July 31, 2007

Ken Johnson's campaign on Facebook, too

Though GOP mayoral hopeful Ken Johnson is not on Facebook himself, his supporters certainly are. The Ken Johnson for Mayor of Bristol, CT page has 117 members at the moment, nearly every one of them in college today. That dwarfs the numbers posted by his Democratic foes there.

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

July 30, 2007

Alleged Cheshire killer a child molester?

From what little we know about alleged killer Joshua Komisarjevsky, he appears to have a thing for young teenage girls. What's particularly alarming is that his sickness may have been obvious back in 2002 if only authorities in Bristol had noticed or cared.
I've already written about this here, but it is an important issue that's worth real scrutiny. If Komisarjevsky was having sex with a 15-year-old Bristol girl, and there's reason to believe he was, then why didn't he get charged with the crime at the time? Bad enough that he was donning night vision goggles and burglarizing homes, but if you throw in the sexual abuse of a minor, you have a far better idea why a judge once called him a "cold, calculating predator."
I don't know if it would have saved the Petit family, but I do know that there was plenty of reason for police and prosecutors to look at the issue in Feb. 2002, when Komisarjevsky's 16-year-old girlfriend was about to give birth to a daughter later named Jayda. Did they look into it? Did they care? And what did they find out if they did investigate?
It's already past time for the relevant probation reports, court files and police records to be unveiled so that we can see what happened back in 2002. Get it out in the open -- and quick.

Anyone out there who has information on the issue, please let us know what you know. You can reach me at scollins@bristolpress.com or phone me at the newspaper at (860) 584-0501 x. 254.

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

July 29, 2007

What the heck are these guys doing?

City Councilor Craig Minor is the one on his backside on the pavement. Councilor Kevin McCauley is seemingly dragging Minor's right foot.
What is this happy-go-lucky pair doing?

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

July 27, 2007

At least we know it's "Ellen"

When the Democratic Town Committee picked its mayoral candidate recently, two women who nominated her called her Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
But when city Councilor Craig Minor got up to second her nomination, he called her Ellen Zoppo.
If you call her house, the answering machine message says, ““You have reached Ellen Zoppo and Peter Sassu” – a message spoken by the candidate.
But on her campaign materials this year, she is identified as Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
In the phone book, she is Ellen A. Zoppo.
On the voter registration records, however, she is Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, which is the name that will appear on the Sept. 11 Democratic primary ballot.
Her nametag for the Bristol Historical Society, where she works, says Ellen Zoppo. So do the press releases she writes there.
But the minutes of most city meetings call her Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
However, the minutes of the Roberts Committee that she co-chairs, and keeps minutes for, call her Ellen Zoppo.
The newspapers, including The Bristol Press, call her Ellen Zoppo.
The Democrats’ website splits the difference and sometimes refers to her as Ellen Zoppo and sometimes uses Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
On the secretary of state’s website, she’s identified in a picture as Ellen Zoppo and in a listing of justices of the peace as Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
On a campaign page created on Facebook by one of her supporters, she is Ellen Zoppo Sassu, with no hyphen.
So which is it? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?
“I really don’t care,” said Zoppo.
Zoppo said that when she married Peter Sassu, a city police officer, she did not change her name.
But, she said, the city registrar’s office sometime ago put her down on the voting records as Zoppo-Sassu so that is what appears on the ballot as her name, even though it isn’t her legal name.
She said she decided to use Zoppo-Sassu on this year’s campaign materials to avoid confusion. Besides, she said, people like the Sassu family.
Zoppo said she occasionally uses the hyphenated name in dealing with her children’s’ schools because that, too, avoids the confusion that can come from having different last names.
The long and short of it is that she doesn’t mind people using either last name as long as voters can find her name on the ballot.
The Bristol Press, for what it’s worth, will keep calling her Zoppo. It uses less ink.

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

Who is "Jack Pumpkinhead"?

Just to make sure this question doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
City Councilor Craig Minor, on his Facebook campaign page, describes a photograph that features him and city Councilors Kevin McCauley and Ellen Zoppo. It also has another politician featured, whom Minor calls "Jack Pumpkinhead."
The picture's gone, but the description remains.
So the question is a simple one: who is Jack Pumpkinhead?
Note: Minor provided the elusive photograph, but we do not know who Pumpkinhead is. Anyone have a guess?

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

Minor and Zoppo on Facebook

Most candidates these days have websites -- or should -- but not everybody's with it enough to also be on Facebook or MySpace, where the younger crowd gathers online.
But Democratic mayoral nominee Ellen Zoppo and city Councilor Craig Minor have staked out turf on Facebook, at least, thanks in part no doubt to Minor's extraordinarly capable daughter.
Minor for Council's Facebook page has 13 friends, including his wife, Laura, and daughter Natalie, a former Tattoo writer who has a very cool job working for none other than Facebook.
On the page, which includes a few pictures, Minor wrote in May that he "formally announced at the Bristol Democratic Town Committee meeting that I am running for re-election. I talked about the Board of Education plan to convert all of Bristol's schools to the K-8 system (let me know what you think of this!), and my work as a member of the Bristol Development Authority to bring more businesses to Bristol. In later statements I will talk about my work on the environment, housing, neighborhood preservation, and open government. What issues do you think Bristol voters care about and want to hear my positions on?"
The only comment that anyone's posted so far is from Natalie, who described the all K-8 schools idea as "stupid."
There is one intriguing tidbit there, however.
Minor posted at one point about a photo that he said showed"me on the left, with my fellow city councilmember Kevin McCauley next to me, Jack Pumpkinhead next to him (I won't tell you which politician that is!), and my other fellow city councilmember and now candidate for Mayor, Ellen Zoppo."
Unfortunately, the photo is no longer there.
So who, exactly, is "Jack Pumpkinhead"? All guesses are fair until Minor fesses up.
The Ellen for Mayor Facebook page was created by Laura Minor and has 22 friends to date. There's nothing too intriguing there except that Zoppo herself is one of the members. She has only one Facebook friend at this point, Laura Minor, so we know she's not too into the whole thing... yet.

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

Suspected killer's daughter born in Bristol

Reporters Matthew Kauffman and Lisa Chedekel of The Hartford Courant dug into court records this week to come up with the story of Jayda Norton, who was born in Bristol.
"Jayda was born at Bristol Hospital March 15, 2002, when Norton was 16 and Komisarjevsky was 21," the story said.
"The baby lived with Norton at her parent's home in Bristol until Christmas Day 2003, according to court records. Norton then moved in with a boyfriend in Bristol," the Courant reported.
So Komisarjevsky was arrested in Bristol one month before Jayda was born. Instead of caring for his very young, pregnant girlfriend, he was out wearing night vision goggles and breaking into homes in Bristol and Burlington.
This poor girl, whose mother is former Bristol resident Jennifer Norton, 22, is living now with Joshua Komisarjevsky's family in Cheshire.
It was with Norton's family on Wilderness Way that Komisarjevsky lived before his arrest on burglary charges. The family moved away at least a couple of years ago.
Incredible as it sounds now, the father won a custody fight for her six weeks before he allegedly helped massacre the Petit family, according to the Courant's story.
God help little Jayda is all I can say.
And thanks for nailing down the story, Matt and Lisa.
The only remaining question I have is what is Jennifer Norton's birthday? It sure seems that Komisarjevsky may have been guilty of having sex with an underage girl when he was 21. Was Norton 15 at the time she got pregnant? And if she was, how come nobody prosecuted him for that? Clearly the police and prosecutors knew he was living with a 16-year-old mother of his child, since they told a Press reporter that at the time.
Assuming the stories in the Press in 2002 and the Courant today are accurate, Jennifer Norton had to turn 16 sometime between February and July of 2001. She was pregnant in June 2001, though we can hardly be sure she hadn't been seeing Komisarjevsky before that.
He started robbing homes in the area in July 2001, the police said, which may be an indication he was seeing a lot of Jennifer Norton by then.
This guy may well have been a child molester who should have been charged with that at the time - a move that might have kept in prison longer and would have landed him on the sex offender list.
I have some sympathy for high school kids who fool around with slightly younger schoolmates -- not exactly the kind of predators you worry about -- but none at all for 21-year-old men who are having sex with 15-year-old girls.
In any case, this is clearly something we need to know more about.

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

July 25, 2007

Zoppo fundraiser announcement

There will be a "Ladies Night Out" fundraiser to benefit the mayoral campaign of Ellen Zoppo on Friday, July 27, 2007, from 5-8pm.
The event will be held at the home of Dr. Amy Breakstone, 100 OaklandStreet, in Bristol.
Sponsors are Jane Anastasio, Ann Block, Barbara Doyle, Patti Ewen, Julie Luczkow, Linda Lydem, Jackie McCauley, and Laura Minor.
The suggested donation is $25. For more information, please call Laura Minor at 582-1061.

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Former Komisarjevsky abode for sale

Whoever it was that alleged killer Joshua Komisarjevsky was living with on Wilderness Way apparently isn't around now. The house, which is pretty nice, is for sale for $469,900 at the moment.

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

Alleged killer has a daughter?

It's possible that one of the alleged killers in the Cheshire murder case, Joshua Komisarjevsky, has another tie to Bristol beyond his conviction here in 2002 for a string of burglaries.
The Hartford Courant has a story today that mentions in passing that "associates of the family said Komisarjevsky has a 5-year-old daughter, Jayda, who has been living with him and his parents" in their Cheshire home.
Given that Komisarjevsky was living in Bristol in 2002 at the home of his 16-year-old girlfriend on Wilderness Way, there's certainly a question about whether Jayda's mother lived in town. We can be fairly sure after all that this charming fellow didn't father the child after his arrest.
Whether or not the girl has roots in Bristol, I do feel sorry for her. Can you imagine having a father who would do something like Komisarjevsky allegedly did in the Petit home?
I met a guy once whose dad committed a horrific, well-publicized murder when he was quite young. He didn't really know much about what had happened. But it gnawed at him, as you'd expect.
The sins of the father are, of course, his own. Yet it makes it all the more sickening that someone could terrorize, rape and kill when he has his own little girl at home, a life that ought to be so precious to him that nothing else matters.
Instead, for Komisarjevsky, if what authorities say about him is true, it seemed that nothing mattered.

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

Bristol connection to Cheshire killer

For those following the sickening massacre in Cheshire of a fine family, you may be interested in a rather paltry Bristol Press story from 2002 about the arrest of one of the alleged killers on burglary charges. Here's the link: Investigation ends with burglary arrest.
I don't know if there were other stories in the paper at the time -- though I certainly hope there was -- but this appears to be the only one that made it online.
At the time, according to the story, alleged killer Joshua A. Komisarjevsky, then 21, was living with his 16-year-old girlfriend's family at 150 Wilderness Way. He got nabbed by the cops for a long series of burglaries.
According to The Hartford Courant, a judge sentenced him to nine years behind bars for the crimes and called him "a cold, calculating predator."
There's something wrong when "a cold, calculating predator" can hit the streets so quickly while all sorts of rather ordinary drug addicts are rotting in prison for decades. That's something for our legislators to consider.

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

Zoppo's call for debates may lead somewhere

Democratic mayoral nominee Ellen Zoppo's call for debates got an enthusiastic response from Republican hopeful Ken Johnson and a positive one from city Councilor Art Ward, who is taking on Zoppo in a primary.
The problem, as always, is who will sponsor them? I hope that every civic-minded organization will step forward and try.
In the past, Nutmeg TV, the local AARP, the Federal Hill Association, the Greater Bristol Property Owners Assocation and more have stepped into the breach. I hope the Forestville Association, maybe an interfaith group, BCO, student groups and others will step forward.
The greater the number of people asking questions, the more voters are going to know when the polls open.
Let's do right by this democracy that so many have sacrificed so much for us to have.

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

July 24, 2007

Lydem's speech to Democrats

Speech by Bruce Lydem accepting the endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee for the 2nd District City Council Seat on Monday night:

My fellow Democrats, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for nominating me to be the City Councilman for the 2nd District. The faith you put in me today with this endorsement means a great deal to me.
We have a lot of work to do. We must continue to fight for our families by encouraging responsible taxes, making sure our kids have state of the art schools and we must vigorously promote economic development in our City.
I am ready to listen! I am ready to lead! I am ready to work with all of you to make a Democratic victory real!
Remember, it is not what is wrong with Bristol; but what we, together, can do to make it better!Thank you!

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Minor's acceptance speech

Here's the speech that city Councilor Craig Minor delivered to the Democratic Town Committee Monday night after receiving its endorsement for another council run:

I am honored to accept your nomination for a third term on the Bristol City Council in the Third District. I appreciate your support, and I promise to serve the best interest of the people of Bristol and to promote the values of the Democratic Party during this election, and in the years that follow.

Two years ago you nominated me to a second term on the City Council. You trusted me to work for more open government, so I fought to make City land records available to everyone via the Internet, and called for term limits on appointed boards and commissions, and have been working to bring live broadcast of City Council, Board of Finance, and Planning Commission and Zoning Commission meetings into Bristol homes.

You trusted me to recognize opportunities and move quickly to take advantage of them, as I did when I called for the creation of the Riverside Avenue Public Improvements Program, and when Councilwoman Ellen Zoppo, Councilman Kevin McCauley and I tried to persuade the City Council to buy an apartment building on Federal Hill and prevent it from falling into the hands of absentee landlords.

You trusted me to celebrate what's good in Bristol but to also look beyond that and make things better, as I did when I proposed the Main Street streetscape project, and through my work to establish the Federal Hill local Historic District, and my work on the Tourism, Entertainment, Arts and Museums committee.

Two years ago you trusted me to acknowledge that Bristol does have problems and to look for solutions, so I called for the creation of the new absentee landlord registry law, and a police sub-station on Federal Hill, and a task force to address the traffic problems on Route 6, and the Bristol Multicultural Connection.

You trusted me to protect the weak from the strong and the innocent from the privileged. That's why I took an unpopular position and voted against closing a town road for the convenience of ESPN which would have devastated several small local businesses, and why I have proposed a program to help homeowners with flood damage caused by real estate development upstream.

But most of all, you trusted me to fight for change even when I knew that the enemies of change would fight back, as I learned when I called for greater diversity on the appointed land use boards, and for a revitalized Main Street, and against rewarding the opponents of downtown redevelopment by giving them taxpayer dollars.

The Republicans say that we Democrats are more concerned with protecting our positions than doing what's right for Bristol.

Well, my position is that government should strive to raise the quality of life for all citizens. My position is that government should provide help to those who are in need, and opportunities to those who can make use of them. My position is that government should stand between the people of Bristol and the absentee landlords, the short-sighted developers, the nay-sayers and the small-minded, and to make Bristol a place that we can all be proud to call home. What's their position?

Thank you for your endorsement. With your support, the Democrats will achieve victory in November and put this town back on track to become the best that it can be. Thank you.

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

McCauley's acceptance speech

Here's the brief address that city Councilor Kevin McCauley delivered to the Democratic Town Committee after gaining its support Monday night for a second term:

First of all, thank you for the nomination and endorsement. I am proud to have garnered such strong support from the Democratic Town Committee, especially the 2nd district members tonight.

I intend to continue focusing positively toward the best interests of the City and establishing broad based support with my well thought out decision making. I welcome the challenges ahead and I look forward to working with the Democratic slate. I believe and I am confident we can all benefit working together.

Remember, Teamwork is key!

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Zoppo's acceptance speech

This is the speech that Democratic mayoral nominee Ellen Zoppo delivered after receiving the endorsement of her party's town committee Monday night:

Tonight can best be described as a kaleidoscope for everyone involved – a kaleidoscope of emotions, of promises and a glimpse of the future. The pieces of a kaleidoscope are comprised of light and reflection and shifting pieces of brightly colored patterns.

Tonight, for me, many pieces have shifted into place after many years of work and attention, dating back to the 1970s when I would attend board of finance meetings as a child, sparking a lifelong interest in government and policy, a master’s degree in Public Administration, and six years on the City Council.

Now, at almost 40 years of age, another chapter is beginning and so many other pieces of my life experience have also shifted into place, which has contributed to my decision to seek the Democratic nomination for mayor. I feel confident that I am well positioned to take on this new piece, which will be complimented by the many life experiences I have accumulated to date.

As a working mother, I do spend a lot of time thinking ahead to what Bristol will be like 25 years from now, when our children in turn will be settling down and raising their families. What will Bristol be like? What pieces of the overall picture will have shifted to form the kaleidoscope that will be 2032?

It is easy for people to stand up and talk about the ideals associated with government but government cannot be run by soundbites or flowery phrases or to talk about quality of life but at the end of the day, it is our responsibility as elected officials to do what is right, even if its not popular, and to make decisions based on what will be best for this community now, 10 years from now, and 25 years from that.

In order to accomplish these goals, an integral part of leadership is bringing people together and building partnerships and coalitions. From business and industry to grassroots efforts, I have been successful in creating community dialogue on issues of importance. We may not always agree on issues, but my committees have always been open and responsive to the public.

In many cases, on the local level, there are no true Republican or Democratic issues. It’s hard for anyone to be for or against good schools, fiscal responsibility, improved parks and strong neighborhoods. However, instead of just talking about quality of life issues, I have made it a centerpiece of my Council work to advocate for policies and ordinances that will have a positive impact on these issues.

Five years ago, with assistance from city staff, we built a foundation for code enforcement from scratch, which has, to date, resulted in over a dozen specific actions taking place, from new positions, to shared technology and new ordinances. This was done with the help of many people who did not see this as a Republican or Democratic issue – then Mayor Frank Nicastro gave his blessing for the city staff and I to meet monthly as a working group; Councilman Minor provided a variety of technical assistance based on what was working or not working in other towns and tracked legislation at the state level; former Councilmember Tom Lavigne embraced the need for communication amongst code enforcement officials and now serves as the code enforcement police officer; former mayor Gerard Couture presided over the adoption of a brand-new housing code that had not been updated in over 40 years; former Councilman Ron Burns worked with me on various health and housing code improvements; and Kevin McCauley now serves my co-chair on code enforcement where we have continued to build on the successes.

Bipartisanship support was critical in accomplishing what we needed to do over the last few years.

While this is just one example, the hard work and leveraging of resources that made it all possible is the exact type of model that can be applied to many issues, including downtown. While adhering to the process that the State of CT wants the city to follow, I think its vital that we as city leaders bring many other pieces of the kaleidoscope into focus as we decide what pattern and design is best for Bristol.

To that end, I think its critical to offer the city’s support to the many existing stakeholders and potential investors in downtown which include the Riverview Apartments and the Bristol Boys & Girls Club which is in need of a new facility. From providing critical housing to our seniors to investing in our young people and providing them a place to go, while city leaders may not have a financial responsibility to these entities, I believe we do have a moral responsibility to make sure these projects are successful because they are critical pieces of our community and the downtown blueprint.

And this is where it becomes important that we come together as a team to showcase the Democratic Party platform and how we will operate. I would also like to extend an open invitation to my future opponents, Democrats and Republicans alike, to engage in a series of candidate debates and forums over the next few weeks so that the voters can have an opportunity to discuss their concerns and ask questions of the candidates.

The pieces of the kaleidoscope have now shifted into place and reveal that there is now a new pattern for this election. The candidates you will nominate tonight have diverse experience in various areas, from city planning to construction and marketing, customer service and sales.

Tonight it is my honor to accept the nomination for Mayor. All of you will have a role to play in the shifting pattern that will result in a successful election.

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

July 23, 2007

More on the Democratic endorsements

Some of the speeches that candidates and supporters gave may be posted on the blog here later tonight or tomorrow so check back if you like that sort of thing (as a political junkie, I do, of course). I'll have some more of the scene for you later, too.
Meanwhile, though, here's a summary of what went down:

BRISTOL – It proved a lopsided showdown.
City Councilor Ellen Zoppo easily secured the Democratic Town Committee’s backing Monday for a mayoral run this year.
Zoppo collected 40 votes among party leaders while city Councilor Art Ward rounded up only 18.
Though Zoppo expressed the hope "that we come together as a team to showcase the Democratic Party platform and how we will operate," Ward said he plans to force a Sept. 11 primary that would let grass roots Democrats pick their mayoral standard bearer.
In two of the city’s three districts, Democrats are likely to see City Council primaries as well.
But the night belonged to Zoppo, who earned her party’s nomination for Bristol’s top job after a lifetime of political involvement that includes three terms on the council, a stint as a wetlands commissioner and long service on Democratic campaigns.
Zoppo said the nomination reminded her of a kaleidoscope, with "light and reflection" shifting amidst emotions, promises and glimpses of the future.
Her immediate future pits her against Republican mayoral nominee Ken Johnson and, in all likelihood, Ward, who may run as an independent in addition to forcing a Democratic mayoral primary. They are vying to replace GOP Mayor William Stortz, who is stepping down.
Former Mayor Frank Nicastro, who is running for City Council, said that he remembers Zoppo coming to him years ago to resign from the Wetlands Commission.
Nicastro said he refused to let her quit. He said he told her that someday she would be a city councilor and someday, too, she would be a mayor.
"Much water has flowed over the dam since then," Nicastro said, and Zoppo has proven that she can handle any assignment handed her. "Anything she does, she does well," Nicastro added.
He said that he respects Ward but he’ll back the party’s entire slate of endorsed candidates "as a Democratic should do."
Nicastro and city Councilor Craig Minor, who were each nominated for new terms in the 3rd District, will likely face a primary themselves, from longtime party activist Terry Parker.
Parker didn’t challenge the two at the meeting Monday, held at the Board of Education, because he did not want "to put anybody in too tough a position" but promised to collect signatures starting today to bring about a primary.
In the 2nd District, too, there is almost certain to be a primary for the Democratic council slots.
Though party leaders backed incumbent Kevin McCauley and Bruce Lydem, who would be taking Zoppo’s seat, former Councilor Tom Ragaini said he’s going to run as well.
In the 1st District, Democrats unanimously backed two newcomers, Cliff Block and Rich Kilby. It appears one of them is virtually assured a seat because the Republicans nominated only one candidate in the district, incumbent Mike Rimcoski.
For the Board of Education, Democrats endorsed four incumbents and two newcomers, Karen Vibert and Sherry Turcotte. The incumbents are Barbara Doyle, Julie Luczkow, Tom O’Brien and Jane Anastasio. Every Democrat who’s ever run for the school board has won.
In the treasurer’s race, Democrats threw their support to Bill Veits to succeed retiring city Treasurer Patti Ewen.
Ewen said Veits is "quiet, competent, caring, organized and supremely qualified" for the part-time city position.
The general election is Nov. 6. Mayors, councilors and the treasurer all serve two-year terms.

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

Zoppo tops Ward for Democratic backing

To nobody's surprise, city Councilor Ellen Zoppo secured the Democratic mayoral nomination tonight by a wide margin.
Zoppo collected 40 Democratic Town Committee votes compared to 18 for city Councilor Art Ward, who vows to primary.
Here's the endorsed Democratic slate:

Ellen Zoppo

Bill Veits


District One
Cliff Block
Rich Kilby

District Two
Kevin McCauley
Bruce Lydem

District Three
Frank Nicastro
Craig Minor

Barbara Doyle
Julie Luczkow
Tom O'Brien
Jane Anastasio
Karen Vibert
Sherry Turcotte

In the 3rd District, Terry Parker plans primary in the council race.
In the 2nd District, Tom Ragaini also plans a council primary.

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

Press releases

For those who are wondering, the spate of press releases that I've been posting is a pretty new thing in Bristol politics. In years past, I almost never saw a press release from any Bristol politician.
This spring, though, Mayor William Stortz started issuing them all the time.
Why? I have no idea. I figured it just meant he planned to run for office again. Shows what I know.
With the advent of this blog, there are probably even more releases than there were before, since politicians know at least a few voters will see them on here, even if there's never a story in the paper itself. That's okay by me.
I do want to say, however, that I'm not promising to stick every press release online. If anyone wants that, they should make a website and post stuff there as much as they like.

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

Stortz: city infrastructure on the mend

Mayor William Stortz issued this press release today:

Bristol, CT, July 23, 2007 - In a prepared release, Mayor William T. Stortz discussed Bristol’s increased effort in maintaining its infrastructure, especially its road system, in the past two years.

“Maintaining the City’s infrastructure is very important, and when a City falls behind, catching up is difficult and expensive. Quality infrastructure is seemingly transparent to the average citizen, until it starts to deteriorate: Then everyone notices and complains.

I am proud to point out that during the past two budgets, we have increased our budget request by double. The approved increase last year was 50% over the previous year, while this year the approved increase 21% over last year, but 83% over two years ago”, said Stortz.

He went on to say, “While this is an improvement, we still have roads that have not been repaved since the 1960’s and 70’s; and a large number that have not been repaved in over 20 years (since 1987). While age is not the only factor, it is indicative of a City commitment, or lack thereof, to a proper road management program.

It has taken the leadership of the Public Works Director, a Public Works Board that is supportive, and a Board of Finance that is cognizant of the importance of adequate funding to start a positive effort in this infrastructure maintenance.”

Stortz continued, “One salient point is that the increase during this administration is equal to almost half a mil.

If we funded roads at the 2003-2004 or 2004-2005 level, we would have been able to come in at a .1 mil increase or possibly a 0 mil increase.

But, it is a case of pay now, or pay later, and this is the responsible approach, responsible for all taxpayers over a given period of time.”

Stortz concluded, “I hope that this philosophy is continued until we reach a point where Bristol is current in its road maintenance efforts.”

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

July 22, 2007

Merrick launches new campaign website

Press release that Republican council candidate Bob Merrick issued this afternoon:

I, Bob Merrick, am pleased to announce the official launch of my campaign website bobforbristol.com . In an age when an estimated 70% of Americans use the Internet it is important to demonstrate my commitment to utilizing 21st-century resources to deliver my message. In addition to standard text providing information relevant to my candidacy, bobforbristol.com includes a calendar, subscription to my newsletters, video, and links to other members of the Bristol First Team.

You will also find a link to my blog where people can follow my experiences throughout the campaign along with pictures, videos, and other multimedia information. There is also a comments section providing an opportunity for people to interact with me to share in the experience, an essential element in my desire to put the interests of the people of Bristol first.

By the way, Bob, Sunday afternoon is no time to issue press releases. Nobody's working.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

July 20, 2007

Listening tour starts Saturday

BRISTOL – Taking a cue from the successful "listening tour" campaign gambit that helped Hillary Clinton win a U.S. Senate seat in New York in 2000, Republican mayoral hopeful Ken Johnson is launching his own listening tour today.
Johnson said that he plans to knock on doors near Ivy Drive and Northeast Middle School today in hopes of finding out what residents would like to see from City Hall.
He said he'll be "listening for their ideas" about what can be done to make Bristol a better place.
Johnson said that his inaugural listening tour push would include members of his campaign team, but not other GOP candidates.
Johnson said, though, he might knock on city Councilor Mike Rimcoski's door as long as he's in the neighborhood. – Steve Collins*******
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Ward outpaces Zoppo in campaign funds

BRISTOL – Democratic mayoral hopeful Art Ward has raised far more campaign cash than party rival Ellen Zoppo.
While Ward has raked in a little less than $30,000 so far this year, Zoppo's campaign has hauled in only a bit more than $17,000.
But given that Zoppo jumped into the race months later than Ward, the fundraising gap may make little difference when the Democratic Town Committee gathers Monday at the Board of Education to pick its mayoral nominee.
It may also matter that Ward has only $17,835 on hand while Zoppo still has $14,520 to spend, numbers that are much closer than the overall fundraising tally.
Whether the party picks Zoppo or Ward – and Zoppo appears to have the inside track, according to many Democratic leaders – there's almost certain to be a Sept. 11 primary in which grass roots Democrats will have the opportunity to decide for themselves who the mayoral pick should be in the general election.
Republican mayoral contender Ken Johnson has collected $7,335 in his bid to grab the city's top job in the Nov. 6 municipal election.
Ward's largest donors were Bruce and Deborah Yarde, each of whom forked over $1,000 to his campaign.
He collected $600 from the city's police union, even though Zoppo's husband, Peter Sassu, is a police officer. The union donated $400 to Zoppo.
The Laborers Local Union 611 gave Ward $500, a figure matched by Rene Paradis of Bristol Paul and Midge Fitta of Massachusetts.
Allan Young of Northfield tossed $350 in Ward's kitty while Joe Englert and Paul Janick, both of Bristol, donated $300 apiece.
Ward collected $200 each from the following Bristol residents: Robert Tobacco, Matt Cassina, Shaun Casey, Laura Lydem, George Carpenter, David Anderson, Mike Pletscher, Kim Kasparian and Bill Greger.
He also got $100 from Frank Johnson, a downtown commissioner who flirted with running for mayor on the Republican line. Board of Education member Tom O'Brien gave Ward $100.
O'Brien proved one of Zoppo's biggest donors, forking over $500 to her campaign. He gave half to her exploratory committee earlier this year and a similar amount to her formal campaign committee.
The Northeast Regional Council/ Carpenters CT OPC was Zoppo's largest donor. It gave her $1,000.
She got $500 from Patrick Sullivan of Bristol and $250 from Julie Luczkow, a school board member.
Zoppo attracted $200 donations from Kelley Alvarez of Brookfield and Anthony Sassu of Bristol.
Johnson got $1,000 from Carl Johnson of Farmington and $250 each from former Councilor Whit Betts and Warren O. Johnson, both of Bristol.
An advertising book that Johnson put together brought in $250 ads from a number of businesses.
The state-mandated campaign filings are available in the city clerk's office for anyone to review.

In other races
Among the City Council contenders who filed campaign fundraising disclosure forms this month, Democratic hopeful Bruce Lydem led the pack with $700 raised. He got $250 checks from two unions, Carpenters Local 210 OPC and IBEW Local Union 90 PAC. Another union, the Waterbury Building Trades PAC, gave him $100.
The four Republican council candidates – incumbent Mike Rimcoski and newcomers Joseph Geladino, Robert Merrick, Ken Cockayne – all reported they had not raised any money yet.
Both Democratic council hopefuls in the 1st District, Cliff Block and Rich Kilby, raised $50.
In the 2nd District, incumbent Kevin McCauley raised $150, which included $100 donated by Tom Cosgrove, who was McCauley's choice to be one of the downtown commissioners.
In the city treasurer's race, Democrat Bill Veits did not raise any money. – Steve Collins
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

July 19, 2007

More election commentary

"Elections in Bristol should come with air sick bags." -- Patricia White, co-chair of the Hoppers-Birge Pond Commission

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

Veits asks Democrats for treasurer nod

To: Democratic Town Committee Members
From: Bill Veits
Date: July 16, 2007
Re: Bristol, CT City Treasurer

Please accept this as my formal request to run for the position of Bristol’s City Treasurer. My experience as a registered mutual fund and investment representative qualifies me as a viable candidate. My daily experiences as an income tax specialist further enhance my skills for this position.
Upon hearing that Patti Ewen, our current highly respected City Treasurer, announced that she would not seek re-election, I have given this position careful consideration.
I am asking for your support on endorsement night. [...]

Biographical information:

William J Veits, EA
Enrolled Agent – licensed to practice before the Internal Revenue Service
Self-employed income tax specialist for over 25 years
57 years old and have been married for 34 years to former Patricia Dallaire
Graduated from New Britain High School in 1968 and from Quinnipiac University in 1972 with a BS in accounting
A resident of Bristol for the past 34 years.
Worked in Corporate America for 20 years
Registered representative (Mutual Funds & IRA’s) thru Commonwealth Financial Network 9 years
Commissioner of the Bristol Planning Commission 15 years (chairman past 9 years)
Secretary & member of the Board of Directors for Bristol ARC
Trustee for Bristol Elks Lodge #1010
Campaign Treasurer for various Democratic candidates
Member of the Bristol Democratic Town Committee
Member Bristol Chamber of Commerce
Member of National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) past President CT. Chapter
Member of New York/Connecticut Association of Tax Professionals (NY/CT ATP)
Member of National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA)
Usher at St. Gregory’s Church
Justice of the Peace

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Letizia backs Veits

To: DTC members
From: John Letizia
Subject: Endorsement for City Treasurer

I respectfully withdraw my request to be the DTC’s endorsed candidate for City Treasurer.

On May 31, 2007, I notified Chairman Kilbourne that I was interested in the position. I also told him that if a DTC member requested the endorsement, I would withdraw my request. I’m sure Dean will confirm that I asked him to communicate to me immediately if a DTC member stepped forward. I believe a DTC member should have preference over a non-member and I had also promised my family that I would not get involved in any controversy by competing for the endorsement.

On June 12, 2007, I emailed all DTC members and requested the endorsement. I also attended the June, 2007 DTC meeting to introduce myself and personally ask for your support. I appreciate the courtesies you extended to me that evening.

Dean called me on Monday, July 16, 2007 to inform me that Bill Veits decided to seek the endorsement. Therefore, as I promised, I am withdrawing my request.

I know Bill Veits and I think he has the capabilities to be an outstanding City Treasurer. He is also a fine gentleman. Please support his candidacy so that he can win the election and begin his service as Treasurer.

Again, thank you for your courtesy.

John Letizia

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

July 18, 2007

Miss Bristol steps aside

Last year’s Miss Bristol, Brianna Carello, proved a short-lived candidate.
When the Republicans nominated her for a 3rd District City Council seat Tuesday, she wasn’t present at the Franco-American Club to accept the endorsement.
That’s because she didn’t intend to run.
"Our nomination of her candidacy, in her absence, was based upon a simple misunderstanding," said Tim Lodge, the Republican chairman in the district.
"Upon further speaking with Brianna, it became clear that the nomination was made in error," Lodge said in a late-day email to a Press reporter on Wednesday.
Carello, who could not be reached for comment, is expected to file "a formal letter of withdrawal" from the race on Thursday, Lodge said.
It is unclear who, if anyone, the Republicans will tap to fill the vacant slot they’ll have on the 3rd District ballot. They are already short a council contender in the 1st District.
But because the party nominated her in the 3rd District, it can fill the empty ballot position with someone else easily. In the 1st District, where nobody got the nod for one of the two council slots, a GOP candidate would have to circulate petitions and collect signatures to land on the general election ballot.
Carello, a member of the city’s Republican Town Committee and secretary of the city’s Commission for Persons With Disabilities, recently wrote a letter to the editor touting the mayoral candidacy of Republican Ken Johnson.
Party leaders were unavailable for comment late Wednesday.
At the nominating convention, Brian Kirk told committee members looking to nominate 3rd District candidates that he expected a woman to show up soon who planned to run.
When she didn’t come, the district went ahead and nominated Carello.
That proved a mistake.
"Let me state in no uncertain terms that she is NOT running for City Council in the 3rd District," Lodge wrote.
He said that district Republican leaders "are proud to count Brianna Carello amongst our ranks and find much to admire in her accomplishments."
Lodge also said that he is "excited and energized at our Republican slate for 2007" and that he looks forward to working with the candidates "in the days and months ahead."
With Carello’s withdrawal, the Republicans are left with only Robert Merrick as a council candidate in the 3rd District.
In the 1st District, they have incumbent Councilor Mike Rimcoski. In the 2nd District, there are two council hopefuls for the GOP: Ken Cockayne and Joseph Geladino.
In the 3rd District, the Democrats have at least three potential candidates: newcomer Terry Parker and incumbent Councilors Craig Minor and Frank Nicastro.
The election is Nov. 6. There are three council districts in town, each with two representatives.

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

Ken Johnson's acceptance speech

Here's Republican mayoral candidate Ken Johnson's prepared speech for the GOP meeting Tuesday night, which he delivered with only a few additions along the way:

Dear members of the Republican Town Committee: A few short months ago, I stood before you and announced my candidacy for Mayor. Since that time, I have spent countless hours with you, and many others, drumming up support for my candidacy. I have also been assembling a campaign team and raising money -- $10,000 in our first fund raiser -- to will help lead us to victory in November. Therefore, in an effort to put Bristol First, I accept your nomination for Mayor of the City of Bristol.

As many of you know, I am a lifelong resident of Bristol. My parents were both educators – my mom taught in the Bristol public schools for 35 years. I trace my family roots to the 1880’s when the Ebb family came to Forestville. I was educated in Bristol schools, went to college in Virginia, and came back to Bristol to raise my three children with my wife Liz.

Before one decides to run for office a candidate is asked, “Why are you running?” My answer, “To Put Bristol First!”

What exactly does, “Put Bristol First” mean? It’s simple, it means putting the wants, needs, and desires of the people of Bristol before the Party and the personal agendas of career politicians.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am not a career politician. I owe no one favors or special treatment. I am beholden only to what will make Bristol better. I will work to make Bristol more attractive to business and bring jobs to our community. I intend to invite our youth to the table and ask them what we can do to make Bristol a place in which they would like to raise their families. I intend to Put Bristol First.

I intend to be inclusive in governance. This is not the democrats’ town, nor is it the republicans’ town. It’s my town and your town. I will listen to everyone – even those who do not support me -- and then act. We have been mired in indecision and burdened by inactivity. We can no longer afford to do this. I seek your help to Put Bristol First.

There are many pressing issues that face the city. None are more famous, or infamous, than the centre mall. We can no longer debate whether or not the city should have bought the mall. Let’s deal with the here and now. We own the mall and now we need to do what’s in the best interest of the city. I would prefer that the newly formed Downtown Corporation get the mall property into the hands of private developers and back on to the tax rolls as soon as possible. But while acknowledging that revitalization of our downtown is important, it will not happen overnight.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s about more than the mall. Let’s not forget the other issues that need attention- the schools initiative, the industrial park, the Roberts’ property, Route 72, and government reform. For quite awhile we have talked about “What’s wrong at City Hall?” and further about switching to a City Manager form of government. Now is the time to move the topic to the front burner. And if we’re going to move to a City Manager form of government, the people of Bristol have a right to vote on it. Tonight, I am calling on the newly formed Charter Revision Commission to make this issue a top priority for serious study. I intend to advocate for an expanded council with minority representation, as well, and to advocate for four year terms. You see, it is not about which party controls the Mayor’s office and council and for how long, it’s about the best way to govern Bristol in the future. It’s not about putting Party first; it’s about putting Bristol First.

Thank you for endorsing the Bristol First team. Our goals as a team include spending responsibly and intelligently, stabilizing property taxes, promoting our city and attracting new business, and incorporating the Rt. 72 project into the overall plan of economic development. Ultimately, we all seek to make Bristol an attractive place to live, work and raise a family. Our goals are not political; they are about improving our quality of life. The four pillars of my administration are honesty, integrity, diversity and civility. I pledge that we will listen to you. I pledge that we will be honest with you and open to your ideas. I announce this evening that the Bristol First Team and I will embark upon a city-wide listening tour where via door-to-door and cottage meetings we will be asking citizens about their dreams and aspirations and seeking their constructive input to decisions about our collective future.

Did you know that the Democratic leadership thinks the Republican nomination process is irrelevant? Ellen has been quoted as saying that the Democrat’s mayoral primary in September is the real election. How are Republicans supposed to feel about that? To those of you in our city who are Unaffiliated – there’s more of you than there are Republicans or Democrats – how do you feel about that? The Democratic Town Committee has enjoyed the power to virtually appoint Bristol’s leaders for many years. I ask you, is that healthy for our city? Well, let this be the day that we, the Republican Party, firmly state that we are relevant. Let this be the day that we walk from this room as a united party. Let this be the day that we send a strong message to our fellow citizens who have had enough of the same old politicians that, “we’ve got you covered.” We are relevant. Roll up your sleeves, work with the team you’ve endorsed and let’s tell all our fellow Bristolites that its time to Put Bristol First.

In closing, those of us who live, work, and raise our children in Bristol, those of us who have a keen sense of community, deserve better than the status quo. It’s time for action. The team is in place. I believe that we, the residents of Bristol, still control our own destiny. Our dreams and our aspirations for our children and grandchild depend on it. With all of us working together -- republicans, independents and democrats who are ready for change -- getting new voters involved, connecting with the entire community, getting out the vote with our energizing message, we will bring home victory in November – not for the party but for the people. Please join me and let’s “Put Bristol First.”

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

Cockayne's speech to GOP this week

Endorsement Speech by 2nd District City Council hopeful Ken Cockayne at the July 17th Republican Town Committee:

Tonight, I, Ken Cockayne, am honored to accept your nomination for Councilman for the City of Bristol in the 2nd District. I want to thank everyone for their support and I will work hard on your behalf over the course of this campaign and beyond!

This election is about moving Bristol forward. It’s about making hard decisions about what is right for the people of Bristol. People are tired of old school, partisan politicians who are more concerned with protecting their own positions than doing what is right for Bristol. Bristol is at a crossroads and politics as usual will no longer suffice. Strong leadership is needed more now than ever.

· Leaders who are about solutions,
· Leaders who are about action, and
· Leaders who are about doing what is right NOW, not what is convenient or beneficial for the next election.

Complacency is not okay. Promising change, and not delivering is not okay. Increasing taxes and spending year after year with no improvement in our quality of life is not okay!

I will be a leader about action. I will work with any and all council members on doing what is right for Bristol, setting priorities for our wonderful city that will benefit us now and in the future.

This is the first step in our journey towards positive change. I urge everyone here to stay as motivated and involved as you are right now throughout this campaign season. Please attend fundraisers, man the polls, and support our ticket.

Thank you for your endorsement.
Ken Cockayne

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

Stortz appointing women and minorities

Mayor William Stortz sent out this press release a little while ago:

Bristol, CT, July 16, 2007 - In a prepared release, Mayor William Stortz commented on the progress being made in appointing minorities to City boards, and also, the increased numbers of women that have been appointed; many to key boards.

Said Stortz, “Early on in my administration, we committed to appointing more minorities, more young people, and more women. I am proud to say we have made significant progress in all areas, but do have a way to go.

I recall a news article from mid-June 2005 where the dearth of women on City boards was reported on. That is being changed, month by month.”

Stortz went on to say, “Since I took office, a woman has been appointed to the Board of Water Commissioners, first time, a woman to the Board of Public Works, first time, and there are now three women on the Board of Park Commissioners, plus the City Council Liaison.

We now have two women on the Board of Finance and a woman serving on the Parking Authority.

I am proud to say that these women, and all others, are doing an outstanding job.”

“At the same time, we have approximately tripled the members of minorities serving, including some on major boards. The Board of Ethics, Board of Park Commissioners, and the Board of Library Commissioners all have minority women. Minorities are also now represented on the Commission for Persons with Disabilities, Board of Community Services, Youth Commission, and a Native American is now on the Zoning Board of Appeals”, said Stortz.

“While we still have a way to go to have a proper balance and representation, I am proud of the progress that has been made. Some have volunteered on their own, some have been suggested by Council members, some I recruited. But, they all are doing an outstanding job.

On the Commission for Persons with Disabilities, we now have a young woman with medical background and involved in the Special Olympics, as well as a new member who is visually challenged. We do need to be able to understand the needs of others”, continued Stortz.

Stortz concluded, “Hopefully, this type of progress will continue: and efforts will be made to cast a wide net, and to reach more of the minority community, more youth of the City, and certainly to welcome more women.

We do want the best and the brightest to be part of Bristol, and to help us move forward, but color, gender and age should not be a restriction.

The first big steps have been taken, and the results justify continuing in this direction.”

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

No consensus on mall's future

It's somehow comforting to know, as many of us figured, that the new Bristol Downtown Development Corp. has no more idea than anyone else what to do next with the downtown mall property, according to Jackie Majerus' must-read story in the Press.
By the way, attorney Jennifer Janelle, one of the downtown commissioners, is quickly proving one of the best choices for a city panel in a long time. She doesn't toe the line and she doesn't hesitate to ask awkward questions -- and demand answers. She's just the sort of bright outsider that is usually overlooked by city government, but shouldn't be.

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

Stortz letter to Ken Johnson re streetlighting

July 16, 2007

Mr. Kenneth R. Johnson
President, Municipal Energy Consulting Group, LLC
12 Old Cider Mill Road
Bristol, CT 06010

Dear Mr. Johnson,
At the July 10 City Council Meeting, you commented, for the record, that the City and/or some of its employees had/or are withholding information from you and your firm, information which you feel we are obligated to provide for you to make a case for overcharges for street lighting.
In order to address the situation, please provide me with:
1. What information is being withheld?
2. Who is withholding the information (who was asked)?
3. When was this information requested, and how?
4. Is there any correspondence on this?
5. Have you followed up, and if so, what has been the response, and from whom?
I would like to have that information as soon as possible, so that I can follow up to assure that all conditions of the agreement are met.
Any questions, call me at 584-6250.
Thank You.
William T. Stortz
City of Bristol

cc: R. Lacey
City Council

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Ken Johnson's new website

It's not going to displace Google, but here's GOP mayoral candidate Ken Johnson's new website: www.bristolfirst.org. It's still under construction, but it looks good.
So far, for those keeping track, we have professional-looking websites from mayoral hopefuls Johnson and Ellen Zoppo. Art Ward, as far as I know, doesn't have one. Yet.

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

Internal ESPN memo leaked

For those of us in ESPN's hometown, this is sort of funny.

I love that the company just started offering pet insurance. And that workers get three weeks vacation after just five years.
It's better than working for the government.

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

Letizia in reserve?

Something interesting is going on in the city treasurer's race.
The only announced candidate to replace retiring city Treasurer Patti Ewen is John Letizia, a Democrat with a solid accounting reputation and a long stint on the city's Board of Finance in his past.
But Letizia may not get his own party's backing Monday, according to many political insiders.
Instead, the Democrats are likely to turn to Bill Veits, another experienced hand.
If that happens, some say, the GOP will toss aside Mark Anderson, its nominated treasurer candidate, and name Letizia instead, a move that would bring extra heft to the Republican ticket.
Anderson is a party loyalist -- and former Press reporter -- who almost certainly has no thought of getting elected as treasurer.
But if the scenario spins out as some anticipate, it could get quite interesting.

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

July 17, 2007

GOP nominates Miss Bristol 2006 for council?

Miss Bristol 2006, Brianna Carello

Miss Bristol 2006 is named Brianna Carello. But is it the same person that the Republicans nominated tonight as a 3rd District City Council candidate?
Who knows? Certainly not the GOP.
I won't embarass all the Republicans I asked tonight who could not answer the question. But I will say that Bob Merrick, the other Republican candidate in the district, knew that she was involved in pageants. He wasn't sure if she was Miss Bristol last year, however.
So is she running?
I would know except she didn't attend the nominating meeting. The GOP simply nominated her. Let's hope she knows about it.

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

GOP nominates candidates

Nominated unanimously by the Republicans at tonight's GOP town committee meeting were:

MAYOR - Ken Johnson

TREASURER - Mark Anderson

District 1 - Mike Rimcoski, with no other candidate
District 2 - Ken Cockayne and Joe Geladino
District 3 - Robert Merrick and Brianna Carello

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

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

July 16, 2007

Ragaini's raking in the cash

Democratic City Council hopeful Tom Ragaini is hitting people up for money these days.
But it's not for his 2nd District campaign.
Instead, he's busy selling tickets to a stag party for his son, Matt, who's getting married in September.
Just this evening, at the downtown corporation meeting at City Hall, he was squeezing Gardner Wright, John Leone, John Lodovico, Frank Johnson and Craig Minor to cough up for tickets. They proved easy marks, tossing cash at Ragaini.
Ragaini makes no apologies, though.
"You know how many stag parties I've been to in the last 30 years?" he asked.
Ragaini, however, has limits.
He said he wouldn't try to hit up lame duck Mayor William Stortz.
Ragaini said he knows that Stortz won't have a job after November so the mayor doesn't have money for stag parties anymore.

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

Nicastro eyeing another council term

BRISTOL – Democrat Frank Nicastro, a former mayor and current state representative, may seek another term on the City Council.
Nicastro, who won a council seat in 2005, said Monday he’s “more than capable” of holding part-time political positions in both Bristol and Hartford for another two years.
But, he said, if the Democratic Town Committee members in the 3rd District prefer a candidate who would offer voters “new blood,” he won’t challenge them.
There are two announced Democratic candidates in the district, incumbent Craig Minor and newcomer Terry Parker, a longtime party activist. If committee members back Nicastro, Parker would almost certainly be the one to lose out on the endorsement.
The Democrats will endorse a slate of candidates for city office on Monday. The Republicans are picking their standard bearers Tuesday night at the Franco-American Club.
The only GOP contender in the district, so far, is Robert Merrick, a former Democrat who switched his political affiliation in February to sign on with the Republicans.

Nicastro may run for council again

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

Geladino statement re Stortz and streetlighting fight

Republican City Council hopeful Joseph Geladino issued this statement on July 12, 2007:

Here's a link to a scanned image that may be easier to read.

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

Streetlights take on a political glow

With Mayor William Stortz stepping aside, this story about the spat over a streetlighting issue no longer has quite the political importance that it did a few days ago, but there's still much to mull over.

After reading the story, if you can stomach more, take a look at some of the documents detailing what both Stortz and GOP mayoral contender Ken Johnson have to say about the matter.

Follow this link to see JPG (photo) of Stortz's April 27 letter to Johnson:
April 27 letter from Stortz to Johnson

May 21, 2007 letter to Stortz from Johnson

Re: Status Report- Investigation into CL&P’s Streetlight Overcharges for the City of Bristol under DPUC Docket No. 04-01-01
Dear Mayor Stortz:
Here’s a brief timeline of activities under the Municipal Energy contract with the City and current status report:
Dec 12, 2006- Bristol City Council awarded contract with Municipal Energy
Feb. 13, 2007- ‘Side letter’ sent to Mayor Stortz per City request
Mar 6, 2007- fully executed contract signed by Mayor Stortz
April 5, 2007- Ken Johnson meeting with Mayor Stortz
April 27, 2007- Letter rec’d from Mayor Stortz indicating staff contact names for Municipal Energy
May 7, 2007; Ken Johnson meeting with the staff members Paul Strawderman, Jason Morrocco, Richard Lacey
At the May 7 meeting, Ken Johnson provided background on the issue and answered questions to help bring staff up to speed. We discussed the need to ensure that the City has notified CL&P by certified letter that the City is not accepting CL&P’s refund offer as full and final settlement; a copy of the same should be forwarded to Municipal Energy for our files. Ken reported that Municipal Energy is currently gathering electronic data from all client towns and checking CL&P’s calculations, including Bristol’s.
Next action steps include: Municipal Energy will advise and assist Paul & Jason in cross-checking the results of CL&P’s 1999 Group Relamp Audit results and 2003 Municipal Streetlight Audit results for Bristol with City files and records. Municipal Energy has culled CL&P’s electronic files and produced a condensed version of the audits containing “changes” only on CD for Paul & Jason. Bristol staff effort will involve comparing the condensed electronic data with City files and records seeking to reconcile errors in four categories: 1) removes, 2) new founds, 3) overbills, and 4) underbills. Ken Johnson provided a copy of Municipal Energy’s New Founds report for Bristol. The team agreed to focus on ‘new founds’ first. Ken Johnson explained to Richard Lacey that CL&P has ‘taken back’ property tax dollars from Bristol in CL&P’s calculation of Bristol’s refund. Richard will look into the validity/legality of this action. Once the investigation phase is complete, Municipal Energy, with staff input, will perform new refund calculations for Bristol.
Pertinent supporting documents provided to city officials have been attached to this letter.

Respectfully submitted,
Kenneth R. Johnson
CC: R. Lacey
P. Strawderman

May 29, 2007 letter from Stortz to Johnson (in JPG photo format)

Undated background information from Ken Johnson's Municipal Energy firm that was sent to its client municipalities:

History of Municipal Energy & CL&P Streetlighting Overcharges
We are aware that many of you as chief executives have not been with us since the beginning of the CL&P streetlight refund project. Many of the towns we serve have seen turnover of administrations – some of your towns have experienced multiple turnovers. Because the streetlight ‘saga’ has played out over the course of many years, primarily due to repeated CL&P stonewalling tactics, it has created a challenge for municipalities to keep track of events and it has been equally challenging for us to ensure that you -- our clients – are well-informed on the subject. For these reasons, we thought it would be useful to recap the chronology of events that has led us to where we are now.
As you are aware, your town in among a group of 50 municipalities that have signed on with Municipal Energy to help you obtain full and fair compensation from CL&P. Working on your collective behalf, Municipal Energy has leveraged our strength in numbers and worked diligently to maintain solidarity among our clients to keep the streetlight issue alive. CL&P had been negotiating settlements with individual towns in an effort to mitigate their total exposure and cause the issue to lose steam. CL&P was successful in getting many towns to accept settlements and, as a result, each of those municipalities lost the opportunity to obtain future refunds. These actions cost those municipalities many millions in refunds. Towns heeding Municipal Energy’s advice kept themselves in play for larger refunds down the road –including the refund checks that many of you received recently and, hopefully, the additional refunds that are still to come. To date, CL&P has been compelled to pay out more than $12M in refunds for overcharges, after initially offering little or no compensation to many cities and towns.
Ken Johnson, who founded Municipal Energy in 2002, previously worked for CL&P and its parent Northeast Utilities for over 21 years. In the mid-1980’s Ken served as streetlight administrator and oversaw the implementation of an aggressive energy conservation project which involved converting thousands of municipal lights to more energy efficient light sources. During this time, Ken was aware of problems with the streetlight billing and worked with a CL&P field supervisor to conduct a sample audit comparing billing records to lights found on streets in the town of Cheshire. The results demonstrated conclusively that a significant percentage of lights that were being billed in error. As the same billing process and system was being used across the NU service territory, it was evident that the problem was systemic and that a larger scale audit and billing reconciliation was in order. A decade or more went by before the Company took a serious look at addressing the problem.

Ken left the Company in 2002 and formed his own consulting business, Municipal Energy Consulting Group, LLC. Before leaving, Ken again advised NU management of the magnitude of the streetlight billing issue and advised that CL&P likely owed tens of millions of dollars to its municipal customers for decades of overcharges for streetlight service. Ken has been called a ‘whistleblower’ -- a label he rejects – but it is clear that Ken Johnson (and subsequently his firm Municipal Energy) has been a prime mover behind exposing this matter to public scrutiny and advocating for giving back money to the effected towns. Further:
Municipal Energy possesses extensive industry knowledge that does not reside within other entities outside of CL&P. We’ve shared our knowledge with the DPUC, municipalities and other parties to bring a heightened level of awareness of the depth and breadth of CL&P billing errors into the dialog. We’ve been able to factually counterpoint CL&P’s assertion that most errors only go back a few years.
Municipal Energy went before the Freedom of Information Commission and successfully forced a secret streetlight refund settlement between CL&P and the City of Middletown to be opened to public scrutiny. CL&P fought the case and lost. The precedent had thereby been established for opening the books on CL&P refund offers.
Municipal Energy has communicated regularly with municipalities on all aspects of the streetlight issue since 2002 and in doing so has provided an effective forum for exchange of ideas and intelligence. Client towns, including towns that joined later in the process, have received the benefit of this shared knowledge.
Municipal Energy has long advocated for CL&P’s release of streetlight data in an electronic format and, working with other parties, ultimately succeeded in compelling CL&P to produce that data via a DPUC order.
Municipal Energy has produced ‘cut and paste’ templates for use by municipal clients to communicate to CL&P and the DPUC about the issue.
Municipal Energy communicated the sound advice clients needed regarding how to handle the first round of CL&P refund checks cut in 2005. As a result, Municipal Energy clients comprise a sizeable number of the towns receiving refunds in the recent round of checks cut by CL&P.
Municipal Energy advised and assisted City of Bristol personnel in preparing reports, exhibits and testimony presented to the DPUC. The City served as a proxy for municipalities in general and effectively counter pointed many of CL&P’s arguments.
Municipal Energy advised clients to stay the course through CL&P’s appeal of the 2005 DPUC Decision and subsequently provided timely information and advice to clients regarding the recent checks and CD data from CL&P.
Municipal Energy makes no representation that we are solely responsible for helping municipalities obtain refunds. We acknowledge the roles of key parties, including the Attorney General’s office, Office of Consumer Counsel, the law firm of Murtha & Cullina on behalf of CCM and many others in this process.
What action steps need to be taken next by Municipal Energy and client towns?
Municipal Energy is currently analyzing CD data for each of its clients to check for errors in CL&P’s refund computations.
If your town has not yet forwarded to Municipal Energy the electronic data you received on CD from CL&P, please do so immediately. You may e-mail the data to [XXXXXX] or mail the CD to:
Municipal Energy
12 Old Cider Mill Rd.
Bristol, CT 06010-2350
Municipal Energy is encouraging municipalities to send a certified letter to CL&P stating that acceptance of any check does not constitute agreement to a full and final settlement.
If your town has not yet sent your certified letter to CL&P, please do so immediately. Municipal Energy has prepared template letters for your use. You’ll find copies attached to this letter for your use.
Municipal Energy intends to meet with client towns individually to review CL&P’s error reports, audit data and streetlight inventory to find any errors and omissions in the data CL&P used to calculate refunds.
Each town should identify personnel (ideally those who possess knowledge of the town’s streetlighting and have access to town records) who can meet with Municipal Energy to identify errors and omissions.

July 11, 2007 press release from Stortz, re situation with Municipal Energy:
Bristol, CT, July 11 2007 - In a prepared release, Mayor William T. Stortz outlined the City’s position relative to the charges of Ken Johnson, of Municipal Energy, that the City is and has been uncooperative in providing support to him as he sought to develop a case for Bristol to receive a larger refund from CL&P.
Simply put, the City signed a contract with Mr. Johnson on March 5, 2007. As part of that agreement, Mr. Johnson received a $10,000 non-refundable payment, up front, (check cashed within two weeks), and also would receive 15% of additional moneys received by the City above the amount previously agreed to by CL&P (approximately $86,000) based on his efforts.
Through our attorney, I requested a meeting with Mr. Johnson soon after the contract was signed. That took Mr. Johnson one month to set up. As part of that meeting, I again requested monthly reports, as was previously agreed on in a February 13, City- requested letter, from Mr. Johnson to my office. Up to 4/26, no reports had been received. We met earlier on April 5 and later that month on (4/27). Two contact names were provided to Mr. Johnson, again with a request for a progress report as of May 1 (none ever received).
Again, on May 18, I requested a progress report, as no report had been received.
I again made the same request on May 29, again because still no progress reports had been provided. Monthly progress reports had been promised in his February 13 letter.
A report, dated May 21, was delivered to my office on June 1, indicating that, among other things, Mr. Johnson had met with three City personnel, Mr. Strawderman, Attorney Lacey, and Jason Morocco.
In that May 21 letter, there was a reference made by Mr. Johnson that he would advise and assist City personnel in certain clerical activities including, but not limited to, reconciling errors on numerous accounts.
The impression, as I saw it, was that City staff would be doing actual work that we had contracted Mr. Johnson to do.
I asked our Attorney to review this issue relative to the contract, which he did, and our attorney’s response was that “the consultant has the duty to review and analyze street light records, perform all necessary calculations, and present the data to CL&P in order to adjust refund amounts. The City’s duty is to provide access as needed to these materials, but not to provide research services.”
A follow up meeting between the City and Mr. Johnson had been set up for June 12, but for personal reasons, it was cancelled. For the same reasons affecting Mr. Johnson, I did not notify him regarding the Attorney’s determination of the City’s role until June 21.
That was the last contact. I have received no response from Mr. Johnson regarding cooperation, or lack thereof on the part of the City. Any accusation that we are not cooperating or that we are obstructing him is a complete fabrication.
Again, due to his personal situation, we were waiting for his initiating the rescheduling of the meeting, and filing of reports as requested by me and promised by him.
City staff has been cooperative with and available to Mr. Johnson on this issue. They have functioned in a responsible manner and in no way deserve the allegations made by Mr. Johnson.
His charge of lack of cooperation on our part is erroneous and unsubstantiated, and a blatant effort to redirect attention from his failure to perform. Again, I respect his personal situation, but a simple report so stating the reason for the delay would have sufficed and been the professional thing to do.
As Mayor, I am charged to act on the City’s behalf and protect our interests. We have paid $10,000, and at this time (four months after the contract was signed) have received no indication of any meaningful progress.
We will attempt to get this back on track, but need the cooperation

July 11, 2007 letter to Stortz from Municipal Energy vice president James Krone:
Dear Mayor Stortz:
I’m writing in response to your letter to Ken Johnson dated June 21, 2007. Thank you for understanding and agreeing that Ken Johnson’s family and personal life should take priority. Your kind words are duly noted in these difficult times with the recent loss of his father, Warren Johnson.
Municipal Energy possesses extensive knowledge of the CL&P streetlight overcharge issue – knowledge that resides nowhere else outside of CL&P. We share this knowledge with our municipal clients to help them recover full and fair refunds from CL&P. As a consulting firm, we can only analyze data provided to us by CL&P and compare it with City of Bristol internal records. It may require your staff to check install dates, removals, wattage, lamp type, etc. as we methodically work through hundreds of streetlight records potentially in question. We believe it works best to allow us direct access to staff members who have knowledge of the streetlight issue and access to relevant city records. Perhaps an actual example would best illustrate my point:
There is a streetlight on Barber St., pole #1294, which is situated directly in front of the former CL&P work center off Pine St. CL&P claims that Bristol has failed to pay for this light and has therefore back-billed the city. However, it has not been unusual for CL&P to install street and area lighting for its own benefit in and around its own facilities over the years. We (Municipal Energy) would ask the City of Bristol to check its records to determine if the City ever requested a light be installed at this location. If the answer is ‘no,’ then this becomes the basis for Municipal Energy to calculate the refund due the City.
We have previously communicated to you and all our clients our plan of action and next steps. Your Corporation Counsel Richard Lacey is well versed in the layers of complexity of the streetlight refund issue and can help you understand why it is difficult to determine a timeline for completion of this project or precise future steps needed to arrive at a final resolution.
We are prepared to continue our analysis and work with staff members you designate. Thank you again for you interest and concern. We have proposed a next meeting date of July 18 with your staff to continue our work.
James Krone
VP Operations
Municipal Energy Consulting Group, LLC

Cc: Atty. Richard Lacey
Atty. Ed Krawiecki
City Council members

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

July 13, 2007

Mocabee weighs in re Stortz announcement

Statement from Art Mocabee, city GOP chairman, released Friday:

While it was expected, it still hurts a bit! Bill and I go back a long way, while we did not always agree with one another, I have always had a great deal of respect for his talents and skills as an executive. I want to thank Bill and Angela for all they did and endured over the last 35 years for all of the residents of this city.

Bill Stortz has been a defender of the taxpayer and he will be judged in history as one of Bristol's most knowledgeable mayors.

From an administrative point of view, this announcement gives Ken Johnson a clear road to the Republican Mayoral nomination on July 17th. I was expecting a floor fight among town committee members and now that will not happen.

I anticipate a united Republican ticket that will give Bristol voters a chance to elect new people with fresh ideas that are committed to putting Bristol first, before their own political agendas. Look for Republicans to press forward with new ideas like a city manager style of government, referendums on certain budget and expenditure items and to continue the progress on the downtown project.

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Stortz is not running again

A press release from Mayor William Stortz, just sent out:

Bristol, CT, July 13, 2007—
In a prepared statement, Mayor William T. Stortz made the following announcement. “For the past 32 years I have been involved in Bristol government and Bristol politics in various degrees and many ways. First, as a Republican Town Committee member, then as Town Chairman. I was then elected to the City Council, where I went on to serve five terms. The experience has been wonderful, and all in all, very gratifying. The satisfaction of helping people, solving problems, building for Bristol’s future is difficult to get across to people, until they experience it themselves. I wouldn’t trade it for just about anything,” said Stortz.
“During that time, I have met some wonderful people—Two Presidents, many Governors, numerous Senators and Representatives, as well as State legislators and key business and community leaders and activists. Again, experiences that were made possible by my governmental and political involvement”, Stortz continued.
“At the same time, the many ‘everyday people’, people who make our city what it is, make our society function day by day, the city workers who do what they do despite the politicians, have enriched my life. Then there are the volunteers who give so unselfishly. All have contributed to my awareness and respect for people.
"I have been blest to have been elected Mayor, not once, but twice. Actually three times, but for two full terms. We have had only 19 Mayors in 95 years, and to have been one of them is a great honor; one I respect and will always cherish,” Stortz said.
In addition, Stortz said, “During my 30 plus years, I am proud to say that I have been involved with many key projects and activities in Bristol. From the start of ESPN, here in Bristol under Mike Werner, to the BRRFOC (Ogden Martin, now Covanta), 229 Technology Park, Chippens Hill Middle School, the change on philosophy of our pension investments led by Tom O’Brien, the use of Civilian Dispatchers which I championed, the working towards the Route 72 extension, which is finally becoming a reality, all helped Bristol go forward.
"I also chaired the Bristol effort when the International Special Olympics were held in
Connecticut, took part in the Viet Nam Wall Program, been a Mentor. I have been a part of
Bristol going forward, admittedly a small part, but nevertheless, a part of the progress that has
been made.”
Stortz went on to say, “The recent efforts and training to improve customer service are already showing results, as is the Diversity training that has taken place in the Police Department. Since my inauguration in 2005, we have increased the number of minorities, as well as young people and women serving on city Boards and Commissions by a significant number. With Bristol’s increasing diverse population, this was long overdue.
"With the recent spate of flooding situations, the Flood and Erosion Control was reinstituted and is making solid progress in addressing the City wide flooding issues.
"We are also increasing our infrastructure maintenance, while at the same time, keeping tax increases under control.
"I am confident that the newly formed Bristol Downtown Development Corporation is the right way to make progress with the Mall site, and with creating a vibrant Downtown.”
Stortz remarked, “This term as mayor has been interesting and rewarding. Many things have been accomplished, albeit without fanfare and publicity. My approach has been to work on the basics, put Bristol and good government before politics. Not always accepted by politicians, not always noticed, but always for a better Bristol.
"I do owe Bristol and its people an awful lot, and I do try to repay my debts. I love my job, despite the long hours, despite some of the obstacles. While it is frustrating at times, it is also quite rewarding. The smiles, the sincere thank you, the seeing people, especially young people, grow and develop: that is priceless. Again, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for just about anything. Sometimes I wish it could go on forever.
"However, that is not something one totally controls. Being a Republican in a Democrat town is not easy, and it is doubly difficult when one doesn’t play politics. But I have proven that a Republican can get elected despite the odds and the difficulty. Actually, my record is pretty good, having won over 3/4 of my elections. As I said, I love my job.”
He went on to say, “But, I also love my wife who has stood by me all these years: 41 of marriage, 32 of politics. While many times I was “getting the glory” Angela, like other spouses stood on the sidelines, in the background, or at home. She sacrificed quite a bit for me. I know it hurt me when I was criticized for some of my decisions, but I am sure it hurt her, too.”
Said Stortz, “As we approach another election, decision time is upon us. Two years ago, I ran after much deliberation, and was fortunate enough to get elected. Angela knew what lie ahead, but she was very supportive, and still is. She knows how much I put into being Mayor and how much being Mayor is part of my life. My decision as to what to do is made less difficult, because I know she would stand behind whatever I chose to do. We have had discussions, just as I have had with some of the party leadership. Contrary to what some would believe, while I am a thinking person, and do make my own decisions, I do listen to the input of others. I try to do things right, I try to do the right thing. The response of the party leadership has been quite interesting, but meaningful, and played a key role in my thought process.
"Part of my philosophy comes from the Serenity Prayer: Lord, give me the courage to change what can be changed, the patience to accept what can’t be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference. That certainly applies to being Mayor.”
Stortz concluded, “Knowing what lies ahead for the City, what the opportunities are, as well as the challenges, knowing that while I have started to build a foundation, that there is much work to be done, and that there would be much opposition to the approach and goal, made me think long and hard. I love Bristol, I love the job, but as I said, I love my wife, my family and do enjoy the time I spend with my grandchildren. All of those figured into my decision.
"I have always advised those interested in getting involved in politics, that their health, their family, and if they have full time job other than politics, that job should come first.
"I would be remiss if I did not remind myself of that advice. At the same time, I also say that one works to retire to be able to do what they want, to do what they enjoy, and I do enjoy my job. However, ones retirement years are limited, and to be able to spend more time with my wife and family is something we all look forward to.
"I love what I am doing, but I love my wife and family more. Therefore, I am today announcing that I will not be seeking the Republican nomination for Mayor.”

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Ken Johnson on Bristol politics

“Bristol politics is an eternal source of amusement for me.” - GOP mayoral hopeful Ken Johnson

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

Stortz still mum

Well, the word on the street was that Mayor Stortz would disclose his plans this morning.
If he did, I haven't heard.
But the only announced Republican mayoral contender, Ken Johnson, told me today he's heard the rumors, too.
He said he asked Stortz directly yesterday whether the mayor would seek reelection.
"It's none of your damn business," was the reply, according to Johnson.

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

Some tidbits

Just a couple of curious tidbits:

* In the 2005 election, Republican mayoral hopeful Ken Johnson donated $250 to the campaign of Democratic City Councilor Kevin McCauley, who was pushing at the time to unseat incumbent Tom Lavigne in a tough 2nd District primary.

* Republican City Council hopeful Robert Merrick, who has a website called Unite Bristol, was a registered Democrat until February 2007.

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

Stortz to retire?

Though I figured Mayor Stortz would run again, two political insiders have told me this morning they expect the mayor to announce today that he will not seek re-election.
We'll see.

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

Mayor, Ken Johnson clash

Someone on the usually interesting bristolct.net discussion board asked today a reasonable question: why hasn't the Press had a story on the squabble between Mayor Stortz and Ken Johnson on the CL&P streetlighting refund issue? The answer is: we will -- soon -- but I want to make sure I have both sides nailed down and the relevant facts sorted out. This is one of the times that I'd rather be thorough on a story than first, much as I generally prefer a scoop.
I understand, though, that with the Republicans picking a mayoral candidate Tuesday night, there's some urgency involved in getting a story in the paper.
As long as I've said this much, if anyone has anything they'd like to say to me for my stories on this issue, drop me a note this morning or early afternoon. I'm keen to learn more.

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

July 12, 2007

Charter panel to start work next week

BRISTOL – A new charter revision panel that could spearhead an effort to create a city manager form of government for the city is set to begin work Thursday.
The panel is slated to pick officers, set a meeting schedule and receive recommendations from the City Council at its inaugural session.
The meeting, which does not include a period for public comment, is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the council chambers on the first floor of City Hall.
The new seven-member charter revision commission will consider a wide range of potential changes to the city government’s blueprint in the months ahead.
The members of the new panel, who were endorsed last month by councilors, are Gail Hartmann, Dick Prindle, Tim Furey, Al Marko, Maria Pirro, Hal Kilby and Harley Graham.
Charter panels often wind up recommending relatively mundane changes in the city charter, but they have the capacity to seek a sweeping overhaul.
With many politicians expressing support for switching from a strong mayor system to a city manager form of government, the issue offers the potential for upsetting the city’s blueprint that’s been in place for nearly 100 years.
Proposed changes supported by the charter commission go first to the council. If councilors back them, they head for the ballot for voters to have the final say. The charter cannot be revised except by citywide vote.
It is likely that in subsequent, regularly scheduled charter commission meetings, there will be time set aside for public comment. The panel usually holds at least a couple of public hearings as well.

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

July 10, 2007

Fireworks at council meeting tonight

While I was away, Mayor William Stortz issued this press release:

Bristol, CT, July 6, 2007 - In a prepared release, Mayor William T. Stortz announced that he is requesting that the City Council, through its Ordinance Committee, review City regulations regarding the sale and use of fireworks, and consider the possibility of restricting the sale of fireworks within City limits.

Stortz said, “I have received numerous calls and comments regarding the use of fire works, starting many weeks prior to the traditional use of fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July.

These calls, and those to the Police Department, require the use of our resources as we respond and/or follow up. When the complaints are received, and acted on, our officers are precluded from other functions, from ongoing patrols, traffic stops, and other more serous issues. While we do prioritize, when multiple calls are received, every call does deserve a response, in a timely fashion. A large number of calls does make that difficult.”

Stortz continued, “At the same time, resources are required to assure that all laws are being met regarding sales. We have seen where the laws have been violated. Each of these incidents, either by complaint or activity, initiated by local authorities, again requires resources.”

Said Stortz, “Sales within the City are not anything where the City benefits economically. No taxes are levied, and the permit fee for standalone booths is minimal.

Restriction or prohibition of sales will reduce the availability locally, thereby hopefully reducing the numerous complaints.

Other communities have taken action in this regard.

The Council/committee, will have adequate time to review the issue prior to the next fireworks season, and develop meaningful legislation, if deemed appropriate.”

Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com