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Public Concern Mounts Over State Delegation's Inaction on Critical Allen Street Sewer Project
The City of New Britain's persistent efforts to secure state funding for the crucial Phase 2 of the Allen Street sewer upgrades and roadway reconstruction have been met with continuous inaction by the Connecticut State Delegation. This ongoing delay has raised significant public concern, as the project is vital for addressing long-standing infrastructure deficiencies in one of the city's busiest thoroughfares. Initiated in 2013, the project appeared on New Britain's top ten bonding priorities, signaling its importance for the city's infrastructure health. Despite its inclusion, progress has been sluggish, with the state delegation yet to commit the necessary funds. The Allen Street project, estimated to cost $6 million for completion, is essential for resolving issues like chronic flooding, sanitary sewer backups, and general disrepair of the road surface and sidewalks. By 2019, the urgency for this upgrade was evident, with the city highlighting it as a pressing need, especially in light of federal and state environmental compliance requirements. The completion of Phase 1 in 2015, stretching from Farmington Avenue to Oak Street, demonstrated the city's commitment, yet the lack of state support for Phase 2 has left a critical gap in the city's infrastructure. In 2021, Mayor Stewart's office again emphasized the project's necessity, pointing out that the unresolved infrastructure issues are not just a local inconvenience but a matter of public safety and environmental concern. The state delegation's inaction on this matter has become a growing public concern. Residents are increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of developments, fearing that further delays could exacerbate the existing problems and lead to more severe consequences. The Allen Street project's stagnation is a stark reminder of the need for proactive state involvement in local infrastructure projects, particularly those with significant environmental and public health implications. As the City of New Britain continues to push for the completion of this vital project, the spotlight is now on the State Delegation's response, with the public eagerly awaiting their action to address this critical concern. Update: We have added the communications to the State Delegation.
Letter to the Editor - The Need for Balanced Discussion
Dear Editor, I write today in response to a recent Facebook post by Alicia Hernandez Strong regarding the unfortunate and tragic passing of Katherine Colon. Firstly, I extend my deepest condolences to Katherine's family and friends. Every life lost is a profound tragedy, and the community rightfully seeks answers. However, it is crucial to address some of the concerns raised by Ms. Strong in a balanced manner. Mayor Stewart and her team have consistently worked for the betterment of our community, and it is essential that we do not rush to judgment based on selective recollections of past events. To insinuate that Mayor Stewart is indifferent based on her social media activity is a misrepresentation. The Mayor's Office, like many other official institutions, has procedures and protocols in place when it comes to public communications, especially during ongoing investigations. One major point that needs clarification is the assertion that New Britain lacks a civilian review board. In fact, the City of New Britain already possesses such a board – it's called the Police Commission. This commission plays a vital role in holding the NBPD accountable and ensuring that the police department functions with integrity and responsibility. Alicia Strong's criticism also subtly alludes to the broader Defund the Police Movement. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, it's essential to note that several communities that experimented with this policy witnessed a rise in crime rates and juvenile delinquency. While the intent might be noble, the results have shown that it is not always the most effective solution. Moreover, the suggestion that the NBPD is an "unaccountable force" is quite a stretch, especially given the existence of the Police Commission. Police departments across the country, including ours, are held to high standards of conduct, and our officers work diligently to ensure the safety and security of our community. I understand and respect the calls for transparency and accountability, especially in tragic circumstances. However, painting an entire administration and police department with a broad brush based on individual incidents or decisions isn't constructive. Our community needs unity, support, and understanding, especially during such challenging times. Finally, I urge everyone to remember that discussions on public safety and policing should be grounded in facts and comprehensive analyses rather than emotional narratives. We owe it to our community to approach these matters with care, understanding, and a genuine desire for betterment. Sincerely, A Voice for Balanced Dialogue
Connecticut's Proposed Tax Bill Raises Concerns for Economically Disadvantaged Residents
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut's proposed Senate Bill No. 351 (S.B. No. 351), currently under consideration in the General Assembly, is drawing scrutiny from economic analysts and advocacy groups who argue that its provisions may inadvertently harm the state's poorest residents. Sponsored by Rep. Peter Tercyak among others, the bill aims to provide tax relief for middle-income taxpayers and seniors. However, critics argue that a closer examination reveals potential adverse effects on economically disadvantaged communities. One of the contentious provisions includes a 5% surcharge on the net gain from the sale or exchange of capital assets. Economists worry that this surcharge could deter capital investments, leading to fewer job opportunities and reduced economic growth, essential factors for improving the financial circumstances of lower-income individuals. Moreover, S.B. No. 351 proposes the hiring of additional auditors and wage enforcement agents, which critics argue would increase the state's operational costs. They express concerns that the ensuing rise in expenditures could divert critical funding from essential social services and programs aimed at assisting the economically disadvantaged. The bill's emphasis on heightened tax collections and regulatory measures could potentially drive businesses and high-earning individuals out of Connecticut. Critics argue that an erosion of the state’s tax base could lead to reduced revenue for public services crucial for low-income individuals and families. Furthermore, the proposed regulatory framework may create a climate of distrust between the business community and the state government. A cumbersome regulatory environment could deter business operations, leading to job losses and reduced economic activities, which would invariably affect the state's poorest residents. Advocacy groups are urging policymakers, including Rep. Tercyak, to reconsider the broader economic implications of S.B. No. 351. They emphasize the need for a balanced and thoughtful approach to tax reform that takes into consideration the interests of all residents, particularly the most vulnerable. As discussions around S.B. No. 351 continue, stakeholders are calling for a more nuanced discussion and a holistic approach to tax reform to prevent unintended consequences that could further marginalize Connecticut’s economically disadvantaged residents. The debate on S.B. No. 351 underscores the complex challenges lawmakers face as they navigate the intricacies of tax reform while attempting to address the needs of a diverse population. Critics argue that a more thorough analysis and an inclusive dialogue are crucial to ensure that the proposed tax reforms do not inadvertently exacerbate the financial struggles of the state's poorest residents.
New Affordable Apartment Units Flourish in New Britain Under Mayor Erin Stewart's Leadership
September 20, 2023 Reporter: Shawn Bright NEW BRITAIN - Thanks to the impressive negotiation abilities of Mayor Erin Stewart, New Britain is witnessing a housing renaissance with the construction of numerous affordable apartment units. These new developments are not only boosting the city's skyline but also offering residents the opportunity to find homes tailored to their financial needs. Prominent among these are: 321 Ellis Street: A modern building boasting 158 units. 102 W Main: A rejuvenated structure providing space for over 100 families. Mount Pleasant: An expansive project with over 300 units, designed keeping the community in mind. The Strand: A strategic location with over 100 units. Columbus Commons: With its second phase of construction in progress, this complex will soon add more than 75 units to its already robust community. The Brit and High Railer: A dual project that together promises to offer over 200 units to residents. What sets these projects apart is not just their scale, but also their commitment to providing affordable, income-scaled apartments. This has been made possible due to an agreement facilitated by Mayor Stewart, wherein funds are allocated to ensure that these constructions not only cater to the higher-income renters but also those in need of affordable housing solutions. Mayor Erin Stewart remarked, "Our aim has always been to make New Britain a city for all." The surge in affordable housing construction is not just a testament to Mayor Stewart's dedication to the city but also underscores the potential of New Britain as a thriving urban center. With these new developments, the city is set to become a hub for families and individuals seeking quality housing without the strain of exorbitant rents. The local community has responded with enthusiasm, with many praising the initiatives and looking forward to moving into their new homes. Angela Ramirez, a prospective tenant attempting to relocate to New Britain, expressed, "It's heartening to see our leadership prioritize affordable living. Thanks to Mayor Stewart, many of us can now dream of having a beautiful space to call our own in New Britain." As the city skyline continues to transform, it's clear that New Britain, under the guidance of Mayor Erin Stewart, is not just growing in height but also in heart. With a clear vision for a diverse and inclusive community, the future looks bright for all residents of New Britain.
Reviving Echoes: The Strand's New Dawn in New Britain
September 20, 2023 Reporter: Shawn Bright Downtown New Britain is undergoing a significant transformation. Avner Krohn, the driving force behind Jasko Development, has been pivotal in reshaping the city's center, unveiling plans for another major apartment complex, The Strand. This new six-story development will rise on the former location of the historic Strand Theatre, which was a hallmark of the city until the early 1970s. Once completed, this $27 million project will provide an additional 100 apartments. The Strand, during its prime in the 1920s, boasted intricate designs, over 2,000 seats, and a grand architectural presence. Krohn aims to recapture some of its past elegance, including designing a large entry marquee and a plush theater for the building's residents. New Britain's Mayor, Erin Stewart, emphasizes the city's rich history and the importance of The Strand. She recalls a time when the city center was thriving and vibrant. But as urbanization increased, businesses shut down, and residents moved out, the heart of New Britain grew desolate. Now, with projects like Krohn's, there's a renewed sense of vitality in the city. Among the modern revitalizations, Jasko Development's contributions stand out. The Brit, another one of Krohn's ventures, features state-of-the-art amenities and contemporary designs. Alongside The Brit, The Highrailer is in the works, promising even more commercial space and residential units. And soon, work will commence on The Strand. This rapid urban development isn't universally acclaimed. Concerns arise over rising rental prices potentially sidelining lower-income residents. Chris Anderson, the mayor's political rival, even criticized the tax breaks granted to developers. Still, Krohn advocates for collaborations between developers and communities to achieve top-tier developments. For him, New Britain holds personal significance – it's where he started his career and built his company's base. He's enthusiastic about the city's future and eagerly anticipates a bustling downtown filled with residents and businesses.
No Response from Representative Peter Tercyak on Allen Street Sewer Replacement Funding
SEPTEMBER 18, 2023 By Shawn NEW BRITAIN — The New Britain Journal reached out to Connecticut State Representative Peter Tercyak seeking clarification and comment on the Allen Street Sewer Replacement issue, especially in the aftermath of the recent devastating floods. As of this writing, the representative's office has not provided a response. The replacement of the Allen Street Sewer is a topic that has become pressing for many residents of New Britain, given the current state of the infrastructure and its direct implication in the recent flooding events. Several efforts by local officials and concerned citizens have been made to address this concern. Yet, the significant issue remains the gap in obtaining state funding for the essential infrastructure project. In an effort to keep our readers informed and offer a balanced perspective, this newspaper aimed to provide Representative Tercyak an opportunity to shed light on the reasons state funding hasn't been granted for the sewer replacement, despite the clear need and repeated requests from local stakeholders. Representative Tercyak, who serves the constituency impacted by this issue, was requested to provide a statement or insight by September 18, 2023. We believe that such insights would be valuable for the community, helping residents understand the challenges and intricacies surrounding the delay in funds. It is worth noting that it's not uncommon for officials to have hectic schedules and at times, some inquiries may not receive immediate attention. Nevertheless, with the urgency and significance of this issue to New Britain's residents, a timely response would have been beneficial. The New Britain Journal remains committed to bringing clarity on this issue and will continue to investigate and inform our readers about the Allen Street Sewer Replacement and any further developments. Residents are encouraged to stay connected, be informed, and voice their concerns to ensure that vital community issues receive the attention they deserve. Those with further information or insights on this matter are encouraged to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Rep. Peter Tercyak Votes Against Law Ensuring Freedom of Expression on College Campuses
New Britain, July 2nd 2023 - In a recent session of the state legislature, State Representative Peter Tercyak voted against H.B. No. 6567, a bill aimed at establishing a policy regarding freedom of expression on Connecticut's public institutions of higher education. The bill, which received bipartisan support and ultimately passed, has raised concerns about Tercyak's stance on protecting free speech rights. The legislation, effective from July 1, 2023, mandates that the Board of Trustees of The University of Connecticut and the Board of Regents for Higher Education develop and adopt a comprehensive policy on freedom of expression. This policy would encompass various aspects such as prioritizing freedom of expression, protecting expression on campus (even when it is disagreeable or offensive), setting reasonable limitations on expression, allowing for protests or demonstrations, designating public areas as open forums, and ensuring resources for the safety and freedom of expression of invited speakers. By voting against this bill, Rep. Tercyak has sparked a debate over the importance of safeguarding free speech rights within the academic environment. Advocates argue that freedom of expression is a fundamental pillar of higher education, fostering an environment of critical thinking, debate, and the exchange of diverse ideas. They contend that students, faculty, and guest speakers should be able to express their thoughts and opinions without fear of censorship or retaliation. Opponents of the bill, including Tercyak, express concerns about the potential misuse of free speech protections. They argue that offensive or controversial speech may create a hostile or discriminatory environment for marginalized communities. However, the bill itself contains provisions allowing for reasonable limitations on time, place, and manner of expression, ensuring that speech does not substantially interfere with the institution's function or the ability of others to engage in or listen to expressive activities. Tercyak's decision not to support the bill has disappointed many constituents who expected their representative to stand up for the principles of free expression. Supporters of the legislation point out that Tercyak's vote runs counter to the bipartisan consensus achieved in passing the bill, indicating a disconnect between the representative and the values of the community he serves. Critics argue that Tercyak's vote undermines the principles of academic freedom and the marketplace of ideas, which are central to the educational experience. They contend that protecting freedom of expression should be a bipartisan objective, transcending political ideologies and ensuring a robust exchange of ideas on college campuses. With the passage of H.B. No. 6567, Connecticut's public institutions of higher education will now be required to implement policies that prioritize and safeguard freedom of expression. As the legislation moves forward, it remains to be seen how Rep. Tercyak's vote will impact his relationship with his constituents and their perception of his commitment to protecting essential constitutional rights.
Consolidated School District of New Britain Wins Big with $4.55 Million Budget Increase
In an uplifting turn of events, the Consolidated School District of New Britain was granted a substantial financial boost by the city of New Britain for the upcoming fiscal year 2023-2024. The City's Common Council passed a budget recently that extends an additional $4,554,012 to the school district, an investment that will undoubtedly benefit the district's 10,000 students. This milestone achievement was not a solitary effort. It was the culmination of multiple factors converging towards a common goal of elevating the quality of education in New Britain. Notably, the Board of Finance and Taxation played a crucial role in the process, with Commissioner Kenneth Haas leading the charge. Commissioner Haas made a motion to increase the school district's budget by $1,854,012, a substantial boost that proved critical in the final budget decision by the City's Common Council. In his motion, Commissioner Haas was vocal about his commitment to strengthening our educational infrastructure. "The children of New Britain are our city's most valuable assets," Haas remarked during his appeal. "Our investment in their future should reflect this unwavering belief." The school district's new superintendent, Tony Gasper, has also played an integral part in securing this budget increase. Since taking on the role, Gasper has implemented various strategic reallocations of the district's resources, thereby improving efficiency and freeing up funds for other critical needs. For example, by reallocating the postage budget among other common-sense changes, Superintendent Gasper has managed to champion the school district's financial case with an emphasis on financial responsibility. Gasper's approach has been instrumental in building a compelling argument for the increase. His leadership showcases a novel blend of innovative strategies and pragmatic solutions that have impressed not only the Board of Finance and Taxation but also the Common Council, leading to their unanimous decision to approve the budget increase. This $4.55 million boost is a testament to the efforts of the board, city officials, and education administrators working together to improve the prospects for the next generation. The funding increase will aid in attracting high-quality educators, funding advanced curriculum, ensuring the safety of the students, and providing much-needed resources for the school district's diverse student body. As the new fiscal year approaches, there is a sense of anticipation and optimism surrounding the Consolidated School District of New Britain. The budget increase not only highlights the importance our city places on education but also signifies the commitment to nurturing the potential of every student in the district. This is just the beginning. New Britain has set a high standard for cities across the nation to follow in their pursuit of providing the best educational opportunities for every child.
Happy Pride Month from the New Britain Journal
Dear Fellow Americans, Today, as the soft sunlight of June begins to radiate across our great nation, we find ourselves amidst the celebration of Pride Month. It's a moment to honor the journey of the LGBTQ+ community, a journey marked by courage, resilience, and an enduring spirit of unity. The month of June stands as a testimony to the audacious spirit of the American people who, time and again, have demonstrated that our nation's strength lies in its diversity. It is a reminder of the fundamental truth of our democratic values - that every individual is endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We've often spoken of the shining city upon a hill, a beacon of hope and liberty. This city derives its glow not just from its magnificent structures or prosperity, but from the warm hearts and open minds of its inhabitants. It thrives on the shared values of equality, respect, and acceptance - values that empower individuals to live authentically and love freely. And isn't that what makes America great? In these trying times, let us remember the sage words of Abraham Lincoln, "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." So let us not falter in our pursuit of equality, not rest until every American is free to be themselves, without fear or prejudice. Let us take this opportunity to understand, to empathize, and to lend our voices to those of our fellow citizens in the LGBTQ+ community. Just as we have broken down walls in the past, we must continue to dismantle the barriers of intolerance and prejudice. This Pride Month, let us celebrate the progress we've made while acknowledging the journey that lies ahead. For our quest for freedom and equality doesn't belong to one community, one group, or one person – it belongs to us all, as Americans. On behalf of all citizens, we wish to extend a heartfelt Happy Pride Month. Let's come together, recognizing our shared aspirations of freedom and equality, and celebrate the beautiful spectrum of love and identity that enriches our society. May God bless you all, and may God bless America. Yours sincerely, The New Britain Journal
Presumption of Consent in Motorcycle Fatalities Raises Constitutional Concerns
In the buzzing hallways of the General Assembly, there arises yet another attempt to bend the constitution to serve what is indeed a noble cause. The proposed Bill No. 96, brought forth by Senator Looney, seeks to establish a rebuttable presumption that any person who loses their life in a motorcycle accident, without donning a helmet, implicitly wishes to donate their organs. I cannot help but question this move, despite its benign and beneficial intentions. This proposed legislation appears to stride boldly across the lines of liberty and personal autonomy that have formed the bedrock of our society. It seemingly takes for granted that the freedom to choose, or to neglect to choose, equals an affirmative choice. There is a dangerous assumption at play here – that an individual's choice to ride a motorcycle without a helmet is a proxy for their consent to donate their organs in the event of a fatality. In reality, the lack of a helmet represents many things – a yearning for the wind in one's hair, a rebellious spirit, or perhaps simple forgetfulness – but to interpret it as a tacit agreement to posthumous organ donation is a step too far. We run the risk of conflating two separate acts, with distinct implications for personal freedom and bodily autonomy, into a single bundled act of assumed consent. It may improve public health, as the Statement of Purpose claims, but at what cost to personal liberty? The precedent set by this proposed law is concerning. If we begin to attribute meaning to one's choices and actions, where does it end? Could one's choice to not wear a seatbelt be construed as a wish to donate their body to science in the event of an untimely death? The proposed law gives rise to a multitude of questions, not least about how one might rebut the presumption of organ donation. What constitutes adequate evidence to rebut such a presumption? A signed document? A verbal statement to a witness? Or perhaps the existence of a religious belief that precludes organ donation? Would the burden of proof lie with the deceased's family? This is a laudable attempt to address the shortage of organs for transplant. However, the ends cannot always justify the means. The moral compass guiding us should not lead us to sacrifice essential individual rights at the altar of public health. While the public health benefits are clear and commendable, it is crucial to tread carefully when it comes to individual liberty. I would argue that we need to search for a more equitable solution. One that upholds the spirit of organ donation as a compassionate, voluntary act and yet respects the rights and liberties of individuals – even those who choose to ride without a helmet. In sum, the noble goal of increasing organ donation should not overshadow the fundamental rights of the individual. Forcing consent from silence risks undermining the very freedom we are built upon. We must find a way to promote public health that does not presume the intent of individuals based on their choices, particularly choices that might bear no relation to the presumed intent. In a democracy as robust as ours, we owe it to ourselves to find a better way.
CT Dems' Reparations Task Force: A Misstep into Division and Waste -Proposed S.B. No. 818
In an egregious display of political overreach, Connecticut Senate Democrats have proposed the establishment of a "Connecticut Reparations Task Force" – an initiative that is as misguided as it is poorly conceived. Firstly, it is essential to acknowledge the historical trauma and the enduring legacy of racial inequality. That said, the Democrats' approach is fundamentally flawed. The task force, as outlined in Bill No. 818, aims to study slavery and its effects throughout American history, including the impact of redlining and mass incarcerations on the African-American community. However, it is a blatant disregard for fiscal responsibility and efficient governance. Assembling a task force to identify individuals directly descended from ancestors who experienced enslavement in the U.S. is not only impractical but also divisive. It is a misguided attempt to quantify suffering and assign value to it. Not to mention the administrative nightmare and potential for fraud it would invite, all on the taxpayers' dime. The bill further seeks to clarify who would be eligible for reparations. The ambiguity here is telling. How will eligibility be determined? What criteria will be used? It is likely to incite more division and resentment than unity and healing, as it forces us to put people into boxes based on their ancestry rather than their present circumstances. In addition, the bill's vague recommendations regarding investments in affordable housing, economic development, and higher education, display a lack of understanding of the existing policies and programs in these areas. There are numerous initiatives already in place aimed at improving conditions in these sectors, and the Democrats would do well to support these existing programs rather than proposing new, untested ones. The Democrats’ proposal is a misguided attempt to address a complex issue. It is a political maneuver that is more about appeasing certain constituencies than about delivering real, tangible results. We need solutions that foster unity, not division; that build on our shared history, not that which seeks to monetize it; and that ensure all Americans, regardless of their ancestry, have an equal opportunity to succeed. The Connecticut Senate Democrats, with this bill, have shown a lack of understanding of not only the complexity of the reparations issue but also the principles of responsible governance. A more effective approach would focus on improving existing social programs, enhancing education opportunities, and eliminating systemic barriers to equality, rather than attempting to pay for the sins of their past with taxpayer dollars.
Continued Investment in Public Education Critical to New Britain’s Future
Continued Investment in Public Education Critical to New Britain’s Future It’s always a guarantee that there are two issues which will be at the top of everyone’s mind in town, taxes, and education. As an executive board member for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, this legislative session we have made it a priority to advocate for full funding of the Education Cost Sharing Grant. You may have seen or heard me speak at a press conference last month, identifying how great the need is and how any additional dollars could positively impact our city. While it is the ultimate desire of every municipal leader to work to increase education funding, often times our local budgetary realities prevent us from making the type of investment we would prefer. It’s inevitable that cities like ours need additional help from the State and Federal government to adequately fund our public education systems. The troubling reality is that in our state the inequities in the system make it difficult for a city like ours to keep up. I am a firm believer that the educational success of a child should not depend on their local property tax rate. This is precisely why policy changes at the state level are crucial, and why we continue to advocate for expediting the process of equitably reworking the Educational Cost Sharing grants formula to help communities like New Britain fully fund our public education systems. I’m willing to bet that you did not know that for the past 11 years the state has nearly flat funded our ECS grant. While there is a plan to gradually improve this over time, our students can’t afford to wait. The State of Connecticut right now is benefiting from massive surpluses, it’s time to spend some of that on our public education students. Speeding up this process would result in an additional $14.4 million annually flowing into the Consolidated School District of New Britain, this would be monumental for our students. We have been working diligently to increase the quality of life for all our residents and build a brighter future for our city. It has been a multifaceted approach that has included strategic policy decisions, targeted development in almost every neighborhood, and sound fiscal management at every turn. A critical piece of this effort has been investing local dollars in developing high-quality public education that each and every one of our children deeply deserve, but we always need more help. Investments in education come in many forms, to start, our students need modern school buildings that are equipped to meet the demands of 21st-century education. When we start talking about the ways the City has put in local dollars, it’s more than just increasing the annual budget line items. Let’s recap: $30 million was invested for the renovation of Gaffney Elementary, which was completed in 2015. In 2019, the city embarked on a $49 million renovation of Smalley Elementary school. The most recent school to be renovated was Chamberlain Elementary which will be open this September at a cost of $50 million and up next is the $70 million renovation of Holmes Elementary. We are grateful for the reimbursement program that the state has available so that we can continue making these much-needed investments at a price tag that our local property tax payers can afford. This year, at the April 12 common council meeting, I presented my proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which included an increase in funding of $5 million to the operating funds of the Board of Education. I have vocalized my belief that simply throwing money at a problem without a well thought out plan on how to ensure maximum impact is pointless. I am confident that under superintendent Gasper ‘s guidance this increase in education funding will go directly to supporting our students in the classroom, while giving our educators the freedom to do what they do best, teach. I am fully aware of the challenges we face as a community and a State with regard to education funding, but I am so proud of the substantial progress we have made locally over the last few months. The continued commitment to investing in our public education system here in New Britain and beyond, is a critical piece to building the bright future that our children deserve.