September 18, 2014

Brown: Do not abandon plans for mall site

From city Councilor Calvin Brown:

As I was unable to fit my comments in at the end of the public hearing Tuesday night, I am releasing this statement in the hopes that my views on downtown redevelopment – as they stand right now – may be clear for my constituents.

First and foremost, I consider downtown redevelopment to be one of the most pressing issues of our time. In order to improve the quality of life for everyone, we need to attract more middle class families to live in our city, grow our tax base, and spur new economic activity at new, thriving, easily accessible businesses. Our top-rate school system, central location, and medium-size-town atmosphere make us an attractive option for young families, but we’re missing a few other key elements young people often look for when considering a place to live.

Chief among these considerations: a vibrant and walkable downtown. This vision can be realized in the City of Bristol. Retail, public green-space, and competitive housing are elements that I believe can truly revitalize our downtown area. For now, Renaissance is not only the singular company that has shown an interest in developing the downtown lot with this sort of focus, they are the only company that’s shown an interest in development – period. It is my belief that it is in the city’s best interest by far to continue to work with Renaissance to revise and refocus our efforts in good faith. To the many members of the public that disagree with assigning city dollars to the project: I hear you. To the many members of the public who say let’s give them the money and just get started: I hear you, too. But for now, Renaissance is willing to look at other options that do not include city money, and we need to let them try that.

In a perfect world I would prefer to see the City build the piazza ourselves, build the road through the parcel that will be required for future development, and commit to other infrastructure improvements surrounding downtown that will make the space more viable and attractive to investors and potential businesses. These are the investments every great community makes in themselves, and perhaps that is a more appropriate use of public money.

To members of the public that ask for a public referendum on the issue: I believe that until we have a plan to even potentially propose on a ballot, it is too soon to talk of a public referendum. If the plan can move ahead without any city money, a referendum won’t be necessary. If the plan cannot move ahead without city money, then the discussion of a public referendum will have to take place.

Regardless, however, as one of your elected officials I must make my position perfectly clear: the gigantic importance of revitalizing our downtown to get it thriving again makes the cost of doing nothing much too high. For now, that empty lot is a hole in our heart that requires thoughtful, surgical care. Abandoning this process now and delaying any movement there for an indeterminate amount of time could send our city into cardiac arrest. Getting the project moving, on the other hand – with new people and new businesses and new attractions in the heart of our great city – could beat new life into our veins.

One day, when I stroll the streets of my hometown with my own children, I want to be able to look them in the eye and say “look at what the people in our city came together to accomplish. Look at the heart of Bristol, which we strengthened for you.”

I don’t want to show them a seventeen acre graveyard of what could have been, and mutter softly, “I’m sorry.”

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

September 17, 2014

City meeting would have been better

Since someone raised the issue in a Bristol Press story comment, I was ill last night. I would have much preferred to be at the downtown meeting.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

September 11, 2014

Michalik secures backing from teachers' union

Press release from Rob Michalik, the Democratic candidate for the 31st District state Senate seat:

Rob Michalik Endorsed by Public School Teachers 
Connecticut Education Association and American Federation of Teachers of Connecticut Endorse Rob Michalik for State Senate
September 10, 2014
Bristol CT – Democratic State Senate Candidate Rob Michalik, proudly announced the endorsement of his campaign by Connecticut’s public school teachers. Both the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and the Connecticut affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have voted to endorse Michalik for the November 4th General Election. The organizations collectively represent all of Connecticut’s public school teachers.
“Providing Connecticut children with a high quality education will equip them with the foundation necessary to succeed in todays fast pace enviroment,” said Michalik. “My opponent has a record of continuously making cuts to public education. This district needs a strong voice in the senate that work together with parents, administrators, teachers and taxpayers to ensure our students are receiving the best education in our schools.”
“Rob’s support for children, teachers and public education has been made clear and as a result our organization is proud to endorse your candidacy,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen.
"We need legislators in Hartford who will stand up for the district’s working families and lead on the issues that matter. We look forward to Rob joining with educators, healthcare professionals and state employees to fight for great schools, affordable, quality healthcare and strong public services," said Melodie Peters, president of AFT Connecticut, which also represents public schools' support staff, nurses and healthcare workers, higher education faculty, and state and municipal employees.
“It is imperative that we work to ensure that our communities receive their fair share of education funding from the state to reduce the burden placed on local property taxes,” added Michalik.  “Our students deserve the support, and our seniors and those with limited incomes can use the tax relief.”
The 31st state senate district consists of Bristol, Harwinton, Thomaston, Plainville and Plymouth.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Larson: Put aside partisanship to defeat ISIS

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol:

LARSON STATEMENT ON PRESIDENT’S ISIS REMARKS

(Washington) – Congressman John B. Larson released the following statement today:

“Thirteen years ago, at twilight on September the 11th, Democrats and Republicans stood in unity on the steps of the Capitol against a common threat. This evening, the President said we are best when we act together. He is right. We need to put aside the partisanship and electoral politics, as we did thirteen years ago, and come together to act in the common interests of the American people. This requires no profile in courage, but only that Congress engage and vote.

“The President’s remarks tonight should serve to unify the nation against the national and international threat of ISIS. I commend the President for consulting with our allies and building appropriate coalitions with NATO, members of the Arab League and the United Nations Security Council while informing the American people as well as Congressional Leadership of the threat that ISIS presents.

“Two things remain clear – a global and regional response is imperative and the mission and exit strategy must be clearly defined. On those two issues, Congress should be engaged.”

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

September 10, 2014

Blumenthal coming to Bristol Saturday to back Michalik

Democratic state Senate candidate Rob Michalik press release:


MICHALIK ANNOUNCES FALL CAMPAIGN KICK­OFF EVENT WITH U.S SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL

Rob Michalik announced that the kick­off of his fall campaign for State Senate will be held at 430 North Main Street in Bristol at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, September, 13th. U.S Senator Richard Blumenthal will be on hand for the event, as will other local Democratic candidates on the November ballot.
“I look forward to having residents from all five towns in the 31st senate district – Bristol, Harwinton, Plainville, Plymouth, and Thomaston – join me in working together to ensure a better future for our community,” said Michalik. “Anyone who wishes to help with the campaign, or simply to learn about our plans to strengthen the middle­class and grow the economy, is welcome to stop by our campaign headquarters on September13th.”
"Rob is an ardent advocate for consumer rights and growing our economy. He will be a strong voice for the people of the 31st district,” said Senator Blumenthal. “With his experience, particularly in economic development, he has the background and qualifications to serve his constituents well. I am excited to join with him and other local candidates for this kick­off event.”
WHAT: Michalik Fall Campaign Kick­off
WHEN: Saturday September 13
th at 11:00 a.m.
WHERE: 430 North Main St., Bristol, CT, next to Super Natural


Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Welch blasts early release program for prisoners

Press release from state Sen. Jason Welch, a Bristol Republican:

Sen. Welch Comments on the Flawed Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program

Bristol-State Senator Jason Welch released a statement today after Republican Senators called for a change to the Connecticut’s flawed Risk Reduction Earned Credit program (RREC). On Tuesday, a judge in New Britain arraigned Arthur Hapgood, a beneficiary of the RREC, for murdering his infant niece. Hapgood was released 233 days early after he failed multiple drug tests and continued to demonstrate disturbing behavior while incarcerated.

“Justice is underway for a little girl from Bristol whose life was senselessly cut short,” said Welch. “No policy change can retrieve a life that has already been destroyed. However, the state has an obligation to change a system which released a dangerous felon, who obviously had not been rehabilitated, before he served his full term. Criminals are taken off our streets for a reason. They should stay off our streets, and the State of Connecticut should keep its promise to the victims and their families.”

The RREC is the state’s latest attempt to reduce recidivism. The program launched in 2011. Many risk reduction credit recipients have gone on to commit heinous crimes shortly after release. Republican Senators are looking to address this public safety concern.

Jason Welch (www.senatorwelch.com) represents the 31st Senatorial District, which includes the towns of Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth, Thomaston, and Harwinton. He can be reached at 800.842.1421. You can follow Senator Welch on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SenatorWelch.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

September 9, 2014

Joint session to discuss Depot Square on Sept. 16


Embattled developer Renaissance Downtowns will get a chance to make the case for its proposed Depot Square project next week before a joint session of the City Council and the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.
The 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting at City Hall is billed as a public hearing where the Long Island developer will speak first and then anyone else who wants to weigh in will have the opportunity.
Mayor Ken Cockayne said city officials won’t make any decisions Tuesday. They just want to listen to what people have to say, he said.
“It’s an opportunity for the public to speak to both boards,” Cockayne said. LINK FOR MORE

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

September 8, 2014

Mum Parade signups end Friday

The deadline to participate in this year’s Mum Parade has been extended until Friday.
Jack Ferraro, one of the parade coordinators, said they are providing extra time so schools and others who had the summer off have a chance to join in.
“We just want to be fair to everyone,” Ferraro said.
The parade is closing in a hundred applications so far – a good turnout – and more are expected this week.
The 53rd annual festival will include activities along Memorial Boulevard all day on Saturday, Sept. 27 and the yearly downtown parade starting at 1:30 p.m. the following day. It is one of the biggest parades in Connecticut.
Retired police officer and longtime American Legion official Bob Coffey is the parade marshal, while former city Councilor David Mills and Michele Boyko, a movie producer, are slated to serve as masters of ceremony.
The parade, which can go on for hours, includes everything from dance troupes to elaborate floats. There are typically thousands of people watching along the way.
It is not necessary for participants to be from Bristol.
To sign up to participate, go online to tinyurl.com/mz6l3lf.


Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Time for city leaders to -- shocking idea -- lead

I had an interesting conversation today with a longtime city government watcher who confessed to confusion about what's the best way to proceed with downtown.
Like most people in the city these days, he was pretty down on Renaissance and its plans for Depot Square, especially the $6 million or more the Long Island developer wants taxpayers to chip in toward construction of the first building.
But the part that struck me in our talk was something else: the idea that Bristol is not having the sort of wide-ranging, deep conversation it should about how to proceed.
That's clearly true.
What really hit me, though, was his analysis of what's gone wrong. He said the city's leaders have ducked their duty, that instead of taking charge of the project and guiding the community toward an understanding of the issues involved, the details of the plans and the realities of any alternatives they have instead said almost nothing and done less.
He said the city would be far, far better off if its elected leaders took the helm and tried to steer the ship.
As it is, what debate and discussion exists is mostly stirred up by Shawn Ruest, an ardent foe of the project whose view of the government's potential role is deeply skeptical and narrow. I don't think Ruest would disagree much with that, though it's fair to say, too, that he's tried to delve into the project on his own to figure out what's going on. That's admirable on any level.
What hasn't happened, however, is to have the city's leaders grab hold of the issue and lay out the case for -- or against -- the Renaissance plan. They have, by and large, taken a hands-off approach, as if it was all somebody's else's idea.
What the veteran government watcher wants is for Mayor Ken Cockayne and the City Council to hold public meeting after public meeting, preferably in a high school auditorium and taped for Nutmeg TV, to explore the project plans and the issues that surround them.
He said they should be listening to the public's concerns at these sessions but also guiding the discussion toward some sort of community consensus on whether to move ahead and how.
They should be leading, he said, instead of cowering in the background and talking about the biggest issue facing Bristol only when they're in closed-door executive sessions.
Moreover, he argued, the history of Bristol shows that in the end, the public should vote on the issue. He said every important decision ever made in the town that went right was done by referendum, not the maneuverings of politicians trying to keep their deeds in the dark.
He pointed to the referendum that led to Memorial Boulevard and its school, to the preservation of the Hoppers-Birge Pond Nature Preserve and the switch to an elected Board of Education.
Whatever the right course is, he said, it's up to the city's leaders to point the way and make the case. If they can't, that says a lot all by itself about the merits.
The bottom line? The city's elected officials need to speak up. They've been too quiet for too long.
They're killing the project by their silence. But that's not how a democracy should work. Whatever the outcome for Renaissance and its plan, it should come after rousing and thoughtful public debate.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

What happens if an asteroid clobbers Bristol? It's not good.


About once every 50,000 years, an average-sized asteroid smashed into the earth. If it happened in Bristol, there would be a massive explosion with a whopping fireball. And it wouldn't be a nice place to be for anyone. Then again, the blast radius would reach as far north as Springfield and nearly to Long Island in the south. Most of Connecticut would perish right along with us.  LINK

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

September 4, 2014

Crocodile Club will draw politicos to Bristol Friday

Frank Nicastro, blowing his trumpet (Photo by Mike Orazzi/The Bristol Press)
On the agenda for Friday's Crocodile Club gathering at Lake Compounce are, as of now, Gov. Dannel Malloy, the incomparable Joe Visconti, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. John Larson and his opponent, Republican Matthew Corey.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Heather Somers are also on tap, thank goodness, since one guy after another would get tiresome.
Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne will, of course, have his moment at the microphone and state Rep. Frank Nicastro will, as always, play the trumpet.
WTIC's Ray Dunaway will emcee the whole shebang, trying to keep things moving.
What else will happen? Who knows?
Tickets are still available. You can get them at the gate for $55 each starting at 11:30 a.m.
If you've never been, go. There aren't many things that have survived since 1875. The Crocodile Club is a treat.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Pavalock: Dump Common Core

Press release from Republican state House contender Cara Pavalock, who aims to unseat 77th District incumbent Democrat Chris Wright:

Scrap Common Core

(Bristol)  As the new school year begins, Cara Pavalock, the Republican nominee for State Representative from the 77th Assembly District today added her voice to the chorus of teachers, parents and education advocates who are calling on the State of Connecticut to scrap the new education initiative called: Common Core.

“These testing standards and the lack of input from our teachers and parents are causing great anxiety in our educational system.” Pavalock said. “It is unrealistic to expect all children to learn all material at the same rate,” continued Pavalock.

Cara Pavalock
“Clich├ęs such as ‘Excellence in Education’, ‘Raising the Bar’, and ‘Getting America’s kids ready for the workforce’, have been used to promote the implementation of Common Core. The reality, however, may be the federalization of education and the loss of local control.” Pavalock stated, “As a mentor in the Bristol school system, I hear the frustration of our teachers, and I fear that parents as well as students will be adversely affected by this initiative.”

Door-to-door campaigning this summer has allowed Pavalock to hear directly from numerous teachers, parents and students who are concerned about the program. “I share their concerns and I believe that these impractical standards were adopted in Connecticut in an attempt to receive more federal funds for education, without an eye towards the impact on our educators or families and without any thought to the increase in taxes to pay for this funding.” added Pavalock.

 “I believe that we need to go back to the drawing board before such a drastic new program such as Common Core is implemented. All stakeholders need to be brought into the loop and have their questions and concerns answered.” Pavalock concluded, “Our children’s futures depend on a quality education and I don’t believe, at this point, the Common Core standards will benefit their education.”

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com