October 24, 2011

Lawton and Alford battle over rapper's role

Jason "Fury" Flores
When rapper Jason "Fury" Flores unexpectedly pulled the plug on his write-in mayoral campaign last week and endorsed Republican Mary Alford instead, he didn't vanish from the campaign.
Instead, independent mayoral candidate Gary Lawton lashed out at Alford for accepting the 25-year-old rapper's backing and offering to introduce him to Renaissance Downtowns officials whose plan Flores has called "racist."
Here is what Lawton posted on his campaign's Facebook page over the weekend:

Graff Lawton for Mayor Mr. Flores has endorsed Ms. Alford and apparently she has accepted the endorsement for she has not said otherwise publicly. Although I too at one time thought that Mr. Flores may help reach our young residents, I decided to end that because of Mr. Flores' actions at the Mum Parade calling after young girls, his music which objectives women in the most demeaning ways and uses one of the most vulgar words in our English language and his general disregard for any type of respect for the integrity of this election. Being unconventional is fine but he failed to prove that he even did the required paperwork to be a write-in candidate. I always told you i would admit a mistake and this was one, will Ms. Alford knowing what she knows continue to embrace Mr. Flores' endorsement? if she does, you need to question her judgement.
A separate entry reads: I will start: Ms. Alford, you agreed to introduce Jason Flores to downtown developers, does that mean if you are mayor you will appoint him to a board? If not, why would you offer this to him? If yes, is he the best person you could find to be on a board given how he gamed the election process for his own gain?

Here is Alford's response:
I initially reached out to Jason for a couple of reasons. First, to thank him for the nice things he said about me in the paper. We spoke about other things, like his music, which is not my cup of tea. I'm a blues/rock fan. He understands that his music isn't for everyone and he doesn't expect it to be nor does he get insulted when someone says that. I expressed my displeasure about his use of the word racist in reference to Renaissance Downtowns. I asked him if he had ever met any of them or had a conversation with them. When he said he had not I asked him if he would do me a favor and do that. I could have just "told" Jason what I thought he needed to do but, instead, I offered to go with him as a liaison of sorts. He readily agreed. Mr. Lawton made reference to being "rebuffed" by the RTC in 2009. I wonder if he also remembers that I reached out to him just a few months ago and spent several hours talking with him in his home to see if there was anything I could do to mend that rift, build a bridge, call it what you will. It didn't bear fruit but the attempt was made. Are Mr. Kriscenski and Mr. Lawton saying that it's acceptable to reach out to some and not others?
Isn't it a Mayor's job to include as many of our citizens in government as possible, from all quarters? To make all feel not only welcome to participate but encourage them to do so?
As for Jason's roll in all this, he told us very clearly at last week's Bristol Taxpayers' Association event what he was trying to accomplish. He was trying to light a fire under his generation, to shake the apathy loose that he was seeing, to get us all to pay attention. Was I the only one who heard that? Whether or not you like his music or agree with his methods, that's leadership. That's brave.
Will Jason Flores have a place in an Alford administration? You bet, if he wants that and his schedule allows. If he would like to get started in the process of participating in and learning about how city government functions by serving on a commission I will be happy to recommend him for one. If that isn't possible for him, I hope he will get me a list of those he knows who do have that time and the desire to learn and participate. I also hope he will agree to be MY liaison to them.
As far as that goes, if I am elected in November, I would also be glad to put Mr. Lawton's name in for an appointment to a commission if he wants that. I'm not going to exclude him because we are both running for Mayor.
One of my "stock" phrases when I am having a conversation with a young person about voting is "We are turning this whole shootin' match over to all of you. We need you to vote and participate, to learn how it all works."
However, I (we) need to do more than just "tell" our youth what they need or should do, I (we) need to show them how it's done; teach them "how it all works".  We need to reach out to them and make them welcome in government; their government.
To that end, if I am elected in November, I will be putting together a Youth in Government Task Force and I would be honored if Jason would assist me in getting that effort off the ground. He "speaks their language" and they respect him. So do I. I will also involve educators, parents, Youth Services, The Boys and Girls Club and Chamber of Commerce and any other group or person(s) who would like to be involved.
If possible, I would also like to implement an internship program at City Hall to give our youth the opportunity to experience firsthand the inner workings of all city departments, boards and commissions. The logistics will, of course, need to be worked out.
These are just two of my youth initiatives. I'll bet that as our youth get involved, they will have plenty of new and creative ideas for City Hall to consider.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 9, 2011

Alford to council: Ditch mayor's raise

Republican mayoral challenger Mary Alford just issued this press release:

Alford: Last Ditch Effort!
(Bristol) Mary Alford, the Republican nominee for Mayor of the City of Bristol is making a last ditch effort to encourage the City Council to vote to rescind the 1.8% raise that was approved last month for the position of Mayor.  In a 3-3 tie vote of the City Council, Mayor Ward voted to break the tie and cast the deciding vote to increase the salary for the Mayor’s position effective November 14, 2011.
Last Wednesday, Alford sent out a “robo-call” to registered voters in Bristol asking them to call their City Councilman and ask him to make the motion to rescind this raise.  Alford has been encouraged by the responses she has received in her door to door campaign and she hopes that the members of the City Council will heed the voter’s frustration and do the right thing at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
“The rallying cry for the national and state Democratic parties is “shared sacrifice”, “Alford continued, “The only place “shared sacrifice” isn’t happening is right here in the City of Bristol. Many of our residents are unemployed and trying to make ends meet and our local elected leaders are approving executive pay raises.”
Alford is concerned about the message this raise sends to the people of Bristol. “If he deems it necessary, how will the Mayor be able to go to city employees and ask them to freeze their wages or “give back” to the city while giving himself a pay raise?,” Alford added, “Also, for the past two years, elderly residents of Bristol who are on social security have not received a cost of living adjustment, while gas, food and utility expenses have all increased.”
“How can you justify giving the Mayor of Bristol a raise when the citizens he represents are going without?” Alford asked.
Another concern for Ms. Alford is the misinformation being circulated regarding this raise.  According to the agenda for the City Council meeting on Tuesday under item 16 there is a notation regard clarifying the raise. “What people may not realize is that this is a 1.8% raise in November 2011 and another 1.8% raise in November 2012. That’s a 3.6 percent raise over the next two years,” Alford said.
“I think it is time that the voters of Bristol elect a Mayor that not only knows how to sharpen a pencil when it comes to budgetary matters, but one who also knows how to use an eraser,” Alford concluded, “The old adage every penny counts surely applies here and as your next Mayor I intend to count every penny.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 8, 2011

Downtown Bristol concept plan links

Want to know more about the concept plan proposed for downtown by the Long Island-based Renaissance Downtowns? Here are some key links:

Final concept plan for Bristol's downtown
Here is the plan, in its entirety.

Bristol Rising
A social networking site created by Renaissance to crowdsource the development. Chock full of information.

News stories about Renaissance and its plans
News stories about Renaissance and its plans, in Bristol and beyond.

Renaissance Downtowns website for Bristol

Bristol Downtown Development Corp.
Meeting minutes and agendas for BDDC meetings from 2007 to May 2011. I have no idea why it's not up to date.

Developer submissions for downtown
Most of what Renaissance has in its concept plan it proposed right from the bat before its selection as Bristol's preferred developer for the downtown site.

Read exactly what city councilors are being asked to vote on.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 6, 2011

Is the mayor going to give up his raise?

At the end of a typically dull City Council agenda for Tuesday's meeting is this interesting little item:

16. To renew, reaffirm, clarify or take any other action regarding the motion from the September 13, 2011 City Council meeting approving a 1.8% salary increase effective November 14, 2011 and 1.8% increase effective November 7, 2012 for various elected officials.

It will certainly be interesting to see what that's all about.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Betts, Markley still fighting to block Busway

New press release from state Sen. Joe Markley, a Southington Republican, and state Rep. Whit Betts, a Bristol Republican:

Betts & Markley – Final push to block funding for the busway
Hartford, CT – Fresh off a trip to Washington D.C., Senator Joe Markley (R-Southington) and Representative Whit Betts (R-Bristol) are rallying the troops to block funding for the New Britain to Hartford busway.
Senator Markley said, "This thing costs nearly $1,000 an inch for a roadway on land that's already graded. That's an incomprehensible number. It's like paying $50,000 for a toaster."
Representative Whit Betts added, “"Using $600 million of taxpayer money to pay for a 'new' controversial busway when a bus system already exists between New Britain and Hartford is irresponsible and unacceptable. There are more urgent priorities - such as repairing the roads and bridges damaged by Hurricane Irene - that are of greater importance to CT taxpayers. Common sense screams out that this $60 million a mile project should be put on hold."
Both visited with a senior member of U.S. Representative John Mica’s office on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The meeting with the Republican Chair of the Transportation Committee’s staff was positive and renewed the fight to stop funding for this $569 million busway boondoggle.
"We were able to raise some questions with Rep. Mica's staff about environmental issues with the busway, about how some expenses aren't being included in the numbers presented in Washington," Senator Markley said.
Right now, Congress is reviewing the project, and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is deciding whether to formally approve funding contracts for the project.  The FTA deadline is November 7th.
The busway is a prime example of government waste and both legislators have called on the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) to fight against federal funding for the 9 mile project.  Executive Vice President of the NTU has written a letter calling for congress to ‘pause in the funding process.’  A portion of the attached letter is below:
Thus, in our opinion a prudent action would be a pause in the funding process, pending timely and comprehensive additional review of the busway’s ramifications. While the project’s advocates would question the feasibility of such a pause or raise the prospect of harm from more delay, the potential risks to the taxpayers of Connecticut and the nation deserve further consideration.
Pete Sepp/Executive Vice President National Taxpayers Union
Representative Betts and Senator Markley are calling on opponents to voice their opinion by calling Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s office at 202-366-4000.

On the state level a hearing officer from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environment (DEEP) is deciding whether a wetlands permit will be granted to Connecticut transportation officials.  The decision – expected to take about two months – will then be referred to DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty for final approval.  Busway construction can’t begin until the permit issue is decided.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 5, 2011

Taxpayers union says hit brakes on Busway

Letter issued by the National Taxpayers Union this week after its officials met with state Rep. Whit Betts, a Bristol Republican, and state Sen. Joe Markley, a Southington Republican. The pair talked to the organization during an anti-busway lobbying trip to the nation's capital:

Dear Senator Markley and Representative Betts:
I am grateful for the opportunity to have met with you yesterday and to have discussed your reservations over a project to construct a busway from New Britain to Hartford. This undertaking, which involves federal as well as state tax dollars, would affect the National Taxpayers Union’s (NTU) 362,000 members nationwide and particularly its 4,600-plus members in Connecticut.
As you know, NTU and its members seek infrastructure policies that emphasize serving the greatest number of consumers efficiently, involving the private sector to the maximum extent possible, reducing the risk of long-term taxpayer liabilities, allocating finite resources effectively, and exercising strenuous fiscal oversight. While such principles would seem obvious prerequisites to any capital project, in our 42-year institutional experience their application has been far from universal.
In fact, academic analyses have identified disturbing patterns here and abroad in such projects that often lead to cost overruns. Last month, Veronique de Rugy and Matthew Mitchell of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University provided an excellent synopsis of such research in a working paper entitled, “Would More Infrastructure Spending Stimulate the Economy?”. Among the works they cited was a seminal 2002 review of 258 transportation projects worldwide, appearing in the Journal of the American Planning Association. This study determined that costs were underestimated in nearly 90 percent of the cases examined. The working paper by de Rugy and Mitchell also cast doubt on whether claims of massive “multiplier effects” from infrastructure stimulus – especially in countries with fiscal and economic profiles like that of the U.S. – are sufficiently reliable. Such a conclusion has direct bearing on contentions from busway proponents that the expenditure will deliver large windfalls to the state’s economy.
This is but one reason why NTU has long asserted that public officials have a special obligation to carefully study the potential outcome of such programs. Connecticut’s tenuous financial situation, even after enactment of onerous tax increases on its citizens, is yet another recommendation for caution on many kinds of expenditures involving multi-year commitments. Finally, you have brought to our attention several details of the busway project that could be of concern to taxpayers, including: a cost estimate of nearly $600 million for a route spanning barely more than nine miles, controversy over its benefits to the economy and the surrounding communities, and questions about whether less expensive alternatives have been adequately explored.
Regarding the latter point, some have suggested that passenger rail would be a more frugal approach to transit in the New Britain-Hartford area. To be clear, NTU is not taking a stance in favor of any particular option mentioned in the current public debate. We simply believe that all the foregoing circumstances merit greater deliberation, especially before significant federal taxpayer money begins to flow. This is a matter of urgency with the busway since, according to information you have supplied, major federal resources will begin to enter the picture four weeks from now.
Thus, in our opinion a prudent action would be a pause in the funding process, pending timely and comprehensive additional review of the busway’s ramifications. While the project’s advocates would question the feasibility of such a pause or raise the prospect of harm from more delay, the potential risks to the taxpayers of Connecticut and the nation deserve further consideration.
Pete Sepp
Executive Vice President

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

October 2, 2011

Alford calls on city to quit CCM

Press release from Republican mayoral challenger Mary Alford, issued today:

Alford: Withdraw From CCM.

(Bristol) Mary Alford, the Republican nominee for Mayor of the City of Bristol today announced that she would give serious consideration to pulling Bristol out of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), a group whose purpose is to champion local issues.
Alford contends that the lobbyists who work for CCM dropped the ball this legislative session relative to the extra money that the City of Bristol had to allocate to the Board of Education this past week.  “Someone was asleep at the switch and it cost Bristol taxpayers $2.5 million dollars they weren’t counting on paying” Alford said.
The Republican Mayoral candidate is also dismayed at the “deafening silence” from CCM regarding Governor Malloy’s recent tax increases. “If the powers that be at CCM believe that these tax increases help Bristol families get back on their feet, stop the foreclosures of their homes or help attract and retain more businesses and jobs, than someone is sadly mistaken,” Alford said.
“As for the education issue, we pay this organization to notify us of pending legislation that affects our community,” Alford asked, “Why didn’t CCM notify Bristol and other communities whose budgets would be affected, should it pass?
Alford also question why Mayor Ward didn’t notify the City Council that this legislation was either pending or that it had passed? “In early June, the Mayor admits that he heard rumblings regarding this issue but held the information close to his vest rather than sharing it with the City Council,” Alford said.
“To witness parents and students begging local officials to fund their marching band or sports teams, makes me extremely angry at this process, “ Alford concluded, “and for the Mayor and Comptroller to be so blasé about taking the money out of the Rainy Day Fund makes me question, again, who is minding the store at City Hall?”
The City of Bristol pays over $41,000 annually to belong to CCM.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com