June 26, 2014

City demolishes yet another blighted house

New press release from Mayor Ken Cockayne:

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

The BDDC is forcing Renaissance to give it a choice

Just an observation: In the stir caused by the notion that there may be a Depot Square referendum, it's easy to see why something potentially more significant has been overlooked.
At the request of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp., Renaissance is now working out a financing plan for Building B, the one that faces Main Street and includes retail and restaurant space along the entire ground floor and the much-discussed public piazza in its rear.
Unlike Building A, which is almost entirely housing, Building B is something akin to what the project as a whole is all about. It offers some downtown commercial vibrancy as well as decent apartments for the young professionals and empty nesters who are likely to fill the space if all goes well.
The BDDC gave Renaissance until Aug. 15 to submit something to show how the financing for Building B works out.
Now here's the thing: if the city has to chip in $6 million toward the $18 million tab projected for Building A, it will certainly have to put in more to have a somewhat more costly Building B.
But what the BDDC commissioners wonder -- as well as many others -- is whether the additional cost to taxpayers of putting up Building B first is worth it. On its face, it appears to bring more to downtown than Building A. It's just a question of whether the expense is prohibitive.
There's also an issue that nobody's talking about in public: how the city should or could put the money into the project. It doesn't have to be a big check, after all. It could be almost anything, as long as investors know the city has a clear stake. I can think of all sorts of ways that could be done that give the taxpayers at least a chance of coming out of this without a big hurt, as long as it's successful. And if Bristol doesn't think the project will work out, then it shouldn't put money into it at all.
In any case, the BDDC took a big step forward to provide more choice and more options by requiring Renaissance to provide the Building B alternative. Maybe it won't matter. But perhaps it will prove the way to proceed, referendum or not.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 25, 2014

Bristol voters may get the final say on Depot Square

There’s a growing chance that city voters will get to weigh in on the proposed Depot Square project.

Bristol Downtown Development Corp. officials said Tuesday municipal leaders are eyeing the prospect of a Nov. 4 referendum to determine whether residents are willing to use government money to help fund construction of the first piece of the proposed $280 million project to transform the city center. See full story.

For those interested in seeing the state statute governing binding referenda, here is the link.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 24, 2014

BDDC's director retires unexpectedly, with questions lingering

Since the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. got underway during Mayor William Stortz's administration, Richard Harrall has served as its executive director.
Through all those years, he's been a calm voice during some chaotic times, providing sage advice from his long years of experience.
But tonight, seemingly out of the blue, he resigned at meeting's end.
Harrall, who works for Milone & MacBroom, said he was retiring. He told commissioners he’d enjoyed with them and offered them his best wishes.
“We could not have gotten here without you,” said Jennifer Arasimowicz, chairwoman of the nonprofit overseeing the revitalization of the ex-mall site.
John Lodovico, another commissioner, praised Harrall for his guidance. He said Harrall proved himself “a big benefit to this board and to Bristol” and even to the state.
“Thank you for everything,” said Frank Johnson, the BDDC’s former chairman who handed over the reins to Araimowicz last year after his grandson became gravely ill.
So what's so odd about it? Well, to begin with, the agenda for the special meeting failed to include an executive director's report, a standard item at every BDDC session.
And Harrall himself had to sort of force the issue at meeting's end so that he could say goodbye, an indication perhaps that the BDDC either didn't know he was leaving or didn't want him to talk.
I believe that Harrall was hanging on in the position only because he wanted to see the project through. He doesn't need the money or headaches attached to it.
So why'd he go now, at a moment where it seems like everything is coming together? I doubt it's because he felt a sudden urge to go fishing or to sit in the sun.
Here's one more clue: since the BDDC met about six weeks ago and decided to try to work out terms to let Renaissance have more time to work out its financing plan, several commissioners have been involved in quiet negotiations. So has the city's lawyer. So has city Councilor Henri Martin.
But nobody gave the slightest indication that Harrall, the executive director of the BDDC, was involved at all.
There was an obvious tension in the air as all of this transpired. Nothing said made it clear what happened or why. But something was amiss.
Rest assured, I'll be trying to figure it out. Good people don't usually just up and leave for no reason.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

City's new marketing report available online

Anyone who'd like to read the city's new marketing report can find it here. I just posted it online.
City councilors plan to discuss it at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the first floor meeting room at City Hall. It's OK if you're a little late because there a few other things on the agenda first.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 19, 2014

Possible Bysiewicz bid sets off furor in Bristol

If former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz needs a house in Bristol, Realtor Henri Martin is more than happy to help.
“Does she need a good real estate agent?” asked Martin, the GOP candidate for the seat that incumbent Republican Jason Welch is giving up after two terms.
In a move called “beyond bizarre” by the city’s Republican chairman, Bysiewicz is weighing whether to pick up the pace on her house-hunting so she can move in soon enough to take on Martin  for the 31st District Senate seat.
Bysiewicz, 52, said Wednesday she will make a decision “very shortly” about whether to run for seat representing Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth, Thomaston and part of Harwinton.
She said the seat is one “the Democrats have held and can win back.”
The longtime Middletown resident said that with her youngest children in college, she and her husband have been looking at buying a new home, possibly in the historic Federal Hill neighborhood.
Martin said he will continue to pursue his “pretty simple: campaign of pushing for lower state spending and taxes to spur the economy no matter who he faces after the sudden resignation of labor leader Dave Roche from the race on Monday.
Still, he said, “it’s interesting to see some of these rules about what’s allowable.”
Derek Czenczelewski, the city GOP chairman, said Bysiewicz’s potential run “appears to be nothing more than a political opportunist” at work.
“Shame on the Democratic Town Committee if it fails to put forward a candidate that would actually represent the citizens of the 31st District, and not someone's personal political ambition,” he said.
Bysiewicz has long been a favorite of city Democrats, who backed her at the state party convention in 2012 when she challenged Chris Murphy for the U.S. Senate seat he ultimately won. She is especially tight with city Councilor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, a major political player within the party’s ranks.
“Susan has been elected to statewide office three times with huge numbers, and has always done extremely well in the 31st District. If she is the candidate in that district, I feel confident that she will do very well again,” Zoppo-Sassu said.
Bysiewicz said she talked with some of her friends in Bristol politics about houses available on both Federal Hill and Chippens Hill so when they heard Roche was pulling out of the race they called to ask her if she might be interested in taking his place on the ballot.
Bysiewicz said she hadn’t thought about it until then but phoned party leaders in the five towns Monday to hear their thoughts on the idea.
“They were very encouraging,” she said. “I feel very honored by their encouragement and support.”
“I love public service and miss it,” she said, so the prospect of a state Senate run is “certainly something to consider” because it would give her the chance to participate in the legislature while continuing to practice law, “which I love.”
Bysiewicz said that if she decides to run, there is obviously a “very short” timetable for her to find a home and start a campaign, but it’s possible to pull it off.
“Always expect the unexpected in Bristol politics,” said former Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat. He said it “never ceases to amaze.”
A former city GOP chairman, Tom “TJ” Barnes, said, “This has to be the weirdest thing I have ever heard. How does this even think of happening and not undermine the whole concept of representative government? This is a joke, right? ”
Roche said that he hasn’t heard from Bysiewicz.
“How can she run? Is she moving to the district?” he asked.
Former city Councilor Kate Matthews said it is “quite silly” for anyone to think Bysiewicz would move to Bristol just to run for state Senate.
“It is just a lucky coincidence” that she happens to be interesting in buying a house in Bristol, Matthews said.
To pick another candidate, Democratic delegates to the convention that endorsed Roche in May will have to gather again to choose a successor to try to win the open seat created by Welch’s decision not to run for reelection. The law is fuzzy, but Bysiewicz may have to live in the district to become the candidate. She definitely has to do so in order to represent it.
Republican city Councilor Eric Carlson said Bysiewicz had to get out a map “to find where Bristol is.”
But Bysiewicz has come to the city on many occasions over the years, a frequent visitor to political and municipal events. She has ties to many of the city’s political leaders. He husband’s insurance firm has a Harwinton office.
City Councilor Calvin Brown, a first-term Democrat, called her “good on the issues, gifted in the practice of good governance, smart and passionate – all qualities that would serve the 31st wonderfully.”
Ward, though, said it is “going to be quite a stretch” for Bysiewicz to make inroads among voters.
Ward said he would guess “most would be questioning her motivation as to serving her constituency or serving herself. Maybe she should think about getting a job, like lawyering.”
Ward said that “even though I am in need of a cataract operation in July, I can still clearly see the sinister aspect of this act of futility.”
Frank Johnson, a longtime Republican leader, said, “Any entree back into elected office will work for her. She has never allowed ethics, propriety or even facts stand in the way of her political ambitions.”
Calling her "a desperate housewife," city Republican stalwart Art Mocabee said, "She knows nobody but political junkies and union hacks. The voters of the 31st. are much more sophisticated than that."
After serving as secretary of the state from 1999 to 2011, Bysiewicz is a lawyer with the firm of Pastore & Dailey, where she focuses on corporate law and finance, banking, securities, and commercial transactions.
A Yale graduate who attended Duke Law School, Bysiewicz was barred by the state Supreme Court from running for attorney general in 2010 because, the judges ruled, she hadn’t practiced law in the preceding decade as a public official.
The election is Nov. 4. Senators serve two-year terms for $28,000 annually plus stipends for leadership posts.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 18, 2014

Wright: 'I look forward to serving' with Bysiewicz

State Rep. Chris Wright re a possible state Senate run by Susan Bysiewicz in Bristol:

"I welcome Susan to the race.  Susan has a long and distinguished career in public service and she will be a tremendous asset to Bristol and the entire 31st District.  She is a proven closure and knows how to get things done in Hartford.  She will be a great addition to the delegation and I look forward to serving with her."

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Romney or Palin for City Council?

City Republican Chairman Derek Czenczelewski sent this along today about the possible campaign for state Senate by Susan Bysciewicz:

"This story is beyond bizarre. Although my support is fully behind Henri Martin, I sincerely hope the Democratic Town Committee fields a candidate that would actually represent Bristol and the 31st District should they be elected. I cannot imagine the voters of the 31st District would support Ms. Bysiewicz, someone who has no real ties to the district, does not live in the district, and until this week, had no desire to seek office in this district. This is a sorry situation Ms. Bysiewicz finds herself in yet again, and she appears to be nothing more than a political opportunist. Shame on the Democratic Town Committee if it fails to put forward a candidate that would actually represent the citizens of the 31st District, and not someone's personal political ambition. Lastly, I'm surprised to hear we have local elected officials who have come out in support of Ms. Bysiewicz as a plausible candidate. Apparently the same group that was so concerned with the redistricting process and ensuring equal representation no longer cares about district lines or representation. As GOP Chairman, I guess I'll need to start recruiting Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin to run for Council next year."

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Fitzgerald: 'Very saddened' by labor panel decision

Open letter from Board of Education member Jill Fitzgerald:

As a  BOE Commissioner who  felt strongly that the privatization of the cafeteria was the right thing for the City of Bristol, I am very saddened that this turn of events has occurred.  My reasons for supporting this change were simple: the children, staff and families would have more choices; Whitson's is a family-owned business that is dedicated to this mission of providing nutritional food while following state and federal guidelines and they are doing a fantastic job in New Britain; our current Food Services Director has to handle two other very important jobs (transportation and school security) which prohibit him from dedicating himself to the food services; AND the deficit the cafeteria was running year after year was taking away from resources we need to dedicate to the education of the students in the district.
It was a difficult decision knowing that our workers would have to deal with these changes, but there was a guarantee made to us that they would be offered jobs with Whitson's as well as receiving some severance, prorated pensions, and the ability to collect unemployment compensation for the summer months.
In making this decision, I weighed the pain of the students who have lost middle school sports and music programs and the pain of the teachers who have been laid off due to budget constraints against the pain the part-time cafeteria workers  would have in making this transition.  I had to uphold my charge as an elected volunteer of the BOE,  which is dedicated to the education of the children in the district.  One of my personal goals was to see full-day kindergarten in Bristol because I believed the majority of families would benefit from it.  It would make our district competitive with surrounding towns and would allow our teachers more time with kindergarten students to better prepare them for the demands they would be faced with in the higher grades. 
I believed that it was good stewardship to make this hard decision.  I was very surprised to see the union leaders disregard any logical argument and take to bullying and intimidation to "win" this battle.  I have seen bullying legislation come down from the state legislature to the BOE that has a no-tolerance policy for the type of tactics that were being applauded in our BOE meetings.
I am disappointed that our attorney, the state department of education, and staff advised us to move forward once we won the arbitration award because they saw no reason not to, but we all make decisions based on our best judgment.  I do want to remind the community that we went to arbitration to determine whether we have the legal right to privatize And We Won.  That clearly states that our argument was a good one. 
This turn of events is based on one argument and that is that one board member went along with the tentative agreement in the sub-committee but decided to vote with the majority of the BOE commissioners in the full committee meeting against it.  I have been around a long time and I find little shocking anymore, but I do find that shocking.
As we move forward, it is my hope that the all of the adults involved will proceed with the best interest of the students, families and taxpayers in mind.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

OK, here's something unpredictable in the world of Bristol politics...

Susan Bysiewicz
There is a possibility that Democrats may opt for an astonishing switcheroo in their quest to win the area’s state Senate seat in the wake of labor leader Dave Roche’s surprise resignation from the race Monday.
Eyeing the prospect of jumping into the contest is Susan Bysiewicz, a former secretary of state with a checkered political past that includes an unsuccessful primary bid for U.S. Senate in 2012 and a judicial ruling in 2010 that barred her from continuing to seek election as attorney general.
What makes Bysiewicz’s interest in the state Senate seat most stunning is that she’s a longtime Middletown resident with no roots in the 31st District.
Since the CT Mirror broke the story late Tuesday, reaction in Bristol has been fierce.
“Always expect the unexpected in Bristol politics,” said former Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat. He said it “never ceases to amaze.”  Read the full story here.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 17, 2014

A big win for the cafeteria workers

Just posted by city Councilor Calvin Brown on Facebook:

Great news from the Labor Board: the Cafeteria Workers have a right to keep their jobs! Board of Ed bargained in bad faith, so now they have to honor the original tentative agreement! Well done to these fine ladies and the Union that represents them. Never give up hope when you're hoping for justice.

Updated: Here is a link to a story about the decision. And here is the text of the decision.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

For Roche, a choice between love and politics

For Dave Roche, it came down to a choice.
To pursue political office, he would have to give up any chance of convincing his wife of 33 years to stick with him into old age.
He chose his wife, Lisa.
In an emotional address to AFL-CIO delegates at a state labor convention Monday, the Bristol labor leader said he would resign as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the 31st state Senate district seat.
That leaves the field at least temporarily wide open for Republican contender Henri Martin, a city councilor. Democrats are scurrying to figure out how to pick a replacement with a shot at winning.
Roche, 52, said that his wife separated from him two years ago when he first sought to claim the state Senate seat. He said he realized recently he never should have tried again this year.
“I blew it,” Roche said, adding that other changes are in store for his life.
He said that with politics out of the way, he can focus on a new, more important campaign: to win back the woman he loves. They have two children and two grandchildren.
Roche said he hopes to “finish writing the greatest love story ever told” instead of holding elected office.
State law allows the Democratic Party to replace Roche on the ballot, though it’s not clear exactly what the procedure is for doing so. Roche was nominated in May by a district-wide convention that included delegates from Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth, Thomaston and Harwinton. Bristol’s voters make up a bit more than half the total.
The seat is wide open this year because two-term incumbent Jason Welch, a Republican, opted not to seek reelection. The Bristol lawyer said he needed to devote more attention to his family and his job.
The man Welch defeated in 2010, longtime state Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Democrat, said Monday that he thinks Roche “could have actually won” this time around. But without him, Martin stands a good chance.
Colapietro said he has no desire to return to the fray. “Politics is getting kind of nasty. I don’t miss it,” he said.
Democratic city Councilor Calvin Brown said that Roche was “a stellar candidate” and a friend, “a truly great guy who cares more about working class families than most people in politics.”
Asked if he might consider a run for Senate this year, Brown said he loves being on the council.
“I know they’ll find a great candidate and I’ll support whoever it is,” Brown said.
Among the other potential contenders mentioned by political insiders Monday were former city Councilor Kevin McCauley, Democratic Registrar Mary Rydingsward, former city Councilor Craig Minor, City Councilor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, former Mayor Art Ward and state Rep. Frank Nicastro. It’s not clear, though, that any of them are interested.
Martin said he has gathered sufficient campaign donations to qualify for public financing of his race, but hasn’t yet submitted the paperwork to the state commission to gain access to more than $80,000 in public financing, assuming he’s opposed, along with the $15,000 he raised to qualify.
A new Democratic challenger has to start from zero to raise the necessary funds and put a campaign together, a tall order so late in the game.
Roche is the longtime business manager for the sheet metal workers union and president of the Connecticut Building Trades and Construction Council. He is also the executive secretary of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.
Senators serve two-year terms for $28,000 annually, though all of them also receive extra pay for holding additional positions within the legislature.  The election is Nov. 4.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 16, 2014

Amara outlines reasons for privatizing school cafeterias

Here's a paper from Board of Education Chairman Larry Amara outlining the reasons why the Board of Education opted to outsource the school cafeterias:

Intro:  I want to take an opportunity to clarify information regarding cafeteria outsourcing.    
                 These are the facts.
  • Outsourcing was discussed as early as 2009 during contract negotiations with Local 2267.
  • Over the years we have tried to balance the cafeteria budget.
    • Since 2010-2011 we have reduced 12.4 staff through layoff and attrition to reduce the deficit.
    • We have raised lunch prices to a point where we are one of the highest in the State.
  • We continue to lose money with the cafeteria operation.
o   Year 2008-2009          ($207,183)
Year 2009-2010          ($92,121)
Year 2010-2011          ($140,487)
Year 2011-2012          ($100,000)
Year 2012-2013          ($327,000)
            5 year TOTAL              ($866,791)
            Estimated loss for 2013-2014 over 200K

  • In January 2013, we issued a Request for Proposals (RFP).
  • The purpose of the RFP was to determine if outsourcing would provide a cost effective alternative/cost savings and if so how much.
  • In February 2013, the Local 2267 union president was noticed of the Boards desire to commence contract negotiations and specifically notified that the Board was considering outsourcing the cafeteria services and was willing to negotiate over the issue.
  • In the months that followed, two additional letters from the Board were sent requesting to begin negotiations and discuss outsourcing.  Local 2267 was not willing to begin negotiations until May.
  • The Board shared its goals for negotiations with Local 2267, specific to cafeteria services – cost neutral and not balancing the cafeteria loss every year on the shoulders of the entire union membership.
  • During the time it took to get Local 2267 to the table, the Board interviewed 5 vendors and on April 18, 2013 the Board authorized the Superintendent to negotiate and execute a tentative contract with Whitsons subject to State review and approval.
  • The purpose of negotiating a tentative contract with Whitsons was to have a clear understanding of everything involved along with potential savings.  This was necessary information for both parties during negotiations.
  • The Whitson proposal would eliminate the six-figure cafeteria deficit.  Whitsons guarantees the Bristol Schools, in year one, $224,500 to cover the school system’s related cost associated with the cafeteria program.  Whitsons makes this guarantee by putting its’ management and administrative fee at risk.
  • Whitsons will also invest $220,000 in infrastructure improvements to the school cafeterias.
  • During negotiations it was agreed to address the issue of outsourcing outside of the full contract.  The union requested we deal with the cafeteria workers first.
  • We tried to negotiate with Local 2267 over this issue and when both sides could not agree we jointly asked for binding interest arbitration and required by law.
  • The parties also agreed to engage in mediation while interest arbitration was pending.
  • Sometime later, Local 2267 changed its mind and asked the court to block arbitration.  The judge responded to their arguments and rejected all their claims, including the claim that the ground rules required every member of the negotiating team to vote in favor of any agreement reached.
  • During the three day arbitration hearing, both sides had ample time to submit evidence, call witnesses under oath, and argue their case.
  • The arbitration panel ruled that outsourcing was justified by our financial situation, and was in the best interest of the public.
  • The Board’s Last Best Offer in arbitration included:
o   Allowing the Board of Education to outsource when it deems it to be in the best interest of Bristol Schools.
o   Severance payment of $1000 to each affected bargaining unit employee who is offered a reasonable, comparable position with the food service provider.
o   Severance payment of $3000 to each affected bargaining unit employee who is not offered such a position, provided he or she made a good faith effort to secure one.

  • During the course of the three day arbitration hearing the following facts were presented through an examination of the RFP, the tentative contract with Whitsons, sworn testimony and documentation.
  • In accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations and the Connecticut State Department of Education, Bristol Schools must:
o   Retain control of the quality and extent of its food service.
o   Retain control of all the prices to be charged for meals.  We determine the price of a student lunch.
o   Assure that all State and local regulations are being met.
o   Establish and maintain an advisory board composed of parents, teachers, and students to assist in menu planning.
o   Retain control and overall financial responsibility for the operation.
o   Retain unlimited access to all areas used by the vendor for the purpose of inspection and audits.
o   Insure that all USDA donated foods, rebates, refunds, trade allowances and discounts accrue only to the benefit of the District.
o   Retain signature authority to approve reimbursement claims monthly.
  • The contract with Whitsons is for one year and subject to four additional one-year renewals upon consent of both parties.
  • Whitsons has testified that it is to their advantage and will make every effort to hire all current employees.
  • During the summer transition, employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits.  The  benefit ranges from $1000 to $2400 with the average benefit being  $1500 for the summer months.
  • Whitsons has testified that it fully expects and is willing to work with AFSCME or any other union the workforce chooses as their representative.
  • Whitsons is charged with following BOE policy.  It is not the policy of the BOE to have a youngster go unfed.
  • Whitsons has testified that their goal and average use of local vendors is 52%.  We currently are at 25%.
  • The contract calls for Whitsons to amortize their $220,000 equipment investment over five years.  If the BOE were to change vendors during this time the successor company would be required to pay the unamortized portion of the investment.  There would be no cost to the BOE.
  • Whitsons administrative/management fee is paid through the cost of meals.  There is no cost to the BOE.
  • If the BOE were to change vendors, all employees then working for Whitsons could be rehired by the new vendor with the exception of management/professional employees such as Vice President, District Manager, Food Service Director, Supervisor, Chief, Nutritionist or Dietician.
  • All breads must be delivered fresh daily.
  • Whitsons will offer a hot breakfast program in our schools.  A program we were never able to provide our children due to labor costs.
  • Whitsons has the capacity to offer a dinner service.  Something we would like to consider with our higher poverty schools.
  • With economies of scale Whitsons provides:
o   A purchasing team able to secure quality at the most competitive price.
o   A team of full time dieticians.
o   A full time food service manager and full time chef.
o   An expansive A La Carte menu.
o   A full time marketing team to promote student participation with programs and presentations.
o   A variety of selections and menu promotions. 

  • Whitsons personnel policies:
o   Promote from within.
o   Offer staff incentive programs.
o   Provide financial support for staff with emergency needs or education cost.
o   Offer career development.
  • Whitsons provides $1500 yearly for student scholarships
  • Whitsons provides a custom designed webpage for the District featuring menus, nutrition and allergen information, access to free and reduced lunch applications and online pay options.

  • Just to be clear, Whitsons is willing to offer jobs to our cafeteria workers, and is willing to
  • recognize and bargain with the union as they have done successfully in other communities. 
  • Local 2267 has commenced three separate legal proceedings in its effort to block outsourcing.  To date, none of them has been successful.  We believe none of them has any merit, and we cannot wait indefinitely for their outcome.

  • Therefore we intend to focus on the business we know best, namely education, and let the contractor focus on the business they know best, food service.
Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Roche is quitting 31st District State Senate race today

Democratic state Senate candidate David Roche is pulling out of the race today.
Though Roche could not be reached, his Facebook page says, Stay tuned for a major campaign announcement today.
Two party sources told me he is quitting the contest for personal reasons today, leaving the field wide open, for now at least, to Republican Henri Martin.
Roche lost a contest for the 31st District seat two years ago to incumbent Jason Welch, a GOP lawmaker from Bristol who is not seeking reelection.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 13, 2014

City plans a June 25 meeting focused on new branding proposal

Possible advertising uses for proposed logo.
City marketing officials plan to roll out a proposed logo for Bristol during the centennial celebration of Muzzy Field next month.
The brand, developed during the past two years, includes the tagline “All Heart” in a bid to capture the city’s grit, determination and can-do spirit as well as its community spirit.
City councilors haven’t yet given their stamp of approval to the concept and Mayor Ken Cockayne has said some tweaking may be needed. “Modifications can come,” the mayor said.
Councilors plan a special meeting on Wednesday, June 25 to review the issue in depth. Click here for the full story.

Here's the explanation from Northstar's report of the "All Heart" tagline:

Heart. You either have it . . . or you don’t. That indefinable characteristic that is so often the difference between quitting and carrying on. Failing and succeeding. Being good and being great. It is the determination that allows an entrepreneur to launch a business despite obstacles. The compassion that propels volunteers to give and then give some more. The vision that unites the citizens of a city around a brighter tomorrow.

Bottom line, incredible accomplishments often come down to one key characteristic: Heart.

Here in Bristol, heart is the engine that pumps passion into everything we do. We may not always be the biggest or the strongest, but we’re always the hardest working, the most resilient, the most resourceful and generous. We just have the heart to get things done.

Maybe that’s why businesses are so attracted to Bristol. Because in addition to being affordable and accessible, with an abundant and highly skilled workforce, Bristol has an incomparable work ethic. Known as a manufacturing hub, some of the nation’s most successful companies from world-famous ESPN to the Barnes Group got their starts right here at home. And smaller companies and businesses thrive in an environment where ideas are appreciated and personal attention and resources are available in equal measure. In fact, the symbol of business success in Bristol can be traced in the triumph of the new Barley Vine Gastropub. Wanting to be part
of the renaissance taking place in this city, the owners refurbished downtown’s oldest building and poured their passion into developing a business that will be the heartbeat for arts, culture, events and music downtown. 

Ask the people of Bristol what they value most about their hometown and many will point to the heartfelt generosity of neighbors. You can see this compassion in our willingness to lend a helping hand no matter what. We take care of each other, because that’s the way it should be. And the results are nothing short of miraculous. Like three people devoted to making the Bristol Boys & Girls Club one of the finest in the nation, leading a campaign to raise $10 million dollars. Thanks to a new facility and innovative programming kids headed for the streets have ended up in college . . . even graduate school. And many of them are coming back home after graduation to continue the good work. Because that’s the thing about the big hearts in Bristol, people keep on paying that generosity forward.

In fact, if you have the heart to make a difference in Bristol, the path and the opportunity are clear. The owner of Nuchies Italian restaurant in Forestville discovered this when he partnered with the Forestville Association to beautify the area around his business. With energy, enthusiasm, a broom and some flowers he turned his corner of the community into a place he can be proud of. And that kind of passion is being invested in other neighborhoods throughout the city from Bristol Rising to West End to Federal Hill.

Of course, Bristol’s passion applies to more than just work. Not surprisingly, we play with a lot of heart too. Residents regularly attend youth sporting events whether they have a child in the game or not. Warm summer afternoons at Lake Compounce offer up defining childhood memories for people from all over the region. While museums and memorials including the flamboyant New England Carousel Museum, the Imagine Nation Children’s Museum and Veterans Military Memorial let you celebrate everything from whimsy to war heroes.

Whether you’ve been in Bristol for a day or a lifetime, here’s the thing about living in a place with so much heart, such great passion. You never want to leave. That loyalty resonates through the story of the Barnes Group, a family-owned business that got its start in Bristol and has grown to a worldwide, manufacturing company. When shareholders pressured the Barnes family to move its corporate headquarters, the family refused, opting to stay in the community they love and support. Turns out true heart has deep roots.

They say that the spirit of a champion is never completely happy with the easy win. Here in Bristol we happen to believe that’s true. But we’re not looking for easy, we’re looking for remarkable. And something remarkable is happening here. It is fueled by pride and driven by promise. It is youthful and energetic and optimistic. It is forward thinking and united and hopeful. It is men and women. Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. Friends and neighbors. Working together to get things done.

Quite simply, it is all heart.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 11, 2014

Proposed new branding for Bristol, Connecticut

Not the world's greatest photo, but you get the idea... The City Council will consider it on Wednesday, June 25 in a special meeting.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Ballpark 'an extravagant pipe dream' and not worth it?

Here's the scene: a minor league baseball team is eyeing a move to a nearby city, much to chagrin of its curent hometown, but to make it happen a new stadium is required. But the city where it hopes to move is financially troubled and some are opposed to the deal.
Hartford in 2014? Nope, New Britain in 1981.
Here's part of The Herald's editorial from Dec. 9, 1981:

Where did the New Britain Board of Finance and Taxation and Park and Recreation Commission members leave their sense of perspective? They approved a $2.5 million plan for improvements to Willow Brook Park although school buildings crumble and city workers try to provide vital services with patched-up equipment.
... Now finance officials want to put the city in debt to fix up Willow Brook Park on pure speculation that it may entice a minor league baseball, small college football or Olympic level track competitors to perform there. That is an extravagant pipe dream.
New Britain is in danger of losing taxpaying businesses, industries and residents because schools need repairs and old, broken-down equipment is causing city services to deterioriate.
The emphasis ought to be on real long-term spending priority needs of the city - not indulging the Park Board's too-frequent fantasies.

The Bristol Red Sox, a AA team, moved to New Britain less than a year later. The team ultimately became the Rock Cats.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 9, 2014

Bristol, Connecticut logo from 1974 never really caught on... I can't imagine why.

For those who think the new Bristol logo isn't great, consider what they used in 1974:

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Pension panel consultant invites ex-mayors, commissioners for cake

To celebrate his 35th year of providing financial advice to the city’s Pension Board, consultant John Beirne has invited the many pension commissioners and mayors he’s worked with to share coffee and cake at the panel’s next meeting.
The Retirement Board session is slated for 5 p.m. Thursday in the City Council chambers at City Hall.
Beirne’s advice helped the city create what may be the best funded public pension plan in the United States, with about $600 million invested to cover payments to current and future retirees from city government work.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Former New Britain mayor boasts of stealing Red Sox from Bristol

I got a delightful letter in the mail today from former New Britain Mayor William McNamara who gently complained that I'd recently written the Bristol Red Sox "picked New Britain" when the team quit Bristol in 1982.
"Did that happen in a vacuum or did someone have something to do with it by lobbying, cajoling, promising -- both in Connecticut and out of state - the then-owner, Joe Buzas?" he asked, in one of those questions that answers itself.
'I know I am an old man (80 years) who easily forgets things, but I remember doing whatever I could, legally and morally, to 'steal' (as some said, but I thought it was just skillful negotiating; yes, I know that sounds boastful, but I assure you I am so humble I am proud of) the Bristol Red Sox."
"I write these thoughts to you to let you know that the presence of minor league baseball in New Britian was not the result of some divine intervention or some 'Big Bang.' It didn't 'grow'd like Mopsy,' rather it was the result of determination and hard work."
He said it's clear now that "in spite of the hate mail, nasty telephone calls and misinformed editorial writers," that his adminstration "was correct to bring Minor League Baseball to New Britain."
He didn't say it, of course, but his words certainly lend some support to Hartford's behind-the-scenes effort to swipe the Rock Cats away from New Britain. Mayor Pedro Segarra worked just like McNamara to make it happen.
Former Bristol Mike Werner said not long ago that losing the team to New Britain felt like "a kick in the groin."
Now, it seems, it's New Britain's turn to deal with the pain of losing a beloved team. What goes around comes around.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 5, 2014

Bombs and Bristol

Even when I was a kid, I couldn't always figure out why kids do what they do. As an adult, it's even more perplexing.
But the spate of bomb threats that has emptied out about a school a day in town for the past week and a half, landing Bristol on the tv news daily in the role of a hapless place, is clearly the result of end-of-the-school-year shenanigans from youngsters who probably don't know any better.
Infuriating as the false bomb threats are, it's important that everyone remember that young people do stupid things for stupid reasons and yet somehow grow up to be responsible community leaders.
Don't be too quick to call for their heads or even to blame their parents. All of us who are parents know that we can't control everything kids do, however much we might wish we could.
The police and school officials will eventually track down some more of the threat-makers, no doubt, and they'll probably turn out to be not too different than the 13-year-old at Chippens Hill Middle School who is going to pay a hefty price for a moment of idiocy.
But let's be level-headed about all of this. It's not like Taliban terrorists are actually planting bombs here that threaten anyone. The only threat is that we'll lose our cool and treat this spate of nonsense as hotheads instead of rational adults.
Bristol is going to keep looking stupid in the news until this ends, which it will, but it doesn't have to act stupid. Get a grip, everybody.
Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

June 2, 2014

Rock Cats may teach New Britain a lesson Bristol already learned

Not that past is necessarily prelude, but former Bristol Mayor Mike Werner recalls that when the Bristol Red Sox moved to New Britain to become the Rock Cats in 1982 "they promised they weren't leaving Bristol, too. They're gone."

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Application for Polish student scholarships

For anyone interested in seeking a scholarship for Polish students, as mentioned in this story, here is the application:

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com