September 30, 2007

Locals vow to save Social Security office

"We're not going to give up," said city Councilor Mike Rimcoski. "We're going to still try full force."
Rimcoski said that the City Council, Mayor William Stortz and the state delegation are going to turn up the heat.
State Rep. Ron Burns said the fight is a bipartisan one, with politicians from both parties joining together to convince President George W. Bush to reverse the decision.
Burns said that local politicians will try to convince Gov. Jodi Rell to intercede with the president.
He said that with a Republican mayor, Republican lawmakers and a Republican governor pushing for the office to stay open, perhaps the president will listen.
"This isn't a done issue," said Rimcoski, who is also a Republican.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Larson vows to keep fighting on Social Security office closure

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Larson:

Congressman John Larson CT-01, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, met with town officials from Bristol yesterday to renew his vow to fight to keep the local Social Security Office open. News came late Friday that the Social Security Administration had decided to shut down the office in early November, after threatening for months to do so.

In attendance for the meeting were Larson, a representative from Senator Chris Dodd’s office (CT-D), Bristol Mayor William Stortz, State Senator Tom Colapietro, State Representative Ron Burns, members of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and members of the Bristol Town Council.

Congressman Larson listened to the group’s concerns and stressed to all in attendance his commitment to keep the office open. “I will continue to fight to keep this office open. There is an additional $400 million for the Social Security Administration in the budget that the House passed and even more in the budget the Senate is considering. I urge the Social Security Administration to reconsider. And, I urge the President to stop using the threat of a budget veto to further his political agenda, while our seniors go without the services they desperately need,” said Congressman Larson.

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K-8 plans controversial among candidates

Though candidates for the Board of Education have largely remained mum on the controversy swirling about its plans to switch to a kindergarten to eighth grade system that would require two new 900-student schools, contenders vying for municipal office are filling in for their missing-in-action counterparts.
“I’m still not convinced that the K-8 structure and the 900-person school makes sense,” said Bob Merrick, a middle school teacher who is running for a 3rd District City Council seat on the GOP ticket.
“I have yet to come across a single parent who says they support it,” said Ken Johnson, the Republican’s mayoral choice.
Though the verdict among city candidates isn’t clear, there’s no doubt that among those seeking municipal office, the school plan is in grave trouble. Most have serious doubts about it and some are simply against it.
Nearly all of the contenders for mayor and City Council have said in recent weeks that the school board has failed to sell its plan to the public. They said that if the scheme is going to move forward, educators are going to need to convince the community that the change will benefit students without clobbering taxpayers.
“The Board of Education has done an incredibly poor job of what this K-8 thing is and what the benefits would be to the children of Bristol,” Johnson said. “It just seems to me the communications aspect of this exercise has really fallen down.”
Democratic mayoral hopeful Art Ward said that school leaders should have invited more public input from the beginning – and still need to reach out to hear what residents have to say about the plan.
Ward said, though, that the school administration is going to pick up its efforts to reach out the public by providing quarterly reports to joint sessions of the City Council and Board of Finance, newsletters and perhaps a regular newspaper column. He said the school website should also offer more information.
Still, candidates generally agree that at this point residents aren’t convinced that changing to a K-8 system is warranted, particularly if it means building two big new schools.
“The large size of the two 900-student K-8 schools proposed by the BOE appears to minimize the most critical attribute of a successful K-8 school, that is, a smaller school community,” said Merrick.
“While there appears to be a need for new schools in Bristol, and a K-8 system seems to have benefits, I have concerns over the idea of mega-schools with 900 students,” said Ken Cockayne, a GOP council hopeful in the 2nd District.
“I support what the taxpayers want, not what a few BOE members want,” said Joe Geladino, another Republican council contender in the 2nd District.
“Education systems support smaller class sizes for more personal attention, so it follows that children get a better education at smaller schools,” Geladino said.
Bruce Lydem, a Democrat running for council in the 2nd District, said school board members are “best equipped to make an informed decision in regards to the question of conversion” to a K-8 system.
City Councilor Craig Minor, who is seeking reelection as a Democrat in the 3rd District, said that “Bristol is changing” and so must its schools.
“The number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch, a measure of poverty, has increased from 20 percent to over 27 percent in the past decade, and I'm told that it's 33 percent in the elementary schools,” Minor said, adding that the number of kids who don't speak English at home has grown to almost 8 percent.
“The research data that the Board of Education has shared with us indicates that K-8 is the way to go to deal with these trends, while the opponents claim that their data is outdated, wrong, or taken out of context,” said Minor, who serves as the council’s liaison to the school board.
“I don't know if these changing demographics call for converting to a K-8 system, but clearly we need to take action to address these trends,” he said.
But, Minor said, “On a separate but related issue, I am not a supporter of large schools.”
“I support holding a town-wide referendum on the construction of any school that would contain 900 students,” Minor said.
“The K-8 system very well may be the appropriate path for Bristol,” Cockayne said, “but unless the voters concerns about this are addressed, I am hesitant to support it.”
It isn’t clear what city leaders would be willing to do to kill or modify the plant that’s on the table, which also includes closing three older elementary schools – Bingham, O’Connell and Greene-Hills – as well as Memorial Boulevard Middle School.
Every mayoral and council candidate was given the chance to respond to questions about the K-8 plan. Some did not answer. Others said they preferred not to comment.

June 2006 – City hires consultant to study potential renovation of older schools and perhaps recommend new ones.
March 2007 – Board of Education backs plan for two 900-pupil student schools for kindergarten to eighth grade.
April 2007 – City Council backs new school in Forestville.
June 2007 – City Council backs new school in western part of Bristol.
June 2007 – Board of Finance approves concept of bonding for two new schools.
Sept. 2007 – School site committees recommend putting the schools at former Crowley dealership on Pine Street and at a Scalia sand pit off Barlow Street.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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September 28, 2007

Social Security office in Bristol to close Nov. 2

Brushing aside pleas from one of the most powerful Democrats in the Congress, the Social Security Administration plans to close its Bristol office on Nov. 2.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, an East Hartford Democrat whose district includes Bristol, said he is “utterly disappointed” in the decision to shutter the Social Security office on North Main Street that serves thousands of residents annually.
Larson said, though, that he’s not throwing in the towel.
“The entire delegation is together on this and we plan to continue fighting,” Larson said in a prepared statement. “This isn’t over.”
City, state and federal politicians rallied a year ago to block plans to close the Bristol office, succeeding in keeping the office open an extra 10 months.
In May, two congressmen and Connecticut’s two senators lobbied Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue to leave the Bristol office open rather than shifting its handful of employees to a larger site in New Britain.
At the time, they won a promise that the city’s Social Security office would not close “in the near term,” but the lawmakers said that for it to remain open permanently would require they find money in the budget to keep its doors open.
Larson said he learned Friday that the office is now slated to close in little more than a month, on Nov 2.
“I am utterly disappointed in the commissioner’s decision to close the Bristol Social Security field office, especially after all of the effort put in not only by us but the entire Bristol community,” Larson said.
“In Congress, we achieved an increase over the President’s requested budget for the Social Security Administration,” he said.
“I am dismayed that the president continues to say he will veto this budget, putting so much strain on our country’s seniors,” said Larson, the fourth highest ranking Democrat in the House.
“On the merits, we made the case and thought we had a good faith agreement that when we increased the budget request, we should have been able to keep the office open,” Larson said.
The Social Security office is located in the old New Departure building at 225 North Main St.

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Bob's got a blog

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Ward seeks unity, sort of

After the bitter Democratic mayoral primary, the loser, Ellen Zoppo, left a congratulatory message on the home answering machine of the winner, Art Ward.
That's the only communication between them since the polls closed more than two weeks ago.
So while the wound within the party may not be bleeding, it's certainly not healed.
Ward said he doesn't know if lingering hard feelings from her supporters could hurt in the Nov. 6 general election.
"I haven't analyzed all of that," he said.
Ward said, though, "I hope all Democrats will come together for a victory on Nov. 6, a victory for the community."
While he hasn't reached out to Zoppo, Ward has extended a hand to the city councilors who were backing Zoppo.
"We need to focus on working as an administration," Ward said, explaining that he intends to work with whoever wins a council seat to try to give them the assignments they most want so they'll be excited and happy to work for the common good.
"Everybody wins" is a better managerial philosophy than trying to cut some people out of the loop, Ward said. He's felt cut off since Mayor William Stortz stripped most of his plumb committee assignments away and left him largely on the sidelines the past 22 months.
Ward said that if responsibility is shared among the entire council, the workload is shared and the achievements greater.
"Everybody's part of everything," Ward said.
He said he expects differences of opinion and disagreement on particular votes. But at the end of the day, Ward said, he wants the entire council -- including any Republicans who might win -- to feel they are part of a team dedicated to boosting Bristol.

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September 27, 2007

Drought worry prompts water plea

Worried that a continuing drought could plunge the city into a water crisis, officials called on residents Thursday to take steps to conserve as much water as they can.
Residents should immediately adopt an odd-even system for washing cars, watering flowers and other outside uses, officials said. They should also try to scale back water use inside the home.
The city’s reservoirs are short more than 350 million gallons of water and have water levels have fallen to 70 percent of capacity.If they are drained to half their capacity, mandatory restrictions would go into effect, as they did during a major drought in 2002. In 1999, water levels nearly fell far enough to require another crackdown.
“The lack of rain and dropping levels have forced us to ask for the cooperation from our customers" to minimize water use, said Robert Longo, acting water superintendent.
"A lack of rain and unseasonably warm weather over the past few weeks has lowered our reservoirs along the aquifers that our well fields draw water from to levels that require the Bristol Water Department to request conservation from our customers," said Longo, who stepped into the job when longtime Superintendent Leonard Valentino retired this month after nearly four decades with the department.
Mayor William Stortz said it is paradoxical that in the spring the city was trying to cope with floods and now it’s facing a water shortage.
Longo said the city has reached out to large outside irrigation users, including the parks, schools and the golf courses at Pequabuck and Chippanee to reduce their water use.
"Currently the City is in a drought advisory and we expect that the change in seasons along with the cooperation from customers should aid us to bring the water levels back to normal prior to spring," the mayor added.Water officials have long said that the worst case scenario would be to begin the winter with the reservoirs down substantially and then fall into a serious drought that left the reservoirs depleted heading into the summer.
Bristol’s water supply, though it’s been bolstered by tie-ins with New Britain and new wells, is iffier than officials would like.
A long-term plan to build a massive new reservoir in Harwinton, known as Cook’s Dam, has been shelved for years because environmental concerns trumped worries about water supplies.
The city’s half dozen reservoirs -- in Bristol, Plymouth and Harwinton -- contain about 1.2 billion gallons when they are full. There are also some wells in eastern Bristol that add to the supply.
The city uses as much as 7 million gallons on a hot summer day, but not as much during cooler weather.
Stortz said that "water levels at the reservoirs and wells will continue to be monitored regularly to assure that the levels are stabilizing before mandatory restrictions would be required."
Any one with questions on the restrictions or the City’s water supply can contact the Bristol Water Department at 860-582-7431.
Information on the voluntary restrictions along with other ways to conserve water can also be found on the Bristol Water Department website

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Contact Steve Collins at

No decision on proposed school sites

City councilors postponed making any decisions on two proposed new 900-student schools until they can hear directly from the special committee that recommended sites for the new buildings.
Because the decisions “are items of the utmost importance,” said city Councilor Art Ward, officials want to hear from those directly responsible for choosing the proposed locations.
Both the West Bristol and the Forestville school building committees are expected to make presentations to the council at its Oct. 9 meeting at City Hall.
“I want to know what their discovery process was,” said city Councilor Craig Minor. “How did they arrive at that conclusion?”
The Forestville panel recommended putting a new kindergarten to eighth grade school on the former Crowley dealership next door to Greene-Hills School, a site that isn’t particularly controversial.
But the West Bristol committee, faced with a wider array of choices, backed the idea of putting a new school at the Scalia “A” sand pit off Barlow Street, a plan that’s already drawn heat from the city’s zoning chairman and top fiscal overseers.
Minor said he recognizes that “no site is perfect” and that whatever is chosen will have flaws.
But, he said, he would like to hear about the drawbacks of each of the sites considered so he can weigh them himself.
Ward, who favors putting one of the new schools on the former Roberts property on Chippens Hill, said “there’s a lot of questions” that need to be answered before councilors will move ahead on the sites for the $115 million school project pushed by the Board of Education.
Ward said all the sites need to be examined in depth and every possible question answered about each of them so that nothing unexpected will come up years down the road.
Minor said he was surprised that the school building committee members skipped the special council meeting Thursday. He said he anticipated they would be present.
Minor said that in addition to hearing from the panel members, he is also interested in finding out what City Planner Alan Weiner has to say about potential school sites.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Water restrictions sought

New press release from Mayor William Stortz:

Voluntary Water Restrictions
Bristol, CT, September 28, 2007
– Mayor William T. Stortz announced today that the Bristol Water Department, as a Department of the City of Bristol, is notifying customers that the Cities reservoirs have declined to 70 percent capacity from the lack of rain and that the Water Department has issued Voluntary Water Restrictions effective immediately.
"A lack of rain and unseasonably warm weather over the past few weeks has lowered our reservoirs along the aquifers that our well fields draw water from to levels that require the Bristol Water Department to request conservation from our customers," said Robert Longo, Acting Superintendent of the Bristol Water Department. Mr. Longo added, "That the Bristol Water Department has reached out to large outside irrigation users including the Cities Parks Department, Public Works, Board of Education, Pequabuck and Chippanee Golf Courses and asked for their cooperation in reducing usage at their facilities, all of which offered their immediate assistance."
Although the reservoirs are at 70 percent capacity, no rain in the immediate forecast will cause the levels to continue to drop. The Bristol Water Department in coordination with the Mayor’s office is requesting that customers limit the amount of outside water use and to adhere to the Departments policy on Odd / Even watering. Odd / Even watering allows for properties with an even street number to water on even days of the month and the same for properties with odd street number to water on odd days of the month. The Odd / Even watering system also applies to washing cars, watering flowers and any other outside uses.
"During the past month the Bristol Water Department personnel have worked diligently identifying ways to increase supply to the system along with ways to conserve water in an effort to avoid any restrictions, yet the lack of rain and dropping levels have forced us to ask for the cooperation from our customers," stated Mr. Longo. The Bristol Water Department has suspended the Annual Hydrant Flushing program, increased its supply from a seasonal well on Barlow Street along with increasing its supply from a connection with the City of New Britain on Stafford Avenue.
The last time the Bristol Water Department enforced restrictions was in 2002 when reservoirs dropped to nearly 50 percent capacity forcing the Department to issue Mandatory Restrictions.
Mayor Stortz stated, "That the water levels at the reservoirs and wells will continue to be monitored regularly to assure that the levels are stabilizing before mandatory restrictions would be required." "Currently the City is in a Drought Advisory and we expect that the change in seasons along with the cooperation from customers should aid us to bring the water levels back to normal prior to Spring," the Mayor added.
Any one with questions on the restrictions or the City’s water supply can contact the Bristol Water Department at 860-582-7431. Information on the Voluntary Restrictions along with other ways to conserve water can also be found on the Bristol Water Department website at

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Get rid of your household hazardous wastes!

Press release from the Public Works Department:

The City of Bristol will host a Household Hazardous Waste Collection on October 6, 2007. The Collection will be held at the Bristol Public Works Garage located at 95 Vincent P. Kelly Road (off Route 229) from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

This Household Hazardous Waste Collection is free of charge and open to residents of Bristol, Berlin, Burlington, Meriden, New Britain, Plainville and Plymouth. Identification will be required as proof of residency. No waste from businesses will be accepted.

Items to accepted include:
Pesticides and poisons, herbicides and weedkillers, oil-based paint, paint thinners, varnish, household batteries, hobby and photographic chemicals, pool chemicals, household cleaners and disinfectants, antifreeze, waste oil, gasoline, fertilizers and mercury.
Items that can not be accepted include:
Latex paint, tires, propane tanks, computers and electronic equipment, explosives, smoke detectors, medical waste, fire extinguishers, empty containers – and waste from any businesses.
Bristol residents can refer to the City web site at
for disposal information about other materials.

If you should have questions or need directions, please feel free to contact Public Works 584-6125.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Witch's Dungeon is alive and well

Contrary to a story in today's Hartford Courant, Cortlandt Hull's wonderful little horror museum on Chippens Hill is not "defunct" and did not close permanently in 2005.
It is, in fact, thriving.
The Witch's Dungeon, which Hull started at age 13, celebrated its 40th annniversary last year -- and is heading happily toward the next landmark in 2016 when it'll have half a century of chills and thrills behind it.
The museum at 90 Battle St. is part of the Silver Screen Movie Museum and Archive, a nonprofit that people should recognize as a potentially lucrative tourism draw because of its extensive collection of movies and memorabalia that include everything from the original E.T. to reels of Bela Lugosi's "Dracula."
So let's not declare the museum dead, as the Courant mistakenly did today. Instead, let's see what could be done to make it bigger and better.
It could become a true year-round landmark if the community had more vision.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Two stories call Scalia site into question

Don't miss these two stories by reporter Jackie Majerus in today's Bristol Press:

Zoning chair: Scalia school site bad idea


City planner not consulted

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September 26, 2007

Goodbye to the mall?

Before the daffodils start dancing in the spring breeze, the downtown mall will likely be demolished.
“The mall will be down,” said Mayor William Stortz.
He said that knocking the city-owned mall could begin by mid-December and will be completely done within a couple more months.
Roger Rousseau, the city’s purchasing agent, said that razing the decrepit old mall will be done “by the end of February.”
He said the work “will span the end of the year” and the beginning of 2008.
Razing the mall to clear the way for redevelopment of the 17-acre site at the city center has long been a goal of city leaders, but they could make little progress until a recent court victory upheld the city’s efforts to oust the last remaining tenant, Ocean State Job Lot.
With Ocean State slated to be out early in October, Rousseau is taking steps to solicit bids from contractors to knock down the mall as quickly as possible.
Stortz said that proposals to handle the demolition could be due by early November, allowing the city to choose a contractor for the job before Thanksgiving.
He said that if officials stay on track, the firm hired to do the job could begin it work in December and finish early in 2008.
“We’re really talking sometime in January” to complete the demolition of the mall, the mayor said.
Stortz said that other buildings on the mall site, including the grocery store and the former theater at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Main Street won’t be torn down at the same time. McDonald’s, which is privately owned, would also remain.
The mayor said, though, that once the mall is out of the way, developers will be willing to begin making serious plans for the property. They can easily deal with the remaining buildings, Stortz said, because they’re not in the way.
The nonprofit Bristol Downtown Development Corp., formed last winter, is responsible for working with developers to come up with a suitable revitalization plan for the site that would likely include stores, offices and housing in some type of public-private partnership.
Stortz said the demolition schedule shouldn’t create any problems for the development company’s efforts to come up with a plan that city councilors can support next year.
The mayor said it’s important to move fast mostly because it projects the right image for Bristol, showing that downtown efforts are bearing fruit.Stortz said the city should be able “to do something” with the mall property next year.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Special City Council meeting Thursday at 6 p.m.

City of Bristol
Office of Town/City Clerk
Bristol, Connecticut

City Council Members
City Hall
Bristol, Connecticut


There will be a Special Meeting of the Bristol City Council to be held on Thursday,
September 27, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers, 111 North Main Street, Bristol, Connecticut.


1. To introduce and discuss proposed ordinances to establish a City cemetery commission and to schedule a date for a public hearing thereon, and to take any action as necessary.

2. Authorization for Mayor or Acting Mayor to execute contract with Charles B. Feldman & Associates, LLC for personal property audit services in the Assessor’s Office in the amount of $10,000, and to take any action as necessary.

3. Recommendation from West Bristol School Building Committee for the City Council to take appropriate action to acquire the Scalia Site A property, and to take any action as necessary.

4. Recommendation from Forestville School Building Committee for the City Council to take appropriate action to acquire the Crowley properties adjacent to Greene-Hills School which would include the vacant dealership, the vacant lot, the existing body shop and the residence on the property, and to take any action as necessary.

5. To award Contract #2008-012 – Renovations of Rockwell Park Phase I, including Alternate 1 for granite curbing to Schultz Corporation in the amount of $1,586,400, and to take any action as necessary.

6. To discuss the current status of the matter of City of Bristol vs. Ocean State Job Lot Stores of Connecticut, Inc. SC 17819, and to take any action as necessary.

7. To convene into anticipated Executive Session to discuss the matter of City of Bristol vs. Ocean State Job Lot Stores of Connecticut, Inc. SC 17819, and to take any action as necessary.

8. To reconvene into Public Session regarding the matter of City of Bristol vs. Ocean State Job Lot Stores of Connecticut, Inc. SC 17819, and to take any action as necessary.

9. To discuss the current status of the Centre Mall demolition, and to take any action as necessary.

10. To adjourn.

Per Order Mayor William T. Stortz, Chairman
DATED this 26th day of September, 2007.

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Any Board of Ed candidates differ on K-8 or school size?

If you're running for the Board of Education and you don't agree with the direction that school board members have taken so far on K-8 and new 900-pupil schools, I'd sure love to hear from you directly.
The 13 candidates for the 4-year positions are keeping an awfully low profile.

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Why Roberts site poses a problem for school

While it's true that the city already owns the former Roberts property, which is one possible location for a new school, putting the building there might not be cheaper than buying a parcel from a private owner.
The reason?
State law requires that the city replace any land purchased for recreation or open space that winds up being used for something else.
That means the city might be forced to buy another similar piece of property if it wants to use the Roberts site on Chippens Hill.
Take a look at city attorney Jeff Steeg's May 2007 opinion on the issue:
Click on this link for a PDF of the opinion

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Ragaini pulling out of the 2nd District race

Independent City Council hopeful Tom Ragaini pulled out of the race Wednesday.
Ragaini, a former Democratic city councilor, said he withdrew from the 2nd District contest because “I just don’t want to have any hard feelings” within the Democratic Party.
Ragaini, 54, said his priority is to help the party’s mayoral candidate, Art Ward, get elected on Nov. 6.
“All my heart will be going to helping Art Ward become the next mayor,” Ragaini said.
He said that he “tossed and turned” for a couple of days thinking about whether to drop out of the council race before deciding Wednesday that he shouldn’t continue his independent bid.
Remaining in the 2nd District race are Democrats Kevin McCauley and Bruce Lydem, Republicans Ken Cockayne and Joe Geladino, and independent Mark Blaschke.
Ragaini said that he met with “a lot of Democrats in town” who urged him to pull out to help repair the “little split” in the party that developed during a tough mayoral primary.
“Party unity is the most important thing,” Ragaini said.
Ragaini represented the 3rd District for two years beginning in 1997. He lost a reelection bid in 2001 when Al Myers upset him in a primary.
Ragaini has remained active in Democratic politics. He serves as one of the city’s park commissioners.

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September 25, 2007

Finance leaders skeptical of Scalia site

The city’s two top fiscal overseers said Tuesday they’re skeptical about putting a new school on the Scalia site off Barlow Street.
“It’s not over yet,” said Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski.
Both Miecznikowski and the vice chairman of the Board of Finance, Roald Erling, said they would rather see the proposed kindergarten to eighth grade school built on the city-owned Roberts property.
“That would be the best choice,” said Miecznikowski, because taxpayers wouldn’t have to shell out anything to buy the land.
Erling said that the former Roberts property could house both the school and the playing fields that officials have long eyed for the site.
The Scalia site chosen by the West Bristol School Building Committee this week must still win the approval of a number of city panels, including the finance board.
Miecznikowski said that he is concerned that in addition to a hefty tab to buy the land, it may cost taxpayers a bundle to get it ready for a school.
He said that it’s merely a first step in the process to have the school building committee’s recommendation in hand.
What happens next is less clear.
Mayor William Stortz said that he anticipates that a special City Council session will consider both the Scalia and Forestville school sites on Thursday. The meeting is tentatively slated for 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Stortz said that councilors will likely have many questions about the sites so a decision probably won’t come Thursday.
But, he said, he would like the council to take a stand before the Nov. 6 election.
Stortz said that city leaders have been following the issue closely and have the expertise and background to make a decision.
“They’re in a better position” to choose than a new council would after the election, particularly when the newcomers have so many other major issues to deal with.
Stortz said he doesn’t want the plan to die for lack of action at City Hall, as a previous school plan did five years ago.
“I don’t want that to happen again,” the mayor said.
He said it is crucial that the city move ahead.
“We have to show the world we want to do something” to improve Bristol’s educational system, Stortz said. “Doing nothing is definitely not the right thing.”

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Johnson weighs in on school sites

Republican mayoral contender Ken Johnson said he strongly supports the construction of new schools. He said it’s too late to talk about renovating some of the city’s older buildings.
Johnson said that he thinks the proposed Forestville school site, at the former Crowley dealership beside Greene-Hills School, is “on the right track.”
He said that a kindergarten to eighth grade school there would make it possible to stop busing Forestville middle schoolers downtown.
“This brings them back home,” Johnson said. “I think that’s good news.”
But the situation in the western part of Bristol is “not so clear,” Johnson said.
He said he’s “very glad that the Roberts property did not bubble to the top of the list” for a school site. He said he hopes that “we can retain that parcel for passive recreation for years to come.”
“Beyond that,” Johnson said, “I choose to let process unfold. I commend the team working on it.”
“They’ve studied it much more closely than I have” and done their homework, he said.
As for the proposed school site at the Scalia pit off Barlow Street, “we’ll see if it passes muster as it moves forward,” Johnson said.
“I do have to wonder about the selection of privately owned properties, particularly where we’re honing in on two privately owned properties even before we’ve begun negotiating on price,” Johnson said about both sites.
He said he’ll be “watching closely to ensure we don’t overpay as we did with mall.”

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Cockayne backs school sites

Republican City Council candidate Ken Cockayne sent this along to answer my questions on the school site selection:

Unfortunately with decisions like these, not everyone will be satisfied. There are pros and cons on all the proposed sites, but I feel that the recommendations made by the committee were appropriate and I feel I would have come to the same conclusions.

Although the mall property is centrally located and owned by the city already, this would be contradictory to what I believe the majority of Bristol citizens, including myself, are supporting right now; which is to revitalize downtown with new business and to get the property back on the tax rolls as soon as possible.

While the idea of a “neighborhood” school, albeit a “mega school” (which seems to have become a popular term), is great, I do not support the use of eminent domain, nor am I comfortable with a major thoroughfare cutting through school property, as it would be if a school were placed at the end of Divinity Street.

There have been many proposed uses for the Roberts Property since the city took it over. Residents in that area were not comfortable with a sports complex or anything more than a park for passive recreation. I do not think they would be happy with having two of the largest municipal buildings in the city adjacent to each other in their neighborhood. It also just doesn’t make much sense to me to have one building housing K-8 and the other housing grades 6-8 in the same neighborhood. Regarding the eventual use of this property, while a compromise that is mutually beneficial for everyone might later be reached, that is a topic for discussion much later. Projects for Bristol need to be prioritized and that is not a priority at this time and should be left alone.

Placing the schools on the selected sites makes sense to me. The Crowley / Greene-Hills School property keeps a school in that portion of town, and even if it is a “mega school” it will still be a neighborhood school which I think is important. The Scalia property site on the surface seems to be the least invasive of the other proposed sites. It does not have any of the issues facing it like the ones listed above. It is very close to Rockwell Park and the West End and it can still have somewhat of a neighborhood school type feel.

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Lydem backs Roberts site for school

Democratic City Council hopeful Bruce Lydem sent me the following about the school site picks made last night:

First, let me thank the Board of Education committee of seven for all their hard work on behalf of the City of Bristol. I am committed to listening to the voters of Bristol. I have knocked on over 1200 doors and the citizens, by and large, have told me that they would rather have the school built on the Roberts property. An added benefit to the taxpayers is that the Robert’s property is already owned by the City. That will save a lot of money. I support the green hills site because it preserves the quality of a neighborhood school. While we can disagree on where to put our schools I think it is clear that we all believe that our kids deserve state of the art school and best possible educational opportunities. I look forward to working with everyone to make sure that our kids have the best educational opportunities.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Minor backs school sites

From city Councilor Craig Minor:
The seven citizens who volunteered their time to serve on the West Side School Building Committee did the job that they were asked to do (ditto the Forestville School Building Committee). They looked at the ten sites that they were told to consider. They held meetings and listened to the public. They asked questions of the consultants and did their homework. I respect them and the democratic decision-making process, so I will support their recommendation.
I was leaning toward a different site myself, but I don't have all the information that they had and I wasn't at all of their meetings, so I'm not going to pretend that I know better than they do what's best.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Silent campaign for Board of Education... so far

It’s been a nearly silent campaign among the 13 candidate vying for the nine Board of Education seats that up for grabs this year – and that’s not sitting well with the mayor.
Candidates for the school board need to do a better job of addressing crucial educational issues before the Nov. 6 election, said Mayor William Stortz.
“We see very, very little discussion” among school board hopefuls about such pressing matters as whether to build two new kindergarten to eighth grade schools with 900 students each, and where they should be built if they are needed, the mayor said.
Stortz said that school board hopefuls, who serve four-year terms, will make crucial decisions about education that will ultimately mean more to Bristol than the fate of the downtown mall.
The mayor said that the candidates, political parties and the press need to do a better job of making voters aware of the choices they face.
“Education is one of the biggest factors in creating an image, and attracting people and businesses to come to Bristol,” said Stortz.
He said that the mall’s fate is “nowhere near as important as what is happening in education” when it comes to attracting people to town.
The quality of the school system, the mayor said, is a significant piece of the puzzle whenever people are deciding where to buy a house.
What the school board does to improve the schools “is critical to the city,” Stortz said.
“You want the best people on there,” the mayor said, and it doesn’t matter whether they are Republicans or Democrats.
Voters should tap the “best nine” to serve, no matter what political affiliation the candidates have, Stortz said.
The mayor said the candidates and political parties need to do more to get the school board candidates’ names and positions out to the voters.
He said that candidates may not have much money, but they can still send press releases to the papers that may enlighten voters about where they stand.
“There could be ways to get the issues out,” Stortz said.
He said parent-teacher organizations could organize forums, the media could do better in seeking out information and publishing it, and the political establishment could do more to get information out to the voters.
“Both the parties and the candidates have a responsibility,” Stortz said.
Even if the Charter Revision Commission urges a return to an appointed school board, Stortz said, the school board members elected in November will serve out their entire terms, meaning they’ll be the decision-makers until 2011.

Who’s running for the Board of Education?

Democratic candidates
Barbara Doyle, incumbent
Julie Luczkow, incumbent
Tom O'Brien, incumbent
Jane Anastasio, incumbent
Karen Vibert
Sherry Turcotte

Republican candidates
Chris Wilson, incumbent
Amy Coan, incumbent
Dick Prindle
Wayne Sparks
Peg Bonola
Jane Hoscholg

Working Families candidate
Mary Rydingsward

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Stortz calls for more information on Board of Ed contenders

Here's a letter to the editor from Mayor William Stortz, about which I'll have more to say later:

One of the biggest issues facing Bristol, today, one for years to come, is the direction and development of education.
Education is one of the biggest factors in creating an image, and attracting people and businesses to come to Bristol.
Currently, we are engaged in discussion over school size, grade structure, and new or renovated facilities.
Whatever the decisions, a large part of our budget is involved, including major capital costs. Whatever the decisions, the image of Bristol, our ability to impact our demographics, and the education our children receive, is involved.
Peter Drucker said, “Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.”
This year we, the voters in Bristol will elect our School Board, nine members. They will oversee and determine grade structure, and school size, and to some extent the physical aspect of our school systems for the next four years, and their impact will be longer lasting.
Yet, there has been virtually no discussion by any of the Board of Education candidates, as to their positions. There has been no information provided as to their position on the issues.
I would like to see the media give this area more attention, so that the public can be better informed on key issues that will be affecting the City, and its youth, for years to come.
The is the only way in which the people can make a meaningful decision on our future.
William T. Stortz

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Hamzy helps secure benefits

Press release issued today by the Republicans in Hartford:

State Representative William A. Hamzy, (R-Terryville), and state Senator Andrew Maynard (D-Stonington) and Representative Ted Graziani (D-Ellington), co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Select Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today hailed the establishment of a program to extend unemployment benefits to military spouses who suffer job losses as a result of military relocation.
The twelve-month program will offer unemployment compensation to the spouse of an active-duty member of the armed services who is forced to leave a job due to military relocation. While some exceptions do apply, current law generally does not grant unemployment benefits to employees who voluntarily leave their job through no fault of the employer.
“When military spouses receive orders to relocate out of state, their wives or husbands can either remain in Connecticut and keep their jobs and their paychecks or resign and move with them, losing the additional income many military families need to make ends meet,” said Representative Hamzy, a long-time supporter of legislation to make military spouses eligible for unemployment benefits when their husbands or wives have to relocate out of state. “I’m very pleased that the legislature, the governor, the business community and the Department of Labor were able to reach agreement on this measure. It is the culmination of three years of hard work and effort. Military families should not have to suffer financially when a spouse has to redeploy out of state. The men and women of our armed forces make big sacrifices every day to preserve our freedom. Helping to keep them together is a small sacrifice the State of Connecticut should make for them.”
“Our servicemen and women make great sacrifices in order to serve their country, and the support of a spouse is invaluable,” said Senator Maynard. “Soldiers are experiencing frequent and lengthy deployments. As seen by the increases in divorce rates among military spouses, the strains on families are real and difficult to overcome. We have the opportunity to help relieve any additional financial strains caused by employment loss and to reduce burdens on families who already give so much. Our servicemen and women deserve our support in every way possible, and this benefit is another way that Connecticut will take a leading role in aiding our active duty soldiers and sailors.”
Lawmakers cited the benefits to family morale as of equal or greater importance to families affected by military relocations.
“Every effort that we make to support our military and their families makes a huge difference,” Representative Graziani said. “I am pleased to see this program getting off the ground. Without a doubt, it will not only help our brave men and women to keep their families together during the transition periods they are constantly subject to, but will recognize the financial hardship that military families face when they must move where their country calls them. Needless to stay, the morale factor is also a major benefit that goes along with this program. This is definitely a step in the right direction. This was my number one priority for the session, and I thank my co-chair Senator Andy Maynard, Representative Bill Hamzy, the Department of Defense, along with our leaders and the governor for making this happen.”
The program applies to military spouses who separate from their employer to accompany an active-duty spouse from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008. Employers will not be charged unemployment taxes for any former employee granted benefits under the program. The program administrator will report to the secretary of the state, to the Office of Policy and Management, and to the Appropriations, Labor, and Veterans’ Committees on enrollment and budget by January 1, 2008, who will then determine the form the program will take after its sunset date.
The program was created through a technical implementer bill approved during a special session of the Connecticut General Assembly held on Thursday, September 20th. It is awaiting final action by the governor. The program will be administered by the state Department of Labor through the Unemployment Compensation Fund.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Ward has "reservations" about Scalia site

Democratic mayoral candidate Art Ward said Tuesday he has doubts about the proposed Sclia site for a new K-8 school.
Ward said he leans more toward using the former Roberts property on Chippens Hill, which the city bought six years ago to serve as a recreation complex.
"I have reservations about the Scalia site due to the potential costs of purchasing the property versus utilization of the Roberts property which is already owned by the city which would save taxpayers additional costs," Ward said.
Ward said he has no problem with putting a new school at the former Crowley dealership on Pine Street.
"I firmly believe that the proposed Greene-Hills School site is ideal in that the location affords the opportunity to construct a new facility on-site and allows the preservation of the neighborhood school aspect," Ward said.
I'm waiting to hear from the other candidates about their thoughts on the appropriate school sites.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Dems hammer Hamzy, Burns

Keep in mind the GOP response to this argument, offered in a Friday release

Press release from the Democrats at the statehouse:

The State House Democrats Office released a list of targeted community investments identified by House Republican legislators as key projects for their districts. These projects were negotiated in a bipartisan manner as part of the bonding package and voted on Thursday by the General Assembly.

The vote was split among party lines with every House Republican legislator voting against the bill. As a result, the Republican legislators voted against their own projects that would benefit the municipalities they were elected to represent.

House Majority Leader Christopher G. Donovan said, “These projects benefit our communities and provide property tax relief for our cities and towns. When it came time to vote, the Republicans voted no. It is important for residents to know where their representatives stand.”

“After these legislators indicated how important these projects were to their communities and got them in the bond package, they voted against the bill for some short sighted political reason,” said Speaker of the House Jim Amann (D-Milford). “Now they will have to explain to their mayor and constituents why all of a sudden these projects aren't so important after all.”

Bonding projects earmarked by House Republican legislators:

Bristol (Reps. William Hamzy, Ron Burns): $425,000 grant-in-aid to Bristol Community Organization, Inc. to purchase a building for expansion of the Head Start program
Brookfield (Rep. David Scribner): $1 million made available to the Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut in Brookfield for capital improvements including an indoor pool
Brookfield (Rep. David Scribner): $500,000 grant-in-aid for expansion of the senior center, including computer equipment
Durham (Rep. Raymond Kalinowski): $500,000 grant-in-aid to Farnam Neighborhood House for the Camp Farnam Reclamation and Revitalization Project
Easton (Rep. John Stripp): $250,000 grant-in-aid for renovations at the senior center
Granby (Rep. Richard Ferrari): $100,000 grant-in-aid to Holcomb Farm for restoration and renovation of buildings
Greenwich (Reps. Livvy Floren, Claudia Powers, Lile Gibbons): $1.5 million for renovation of existing or construction of new exhibition areas, teaching spaces and the science gallery at the Bruce Museum
Greenwich (Reps. Livvy Floren, Claudia Powers, Lile Gibbons): $2 million grant-in-aid for remediation of brownfields at the Cos Cob Power Plant site
Litchfield (Rep. Craig Miner): $1 million grant-in-aid for firehouse construction in Northfield
Manchester (Rep. Pamela Sawyer): $900,000 grant-in-aid for the development and construction of the Manchester to Bolton segment of the East Coast Greenway
Middlefield (Rep. Raymond Kalinowski): Up to $100,000 made available for Lake Beseck
Middletown (Rep. Raymond Kalinowski): $1 million grant-in-aid to the Middlesex County Revitalization Commission for revitalization projects
Naugatuck (Reps. Kevin DelGobbo, David Labriola): $93,000 grant-in-aid for improvements to Long Meadow Brook, including riverside access
North Branford (Rep. Vincent Candelora): $500,000 grant-in-aid for development of the Swatchuk Property for active and passive recreation
North Branford (Rep. Vincent Candelora): $500,000 grant-in-aid for renovations and additions to the Edward Smith Library in Northford
Oxford (Rep. David Labriola): $600,000 grant-in-aid to Oxford for improvements to Oxford Industrial Park Road
Somers (Rep. Penny Bacchiochi): $1 million grant-in-aid to the Somers Housing Authority for the rehabilitation and expansion of senior housing at the Woodcrest facility
Somers (Rep. Penny Bacchiochi): $500,000 grant-in-aid for expansion of the Somers Library
Somers (Rep. Penny Bacchiochi): $500,000 grant-in-aid for two fire substations
Stafford (Rep. Penny Bacchiochi): $500,000 grant-in-aid for downtown redevelopment
Stratford (Reps. John Harkins, Lawrence Miller): $500,000 grant-in-aid for new boilers at Stratford High School
Thomaston (Rep. John Piscopo): $2 million grant-in-aid for extension of a water main in the Jackson Street area
Torrington (Rep. Anne Ruwet): $1 million grant-in-aid for the development and construction of the Warner Theater Stage House
Torrington (Rep. Anne Ruwet): $575,000 grant-in-aid for downtown redevelopment

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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New school site is the pits

Here's reporter Jackie Majerus' story today on the decision to put a new school off Barlow Street:

Committee members charged with selecting a site for the proposed West End K-8 school on Monday chose the former Scalia sand pit on Barlow Street as their location of choice.
The seven member site selection committee voted 5-2 in favor of recommending the old sand pit.
"They had given this an awful lot of thought," said Mike Audette, who chairs the committee and is principal of O'Connell School.
After hearing from the public and discussing four possible sites, Audette said, the committee voted.
Committee members Michele Currie, Gary Vontell, Don Soucy, Mayor William Stortz and Audette voted in favor of the Scalia site.
The other two members, Ivonne Hamm and Chris Wilson, voted against it.
The site selection committee for the Forestville K-8 school voted unanimously to recommend that the city purchase the former Crowley dealership on Pine Street for a new school.
"Both recommendations are going to City Council," said William Smyth, the business manager for the school district.
Audette said he was surprised and impressed when he went to see the old Scalia sand pit and found a pastoral scene of trees and rolling hills.
"It almost looks like you're in the country," Audette said, adding that he loved the thought of his students – who have only asphalt and no grass at recess – in that setting.
"What a different experience it would be for them," said Audette. "It struck me as such a beautiful setting."
Hamm said the Scalia site was her second choice.
"I thought the Bristol mall was the best site," said Hamm, because it maintained an urban setting, is already owned by the city and is closer to Bingham and O'Connell schools and would require less busing than the other locations.
Soucy said the Scalia site was his second choice. He preferred the site at Park and Divinity streets, which would have required using eminent domain to take many residential and commercial properties, including an abandoned grocery store.
Soucy said the words "eminent domain" probably helped torpedo that site and that the city's intent to develop the mall likely did the same.
"I understand we're not making the decision in a vacuum," said Soucy. "We have to send 'em a site that has a realistic chance of being accepted."
Audette, too, used the phrase "in a vacuum" to describe how the committee was not operating.
Audette said he worried about safety – especially traffic – at the downtown mall site and the Park and Divinity location. The former Roberts property is nice, but "a little too far out," Audette said.
"To me, it's not the West End," said Audette.
Soucy, a member of the city finance board, said he believes city councilors and finance board members will approve the selected site.
"I think it has the best chance," said Soucy.
Soucy said he didn't favor using the former Roberts property for a new school site.
"I still have high hopes of Roberts being developed as a recreation area," said Soucy.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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September 24, 2007

"Driving Miss Daisy" at TheaterWorks

Here is reporter Jackie Majerus' review of "Driving Miss Daisy," a fabulous show at Hartford's TheaterWorks that is slated to run until Oct. 14:

Times change, chauffer Hoke Coleburn tells Miss Daisy, but "they ain't changin' that much."
The delightful, funny and sometimes-touching "Driving Miss Daisy" by Alfred Uhry, hasn't changed much in 20 years, either.
It's still great.
Directed by Rob Ruggiero and starring Rosemary Prinz as Daisy Werthan and Mel Johnson Jr. as her driver, Hoke Coleburn, the show is playing now to an enthusiastic audience at TheaterWorks in downtown Hartford.
The show offers top-notch acting, an interesting set and a lot of laughs.
The story revolves around the relationship between Miss Daisy, a retired white Jewish schoolteacher, and the gentle and patient Hoke, the black man that her son Boolie (John Leonard Thompson) hired to drive her around after she crashed her car.
Miss Daisy's initial hostility toward Hoke slowly thaws over their many years together.
Though she's the one who is educated, he's easily her intellectual equal and by far the more perceptive of the two. It's often his dry remarks or wry commentary that bring the biggest laughs.
While Hoke slows down over time, Miss Daisy truly ages. Prinz does an outstanding job showing decades of aging in a 90-minute performance.
The set and costumes were nicely done, but Vincent Olivieri, who did the sound design, deserves special recognition.
The perfect timing of each appropriate sound, every time Miss Daisy or Hoke opened or closed a car door or whenever Hoke put the car in gear added much to the show's realism.
"Driving Miss Daisy," which completes the 2006-2007 TheaterWorks season, runs through October 14, at the theater at 233 Pearl St.
TheaterWorks starts its 2007-2008 season in November with "Doubt," John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer and Tony-winning drama that runs Nov. 9-Dec. 23. After a holiday break, the theater returns Jan. 25 with a comedy by Douglas Carter Beane, "The Little Dog Laughed," followed by three dramas: "Blackbird," by David Harrower running April 11-May 25; Pulitzer winner "Rabbit Hole" by David Lindsay-Abaire from June 20 to August 3 and finally, the New England premiere of "Gee's Bend" by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder, which runs September 5 through Oct. 19, 2008.
Tickets range from $35 to $55, but a season of five shows sells for $122, and "rush" tickets are $10 at show time with a valid student identification. Discounted parking, with theater validation, is available a half block from the theater in the Goodwin Hotel garage.
For more information, call the theater at (860)527-7838 or see its website at

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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New sports on the agenda

Pressure is growing for city parks to provide a wider array of recreational opportunities for an increasingly diverse community, including ESPN’s growing number of employees.
Though people are still pushing for more ball fields in town, there’s an ever-increasing volley of requests to provide for new and different sports – from a skatepark to disc golf.
Park commissioners have already backed a $400,000 skatepark for Rockwell Park – a plan that’s been in the works for years – but they’re pondering what to do about current requests for a bocce court and a “cricket pitch.”
ESPN’s international focus is providing some of the impetus for change.
“There are many people coming from different parts of the globe with different sports interests,” said ESPN Vice President Mike Soltys.
For many of those ESPN workers, the hometown sports are cricket and football – or soccer, as it’s called here.
Their interests dovetail with ESPN placing a priority on its international reach.
Soltys said ESPN recently purchased, a website based in India that is devoted to all things cricket, from the latest news and scores from real games to fantasy cricket.
Soltys said there are currently 15 ESPN employees who play cricket on a baseball field at Casey Field.
“We do have people playing in some kind of cricket league locally,” said Soltys.
They’ve spoken with the Bristol parks department, Soltys said, in hopes of getting a “cricket pitch,” or field specifically designed for playing cricket, in the city.
“They’d like something permanent,” said city Park Director Ed Swicklas.
Their hope, Soltys said, is for the Bristol cricket players to be able to compete in a statewide cricket league.
The cricket players, Soltys said, all work in ESPN’s computer area, not the international departments.
“Our employee base has become more global,” said Soltys.
Every August, Soltys said, ESPN holds a multi-cultural fair for employees.
“The cricket group had a booth,” said Soltys, and “received considerable interest.”
Swicklas said that cricket players need a big area on which to play. They need a pitch about 140 yards square, he said, which is going to be hard to find space for.
The Park Board is also considering whether to put a bocce court on the west side of downtown’s Brackett Park.
“There is an area there we could probably do,” Park Director Ed Swicklas said.
Swicklas said the bocce court would require a 60-foot long course made of crushed stone or stone dust.
Pat Nelligan, a parks commissioner, said the city had a bocce court years ago, but it fell into disuse.
He said he would want to see whether there’s a genuinely renewed interest before approving the court.
Disc golf fans have also been pushing to have a course at a city park or perhaps at the former Roberts property on Chippens Hill.
A skatepark is slated for construction at Rockwell Park in the spring, after six years in the pipeline.
Officials said they’re willing to consider requests for new recreational fields and features that may attract a new generation to the parks.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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September 23, 2007

Anyone else watch Ken Burns' WW2 documentary?

What gets to me -- what always gets to me -- is how so many ordinary people pulled together to do the job they had to do. Bloody and awful as it was, they just did it, not because they were heroes, but because they were Americans.
In one of the cars at the parade today were a last vanguard of those troops, who are passing into history every day. I recognized Fran Mullins, but didn't get a good glimpse of the others. They just looked like old men.
But in that film on PBS tonight, they were mere boys - and a long, long way from home.
It's comforting in a way to consider the nightmare they, and our country, faced in defeating Hitler and his allies. Most of them came through it, came home, and got on with life.
It's sobering, of course, to see the memorials in nearly every town that list the many who didn't get the chance to come home, to know that many families suffered so much.
But can anyone doubt that at least in that terrible war, the sacrifice made sense?

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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A splash of orange

The Republicans made a pretty good show out of their end-of-the-parade moment.
They decorated a little Mum-filled float that included a big stuffed elephant toy mounted on top that Mike Saman said he managed to find on eBay.
The GOP had big signs, lots of young people holding signs and providing a burst of energy, enthusiastic candidates who weren't hesitating to gladhand from one end of the parade route to the other.
I saw Ken Cockayne, a 2nd District hopeful, shaking hands and introducing himself to as many people as he could.
Ken Johnson had a car and a mob of young people wearing his white and orange shirts. What was missing when I saw them was Ken Johnson himself.
Then I caught sight of him, trailing far behind. He came jogging along the side of Memorial Boulevard, yelling, "HHHHEEEELLLLLLLLLOOOOOOO! I'm Ken Johnson and I'm running for mayor!" He slapped hands as he raced along.
You have to give him high marks for trying.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Lamest thing in the Mum Parade

Nothing against the Old Tyme Fiddlers, who are pretty darn good, but, really, playing recorded music while pretending to play live on the float is ... not so good. They win the Milli Vinilli Award.

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More on the Mum Parade

A clear, warm autumn day brought thousands downtown to see what may have been the biggest Mum Parade yet.
By noon, an hour and a half before the parade kicked off on Race Street, “a sea of chairs” already lined the route, said Democratic mayoral contender Art Ward.
Long before the color guards, marching bands, twirlers and beauty queens began moving out, people were plunked down in the chairs, peering from balconies and finding comfortable positions to watch the popular parade.
The biggest cheers went to a small contingent of soldiers on a military Humvee as the community once again proved that whatever it thinks of the war, it loves the troops.
People along the route "would stand up and cheer," said Pat Nelligan, the reservist driving the Humvee, who just got back from a trip to Kuwait and the front lines.
Also getting some big applause was citywide visual arts instructor Lori Meusel Eschner, Bristol’s teacher of the year, who held a Mum-inspired pallette as she waved to the crowd.
Carlyle “Hap” Barnes, the grand marshal this year, said as he climbed out of a convertible at the end of the route, that he had a blast.
“It was wonderful,” Barnes said. “What an opportunity. It was the chance of a lifetime.”
Barnes, who used to drive an old fire truck in the parade, said he didn’t bring the truck this time around because he feared it wouldn’t make it until the end.
Eight-year-old Katie Saunders feared she wouldn’t make it to the end either.
With three quarters of the two and a half hour parade still to go, Saunders said, “This is really long. When will it be over?”
But more veteran parade watchers knew that the Mum Parade requires stamina, from watchers as well as marchers.
The Republican’s mayoral nominee appeared to have plenty of energy even as the parade neared an end.
Trailing a large group of young people with “Bristol First” t-shirts and signs, he jogged down the south side of Memorial Boulevard, slapping hands with parade watchers as he proclaimed, “Hello, my name’s Ken Johnson and I’m running for mayor.”
Ward, too, still had a spring in his step at the end of the route.
He said the parade organizers “deserve a heartfelt, grateful extension of thanks” for putting together a terrific event that even managed to start on time.
City Councilor Craig Minor said he thought turnout was as big as it’s been in a long time.
“Bristol is the kind of town that appreciates this kind of thing,” Minor said, because of its family orientation.
The parade featured all sorts of music, from the Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble to marching bands from a handful of schools, including the city’s two public high schools, Terryville High School and Lewis Mills High School.
Members of Newington’s Sphinx Shriners Motor Patrol did figure eights in tiny cars while wearing their distinctive head gear while other members of the group played in a band that helps raise money for the care of sick children.
Caroline Kucharski of Burlington watched from a folding chair under a tree on West Street.
“I always come,” she said. “This is so fun, especially all the kids.”

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Vendors see a decline at Mum Parade

As I was walking over to the mall parking lot to retrieve my car following the parade, I spoke with several vendors, none of whom would give their name for a story. So I'll leave them out of the newspaper.
But online here, I don't mind so much using the information from sources who don't want to be named.
They all told pretty much the same tale: That even though the parade crowd is as big as ever, or maybe bigger, people are spending less.
Sales of everything from balloons to soda pop have been sinking for years, the vendors said, because people have fewer dollars in their pockets.
They said they're pretty sure that what's happening is that Bristol families "don't have the kind of money they did in the past," as one of them told me.
Another said he knows how it is. He sells stuff at parades and similiar events to stretch his own income from a factory job, he said, and he's increasingly tight with the money that does find its way into his wallet.
"I go to a ballgame sometimes, but I don't buy a hotdog anymore," he said.
Don't think for a second that if this trend is generally true that the marketing people who are going to decide what, if any, stores to put downtown in the years ahead aren't aware of it.
It's a tough time in Bristol -- and beyond -- to convince people to spend a little more.

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Mum Parade a big hit

The tail end of this year's Mum Parade is passing by the Bristol Press windows now, with the music from "High School Musical" blaring out as the crowd cheers.
So it's almost a wrap for what may well be the largest Mum Parade yet. The crowds are lining the seemingly endless route through downtown - and it appears that a third of the city's 60,000 residents are somehow in the parade.
There's no denying the event is the city's most popular, especially on a sparkling clear, warm autumn afternoon.
From what I could see -- and I saw most of the parts of the parade several times -- the biggest cheers went to a small contingent of soldiers on a military Humvee as the community once again proved that whatever it thinks of the war, it loves the troops.
People along the route "would stand up and cheer," said Pat Nelligan, the reservist driving the Humvee, who just got back from a trip to Kuwait and the front lines.
I'll post a full report on the parade later.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Mayor sees blight progress

The mayor released this on Friday morning, but I only received it today:

In a prepared release, Mayor William T. Stortz reported that the response to the newly instituted city email address ( to report building, health and property violations has been well received.

Stated Stortz, “I am happy that people are using this to report possible violations, and helping us to improve the overall appearance of the City.”

“One of the most common violations is the parking and storage of motor vehicles. It is also one of the least understood”, said the Mayor.

Stortz continued, “Simply put, a motor vehicle is any vehicle propelled or drawn by other than muscular power, (farm vehicles excluded.) Included in the definition are boats.

Unregistered or inoperable motor vehicles, including trucks or commercial vehicles shall not be stored, parked or kept on any open space within a residential area for longer than ten days.”

Stortz said, “From the City ordinance, it states, ‘A single private motor vehicle, if unregistered, may be stored in the rear half of the lot if there is a residence on the same lot. Such motor vehicle must be owned by the owner or lessees of the property. No parking will be allowed on vacant lots. On interior lots, no vehicle shall be parked or stored closer than five (5) feet to the neighboring property line and not closer than ten (10) feet to the rear line. In the case of corner lots, storage or parking must be in the far quarter of the lot, the farthest quarter from each and every street not closer than five (5) feet to the neighboring property line and not closer than ten (10) feet to the rear line.’”

Stortz concluded, “If clarification is needed, call the Building Department at City Hall at 860-584-6215. There are organizations that will remove vehicles from ones’ property, for free, and there may even be a tax break. If you do want to get rid of a vehicle(s), I suggest you contact one of these organizations.

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September 21, 2007

Burns, Hamzy explain bond votes

Another press release:

State representatives William A. Hamzy and Ron Burns opposed a $3.1 billion bonding measure drafted by the General Assembly’s majority Democrats that was approved on a party line vote Thursday, saying the extravagant package, which Governor Rell vetoed today, would have jeopardized the state’s credit rating, inflated the state debt, and increased the burden on Connecticut taxpayers.
The legislators instead opted for a leaner alternative bond package developed by House Republicans, which would have saved taxpayers more than $275 million, mostly achieved by limiting pet projects, the majority of which are earmarked for large urban areas represented by the state legislature’s Democrats. The House Republican proposal also would have preserved funding for several critical Bristol projects.
“As a fiscal conservative, I simply could not support the Democrats’ bonding bill,” said Representative Hamzy, R-78th District. “The agencies that determine Connecticut’s credit rating have told us that the state’s currently favorable rating would be jeopardized if we borrow more than $1.25 billion through the sale of state bonds over the next two years. Even the Democrats have acknowledged that our credit rating would suffer if all of the earmark projects they included in their bill are approved by the State Bond Commission, which has the final say on which projects are funded. If the state’s credit rating is downgraded by the rating agencies, it would mean we would have to pay higher interest rates on the bonds we sell, which would further inflate the state debt and mean higher costs to taxpayers as the bonds are paid off.”
“Clearly, some major projects need to be funded with the sale of state bonds that are paid off over a period of years to reduce the impact on taxpayers. They include school construction, improvements to our transportation infrastructure, maintaining our bridges, and helping to fund truly critical local projects. Our alternative bond package preserved funding for projects like these - and even provided $60 million for badly needed local projects. Our proposal would have significantly reduced wasteful pork barrel spending and limited growth in the state debt to a sustainable level that would have been affordable to Connecticut’s overburdened taxpayers,” Representative Hamzy said.
“Currently, 11 cents of every tax dollar the state collects is used to help pay off our bonded indebtedness. If every item authorized in the Democrats’ bonding package receives final approval and is allocated by the State Bond Commission, it would mean about 18 cents of every tax dollar would have to be dedicated to servicing the state debt,” said Representative Burns, R-77th District, who serves on the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.
“Bristol has some very worthwhile projects that were included in the bonding package approved Thursday,” Representative Burns said. “Our alternative budget, which was offered as an amendment to the Democrats’ bill, would have preserved funding for those projects and other wise investments while limiting the state’s borrowing to levels that would not jeopardize our credit rating. Unfortunately, our Democratic colleagues refused to support our proposal.”
Grants authorized for Bristol projects under both the Democrat and Republican bonding packages include:
$3,500,000 for a public works project to relocate Mount Vernon Road, which would allow Lake Compounce to expand.
$425,000 for the Bristol Community Organization, Inc., to purchase a building for the expansion of the Head Start program.
$200,000 to the Environmental Learning Center for infrastructure improvements at Indian Rock Nature Preserve in Bristol.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Democrat or Republican? Does it matter?

Republican mayoral contender Ken Johnson says that voters should look past party affiliations when eyeing who should be running City Hall.
Party labels “don’t correlate at all” with the honesty, integrity, attitude and vision of candidates for municipal office, Johnson said.
But Democrat Art Ward, who is also hoping to succeed GOP Mayor William Stortz, said that party ties do matter.
“The basic beliefs of the national Democratic Party for the concern, well being and rights of all of us, as human beings, are carried forward throughout the community, the state and the nation,” Ward said.
Since there are more than twice as many registered Democrats in Bristol as there are Republicans, it’s perhaps not surprising that GOP candidates are less apt to call attention to their political affiliation.
Still, independents make up the largest group of voters, so Democrats can’t rely solely on numbers.
Ward said he has “always been a member of the Democratic Party due to my belief that the principles of equality, respect and concern for all human beings in the workplace, at home and in society are reflected in the history of the Democratic Party and in the actions of the Democratic Party today.”
Johnson said he’s a Republican today “because my parents were Republicans.” He said he suspects most people follow the same political path.
In general, though, Johnson said “I strongly resist being labeled in any way” because being a Republican “has a different meaning to everyone.”
Johnson said that in any case “there is no correlation” between the local Republicans and the national GOP.
“When you’re talking national politics, it’s a completely different animal from municipal politics,” Johnson said.
“Art and I are running for mayor of the of Bristol,” Johnson said, so issues that have the parties at each other’s throats on the national level, from the war in Iraq to abortion, don’t have any relation to city issues.
Besides, Johnson said, “It’s self-evident there are a lot of people who are sick of the Democrats and they’re sick of the Republicans.”
“There’s no question in my mind that voters feel an increasing level of helplessness in regard to choosing their leadership for the city of Bristol,” Johnson said.
Ward said, though, that a candidate’s party does matter, even on the local level.
He said the party affiliation a candidate chooses offer “a greater insight as to the needs and the concerns of the constituency that one has the privilege of representing.”
Party choice, he said, affords “the opportunity to become more fully aware of the impact of these issues and the manner of addressing solutions to the problems.”
Johnson said voters should ask not whether a candidate belongs to the Democratic or Republican party.
Instead, he said, he wants them to ask themselves about candidates’ honesty, integrity, ability to listen and readiness to be civil even with those they disagree with.
The city election is Nov. 6. Mayors serve two-year terms for a salary bout $100,000 annually.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Patriotic bubblers on the Boulevard

By month’s end, there should be aerators bubbling along Memorial Boulevard.
The red, white and blue aerators will add a little patriotic splash to the newly dredged ponds along the historic parkway honoring the city’s veterans.
Park Director Ed Swicklas said one aerator is all set to begin as soon as Connecticut Light and Power hooks it up. Another is waiting for an electrician, he said.
Swicklas said they should be working before October.
The Bristol Veterans Council chipped in $15,000 to purchase aerators for the ponds.
Park officials said the bubblers will help keep the water moving around better and, with luck, improve the quality of the ponds during the summer months.
The city recently dredged the boulevard ponds a year ago and is angling to keep them in better shape in the future.
The veterans council has long said it would like to see some kind of fountains in the ponds to provide a visual impact while keeping the water in better shape.
Plans call for the bubblers to be removed during the winter months to keep them safe.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Skatepark to be built in the spring

Six years after city officials vowed to build a skatepark, they’re finally ready to put the project out to bid.
“Everybody’s going to be really happy with it,” said Tom Ragaini, a parks commissioner.Ragaini said the “long overdue” skatepark slated for construction at Rockwell Park next spring will offer a range of activities for skateboarding fans.
Pat Nelligan, another parks commissioner, said that officials have reviewed “multiple designs” for the past two years and relied on the advice of a handful of local skateboarders to polish them off.
He said the final design will be a great addition to the park.
Plans call for the new skatepark to be constructed on the site of the existing basketball court as well as a portion of Mrs. Rockwell’s Playground to its west.
A new basketball court will be erected behind the center field fence on the Muzzy Field side of the parking lot, officials said.
The city’s parks consultant, Milone & MacBroom, reviewed seven possible settings for the skate park before settling on the Rockwell Park basketball court site.
Park officials said that the final cost for the skatepark will be less than $400,000. They said the money is already allocated so there shouldn’t be any more hitches.
Building a skatepark has been on the city’s agenda since 2001 when city leaders promised to put one somewhere after ESPN’s X Trials at Lake Compounce drew attention to the sport.
Tony Hawk, one of the world’s most famous skateboarders, urged the city to follow the lead of other communities are build one.
But the plan ran into a major hurdle when officials could not find a place to build it that didn’t meet with opposition. A plan to put it at Page Park fell through when neighbors rallied to block it.
The Rockwell Park site, however, has not stirred much controversy.
Ragaini, who is running for City Council in the 2nd District as an independent, said that park officials sat through many meetings on the issue.
He said one of the consultants “talked the lingo” that skateboarders use.
“We had no idea what he was talking about,” Ragaini added.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Bond money for Bristol

Press release from Sen. Tom Colapietro this morning:


Hartford - In a 21-to-12 vote at the Capitol last evening, the Senate approved a bond authorization package for the State of Connecticut including school construction funds, bridge repairs and transportation improvements, restoration of the Clean Water Fund, and funding for several capital improvement projects in the 31st District.

“This is a good balanced package for the state that recognizes some of Bristol’s needs while funding bridge repairs and school construction projects,” said Senator Colapietro.

The package, which authorizes the state’s bonding for the next two fiscal years, includes:

· A $200,000 grant for the Indian Rock Nature Preserve in Bristol,
· A $425,000 grant-in-aid to the Bristol Community Organization, Inc. to purchase a building for expansion of its Head Start program, and
· $19,118,861 for alterations and improvements to the buildings and grounds at Tunxis Community College.

“These are organizations and projects that provide great social and cultural service to our communities,” Senator Colapietro said.

Additionally, Senator Colapietro noted that $3,500,000 was authorized for road relocation, utility upgrades, new service facilities, and other improvements related to expanding the Lake Compounce Water Park in Southington.

“Although Lake Compounce isn’t wholly in my district,” Senator Colapietro added, “I pushed for the funding in for the park. I know that many of my constituents enjoy Lake Compounce, and I’m pleased that these funds are in the bond package.”

The package was later approved by the state House of Representatives in an 84-to-38 vote.

The total $3.15 billion package for Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009 must still be signed into law by Gov. M. Jodi Rell; individual bonding projects must then be placed by the governor on the State Bond Commission agenda for its consideration and approval before any work is undertaken.

“I urge the governor to sign this package for the benefit of the State of Connecticut and to put these items for Bristol and Plymouth on the Bond Commission agenda,” Senator Colapietro said.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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2 police officers under investigation

Though I truly don't understand what's going on in this story about two city police officers put on administrative leave while something is investigated, I figured there may be some interest in talking about it. If anyone can explain what this is really about, I'd be especially grateful.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Geladino lays out an agenda

Here's an open letter 2nd District Republican City Council hopeful Joe Geladino sent out last night:

I’m being asked by several people what my experience is and what I will do when elected to the Bristol City Council.

Here is what I plan to do: I plan to listen to the people of Bristol – not just the residents of District 2, but ALL of Bristol’s residents.

My goal is to make people want to live in Bristol, by watching the spending, controlling the taxes, and not buying any more real estate that isn’t absolutely, positively essential and doesn’t have a specific purpose and properly funded plan. I’d like to get all the existing, idle properties back on the market and on the tax rolls as soon as possible.

I would like to get the long-awaited skate park completed.

I will do whatever I can to improve the efficiency of all the departments and department heads and address the numerous complaints I have heard about the wasted man-hours and the attitude problem of certain city employees.

I want to put a stop to all the money being spent on consultants and “specialists” when we have city employees who are perfectly capable of doing the job. And if they are not capable, then there needs to be a review of their job descriptions and qualifications.

These are just a few, but there are several ways we can start saving on the cost of running the city.

Joe Geladino
23 Kory Ln
Bristol, CT

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Did the police captain do anything wrong?

This story says that a city police captain is under investigation for taking his teenage daughter to the scene of that horrible Route 6 car crash this summer that killed four teens. Did he do anything wrong?

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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September 20, 2007

What comments get axed?

No matter what I do, of course, some will complain.
But I have a higher threshold for harsh comments directed at political candidates than I do for the same words used against volunteer board members. When you run for office, you need thicker skin.
For those who think Ellen Zoppo was unfairly attacked in some comments, I don't disagree. All I can say is that I killed 90 percent or more of the nastiest stuff. I had to kill quite a bit about Art Ward, too.
In general, though, let's all try to focus on issues rather than personalities. And let's treat each other more gently.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Charter Revision Commission meets Tuesday

The Charter Revision Commission has a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Exeutive Meeting Room on the first floor of City Hall.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Janelle responds to criticism

Here's another comment I don't want anyone to miss, from Jennifer Janelle, a BDDC commissioner:

I have never responded to a blog post in my life, but I guess there is a first time for everything. First of all, "diva" is a pretty new one. I've certainly been called worse (and my daughter thinks it's cool anyway). However, my vote had absolutely nothing to do with being a diva, a lone ranger, or wanting to get my name in print (I get plenty of press in my professional life). I should also be clear that I have absolutely NO political aspirations and will never run for elected office. I was asked to "step up and serve my City," which I am trying to do to the best of my ability. I believe that by accepting this appointment, I committed to using my brain, my experience and not being afraid to do what I think is right and in the best interests of the City as a whole, irrespective of whatever pressure is brought to bear to do something else. I abstained from the vote because I did not want to vote no, because I agree (and stated on the record) that I do not believe the mall site is appropriate for a school and I also believe that the taxpayers expressed that viewpoint in voting out the administration that devised the prior plan for tax exempt use of the property. I abstained because I believe that the vote was unnecessary and inappropriate. The BDDC vote does not remove the mall site from consideration by the school committee. In fact, the school committee and Board of Ed are free to continue to consider the site and submit it to the City Council as their preferred site. It is ultimately up to the City Council to decide what to do with the mall property. Any plan that the BDDC devises will require City Council approval, and, in fact, the City Council can dissolve the BDDC tomorrow if it wants to. The vote was and is, unfortunately, meaningless, and only serves to add more fuel to an already blazing fire. I also feel strongly that the BDDC should not selectively respond to issues that are of great concern to taxpayers that do not fall squarely within our powers. The K-8 proposal is certainly a hot-button issue. There are also a lot of other issues concerning downtown that mean a great deal to taxpayers, including transportation, crime, etc. We did not vote to "send a message" about our feelings on any other issue, nor should we. We are merely individual taxpayers and voters, just like everyone else when it comes to these issues. Individual members are certainly free to express their viewpoints, and given the high profile nature of the BDDC, those viewpoints will certainly get press coverage. I am a stickler for process and procedure. Always have been, always will be. It is the nature of my profession. Quite frankly, if more people in City government were, we would not get into some of the messes that we do (i.e., the pending FOIA complaint, among others). I think it is important to separate personal feelings on the issues from professional responsibilities as an appointed official and I will continue to do so.
Last Steve, I will respond here to your comments about the "bastion of white men" that is in another thread. The simple fact is that in Bristol, if you are not a 50+ white male and you dare to disagree with that political machine or vote differently or express a different viewpoint, you get cut off at the knees. I know an awful lot of folks in my demographic that are not willing to subject themselves to it. I myself will have to seriously consider whether or not I would ever accept another appointment in this City, as I do not enjoy having to explain to my children why people call me names on the Internet. Until Bristol grows up, as the need is demonstrated by the vile, unproductive posts on this blog and others, little will change on the political front. If you have an opinion, express it. Debate and disagreement are what makes our government better than any other form of government in the world. It also ensures well-thought out and thoroughly probed decisions. However, if you can't express your opinion without name-calling, you should reconsider whether you ought to express it at all. "Say what you mean and mean what you say, but don't say it mean."

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Stortz wants political signs off city property

Mayor William Stortz is aiming to rein in the proliferation of political signs.
Stortz said he would like to see a city ordinance that would block candidates from putting signs on city property.
The goal isn't to keep politicians from putting up signs at Page Park or South Side School, which doesn't happen.
Instead, it would keep signs off the city-owned right of way strips that line municipal roads all over town.
Stortz said the law could bar signs between the sidewalk and the street or could order they be placed at least 6 to 8 feet back from the curb.
He said the main problem with the signs now is that many of them inadvertently block the line of sight for drivers at intersections or pulling out of driveways.
It's not just political signs, either, the mayor said.
He said the ones that bother him most are temporary signs lining the roads that plug a sale in a surrounding town, which doesn't even help a Bristol business.
Stortz said imposing a rule that doesn't discriminate against anyone or prevent political signs from going up would pass legal muster and address a problem.
He said requiring "a little more uniformity" in the placement of signs would keep them away from the pavement, keep them out of vacant lots owned by the city and enhance the safety of residents.
"It will make the city a little neater," Stortz added.
He said he hopes the new law could be in place before next year.
A side benefit, the mayor said, is that political signs placed further from the road would be safer from thieves and vandals.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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September 19, 2007

A bastion of white guys

With the departure of city Councilor Ellen Zoppo from the mayoral race and the looming retirement of longtime city Treasurer Patti Ewen, there's not a single woman left in the running for one of the city's top jobs.
Both mayoral candidates are white men.
All 13 City Council candidates are white men.
Both city treasurer hopefuls are white men.
Now I have nothing against white guys -- I am one, after all -- but it is a little odd that there are 17 candidates for the top elected positions at City Hall and every single one of them is a white man. Offhand, I'm not sure who's the youngest, but the average age of all of them must top 50.
It's not that Bristol won't elect anyone other than white men. Voters have elected two black men to the council in the past decade - Chet Reed and Ken Scott -- and Ewen's been a constant presence for years.
Before Zoppo captured a council seat in 2001 -- by snatching it from Reed -- there hadn't been a woman on the council since 1993. I'm not sure there's ever been more than one at a time, but I'm sure someone will know for sure.
In any case, a lot of guys have come and gone, with just Zoppo holding a spot on the council for the fairer sex. And come November, it'll be all guys all the time for the next couple of years.
Now I'm not saying that half the positions should be held by women or that we ought to be keeping statistical counts on such things. But it is peculiar that neither party thought it was important to have any balance at all among the sexes on the tickets they're putting before the voters (recognizing, of course, that the Democratic Town Committee did endorse Zoppo for mayor).
What's going on in Bristol that this happens year after year? Are Bristol's women shunned? Tell me. I'm curious why this continues.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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