December 20, 2012

Cuts still needed, Czenczelewski says

In response to this story, city Councilor Derek Czenczelewski sent out the following statement:

Gifts are welcomed, but solutions are still needed

In a December 20 article on the Bristol Press website titled “City taxpayers get a major $$ ‘gift’”, the article states that the city of Bristol is going to receive approximately $4.7 million from reimbursable expenses on the high school renovations completed more than a decade ago. Of that $4.7 million, approximately $3 million will be able to be used towards the debt services line item in the City budget. Although this “gift” is appreciated, ultimately it is just a one-time source of “revenue” that will be exhausted. Whether that happens in a single year, or over several years, the end result is that this money is not a long-term solution.

It is imperative that the Board of Finance, City Council, Mayor and City employees work together to help trim the budget and our nearly $7.5 million deficit. That deficit figure is based on a flat-line budget, with no increases for any department including the Board of Education. The reality of the situation is still grim, as healthcare costs are projected to continue to increase yearly. Since 2001, the line item in the City budget for healthcare has increased over 108 percent, from $15 million to $31 million. This is a trend that, without intervention, will continue to result in yearly deficits going forward.

Simply put, the City cannot rely on these funds to balance our budget. This was a practice readily used in years past, and is a contributing factor for the reason we are facing yearly budget deficits. For instance, this past budget cycle, $3 million was “borrowed” from the health contingency account in order to reduce the mill rate increase. This was a practice that neither I, nor my Republican colleagues supported. As we said then, and have continued to stress since, Bristol has a structural problem with our budget. The state of Connecticut has similar problems, and the likelihood of state aid decreasing over the next few years only further underlines the importance of getting our fiscal house back in order. We cannot rely on state funding or "gifts" to make ends meet.

The City received a one-time bandage, not a gift. But before we can use this bandage, we need to make cuts.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 17, 2012

Let's make sure Newtown is the last massacre

Between Sunday morning's church service and Sunday night's vigil in West Hartford, I saw a lot of candles flickering, tiny flames to stand against the evil that enveloped Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown the other day. It is hard to see how the puny lights we carry can do much in the face of such overwhelming darkness.
And yet the only good that can come of such a nightmare is that it might force us to wake up, to open our eyes and see that we don't have to keep on sleeping. We can build a better world, one in which loopy young men can't get their hands on weapons that could have wiped out a Roman legion or turned the tide in any battle of the American Revolution. These powerful guns, which can wipe out a classroom in minutes, are not something that anybody with a credit card and a trigger finger ought to have the right to buy. That almost anybody could walk into Wal-Mart and walk out in no time with the means to slaughter scores of people is nothing short of sickening. No civilized country allows it, except the United States. So it's no surprise that when a massacre happens -- in a mall, in a movie theater, in a McDonalds, at a church in a classroom -- it happens in America.
We're better than this.
All those little shining faces from Newtown, those precious kids who never had a chance, we owe it to them to make sure that this doesn't again, and again, and again. We have to give up the idea that if we just arm enough people, just station enough cops in enough places, just put bulletproof glass in our schools, just create a mountain of fake security, that it will be enough. It will never be enough. The only answer is to make sure that guns that are capable of firing large magazines of bullets are no longer available and that the bullets they use are also impossible to find.
I believe the Second Amendment, along with many state constitutions, allows people who are stable to have a gun. But we even regulate free speech, allowing time and place restrictions and barring the most idiotic types of speech (like the old yelling "fire" in a crowded theater example). We can surely regulate guns at least as much. Let people have a hunting rifle, a shotgun, maybe a six-shooter. But nobody -- absolutely nobody -- needs a semi-automatic rifle like the one used to mow down children and teacher in Newtown. The se heinous weapons shouldn't be allowed and those who sell them, right now, ought to pull them off the shelves. There are some ways of making money that are simply immoral. This is clearly one of them.
Our elected representatives promise to make changes every time some horror hits the headlines. And then they do nothing. This time, we can't let that happen. We can't just let the National Rifle Association and its most fanatic fringe control the agenda any longer.
We've had enough vigils. We've had enough prayers.
What we need is action.
We have the ability to roll back the darkness, to push back the fear and to make this country one where children don't have to worry about anything more menacing than homework.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 12, 2012

Video of Cockayne's mayoral race announcement

Here's a video I shot of city Councilor Ken Cockayne announcing his bid for mayor at last month's Republican Town Committee meeting:

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 10, 2012

Martin 'bothered' by colleagues' choice to reject chamber plan for Memorial Boulevard

City Councilor Henri Martin just issued this statement re the decision of the city's Real Estate Committee recently to reject a plan for Memorial Boulevard School's reuse by the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce:

City Councilor Henri Martin, left,
with Mayor Art Ward and
Councilors Ken Cockayne
and Kevin Fuller trailing
I’m bothered and disagree with the recent decision by the Real Estate Committee of the City of Bristol to initiate a new RFP (Request for proposal) regarding the future use of Memorial Boulevard School. Further I disagree with the member’s decision to discuss this matter in an executive session rather than in public.

In its proposal, the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce submitted a viable plan which I believe answered the wishes of our community — to protect and find a potential re-use for this historic property. The plan was visionary and provided innovative ideas for economic development to Bristol through the creation of an arts center that included the preservation and future improvements of the theatre, and a business incubator for start up entrepreneurs in the technology, media and bio-fields.

At its last Real Estate workshop, with a change of use from a building educating students to the anticipated use the Chamber was proposing, city department officials offered their views of ADA updates, fire and building code deficiencies, and future capitol improvement costs that may lay ahead for any intended use.  Revealing these facts and costs may have worried the committee, but should not have warranted the rejection of the Chambers proposal or a motion and approval to request a new RFP.

I understand the city’s budget is under pressure, but imagine the unknown costs associated with the innovative idea of ESPN back in 1978/79 that gave city officials reason to pause. Thank God we pressed forward. In my opinion, revealing all the facts and costs only facilitates a better understanding of the risks for all involved.

The proposal was an opportunity for the City and Chamber to develop a Public/Private partnership, thus allowing them to work together to preserve the theatre and building, and simultaneously bring some kind of economic development in the downtown area. We need new innovative vision—not the same old same old.

Downtown needs energy; art energy, entrepreneurial energy, young professional energy, upscale energy, community energy—and the Chamber’s proposal offered all of this. Unfortunately this didn’t happen.  After a questionable executive session meeting, the committee decided to start the process all over again.

The Real Estate committee failed to work collaboratively with the Chamber to determine if a format could be established which met both their and the City’s goal. The process was instead adversarial in nature which was not fair to the Chamber and does a disservice to our citizens.

If the Real Estate Committee was worried about the potential costs mentioned by the department officials or had unanswered questions; those details could have been addressed during negotiations between the City and the Chamber before any final lease document was executed. The concept was still sound.

City officials should be working collectively with our business partners in the Chamber to achieve the goal of the community to preserve the historic Memorial Boulevard School. In the end, we either may have had an agreement that met the needs of both sides, or maybe it wouldn’t have worked for the either, but the decision would have been reached in a cooperative manner rather than the way it did.

Unfortunately, the Chamber has decided to withdraw its proposal and not respond to the new RFP, and given the nature of the process which was followed who can blame them.

Now we’re back to square one…

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at