Ali Oshinskie | Connecticut Public Radio

Ali Oshinskie

Reporter, Naugatuck River Valley

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, NEXT 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 and follow her on Twitter at @ahleeoh.

Ways to Connect

Several activist organizations met in front of New Haven’s City Hall to mark President Joe Biden’s inauguration earlier that day and push for racial, economic, and social justice.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Celebrations of President Joe Biden’s inauguration took place throughout Connecticut Wednesday night, including one by Unidad Latina en Accion, or ULA. The organization celebrated in the form of a demonstration, hosting a two-part event: a march and car caravan in New Haven and a virtual roundtable of speakers from advocacy groups across the state.

A Connecticut prison guard has been placed on administrative leave after a Muslim civil rights group called for his termination.

At issue is an anti-Muslim meme that Officer Anthony Marlak allegedly posted on his Facebook page in 2019. The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, called for the officer to be fired on Monday. CAIR independently found that the Department of Corrections had looked into Marlak's social media but kept him on the job.The DOC said Wednesday that Marlak will remain on leave pending the outcome of its investigation.

Amar Batra / Connecticut Public Radio

J.R. Romano announced Tuesday night that he has resigned as chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party. Last October, Romano had said he would step down at the end of his term in June. The immediate resignation marks a surprise development.

He said in a short email statement that he decided his resignation was best for the party. In an interview, he refused to elaborate, saying his statement said it all.  

“That’s why my statement was concise, it’s exactly how I feel,” Romano said. “The party needs a new face, it needs a new voice.”

A Muslim civil rights group has asked the Connecticut Department of Correction to terminate the employment of an officer who allegedly posted Islamophobic content on social media.

The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, posted a video Sunday outlining its demand that the DOC terminate Officer Anthony Marlak.

Darlene Riddick, top and bottom left, died in July 2020 of the coronavirus. Her goddaughter, Patricia Sands, top and bottom right, lost eight people this year due to the virus. Sands believes her godmother will be remembered for her smile.
Patricia Sands / Contributed photo

Finding a godmother

Patricia Sands grew up in Waterbury. She started going to church on her own at age 7, because her parents weren’t church goers.

She met Darlene Riddick at the Macedonia Church of the Living God. Riddick was assigned to watch out for Sands. She taught her how to ride the bus, invited her over for sleepovers, and fostered her faith.

Jackie Carroll wanted to bring a little Christmas cheer to the town of Prospect. So she went to a dollar store for supplies and decorated the stop sign at the end of her street. Then she posted a photo on the town’s Facebook group. 

Carroll’s idea took off. “Within like, a day, there was already like five to 10 poles up,” she said. “I was super surprised at how fast it caught on.” 

Contributed photo

College students coming home for the holidays this year may find a house with one fewer family member, or attend a holiday gathering with one missing face on the video chat.

Jackie Carroll wanted to bring a little Christmas cheer to the town of Prospect. So she went to a dollar store for supplies and decorated the stop sign at the end of her street. Then she posted a photo on the town’s Facebook group. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio

If it were any other year, Thursday’s expected storm would have students going to bed the night before with their pajamas inside out in the hopes of a snow day. But remote learning during the pandemic has dashed those hopes as many districts can simply continue online classes. 

But not everywhere. Litchfield and Region 6 Superintendent Christopher Leone will save snow days for his students, including Thursday. That means no in-person or remote classes. 

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal says whistleblowers have come forward in the wake of a lethal accident at the West Haven VA, alleging unsafe working conditions.

A U.S. veteran and a contractor were killed in a November explosion after being trapped in a room filled with hot steam. The accident occurred on the VA campus in a maintenance building. In addition to the two deaths, three other people suffered injuries.

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Newtown’s legislative body rejected three proposed gun ordinances that backers say were intended to address armed intimidation at protests.

Senator Richard Blumenthal calls the bipartisan COVID relief package a "downpayment" and hopes for another package in the early weeks of the Biden Administration.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy spoke at the Capitol Friday about a proposed bipartisan COVID relief package, endorsing the $908 billion in aid but saying more is needed. Both senators see it as a stopgap and say they expect a second deal to come in the early weeks of the Biden presidency.

Blumenthal said inaction makes the stakes high.

“Connecticut is spending about $20 million a week, $20 million a week on testing,” Blumenthal said. “That money runs out at the end of this year. There’s no immediate source for additional funding.”

John Phelan / Creative Commons

Shawn Henning and Ricky Birch were accused of a New Milford murder as teenagers in 1985. Found guilty, they served 30 years in prison. But those convictions were overturned, and in July the charges were dismissed. Henning and Birch are now seeking justice in federal court. 

In two separate lawsuits, the men are suing the town of New Milford, the state and local police and detectives who built the case against them, and Dr. Henry C. Lee, who was the chief criminalist at the State Police Forensic Laboratory at the time.

Hospital leaders say they are better prepared for this second wave of coronavirus cases but they disagree on in ways in which it will be easier than the first wave.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio

Data show the average length of stay in Connecticut hospitals for COVID-19 patients is about half of what it was in the summer. The Connecticut Hospital Association says COVID patients spent an average of 15 days in the hospital in June. By October, that number had fallen to 7 1/2 days.

Shoppers at the 2019 holiday market. The Women's Business Development Council decided to support local businesses and protect shoppers by taking the event virtual this year.
Contributed photo

Last year’s holiday market in downtown Stamford was a big success. The Women’s Business Development Council, which sponsors the market, planned to invite more of the women-owned businesses it supports year-round for 2020, but rising COVID-19 numbers make that impossible.

Connecticut is on track to lose a record number of lives to drug overdose this year. The most deadly year prior was 2019, with 1,200 overdose deaths. Numbers updated earlier this week show 1,032 overdose deaths so far in 2020.

Back in April, members of the Connecticut National Guard assembled beds in a field hospital at Southern Connecticut State University. It was erected to accommodate regional hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut is entering its second wave of the coronavirus pandemic -- 5,271 new cases and 43 more COVID-related deaths were reported over the weekend. But health care executives want to reassure residents that there are plenty of hospital beds.

Tenants at Barbour Garden Apartments in Hartford experienced unsafe conditions including mold, mice, and leaky ceilings. The lawsuit claims that tenants experienced housing discrimination in their search for better living conditions.
Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public Radio

A group of former residents from Hartford’s North End is taking on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Center for Leadership and Justice filed suit on their behalf Wednesday, claiming that HUD failed to reduce segregation when giving them options for new housing.

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio

Yale Law School and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress are calling for the release of incarcerated veterans who may be at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

Harriet Jones / WNPR

About 200 employees at Pfizer’s Connecticut lab helped work on the COVID-19 vaccine that the company said has proved 90 percent effective against the virus in a large-scale trial.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Horns honked across New Haven around noon Saturday, just after Joe Biden was declared the projected winner of the presidency. Cities across the country held impromptu gatherings in the street, but the scene in downtown New Haven was more subdued.

Voters in Connecticut are divided along candidate lines about how the vote count is going.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Three days after Election Day, no president-elect had yet been named. As the wait for a decision stretched out, voters on both sides of the partisan divide are anxiously awaiting a call. The Naugatuck River Valley is home to both kinds of voters.  

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes speaks outside Waterbury City Hall Wednesday. She declared victory, claiming the 5th Congressional District again. As she walked away, she joked "this is my victory party."
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Democratic incumbent Jahana Hayes declared victory in the race for the 5th Congressional District on Wednesday afternoon outside Waterbury City Hall. At 1 p.m., with all the votes reported, she held an 11-point lead over Republican challenger David X. Sullivan.

Elijah Maturo stands outside Torrington City Hall. He planned to register and vote for the first time on Election Day but a piece of documentation held him back.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Voter turnout reached record highs on Election Day. Latest numbers estimated 70% of registered voters in the state cast their ballots. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Tuesday afternoon that those numbers were the highest participation rate she’d ever seen. Inevitably first time voters are part of that boost but as they cast their inaugural votes some obstacles got in the way. 

Carol Hollander, left, fills out an application for an absentee ballot for her neighbor and friend, Gertrude Lerman, right. Lerman is 104 years old and made it to the New Haven Hall of Records Saturday so she could cast her ballot.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

The window of opportunity to apply for an absentee ballot has come and gone in most towns. But some municipalities are allowing voters to come by town hall to get everything done at once. And in an effort to limit risk of the coronavirus, New Haven voters could brave the weather Saturday and apply for and cast their absentee ballots outdoors. 

Thirty-seven towns will start processing absentee ballots Friday, according to the Secretary of the State's office. A bill passed earlier this month allows election officials to open the outer envelope ahead of election day. Eighteen towns signed up for that by the original deadline.

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.”