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.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

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.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

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.
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