Sunday, December 31, 2006

And of course...

Happy New Year!!!

Any predictions for the upcoming year?

Tim White
Cheshire Town Council, 4th District

2007 legislative agenda

This NH Register column (by George Hladky) gives a brief overview of the hot topics that will likely be deliberated in the upcoming legislative session.

Budget & Taxes
Universal Healthcare
Gay Marriage
Contract Reform
Eminent Domain
Prison Overcrowding

Of the last four items here, I think the item that may be of most interest to Cheshire is the prison overcrowding. The last numbers I recall hearing were that we had about 2600 prisoners and 3000 beds. That says to me that we may soon get more prisoners, unless fewer people get sent to prison. Personally, I think there probably are people in prison who should be elsewhere.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Waterbury buys hybrids

The City of Waterbury bought some 2007 hybrid SUVs (WRA, by Robyn Adams). I hope they considered "lifecycle costs." I know that Consumer Reports recommended only two hybrids (Prius & Civic - that's what I bought) in their April 2006 review. Don't get me wrong. I'm sure these SUVs will get better fuel mileage than their non-hybrid counterparts... and that, IMO, relates to national security, but... we all need to keep the taxpayers in mind. And there's no reason why municipalities can't do both... reduce gas consumption and reduce total costs.

Tim White
Cheshire Town Council, 4th District

Sheep on the lam

After 24 hours of running about (WRA, by Emily Beaver), a temporary resident of Talmadge Hill was returned home by some neighbors on Horizon View.

Tim White

Friday, December 29, 2006

Open forum 12/29

I was fumbling around on the internet and came across this Dec 13 press release from Dell. It says that Dell recycles old computers (any brand), free of charge, anywhere in the world. The memo notes that they've offered this service in the US/Europe since 2004 or so. This sounds like a great program, but I wonder who knows about it? I wonder if our own state DEP knows about it?

That press release fits quite well with a letter to the editor in today's Wall Street Journal. The letter is from Cheshire's own Dan Esty. His compelling letter describes the financial woes of GM being due partly to their failure to incorporate environmentally-friendly practices into the core operations (such as reducing emissions), while other companies make green (GEs windmills & Toyota's Prius) by going green.

Hot off the rumor mill... CYB & Thomas Brooks Little League are merging. This has very positive implications for the proposed ballfield complex at the corner of Jarvis and Highland.

The Senior Tax Relief study committee is moving forward with their work (Cheshire Herald, by Leslie Hutchison).

And lastly, let's keep the comments respectful. OK?

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bethany wins!

It's official. Bethany won the clean energy competition with Cheshire. The competition was a race to see which town could have "3% of households" sign up for clean energy. And per the official clean energy numbers:

Bethany is at 6.56% (115 households)
Cheshire is at 1.84% (165 households)

So Bethany won. Congratulations!

Now I'll have to touch base with everyone and wrap up this little adventure. Although... I've already been asked to investigate competitions with both Meriden & Southington. Hmmm... we'll see. We're about to kick off the town budget process... and that's going to be a lot of meetings over the next couple of months. So I'm pretty busy for a while.

Anyway, I believe we now owe Bethany 10 one-day passes to the town pool. And that's fine with me. My main goal with this competition was to just increase public awareness. And I know for a fact that it worked. When I was knocking on doors in Prospect, I had one couple tell me that they signed up as a result of an article in the WRA about this competition. So... mission accomplished!

Tim White
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison

Increasing recycling

In an attempt to address a looming "solid waste disposal" problem, the State Dept of Environmental Protection is calling for a doubling of recycled trash (AP), increasing the current 30% level to 58%. DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy said

"We must radically and quickly change the balance in favor of waste reduction, recycling, and reuse over disposal."
The article continues:
McCarthy said the state can avoid the need to find additional disposal facilities if it increases the recycling rate.
What's a possible solution?

Well, I seem to recall Diane Visconti citing a study that said the volume of recycled garbage increases as the volume of a recycle bin increases. If that's true, giving everyone in town an additional bin or a bigger bin may be one way to increase recycled garbage. As well, perhaps Cheshire could start adding plastics to our list of "acceptable" recyclables. (Currently, Cheshire accepts 1s & 2s, but not 3-7.)

So I'll say this sounds good. Addressing a looming "waste disposal" problem is worthwhile. But there certainly will be costs. And if the DEP lays down this new rule, will those costs be covered? I doubt it. Similar to the DEPs "stormwater management plan," chalk up this "new solid waste management plan" as another unfunded (or underfunded) state mandate.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Cheap electricity

Levco Energy is getting some press (NHR editorial) and (WRA, by Dave Krechevsky) for their "lower than CL&P / UI electric rates."

To join their program, click here. According to these articles, CL&P customers will save 2-5%, while UI customers will save up to 10%.

As for whether Levco provides a good service, I used them for a year or two (before signing up for clean electricity here) and can say that I never had any problems with them. So I'd recommend them.

And if you're interested in finding other ways to save money, check out the "tax break" links to the left of this post. The state & federal governments offer all sorts of tax breaks for energy-related home projects.

Tim White
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cheshire/Southington Fire Depts

I stumbled across this article (Courant, by Ken Byron) today. I know it's about Southington, but found it interesting as a comparison to Cheshire.

Southington has a population of about 39,000. Cheshire has a population of 27,000 (+ 2,700 prisoners for a total just shy of 30,000).

According to this article, Southington currently has 32 paid staff in their FD. And they want to add 3 firemen. In contrast, Cheshire has (I believe) 6 or 7 paid staff. That includes Chief Casner, the fire marshalls (2?) and some other staff... maybe a secretary? (The volunteer part of the department has over 100 firemen.)

I haven't compared Cheshire's FD to the FD of any other town. Nonetheless, I found this interesting.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Info on biodiesel

Biodiesel typically is used in several forms:

B5 - 5% biodiesel, 95% petrodiesel;
B20 - 20% biodiesel, 80% petrodiesel;
B50 - 50% biodiesel, 50% petrodiesel; and
B100 - 100% biodiesel.

Here in CT, for practical purposes, we can't use B100 in the winter. It turns to sludge and vehicles won't run. However, we can use B20 easily. We might be able to use B50 easily, but I'm really not sure.

An update on costs... I was told today that B5 is probably selling for $0.01/gallon less than petrodiesel. So Cheshire may actually save money on this from the outset.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Biodiesel in Cheshire

Cheshire's Public Works department is considering using biodiesel (NHR, by Luther Turmelle). I think it's fantastic that they're considering it. As I've said a hundred times before here, the benefits are numerous, including:

1) reduce consumption of mideast oil
2) protect the environment (less emissions)
3) improve our health (less emissions = less asthma, etc.)
4) create jobs (BioPur is a new biodiesel factory in Bethlehem, CT)
5) keep our farms & curb sprawl

I'd love to see our schools consider using biodiesel.

As for costs, the current price difference between biodiesel and petrodiesel is about $0.08/gallon. But with price fluctuations, it's entirely possible, the price of petrodiesel spikes and biodiesel becomes less expensive. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see that happen by Memorial Day.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Commissioners named

Governor Rell appointed outgoing minority leader, Bob Ward, to be the new DMV commissioner (AP). She also appointed Anne Gnazzo to run the Dept of Administrative Services.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Northend linear trail?

The linear trail was soundly defeated at referendum last year (my feeling is that the voters rejected the idea for several reasons: primarily cost, safety of crossing route 70 & no connections to the existing trail), but there are some people who still staunchly defend the value of the trail and want to see it continue.

As well, there are also some people who absolutely oppose developing the northend.

And there are some people who fall into both of these categories: opposing northend development and supporting continuation of the linear trail.

As we advance in discussions of developing the northend, I wonder if people who oppose northend development will view this as a chance to resuscitate the linear trail?

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

North Haven teachers contract

North Haven's Selectboard just inked a new three year deal (NHR, by Ann DeMatteo) with their teacher's union. Some key points:

1) "Teachers won’t be receiving any new benefits and their health insurance co-pays will rise from 11.5 percent to 15 percent over the life of the contract."

2) 40% "of teachers have reached the maximum salary step, and will only get a general wage increase of 3 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.75 percent over the life of the contract, which is an average of 2.67 percent."

3) 60% "of the teachers will get an average raise of 4.22 percent over the three-year period, which includes wage and step increases."

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Year long wait

Prospect resident, Don Pranulis, has a new lease on life after getting a long awaited liver transplant (WRA, by Emily Beaver).

Tim White

Southington linear trail

Southington is planning on extending their linear trail (Courant) along the abandoned rail line. Based on the article, here's the best map (yahoo maps) I could find of the general location of the trail extension.

It looks to me as though they're planning on coming down toward the Cheshire line. Although I can't tell if they're planning on extending all the way to the Cheshire line at this time or simply extending toward it.

I wonder if we're going to hear more calls for extending Cheshire's linear trail in the name of "economic development?" I hope not.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Energy Security Leadership Council II

I was wondering how much discussion there has been on the Energy Security Leadership Council's recent report entitled "Recommendations to the Nation on Reducing U.S. Oil Dependence." So I googled "Energy Security Leadership Council." The results were either fantastic for my blog. Or it was bad news for America.

Tim White Listens came up 11th. So either everyone in America now knows me OR no one is paying attention to this report. I'm guessing the latter is true.

Then I clicked on a few of the links ahead of me, including the websites of both Senators Obama and Biden. Joe Biden's comments made my heart sink further. He seemed to use the report as justification for America's need to move to alt fuels. And while I agree with him on that point, he seemed to say that was all we need to do. He seemed to ignore additional exploration.

As well, I was watching some local TV this weekend. And some of CTs own State Reps and State Senators (both Rs & Ds) seemed to be even more clueless about fuels than Joe Biden.

I hope someone wakes up and recognizes the significance of this report.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I'm not sure if I'll be logging on again for a few days. So I just wanted to wish all of you a Merry Christmas!!

On a more somber note, I found this note from Secretary of Defense Gates a well said message to our troops, including the end "Have a safe and happy holiday. God bless you."

The neteffect

Here (AP) is an interesting article on the impact of the internet on politics. It discusses both the history and the future. From an historic perspective, it notes:

"Republicans have mastered e-mail as the new form of direct-mail campaigns, raising money and pushing a GOP message. Democrats have excelled at raising cash through small-scale donations and making the Net their version of talk radio."
I can attest to the Republican part. It seemed as though I got at least an email a day (often several per day) from Nancy Johnson for the two months preceding the election. I'm not sure how much benefit was derived from those emails though. I just put them on auto-delete. And I imagine I'm not the only one who did that.

The Democratic part is definitely true too. I'm convinced that Ned Lamont would not have gotten as far as he did without CTs homegrown blogs, such as My Left Nutmeg and CTLP.

And as previously mentioned, the article also talks about the future.
As candidates prepare for the 2008 presidential campaign, the Internet is the new Main Street. An estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States travel the digital highway, still a cheap and largely unregulated medium.
I'm sure that it will have an impact. The GOP lost its US Senate majority by only one seat. And with George Allen losing by a razor thin margin, I'm convinced that he and the GOP got "youtubed" with his "macaca comment."

But even before the 2008 Presidential is the 2007 local. I wonder what "neteffect" will be felt by our local election next year? I think it might have a real impact. And that would be a great thing.

On a personal note, I'm in the midst of trying to add a few new things to my blog, including video. I think we could have a lot of fun with video, adding Council subcommittee meetings and other items that might be of interest. I can already think of numerous instances of apparent hypocrisies or, at minimum, inconsistencies in the words of local pols.

And finally, if anyone is interested in spouting off here and would like to do a guest blog, please email or call me (439-4394). As long as you keep it respectful and interesting, I'd like to see you add your two cents on the homepage.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Prospect teachers contract

Region 16 (Prospect/Beacon Falls) agreed to a new 3-yr teacher's contract (WRA, by Emily Beaver). Changes include:

1) cost sharing for medical bene's (from 15% to 16.5%)
2) increases in copays (for both doctor visits & prescriptions)
3) raises of 2.21% to 2.54% (I presume this excludes the "step"... which I did not see mentioned in the article. I believe Cheshire's contract, signed one year ago, included a step of 1.8%. If Region 16 got the same step, then they would be getting increases of 4.01% to 4.34%. Cheshire's contract (raise & step) was 4.2% to 4.7%, I think.)

The article also has a mention from their union President that "most" teachers' unions are paying 17% for medical bene's. Anyone happen to know what Cheshire pays? I don't recall.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

State GOP agenda

State House Republicans laid out their agenda (AP) for the upcoming legislative session. "They plan to focus on quality-of-life issues, the economy, the environment and health care. They also clarified their principles as Republicans, stressing the importance of personal freedom and responsibility." That sounds good.

But did anyone notice the State Senate Republicans bill to ban trans fats (AP) in restaurants? How does that bill jibe with "personal responsibility?"

For what it's worth, based on my reading of the "trans fats" article, CT restaurants are already reducing and ending their use, including fast food chains such as Wendy's and KFC.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Cheshire luminaria

82 households on Contour Drive, Curve Hill Road, Overlook Drive, Lee Avenue and Valley Road will be lit up on Christmas Eve (WRA, by Lauresha Xhihani). It's a fundraiser to benefit the Greater Connecticut chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Friday, December 22, 2006

Local local topics

The case that led to the indictment of Cheshire’s trash haulers (Courant, By Lynne Tuohy) is in the Courant today. Prosecutors are moving ahead with their case against a high ranking member of the Genovese crime family. I imagine AG-for-life Blumenthal will jump on the financial aspect of this case, as soon as the criminal aspect is complete.

Cheshire Hockey (WRA) and Cheshire Wrestling (Herald, by Greg Lederer) are both making the news. Cheshire Hockey is hoping for another banner year.

Cheshire’s own David Telesca (MRJ, by Jennifer Manes) is getting headlines for his use of technology in the Southington school where he’s the principal.

And we’re moving forward on the
West Main streetscape project (Cheshire Herald, by Leslie Hutchison).

Cheshire's sewer bills went out recently. Unfortunately, we haven't yet gotten to move to a user fee... although I'm not certain if WPCA has even made a decision yet on that.

Although we lost our clean energy bet with Bethany, Cheshire recently passed the 100 "clean energy households" mark. (Actually we blew by it. In one year, we signed up 92 households. Then we jumped to 165 in one month! I think Community Energy did a mailer.) That means we get a free PV... and we're hot on the trail of our second free PV!

And finally, I'm continuing to try to make this blog more user friendly. So I split the "links" section into two sections. Check it out and feel free to give feedback on what could make the site more interesting/helpful.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Local state topics

CT ranks 49th in income growth (NHR, by Steve Higgins) in the nation for both Q2 & Q3 '06. Much blame was placed on the flagging construction industry.

Maybe Cheshire's Northend Development will do something about that? I'm fine with the idea of adding shopping in the northend, as long as it doesn't add to the tax burden through things like a massive sewer plant expansion. My main reservation about the project is that this is driven in part by the property tax. And new development only exacerbates existing problems, such as traffic.

I wish our legislature would take action on the property tax, but they won't. I'm beginning to think that come 2008, I may forget about the donkeys and elephants and simply vote against Connecticut's Incumbent Party.

There are calls to
increase the state budget (Courant, by Robert A. Frahm) for Education (Cost Sharing) by 75%, from $1.6B to $2.8B. This will almost certainly just take more money from the suburbs and send it to the cities.

Governor Rell is
replacing her commissioners (Courant). Does anyone know what’s up with either the Public Safety or DOT commissioners? This article doesn’t seem to mention either one.... I wonder if they'll stay, but get placed on double secret probation? lol.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Local federal topics

Congressman-elect Chris Murphy is pushing his agenda (MRJ, by Adam Wittenberg). My guess is that most of this stuff (such as minimum wage, college loans) will get signed. Although Bush is thankfully pushing back, asking for compromise to sign the minimum wage. He wants deregulation of small businesses. What Bush is saying makes sense. I hear it from small business owners about how burdensome some of the federal regulations are. And CTs minimum wage is already above the proposed federal level. So I’m guessing that (for the most part) CTs small businesses would only benefit from this proposal. Murphy is also pushing to repeal the billions of dollars in tax credits for Big Oil. I'm fine with that, but I really hope he reads the Energy Security Leadership Council's report on what we (America) must do to protect ourselves. (And for those of you haven't read it, it doesn't name names. But with statements such as "continued government inaction presents inexcusable risks," it is scathing.)

Meriden’s Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich was
charged with murder (MRJ, by Steven Scarpa) in the Haditha killings in Iraq. I think Meriden’s Mayor Mark Benigni conveyed my sentiments when he said, "We are putting our soldiers in a chaotic situation and are expecting them to make quick life and death decisions. I feel for those who have lost their lives, but I also feel for our soldiers who aren't sure who the real enemy is." I don’t know Mr. Wuterich, but I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must be for all of our soldiers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ending corruption

Contrary to the conventional blogosphere wisdom, Governor Rell hasn't ruled out running for another four year term (NHR, by George Hladky). And near the end of the article is the line:

The signal Rell says she is trying to send to both state officials and the public is, such corruption "won’t be tolerated."
I certainly appreciate that. And I think she's serious. The person (Linda Yelmini) Gov. Rell is bringing in to clean house at the CT State Police is using strong rhetoric. Ms. Yelmini was recently quoted saying that the wrong-doers at the CSP should "fear" her.

With supermajorities controlling the legislature, I have my doubts about how much Gov. Rell will be able to control spending. But if she can make headway in ending the reign of the "good ole boy" network, I'll be extremely pleased.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

High school breathalyzers

Schools around the state are starting to use breathalyzer tests (WRA, by Jim Moore) on any, and all, kids who attend high school dances. Burlington, Glastonbury, New Haven, Simsbury, Wilton, Windsor and Winsted are all doing this already. But according to Senior Assistant State's Attorney Susan Naide, the state's DWI prosecution coordinator:

"It's a very unexplored area... an issue that would arguably be raised is the search and seizure Fourth Amendment violation."
I'm not quite sure how testing someone's breath is an unreasonable search or seizure.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I'm thinking about heading to Nicaragua for a vacation. I've been thinking about it for a few years, but now might be the time. One of my Vietnam buddies went a few years ago. He loved it. Then I saw this article (by Gregory Dicum) on the cover of the NYTimes Travel section this past Sunday and it got me thinking again.... maybe go salsa dancing in Managua, jump on a chickenbus to Lake Nicaragua, climb one of the volcanoes, then head to the Pacific and try surfing for the first time?? hmmm.... I need to look into costs and getting time off from work.

Tim White

Open space money

Two CT GOP state Senators (McKinney, Roraback) are calling for the creation of a $100,000,000 fund for open space (NHR, by George Hladky). Of course, there is some concern over such an outlay. New Haven's Senator, Martin Looney said:

open space preservation "is certainly a worthy program" but added there are other equally important places the money could go. Those include municipal aid, paying off mounting state debts and possibly using a portion of the surplus to help Connecticut’s low-income families cope with expected major increases in electricity rates.
These things are all of concern. I really don't understand though, what is more important than protecting America? This report couldn't lay it out anymore clearly.

So why isn't this request for open space money linked to national security and ending our dependence on Mideast oil through increased use of alt fuels? My guess is that most of our elected officials still don't get it. Too bad. America isn't getting out of the Middle East until we deal with oil.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dodd visits Lebanon

Senator Dodd is in Lebanon (AP) to discuss "the country's deepening political crisis" with the Lebanese leader, Fuad Saniora.

I'm sure our senior Senator has good intentions, but I wonder if he'll do what he really ought to do?

He should go knock on some doors and talk to some people on the street. I hope he does. He may actually learn something. Unfortunately, if all he does is speak with heads of state, I don't think he's going to learn all that much. He'll learn about as much as I would having conversations with the members of the Council, while not talking to anyone else in Cheshire.

My suggestion: he ought to head to Baalbek, "the primary center of the Shia population of the Bekaa Valley and one of the main training camps for the Hizbullah forces." (Wikipedia)

If Dodd is willing to leave his travel companions (bodyguards and such) and head to Baalbek to go chat with some people on the street... ask them about their concerns... ask them what they feel the US can do to help ease problems in the middle east... then he may take something away from his trip that could be a real benefit.

Seriously... what's the difference between "knocking on doors" in Cheshire or in Baalbek? Nothing. And if you want to remedy a problem, you have to understand someone's concerns. And the best way to understand someone is to listen. Unfortunately, I think when it comes to the middle east, most of our leaders are failing to actively learn about the problems at a grassroots level (how else do you win the "hearts and minds") and take action to remedy the problems. But we'll see what his intentions are... I'll try to call his office to find out his itinerary.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

And for what it's worth, I'm not suggesting the Senator do something that I wouldn't do myself. I've done exactly what I'm suggesting Dodd do.

Sr Tax Relief 12/18

I got to the meeting a bit late tonight, but was there for much of it. And keep in mind as you read this... the members of the committee had numbers in front of themselves... while I didn't. And based on my experience, it can be tough to follow conversations about numbers when I don't have the numbers in front of me.

It doesn't sound as though the committee is going in the direction of recommending a tax freeze, but that could change. (One resident seemed to make the case for a widespread tax freeze.) Rather, it seemed as though they were thinking of continuing to focus on credits... with a change in requirements.

One idea seemed to be to simply offer credits for a percentage of your tax burden. That is, if your tax bill is $4,000; and you make $10,000; then you get a 75% credit (maximum % allowable by state law) and you pay $1,000. Then at... say... $20,000 in income, you receive a credit less than 75% of your $4,000 tax bill and you pay something greater than $1,000.

If this is the concept, I generally agree with it. I think helping the neediest is important.

The conversation also got into a number of other issues that could be used for qualifying, such as "assets" and "residency." My concern with these other issues would be in both:

1) how we measure and
2) how we enforce.

As I've mentioned before, is an engagement ring an asset? And how long have I lived in Cheshire? I'm 33. So have I been a resident for 33 yrs? There was a suggestion that you are a resident for as long as you pay taxes? But what if you don't pay taxes? What if you rent? What if you lived in Cheshire until you were 21, then you graduated college and moved to Boston. Then at age 65, you moved back to Cheshire? Have you already "lived in Cheshire" for 21 years? Or perhaps these questions are irrelevant?

Anyway... rules need to be enforceable. If you can't enforce the rules, then what's the point? Getting into those tests just seems tricky to me... although I think the town already has some sort of residency test.

And one last thing... it appears as though the committee is going to go past the Council imposed deadline of... I believe... Jan 9. I'm not sure of the state laws that come into play here. But for me, I feel that the committee is having a real discussion and making real progress on their recommendations. So if they go past the deadline, by a few weeks, I'm not particularly concerned... I'd rather have a complete discussion, rather than having an incomplete discussion simply because of an artificial Council-imposed deadline.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Sunday, December 17, 2006

No more "earmarks"

President Bush has publicly called for reform of "earmarks." (Bloomberg) "Reforming earmarks is the responsibility of both political parties," the President said.

I'm sure this has nothing to do with November 7th.

Seriously though, regardless of the motives, I'm glad to see that something may finally happen. This stuff had me really ticked off for the past year. And I'm sure that this was one of several reasons that Congressional Republicans got clobbered last month.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

New format

I hope you find the new format interesting. I put some time into it. You'll notice that I've added several new features (to the left).

Most interesting to me are the categories. I went back and added categories to many (but not all) of my posts to date. As for how I labeled posts, I just tried to use common sense... so some posts are included in more than one category. (Btw, all old posts are still here... they're just not necessarily categorized.) I thought adding the categories may make it easier for you (and me) to reference things, including timeframes.

One other point... since I've been posting on Bethany, Cheshire & Prospect... I added sites for all three towns. However, I was unable to find links for both R & D Town Committees for each of the three towns. If you happen to know the addresses for any of them, please pass them on... along with any other suggestions you may have.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Saturday, December 16, 2006

MRJ on Southington Sr Tax Freeze

According to this Meriden RJ editorial, the Southington senior tax freeze was overturned due to process, as well as substance.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

CSP reforms begin

Governor Rell has appointed Linda Yelmini to be the Deputy Commissioner of Internal Affairs for the troubled CT State Police. About Ms. Yelmini, excerpted from the

She was the state's director of labor relations in the Office of Policy & Management since 1997, and its assistant director from 1990-1997. Yelmini was graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1972 and received a master's in business administration from the University of New Haven in 1981 and a law degree from Western New England School of Law in 1985. She was the state's director of labor relations in the Office of Policy & Management since 1997, and its assistant director from 1990-1997. Yelmini was graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1972 and received a master's in business administration from the University of New Haven in 1981 and a law degree from Western New England School of Law in 1985.
Gov Rell also created a special commission to oversee reforms in the Connecticut State Police's problem-plagued internal affairs unit.

I sincerely hope that everyone here is committed to reforming the system... punishing the "bad guys" (those who were either directly involved in the wrongs or had clear knowledge of the wrongs) AND exonerating the "good guys" (who I presume to be 99% of our 1,240 officers).

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

(Is Yelmini's position a new one? The article doesn't seem to say.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Vietnam Wall Memorial donations

can be made here. Thanks anonymous.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Open forum 12/15

Bethany's Veterans Memorial Park (off Rte 42, Beacon Road) is being flooded by beavers. (NHR, by Abram Katz). And here is the Amity Observer's take (by Terri Miles).

The Sox have signed Matsuzaka! (AP)

There were concerns voiced about CTs economic outlook at yesterday's 2007 Regional Economic Outlook Breakfast at the New Haven Lawn Club, sponsored by the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce. Along with some strengths, the keynote speaker, conomist Todd P. Martin said Connecticut's

economy will be negatively affected by higher energy costs, high taxes, transportation woes and higher costs of doing business.The most obvious area where the state lags the nation is in job growth: While every other state has gained back the jobs lost to the 2001 recession, Connecticut remains 23,300 jobs behind its mid-2000 high point. Connecticut is the only state that has not seen job growth from 1989 levels.
And CTs high rental costs (NHR, by Angela Carter) certainly don't help our situation. You'd have to earn over $20/hr to be able to afford a two bedroom unit in the NH-Meriden area. And while most college students may not need that much space, there probably are a good number of single moms who end up in a bind because of the high rental costs. I know some of them who live in Cheshire.

Here (by Leslie Hutchison) is the Herald's take on the Council meeting with the state delegation.

As I allude to in my following post, I think this whole CT State Police scandal is, very unfortunately, going to blow over without holding all wrong-doers to account. Heads should roll though. A house cleaning is in order.

Tuesday's meeting to discuss the possibility of Cheshire using biodiesel in our various diesel vehicles went well. I'll update more on that when I can, but I'm not expecting that to be for another few months. A few interesting points though on possible costs:
Estimated capital conversion costs: could be as low as $0, probably no more than $2k.
Estimated annual operating costs: DPW $2k, schools $8k (based on current fuel costs which fluctuate... my feeling is that, going forward, biodiesel will probably have less pricing volatility. And that's a good thing from a budgetary perspective.)

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Energy Security Leadership Council

I've been looking for more details about the group I mentioned in my "Compromise needed" post. And I've found their story.

The group organizing this effort is called the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC). The ESLC membership is here. There's some pretty important people included. I'd say the common thread of the members is one of two things: former military or current "transportation business" executives. (By transportation, I mean major shipping companies, such as Southwest Air, Fedex, Royal Caribbean and Waste Management.)

The ESLC is an outcrop of the group called Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE). SAFE describes itself as:

an action-oriented, nonpartisan organization that aims to reduce America's dependence on oil, addressing business and technology, politics and advocacy, and public education and media.
Most importantly, I found the report that was being publicized yesterday. It's an amazing report with some fantastic information. I hope the media pick it up, in turn, increasing public awareness. Without increased public awareness, this report may go the way of the dodo.

But based on what I saw in the papers today, this report seems all too similar to our CT State Police report. That is, by being delivered "during the holidays" and right after the ISG report... no one is going to be talking by the water cooler about it.

(And click here for my proposals for energy conservation (pros and cons) or here for my alt fuel proposal.)

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Compromise needed

"As much as 90% of oil reserves are controlled by foreign governments. And a supply interruption could have devastating consequences for millions of Americans. In an age of instability, America cannot afford this risk."

This was the opening salvo in a five minute segment on "energy security" tonight on Fox' Special Report. (I can't find any links.)

The basic story was about business leaders (eg - Frederick Smith, Fedex, CEO), former military leaders (eg - Gen. PX Kelley, USMC Ret) and financial experts who gathered in Washington today to discuss their disgust with 25 years of inaction on energy security. Following terrorists and WMDs, they feel our dependence on foreign oil is our top national security threat.

Gen. Kelley was concerned "to hear that a mere 4% reduction in our daily oil supply could rapidly propel the price of oil to more than $120 per barrel." (I believe oil is trading around $57/barrel right now. And with gas at $2.35/gallon today, a straight line analysis would put gas near $5/gallon. OK... that's pure speculation. But is a 4% reduction impossible?)

They went on to state that if oil production were cut by 20%, the world economy would collapse. (Coincidentally, I think Saudi Arabia produces 20% of the world's oil.)

So what's their solution?

1) conservation - increased CAFE standards to reduce consumption
2) alternative fuels - increased use of biofuels, such as ethanol & biodiesel
3) exploration - increased exploration on the continental shelf, (although it didn't seem to include ANWR).

OK. I'm sure exploration will get blasted as being "anti-environment." And "conservation" will get derided by Detroit. And "alternative fuels" will get ripped as more spending. But we need to act. We need to act now. This is a national security issue.

I hope that someone in Congress will have the courage and ability to take on all the various factions (Rs vs. Ds, Michigan Dems vs. California Dems, Texas Rs vs. Maine Rs), bring bills to the floors of the House and Senate, negotiate the compromise, take action and protect America.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Council mtg 12/12

I think the Council meeting went surprisingly smooth.

We added one item to the agenda. We took the "underage drinking prevention program" grant off the consent calendar and voted on it as an individual item. I believe it passed 8-1 (Schrumm opposed). For more info on stopping underage drinking, please visit Cheshire Cares.

We seemed to jump all around the agenda for the rest of the evening, but probably started with:

1) Legislative package -

I don't even recall Dave Schrumm really getting into much of a discussion with Mary Fritz about binding arbitration. Tom Ruocco got into the BA discussion though. I thought he made some very good points and I was glad that he did. I really don't understand why the legislature, refuses to revisit BA. There are win-win opportunities out there. But they simply have no interest in listening to any ideas when it comes to this one.

The conveyance tax was discussed. I suggested that taxes should be related to one's ability to pay. Therefore, review of the conveyance tax should be addressed in terms of comprehensive property tax reform. Personally, I prefer a sales tax as it is the only major tax we use that provides the individual with personal choice. I really don't want to see the legislature simply provide for a homestead exemption. The way that would probably work would be to give all properties (business & residential) an exemption for... say... the first $100,000 in value. But then what happens? We shift the burden... to the businesses that are already hurting and leaving our state?

The "telecommunications personal property PILOT" (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) was discussed. Rep. Nardello suggested that she would provide Cheshire with help on this matter after the town provided her with a list of all other towns in the state that would benefit from such a change in legislation.

Interestingly, two years ago, I was in Hartford to testify on behalf of a similar change in legislation. (It related to "non-profit nursing homes PILOT"... something that would apply to Elim Park.) Rep. Adinolfi asked me to testify on behalf of the town. So I went to Hartford and testified. However, I was curious to know if the legislation had any chance of passing. Al said he felt that it did because he had already taken the time to create a list of all other towns in the state that would benefit from such a change in legislation.

Elderly Tax Relief was supported by all legislators.

Funding for both the wastewater treatment plant prison overcapacity issue and mine remediation programs were supported unanimously.

The last issue which drew comment was probably the water main fund. Mr. Schrumm spoke, but I forget what his stated concerns were.

2) Support for bringing the Vietnam Wall ("The Wall that Heals") to Bartlem Park was unanimous. Ralph Zingarella intends to have his students set up the wall (with professional guidance) and to have a 24 hour vigil maintained for the six days that it is here. Total cost is estimated to be $6,000 - 8,000. If you'd like to personally support the wall, Ralph Zingarella is accepting donations. I believe you can email him at

3) Although there was no vote scheduled, we had some discussion on possible changes to the Town's Plan of Conservation and Development (this would be for the proposed lifestyle center in the northend). Tom Ruocco and Dave Schrumm both made good points about knowing the financial impact of the changes, particularly the proposal for "mixed use." That translates to housing in the northend. So not only would this impact the FD, PD, DPW et al., this could also impact the schools. So the concerns are appropriate. The only comment that left me blank was when Dave Schrumm repeatedly used the word "we." I really didn't understand why he kept using that word. I think when I get up on my soap box and start pontificating (lol), it's really just about how "I" feel.... My main question last night was to ensure that with such a significant electricity problem already in existence (both generation and distribution), we ask the developer to at least seriously consider alternative forms of electricity (such as onsite generation and clean, renewable energy. i.e. photovoltaics).

4) The Norton Energy Improvements were on the agenda. I simply reiterated my desire for having the town and schools create a master plan for any proposed energy improvements. These improvements may very well all be worth the money. But in total, they may cost in the tens of millions of dollars. And that would require us to do the projects in pieces... pieces which should be prioritized, based on payback.

5) A few other items were brought to a vote, but largely without discussion.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Southington tax freeze overturned

The Meriden Record-Journal is reporting that the Southington referendum (on their Town Council adopted tax freeze for seniors) has been overwhelmingly rejected:

In one of the highest turnouts ever for a townwide referendum, the voters Tuesday defeated the Town Council's tax freeze for certain senior citizens by 1,901 votes to 1,063 votes -- or 64.1 percent to 35.9 percent.
Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Underage drinking grant

The Courant ran this description of the $2,000,000 program which covers the grant that the Council votes on, tonight. Cheshire could receive approximately $42,000 each year in '07 & '08.

Tim White
Town Council, Human Services Committee liaison

Monday, December 11, 2006

Local cooling

While many people are concerned about global warming, some American municipalities are taking it upon themselves to provide "local cooling." Here (LA Times, by Stephanie Simon) is an article about what towns and cities across the country are doing to try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

For our part, I'm hoping something will happen tomorrow when our Dept of Public Works meets with Clean Cities. Clean Cities is a program designed "to advance the nation's economic, environmental, and energy security by supporting local decisions to adopt practices that contribute to the reduction of petroleum consumption."

I'm hoping that Cheshire can take a relatively small step and move our petrodiesel engines over to biodiesel. My main concern with this possible conversion would be cost. But as I recently mentioned, biodiesel is nearly at parity with petrodiesel. So cost may not be a significant factor.

For a quick lesson on biodiesel, click here.

Tim White
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison

p.s. Diane Visconti has suggested to me the possibility of having a forum to discuss Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth." I told her I'd be interested in doing it. For background, I haven't seen the movie... so I don't yet have an opinion. Would anyone be interested in this?

Tough love works

Tough love works (WRA, by Jodie Mozdzer) at Saint Anthony's Church in Prospect.

Tim White

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Vietnam War Memorial

A week or two ago I was watching MSNBC's Hardball. David Schuster was giving his report on the (then-soon-to-be-released) Iraq Study Group report. His report started out with an analogy between Vietnam and Iraq, specifically mentioning the evidence that was presented to the American public in the leadup to each war.

I don't recall how he characterized the evidence that was used as justification for each war... it may have been "faulty." Or "doctored." Or even "falsified." I really don't recall. (Although I know there was some negative connotation to it.) Regardless of the precise words he chose, the analogy stuck in my mind.

Frankly, I don't know if there was falsified evidence used by the current administration in the leadup to this war. I keep hearing conflicting reports which claim to prove or disprove the legitimacy of the evidence presented. I certainly hope there was no falsified evidence and have yet to see any "smoking gun."

But I do know that the Vietnam War was based on a lie and a coverup of the events that actually occured in the Gulf of Tonkin. How do I know? It was my own dad who told the world. He told the world through a relatively simple letter to the NH Register that was soon noticed by LBJ, Senator Fulbright, Moscow and beyond. His brief story is right here.

So if you're curious about getting a quick recap on the events (and lies) that led up to the Vietnam War, please click thru and read my dad's brief story. It speaks volumes about the US Government's capabilities to lie and deceive... and to the need for outspoken citizen involvement in our government.

This is one major reason why I strongly support us getting the Vietnam War Memorial to come to town. It reminds us of the sacrifices made. Sacrifices made that were based on the actions of our leaders. Leaders who are elected by us.

Tim White
Town Council

Headed into the red?

The state's budget is, in my opinion from an accounting perspective, a joke. Look no further than the underfunded teachers' pension fund. We book all revenue as soon as possible and delay expenses as long as possible. So it really didn't surprise me to see this AP article: State could find itself $500 million in the red for 2007-08.

Perhaps the state could start to get its finances in order by using real accounting principles, getting rid of state police who seem to spend their time actively ignoring likely crimes and reforming, perhaps the biggest waste of money in the state, the DOT.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Council agenda 12/12

Sorry for not getting this posted yesterday. I just didn't have much time to logon this weekend.

As usual, the first item on the agenda that requires a vote will be the consent calendar. I'm not sure if there will be any discussion on this. However, we do have seven items on it with an aggregate "grant amount" of about $70,000... this may get some discussion.

Then we'll move onto new business:

1) Legislative package - this will probably take the most time. I'm sure Mary Fritz and David Schrumm will have an enjoyable discussion. Dave will tell our legislators to reform binding arbitration and they will tell him he's wrong. I completely agree with Schrumm on this, but I'm not quite sure of the benefit of even addressing this with our legislators. During the past election, I think all five of those who were elected to represent Cheshire were clear of their support of the system.

2) West Main Streetscape committee appointments - dunno if this'll cause a stir. But I looked at the names and they seem fine to me. (They're people chosen from other boards & commissions.)

3) Traveling Vietnam War Memorial - authorization for BOE to use Bartlem Park. This is a great idea. I'll see if I can get my dad to come speak in support of this.

4) Interchange zone development - If the proposed lifestyle center is to happen in the northend, it's got to go thru the Council before it goes thru PZC. Specifically, the Council needs to change the Plan of Conservation and Development. There's no scheduled vote for this for Tuesday. I guess that might happen in January.

5) Acceptance of a town road - I think this is a new development in town... the one up on Summit Road.

6) Waiver of competitive selection process - Norton School got $500k in energy improvements approved at referendum on Nov. 7. Basically, the $500k breaks down into two parts: $100k for boilers and $400k for windows. The Public Buildings Comm wants to skip the paperwork on this and use the same people they used for their other recent projects (Humiston boiler, 2004 & CHS Windows, 2006). While "bid waivers" of any sort are pretty ugly nowadays in CT, I don't have a big problem with this. My main concern here is to have the town and schools come up with a master plan for any energy improvements that they want done. We need to establish a "to do" list with a "return on investment" analysis. That way we can get the most bang for our buck.

7) Disclosure of interest by Town Manager - The town occasionally buys sandwiches (for nighttime meetings) from Bagelicious. Michael Milone's son just got a job at Bagelicious. I hope no one makes a stink over this.

That's it. I'm guessing that the only two items that will generate discussion will be the legislative package and the interchange zone.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Christmas shopping idea

This Courant article (by Steve Grant) gives an interesting Christmas shopping idea for environmentalists. It's CTs own DEP store. According to the article, the "store" has a retail outlet in a DEP building in Hartford.

I peeked around to learn about the funding for the store (self-sustained, tax-subsidized, or something else), but couldn't find anything.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Open forum 12/8

The Amity Observer recently ran this editorial on the need to combat underage drinking.

Here's the Herald's take (by Leslie Hutchison) on Monday's Senior Tax Relief meeting.

I agree with Colin McEnroe's view on the State Police scandal, for the most part. Until head's roll, no one should be congratulated. And while I'm uncertain of the benefit of a second commission reviewing the work of the previous panel... I don't necessarily think that Gov. Rell's call for a second investigation is bad. Clearly, CT government (both state and local) is rife with wrong-doing. We must clean house. But in order to properly mete out justice, someone needs to speak with everyone even tangentially involved in this state police scandal and ask the proverbial two questions: What did you know? And when did you know it? It should be done like a real investigation: under oath and with evidence, such as emails, memos, phone records, etc. No stone should be left unturned. Only after this process is complete should we be congratulating people. Because only then will we know the good guys from the bad guys. (And keeping tabs on the cost of this fiasco... we've already sunk 9,500 manhours into this thing. That's nearly five years. And if one investigator's total compensation cost is about $100,000/yr, we've already spent nearly half a million bucks. Can anyone attest to those numbers? I'm really not sure.)

And unrelated to anything that you would see reported anywhere... I was recently quoted the price of biodiesel ($2.79/gallon) in comparison with the price of petrodiesel ($2.71/gallon). Since the two are near parity, we ought to at least have a real discussion about biodiesel. Who knows? Maybe our own public works department will soon be using biodiesel. I'll update when I have more info.

Finally, for those of you who keep track of this stuff... the Council meets next Tuesday and we usually get the agenda on the Friday before a Tuesday meeting. I'm hoping to post the agenda here by Saturday. Until then, I'm not yet sure what's on it, except for the discussion with our state legislative delegation. I'm sure next Tuesday will include a "lively" conversation about binding arbitration between David Schrumm and Mary Fritz.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Missed opportunity

More to come on the Iraq Study Group when I have some time to sort out my thoughts, but until then...

The NH Register is reporting (by Mary E. O'Leary) that our state delegation is hailing the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. But based on my reading of the article, our elected officials continue to fail us.

"Iraqis are facing increased violence, yet their government is not showing the political will to make the tough decisions that will begin to resolve the conflict," U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, said Wednesday.
Huh? Iraqis are facing increased violence? What about our American troops? And in what way is our government showing the political will to make tough decisions? That is, who in our government is willing to take the initiative and end our "addiction" to Mideast oil?

Few words have been spoken by the Executive branch since last January. And our newly remade delegation in the Legislative branch seems (based on the article) to be missing the point too.

At a moment when our "leaders" are getting headlines, they seem to simply applaud the recommendations of the ISG. Nary a word about moving America away from our "addiction" to Mideast oil. Yet another missed opportunity by our "leaders."

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Bond rating upgrade

Cheshire is going to save tax dollars as a result of some good news we just got. Moody's just upgraded our rating from Aa3 to Aa2.

In conducting a credit rating review, Moody’s evaluates four primary factors of the municipality: debt management, administrative issues, financial performance and economic base; and determines the overall rating on the community’s strength in each area.

The most immediate benefit of this upgrade will be a reduction in the Town’s interest rate on borrowings, translating into thousands of dollars in savings in interest costs, not only on the imminent $5.5 million bond issue, but future bond offerings as well.

Noteworthy in Moody’s rating analysis was their recognition of the Town ’s management team coupled with the positive working relationship between the Town Council and the management team, which has enabled the Town to identify and implement long term goals, improving the Town financial position throughout the last five years.

Cheshire last received an upgrade from Moody’s in 1993.

Tim White
Town Council, Budget Committee

65 years ago

Pearl Harbor

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Partying: ECSU-style

I have at least one friend who did her fair share of partying when she attended Eastern Connecticut State University. But this is an inventive way (Courant, by Rachana Rathi) to keep college kids out of trouble.

If you're concerned about underage drinking, please visit Cheshire Cares.

Tim White
Town Council, Human Services Committee liaison

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cheshire, Prospect save $$

This WRA article (by Lauresha Xhihani) points out how electricity prices are going up and what towns, such as Cheshire & Prospect, are doing to combat those costs.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Sr tax relief on TV

Cheshire's leading advocate for seniors, Ellen Carson, made a simple request. She asked Town Hall if they could televise the Senior Tax Relief Study Committee meetings.

So beginning last night, the meetings started airing on Channel 14. Great idea, Ellen!

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District.

State police problems

The NHR (by George Hladky) and the WRA (by Ben Conery) both have articles detailing allegations of state police wrongdoing. The Rep-Am described:

Frequently, investigators found, superior officers made sure the internal affairs division failed to thoroughly investigate allegations against troopers. Those allegations include sexual assault, domestic violence, drug use, drunken driving, brutality, bribery, and associating with drug dealers and prostitutes. Some of the alleged misconduct may be reinvestigated by internal affairs or subject to criminal investigation by Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane.

The Register detailed:

In summer 2004, a lawyer for an accused drug dealer told prosecutors that his client was paying a state police officer $2,000 to $5,000 a month for "protection." According to the lawyer, when the alleged drug dealer stopped paying, the trooper would harass and arrest members of his family.

This isn't good. And since the allegations are so serious, I hope the investigations continue unimpeded. People need to be held to account, if these allegations prove true.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Btw, did someone mention here that the new DOT commissioner is a former state trooper? As well, I looked at the Chief State's Attorney Office website for the actual report, but couldn't find anything.

CTs forms of gov't

In a previous post, I pointed out that someone asked the Council if it's time for a Charter revision. Depending on where people want to go with a Charter revision, I think it may very well be time for one. But one thing I'm not particularly interested in seeing happen would be for us to change our form of government.

What do I mean by that?

Well, as detailed in this map (by Max Sklar... and click thru... it's worth a peek.) that I linked from CT Local Politics, you can see that CT seems to have four typical forms of gov't:

Town Meeting
Representative Town Meeting
Council / Manager
Mayor / Council

Cheshire has a Council / Manager form of government. Is it perfect? No. But all things considered, I think it works well for us and I'd prefer to keep it.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Monday, December 04, 2006

$4 drug bandwagon

The NH Register ran this interesting editorial on the new $4 prescription drug craze taking America by storm. I say it jokingly, but this is fantastic. I'm sure I'll be using it soon. And according to the editorial, not only Target is following the lead of Walmart, but so are K-Mart and BJs.

On a related note, anyone happen to know if any of these people:

Fortney Pete Stark, CA
John Lewis, GA
Lloyd Doggett, TX
Mike Thompson, CA
Rahm Emanuel, IL
Jim McCrery, LA
Sam Johnson, TX
Dave Camp, MI
Jim Ramstad, MN
Phil English, PA
J.D. Hayworth, AZ
Kenny C. Hulshof, MO
Nancy L. Johnson, CT

(The members of the House Subcommittee on Health in the 109th Congress.)

Called Leslie A. Dach before, or after, voting on Medicare Part D?

(Mr. Dach runs Government Relations for Walmart. As well, he was "a senior advisor for communications for the Democratic National Committee in 2004 and (managed) the program at the 2000 Democratic Convention.")

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Toce blood drive

Blood drive, Saturday, 8am - 1:15pm, Highland School, Cheshire. (NHR, by Luther Turmelle)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Telecommuting: pros

Do you want a solution to help us:

1) reduce traffic on our congested highways,
2) reduce our dependence on Mideast oil,
3) protect the environment,
4) improve our health and
5) reduce government spending?

Sharing many of the same benefits of moving our cars from oil to alt fuels, telecommuting may be able to really help our state. Here are some of the telecommuting opportunities available to us in CT.

And some food for thought... if 10% of a job could be done at home (less than one hour per day)... is it that far of a stretch to say people could be working from home 1 day every two weeks? Reducing the traffic on our roads by 10%, reducing our gas consumption, reducing emissions, and reducing the amount of money wasted by the mismanaged DOT on road repairs?

As you could guess, I don't have any real information to support this. And I'm sure some jobs don't lend themselves to telecommuting (for example, dining services & snow plow drivers). But perhaps someone knows of a study that's been done? A study noting which jobs/industries are most adaptable to telecommuting; and which jobs/industries exist here in CT? Any ideas? I did some googling, but nothing jumped out at me.

I'd like to see what we could do right here in Cheshire to promote telecommuting.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Telecommuting: cons

On the flipside of the aforementioned benefits is the fact that telecommuting can cost us jobs in CT.

The following is a brief story, intended to give an example of how telecommuting has already taken away one job from our high cost state.

Earlier this year I was knocking on doors in Cheshire and I was told a story. The gentleman's admin ass't had recently retired. He needed someone new. At first, he figured he'd look for someone locally. But he then started to think more about it. Rather than simply finding a new admin ass't, he decided to consider what his needs really were.

He soon realized that since he was on the road a large percentage of the time, he rarely had "face time" with his admin. Most of his work was done over the phone or via email. Therefore, he concluded that he didn't really need to hire someone to be "seated" in his CT-based office.

He could hire someone from anywhere. His next admin ass't could telecommute. Which raised the next question:

Where can I find the most qualified, yet least expensive, person?

His conclusion: not Connecticut

Does anyone know of any CT studies that have been done on this?

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Saturday, December 02, 2006

21st century tea party

Massachusetts' Prop 21/2 is a rule whereby any local property tax increase greater than 2.5% automatically goes to referendum. It's a way of handing the power back to the people. And for years now, most of those referendums have passed. But the tax increases of yesteryear may now be coming home to roost (Boston Globe, by Matt Viser). As written in the Globe article:

Voters in Massachusetts cities and towns have rejected two-thirds of proposed property tax overrides this year, reflecting widespread distaste for higher property taxes, according to a Globe review of state property tax records.

The rejections marked the first time this decade that more proposed Proposition 2 1/2 overrides failed than passed. In previous years, the votes had been far more successful, with residents agreeing to increase their property taxes in order to avoid cutting positions for teachers, police officers, and firefighters or to pay for renovating municipal-owned buildings.

This year, one-third of the Proposition 2 1/2 overrides passed. Approximately 59 override votes have been rejected, while 30 have been approved, the lowest rate since at least 1999. In 2005, 94 proposals passed, and 79 failed. In 2001, two-thirds of the proposed overrides were approved. Some muncipalities put more than one question before voters.

I'm not sure if this MA taxpayer discontent translates to CT, but I still think it would be great if CT enacted similar legislation. The number doesn't have to be 2.5%. It could be 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% or whatever number makes the most sense. Nonetheless, I think doing something of this nature... guaranteeing voter involvement... would be good.

And if you're curious to know more about Prop 21/2, here is the MA Dept of Revenue's own explanation of it. They describe it as having "revolutionized property tax administration" and it "is a fundamental feature of the Massachusetts municipal fiscal landscape."

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

School safety fund

On Friday, Senators Don Defronzo (New Britain) and Don Williams (Brooklyn) announced the creation of a $15million school safety fund.

As I've said before, school safety is important. But I also want to know how this money will be allocated. This article (Courant, by Loretta Waldman) gives a pretty good explanation about how the money will be allocated. I'm still curious about this one paragraph though:

The lawmakers estimated the cost of such (school safety) systems to be $10,000 to $200,000. The grants from the state would reimburse, most, if not all, of each school's costs on a sliding scale, they said.
What exactly do they mean by "sliding scale?"

Is it based on population of the town? How about population of the student body? Perhaps it's based on the crime rate in each town? Or the crime rate in each school? Will this "sliding scale" take into account crime prevention measures that already exist in certain schools?

My guess is that this "sliding scale" will be defined during the upcoming session. That would be appropriate. And ensuring school safety is important. But I also hope that the legislature provides the voters with a full explanation as to how this money will be allocated.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Friday, December 01, 2006

CERC & telecommuting

Released yesterday was a report by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), a nonprofit funded primarily by utilities.

The Register's Cara Baruzzi reported:

Hindered by job loss, a slow-growing and aging population, struggling urban centers and an exodus of young people, Connecticut is losing ground when it comes to economic competitiveness, according to a study released Thursday. The study, titled "Benchmarking Connecticut 2006: Determinants of Economic Growth," should serve as a wake-up call to both the public and private sector that changes are needed to reverse the trends, said Jeff Blodgett, vice president of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center.
She also included in the article:
The key to reversing some of the trends, business leaders agreed, is a partnership between the private and public sector to devise specific strategic goals.
Lots of thoughts come to mind for me on this. But one word in particular popped into my head:


I haven't heard anyone in CT mention that as a potential option for helping address some of our woes. But I have to run to work now, so more on that later.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Open forum 12/01

As has been for years, the pool is the #1 topic in town. As I mentioned before, the Council voted (7-2 - Ruocco, White opposed) to hire a pool consultant (Herald, by Leslie Hutchison). The consultant is Aquattica. They'll be assisted by USA Swimming.

Here's a great story (WRA, by Emily Beaver) about several area women who assembled care packages for our troops using the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department.

Cheshire may be getting a "lifestyle center" in the northend (Herald, by Leslie Hutchison), including housing. I'm not sure how this would impact the wastewater treatment plant. I definitely want to hear more about this. I'm just guessing that if a lifestyle center is added, then a gas station will be added. And if a gas station is added up there, then I will seriously push for an alt fuel offering... although I'm not exactly sure what that means. That is, would the developer construct a gas station? Would someone else ask for a special permit, in order to put in a gas station? I'm not yet sure who would be involved in such a thing... but I will find out.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Addicted to oil?

The Iraq Study Group (ISG) is set to release its report (AP, by Lolita Baldor) next week. And they seem to be talking quite a bit about troop redeployments, but there also seems to be something missing from all this preliminary talk: ending our "addiction to oil."

Nearly a year ago, I applauded our Commander-in-Chief when President Bush said (CNN):

"Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world," the former oil executive said.

"Tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative -- a 22 percent increase in clean energy research at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas," Bush said. "To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission, coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.

"We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks,or switch grass."
But at this point, who remembers the "Advanced Energy Initiative?" Was this just lip service?

I don't think so. I get pretty deep into this energy stuff. And from what I can tell, things are happening... behind the scenes. Way behind the scenes, unfortunately. And therein lies the problem. As the saying goes... if a tree falls in the woods...?

The President should be using the bully pulpit in an effort to end America's "addiction to oil." But he is not doing that. As far as I'm concerned, there's no way to decouple the war in Iraq from our dependence on Mideast oil. And since the path toward energy independence and away from Mideast dependence is complex, it is incumbent on our leaders to show us the way.

I sincerely hope that, unlike the President, the ISG doesn't fail to address America's "addiction to oil" when they address their "plan for Iraq." If they do, along with the President, they'll be doing a disservice to our nation. The issues are too big. The stakes are too high. Someone needs to explain to America both "alt fuels" and the path forward. And if the POTUS isn't going to do it, then whoever has the eyes and ears of the world should do it. And my guess is that, next week, the world's attention will be focused on the ISG.

In the meantime, I'm working at the local level to move Cheshire toward alt fuels. More on that in a different post.

And not entirely unrelated, Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) announced his bid for the Presidency today. I don't know much about him at all. But from what I understand, he's making alt fuels central to his campaign... so he's starting off on the right foot with me.

Tim White
Cheshire Town Council, 4th District

Booming economy?

We've got some new businesses coming to town (WRA, by Lauresha Xhihani). I guess that new Chamber Director really knows what he's doing... he just needs to remember to bring all the new business to the south end of town. That way I can run ads next fall talking about how I "reduced unemployment" and "increased jobs" in the 4th District. Ha!

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Term limits

I got an interesting letter tonight from a resident here in town, Ray Squier. I haven't read the entire letter yet (it's three pages), but did read the beginning... including the question:

"Is it time to again look at the town Charter for review, revisions, improvements?"

That question brought something to my mind... something that I had been considering for a while now, but had not really discussed publicly.

Term limits

I think we (the town) ought to seriously consider term limits for the Council. Personally, I think we ought to have term limits for all levels of my government: Washington, Hartford & Cheshire. But I can only have a direct impact on Cheshire.

How could we impose term limits?

We would need to revise the charter. Hence, the timing of this posting. (Btw, the last Charter Revision was completed in 1996. And I think it began in 1994. So I agree with Ray. It's been over a decade since we opened up the Charter. Regardless of term limits, I think it may be worthwhile to consider revising the Charter.)

Some general thoughts on how I would define "term limits?"

I wouldn't want to preclude someone from office forever. However, I don't see a need for someone to stay in office for more than say, six to ten years continuously. Then they could leave office for one term and return thereafter. However, in the meantime, we would have gotten some new people into office... people who may very well not run for office if they were to face an "incumbent." As well, I wouldn't want to backdate this rule. To simplify things, we could just "start the timer" today.

As for the much broader idea of "Charter Revision," for those of you who are unaware, Charter Revision is a significant undertaking. And most importantly, it means EVERYTHING is "on the table." That means we could:

1) move from a Council/Manager form of gov't to a Mayor... either strong (New Haven) or weak (Meriden, I think).

2) pay our elected officials (ha! I'd love to see how that goes over in the voting booth! It'd go over even better than Wooding Caplan did in Wallingford... I think that went down something like 6600 - 400!).

3) allow for split referendum votes... bifurcating the town budget from the school budget. (Personally, I think that would be great because it would be handing more power to the voters. Right now though, we can only have one "up or down" vote on the entire $90million budget. Splitting out various line items would be good for the town.)

4) revise the Council election cycle. (For example, we could change from four to three districts, change from two to three year terms and have three Council members up for election each year... putting all these changes together would help us comply with minority representation rules, as two at-large members would always be up for election.)

5) split the roles of Council Chairman and Honorary Mayor (I see no need to combine the roles.)

6) do all sorts of things.

I have some other ideas to broach if we revise the charter, but the single most significant idea I would support is term limits. (I don't like the idea of going to a Mayor. By having a Mayor, you centralize power. And that's fine with a good person in office. But I think Corrupticut has proven itself to have too many people who start to believe that they themselves are special, ultimately succumbing to temptation. Nope... I'd rather skip that possibility.)

Please comment on this. I really would like to hear if people like the idea of term limits or, more generally, a Charter Revision. (I found this Wikipedia page to be very useful in reviewing the supporting and opposing arguments.)

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District