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Rest In Peace — Edward T. Chambers

 Ed Chambers

Edward T. Chambers, long-time Executive Director of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), based in Chicago, Illinois, died peacefully in April 26 in Kilcoe. Skibbereen, Ireland, where he suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Click here to read about Mr. Chambers’ impact and legacy:



CONECT built on and broadened its track record of victories and impact in 2014.  Here are a few highlights (click here for a pdf):

  • CONECT Wins $66 Million Savings for Blue Cross / Blue Shield Customers — CONECT’s Healthcare Team worked with the Insurance Department and Healthcare Advocate Vickie Veltri to invoke a 2011 deal, which CONECT helped to forge, calling for public hearings when health insurance companies request rate increases of 15% or greater. Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield requested rate increases of 17% for five plans for 2015 in the late spring, and under the 2011 deal, a hearing was set for late June.  CONECT leaders attended, shared their concerns, questions, and stories.  After the hearing, Anthem’s requested rate increase was ruled excessive and knocked down to a .1% decrease instead.  Given that Anthem has the largest market share in CT, we knew the ruling was a big deal, affecting 66,000 policies.  But at our Fall Assembly, we heard for the first time just how big a deal it was — the expected savings will be $66 million for Anthem customers in 2015!
  • Gov. Malloy & 8 Mayors to Back Do Not Stand Idly By — CONECT won the support of Gov. Malloy and 8 Mayors and/or Police Chiefs who have signed on to the Request for Information (RFI) that was sent to the gun manufacturers and organized two very strong public actions on this issue — in June and November 2014.  We are building a team on this issue to dig in deeper with mayors and chiefs to ensure we can truly understand their procurement procedures and to try to develop interest in smart gun technology.  We also expect the team will dig into develop a thorough power analysis of the major gun manufacturers in the state.
  • 38,000 Apply for Immigrant Driver’s Licenses in First Two Months — CONECT’s 2013 legislative victory to allow all CT residents, regardless of immigration status, to get a driver’s license has started taking affect in a big way.  When 2000 people turned out for a legislative hearing back in March of 2013, we knew this issue impacted thousands more.  In just the first two months since the application process began on Dec. 1st, more than 38,000 people have made appointments at the DMV.
  • Broadening & Deepening Our Base — CONECT added two important new members in 2014: Bethel AME Church in Bridgeport and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New Haven.  Additionally, CONECT continued to train more that 100 new leaders in both English & Spanish locally and send more experienced leaders to regional and national IAF trainings.
  • Developing New Issues — CONECT has a new fledgling team exploring issues of education/special education and autism.  Two concerns are about students/families denied support services by school districts and about the overuse of restraint and seclusion with autistic kids.  Key CONECT leaders are also discussing racial profiling and racism in the criminal justice system issues locally or across CT.

CONECT Leaders Honored!

Spring has brought a series of honors and awards to a number of CONECT leaders and institutions.  CONGRATS to all of them!

Pearlye “Lulu” Sams Allen – leader from Mount Aery Baptist Church – was honored by the Greater Bridgeport Chapter of the Negro Business & Professional Women’s Club on May 18, 2014 with the Sojourner Truth Award (their highest honor).

Sandra Carolina & Deborah Dean – leaders from Bethel AME Church – were also honored by the Greater Bridgeport Chapter of the Negro Business & Professional Women’s Club on May 18, 2014.

Min. Odell Cooper – leader from Mount Aery Baptist Church – was elected the first-ever President of the Alumni Association of the Black Ministries Program (BMP) at Hartford Seminary and led the first ever BMP Alumni Reunion & Banquet on May 15, 16 & 17, 2014.

Liz Keenan – leader from St. James Catholic Church in Stratford – was awarded the Robert E. Jirsa Service Award by Southern Connecticut State University on April 14, 2014. The Award is given annually to a full-time faculty member who has made extraordinary contributions and demonstrated outstanding leadership in his or her service to the university.

Fr. James Manship – pastor of St. Rose of Lima, New Haven and co-chair of CONECT – will receive the Bishop Joseph Donnelly Award from the Archdiocese of Hartford, Office of Social Justice Ministry (to be awarded at an annual dinner in Oct. 2014).

Kim Washington – leader from Community Baptist Church & founder of Mothers Demand Action – was honored by the Greater New Haven Black Social Workers Association with an award at their May 17, 2014 Harambee Awards Breakfast.

St. Rose of Lima Church, New Haven – founding member congregation of CONECT – will receive the Charlie Schlegel Award for Cooperative Parish Sharing – from the Archdiocese of Hartford, Office of Social Justice Ministry (to be awarded in an annual dinner in Oct. 2014).

CONECT takes action on healthcare system woes

Rev. Timothy Jones, pastor of Community Baptist Church in New Haven, leads a closing prayer and blessing for Rev. Bennett before his departure to Europe.

Rev. Timothy Jones, pastor of Community Baptist Church in New Haven, leads a closing prayer and blessing for Rev. Bennett before his departure to Europe.

On March 3rd, CONECT’s Healthcare Team took action to demand better performance and accountability from officials at Access Health CT, at the state Department of Social Services’ Medicaid office, and from the state Healthcare Advocate.  50 CONECT leaders turned out and heard moving stories from four people who have struggled with the new healthcare system.  State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, chair of the Human Services Committee, and Sen. Joseph Crisco, chair of the Insurance Committee, both attended and praised CONECT for its action on these issues.

On March 4th, Rev. Anthony Bennett, pastor of Mount Aery Baptist Church and co-chair of CONECT, departed for Germany as part of a multi-state Metro IAF delegation taking action on gun violence.  On March 5 & 6th, in Nuremberg, these leaders set up a booth inside of one of the world’s largest gun shows targeting law enforcement buyers as part of the Do Not Stand Idly By strategy to use the public buying power of our cities, counties, and states to press gun manufacturers to invest in smart gun technology and to tighten their distribution systems to cut down on illegal guns flowing into our cities.

In the photo above, Rev. Timothy Jones, pastor of Community Baptist Church in New Haven, together with other CONECT Clergy leaders says a prayer over Pastor Bennett prior to his departure at the end the March 3rd Healthcare Session.


In the News:

CONECT Joins Push by the Do Not Stand Idly By Campaign for Obama to Take Action on Guns

Pastor Anthony L. Bennett of Mount Aery Baptist Church and Co-chair of CONECT joined with leaders from sister organizations in the Metro IAF network in front of the White House on Thursday morning, October 8th, to press President Obama to take executive action on gun violence rather than lamenting the inaction of Congress despite the continuing scourge of gun violence in our cities and mass shootings around the country.  The called on Obama to join in the Do Not Stand Idly By campaign with more than 75 cities, counties, and states and use the power of the federal government’s purchasing power with the gun industry.

Read the news coverage here:

And several opinion pieces, here:

300 CONECT Leaders Convene 4 Major Mayoral Candidates for Accountability Assembly on Sept 10th

On Thursday, September 10th, 300 CONECT leaders gathered in the basement of Mount Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport to press for clear “yes” or “no” commitments from the candidates for Bridgeport Mayor on three key issues — police reform, gun violence, and education funding.  Mayor Finch, Mary Jane Foster, Joe Ganim, and Enrique Torres all attended and answered 12 separate questions with clear “yes” or “no” answers before being given time to elaborate a bit further.  CONECT’s Bridgeport members plan to hold whoever wins the race in November accountable to delivering on these commitments.  Read the CT Post’s front page coverage of the Accountability Assembly by clicking here.

CONECT Leaders Testify at HC Rate Hearings and Rates Tumble for 2nd Year in a Row

Leaders of CONECT’s Healthcare Team are celebrating reduced health insurance rates for the 2nd year in a row after a July 27th rate hearing on rate increase requests by Anthem, ConnectiCare, and Golden Rule spurred a ruling by the Insurance Department denying the requests and granting only reduced rate increases.  Last summer, after a rate hearing, Anthem’s rates were reduced by $66 million.  CONECT pressed first for a system rate hearings in 2011, winning a deal for hearing on rate increase requests of 15% or greater.  After last summer’s result, a new rate hearing deal was struck with CT’s new Insurance Commissioner Katherine Wade for hearing on rate increase requests of 10% or greater.  Read coverage of this summer’s hearings and rulings here:

300 Attend CONECT Community Dialogue on Policing in Bridgeport with Mayor Finch & PD Chief Gaudett

More than 300 CONECT leaders and allies gathered on June 17th at Bethel AME Church in Bridgeport to discuss policing issues with Mayor Finch & Police Chief Gaudett.  See the press coverage here:

CONECT Clergy Gather with Clergy in Newtown on Jan 15th to Press the Gun Manufacturers’ Trade Group on Do Not Stand Idly By

Read / see all about it here:

CONECT Takes Action with Public Officials, Metro IAF to Deliver Request for Information to Gun Makers

Read / see all about it here:


CONECT Helps Cut Anthem Rate Increase Down to Size with Public Hearing.

Using a deal CONECT helped forged back in 2011 between the CT Department of Insurance and the Office of the Healthcare Advocate to allow the Healthcare Advocate to call for public hearings for significant health insurance rate increase requests, we were able to push for a public hearing on Anthem Blue Cross / Blue Shield’s 12.5% rate increase request.  The hearing happened in late June, with our public comments and a story shared by a family from Temple Israel in Westport, and by late July, the Department ruled that Anthem’s request was excessive.  After revisions ordered by the Department, Anthem’s request of a 12.5% average rate increase was revised to an average .1% decrease.   Given that this ruling covers some 66,000 policies, it’s safe to say we helped save CT consumers millions of dollars.  To see our Op-Ed Piece in the CT Mirror on the value of public hearings in the rate review process, click here.  To see coverage on the hearing and ruling, click here, here, and here.

Gov. Malloy Joins CONECT in Do Not Stand Idly By Strategy on Gun Violence at June 2 Delegates Assembly

Read all about it:

CONECT Clergy Gather to Welcome Rev. Bennett Back from European “Gun Safety Trade Mission”  

Rev. Anthony Bennett, co-chair of CONECT, joined an 11-member, multi-state delegation of leaders from Metro IAF affiliate organizations that traveled to Europe to engage gun manufacturers around the Do Not Stand Idly By campaign, which is pressing manufacturers to invest in smart gun technology and tighter distribution systems.  See the March 13, 2014 CT Post New Bites piece hereFor more information on the Do Not Stand Idly By campaign, click here.  For a detailed report on the team’s trip to Germany, click here

CONECT Healthcare Forum on Eve of Affordable Care Act (ACA) Rollout — 176 people came out to hear from Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and others about how the ACA will be implemented in Connecticut on Monday, September 30th at Congregation B’nai Israel.  Watch coverage of the event on News 12 CT

CONECT wins Safer Driving campaign – CT passes legislation allowing all CT residents to get Drivers’ Licenses regardless of immigration status! 

National and local coverage includes:

Advocacy Group Scores,” Wall Street Journal, May 30; PDF Version

CONECT Release May-29-13

Senate Sends Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants Bill to Gov’s Desk,” CT News Junkie, May 30

Senate Approves Driver’s Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants,” Hartford Courant, May 30

Conn. Senate approves immigrant driver’s licenses,” CT Post, May 30

Interfaith Group Takes Leading Role on Political, Civic Issues,” Hartford Courant, May 27

House Approves Driver’s Licenses For Undocumented, ” Hartford Courant, May 23

Undocumented could get driver’s licenses,” CT Post, May 23

House Green Lights Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants,” CT News Junkie, May 23

“Weighing IDs For Illegal Immigrants,” Wall St. Journal, May 6

“Right choice to let license law live on” CT Post, editorial, May 1


Other Press Coverage:

Crimes against Immigrants in Fair Haven addressed by community leaders in CONECT held at St. Rose of Lima Church  New Haven Independent article.

$25,000 Grant Awarded to CONECT!September 30, 2012, The Fairfield County Community Foundation awarded a competitive grant of $25,000 to support the work of CONECT to advocate policies for social and economic justice. The grant will be used to support leadership development, training, and capacity building. “CONECT plays a vital role in bringing together community leaders of all faiths to serve as a united voice for their congregants,” said Nancy von Euler, FCCF Program Director. “We are pleased to help…

Up-coming Events:

“Powering Up” Assembly — Tuesday, Nov 17th

CONECT leaders will gather to build relationships, report progress on issues large and small, learn about how to do turnout, and plan for our January Action Assembly.  7:00pm at Messiah Baptist Church, 210 Congress St., Bridgeport.  RSVP to your Core Team leaders or to Matt McDermott, lead organizer (

Please Consider A Donation to CONECT:

CONECT is a non-partisan, 501-c-3 non-profit organization (IRS #06-1392836).  Your charitable contributions to support CONECT are tax-deductible.  Please consider a gift this year to support our unique work — incisive issue campaigns and impact, leadership development training and mentoring, team building in congregations, and broad interfaith, interracial, and urban/suburban relationships.

or send a check to: 185 Cold Spring Street, New Haven, CT 06511


CONECT is a non-partisan, multi-faith organization of 28 diverse congregations throughout Fairfield and New Haven Counties, who have organized as one community, to affect change in the areas of social and economic justice and policies for the common good. Please contact us for more information about the Founding and future activities.  We train leaders in the art of public life to give power to our voices and create strong congregations and community partnerships.“The first skill we learn in community organizing is how to listen; how to engage community members in conversations. We have learned that true change, in our own lives, in our families and in our communities, emerges out of the relationships we create with one another.”  We look forward to meeting you!