July 31, 2009

Gill hails progress on wellness clinic

Press release from Republican mayoral candidate John Gill, in reaction to this story:

Gill: Hospital and City Working to Save Senior Clinic

Despite the recent and sudden closure of the Senior Wellness Clinic this week, Republican Mayoral candidate John Gill is pleased to see the two entities recognizing the need for the clinic to remain open.
“While this may seem to be a small service to some, it is important to our seniors. I am encouraged by Mr. Barwis’ initiative to engage the city in discussions to resume the services provided by the wellness clinic. ” Gill said.
Earlier this week Gill had raised this issue citing the failure of the City to respond to this situation. “The lesson learned here, I hope, is that the City must stay in touch with the hospital routinely to assure continued services for our seniors such as these. Perhaps a liaison position needs to be created either through the Bristol Burlington Board of Health or our elected officials.” Gill suggested.

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

July 30, 2009

Green power for Bristol, candidate says

Press release from Kevin Fuller, a Democratic City Council candidate in the 1st District:

Think Bigger
After I was endorsed for Bristol City Council in District 1, I received many suggestions for my campaign from local residents, some I knew and some I have yet to meet. More than a few said to me, “When you get elected, what are you going to do for me?” Even though I know some were said in jest, it did make me think that we need to think bigger, we need to change the mindset to start the recovery process in Bristol. We need to be posing the question, “What are we going to do for Bristol?” We need to leave the ‘What’s in it for me’ mindset of the past and change to the bigger and better picture of getting Bristol back to being a strong city. I have proposed the use of wind power to start this process. The new towers that have been designed to replace the big propeller types are safer, more efficient and much quieter. We need to pursue this green technology for the new school on Chippens Hill as well as looking into solar power. If we don’t leave our comfort zone and leap into the future we will be left behind. I want Bristol to be a leader in green technology, let’s have the other cities and towns come to us to see how it should be done. To do this we need to act now. So when you see me on the street and want to stop and chat for a minute, let’s not talk about the old thinking of ‘what are you doing for me’ let’s pull together and think BIG and ask “WHAT ARE WE DOING FOR BRISTOL?”
Kevin Fuller
District 1
Endorsed Candidate
Bristol City Council
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Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Larson hosts online town hall at 2 p.m. today

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol:

Today at 2pm, Congressman Larson To Host Interactive Online Town Hall on Fair Elections Now Act

Larson will testify at 11AM at a congressional committee hearing on the legislation
Washington, DC-Today at 2pm, U.S. Congressman John B. Larson will host a live, interactive streamed online town hall. He'll be answering questions about his Fair Elections Now Act, a bill that will reduce the influence of big donors in the legislative process.
States, such as Connecticut, have shown overwhelming success with similar legislation in reducing the influence of big donors in the electoral process. It is time to bring this kind of real change to Washington. President Obama showed us all how small donations and average Americans can make a difference in an election. With the Fair Elections Now Act, we will give small donors a fair say in the electoral process.
Congressman Larson introduced this landmark bipartisan legislation in March 2009, and it has received support from Members of Congress as well as respected national and local organizations including Common Cause and the Public Campaign Action Fund. Congressman Larson is scheduled to testify at a hearing hosted by the House Administration Committee on Thursday to discuss the legislation and public financing of congressional campaigns.
We are asking constituents to submit questions or upload them to YouTube and send us the video URL.
Log on to
http://larson.house.gov/townhall on July 30th at 2 pm and you'll be able to ask questions during our interactive event, as Congressman Larson replies over a live video stream.
Who: U.S. Congressman John B. Larson
What: Online Town Hall-Conversation about reducing the influence of big donors in politics
When: Today, July 30th, 2 PM
Where:
http://larson.house.gov/townhall

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

July 29, 2009

City says it will squeeze spending

The city plans to clamp down on spending even tighter to ensure it ends the next fiscal year in the black.

“We know we’re going to have one deficit. We certainly don’t want another,” city Comptroller Glenn Klocko said.

With revenues likely to be at least as bad as they were for the fiscal year that ended in June, Klocko said, “we absolutely have to take some sort of measures” to prevent another shortfall.

Though municipal leaders insist they can’t provide an estimate of the likely deficit until November, they have said the city wound up spending more than it took in during the past fiscal year.

Mayor Art Ward said the city took many steps to hold down spending, including the elimination of 16 positions and convincing unions to give back wage hikes.

“It’s not over,” he warned, because people are still hurting and the state’s coffers are empty.

Klocko said that revenues for the city are likely to “flat or maybe a bit negative” while costs keep rising for health care for employees, education and other critical areas.

The Grand List will probably go up, he said, which will help bring in more property taxes, but it won’t be enough to cover everything.

To cope with the anticipated crunch, Ward plans to tell department heads next week to squeeze every penny.

The Board of Finance expects to begin its annual budget preparations in August instead of waiting until the new years, as it normally has.

By getting “way ahead of the game,” Klocko said, “we can tackle it slowly.”

“It’s going to be so important to start earlier,” the comptroller said.

Klocko said that it would hurt Bristol’s bond rating if it posted a second consecutive year with a budgetary shortfall.

Given the expectation that tens of millions of dollars in school bonds will be necessary in a couple of years, hanging on to the best possible bond rating is critical, officials said.




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

CAPT scores appear good

I haven't had a chance to analyze them, but it appears that Bristol students did well on last spring's CAPT tests.
The fourth and seventh grade classes posted particularly solid gains in every subject (math, reading and writing).
Only third graders, who saw math and writing scores sink, failed to show overall improvement.
Of course, details matter so we'll know more as the results are broken down by race, sex, individual schools and more. At first glance, though, it looks good for Bristol.

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

July 28, 2009

Ron Messier leaving Board of Finance

Veteran Board of Finance member Ron Messier said Tuesday he asked the mayor not to reappoint him to the powerful nine-member panel.
Messier, who has served for a decade, said he is bogged down at work and anxious to spend his spare time with his family.
Messier said he toyed with seeking another term, but realized it would be better to let someone new take his seat.
Mayor Art Ward could nominate a replacement for Messier within weeks.

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

New firehouse: dream to shovel-ready in three months

A proposal to construct a new firehouse to replace the aging Vincent P. Kelly Road building has gone from concept to shovel-ready in less than three months.

But it still isn’t a sure thing that the $4 million project will get the federal stimulus funding that municipal leaders are hoping for.

Mayor Art Ward said at if the city firehouse project is lucky enough to make the cut, it would be a huge help for taxpayers.

It would also be the first major step toward bringing the aging firehouses “up to speed with modernization,” Ward said.

Fire Chief Jon Pose said that he is impressed by the “just incredible work” of city officials and boards to push through all the paperwork in plans so quickly.

“Everyone was just so cooperative,” Pose said.

Don Goranson, a longtime fire commissioner, said the grant application prepared by Robyn Bugbee, the city’s grants coordinator, was excellent. He said it did a stellar job of making the case for funding for Bristol’s firehouse.

City officials hope to snag federal economic stimulus money to pay for construction of the new four-bay firehouse that would take the place of the half century old Engine 4 building.

The existing building has two bays for trucks.

If Bristol’s firehouse is among the projects funded, the federal government would wind up paying 80 percent of the cost of the new station, leaving the city with only an $800,000 bill to get a new building.

The federal stimulus package includes $210 million for qualified firehouses, which can receive up to $5 million apiece.

There are likely to be thousands of municipalities and fire districts seeking funding so Bristol’s chances may longer than city officials anticipate. But it can’t hurt to have U.S. Rep. John Larson, an East Hartford Democrat who holds a powerful leadership post in the House, pushing for the project in his district, officials said.

The city opted to use an off-the-shelf architectural design that worked best at the 2.2-acre Vincent P. Kelly firehouse site.

It agreed to pay $25,000 to Friar Associates, Inc. for the architectural renderings if the grant comes through.

A 2008 study by Kaestle Boos Associates determined that updating and expanding four of the city’s firehouses would cost $13 million. That would cover the firehouses on Hill Street, Church Avenue, Vincent P. Kelly Road and Mix Street , all of which suffer from cramped quarters, little privacy, limited parking and many operational issues that should be addressed.

At the time of the study, Pose said the firehouses lack energy efficiency and have "tired" mechanical, electrical and furnace systems. None has air conditioning, he said.
"These buildings have reached the end of their usable life," said Pose a year and a half ago.

Currently, the city has just one firehouse that can take its largest truck, according to Pose. With larger, wider trucks growing more common, the vehicles barely fit in any of the firehouses.


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

Gill: City knew but did nothing

Press release this morning from Republican mayoral hopeful John Gill:


It appears the city was made aware of Bristol Hospital’s decision to close the Senior Wellness Center as early as Friday July 24th. “What is so disturbing to me is that the Mayor didn’t pick up the phone and call the hospital to schedule an emergency meeting to try to find a solution” Gill said.

Further Gill went on to say that he was shocked to read that the mayor, a democrat, “won’t commit tax dollars to fund a private service. This is what democrats in Washington are all about these days. They are owners of car companies, banks, insurance companies as well as wielding the power to replace CEO’s “

At the very least the City could have tried to come up with a solution, Gill said, and I am glad to see that Mr. Barwis has asked the Mayor to discuss this unfortunate condition for our seniors with one day remaining before the scheduled close. One possible source of funding is the approximately $54,000, the City is expecting to receive for over-payments to AT&T. Our Seniors helped build this City, we should make every effort to save their Wellness Center. Gill stated.


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

July 27, 2009

The one contested district

The most interesting part of tonight's nominating convention was the tight contest for the two 2nd District slots.
Newcomer Allen Marko actually racked up the most votes, with 11, while incumbent Kevin McCauley got 10. Former city Councilor Tom Ragaini got nine.
Most of Ragaini's backers sought to give him a leg up by casting "bullet votes" for only Ragaini so that their second potential vote wouldn't add to one of his opponents' tally.
But it turned out that the strategy didn't quite work because, well, three Ragaini supporters also voted for someone else. If none had, the contest would have been a deadlock at nine apiece, leaving it perhaps to the town chairman to break the tie.
Despite the narrow loss, Ragaini didn't sound like he would contest the decision in a primary. He said he didn't want to split the party or hurt its chances.
For those who are really into these things, here's the vote breakdown among the 2nd District's Democratic Town Committee members. I'm sorry that I don't know one name, but if someone tells me, I'll fix that.

78A
James G. Hopkins -- Marko & McCauley
Jeffrey G. Merrow -- Ragaini
Jody J. Trestman -- Marko & McCauley
Jacqueline McCauley - Marko & McCauley
Bruce C. Lydem -- Ragaini & Marko
William M. Wolfe, Jr. -- Marko & McCauley

78B
Allen A. Marko -- Marko & McCauley
John J. Boi -- Marko & McCauley
Christopher N. Roberge -- Marko & McCauley
Sandra C. Stafford -- Marko & McCauley
Kevin V. Lacolla -- Ragaini & Marko
William J. Veits - -Marko & McCauley

79A
Paula L. Positano - Ragaini
Westley S. Hoadley Jr. - Ragaini
Thomas J. Ragaini - Ragaini
Jen Ragaini -- Ragaini
Arthur Brent Cyr - Ragaini
Anthony D. Dell'aera -- Ragaini & McCauley

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

Democrats emerge united behind Ward

Two years after a bitter primary fight that left many party regulars sour, the Democrats united Monday to back a second term for Mayor Art Ward.
“We had a fractured party” in 2007, said city Councilor Cliff Block, but now the Democrats have come together.
Ward said he expects times to remain tough for the next term, but “there’s hope out there” that the tide may turn. “We have to keep looking for that sunshine,” the mayor said.
The party endorsed all of its incumbents who are seeking reelection and four new City Council hopefuls aiming to fill seats held by Republicans or by Democrats who are stepping down in November.
The only contest at Monday’s nominating convention came in the 2nd District, where three men vied for two slots. The party backed incumbent Kevin McCauley, a city firefighter, and history teacher Allen Marko.
Former city Councilor Tom Ragaini, who lost by a hair, said a primary wouldn’t help the Democrats so he doesn’t plan to challenge the decision.
“I don’t want to split the party,” he said.
The Democrats rallied unanimously behind city Treasurer Bill Veits’ bid for a second term in the part-time post he won in 2007 after long-time Treasurer Patti Ewen retired. Veits faces Republican Rose Parenti, who owns a computer company.
In the 1st District, the party endorsed first-term incumbent Cliff Block and newcomer Kevin Fuller.
Fuller, a technology specialist in the school system, called himself “an average Joe” who can think outside the box. He vowed to push the city to consider wind power options.
Block and Fuller will face Republicans Mike Rimcoski, a council veteran, and newcomer Eldianne Bishop.
McCauley and Marko in the 2nd District -- who garnered 10 and 11 votes, respectively, to Ragaini’s 9 -- face GOP contenders Ken Cockayne, who is seeking a second term, and newcomer Richard Scarola.
Marko promised to push for rail service to the city and to preserve municipal services.
McCauley said he’ll offer a trusted voice and proven leadership.
In the 3rd District, where two incumbent Democrats are stepping down, the party tapped a long-time activist, Terry Parker, and newcomer Kate Matthews.
Matthews, a lawyer who billed herself as a hard-working fiscal conservative, said she’ll make sure there’s no waste and that the city pinches every penny.
Parker, a state records supervisor, said that victory in November will come from hard work “not because we say we’re Democrats.” He said he and Matthews will make “a great team.”
They’ll face Republicans Dave Mills and Derek Czenczelewski.
Ward took office in 2007 after defeating a tough GOP challenger, Ken Johnson, and knocking off the party’s endorsed candidate, Ellen Zoppo, in a primary.
The 2007 race was wide open because the incumbent, Republican William Stortz, opted not to seek reelection. He won the job in 2005 by ousting Democratic Mayor Gerard Couture.
With the exception of Stortz, who has held the city’s top job in both the early 1990s and again before Ward’s victory, the GOP hasn’t had a mayoral winner in more than a quarter century.
But the Republicans have been competitive since former Mayor Frank Nicastro, a Democrat, stepped down after a decade in office in 2003.
City Councilors and the mayor serve two-year terms. Councilors earn $10,000 annually while the mayor gets $100,000. The election is November 3.

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

Larson talks health care on Fox News



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

Democrats pick candidates tonight

Not expecting anything too wild, though it appears there may be a primary for the 2nd City Council District, which has two incumbents running for reelection, Democrat Kevin McCauley and Republican Ken Cockayne.
But there are at least other Democrats eyeing the seat, Allen Marko and Tom Ragaini. For all I know, there could be still others. We'll find out tonight, maybe.
Anyway, I'll post later with whatever there is to say.

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

Florida teen whose parents hailed from Bristol dies in accident

The 17-year-old son of two Bristol natives died last week following a Naples, Florida traffic accident.
Nathan Musumano was behind the wheel when he lost control and the car plunged into a 20-foot deep lake at night, according to his aunt, Joyce Musumano.
Musumano struggled to help three friends get out of the sinking car, she said, but couldn’t get out himself.
One of his friends tried several times to reach him in the sunken car, but “it was so dark” and deep that it proved impossible, she said.
Musumano’s parents, Gregory and Chevawn (Heier) Musumano, both grew up in Bristol as part of a large family in town. They’re still in touch with many in their hometown.
Nathan Musumano was a “very sweet and very kind” young man, Joyce Musumano said Monday. “He was a good kid and he always wanted to make people laugh.”
Musumano was born in West Virginia, grew up in Ohio and moved to Naples with his family nine years ago.
A football and lacrosse player, he was about to enter his senior year of high school. He hoped to become a military pilot.
In addition to his parents, he is survived by six siblings, Jordan, Catherine, Jacinta, Cecilia, Isabel and Aiden. He is also survived by his maternal grandmother, Molly Samuel Heier and paternal grandparents, Pat and Carmel Musumano, along with many relatives.

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

July 25, 2009

Gill calls for city to help save wellness clinic

Press release from GOP mayoral candidate John Gill, reacting to this story in the Press:

Responding to the sudden announcement that Bristol Hospital will close the Senior Clinic at the Senior Center on July 29th, Gill said “That in difficult economic times like this, these are the types of services that are unfairly cut that effect our seniors”.

“While I understand the Hospitals difficult decision, and the difficulty Mr. Barwis dealt with in making this decision, I do not understand why the City was not involved and some form of compromise was reached.” Gill stated.

Bristol Hospital is our community based health delivery center and it must remain viable to all our citizens especially our seniors. There have been many budget issues that the current administration has left unattended or over funded that could have easily helped save this service for the hospital and the seniors. All we need to do is to get to the table to figure out how.” Gill said.

“If we have taken money out of the City surplus accounts to fund this year’s budget, which is troublesome to begin with, then the $24,000 needed to keep this vital program in tact is nothing”. Gill went on to say that he admires the work of the volunteer nurses and that they have demonstrated and provided the care and compassion that we can not afford to lose. I call on the City to resolve this crisis immediately and I offer to help in any way I can”

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

July 24, 2009

Mills says Bristol shouldn't settle for less than best


A former Bristol Eastern High School football coach who has been a Democrat for more than 30 years switched parties recently to seek a City Council seat on the Republican ticket.

Dave Mills, 66, said he doesn’t care about political affiliations.

“I’m not looking if people have a D or an R after their name,” he said, “I’m look for those with a B after their name for Bristol.”

Mills is one of two GOP contenders seeking election in the wide open 3rd District, where both incumbents, Democrats Craig Minor and Frank Nicastro, are stepping down rather than seek reelection in the November 3 general election.

Joining him on the Republican ballot is Derek Czenczelewski, another newcomer to the political scene. Two Democrats are also eyeing the seats, Kate Matthews and Terry Parker.

Mills said that running for office was “a big decision to make,” but with his retirement after 36 years as a teacher and coach, “I want to give something back to the city – again.”

He said that as a coach, his philosophy was “to make your players as good as they can be” and as a councilor he would aim to make the city as good as it can be.

Mills said he’s tired of the defeatist attitude of many who say the status quo is “good enough for Bristol.”

He said the city – and its residents – should seek what’s best for the community rather than settling for less.

One way to make improvements, he said, is to recognize the city’s biggest asset is its people. He said City Hall needs to do more to reach out and tap the wide pool of talent that exists in the community.

Mills said that a coach recognizes how crucial it is to build on the talents of those on the team. The city has to do the same.

Mills said he would like to see the city build on the success of Bristol Hospital, the Little Leaghe complex, Lake Compounce and others, “to get the rest of the city to do what they’re doing.”

Projecting a better image is part of the answer, he said.

He said that with the new Route 72 extension, officials need to make sure it looks good to people coming into the city. The new industrial park, too, needs to be attractive, he said.

“We’re projecting an image,” he said, and it better be a good one.

Mills is a city native who graduated with a master’s degree from Southern Connecticut State University. A physical education and health teacher, he coached Eastern’s football team for 26 years, including its only state championship season.

Though a newcomer to politics, Mills served on the Park Revitalization Committee that played a key role in setting the stage for the ongoing renovation of Rockwell Park.

Mills and his wife, JoAnn Mills, have four grown childen and eight grandchildren.

For more information, contact Mills at millsforcitycouncil@comcast.net or write to Mills For City Council at 185 Oakland St., Bristol, CT 06010.


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

Reaching out to residents

Tapping new technology to keep residents better informed is one of the goals laid out by Republican mayoral hopeful John Gill.
“As mayor, I would implement the use of new technologies to effectively and efficiently communicate with the residents of Bristol,” Gill said.
“Imagine being able to pick up your mobile device or sign on to your computer and receive instantaneous alerts to traffic detours, road construction, or other events of importance to Bristol,” he said.

“Imagine receiving an email from the mayor at the end of each week detailing the past week’s events and highlighting the week ahead,” Gill said.

Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat seeking a second term, said that city leaders have been trying for years to find more ways to reach the public, including televising City Council meetings, upgrading the city’s website, producing public access television shows about municipal departments and the budget, and appearing on radio shows.

“We’ve been pretty open with the public,” Ward said.

The mayor said, though, that he’s always looking for ways to do better.

“We always strive for greater communication,” Ward said.

Gill, a 29-year-old attorney, said that it can be difficult for people to stay informed when times are so tough “and people are struggling to stay afloat.”

He said that using new technology to reach residents would make the city government more transparent and accountable.

“It can happen,” Gill said, “and it will happen if I am elected mayor.”

“The best part about the use of this new technology is it’s free,” Gill added.

Ward said he’s glad to have Gill in the race.

“That’s the basis for democracy,” the mayor said.

He said he’s never met Gill and hadn’t even heard of him until the attorney’s name was floated this week as a potential challenger.

Ward said he’s taking the challenge seriously.

“I’m going to campaign as I always do, fervently, with the intent of getting the message out to the voting public as to the direction we’d like to move forward to together.”

The Democrats formally endorse candidates Monday. There is no known opposition to Ward within the party.

Mayors serve two-year terms for $100,000 annually. The general election is November 3.


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

The Courant's slipping standards made clear

Let’s take a look at the evolution of a story that appeared in today’s print edition of The Hartford Courant, a once proud newspaper that apparently has thrown journalistic standards to the wind.

To begin with, take a look at Bristol Press reporter Jackie Majerus’ July 21 story.

BRISTOL — The city’s plan to spruce up Main Street is delayed at least another month..

The Bristol Development Authority’s streetscape project, which will add decorative enhancements like brick pavers, street trees, benches and lighting, is slated to extend along the east side of Main Street from Riverside Avenue to Center Street.

On the west side of Main Street, there won’t be any changes until past the railroad track at the edge of the city-owned former mall property, where some improvements are slated.

The project is supposed to mirror the work the BDA oversaw on North Main Street few years ago, but the non-profit board that oversees the 17-acre, former mall property hasn’t signed off on it yet, temporarily halting the streetscape project and possibly jeopardizing the state funding to pay for it.

The BDA expects the state to pay $1.5 million toward the work and the city to pick up the rest of the tab, about $250,000, but if the work isn’t started soon, the state might withdraw the money, according to Jonathan Rosenthal, executive director of the BDA.


The problem is that state funds for downtown projects are now pooled, which means that not only the BDA, but the mall site overseers, the Bristol Downtown Development Corp., must also endorse projects and expenditures.

But some on the BDDC board — most notably, Jennifer Janelle — weren’t ready to give the go-ahead.

Because the BDDC just selected a firm to do a parking study, Janelle said, it only makes sense to let them do the work before the streetscape project that involves parking along the former mall property gets under way.

"Let’s give them the opportunity," said Janelle. She said the city could move ahead with signing contracts for the streetscape while the parking study is under way.

The study may end up recommending parking meters, pay stations or other things, said Janelle, that could impact the streetscape. The streetscape can wait a little longer to get the input from the parking specialists at Tighe & Bond, the company doing the study, she said.

City Councilor Ken Cockayne, who is the council liaison to the board and doesn’t have a vote, strongly opposed the streetscape.

By doing the work on Main Street, Cockayne said, the city would take away parking spots that are needed now. He also charged that the project is wasteful.

"We’re spending money because we have it," and it is important to do the parking study first, said Cocknye. But John Lodovico, a BDDC member, said he spoke with some of the business operators along Main Street and found they were unconcerned about the expected loss of two parking spaces under the streetscape plan.

Dick Harrall, the executive director of the BDDC, said the parking study would probably not get into the kind of detail on the east side of Main Street that the streetscape plan does.

Both Harrall and BDDC Chairman Frank Johnson said any new developer will have to take the parking needs of Main Street merchants into account when planning the use of the 17 acres.

Rosenthal agreed, saying the parking study will delve into areas behind buildings and other spots, while the streetscape is a much narrower focus.

But if the streetscape project isn’t approved and moving forward soon, according to Lodovico and Rosenthal, there’s a good chance that the state will yank the funding and the project either wouldn’t be done or the city would end up paying for all of it.

Rosenthal said he needed the BDDC’s endorsement before he could proceed.

"It’s not ours to hold up," said Gardener Wright, a BDDC member.

"I would say it is," said Rosenthal. "You’re controlling the money." If they don’t endorse it, he said, the message is that the city isn’t committed to the project.

The BDA voted a year ago on the streetscape design.

Johnson said the BDDC spent considerable time at two of its meetings arguing "over two parking spots" on Main Street. He said Main Street business owners care about more than parking, and that streetscape improvements will help them.

Johnson and others argued that the streetscape is a "separate issue" from the mall site and the parking study isn’t needed to proceed.

Janelle said it is about coordinating the work downtown, not just about two parking spaces.

"It should all just be done at once," she said. "To me, it’s inefficient."

After a heated exchange, at a BDDC meeting Monday, Johnson referenced Biblical King Solomon’s dilemma and offered to "split the baby" by having the parking consultants look at that block of Main Street first, make a recommendation about the streetscape and then proceed with the rest of their study.

Rosenthal — who was worried about the timing — said, "I think it’s a good compromise. It doesn’t delay things too much."

Johnson said he wants to see the streetscape project done on Main Street. It will help businesses on the street, show residents some progress downtown and also demonstrate to potential developers a commitment to the area. The BDDC will take it up again at its August meeting, he said.


On the Courant’s website, Aviv Blasbalg rewrote the piece in an abbreviated way without doing any original reporting (see it here). He did, however, credit The Bristol Press with almost all of the information contained in the piece, sprinkling his report with “the Bristol Press reported” or “told the Press.”

Just to be clear, here’s what the Courant put on its website on Thursday, July 23:

Main Street project delayed

BRISTOL — - A delay to a project to spruce up Bristol's Main Street, caused by another committee's decision to conduct a parking study, could result in the project losing state funding, the Bristol Press reported.

The Bristol Development Authority's streetscape project is supposed to add enhancements such as brick pavers, trees, benches and lighting along the east side of Main Street, from Riverside Avenue to Center Street.

The project is being delayed at least a month as a result of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.'s decision this week to conduct a $36,800 parking study of a 17-acre former mall located near that stretch of Main Street.

The state is expected to pay $1.5 million for the streetscape project, with the city paying about $250,000, but if work does not begin soon, the state may withdraw the money, BDA executive director Jonathan Rosenthal told the Press.

State money for downtown projects is pooled, which means the BDDC must also endorse any projects and expenditures.

While the BDA has given the go-ahead for the streetscape project, the BDDC has not because some members of that board want the parking study completed first, the Press reported.

BDDC member Jennifer Janelle said the study could recommend parking meters or pay stations that would alter the streetscape project, the Press reported.

The two committees agreed to a compromise in which the firm conducting the study, Tighe & Bond of Westfield, Mass., will take a look at that stretch of Main Street first and make a recommendation before proceeding with the rest of the study, the Press reported.

— Aviv Blasbalg

That version was aggravating mostly because it is so irksome that a Courant staffer who could be out doing real reporting was instead rewriting someone else’s story. That’s pretty low. But at least the story was honest in telling readers where the information came from.

But now consider the final transition of Majerus’ story, in the Courant’s Friday, July 24 print edition on page A8.

I don't think the print version is online anywhere, but it reads, in its entirety:

BRISTOL – A delay to the project to spruce up Bristol’s Main Street could result in the project’s losing its state funding.

The Bristol Development Authority’s streetscape project will add enhancements such as brick pavers, trees, benches and lighting along the east side of Main Street.

The project is being delayed at least a month as a result of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.’s decision this week to conduct a $36,800 parking study of a 17-acre former mall near that stretch of Main Street.

The state is expected to pay $1.5 million for the streetscape project, with the city paying about $250,000, but if work does not begin soon, the state may withdraw the money, said Jonathan Rosenthal, executive director of the development authority.

Notice how it is essentially the same story as the one that appeared online, stripped down even further. But there’s no longer even a hint that everything in it came from the story in the Press that Majerus wrote three days earlier.

Just to make sure, I called Rosenthal. He confirmed to me today that nobody from the Courant spoke to him this week. Yet there he is, quoted in the Courant.

That’s sleazy, cheap and thoroughly unprofessional journalism by the Courant, a paper that once had integrity from cover to cover. Now it runs slapdash theft and calls it news.

*******

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

July 23, 2009

Gill's address to the GOP's town committee

Republican mayoral candidate John Gill's speech to the Republican Town Committee tonight:

Hello


First I would like to thank you for the nomination and the opportunity to speak with you this evening. I believe that we have presented an extremely strong slate of candidates for city council. It is apparent that each of the individuals running for city council are doing so because they believe that they can help make Bristol a better place. They are running for council for all the right reasons, and when you consistently do things for the right reasons, it becomes contagious and I believe we will have a very successful election in November.


My name is John Gill. I am a twenty-nine year old attorney. My mother works at Sheriden Woods here in Bristol and my father is a printer in Hartford who attended grammar school at St. Stan’s. Growing up, I spent a good amount of time in Bristol visiting family and friends or taking the occassional trip with Dad over to the old mall to pick up some tools or other gadgets at Sears.


I attended college in Washington, D.C., law school in Boston, and when it came time to find a place to put down roots, I recalled my earlier experiences in Bristol and decided that this is the place where I would like to settle and raise a family.


I’ve spent the last few years living in Bristol, paying attention to the public discourse, but regrettably did not participate because I was focused on establishing my career. As I listened to what the people around the city were saying, I noticed that the same voices kept popping up, with the same opinions and causing the same conflicts. Over the course of the past few weeks, it became too hard for me to stand on the sidelines any longer. I believe it is time for Bristol to be presented with a new voice, a new vision and a new direction.


My philosophy on governing is simple: keep property taxes low, provide targeted and responsible incentives to businesses to increase our job base and grow our economy, and to ensure that all improvement projects are done an efficient and fiscally responsible manner - to completion.


I believe that an informed and active citizenry is vital to the health of any municipality. I know how difficult it can be to participate in the discussion. The forty hour work week is quickly becoming a thing of the past, and we’ve long since seen the end of the single income household. Times are tough and people are struggling to stay afloat.


This is why I feel that the best government is a transparent and accountable government. As Mayor I would implement the use of new technologies to effectively and efficiently communicate with the residents of Bristol. Imagine being able to pick up your mobile device or sign on to your computer and receive instantaneous alerts to traffic detours, road construction, or other events of importance to Bristol. Imagine receiving an email from the Mayor at the end of each week detailing the past week’s events and highlighting the week ahead.


It can happen, and it will happen if I am elected Mayor. The best part about the use of this new technology is it’s free.


I understand the road ahead will be tough. I understand that we have lots of hard work and many long days ahead of us. I need to know if you are willing to stand with me. Will you stand with me and this incredible slate of candidates for city council?


Will you stand with me against the entrenched voices and politics of old and declare that it is time for a new name, a new voice and a new direction for Bristol?


I look forward to working with all of you.


Thank you.


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

GOP fields full slate with many newcomers

The Republicans are ready for a rumble.
“We’ve got a great set of candidates,” said T.J. Barnes, the city’s GOP chairman, who make up a broad spectrum of the community.
“We’re looking for a spirited and heated discussion” of the issues with the Democrats in the months leading up to the November 3 municipal election, Barnes said Thursday.
The Republican leadership endorsed a slate of candidates that included newcomer John Gill as the party’s mayoral standard bearer and five other newcomers to political races.
For the city’s part-time treasurer’s position, the GOP endorsed Rose Parenti, a well-known party stalwart who hasn’t run for office before. She's president of Computer Development Systems in Bristol.
In the three City Council districts, the Republicans backed two incumbents, Ken Cockayne and Mike Rimcoski, and four hopefuls who haven’t sought election in the past.
In the 1st District, the party tapped Eldianne Bishop, a teacher and artisan, in addition to Rimcoski.
In the 2nd District, the GOP backed Cockayne and newcomer Richard Scarola.
In the 3rd District -- the only one with more candidates than slots -- town committee members bypassed Gary Lawton and endorsed Dave Mills and Derek Czenczelewski. Mills collected 12 votes from the committee while Czenczelewski got 11. Lawton trailed with three.
“The work is just beginning,” Czenczelewski said after the vote. He promised supporters “I’m definitely going to make it worth your while.”
Lawton said he’s a team player and won’t force a primary.
But, he said, he’s not happy the party brushed aside the suffering of so many “plain and simple and blue collar” residents in its rush to pick candidates who are “not going to change things.”
“The city deserves a lot more,” said Lawton.
Barnes said the slate as a whole presents “a different voice” to the community and will prove itself on the campaign trail.
Bishop, who eyed a Board of Education seat in the past but didn’t run, said this gives her the chance “to speak out” and “to put my body where my mouth is.”
She called herself “very conservative” on some issues and libertarian on others.
The GOP hasn’t held a majority at City Hall since the early 1990s, but it’s been competitive since Mayor Frank Nicastro stepped down in 2003.
Two of the six council members are Republicans and half the incumbent council Democrats are stepping down, both in the 3rd District, where the GOP would dearly love to pick up a seat or two.
They also want to hang on to the two seats they have and to boot out Ward, who’s seeking a second term in the city’s top job.
The Democrats pick their candidates Monday.

Gill launches campaign
Vowing “to take Bristol in a new direction,” Republican mayoral candidate John Gill launched his bid Thursday to snatch the city’s top job from veteran Democratic Mayor Art Ward.
Gill, 29, captured the Republican Party’s backing as its mayoral nominee without opposition. It doesn’t appear he will face a primary.
Gill, who has lived in the city for three years, said that Bristol's new direction needs to include taking greater advantage of the talents its citizens have and better marketing of the city.
He said Bristol has "a pretty good job base," nice parks and recreational facilities and more that could help draw new businesses and people to town.
"What we need to do is draw attention to the positives the city has," Gill said.
He said that one of the problems the city has is that "there's a lot of bickering" and infighting at City Hall.
One reason for that, he said, is "there's a lot of retreads" who have been there for a long time.
Too many of them are "afraid to take a step forward and let go of what was," Gill said.
Gill said he wants voters to know “they can talk to me. If they have an issue that’s important to them or to Bristol, they can talk. They have someone in me who will listen to what they say.”
He said that government “exists to express the will of the people.”
Gill said he's disturbed that so many projects, such as the Roberts property recreation complex, are debated but never finished.
Gill said he would impose "an organic and sustainable" plan to bring some of the projects to fruition.
"Everything has to be done in an orderly fashion," Gill said.
One way to make it happen, he said, is to draw on the talents of residents who have been left out for too long.
"People should have a voice. People need to be heard," Gill said.
Gill grew up in Southington and earned a bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University in 2002. He got his law degree from Suffolk University Law School in 2007.
Gill works for Lamorte Burns & Co.’s cargo claims and personal injury sections in Wilton.
While in law school, Gill received the American Jurisprudence award in corporate law and the CALI award in consumer law. He is a member of the American Bar Association, Connecticut Bar Association and the Maritime Law Association of the U.S.
Gill is engaged. He has no children.

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

That house on Broad Street

Be sure to take a look at the photograph of the city-owned house on page 6 of today's Bristol Press. It's a little bungalow at 406 Broad St. -- right beside the bank near the corner with Emmett Street. (You can also see the photo by clicking here.)
Now the house itself is probably OK. I'll leave that to potential buyers.
But look at the weeds that are swallowing up its front yard. They're a couple of yards high. It's like Bristol has decided to create a bit of native prairie in the front yard of a house on one of its busier streets.
It's kind of funny listening to city leaders vowing to crack down on blight, promising to clean up Bristol, and then see this house, which the city has owned for a month, that clearly hasn't received one iota of attention since the city took possession of it in a foreclosure case.
If the house belonged to somebody else, the code enforcement committee would be all over it.
Somebody needs to go cut whatever's left of the grass. Chop down the weeds.

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

Larson intern blabs too much

Thanks to the Courant's Rick Green for pointing this piece from politico.com out on his blog: Rep. John Larson's constituents hate Obama?

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

Gill: Accentuate the positive

Republican mayoral candidate John Gill said that Bristol's new direction needs to include taking greater advantage of the talents its citizens have and better marketing of the city.
He said Bristol has "a pretty good job base," nice parks and recreational facilities and more that could help draw new businesses and people to town.
"What we need to do is draw attention to the positives the city has," Gill said Wednesday night.
He said that one of the problems the city has is that "there's a lot of bickering" and infighting at City Hall.
One reason for that, he said, is "there's a lot of retreads" who have been there for a long time.
Too many of them are "afraid to take a step forward and let go of what was," Gill said.
He said he's disturbed that so many projects, such as the Roberts property recreation complex, are debated but never finished.
Gill said he would impose "an organic and sustainable" plan to bring some of the projects to fruition.
"Everything has to be done in an orderly fashion," Gill said.
One way to make it happen, he said, is to draw on the talents of residents who have been left out for too long.
"People should have a voice. People need to be heard," Gill said.

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

That Courant 'story' taken wholesale from the Press...

I'm a little slow, I guess, but this morning I realized why they're doing it.
When the Press switches to a paid website -- something that's in the works -- the Courant could simply rewrite whatever is on it and post the stories in this manner on its own website, for free.
I can't say whether some kind of legal problem might arise from the wholesale snatching of Bristol stories -- I can imagine copyright or anti-trust issues in that -- but, hey, it might work.
If the Courant can grab readers who might have paid for the Press website, it adds eyeballs to its own site and snatches them from the Press site. It's potentially a winner, however sleazy.
I'm sure this is something that my own bosses are going to be taking a look at as they decide how best to move toward a website that isn't wholly free anymore.

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

July 22, 2009

Attorney John Gill to run as GOP's mayoral pick

With one day to go before the Republican nominating convention to pick the GOP’s slate of municipal candidates, the party finally came up with a mayoral contender.

“I got tired of being on the sidelines,” said John Gill, a 29-year-old attorney.

Gill, a newcomer to Bristol politics, aims to unseat first-term incumbent Democrat Art Ward.

City Councilor Ken Cockayne said that Gill “has an outstanding resume which blew me away” and should make a strong challenger.

“He’s a good candidate,” said T.J. Barnes, the Republican chairman.

Gill grew up in Southington and earned a bachelor’s degree at George Washington University in 2002.

A Democrat in college, he said, his “priorities sort of shifted” after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. He said he watched the smoke curling up into the sky from the Pentagon.

It made him want to come home to Connecticut and take an active role in the community where he settled.

He attended Boston’s Suffolk University Law School and practices in Wilton, where he specializes in marine insurance law.

Though Gill worked for a Democratic congressman briefly and was active in school organizations and sports, he hasn’t been a part of the political scene in Bristol.

But, he said, he’s been paying close attention, reading stories in the Press and finding much to disagree with in the actions of City Hall. He said he asked his fiancĂ©e about running for mayor long ago, but only jumped into the race after reading on the Bristol Blog Tuesday that Ward might face no opposition.

Gill said it would “a tragedy” for democracy and the community if the mayor got a free ride, so he contacted party leaders and quickly gained their backing.

*******

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

Courant reaching ever deeper lows

The Hartford Courant can still do some great stories, but they sure are doing some amateur, crazy stuff, too.
Take a look at this story, for example, where a Courant writer basically rewrote Bristol Press reporter Jackie Majerus' story about the delay of the Main Street streetscape project. The rewritten version credits the Press throughout, which is admirable, but c'mon, folks, the Courant should have enough pride to go cover stories for itself.
If it's not going to do that, link to ours. That's fine.
But taking this approach is simply a farce.

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

Republicans gear up for Thursday's nominating convention

Heading into Thursday’s Republican nominating convention, the GOP still lacks a mayoral contender to top the party’s municipal slate in this year’s city election.
But a potentially strong City Council contender emerged Wednesday when a popular retired coach and teacher, Dave Mills, declared his intention to seek a 3rd District seat.
Mills, 66, coached the Bristol Eastern High School football team for more than a quarter century and led it to the city’s only state football championship.
Though a newcomer to politics, Mills is both widely respected and well-known, qualities that may make him a formidable candidate for one of the two open seats in the district.
Party officials said Wednesday they believe they have a mayoral candidate who has the capacity to give incumbent Democrat Art Ward a run for his money in the November 3 municipal race. But they refused to name their potential champion.
Mills, who switched from the Democratic to Republican parties only recently, is the second GOP contender in what could be the most hotly contested district this year.
Already in the running is Derek Czenczelewski, another newcomer to the political scene.
But insiders said this week that at least two other possible Republican candidates may be interested in the seat, including Rose Parenti, who is widely known in GOP circles.
Mills said in a written statement Wednesday that he believes Bristol is at a crossroads.
He said he decided to run for office “because I believe Bristol’s future is at stake and I want to take an active role in shaping it.”
“The economic climate will be very challenging for the foreseeable future, yet we must all work together to find solutions that move our city forward,” Mills said.
The 3rd District is wide open this year because both incumbents, Democrats Craig Minor and Frank Nicastro, are stepping down.
“Frank and Craig served the City well and it will be an honor to follow in their footsteps,” Mills said. “I want to thank them both for all their hours of service to Bristol.”
On the Democratic side, there are two council hopefuls in the district, Terry Parker and Kate Matthews. Others may be eyeing the seat, too.
In addition to finding a mayoral candidate, the GOP has yet to have anyone come forward to run for treasurer or one of the 1st District seats.
But incumbent city Councilor Mike Rimcoski plans to run again on the GOP ticket in the 1st District.
In the 2nd District, incumbent Republican Councilor Ken Cockayne is seeking reelection. A newcomer, Richard Scarola, aims to join him in the council race.
Republican candidates are nominated by members of the town committee. Candidates who are passed over have the option of forcing a primary by gathering signatures from registered Republicans.

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

Slogging through the real estate lists

The city is, once again, trying to sell off surplus property.
The problem is figuring out what’s surplus and what’s worth keeping.
As the three-person Real Estate Committee slogged through a long list of municipal property this week, its members tried to figure out what could be sold.
One piece consisted of just 85 square feet.
“We could plant a tomato plant there,” city Councilor Mike Rimcoski said.
A city lawyer, Edward Krawiecki, Jr, said the city could try to sell it to neighbors, but in the end it might make sense to give it away so it would wind up on the tax rolls.
Every little bit helps, after all.
Elsewhere on the list, officials discovered one piece listed for possible sale contained Jennings School. Another had a city pump station.
Those wound up on the must-keep list, of course, but the exercise wasn’t entirely fruitless.
The panel had no trouble deciding that a three-bedroom bungalow at 406 Broad St., taken in a foreclosure action last month, should go out for sale right away.
“Right now, we’re not getting taxes on it. We’re not doing anything with it,” said city Councilor Frank Nicastro, who chairs the committee.
Krawiecki said the boarded-up Broad Street house -- taken because its former owner didn’t keep up with taxes -- is worth $75,000, according to a recent assessment.
The city is likely to seek buyers for it within the next couple of months.
Over the past few years, the city has hauled in hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling off surplus property, but as the best sites have been sold off, what’s left isn’t as attractive.
Much of the land is swampy, steep or right beside parks or open space and perhaps best kept in its natural state for the long haul, officials said.
One thing that they’re looking for, though, are parcels that may be attractive to neighbors who could use them just to expand their holdings.
Sometimes, for example, the city owns tracts alongside a stream that can’t even be reached from the street. They probably can’t be used for homes or other structures.
But, officials said, the people who live beside the parcels might like to buy them anyway just to make sure they stay the way they are. That would put the property on the tax rolls at least, councilors said.
Meantime, the panel is continuing its review of what the city owns.
One piece on the list is a vacant lot on Dutton Avenue, beside Rockwell Park.
“We own that now,” Nicastro said, following last year’s decision by the council to buy it for future use by the park.
“So now the question is: do we want to sell it?” Krawiecki said, smiling.
Councilors just laughed.

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

GOP mayoral contender might exist

I've now heard from several prominent Republicans that the party appears to have a mayoral candidate with a solid resume but not much name recognition. I'll keep my ear to the ground and see if a name gets whispered somewhere.

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

Dave Mills, ex-coach, to run for City Council

Dave Mills, who coached and taught at Bristol Eastern High School for 36 years, is seeking election as one of the 3rd District's city councilors.
Mills is the second Republican to declare his intention to run in the district, where two incumbent Democrats are stepping down.
Here's a press release about it:

Mills declares Candidacy for Third District City Council

Bristol Republicans are expected to endorse former Bristol Eastern High School football coach Dave Mills to run for Bristol’s Third District City Council seat. The Third District covers all of Forestville and reaches into the Stafford School neighborhoods and parts of Federal Hill.

“The city of Bristol is at a crossroad” Mills told a room full of third district republicans. I am doing this because I believe Bristol’s future is at stake and I want to take an active role in shaping it. The economic climate will be very challenging for the foreseeable future, yet we must all work together to find solutions that move our city forward.”

Mills was a teacher and coach at Bristol Eastern High School for 36 years. During his tenure as head football coach his teams won many conference titles and Bristol’s only State Championship. The successes of his players after football are what he is most proud of.

Dave is a life long resident of Bristol. He is married to Jo Ann and they have four children and eight grandchildren.

In addition to his family activities, Mills has been active in the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame as a board member and President for the past ten years. He has also served on various boards and committees in the city.

“Bristol is my home.” “I have watched Bristol go through many trying times as well as prosperous times. I believe that people are its greatest asset. As a city councilman, I plan to work toward making Bristol a more attractive place to live, be able to raise a family in a safe environment, and attract a business base that will provide jobs and tax stability for our town."


Mills seeks to capture one of the seats being vacated by Frank Nicastro and Craig Minor. “Frank and Craig served the City well and it will be an honor to follow in their footsteps. I want to thank them both for all their hours of service to Bristol”, Mills concluded.


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

July 21, 2009

Larson angry at Senate vote to kill F-22

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol:

LARSON RESPONDS TO SENATE F-22 VOTE

Washington, DC – Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01), Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s vote on the F-22 today.
“I am deeply disappointed by the vote cast in the Senate today. It is unfathomable to me that in this economy anyone in Washington would take action leading to the lay-off of 95,000 highly-skilled manufacturing workers – the backbone of our workforce. There is no place for these workers to go once these jobs disappear. This is a reckless decision that goes to the heart of our manufacturing base and our national security. To protect the American people and the American way of life, it is vital that we keep these jobs and skills on our shores. As we speak, other countries are building their manufacturing base and skill set with advanced fighter planes. I will continue to work to keep the production lines open and keep these highly-skilled, good-paying jobs in Connecticut.”

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