June 26, 2013

Bristol mayor: Hernandez arrest 'devastating'

Bristol is reeling this morning following the news of the arrest of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez, a Bristol native, was taken into custody this morning in Massachusetts.
“It’s devastating for the family. It’s devastating for the community,” said Mayor Art Ward. “It’s a sad state of affairs.”
Ward said his heart goes out to the family of the June 17 homicide victim, a semi-professional football player, and others who suffered a loss in this terrible crime.
Susan Nelson, a Bristol resident, said she couldn’t believe that Hernandez “threw it all away” after making it big in the National Football League.
She said is both sad and disgusted that the former Bristol Central football star made so little of the opportunity he had.
“It’s a black eye for Bristol,” Nelson said.
Ward said he learned of the arrest when Police Chief Thomas Grimaldi phoned him during a chamber of commerce breakfast to tell him the news.
Hernandez was led from his North Attleborough, Mass. home in handcuffs this morning, numerous news agencies are reporting.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 25, 2013

Two Democrats jump into 2nd District race

Two more City Council candidates jumped into the race on the Democratic side last night.
In the 2nd District, Allen Marko and Bob Vojtek are hoping to claim seats for the Democrats.
Marko, a history teacher, has run before without success. Vojtek, a Board of Finance member, is taking his first crack at elected office. Vojtek works as the director of technology for the Avon school system.
The only other announced candidate in the district is incumbent Republican Henri Martin, who is seeking a second term.
Democrat Tim Gamache pulled out of the race recently, citing unspecified health concerns.

Update at 10 a.m. Tuesday: The other GOP council candidate in the district is likely to be Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski, who is expected to announce his intentions soon.
Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 18, 2013

Zoppo seeks return to City Council

Former city Councilor Ellen Zoppo hopes to reclaim a seat on the council this year.
In an email sent to Democratic Town Committee members Monday, Zoppo said she is running for in the 3rd District for one of the six council slots.
Zoppo has not held political office since losing a mayoral bid in 2007 when fellow Democrat Art Ward defeated her in a bitter primary.
The divide created by the primary was never healed. Just last week, Ward chose to replace her from a volunteer appointed post on the city’s Cemetery Commission, a move she said sparked her decision to run this year.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 15, 2013

Sonic coming to Bristol soon

The Arby's next door to LA Fitness on Farmington Avenue is going to be converted into a Sonic Drive-In. Right now, the closest ones are in Wallingford and Manchester.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Gamache cites "health issue" and pulls out of City Council race

With this statement, Democrat Tim Gamache pulled out of the City Council race this morning:

It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my withdrawal as a Democratic candidate for the City Council from the 2nd District due to a health issue. I have been proud to represent the Democratic Party as a candidate and had looked forward to extending my community service in that venture. I will continue to support the Party, its candidates, and the issues that are important to Bristol. I appreciate all the support I have been shown to date, and ask that my privacy be respected in regard to this. 

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 13, 2013

Zoppo: "Political pettiness" at play in cemetery panel choice

Former city Councilor Ellen Zoppo issued this statement about the city's decision to replace her on the Cemetery Commission:

The Cemetery Commission is a focused, specialized group of committed volunteers who have been working for almost 8 years to reverse decades worth of neglect in these “outdoor museums,” which are a critical link to our past, from a genealogical, military and industrial point of view. Most of this work has been accomplished with private donations and grants, as well as some wonderful Eagle Scout projects, collaboration with other community groups, and no taxpayer dollars expended - all of which garnered the Commission a national award.

From a volunteer standpoint, I think the action of the Mayor and Council in removing me from this Cemetery Commission sends a chilling message to those who may consider stepping forward to serve, only to know that they may be removed, not for cause, but for petty political reasons. 

I am saddened that the Cemetery Commission, which is comprised of both Republicans and Democrats, has worked so closely to accomplish our goals and done such spectacular work, has been dragged into this.  If asked, I will assist the newest and the current members of the commission with their tasks, including grant writing, because political pettiness will only imperil our historical treasures.  

This is what happens when elected officials play politics instead of acting as statesmen. And, it speaks volumes for the small-minded approach members of this Administration has taken over the last 6 years.

When the epitaph for the Ward Administration is written, the words “professional government for the betterment of Bristol” is definitely not going to be what is etched in stone.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Take a survey on the fate of Memorial Boulevard School

City Councilor David Mills is seeking to gauge public opinion on what to do with the former Memorial Boulevard School.
While officials try to hash out its fate, Mills has put up on online survey to find out what people think.
You can reach the survey by clicking here.
Anyone can take it. There's no need to disclose your identity.
Mills said he hopes to hear from many residents.
Mayor Art Ward said the survey is something that Mills is doing on his own. It is not a city-sanctioned one, he said, and shouldn't be mistaken for one.
In related news, there is a new website and Facebook page devoted to keeping the historic building in city hands.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 12, 2013

Zoppo loses her place on cemetery panel... but she's not buried yet

After 15 months of holding the line against the replacement of former city Councilor Ellen Zoppo from her volunteer post heading the city's Cemetery Commission, the council this week finally went along with Mayor Art Ward's bid to send her packing.
Councilors unanimously backed the appointment of Downtown Cafe owner Paul Murdock in her place.
Why'd they do it now?
Because the council, made up entirely of Republicans except for Ward ally Mayra Sampson, is concerned that Zoppo is going to run in the 3rd District. None of them want to see her on the council.
Additionally, Zoppo backs Democratic mayoral hopeful Chris Wilson, who is taking on senior GOP city Councilor Ken Cockayne for the city's top job. Wilson has no backing among the council either.
So six years after a bitter primary sent Ward to the mayor's office and Zoppo to political purgatory, the feud continues.
But with Ward retiring from his municipal position and Zoppo perhaps seeking one (she said she's interested but hasn't declared yet), one of the central features of city politics for years may, at long last, be changing. Ward can't clamp down on Zoppo much longer. But this week, he showed he hasn't finished with her yet.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

ESPN 3D bites the dust

Just posted on ESPN's internal email system is this, from Sean Bratches, ESPN's vice president of sales and marketing:

ESPN has decided to discontinue its ESPN 3D service by the end of the year. We arrived at this decision, after careful consideration, due to the low adoption of 3D services to the home. The company will redirect its 3D resources to other areas in the business with a stronger outlook to better serve fans and affiliates.

Nobody knows more about sports in 3D than ESPN. The production quality was great and the viewer feedback was very positive. If and when the market is ready, the company will provide an outstanding product to fans through our knowledge and experience gained over the past three years.

We thank everyone who worked on ESPN 3D.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Mills to seek third term on City Council

Republican city Councilor David Mills just issued this statement:

After much deliberation, I have decided to seek another term as City Councilman for the Third District. My time on the Council has offered me the opportunity to successfully present my thoughts on many issues over the past four years .However, much remains to be done and I plan to utilize the experience I gained to see these issues through.
The implementation of a Marketing and Branding plan for the city has been in the works for over a year and should be ready this fall. Energy programs that will save the city money will finally become a reality, including a street light program I suggested two years ago ,the Memorial Boulevard School plan needs to be completed, Pay as you Throw at the transfer station, a comprehensive ,long term plan for playing fields must be developed, a kindergarten readiness program that will help students and the city. These will be my priority for the next term.
Four years ago, I made the decision to run for public office with zero experience in politics. My focus , as a retired citizen, was to base all decisions on “What is best for Bristol?” I did not have political aspirations to “Move to the next level” Hopefully, the citizens of Bristol will appreciate my record of action and vote to return me to the position of City Councilman.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

More bad news at ESPN today. Stay tuned for details.

A new missive, "Company Changes," sent moments ago from ESPN President John Skipper to employees of the Bristol-based sports giant:

On May 21st we initiated a restructuring plan across the company reflecting a changing marketplace and anticipated areas of future growth. This week will see a continuation of that effort with meetings among employees, managers and our HR staff.
While I am very confident in the strength of our overall position, our industry is changing and it is critically important that we use our resources to best support our continued growth. As we have in the past, we will also discontinue certain activities that are not performing at the levels we had anticipated. These decisions are difficult, but in making these changes we will continue to ensure that affected employees are treated with respect and appreciation. Each will be provided notice, severance and ongoing support from our HR team.
We ask anyone with questions or concerns to please speak to your HR business partner or manager.
Thank you.

Update at 8:35 a.m.: I'm told that despite the ominous sound of Skipper's email, this is actually just the conclusion of the layoffs announced last month, which will total between 300 and 400 positions, not necessarily that many people.

Update at 8:40 a.m.: Among the cuts are the closure of an office in Denver, the slicing of some outdated tech-related jobs and company-wide reductions that include overseas posts. While Bristol is feeling the ax, and the tension, many of the layoffs are elsewhere. Bristol has 4,000 of the company's 7,000 employees.

Update at 10:50 a.m.: One of the cuts is to drop ESPN 3D this year, which only has a couple of employees dedicated entirely to it.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 7, 2013

Czenczelewski: Budget hits business too hard

City Councilor Derek Czenczelewski sent this along this morning to explain his opposition to the city budget approved yesterday:

Why I Voted "No"
At the June 6 Joint Board budget adoption meeting, I voted against the new City budget. I did so for a few reasons that I would like to outline.
First let me begin by saying that despite my opposition to this budget, I am happy to hear that 85 percent of Bristol residential properties will see a tax decrease. At a time when our citizens continue to struggle to make ends meet, this should help provide a small boost to our wallets. Additionally, this budget takes care of some much needed capital expenditures, some of which I can support.
However, while the vast majority of residential property owners will be able to breathe a small sigh of relief, our business community is about to get walloped.
This is mainly due to revaluation, which showed significantly larger decreases in residential property values than in business property values. Admittedly, the Joint Board has no direct control over this. However, increasing the budget by around $4 million this year after last year’s budget increase only serves to exacerbate this problem.
According to the information we received, 82 percent of commercial properties in Bristol will see a tax increase, with the average increase coming in around 17 percent ($5100). 77 percent of industrial properties in Bristol will see a tax increase, with the average increase around 11 percent ($4500). 66 percent of apartment properties (5 family dwellings or larger) will see taxes increase by an average of approximately 20 percent ($7200). These are all increases that will make their way down to consumers and renters. These are increases that will prevent property investment and improvements. In a worse scenario, these could lead to job losses. In the worst scenario, these increases could lead to businesses closing up shop or leaving the City.
Adding to these woes is the fact that the majority of these business properties actually lost value. 82 percent of industrial, 78 percent of commercial and 49 percent of apartment properties that will see tax increases actually lost value on their property.
Some of our largest business property owners will see their taxes increase by well over $100,000. These increases will come at a time when Connecticut’s economy continues to flounder. According to a June 6 Hartford Courant article by Mara Lee, “Connecticut was dead last in economic growth last year, the only state in the nation where the combined total of goods, services and salaries paid within the state shrank compared to 2011.”
This is not being “business friendly” and will not aid in our efforts to grow the grand list by attracting new businesses and industry to Bristol. Even further, we cannot afford to lose more local businesses, or jobs, in such a fragile State economy. These are our local businesses being impacted, owned by Bristol citizens who employ Bristol citizens.  
Last year’s budget was balanced by “borrowing” $3 million from the health contingency account, in addition to raising taxes. At the time, most acknowledged this was essentially “kicking the can down the road.” This year’s budget was balanced by raising taxes and utilizing a $2.3 million windfall from the State for reimbursed expenses stemming from the high school renovations completed years ago. In my opinion, the can has been kicked down the road once again, and that is why I could not support this budget.  
Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 3, 2013

Release the Sandy Hook papers NOW

It now appears the state police won’t release records related to the Sandy Hook School massacre until perhaps September.
There’s no reason for the delay.
Connecticut’s Freedom of Information law allows law enforcement to keep records secret if they needed for an active police investigation.
That may make sense, at least in some cases.
But there is no active investigation of Sandy Hook anymore. There is no suspect on the lam. There is nobody sitting in jail waiting for trial. By all accounts, there is nobody, anywhere who is eyed by police as a possible accomplice.
There is no active investigation. At best, there is an active effort to write a report.
The law says the records can be held secret if they “were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure” of a confidential informant, a witness who could be endangered, investigative techniques not known to the public or information that would be prejudicial for a potential law enforcement action.
Not one of those exemptions applies in this case.
I can understand why information was kept under wraps during those first difficult days and weeks, when the anguish was raw and the case still not completely clear. But we all know the basics of what happened now. We know who did it. We know how he did it. And we will probably never really comprehend why he did it.
The state has no reason to hide information we paid to collect from us. It needs to lay out what it has gathered and let the public makes it own decisions about what it all means.
Yes, produce a report. Try to make it sound something like English, too, for a change.
But let’s not pretend there is an active investigation going on. This is not what the law was meant to protect. We don’t live in a police state. I’d like to think we live in a state that trusts its citizens and prefers to let the sunlight shine.
Open the books already.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com