Ali Oshinskie | Connecticut Public Radio
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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 aoshinskie@ctpublic.org and follow her on Twitter at @ahleeoh.

Ways to Connect

Alvaro Barrientos / AP

The weather’s getting warmer and residents are rolling their sleeves up to get shots of the coronavirus vaccine. But the state Department of Education is telling students and families it’s no time to let their guards down. 

In guidance, called Finish Strong, the department issued a reminder to keep up the standard practices of masking and social distancing. Communications Director Peter Yazbak said it’s important to remember that the pandemic isn’t over just yet.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Kevin Skeggs was smiling under his mask. The 24-year-old sat with his mom in the activity room of the Arc of Litchfield County in Torrington on Friday.

Christine Skeggs briefly pulled back her son’s mask to show his big smile. He had a good reason -- Kevin just received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a clinic set up by the state for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or IDD.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Pastor Antwaun Richardson says he regularly preaches to his church members that God is not visible, but evidence that He exists is. Richardson sees evidence of God in the coronavirus vaccine.

Sitting in the red velvet pew of Zion Baptist Church in Waterbury, Richardson said, “This vaccination is a step of faith, much like the step of faith we have to take in God.” As he spoke, workers at a vaccine clinic distributed 50 doses of the Johnson & Johnson shot to members of the Waterbury community in the church basement below. 

Reverend Boise Kimber speaks outside his church, First Calvary Baptist Church in New Haven in August 2020. Kimber criticized Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to New Haven for not inviting prominent Black leaders.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Connecticut Friday was welcomed by many New Haveners. But Boise Kimber took issue with the invite list. He’s a pastor at First Calvary Baptist church and president of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association. 

He held a press conference Monday expressing disapproval and asking why more Black leaders weren’t in attendance at events welcoming Vice President Kamala Harris to town. 

Frank Franklin II / AP Photo

Affordable housing is the subject of a number of bills before Connecticut lawmakers. But what do we really mean when we talk about “affordable housing”? 

Carlos DeLeon died of COVID on April 13, 2020. He told family he had symptoms for three weeks without medical attention. He died five days after he was hospitalized.
Maria Ruiz / Contributed photo

Nineteen inmates have died from the coronavirus in Connecticut Department of Correction prisons. One year after the pandemic began to spread across the state, Connecticut Public is revisiting the early days of the crisis. 

Carlos DeLeon died on April 13, 2020, from the coronavirus.

Workforce Alliance / Contributed photo

Nicole Russo needs more employees. She’s the CEO and owner of Microboard Processing Inc. in Seymour. She said she lost close to 20% of her workforce amid the pandemic last summer.

Barbour Garden Apartments in Hartford was affordable housing but tenants say their health and access to opportunity was impacted by the housing. Connecticut lawmakers are, once again, tackling the issue of affordable housing this session
Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public Radio

Most elected officials agree that Connecticut needs more affordable housing. The Housing Committee held a hearing Thursday that offered a preview of how lawmakers intend to address the issue this session. 

The bills introduced take a statewide approach to increase affordable housing.

Manny Cambra (seated) gets first place at the revived Fat Tuesday Paczki-Eating contest in Ansonia. Mayor David Cassetti (center, standing) held a socially-distanced version of the competition.
Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Contestants sat at opposite ends of six-foot tables around the Ansonia Armory. In front of each person were two boxes of pączki -- Polish jelly doughnuts. A city staffer sprinkled confetti and made sure each contestant had a few bottles of water.

Ali Oshinskie / Connecticut Public Radio

Bono Sidharta voted in his first presidential election last November, as a registered Republican. But he’d been considering switching to Democrat for some time. 

“It was definitely something that I thought of for a while,” he said. Then on Jan. 6, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, and for Sidharta, that was it. “[The riot] made me really think about it that day.”

Developer AA Denorfia Building & Development wants to bring more affordable housing to Woodbridge. Its application has the backing of Open Communities Alliance, a nonprofit that works on housing equity, and the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School. But the proposal also has drawn opposition, dominating the town’s planning and zoning meetings for the last two months.

Connecticut Congresswoman Jahana Hayes is calling on Republican leadership not to seat Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on the House Committee on Education and Labor.  On Monday, two Democratic U.S. representatives from Florida, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Ted Deutch, joined the call. 

Before she took office in January, Greene questioned on social media whether the Sandy Hook mass shooting had taken place. The 2012 Newtown massacre left 20 children and six educators dead. 

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill conducted a public opinion poll on what reforms voters would like to see in a post-pandemic election.
Connecticut Secretary of the State

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is calling for a number of voting reforms after a new poll conducted in January finds that a majority of Connecticut voters favor early and no-excuse absentee voting.

At a virtual news conference Thursday, Merrill shared that 79% of Connecticut voters support early voting and 73% support the option to vote by absentee ballot without needing an excuse.

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.

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