January 31, 2008

Larson endorsing Obama

U.S. Rep. John Larson, who represents Bristol, will endorse Barack Obama for president.
According to the East Hartford Gazette, "The formal announcement will come Saturday at a rally planned at the Old State House in Downtown Hartford, and Obama will visit the state Monday, Larson said.
"Larson, who called the East Hartford Gazette Thursday morning from Virginia where he was running the Democratic congressional caucuses, said Senator Obama's candidacy is one that is 'clearly reinvigorating our country.'
"That is the message he also heard during a recent trip abroad.
"'People are tired of the Bush-Clinton-Bush and now Clinton years,' said Larson who attended a conference in England presented at the National War College.'The message I heard, over and over, was what a transcendental moment this was,' said Congressman Larson. 'For America to be on the verge of electing a man called Barack Hussein Obama, that is a symbolic, and healing message. We need a president Obama for our standing in the rest of the world.'
"Obama's visit Monday on the eve of Super Tuesday elections will be brief. Larson called it a 'touchdown visit' and said it was just listed as Hartford on Obama's schedule.
"'He has so many places he has to visit that day. Of course I'd like to see if I can get him to go over to Augie & Rays for one of their Larson Specials,' said the congressman. referring to an egg sandwich served at the popular eatery on Main Street in his hometown."

See the rest of this story in the East Hartford Gazette, one of our sister papers.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

The Showdown State

After years of being ignored by presidential candidates, Connecticut is suddenly a hotspot.
It now appears that both of the leading Democratic contenders, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton,will be in the state on Monday - the day before the Super Tuesday showdown that may decide which of them will be the party's nominee.
On Sunday, Republican front-runner John McCain will be in Fairfield County. He won Connecticut in a 2000 primary against George W. Bush, which clearly didn't carry him too far.
Details of the Clinton and Obama visits are uncertain and it's always possible the campaigns will shift their focus elsewhere as they look at the big picture.
But for now, it looks like Connecticut is the Showdown State.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

About comments on the blog

1. I approve most of the comments that don't contain cursing, racial or sexual slurs, matters that are purely private, or are merely hateful.
2. I do not personally agree with many of the comments that people make. Do no mistake my willingness to allow a comment with my support for it.
3. Some things slip through that I would kill on further reflection. When people call those to my attention, I usually delete those comments. (You all must understand that this blog is just a tiny part of my job; I can't spend hours pondering whether to approve or disapprove particular comments -- and sometimes, to be honest, I accidentally post stuff I meant to wipe out.)
4. I do not know who posts the comments. I have no way to tell.
5. I cannot require that all posters identify themselves by name. There is simply no way to do that short of checking personally with each poster to ensure the identity is correct, and that is never going to happen on a blog because it takes way too much time.
6. I may begin requiring those who want to comment to register first, which would make it so that people would need some kind of "handle" or name in order to post. That might help everyone at least sort of out who is who on some kind of basis. If you are a regular commenter here, you should register and post under some kind of name.
7. If you see a comment you think should not have slipped through, please send me a note telling me exactly which one concerns you (tell me which of my posts it's under as well as the time and anything else about it that would make it easy for me to find).
8. If you don't like the idea of anonymous comments, welcome to the club. I'm not a fan of it either. But this is how the internet has evolved, for better or worse, and we can either run with it or let someone else run with it. It's better here.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Ward praised by longtime BDA commissioner

The other day, Mayor Art Ward asked the Bristol Development Authority's commissioners to let him know which of the BDA's committees they'd like to serve on.
He said he would do his best to accommodate their wishes because he wants the volunteer commissioners to do what they most desire.
Howard Schmelder, a longtime commissioner, looked astonished.
Then Schmelder thanked Ward. He said that eight mayors previous to Ward had simply passed out assignments. "Usually, we're just told" what to do, he said.
"I tried that at home," Ward said. "It didn't work."

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Why is Obama coming to Hartford?

He obviously wouldn't consider it given the high stakes on Super Tuesday unless his campaign is convinced a stop here on Monday might well put Connecticut into his column.
And since Obama is almost certainly going to lose California and New York, the biggies next week, it makes sense that he will try to focus on winning some other states so that the day isn't a disaster. The key for him is to be able to stand in front of the cameras and make a convincing case that he's still viable.
As long as he can do that -- by winning Connecticut and a few other states -- he can make a serious, perhaps convincing argument to Democrats in subsequent primaries that he should get their votes.
I don't have access to the internal polling, of course, but I'm pretty sure that Connecticut is now one of the hottest battlegrounds between Clinton and Obama. The stakes are small, but the outcome actually matters.
So I guess those who wanted to move the primary up to be part of Super Tuesday were right on the money. We actually matter, for a change.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

McCain coming to CT; Obama might be, too

Republican presidential frontrunner John McCain is coming to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield County on Sunday -- a bit too far for us! -- while Democrat Barack Obama is eyeing a visit to Hartford on Monday, according to The Hartford Courant.
Here's the lowdown on McCain's visit, in case anyone wants to go see him:

Senator John McCain
Senator Joseph Lieberman
Congressman Christopher Shays
Lt. Governor Michael Fedele
Former Congressman Rob Simmons
CT Assistant Minority Leader Anthony Guglielmo
Senator John McCain and local political leaders will make a Super Bowl Sunday campaign stop in Connecticut.
Sunday, February 3, 2008 at 1 p.m. Doors will open at 12:30 p.m.
William H. Pitt Center at Sacred Heart University
5151 Park Avenue
Fairfield, Connecticut
Student Government and the College Republicans at Sacred Heart University

When more information about Obama's visit is available, I'll post it.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Officials react to grocer's effort to stay downtown

Press Staff
BRISTOL – Whether the Bristol Discount Food Outlet remains on the 17-acre mall property in the future will be the decision of the developer, several city development officials said.
"We can't tie anybody's hands," said John Leone, a board member of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. and the president of the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce.
"Ultimately, the buyer of the property will have to determine what makes sense," said Jonathan Rosenthal, the city's economic development director.
The city is in the process of having the mall demolished. There are no immediate plans to raze the DFO building next to the mall – and no specific plans for the mall property as a whole – but the store is on a month-to-month lease with the city and faces an uncertain future.
Shoppers have signed petitions asking the city to let DFO continue to operate. Store manager Bob Veilleux said there are more than 5,000 signatures – something that Mayor Art Ward said didn't surprise him.
"We recognize the market," said Ward, who said he would like DFO to stay in the area. "We recognize the need."
But Ward said the developer's perspective will be the determining factor as to whether DFO can remain in place on the mall property.
In a "very amiable" meeting with DFO and its parent company Bozzuto's this week, Ward said the city and the grocery store found common ground.
"We came to an understanding," said Ward. "We've vowed to give them 90 days notice."
Ward said DFO will let customers know that whether the store remains is in the hands of an as-yet-unknown developer.
Leone said that the city-owned mall property, which includes the freestanding DFO, must be viewed as a whole, not in pieces. He said the entire parcel must be a planned development, with the good of the community in mind.
"We need to be careful that we don't put ourselves into a situation that we were in a year and half ago with Ocean State," said Leone.
Ocean State Job Lot, a longtime anchor store in the mall, was the last of the tenants to leave after the city issued eviction notices. The Rhode Island-based closeout retailer held on through several court battles, arguing that the store's lease allowed it to stay. When the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled for the city last year, the store packed up and left.
DFO store manager Bob Veilleux said his store has a month-to-month lease. He said Bozzuto's, the Cheshire-based IGA grocery store chain that owns DFO, would like to stay, but understands that it can't fight the same court battle that Ocean State did.
DFO can remain in place as long as there's not a developer in the picture, said Frank Johnson, chairman of the BDDC, and Leone.
"You can't set yourself up for a delay in this project," said Leone. "That would be terrible."
While Ward said he would be "more than willing" to help Bozzuto's find an alternative space, he said the store owners aren't likely to get the $5 per square foot deal they have now.
"It would be a lot more," said Ward. He estimated that the rent would probably more than double.
Ward, Rosenthal and Johnson said the city could use a small grocery store downtown.
"We definitely understand the need for a store to service the community in that section of town," said Ward.
"The shoppers' concerns certainly are valid, as are the store's concerns," said Johnson.
The mayor said DFO meets the need for a "pedestrian-friendly" store.
"You do see a lot of people that walk to that store," said Johnson.
"It's clearly something that serves downtown," said Rosenthal. "It's desirable to have a grocery store downtown. The most important thing is there is something convenient to walk to."
Johnson said a medium-sized grocery store, like an average Bozzuto's IGA, would be a nice fit with the project."Whether it's that store in that location is an open question," said Johnson.
Leone wasn't convinced about the need for DFO or a grocery store on the site. He said there are about five grocery stores not far away on Farmington Avenue.
As for how people who rely on DFO's reduced prices would be able to cope financially if the store closed, Leone said, "That's not my problem."

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

January 30, 2008

Vice President Jodi Rell?

As John McCain continues his march to the Republican nomination -- an amazing turnaround -- it's time to start guessing who might strengthen the GOP ticket as the vice presidential candidate.
As an older white guy from Arizona who is going to be facing either a woman or a black man from an entirely different section of the country, McCain needs to find someone who can add to his luster among people who are not old men from the Southwest.
Surely there are a lot of people who could fit the bill, from former Secretary of State Colin Powell to former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani.
But on at least the long list is Connecticut's own Jodi Rell, a McCain supporter who has managed to win election in normally Democratic New England who had to sweep into office in the wake of a deeply unpopular Republican incumbent.
I don't think Gov. Rell has any presidential ambitions and I don't believe I've ever heard anyone say that she ought to be the leader of the free world.
Yet she's surely at least as qualified as former U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro was when Walter Mondale tapped her to run with him in 1984 in a losing bid to knock out Ronald Reagan. She's got executive experience, which McCain lacks, and she knows when to keep quiet, another virtue in any vice presidential contender.
Plus, as far as I know, she's never shot anyone like Dick Cheney and doesn't have his ties to secretive defense contractors.
I know it sounds a little out there, but there is surely at least a possibility that McCain could cast his eye toward Connecticut and see someone here other than Joe Lieberman to run on a ticket with him.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Rimcoski says no to Scalia site

Calling himself "very disappointed" in the school siting panel that again recommended putting a new school in a Scalia sand pit off Barlow Street, city Councilor Mike Rimcoski said Wednesday he'll do what he can to kill the idea.
"It's a mistake" to think of putting a new 900-student school on the site, the councilor said.
Rimcoski said the West Bristol School Building Committee offered "nothing new at all" to justify the site that city councilors turned down just a few months ago.
He said he's concerned that every student at the new school would need to be bused.
"They can walk from Terryville easier than Bristol," Rimcoski said.
Rimcoski said that the sand pit is "the wrong place" for a new kindergarten to eighth grade school and that other options should be explored.
The second-term Republican also said that he believes the council won't back the proposal and might not even take it up, depending on how city attorneys interpret the rules of order governing the decision.
The next City Council meeting is slated for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

A surge in voter registration may help Clinton

A last-minute surge in voter registration is swelling the ranks of Democratic voters and perhaps bolstering U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s odds of winning Tuesday’s presidential primary in Connecticut.
As many as 22 people an hour have been signing up to vote in the primary, most of them independents who are joining the ranks of the Democrats in order to vote in the primary, city election officials said.
Cathy Myers filled in the necessary form Wednesday to switch to the Democrats from her longtime unaffiliated status.
“I didn’t realize I was losing out” before, she said, by letting party regulars pick the candidates for the general election.
This time around, though, she wanted her support for Clinton to count.
“Us women are sleepers,” Myers said. “We’re coming out of the closet” to help put a woman in the White House, she added.
“It’s time for a woman to be president,” said Yvette Badger, who was also changing her registration Wednesday so she could vote for Clinton on Tuesday.
Registrars Ellie Klapatch and Bob Badal said that some of those coming in are also backing Democrat Barack Obama or one of the Republican hopefuls, particularly U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
As of mid-day Wednesday, there were nearly 300 more people on the voting rolls than there were on Election Day in November – and Democratic ranks in the city had climbed well over 13,000 voters for the first time in years.
Democrats claimed the allegiance of 41 percent of the 31,940 voters on the ranks Wednesday, compared to 17 percent for the GOP, a number that hasn’t changed much for many years.
In the early 1980s, more than half the registered voters in town were Democrats, but by the last presidential election in 2004, the party claimed the allegiance of only 39.5 percent of the city’s electorate. Democrats gained slightly before the 2006 congressional elections, but the positive trend has accelerated in recent months.
Nora Anderson, the secretary in the registrar’s office, said she’s been stunned at the pace of registration. She said about 60 percent of those coming in are women.
Badal, the Democratic registrar, said “a lot of people want to be part of the process.”
Badal said he has seen mostly young and middle age voters signing up to vote in the primary, with more women than men among them. He said, though, he can’t be sure whether Obama or Clinton will benefit most from the registration surge.
The only thing he’s sure about is that voting in the primary is likely to be brisk. Badal said he’s already ordered more ballots twice to make sure he doesn’t run out Tuesday.
Klapatch, the GOP registrar, said that Democrats and Republicans seem especially enthusiastic about the candidates this year.
Badal said he wouldn’t be surprised if primary turnout exceeds 50 percent on the Democratic side, particularly if forecasts for relatively mild temperatures prove accurate.
Klapatch said that concern about the large numbers who might come to the polls has convinced school officials and the police to put police officers or hired security at every polling place in the city’s schools during school hours.
The city is paying about $3,000 for the extra security, Klapatch said, which is a first.
Voters will fill in special paper ballots – salmon-colored for the Democrats and white for the Republicans – which will be counted by a machine.
The ballots contain the names of a number of candidates who are no longer in the race, but all of the significant remaining contenders are among the names on the ballots.
The polls will be open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The in-person deadline for registering or affiliating with a political party in order to vote is noon on Monday, February 4. Mail-in registrations must be postmarked by Thursday to qualify.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

January 29, 2008

Blondie's bistro aims to lure folks downtown, with city help

A proposed downtown bistro could get a huge helping hand from the city.
Officials have agreed to provide $27,800 to help Blondie’s Grill and Patio Sidewalk Café open a new restaurant at the corner of Race and North Main streets.
“The people who come in first are the pioneers and get rewarded,” said Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director.
The two women who are trying to open the bistro, Sarah Vickers and Roberta Costante, told the Bristol Development Authority it will take more than $40,000 to renovate the 80-year-old building for a restaurant that could sit about 30 people, most of them outside.
“We have our hearts and our hard-earned money pledged to this goal,” they said, as well as a commitment to a 15-year lease on the property.
“The cost is tremendous,” Vickers said. “We’re ready to use all of our money.”
Vickers said that the pair “believe in Bristol and believe in downtown revitalization” and want to be leaders in creating a destination that will draw people to the city center.
Vickers said that Blondie's should be open by April.
“You’re ahead of the curve,” responded Mickey Goldwasser, a BDA commissioner.
The development agency said the proposed bistro doesn’t qualify for matching funding under the five-year-old but never used downtown restaurant attraction program.
But, officials said, they would pay up to 80 percent of the renovation tab for the building using façade improvement funds.
“They’re coming in early and they’re taking a huge risk,” Goldwasser said.
The two Bristol women, operating under the name Tambo Enterprises, said they are aiming to create something like “the sidewalk cafes that you see in New York City” with “a beautiful garden sidewalk patio atmosphere.”
The menu would offer charbroiled hotdogs, French fries and the like.
The 375 North Main Street location has most recently housed Razzleberries.
It would have seating for six to 10 inside, Vickers said, and up to 35 when outside seating is counted.
“These are the kind of people who are trying to make a difference,” Rosenthal said.
“Bristol’s leaders have realized that our city needs something different and unique to attract people to the downtown area,” Vickers and Costante said in a letter to the BDA.
“As such, we feel that Blondie’s will greatly enhance the heart of downtown,” they said.
“It’s going to be a destination,” Vickers said.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Mocabee is 2nd vice chair for 1st District.

Press release from the state GOP:

HARTFORD - Arthur W. Mocabee Jr, chairman of the Bristol Republican TownCommittee, had been named Second Vice Chairman of the Connecticut RepublicanParty for the First Congressional District.
"Art Mocabee has a proven record of electing Republicans and taking ourpositive message to the voters," said GOP State Party Chairman Chris HealyTuesday. "Art knows how to win and he will bring a wealth of experience tocandidates in the First Congressional district."
The Republican State Central Committee has approved the position of SecondVice Chairmen to help Republicans in each of the five congressionaldistricts work together to recruit, train and support candidates for officeat the local, state and federal levels.
Mocabee has a long history of grassroots involvement with the party.
"I am very excited and honored to serve the Republicans in the FirstCongressional District," said Mocabee. "We have many opportunities this fallto run and win legislative seats and defeat out-of-touch Congressman JohnLarson."
A former high school teacher in the Bristol School system, Mocabee has been a member of the Bristol RTC since 1980 and served as its chairman from 1982 to 1992 and again since 2003. He has been actively involved in Bristolpolitics over the last 37 years and has played key roles in helping BristolRepublicans elect a mayor and majority on the Bristol City Council from 1988 to 1992. Most recently Mocabee served as Town Chairman when BristolRepublicans regained representation on the City Council. In 2005, he helpedto engineer the election of State Representative Ron Burns, R-Bristol, theonly Republican to defeat an incumbent that year.
Mocabee, a graduate of Central Connecticut State University, attended ByrnMar College and The Wharton School. He has been a financial advisor with AXA Advisors LLC since 1976.

Hey, Art, good luck with that whole beating Larson thing!
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

City's restaurant attraction program serving up nothing at all

Almost five years ago, the city established a fund to lure sit-down restaurants downtown.
Officials hailed the prospect of creating “a restaurant row” downtown and vowed to lure high quality, sit-down eateries that would be open for dinner at least six nights a week.
Through a $60,000 annual payment to the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce, taxpayers hired Dawn Leger to lead the program as downtown coordinator, she moved on after three years without success.
Only once did the city come close to nabbing something – when Vita’s got the green light for $60,000 to open on Main Street. But that deal collapsed when The Bristol Press exposed the owner’s financial problems.
The city also dug into the fund to give the former Centre Mall Pizza $60,000 so it could move out of the mall to the opposite side of North Main Street, a move that officials readily admitted had nothing to do with the aim of the restaurant program.
So despite all the effort and money, said BDA commissioner Mike Rivers, “there are zero” restaurants that have been attracted.
Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, remains optimistic.
He said he doesn’t want to dip into the funds for anything less than restaurants someone might seek out for a Valentine’s Day dinner.
“I wouldn’t take away from the white tablecloth fund,” Rosenthal said.
He said the idea is to have restaurants that can seat up to 60 people indoors with a full-service menu, places that are “high quality and unique.”
Rosenthal said that when the program began, officials have six or seven possible locations in mind for new restaurants. Many of them are gone now, including the basement of developer George Carpenter’s office building at the corner of North Main and Center streets. Carpenter didn’t want to put in the required ventilation there, Rosenthal said.
But with activity likely on the 17-acre mall site in the next couple of years, officials are content to keep waiting.
They said that sooner or later, restaurants will discover downtown Bristol.

Dawn Leger sent this along:
"I never made $60,000 in that job; far from it. The Chamber was paid $60,00 by the City, but my salary - at its highest point - was $45,000.
We had many very interested and well-known restaurants looking at properties in Bristol, as Jonathan mentioned, but the program was presented too early for anyone to bite, and most of the sites vanished within the first year of the promotion.
Maybe someday, it will come."
Thanks for the clarification, Dawn!

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Downtown zoning rules on agenda Wednesday night

Here's a note that City Planner Alan Weiner sent out the other day that I forgot until now to post:

This is to remind you that the Bristol Zoning Commission will be holding a public information session on Wednesday, January 30, 2008, in the City Council Chambers in City Hall, beginning at 6:30 PM regarding its proposed amendments to the Downtown Business (BD) zone provisions of the city's Zoning Regulations and Zoning Map. A copy of the meeting agenda is enclosed for your information.

As previously noted, the purpose of this meeting is to give the Commission an opportunity to explain the proposed amendments and answer any questions that the public might have about them, as well as to give all interested parties an opportunity to comment about the proposed amendments in an "informal" setting (i.e., not in the context of a formal public hearing).

To view and download the proposed amendments (as well as other supporting materials), go to http://www.ci.bristol.ct.us/content/3326/8362/default.aspx

If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact the Land Use Office by telephone at 860/584-6225 or by e-mail at landuseoffice@ci.bristol.ct.us. Thanks in advance for your interest and participation in this important process.

And here's the meeting agenda:


6:30 P.M.

I. Update of Bristol Zoning Regulations and Zoning Map
1. Draft of proposed amendments to the Downtown Business (BD) zone
a. Overview of proposed amendments
b. Public input and feedback (questions, comments, concerns, suggestions, etc.)
c. Next steps

II. Adjournment

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

January 28, 2008

Larson: President failed to lay out vision for future

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Larson, the Connecticut Democrat who represents Bristol:

WASHINGTON, DC -- Tonight, President Bush delivered his final State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress. Following the speech, Congressman John B. Larson CT-01, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, said:
“I applaud the President for laying out a series of issues where Congress and his administration can continue to work together. In the past weeks, we have seen the value of bipartisanship as the President accepted the olive branch of cooperation that our Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, extended to him. The outcome was an economic stimulus package that will ease the burden of a slowing economy on millions of lower- and middle-income Americans, including 35 million who would not have been included in the President’s original proposal. In the coming year, I hope we can work further with the President on issues like immigration reform and global warming.
However, I think the President’s speech feel far short of what the American people wanted and deserved tonight. The President was so focused on his own legacy that he failed to layout a vision for America’s future. The average American is looking for leadership and bold initiatives that address issues like healthcare, jobs and infrastructure. We heard none of that from the President. This country is facing new challenges and uncharted territory. Now is the time to reassure the American people. To tell them that they will be able to look across their kitchen tables each evening at their spouses and children knowing they can provide for them and their future.
I look forward to working with a Democratic President come November to meet the challenges of the future and put aside the politics of yesterday.”

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Scalia site chosen again...

Hoping the second time’s the charm, a school site selection panel Monday agreed to try again to convince the City Council to put a new school in the Scalia sand pit off Barlow Street.
The West Bristol School Building Committee unanimously agreed to pick the so-called “Scalia A” site for one of the two new kindergarten to eighth grade schools sought by educators.
With a heavy behind the scenes push to act quickly, councilors may vote on the suggestions in two weeks.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne, who serves on the school site selection panel, said he expects the suggested site to win approval this time around.
The other school is already targeted for construction next door to Greene-Hills Elementary School on Pine Street, at the former Crowley car dealership. Negotiations are underway to purchase the property from Crowley.
In choosing the Scalia site, the panel opted to brush aside calls to put the school on property bordered by Divinity and Park streets across from Rockwell Park.
Former Republican mayoral candidate Ken Johnson, who said he’d back the Scalia site if the committee picked it, urged the panel to “be bold and visionary” and consider the urban renewal value of picking the West End property instead.
He called the Scalia site “the path of least resistance” in urging panel members to seize the “tremendous opportunities” of picking the former IGA grocery store site on Divinity Street.
A school there, Johnson said, “would be more than a school.” He said it would tie in to Rockwell Park and serve as a community center long after the bell rings each day.
A number of residents spoke against the Park and Divinity streets site and a couple favored it.
But it was clear the panel had the Scalia site in mind all along.
Don Soucy, a Board of Finance member who serves on the site selection committee, said that he’s pretty good at counting votes and he could see that two or three council votes against the Scalia site in October were no longer there.
“It may happen this time,” he said.
Other potential sites that were given little attention this time around include the former Roberts property on Chippens Hill and the downtown mall property, which several panel members said they couldn’t pick because they knew the council would never support it.
The Board of Education has called for spending $115 million or more to build two new 900-student schools. When they open, four older schools would be shut down: Memorial Boulevard Middle School and three primary schools: Greene-Hills, O’Connell and Bingham.
A massive redistricting would be necessary when the change is made, though it’s likely at least a few years off.
The city is in the process of seeking architects to work out the details of both school projects.
Cockayne said that a school board appraisal pegged the value of the Scalia site at $1.5 million, making it a far less costly alternative than the West End site, which would require buying 35 privately owned pieces of property.
Johnson figured their appraised value for city tax purposes totaled about $4.8 million, making their market value somewhere between $5 million and $10 million.
Though Johnson said the cost difference amounted to “a flea on the back of the project” given its massive scope, Cockayne said that he couldn’t help paying attention to the cheaper price for the Scalia site.
He also said it offers the potential for expansion in the future, which could come in handy someday.
One drawback with the Scalia site is that every student going there would have to take a bus. Nobody could walk there, officials said.
Melanie Dumont, a panel member, said Scalia is potentially a great place for a school.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Hillary's stop in Hartford

Two stories by reporter Jackie Majerus follow:

HARTFORD – A campaign stop in Connecticut gave Sen. Hillary Clinton a chance to return to familiar territory, she told an enthusiastic crowd at The Learning Corridor Monday.
"It's a personal pleasure to be back in Connecticut," said Clinton.
As law students at Yale more than 30 years ago, Clinton said, she and Bill Clinton would make Sunday trips to Hartford.
"Bill had this old beat up car," said Clinton, who said it was an Opal. "It was the kind of car that was held together with duct tape."
She said they enjoyed exploring Connecticut.
"We went from one end of the state to the other," she said. "It is such a beautiful state."
Now, as a U.S. senator from New York, Clinton said she likes being neighbors with Connecticut.
Clinton came in with state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, an old friend from her days at Yale.
"He is generally believed to be the best attorney general in the entire United States of America," Clinton enthused, adding that they share an opposition to the proposed Broadwater liquid natural gas facility in Long Island Sound.
"It is an honor to be standing side by side with him," Clinton said.
Addressing an overflow crowd in the school, which is part of the Capitol Region Education Council, Clinton got the most applause when she noted that Monday night's State of the Union speech will be the last one given by President George W. Bush.
"If we all do our part, next year, it'll be a Democratic president," said Clinton.
When Bush finishes his speech Monday night, said Clinton, "it will be time for all of us to turn our attention to picking the next president."
"That's you, baby," a supporter shouted.
Clinton, who spoke for about a half hour before taking questions for another 20 minutes, said the country is at a "turning point," with much work to do on issues like health care, education, the war in Iraq and good jobs.
"America is ready for an election that sets a new agenda," said Clinton, "an election that brings back that confidence and optimism that should be our birthright."
The election, said Clinton, is about the next generation.
"Right now, we borrow money from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis," said Clinton. "I believe we can do better than that."
If she's the Democratic nominee, Clinton said, she will "get up every single day and wage a winning campaign" against the Republican candidate.
She said she's ready, having been on the "receiving end" of Republican fire for years.
"Much to their dismay, I'm still standing here," she said.
What matters is whether people "are better off than when we started," said Clinton, such as whether children have health insurance, whether a man whose job has been moved offshore can "have any hope left," whether a woman is earning equal pay for equal work and whether families are getting the support they need.
"If we are serious about family values, let's start valuing families," said Clinton. "Pay has not kept up. People are working hard and they're not getting ahead."
Clinton said she wants to bring back "American leadership and moral authority in the world," starting with an end to the war.
"We are strongest when we lead with our values," said Clinton. "Military force should be used only as a last resort, not as a first resort."
She said she would start troop withdrawal within six months of taking office. She said she believes the U.S. can bring out "one to two brigades a month" and begin to turn the job over to the Iraqis.
"The era of cowboy diplomacy is over," said Clinton. "We are going to be engaged with everyone again."


HARTFORD – Support for Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign got a big boost in Connecticut Monday when she made a stop at The Learning Corridor magnet school in Hartford.
"We're going to make history by choosing Hillary Clinton," said state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
Blumenthal said he's known Clinton to be a person with "enormous conviction, compassion and caring" since they met as students at Yale Law School about 35 years ago.
"Her heart is with real people with real problems, making a difference, making changes," said Blumenthal. "She has enormous compassion, but she is a fighter. She is a leader who will fight for change on day one. Hillary knows what it takes to get our economy moving again."
State Comptroller Nancy Wyman said Clinton will be able to "give our country the comeback it deserves."
Under Clinton, America will come together again, said Wyman, and the middle class will grow and prosper.
"For her, politics is not a game," said Wyman. "It is about people's lives."
Wyman, who said she values family above all else, said she feels completely comfortable putting her precious grandchildren and their future into Clinton's hands.
"The stakes have never been higher," said Wyman. "The time to take action is now."
"She's the right choice for us," said Dave Roche of Bristol. "She believes in labor."
More importantly, Clinton supports organized labor, said Roche, who is the business manager for Local 40 of the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association.
The union, which has about 600 members statewide, has endorsed Clinton and is taking an active role in her campaign, Roche said.
"She wants to fix this health care system and get the middle class up and going again," Roche said.
Connecticut House Speaker James Amann, who attended Clinton's appearance at the school, which is part of the Capitol Region Education Council, said he would officially endorse Clinton on Tuesday.
Amann said he was leaning towards supporting her primary rival, Barack Obama until a couple weeks ago, he said more research told him the Illinois senator hadn't done enough to warrant his support.
"Though I like him a lot, and I do," said Amann, with the situation in Iraq, Iran and North Korea today, "we need someone who has a little more experience."
A Clinton-Obama ticket, said Amann, "would be our Democratic dream."
State Rep. Jason Bartlett, a Bethel Democrat who is co-chair of Clinton's Connecticut campaign, revved up the crowd before Clinton's arrival, urging them to "tear down the barriers" and elect the first woman president.
"Hillary is one of us," said Bartlett, regaling the audience with stories about Clinton's work with children, support for the working class, education, health care and the environment.
"Like our Lady Huskies, Hillary knows how to play some ball," said Bartlett. "Hillary knows how to win."
Eric Bernstein, principal and director of the Greater Hartford Academy of Mathematics and Science, part of The Learning Corridor where Clinton spoke, waited with his students for Clinton to arrive. He said it was wonderful that Clinton was visiting the school.
"Regardless of your political views, it's a great opportunity," said Bernstein.
Atticus Kelly of New Britain, a 14-year-old student at The Learning Corridor, attended the speech with his class.
"She told us what we wanted to hear, which is good," said Kelly, who said Clinton discussed health care, No Child Left Behind and "lots of things that we worry about."
Kelly said he largely agreed with Clinton.
"She had solid answers," Kelly said.
Blumenthal said he's often asked whether he and his classmates at Yale figured Bill Clinton would one day become President.
"Most of us said Hillary's going to be President," Blumenthal said.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

The clock really did stop in Bristol

I know many people think the clock stopped in Bristol half a century ago, but it hasn't been that long.
On the side of City Hall is a peculiar-looking clock that's been stuck at 6 for weeks or maybe months. It's only right twice a day, which probably makes it one of the more accurate functions of city government.
But officials have noticed that it's not moving.
"The clock on the wall no longer works," Assistant Public Works Director George Wallace told the Building Committee last week.
Officials have plans to spend about $4,500 to replace the clock's innards one of these days.
Given that Bristol is known in the rest of the world for clocks and ESPN, it's probably not such a good idea to have a dead clock on the outside wall of City Hall.
It doesn't send quite the message that our leaders want.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Making what we believe in "real"

"How do we translate our beliefs in to action? How do we go from a campaign where we make speeches, the people stand up and cheer and clap loudly, into making what we believe, real?" - Hillary Clinton, in Hartford this morning

Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton still needs to fine-tune the words, but the point she's making is both barbed and worthwhile.
The rap against Barack Obama, who's running neck-and-neck with the New York senator, is that he lacks experience. What Clinton is doing is trying to show why that matters.
It's not enough to sound good and promise change, she points out. What matters, in the end, is can you deliver? And that's just as true for the Republican candidates as the Democratic ones.
We don't elect presidents to give speeches, after all. We pick them to lead our country in the right direction, to compromise when necessary and to stand firm when that's required. We want our leaders to get things done. We want them to deliver peace and prosperty, now and into the future. We want them to make us proud. We want them, in short, to be better than they can possibly be.
And we'd like to see it happen without the bitterness that has marred our politics for far, far too long.
With Clinton, there's no doubt the hard feelings of long-ago battles will linger, on both sides. With Obama, perhaps the era of hyperpartisanship can pass.
Obama presents a true dilemma for Democratic loyalists, who sense that he has the potential for greatness.
But he also, they recognize, might muck up the opportunity because he doesn't know how it's all done.
Clinton, of course, knows how the White House works and knows what it takes to get there.
It remains a fascinating primary.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Hillary focuses on Bush during Hartford campaign stop

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton relegated her chief Democratic rival to the rhetorical sidelines Monday and focused her criticism on President Bush, saying he had lost touch with the concerns of an anxious public.

In a speech to more than 1,000 people jammed in a gymnasium, Clinton did not refer to the fight with Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. Her audience, which included an equal number listening in an adjoining room, roared with approval when the former first lady took note of the Republican president's dwindling time in office.

"Tonight is a red-letter night in American history," she said. "It is the last time George Bush will give the State of the Union. Next year it will be a Democratic president giving it."

Bush is isolated at the White House, Clinton said, inviting the president to join her in meeting the kind of people she has come across during her campaign. "Sit at tables at diners and hear what's on America's mind," she suggested.

"I have been in and out of the homes and work places and community centers across America. What they want to talk to me about is the insecurity they feel and the fears they are confronting," she said.

The competition between Clinton and Obama has grown increasingly testy heading into next week's enormous round of primaries. But at least on this day, Clinton took on Bush, using the State of the Union address to highlight her differences with the commander in chief.

Bush is certain, she said, to assert that the state of the nation is strong even though "we are sliding into a recession. We have as lot of concerns we need to deal with," including a mortgage crisis that is driving people from their homes.

In Clinton's estimation, Bush "has never understood is that the State of the Union is not about a speech in Washington. It is about the lives of the American people who feel they are moving toward the American dream."

The woeful housing market, she said, is evidence of the economic insecurity that millions of people are sensing — concerns she said are not registering in the White House.

"It is about people and will they be able to stay in their homes or will they lose their homes," said Clinton. "It is about where we as a nation will restore our leadership and our moral authority."

Clinton's scheduled included stops in Hartford and then Massachusetts before returning to Capitol Hill for Bush's final State of the Union address.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

January 27, 2008

Anyone going to see Hillary in Hartford?

If you go see Hillary Clinton in Hartford on Monday morning, we'd sure love to hear your impressions. Send us an email, give us a phone call or post a comment here (but, please, not anonymously).

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

January 26, 2008

Hillary speaking in Hartford 9:30 a.m. Monday

January 26, 2008

Hillary Clinton Headed to Connecticut Monday

HARTFORD – The Clinton Campaign today announced that Hillary Clinton will attend a Solutions for the American Economy Town Hall in Hartford, CT on Monday, January 28 at 9:30 am. Additional details will follow.
WHEN: Monday, January 28, 2008, 9:30 AM
WHERE: The Learning Corridor
Commons Gymnasium
43 Vernon Street

*Parking Available at the corner of Brownell Avenue and Washington Street*

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Dodd endorsing Hillary?

I can't think of another reason Hillary Clinton would be coming to Connecticut. We're just not that important in the presidential sweepstakes.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Hillary coming to Hartford on Monday

New press release from presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton:

HARTFORD – The Clinton Campaign today announced that Hillary Clinton will attend a morning event in Hartford, CT on Monday, January 28. Additional details will follow.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

January 25, 2008

Protest outside ESPN draws few

Reporter Jackie Majerus filed this:

A Christian Defense Coalition protest outside ESPN Friday drew about 15 people.
The protestors said they were upset with the sports media giant's response to alleged remarks made off the air at an Atlantic City party January 11 by SportsCenter anchor Dana Jacobson.
Jessica Ross, 21, of Bristol, joined the demonstration.
She was offended, Ross said, when she heard reports that Jacobson – speaking at a rowdy roast for other ESPN personalities – said "F--- Notre Dame, f--- Touchdown Jesus and f--- Jesus."
Jacobson, a Michigan alum, was making comments about Notre Dame football, said ESPN Vice President Mike Soltys, not about any religious faith.
The roast was for Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, hosts of Mike & Mike in the Morning. Golic is a Notre Dame alum and "Touchdown Jesus" is a school icon, a mural painted in the end zone.
ESPN condemned the comments and suspended Jacobson for a week, but the Christian Defense Coalition, led by the Rev. Patrick Mahoney – a former pastor at Hillside Community Church in Forestville – wants her fired.
Speaking to television cameras in front of ESPN Friday, Mahoney said ESPN should "release the tape" of Jacobson's comments.
While Soltys said ESPN does have a copy of her remarks, the company will not make them public. He has repeatedly stated that the reports are "imprecise" but said that the company has condemned them and sees no reason to repeat them.
"There's a lot of inaccurate information," said Soltys, that is circulating on the internet.
"They haven't said exactly that she did not say that," said Ross, who said she attends Hillside Community Church. She said a week's suspension isn't much of a punishment.
Jacobson's comments, said Ross, were "against the Jesus that I serve."
Ross said she wants ESPN to take Jacobson's comments seriously.
"I'm not out to get her," said Ross.
Officials at Notre Dame took offense at Jacobson's remarks, but have said they accept how ESPN dealt with the incident.
Soltys, who is Catholic, said he found Jacobson's comments "wrong," but not bigoted or hate speech.
"They were about Notre Dame football," said Soltys.
Mahoney tried to compare the incident with one last year when actor Isaiah Washington, who played Dr. Preston Burke on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," used an anti-gay slur against a fellow cast member.
"He used the term 'faggot' and he was fired," said Mahoney, who said he wants similar "justice" from ESPN for Christians by firing Jacobson. "ABC owns ESPN."
In fact, ABC does not own ESPN. ESPN belongs to The Walt Disney Co., which also owns ABC.
At the time of his comments, Washington was rebuked and issued an apology. He was not fired, but months later, the network did not renew his contract.
"No one at ESPN was involved in any way, shape or form with the Isaiah Washington situation," said Soltys, and ABC isn't at all involved in this one.
Discipline is done on a case by case basis, said Soltys, with careful consideration given to the circumstances, the person involved and their track record.
"We act on it based on what we feel is the correct thing to do, not from interest that generates on the internet," said Soltys.
Mahoney said he wants ESPN to host a roundtable discussion on religious discrimination in the workplace. Christians find using the words "God damn something" as offensive as African Americans find the use of "the n-word," said Mahoney.
The punishment meted out by ESPN is "insulting and it shows that ESPN just doesn't get it," said Mahoney.
The group also wants to meet with Jacobson, said Mahoney, who insisted that they love and forgive her.
"They were ugly comments," said Josh Conrad of Bristol, who attends Hillside Community Church and was at the protest. "We've already forgiven her."
But Conrad said Jacobson should still be fired.
"Comments like this are a form of persecution," said Conrad. "ESPN has treated the incident with a lack of respect and a lack of awareness. It's been quietly brushed under the rug."
Conrad, 24, said he watches ESPN "all the time." and hasn't stopped since the Jacobson incident.
During the protest, several passing vehicles honked. One car had a window open, and from inside, someone shouted, "Get a life!"
Several Bristol police officers were at the scene, helping protestors, reporters and photographers – who had parked across the street – cross busy Route 229.
Sgt. Dave Boi of the Bristol Police Department said the road is especially dangerous in front of ESPN. He said there have been fatalities there in the past and police didn't want anyone to be hit walking across the road.

And she also filed this, later in the day:

Executives from ESPN sat down for a nearly two-hour meeting with leaders of the Christian Defense Coalition Friday afternoon and both sides emerged from the session anticipating future talks.
ESPN Vice President Mike Soltys said he and Steve Anderson, an executive vice president who oversees the commentators, met at the Clarion hotel with the Rev. Patrick Mahoney and two others from the group after Mahoney led a protest outside ESPN.
"We had a good dialog about sensitivity toward language," said Soltys, especially with respect to Christianity.
Mahoney said his group asked Soltys and Anderson to pass along a request to speak with Dana Jacobson, whose alleged comments at a rowdy roast in Atlantic City inflamed Mahoney's group.
Jacobson's off-air remarks weren't published, and ESPN isn't releasing them. The company said they were inappropriate but were about Notre Dame football, not religion.
Jacobson was suspended for a week, but Mahoney's group wants her fired.
"Obviously she said something offensive," said Mahoney, because ESPN suspended her.
Anderson told Mahoney he would deliver the request to Jacobson when she returns to work on Monday.
"I want her to see that we accept her apology," said Mahoney. "I want to hear from her, what she said and the context in which she said it."
He said he wants to "hear her heart."
"We promised that we would not embarrass her," said Mahoney. "It would be great to just talk face to face."
Mahoney said his group offered to set up a meeting of "faith leaders who are struggling with this" and ESPN representatives.
"They're very open to that," Mahoney said.
"We told them that we're open to dialog, that we've been discussing this with faith leaders that have called us and we've reached out to some of them on our own," said Soltys, adding that the dialog this week has been "positive."
The two sides "pledged to continue to talk to each other," Soltys said.
Mahoney said the meeting with ESPN was the "first step."
"Nothing's off the table," said Mahoney. "We're not calling for a boycott. We're not calling for massive demonstrations right now."

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

City plans to honor active duty military from Bristol

The city plans a new display to honor active duty military personnel around the world.
Prompted by veteran Al Cianchetti, city councilors said this week they would like to see a professional display at City Hall that would showcase photographs of Bristol residents who are currently serving in the military.
“The concept is an excellent one,” said city Councilor Craig Minor.
Cianchetti said he wants to see “more than just a plain Jane bulletin board” to honor the men and women who are risking their lives for their country.
He said the display he envisions would “show support” for residents who are serving in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. It would include all active duty personnel, not just those serving in war zones.
Though Cianchetti offered to have a display made, the city’s Building Committee said that it ought to be a municipal responsibility – and it ought to be done right.
“Bristol can afford to spend a few dollars,” said Minor, to pay its respects to its citizens who are in uniform across the globe.
He said he would like to see something done with dignity.
“It’s probably not going to be cheap,” Minor said.
City Purchasing Agent Roger Rousseau said he would look into options for the display.
City Councilor Kevin McCauley, who chairs the committee, said he would like to see a cover of some sort on the display to help prevent vandalism.
Public Works Director Walter Veselka said that officials need to figure out who would maintain the board and who would figure out which pictures to display.
The city’s Veterans Committee will also weigh in soon with its thoughts on how to do it properly.
There is no easy way to find out the names or obtain pictures of Bristol people who are in the military.
An effort to send care packages with Bristol themes to military personnel depended mostly on friends and families providing the names and addresses. Chances are that pictures will have to come from the same sources.
McCauley said he’s looking forward to the new display.
“It’s off and running,” he said.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

City seeking up to $25 million from state for downtown

To revitalize downtown, Bristol is seeking as much as $25 million in state aid.
Mayor Art Ward said the city and the nonprofit Bristol Downtown Development Corp. are looking for between $20 million and $25 million to overhaul the 17-acre mall site in the city’s center.
That includes, he said, $8 million for a possible parking garage.
Ward said that state officials are glad that Bristol is no longer seeking as much as $100 million in aid, which might have been necessary to create the municipal complex envisioned when the city bought the decrepit mall in 2005.
“We’re basically looking for infrastructure money,” Ward said.
This is the first time since Mayor Gerard Couture’s administration left office in 2005 that city leaders have narrowed down how much cash they’re looking for from Hartford.
The mayor said that city officials are meeting Monday with state Department of Economic and Community Development decision-makers to outline plans and get some feedback.
“We’re very excited” to be moving forward, Ward said.
State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat, said the new figure for state aid for the project “is more in line with what the governor’s looking at.”
“It’s not an outrageous figure,” Nicastro said.
The downtown corporation is hoping to begin soliciting developers this winter for proposals about what to do with the mall site after the building is demolished. Generally, they expect to see plans that include retail shops, offices and perhaps housing. But details remain scant.
The mall itself, empty since October, is slated to be torn down within weeks.
When the city and state first began talking about aid for Bristol’s downtown, former Gov. John Rowland promised $45 million in assistance to help construct a new Bristol Boys and Girls Club, a field house, a performing arts center and more on the mall site.
But that plan fell apart when skeptical taxpayers rebelled at what appeared to be a skyrocketing price tag. Couture got clobbered at the polls, too, and was replaced by Republican Mayor William Stortz.
Stortz spent two years in office patching up the legal framework for the project and creating th nonprofit to spearhead the mall property’s revitalization. He chose not to seek reelection, opening the door for Ward to take charge.
Ward and Frank Johnson, the head of the BDDC, met recently with DECD Commissioner Joan McDonald to go over the current ideas for downtown.
Ward said she was particularly receptive to the idea of a public-private partnership with a developer to transform the site.
The city is also angling for $2 million in federal aid for downtown through U.S. Rep. John Larson, an East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol.
Ward said that money, if it comes through, could be used to do work on downtown areas outside the confines of the mall site.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

She probably didn't say it...

A story in today's Atlantic City Press does a pretty good job of showing how an internet rumor that ESPN's Dana Jacobson said "F- Jesus" in the midst of a drunken anti-Notre Dame tirade has spiraled well beyond the facts.
It seems from what I could tell that a Chicago Tribune blog started the talk that she said "F- Jesus," but considering how many people were there at the Atlantic City roast, it sure seems like someone would remember that. And nobody's coming forward to say they did.
I feel a little sorry for Jacobson, who's gaining a sort of infamy from her bit of drunken idiocy.
(Above is a picture of Jacobson, mid-tirade, from the AC Press. Below is another, from si.com.)

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

January 24, 2008

Prayer and protest at ESPN's Bristol HQ

Press Staff
BRISTOL –A former Bristol pastor is organizing a prayer vigil and protest outside ESPN at noon today over the company's response to anchorwoman Dana Jacobson's off-air remarks at an Atlantic City party this month.
Calling Jacobson's comments "religious discrimination, bigotry and hate speech," the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said he wants ESPN to fire her.
Jacobson, a SportsCenter anchor who is co-host of the national morning show ESPN First Take , spoke at a January 11 roast at the House of Blues in Atlantic City, honoring Mike & Mike in the Morning co-hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg.
Writer Scott Cronick of the Atlantic City Press published an account of the party the next day, and noted that Jacobson "made an absolute fool of herself, swilling vodka from a Belvedere bottle, mumbling along and cursing like a sailor as Mike & Mike rested their heads in their hands in embarrassment."
Cronick did not report what Jacobson specifically said, but Mahoney, who did not attend the event, said her rant included, "F--- Notre Dame, f--- Touchdown Jesus and f--- Jesus."
Jacobson, who attended Michigan – Notre Dame's arch rival – apparently was referring, at least in part, to a mural in Notre Dame's football stadium called "Touchdown Jesus."
She was suspended for a week and issued a public apology.
"The punishment does not fit the crime," said Mahoney. "She didn't do it as a private citizen. She did it under the color of ESPN. A week's suspension is absolutely pathetic."
In a statement released by ESPN, the company called Jacobson's comments "wrong" and "inexcusable." But ESPN said, "Her uncharacteristic behavior was not aimed at a particular religious faith."
ESPN Vice President Mike Soltys said the blog reports of what she said have been "imprecise."
The comments were not broadcast or otherwise distributed by ESPN, and Soltys said they will not be.
"The comments were in the context of Notre Dame football. They were inappropriate," said Soltys. "We're not going to repeat them. We've publicly condemned them, so why repeat it?"
In Jacobson's public apology, she said she was "very sorry" and called her remarks "foolish and insensitive."
"I respect all religions and did not mean anything derogatory by my poorly chosen words," said Jacobson, who came to work for ESPN in 2002. "I won't make excuses for my behavior but do hope that I can be forgiven for such a poor lack of judgment."
Mahoney said ESPN has to show "zero tolerance" for "bigoted, hateful rhetoric in the workplace."
"I just shudder if Ms. Jacobson had said, 'F-Mohammed,'" Mahoney said.
But when asked, what would Jesus do, Mahoney said, "Would Jesus want her to be fired? No. Jesus wouldn't want anyone to be fired."
Then later, comparing the accountability he wants to see for Jacobson to that of a parent disciplining an errant child, Mahoney said Jesus "would demand justice" for Jacobson, even as he loved her.
Mahoney was pastor of Hillside Community Church in Forestville from 1981 to 1987. While a minister in Bristol, he was a leader in the anti-abortion movement, forcing the city to hold a referendum on the issue.
Mahoney said other Christian groups are also upset with ESPN.
"This is just the start of a long journey. We'll have to see what ESPN does," said Mahoney. "This is at Ground Zero of the story."
Soltys and Mahoney said they will meet after the prayer vigil.
Mahoney said he watches ESPN.
"I love it," said Mahoney. "It's the network I watch the most."
He hasn't called for a boycott, he said, and he hasn't stopped watching it himself.
"Not yet," said Mahoney.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Christian groups plans protest outside ESPN

Press release from The Christian Defense Coalition, via the Christian Newswire:

BRISTOL, Connecticut, Jan. 24 - The Christian Defense Coalition plans to lead a public demonstration and prayer vigil outside of ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.

Event Details---

When: Friday, January 25, 12:00 noon

Where: On the public sidewalk in front of ESPN on West Street, across from McDonalds, in front of the sign that reads "Welcome to Bristol, Home of ESPN," in Bristol, Connecticut

An ESPN executive confirmed to Rev. Patrick Mahoney the existence of a tape of Dana Jacobson's comments. The Christian Defense Coalition will lead a protest asking ESPN to release the tape and fire Jacobson.

ESPN executives have agreed to meet with Christian Defense Coalition members on Friday, following the demonstration.

The Coalition says hate speech, bigotry, and religious intolerance should have no place in the public square and the only proper response for ESPN is to release Ms. Jacobson.

Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, comments, "Hate speech, and religious intolerance should have no place in American society. When we see these things raise their ugly head, it is critical that people of good will unite together and prayerfully stand against such bigotry and prejudice. By publicly saying, 'F--k Jesus,' while representing ESPN, Dana Jacobson has crossed a very well defined line. Her comments are so outrageous and inflammatory that the only proper response for ESPN is to immediately release her. A week suspension is simply not enough and sends a message that ESPN tolerates this kind of behavior and speech.

"Imagine the outrage if Ms. Jacobson said, 'F--k Mohammed,' 'F--k Jews,' or 'F--k African Americans.' We would simply ask that the parent company of ESPN, ABC, treat this incident the same way they did when Isaiah Washington publicly used the word 'fag' when referring to a cast member. Although the faith community can forgive and extend mercy to Ms. Jacobson, she still must assume full responsibility and accept the consequences for her hate-filled rhetoric."

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Commuter rail for Bristol?

A new rail commuter line is among the items that Bristol leaders agreed to pursue Thursday.
“I’d love it. I really would,” Mayor Art Ward said.
Ward met in his office with the city’s legislative delegation to work out a common agenda for the upcoming legislative session, with everyone agreeing to try to grab more money for Bristol’s wish list.
“It was good to see the delegation come together” with Mayor Art Ward to work out a common agenda to boost Bristol and Forestville’s needs, said state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Democrat whose 79th District includes the southern third of the city.
Though most of the issues they discussed have been batted around for years, the prospect of a commuter rail line reaching the city is something that hasn’t received much attention for decades.
“I’d like to see that brought to light,” Nicastro said. He said it would make Bristol more accessible.
Ward said he would like to a rail line for commuters to use to go to Hartford or Waterbury, or both.
With the high price of gasoline and new downtown development looming, the timing may be right, Ward said. If energy prices keep rising, he said, “there might not be a choice. It would provide for conservation.”
Nicastro said that it would be up to state transportation experts to put the issue on the front burner, but a push from Bristol might help.
Ward said, “I would think it would be worthy of looking into.”
He said that he and his wife took a train from Berlin to Quantico, Va. not long ago. The ride was great, Ward said.
Ward said there hasn’t been a passenger train serving Bristol in “a long, long time,” but perhaps it can come back.
Another issue that Nicastro and Ward each said deserves attention is the Riverside Avenue gateway to downtown.
The mayor said that maybe the state can apply pressure on Yankee Gas to spruce up its work yard at the eastern approach to Memorial Boulevard, a goal the city has long sought without much success.
Ward said he wants the former Trudon Trucking property on Downs Street to return to its natural state. A former blight target, it has been partially cleaned up but nothing has been done with it for years.
All of the city’s legislators were present for the Thursday session, including Nicastro; state Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who represents the 31st District; and state Reps. Bill Hamzy, R-78, Ron Burns, R-77, and Betty Boukus, D-22.

The city’s wish list for the year
*Keep Route 72 extension on track
*Secure funding for downtown revitalization
*Stay on top of possibility of converting courthouse to juvenile courthouse
*Get funding for Riverside Avenue gateway to downtown, including the area at the eastern end of Memorial Boulevard
*Make sure school bonding stays on track
*Maximize education funding
*Seek state support for commuter rail line in Bristol
*Try for state help for anti-flooding efforts
*Get funding for Rockwell Park renovations
*Seek low-interest state loans for businesses interested in the new industrial park

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

United Way boss to head St. Paul's

Press Staff
BRISTOL – After spending more than a decade raising money in his home community for the United Way, Cary Dupont is going back to his roots, taking over as president of St. Paul Catholic High School.
Dupont's new job – he'll start July 1 – will bring him back to his old high school, 40 years after entering its hallways as a freshman.
"I have a strong attachment for St. Paul's," said Dupont, who graduated from the school in 1972. His daughter, Sarah, is a 2003 graduate and his son, Andrew, is president of this year's graduating class.
Dupont, a 1976 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, is currently co-chair of the St. Paul board of directors. He's served on the volunteer board since 1999, he said.
He didn't apply for the job at St. Paul, said Dupont, but was approached by Archbishop Henry Mansell, the Rev. Timothy O'Brien, who is the school's current president, and Daniel Hoyt, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
"They asked me to assume the position," said Dupont, and he agreed. "After being asked, I felt it was a good opportunity for me to go back to the school I graduated from."
St. Paul uses a college prep model, said Dupont, with a president and two deans.
Sharon Mielcarz is the dean of academic life, responsible for the faculty and curriculum, said Dupont, while Robert Kaminski is the dean of student life, handling athletics, discipline and guidance issues.
"There's no principal position," said Dupont. "The president is the person responsible for the entire school, running the business of the school."
According to Dupont, O'Brien – who has been splitting his time between running the school and his full-time post as pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in New Hartford – is leaving at the end of this month to focus solely on the parish. He will remain on the school board.
"The school really does need a full-time administrator," said Dupont.
In the interim, Maria Maynard, the assistant superintendent, will work with the school's deans to oversee operations at St. Paul, according to information from the archdiocese.
Once on the job, Dupont said he'll focus on boosting support for St. Paul through increased enrollment, volunteerism and financial contributions to the school.
"I'm really looking forward to the challenge of being there," said Dupont, adding that he's excited about working with the faculty and helping students and families "achieve some of their dreams."
For the past 11 years, Dupont has led the United Way of West Central Connecticut. He said the organization has a committed board and a "terrific staff."
"I have a real comfort level, knowing that this organization's in good hands," said Dupont. "Knowing that allows me to accept this challenge at St. Paul's."
The United Way will form a search committee to find his replacement, said Dupont, who said his July starting date at St. Paul will give the agency enough time to find someone.
Dupont's new post isn't his first in Catholic education.
Before taking the job at the United Way, Dupont worked in development for St. Matthew's School in Forestville and later for the Archdiocese of Hartford as assistant director of development in the Office of Catholic Schools. There, he worked to raise support for Catholic elementary schools, said Dupont.
Earlier in his career, Dupont said, he worked in the 1970s for the Bristol Boys Club, running a summer camp and a program for at-risk youth and at the Connecticut Junior Republic, a residential facility for at-risk youth.
Because Dupont's job at St. Paul won't begin until the summer – after his son graduates – their time at the school won't overlap.
"He's just getting out on time," quipped Dupont.
Founded in 1966, St. Paul today has a student body of 300, with pupils from the central and western parts of the state.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

January 23, 2008

Let's get to know the school board candidates better

Instead of changing the way school board members are picked, the community needs to do a better job of showcasing candidates seeking one of the nine seats on the Board of Education, officials said.
“The community needs to provide more opportunities” for voters to learn who’s running for school board seats and what their positions are, said Tim Furey, chairman of the city’s Charter Revision Commission.
The commission this week unanimously gunned down a proposal that could have led to a return to an appointed school board.
Furey said that members of the charter panel who had leaned toward the change ultimately realized that the problem they see in the current system can be addressed with more forums and other venues for the public to get to know the candidates.
Officials had eyed the change because some of them were concerned that the school board isn’t responsive enough to the public. Many of them also believe that voters had almost no idea who any of the school board contenders were.
Furey said that after hearing from several city councilors and school board members, he realized that those seeking the office “are engaged people” who deliberately put themselves through the political process to gain a seat on the volunteer school board.
He said the deficiency in the system isn’t the candidates or the method by which they are picked. It is how to inform voters about the choices they have for the Board of Education, Furey said.
That means that when there is a school board race, the political town committees, community groups, parent-teacher organizations and perhaps the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce need to step up to the plate and sponsor forums that would shine some light on the candidates, he said.
Since school board members serve four-year terms, it won’t be an issue again until 2011.
Dick Prindle, a member of the charter commission, said he wasn't surprised that the idea was dropped given the lack of general support for a change to an appointed board.
He said, though, that he would like to see wholesale changes in the schools and in the way the city is run. “I’m more or less totally disgusted with education,” said Prindle, a Republican who has run unsuccessfully for the school board in the past. He prefers changing to a voucher system that would open the door to students to attend alternative schools more easily.Prindle said he's skeptical that the charter commission will wind up backing any significant reforms that would help taxpayers. “I don’t see this group making any real changes,” he said. “It’s very discouraging to me.”
“Nothing’s going to change,” Prindle said.
He called the charter commissioners “a group gung-ho with trying to get rid of the mayor” by installing a professional manager of some sort, a move he doesn’t support. He said Mayor Art Ward is “a good man” who deserves a chance to show what he can do.
Charter commissioners are still investigating the proposed city manager concept.
Whatever the charter panel recommends will be included in a report to the City Council in April. Councilors can then back them, turn them down or ask the commission to revise them. Anything approved by the council would go on the November 2008 general election ballot because no charter changes can occur without voters endorsing them.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Letizia has a new boss

Former city Board of Finance chairman and prominent local accountant John Letizia, very proud father of four daughters and grandfather to many granddaughters, excitedly revealed at today's chamber luncheon that he now has a grandson.
His youngest daughter, Jackie, has a baby boy she named Jack Anthony.
Letizia said he was honored to share his middle name with the boy.
"I'm already calling him prince," Letizia admitted.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Rowland and Rosenthal

If the city had fired Jonathan Rosenthal, perhaps Bristol rather than Waterbury could be hiring former Gov. John Rowland as its new economic development director. Strictly from a "wouldn't it be fun?" angle.... oh, well, Waterbury has a well-deserved reputation to preserve.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Hamzy, Burns explain vote on crime package

Press release from state Reps. Ron Burns and Bill Hamzy, both of whom represent at least part of Bristol:

Legislation that passed the state Senate Tuesday and the state House of Representatives early Wednesday morning will increase penalties for home invasions and close some loopholes in state criminal justice laws, but a proposal that would have imposed tougher penalties on repeat violent offenders was rejected by the majority Democrats, state representatives William A. Hamzy, and Ron Burns said today.
“I supported the bill that passed the House because it will give families more protection from home invasions like the one in Cheshire last summer and because it will make it more difficult for hardened, violent criminals to be released on parole after serving only a portion of their sentences,” said Representative Hamzy, R-78th District.
“What troubles me is that the majority Democrats rejected our ‘three strikes and you’re out’ proposal, which would have put three-time violent offenders behind bars for life, where they could not threaten law-abiding citizens. Our proposal would have targeted only dangerous repeat offenders whose past criminal histories have shown they are incapable of being rehabilitated. These individuals belong behind bars – and our three strikes proposal would have kept them there and saved innocent lives,” Representative Hamzy said.
“I voted for the legislation we approved today because it will help Connecticut families feel confident that they can once again go to bed at night without having to worry about violent criminals breaking into their homes and threatening their lives,” said Representative Burns, R-77th District. “The three strikes amendment the Republicans proposed would have further strengthened the bill. Unfortunately, the majority Democrats ignored the 45,000 people who signed a petition last year that supported a three strikes law by leaving it out of the bill that passed Tuesday.”
The House Republican three strikes amendment would have required that after a third conviction of a dangerous felony, a violent criminal would be sentenced to a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of release, the legislators said.
The dangerous felonies would have included murder other than a capital felony, manslaughter, arson, kidnapping, robbery in the first or second degree, robbery involving an occupied motor vehicle, assault constituting a felony, sexual assault in the first or third degree, home invasion, burglary in the first or second degree, or stalking in the first degree, the legislators said.
The state House and Senate, meeting in special session nearly six months to the day after a Cheshire home invasion and triple murder shocked the state, adopted many of the provisions recommended by the governor’s task force and supported by most legislators.
They include:
Creating a new crime of home invasion.
Requiring individuals convicted of second degree burglary or home invasion to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.
Altering the makeup, qualification requirements and appointment process for the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, and prohibiting parole hearings from being conducted unless the board’s chairperson certifies that all pertinent information has been provided to the board or is unavailable.
Eliminating the parole administrative review procedure, making it more difficult for dangerous violent offenders to be released from prison prematurely.
Requiring global positioning system monitoring of 300 additional parolees.
Requiring the Judicial Branch to post certain arrest warrant information on the internet.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Clinton Releases First TV Ad in Connecticut

Here's a press release from Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton:

HARTFORD - In a new thirty-second television ad Hillary highlights her commitment to reviving our struggling economy and her fight against the Bush administration who has ignored this country’s struggling middle class.
Hillary warned President Bush last spring to take action on the mortgage crisis that was affecting homeowners here in Connecticut and across the country, but those homeowners remained invisible to this administration.
"Hillary Clinton knows that many families in Connecticut are struggling to keep up in this receding economy," said State Senator Gayle Slossberg. "This ad shows her commitment to standing up for the people of Connecticut and ensuring that they are not left behind. We need a leader that will be ready on day one to take the helm and create positive change for America. That leader is Hillary Clinton."
Hillary knows that the time to address the receding economy is now.
That is why she recently proposed a $ 110 billion economic package to provide tax rebates to middle class families, assist families with skyrocketing energy costs, invest in clean energy technology and support workers who have lost their jobs.
To protect the millions of Americans who live in fear of losing their homes in 2008, Hillary has called for a moratorium of at least 90 days on home foreclosures; a freeze on the fluctuating rates on sub-prime loans for at least 5 years until they can be converted into fixed rate, affordable loans; and regular status reports on the progress in converting unworkable mortgages into loans families can.
Hillary believes that investing in American alternative fuels will establish a green, efficient economy and create as many as five million new jobs, while at the same time reduce America's reliance on foreign oil and address the looming climate crisis. The people of Connecticut cannot afford to pay three dollars a gallon when that money is going straight to the middle east, not in our own economy.
As President, Hillary will ensure that the working families who are being left behind in this economy, here in Connecticut and across the country, will no longer be invisible.
Read the transcript of "Warned" below or view it online at:


“Warned” TV :30

Announcer: Our economy is in real trouble.
And while George Bush helps his friends, the middle class gets slammed.

Hillary Clinton warned Bush last March to act or homes would be foreclosed.
Bush did nothing, and two million homes may be lost.

We need a proven leader. Hillary's emergency economic plan: freeze foreclosures,
provide immediate tax rebates for the middle class, create millions of new jobs.

We need more than talk- We need solutions.
Hillary Clinton: I'm Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Downtown grocery store hopes to stick around

Reporter Jackie Majerus' story about the downtown grocery store in today's paper is clearly an important one as the community talks about how best to redevelop the mall. Here's the story:

BRISTOL – A petition drive is just the first step of what the manager of Bristol Discount Food Outlet hopes will be a citizen effort to save the small food store on the downtown mall property.
Bob Veilleux, manager of DFO, said the grocery store has a month-to-month lease with the city and an uncertain future.
"It's really up to the customers, the community, whether they want this store or not," said Veilleux. "The only way that this store will be standing a year from today is if the community gets involved."

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Charter panel won't change school board selection

Dick Prindle, a member of the Charter Revision Commission, said this morning that the panel agreed last night to abandon the idea of pushing for an appointed Board of Education.
He said he wasn't surprised given the lack of support for the proposal.
“I’m more or less totally disgusted with education,” said Prindle, who has run unsuccessfully for the school board in the past. He prefers changing to a voucher system that would open the door to students to attend alternative schools more easily.
Prindle said he's skeptical that the charter commission will wind up backing any significant reforms.
“I don’t see this group making any real changes,” he said. “It’s very discouraging to me.”

For some background on the issue, click here

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

January 22, 2008

Troubled economy could make it tough for city budget

With stock markets reeling, the housing market on the ropes and commerce sputtering, city government is bound to feel a strain as residents and businesses struggle to cough up the cash that City Hall needs to keep operating smoothly.
“I’m sure it’s not going to help us that much,” city Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski said Tuesday.
He said, though, that the stock market turmoil this week is part of the normal turn of events. “Everybody kind of panics, Miecznikowski said, and the impact mushrooms.
But, he said, the Federal Reserve’s decision to drop the prime rate sharply Tuesday morning proved “kind of a blood transfusion” and bought time for the markets to straighten out the mess created in the mortgage sector.
“It’s certainly not a panic time,” Miecznikowski said, but officials are “going to have watch carefully” as they prepare the next municipal budget during the next few months, particularly the rising cost of energy.
Last fall, at the urging of former Mayor William Stortz, many department heads took a look at the possible impact of an economic downturn.
Not surprisingly, the city would feel the pinch along with most everyone else.
Tax Collector Mildred Parks said in her memorandum to Stortz that tax collections are suffering because of the slack economy.
Though real estate tax collections were down a bit, she said her greater concern is getting taxes due on motor vehicles and personal property.
“The larger businesses remain loyal with payments, but the smaller businesses are finding it more difficult to stay profitable, resulting in closures and therefore uncollectible taxes,” Parks said.
She said that motor vehicle taxes were down 1.3 percent in the first quarter of the fiscal year, which she called “dramatic and a good indicator of a lagging economy.”
Parks pointed out, too, that efforts to collect motor vehicle taxes amount to applying lots of investment to get the smallest return in taxes.
City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said in his memorandum to the mayor that a widening credit crunch “could negatively affect local housing starts.”
Combined with rising costs for construction materials, fewer homes would lead to lower fees and conveyance taxes, officials said.
The city’s Board of Finance plans a series of budget hearings over the next couple of months to review departmental spending plans. Ward has asked supervisors to hold down their spending requests as much as possible, though officials said that larger departments are going to have a hard time holding the line with so many expenses rising.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Time to bring back the Moving Wall?

For those of us who were there, it's hard to believe that nearly a decade has passed since a half-scale traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial found a temporary home on Memorial Boulevard.
It was only there for a short time during the summer of 1998, but the event was one of those watershed moments, when veterans and non-veterans alike came together to hear the stories and share their tears.
The whole idea of that traveling wall was to bring the memorial to communities across the country, to help many a lost soul find some healing. It worked out pretty well, from what I saw. But there are bound to be many people who never saw it, people who also never made it to Washington to see the stunning real thing.
It should come back.
I was thinking about it because of a story I wrote on the last day that wall was in town, about a former soldier who needed more healing than a little wall could deliver. He's not typical, I know, but his story isn't either.
Here is Kenneth Pena's story:

August 18, 1998

BRISTOL -- Kenneth Pena sat on a bench Tuesday morning, waving an American flag half-heartedly and staring at the Moving Wall.
But his eyes were far, far away.
"Panel 23," he said, pointing to a group of names right in front of him. "I was their squad leader. I sent 'em out on an ambush."
The 50-year-old New Britain man, a U.S. Marine veteran who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970, spoke softly as he recalled the men who died and the war that killed them.
"There were 19 in my squad. The next morning there was three of us, and we were dragging one of them," he said.
"For the life of me, I don't know what happened that night. Swear to God I don't."
For the past week, Pena has been near the Wall almost all the time, saying little, just watching, thinking, remembering.
"Kenneth Small. 17 years old. John Paulin. Couldn't read or write but he got into the Marine Corps. Tiny was the radio man. Tiny was anything but tiny. He outweighed me 100 pounds. I was their squad leader," Pena said.
"I've got their memory I live with every day, day in and day out," he said. "I was 20 years old. Next week I'll be 51 years old. I'm never ever, ever, ever going to forget them. I'm more devoted to those guys than I am to my wife."
"After my boys got killed, I didn't care whether I came back or not," he said. "I've got two Purple Hearts. That's how close I came to having my name scribbled on that Wall."
During the June 1970 ambush that slaughtered his squad, Pena shared a foxhole with Small, "a white-haired little boy" from Salem, Idaho. Two others were in there as well.
Small finished up his one-hour watch during the night, Pena said, and then woke him to take his turn. "He said 'I got to piss.' He was the first one killed," just a few yards away, Pena said.
"The only reason he joined the Marine Corps: he had two twin sisters. He wanted to help put them through college," Pena said.
Radioman David Patton -- "Tiny" -- got hit during the attack about 3 a.m. He remained in radio contact with the squad as the life drained out of him.
"I said I'd go get him," Pena said, but the lieutenant refused to allow it. "First light, we went out there. David's body was still warm but he was dead. I brought it back into the perimeter."
"I could have saved him," Pena said. He leaped on the lieutenant in frustration and anger. A gunnery sergeant, Pena said, "had to peel me off."
He said he had grown so close to Patton's sister, Carla, through letters that each thought they would marry. But "when Tiny died, I couldn't write her no more."
Growing up in Middletown, Pena said, "I didn't smoke. I didn't drink. I didn't do anything but play sports.
"I came back from Vietnam an alcoholic, a drug addict, smoked like a fiend."
"Democracy," said Pena. "Tell me how John Paulin got in the Marine Corps. Couldn't even read or write. Never got a letter from anybody. But every day he'd sit there and clean that rifle.
"Some of us be out there smoking a joint. But John Paulin be sitting there cleaning that rifle. Came from Owensboro, Kentucky. Couldn't read or write but he passed through the system. He passed the great American system. The one I'm holding this flag for."
"I wonder what they gave him when he got down there to Kentucky. Probably put him in a pasture," Pena said.
"I'm going to go to Kentucky. I'm going to Owensboro, Kentucky. I'm going to find John Paulin."
He said Paulin's grave "had better be in order. It better have a tombstone."
Pena said he's going to go to Philadelphia as well, to search out Patton's grave.
After Small's death, he said, he stayed in touch with his pal's parents, exchanging calls and cards several times a month. He even visited them last November -- and fell apart.
"The pain was overwhelming," Pena said. "I started drinking. I said some stupid [things]" and Small's mother told him she didn't want to speak to him ever again. "I don't blame her," he said.
Pena said Small had "never seen a black person in real life until he was on his way to California to boot camp" but the two became fast friends. "I changed that boy's life around," Pena said.
He recalled a time when the squad "got hit pretty bad" and returned to Da Nang for reinforcements. "All's I wanted to do was take a shower and relax," Pena said.
But Small -- "a warrior who wouldn't give up for nothin'" -- chose to dig into a cooler of beer. He wound up in a fight with other Americans and got beat up bad.
"He came back to that hooch, tent or whatever you call it. Told us what happened. I guess we were 19 or 20 strong at that time. We went back out there" and took care of the attackers, Pena said.
"One dude took it real serious. Middle of the night, he threw a gas grenade in our hooch. The next night, he was Medivaced. I don't know if he lived or died. I really don't give a s--t."
In the field, Pena said, everyone shared every letter and every package with everyone else.
After a long pause, he said, "I can't remember his name. Much as I try, I can't remember his name. Got a 'Dear John' letter from his wife.
"Nobody knew whether that magazine of that M-16 was loaded or not. He put it up on the side of his head. Fully automatic. And he pulled the trigger. Seemed like his body stood there for 10 minutes with no f-ing head on it.
He said he hoped the wife "lived a good life" with the $10,000 death benefit check she got as a result.
Another long pause.
"We killed a rat over there. Put it on a scale. It weighed 17 pounds," he said.
Another pause.
"I was eating C-rations. Stamped right on the box: 'Packed 1945.' I wasn't born until 1947. Scrambled eggs in a damn can. Ham and lima beans," Pena said with disgust.
Yet another pause.
Pena's cousin, who served in the Army in Vietnam, also returned in one piece. After growing up together, the two shared stories over beers after work.
One night, the cousin told him he had to leave the bar and "do something."
"Went home. Sat on the edge of his bed. Put a 12-gauge shotgun in his mouth and blew his head off," Pena said. "He had Agent Orange. It was kicking his ass."
More silence as Pena choked back tears.
He said his grandmother, Pocahontas Moody, died while he was overseas. The military wouldn't let him go to her funeral.
"They took my rifle. Put me in this little padded cell where I wouldn't hurt myself. And you know what? Last year was the first time I ever seen my grandmother's grave," Pena said.
Pena said he'd never seen the Wall before a traveling version came to Bristol. He said he didn't know if it helped him or hurt.
"This is not a monument no more," Pena said. "It's a tourist attraction. There's too many dry eyes come through every day. You got 58,000 names on this Wall. You line up 58,000 coffins and how far does it go?"
Pena said he has five sons.
"My oldest one had to go and join the Marine Corps, just to be like daddy. They just don't know. They just don't know."
Pena said he's never told his sons about Vietnam. "And I never will," he added.
When a young boy walked by, Pena reached out and touched him on the shoulder.
"Hey buddy," he told the boy, "don't ever put on a uniform."

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com