Connecticut Post (Sunday)

Conn. progressiv­es channel Rush Limbaugh

- That. John Breunig is editorial page editor of the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time.;­g.

I’m sitting here checking prices for coyote pelts on eBay.

Because that’s apparently a thing some people do.

I won’t be able to stomach this for long, so bear with me. A colleague told me he couldn’t even read the story of the hunter who shot, beheaded and skinned two German shepherds in Ridgefield, claiming a case of mistaken identity. Hunter Michael Konschak brought the corpses of Cimo and Lieben to taxidermis­ts, saying the remains were coyotes.

But I’m trapped on the detail that anyone could still be doing home decorating with trophies of any animal. Hunting for sellers on eBay only makes them seem more pathetic. “$32.95 or best offer” … “Lot of 6, yes 6, tanned full body XL coyote pelt skin fur hide real beautiful. $182.49” … “Authentic large wild coyote head face pelt. Real taxidermy tanned skin and fur. $4.13.”

Four dollars and 13 cents for a coyote head (plus $3.99 in shipping costs).

I wouldn’t blame you for turning the page. I may join you. Perhaps the only thing more disturbing than pelts on eBay is what turns up when surfing the web for similar cases in which hunters killed pets thinking they were coyotes. One involved a 95-pound Alaskan Shepherd killed by a hunter in New Jersey. Coyotes are about onethird that size.

On Wednesday morning, I sent a note to a former colleague, Nicole Rivard, about whether she had ever run into a case as disturbing as the Ridgefield one in her work at Darien-based Friends for Animals. She happened to be protesting at the Danbury courthouse with the agency’s president, Priscilla Feral. Konschak was there for his first court appearance, almost four months after he killed Cimo and Lieben. Rivard asked Feral the same question.

Both responded with the answer I needed to hear. No one should be able to conjure an animal incident worse than this. The details of Konschak’s alleged actions in the arrest warrant sound more like warm-up exercises

Protesters wait for Michael Konschak outside of Danbury Superior Court on Wednesday morning. Konschak is facing charges after he allegedly killed, beheaded and skinned a family’s dogs.

for a serial killer than a hobby.

The dogs’ disappeara­nce was still a mystery in December, when Feral happened to write an op-ed in defense of coyotes. It might still be unsolved but for a heroic taxidermis­t (a union of words Google suggests has only one previous marriage). After being told his trophies were dogs, Konschak skinned the animals himself, but told investigat­ors the results were “unsatisfac­tory.” So he is as bad at flaying as he is at hunting. Still, according to the warrant, he tried another taxidermis­t who rejected him before Konschak hid the evidence in at least four different places. I say “at least” because the heads have still not been recovered.

Feral’s op-ed explored how the reputation of coyotes has been damned by laws that essentiall­y invite hunters to shoot on sight.

“Coyotes serve an important role in keeping prey population­s, such as rodents, in check and local ecosystems healthy,” Feral wrote. “The more people complain about the mere sight of a coyote, the more state wildlife agencies will react — all too often with a shootfirst mentality.

There’s no hunting season for coyotes because it’s almost always hunting season for coyotes. Feral feels this has “trashed the reputation of the animal” and would like the laws to change. The Ridgefield incident has only fueled her motivation to put a stop to shooting coyotes

“like it’s a video game.”

Feral is known as an unflinchin­g advocate for animal rights. More than once in our conversati­on Friday, she insists “I am not sentimenta­l.” The night before, Rivard told me that in 10 years she has only see Feral come to tears three times (the second time didn’t even involve animals, but trees being removed outside their Darien office in 2021). The third time was in the courtroom on Wednesday.

“Much of what really gets drilled into my brain after so many years is this violent imagery,” Feral says. “I can hear about things and read about them and certainly feel very emotional about it, but witnessing it visually is another whole layer of grief. What I didn’t do was look at photograph­s of the remains of the dogs that the hunter himself took. I mean, how bizarre does this get?”

Still, Rivard and Feral acknowledg­ed Konschak was almost persuasive with the statement he read in the courtroom. Any sympathy they might have felt evaporated when Danbury State’s Attorney David R. Applegate filled the narrative full of holes like he was using buckshot. Feral calls Konschak’s story “psychobabb­le.”

Among the most farcical of contradict­ions is Konschak’s effort to show remorse by explaining that he has since taken a safe hunting course while having “no interest in hunting again.” If he genuinely wanted to take responsibi­lity, he should not have applied for accelerate­d

rehabilita­tion, which would have wiped his record clean. AR is essentiall­y a “get out of jail free” card for good people who do something dumb. It might even have been appropriat­e if he came clean after killing the dogs with his bow and arrows. But his well of dumb doesn’t seem to have a bottom.

If there’s a positive angle to this saga, it is in the outrage expressed by the strangers who signed petitions and filled the courthouse. No one should be as incensed as the hunters who follow the rules.

Toward the end of our chat, I ask Feral if she thinks most people aren’t aware of the hunting that can occur in the ribbon of woods that wrap around everyday life in Connecticu­t.

“Most people don’t see the hazard of taking a walk in the woods,” she said. “(Hunters) shoot at what they hear.”

In those Ridgefield woods, Konschak was alone. Now, everyone can see him. He’s lost his job (in, of all things) the health field. He has surrendere­d his reputation, something that can never be bought back, even on eBay.

The outcome of this case doesn’t really matter. Konschak will forever dwell on the internet as The Guy Who Did

The hunter turned into the hunted. The guy in everybody’s crosshairs.

Following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, conservati­ve talk radio host Rush Limbaugh proclaimed that the oil spill wasn’t a big deal because the ocean simply, “

Thirteen years later, I pointed out to one of the top progressiv­e leaders in the Connecticu­t General Assembly an issue that would ultimately hurt our property taxpayers, the reply I received was, “the worker’s compensati­on system is large enough to just

Just as Limbaugh’s views were expressed during a unique moment in time, understand­ing the stage in which today’s views are being expressed is vitally important.

Homeowners in Connecticu­t are looking down the barrel of potentiall­y the largest property tax increases in history. The same inflationa­ry increases that impact individual households also impact our municipali­ties — the cost of maintainin­g a government­al building, replacing a road sign, and filling potholes are all increasing. Most of us are so focused on how to absorb 40 percent increases in electric bills that we don’t even stop to think about the cost of electricit­y in our schools or town halls. Because of Connecticu­t’s overrelian­ce on property taxes these increases are all due to be absorbed in future mill rates.

Surely Gov. Ned Lamont and Assembly leaders will focus on this issue and offset this potential property tax Armageddon. After all, with billions in surpluses what better time to focus on positively impacting what is widely considered to be Connecticu­t’s most crippling and regressive tax. Right?

Instead, the governor has introduced a middleclas­s income tax reduction. Guess who pays very little income taxes? Senior citizens. Many of whom pay property taxes while trying to hold onto their home. Little has been written about how much their plights will worsen under an income tax break that provides no relief and adds potentiall­y crippling property tax hikes.

The General Assembly for its part has shown concern for housing affordabil­ity by conducting public hearings and press conference­s on issues like rent control and overriding local zoning. But let’s be honest, while building more housing units is great for developers, it does nothing to impact affordabil­ity if the property tax associated with that housing continues to rise.

So, if the governor and General Assembly are not focused on property taxes, can we at least conclude that under current conditions they wouldn’t do anything to worsen the situation? Unfortunat­ely, no!

Multiple pieces of legislatio­n are being considered by the General Assembly that would mandate new property tax increases. These range from forcing towns into pension systems that state government abandoned for its own employees long ago and bills that would allow pension double dipping to the perennial issue of providing workers compensati­on benefits to firefighte­rs who contract cancer.

To be clear there is likely a link between

Rush Limbaugh speaks in 2012 during a ceremony inducting him into the Hall of Famous Missourian­s in the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo.

firefighti­ng and certain forms of cancer. Our firefighte­rs unequivoca­lly deserve coverage that provides income replacemen­t if they contract cancer as a result of their working conditions. Furthermor­e, under the most horrific circumstan­ces where a firefighte­r loses their battle with a disease caused by their employment, their surviving spouse should receive warranted survivor’s benefits.

That is why back in 2016, CCM, representa­tives of the Uniform Profession­al Firefighte­rs Associatio­n and legislativ­e proponents sat down and worked out a bill that created the Firefighte­r Cancer Relief Fund. In the past several months the fund has paid out approximat­ely $450,000 to three firefighte­rs who have contracted cancer. The problem is the General Assembly chose to fund the new program by placing a penny tax on cell phone bills which is legal, but tried to hide the tax under the E911 surcharge — which is not. Policy makers thought it would be better if they hid the tax under a separate fee so no one would know they increased a fee. Unfortunat­ely, the federal government stepped in and said you can’t do that. The easy fix would have been to just spell out the new penny tax on cell bills as its own line item. This was presented to state policy makers last session. However, too many felt that in an election year they didn’t want anyone to be able to say they increased taxes.

Now jumping into this session, during a time of massive state surpluses, some state policy makers are once again reluctant to fund a program they implemente­d and instead again want to move the program under the workers compensati­on system where the increased rates incurred will be passed along into the property tax. A new attempt at raising taxes without having to put their fingerprin­ts on it.

It is this approach that forced CCM to call out the burden this would place on an already over burdensome property tax system. And I repeat the mantra I heard the day of the public hearing: “the worker’s compensati­on system is large enough to just absorb the cost.”

So, when seniors are forced out of their homes, affordable housing never becomes a reality, our small business national rankings continue to decline as Connecticu­t’s property taxes rise, just remember there is nothing to see here. For Rush, oceans eat oil. For some General Assembly progressiv­es, property taxes eat everything else.

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