May 30, 2012

Primary shaping up for Democratic registrar


Democratic Registrar Mary Rydingsward isn’t going away quietly.
Mary Rydingsward
Though her party nominated longtime activist Bruce Suchinski as its choice for registrar Tuesday night, Rydingsward declared Wednesday that she will force an August 14 primary for the $48,000-a-year position.
“This primary will give each candidate an opportunity to run on his or her record,” Rydingsward said in a prepared statement. “My record will demonstrate character, integrity, and capability; three things needed to carry out fair elections.”
She said that in her 17 months on the job, she has “worked to improve the availability of handicapped parking for voters, to shorten lines at the polls, and to implement a three-prong High School voter registration program, improving youth registration in Bristol 200 percent.”
There are two registrars who cannot be from the same party. In Bristol, they have always been a Republican and a Democrat.
Republican Registrar Sharon Krawiecki got her party’s nod for another term recently. There is little chance of a GOP primary.
Generally, whoever wins each party’s backing is virtually certain to win the office.



Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Wright: Many issues worth fighting for

This is the acceptance speech that 77th District state Rep. Chris Wright of Bristol delivered to the city's Democratic Town Committee on Tuesday night:


Friends, fellow Democrats and fellow citizens of Bristol, it is with great honor that I accept your nomination to be the Representative from the 77th district.  Over the past four years I have worked hard to represent the people of Bristol and can count many successes during this time.  Working with Frank Nicastro, we were successful in stopping Governor Rell’s attempt to close Bristol Tech and in restoring over $2 million in state funding for Bristol to cover the cost of property tax breaks given to the manufacturing companies here in Bristol.  Among other issues, I have supported increases in Connecticut’s minimum wage, a Silver Alert system to locate missing seniors, the Learn Here, Live Here program which helps students of Connecticut colleges and universities save for down payments of homes here in Connecticut and low interest loans to developers who agree to clean up and build on brownfields instead of developing on greenfields.

I have done this with consideration to state spending and taxes.  I have been a strong voice in Hartford for balancing the need for programs which improve the quality of life in our state with the ability of our residents to pay for those programs.  This is why I have supported making our income tax more progressive and will continue my call for reducing the state sales tax, which is a burden on the middle income residents who are the backbone of our economy.
In this election, the people of Bristol have a clear choice.  The Republicans continue to argue for policies that provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthiest 1% while denying help to working Americans.  The distinction between Democrats and Republicans can be seen in our approaches to the auto industry.  While Democrats fought for modest tax breaks for the purchase of new cars, Republicans still criticize this program, which has been credited by economists with saving upwards of one million jobs in the American auto industry.  I don’t know about you, but if the government is going to do $100,000 in tax breaks, I would rather see five people buy a $20, 000 Chevy than one person buy a $100,000 Mercedes. 
Another choice before the people this year is between a philosophy that is continually looking to the past and one that is looking to the future.  Throughout this campaign, we have heard Republican candidates arguing about which one of them is the most conservative.  Mitt Romney at one point even called himself severely conservative, whatever that means.  When I hear this, I am reminded of Franklin Roosevelt who said that a conservative is a man who is born with two good legs but who never learned to walk forward.  We are constantly urged by Republican candidate to return to the past: to support the Bush tax cuts which are bankrupting our country, to return to the policies of the Reagan 80’s, to bring back the society of the 1950’s.  In that last call, the republicans should be careful what they ask for.  After all, the 1950’s was the period in American history with the smallest income gap between corporate CEOs and workers, and also with the highest percentage of union membership.
Let me mention one more difference in the approach to taxes between Democrats and Republicans.  When President Obama proposed a temporary 2% reduction in the payroll tax paid by working Americans, the Republicans fought tooth and nail to prevent it from happening.  Instead, they are insisting on making permanent the massive tax cut given to 1% ten years ago.  Their argument is that the 1% are the job creators, but after ten years they still haven’t used this money to create any jobs.  Instead, they, like Mitt Romney, simply deposited this money into their Cayman Island and Swiss bank accounts.  In addition, the Citizens United ruling has given the mega rich another place to put their money, Super PACs.  It is estimated that these super PACs will raise and spend literally billions of dollars during this campaign to entrench the status quo and ensure that political influence will remain with the 1% and is kept from the 99%.  The Bush tax breaks were perhaps the largest government enacted re-distribution of wealth in the nation’s history.  The problem is that the wealth was taken out of your pockets and placed into the bank accounts of the 1%, and our economy has been paying the price ever since.
Bristol is wonderful city with a strong history both of blue collar manufacturing and white collar professionals.  We need legislators who believe that the actions we take should not be meant simply to get us through the next election cycle but will have consequences for decades to come.  In order to be competitive, we need to ensure that our children receive the education necessary for the world that they will live in, so I will advocate for a strong education system.  In order grow our manufacturing sector; we need a transportation infrastructure capable of moving goods in and out of our state.  In order to attract employers to Connecticut we need a stable economic footing and a competitive tax structure.  In order to have a healthy population that requires less medical care, we need a clean environment.  These are the things that I believe in and if re-elected these are the things that I will continue to fight for.


Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

May 24, 2012

Nicastro praised for axing unfunded mandate

Back in early April, one of Bristol's representatives to the Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency, John Pompei, was so pleased with the work that state Rep. Frank Nicastro did to strip away an unfunded mandate on local governments that he wrote a letter praising the lawmaker's efforts.
Nicastro had shepherded through a measure that wiped out a requirement that cities and towns provide all sorts of paper records about proposed subdivisions to regional planners -- a costly process -- and replaced it with a provision that the material could be sent electronically instead. The material was also required to be sent via certified mail, which added to the cost.
Pompei, a Republican, said the new rule -- which is now state law -- will save municipalities lots of money. But the legislature's fiscal office said it would result in less than $1,000 in savings for towns and cities statewide.
Even so there is at least one unfunded mandate that quietly vanished this term.


Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

May 23, 2012

Alford takes aim at Nicastro's 79th District

Two-time Republican mayoral candidate Mary Alford, who nearly upset Mayor Art Ward last fall, is taking aim this year at the legislative seat held by Democrat Frank Nicastro.
Alford, a 64-year bookkeeper, jumped into city politics in 2009 when the GOP asked her to serve as its standard bearer in a three-way contest that Ward ultimately won by a wide margin.
But last year, in a rerun of the 2009 race, Alford came within a whisker of sending the longtime mayor packing as she led a Republican route that handed the GOP control of the City Council and Board of Education.
Whether she can show similar strength against Nicastro, who hasn’t lost a political race since his first bid in the 1980s, is uncertain.
Nicastro, 71, is in his third term representing the 79th District, which includes Forestville, Federal Hill and southern Bristol. He served as mayor from 1993 until he stepped down in 2003. He has also served a handful of terms as a city councilor.
As one of the most conservative Democrats in Hartford – where he voted against the budget, the repeal of the death penalty and last year’s state tax hike – Nicastro has compiled a record that provides him with considerable political insulation. Click here for full story.

Here is a copy of Alford's speech to the city's GOP on Monday night:

Thank you, members of the 79th for this nomination and thanks to Gary and Henri for your kind words.

Common sense, fiscal responsibility; do not spend what you don’t have, do not borrow what you cannot afford to pay back, live within your means, smaller, leaner government, personal freedom and responsibility……….

These are the things we, as Republicans, believe in and will do but to do that we have to be there, in numbers large enough to get the job done. We aren’t right now but seat by seat, race by race, we can be. We have made an excellent beginning with Jason and Whit and, now, with a full slate for this cycle, we are poised to gain some more of that ground in Hartford. Not our ground but the ground that has been wrested from the hands of the taxpayers with the burden of taxation that has ruined lives and businesses across this state; regulations and unfunded mandates that squash business growth and wreck city budgets. Out of control spending that will bankrupt CT with debt so huge that we will never be able to pay it off.

Without meaning to, I’m sure, Mayor Ward assisted with this acceptance speech at last night’s joint board meeting when he said (and I’m paraphrasing a bit) “We have got to send people to Hartford who will DO something about the unfunded mandates that are a burden to taxpayers and return control to our cities. We have got to send different people to Hartford.” Mr. Mayor, I agree but currently, except for Jason and Whit, we do not get that help for Bristol.

Frank voted no on the biggest tax increase in the history of this state. However, he neither got on board with any of the amendments put forth by the Republicans nor did propose his own.
 And – Republicans are the party of “No”?

As Bill Hamzy often said, and it seems our Mayor would agree, “If you want your government to change, you have to change your government”.

We are seeing the results of one party rule and they are not good. The largest tax increase in the history of CT; repeal of the Death Penalty (against the will of the majority of the citizens they are supposed to be serving); mandatory paid sick time; same day voter registration (another unfunded mandate for our cities); forced unionization, threats included, of child care providers and personal care assistants; education “reform” that is no reform at all (just ask a teacher) but another unfunded “mandate” that municipalities will have to pay for without ‘help” from the state; the Jackson Labs fiasco that will add hundreds of new jobs to the state payroll by virtue of its attachment to UCONN Health Center. There’s a reason why Florida, as a whole, and Sarasota in particular rejected them; the “Busway to Bankruptcy”, and, yes, I know Frank voted against it; medical marijuana – the list is endless and disturbing.

We cannot continue to send the same people back to our state legislature and expect a different result. The citizens of Connecticut deserve more and better.

This year’s slate of candidates is the change we need in Hartford and I am glad to be a part of it. With your help and support we can continue to change the culture of “Spend and Tax” in Hartford that Whit, Jason and others have so courageously and tirelessly fought against for the past two years.

Let’s get them the help they need in both the House and the Senate; put the brakes on the rampant spending and overregulation; promote sound fiscal policies that will welcome businesses, put our people back to work and put this state back on track to, once again, being one of the most prosperous states in the union.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

May 22, 2012

City Hall won't help save Terry house



City Hall isn’t going to throw its weight behind efforts to save the 264-year-old Terry homestead on Middle Street.
“I’m not going to commit the city to do anything,” Mayor Art Ward said. “This is not a city issue.”
Ward said two businesses on the Middle Street site — a CVS and Thomaston Savings Bank — have contacted him for help in dealing with a growing public pressure on them to lend a hand to preservationists’ efforts.
Ward said the public should know that neither the drug store nor the bank is “part of it” because they had nothing to do with any commitments made by a developer to save the historic house. Click here for full story.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Circus coming to downtown mall site


After a 12 year hiatus, the Cole Brothers Circus is returning to Bristol next month.
City councilors voted 4-2 on Tuesday to approve a deal that will bring the Florida-based big top circus back to Bristol.
Though two councilors, Henri Martin and Derek Czenczelewski voted against the proposal, a majority of councilors said they believe many families in town will take advantage of the chance to see a long-running circus beneath the big top on the former downtown mall property.
“I’m looking forward to taking my son to the circus,” said city Councilor Ken Cockayne.
The critics said they are concerned about allegations the circus mistreats its animals.
Czenczelewski said the circus has allowed wild animals to escape in the past.
He said that if tigers were to break out downtown and attack someone “it would forever taint that site” where the city has placed so much of its revitalization hopes. Click here for full story.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Council seeks cuts, finance board refuses



Bristol Taxpayers Association President Bob Fiorito joked with Paul Keegan, a city union leader, following Monday's Joint Board meeting.
In a rare twist, city councilors Monday pushed for spending cuts in a proposed $177 million municipal budget that Board of Finance members refused to support.
The spending plan for the coming fiscal year won approval on a 9-5 vote that saw four Republican councilors and one finance commissioner argue unsuccessfully for lowering the 6 percent property tax called for in the budget.
The majority gunned down proposals to slice spending on parks, the library, a contingency account, money set aside for salary hikes and other measures that might have reduced the tax burden a bit.
The fiscal oversight panel, created during the Great Depression to stifle spendthrift politicians, said that last-minute cuts would hurt services, weaken the city’s finances and undermine its work during the past few months.
Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski said the tax hike will hit the average homeowner for about $240 extra in the fiscal year beginning July 1, an amount he called “minimal.” Click here for the rest of the story.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Busway breaks ground today in Hartford


Groundbreaking on the $567 million busway between Hartford and New Britain takes place this afternoon.
And it's not busway anymore. Now they're called it CTfastrak.
You have to love that. It takes 15+ years just to break ground on the plan and somebody thinks, "hey, let's name it fast track."
While I'll continue to have a reporter's natural skepticism about this whole endeavor, I sure hope its advocates are right. It's be nice if all these millions prove a boon to both transportation and development.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

May 12, 2012

New plan would ax 44 city workers, slash services



A new budget plan floating around City Hall would freeze property taxes this year but not without some real pain.
The spending proposal would lay off 44 municipal workers, close the Manross branch library, cut park programs in half, ax Dial-a-Ride and cut off funding for everything from the after graduation parties to the Mum Festival.
The plan was prepared by the city comptroller’s office in response to a query from city Councilor Ken Cockayne about what it would take hold property taxes in check this year.
To pull that off, the city would need to reduce its proposed $177 million spending plan by $6.5 million, officials said.
Topping thelist of proposed cuts was a 50 percent reduction in the salary of city councilors, from $9,700 annually to less than $5,000 – a symbolic step that probably couldn’t be done because officials only have the power to set council salaries for those chosen during the next municipal election.
Also eyed for cuts are the code enforcement and community services allocations, both of which would be eliminated completely.  Click here for the full story.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

May 9, 2012

Nicastro: Busway 'has already failed'


Steve,
I saw your Blog posting on the Busway and despite trying to talk myself out of responding I just could not resist a short note on Jim Cameron’s article in the Ridgefield News.  To make it short I invite Mr. Cameron to call me or visit with us her at 200 Main so he can see the mountain of information we have collected over three years.  This data doesn’t just validate that the Busway will fail but it confirms that it has already failed. 

It’s only fair that Mr. Cameron see this information so he doesn’t find himself parroting back the boiler plate Busway “rah, rah” that his article contained.  As I read it I was able to close my eyes and continue it word for word, all the while hearing either Lyle Wray’s or Mike Sander’s voice.  His content was the same rote presentation that DOT & CRCOG have been making since 2009.  I wish I had a ten-spot for every time I’ve heard the “Busway is just like a train except it runs on tires and cement.”    

As a side note none of these comments should come as a surprise to Mike Sanders.  I like Mike and consider him a friend.  He’s doing what he has to do to protect his project and he has become a master at spin in doing so.  That’s contrary to the legislative proponents whose only defense on the House Floor the other day was the use of “FUD” or fear, uncertainty and doubt.  Not one word in their comments on the merits.  That about says it all.

Mike

Michael D. Nicastro
President & Chief Executive Officer
Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce


Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

May 8, 2012

Busway to cost $100M for first decade alone





The legislature's Office of Fiscal Analysis included a mention in its brief write up this week about the proposed $567 million that the finished project would require an $8 million subsidy for Fiscal Year 2015 and that the subsidy would go up 3 to 3.5 percent annually.
Do the math on that and you'll find that in its first decade of operations alone, the busway between Hartford and New Britain will require $100 million in taxpayer subsidies. Take it out another decade, and we're looking at a cost of about $250 million for its first 20 years of operation.
That's for an anticipated increase of about 2,000 round trip commuters per day, on weekdays anyway.
It's not hard to understand why state Rep. Whit Betts and state Sen. Joe Markley were able to draw some Democratic votes for their amendments seeking to block the busway, including the votes of every Democrat from Bristol and most of them from West Hartford, where the project is also unpopular.
Those amendments failed, though, and it doesn't appear there's anything left for opponents to do to stop the project.
And, hey, maybe that's a good thing. One commuting expert who loves trains had a piece today hailing the busway.

Update at 9 a.m.: Mike Sanders, the transportation department manager who oversees the Busway project, points out that the dollar figures I'm using are in 2015 dollars. That means that in real terms, the dollars down the road are not worth what a dollar is today. They, too, are inflating. The subsidy, in other words, is constant -- about the equivalent of $7 million a year in today's money. Still a lot, yes, but the equivalent of something more like $70-80 million in 2012 dollars over the course of a decade or $150 million in 2012 dollars over 20 years. It all depends on how you look at it, but what Mike is pointing out is as true as what I wrote above. It just explains the figures a bit more deeply.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

May 7, 2012

"Only in Bristol, CT"

Here is a video that a Bristol resident posted on YouTube on Saturday morning, noting that it captured "what me and kyle saw last night in the West End" --





It appears there is a man lying in the middle of the street, unable to get up. I don't know if he was drunk or ill, only that he clearly was having major difficulties. And nobody really helped him, not the cars going by, not the taper, nobody. Here's what some folks had to say about it on Facebook, where eight people "liked" the video link:

*  "dude hahhaaa was that the weird guy with long hair but bald on top? cuz i saw him at K&S so he must have been TOTALLY s**t faced drunk he bought a liter of vodka lol
* hahahahahahahahaha lmaooo i think i know was in that car that was honking at him. That's great.
* dude he's a singer in a local band i guess ..... when I asked him if he was drinking he just said 'heavily' haha
* Haha that's simply priceless video! Put the damn bottle down huh geeeez man lol

It's a lucky thing that the guy didn't wind up dead.




Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

May 6, 2012

Link to online Terry house petition


Want to preserve the 1748 Terry homestead? You could sign this petition. It might help.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

'Cold Day in hell' before Mudry will apologize to Betts


Open Letter to Mr. Betts’ Demand for an Apology:

I must have touched a raw nerve in Mr. Betts when I asked if it was possible that he might be receiving a kickback or funding for a future campaign for his efforts in opposing the Busway.  I followed that question up with the statement that it was a harsh question; however, in this day and age when politicians are getting caught taking kickbacks and making a living by screwing the taxpayers, I thought it was an honest question.  That’s all it was, a question!!  There were no serious accusations or scandalous remarks or any character-assassinations as Mr. Betts somehow perceived or interpreted from reading my letter.  There were honest and credible questions about why a Representative elected from the city of Bristol, and town of Plymouth, would spend so much time traveling to Washington to oppose something that’s happening in another city?  Why isn’t Mr. Betts spending his time trying to get things fixed right here in his own district?  What about the problems with the Pequabeck River which is prone to flooding even more so now that the flow of the river has been changed due to the big storms last year. Has he done anything regarding that instead of trying to make headlines for himself by opposing a project that’s due to have a shovel in the ground for much needed jobs later this month?  Has Mr. Betts done anything about the flooding of the Mine Brook along Mix St. and Farmington Ave.?

As I stated in my letter, I am not advocating for the Busway because I personally would like to see light rail; however, I’m not that na├»ve to realize that the Busway has received all the permits, funding, and passed all the hurdles and obstructions put in its way, that although it is a very expensive project at, according to Mr. Betts figures, $1000.00 per inch, it is a project that will provide much needed jobs RIGHT NOW!!!!!

Mr. Betts has stated that the alternative to the Busway would be using the state funds to repair our roads and bridges.  That’s where I have a problem with Mr. Betts not being forthright with the taxpayers.  Mr. Betts is fully aware that if the Busway was stopped tomorrow and the funds were made available to use for road and bridge repair, it would take years for studies and applications for permits to be completed before one shovel goes into the ground to fix any road or bridge.  I ask Mr. Betts to be so kind as to tell me which road, what bridge in what city or town would be the first to be repaired?  Can Mr. Betts tell me when the first shovel would be put into the ground to start those repairs?  The answer to those questions would be NO, I can’t tell you!!!  Reason is because Mr. Betts, and the rest of the naysayers who oppose the Busway, are fully aware and cognizant of the facts I stated above are true and they are using the argument of fixing roads and bridges to play on the voters emotions because it sound so much better than wasting that money on the Busway.  Another fact that Mr. Betts won’t tell the taxpayers is that the cost to fix all the roads and bridges in this state would cost in excess of three TRILLION dollars and the three hundred thousand or so dollars the state is using for the Busway wouldn’t put a dent in that amount.  Just be honest and truthful instead of telling half-truths!!

Finally, Mr. Betts is upset about character-assassination; however, he has no objection to putting a label on me by stating that I am a member of a labor union and a member of the Bristol Democratic Town Committee and alleging that my personal beliefs are somehow the beliefs of those organizations.  The Press put the label of me being a member of the Bristol Democratic Town Committee, not I. 

As far as my credibility goes, Mr. Betts, it is just fine and it doesn’t need restoration like you stated.  I stand by my facts, hold my head up high, and look you straight in the eye when I talk to you or anybody else.  As for an apology which you unrightiously demand, it will be a cold day in hell before I apologize for what I believe in!!

Joseph Mudry, Jr

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

May 1, 2012

Wright backs manufacturing caucus creation



Press release from state Rep. Chris Wright, a Bristol Democrat:

REP. WRIGHT WELCOMES THE FORMATION OF A GENERAL ASSEMBLY CAUCUS TO PROMOTE MANUFACTURING

State Representative Christopher Wright (D-Bristol) is welcoming the formation of a Connecticut General Assembly “Manufacturing/Advanced Manufacturing Caucus” to emphasize and promote the importance and manufacturing in Connecticut.

“This is a very positive step and comes at a critical time following last year’s special session on job creation in Connecticut,” Rep. Wright said. “Bristol has a great history of manufacturing and whatever we can do to stimulate manufacturing jobs and help our companies that are here to compete and grow is worth the effort.”

The new group will host briefings and roundtable discussions with industry experts, disseminating information and providing resources so that members and their staff can learn about opportunities and challenges facing Connecticut’s manufacturing sectors.

“I look forward to meeting with our local manufacturers to get their input and share their concerns with the caucus members,” Rep. Wright said. “The health of our economy has always depended on good paying manufacturing jobs and we will not have a healthy economy until we rejuvenate our manufacturing sector.”

The legislators have scheduled a press conference to announce the details about the new caucus on Wednesday, May 2nd at 10:00 a.m. in Room 1B, Legislative Office Building.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com