March 20, 2011

Malloy to hear busway arguments on Monday

NEW BRITAIN – In the little strip of woods behind Fairview Cemetery , remnants of the old Highland Route rail line remain.
Rusty tracks run through the trees, bent and broken in places, and a few poles that once held glass insulators for utility lines still poke through to the sky.
Scattered along the ground are mounds of busted railroad ties, smashed bottles, odd metal contraptions, headless plastic dolls and heaps of unidentifiable garbage.
It’s been a long time since a railroad engine roared through – 1954 to be exact – but the old right of way between downtown New Britain and Newington junction is mostly intact, a forgotten bit of history that’s now at the center of controversy.
That 4.4-mile stretch would make up nearly half of the proposed busway route between the Hardware City and Hartford’s Union Station, a section that can be used either for buses or trains but not both.
For many critics of the $573 million busway plan, gobbling up the rail right of way would make it nearly impossible to create a reasonable rail commute into Hartford from New Britain and points to the west, including Bristol.
The only serious alternative route would take the trains from downtown New Britain to the southeast into the junction in Berlin, where they could proceed north again over the major line that runs from New Haven north to Massachusetts and beyond. That’s miles out of the way.
But the train option hasn’t been fully studied, let alone approved, while the busway project is ready to roll.
This is just one of many issues that Gov. Dannel Malloy will have to weigh Monday when teams of busway backers and bashers make a pitch behind closed-doors in Hartford for about 90 minutes each.
Malloy said that after hearing from both sides, he’ll decide whether to press on with busway or hit the brakes on the 9.4-mile project.  Click here for the full story.

And here's a little video that shows why it's a really good thing I never went into TV:

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

March 17, 2011

City Council ignores charter requirements on ethics

When a city official has a conflict of interest, whether personal or financial, the city charter requires him to “excuse himself from the proceedings and refrain from voting’ or participating in discussion of the issue.
It also mandates that within seven days after citing his conflict, he “shall file written disclosure” of it with the city clerk.
Though the requirement has been part of the charter for years, City Clerk Therese Pac said nobody has ever filed any written disclosure.
“No one has ever done it,” said James Donovan, chairman of the city’s Ethics Board.
Another part of the charter’s conflict of interest section requires the City Council to “establish a policy for disclosure of financial or personal interests of elected and appointed officials and employees,” including a list of offices or positions that require disclosure of potential conflicts.
That, too, has never been done. Click here for the full story.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

March 16, 2011

Wright backs new healthcare partnership measure

This is a press release from state Rep. Chris Wright, a Bristol Democrat:
Bill Saves Money For Businesses, Municipalities And Increases Health Care Access And Affordability
State Representative Christopher Wright (D-Bristol) says municipalities like Bristol, small businesses and the state can achieve significant cost savings if the Healthcare Partnership bill approved by the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee becomes law.
HB 6308, An Act Establishing The Connecticut Healthcare Partnership, would allow nonstate public employers, municipal-related employers, small business employers and nonprofit employers to join the state employee health plan.
“If the bill becomes law, the measure will provide families and individual workers with the same quality healthcare that state employees have and at an affordable price,” Rep. Wright said. “Participation would be voluntary. Each municipality, small business or nonprofit employer will be able to consider joining the partnership to see if it benefits them and then act accordingly.”
Rep. Wright pointed out that the Healthcare Partnership bill is similar to a drug prescription pooling bill that became law last year and is being considered by several municipalities.
The Healthcare Partnership bill goes next to the Labor and Public Employees Committee for consideration.
Rep. Wright serves on the Housing, Environment and Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committees.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Welch to hold town hall session Monday, March 21 in Bristol

Here is a press release from state Sen. Jason Welch, a Bristol Republican:
State Senator Jason Welch will hold a Town Hall Meeting at Bristol’s Edgewood School on Monday, March 21 from 6 PM to 7:30 PM. The school is located at 345 Mix Street.
“I look forward to seeing area residents on Monday, listening to their concerns and answering their questions,” Welch said. “The governor’s proposed budget eliminates the $500 property tax exemption that Bristol residents rely on year after year. His proposal increases income taxes, business taxes, gas taxes, and even taxes on haircuts and coupons. Its elimination of the state's Manufacturing Machinery and Equipment tax exemption program will result in Bristol taking a $2 million hit which could result in local tax hikes and hurt our ongoing efforts to retain and grow manufacturing jobs. The plan also calls for nearly $1 billion in additional spending when most families and businesses across our state are tightening their belts. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard on these issues.”
Welch held a Town Hall Meeting in Plainville earlier this month which drew approximately 50 residents.
Welch represents Bristol, Harwinton, Plainville and Plymouth. Visit Welch’s newly revamped website at . Comments and suggestions may be sent to

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

March 15, 2011

Want to be a school board member?

Today is the last day to apply to Mayor Art Ward if you have any interest in claiming a vacant seat on the Board of Education. An appointment must be made this month.
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

The governor comes to town

I was surprised last night by two things: the fact that most of the big crowd who came to hear Gov. Dannel Malloy were from Bristol and that the governor generally received a polite listening. Considering how mad so many people are about proposed cuts and tax hikes, it was refreshing in a way to have the vast majority of those in attendance treat Malloy respectfully. There seemed to a feeling that whatever the flaws in his plan, he deserved some credit for at least confronting the fiscal realities, something that hasn't happened in years.
On the other hand, it doesn't mean the legislature will go along with him.
State Rep. Chris Wright, a Bristol Democrat, told me a story that pretty much illustrates the entire problem. He told me about a constituent who vehemently pleaded with him last fall to get in there and cut, cut, cut until state government reached a size we could live with. That same person contacted him recently to beg him not to allow the governor to slice away a program that mattered to him, Wright said. And that is the paradox of out times: Everyone wants to cut someone else's program. And nobody wants a tax hike.
Yet something  has to give, as Malloy made painfully clear.
Anyway, here is a link to the story I wrote about what Malloy had to say and here is another link to a story by reporter Jackie Majerus about why some of those in attendance showed up.
If I get a chance today, I'll go through my notes and post some of the other interesting moments from the town hall session. By the way, one other thing I thought was interesting: many Republicans came to hear Malloy. I noticed state Sen. Jason Welch, state Rep. Whit Betts, former Mayor William Stortz, city GOP leader TJ Barnes, city Councilor Ken Cockayne (who wheedled a photo of the governor with his son) and more. It was nice to see that a governor's town hall did not become a partisan event. I also liked that at least most of the questions were clearly not setups, which is something you have to give Malloy credit for. He's standing up and taking it.
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

March 13, 2011

Renaissance pushes trains for downtown

Bristol Rising, the social media force created by Renaissance Downtowns to help it plan the future of the downtown, is calling on residents to rally for rail when the governor comes to town Monday.
Supporters were asked recently to prove to Gov. Dannel Malloy “our enthusiasm for having the rail here in Bristol and in this region” by turning out for the governor’s 7 p.m. town hall meeting at Bristol Eastern High School.
The president of Renaissance, Don Monti, said Friday that “the Bristol Rising crowd” has thrown itself behind the commuter rail option pushed by the Bristol-based Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce and others.
His company, too, is eager to see rail service restored in Bristol because it is convinced the long-term economic competitiveness” of Central Connecticut depends in part on the growth that rail can provide. Click here for the full story.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

March 12, 2011

Football compromise is possible

I don't care that much about the National Football League or whether it plays or doesn't play any games this coming season.
But I do have a suggestion for resolving one of the key issues dividing the owners from the players.
The owners want to extend the season from 16 to 18 games for the obvious reason that it would bring in more money. The players don't want more matches because it increases their chance for injuries -- and it just plain wears them out.
So how about this: The season gets extended to 18 games but no player can participate in more than 16 of them. That brings in the extra money but keeps the players from getting the extra battering.
It also, incidentally, gives more players a chance to show their stuff and provides a bit of rest in the course of the season for players who otherwise are out there constantly.
I suppose that teams may need slightly bigger rosters as well, but that just means more members for the union.
That's my idea. Go ahead and grab it, ESPN, and give people their football again this fall.
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

City worker snags extra federal cash

Handed “a difficult and joyless project” six months ago to secure a longshot federal grant to cover expensive health care costs, a city worker managed to haul in not just the $68,000 sought but an extra $85,000 in additional cash.

City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said one of his assistants, Jodi McGrane, showed an unusual amount of persistence and innovation and worked hard to bring in the money. Klocko said McGrane was asked to try to secure reimbursements for health care costs through the Early Retiree Reimbursement Act.

“Jodi took on the challenge,” Klocko said, and pulled together all sorts of information from many sources to apply for the cash. 
Click here for the full story.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

March 11, 2011

A deal with DiVenere is nearing completion

The city is trying to work out a settlement with Police Chief John DiVenere, who's on paid administrative leave. You can read Lisa Backus' story here.
My guess is that the chief is gone within a week or two - paid off with a year's pay and a little more - and that the acting chief, Capt. Eric Osanitsch, gets the nod pretty quickly to take the reins. He seems to have the backing of the department and the politicians.
But I don't have a crystal ball.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Malloy coming to Bristol Monday

Gov. Dannel Malloy will bring his traveling show to Bristol on Monday for an hour long public hearing on his proposed budget cuts and tax hikes.
Originally slated for City Hall, the 7 p.m. session has been moved to the auditorium Bristol Eastern High School so more people can squeeze in. It will fill up fast even there if the governor's other meetings are any indication.
Malloy will likely talk for about 15 minutes, then field questions.
If you want to get in, get there early. If you want to ask the governor a question, well, good luck.
It's going to be a madhouse there.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Pro-busway group releases new video

Here's a video released this week by the Regional Plan Association's Connecticut office touting the proposed busway between Hartford and New Britain:

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

March 10, 2011

Bristol Blog is Back

I stopped bothering the last few weeks for a few reasons. One is that it's harder to squeeze out any time to post anything in days that grow ever more crowded because of early deadlines and an increasingly hectic pace. Another is that I didn't have much to say. But mostly I got sick of the ignorant, racist, mind-boggling idiocy of so many of the comments posted to anything I wrote.
Farhad Manjoo over at Slate seems to have that almost exactly right, using words I probably shouldn't, so go read his column on internet comments.
Basically, I'm going to block all comments except for an occasional few that are emailed to me from someone whose identity I know. When I can link the comments to Facebook accounts, which I'm sure Blogger will do soon, I'll open them up again. But they'll never be anonymous again.
Reading some moron writing on the Press site tonight about the "jigaboos" on the UConn basketball team just confirmed to me that there is no other way. The only alternative is to let crazies run amuck.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at