October 30, 2009

Driving out speeding

Kevin Fuller has a method for dealing with cars that speed by: he stands in the road and yells at them.
But the Democratic City Council contender recognizes that other methods may prove more effective.
He said the city should have more “random radar traps on side roads to start pinching the speeders” and it should install speed humps near schools in order to slow down drivers in areas where children congregate.
Fuller is one of a number of municipal candidates who offered ideas Friday for combating shortcut-seeking commuters and rushed residents who turn some once-quiet neighborhood streets into dangerous thoroughfares in their quest to avoid congested main roads.
Democratic council hopeful Terry Parker said that “the speeding that goes on in our residential neighborhoods” is one issue he keeps hearing about as he knocks on doors all over the 3rd District.
“I, too, have heard many complaints about speeding,” said David Mills, one of the GOP contenders in the same district.
Mills said, “Living on a busy street myself, Oakland Street, I can attest to these complaints because I have been making them myself for over 30 years and nothing meaningful has been done.”
Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat seeking a second term, said that speeding “is a chronic problem throughout not only Bristol but the entire nation and needs constant oversight and enforcement exercises.”
He said residential areas that have problems with speeders “are monitored by posted stationary and mechanical speed limit signs and directed speed surveillance, but residents in the concerned areas can assist the police by notifying the department of specific violators,” the times of when most violations happen and can even ask for traffic studies to address troubled sections of town.
“The police department vigilantly patrols recognized speed areas,” the mayor said, “but, unfortunately, cannot be everywhere at all times.”
The police generally respond to residents who ask for targeted enforcement, often finding that many of the speeders on any particular street actually live in the neighborhood, as several detailed reports have shown over the years.
Democratic council contender Allen Marko said he would work with police “to establish speeding enforcement teams to target the problem neighborhoods,” a method that has proven effective.
Marko said he would also talk with public works officials about the prospects for installing speed bumps, though he recognizes they may pose some problems for snow plow operators.
Republican council contender Derek Czenczelewski said, “It is essential that drivers in Bristol understand the importance of safe driving. We often take for granted secondary streets while driving because of the lack of traffic. Just as important as other vehicles on the road are pedestrians that can go unseen until it is too late.”
“While we as local officials can't change the way others drive, we can insure that safety regulations are enforced,” Czenczelewski said.
Czenczelewski said that mobile radar trailers should be put around the city, with speed limit signs displayed, and police should hand out more tickets.
He said the public can play a role, too.
“Everyone doesn't have to become ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter,’ but I do ask that if citizens see illegal actions in any form, that they please alert the proper authorities so we can continue to make Bristol a safe place to live, work and play,” Czenczelewski said.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne said residents should report speeding infractions to the police.
“It is important to keep our roads safe for residents and their children,” Cockayne said. “Unfortunately if the police aren't present in the immediate area that the speeding is taking place they can't do too much to address it.
“However, if incidents are reported and police are aware of areas where this is happening, they can increase their presence in the future and hopefully curb this type of unsafe driving,” Cockayne said.
Democratic council contender Kevin McCauley said there should be a better “accountability system” that can track complaints about traffic and other public safety issues so they can be recorded and monitored to see if the city is making progress addressing the problems.
“If neighborhood speeding and reckless driving is viewed as a priority issue by neighbors, then the police department needs to evaluate their existing resources and allocate them accordingly,” McCauley said.
“Maybe we can look into the allocation for specialty areas and put some of those dollars where they may have a greater impact,” he said.
Kate Matthews, a Democratic council candidate in the 3rd District, said, “The first step in solving any problem is to analyze it. We need to investigate what our citizens have actually complained about – whether it be actual crashes, fear of walking in a particular neighborhood, or noise-related disruptions caused by speeding.”
“Further, we need to pinpoint where, specifically, speeding is a particular problem, and the days and times when speeding is at its worst,” Matthews said.
“When we have this information, we can look at the road conditions, speed limit postings, and current speed enforcement efforts made by law enforcement to determine the best way to reduce speeding in these problem areas,” she said.
“We must use this information to ensure that our existing police resources are being utilized effectively,” she said, adding that speed display boards may help as well.
Matthews also said the city should “examine whether existing traffic signals are timed to encourage vehicles to drive at desired speeds. As roads are constructed and repaired throughout the City, we should consider implementing traffic calming measures where appropriate.”
Mills said he believes that dealing with the issue “has to become a priority for the police department before any solution will happen. The city government leaders must decide to encourage the traffic division to spend the time in the problem neighborhoods, and commit to solving the problem.”
“My suggestions would include the use of radar on a regular basis to assist the police in their efforts to slow down the traffic. This would need to be done for a consistent amount of time to be effective,” Mills said.
He said the city should also consider using stop signs at some troublesome intersections.
“There have been several accidents on Oakland and Stearns streets, for example, with someone going through the intersection. A 4-way stop sign would slow traffic down and make it safer for the neighborhood,” he said.
As a last resort, Mills said, a few strategically located speed bumps might help slow traffic.
He said addressing the problem would be a priority for him as a councilor.
Parker said he agrees the city needs to figure out a strategy that would deter the “irresponsible behavior” of speeders.
“I will work to solve this problem because the safety of our citizens young and old is at stake,” Parker said.
All of the council and mayoral candidates were given a chance to offer their thoughts on how to address speeding. Those who are not included in the story did not respond.
Voters will decide Tuesday who will lead City Hall the next two years. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

So who should you vote for?

For those who want to catch up on the candidates, I've made a little guide here to help you learn something about them so that you'll know what's up when you see a ballot on Tuesday.
There are links here for pieces on the mayoral, City Council and treasurer candidates as well one for the referendum. I'll also put up links for sample ballots and list the polling places.
I'll add the locations of victory parties Tuesday night as soon as I know where they're being held.


See this story for all three candidates' background and their positions on key issues.

Democratic incumbent Art Ward

Republican Mary Alford

Independent Gary Lawton


See this story for all 12 candidates' background and their positions on key issues.


Republican incumbent Mike Rimcoski
Republican Eldianne Bishop
Democratic incumbent Cliff Block
Democrat Kevin Fuller


Democratic incumbent Kevin McCauley

Democrat Allen Marko

Republican incumbent Ken Cockayne

Republican Richard Scarola


Republican Derek Czenczelewski

Republican David Mills

Democrat Kate Matthews

Democrat Terry Parker


Democratic incumbent Bill Veits
Republican Rose Parenti




Board of Assessment Appeals
Republicans: Robert Casar, Stacey Raymond
Democrats: Dominic Pasquale Jr., James Minella

Republican: Timothy Ceritello, Brock Weber, Thomas Hick
Democrats: Joella Bouchard Mudry, Paul Keegan, Todd Larue

Council District One

77A– Edgewood School – 345 Mix Street
77B – Northeast School - 530 Stevens Street
77C – Mountain View School – 71 Vera Road

Council District Two
78A – Chippens Hill Middle School – 551 Peacedale St.
78B – Clara T. O’Connell School – 120 Park Street
79A – South Side School – Tuttle Road

Council District Three
79B – American Legion – 22 Hooker Court
79C – Greene Hills School – 718 Pine Street
77D & 22 - Stafford School – 212 Louisiana Avenue

PS: This will be updated further

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Neighborhood speeding

After several candidates said they heard more complaints about speeding on residential streets than anything else except the economy, I asked all of the contenders to tell me what they'd do about it. Their answers are due by early this afternoon.
Meantime, what should they say? What could the city do to reduce the madcap driving by shortcut-seeking commuters and rushed residents?
Give the candidates some ideas. Some of them probably need the help.
(And, candidates, please remember you have until 1 p.m. to send me your thoughts.)

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 29, 2009

Election offers voters a choice

After a campaign remarkable only for its civility, voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to stick with a mayor who has guided the city through hard times.

If he is reelected to a second two-year term, Democratic Mayor Art Ward would be the first mayor to return to office since 2001, when Frank Nicastro won the last of his five mayoral races.

Voters will also decide the fate of four incumbent city councilors, two Democrats and two Republicans, and perhaps whether to hand control of the council to the GOP for the first time since 1991.

Also on the ballot are races for the treasurer’s post, the Board of Assessment Appeals and constables, as well as an economic development referendum considered routine.

The Democrats start with a built-in advantage in terms of registration, claiming the allegiance of 41 percent of the city’s 34,142 registered voters. The Republicans have just 16 percent.

But after a blip last year where the Democrats outnumbered unaffiliated voters, those registering as independents again outnumber either party, with 42 percent of the total.

The GOP is counting on capturing not just independent voters but also many Democrats.

In the three-way mayoral contest, Republican Mary Alford and independent Gary Lawton are likely to split some of the anti-Ward vote, making it even more likely that Ward will return to his $98,000-a-year job at the helm of City Hall.

In the council contests, though, the Republicans have a shot at grabbing a majority if they can keep their two incumbents – Ken Cockayne and Mike Rimcoski – and snatch a couple of open seats in the 3rd District.

Despite a Democratic lock on the district for three decades, GOP contender David Mills is widely considered to have a reasonable chance of winning one of the 3rd District’s two seats. He had raised more money than any other council hopeful at the last reporting deadline.

Mills may even be strong enough to pull the other Republican candidate in the district in with him, political insiders said, giving Derek Czenczelewski a better shot that he would otherwise have.

The Democrats, though, are counting on their 3rd District candidates, Kate Matthews and Terry Parker, to succeed in recapturing the district for the party.

Two Democratic council incumbents, Kevin McCauley and Cliff Block, are aiming to keep their seats as well.

In the 1st District, Block and Rimcoski have to fend off challenges from two newcomers, Democrat Kevin Fuller and Republican Eldianne Bishop.

In the 2nd District, Cockayne and McCauley are in the sights of Democrat Allen Marko and Republican Richard Scarola.

In the race for the part-time treasurer’s slot, first-term incumbent Democrat Bill Veits is hoping to fend off Republican newcomer Rose Parenti.

Republicans have held the allegiance of 15 to 20 percent of the voters for many years. Their numbers have slipped only a little during the past five years.

Democrats, on the other hand, once had a commanding hold on the electorate.
In 1984, for example, 49 percent of city voters called themselves Democrats and only 32 percent were unaffiliated.
By 2004, just 39.5 percent of the city's electorate registered as Democrats, but during the past five years, the Democrats have made gains.

The polls are open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Polling Places in Bristol:

Council District One
77A– Edgewood School – 345 Mix Street
77B – Northeast School - 530 Stevens Street
77C – Mountain View School – 71 Vera Road

Council District Two
78A – Chippens Hill Middle School – 551 Peacedale St.
78B – Clara T. O’Connell School – 120 Park Street
79A – South Side School – Tuttle Road

Council District Three
79B – American Legion – 22 Hooker Court
79C – Greene Hills School – 718 Pine Street
77D & 22 - Stafford School – 212 Louisiana Avenue


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

City should do its budge better, mayoral challengers say

The city’s two mayoral challengers say the city needs to do a better job with its budget.

Republican hopeful Mary Alford said the city’s management style includes “procrastination, indecision and budgetary sleights of hand.”

Independent contender Gary Lawton said that city officials failed to keep residents in the loop on municipal finances.

The man they hope to unseat Tuesday, Democratic Mayor Art Ward, said that many officials worked hard to deliver a budget this year that froze property taxes despite declining state aid and revenue shortfalls at City Hall.

He said that next year offers additional financial difficulties but steps are being taken to try to cope with them.

Alford said the city’s decision this year to snatch $2.5 million out of its rainy day fund to pay $600,000 toward equipment and $1.9 million to balance the budget was “an insult to the taxpayers who pay the bills.”

Alford said the city’s real budget problem is the $2.5 million “that nobody wanted to deal with when it should have been dealt with.”

But Board of Finance members said the reason the city has a rainy day fund is to dip into the money when times are tough. This year, they said, they had no other option unless they wanted to lay off employees and pare services.

Ward said he was determined to avoid layoffs if he could because there are already too many people in Bristol without jobs.

But Alford said the city, like households all over town, “needs to live within its means. We can no longer afford to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today.”

The $171 million budget was approved this year with support from both incumbent Republican councilors, Mike Rimcoski and Ken Cockayne, as well as every Democrat except Kevin McCauley and Craig Minor.

Both McCauley and Minor argued that a small tax hike was needed to ensure public works got the funding it needs to prevent the city’s infrastructure from deteriorating.

Lawton said he wants finance officials to do more to keep residents informed.

In addition to the monthly finance board meetings, Lawton said, there ought to be “smaller town hall-style meetings” at the Beals Senior-Community Center and other locales at other times.

“The people deserve to be better informed no just once a month at the convenience of the board or whoever sets the meeting date,” Lawton said.

The finance board, whose members are volunteers, holds sessions at City Hall on the fourth Tuesday of every month and a joint session with the City Council on the second Tuesday of each month. They are open to the public, but rarely attended by anyone other than city officials and reporters.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Lawton makes his case

Statement issued by independent mayoral candidate Gary Lawton:

In a few days we will all head to the polls to elect our city officials for the next two years. I ask you to consider as you get ready to vote, do you want more or the same for the next two years or do you want something new and more, even different. I say this because that is exactly what will happen. If you vote for the incumbents, you will stay were you are. They think they have a handle on things and see what needs to be done. What I hear, from listening to all that I have spoken with are that people want something new and different. I know when introduced with something new we worry because we do not know what is going to happen. I am asking you to accept that move with me and lets put Bristol back in the hands of its citizens.

In the beginning I stated I would return $35,000.00 of my salary. When being told it would not make a difference in the face of a projected 8million dollar deficit. I say we have to start some were, and I am proud to be the one who starts it. I also challenged other city officials to voluntarily, one more time, voluntarily give back some of their salaries when combined it could make quite a difference and let people of Bristol that their government officials care about the city. I was laughed at, told I can not do it, well then I guess I'll be laughed at for trying to make a difference. I believe if my $35,000 saves a program or helps keep one more person working then it was worth it. Now as far as not being able to do the give back, you do not know until you try, .

I want to work with local businesses and the chamber of commerce to develop new businesses in to Bristol. This generates jobs, incomes for money to be spent here. New families moving here, spending money in town, buying homes and paying taxes, kids using the schools all working together for the whole of Bristol. We have a strong manufacturing history, and while we may never see the likes of another New Departure. It does not mean we can not have that in say smaller mom and pop types of shops all over Bristol. I say lets work better with ESPN and the businesses we already have and see if we can not get their suppliers to move here. These already established businesses and ESPN are here because they love it here. We want them to tell their suppliers that it is fantastic to do and have a business here in Bristol. I would suggest progressive tax breaks, if renting a building the city owns a break on the rent. I would also work with state and federal people to try and receive incentives at those levels to support the new businesses grow and thrive here in Bristol.

Now Downtown and Depot Square, I like everyone else would love to snap my fingers and see it up and running tomorrow, but I am urging caution and patience. I say this because if we do it wrong we will not get a second chance. I want to make sure that it not only will bring in people to Bristol, but also be able to support the people already here, because if it do put the right things in then who will go there just people from the outside. I do not believe it would last long at that rate. I want to make sure that the citizens of Bristol have a say in what they would want to see in the Depot and Downtown, and I feel the deserve it too.

The cities' budget is going to be a crucial issue. I think the citizens of Bristol were not kept in the loop, in the matter of city finances. I understand that the board of finance has a monthly meeting, but for whose convenience theirs. The budget is a bill we give the people every year and ask them to pay, through their taxes, they should be better informed. In addition to the, monthly board of finance meeting, I would want to see smaller town hall style meetings, some during the day at say the senior center, or maybe night at one of the schools. The people deserve to be better informed not just once a month at the convenience of the board or who ever sets the meeting date. This is a bill, if we expect them to pay it, then they deserve more information. They also must be able to ask more questions than a time limit allows. The more we keep them informed the more they are likely to accept changes if we need to make them.

I am sure there are so may other things I could discuss, but space will not allow me. I have enjoyed running for Mayor. When I started this whole process, they said, “ oh you can not win, you have no higher education, you have no name recognition, no political experience.”. They were right, but I believe you can grow up to be anybody you want to be to do anything you want, if you work hard. I tell my own kids that still today, how many of us do also I wonder. I have to admit higher education is fantastic, name recognition does not hurt in this game, and certainly political experience would be distinguished. Still though I do know some college educated people, and I am sure some of you do too, who are as smart as a whip but some times common sense alludes them. Name recognition is impressive, but that is no guarantee the person can do the job, just because of a name they are. Finally political experience, well if that means that I can cheat on my wife, or swap political parties because I want to get reelected or get exceptional deals for mortgages, then yeah I guess I'll just have to suffer by not having any.

In the end I am just and ordinary everyday working stiff. I pay my taxes, like yourself and complain about it. I think that sometimes politicians feel as if they are doing us a favor when they talk to us or some times feel as though they talk down to us, that may be me and not everyone. Why am I doing this, not out of anger as some have said, though there may be a little, but I feel as though the average man and woman has lost their voice in politics today and I want to give it back to them? I want at this time to thank everyone who signed my petition to help me get on the ballot I learned a lot in those four days from you, so thank you. I want to thank the people who helped me by answering my questions and offering me advice thank you.

In the beginning I asked when you head to the polls next week to think what do you want to come out of this election. Do you want a continuation of what you have had for the last 10 plus years, or do you want more, something new, exciting and different. I want to challenge all of us to work together to make Bristol the city, not only that it can be, but should be. When you go to the polls, I ask you to allow me to work with you for that. So on Tuesday November 3 vote for Gary L. Graff-Lawton line 1C. Thank you for your support.


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Democrats outnumber GOP more than 2-1

As of this morning, there are 34,142 registered voters in Bristol.

Among them are 14,136 Democrats (41.4 percent), 5,515 Republicans (16.2 percent), 14,422 unaffiliated (42.2 percent) and 69 registered with small parties such as Connecticut for Lieberman (<0.1>).


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Alford urges focus on budget woes

Republican mayoral candidate Mary Alford issued this letter to voters:

8 million dollars! Scary number but what does it actually mean? There are a couple of things that come to mind.

1. Is revenue down 8 million? If so, we are in huge trouble.

2. Are expenses up 8 million? If so, why and in which departments?

3. What’s the makeup of that number?

Remember when we used $2.5 million dollars from the “Rainy Day Fund” to balance the budget, this year? The ink wasn’t even dry on the 2009-2010 budget when that came back to haunt the taxpayers of Bristol. Using that money didn’t balance anything. All it did was give us a base budget to build on that was already $2.5 million dollars more than the city had then. What about now? We have $5.5 million additional dollars of proposed spending. The Mayor and Board of Finance have requested that each department submit two additional sets of figures with 5% & 10% in cuts. Are they serious?

Let’s do the math. 5% of $8 million is $400,000.00. 10% of $8 million is $800,000.00.

That leaves the city with a 7.2 million dollar debacle.

Again, are they serious?

Why are these cuts being requested across the board? 10% may affect the budgets of some departments but it will devastate others, like the Senior Center, programs for our most at risk youth, our libraries.

Our real budget “crisis” is $2.5 million dollars that nobody wanted to deal with when it should have been dealt with. Anything over that is an insult to the taxpayers who pay the bills.

Procrastination, indecision and budgetary sleights of hand are all words that could be used to describe the current management style at City Hall. Does that come with a secret handshake?

I hope not!

City government, just like your household, needs to live with its means. We can no longer afford to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today.

We need a new style of management in City Hall; a Mayor and City Council that can say No to reckless spending; a Mayor and City Council who realize that its citizens have a right to expect their hard earned dollars to be handled with care and integrity.

Our spending priorities need to be re-examined, to say the very least. Why are we talking about purchasing more properties for our Parks or purchasing unnecessarily expensive vehicles when our Park Department employees are mowing 700 acres of grass with 20 inch lawn mowers?

Have our city employees been consulted about how to curb spending? If not, why not? They are on the front lines every day, our boots on the ground, working to deliver the services we as candidates and elected officials promise to our citizens. Who better to ask for ideas?

We need new leadership at City Hall!

As this election winds down, I want every Bristol voter to know that the next two years will be as difficult as the last two years. With Congress and the State Legislature continually voting to increase the size of their massive deficits and the size and scope of government, our local communities will be the ones taking the brunt of it.

We need to take control of our own future. Let’s do it – together.

As you head to the polls on Tuesday, please remember that we cannot continue to elect the same people and expect different leadership...

Bristol needs new leadership and with your vote on Tuesday, I hope you will afford me the opportunity to provide you with the leadership I am advocating.

I hope to see you on Tuesday.


Mary Alford

Republican Candidate for Mayor

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Details on projected $8 million shortfall next fiscal year

Read this memo to see how the city comptroller's office determined that the next fiscal year, which starts next July, could pose a major headache for City Hall and taxpayers.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 28, 2009

Want to comment about sex? Then please read this.

It would make my life a lot easier if everyone would understand that I'm not knowingly going to allow anyone to post that Mr. X or Ms. Y is having one or more sexual flings with anybody. Unless it clearly matters to a story, it's irrelevant. And unless I know it's true, it's not going to get posted. So if you know something that you think is important about some kind of sexual escapade, please give me the evidence and the rationale for why it matters. I'll listen.
Once in New York, I wrote a story about a state Senate candidate whose cell phone calls to various girlfriends wound up on a tape that someone mailed me. (One of them said she "almost died for you" to the candidate because he insisted she wear high heels on a waterbed.) It ultimately reached print, with darn few of the juicy details, because the candidate himself called a press conference to accuse his opponent of making the tapes.
But let's cease the endless comments, posted anonymously, accusing candidates and officials of having secret affairs with one another and others. I have no way to know if any of the accusations are true. And I don't usually see why it would be relevant anyway.
I also apologize for the couple of times something has slipped through. I delete them as soon as somebody points it out.

PS: Slightly veiled references such as Person Q will meet a lover at Bar Z for drinks and more won't make the cut either.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Erling steps down from finance panel

The vice chairman of the city’s powerful Board of Finance is stepping down.
Roald Erling, who has logged 20 years on the board, is ready to enjoy his retirement without the burden of public service, several officials said Wednesday.
Erling, who could not be reached, has always been one of the most fiscally conservative members of the nine-person panel that has controlled the city’s budget and bonding since the Great Depression.
“He was a very dedicated member of the finance board, very learned very knowledgeable,” Mayor Art Ward. “He served with distinction.”
A low-key, easy-going man, Erling nonetheless had no trouble saying no to politicians’ pet projects.
A critic of government growth, Erling voiced strong support for maintaining a healthy rainy day fund while holding down property taxes.
Erling, whose term expires in 2011, served on the panel from 1983 to 1997 and then rejoined it in 2003. He was last reappointed unanimously by the City Council in 2007.
When he resigned in 1997 to care for his ailing wife, then-Finance Chairman John Letizia called Erling "the epitome of a finance commissioner" because "he was knowledgeable, hard-working, dedicated, honorable and his only agenda item was to help the city’s taxpayers."He said that Erling, who was vice chair of the panel at the time, “functioned as my co-chairman" because Letizia "had such tremendous confidence in his judgment."
"Roald had the ability to analyze the details and then view the big picture before making a decision,” Letizia said, adding that Erling’s “deep spirituality enabled him to overcome any personal prejudices he might have had in any situation.”
Assuming he is reelected on Tuesday, Ward said he will likely nominate a successor to Erling at the December City Council meeting.
Others on the panel are Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski, Ward, Greg Fradette, Janet Moylan, Mark Peterson, John Smith, Cheryl Thibeault and Paul Tonon.
Moylan and Peterson are approaching the end of their terms next summer. The rest are set until at least 2011.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Council ballots order

It's not clear how much impact the order of names on the ballot has, but everyone in politics is convinced that it matters.
What happens for the City Council races is especially interesting because voters get to choose two of four candidates in each district.
Since the contenders are listed in two columns of two, sometimes voters think they have to choose one in each column. Or such is the political wisdom.
The reality is that people can vote for any two council hopefuls, no matter where they appear on the ballot.
But for some, probably, the race in the 1st District isn't just picking from among Democrats Cliff Block and Kevin Fuller and Republicans Mike Rimcoski and Eldianne Bishop.
Instead, it's a race between Rimcoski and Fuller, who's listed below the incumbent Republican and another race between Bishop and Block.
In that district, political insiders say, Rimcoski gets a boost by getting listed first and getting listed above a challenger rather than Block, who is presumably better known. Block on the other hand, faces Bishop, which most assume is better than facing Rimcoski, who has proven he can win.
Now all of that may be so much nonsense. There's really no way to tell for sure.
In the 2nd District, Republican Rich Scarola is listed above incumbent Kevin McCauley, a Democrat. Ken Cockayne, an incumbent Republican, is listed above Democratic challenger Allen Marko.
Presumably, insiders say, McCauley and Cockayne gain a little advantage from that.
In District 3, where there are no incumbents, Republican David Mills is listed above Democrat Kate Matthews. The other Democrat, Terry Parker, is listed beneath Derek Czenczelewski.
Since Mills is widely regarded as the best known of the four, Parker is said to have gotten lucky to be listed under Czenczelewski while Matthews got the short straw.
But Parker said recently that he doesn't buy it. He said voters are smart enough to figure out how to vote for the two candidates they like best, wherever they are on the ballot.
Let's hope that's true.

You can see the ballots by following the links on this blog post.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Vote Republican, says GOP chair

Letter from city Republican Chair T.J. Barnes:

As we enter the final days of the 2009 election season, I would like to ask the people of Bristol to vote for the Republican slate on November 3rd. The Bristol Republican Party put forward a slate of new voices and ideas that are a change from the past and will begin to truly help Bristol move forward. In these trying times, taxpayers are being asked to support more and more at every level of government. Whether it is bailing out a large bank or supporting another poorly run government program the money all comes from the same place: your wallet. Too many times we as taxpayers need to put up more money in the name of the common good, but at some point we reach the breaking point. Today, taxpayers are at that breaking point and are demanding their government work more efficiently with their money. It all starts at the local level. So, if you want to push back and demand more from all levels of your government, vote for the Republican slate on November 3rd and send a message that we want real change in Bristol, Hartford, and in Washington.


Thomas O. Barnes Jr
Chairman of Bristol Republican

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

GOP treasurer hopeful bucks party on GASB 45

The Republican city treasurer candidate vowed “to fight tooth and nail” to stop proposals from tapping excess pension money to pay for the health care of municipal retirees -- a plan promoted most strongly by a GOP city councilor.
Treasurer hopeful Rose Parenti, who owns Computer Development Systems, is angling to knock out incumbent Democratic Treasurer Bill Veits, who has held the part-time office since 2007.
Veits bucked the city unions this year when he voted to look into the idea more deeply after a special panel examined the concept.
The treasurer, who earns $4,000 annually, oversees a professional staff at City Hall and serves as a trustee for the city’s retirement funds, which have $477 million socked away.
That’s about $100 million more than actuaries say the city will need to pay anticipated costs in the decades to come.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne, a first-term Republican, has been the loudest voice in favor of tapping the extra money to cover retiree health care, a potentially budget-busting item that the city has only begun to squirrel away money for.
City Comptroller Glenn Klocko has estimated that using excess pension cash for the health care instead of tapping taxpayers would save $1.8 million annually without risking anyone’s pension payments.
A special city panel created to investigate decided in March on a 4-3 vote not to pursue the idea, however, until the financial markets settled down and the risks could be figured more accurately.
Veits was one of the three members who sought to explore the idea more fully, along with Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski and T.J. Barnes, the chair of the city’s Retirement Board. Barnes is also the city Republican Party chair.
Four union-affiliated members appointed by Mayor Art Ward voted to kill the proposal.
Parenti said she believes it is “extremely important to keep the pension over-funded.”
“I would hate to see the burden of increased taxes passed onto” residents and future generations “should the fund be compromised,” Parenti said.
Supporters of the idea pointed out taxpayers are on the hook for retirees’ health care costs so they’ll pay one way or another.
They also argue that federal law requires the city leave a significant cushion if it does tap into excess pension cash in order to deal with any market reversals.
Though Parenti is a newcomer to running for office, she has been involved with the city GOP for years.
Veits is a self-employed enrolled agent and income tax specialist with a business in Southington who’s been helping people do taxes for 29 years.
He is also the long-time chairman of the city’s Planning Commission.
Veits took over the treasurer’s job after former Treasurer Patti Ewen opted not to seek a ninth term. He easily defeated Republican Mark Anderson to claim the post in 2007.
In 1981, Parenti started Computer Development with her late husband, Rick, in the basement of their Terryville home. She soon moved to Bristol, where the company has grown to occupy its own building on Riverside Avenue.
“I fully understand the importance of being custodian to all monies whether business or personal,” she said. “I know how to tighten the purse strings whenever necessary to remain fiscally responsible.”
Treasurers serve two-year terms. The election is Tuesday, November 3.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Bitter split in police ranks

The State Police are investigating a complaint of wrongdoing by the police chief and others in the wake a bitter split within city police ranks.
Police Lt. Joel Estes recently sent a memo to city leaders charging that Police Chief John DiVenere "engaged in a pattern of deception and egregious ethical violations."
Nobody involved is talking on the record, but please see this story in today's Bristol Press and this long memo written to city officials describing in some detail what the case is all about. It's fascinating reading.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 27, 2009

Scarola lays out case for voters

Open letter from Richard Scarola, GOP candidate for City Council in the 2nd District:

Dear Voters:

I just wanted to take this time as the election draws near to emphasize some thoughts that were never touched upon at the debate.

In reference to code enforcement:

As a taxpayer, I find it quite disturbing that Mr. McCauley represents district 2 but seems to have virtually done nothing for code enforcement in the West End. Of course, Federal Hill where he lives looks great. As a home improvement contractor, I have had numerous clients in the West End that have told me its been years since the fire department came through for fire doors or 42” railings and nothing has been done since. Mr. McCauley is a fine person but I believe his needs are better suited for trying to make his own department more efficient and streamlined than as a city councilman claiming he is on top of code enforcement. Drive down West St. or Divinity St. and look how many railing violations that there are. Look at the de facto landlords. Look at the way the neighborhood is now. Are we in district 2 better off than we were 4 years ago.? We have a long, long way to go to bring Bristol into the 21st century. You are not a councilman just because you are waiting for it to be “your turn” to be mayor.

Concerning the budget:

As of the end of last fiscal year, we were approximately 8 million dollars in the hole and that included raiding the rainy day fund. I have heard bits and pieces of how much we are in debt now, but I find it disturbing that the majority party to include the Mayor and Mr. McCauley refuse to open the books or give a specific figure as to exactly what the next fiscal year is going to cost us as taxpayers. We are going to have a serious budget crisis that is looming over us and I refuse to be a lemming falling off the cliff. At this point, I am still a taxpayer and I expect and demand more from my elected officials. I demand integrity, honesty and transparency. For the average taxpayer, none of this seems to be happening. They try to make you believe it is happening but it is nothing more than a shell game in the end.

As a Marine and Army National guard Veteran, I found it absolutely disgraceful that nobody talked about opening the community to our veterans. We are one of the largest suppliers of men and women to this state and country and each and every one of them comes home with pride, honor, integrity and a nice GI. Bill. This money can be used to start a business, buy a house and be used for higher education. They deserve more than a plaque on the boulevard. They deserve to understand that Bristol believes in them and supports them and in turn hopefully we can convince them to call Bristol home. Bristol vitally needs to attract small business and younger families to this town and this is one way to do it. As all things change, I appreciate the sacrifice that has been made by past and present city employees that have actively served in combat. I have walked in these shoes and I feel that I am greatly more in touch with the needs of the younger, combat experienced veterans. I want them to believe that Bristol is a place they can believe in.

If you watched the debate, I believe I answered each question effectively and with new and fresh ideas. Yes, some of them we will need help on at the state level, but I had multiple ideas for each and every question. Heck, if you noticed when the moderator asked us the question about Bristol Hospital closing, Mr. Marko went off on a diatribe that didn’t even nearly answer the question. He was followed by Mr. McCauley who also didn’t answer the question and when it became my turn, I asked the moderator the question over to ensure it wasn’t me. I then answered it and I answered it with appropriate reasons that Bristol Hospital needs to stay in this community.

That is why I am asking for your vote on November 3rd. I am battle tested, have experience within the Federal Government Law Enforcement (and with the unions as well) and have run numerous businesses by myself. I believe for the sake of the taxpayer and developing this town, I am the right choice. God bless our men and woman in theatre. May they stand courageous in the face of danger. May they deliver our wrath to an unseen enemy. God Bless Bristol.

Thank you, Richard P. Scarola

Candidate, city council, District 2

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Today is the last day to register to vote

If you're not registered and you want to vote next Tuesday, you need to go in person to the registrars' office today on the first floor of City Hall and sign up.
Don't miss your chance to make a difference.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 23, 2009

Bristol in "the middle of nowhere"

Be sure to catch the comment at the end of this New York Post story.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 22, 2009

City snags $557,500 energy grant

The city snagged a $557,500 energy conservation grant this week that will provide federal cash to pay for new boilers at City Hall and energy audits of many municipal buildings.
“This is pretty exciting stuff,” said Robyn Bugbee, the city’s grants administrator.
The energy efficiency and conservation block grant, which the city asked for last spring after one of its boilers blew up, should allow for the reduction of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and costs, officials said.
Justin Malley, the city’s assistant grants administrator, said the federal cash will cover the tab for replacing the two aging boilers that a contractor is already in the process of yanking out of City Hall.
The new natural gas boilers that will take their place are more energy efficient and cleaner, Malley said.
In addition to paying for the badly needed boilers, the money will be used for energy audits of city buildings to come up with a list of proposals for slashing utility expenses, Malley said.
Malley said that officials hope there will be some money left over after the audits to pay for the implementation of the energy conservation suggestions.
City councilors unanimously approved a contract last month with East Hartford’s H.H.S. Mechanical Contractors for $147,000 to get the boiler work done before winter sets in.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Sample ballots for all three Bristol districts

Thanks to the city registrars' office, we have PDFs of the November 3 municipal election ballots for each of the city's three districts:

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 21, 2009

Young Bristol artist making his mark

I may not know much about art, but I know an artist -- Bristol's own Joe Bun Keo, who graduated this year from the University of Hartford and is beginning to make his mark as an artist out in the real world. Back in the day, he was a Tattoo mainstay and he was, is and ever shall be a real friend.
Read about his latest in Underground Art School here.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Candidates climb aboard for commuter rail in Bristol

No matter who wins on Election Day, City Hall will remain ready to climb aboard the push for passenger rail service in Bristol.
"The train is the future of our state," said city Councilor Cliff Block, a Democrat seeking a second term.
The city, state lawmakers and business leaders have become cheerleaders for a plan to upgrade the old freight railroad line between Berlin and Waterbury so that it could also handle commuter rail, probably with stations downtown and in Forestville.
Though the cost of the proposal remains unclear -- $50 million is the low estimate – officials say it would help relieve congestion, open new doors to development and embrace a more environmentally-friendly transportation option.
“We need to all get on board,” said independent mayoral hopeful Gary Lawton.
“Just do it,” said Republican mayoral candidate Mary Alford. She called it the least expensive way to get mass transit in Bristol.
“I just have one thing to say about the rail – all aboard!” Alford said.
Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat angling for reelection on November 3, said he’d keep pushing the project because it offers “a tremendous opportunity” for the city.
Not everyone is quite as sure that train service for Bristol is going to work out.
Veteran Republican city Councilor Mike Rimcoski said he "would love to see a railroad" connecting Central Connecticut towns.
But, he said, “we have to face the facts” and recognize that most people want to remain behind the wheel. “You’re not going to see these people flock to the railroads," Rimcoski said.
Kate Matthews, a Democratic council contender in the 3rd District, said she is concerned that the project would prove costly and the commuter line “may be underutilized by our residents.”
Both Matthews and Kevin Fuller, a 1st District Democratic candidate, said study is needed to see if commuters will use it.
Some candidates said that a downtown station won’t attract passengers, let alone shoppers and day-trippers, if the city doesn’t clean up the area around the former mall site and make sure that people feel safe there.
Fuller called it “a tough subject,” but efforts to clean up Summer Street and other nearby areas are critical. People are going to want “a very nice place” to get on and off the train, he said.
Richard Scarola, a 2nd District Republican candidate, said that a train station could become “the gateway to Depot Square," the name the city is using for the 17-acre former mall site downtown.
City Councilor Kevin McCauley, a Democrat seeking a third term, pointed out there was once a train depot near Depot Square and should be again.
McCauley said the city needs to focus on getting rail and improving the lower Summer Street area to make a downtown station viable. That has to be a piece of revitalization effort, he said."It is the future of this city," McCauley said.
Scarola said that everybody agrees on the need to move forward with the train option, but the city should also explore doing more.
Scarola said the city needs to consider extending the line to Clinton and Essex to tie in to other lines and to plan on bringing period steam trains, Thomas the Train and other rail attractions to town.
He said there could be trips to Thomaston so residents could catch a show at the opera house or to Deep River to catch a steamboat on the Connecticut River.
"It will bring thousands and thousands and thousands of people back to Bristol," Scarola said.
Allen Marko, a Democratic newcomer also running in the 2nd District, said that light rail is the future, with federal money pouring into it rather than highways.Marko pointed out there is "a very strong proposal" for high speed rail from Springfield to New Haven. Commuter rail lines, including one from Bristol, could feed into that system, he said.Marko said that the line can bring people into Bristol as well as helping them reach jobs elsewhere.
"Trains run two ways," Marko said. "This rail system improvement is the way of the future," he said.City Councilor Ken Cockayne, a first-term Republican, said that he will keep pushing for the new line.
Cockayne said the city has to work with other towns along the line "or this doesn't fly."Democrat Terry Parker, a 3rd District newcomer, said that light rail could help transport residents and lessen the traffic on city streets.
Road improvements "just seem to put more traffic on our streets," Block said, while rail is a way to get the cars off the roads.Block said the cost of up to $100 million is worth it.Republican David Mills, a GOP contender in the 3rd District, said a mass transit system “would allow residents to connect with major cities in the region” and help companies such as ESPN build more connections in the area.
Councilors serve two-year terms for $10,000 annually. Voters will choose six councilors, two from each district, on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

ESPN analyst caught in affair with Bristol woman

This makes for some sordid reading, courtesy of the New York Post.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Closing comments at the council debate

First off, apologies for typos in the mad rush to type last night. I'm not going to take the time to fix them all.
Here is Derek Czenczelewski's closing statement, taken from his Facebook page:

I want to thank the Chamber of Commerce and my opponents for making tonight possible. I’d also like to thank Mike Schroeder for moderating and for saving our local newspaper! Lastly, I’d like to thank all of you for coming out tonight.My family can attest to the fact that I’m relentless, and I’ll continue to hammer away at whatever my goal is until it is accomplished. This trait, good or bad, is one that I will bring to our local government here in Bristol. I have many goals for Bristol, and I will not rest until they are all accomplished.I’m a young guy, I don’t have 30 years of experience in politics, but I have a strong education from UConn, a background in Urban Studies, Political Science, Communications and Sports Promotions. I have gained leadership experience from my time in college and at ESPN. I’ve been an active volunteer in the community as well.My decision to run was one made nearly 5 years ago. I’m now ready to execute my decision, but I need your support to make our goal of bettering Bristol a reality.I’d like to leave you with the words of Teddy Roosevelt, who said “"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." In downtown Bristol we did the wrong thing in tearing down our historic presence for a mall. And in the years since we acquired the property and tore down the mall, we have done nothing. Now is the time to do the right thing, and if elected, I promise to do just that.

If any other candidates have their comments typed up, I'd be happy to post them.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 20, 2009

And, finally, the 3rd District debate

And now for the district with no incumbents.
Please forgive me for using DC for Derek Czenczelewski. That's a tough name to type quickly!
All four candidates are here: DC, David Mills, Kate Matthews and Terry Parker.
It's noteworthy that Matthews is the first woman to sit up there for the debates the whole evening (though Bishop would have been here, too, save for a poorly timed flu).
There hasn't been a woman on the council since Ellen Zoppo departed two years ago after her mayoral bid fell short. I'm not sure how long, if ever, there's been more than one woman councilor among the six.
Bristol remains a little behind the times on such things.

Q - INdustrial park...
Matthews said the city has four options to accelerate the sale of lots in the new business park off Middle Street -- to give BDA more money to advertise more effectively, possibly hiring a professional broker "to push those lots," perhaps dropping the price or working out other financial arrangements, and the city could offer increased tax abatements.
Mills said there is an opportunity "to determine what we want to go in there."
The city should "make a list" of which companies are wanted and then go out and recruit them.
Parker said it is about marketing and tax breaks.
"We also have a great opportunity and we also have a great site," Parker said. Because Bristol is halfway between Boston and New York, it's attractive.
DC said he agrees marketing is crucial. He urged local, regional and national advertising. He said Bristol "lags behind" in information technology and ought to try to cluster firms in the park.
Clustering can "create a snowball" and can be a success, DC said.

Q -- Forestville... and 72...

Mills said the city should follow the recommendations of the study five years ago. Improving the pedestrian flow in the village center is important. He said that the old Sessions building could perhaps house condos.
The Forestville Village Association should play a role. The new road will make the area more viable than it is today.
Parker said that ROute 72 creates "a great opportunity."
He said the city should investigate removing the island in the center. It is imperative that whatever is done be "the people's development" and not a City Council one " so we can have development that is in the character of Forestville."
DC said condos are a good idea.
He said the new road is going to be a tremendous boost for Forestville by "opening up the entire area."
Matthews said she read the Route 72 corridor study, which is "a comprehensive, forward-looking" report that she endorses. I'll link to it later.
She said she is a lifelong Forestville resident "and a lot of people in my part of town" are concerned about what changing traffic patterns may mean. "This issue needs to be handled with care," Matthews said.
Matthews called for a holistic approach that deals with the wide range of issues that Route 72 will create.

Q -- marketing...

Mills said that until Bristol identies what it wants to be, attracting people to town will be hard. He said the city needs to tackle blight and "sell cleanup to everyone," improve the city's gateways.
He said he would like to get local landscapers to agree to care for one of the gateways.
"It's critical that we market the city the way we should," Mills said, including improving the city's website.
Parker said the city is unique in that it borders six other towns. Each has unique gateways to Bristol. Landscaing idea is "great," he said.
Parker said the BDA needs the tools to market the city.
DC said that Bristol's economy is now 20 percent in digital information, due to ESPN. A lot of people want to work there and we should encourage other jobs in the same sector to grow the IT cluster.
"We have a lot of other opportunities" beyond ESPN in the same business, DC said.
Matthews said the city need to make sure that zoning is business friendly and making a place where companies want to come, providing quality schools, safe streets and more.
"We have to make Bristol a worthwhile place to live and I believe we do," she said, and to keep pushing forward to preserve quality of life.
"We also have a highly qualifed workforce," she said.

Q -- marketing...

DC said the first step is to get the BDA, BDDC and chamber to get on the same page. THey need to meet montly to improve communications.
The city needs to revamp its website and to utilize social media.
The bedrock of any community are its working families, Matthews said, where excellent schools are crucial.
Matthews said she would continue the grants and incentives the BDA has used successfully to lure business to town.
Mills said bringing people to Bristol "is just like recruiting." First you need to analyze the need, then where do you find it. You have "go out and do your homework." Then list them and contact them. Follow up with those that show interest. "Invite them to the city," Mills said.
Ties in to cleaning up city and improving gateways. It ties into downtown where you don't want "a desolated, vacant lot," Mills said. The mall site "is crucial."
Parker said all of the suggestions "are great ideas."
"We are a great community," Parker said, and "this is an economic force to be reckoned with."

Q - higher ed...

Parker said this community has long sent students to all of the state universities. The president of the state university system is someone Parker has known for two decades. He said the city can talk to him. He's a visionary, he said.
"We can probably work something out," Parker said.
Mills said the city should approach nearby schools. It could also potentially partner with Bristol Hospital to help train people it needs. It could be "a great marriage," Mills said.
He said that developing Depot Square into a destination offers the hope of attracting more.
"Depot Square is the catalyst that's going to turn our city around," Mills said.
Matthews said she echoes some of Mills' comments. She said the site is a great site for a college branch.
"We may have some difficulty marketing that," Matthews said. She said the Tunxis satellite in town is underutilized and needs to "do what it should be doing."
Others will wonder if it's a good place to be if Tunxis isn't fully utilized downtown.
Matthews said that education is key.
DC said that with the struggling economy "a lot of people have been going back to school."
Tunxis may want to expand in Bristol.
It might also be able to attract a training school, too, DC said.
He said that a rich nightlife would help attract youths to Bristol.

Closing statements...

Matthews said she is a mother, wife, homeowner and lawyer who has lived her whole life in Bristol. She said she's looking forward to sending her young daughter to the new k-8 school on Pine Street.
"In these trying times," she said, the city needs to be fiscally conservative.
She said she is "an ethicak, fair and independent-minded" person.
Mills said that over the last two months he's had "so many people come up to me and ask what are you doing?"
"I'm excited about Bristol's future," Mills said. He said he's tired of people saying, "This is Bristol. What do you expect?"
With two new schools, tranforming Forestville "into a quaint, welcoming village" and more, Bristol will be the city we all want.
Parker said he's lived in Bristol for 40 years. He said he's been an election moderator for more than 20 years, raised a family "and I do love this city."
"This community is a community in transition" and Depot Square will help define what kind of community it becomes, Parker said.
He said he is committed to getting the input of as many residents as possible on key issues.
"The people have a right to be heard," Parker said.
DC said he is "relentless" and "will keep hammering away" to accomplish his goals.
He said he has a solid education and leadership skills. He said he decided to run "nearly five years ago."
Bristol has "done nothing" with the mall site. Now is the time to do something, he said.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

City Council debate, part 4 (District 2)

The candidates are Democrats Allen Marko, Kevin McCauley and Republicans Ken Cockayne and Richard Scarola.
The questions, written by the chamber, are standard....

Route 72 question....
Cockayne said the project has "been going on, I believe, longer than I've been alive."
He said the road will provide easier access to downtown. "This is going to be a great thing for Bristol," he said.
McCauley said one of the principal hindrances to development has been the lack of highway access. Now it's time to coordinate between the chamber and BDA "to capitalize and promote" opportunities.
Scarola said the street "is a great change for Bristol," but "it's only a great change if we act on it."
He said the studies have been shelved. But if Riverside Avenue is going to be a gateway, the city needs to take the good ideas off the shelf and act.
Marko said Route 72 "was a solution for the 70s."
"It will be a great plus for Forestville. It will help some of the traffic problems there," Marko said.
But the long-term solution is going to be rail, he said. Marko said the busway s "very much like a light rail system" and if it is built, the city needs to make sure its buses "tie into that busway" as an intermediate solution.
Marko called for better bus service.
"It's time to look to the future," he said.

Q re rail...
McCauley said the chamber is pushing rail to remove traffic from the roads.
He said the city has been looking at rail options. He poined out there was once a train depot near Depot Square, the new name for the former mall site.
McCauley said the city needs to focus on getting rail and tying that into the neighborhood like lower Summer Street. That has to be a piece of revitalization effort, he said.
"It is the future of this city," McCauley said.
Scarola said that the train "can be the gateway to Depot Square."
He said everyone agrees on need to go forward with the train. He said the city needs to cosnider exstending to Clinton and Essex, as well as bringing historic trains, Thomas the Train, night trains to the riverboat and more. "It wil bring thousands and thousands and thousands of people back to Bristol," he said, urging a state of the art station.
He said it can be part of a safe, pedestrian-friendly downtown.
Marko said that light rail is the future, with federal money heading toward it rather than highways.
He said there is "a very strong proposal" for high speed rail from Springfield to New Haven. Commuter rail lines can feed in to that system.
"Trains run two ways," Marko said, bringing customers to Depot Square as well as sending commuters to Hartford.
Marko said the tracks also connect Bristol to Waterbury, where the fastest growing line on the Metro North system ends. "This rail system improvement is the way of the future," he said.
Cockayne said that officials rode on the rail. "It was very interesting," he said.
Cockayne said that he will keep pushing the line. He said the city has to work with other towns along the line "or this doesn't fly."
They need to be on board, Cockayne said.

Q -- Bristol Hospital...

Marko said Bristol Hospital "has already done some wonderful things to position itself," including partnering with St. Francis Hospital and creating niches where it can offer quality care.
Marko said that the hospital can work with others to find a way to make the new UConn plan "a win-win" for everone.
Cockayne said he has spoken with Kurt Barwis and Bill Hamzy. "This would have a drastic effect if this merger were to go through, " he said, referring to the proposal to have Hartford Hospital run the hospital at UConn.
He said that the plan on the table woujld undermine Bristol Hospital. He vowed "to block this from happening and to protect our city hospital."
McCauley said the city needs to stay involved and to ensure legislators keep advocating for Bristol Hospital.
"Closing Bristol Hospital for me is absolutely wrong," Scarola said.
He said the city is aging and needs access to immediate care. He said government shouldn't legislate "how you get your health care."
Scarola said he will work to make sure the proposed merger "does not happen" at UConn.
He said it's crucial to have a hospital so close "for our seniors, for our community, for our wel-being."

Q - courthouse and how to win more assets...

Marko said Bristol is one of the city's Top 15 cities. "For years, we've been kind of a backwater. We've been forgotten," he said.
Marko said Depot Square is a key to putting Bristol on the map. He said the city has to address problems on Federal Hill and in the West End. It also needs to highlight the city's best features, from the carousel museum to community theater.
He said that "a wonderful community theater program" is one key element.
"It all comes down to marketing," Cockayne said, adding that Depot Square is crucial.
Picking the right developer "will revitalize downtown" and give people a reason to come to Bristol, Cockayne said.
McCauley said he's seen the state threaten to remove state agencies out. He pointed out that DMV is gone along with more.
"I will work and pressure our state delegation... to increase access to these vital agencies," McCauley said.
He said there is a need to keep the focus on Bristol on any local and regional planning.
Scarola said the courthouse choice "is out of our hands," though he promised to fight to keep the courthouse in town. He poined out it helps the city financially.
He said the city needs a backup plan, which might expand the police headquarters or City Hall so it doesn't become "just another abandoned building."

Q - Downtown...
Scarola said he envisions "thinking outside the box" instead of trying to match West Hartford, Simsbury or Avon.
"I want to be Bristol. I want Bristol to have its own identity," Scarola said.
He said retail is not the whole answer. He said something sports related or education might creae a destination. There should be a way to capitalize on ESPN's marketing.
"Everybody on this planet knows ESPN is in Bristol," he said.
Marko said the project "is one of the keys to making us what we should be."
Marko said an ice skating rink is another crucial element. He pointed out there is a focal point of a rink in Charlotte, N.C. and would like to try to something similiar.
Cockayne said the BDDC has looked at many ideas for the mall site.
Two great presentations offered by potential developers, Cockayne said. He said picking the right one is crucial, with retail, housing and offices.
He urged the city to take its time and deliberate on the choice.
McCauley said the developers' interest shows the model has potential. He said integrating in the West End and Federal Hill is important.

Closing statements...
Scarola said he can help make Bristol "what we woudl all like Bristol to be."
He said he's watched "in anger and frustration" as Bristol has done little to improve itself. He said he has no ties to city and no family or friends who work for the city "so your voice will be heard loud and clear.
He called those connections "a severe conflict" -- clearly aiming at McCauley, a firefighter.
Marko said he's running because the decisions the council will make in the next few years will shape the city for the next 50 years.
"When we make those decisions," he said, the city has to ensure it keeps vital community services.
The city has to provide services. He said it's important "that we don't cripple vital service" in ques to save money.
"We also have to be careful not to fall for solutions that are gimmicks" like spending caps or budget referenda, Marko said. He said turnouts for referenda are low so "a small group of dedicated people who would oppose anything" can control the agenda.
Marko said what works "is strong leadership, people who are willing to make the tough decisions."
Cockayne said it has been "a very civil debate."
"Some say I like to argue. Maybe it's the Italian in me," Cockayne said.
He said he's worked hard to be an advocate for taxpayers and has no relatives working for the city "and am not beholden to anyone."
"I have proven I'm not a yes man. I will ask the tough questions, even if it means standing alone," Cockayne said.
McCauley said that he wants to continue "the successful work I've done" in the past two terms.
He said he fought for funding for critical road repairs. He pushed for returning part of salary. He pushed code enforcement, "a cost-effective way of improving quality of life."
McCauley said he got council to agree to task force to review projects of more than $100,000.
"The city has taken a hard look at its spending and has tightened its belt," McCauley said.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

City Council debate, part 3 (District 2)

Well, they're all here.
And none of them are using the occasion, as Block did, to urge Mike Schroeder to get rid of me. Of course, he was kidding. Right, Cliff? Right? I'm sure it was joshing.
Then again...
Among those in attendance -- Mary Alford, Art Ward, TJ Barnes, Elliott Nelson, Tom Ragaini, Mickey Goldwasser, Mike Saman, Craig Minor, Fran Mullins, Ellen Zoppo, Bill Viets and more. Mostly familiar City Hall faces, of oourse.
And soon we go...

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

City Council debate, part 2 (District 1 continued)

Question re rail...

Fuller said the city needs to study to find out if commuters will even use it. He said parking is crucial.
The city also needs to look at "a tough subject" and make efforts to clean up Summer Street, where the station may be. People need "a veryu nice place to get off."
"The train is the future of our state," Block said.
Road improvements and buses "just seem to put more traffic on our streets," Block said, and rail is a way to get the cars off the roads.
Block said the cost of up to $100 million is worth it.
Rimcoski said he "would love to see a railroad" connecting Central Connecticut towns.
"But we have to face the facts" and recognize most cars have one driver "and you're not going to see these people flock to the railroads," he said.
He said that convincing people to use it won't be easy.

Q -- What can you do to attract new biz?
Rimcoski said, "We have to make them want to come here" with tax incentives, "a safe area," "a green area" and more.
He said Bristol won't attract a big industrial concern, but it can take in a number of smaller firms if we offer tax incentives.
Fuller said he agrees.
"Green technology is how we get the people here," Fuller said, with wind towers on the mountains so we can get lower rates.
Block said he agrees with both, but the city also needs to market the city more. He said the Bristol Developmen Authority should promote the city.
He said the city's zoning rules should also be business-friendly.

Closing statements --
Block said it has been "a trying year for all of us" because of the downturn in the economy.
"We do have bright spots in spite of the economy," he said, including Route 72, interest in the former mall site and more. "The groundwork is being laid for the revitalization of Bristol," Block said.
He said he has the experience to make the crucial decisions that are coming up.
Block urged everyone to vote.
Rimcoski said there is daily gridlock on Route 6.
"There may to be radical things done" to address the problem, he said.
He urged the mayor and City Council "to take more control" from department heads who are becoming "small little capitals in themselves."
Rimcoski said nearly half the city's employees live out of town. He said the city should try to hire Bristol residents.
"This year's going to be a very difficult year," he said, with service cuts likely. "This is going to hurt," Rimcoski said.
Fuller said he's qualified to serve because "the pulse of the community I think I feel" from talking to students, teachers and administrators.
"Times are ugly right now," Fuller said, and the city has to look at options and regional solutions.
He said "it's time to be a doer" and not a dreamer.
"It's time to make a difference,'" Fuller said.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

City Council debate, part 2 (District 1 continued)

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

City Council debate, part 1

Eldianne Bishop has the flu. That is awful for her.
Now the three remaining candidates are going at it, without fireworks.
First, they talked about Route 72.
Then downtown...
"I'd like to see a traditional downtown," Rimcoski said, with buildings people can walk between.
He said the city has "to get buildings back on the tax rolls," "but don't look for an anchor store because it's not going to happen."
Rimcoski said we have to go back to the 1940s and 1950s motif.
Block said it will wind up a mix of retail and residential, part of a pedestrian-friendly downtown.
"It will have the look of buildings on upper Main Street," Block said. It will include barber shops, restaurants and small stores.
"It will not be another Route 6, but a place we can take pride in," Block said.
Fuller said we have to find stores that can make it over the long run.
He said ESPN should put up "a small-scale ESPN Zone. ... It doesn't have to be a big one."
Fuller said officials also have to push for educational facilities there to help fill the gap for manufacturers.
"Let's sit down and see what's going to make this work," Fuller said.

Question about higher education.....
Fuller said he would like to see satellite schools at Depot Square or perhaps reuse of old industrial buildings.
He said we "should train the people in this town."
Students say they want to get out of town, but we can't let them get away. "Maybe we can keep some of these kids," with better training, Fuller said.
Block said Tunxis may need more space in Bristol and perhaps Briarwood College might be interested, too.
Rimcoski said Bristol has lots of skilled labor that isn't used to its fullest.
The sole Republican here said there ought to be more satellite classes in town -- whether in Depot Square or somewhere else -- where people can earn college credits toward a degree.

Question re marketing Bristol..
Block said the city's website needs an overhaul to help attract newcomers. "Ours leaves a lot to be desired," he said, and the city should invest more in it.
Fuller said the city needs to showcase its best face. It needs to "think out of the box" to promote itself.
"We want to be a leader, not a follower in this technology," he said, including pushing green power such as wind energy.
"We can lure in the people who are building these technologies," Fuller said.
Rimcoski said the city needs to market the city more on a state and national level, letting people know of the skilled help available here.
"We have to offer tax incentives" to companies to bring jobs," Rimcoski said. They're needed to get them in the door.
He said the city could pay firms that hire more people.
Rimcoski said the city has retailers, but it needs more manufacturers.

City Council debate tonight - may live blog...

Check in after 7 p.m. to follow along with the City Council debates. I may make it interactive here since the debates are being shown live on cable TV. We'll see. I'll do my best anyway.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Lawton to meet with voters Thursday

Independent mayoral candidate Gary Lawton plans a 'Meet the Candidate' event from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Nuchies.
"I am not looking for money, only to be able to talk with people and hear their concerns, ideas and to answer any questions they have for me personally," Lawton said Tuesday.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 19, 2009

'Devastating' cuts possible at City Hall

If the Board of Finance chooses to slash the city budget to cope with the sagging economy, city department heads warn of layoffs, furloughs and reductions in service.

Peggy Sokol, the director of the Beals Senior-Community Center, said that a 5 percent cut would require her “to let go of all my part-time employees,” bringing an end to the daily woodworking shop, a ceramics class, life story classes and even the coffee shop

She said the impact would be devastating.

“The seniors will be up in arms if they lose any of the programs we currently have” and if cuts go even deeper it would become “impossible to run this department and care for this building.”

Sokol’s is just one of about 20 memos submitted by department heads to Mayor Art Ward outlining how they would deal with a 5 or a 10 percent budget cut.

Ward ordered municipal supervisors to prepare the memo after finance commissioners insisted.

Ward said Monday that city leaders “need to be realistic” in assessing what’s possible.

“If you cut too many personnel, then you can’t deliver the services,” the mayor said.

Taken together, the memos paint an ugly picture of what could happen if the worst case scenarios for the next budget come true.

The Police Department, for example, said that to pare spending by 10 percent, it might need to lay off as many as 24 people, according Capt. Daniel McIntyre.

McIntyre’s memo, though, urges fiscal overseers to take a more prudent course and try to reduce the department’s numbers by attrition instead.

The tax collector, Teresa Babon, said she would have to cut a clerk’s position that she considered “absolutely necessary.”

She said that losing a position would mean longer lines for taxpayers and slower processing of checks for the city.

In the Park Department, a 5 percent cut would ax two summer maintenance positions and prevent aerators from being installed along Memorial Boulevard, said Park Director Ed Swicklas.

A larger cut would force the department to give up on its ice skating rink, eliminate the summer concert series and make it so the outdoor pools wouldn’t open until July 1, Swicklas said.

The Water Department would need to lay off six of its 35 workers to slice its spending by a tenth, according to Robert Longo, the superintendent. It would also put off infrastructure improvements until better times.

At the library, Director Francine Petosa said that paring spending would means closing both the Main Library and the Manross branch library for two evenings a week, layoffs four part-time pages who shelve books and more.

If fiscal overseers ask for a 10 percent cut, she said, she would have to lay off a full-time clerk at each library as well as eliminating security guards.

The registrars’ office said it is eyeing a reduction in the number of polling places, a measure made possible by the new electronic voting machines.

The Community Services Department would rely on furloughs to save the necessary money, said Kit Plourde, its director. That would mean longer waiting times for needy residents, she said.

The Youth Services Department would slice programs aimed at helping at-risk young people. A 10 percent cut would likely force the discontinuation of services for 175 youths and 25 parents who need assistance, according to a memo from the department.

The Building Department said it was eyeing a range of possible steps, including furloughs, more fees and keeping the zoning enforcement officer home during night meetings where he has traditionally been available for zoning commissioners.

Fire Chief Jon Pose said there’s no way to cut even 5 percent without eliminating “basic essential services.”

Ward said that he plans to meet soon with city Comptroller Glenn Klocko and Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski “to brush up on exactly what the impacts will be with the city” if the cuts are made “so we can focus on what’s achievable” during later sessions with the finance board and City Council.

The mayor said that in a lot of cases, departments may be able to absorb a 5 percent cut while 10 percent reductions are “out of the question.”


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com