November 30, 2008

'Lousy corporate management' to blame for looming Press closure

Mediabids Print Oberserver argues that the Journal Register Co. is targeting the Press and 12 other papers in Central Connecticut for closure because it ran them into the ground.
"These publications would be doing fine if not for lousy corporate management. We are not suggesting they would be thriving but they would not be facing a January 12 shut down," it says.
Even the state Republican Party chairman, Chris Healy, has called the company "evil" and decried its business tactics here.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 29, 2008

Imagining the end of the Press

Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green lays out what's going on with his usual acumen in this column.
I wish I could have the optimism that Paul Bass of the New Haven Independent routinely displays, but I simply don't, perhaps because I can't help focusing on the thousands of steady newspaper readers who will be left with nothing at all if the Press folds. I do agree with him about one thing, though: that there may be a lot more hungry journalists in a couple of years.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Providence Journal blog lends support to Press

Maybe we need papers after all...
Even public officials are starting to think that a future without local newspapers and their scrutiny of government and other communuity affairs would not be quite the unalloyed pleasure for them that they may have dreamed about. And taxpayers must be starting to fear that their interests will be eaten and left as bleached bones in the sun after the nosy local papers disappear.
Who would then be left to watch the politicians, the civil servants, the local businessesspeople and other movers and shakers -- the unpaid blogger in pajamas?

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Artist Glo Sessions to sign calendars on Sunday

A press release from the New England Carousel Museum:

Glo Sessions Limited Edition Calendar Signing
November 30, 2008
2:00 PM-5:00 PM

A special limited edition 2009 calendar has been created by the New England Carousel Museum to honor Glo Sessions, a beloved Connecticut artist of international reputation. Please join Glo at the New England Carousel Museum on Sunday, November 30, 2008, for a special calendar signing. The calendar signing will coincide with the Museum’s annual art contest for children awards ceremony and its annual Santa Sunday holiday celebration. Admission is free to the Museum between 2:00 and 5:00 PM.

Glo Sessions' work is on display in universities, museums, corporate offices and in many private collections throughout New England and across the globe. Her prints and paintings have been included in juried and invitational shows from Washington, D.C. to Maine. She has been awarded more than forty prizes since 1975. Her work has been showcased in the Glo Sessions Gallery, located in the Carousel Museum building, in Bristol, Connecticut, since 2000.

The calendar features a wide and varied selection of beautiful paintings and prints, including popular selections such as Snowy Boulevard, a silk screen print of the beautiful Memorial Boulevard in downtown Bristol, Westwood Wildflowers, Down Willis Street, and the Last of Downtown Bristol.

Glo Sessions is a member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, the Connecticut Watercolor Society, the Connecticut Women Artists, Inc., the Boston Printmakers, and the American Watercolor Society. She is known for her painting and print making, and her versatility and love of painting people, scenes of Bristol and spectacular still life with flowers are the hallmark of her work.

Glo became a Board member of the Carousel Museum upon its formation as a non-profit, educational organization in Bristol in 1991. She was an active Board member for many years and has remained a friend of the Museum to this day. The Carousel Museum purchased the building in which it currently resides in 1999, and immediately began an extensive expansion project. The Museum created two fine arts galleries, one of which became a permanent gallery dedicated to work by Glo Sessions.

In 2007, the Carousel Museum created a new Award for Bristol entitled ACE. The Art, Culture and Entertainment award was created to honor an individual(s) or organization(s) who have contributed to the art, culture and entertainment in the greater Bristol community. Glo Sessions, along with Carlyle "Hap" Barnes, became the first recipients of the award.

The Glo Sessions limited edition calendar is on sale at the Carousel Museum or by mail. The price of one calendar is $20, 6-10 calendars cost $18 each and 10 calendars or more cost $16.00. Orders of 10 calendars or more will be delivered in the Greater Bristol area.
For further information, or to order your calendars, please contact:

The New England Carousel Museum
95 Riverside Avenue
Bristol. CT, 06010.
860 585-5411

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Hospital chief defends need for Press and Herald

Kurt Barwis, the president and CEO of Bristol Hospital, sent this:
I was disappointed to read the news that the Journal Register Co is considering the closure of The Bristol Press and the New Britain Herald. These two daily newspapers play a vital role for businesses, schools, churches, government and many non-profit organizations, such as Bristol Hospital, in communicating information to our residents.
With a combined population of over 131,000 residents, the closure of these two papers could have a devastating impact on both of these communities. Even in an age of electronic communication and the ability to access information at any time via the Internet, many people still rely on their local daily newspaper as their “lifeline” and the primary resource to get the local news and information that matters to them. Daily newspapers have a recognized value in educating the public and delivering the news each day. These papers also offer community members an opportunity to express their opinions in an open and honest forum that can generate dialogue and discussion on numerous key issues.
It is clear to me that community and business leaders face a significant challenge without these two newspapers and I encourage those responsible to find a solution that will avoid the potential loss to these communities and the people who count on the news each day.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 28, 2008

Grinch strikes Bristol Historical Society

When the Bristol Historical Society went to set up its annual Christmas tree sale today, it discovered that someone chopped the tops off all of its 100-odd trees, effectively destroying their value.
Bob Montgomery, the city historian, said he is hopping mad -- as he should be.
Anyone who can help identify the culprits should contact the police.
Let's see if the community can rally to show this Grinch-like behavior won't stop Christmas from coming, at least for the historical society. If you can lend a hand to this important organization, do.

Update on Saturday morning: Neighbor Bob Boudreau says there are many trees there that still have their tops. So don't hesitate to go check 'em out.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 27, 2008

New Britain blogs have interesting takes on demise of dailies

Take a look here at what New Britain Community News has to say about the effort to save the Herald and Bristol Press. And here to read the New Britain Progressive's take on it.
Both are sympathetic to the idea of state help. 
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Kind words at the soup kitchen

OK, I'll confess.
When I got back in the car after talking to people at the soup kitchen about today's Thanksgiving meal, I had to brush away a few tears.
What got to me were the comments from several of the people who went there for a meal expressing so much concern for me, for my family, and for the newspaper they find a way to read each day.
"I can't imagine Bristol without The Bristol Press," one of them said.
A woman stood outside and told me that the paper is her lifeline to a community that doesn't much care whether she lives or dies. It's how she learns what's going on, even the fact that the Salvation Army was offering a meal today.
"I feel bad for you and Jackie," she said, referring to my wife, reporter Jackie Majerus.
It pulls at the heartstrings to think that anybody who's going to the soup kitchen for a holiday meal can spare some sympathy for us or the paper.
I'm not sure why it is that a newspaper that means so much to so many might simply cease to exist come January. But I do know that when people who are struggling can find it in their hearts to pray for the paper -- and for me, too -- those of who have the capacity to act to save the Press must do whatever we can to preserve it.
I really don't want to shed a tear for the kindness of strangers. I want to keep their newspaper alive.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Thanksgiving at the Salvation Army

Seeking fellowship and food, scores of residents came to The Salvation Army’s Stearns Street soup kitchen for a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

 “This is a nice thing they do,” said Jason Lopez, 38, who has lived in Bristol for a couple of years.

Lopez said he went to the soup kitchen for dinner – turkey and dressing, carrots, cranberry sauce, turkey soup, desserts and more – in search of a good meal and “to see some friends.”

Overseeing the dinner was a volunteer crew from General Electric that has been lending a hand for 17 consecutive Thanksgivings. It included some children and grandparents, but most of the helpers work for the company’s Plainville plant.

“It’s a family thing,” said Peter Boychuck, an engineer who has been involved with the soup kitchen’s Thanksgiving meals the entire 17-year span.

He said he had no idea how many people were served a meal during the 90-minute mid-day dinner, but it was “a lot.”

There were so many, in fact, that they were starting to run out of turkey toward the end of the day.

“There were more people than usual,” Boychuck said.

Walking out with a red poinsietta, Lisa McDonald said she came for the meal because she hasn’t worked in months and her two children were away with their father.

“I wanted to see what it was like,” McDonald said. “They are good people to do this.”

She said she was especially touched to receive a flower to take home with her.

“It will look nice on my mantel,” McDonald said.

Boychuck said the volunteers are happy to spend their holiday at the Salvation Army. He said he never has any trouble rounding up a crew. It just takes an emailed request to come up with the necessary numbers, he said.

Some come the night before to set up, he said, while others help early in the day to prepare for the meals. Still others assist with serving or cleaning up.

“All in all, it’s a good time,” he said.

The volunteers serve people who come in and sit down at the tables, much like a restaurant rather than a cafeteria-style arrangement.

“They’re going to have a lunch. They’re going home with flowers. It is a special day for them,” Boychuck said.


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Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that all of you -- even the guys who think I'm a jerk or a coward, or both -- have a nice Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for, including the chance to live in this wonderful country. We are so blessed.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 26, 2008

City hopes to gain millions in education funding

Claiming that state education aid has fallen as much as $23 million short during the past dozen years, the city is joining in a lawsuit that aims to force Connecticut to fund its schools more fully and fairly.

With the state Supreme Court expected to rule soon on the case brought by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, city officials said they need to sign on in order to make sure that Bristol shares in the bounty if the ruling opens the door to a massive infusion of cash into strapped school systems across the state.

Superintendent Philip Streifer said that the existing state education cost sharing system is “grossly underfunded” and has failed to address the inequities in public schooling across the state.

For Bristol, a decision that leads to the sort of wholesale change seen in other states where similar legal cases have already prevailed could mean many millions of extra dollars annually to help educate children.

According the project director for the coalition, Dianne Kaplan deVries, Bristol should be spending more $4,400 a year more per student than it currently does in order to meet state goals in reading and math.

With “an adequate and equitable distribution of state aid,” deVries said in a Nov. 25 memorandum, Bristol could deliver a better education and help hard-pressed city taxpayers at the same time.

The city’s Board of Finance gave its blessing this week to spend $10,000 to sign on as a plaintiff in the case – the school system plans to chip in another $1,500 – in order to ensure that if a court winds up ordering more education money flow to struggling school, Bristol would be on the receiving end.

Streifer said that since a ruling could leave out towns that aren’t a party to the case, which has happened in other lawsuits in Connecticut and elsewhere, it would be a mistake to remain on the sidelines.

“It’s important to be part of this team,” Streifer said.

Streifer said it is “highly likely” that the coalition will succeed in convincing the Supreme Court that children deserve a “suitable” education under state law, a standard that existing state funding is apparently too little to meet.

The state argues in its defense that there is no requirement to provide suitable education and that courts should not encroach on legislative power by dictating more funding for schools.

But many towns, including Plainville and New Britain, have joined the coalition’s lawsuit in hopes of forcing the state to cough up more cash.

The three-year-old case, brought on behalf of 15 students and their families across Connecticut, claims that deficient spending is harming their education in many ways and is especially tough on minority children.

Streifer said the state has already pumped an extra $500 million into education funding in response to the suit, money that could be threatened if the budget deficit keeps rising.

But the money is still running short.

In Bristol, according to the coalition, the state provided 46 percent of the city’s educational funds a decade ago. It now provides 43 percent.

It figures the state ought to provide nearly twice as much money to Bristol as it does now, based on the city’s poverty rates and minority enrollment. That’s about $40 million extra each year, though the city’s overall school budget would also have to rise to provide the level of education sought by the nonprofit.

DeVries said that adding Bristol to the case would help build the political support necessary “to achieve a modern, equitable, adequacy-based, student-needs drive state aid formula that is transparent, fully funded and substantially less reliant on local property taxes.”

For information about the coalition, see its website. To read the legal arguments, see the PDFs of the relevant briefs here.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Mayor praises effort to save newspapers

Note send this morning from Mayor Art Ward to state lawmakers trying to help the Press and 12 other Central Connecticut papers stay in business:
As Mayor of the City of Bristol, home of the Bristol Press, I want to extend our gratitude to you and the New Britain legislative delegation for pro-actively pursuing a potential means of retention of both the Bristol Press and the New Britain Herald.
This office has also been in contact with the office of Congressman John Larson with regard to this issue and is committed to assisting you in resolving this matter in the best interests of the media and the cities of Bristol and New Britain.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 25, 2008

Finance board backs Crowley site purchase

Clearing the way for the purchase of the former Crowley dealership on Pine Street, the Board of Finance gave its unanimous backing Tuesday to shelling out $2.25 million for the proposed school site.

Mayor Art Ward said the price tag has been “agreed on by all” and includes a commitment from Crowley to take care of any environmental problems that may exist.

School Superintendent Philip Streifer said the city would be paying the fair market value of the property, determined by two appraisals. He said the former dealership will be demolished and carted away before the city takes possession of it.

“That’s his responsibility,” Streifer said.

The Pine Street parcel would be used for one of two planned 900-student schools the city aims to open by 2015. It would house students from kindergarten to eighth grade.

The other site eyed by the city is on Matthews Street, near the intersection of Clark Avenue on the west side of Bristol. Officials aim to complete its purchase within weeks.

The Crowley site was picked because it is next door to Greene-Hills School, one of three older elementary schools the city intends to close as part of the $132 million project.

City councilors backed the purchase recently without dissent. The approval of finance commissioners removes the last obvious potential stumbling block.

The city may also buy a small market at the corner of Pine and Daley streets as part of the Crowley site project.

In addition to Greene-Hills, the school board plans to close Memorial Boulevard Middle School and two more primary schools: Bingham and O’Connell.

Architects will have about a year to complete blueprints, which will be followed by a state review. The city must have a construction contract in hand by June 13, 2010 in order to preserve a 73.9 percent reimbursement rate for the project as a whole.

Construction has to start in 2010, but Streifer has said it can drag on until 2015 if that’s necessary to make the costs manageable.

When the new school is finished next door to Greene-Hills, the older school would be demolished, officials have said.

When the two new schools open, about half of the city’s students will attend K-8 schools and the rest will continue to follow the existing elementary to middle school track.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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A picture of The Bristol Press staff in 1882

From Bristol, Connecticut, in the Olden Time "New Cambridge" which Includes Forestville:

No Text

The paper printed its first issue on March 9, 1871, but C.H. Riggs, the first owner, was still around for this picture. He's sitting on the steps, but I'm not sure which one he is. I'm sure someone can tell us.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Lawmakers push for state to help save Press and 12 other papers in Central Connecticut

Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this story:
State lawmakers representing Bristol and New Britain are asking the Department of Economic and Community Development for help in saving the daily newspapers in those cities.
A letter to DECD Commissioner Joan McDonald, released Tuesday and signed by five representatives and two state senators, asks McDonald what her agency can do to save the jobs and prevent the closings.The letter, signed by Rep. Tim O’Brien, Rep. Peter Tercyak and Rep. John Geragosian, who all represent New Britain, Rep. Frank Nicastro of Bristol and Rep. Betty Boukus of Plainville, Sen. Donald DeFronzo of New Britain and Sen. Tom Colapietro of Bristol, asks for a meeting with McDonald.
The Journal Register Co., which owns The Bristol Press and The Herald of New Britain, has said it will close both those two dailies and an additional 11 Connecticut weekly papers if they are not sold by January 12.
About 100 people would lose their jobs if the papers are all closed.
Rep. Tim O’Brien, a Democrat who represents New Britain, led the effort to petition the DECD.
“The delegation in both cities felt it was important to take this step, to do whatever is possible to make sure these institutions can keep going,” said O’Brien.
O’Brien said the DECD has many different programs that might be of use in trying to save the papers.
Most of the weekly newspapers targeted for closure by the Journal Register Co. are Imprint publications operating out of the Bristol Press building. Imprint weekly newspapers slated for closure Jan. 12 by the Journal Register Co. if they are not sold are the Wethersfield Post, Newington Town Crier, Windsor Journal, Rocky Hill Post, Bloomfield Journal, Windsor Locks Journal, Avon Post, Farmington Post, Simsbury Post and the Tri-Town Post, which serves Canton, Burlington and Harwinton. Another Journal Register Co. weekly, the East Hartford Gazette, is also listed for closure.
In the letter, the lawmakers said they were concerned not only with job loss but also with preserving the papers in their role as watchdogs.
“Having a locally based newspaper is important for public accountability,” the letter to McDonald says, adding that as elected officials, they want the public to have access to independent new about their governments and communities.
The letter says the signers share the sentiments of America’s Founding Fathers that “a free press is an essential part of democracy.”
Newspapers, said O’Brien, are “the only private institution written into the Bill of Rights.” He said it is the newspaper’s job to hold elected people accountable.
Seeing newspapers close, said O’Brien, is “something that we want to avoid on so many different levels.”
The letter from the lawmakers noted that both New Britain and Bristol are struggling in the difficult economy, and the cities would suffer if they lost their papers.
The lawmakers wrote, “It would also be a detriment to the efforts of both New Britain and Bristol to rebuild our local economies if we were to lose the prestige that comes with being home to a local daily newspaper.”
Nicastro also said he wants DECD to do everything possible to save both papers.
“I can’t picture the city without a newspaper,” said Nicastro, who said his first job was as a Bristol Press carrier in the early 1950s.
Bristol lost its own radio station more than a decade ago, Nicastro said.
“Now we’re going to lose our local newspaper. That’s a travesty,” Nicastro said.
While his Democratic colleagues head for the DECD, Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican who represents Bristol, said he plans to approach the Journal Register Co. to see what he can learn and try to get things started from that angle.
“They own the papers,” said Hamzy. “They should be interested in opening up a discussion. They’re the ones that set this ultimatum.”
Hamzy, who said he reads at least three papers every day, said he will be working in concert with the rest of the delegation towards the same goal of saving the papers.
“This is not partisan,” Hamzy said.
O’Brien said local papers play a critical role as a source of information, public record and local history that records births, deaths, marriages and other events.
“People’s family histories are recorded there,’ said O’Brien.
The Journal Register Co. also owns three other dailies in Connecticut, the New Haven Register, the Middletown Press and the Register Citizen in Torrington, as well as more than two dozen other weeklies, several monthly publications, including Connecticut Magazine, as well as a handful of quarterlies and a Spanish language publication called Registro.
Here is a PDF of the letter sent to the DECD.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Lawmakers ask state development agency to help newspapers

Seven legislators from the area served by The Bristol Press and The Herald in New Britain today wrote to the state Department of Economic and Community Development to ask for its help in preventing the closure of the newspapers.
We'll have more on this breaking news later, but for now, here's the letter.
It's also encouraging today to see that Jim Romenesko's daily email roundup of media news for the Poynter Institute, which the whole industry reads, featured at the top of its list the story about Gov. Jodi Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's willingness to lend a hand to the effort to save the papers. At the very least, it's better to go down shouting than to slip quietly into the night.
Update: See Extra! Extra! Help save the newspapers!

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Police and firefighters' charity game raised over $4K

Press release from the police union:


Date: 11/25/08

From: Peter Kot, President

Bristol Police Union, Local #754

On Friday, November 21, 2008 the Bristol Police Union and Bristol Fire Union played their 2nd annual charity flag football game at Bristol’s Muzzy Field. This year, the charity being supported was the Bristol Community Organization’s Emergency Fuel Fund which provides low-income citizens in Bristol with monies to heat their homes. In this economy of high fuel costs and high unemployment, the unions felt this was a most worthy cause. Hundreds of pounds of food were also collected and donated to the Salvation Army’s local soup kitchen.

Nearly four dozen Police and Fire Union members participated in the game which yielded an impressive and decisive 35-0 victory for the Police. This evens the record at 1-1 for each team.

The Bristol Police Union, Local #754 would like to thank the citizens and businesses in the Community that generously donated to this worthwhile cause. The event raised a total of $4,000.00 which will be donated to the B.C.O. The Bristol Police Union, Bristol PBA and Bristol Fire Union are proud supporters and we thank all that braved the cold to come out and support this event. We hope to continue and grow the event in the years to come.


Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 24, 2008

Rell, Blumenthal agree on need to save the Press

Reporters Jackie Majerus and Adam Benson wrote this:

Two of Connecticut’s top elected officials, Gov. Jodi Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, said they don’t want to see local newspapers close and promised to take part in a bipartisan effort to save them.

That's something that we'd be more than willing to explore,” said Rell, a Republican.

I’d be happy to take part,” said Blumenthal, the state’s top-ranking Democrat.

Rell and Blumenthal spoke in favor of local papers after hearing about the possible closing of The Bristol Press, The Herald in New Britain and 11 weekly papers in the state. Together, they employ about 100 people, mostly in Bristol and New Britain.

All the papers are owned by the Journal Register Co., a Yardley, Penn.-based chain that is struggling financially. The company said this month that if the papers aren’t sold by January 12, they will be closed.

Rell said she was “so saddened” by the news that the papers are in danger and that employees are facing the loss of their jobs.

This is the worst financial turmoil I have ever seen, not only in our state but in our nation,” said Rell. “I've never seen it so dour and people are feeling it.”

But despite “some very difficult economic times,” Rell said, it is “very important” that local papers stay intact.

For Blumenthal, local papers help him learn what’s happening in towns across the state.

That kind of closing would be a huge loss to me and learning about what’s happening in this community,” said Blumenthal.

Blumenthal said newspapers have a critical role.

It’s really the oxygen of democracy. People take it for granted,” the attorney general said, until it’s gone and they can’t breathe.

Local papers provide vital news, said Blumenthal, about what is going on in the community, from zoning meetings to city council actions, as well as things like firehouse fundraisers, Parent Teacher Organization activities and school sports.

In addition, they provide a record of births, marriages and deaths.

The newspaper is an information lifeline,” said Blumenthal. “It provides really an essential service.”

There’s something about having that paper and being able to sit there with your cup of coffee or your tea and read through and find out not only the news but the real feel for a community,” said Rell.

Any time you lose a news service, that's a service to the public,” said Rell, who said the closing of the newspapers would be “a real loss to the communities.”

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Don't go hungry on Thanksgiving

Story by reporter Jackie Majerus:
Those who want to share a Thanksgiving meal on Thursday are invited to come to The Salvation Army for a traditional feast.
While other food pantries are giving out turkeys and groceries to needy families, there are fewer places to get a hot meal.
Caseworker Marge Rivera said the meal will be served at The Salvation Army's soup kitchen at 19 Stearns St. on Federal Hill.
The meal will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., said Rivera.
She said there will be turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, potatoes and gravy, vegetables and pies.
Everyone is welcome, said Rivera, without regard to income.
"Just come on in and eat," said Rivera. "Some people don't have family or friends. They come here. It's nice."
Employees from General Electric in Plainville will prepare about a dozen turkeys and serve the meal, Rivera said, as they have for years.
But preparations are already underway at the soup kitchen, said Rivera, so the volunteers from GE can hit the ground running when they arrive on Thursday.
Rivera said they'll ask visitors who come to eat on Thursday to sign in by first name, "so we can keep track of how many people" showed up for the meal, but that's the extent of it.
The Salvation Army is serving about 100 meals each day, said Rivera, to about 60 to 70 people.
She's expecting that Thanksgiving Day will bring about the same number.
The number of people coming to the soup kitchen, said Rivera, "has gone up, with the economy the way it is."
Thomas Morrow, director of the Bristol Community Organization, said The Salvation Army is the only organization he knows of that is offering a warm, cooked meal that day.
Andy Theodoropoulos, who owns the Oasis Family Restaurant on Pine Street along with his brother Billy, said their longstanding tradition of serving a Thanksgiving meal for charity ended last year.
None of the employees at the restaurant wanted to work on a volunteer basis for the day, he said, and paying the help would have cut severely into the donations they would have collected for the needy.
So the Oasis will be closed on Thanksgiving, Theodoropoulos said, but that won't stop the brothers from giving to charity. He said they often donate food to local soup kitchens.
"We love to help people," said Theodoropoulos said. "Bristol helped us all these years."
Now that Thanksgiving is nearly here, Rivera is seriously thinking about Christmas and how she'll come up with everything needed for the 200 households on the list for Christmas baskets.
"Food is trickling in," said Rivera. "We still do need donations."
She said donations of frozen turkeys to the food pantry would help quite a bit, as would donations of other food.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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City may need to dip into rainy day cash to weather fiscal storm

Faced with dire budgetary  predictions, officials are considering the option of dipping into the city’s rainy day fund next spring to keep property taxes from skyrocketing.

A “tidal wave of taxes” looms, city Comptroller Glenn Klocko said, unless the economy turns around.

This may be the time that fund balance is tapped into,” Klocko said.

The city is struggling to hold spending in check enough to prevent a deficit during this fiscal year, but the real crisis is likely to take hold next year when the state’s fiscal collapse could mean sharp cuts to the aid Bristol and other municipalities depend on.

With the state eyeing shortfalls that could top $6 billion over the next three years, the city is worried its finances could take it on the chin, too.

Klocko said that he “can’t see how we’re going to sustain” education funding the way things look now. “It’s scary,” he added.

Both Mayor Art Ward and Klocko said that Bristol is fortunate to have more than $17 million in its rainy day account, about 10 percent of its overall budget.

That money can perhaps be tapped somewhat to lessen the mill rate increase that appears likely next year simply to preserve existing school and municipal services, officials said.

As city departments begin to look at possible budgets for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, they have been told to keep increases to 2 percent or less.

“It’s not going to be a normal year,” Klocko said.

To keep the city’s education system going at the same level as this year will require an additional $5 million, officials said. Combine that with a possible $5 million reduction in state school aid, Klocko said, and it would take a 2.5 mills increase just to leave the school system the way it is.

That means residents would face a 10 percent tax increase for school spending alone unless something gives in the meantime.

With the state deficit at unprecedented levels and unemployment rising steadily, Klocko said the situation is dire. He said he’s worried there may be mid-year cuts in state aid tha would be “very scary” for local finances across Connecticut.

In Bristol, Klocko said, the city can hold out this year because it’s got a healthy reserve.

But after that, things look pretty bleak.

At this point, “the doom and gloom” of big city leaders doesn’t fit with Bristol’s situation, Klocko said.

But, he said, it’s likely to get a lot worse.

“Next year, I have no clue” how to deal with the financial crisis if it remains so dire, Klocko said.

 Budget woes already hitting home

The city may face as much as a $1.6 million deficit during the current fiscal year.

City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said that $900,000 of the shortfall is the result of the extraordinarily high utility and fuel costs the city has had to shell out.

The rest of the potential red ink is the result of a slowing economy.

The lack of new construction means that building permit revenue is coming in well short of projections while lagging home sales have sliced conveyance taxes.

In addition, the city isn’t earning much on the cash it has sitting in bank accounts because interest rates are so low.

All told, the three revenue categories are projected to come up $700,000 short of expectations, Klocko said.

Officials are watching closely to see whether property tax collections fall off in January, which would make the situation worse.

Klocko said the city has seen 98 percent of its tax bills paid so far this year, which is excellent. Whether it will stay that high, though, is unclear given the struggling economy. 

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Minor suspended from his Cromwell planner post

Cromwell's first selectman suspended the town planner, Craig Minor, for three days recently. Minor says in the story that he did nothing wrong and will be vindicated. I have no idea what it's all about, but I'm sure many will want to read this.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Regarding the diminishing number of comments

For those who wonder why there are fewer comments, the reason is simple: I'm killing them.
I'm wiping out those that are mean-spirited, lacking any factual base or simply adding nothing at all to the discussion of the issue at hand. That doesn't mean I approve of all the ones that get through -- in fact, some of them make me cringe -- but I don't want what might be the last weeks of the Press to be filled with more hateful crap from anonymous pinheads.
I'm more likely to let through comments, by the way, from people who give a name or at least a screen name than those that are simply anonymous.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving dinners and the like

We're making a list of anything that community groups or businesses are doing for Thanksgiving to help out those in need. Aside from the Salvation Army's traditional meal on Thursday, what else is happening? Send me a note to so we can include whatever you know about. And don't delay in letting me know!
Thanks. I'll post the list here, of course, but it will also be in the paper.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 22, 2008

Another take on the possible closure of 13 newspapers

Ken Lipshez, a colleague who's been covering sports in Central Connecticut for many years, wrote a good column today - We will survive, I hope. Read it.
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November 21, 2008

City pushing for $7 M road widening for Farmington Avenue

Prodded by City Hall, state transportation experts have come up with a preliminary $7 million plan to widen a congested stretch of Farmington Avenue.
“That’s an area of town that definitely, definitely needs to be addressed,” said Mayor Art Ward.
Ward said that the congestion on the eastern end of Farmington Avenue poses “a great impediment” to the flow of traffic in town.
To provide for two eastbound lanes between Boardman Street and the Farmington town line would cost about $5 million and another $1.6 million to repave it, according to an October 2007 letter from John Carey, manager of traffic engineering for the state Department of Transportation.
The growing traffic tie-ups in the area are caused by the rapid development along Farmington Avenue, including Wal-Mart, Home Depot, L.A. Fitness and expansions to older shopping plazas.
In a February 2007 letter to the city, Carey said that Bristol “continues to encourage large and small scale development along the Route 6 corridor without a plan to address” right of way limitations and traffic congestion.
Ward said that an extra lane could be added without taking any of the buildings lining the roadway.
He said that a city street could be constructed behind the houses that stretch along the south side of Farmington Avenue between Stafford Avenue and Britton Road in order to give those residents easy access to their homes.
Ward said that he’s pushing for U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol, and state lawmakers to secure the necessary funding.
Police Lt. Kevin Morrell, who heads the traffic division, wrote in a recent memo to the mayor that there is “a great deal of interest” among the politicians in pushing the project along.
The next step is to find the funding for the transportation department to prepare a detailed blueprint for the project, according to Morrell.
State officials said that getting the money is “the main issue at this point,” Morrell said.
The Route 6 Business Association favors the project, Morrell said.
Morrell said that after watching traffic in the area, he sees an “obvious need” for an extra eastbound lane.
Click here for a PDF of memos and correspondence about this project.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Theater at Memorial Boulevard to cost $14M

Creating a community theater at Memorial Boulevard School will cost $14.3 million, according to a final report by architects who investigated the option for the past six months.
The plan calls for overhauling the historic theater to replace ancient, broken-down equipment, add rehearsal and storage space, update lighting and the sound system, replace the seats and much more.
The Simsbury-based Schoenhardt Architecture + Interior Design plan details the need for a new entranceway, a lobby and a host of changes to create a modern theater that could be used for music, plays and other events.
Mayor Art Ward said the architects, who have worked closely with city officials for months, did “a fine job.”
“I hope it comes to fruition. We’ve needed it for years,” said Ken Ferris, the former music director at Bristol Eastern High School.
City Councilor Craig Minor said the plan offers a beautiful way to reuse a valuable community resource.
But whether the city can come up with the money anytime soon remains unclear. The report itself projects a construction bid opening in March 2010.
The city has eyed the possibility of a theater at the 1922 school building for several years as a way to lure people downtown by providing a much-needed venue for everything from the Older Members Show to musicals by Bristol Theatre Arts.
The 900-seat theater “is in dire need of renovation if it is to serve the community in the future,” the report says. “As it is today, the theater is almost unusable as a performance venue.”
“Every theatrical system is either absent or in need of replacement,” the report, submitted Thursday, says.
The lobby and backstage areas are wholly inadequate, it says, “and the seating is in poor condition” and lacks the sight lines that people expect now.
Moreover, the report notes, the drapery that surrounds the stage is in “very poor shape” and likely poses a fire risk.
The plan features an addition to the rear of the existing stage that would blend with the school’s architecture.
On the north side, where the parking lot is located, the architects call for a new entrance and lobby, including restrooms, a ticket office and an office for the theater.
It doesn’t say anything about who should manage the theater if it is built.
Before the project can move ahead, it will need the backing of the City Council and the Board of Finance. There is no firm timetable when either will consider the request.
Schoenhardt, which got $72,900 to do the report, is a leader in working with the design of schools and theaters.
It designed the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center, worked on the lobby of Hartford Stage, designed the Greater Hartford Classical Magnet School and worked on renovations at the Thomaston Opera House, the Bushnell Theater and the Newport Opera House in Newport, R.I.
Memorial Boulevard School is slated to close when the city finishes two new schools, perhaps in 2015. The city has made no plans for the future of the historic school on Memorial Boulevard, which served initially as the city’s sole high school.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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The ongoing debate about online newspapers

For those who are paying attention to the online journalism debate fostered in part by the looming closure of The Bristol Press, be sure to read Aldon Hynes' latest thoughts in The Future of the Newspaper, Part 2.
As he rightly points out, I am more skeptical than he is about the prospects for an online paper. But I also see that an online paper is a hell of a lot better than no paper at all.
What bothers me most about going online only is that it will leave out many, perhaps most, of our older readers, the folks who have read the Press their whole lives, the very people who have been most loyal to the newspaper and who most deserve to continue to have access to the news. I suppose some kind of arrangement with public access television might help fill that part of the gap, as he mentions. I hadn't thought of that.
There's been a little talk of running the paper online as some sort of student journalism project, which is interesting. But I have to say, as someone who has taught journalism to teens for 15 years with great success (see, that it would require patient, experienced hands to function even reasonably well. Students' work needs a lot of editing.
I have no doubt that someday online papers will make serious money, if not the riches that daily newspapers used to produce, but getting from here to there is going to be a trick.
Personally, I think the only way it's going to happen in the near term is if Google decides to fund local journalism. It's made gazillions of dollars organizing information produced by others. If it's going to keep moving forward, it needs to shell out the money to produce, and own, some of that information. It has the cash to ensure journalism continues in this country -- and that information about what's happening in communities across the nation (and ultimately across the globe) is written up by professionals so that it is useful to others.
Hey Google Guys, why not fund a nonprofit newspaper right here in Central Connecticut to see how it works out? It would cost you less than a rounding error and we'd all know in a few years whether nonprofit online newspapers are a stupid idea or a great one.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Former Press editor speaks out on possible closings

One of our former editors, Bob Pollack, wrote a nice column this week bemoaning the potential loss of The Bristol Press and the New Britain Herald here: Ex-Editor laments potential demise of dailies.
Bob was a funny, quirky fellow who had an astonishing passion for news, someone who despite a lot of years in the business hadn't lost the competitive fire and idealism that drives those of us who love this odd profession. I'm glad to see he's still out there hustling for the next story.
That sort of drive is what Bristol has to hang onto. That next story may the one that matters, the one that points the way to a better future for everybody or at least the one that everyone has to read.
We still chuckle at some of the things Bob used to do, but one of his more charming characteristics was his ability to laugh at them, too. This time, though, there's nothing to laugh about.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Be sure you don't watch Channel 61 news tonight

Why? Because I might be on there talking about newspapers and stuff. Rick Hancock is a nice guy, by the way. I just hope he made sure they shot my good side, if I have one.

Update: Here is the link to the interview. I cringe when I see myself on video, but...

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 20, 2008

Route 72 project in the slow lane

When Gov. Jodi Rell came to town a little more than a year ago for the groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of the $60million Route 72 extension project, officials said the work would be done in June 2009.
Now it looks as though the massive construction project won't be done until at least year's end and possibly not until 2010.
"It's almost anybody's guess" when the work will be finished, said city Public Works Director Walter Veselka.
Mayor Art Ward said that initially the new four-lane road was to be done by July 2009, then it was pushed back to September and now he's hearing December.
City Councilor Kevin McCauley said Thursday it would be 2010.
"I know," Ward responded.
The $60 million project was supposed take 19 months for completion of a 2.4-mile extension from the end of the expressway in Plainville to Riverside Avenue just south of the railroad bridge on Middle Street.
The New Britain-based Manafort Brothers got the contract in August 2007 to carry out the work.
Finishing by the late spring of 2009 would require "a pretty aggressive schedule," the former state transportation commissioner, Ralph Carpenter, said at the groundbreaking. But, he said, it would be done.
Veselka said contractors plan to work on a new bridge over the Pequabuck River over the winter, but Manafort is beginning to lock down the road work for the winter.
The new road will feature a sunken, boulevard-type street slicing through a residential section between Route 372 in Plainville and Yarde's Pond. Parts of it will be as much as 17 feet beneath the surrounding terrain.
After that section, the four-lane road will follow the existing right of way on Pine Street before crossing a new Pequabuck River bridge in order to align directly with Riverside Avenue.
Ten intersections with traffic lights will be included along the new road.

Check back over the weekend. I'll add some photographs that Paul Blanchette took from his helicopter that show the progress so far.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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City may enact wide smoking ban

Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this story:
While Bristol Hospital is asking for a municipal ban on smoking on Newell Road, city councilors supportive of the law may take it a step farther and make breathing easier in other publicly owned spaces, too.
Councilor Craig Minor, who chairs the ordinance committee, said he would like for the city to adopt a new law that would allow city councilors to ban smoking in public areas owned by the city.
It takes three or four months to pass an ordinance, said Minor, if things are moving quickly. He said that if the city agreed to ban smoking on Newell Road to accommodate the hospital, it may get more requests for similar action in other areas.
"There are other places in town where smoking is allowed that people are unhappy about," said Minor, who said he's sometimes had to walk through a cloud of smoke to enter the library.
So Minor proposed a law that would allow the Bristol City Council to be able to declare a smoke-free zone on city-owned property where it saw fit.
Other members of the ordinance committee favor it, said Minor, and they've asked Corporation Counsel Dale Clift to write a draft law to show city councilors when they meet on December 11.
There could be a public hearing on the issue late in January, said Minor, at an ordinance committee meeting, with possible adoption by the council in February.
School grounds, the library property, city parks and City Hall property are all possible places where smoking could be banned, said Minor.
Bristol Hospital President Kurt Barwis got the ball rolling when he asked Mayor Art Ward if the city would ban smoking on Newell Road, a short street that dissects hospital property and runs all the way to the hospital's emergency entrance.
Barwis said he once saw city fire trucks racing to the hospital because a smoker deposited a still-burning cigarette into a trash can on the way into the hospital and set it on fire.
That careless act cost not only the time and energy of the emergency responders, but Barwis said people who were trying to enter the hospital were delayed by the commotion.
"It really struck me how wrong it was," said Barwis.
Beyond the ordinance committee, the idea has support.
Ward, who said he marks 12 years as smoke-free next month after breaking a nicotine habit of more than two packs of cigarettes a day, said he "absolutely supports" the city banning smoking from some municipally-owned areas.
"I think they're going to take a look at the city as a whole," Ward said. He said he's especially keen on eliminating the cloud of smoke where children are present.
"It speaks volumes about the city's commitment to youth," said Ward. "We set the example by our actions rather than our words."
City Councilor Ken Cockayne said he is "absolutely" and "100 percent" in favor of the idea of banning smoking on Newell Road.
"I think it's a great idea," said Cockayne, who said he does not smoke now and never has.
State law already prohibits smoking in restaurants and bars in Connecticut as well as public buildings.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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More thoughts on online newspapers

If you care, take a look at Aldon Hynes's piece on The Future of the Newspaper. It's bullish on the online future of journalism. I wish I could be as optimistic as he is.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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New Haven Advocate calls JRC "Jackass of the Week"

Craig Gilbert illustration for the New Haven Advocate.

The New Haven Advocate had kind words for Play, a competing alternative weekly that the Journal Register Co. pulled the plug on, and harsh words for the corporate decisionmakers involved. The closing of The Bristol Press, the New Britain Herald and 11 weeklies also rated a passing mention.
Technically speaking, though, even if the two dailies die, their tombstones ought to read 2009. We may need those 12 days in the new year.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Streifer warns of impending 'devastating' cuts to education if help isn't provided

Letter from school Superintendent Philip Streifer to Gov. Jodi Rell, the General Assembly and the rest of us:

To the Governor, the Legislature and all Connecticut citizens, if you care about regular public education, please read this letter. With the State budget in meltdown and likely cuts to education imminent we are facing what I term 'Three Strikes Against Regular Public Education'. I write as superintendent of the Bristol Public Schools, but my colleagues in other cities and towns across the state are facing equally daunting challenges to save regular public education.

The Problem. Connecticut is facing the worst crisis in public school financing in memory; there simply is not enough new money around to solve it. Thus, extraordinary steps are needed to reduce staffing costs and unburden public schools from unfunded mandates for two years (or until the State gets its financial footing back in place). The scope of the problem is as follows:

Strike 1: Bristol's budget, like others across the State and Nation, will increase by 6-7% due to fixed costs and for special education that continues to escalate beyond normal budgetary expectations. In Bristol, a 6% increase amounts to about $6M in new revenue needed or about 1.5 mils on the local tax rate.

Strike 2: The State is broke and is proposing a cut in Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) revenue. We estimate that the cut in aid to the City of Bristol will be around $5M or so. This represents 1 mil on our local tax rate. If other grants, such as special education excess cost grants, are also reduced, the shift to the local tax payer rises further.

Strike 3: If the City does not raise taxes and the scenarios above emerge (which are looking more likely every day), then we have a $10-12M budget shortfall in Bristol for next year or about 10-12% (and it gets worse the following year – FY11). In this case major layoffs are inevitable and we will have to target regular education only for these cuts. The problem is that reductions cannot be made in special education or other 'protected-mandated' services so the cut must come from regular education alone. Reducing $10M next year from Bristol's remaining $70M budget allocated for regular education amounts to a cut of around 14-15%. Since the State problem is deepening for FY11 our problem grows worse locally the following year. As a result we could experience a net cut in regular education of 25-30% over the next two years. This would be devastating and would be 'Strike Three' for public education as we know it. All districts that receive ECS and special education aid in the State have the same problem, to a lesser or greater degree depending on how much aid they receive. The impact in all the urban districts will be devastating. I am not proposing a reduction in special education services; these children need support. We need to find a way to keep programs intact and people working for the next two to three years until the economy rebounds.

Scenario Planning. We have conducted several scenarios as to what this would actually mean programmatically for Bristol. They are dramatic and suffice it to say that class sizes would rise dramatically, all enrichment programs would be eliminated, and high school course options would be severely reduced. Beyond the operational budget we most certainly will have to reduce services provided by other State grants no matter what else happens with the budget. In Bristol we provide much needed support services for children through these special grants. 

Solutions. This problem is bigger than us (Bristol) and it cannot be solved here alone. CAUS (the CT Association of Urban Superintendents) has proposed a two-year reduction in the school year by 10-15 days. If CMT/CAPT testing is suspended for two years, as well as professional development, we could save 10 days alone without impacting students' programs. And there are a range of other mandates that need suspending for two-years. Only the State can legislate these changes through emergency acts. There are ways to provide certain safeguards to employees but drastic measures are needed now given the unfolding crisis in public financing.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 19, 2008

The Fate of Newspapers

A telling cartoon by Jeff Vella from CT News Junkie blog:

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'One of the biggest tragedies in this country'

Don't miss the story in today's Waterbury Republican American about the possible closure of The Bristol Press in January. Here's one telling section:
Adam Benson, one of two reporters working Tuesday in a newsroom with several empty desks, said it has been a depressing week.
"People are going to have no idea what it's going to mean to them to not have a newspaper," Benson said.
Bill Taupier has seen what it means. He was mayor of Holyoke, Mass., from 1967 to 1975, then town manager in Lowell, Mass., for four years after that. Taupier, now a businessman, can recall a time when five reporters from different papers would pepper him daily with questions, and the stories they wrote could spark hundreds of calls from concerned citizens in a day.
The last of Holyoke's daily papers, the Holyoke Transcript-Telegram, folded in 1993.
"Holyoke went down the drain after they lost the newspaper," Taupier said, adding the city itself wound up on the verge of bankruptcy.
Loss of the local paper dissipates civic pride and the connections that make a community, Taupier said. "Secondly, the citizenry becomes much more uninformed. It gives the politicians a chance to do what they want. You can't become smart watching a half-hour television program every night."
As for the Bristol Press' impending fate, "It's a tragedy," Taupier said. "It's going to be one of the biggest tragedies in this country when we lose our daily local newspaper."

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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November 18, 2008

An online-only nonprofit newspaper? It's happening elsewhere

I don't think an online newspaper can even begin to replace the dead tree version, but The New York Times has a story today that does make the nonprofit web-based alternative seem a little less ridiculous.
The online paper in San Diego, which has gotten lots of attention, has all of 11 staff members. That's less than The Bristol Press has for a city far, far smaller.
On the other hand, San Diego has a big daily newspaper, a bunch of television and radio stations and probably a host of weeklies and monthlies as well.
Bristol has, well, just the Press, really.
So perhaps there's room for an online newspaper, run as a ordinary business with an extraordinary mission or as a nonprofit with a goal of serving the public.
I'm interested in hearing from anyone who has any ideas -- to save the paper as it is, to shrink the paper and keep it in print, to make the Press online only, to form something new, whatever.
What's most important is to make sure that something remains to keep people informed, because the worst alternative is for Bristol to wake up on January 13 and find nothing at all.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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No layoffs, says mayor, but other cuts are coming

Though Mayor Art Ward has ruled out layoffs to save money – a step some other cities have taken – he’s pinching pennies where he can in a bid to lower spending.

One of the steps he’s taken to hold the line on a possible budget shortfall is to order the Main Library to remain closed on Sundays.

Ward said he’s also pushed for consolidation of solid waste and recycling routes, clamped down on municipal fuel use, left open positions unfilled, rejected most travel requests and toughened the scrutiny of overtime.

Ward said he plans to talk with the city’s unions about other cost-cutting measures, including the possible closure of the solid waste transfer station on Mondays so that workers there would routinely have a Tuesday to Saturday shift.

The mayor said that he’s also looking into the possibility of four-day work weeks for some employees.

“We’re basically in a maintenance mode,” the mayor said, trying to hunker down and ride out the recession with as little pain as possible for residents, taxpayers and city employees.

But, Ward said, there may have to be more services reduced or eliminated in order to keep providing those that “the most beneficial.”

Ward said that he hopes the economy will turn around so that harsher steps aren’t needed.

“Every day, I hope we’ve hit bottom,” Ward said, so that things can begin to get better.

It’s unclear at this point whether the city faces a deficit at year’s end. Traditionally, it has had strong reserves and been able to ride out recessions without massive cuts.

But in the early 1990s, the city laid off about 50 employees to cope with sinking revenues and rising costs, many of them slots that were never reinstated.

Ward said that he figures that to save half a mill in property taxes – 50 cents on every $1,000 of assessed value – he would need to lay off 50 employees since he can’t just knock off the ones with the largest salaries.

He said it doesn’t make sense to lose the services those workers provide to save so little.

Besides, the mayor said, most of the employees who might fall to a budget ax are also “taxpayers, homeowners and they have families.”

“It’s important in these types of times that people have a sense of security if at all possible,” Ward said.

He said that he would rather lose positions to attrition by not filling slots when people retire or move on to new jobs.

Ward said that Bristol is in a better situation than most Connecticut cities because of its financial strength, a legacy of the reforms pushed through during the Great Depression that included creation of the Board of Finance to oversee city budgets and bonding.

The mayor asked the city’s state and federal lawmakers this week to look for ways to reduce the number of costly, unfunded mandates to lend a hand. Ward said that particularly in education, the mandatory expenses are driving up the budget by millions of dollars.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Courant columnist weighs in on possible demise of Press

Courant columnist Rick Green got his least interestingt interview ever today when he talked with me about the possible closure of the Press. An experienced newsman, he's well aware of what's at stake here in Bristol (and New Britain, too). 
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Larson grateful for elevation to chairman of House Democratic Caucus

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Larson, the congressman who represents Bristol:
Larson Remarks Following Dem Caucus Chair Election
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01) made the following remarks to his colleagues after being elected Chairman of Democratic Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives. Remarks as prepared for delivery.
My colleagues, we are in the midst of two wars and a global economic crisis of enormous proportion and consequence. We are in uncharted and troubled waters. Your campaign victories have brought about the change that the people were seeking, the hope for a new direction and a better day. We are counting the days until the Obama Administration officially begins, and the anticipated relief can commence.
President Roosevelt informed another generation of Americans, deep in the Depression, with the winds of war on the horizon, that they had a, “Rendezvous with Destiny.” This is not 1933 but the analogies to that time are striking.
What this Congress and this Caucus face is a different rendezvous. We have a rendezvous with reality… the harsh reality that Americans struggle with daily: the daunting reality of foreclosure, job loss, soaring costs in health care, energy, and education. That reality is written on your faces and carried in your hearts.
This is not a time for the faint of heart, it is the time to seize the day, seize this crisis and turn it into opportunity for our nation’s people. Whether you have served here for 10 years or are a freshman, this is our moment -- our time to move a nation. Our legacy is aligned with a transformational president and people who are counting on us to be the difference in their lives.
We do not shrink from this responsibility, we welcome it.
Like Roosevelt, we need to find the Warm Courage of National Unity. So, how do we achieve it?
The Speaker often says we have the most talented and diverse group of members ever assembled in the United States Congress. My job is to shine the spotlight on that talent and diversity. And, by listening and leveling with one another and our people, together we will forge the Warm Courage of Caucus Unity necessary to move our agenda. After all, the change you have been waiting for, the change the American people have called for is you.
So let us go forward from this Caucus, mindful of the realities our fellow Americans face and resolved that our collective effort will both heal a nation, and return it to prosperity and peace.
I thank you for your support and will ask often for your help.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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