September 29, 2011

Busway foes heading to DC to make their case

A last-ditch effort to convince congressional Republicans to block the proposed busway between Hartford and New Britain is about to get underway.
State Rep. Whit Betts, a Bristol Republican, said Thursday that several busway critics plan to head to Washington next week to lobby congressional decision-makers to put the $573 million project on hold.
"We will be making a lot of noise," Betts said.
Joining Betts on the journey are state Sen. Joe Markley, a Southington Republican, and Mike Nicastro, the head of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, based in Bristol.
The state Department of Transportation is pushing the busway, with Gov. Dannel Malloy's support, to promote mass transit and alleviate congrestion on Interstate 84.
New Britain officials and developers argue that the busway will spur growth along its 9.4-mile path from Hartford's Union Station to downtown New Britain.
Betts said the arguments for the project are "obviously flawed" and the cost of the project is outrageous for any benefits it might bring.
Betts said Congress has until November 6 to raise objections to the project, which has the backing of federal regulators.
"We think once they've seen the facts, they will agree this project should not move forward," Betts said.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

September 28, 2011

Downtown plan hearings slated soon

Joint Press Release from City Hall and Renaissance Downtowns, just issued:

Since the execution of the Preferred Developer Agreement between Renaissance Downtowns and the City of Bristol in May of 2010, significant progress has been made in revitalizing Downtown Bristol. City officials, along with Renaissance Downtowns,  embarked upon a collaborative and comprehensive year-long planning process  that included dozens of public and community organization presentations, and countless planning workshops. In addition , the formation of the the nation’s first Crowdsourced Placemaking process, better known as Bristol Rising, has brought over 1,100 members of the Bristol community together giving the public the opportunity to provide valuable input to the planning process. All of this work and community input (which continues each day) led to the April, 28, 2011 submission and presentation of the initial Concept Plan for  downtown in a joint public meeting of the Bristol Downtown Development Corporation and the City Council.
Following the Submission, all City Boards and Departments were given a 60 day period to review and submit comments regarding the concept plan. In addition, Renaissance and its community partner, Bristol Rising continued to garner feedback from the community at large on Concept Plan recommendations while implementing near-term initiatives such as the highly successful Pop-Up Piazza Festival which drew over 15,000 attendees. Comments from the City Agencies and Departments as well as community comments were reviewed with the Renaissance team and revisions to the plan are being made for the final plan submission at months end. 
Following the submission, the BDDC and City Council will hold public meetings where they will vote on the Concept Plan for downtown. Those meetings are scheduled for October 6, 2011 at 6:30 p.m., in the second floor Staff Lounge at City Hall and October 11, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the first floor in City Hall.  It is important to recognize that a vote to approve the Concept Plan simply means that the Public/Private Partnership agree on the general mix of uses (residential, retail & commercial etc.) for the Depot Square Site. This allows Renaissance to work with financial institutions and other development partners on implementation of the revitalization efforts. However, Renaissance will still be required to adhere to standard policies and procedures for the development including approvals by all necessary land
use boards. For the most part, the proposed uses for the downtown area are already permitted under current zoning regulations including the Depot Square parcel. Depot Square is the only land in the downtown that Renaissance has development rights to and the remaining parcels located downtown that Renaissance has led a collaborative visioning process for still remain under private ownership. Private owners are under no obligation to implement the Renaissance Plan on their properties however the Renaissance team has worked with approximately 100 property owners to ensure the Concept Plan for downtown is as comprehensive as possible. It is this comprehensive process that has led to Renaissance receiving letters of intent to open businesses downtown from retail users in excess of 50,000 square feet of space including a National Dinner Theatre company which fits the desires of Bristol Rising members to see a dinner theatre as well as a small movie theatre option in Downtown. In addition, Renaissance has been in discussions with several office users and most importantly has been working with the Bristol Rising members to address the need for new walkable housing options throughout downtown. In fact, over 40% of the Bristol Rising members have expressed interest in a vibrant Downtown living option.
Once the Final Concept Plan is approved Renaissance can begin preparing for phase one of construction. As noted, the initial phase will be subject to the same approval process that the City already has in place for new construction. The agreement between Renaissance and the City calls for Renaissance to only purchase portions of the Depot Square site as these portions are ready to be built, while the remainder of the property will continue to be owned by the City of Bristol. As the project progresses ,we will have further information relative to items such as project financing and infrastructure funding prior to construction commencing.
Renaissance Downtowns takes pride in the level of public participation that has occurred, and will continue to occur in this process. For more information, please visit the Renaissance office on the first floor of City Hall at 111 North Main Street, call 860-582-0030 or log on to

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

September 25, 2011

Fury Seeks To Be Bristol's First Royal Mayor

Jason Flores
BRISTOL – With a crown on his head and a flowing gold robe, Rapper Jason “Fury” Flores stood regally on a white carriage pulled by a horse during today’s Mum Parade to declare his intention to launch a write-in campaign for mayor.
“I will be a merciful king,” he declared to the crowds. “Vote for me and I will spare your lives.”
Flores, 25, said he plans to become Bristol’s “first royal mayor” and aims to spur interest in the race if nothing more.
Flores joins a three-way contest that already features Democratic Mayor Art Ward, Republican challenger Mary Alford and independent hopeful Gary Lawton.
As he traveled along North Main Street at the end of the parade, someone yelled to him, “Can you give us no taxes?"
Flores answered instantly.
“I will spare your lives. That is all,” Flores said.
Both Alford and Lawton, who marched near Flores in the parade, said he adds an element of fun – and that’s not a bad thing.
“Is he not the most fun?” said Alford, who added, “I waited all day to curtsy to the king.”
Nick Valenta, a Bristol resident, said that Flores would get his vote in the November 8 election.
“He’s done something different,” Valenta said. “It’s time for an alternative.”
Flores declared last January he would run against Ward for mayor because the incumbent had failed to cut down a hickory tree near his mother’s house that dropped nuts that damaged her car.
He has an increasingly successful career as a rapper, playing concerts across the country, and gaining renown in his own hometown for a song he did called “Bristol State of Mind” – a local version of the hit song about New York by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. It has attracted tens of thousands of viewers on YouTube.
Flores said he decided to put on the king outfit for the parade because he needed “to do something that would get people to pay attention.”
He said that even if his campaign does nothing more than to get voters to give the mayoral race some serious attention, it would be worth it. The election matters, he said, and people ought to get out and vote.
“That’s why you have to bring in the king,” Flores said.
Along the parade route, Flores created quite a stir, coming near the tail end of the long parade when viewers lining the road were growing weary of beauty queens, marching bands and floats.
He got big laughs from the crowd when he promised them merely to let them live if they voted for him, which has to rank among the most unusual platforms a candidate has ever adopted.
Flores said, though, that he plans to issue a more complete platform this week. 

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

September 23, 2011

Could Bristol wind up in the 5th?

Though the redistricting commission won't finish its work for weeks, there is a growing sense in political  circles that when it's done, Bristol will wind up in a different congressional district.
State Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola, Jr is only one of a number of political figures who have told me to expect that Bristol will land in the 5th District, which is probably the only way it could lose U.S. Rep. John Larson as its congressman.
The thinking is that Larson, an East Hartford Democrat, is so safe in the 1st District that a Democrat-dominated  legislature and a Democratic governor will help nudge the district lines to give Larson a few more Republicans and shift some Democrats into the more closely contested 5th.
Bristol is likely to the place those Democrats come from, if only because it's already surrounded by 5th District towns, with the exception of Southington, which may also find itself in the 5th.
U.S. Rep. John Larson
What would it matter?
Well, Larson is a powerful figure in the Congress, a top ranking Democrat who has an outside shot of becoming speaker of the House whenever the political tides shift back in the Democrats' direction. That's a whole lot of clout -- and where there's clout, there's money. He'd likely have more heft in helping Bristol get flood control cash or a train line or other federal goodie than a newcomer in the 5th from either party.
The 5th District, though, offers a lot more drama.
With U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy giving up the seat to run for U.S. Senate, both parties are eyeing the district as a real battleground.
The state House speaker, Chris Donovan, is campaigning hard to replace Murphy. I've already run into him several times in recent weeks in New Britain.
The Republicans have a slew of potential candidates itching for the opportunity to be the GOP standard bearer next year. I have no clue which of them has the best shot.
But I do know that where they draw the district line is going to have a real impact on Bristol.
The new districts take effect with the 2012 race and will remain in place for at least a decade. That's a long time in politics.
A decade ago, U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, a New Britain Republican, represented Bristol in the 6th District. Then Connecticut lost a district and Bristol wound up with Larson while Johnson landed in the ultra-competitive 5th District. She held on until Murphy knocked her out in 2006, a really bad year for moderate Republicans.
There's not much anybody in Bristol can do about district lines. It's always a game played at a much higher level.
But don't be surprised if the city finds itself in the middle of a hotly contested congressional contest next year.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

September 22, 2011

Could Bristol police have stopped Komisarjevsky?

Joshua Komisarjevsky
As alleged killer Joshua Komisarjevsky gets his day in court -- with all the sickening details of that awful day in Cheshire again rehashed -- I can't help wondering if Bristol police and prosecutors could have prevented the murders had they taken seriously an apparent statutory rape a decade ago.
Komisarjevsky almost certainly had sex with a 15-year-old Bristol girl before his 2002 arrest for burglary in Bristol -- and police knew it at the time. They chose to do nothing about the abuse of a 15-year-old girl by a 21-year-old man.
Had they charged him, Komisarjevsky might not have gotten out of prison in 2007 and certainly would have landed on the sex offender list and perhaps been watched a little closer. We'll never know.
I don't blame police for what happened to the Petit family. That was the work of twisted, evil men,
But had Bristol public safety officials taken an apparent statutory rape more seriously, the Petit family might well be alive today. It's hard to escape that reality.
Here are links to my 2007 blog posts detailing what we know on this issue:

Allleged Cheshire killer a child molester? (July 30, 2007)

Suspected killer's daughter born in Bristol (July 27, 2007)

Alleged killer has a daughter? (July 25, 2007)

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

September 1, 2011

Wyman, Blumenthal eyeball Bristol

Two of the state’s most prominent politicians came to Bristol on Wednesday to see for themselves the damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal each vowed to seek help for battered Bristol.
Blumenthal said he will be “fighting for Connecticut, fighting for Bristol” to make sure the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides the assistance and funding necessary to deal with the devastation caused by the storm.
Several FEMA officials have been in town this week to assess damages and advise the city on how best to seek reimbursement.
City officials said they anticipate that a large amount of federal money will ultimately flow to Bristol but only after a staggering amount of paperwork is completed.  Click here to read the whole story.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Farrell Avenue collapse could cost $2 million

At the height of Sunday’s storm, a big chunk of Farrell Avenue collapsed into a ravine, causing about 50 feet of the roadway to vanish down the hill.
City officials are still trying to figure out what happened and how to fix it, but they are already sure that repairing the damage will cost $2 million or more.
Standing on the edge of the precipice with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal Wednesday, Mayor Art Ward said, "That’s what you call a sinkhole."
"That’s what you call a disaster," Blumenthal responded.
He said that a picture of the collapsed roadway will be "exhibit A" in making the case for federal aid.
"This speaks volumes about the force and the fury of the storm," Blumenthal said.  See the whole story.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at