Storm Isaias will affect in-person voting.

Paul Russ picks up sticks on his property in Woodbridge a day after tropical storm Isaias hit the state. He says he's seen worse storms. His property was without power since midday Tuesday.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Tropical storm Isaias sent strong winds through most of the state yesterday, knocking down trees and cutting power to more than 700,000 electric customers. Connecticut residents spent the day cleaning up and waiting for their power to return.

James Yu (Flickr Creative Commons)

As next week’s primary elections approach, officials are warning voters with absentee ballots to get them in the mail on Thursday.

Under Connecticut law, ballots received by mail after 8 p.m. on Aug. 11 cannot be counted.


Chion Wolf / WNPR

With a presidential primary just a week away, municipal clerks are feeling the stress of absentee voting amid the pandemic. 

The San Marino Ristorante Italiano restaurant in Waterbury has brought back about half of its business, but La Bella Vista banquet hall, about 5 miles away, has struggled with indoor gathering capacity limits.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Tony D’Elia owns San Marino Ristorante Italiano and La Bella Vista in Waterbury. One’s a restaurant, one’s a banquet hall. And he's among the many restaurant owners pushing to increase the capacity of indoor and outdoor dining in the state.

Courtesy: State of Connecticut

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says that absentee ballots are mailed 21 days prior to a primary election. For this year’s Aug. 11 primary, that date was Tuesday, July 21. Now some voters have taken to social media to ask where their ballots are and when they can expect them to arrive.

Christine and Steve Schwartz interview job candidates in a parking lot outside their business, Express Employment Professionals in Shelton. Christine Schwartz says with the extra $600 unemployment benefit running out, more people are looking for work.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

The weekly $600 in additional federal unemployment benefits -- a payment more than 20% of Connecticut’s workforce has been relying on -- disappeared as of July 25. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week announced a plan to replace it with a lower payment -- Republicans contend that the $600 per week discourages work.

David LaManna, co-founder of United American Patriots, spoke at the Naugatuck green Tuesday night about the need to support police. He said the Facebook group for the United American Patriots has gained 3,600 followers in two weeks.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

A group of fewer than 40 people gathered on the Naugatuck Town Green Tuesday night in a demonstration of support for police. The event was organized by Thomaston businessman David LaManna, who also arranged a rally in Torrington last Saturday that drew a larger crowd.

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