December 31, 2013

Looking ahead to 2014's politics

With the new year at hand, it's time to look ahead to a new round of campaigns and elections.
The big story in Connecticut, of course, will inevitably be the reelection bid of Gov. Dannel Malloy. Maybe it will mean more state cash flowing to Bristol. 
Locally, though, there are some interesting developments.
Jason Welch
There are races shaping up for the 31st District state Senate seat as well as the three state House districts that include Bristol: the 77th, 78th and 79th.
It appears almost certain that each of the incumbent state representatives will seek reelection, but it's not at all clear that state Sen. Jason Welch, a Bristol Republican, will do the same.
Welch is a busy lawyer with a big family, a guy who wants to see his kids' games and have more than a passing acquaintenanc with his wife.
He won the office in 2010 by knocking out longtime incumbent Democrat Tom Colapietro. He held off a strong challenge two years later by David Roche.
If Welch opts to sit out the contest, it will set off a scurry of activity as politicians on both sides of the aisle eye their prospects.
Since the district also includes Plainville, Plymouth, Thomaston and part of Harwinton, it's likely there may be contenders from the GOP-dominated western part of the district as well.
It's entirely possible, too, that House incumbents might be interested in the Senate seat, too, possibly creatin more opportunities for newcomers.
It could get pretty interesting.
One other race is worth keeping an eye on: the attempt by some Democrats to unseat two-term Registrar Mary Rydingsward. She's virtually certain to face a tough primary, whether or not she's the endorsed candidate.
But that's nothing new for her. She's won two primaries already, defeating two well-connected men in the process, Elliott Nelson and Bruce Suchinski.
Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 30, 2013

Help Youth Journalism International

As many of you know, I've been working with student journalists around the world for nearly two decades through a nonprofit called Youth Journalism International. It's a fabulous organization, run on the cheap, that has helped hundreds of young people find their voice, connect with peers in many lands and gain the skills and confidence to flourish in college and beyond.
If you're looking for a great place to send your charity dollars, try www. Donation are tax deductible and, I promise, every penny will be used carefully.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Want to join the GOP's town committee? This is your chance.

Press release:
The Bristol Republican Town Committee will hold a caucus on January7, 2014 to elect 42 members to the 2014-2016 Bristol Republican Town Committee.  The caucus will be held at the Bristol Board of Education Auditorium at 7pm.
A snow date has been set for January 9th at the same time and location.
Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Bristol Republican Town Committee is asked to call T.J. Barnes at 860-314-0423 or Gary Schaffrick at 860-806-0609.
Only registered Republicans are allowed to participate in the caucus.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 19, 2013

Should the city buy gold? Maybe

Taxpayers may soon own a serious pile of gold.
The city's Retirement Board is weighing whether to double down on its investment in gold mining, buy gold itself or just quit the whole gold market entirely.
Thomas "TJ" Barnes, who heads the panel, said that its investment in gold mining hasn't done well over the past two years. He said it's time for the city "get out or double down" depending on what pension overseers think about the future of the gold market.
John Beirne, the city's pension advisor, said China is still buying gold at a stunning rate - hundreds of metric tons annually.
"That's a lot of jewelry," he said. "There's something else behind it."
Overall, Beirne said, there has been "a huge move of gold from the West to the East," but it's hard to know just why China is so interested in acquring so much of the metal.
He said there's no sign the country's slowing down its purchasing.
Barnes said, though, that the city's stake in mining companies is down 38 percent despite rising gold prices.
He said 2 percent of the nearly $600 million is tied up in the gold mining stocks.
"I'm not sold on the mining play," Barnes said. It hasn't panned out, he said.
On the other hand, he said, the market might be near the bottom so it may make sense to buy more rather than getting out.
Beirne said that when gold goes up, gold mining stocks should do even better. He said he would stick it out.
The board agreed to look into it more next month.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Chamber taps Jim Albert as next director

The Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce this week picked Jim Albert as its next director. Read the story here.

Here is the chamber's press release, issued a few hours after the story:

Jim Albert, right, talking with Steve Jeffries
The Central Connecticut/Greater Bristol Chambers of Commerce, one of the largest of the eight Metro Chambers of Connecticut, today announced that it has hired James R. Albert of Bristol, Connecticut as its new President and Chief Executive Officer.
Central Chamber Board Chairman, Attorney Timothy Furey, stated, “After a nationwide search with multiple qualified candidates the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce was able to find a highly qualified, highly motivated individual, right in its own backyard.”
Jim Albert stated, “I am very excited and humbled by this opportunity to support the business community and citizens of Bristol and the cities and towns within the Central Connecticut Chamber.  We are at a pivotal time of change and need to work together to grow the economic strength and future of our city and our region.  I look forward to representing the business community and working with our city and state leadership to improve our economy and quality of life.”
Jim was simultaneously awarded Officer of the Year and IT Project Manager of the Year while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Recognized more recently as elected President of the Connecticut Chapter of the Society for Information Management (SIM) and as Healthcare CIO of the Year (2011) by the New England Chapter of the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) for innovative and effective application and adoption of technology to improve organizational performance at various healthcare institutions for which he was employed.
Jim received a M.S. in technology management from the American University in Washington DC and a B.S. in risk management and insurance from the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
Jim lives in Bristol with his wife Denise and has two daughters, Andrea Albert, PhD who is a physicist employed at Stanford University and Lisa Albert, B.S. in international business who is a marketing professional for Toyota at MMB Advertising in the Boston Area.
Jim will begin work at the Chamber on January 6.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 18, 2013

Zoppo-Sassu KO'd for service on two key panels

The city's Board of Ethics told city Councilor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu this week that she cannot serve on two key city panels: the Salary Committee and the Bristol Development Authority.
Acting in response to her query about serving, the panel said it would pose a conflict of interest for her to be on the three-person Salary Committee because her husband, Peter Sassu, is a city police officer.
It ruled she could not serve on the BDA because she writes grant proposals for the Bristol Historical Society that aim to collect Community Development Block Grant money that the BDA doles out each year.
Taken together, the two decisions slice into the issues and policies Zoppo-Sassu can take a direct role in.
They also appear to mark a more heightened standard for potential conflicts than the city has had over the years. The rulings may wind up limiting the roles that other councilors can play if they or their spouses work for city government.
In recent years, at least four city councilors worked for the city themselves -- Mayra Sampson, Kevin McCauley, Tom Lavigne and Al Myers. Others have had spouses, children or other close relatives on the city payroll.
For now, the ruling simply means that Mayor Ken Cockayne will have to pick another Democratic councilor for the BDA, either Mary Fortier or Calvin Brown. But Fortier generally cannot make meetings in late afternoon so Brown is likely to get that role.
Cockayne will likely tap one of them for the Salary panel, too, though I don't think he has to pick a Democrat for that committee.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 17, 2013

Covanta deal on hold, meetings KO'd today

A deal between the city and Covanta to create a regional recycling center is on hold. Special City Council and Board of Finance meetings for this evening have been cancelled while officials continue to talk.
"We're still trying to come to an agreement on the contract," Mayor Ken Cockayne said.
He said he wants to make sure the terms are set before any meeting and that there's time for councilors and finance commisioners to review them beforehand.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 16, 2013

Bristol Republicans in driver's seat for first time ever

For the first time in the city’s history, the GOP controls both City Hall and the Board of Education.
It’s a stunning reversal for Democrats who have traditionally held power and never before been so completely shut out.
Political insiders point to a series of reasons for the shift in control that include a bitter rift in Democratic ranks and an aggressive and professional Republican effort to capture ground.
But some of them also see something potentially more profound for the long run: a change in the political attitudes of city voters, who had lined up with the unions and the Democrats for generations but may be backing away from them in search of lower taxes.
Democrat Allen Marko, who lost two City Council races, said that Bristol “for the most part does not embrace Democratic Party ideals, viewing them as too liberal.” For full story, follow this link.

Frank Kramer, an independent who ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat, weighed in with a much fuller explanation of his view of what happened than I could include. Here it is:

1. In-fighting in the democratic party yielding a spectacularly unsuitable mayoralty candidate chosen by an acutely and politically instinct deficient DTC leadership ( and you know who  "  they is  "---and it ain't a she ). This also yielded a garbled, bland,  and diffuse message at best. 

2. The above drama unfolding in a year when the Republican message was focused ( low, low taxes and blight, blight, blight--and that's it--what else do you need to know? ) and their party unified. You also had a stronger Republican mayoralty candidate that  despite what some thought of his politics and style, they were attuned to the fact that what you saw was what you got -- to the extent you can with any politician.

3. Money. That is a dynamic little talked of when and if you get the final tallies in. Just look at the mailings  ( frequency and individual pieces ), campaign signs especially for mayor and 2nd district candidates ( just sayin' and not because it was my contest--I was amazed at how many signs Henri told me he already had and had coming while at the Rotary breakfast ) though, admittedly you had two well known candidates there with one sporting an already decent track record, imo. In addition to it being the strongest Repub. district despite the statistics. And, oh yeah, one Dem. candidate who didn't show up.

4. I think the reason the Dems did as well as they did, council-wise, was because they won against the weakest of the Republican lot. And if I recollect, Derick didn't lose by that big of a spread. And Albert might have won if he came in sooner.

5. So going forward, the Republicans with their mayor being able to engineer the agenda, it looks like : I have no idea.

One more thing. The economy and Bristol population''s struggle to keep their heads above water ( not to put to fine a point to it but we are one of but 8 towns in CT where 25%+ of us go to bed with the fear of hunger on our minds ), those who would naturally vote Democratic were too busy surviving to pay attention to the election. This struggle naturally puts politics on the back burner when you're out of work, finding money to pay the rent or save your home,  or keep the lights on. When those with the most to lose and the most to gain have the leisure and wherewithal to put politics into their forward thrusters.  

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

December 10, 2013

Jeffries calls former Mayor Ward a traitor to Democrats

A Democratic City Council candidate who fell short on Election Day blames his party’s losses in part on two former party leaders he called “turncoats or even your typical Judas” because they failed to back Democratic candidates.
Mayor Art Ward and former city Councilor Kevin Fuller were “Republicans dressed as Democrats, fooling many voters,” said SteveJeffries, a Democrat who placed third among the four candidates in the 1st District’s City Council race.
“I can honestly say that I have never read, heard or witnessed one or even two politicians betray the party that supported them as Ward and Fuller demonstrated here in Bristol,” Jeffries said.
While Fuller, a two-term Democrat who resigned from the council last spring, endorsed Republican mayoral contender Ken Cockayne, Ward took a hands-off approach to the mayoral election. He endorsed two council candidates, Democrat Calvin Brown and Republican Rich Miecznikowski.
Jeffries said that Ward and Fuller need to “man up and come clean with all of Bristol, especially the Democratic voters.”
Jeffries said Ward should have been with Democrats on Election Night “instead of whooping it up with the Republican establishment.”
Asked for comment about Jeffries’ words, Ward, a three-term Democrat who stepped down this month, gave a one word answer: “Who?”
Fuller said he found it interesting “that Mr. Jeffries would give me that much credit that I could influence an election.”
“If I did have that power, then why did Mr. Jeffries never ever contact me prior to the election to talk to me about supporting him? Not a call, an email, nothing,” Fuller said.
Fuller, who was almost the Democratic mayoral candidate, said that “instead of trying to shift the blame of losing to someone else,” Jeffries should “look in the mirror and the only person responsible for the loss is the person you’re looking at.”
Cockayne dismissed Jeffries’ complaint as “nothing less than sour grapes.”
“Democrats in town have enjoyed Republican support over the years and you never heard Mr. Jefferies complain then,” Cockayne said.
City Republican Chairman Tom “TJ” Barnes said he found Jeffries’ comments interesting given that the Democrats this year chose Chris Wilson as their mayoral candidate, a lifelong Republican elected on the GOP line to the Board of Education in 2011 who switched parties “so he could run for mayor” as a Democrat.
He said Jeffries never voted in municipal elections before this year – he lived in another town – and never found time to support Fuller or Ward when they were on the ballot yet “when it his turn he demands they support him.”
“My experience has always been that when you lose an election, the main reason for the loss was the stuff you didn't do and not because what other people didn't do on your behalf,” Barnes said, adding that it’s time to move on to the next election cycle instead of looking back.
Brown, who won a 1st District seat, said that “name calling and this ‘us versus them’ mentality is what’s ruining city politics.”
Brown said Fuller is “a private citizen who endorsed a friend running for mayor” while Ward didn’t endorse anyone for mayor.
“Endorsements did not make, or break, this election for anybody. Period,” Brown said.
Another candidate in a council race, Frank Kramer, who was unsuccessful in his unaffiliated bid for a seat, said that given that most council winners triumphed by “statistically significant majorities, I think the Ward effect was nominal, endorsement or no endorsement.”
But, he said, in the mayoral race, Ward’s “silent, tacit” backing for Cockayne may have made a difference in the outcome.
Wilson said he has “turned the page” and doesn’t want to talk about the election.

Jeffries sent along a comment today:

I am very disappointed that after a month since the election you have decided to put this article on your blog. While I did take the liberty to express some of my thoughts while they were still fresh coming off a close election, I have certainly moved on and away from this subject.  This latest article reopens some sores that should have already healed.
While newspapers look for articles that have juicy soundbites to attract their readers, I personally feel that this recent article only hurts rather than helps.  I do take responsibility for what I shared back in early November however let me be clear, the election and results are way in my rear view mirror and I have moved on.  Please let this subject die so that those elected on both sides of the aisle can work together for the betterment of Bristol.

Here is the full statement he issued on Nov. 20th:

Politics has often been referred to as a "blood sport" where if you can't take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.  The election is over, the voice of the people have spoken and it's time for everyone who was elected to get to work and hopefully work together to help make this city great.  I am extremely proud of our democratic ticket that was led by Chris Wilson for Mayor, I know he would have been outstanding had he been given a chance.  The same goes for Bob Voitek who was running in the 2nd district for City Council.  Ellen Zoppo, Mary Fortier and my running mate in the 1st District, Calvin Brown will do an awesome job, of that I have no doubt, just as I have no doubt that the DTC will continue to grow and be even stronger when the next election in 2015 rolls around.
My calling out Art Ward and Kevin Fuller and labling them as turncoats or even your typical Judus is not unwaranted or unfair.  On the contrary it's totally fair and begs questions.   Let's face it, actions speak louder than words and it was crystal clear that their individual and collective actions were quite loud and quite clear.  Having followed politics very close for over thirty years and having majored in Political Science at CCSU as an undergraduate, I can honestly say that I have never read, heard or witnessed one or even two politicians betray the party that supported them as Ward and Fuller demonstrated here in Bristol.  Politicians should be judged on their character, espeically when so much is riding on the line.  Let me be clear here, I am not speaking for the DTC and not as a candidate, but as a concerned citizen who simply wants a straight up answer.  I do believe that the citizens of this city deserve an answer from both Art Ward and Kevin Fuller.  Why wasn't Ward with his party (democrats) at their headquarters the night of the returns instead of whooping it up with the Republican establishment?  Why did Kevin Fuller turn his back on the democratic party that supported him in the past and why did he come out and throw his support by endorsing the Repubican Candidate for Mayor, Ken Cockayne?  While Kevin Fuller did resign his city council seat back in May of this year, the famous saying, "Once a politician, always a politician" remains.  Deny it all you want Mr. Fuller, but you did use your influence as a former city councilman to redirect voters away from your party, your fingerprints are all over on this. 
I hope these two will man up and come clean with all of Bristol especially the democratic voters.  Based on their actions, it only looks like these two were in the end Republicans dressed as Democrats, fooling many voters! 

I wrote the piece posted above on Nov. 21. In some kind of glitch, it never ran in the paper. I was on vacation until Dec. 8 so this is about as fast as I could have posted the story.

Update: It did run in the paper on Dec. 17 here.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at