Setting records

The Big Bang theory has it that about 13.8 billion years ago an explosion marked the beginning of the expansion of the universe. The word we’re fixed on here is “expansion.” The American economy is experiencing an economic expansion, and as long as the expansion continues, investor confidence appears ready to hang on for the ride. Last week we witnessed new milestones as major stock market indexes continue to rise.

The S&P 500, a broad index of of stocks, crosssed over the 5,000 level for the first time ever. The S&P 500 rose for the 14th week out of 15 by last Friday’s close, something that hasn’t happened since Richard Nixon was in the White House in 1972. The Nasdaq Composite, a tech stock barometer, also climbed, continuing a winning streak for the 15th week that it hadn’t seen since 1997. So did the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a basket of 30 stocks. All three indexes ended the week with gains.

Investors have been buoyed by strength in the labor market — a job-growth report showing employers added 353,000 jobs — and by solid corporate earnings.

In Connecticut, the economic picture also remains positive, according to the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. Real GDP grew by 4.7 percent in the state in the third quarter last year, which was slightly below the national average of 4.9 percent but double the rate for all of 2022. In November, Connecticut’s Department of Labor reported job growh for the third month in a row. And in the Hudson Valley, private sector jobs rose to 809,800, an increase of 6,100, over the year that ended in December, according to the New York State Department of Labor. Two of the New York region’s private sectors — health care and social assistance — posted year-over-year growth of at least 5.2 percent, the department reported.

Yet we have another set of data points that don’t relate to any kind of metaphorical Big Bang expansion at all. In an economy hallmarked by steady growth, approximately one in four households in our local region struggles to make ends meet.

According to the Connecticut United Ways, in its 2022 Alice report, an acronym that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, 25 percent of the households in Northwest Connecticut earn more than the Federal Poverty Level but less than the basic cost of living in the area. The basics include: housing, food, child care, health care, technology and transportation. The United Way in the Dutchess-Orange County Region, reported in 2021 that the same percentage — 25 percent — of households in Dutchess County fell into the Alice category.

There are economic and market reports that set records, reflecting positive growth and aspirations for a continued expansion — with chronic shortcomings in the mix. In 2023 there were 1,111 households on waiting lists for affordable rental housing in the 21 towns that comprise the Northwest Hills Council of Governments. It’s a similar story in Dutchess County, where, according to DATAUSA, 19.5% of the population was living with severe housing problems in 2022. From 2014 to 2022, the percentage expanded by 1.1%.

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KENT — Following a public hearing and discussion, the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) at its meeting Thursday, March 14, unanimously approved a special permit application from 81 Victorian Kent for a change of use from boarding house to bed and breakfast.

Wesley Wyrick, P&Z chairman, indicated that the application applied only to the front building, the gingerbread Victorian dating to the 1880s, not to the apartment building in the rear.

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So much of what we know about religion comes from the written word, but much can be found in paintings, sculptures — and needlework.

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Adding some international vigor to Easter Weekend — or Semana Santa, “The Holy Week,” as it’s known in Spain — The Hotchkiss School held a performance by the Spanish string ensemble the Málaga Chamber Orchestra in the Esther Eastman Music Center on Saturday evening, March 30. Featuring six violins, two violas, two cellos, and a double bass, the chamber music orchestra, which has performed across Europe and the U.S., is led by violinist and Grammy-nominated music producer José Manuel Gil de Gálvez. He has shared the stage with renowned musicians like classical and flamenco guitarist Pepe Romero and South Korean classical cellist Hee-Young Lim and performed at locations like The Berlin Philharmonie, The Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, and The Seoul Arts Center.

With a flamboyant head of long ringlet curls and a mustache/goatee combination reminiscent of Colin Firth’s Elizabethan lord in “Shakespeare in Love,” Gil de Gálvez is a theatrical violinist to take in live, infusing his playing with a passionate performance that heats up lively numbers like the opening Spanish serenade, “Impresiones de España” by 19th-century composer Joaquín Malats. Gil de Gálvez was in full command during his captivating violin solo, “Adiós a la Alhambra” by composer Jesús de Monasterio, who served as honorary violinist of the Capilla Real de Madrid. “Adiós” is an example of de Monasterio’s Alhambrism style, the 19th-century nationalist romantic movement, which, like the contemporary Málaga Chamber Orchestra, was keenly interested in the restoration of music from the Spanish popular heritage.

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