October 31, 2007

Haunted Bristol

According to theshadowlands.net, here's what's haunted in Bristol:

Church of Eternal Light - Formerly one of the three original churches built in Bristol by the Sessions family, church was built late 1889. It has been on national T.V. show , a ghost hunter filmed ghost balls or spirit balls. There are also reports of a former churchgoer who was struck by lightning on the front steps. There have also been reports of an apparition seen in the bell tower.

Lake Compounce Amusement Park - The oldest running amusement park in the world. The first hauntings date back to the opening of the park in the late 1800's when the ghost of the former owner of the land, Chief Compounce, who killed himself in the lake the day before the land was to change hands. Since that time, every building on the land has experience hauntings at one time or another. As well, death has been a plague at the park. In recent years, a child died from injuries received from a near drowning it the lake, a worker was killed underneath a rotor ride, and another was decapitated by a roller coaster. Most of the hauntings have occurred in the Star Light Ball Room. It was said, but this author has not confirmed, that the head of the Norton family, who bought the land from Chief Compounce, died after mysteriously falling from a ladder. The park is now under new management, and is running successfully. However, the park still employs overnight security service people, who all, without prior knowledge of hauntings, have all disclosed their fears and sightings around the park.

Peacedale Cemetery - Sightings of a white wolf that walks down near the banks of the stream that runs through this cemetery are usually sought by those who have a deep emotional problem bothering them.

Pine Lake Area - Feelings of being followed, now a high ropes course, occasionally hearing ropes tighten as if being swung from, loud footsteps in the leafy ground, whispers, and shouts, over all spookiness.

Polish American Citizens Club - Ghost in the bingo room. Friendly. the old president was doing books at the bar one morning . The building should have been vacant, He saw a man walk out of the bingo room into the men’s room. He went into the men’s room to see who was in the building. When he entered the men’s room no one was there. Al the short guy was cleaning up in the bingo room and saw 2 eyes but no body following him around. He says he has seen it several times. Frank Jankowski once a bar tender was cleaning up late one night and heard some one moving chairs in the bingo room. He thought it was a thief went to investigate but found no one there or signs of forced entry.

Saint Paul Catholic High School - In the G-Wing of this school it is rumored that a student once hung himself. A SPCHS teacher also died of a heart attack in this same hallway. During play rehearsals and performances, this area is used for dressing rooms/prop rooms and it is rumored that a ghost has been seen when the lights are off.

Torries Den - Torries Den got it's name because while the Revolutionary War was taking place soldiers who deserted their ranks, also known as Torries hid in the caves located in these woods. Some of these Torries perished while enduring the harsh New England winters. Campers have reported strange lights and a strange heavy breathing noise.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Mock election: Ward wins

A mock municipal election at Bristol Central High School gives hope to the Republicans.
Though Democrat Art Ward came out on top among the 800 students voting in the mock election, Republican contenders Mark Anderson won the treasurer's race and two of the GOP City Council candidates beat their Democratic foes.
Here are the results of the polling among students:

Democrat Art Ward - 384
Republican Ken Johnson - 338

Republican Mark Anderson - 355
Democrat Bill Veits - 344

1st District City Council
Democrat Rich Kilby - 541
Democrat Cliff Block - 420
Republican Mike Rimcoski - 373

2nd District City Council
Democrat Bruce Lydem - 388
Republican Ken Cockayne - 327
Democrat Kevin McCauley - 326
Republican Joe Geladino - 210
Independent Mark Blaschke - 157

3rd District City Council
Democrat Frank Nicastro - 592
Republican Bob Merrick - 421
Democrat Craig Minor - 334

This year's mock election was once again sponsored by the Social Studies department with the help of a senior, Brock Weber, who's active in Republican politics in town.
Teacher Lea McCabe's ELL (English Language Learners) Social Studies class also took part in organizing the mock election as part of its unit on the democratic process. Though most of the students in McCabe's ELL class are from Central American countries, she also has a student from Ukraine. These students, with the help of Weber, organized the ballots and tallied the results.
They had a greater than 50 percent response rate and more than 800 ballots cast.

PS: For those who read an early version of this post, the mistakes were mine. I posted in haste because I was getting ready to go trick or treating with my kids.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Special City Council meeting on Thursday

There will be a Special Meeting of the Bristol City Council to be held on Thursday,
November 1, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers, 111 North Main Street, Bristol, Connecticut.


1. To nominate and make appointments, and to take any action as necessary.

2. To authorize the Superintendent of Schools to file any necessary grant applications in connection with the matters relating to the Forestville School Building Committee and the West Bristol School Building Committee, and to take any action as necessary.

3. To consider amendment or restatement of the Certificate of Incorporation for the Bristol Downtown Development Corporation, and to take any action as necessary.

4. To approve change orders for the Southeast Bristol Business Park up to $225,000 and to authorize the Mayor or Acting Mayor to execute all necessary documents, and to take any action as necessary.

5. To consider a request from Connecticut Light & Power Co. to install above ground utilities on James P. Casey Road, and to take any action as necessary.

6. To convene into anticipated Executive Session regarding pending litigation case of Gina Davenport as Executrix of the Estate of Bryant Davenport vs. City of Bristol, et al, Docket No. 3:06cv0278(JCH), and to take any action as necessary.

7. To reconvene into Public Session, and to take any action as necessary regarding Gina Davenport as Executrix of the Estate of Bryant Davenport vs. City of Bristol, et al, Docket No. 3:06cv0278(JCH).

8. To adjourn.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Tax dollars flushed away?

Republican mayoral hopeful Ken Johnson just sent this along:

I’m unhappy that the initial hearing for Freedom of Information complaint about scripted meetings happened yesterday. I state again: we are all aware that the complaint served one purpose and one purpose only- to poke a political stick in the eye of Mr. Ward’s opponent in the Democratic primary. I’ve repeatedly asked my opponent to ask his friend Mr. Meisinger to withdraw the complaint and last Monday Mr. Ward publicly refused to do so. I’ve warned that this could cost the taxpayers money to defend this frivolous case. Sure enough, a hearing took place in Hartford yesterday and we’ve now running up the tab for the cost of outside counsel at taxpayers’ expense for the city to defend the case.
I understand that Mr. Meisinger showed up with no attorney and presented no evidence -- is the complainant even taking this seriously? I guess they’ve got to see it through to give it the appearance of legitimacy. Public disgust at watching our tax dollars being flushed away is completely justified.

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Couture defends Ward

"Let’s also talk about the mother lode of all contract fiascos: the purchase by the City of the Downtown Mall. This contract was negotiated and entered into behind closed doors, in secret, at one or more meetings held at a local Forestville restaurant. Mr. Ward you were present, along with other members of the City Council and various support staff including the former mayor’s secretary who took notes. Mayor Stortz has the pictures and probably the notes.
Mr. Ward, if you think that the public doesn’t care about how you participated in these secret meetings, then come out and explain why it was okay to have those meetings in secret! You were involved and often took credit as the Deputy Mayor. Is this what we can expect from you? With all the contracts this city is about to enter, you have only demonstrated that you are capable of dealing behind closed doors out of sight from the public, whose trust is the mortar of public service. You were the proclaimed Deputy Mayor that spent 5.2 million taxpayer dollars without public input and that administration was thrown out of public office. Why should we expect anything different from you in the future? Or will you flip flop on this issue as well?”
-- Art Mocabee, chairman of the Bristol Republican Party

Former Mayor Gerard Couture said Wednesday that Mocabee’s got it wrong.
Mocabee “talks a good game, but he just can’t play shortstop,” said Couture, who served as mayor from 2003 to 2005.
“I just want to clear the air. Artie was never a part of those meetings, those sessions we had,” Couture said.
On the other hand, he said, “our state legislators were there,” including state Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican.
“Every meeting I ever had, Bill Hamzy was part of it,” Couture said.
He said he held many informational meetings with members of the community before seeking to buy the mall and ultimately got approval to purchase it for $5.3 million in March 2005 with the unanimous backing of the City Council and only one dissenter on the Board of Finance, Dolores Caper, who worried about how much it would eventually cost once everything was tallied up.
Couture said he met with Chamber of Commerce officials, businessmen such as Wally Barnes and Bob Fiondella, and many other to seek out their advice before proceeding with the mall purchase.
Fiondella told him that “in the end you won’t have any friends,” Couture recalled, which proved partially true.
But the meetings were never improper, Couture said.
“My council was kept abreast of these meetings but they were never a part of them. They were never any illegal meetings,” he said.
“It’s not fair to Arthur Ward,” Couture said, to hold him any more accountable than any other official who supported the mall’s purchase, including state Rep. Ron Burns, Hamzy and many Republicans.
“I think we did the right thing,” Couture said.
He said he used to keep Burns and Hamzy up to date with regular Monday meetings “to make sure they knew what we were doing.”
Burns “was one of the guys who stuck by me from day one” because he saw the vision embodied in the downtown plan Couture pushed, the former mayor said. Burns was elected to the state House last year after serving on the council during Couture’s stint as mayor.
Couture said that he feels sad that some politicians “sold their souls” in 2005 to get reelected by distancing themselves from the administration’s effort to revitalize the mall site, but he hopes everyone recognizes that the mall buy gave the city a chance to remake its downtown.
After six terms on the council and a term as mayor, “I got a chance to do something that everyone was waiting to happen,” Couture said, and he took it.
Everyone wanted to do something with the mall, he said, and tackling it had been part of every campaign for years. “Finally, we got a chance. We got a commitment from the state,” he said, so he plunged forward with a plan that he still believes would work out.
“The city never, never was going to lose that money,” he said. “We would eventually get our investment back.”
With Couture’s plan for a field house, community theater and more now off the table, the ex-mayor said, “you have to start from scratch all over again” because there’s no proposal for the state to consider.
He said he hopes the new downtown corporation will move swiftly to come up with something that would help Bristol.
Meanwhile, though, Couture said he couldn’t stay on the sidelines any longer and watch Ward get beat up for things he never did.
“I’ve got to defend my people and everyone who was involved in what we did,” Couture said.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Lake Compounce, BCO among bond package winners

Press release from the state House Republicans:

A fiscally responsible bond package approved by the Connecticut General Assembly Tuesday will help pay for important Bristol projects and provide funding for school construction and transportation infrastructure projects statewide without increasing the burden on taxpayers or threatening the state’s bond rating, state Representatives William A. Hamzy and Ron Burns said today.
The $2.82 billion package approved Tuesday was significantly less expensive than the $3.2 billion measure that passed on party line votes in September, with the majority Democrats voting to approve the bill. House Republicans opposed that Democrat measure but voted for a leaner alternative Republican bond package, which failed on another party-line vote.
Governor Rell vetoed the earlier Democrat bonding bill, citing excessive spending on pork barrel projects that could have jeopardized the state’s bond rating and unduly burdened taxpayers. She has indicated she will sign the measure that passed Tuesday.
“The bonding package approved by the majority Democrats a few weeks ago called for excessive spending on pork barrel projects that did not serve the overall interests of the people of Connecticut, would have increased the burden on taxpayers who already bear the nation’s third-highest per capita state debt, and threatened our currently favorable bond rating,” said Representative Burns, R-77th District, who serves on the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.
“Interestingly enough, the measure we approved today is almost a mirror image of the alternative bond package we offered in September. Weeks of uncertainty over the future of school building projects around the state could have been avoided if Democrat legislators had crossed party lines and voted to approve our proposal,” Representative Burns said.
“Governor Rell did the right thing by vetoing the majority Democrats’ original bonding proposal while Republican legislators showed it was possible to put together a responsible measure that provided funding for repairs and improvements to our highways and bridges and for school construction projects throughout the state without increasing the tax burden on working families,” said Representative Hamzy, R-78th District, who had a prior commitment in Washington, D.C., and was unable to be in Hartford for Tuesday’s vote. “I’m proud of the work I did to help draft our alternative bond package, which in many ways was the model for the measure that passed today. Unfortunately, I had to be in our nation’s capitol for an engagement that could not be postponed or I would have been on the state House floor and would have voted for the bond package that passed today.”
Grants authorized for Bristol projects in the bill that passed Tuesday include:
• $3,500,000 for road relocation, utility upgrades, new service facilities and other improvements related to the expansion of Lake Compounce Water Park.
• $373,170 for the Bristol Community Organization, Inc., to purchase a building for the expansion of the Head Start program.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Comptroller's office wins an award it always gets

Press release from Mayor William Stortz:

In a prepared release, Mayor William T. Stortz announced that The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has given the City of Bristol, Connecticut the GFOA’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for its budget.

The award represents a significant achievement by the entity. It reflects the commitment of the governing body and staff to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting. Mayor Stortz said, “ In order to receive the budget award, the City had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. These guidelines are designed to assess how well a City’s budget serves as: a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide and a communications device.” Budget documents must be rated “proficient” in all four categories to receive the award.

For budget including fiscal periods 2005, 1069 entities received the award. Award recipients have pioneered efforts to improve the quality of budgeting and provide an excellent example for other governments throughout North America.

When a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award is granted to an entity, a Certificate of Recognition for Budget Presentation is also presented to the individual or department designated as being primarily responsible for its having achieved the award.

Stortz said, “We are very proud to announce that David J. Bertnagel, Chief Accountant and Jodi A. McGrane, Assistant to the Comptroller have received this Certificate of Recognition.

They, along with the rest of the Comptroller Department epitomize the dedication, the conscientious of our staff, as we all strive to provide a high level of service and to create an even better Bristol.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 30, 2007

The other "scripted" meeting, which included Ward

The other day, Republican Party Chairman Art Mocabee lambasted Democratic mayoral candidate Art Ward for a number of things that I think most of the readers here are familiar with.
But one point may be fuzzy.
Mocabee's attack included this paragraph: "In addition to your failure to negotiate the City’s business in the open, why don’t you step up to the plate and explain why it was okay for you to participate in the 'scripted' meeting when the Blight Ordinance was adopted? Now you feel, by way of your supporter’s recent FOI complaint, that the process is flawed. Maybe the answer is that if it serves your needs it is okay, but when you don’t support another council member’s idea it is wrong. This is hardly the mark of a leader."
I'm not sure that issue has been made clear to everyone, including Mocabee.
It wasn't the blight ordinance, as Mocabee says, it was the new housing code in 2005.
City Councilor Ellen Zoppo provided a copy of that "script" back in June but it got left on the back burner because it was both older and duller than the downtown hearing last winter that's been the focus of attention.
But I am sure some of you would like to see the script so you can ascertain for yourselves whether Ward did anything wrong.
In the first comment below, you can read the entire text of the "Housing Code Talking Points" that Zoppo prepared for the Sept. 14, 2005 meeting that led to the implementation of a new housing code in Bristol.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

FOI hearing in Hartford Tuesday not scripted

Here's reporter Jackie Majerus' account of the state Freedom of Information Commission hearing today on the complaint filed by resident Jay Meisinger:

HARTFORD – Upset that city Councilor Ellen Zoppo's distribution of a script to fellow councilors before a public hearing early this year undermined the integrity of the open meeting process, a Bristol man presented his complaint to state officials Tuesday.

"There was something terribly wrong," Jay Meisinger told hearing officer Colleen Murphy, who is executive director and general counsel of the state Freedom of Information Commission, and commission counsel Lisa Siegel.

Meisinger said he was concerned about a "closed government," "manipulation of legislation" and other violations.

"It looked like it was predetermined results," said Meisinger of the scripted public hearing that ended with the council's approval of the creation of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. to oversee the city-owned mall property.

Before the hearing that day, Zoppo handed out what she described in an email to Mayor William Stortz that same day as a "script" for councilors to follow that night. She gave one to Stortz and every member of the council except for Art Ward.

Zoppo said she left Ward out because he had "become extremely antagonistic" and wasn't participating with the rest of the council.

"We just don't include him when we do these types of things," said Zoppo.

Now, Zoppo says the script was "simply an organizing document" to be used by councilors to "keep us on message for that evening."

"The script word really gives a connotation that people were told what to say," Zoppo said.

She said the instructions in the email to gather up the scripts so none were left lying around afterward stemmed from her sensitivity that the other councilors might not want anyone to know that she'd provided them a script.

"It's a reflection of preparation," said Zoppo, adding that it might hurt the "pride" of the others on the council if it was obvious they didn't do their own preparation, but relied on hers.

That January day, Zoppo said, she and Councilor Craig Minor met with Stortz in his office and talked for an hour about the upcoming hearing. She had the city's computer department take the script as an email attachment and print it out for her, Zoppo said. Then she went to the mayor's office and made copies.

"I gave one to the mayor and four of my colleagues," said Zoppo.

A month earlier, Zoppo said, five of the six Democrats on the council met privately to talk over the contentious issues related to downtown. She called that session a "caucus."

Attorney John King, representing the city, peppered Meisinger with questions. He demanded to know whether Meisinger had first-hand knowledge of secret meetings or agreements among members of the city council before the hearing.

A frustrated Meisinger, who said he became upset when he learned of the scripted meeting from reading a news story in The Bristol Press, said he wasn't privy to secret sessions among city councilors. He had no evidence to produce, said Meisinger, who was there alone, without any attorney.

"How could I possibly have it?" Meisinger asked. "If I was present, I would know all this."

Meisinger said Zoppo's script and her email to Stortz, which he provided to the FOI Commission, was what he had to offer.

Meisinger said he is friends with Ward and wasn't going to deny it. He said he did speak with Ward before filing his complaint – in part because he'd never filed an FOI complaint before, he said – and Ward didn't have any problem with it.

But Meisinger said the fact that he filed a complaint had nothing to do with the individuals involved.

"If it was somebody else," said Meisinger, "I would have done the same."

After the FOI hearing, Meisinger said he didn't like the way it went, but seemed glad to have brought the issue to the attention of the Commission.

"Win or lose, I don't want this to happen again in City Council chambers," said Meisinger. "I think it was totally wrong."

For more information on the issue, including copies of the scripts, emails, and Meisinger's FOI complaint, check out the Bristol Blog at http://bristolnews.blogspot.com.

For background, check out these earlier Bristol Blog posts:

Is Ward behind the FOI complaint? (Aug. 10, 2007)

Mocabee speaks out on FOI complaint (Aug. 10, 2007)

FOI complaint lodged against Zoppo, Stortz, city (Aug. 10, 2007, includes text of FOI complaint)

Council hopeful Rich Kilby weighs in on script controversy (June 10, 2007)

McCauley defends Zoppo (June 8, 2007)

Zoppo stands by scripted meetings (June 6, 2007)

What do you think about scripting city meetings? (June 5, 2007)

Scripting city meetings (June 5, 2007, includes the script used for the January meeting)

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

GOP Board of Ed candidate Chris Wilson speaks out

Since the seal is broken! My educational background is a graduate of The college of NJ with Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Masters of Science in Insurance University of Hartford. I graduated from the US Army in 3 years with an Honorable discharge.

I am past President of McCabe Waters LL & Bristol Rotary. I am currently President of West Cemetery Ass'n & Professional Insurance Agents of CT. I am currently a board member for Property and casualty Trust-an insurance captive insuring United Methodist Churches and agencies. I am also a past board member of The familiy Center for Girls and boys and Bristol Day Care Center.

I have been employed at C.V. Mason & Co-an insurance agency since 1980. I have been the president since 1992.

I have an interst in education because I believe it has been instrumental in the success I have realized in my life. I wish to make sure others have that same opportunity.

2 mottos I pattern my life "If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem" in raising children my motto is "pave the child for the path not the path for the child"

I have 3 children who have been educated in the Bristol schools and have gone on to earn College degrees.(well 2 7/8 I assume the last one will graduate in May)

I believe we need to raise the bar and expectations. The expectations need to be raised by all involved in the educational process including Parents, students, educators, administrators and even commissioners!

I believe that our fathers education is not good enough for our students to be successful. We need to build within the entire community the goal to raise expectations.

I am for K-8. I believe the educational strategies can be better accomplished in that environment. That is not to say other configurations won't work but my reading, visiting K-8 schools and analysis says that is the correct approach. Unfortunately we, do not have the resources to make such a change immediately so it must be transitioned over a long number of years.

I am in agreement for the location for the Forestville school at Green Hills. For the West Side I still belive the Center Mall would be better served as a community school than a mixed use retail/office/habitational complex. I believe we must compete for families to live in our community. Schools are one of the first charateristics a future resident will use to determine residency. However if the Center Mall is not chosen as a site I will evaluate other sites based upon their suitablity for educational and community benefits.

If you choose me as one of your electoral candidates for the BOE I assure you I will give my all to make effective and judicious decisions on behalf of the entire community.

That makes one down and 12 more to go!

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Republicans list candidates

The GOP hasn't got much on its website, but it does have a list of its candidates, which includes two email addresses for its Board of Education candidates. Here's the link:


Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Democratic Board of Ed candidate bios

From the Democrats' website -- www.bristoldemocrats.com/boardofed.html#ed2007 --

Barbara Y. Doyle

A former teacher of French and City-Wide Foreign Language Department Chair, Barbara Y. Doyle is completing her third term on the Bristol Board of Education. She served as Vice-Chair from 1997 to 2000 and has been the Board Chairperson for the last four years. She holds Bachelor, Master's and Sixth Year degrees in French, Math and Education.

Presently she is an ex-officio member of all the Board committees and also attends the meetings of the Parent Advisory Council. She was the Bristol Board representative to the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) and was elected Chairman of the CREC Board of Directors in May of 2001.

Barbara recently achieved the level of Certificated Board of Education Member in the CABE Board Member Academy by earning the required credits in the areas of policy, curriculum, school finance, school law, labor relations and board operations.

As an active participant in many community activities , she is a past member of the Bristol Welfare Board and served as chair for the last 6 years of the appointment

A long time member and officer of the local and state teachers' union, she was a member of many committees in the education area on the local, state and national levels as well as serving as moderator and/or presenter at many conferences.

Both Barbara and her late husband, James G. Doyle, retired from teaching several years ago. They have four children and four grandchildren, one of whom attends Memorial Boulevard School.


Julie M. Luczkow

Julie M. Luczkow, is currently serving a third term as a Board of Education Commissioner serving as the Vice-Chair.

Presently, she chairs the Student Achievement Committee and is a member of the FinanceCommittee and serves as an alternate member of the Operations Committee. During her time on the board, she has been a member or Chair of many of the Board’s sub-committees.

Julie has participated in many Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) conferences and workshops and recently joined CABE’s Government Relations Committee. She has participated in the State Department of Education and CABE workshops on Leadership, Student Achievement, Education Finance Report, Closing the Achievement Gap, and the Board’s Role in Using Data-Driven Accountability System for Learning.

She holds an Associates Degree from Post University.

Her interests outside of the education arena include volunteering for Special Olympics Northwest Region Games held at Bristol Eastern, and volunteering at the Pan Mass Challenge (a fund raising event on behalf of the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Massachusetts).

She is married to Edmund Luczkow, a 1972 graduate of Bristol Central High School.
They have a daughter Robyn who is a sophomore at Central Connecticut State University,majoring in Education. She also has a stepson who recently finished serving in the United States Air Force in Okinowa, Japan.


Jane Anastasio

Jane has had a lifelong interest in education. The daughter of Bruce Elliott, a retired Bristol Central High Physics teacher, and Madelyn Elliott, a longtime former member of the Democratic Town Committee, Jane was raised in Bristol and attended Edgewood, Northeast, and Bristol Eastern High School . She is a graduate of UConn with a B.S. degree in Medical Technology and is currently employed at Hospital of Central Connecticut (BMH campus) in the laboratory. Her specialty is Hematology, blood disorders.

Jane was taught at an early age to give back to her community and she remembers working on campaigns stuffing envelopes as a child and spending many a cold November day handing out leaflets at the polls .

Jane has served on several boards for many years including the Zoning Commission, Mayor's Housing Coalition, Board of Ethics, Democratic Town Committee, Hubbell School PTO In 2002 she was appointed to the Board of Education and subsequently ran as a Board of Education candidate in the election of 2003 and has been on the Board since then. She has be a member of the Student Achievement Committee, the Communications and Community Relations Committee, and the Finance Committee..

Jane is married to John J. Anastasio, Jr. They have four sons; Mark, Paul, John, and Connor one of whom is presently a student at Chippens Hill Middle School.


Tom O'Brien

Tom O'Brien grew up in Bristol. He graduated from Central High School and Boston College. After ten years with the Exxon Corporation, he returned to Bristol to work with his father at the O'Brien Funeral Home. Prior to 1991, he served for two years as the council liaison and ten years as a member of the Board of Education. In 2003 was elected to the Board and has served as the Chairman of the Personnel Committee and the Finance Committee as well as serving as an alternate to the Student Achievement Committee. He was appointed as the Chair of the Board’s Facilities Committee.

He has been married for 26 years to Marie Cassetta O'Brien. They have two sons, Chris, 24 and Matt, 23.


Karen L. Vibert

Karen is a part-time free lance court stenographer who was born and raised in Bristol. She has been involved in many different activities in the Bristol Public School System to an extensive degree, including being a member of the Parent Advisory Council, commonly known as the PAC. That service strengthened her interest in education and desire to advocate for all children.

Active in many civic organizations, she currently is a member of the Bristol Kiwanis, Little League District 5, and the Forestville Village Association. Karen is a Girl Scout leader and consultant and teaches CCD at the Church of Saint Matthew. In recent years she has served on the Board of Directors of the Family Center and as a Cub Scout leader.

Karen was educated in Bristol and then attended St. Joseph College in West Hartford. She and her husband Marty have two children: Andy, a freshman at Bristol Eastern, and Millie, a fourth-grader at Mountain View


Sherry Bouchard Turcotte

Sherry was born and raised in Bristol, attending Green-Hills, Northeast and Bristol Eastern High school graduating in 1983.

She has worked in the Bristol community for almost 25 years. Working at Bristol Hospital in the laboratory as a receptionist and phlebotomist, working as a receptionist for Dr. David Zomick for many years and is currently working for Dr. Doris Altherr in the same capacity.

On Tuesday afternoons she teaches CCD at St. Gregory's CCD Center where she enjoys teaching and learning from the children.

Sherry is active in her children’s activities, with Nutmeg Performing Arts Center and The Bristol Splash swim team.

Sherry and her husband Ghislain B. Turcotte moved back to Bristol in 1996 so that their children, Jacob and Morgan could attend The Bristol School System. Jacob is in 8th grade at Northeast Middle School and Morgan is in 4th grade at Edgewood School.

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Many more cops needed, says police chief

Though Bristol’s population hasn’t grown much in more than two decades, the police department is eyeing a massive increase in the number of officers.
In a recent report on space needs, which urges construction of a new police headquarters to handle the rising number of public safety personnel, Police Chief John DiVenere recommends adding two dozen more employees to the 151 positions the department has now.
“There is no doubt that the thought of hiring these additional positions will shock some people,” DiVenere said, “especially considering the cost involved.”
But, he cautioned, he is merely laying out a plan for the next five to 10 years, not making a request for immediate hiring.
The department already has 12 percent more police officers than it did in 1998 – 125 compared to 112 – and its civilian staff has risen from seven to 26.
But that’s not enough to keep up with rising demands, the chief said.
“The police department needs to grow to keep up with the demand for service from the community,” DiVenere wrote in the Oct. 10 report for Mayor William Stortz and police commissioners.
In his report, the chief said that during the next decade, he needs to add a captain, seven detectives, two sergeants, 12 police officers, two dispatchers, a dispatch supervisor and two civilians.
In some cases, it might be possible to reassign existing positions, the chief said, but his report mentions only a sergeant and a police officer that could be shifted. The other slots would apparently need new employees.
If the department were to add 20 more police officers of various ranks, it would have 145, for a 29 percent rise in the number of police since 1998 at a time when the city’s population is expected to have climbed less than 2 percent.
DiVenere’s report addresses the reason why police needs are rising faster than the population is growing in Bristol.
While acknowledging that the number of residents “has not changed very much,” the chief said that “what has changed and what will continue to evolve is the demographics of the city, its new or proposed industrial and commercial growth and the addition of the new Route 72 extension into Bristol.”
“All these point to the need for a police department that can address these issues for the safety and welfare of our citizens,” DiVenere said.
“We must expand our services and our coverage of the city to encourage business growth and the maintenance and relocation of families into the city as well,” DiVenere said.
“When these segments look to relocate, they not only look at the quality of the educational system within the community but they also look to the safety and overall crime issues in that area,” the chief reported.
He said there “is no doubt that the police department has grown in size during the past several years,” but that’s because “it is being called on to address more non-traditional policing areas than ever before.”
“No longer is our sole focus crime and accident prevention,” DiVenere said. “Code enforcement, youth programs, internet crimes, community policing, emergency operations, polygraph and technology issues all strain our staffing levels, but are necessary programs for today.”
The chief said the department’s core functions, patrol and criminal investigations, also need to grow to keep up with rising demand.
Additional help is also needed for evidence collection and identification, technology, communications, training, school resources and traffic, he said.
DiVenere said that downtown development will also increase the demand for services, including more foot patrols “to maintain a level of safety in the downtown area. This alone will necessitate an increase in our patrol staff.”
At this point, police commissioners and city leaders are reviewing the chief’s report. No decisions have been made.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Johnson talks about city contracts

Republican mayoral contender Ken Johnson wrote this letter on Friday night or Saturday morning. I just got a copy today, so here it is:

I am writing in reply to the Saturday Bristol Press article that attributes comments to me about City contracts.
In Wednesday night’s debate, I was asked if I was satisfied that all City bids, contracts and hirings are done completely above board. My answer was ‘no’ based on an experience I recalled from 2006. The situation I was referring to was the city’s plan to hire a real estate brokerage to help the city dispose of surplus city-owned properties. The awarding of the contract to an out-of–town real estate company and the perception that local companies were not given every reasonable consideration upset many Bristol-based companies that were interested in the work.
I feel badly that several elected officials got so angry about this. I choose to believe there must be some misunderstanding because I am certain that our elected leaders, on both sides of the aisle, feel like I do – that we’d all like to see qualified local businesses get city work. I choose to believe that the Real Estate committee was acting in the best interest of the city and followed proper procedure when it made its choice. However, if there were numerous businesses questioning the process and feeling left out, then something is wrong with the process.
I stand by my answer because I was being honest. Unfortunately some people didn’t like my answer. But, as many are finding out, I do not mince words. If I am asked a question, I give an honest response and stand by it.
I’m a citizen of Bristol, like you, who cares a lot about my city. As your mayor, I pledge to be honest, to act with integrity, to listen respectfully to your point of view and to restore civility to our politics.
The full text of my comments to the Bristol Press about this matter can be found at http://bristolnews.blogspot.com/ under the heading "Johnson explains his comment on city contracts."
It is time to Put Bristol First. I hope to see you at the polls on Nov. 6th; I would be humbled and honored to be your mayor.
Ken Johnson
BristolRepublican candidate for mayor

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Bristol fighting drug dealers now, officials say

Calling Bristol “a safe haven for drug dealing,” Republican mayoral contender Ken Johnson urged more help for city police to combat the problem.
Police Chief John DiVenere said Tuesday that Bristol “has a drug problem, as does every other community in the country. I know we’re not any worse than most.”
“We have a very safe community,” the chief said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say we had a problem, but we do very well in enforcing those laws.”
“I don’t want our drug dealers to think they have the run of the community, because they don’t,” DiVenere said.
Johnson said, though, that the department’s fight against drugs needs more resources.
“We need to send a strong message to the drug dealers and drug buyers that they are not welcome here in Bristol,” Johnson said in a prepared release Tuesday.
“Drugs in our community are not confined to the West End,” Johnson added. “They are in our neighborhoods and in our schools.”
Art Ward, the Democratic mayoral candidate, said that even one illegal drug transaction in town is too many. But, he said, the problems facing Bristol are no different than cities across the country are dealing with.
Democratic city Councilor Frank Nicastro, a police commissioner, said that police are “fighting day and night” against drugs and keeping the dealers in check.
He called Johnson’s comments “an election ploy” and challenged the Republican to prove his statement that the city has become “a safe haven for drug dealing.”
“Where’s his proof of that?” Nicastro asked.
“We combat drugs very effectively in the city of Bristol,” said Nicastro, who served as mayor from 1993 to 2003.
DiVenere said his department considers the battle against drugs “very serious” and it’s a high priority for him.
He said that every officer is trained about drug enforcement and there is “a very active narcotics enforcement team.”
Moreover, the chief said, the department has an active DARE program to educate students about the dangers of drugs. It also have four police dogs, including one that’s specifically trained for narcotics enforcement.
Johnson said that he would work with the chief and Police Board “to allocate more resources” to the police. Ward said he’s already discussed ideas with the chief.
Johnson pointed to a “a successful drug sting in New Britain this summer that netted more than 100 arrests of drug dealers and buyers” and called for “similar sweeps here in Bristol as our city has become a safe haven for drug dealing.”
He said he would beef up the narcotics division by providing police with the tools they need to step up the effort to crack down on the narcotics trade.
Johnson also said the community needs to be alert for gang activity.
“We cannot be blind to the threat of gang violence,” Johnson said. “Look at the increase in graffiti – it might look like art but to me it is an ominous sign that the gangs and the drug dealers are already here.”
Johnson said residents should be “vigilant,” looking for signs of gangs and drug trafficking such as graffiti and sneakers over power lines.
“I’d like to see a confidential tip-line to the police,” he said.
Johnson said that he believes a confidential tip line “would encourage the reporting of incidents or suspicious activity. If one phone call leads to averting violence or helps shut down a drug dealer then we got the bang for our buck.”
What Johnson apparently doesn’t know is that the city has had a confidential tip line: (860) 585-TIPS.
“We’ve had one for many years,” DiVenere said.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Johnson calls Bristol a "safe haven" for drug dealing

Press release issued today by Republican Ken Johnson, who's aiming to be mayor after next Tuesday's election:

Ken Johnson, the Republican nominee for Mayor of the City of Bristol, elaborated further on another of the planks of his campaign platform. Johnson has vowed that as Mayor he would work with the Chief of Police and Police Board to allocate more resources to the Police Department. A major area of concern for Johnson is drug trafficking in our City.

Johnson cited a successful drug sting in New Britain this summer that netted more than 100 arrests of drug dealers and buyers. Johnson advocated for such similar sweeps here in Bristol as our city has become a “safe haven” for drug dealing.

The Mayoral nominee would like to beef up the department’s narcotics division by providing police with the tools they need to step up the effort to crack down on the narcotics trade. “We need to send a strong message to the drug dealers and drug buyers that they are not welcome here in Bristol. Drugs in our community are not confined to the West End,” Johnson added, “They are in our neighborhoods and in our schools.”

Along with the drug issue, Bristol needs to be on the alert for gang activity and stop it in its tracks. “We cannot be blind to the threat of gang violence. Look at the increase in graffiti – it might look like art but to me it is an ominous sign that the gangs and the drug dealers are already here.”

Johnson encouraged residents to be “vigilant,” looking for signs of gangs and drug trafficking such as graffiti and sneakers over power lines. “I’d like to see a confidential tip-line to the police. If residents had the assurance of confidentiality, I believe it would encourage the reporting of incidents or suspicious activity. If one phone call leads to averting violence or helps shut down a drug dealer then we got the bang for our buck.”

“I intend to Put Bristol First, rather than any political party or personal agenda.” Johnson concluded, “The residents of Bristol have been clamoring for a change – I offer that change and my ideas on how we can better serve the people of Bristol in the years to come. Providing our police department with the resources to combat drugs in our City will improve our quality of life and is in our collective best interest.”

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

"Scripted" meetings FOI complaint to be heard in Hartford today

A note from Republican mayoral candidate Ken Johnson to reporters this morning:
Just wanted to bring to your attention that city attorneys are going to Hartford today at 1pm to defend the city against the Freedom of Information Complaint filed by the Ward camp. As I have stated before, we are all aware that the complaint served one purpose and one purpose only: to poke a political stick in the eye of Art’s primary opponent. I’ve repeatedly asked my opponent to ask his friend to withdraw the complaint and last Monday he finally answered me and publicly refused to do so. He has ignored my argument that it does not serve the best interest of the people. I’ve warned that this could cost the taxpayers money for the city to defend the case. So now this, too, has become come to pass because of my opponent’s need to put his own political agenda above the interest of the people. So here we go again. Politics over people.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Zoppo to direct Family Center

Check out reporter Jackie Majerus' story here:

  • Zoppo signs on to restructure Family Center

  • And let me add ahead of time, I'm not going to allow a trashing of Zoppo to occur in the comments on this thread. If you want to say something, keep it clean, decent and reasonable or I won't post the comment.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    No more criminal court in Bristol?

    Both Mayor William Stortz and Police Chief John DiVenere have said in recent days that the Bristol criminal court is likely to become a juvenile court instead.
    In a report about his space and personnel needs, the chief said that that when the court change happens, the city will need to transport prisoners to New Britain each days, requiring “another court officer with a transport van” to cope with the work.
    Stortz said in a memorandum to Board of Finance members that the state “is looking into possible changes within the court complex, possibly affecting court needs in the police-court complex.”
    The state has eyed the closure of the Bristol courthouse in the past, but always backed down from it.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    October 29, 2007

    Recycling down in Bristol

    New press release from City Hall:

    Public Works was recently notified that the City of Bristol has experienced a decline in the amount of recyclable materials being collected.

    Recycling is mandated by law in the State of CT and by Ordinance in the City of Bristol. Recycling also saves the City of Bristol money, as rubbish costs nearly twice as much to process than recyclables.

    In an effort to ensure full participation in recycling, the City of Bristol Public Works Department will begin randomly auditing the contents of rubbish barrels to ensure that recyclable materials are not being disposed of with rubbish. If recyclable material is found in rubbish barrels, residents will be notified of the violation, and repeated offenses could lead to citations/fines.

    Mandatory recyclables are newspaper, magazines, corrugated cardboard (cut to 3’X3’), office & computer paper, clean glass & metal, plastic #1 or #2 (stamped on the bottom) food and beverage containers, paper milk/juice cartons and aseptic beverage containers,
    Additional items that should be recycled are catalogues, phone books, junk mail, soft cover books, brown envelopes and packing paper.

    Newspapers (and other paper recyclables) can be placed in a separate bin instead of in paper bags to make recycling easier for residents. Recycle bins are available, free of charge, at Public Works (City Hall – Ground Floor) Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and Saturday mornings at the Transfer Station.

    If you have any questions, or want more information about recycling, please contact Public Works at (860) 584-6125.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    State is satisfied with BDDC paperwork

    Though I have no real idea what this means in practical terms, here's a new press release from Mayor William Stortz:

    In an announcement released today by the Mayor’s office, the Bristol Downtown Development Corporation Chairman, Frank Johnson and Mayor William T. Stortz were pleased to announce that the Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner, Joan McDonald, has reviewed and accepted the information and documents submitted by the City in its request to form the BDDC.

    “I am happy to inform you that this latest information submitted satisfies the requests for information made by the department to the City,” said McDonald.

    “This is a big step forward for Bristol,” said Chairman Frank Johnson. “It enables us to work with DECD and the State as we seek to revitalize Bristol, especially its Downtown area.”

    Mayor William T. Stortz was also very enthused with this announcement and stated, “I appreciate the efforts, cooperation and support of all who got us to this point. The announcement is a positive one, one that shows that we are doing the right thing, the right way. I am confident that the BDDC will move quickly in developing plans for a Downtown that we all can be proud of. I hope that the public will come forward now and provide input to the BDDC who is in the process of scheduling meetings and hearings.”

    Stortz concluded, “I also thank the DECD, and the State, for their support.”

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    Meskill remembered in Bristol

    Friends of former Gov. Thomas Meskill, who died Monday, remember him as a thoughtful, articulate man whose rise to power included a stint as Bristol’s congressman and a statewide primary win against a prominent Bristol businessman.
    Meskill “was one of the nicest men in politics that I’ve ever known. He was just down to earth and honest,” said Ellie Klapatch, the city’s long-time Republican registrar.
    “When Tom told you something, you knew it was the truth,” Klapatch said.
    Shortly after flying his plane home from a weekend in Washington, D.C., former state Sen. Wallace Barnes said that Meskill was a friend before they faced off in the first-ever statewide primary in 1970 and remained close afterwards.
    “He was a very effective politician in a sort of an understated way,” Barnes said. “He was thoughtful and articulate, but not bombastic in any way.”
    Meskill, a Republican who served as mayor of New Britain, first sought to enter a larger stage in 1964 when he took aim at the congressional seat held by attorney Bernard Grabowski of Bristol, a Democrat.
    Grabowski won a statewide congressional seat in 1962 which was abolished soon after. Two years later, he won the newly created 6th District seat in a showdown with Meskill.
    In 1966, however, Meskill took the seat and held it until his 1970 run for governor.
    Klapatch said that she sided with Meskill at the congressional convention because she thought he was the better candidate, even though the rest of Bristol’s delegation thought otherwise. Meskill took a shine to her after that.
    In 1970, Klapatch said she remembered the Republican convention at The Bushnell theater in Hartford. Meskill had a big majority of the delegates on his side but Barnes sought to force a primary by securing at least 20 percent of the convention vote, a margin he eventually got.
    “We were there until five in morning at the convention while Meskill and Barnes were talking to other at a hotel,” Klapatch said.
    She said she hoped that Barnes would settle for the lieutenant governor’s slot on the ticket, but that’s not how it worked out.
    “They would have made a great team,” Klapatch said.
    In the end, the two men squared off in a primary that Meskill won, but without the rancor or divisiveness that’s so common today.
    “Those were the days in politics. We had fun in politics. We respected each other,” she said.
    Barnes said that during the primary race, he called for the state to adopt an income tax that would ensure a steady revenue stream. While it might have been a good idea, he said it “was not helpful” in winning over the GOP voters in the primary.
    “I guess that was perhaps the major issue in the campaign,” Barnes said.
    Barnes said that Connecticut is better off for Meskill’s public service as a congressman, governor and federal judge.
    Klapatch said that Meskill was a particularly loyal politician.
    “He appreciated anything you ever did,” she said, and remembered those who had assisted him along the way.
    “I’m going to miss him,” Klapatch said.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    Why people should vote for Johnson

    Letter from Art Mocabee, chairman of the Bristol Republicans:

    The Bristol Mayoral election is about to occur and we as voters must go to the polls to choose who we think is best qualified to lead our city for the next two years.

    As the minority party in Bristol, we have enjoyed the view from inside for the first time in 14 years. Having access to the Mayors office is far different than one council seat and having both a council seat and the Mayors office has been enlightening.

    Ken Johnson, the Republican candidate for Mayor has run a respectable visionary campaign, committing to moving Bristol in a positive direction with rapid development of the Mall site, a thorough airing of the school issues we face and an aggressive marketing approach to develop the Southwest Industrial Park. In addition, he sees the need to increase the resources Bristol must have to improve public safety and to protect our open space.

    To accomplish these goals, many city contracts will come into play. Mr. Johnson, during one of the recent debates, expressed his personal feeling that the process can always be improved. There is no debate that when the contract awarding the sale of properties owned by the City to a Plainville Realty company was announced to the community that there was outrage. Mr. Johnson is right, but his comments only touched the tip of the iceberg.

    Bristol employees and Bristol employers make up the hard working Bristol families who pay taxes and deserve to be the first for consideration when it comes to providing their talent and trade to our community. Bristol contractors bring pride to building our community that no outsider can do. Even after the outrage expressed by the community, the Real Estate Committee, headed by Frank Nicastro, still ignored that outrage and gave Bristol business away to an outside firm. Yes, the policies set forth in the purchasing manual were followed, but based on this past winter’s community-wide outrage, something is wrong with the way we do business. It can be improved and Mr. Johnson knows it, Mr. Ward denies it.

    In addition to the real estate fiasco, the company selected to do our re-valuation was $72,000 higher then the next bidder. Also, a local construction company lost a bid because he was higher by pennies per $100 of contract specifications.

    Mr. Ward, you are satisfied with the status quo, Mr. Johnson is not, especially when it comes to local contractors and services that involve re-evaluation of our homes for tax purposes. After 14 years, why have you not addressed this flaw in our system? Bristol businesses that are qualified and meet all bid specifications technically and financially need to have the first option on city business. It is as simple as that!

    But let’s also talk about the mother lode of all contract fiascos: the purchase by the City of the Downtown Mall. This contract was negotiated and entered into behind closed doors, in secret, at one or more meetings held at a local Forestville restaurant. Mr. Ward you were present. along with other members of the City Council and various support staff including the former mayor’s secretary who took notes. Mayor Stortz has the pictures and probably the notes.

    Mr. Ward, if you think that the public doesn’t care about how you participated in these secret meetings, then come out and explain why it was okay to have those meetings in secret! You were involved and often took credit as the Deputy Mayor. Is this what we can expect from you? With all the contracts this city is about to enter, you have only demonstrated that you are capable of dealing behind closed doors out of sight from the public, whose trust is the mortar of public service. You were the proclaimed Deputy Mayor that spent 5.2 million taxpayer dollars without public input and that administration was thrown out of public office. Why should we expect anything different from you in the future? Or will you flip flop on this issue as well?

    Mr. Ward, you and your party controlled every vote over the last 14 years. Whatever it is that you say needs to be done now begs the question: Why hasn’t it been done over the last 14 years? A wholesale change is needed in our City government.

    In addition to your failure to negotiate the City’s business in the open, why don’t you step up to the plate and explain why it was okay for you to participate in the “scripted” meeting when the Blight Ordinance was adopted? Now you feel, by way of your supporter’s recent FOI complaint, that the process is flawed. Maybe the answer is that if it serves your needs it is okay, but when you don’t support another council member’s idea it is wrong. This is hardly the mark of a leader.

    Speaking of scripts, Mr. Nicastro has stated that he could never support a mayor who did not support a member of his own party. Everyone in town knows that you, Mr. Ward, had one of your supporters initiate the Freedom of Information action against fellow Democrat Ellen Zoppo. Come on Frank, you cannot have it both ways. By your logic you will not support your candidate for Mayor.

    It is too bad that Art Ward and the current members of the City Council would rather cloud the issues than discuss them. Ken Johnson is a breath of fresh air, not a member of the old boy network, which has run the City for the last 14 years. It is time to change the makeup of the City Council and to choose a leader who has a new vision and will lead Bristol to becoming the regional urban center Bristol can be. The question we all need to ask ourselves is “Who can lead us more intelligently and openly as Bristol passes through the cross roads we are about to enter?” That person is Ken Johnson.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    Former Gov. Thomas Meskill died this morning

    If anyone has any memories they'd like to share, post a comment or drop me a line at scollins@bristolpress.com.

    From The Associated Press:

    Former Gov. and U.S. Rep. Thomas J. Meskill died early Monday in Florida, his wife said. He was 79.

    He had the blood disorder myelodysplasia and had gone to the Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Sunday to have blood drawn. Mary Meskill, his wife of 52 years, said he died of a heart attack at the hospital about 4 a.m. Thomas Meskill, a Republican, was governor from 1971 to 1975.

    In a brief phone interview from her home in Delray Beach, Fla., Mary Meskill said she was too distraught to answer questions.

    "We're grieving," she said.

    Asked about her husband's life, she said, "He was a powerhouse. That we know."

    Mary Meskill said a funeral has not been scheduled, but it will be held in Meskill's hometown of New Britain.

    He first ran for office in 1958, when he made an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate. The following year, he ran for mayor and narrowly lost.

    Meskill won in 1962 and served as mayor until 1964.

    He was elected to Congress representing the 6th District in 1966 and served until 1970.

    He was elected governor in 1971. When he entered office, the state had a $260 million deficit. By 1973, the deficit had been erased and the state treasury had a surplus of $65 million.

    During Meskill's tenure, the Department of Environmental Protection was established and a state lottery system was instituted as Meskill's alternative to a state income tax.

    In 1975, President Gerald Ford named him a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, and he served until 1993. During his last year on the bench, Meskill was chief judge.

    Former U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, a friend of Meskill's, said he transcended politics and connected with all of those he served.

    "It was a trust that he engendered in people and the quality of service that he provided that enabled him to be mayor and then congressman and then ultimately governor and judge," she said. "That is a quality that in today's world people are longing for."

    House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, said Meskill was well-respected at the Capitol, even though he had left office years ago.

    "I can tell you that I never heard anything negative about Governor Meskill," he said. "He was a good leader and managed this state very well."

    New London Superior Court Judge Robert Leuba, who was legal counsel to Meskill from 1973 to 1975, said Meskill brought about pension reform, requiring companies to set aside money to guard against pension losses in case of bankruptcies. He also credited Meskill with establishing one of the first state environmental protection agencies in the U.S.

    "He brought more advancements to Connecticut than people will ever know," Leuba said. ------ Associated Press Writers Stephen Singer, Susan Haigh and Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report.

    Copyright © 2007, The Associated Press

    "Tom Meskill was a giant, a legend and a public servant without peer. Judge Meskill served in uniform, as a Mayor, as a Congressman,, as Governor, and a Federal Judge. Tom Meskill reformed state government and was a leader on some many fronts, but most importantly he was a kind man who selflessly gave everything to his community, his state and country. If you were Tom Meskill's friend, and there were many, you were his friend for life. The state and country has lost a great man and Republicans everywhere owe him and his family their prayers and thanks for a life well lived for others." -- Christopher Healy, Connecticut Republican Chairman

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    October 28, 2007

    Pumpkin Festival today

    Here's something great to do today (Sunday) in Bristol:


    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    October 26, 2007

    Johnson calls for "time out" on school plans

    Press release from GOP mayoral contender Ken Johnson, just in:

    The Republican nominee for Mayor of the City of Bristol, Ken Johnson, elaborated further today on the Board of Education plans to switch from the current Elementary School/Middle School approach to a Kindergarten through 8th Grade (K-8) system and build two new 900-pupil schools.
    Johnson, a Real Estate Broker, understands the importance of maintaining a strong and vibrant educational system as a way of attracting families to Bristol and keeping them here. “While we endeavor to open our doors to those who want to call Bristol home, we must always remain cognizant of the needs of those of you who already live here,” Johnson Said. “The citizens of our community -- young and old -- cannot afford to pay exorbitantly high taxes and still call Bristol home.”
    “My Mayoral opponent and I both agree that the Board of Education needs to do a better job of communicating to the public about these plans. We both sat through a presentation on the school plans at the October City Council meeting. Unfortunately, it was again poorly publicized to the public and, while education officials seem to have convinced my opponent that the K-8 system is the way to go, I’m not convinced,” Johnson added, “That is why I have called for a ‘Time Out.’”
    Johnson hailed Councilor Mike Rimcoski, a member of his Bristol First Team, for his leadership at the October meeting to turn back the proposal to build one of the new schools at the old Scalia sand pit site. “Taking a stand, particularly on a controversial issue, is what leadership is all about. Thanks, Mike,” Johnson said.
    Johnson wants the public to clearly understand that “we are not going to a K-8 system.” The Board’s stated intention to implement a K-8 system only applies to certain sections of town. “At best it is a hybrid – Northeast and Chippens Hill will still be middle schools and have many years of useful life in them.”
    “The West End is driving the need for new schools. The near century old O’Connell and Bingham schools are obsolete. But is Memorial Boulevard? Is a new K-5 in the West End a realistic alternative to the proposed K-8 complex?” With the unique needs of a more transient population in the West End, Johnson asks, “Why aren’t we exploring a school/community center for this area? Could the Bristol Boys & Girls Club be a part of the solution? What about addressing blight? With the inter-relationships of downtown and the West End, perhaps we should be seeking input from the BDDC and others associated with the downtown. I don’t see any collective vision coming out of the efforts to date. All I see are Boards and committees bumping into each other.”
    “We are certainly looking down the gun barrel of major education issues and big dollar items. The decisions we make will have long-term implications. Calling a Time Out and allowing ourselves the time to think this through and get it right can only be a good thing.”

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    Stay of execution for Bristol Social Security office

    Press release from U.S. Rep. John Larson, moments ago:

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) told the Connecticut Congressional Delegation today that it has decided to keep the Bristol office open for at least another three months while they reevaluate their decision to close it.

    Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman, as well as Congressman John B. Larson CT-01, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, have worked tirelessly with the community and Administration to keep this office open. Most recently, Lieberman and Dodd were successful in getting an amendment introduced and included in an appropriations bill that would prohibit SSA from closing the Bristol office until they meet certain requirements. Congressman Larson has spoken with Michael Astrue, the Commissioner of the SSA, on numerous occasions to stress the importance of this office and the hardships closing it would inflict on the community. The members have also worked to diligently to increase funding for the Social Security Administration above the levels set both by the previous year and the request of the Bush Administration.

    The Social Security Office provides a vital function to the population in and around Bristol. And, the delegation has every intention of continuing to fight until a permanent decision to keep the office open is made.

    Congressman John B. Larson CT-01, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, spoke with Michael Astrue, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, this afternoon. Following the conversation, Larson said:

    “I would like to thank Commissioner Astrue for going above and beyond to help us keep this office open. I am thrilled at today’s news and I’m confident we will be able to keep this office open. I will continue to work with the Social Security Administration and my colleagues in the Senate to make the decision to keep the Bristol office open permanent. The office is vital to Bristol’s elderly community. I realize that, the town realizes that and now the Social Security Administration is beginning to realize that.”

    Senator Chris Dodd (CT-D) said:
    "This is certainly a step in the right direction, and I am confident that given this extra time the SSA will recognize the vital role this office plays in the community of Bristol and the surrounding area. This is not a matter of mere convenience for our senior citizens; it is a matter of necessity. I am sure the SSA will draw the same conclusion in three months' time."

    Senator Joe Lieberman (CT – ID) said:

    “I am pleased that SSA will keep the Bristol office open while they consider the negative impact of closing this vital facility. I hope that they reach the conclusion that this office must permanently remain open in order to provide critical services to the residents of this area.”

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    Bipartisan anger at Johnson over GOP mayoral hopeful's claim that not all city contracts "are done properly and completely above board"

    When Republican mayoral candidate Ken Johnson told a crowd recently that he is "not satisfied that all contracts are done properly and completely above board" at City Hall, city officials and politicians said they were perplexed.
    But when Johnson explained the next day that he was referring to last year’s decision to hire a Plainville real estate broker to help sell surplus city property, they got mad.
    Calling the charge “an eleventh hour political ploy, Democratic city Councilor Frank Nicastro, said Johnson’s comments were “offensive as heck. He owes the city an apology.”
    “He cast a general allegation against the city,” said Republican Mayor William Stortz, that made Bristol look bad without any justification at all.
    Republican city Councilor Mike Rimcoski, one of the three real estate panel members that picked the Plainville firm for the pilot project, said, “If I had to do it again, I’d do it again.”
    Democratic mayoral contender Art Ward, a council veteran, said that Johnson “cast dark aspersions” that he failed to justify.
    Johnson said that some city firms that sought the contract to sell surplus residential property “were not satisfied the contract was awarded properly.”
    Johnson said that his own real estate firm, based in Bristol, was one of the brokers shut out when the city tapped the Plainville-based Berarducci Realtors to handle its sale of surplus residential property.
    It’s unclear, though, what anyone did wrong.
    Roger Rousseau, the city’s purchasing director, said that the selection process that led to the hiring of Berarducci was “no different” than the way Bristol awards all of its professional service contracts.
    He said the contract was advertised twice in both The Bristol Press and a Hartford paper, discussed at council meetings and the subject of news stories.
    Still, though a dozen firms sought the contract, some agents complained later they didn’t know the city was looking to hire someone to sell off surplus land.
    “Were local firms given every reasonable opportunity to bid on the project and every reasonable consideration to be selected?” Johnson asked.
    In hindsight, Rousseau said, he would not rely only on the normal marketing methods. He said he would ask the Realtor’s Association to spread the work about a similar contract in the future.
    Nicastro, who heads the real estate panel, said that everything about the selection of Berarducci was done in public and correctly.
    Rimcoski said it led to the sale of $700,000 worth of property that has helped reduce the tax burden for residents.
    The other member of the Real Estate Committee, Democratic city Councilor Kevin McCauley, said the panel “did everything above board. Nothing was done behind closed doors.”
    “We have nothing to hide,” said Nicastro.
    McCauley said that Berarducci got the nod because it offered the most attractive deal to the city, something that Nicastro, Rimcoski and Rousseau also said.
    McCauley said he is disappointed that Johnson would attempt to make an issue of the deal after it was extensively discussed in public last year.
    “Why didn’t he bring it up at the time?” Ward asked.
    “I never saw Mr. Johnson at any of the meetings,” Nicastro said.
    Nicastro said he was particularly offended that Johnson would put Rimcoski in the crosshairs.
    “When he attacks a member of his own political party, that’s not the kind of person I want as mayor,” Nicastro said.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    Lydem wants more energy assistance

    New press release from Democratic City Council candidate Bruce Lydem:


    Today’s Bristol Press featured an article about the real estate conveyance tax. Focusing on the real estate conveyance tax is missing the point entirely.

    In today’s business news the price of oil has hit just over $90 a barrel! Bristol residents can expect to pay record prices to heat their homes and fill up their tanks with gas this year. This is unacceptable.

    While the conveyance tax only kicks in when you buy or sell a property, the price of energy to heat your home and fill up your car with gas hits you every single day. If this coming winter season is a cold as many believe it will be, it will be a long, hard winter.

    Leadership is about setting priorities and fighting for those issues that most impact your constituents. What affects Bristol’s citizens more, a tax that kicks in only when you sell or buy a property or the high prices you pay everyday to fill your car up with gas and heat your home? The answer is obvious.

    We should focus on giving our citizens, especially our seniors, the help they need with energy assistance. We should be working toward securing funds at the state and federal levels, to help our seniors and those in most need deal with the every increasing cost of energy. It is the right thing to do.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    About candidates' kids

    To all of you who want so desperately to post something about candidates' children: it ain't happening.
    When somebody runs for office, they open themselves up for public scrutiny. That's fair.
    But they aren't volunteering their entire family for that same level of scrutiny unless they seek the presidency or some other extremely powerful position.
    I'm not going to let comments go through that talk about the way a candidate cares for his or her children, points out legal transgressions by children, or puts children in a less than positive light.
    There may be a reason for an exception someday, but that's how I'm doing it 99.9 percent of the time. Kids are off limits.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    October 25, 2007

    Johnson explains his comment on city contracts

    Though there will be more on this Friday, this is is from Republican mayoral candidate Ken Johnson today:

    The situation I was referring to was an RFP released by the council/real estate committee in March 2006 to hire a real estate broker to help dispose of excess city-owned property. 12 bids were received by the city on 4/18/06, including 9 from Bristol-based firms (including mine). The list of proposals was to be narrowed and then bidders were to be invited in to make their pitch with a formal presentation to the committee. Many local companies were not satisfied that the process was done properly when presentations were cancelled and it was it was announced that the bid was awarded to an out-of-town company (Berarducci Realtors in Plainville).
    Other Bristol firms were unhappy because they either were not mailed a bid package or they were unaware of the opportunity to bid. I think the question being asked as a result was: Were local firms given every reasonable opportunity to bid on the project and every reasonable consideration to be selected?
    A couple of important points:
    -I'm not certain that Ward took exception to my answer to this question last night. In any event, my answer was not an attack on Ward as Ward had nothing to do with it.
    -I have the utmost faith and confidence in our purchasing agent so please make sure that my answer is not misinterpreted in that way. In fact, to the contrary, in my opinion, our purchasing agent is highly competent, highly professional individual and we are fortunate to have a gentleman of such high moral character and ethical standards serving our City.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    DeFillippi defends elected school board

    From Lori DeFillippi, park commissioner:
    Did you know that according to the National School Boards Assoc. (NSBA) that nationally 96% of school boards are elected? Did you know that elected school boards are increasingly targeted for takeover by Mayors, as well as governors?
    School board members are trustees for the educational welfare of all children in the communities they serve. They are elected by the people and are directly accountable to the community. Although we as parents, and all members of the community, may not always agree with the board members views/changes, they are accountable to the community who voted them in. I am speaking as a parent, and share the views of other parents who have children in our educational system. School Board members appointed by the Mayor or anybody else for that matter is a bad idea. Who is to say the Mayor, the Council or, heaven forbid, a newspapers picks “better people”?
    The key factor in electing School Board members is that WE get a vote, and if WE don’t like the job he or she is doing, WE can vote that person out in the next election. Our political system and our country have been built on the promise that WE will have representation of the people and for the people. Who would the “appointed” members represent? And if we didn’t like the job they were doing, how would we get rid of them?
    Of all elected positions we have in this country, School Board members must have the confidence of parents and the community as a whole, and you don’t get that by appointing members. You are asking us, the voters, parents, to trust the appointments of school board members by a Mayor and Council members with our most valuable resource, our children. So why would you not trust us with our vote to elect these members?
    If people wanting to serve on the school board do not want to stand up to the rigors of a citywide election, I don’t want them representing me nor our children’s’ educational needs. You need to reject this notion that an appointed school board can do a better job than an elected board. It’s discriminatory and just wrong.
    My children have gone through the elementary process. My son is in middle school and my daughter just entered her freshmen year in high school. I have been very satisfied with their educational needs being meant. I know I have a say in the election process. I know the school board members are accountable to the community. School Board members know that without the majority of community approval, nothing would get accomplished, and to think that an elected board cannot achieve community success shows no respect at all for the current School Board members who, like it or not, were voted into office by the citizens of Bristol.

    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    Stortz says mill rate would be higher without conveyance tax

    From Mayor William Stortz, in response to my question about his thoughts on whether the extra conveyance tax should be turned down, as Republican mayoral hopeful Ken Johnson called for:

    The city council approved utilizing the opportunity that the state afforded certain cities, those that were more in need.
    The difference to Bristol would have averaged over $600,000/yr over the past few years. About .2 mill.. Without that revenue source this year, the milll rate increase would have been 40% higher.
    The question then is, where would that additional monies have come from?
    As a Real Estate Agent, as an owner of a Real Estate Firm, I am sure Mr. Johnson joins in with the rest of his profession in opposing this revenue source. I know I was criticized by leadership within my own party for supporting this legislation, for I was told it would hurt fund-raising.
    As the legislation was being discussed, I looked at the total picture and impact on the city in making my decision.
    The issue is moot for this year: I do not think it realistic to change it during the current fiscal year, and it probably will be an issue before the legislature next session as to whether to change the Sunset Date.
    Then the city Might have the opportunity to make a decision again.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    Big news for Connecticut newspapers

    The Tribune Company, which owns The Hartford Courant, today announced it is selling The Advocate (Stamford) and Greenwich Time to the Hearst Corp. for $62.4 million. MediaNews Group, Inc. -- which owned The Bristol Press before it sold the paper in 1994 to the Journal Register Co. -- is going to manage the two Connecticut papers under some kind of private joint venture deal.
    Hearst the MediaNews already have a similiar arrangement for the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport and The News-Times in Danbury.
    The head of MediaNews, Dean Singleton, told the Associated Press he is delighted to add the Stamford and Greenwich papers "to our growing Connecticut cluster."
    It's funny being in a business that is struggling financially and so full of shakeups and change.
    Though nobody can say what will eventually happen to the rest of the papers in the state as events unfold, it's sure to be a rocky ride.
    I just hope somebody keeps paying me to write.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    Fighting over the conveyance tax

    During the past three and a half years, the city has raked in more than $5 million in extra cash from a conveyance tax surcharge that officials reluctantly imposed.
    There’s been no effort to repeal it because politicians and finance officials alike are thrilled to have another solid revenue stream that helps them pay for municipal services without hiking property taxes.
    But Republican mayoral hopeful Ken Johnson said he would dump the extra tax, a move some real estate experts strongly endorse.
    "I will do away with the higher tax," Johnson said, adding that it imposes too high a burden when property trades hands.
    City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said, though, that “giving that money back is really an unnecessary and irrational move on the city’s part.”
    “The conveyance tax is a very helpful tax for the city,” Klocko said Thursday. “It’s probably one of the most helpful taxes the state has granted to the city.”
    Democratic mayoral candidate Art Ward, who voted along with the rest of the City Council to adopt the tax in 2004, said it brings in necessary revenue to fund one-time projects and equipment purchases.
    Ward said the money is used for one-time items so it's not built into the city’s yearly spending plan. It just lessens burden on taxpayers, he said.
    “It certainly helps us when we make our budget,” city Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski said Thursday. “It’s extra revenue that really helps offset rising costs.”
    City financial records show that Bristol has collected $1.6 million annually from the extra tax. This year, it’s on track to make at least as much.
    Klocko said that the money pays for major purchases, but most of it winds up as end-of-the-year surplus cash that helps ensure the rainy day fund remains secure.
    A state law allows “distressed municipalities,” which include Bristol, the chance to impose an extra .25 percent tax on all real estate sales, an option that city officials initially declined but later decided to snatch up.
    Because of the extra surcharge, the city’s share of the conveyance tax on a $100,000 transaction would be $250. That’s $140 more than it would get if it used the same tax rate that non-distressed municipalities are allowed to impose.
    It adds up to big money. This year alone, Klocko said, the city collected $460,000 in the first quarter of its fiscal year.
    Despite the revenues pouring into city coffers, Bristol Realtor Bob Fiorito said that he strongly agrees with Johnson’s position.
    “The conveyance tax is a regressive tax paid by homeowners,” said Fiorito, a former president of the Connecticut Realtors Association.
    Because it’s based on sale price, he said, it poses a real difficulty for many sellers now in a tough market when many sellers are facing “a lot of hardships” already as they deal with foreclosures, interest rate hikes and other difficulties.
    “It’s not about Realtors. It doesn’t affect us at all,” Fiorito said.
    Miecznikowski said that he recognizes the extra charge poses a burden to property sellers, but he has never personally heard a complaint about it.
    Fiorito said that the state gave distressed municipalities the option of collecting extra conveyance taxes during a budget crisis that is now over.
    “The reason for the conveyance tax to be increased to the detriment of homeowners is now gone,” Fiorito said. “And the tax should be allowed to sunset as it was supposed to Fiorito called it “a dubious honor” for Bristol to embrace the distressed town status that allows it to charge more.
    “We’re trying to attract people to this town. It’s just a bad idea,” he said.
    Johnson said he doesn’t want Bristol to advertise itself as a distressed community.
    He said that part of marketing the city to prospective businesses and others is to showcase its strengths rather than grabbing more taxes by lumping itself in with places such as Hartford and New Britain.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    Hartford Courant endorses Ken Johnson

    I'm not sure why editorial endorsements matter to campaigns, as they are normally written by badly out of touch editors, but they do. Here's what the Courant had to say this morning:

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    October 24, 2007

    Overview of The Great Debate

    In the final scheduled mayoral debate of the campaign, Republican hopeful Ken Johnson came out swinging.
    Vowing to bring greater honesty and integrity to government, Johnson said that he is "not satisfied that all contracts are done properly and completely above board" at City Hall.
    Democrat Art Ward, who’s served on the City Council for 14 years, said he took exception to the charge.
    It’s unclear what caused Johnson to question the propriety of municipal contracts, but he said after the debate at the Little League complex that he would provide specific information on Thursday.
    During the faceoff, sponsored by the Democratic and Republican parties, both candidates sounded themes and touched on issues they have rehashed frequently during the campaign, but a few intriguing, new items came to light as well.
    Among the new issues raised were whether to collect extra conveyance taxes, whether to build a public safety headquarters, how to avoid a decline in the city’s fortunes and how best to deal with an open government complaint filed last summer challenging a “scripted” city meeting in January that led to the creation of the downtown corporation.
    Johnson said he would “do away” with the extra conveyance tax charged when property is sold, a move that would immediately drain more than $1 million from the city’s revenues.
    Ward said the money is needed for costly, one-time purchases and that failing to collect the money would hurt most taxpayers.
    Though both candidates said there’s a growing space crunch at the police and fire departments as well as City Hall, Johnson’s answer for the problem was to seek a creative answer that would mesh together with downtown planning.
    Ward said that he believes it is time to consider a police and fire safety complex that would combine the headquarters of both the police and fire departments.
    Both Ward and Johnson, who face the voters on November 6, said that Bristol is at a crossroads.
    “We are at a very, very critical junction," Johnson said, because Bristol is no longer a little town.
    "It would be very easy for us to slide down that slippery slope" and face the woes that afflict New Britain, Waterbury and Meriden, he said.
    The way to avoid it, Johnson said, is that “we must aggressively market the city of Bristol" to attract new businesses to expand the tax base.
    "Perception becomes reality," Ward said, adding that is why revitalizing the mall site and opening the new industrial park are so important.
    Ward said they would bring jobs, places to shop and more "along with preserving our neighborhoods."
    He also said he wants to take up the "clean and green" policy of former Mayor Gerard Couture that focused on neighborhood improvements.
    Johnson said that he would like to see the Freedom of Information complaint filed against the city over the meeting last winter that city Councilor Ellen Zoppo “scripted” beforehand.
    He said the pending FOI complaint "does not serve the best interests of the people" and was only intended "to poke a stick in the eye" of Zoppo, Ward's primary opponent.
    Ward said he is committed to open government.
    But Johnson zinged Ward for participating in another “scripted” session in 2005 before the approval of a new housing code. Ward did not respond to Johnson’s prodding on the issue.
    More details of the debate are available online on reporter Steve Collins’ Bristol Blog at bristolpress.com.
    The debate is going to be shown twice on cable channel 21 by Nutmeg TV, at 6 p.m. Sunday and again on Monday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

    The Great Debate, part 4

    24 quick questions now.
    I'm only going to mention things that sound new.
    This is kind of an interesting thing, but it's rehashing what they've been saying.
    Personally, I want to know a whole lot more about why GOP candidate Ken Johnson says that there's a problem with honesty and integrity at City Hall.
    To help prevent all the bickering of the past two years, Johnson said he would "get elected."
    Johnson said senior tax relief is not at the top of his priority list, but he would like to minimize taxes for all.
    Democrat Art Ward said the initial way to address taxes is to control spending. "That helps everyone," Ward said.
    It's almost game time, I think. I can't wait.
    Open government?
    Ward said that "decisions will not be made in the back room" or at multiple special council meetings. Johnson said he "absolutely will not participate in secret meetings" or scripted meetings.
    He kind of pointed out that Ward did stick to the script in 2005, which is true.
    Re K-8....
    Ward said it's for efficiency and cost to put both K-5 and 6-8 in one building.
    "I'm calling for a timeout" before the city moves forward, Johnson said, to create a community center with the school in the West End.
    Question about police oversight...
    Johnson said conflicts of interest shouldn't exist. He said he has no ties "and I owe favors to noone."
    Ward said employees have a right to seek elected office, but "they need to use discretion."
    Question re K-8 site in West End...
    "I am agains the use of the Roberts property," Johnson said. "The West End needs a West End solution."
    He said he'd be willing to use eminent domain at IGA site.
    Ward said he's not limited to Roberts site. He said he'd like to see more information on alternatives.
    Question about a detective that didn't investigate cases and nothing happened to his superiors....
    Ward said that he doesn't know details of the personnel matter. "I can't make a judgment call on that," Ward said.
    Johnson said the public needs to know matters such as this are dealt with appropriately. He said a citizen board "is the appropriat way to go" to adjudicate.
    Forestville K-8 site on Crowley property?
    Ward said absolutely, if it's clean. He said it would address the area's needs.
    "Let's get something right," Johnson said. He said that there should be a timeout for that school, too.
    Question re corrupt mayors...
    Johnson said there is only constructive thing that leaders can do with power - "delegate it and give it away." He said "a giant step" toward depoliticization if a manager hired.
    Ward said that with an open, respectful, considerate administration would "in itself police all of our actions."
    Johnson said the mayor "is not a micromanager." He said it's another reason for a professional manager so that people can focus on specific tasks.
    To manage and make sound decisions is what leadership is. "Leadership is being able to guide," Ward said.
    Johnson said he'll hold open office hours and have sessions around town so people can get involved more easily.
    Conveyance tax?
    Ward said the money is used for one-time items so it's not built into the budget. It just lessens burden.
    "I will do away with the higher tax," Johnson said. He sai the tax is too high.
    "I will eliminate the higher tax."
    Wow, now that will shock and horrify some city officials.
    Johnson said he wants to preserve and protect open space wherever possible.
    Ward said he favors open space, but "you cannot have a total community that is open space." He said owners have a right to develop their property.
    firehouse for SW corner?
    "I believe the answer to that is yes," Johnson said. He said there is a general lack of utilities in that area. He said there is "no question" that area is underserved.
    Ward said the Water Board has been installing lines and pump stations in area. He said that area deserves assistance.
    Question about poverty...
    Ward said the issue is landlords enticing Section 8 people into town "so they can collect the dollars and not pump any money" into their property. He said there should be more inspections.
    Johnson said the issue "gets lumped onto the head of absentee landlords" but he would like to ask landlords how to improve rental stock. He said home ownership is crucial.
    Co-pays for remaining unions?
    Ward said everyone understands the need to do that through "good faith bargaining" with the unions that don't have it.
    Johnson said health care is high cost and sharing costs is predominate.
    Question re Route 6 -- Johnson said that on eastern end of Route 6, he's planning to meet with the DOT and state Rep. Ron Burns.
    Ward said he's also planning to follow up on issue seriously.
    major emergency planning?
    Johnson said he is "not certain we are prepared for a worst case scenario," but he said he has a wealth of background in preparing for emergencies.
    Ward said that city developed two community response teams and new drills are being planned.
    Question re mayors becoming target of criticism... Ward said can be accessible and try to explain. He said he'd listen and try to resolve problems.
    Johnson said he favors letting everyone, including city employees, "to speak freely."
    He said he wants to make it known that they can enjoy their right to free speech, even if they want to criticize their mayor.
    Hold line on taxes?
    Ward said that would be hard with rising energy costs. But can hold taxes down.
    Johnson said many expenses beyond the city's control. But "absolutely critical" is marketing city with an aggressive economic development effort.
    Final question of night: One issue you will resolve in next two years?
    Johnson said, "I will have restored civility to public discourse and political debate." He said he will ensure that everyone is heard.
    Ward promised "open government, open communication are the fundamentals of good government." He said it would responsive to all.

    Now quick break.
    Final words...
    Johnson said that many Democrats are struggling with Ward. He said that staying home is not effective protest. Go vote.
    "I'm not a career politician. I'm a citizen like you." He said he'll be honest, listen and energized.
    "We've got an opportunity chart a new course for the city of Bristol," Johnson said.
    Ward said the city is at a crossroads. "The last two years have been intersting, to say the least. The negativity at City Hall has been immense."
    He said the mayor sets the tone and agenda, controlling the staff and resources.
    "It's time to move Bristol forward," he said, and vowed to work with the council and boards, and to boost employee morale by respecting employees.
    "I have been putting Bristol first for decades," Ward said. Bristol has the choice of experience or a well-intentioned newcomer.
    That's a wrap.
    Now I have to go ask my own questions. ;)

    Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
    Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com