July 30, 2014
Congratulating Pope Francis on his election and recognizing his inspirational statements and actions.
Whereas on March 13, 2013, Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church;
Whereas his election marked the first time a Pope from the Americas has been selected;
Whereas he is the first Jesuit to become Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church;
Whereas he took the papal name of Francis, becoming the first pope to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his devotion to humility and the poor;
Whereas he has demonstrated his humility by choosing not to live in the lavish Apostolic Palace, living instead with the clergy and lay people in the Vatican guesthouse;
Whereas on March 28, 2013, he broke from tradition during the washing of feet, when he washed the feet of 12 criminals, including two women, becoming the first pope to include women in the rite;
Whereas on November 6, he displayed his charity by caressing a man with severe disfigurement, drawing comparisons to the actions of his namesake, St. Francis, whose kiss of a leper forever changed his life by solidifying his commitment to the poorest among us;
Whereas when asked to describe himself during an interview with a Jesuit magazine, he replied ‘‘I am a sinner’’;
Whereas his emphasis on humanitarian efforts to alleviate suffering serves as an inspiration to Congress and all Americans;
Whereas his humility, his commitment to economic justice and improving the lives of the poor, and his outreach to individuals from all walks of life have been universally praised and are living examples of Jesus Christ’s message;
and Whereas his call to end inequality has echoed across the globe and brought millions together in solidarity: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives congratulates Pope Francis on his election and recognizes his inspirational statements and actions.
Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 25, 2014
July 24, 2014
State Representative Christopher Wright (D-Bristol) earned a perfect record on votes taken in the state House of Representative during the 2014 General Assembly session.
According to the Clerk of the House, the 2014 individual records reflect 309 votes were cast by Rep. Wright.
“Casting votes on the many bills that we vote on is very important to me on behalf of my constituents in the 77th District,” Rep. Wright said. “I was fortunate to have been able to be present at every session to vote on every bill. I am pleased to have achieved a perfect voting score during this year’s session because representing my constituents in Hartford is a responsibility I take very seriously.”
Rep. Wright is Vice Chairman of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee and serves on the Housing and Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committees.
July 23, 2014
Details on the food festival coming in September:
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13TH
2PM TO 8:30 PM
We’re so excited to introduce to you to FLAVOR’D FOOD FEST! A Taste of Bristol & Beyond!
Flavor’d is a brand new food-oriented festival the likes of which has never been seen in our City! Promise us you’ll stay hungry, and we promise you an event that will satisfy taste buds!
Here’s a taste of the smorgasbord you can look forward to on event day! NOM NOM.
- Food tasting from bunches of restaurants & food organizations in Bristol & CT!
- A very tasty tented beverage experience
- Food product vendors
- Farmer’s market elements
- Food programming & demos
- Live music all day!
- Relaxed Tented seating!
- Blanket & picnic area
- Plus more!
When Bristol Rising puts our minds to it, we can accomplish anything. In 2011, a first year event called the Pop Up Piazza drew 15,000-plus visitors –a thrilling accomplishment signaling Bristol’s ready for big things! Now, we’re at it again! This time, alongside local restaurateurs and cultural non profit event partner, The Carousel Museum, to bring forth another new and exciting event — Flavor’d Food Fest, A Taste of Bristol and Beyond!
What It’s All About:
Flavor’d Food Fest is a new food-oriented event the likes of which has never been seen in our City. The event will focus entirely around food, and will feature a tasting element from the culinary talents of Bristol restaurants/organizations as well as participating restaurants from the region and state, creating a cultural crockpot of Bristol and Connecticut flavors! Now that’s revolutionary. “The event is about celebrating Bristol food and culinary gems, and highlighting them,” said Mark Walerysiak Jr, Community Liaison, Bristol Rising. “But similar to how the Pop Up Piazza showed the possibility of a future bustling downtown, we’d like to similarly provide a one-day looking glass into the anticipated future food culture downtown. We’re pretty excited to pop up those restaurant rows! We recommend people come hungry!”
How Flavor’d Came About:
Terry Lugo, an event committee member and co-owner of Barley Vine Gastropub, along with her husband Victor, shared one of the primary reasons the event was born. “There’s this perception amongst some that Bristol doesn’t have places to eat,” Lugo said. “We don’t believe that, and Flavor’d Food Fest will show Bristol has many quality restaurants, and places that specialize in some awesome items, and it’s our intention to allow them to be known to the world as well showcasing our neighboring CT restaurants as well”
When We’re Going to Rock Your Taste Buds:
Flavor’d Food Fest is scheduled to be held on Saturday, September 13, between 2 pm and 8:30 (rain date September 14) on Riverside Avenue Extension as well as parts of Depot Square, in downtown Bristol. This all day smorgasbord is expected to draw thousands of Flavor’d Food Fest goers from the region and state on event day, and will feature Bristol and CT restaurants, food vendors, food programming, live music, and more! Many more details will be released along the way, so stay tuned! “Are you ready to get FLAVOR’D!!”
Sharing Means More Grub!
Don’t forget to help SHARE Flavor’d Food Fest with your friends and family. The more RSVP’s for the event the more food ammunition and general awesomeness we’ll be able to recruit and toss your way!
For generations, most community hospitals have operated as charities, providing health care for the area surrounding them and ensuring that even the poorest received top quality treatment.
One of the benefits for Bristol Hospital of holding nonprofit status since 1925 has been that it hasn’t had to pay any property taxes. Charities and churches are, in almost every case, exempt in Connecticut.
But with Bristol Hospital’s announcement last week that it plans to sell the hospital to a Tennessee-based, for-profit company opens the door to at least the possibility that it might soon no longer quality for a special tax break under the law.
For City Hall, the change could represent a bonanza. Bristol Hospital could overnight become the city’s second largest taxpayer, hiking municipal revenue by more than $1.5 million annually at a time when the city is scrounging for every dime.
City Assessor Tom DeNoto, who’s been scrambling to figure out the implications of the deal, said the still-secret details are going to prove crucial.
Even so, he said, the announcement itself is “like a pea that has been dropped in the ocean and the ripples of a hurricane are just beginning.”
Bristol Hospital owns more than $75 million worth of property in the city, according to tax records, and that doesn’t even include the value of its medical equipment, vehicles and other potentially taxable items.
At present, the hospital doesn’t generally pay taxes. But the state has a payment-in-lieu of tax program that helps cities and towns compensate somewhat for hosting nonprofits and state government buildings.
Bristol collects about $570,000 annually from the program to make up a bit of what the hospital would have to pay if it were not exempt. That’s only a fraction of the hospital’s potential tax liability, but officials have always been happy to cash the state checks.
If the hospital winds up as part of Vanguard Health Systems, as planned, officials presume the state won’t pay anything anymore. Office of Policy and Management experts could not, however, be reached to explain their role.
The experience of other communities, though, may show what’s coming in Bristol if the sale goes through.
The 154-bed Morton Hospital in Taunton, Mass., for example, was sold in 2011 to a private for-profit company for $170 million in cash and debt. It is going to pay property taxes for the first time next year, about $1.5 million in all.
St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., purchased by Vanguard in 2005, now pays more than $1 million in property taxes and another $1.3 million in sales taxes. It didn’t use to pay any taxes.
All of this comes at a time when the tax-exempt status of nonprofit hospitals has been questioned across the country because the distinction between charity hospitals and for-profit ones has gradually blurred.
Illinois, for instance, began taxing some nonprofit community hospitals because it ruled they performed so little charity that there was no reason to treat them differently.
DeNoto said there can be “a very fine line” between a charitable hospital and one that’s not.
As they wait for details of the agreement between Bristol Hospital and Vanguard, city officials admit they are more than eager to grab some additional tax dollars that would help ease a growing fiscal crunch.
Still, DeNoto said, “We’re not counting on anything or locked in.”
“None of the dominos have even begun to fall yet,” he added.
July 16, 2014
Democratic Response to the Republican Town Committee’s recent “Let the Public Decide” press release
Petty politics and overly dramatic phrases will do little to further this debate on downtown’s future. Our comments concerning the referendum were based in two facts: the City of Bristol has never governed by referendum and to date, we are not convinced that a non-binding referendum on a non-ordinance related item is proper.
The primary question is is it appropriate for the City of Bristol to invest public money to kick-start the initial phase of a private investment?
Following dozens of meetings and forums, and accumulating voluminous input since this downtown development project was first proposed almost 10 years ago, we have reached the point where hard decisions need to be made.
So the secondary question is, “should the question be put to referendum or should we rely on the experience and knowledge of our elected officials?”
These are two complex questions that invite thoughtful public policy debate. But not questions that require, or will be resolved, by the petty political bickering offered by the Republican Town Chairman Derek Cenzelewski..
It is our opinion that a call for a non-binding referendum is yet another move by the local Republicans to not make a decision. Mr. Cenzelzewski’s effort to twist our words showcases political opportunism at its worst.
There has been a glaringly obvious lack of reports from Republican Council members concerning items of importance at monthly City Council meetings and in fact, when Democrats give reports, they are accused of “grandstanding” or “talking too much.”
Councilman Martin serves as liaison to the Field Study Committee, the Board of Education, the Downtown Development Corporation and the city’s Marketing Task Force – 4 committees that have major budget and policy impact yet until last month, he has stayed silent during Committee reports. Ironically,
Councilman Martin has also neither fulfilled his role of communicating back to the Council on downtown issues nor has he endorsed the idea of a public referendum, yet Mr. Czezelewski ignores these facts. Again, a clear indication of his motivation: petty political bickering.
To recap some of Mr. Czenzelewski’s outlandish allegations, here is what we believe:
• We know our role is to listen to our constituents and make ourselves available to them in a variety of ways including at public events, via social media, email, and open office hours. In fact, the Democratic council members are the only ones to have held office hours to hear from our constituents, this past year.
• Councilwoman Fortier does have an opinion. She is also a lawyer by profession and deals in facts. As the minority party, we are not included on the current talks with the Renaissance discussions. Some of these concerns were addressed by the mayor in executive session last week when the mayor realized we had not received certain information and promised the Council it would be circulated shortly.
• The city did not hold meetings in the “middle of the night” in 2005; nor do they do so now. That’s just a lie. But here’s a fact, many city meetings are held to accommodate key members of the Republican administration with disregard to the Democratic members’ schedules or the public, which typically can’t make meetings that are held when most people are still working.
• There was a large amount of public input and open meetings in 2005 concerning the fate of the 17 acre parcel. Ideas considered and discarded based on public reaction at that time included using the site for a field house and new Boys and Girls Club, a school to replace the O’Connell neighborhood school. Ironically, after 8 years with little to no progress, 2 of those years in which Mr. Czezelewski served on the City Council, there are many people who now look back on those proposals and wish that those ideas had come to fruition.
Democracy doesn’t stop at the ballot box. It requires constant conversation. Creating and recreating the image of what we as a community want our city to be is a work in progress. Bristol residents have contributed to the discussion on the future of downtown for years. That conversation is not over nor is it right for us, as city councilors now, to abdicate our responsibility. To do so would ignore what the voters sent us as their elected Councilors, to do.
Calvin Brown, District 1
Mary Fortier, District 3
Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, District 3
In addition, Fortier sent this along:
I want to take this opportunity to clarify my recent comments about a possible referendum on Depot Square. Steve Collins correctly quoted me saying that I am not privy to anything and I don’t know whether there should be a referendum. First, neither the Charter of the City of Bristol nor its ordinances has any provision for a referendum on a spending or bonding issue. And certainly not on matters of economic development. Unlike many New England towns and cities, we do not use the town meeting or referendum for the yearly general budget or bonding issues, instead we have a Finance Board and City Council. And, the Finance Board has more members as a check to the City Council on financial matters. I didn’t create our system of government but I am part of it and I work within that system.
The BDDC, Bristol Downtown Development Corporation, was created as a special quasi-public entity to oversee the development of the 17-acre parcel we call Depot Square. They have a “preferred developer agreement”, or contract, with Renaissance Downtowns which sets out the steps for developing the property. To date, the only thing the BDDC has asked the Council to do was grant an extension for a revised financial plan to be submitted. That extension was granted unanimously in May. I didn’t create the process but I respect the process. The BDDC was added to give extra attention, consideration, and expertise to this important issue.
I have attended several BDDC meetings and public comment sessions since I was elected. I was not at the last BDDC meeting where the “referendum idea got floated”. The notice of that meeting was not on the city’s website and no email notification that it was happening was sent. As a result I am not privy to the context with which the idea of a referendum was raised. No explanation has been provided as to what the basis or authority for a referendum question, much less what the actual question would be. Yet it’s been said that a referendum would be appropriate because the city was being asked for financial support to the project.
Since the Council granted the extension, the mayor and Republican controlled city council have not kept us informed on further discussions. Outside counsel hired by the Mayor and City Council have not been given formal opportunities to have conversations with myself and my fellow Democrats. My fellow Council member Calvin Brown sent an email on June 25 asking for an update on those discussions and he still hasn’t received a reply to the email. I still have lots of questions. There is no finalized proposal so I don’t think a referendum now would even be appropriate. And, why have a non-binding referendum? What is the point of that?
I support the overall plan for Depot Square: multiple buildings with mixed use residential units, retail offices, restaurants, and of course a piazza. I came into office being presented this plan and want to do all I can to make it work. I want a vibrant exciting downtown, but more importantly I want a strong stable tax base. The more value built on Depot Square the more taxes the city will collect leaving less tax increases for city residents. The value of Bristol, our community, as a whole will increase.
I share a frustration that the April proposal by Renaissance Downtowns contains a request for bonding or public money from the city. It makes what is already a complicated project more complicated. It makes decisions by the BDDC and the Council harder. But it is, according to the current process a question for the BDDC and Council.
The city spends many millions of dollars each year and with that try to plan and build for our future. We have spent millions on new schools, we are planning a multimillion dollar new firehouse, before the year is out we will probably authorize spending more than a million on our first synthetic athletic field, and in the near future we will be spending millions upgrading our police communications system. Hopes that development of Depot Square would be funded by private dollars is dictated by the realities we as city leaders face daily. That doesn’t exclude considering a portion be funded with public dollars. Or that the Mayor and City Council ignore their role as representatives of the public interest.
My constituents ask me when something is going to happen in Depot Square. When I ran for office I told voters I hoped for something sooner rather than later. Many voters are not familiar with all components of the process or even what has been proposed, but want to see activity downtown again. My preferences for the priorities of the city whether Depot Square or a new turf or a new firehouse or a new field are just my opinions, they are all part of a bigger process.
July 15, 2014
Here are some events coming up that might interest folks in Bristol and beyond:
Aug. 16 (Saturday) --
Sunday, July 27th 6:00 – 8:00 PM The Convertibles~~Federal Hill Green~~
Sunday, August 24th (start time to be confirmed) Cajun Ray and the Steamers~~~Federal Hill Green~~
Sunday, September 28th 5:00 – 7:00 PM Bristol Brass & Wind~~
Prospect United Methodist Church~~
July 13, 2014
Let the public decide this time
Bristol, CT – – Although a formal proposal to do so has yet to be made, the idea of allowing the public to weigh in on the potential public financing of Depot Square by way of a non-binding referendum placed on this November’s electoral ballot has been floated. Public support of such a referendum can be heard around Bristol, from the barbershop to the post office, City Hall to the gas station, and everywhere in between.
However, not everyone is on-board with allowing the public to have a say. This past week Councilors Zoppo and Brown came out in opposition of such a measure. Councilor Brown equated asking for the public’s opinion to “throwing his hands up” and “not doing his job.” Representing the public’s desires for Bristol is your job, Councilor, and the best way to get the public’s opinion is through a referendum.
Councilor Fortier, meanwhile, did not offer a position on this issue, saying, “I don’t know. I’m not privy to anything.” Has Councilor Fortier not been a part of these meetings? Has she not met with the developer or others? Does she simply not have an opinion, or does she not want to make her opinion known? Perhaps she has just been spending too much of her time grandstanding on issues she has no authoritative power over, rather than focusing on matters she does.
The last time a major financial decision was made by the City on “Depot Square” back in 2005, it resulted in several million taxpayer dollars being spent on the mall. The decision was made in the middle of the night, with no public input. That administration decided they knew better than the public, and the result can still be seen today: a 17 acre parcel of emptiness in the center of our community, with millions in lost tax revenue and an I.O.U to the City’s “Rainy Day” fund.
Coincidentally, Councilor Zoppo - who opposes a public referendum on this issue - was a member of the City Council that made the initial decision to buy the mall with no public input in 2005. If the public is going to be asked to contribute additional money to this project, the Council needs to do the right thing and ask the public for its support. It is up to Renaissance Downtowns to sell this project to the public, as they have been working to do over the last few years.
At the end of the day, the City Council will have the final say – referendum or not – and will have the opportunity to lead. Why not at least get the public’s input before making that decision?