December 30, 2010

What does Obama have against Connecticut?

Last month, there were two states that turned more Democratic in the wake of the midterm elections: California and Connecticut.
Ohio, meanwhile, shifted sharply toward the GOP.
So when the time came to cut a check for the $100 million earmark that U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd shoveled into the health care measure to help out plans to rebuild John Dempsey Hospital, you'd think collecting the cash would be no sweat.
The money was meant for Connecticut.
Connecticut is a solid Democratic state.
Yet Ohio gets the dollars.
Presidential politics, of course, plays a major role. Ohio is a valuable state in the Electoral College while Connecticut is more like Wyoming.
But what is the point of sending Democrats to Washington to represent Connecticut if the Democratic president is going to ship even our earmarks off to GOP hotbeds?
There's something seriously messed up when our lawmakers can't even secure money they build into the budget for their home state.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Welch gets his committee roles

State Sen.-elect Jason Welch was tapped to serve as the ranking Republican on the Public Health Committee and to serve as well on the Appropriations, Internship and Judiciary panels.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Democratic lawmakers get committee assignments

Both of Bristol’s Democratic lawmakers will serve as vice chairs of legislative committees in the next session of the General Assembly.
State Rep. Frank Nicastro will continue to hold sway as the vice chair of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee while state Rep. Chris Wright gained a promotion to serve as second-in-command of the Housing Committee.
Another Democrat whose district includes Bristol, Plainville’s Betty Boukus, is the general bonding chair of the powerful Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, a plumb perch that may give her more clout to help her 22nd District.
The committee assignments were handed out Wednesday by House Speaker Chris Donovan, a Meriden Democrat. Click here for full story.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Bristol more diverse, better educated

Preliminary data from the U.S. Census shows that Bristol has reversed the population slide it experienced in the 1990s while growing both more educated and more diverse.
While the city’s workforce has grown even faster than its population, the percentage of families and individuals living in poverty appears to have grown as well.
The American Community Survey and Population Estimates Program examined data from 2005 through 2009 before releasing a snapshot of America recently that included the most in-depth data for Bristol since Census 2000.
Until the 2010 Census information is fully available – only state and national populations have yet been released – there is no better source to see how the Mum City has fared in the past decade.
The most alarming data for Bristol in the last Census was that its population sank for the first time since 1820.
The new survey indicates that’s no longer the case. The city’s population rose by 1.3 percent between 2000 and 2009 to 60,869.  Click here for the full story.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 29, 2010

The Coppinger coverup

First off, I have no idea whether the 1,200-page report by Lori Coppinger, a retired West Hartford police  official, is on the money or not.
I haven't seen it.
What I do know is that City Hall is making sure that almost nobody ever sees it.
After the furor surrounding Police Officer Robert Mosback's crash and resignation in the wake of the Press' revelation that he'd been drunk at the time of the on-duty accident, it's simply unimaginable that the report that's supposed to answer all questions is almost totally unavailable.
I could go to the city attorney's office and read it. So could you. So could anyone.
But, c'mon. This isn't 1856.
That report should be posted online so that skeptical residents who want to read it can do so from their own home, office or on the beach in Miami.
Failing to put it online is just jabbing a finger into the skeptical eyes of a jaded public.
I know Mayor Art Ward is out of commission and decisions at City Hall are being made haphazardly, but keeping this report a virtual secret is just plain stupid.
Get it up on the city's website if you want anyone to believe what it says -- or even if you'd just as soon they dismissed its conclusions.
Let people pick it apart however they like.
Every page -- all 1,200 of them - should be online ASAP. Keeping the report on the shelf at City Hall in the internet age amounts to a cover up. That's the crowdsourcing age we live in now.

By the way, here are links to stories about the report from The Bristol Press and The Hartford Courant.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 22, 2010

DeFronzo takes job with Malloy administration

State Sen. Donald DeFronzo, a New Britain Democrat and a leading foe of the proposed busway between New Britain and Hartford, is taking a job as head of administrative services with the administration of Gov.-elect Dan Malloy.
What it means for the busway, who knows?
New Britain's mayor, Tim Stewart, is probably going to run for DeFronzo's seat in a special election. Stewart is the leading proponent of the busway.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Miecznikowski explains use of surplus cash

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Special City Council session next week

City councilors plan a special meeting Tuesday to award the final contract for the West Bristol school construction project.
The final piece of the project puzzle is for the site work slated to begin next month at the Chippens Hill site chosen for the new 900-student school.

See the entire story here.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

City goes on spending spree with leftover school cash

A surplus in last year’s school budget is making it possible for the city to buy police cars, a fire track and a host of public works equipment.
The Board of Finance unanimously agreed Tuesday to dip into the $1.4 million surplus created entirely by the school system to pay for long-delayed and much-needed vehicles and other equipment.
Comptroller Glenn Klocko said the spending will shave a quarter mill off the property tax rate for the next fiscal year.
“It really helps,” said Rich Miecznikowski, who chairs the city’s finance board.  Read the entire story here.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Stewart eyeing state Senate seat in New Britain

With state Sen. Don DeFronzo, a New Britain Democrat, likely to take a top job in the administration of incoming Gov. Dan Malloy, it appears that New Britain Mayor Tim Stewart is ready to leap into the special election for DeFronzo's seat.
Stewart is making it pretty clear that he's game, but the necessary first step is that DeFronzo's selection is announced and the anti-busway incumbent moves on.
That would create a special election in which Stewart would take aim at the seat, giving the Republican the potential of chalking up another district for the GOP.
So far the only Republican gain in the state Senate was Jason Welch's win over Tom Colapietro in Bristol last month.
On Facebook, Stewart said the talk is premature because there is no vacancy yet.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 20, 2010

Here's Mayor Ward shaking my hand

The Hartford Courant was nice enough to capture Mayor Art Ward shaking my hand after getting out of the elevator at Bristol Hospital. The poor guy is struggling so much that he seemed to be happy to see me! I know I was happy to see him.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Ward is home from the hospital & doing well

Mayor Art Ward is home.
Shortly after noon, Ward left the intensive care unit in a wheelchair and headed down to Bristol Hospital's lobby to face an array of television cameras along with his doctor and hospital officials.
As a nurse wheeled him out of the elevator, Ward grinned after being questioned about how he was doing.
"I'm feeling pretty good now," Ward said.
Ward had a Band-Aid over his nose and some red marks on his face, but otherwise looked pretty good for a man who'd spent 16 days in the hospital after choking on a piece of steak during a tailgate party at the Italian Social Club.
Ward said little at the short press conference beyond expressing thanks for the many prayers and good wishes offered for him by so many residents and friends. He said he was glad to have a supportive family and been under the care of so many talented nurses, doctors and other medical professionals.
Dr. Stephen Caminiti, the head of the hospital's intensive care unit, said the outcome for the mayor "is as good as it could be."
"This is the best case scenario," Caminiti said.
The doctor said that Ward will need to rest over the holidays and will likely be able to return to work next month.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 17, 2010

City eyes future of Memorial Boulevard School

With Memorial Boulevard School set to close in 2012, city leaders are taking steps to figure out its future.
City councilors unanimously agreed recently to devote as much as $72,000 to study the city’s space needs and determine if the building may be useful for municipal department offices, the police or the senior center.
“We have to start thinking about what we’re going to do,” city Councilor Cliff Block said Friday.
Spurring officials to take action is the necessity of dealing with major problems with the heating and air conditioning system at the Beals Senior-Community Center.  Click here for full story.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Ward's condition upgraded to 'fair'

Mayor Art Ward is getting better.
Bristol Hospital reported late Friday that is condition has been upgraded from serious to fair and that he is “awake, alert, breathing on his own, and interacting with family and staff.”
“He’s conscious and he’s talking,” said the head of the city’s Democratic Party, Elliott Nelson.
Nelson, a friend of the mayor, said that Ward’s family is “very optimistic” about his recovery.
“Hopefully, things will start moving a little faster” as Ward continues to improve, Nelson said.
Ward went through a rocky period during his first 10 days in intensive care at Bristol Hospital after choking on a piece of steak.
He was put into a medically induced coma to cool his body and give his organs and brain a chance to heal from the trauma of the Dec. 4 incident, officials said, and then was heavily sedated for a time because of the pain.
A number of officials said on background they were told that Ward suffered some broken ribs as caregivers tried to dislodge the meat from his throat. Given the force that is sometimes required, they said, this is apparently a common outcome.
Ward has been in the hospital since collapsing at the Italian Social Club during a tailgate party shortly before a broadcast of the last University of Connecticut football game.
When or even if Ward can return to his official duties remains uncertain, but those around him are said to be “very happy” at the progress they’re seeing.
The hospital said the mayor remains in the intensive care unit but his vital signs are stable.
Its release on Friday also said that Ward’s family has asked that visitors continue to be restricted to family members for the time being.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Student journalists across the globe offer range of new stories

This week's issue of The Tattoo (available at features a lot of terrific work by Youth Journalism International's talented student writers, including three newcomers.
You won't want to miss Talon Bronson's two pieces from Portland, Oregon that he wrote after attending his city's annual tree lighting ceremony for Christmas -- the same ceremony that federal authorities say a would-be bomber hoped to blow up.

Teens playing in the snow in Wixom, Michigan. (Colin Cuming/

Also high on the must-see list is newcomer Monica Blaze's "My Hometown" story on Wixom, Michigan. She gives readers a real flavor for the place she calls home.
In London, newcomer Noah Kidron-Style offers a hard-hitting opinion column castigating the police for mistreating student protesters who oppose government plans for tuition hikes.
The new issue also has two review of the latest Harry Potter movie, by Nancy Hsu in Brisbane, Australia and Roohani Deshpande in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India. They both loved Deathly Hallows, Part 1. This is Deshpande's first piece.
Finally, Kiernan Majerus-Collins offers a news story from Hartford, Connecticut about the debut of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon's latest work, Road Stories.
More work by YJI students is online daily on the organization's blog at, including a review of the new Narnia movie by another newcomer, Evangeline Han from Melaka, Malaysia. 
Youth Journalism International is a 501(c)(3) public educational charity, which allows donors to get a tax deduction for contributions and opens the door for possible grants to help YJI flourish as never before. If you're in a position to help financially, you can find information on how to donate at You can also phone us at (860) 523-9632 and we'll be glad to tell you more.
This is a great time of year to make a donation to help YJI continue to offer the best opportunity on the planet for students eager to learn journalism and make connections across the globe.
With more than 200 members in scores of countries, YJI offers the most comprehensive source of youth journalism on Earth. It has readers in nearly every country. 
By the way, be sure to keep an eye on YJI's Blog -- -- to stay right up to date with everything these talented students are doing. You can also find YJI on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. The links are on the blog.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

City plans to 'hold the line' on spending

With state aid cuts likely and the economy still sputtering, city leaders are eyeing a multi-year approach to budgeting in hopes of minimizing the hit on property taxpayers.
The veteran head of the city’s Board of Finance, Rich Miecznikowski, said he told department heads to try to put together spending plans that aim for a freeze.
“Basically, we’re saying ‘hold the line,’” Miecznikowski said.
City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said the city needs to take a multi-year focus because at least two years of large state deficits are looming.
A budget kickoff session with city leaders and department heads was held Wednesday to provide everyone with some basic guidelines of what to expect and how to proceed. The entire City Council even showed up.
Miecznikowski, whose finance board drafts the proposed budget, said that with state cuts likely, supervisors are going to have to justify any requests for spending.
He said that in trying to limit the hit on residents, “Everything’s on the table. We have to come down very low” in terms of a possible tax hike.
See the whole story here.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

City Council holds illegal meeting

City councilors met illegally Wednesday morning at a budget kickoff meeting that also included Bristol’s department heads and the city attorney.
At the 40-minute budget session, led by city Councilor Ken Cockayne in his role as acting mayor, the entire rest of the council also participated, even sitting in their customary spots in the council chambers on the first floor of City Hall.
The gathering was not posted by the city clerk’s office and no minutes were kept.
State law prohibits even a quorum of the council to meet to talk about public business without posting the session’s agenda at least 24 hours in advance. That was not done. See the whole story here.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 15, 2010

Ward is 'conscious;' Cockayne says 'prayers are working'

After 11 days in critical condition at Bristol Hospital, Mayor Art Ward is getting better.
Ward, 63, remains in the intensive care unit, but his condition was upgraded Wednesday afternoon to serious rather than critical.
The mayor “continues to make appropriate progress” and “is conscious, with stable vital signs,” according to a hospital press release approved by Ward’s family.
“The prayers are working,” said city Councilor Ken Cockayne, the city’s acting mayor.
Though Ward’s prognosis remains uncertain, the release is the first solid indication that he is recovering from choking on a piece of steak on December 4 at a tailgating party at the Italian Social Club.
Cockayne called the condition upgrade outstanding news.
“If anybody can pull through, it is Mayor Ward. He is a strong person, as anyone who has battled him knows,” Cockayne said.
“This is incredible news the week before Christmas,” Cockayne said. “I’m sure his family is ecstatic. The prayers are working.”
The hospital said that “a hypothermia protocol was completed successfully last week” that involved cooling the mayor’s “core body temperature to preserve body functions and organs after an acute medical event.”
Ward spent “several days under heavy sedation” for his own comfort, the press release said, but is now conscious.
There is no indication in the release when the mayor might be able to return to work or even if that remains a possibility.
Ward’s family requested that visitors “continue to be restricted to immediate family members,” the press release said.
The hospital said it would keep the media updated on Ward’s condition with information consistent with federal law and as directed by the mayor’s family.
Ward has served in the city’s top job since 2007. He was a city councilor for seven turns before winning the mayor’s seat.
Gov.-elect Dan Malloy has Ward on the short list as a potential veterans affairs commissioner. Ward, a former service officer for veterans, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam, earning two Purple Hearts in the process.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Ward's condition upgraded to serious

Press release from Bristol Hospital:
Bristol, Conn.– Bristol Mayor Art Ward’s condition has been upgraded from Critical to Serious, as he continues treatment in the Intensive Care Unit at Bristol Hospital. Mayor Ward was admitted to the hospital on Saturday, December 4th following a choking incident.
A hypothermia protocol was completed successfully last week, and the Mayor continues to make appropriate progress after spending several days under heavy sedation for comfort measures. He is conscious, with stable vital signs.
Hypothermia protocol involves cooling of the core body temperature to preserve body function and organs after an acute medical event.
The Mayor’s family has requested that visitors continue to be restricted to immediate family members at this time.
Bristol Hospital will keep the news media updated on Mayor Ward’s condition with information, as directed by the family, and that is consistent with the release of information guidelines of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 14, 2010

Cockayne stays despite Democratic objections

City Councilor Kate Matthews talking to one of the many television news crews that showed up for the showdown.

Despite objections from most of the City Council Democrats, Republican Ken Cockayne declared he would remain as the city's acting mayor for another month.
Cockayne, a second-term Republican, also said that he would pick someone else to serve as acting mayor for the city after Jan. 11. He gave no indication whom he might select but many insiders said that first-term Democrat Kevin Fuller is likely to get the nod.
Cockayne tossed aside Mayor Art Ward’s own pick to serve as acting mayor in December. In revoking the appointment of Democrat Kate Mathews, he said that maintaining consistency at the helm was critical.
Matthews called it “inappropriate for the acting mayor, who should be acting as a steward of the office in the mayor’s absence, to revoke Mayor Ward’s appointment and appoint himself in its place.”
She described herself as “disappointed and dismayed” at Cockayne’s choice.
Cockayne has been acting mayor since Dec. 4, when Ward collapsed after choking on a piece of steak.
Ward remains in intensive care at Bristol Hospital. He is in critical but stable condition. There has been no formal word from the mayor's family or doctors about his prognosis.
Fuller was the only Democrat to back Cockayne’s move.  See the whole story.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Cockayne vows to stay on until January 11

In a statement read to city councilors, Ken Cockayne declared he would remain as the city's acting mayor until Jan. 11, the next council meeting.
Cockayne, a second-term Republican, also said that he would pick someone else to serve as acting mayor for the city after Jan. 11. He gave no indication whom he might select.
Cockayne said he is acting mayor now as "a result of circumstances and nothing more." He just happened to be acting mayor this month, on a schedule that has rotated among the council, month by month.
He said he has "no intention" to serve indefinitely or "to impose any agenda, mine or otherwise" on city government during the absence of Mayor Art Ward.
Ward remains in intensive care at Bristol Hospital. He is in critical but stable condition. There has been no formal word from the mayor's family or doctors about his prognosis.
Cockayne said he has "reached out" to the entire council in recent days to discuss how best to handle the situation. He said  that "some have chosen not to return my calls."
Matthews was chosen by Ward to serve as acting mayor this month. Her name is on the appointments list that Ward approved before his Dec. 4 collapse. McCauley is the senior Democratic councilor.
Cockayne said in his statement tonight that to "maintain consistency" he would use his power as the acting mayor to revoke Matthews' appointment.
He said he will stay on through Jan. 11 and then pick "another council member" as acting mayor if Ward has not returned.
Cockayne said he will rely on the good will of his colleagues and "together we will roll up our sleeves and do the city's business the best we can."
Cockayne said he will "pray for the quick recovery of the mayor" and expressed his "sincere hope that he makes a full recovery and returns to work as quickly as possible."
You can see Cockayne's entire statement on a PDF here.
I'll try to post the reaction to Cockayne's comments in a little while.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Will try to post during tonight's City Council meeting

No promises, but I'll try to update everybody as the council meeting progresses tonight.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Hamzy says goodbye

Here's an open letter from state Rep. Bill Hamzy to his constituents:
I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the people of Bristol and Plymouth for the tremendous honor of serving as your state Representative in the Connecticut General Assembly for the last 16 years.
As the son of parents who immigrated here from Lebanon to a community with a handful of people of Lebanese descent, my parents instilled in me a sense of responsibility and a sense of duty to serve my community. They fully understood that if we were to enjoy the freedoms which many people around the world die for each and every day, then we also had to take on the responsibilities which accompany these freedoms. The sheer greatness of the people who founded our country and created this form of representative democracy never ceases to amaze me. I truly believe that my experience as state Representative for the 78th district is yet another example of the greatness of our communities, our state and our nation. It is yet another sentence in the stories of the people who make up the United States of America.
Yet today, I can’t help but feel worried about our future. I am worried because in today’s America, it seems watching the most recent reality television show is more important than volunteering at a social service organization; that following the latest drama in Hollywood is more important than learning the issues which are discussed in our state Capitol. I wish I could just snap my fingers to bring about a solution to this problem. But, obviously, I can’t.
I can tell you that for me, there could not be a more rewarding professional experience than representing the people of Plymouth and Bristol in this great institution. Has it been frustrating at times? Of course. Has it been demanding to get up in the morning, go to my law office, go to Hartford for meetings or public hearings or sessions until late into the night and then have to go back to my law office until midnight or 1 in the morning just to repeat it all over again the next day? Certainly.
But that is the beauty of this representative government. A son of immigrant parents can grow up in Terryville, Connecticut, open his own law firm, and be elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives. Our representative democracy allows regular Americans from all walks of life to be elected to serve and speak on behalf of their communities.
Juggling my professional responsibilities with my legislative duties wasn’t always easy, and therefore decided I just couldn’t miss any more baseball practices or any more dance recitals. While it might seem cliché to say I’m leaving because I want to spend more time with my family, for me, this is truly the only reason. I have often been told that there is no rewind button when you have children. Once those moments are gone, they don’t come back.
I have loved this experience and can only hope that more people will choose to serve their communities, not necessarily in the political arena but in all the other ways which are just as important to better our state and country.
I’d like to thank the people of the 78th District for putting their faith and trust in me to serve them in our state Capitol. Finally, I’d like to also thank my family for understanding enough to have allowed me to serve in this office. Thank you again and God Bless you.
Hamzy is retiring as state representative for the 78th district and will be succeeded by Rep.-Elect Whit Betts on January 5, 2011.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Is Cockayne turning secretive?

In the last few days, city Councilors Ken Cockayne and Kevin Fuller have exchanged a few emails about the city's leadership.
I asked Cockayne, the acting mayor, for copies of them on Sunday. I still haven't got them from him, though they are public documents that are easily available and simple enough to forward to me.
I know as acting mayor Cockayne is being careful to do things right, but passing off the request to the city attorney and then ignoring it is just plain silly.
Whoever is in charge at City Hall should have as a top goal the swift release of public information. Two days to get a few emails is ridiculous.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Council meets tonight, without Ward

Though Mayor Art Ward remains under heavy sedation in the intensive care unit at Bristol Hospital, tonight's City Council meeting is going on as scheduled.
Officials expect few fireworks despite the behind-the-scenes maneuvering about who should lead the city in the mayor's absence.
Republican Ken Cockayne, the acting mayor, said he is going to retain the post until the Jan.11 council, leaving open what might happen after that if Ward remains unavailable.
That would ice out city Councilor Kate Matthews, the first-term Democrat whom Ward planned to name as acting mayor at tonight's meeting.
The mayor has rotated the unpaid position among the councilors monthly since winning the city's top job in 2007.
Despite the big political stakes, politicians are treading carefully because none of them want to be seen as power hungry or even particularly political.
But whether they can pull that off remains uncertain.
There is a joint meeting of the council and Board of Finance at 6:45 this evening, followed at 7 by the council session.
There is a public comment period near the start of every council meeting.
It is not known if there might be an update condition tonight, though many officials are privately hoping for more details so they can figure more realisticaly what's needed in the coming weeks and months.
Ward, 63, has been in critical condition at Bristol Hospital since choking on a piece of steak on Dec. 4.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

WNPR loses all credibility? I'm on the radio

Listen to WNPR -- 90.5 on the FM dial -- after 7:30 this morning and you'll hear me babbling about the situation at City Hall in the wake of Mayor Art Ward's collapse 10 days ago.
I apologize in advance for anything I say.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 13, 2010

Fitzgerald goes to work for Welch

After coming up short in her own bid for a state legislative seat in the 77th District, Republican Jill Fitzgerald is now working as a legislative aide for Jason Welch, the new GOP state senator from Bristol.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 12, 2010

Cockayne determined to remain as acting mayor

While Mayor Art Ward remained in critical condition at Bristol Hospital Sunday, city officials continued to scramble to decide who should lead City Hall in the mayor's absence.
Democratic City Council members said that Acting Mayor Ken Cockayne, a Republican, should step down at Tuesday's council meeting and let Democrat Kate Matthews take the helm.
Ward notified the council and others before his Dec. 4 collapse that he intended to replace Cockayne with Matthews this month.
But Cockayne isn't giving in.
In an email to councilors this weekend, Cockayne said that "with the support of the Ward family, the Democratic town chairman and the Republican town chairman, as well as in consultation with various councilmen, I will be reappointing myself as acting mayor" until at least the Jan. 11 council meeting.
He expressed hope that Ward "will be back on the job" by January.
The city's Democratic Party leader, Elliott Nelson, said recently that Cockayne's doing fine as acting mayor and should stay in the post until January. Nelson is a close friend of the mayor's.
Complicating the issue for Democrats, Ward's choice for city attorney, Edward Krawiecki, Jr, is a former GOP state lawmaker with strong ties to his own party. Krawiecki would be the main source of advice for city officials trying to figure out how to handle a complicated situation.
Democrats, on the other hand, control four of the six council seats. Even with Ward out of the picture for the moment, they have enough votes to prevail on any issue where they stay united.
But it doesn't appear the council can prevent Cockayne from holding on to the acting mayor slot if he is determined to stay put.
Cockayne said he doesn't want to play politics at all. He said the only important thing for the city is to hold true to Ward's vision for Bristol and to pray for the mayor's speedy recovery.
Ward has been in intensive care since choking on a piece of steak at a tailgate party at the Italian Social Club. He apparently has been in a medically induced coma ever since, though neither the hospital nor Ward's family has confirmed the talk at City Hall.
Nelson has said that the family is "very optimistic" the mayor will recover, hopefully soon.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 10, 2010

Mayor Ward's family is optimistic, Democratic Party chief says

Mayor Art Ward’s family is “very optimistic” about his chances of recovering fully from his collapse last Saturday after choking on a piece of steak, according to the city’s Democratic Party leader, Elliott Nelson.
Nelson, one of Ward’s closest friends, said Friday, “Everything’s looking good.”
Doctors put Ward into a medically induced coma when he arrived at Bristol Hospital Saturday night and apparently began trying to bring him out of it this week, according to city sources. He remains in critical but stable condition in the intensive care unit of Bristol Hospital.
Meanwhile, politicians at City Hall are increasingly itchy about who should serve as the acting mayor until Ward returns to work – despite Nelson’s call for everyone to calm down and to let city Councilor Ken Cockayne remain at the helm until at least January.
“I don’t think this is the time to start squabbling,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the mayor’s family doesn’t want to talk about details of Ward’s medical care, but they hope for “a positive outcome.”
“We’ll have something good shortly,” Nelson said, adding that Ward faces “a long road, but he’ll make it.”
“He’s a tough Marine. He’s not giving up,” Nelson said.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Mayor Ward's appointment list for Tuesday's council meeting

Here is the appointment list that Mayor Art Ward approved last week. It was distributed to the City Council as well.
The one that's at the center of contention is right at the top: City Councilor Kate Matthews to replace City Councilor Ken Cockayne as acting mayor.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 8, 2010

Political power plays at City Hall? Maybe.

As you might expect, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes power politicking going on at City Hall while officials wait to find out if Mayor Art Ward will return.
City Councilor Kate Matthews, who was designated as the next acting mayor by Ward, said tonight that she is determined “to stay above the fray.”
“There is no need for the machinations that have gone on this week,” Matthews said.
Matthews, a first-term Democrat, said her thoughts and prayers are with Ward and his family. She said she hopes he makes “a speedy recovery” and returns to work.
While everyone waits, she said, there’s no reason to shift gears at City Hall.
“The city is going to run itself,” Matthews said, if its department heads and staff are simply allowed to do their jobs.
“There is no reason for any acting mayor to assume the mantle of the office” rather than simply doing what’s necessary to keep the city moving in the direction Ward sought, she said.
She said that Ward’s last official act as mayor before his collapse Saturday was to confirm the agenda and appointment list for the Dec. 14 council meeting.
That included who should be the acting mayor.
Matthews said that Ward’s agenda and appointments “should be carried out.”
“They are the clearest manifestations of the intentions of the mayor,” Matthews said.
But it isn’t at all clear that city Councilor Ken Cockayne, the acting mayor, agrees. And as the acting mayor, he has assumed all of the power that a mayor has under the charter – including the right to name the acting mayor.
There is, in short, nothing to prevent him from chucking Ward’s list and staying on as mayor until Ward returns.
There’s suddenly some high drama involved in what’s going on in the mayor’s office even though the mayor himself remains in the intensive care unit at Bristol Hospital, presumably unaware of all of it.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

How Cockayne wound up in charge ... at least for now

When word began to spread around town last month that Mayor Art Ward could be in line to serve as the state’s next veterans affairs commissioner, city Councilor Ken Cockayne was among the politicians who began taking a serious look at a possible run at the city’s top job.
Cockayne, a second-term Republican, had pretty much decided that if Ward moved on to serve in the administration of Gov.-elect Dan Malloy, he would leap into the fray should a special election be called for mayor.
Unfortunately, though, Cockayne didn’t have to wait long to find out what the job entails.
Since choking on a piece of steak Saturday night, Ward has been laid up at Bristol Hospital, in critical but stable condition. A statement released by the city Wednesday said the mayor is in “a sedated state.”
It appears that nobody, not even the medical professionals involved in the case, knows yet when or if Ward can return to his $99,000-a-year job at City Hall.
That leaves Cockayne, the city’s acting mayor, in charge — maybe.
It turns out there is yet another twist: Ward last week prepared a list of new appointments for Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Included among them was his choice for the next acting mayor, city Councilor Kate Matthews, a first-term Democrat. See the whole story here.
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Hospital: Ward's family wants privacy

Reporter Jackie Majerus has this story:
Mayor Art Ward remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Bristol Hospital with no visitors allowed, hospital officials said Wednesday.
Following medical privacy laws and the wishes of Ward’s family, the hospital is not providing any other information about the mayor’s condition, treatment or prognosis.
“It’s not up to the hospital to decide whether information gets released,” said hospital President Kurt Barwis, adding that the decision to share information is “100 percent” the choice of the patient or the patient’s medical proxy.
If a patient cannot make the decision, the hospital takes great care to follow his or her wishes for who does make decisions and then follows them to the letter, according to Barwis.
“If they want complete and total privacy, that’s what we do,” said Barwis. See the whole story here.
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City waits on word from Ward

Mayor Art Ward may be on the path to recovery.
Mary Suchopar, the mayor’s secretary, said Ward’s family told her that doctors began reviving him early Tuesday.
His temperature is almost normal, she said, after having been deliberately held down to help him heal. Ward has been in a medically induced coma since Saturday night.
Suchopar said doctors planned to perform regular tests later in the day that may make it more clear how Ward is doing after choking on a piece of steak Saturday. But the results of any tests remain private.
The city’s acting mayor, Ken Cockayne, told Bristol’s department heads Tuesday morning about the mayor’s status in a brief, somber meeting in the City Council chambers.
Throughout the building, municipal workers said they were anxious for some good news from Bristol Hospital about Ward’s condition.
Ward could not breathe and did not have a pulse for a time after choking at the Italian Social Club on Barber Street shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday. Police reports leave it unclear how long the mayor may have been without oxygen.  See the whole story here.
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December 6, 2010

Saving the mayor

As soon as firefighter Tim Callanan yanked a big hunk of steak out of Mayor Art Ward’s throat Saturday evening, the mayor’s color started coming back.
Until that moment, the situation appeared pretty dire.
Though Ward, 63, remains in the intensive care unit at Bristol Hospital in critical condition, family and friends are hoping for a full recovery in the days ahead.
Ward collapsed about 10 minutes after arriving at the Italian Social Club for a tailgating party before the big University of Connecticut football game Saturday evening.
He was eating a steak when he suddenly got up from the table and walked off a bit.
Someone noticed the mayor’s distress and a couple of guys rushed to help, including Dale Grande, a club member, who may have been the first to see that Ward needed help.
When Callanan first saw Ward, the mayor was already on his back with Grande starting to do abdominal thrusts to try to get him breathing again. Callanan said he jumped in, too.
A state police officer, Chris Porrini, joined in right away as well, Callanan said, and they tried compressions and rescue breathing on Ward.
“People were hollering that he choked on something,” Callanan said.
He said they couldn’t see his throat because the mayor’s mouth was clamped shut so they had to pry open the mayor’s mouth.
At that point, one of the three police officers responding to 911 calls, Ryan Kulig, pulled out a small flashlight and pointed it down the mayor’s throat, Callanan said.
“I saw something and reached in and got a pretty sizeable piece of steak,” Callanan said.
A police report said that once the steak was removed, color began returning to the mayor’s face quickly.  Click here for the full story.
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No change in Ward's condition this morning

City leaders are meeting this morning to talk about how to handle the leadership vacuum created by Mayor Art Ward's hospitalization.
And City Hall itself is somber, by all accounts, as everybody waits and wonders whether Ward will return to the helm soon.
He remains at Bristol Hospital, with no change that anybody's heard about.
Keep him in your prayers.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Listen to Limbaugh for yourself

Here is a story about Mayor Art Ward seeking an apology from Rush Limbaugh for slurring Bristol on his nationally syndicated radio show.

Bristol resident Joel Wulff, a former water commissioner, wrote this open note to Rush Limbaugh today:

I was disappointed by your comments about my home town, Bristol, CT.  I don't know if you have ever been here or are at all familiar with the place.  Bristol is home to a little over 60,000 people.  It is the home of ESPN which is our largest employer.  Lake Compounce, the nation's oldest amusement park is here as well.  We were a major manufacturing city, but we shared the fate of many locales as technology changed.  We were a major home of clock-makers, but none of them survived.  The so called "Dollar watch" was made here and was well known.  New Departure, the famed maker of ball bearings, was started here and merged into General Motors.  We still have The Barnes Group, symbol "B" on the NYSE and the largest spring maker in the world the last I knew.  The city is a good place to live.  Our parks, school system, museums, etc. attract many people.
The sad thing about this incident is that it most likely hurts your reputation much more than it harms us.  We know what we have.  We know that our future is as bright as anyone's.  The folks in Bristol who like you will now question everything you say and stand for.  For the rest, your action will simply verify their already low opinion of you.
Be well,
Update on Monday at 12:40 p.m.: Don't miss the Free Republic discussion of this topic. It's kind of fun.
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December 5, 2010

Ward remains in coma, likely to be revived Monday

Making the rounds at seasonal events Saturday, Mayor Art Ward stopped by the Italian Social Club for a bite to eat and some holiday glad-handing, a part of the job he usually enjoys.
He was sitting at a table eating dinner with Elliott Nelson, the city’s Democratic Party leader, when he suddenly got up and walked off a little.
Nelson said he didn’t think much about it because the mayor frequently takes phone calls by stepping away.
Then he heard someone ask Ward if he was in distress.
Nelson turned to the mayor.
“Artie couldn’t talk. He just shook his head no,” Nelson said.
A couple of public safety workers who happened to be nearby grabbed the mayor and began trying to do the Heimlich maneuver on him to dislodge the piece of meat caught in Ward’s throat.
“Artie just collapsed” into one of the men’s arms, Nelson said, and was lowered to the ground.
“It happened so fast. It just looked like a dream,” Nelson said.
At this point, concerned residents don’t yet know how Ward will fare. He is listed in critical but stable condition by Bristol Hospital, hooked up to a respirator in a medically induced coma, according to several sources.
Ward, 63, was without oxygen for a couple of minutes or more, two of them said, but nobody knows exactly how long. Nelson said that in an emergency, every minute feels like an hour, so it’s impossible to guess.  CLICK HERE FOR ENTIRE STORY.

L to R: Art Ward, Nancy Wyman, Elliott Nelson, Dan Malloy
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The rules for an acting mayor (updated on Monday)

The city charter says that whoever has been designated as acting mayor "shall have the powers and discharge the duties of the mayor during the absence of the mayor from the city or his inability to perform the duties of the office except as otherwise specifically provided."
What that means is that as long as Mayor Art Ward is unable to perform his official duties, whether that's another couple of days or a longer time, the acting mayor basically steps into the role.
Since city Councilor Ken Cockayne is the acting mayor, a fluke of timing, he is able to do whatever Ward could do as the city's leader.
There is no provision for a special election or any other way of picking another leader until the next municipal election.Only the mayor can designate the acting mayor.
At this point, of course, almost everyone, including Cockayne, is rooting for Ward to get out of the hospital quickly and return to work soon.
But in the worst case, if Ward can't return to his duties, Cockayne would be acting mayor until next November.

Update: This post isn't quite right.
A different section of the charter says that if there is a vacancy for mayor more than nine months before the next municipal election -- before Feb. 8, that is -- then there must be a special election.
It isn't clear to me, though, that if someone is acting as mayor but the mayor is recovering from a health problem of any sort the special election section would apply. After all, there isn't really a vacancy. There is merely an acting mayor while the real mayor recovers.
This could wind up being a touchy point if Ward's recovery is slower than we all hope.
The easiest answer, of course, is for the mayor to get better swiftly. Let's hope that happens.
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The acting mayor is ... Ken Cockayne

Until Mayor Art Ward can resume his duties, city Councilor Ken Cockayne is the city's acting mayor.
The acting mayor designation generally rotates among the council members. It just happened that this was Cockayne's turn.
I'm not quite sure when or how the reins of power are turned over temporarily -- that will probably be clear on Monday -- but it doesn't sound as if Ward can perform his duties for at least a few days and perhaps longer.
My understanding from talking to a couple of city officials recently is that Ward is in the intensive care unit in an induced coma, a normal treatment in a case like this one. Until the doctors bring him out of the coma, I'm not sure anyone knows how he really is.
I hope he'll be able to go home soon, joking about the whole thing.
In the meantime, though, keep him in your prayers.
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Ward is 'stable' at hospital

Mayor Art Ward remains in stable condition this morning at Bristol Hospital in the intensive care unit. That's as much as his family wants the hospital to disclose so it's all I know at the moment.
I trust there are many prayers being said for him this morning around town.
Whatever you think of his politics, Bristol is the sort of town that always rallies around people in trouble. It says something nice about the city that all of its council members, Democrats and Republicans, and many of its top officials rushed to the emergency room last night to comfort each other and Ward's family.
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December 4, 2010

Mayor rushed to hospital

Mayor Art Ward collapsed Saturday evening during an event at the Italian Social Club.
While responders initially feared the mayor had a stroke or a heart attack, according to several sources, it appears that he choked on a piece of meat instead.
Police said the latest word they had from the hospital is that Ward was recovering.
Ward was taken to Bristol Hospital for treatment after receiving CPR at the scene, where the situation looked pretty dire, officials said.
The entire City Council and many others rushed to the emergency room to check on the mayor, expressing hope that he will recover fully.
I hope so, too.
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December 3, 2010

Cockayne: Police chief should resign (Updated)

New: See the story here.

A note to Mayor Art Ward from city Councilor Ken Cockayne, which was released widely a few minutes ago:
Mayor Ward,
I am formally requesting you ask for the immediate resignation of Chief DiVenere and Personnel Director Diane Ferguson. As the 9th largest city in Connecticut, we have one of the best police forces in the region. Unfortunately, the recent actions of a few have tarnished the reputations of not only the rest of the police force, but our city as a whole. I am troubled by the lack of accountability these officers have had and I feel it is a reflection of the leadership. I feel a strong message needs to be sent that behavior like this will not be tolerated or glossed over. It is an embarassment to the rest of the police force and to the fine citizens of Bristol.
The fact that it has come to this where I am sending this letter to you requesting this action shows either a lack of competence, courage, or both, on the part of our Police Chief and our Personnel Director. I fear that without a strong message, the leadership that is provided from the Mayor's office and the City Counsel will come under scrutiny as well.
Ken Cockayne
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December 2, 2010

Limbaugh botches Bristol "bailout"

I didn't listen to Rush Limbaugh today, but apparently the radio legend bashed Bristol a bit for allegedly receiving billions in federal bailouts.
Of course, anyone who knows Bristol understands that the charge is ludicrous. Bristol doesn't have anything to bail out with billions. Millions maybe, but billions? Never.
What happened is that Limbaugh relied on a badly written news story somewhere that lumped Bristol in with those who got bailouts because its pension fund had invested some money in a program to help kick start the economy back when credit had dried up.
The investment in a tiny way helped get the economy moving again during the worst days of the recession and wound up making a profit.
But it was peanuts in the scheme of things.
T.J. Barnes, the city GOP chair and pension guru, said that Bristol didn't get a single dollar in bailout money.
Barnes said that Limbaugh, who apparently repeated his charge a few times during his three hour show, was simply wrong.
He said he tried to call in to let the guy know, but couldn't get through.
I don't even want to begin trying to explain the financial ins and outs of what the pension fund did. Just know that it made a little money and is still among the nation's best funded plans.
So, Rush, if you're seeing this... you should check the facts. You blew it, big guy.
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Mosback arrested for drunk driving

A former city police officer who totaled his cruiser in a late-night crash in June has turned himself in to state police on drunken driving charges connected to the on-duty wreck,
Robert Mosback, 38, turned himself in to the Hartford barracks Thursday morning, according to state police, who reinvestigated the case at the request of New Britain's state's attorney.
Mosback resigned from the force in September after the city's insurer discovered a hospital laboratory test showed he had been drunk at the time of the accident. He asked for his job back a few weeks later.
City police did not charge Mosback in the case and did not check his blood alcohol level at the scene.
An investigation is underway to determine if any officers erred and whether a coverup occurred.
Mayor Art Ward said the arrest is "evidently as a result of the investigation" by the state's attorney's office in New Britain, which began a month ago after the state police declined to get involved directly.
"They've determined this is the appropriate manner in which to proceed," Ward said.
He said city leaders wanted outside, unimpeded probes into the case and apparently that's what is happening.
"State police investigators conducted numerous interviews, obtained search and seizure warrants from Superior Court to seize evidence and examined all facts and circumstances related to this accident," according to state Police Lt. Paul Vance.
Mosback is due in court in Bristol on Dec. 14. He was released on a $5,000 cash bond.  See the press release here.
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December 1, 2010

Police officer suspended for 60 days

A city police officer arrested in Florida last April for allegedly choking his pregnant girlfriend at Disneyworld has agreed to a 60-day suspension from Bristol’s force and to resign if he’s convicted on the charges.
Officer Marc Blazejowski, 33, has been on an extended medical leave since May. He will serve the suspension when he returns to work.
“It’s just not a happy situation,” Mayor Art Ward said Tuesday.
The mayor said he agreed to the deal with Blazejowski and the police union because it seemed better to have a “pretty definitive” agreement rather than face the “legal uncertainty” of trying to act in the wake of the Florida case.
Several city officials said they anticipate the felony charges against Blazejowski will be dropped soon because his former girlfriend doesn’t want to testify. But that could not be confirmed Tuesday with Orange County, Fla. prosecutors or police.
Blazejowski, an 11-year veteran, agreed to the suspension as a way to resolve the internal investigation into the Florida case.
In it, he admits to violating the department’s code of conduct and to conduct unbecoming of an officer.
Blazejowski also agreed to “immediately resign” from the Bristol force if he is “convicted or accepts a plea for any domestic charge arising from the April 13, 2010 incident.”
In addition, Blazejowski, who could not be reached for comment, agreed that if he violates any serious city or department policy work in the future or again acts in a way that is unbecoming of an officer, he will be fired. He won’t even be allowed to appeal. Click here for full story.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

November 30, 2010

Waterbury paper blasts busway

In an editorial today, the Waterbury Republican-American included this: "Gov. Rell continues to push for the Springfield-New Haven commuter line despite a lack of evidence commuters would use it; and the even more wasteful, foolhardy New Britain-Hartford busway."
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November 29, 2010

Dodd to give farewell address Tuesday

For three decades, U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd has been a force in Congress, a man who didn't hesitate to present his views forcefully and to push his agenda forward, often with success. Like him or hate him, Connecticut's senior senator made his mark in the nation's capital.
At 4 p.m. on Tuesday, he'll give his farewell address in the Senate. It's bound to be interesting.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Colapietro cleared in campaign flap

A campaign complaint filed against state Sen. Tom Colapietro a year ago has been tossed out by the state Elections Enforcement Commission.
The Nov. 17, 2009 complain by T.J. Barnes, Bristol’s GOP leader, accused the Democratic senator of failing to obey state laws governing when legislative candidates have to form campaign committees.
Colapietro said he’s not surprised at the unanimous ruling in his favor.
“It was silly in the first place,” said Colapietro, who lost a reelection bid to Republican Jason Welch.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Rell takes aim at commuter rail lines

A proposal by Gov. M. Jodi Rell to cut Metro North commuter train service on the New Canaan, Danbury and Waterbury branch lines is likely to run off the rails.
The plan, part of the governor’s plan to come up with $38 million for more heating assistance, has run into a storm of protest in Bristol and across much of the state.
“It is cynical of the governor to propose shutting down branch line rail service just as a way of getting lawmakers’ attention to the issue of funding the state’s emergency heating program,” said Jim Cameron, the head of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council.
Cameron said Saturday everyone wants fellow citizens “to stay warm this winter” but looking for funding by wiping out rail funding isn’t the answer.
Cutting off the commuter rail lines starting April 1 would save the state $5 million through the end of June, according to Rell’s list of proposed funding cuts.
“It’s silly,” said Mike Nicastro, who heads the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.
He said the legislature is unlikely to cut the Waterbury line, “the fastest-growing branch line in the state.”  Click here for full story.
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New Route 72 proving a hit

The new Route 72 extension, which won’t be finished until summer, is already proving a hit.
The $61 million road has eased morning and evening congestion for commuters, officials said, by providing drivers with more options and a nicer, safer route through Forestville.
“All the comments I’ve heard have been positive,” said Mayor Art Ward.
There are no longer traffic jams in the morning, said Dayton Schroeter, the project engineer for the state Department of Transportation, and evening rush hours are also seeing “a big improvement.” Click here for story.

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November 24, 2010

Ward a possible pick for state vets commissioner

Given the possibility that Mayor Art Ward may be in line for a top state job, at least two politicians in town are making plans in case there’s a special election for mayor in the next couple of months.
Though nobody wants to admit in public that they’re eyeing the mayor’s job while Democrat Art Ward holds it, they are taking steps to run in case Ward leaves City Hall.
According to political insiders, Ward, who’s been mayor since 2007, may be tapped by Gov.-elect Dan Malloy to serve as commissioner or the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
City Republican Party chief T.J. Barnes said Tuesday the GOP “has thought about it” and talked over what it might do in response.
Ward said Monday he has heard nothing from Malloy or his staff about any potential appointment and dismissed it as a rumor.
“I haven’t been contacted by anyone,” Ward said, including Malloy.
Malloy’s staff is keeping mum about possible appointments.  Click here for story.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

November 18, 2010

Larson retains Democratic leadership post

Following a vote Wednesday by congressional Democrats, U.S. Rep. John Larson remains the fourth-ranking member of his party’s leadership in the U.S. House.
In a letter to constituents, Larson said he is “humbled and appreciative” of his reelection to a second term as the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Democrats tapped Nancy Pelosi of California to serve as minority leader and kept Steny Hoyer of Maryland as their whip. They installed South Carolina’s James Clyburn to fill the number three slot in the leadership ladder.
Larson said that his leadership position “will continue to allow me to do more for Connecticut and the 1st District as a whole.” The district includes Bristol, Southington and Berlin.
“Over the past two years,” Larson said, “I have had the opportunity to bring administration officials and fellow members of Congress to Connecticut to learn more about our state firsthand, increase our trade opportunities for local businesses through visits by foreign diplomats and ambassadors, and represent your view on important everyday issues in meetings with the president and congressional leadership.”
“I look forward to continuing to do that,” Larson said. Click here for the full story.
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November 16, 2010

Busway cost is higher than anticipated

The projected cost of the busway between Hartford and New Britain doesn’t include the tab for two new bridges that are vital to the $573 million plan.
Though rebuilding the Cedar Street bridge in Newington will add only $2.5 million to the tab, a plan to put a new bridge over the busway and rail lines at Flatbush Avenue in West Hartford may add another $45 million to the bottom line, according to the engineers overseeing the busway project.
Counting the bridges, which are linked to the project but carried separately on the state Department of Transportation’s books, the 9.4-mile busway’s cost to taxpayers could exceed $615 million.
At a Tuesday morning hearing in West Hartford, transportation officials said they are plunging forward with the busway plan. They said the first bids, for utility work, will be opened in January and construction should be underway in April.
“It’s full steam ahead until we’re told otherwise,” said Richard Armstrong, the principal engineer on the project. A link to the full story will be posted when it is available.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Larson appears set to keep leadership post

Though the Republican takeover of the U.S. House means that Congressman John Larson won’t have the power next session that he wielded this time around, he will almost certainly hang on to his Democratic leadership post.
Democrats plan to pick their leaders Wednesday for the next Congress, which begins in January when newly elected members take office.
Larson is the only Democrat seeking election to head the party caucus in the House, which has been the fourth-ranking post in the leadership ladder. He announced his intention to seek the office again during an election night interview with The Bristol Press.
California Democratic Nancy Pelosi is slated to remain as the party leader while the rest of the leadership team remains the same – with the addition of South Carolina’s James Clyburn to a new slot to be created for him.
“This leadership team represents the diversity of the Democratic caucus and the American people,” Larson said Monday.
Larson, whose 1st District includes Bristol, said the Democrats, even in the minority, “will continue to work well together to put Americans back to work and rebuild our economy.”
The congressman said that holding a top post matters.
“Having a seat at the leadership table means that every citizen of Connecticut has a louder voice in the pressing issues we discuss around that table,” said Larson, who lives in East Hartford and has represented the district since 1998. Click here for the full story.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

November 15, 2010

Busway critics pin hopes on Malloy

Critics of the proposed busway between New Britain and Hartford have new hope they can hit the brakes on the $573 million plan.
But supporters of the project – which would create nearly 1,000 construction jobs – say the 9.4-mile roadway must go forward.
“We’re full steam ahead,” Mayor Timothy Stewart of New Britain said Monday.
Two transportation-related items that critics hope may sway Gov.-elect Dan Malloy to kill the controversial busway are a new scheme to reconstruct Interstate 84 through Hartford and the legislature’s failure to approve a plan to replace Hartford’s Broad Street bridge.
For Stewart, the issues are designed “to create controversy just to muddy the waters” and have no merit.
He said Malloy “would be kind of silly” to shelve the busway project, losing $100 million in the process and making it likely the federal government won’t shovel any more transportation money to Connecticut.
Critics argue, however, that a commuter rail alternative can be done within a reasonable time frame at lesser cost. They said they’re sure the federal government, which is pushing rail, would back it. Click here to see the full story.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

November 12, 2010

New book celebrates carousel museum collection

A beautiful new coffee table book about carousel art, which mostly focuses on items from the New England Carousel Museum and the Bushnell Park Carousel, is available just in time for the holiday season.
The writer and photogapher of “Flying Horses: The Golden Age of American Carousel Art, 1870-1930,” will be signing copies of their $75 volume Saturday at the museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, during a craft fair that no doubt has some nice stuff.
The museum gets $15 from each sale. You can get more details from The Bristol Press on Saturday.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

November 10, 2010

City seeks permission to offer tax amnesties

City leaders are seeking the right to offer tax amnesties to property owners who have fallen behind on their taxes.
Mayor Art Ward said Tuesday the change, which needs state approval, would create “another vehicle we could use in lessening the amount of delinquent taxes.”
City councilors unanimously endorsed the request that lawmakers representing Bristol in the General Assembly push to change state statutes so that municipalities could lower the amount of interest and penalties that delinquents must pay.
The mayor said state legislators can set whatever conditions they desire, but opening the door to reducing the bills that some people have piled up might help get more taxes paid.
The city’s tax collector, Teresa Babon, said that about $2.5 million worth of this year’s property taxes wasn’t paid – not much different than most years. She said that aggressive pursuit of unpaid bills probably helped keep the number down despite tough times. Click here for the full story.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Larson opposes Social Security cuts

Here's a press release from U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol, about the draft plan from the Debt Commission:
Offers Common Sense Solution to Lower the Deficit
Washington, DC – Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01), Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, released the following statement after news that the President’s debt commission released its plan to reduce the federal deficit and make cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
“I am disappointed with these initial recommendations from the debt commission. As I’ve said before, any plan to cut Social Security benefits for the elderly and disabled is quite simply dead on arrival.
“We have already proposed a simple plan that would reduce the deficit without hurting America’s hardworking middle class. Preserving tax breaks for the middle class while letting the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans expire would mean billions less in borrowing from foreign countries like China and Brazil; billions less that our grandchildren need to repay. Rather than raising taxes on the middle class by eliminating tax breaks like the mortgage interest deduction and making draconian cuts to our federal budget, let’s take a responsible and reasonable approach to lowering the deficit that won’t impact our economic recovery and won’t make it harder for working families to make ends meet.”
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Neighborhoods get the boot, too

City leaders this week agreed to boot the vehicles of property tax scofflaws wherever they’re found, including private driveways anywhere in Bristol.
The move by the City Council allows a private contractor to search for the vehicles of owners who haven’t paid their taxes and to boot them anywhere they’re found.
To get the boots removed requires paying the back taxes and at least $175 to remove the device so the vehicles can be driven.
Teresa Babon, the city’s tax collector, said the initial policy, which precluded searching residential areas for scofflaws, wasn’t fair.
“It should not matter where you live,” she said, because everyone should pay or face the same consequences.
Only one city councilor opposed the program’s extension into residential sections of town, Democrat Kate Matthews.
I'll add a link to the entire story when it is available.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

November 8, 2010

Energy panel delivers report

A report by the city’s task force on energy consumption urges Bristol to create a new energy manager to oversee municipal efforts to conserve.
The panel also recommends the city take a range of steps to encourage more walking, bicycling and mass transit in town.
The city should also pursue alternative energy options, including photovoltaic cells to turn sunlight into electricity, the report recommends.
The task force, created two years ago at the urging of former city Councilor Craig Minor, has been looking into ways the city could reduce its carbon footprint, save money on energy and become a greener community in general.
Click here to see a PDF of the report.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

A modest proposal

"Mr Hayes, I know you can not read this but you should suffer and have a painful death for the crime you have committed." - posted by Die, Die, Die on The Bristol Press website
"Woohoo, death to the Monster Hayes! I hope Connecticut doesn't wait too long to carry out the sentence." -- posted by sirieulyheather on Twitter
Not surprisingly, there's joy across Connecticut that a jury in New Haven sentenced Steven Hayes to death for strangling a Cheshire mother to death and setting lashing her two daughters to their beds, leaving them to die in a fire.
While the jurors themselves are holding hands and wiping away tears, most of the reaction elsewhere is more akin to the wild woops of a frenzied football crowd.
That got me thinking.... The mob wants blood (and, really, who can blame them?). And Connecticut needs some greenbacks.
So how about we hang Hayes from the 50-yard line at Rentschler Field? We can sell tickets to the highest bidders -- and maybe have a lottery to give poorer residents a chance at winning some good seats. I figure there must be 20,000 people or more who would pay $200 or more for a chance to watch Hayes depart the planet.
That's $4 million in cold, hard cash, at a minimum, and it can all go to the state's depleted coffers.
But the real money is probably in selling the television rights.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say Fox might be interested in acquiring the rights, but of course we should bid it out. It's always possible that a dark horse contender might pay even more.
Oh, sure, there are some who would cringe at a TV show of Hayes' execution, but we're talking serious money here -- millions of dollars for sure.
The best part is that we can sell the tickets and the rights up front so the state can pocket the money right away.
If it turns out that endless legal delays and bizarre, upsetting appeals put the whole thing off for 10 or 15 years, well, taxpayers at least get something out of it quick. And if in the end the show doesn't go on, refunds would not include interest so the state would still make out.
Chances are pretty good, too, that the state can do it all twice when Hayes' partner in crime goes on trial early next year.
Why should the state keep losing money on the death penalty? Let's return to the good old days when big crowds gathered for a hanging -- and make some money off it while we're at it.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

November 7, 2010

Could Larson be the odd man out in leadership fight?

Mike Allen's brilliant Politico Playbook today doesn't paint too good a situation for U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol. Here is what Allen reported about the leadership battle within the Democratic caucus:
--PALACE INTRIGUE - A former House Democratic leadership staffer e-mails that Rep. Steny Hoyer, who's being challenged for the #2 spot in the House Democratic leadership now that Pelosi is staying, is “going to end up with the support he needs to be whip. Members feel like he needs to stay in leadership. That said, people want [Rep. James] Clyburn [who's challenging Hoyer] at the table, too. Bottom line is: When the music stops, there will be enough chairs for Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn to each have one. I think Clyburn becomes Caucus Chair. Pelosi really helps herself by resolving this without bloodshed and [Rep. John] Larson [now caucus chair] is low guy on totem pole and a 'Pelosi ally.' Why didn't she work it out [in advance, to head off a Hoyer-Clyburn clash]? Neither Hoyer or Clyburn are 'Pelosi allies.' In determining whether or not to run, she didn't talk to them or their supporters. When she's testing waters, she's talking to her base and conversations are all about her. She had to move quickly to announce her candidacy and that process didn't afford her time to figure this out before. Now that she's talking to 'persuadables' about her candidacy, she'll be hearing about the broad desire to keep the existing team together and it will enhance her candidacy to figure it out. …
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

To my anonymous friends

There's something uniquely funny about anonymous posters calling me a coward. After all, my name is on my stories. My phone number is public. My email address is, well, just over there to the right. Anyone is welcome to contact me.
And yet.
This story about Robert Mosback's on-duty crash in June, where records show he was intoxicated, appears to be bringing out the worst in some faceless accusers.
One questioned if I'm in love with Mosback since I've written about the case extensively. "I wonder if Collins is the giver or the receiver," he speculated.
That's such a nice thing to say that I'm simply shocked that whoever posted it declined to put his name to his words.
Another person, or maybe the same guy, claims I have "nothing positive to write" and that the Press should "get a new reporter."
Whether the Press should find a replacement for me or not I leave to my bosses. I'm sure there are days they would agree.
The reality is that I don't set out to write anything positive or negative. I just head into every day aiming to tell the news as best I can. The hardest part of it is trying to figure out how to get as much done as I can when there's so very much more that could be written (while simultaneously trying to keep an editor who often has different priorities at least vaguely content).
I don't really mind having abuse heaped upon me along the way. A thick skin is the best tool a reporter can have, after all. But I liked the old days when I knew who was gunning for me (so, politicians, I do sympathize with your similar complaints about the web).
What I do know for sure, though, is that I'm going to keep writing every day until somebody sends me packing --- or I wise up and find an occupation that actually pays a living wage.
Gripe all you like, but I've got a job to do.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

November 6, 2010

The night Mosback crashed his cruiser

Seconds after Police Officer Robert Mosback veered off Riverside Avenue at high speed at 11:22 p.m. on June 26, a woman phoned 911.
“A cop just hit a pole,” she said.
“A cop hit a pole?” the dispatcher responded.
“Yeah, real bad,” she answered.
“Where?” the dispatcher asked.
“Riverside Avenue,” she said, before naming a nearby business.
“We’re sending help,” the dispatcher said, then asked rather plaintively, “Can you see if he’s OK?”
At about the same time, another caller, a man, reached a different emergency dispatcher.
“Hey, listen, we’re on Riverside Avenue and one of your cruisers just hit a telephone pole,” the man said.
“A cruiser?” the dispatcher answered. “A police cruiser?”
“Yeah,” the fellow said.
The caller said “the guy seems to be unconscious” behind the wheel. “He’s not responding,” the man said.
“Are you sure it’s a Bristol police cruiser?” the dispatcher asked.
“Listen, this isn’t a joke,” the caller said.
Digital audio files obtained by The Bristol Press through a Freedom of Information Act request provide a glimpse into the confusing minutes surrounding the on-duty crash that sent Mosback to St. Francis Hospital and knocked out power to thousands of residents for hours.
Mosback, who suffered only minor injuries, resigned from the force in September after an insurance company for the city declined to pay his workers compensation claim for medical bills after discovering a laboratory report that showed the officer had been intoxicated at the time of the late night, on-duty wreck.
Nothing in the hours of audio provided by the city – including dispatch messages, phone calls and other communications – proves that anyone knew Mosback had been drinking before totaling the 2008 Ford Crown Victoria.
Mosback, a 5-year veteran who has since asked for his job back, was briefly suspended for violating departmental policies in the accident but has not been charged with any crime. Two outside investigations are underway into the police department’s handling of the case.
The audio files, which encompass the first hour after the crash, do not disclose the names of the people talking. Most are calls among public safety personnel and dispatchers.
In addition to the Mosback crash, police also had to deal with another accident, a death and a young man who had a seizure, the ordinary background of many a night.  Click here for the full story.
Here's a video I made to let everybody hear some of the audio:

If you go back to this posting, you can see some of the documents pertaining to the case. I have more to add there. Have to get to that.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at