Here's a sampling of the "Season's Greetings" cards that I got this year. I think both cards are very thoughtful... and while I've disagreed with both Sam and Elizabeth on some political things during the past year... they're both good people who do care a great deal. Thanks to Sam and Elizabeth both
Wouldn't it be interesting to see these two facing off for Governor in a few years?? ha! Frankly, I don't think it's that far-fetched an idea. And it would be nice to have a choice between two people, both of whom are extremely articulate and... in a certain way... while I believe they're both quite practical, they also have an underlying Ron Paul-esque philosophical approach to government.
UPDATE as someone mentioned in the comments... I never asked if I could post family photos to the blog. So for simplicity sake, I've deleted the photos.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Here's a sampling of the "Season's Greetings" cards that I got this year. I think both cards are very thoughtful... and while I've disagreed with both Sam and Elizabeth on some political things during the past year... they're both good people who do care a great deal. Thanks to Sam and Elizabeth both
Is it fair to say that if an individual controls most of the speaking time during a discussion, then that person is driving the debate?
Although I didn't attend the Budget Committee meeting on the fund balance policy, I did notice that some people seemed to speak more often than others.
Based on a quick "ctrl+f" analysis, I see the following names mentioned "x" number of times in relation to people speaking:
Of course, you can also read the minutes in their entirety in the following post. Nonetheless, I'm wondering... who is driving the debate and setting the policy with regard to the millions of tax dollars that the town has collected over the past few years?
Since the Council is the policy board for the town, it must be the Council... right?
But according to the minutes, "We are talking about preserving the 8% and re-directing anything over 8% the way the Council decides."
Whoops! Silly me... I forgot what I mentioned in a prior post... "I was under the impression that the Council sets policy, including the size of the rainy day fund. But I guess I was wrong."
Sunday, December 30, 2007
The following is the Dec 17 Budget Committee meeting minutes (unedited). I know it's long... this portion of the meeting took two hours. Nonetheless, I'll probably blog about this in the next few days, so to avoid anything being taken out of context... here it is in its entirety:
MINUTES OF THE CHESHIRE TOWN COUNCIL BUDGET COMMITTEE AND JOINT SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING HELD ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2007, AT 7:30 P.M. IN ROOM 207, TOWN HALL, CHESHIRE CT 06410
Michael Ecke, Budget Committee Chairman; Matthew Hall, Council Chairman; Elizabeth Esty and Thomas Ruocco, Budget Committee Members; Matthew Altieri, Laura DeCaprio, James Sima, Timothy Slocum, Timothy White.
Staff: Michael A. Milone, Town Manager; Patti Lynn Ryan, Finance Director; James Jaskot, Deputy Finance Director.
Guest: Special Counsel Attorney John K. Knott; Matthew Spoerndle, V.P. People’s United Bank, Town Financial Advisor.
1. CALL TO ORDER.
Mr. Ecke called the meeting to order at 7:38 p.m.
2. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The group Pledged Allegiance to the Flag.
3. DISCUSSION RE: FUND BALANCE POLICY
Town Manager Milone informed the Council that some of the information regarding the fund balance policy has been seen before, and some is new information. He explained that in the last few years, the town has been fortunate to have healthy surpluses, and as a result there is a fund balance which is higher than ever before. The fund balance is the difference between the town’s assets and liabilities, and is the accumulation of surpluses over time, which sits in a fund balance account/equity, rainy day fund or reserve account. Through good fiscal practices and luck, there is a healthy fund balance. Staff wanted to discuss with the Council implementation of one of the best practices recommended by the financial profession…that is to have a fund balance policy. This policy would have written guidelines which provide guidance on how fund balance is to be used, how it would be spent, and how to determine a reasonable amount to be maintained in this fund balance account. The town is using a percentage of the overall operating expenses, and the fund balance should be “X” percent of the expenses. It is a changing dollar amount as the budget grows, but the percentage stays relatively the same.
With the town being a position to have a healthy fund balance, Mr. Milone said that one of the goals he has tried to maintain is to implement best practices wherever possible. The staff came to the Council in April talking about formalizing a fund balance policy, so the Council could explain how surpluses would be used in a planned way.
Ms. Ryan and Mr. Jaskot took a model fund balance policy and modified it so it met the particular needs of the Town of Cheshire. At the three previous Budget Committee meetings there was discussion about a reasonable policy for debate, and with a few minor changes, the draft policy is before the Council for review and discussion.
Mr. Milone discussed the key points in the draft policy.
#1, it is recommended that the Town maintain 8% of the operating budget set aside in a fund balance account.
#2, if the Town is lucky to have money in excess of this 8%, it can be used to establish reserves for a future budget. Four areas of importance are funding reserves, which would offset major increases in future expenses. The town has established a debt service reserve, heart and hypertension reserve, and in establishing these reserves, one of the rationales is avoidance of future debt, reduction of debt service, and using any money above 8% for direct mill rate relief.
Traditionally, the Town has always used money from fund balance as revenue in the next year’s budget; this year the Council took $550,000 from the fund balance to be used as revenue. This is direct mill rate relief. The fund balance has also been used for debt service reserve, heart and hypertension, which also reduces the mill rate, by reducing the expenditure side of the budget.
Items 3, 4 and 5 are general information and recommendations for the fund balance policy. They talk about a fiscal emergency situation. Mr. Milone advised that in 2003 the State was threatening to take $1.4 million revenue away from the Town five months into the fiscal year. That is a fiscal emergency. Item #4 speaks to that situation where an emergency appropriation must be made by the Council, or facing the loss of significant revenue in a fiscal year, the reserve could be used. Item #4 is a reactionary situation; item #2 is a proactive situation planning for the future.
In developing the draft policy, Mr. Milone said it was done following industry standards and practices, and also medians were looked at for other communities in the State, and what is recommended by professional organizations.
Ms. Ryan reviewed the draft policy, stating that the staff is recommending the Town maintain a minimum percent, but the recommended goal is one or two months of the ensuing year’s operating expenditures. The 8% minimum is about $250,000 shy of one month’s expenditures; and the goal is to have one month of expenditures in the fund balance account.
Page 2 – National GFOA recommended practice works with GASBE (accounting standards which the Town is bound by). The recommended GFOA practice is a minimum fund balance of no less than 5% to 15% of operating expenditures. Ms. Ryan read an excerpt from page 2 into the record, and advised that these are the guidelines for the Town of Cheshire. When the upgrade was given to the Town by the rating agencies, the fund balance was at 8%, and it is hoped the balance will not drop below the 8% minimum recommendation. She said that one month of expenditures should be put away for emergency situations, and at this time the Town does not quite have that amount set aside.
Mr. Spoerndle pointed out that it is recommended for a town to have a formal policy on fund balance.
Fund Balance Survey page 4 – Ms. Ryan noted that 10 towns responded with information on their fund balance policy, and there is a range of percentages, goals, and information on policies in place.
Page 5 – MFRA – Moody’s Investors Service Survey of all Aa rated towns in Connecticut. Ms. Ryan cited the unreserved, undesignated operating funds balance as percentage of revenues for Aa rated towns, the median was 9%.
Page 6 – MFRA – every rated town in Connecticut is listed, and the median percentage is 9.2% for fund balance reserve.
Page 7 – outlines the Town of Cheshire use of fund balance analysis, 1997 to 2007; the surplus generated; the appropriation out of the surplus; and transfers to other funds. Over the last 10 years there has been $13.4 million in total year end surpluses; fund balance appropriations of $5.5 million for property tax relief. As the Town got to the end of a good year, money was appropriated to offset the mill rate, totaling $5.5 million.
In the analysis, Mr. Jaskot noted that the transfers cited were out of surplus for funding reserve accounts.
Mr. Milone said that this shows that when there is a healthy fund balance, the Council has been more aggressive in re-directing the fund balance into reserve accounts to protect against future large increases in heart and hypertension, debt service, etc. He mentioned that the FY 2007 un-audited surplus will be about $2.3 million. At the time the Council appropriated the transfers to the reserve accounts, it was projected that the surplus would be $1.1 million.
Page 8 – Town of Cheshire Year End Surplus Analysis 2007 – the surplus is expected to be $2.3 million; this is 9.65 % of actual year end expenditures or 9.4% of actual year end revenues; this leaves $8.4 million undesignated and unreserved at year end.
On the 2nd page of the GFOA document, Mr. Altieri said that, to him, this means the staff is talking about $2.3 million and other reserve accounts which must be funded as well, i.e. the WPCA having a certain amount of reserve funds which should be more than 1 or 2 months. His concern is that in talking about fund balance policy there should be discussion about all the accounts, not just municipal accounts.
This is a good point and Ms. Ryan said that you do have to look at all the funds, and the information presented is a snapshot of the general fund, and does not include the long term liabilities in the general fund, which are in the financial statements. Cheshire has $79 million in outstanding principal debt; $3.5 million estimated liability in heart and hypertension claims; a commitment through the five year capital budget plan of $6.8 million; and the pension liability for the next year is $788,000 for the contribution. Cheshire has an NPO outstanding, but Ms. Ryan is not concerned about this because the pension plans are well funded. There are some sizable long term liabilities out here. Cheshire has the VEBA, with a possible minimum impact of $10 million. There is a lot out there not seen visually, and we do not have one month expenditures in reserve.
Mr. Milone explained that everything runs through the general fund; the general fund supports the pension fund, debt service reserve fund, capital projects fund, etc. and they are all fed from the money from the general fund. But they appear in the financial statements as separate, stand alone things, that continue to get support, and they all have significant liabilities.
Ms. Ryan stated that the heart and hypertension estimated liability is $3.4 million, and this is based on projects, trends, settlements, compensation, based through year end 2007. The cash reserve in this fund is $575,000, and the recommendation is to continue to pre-fund this account while claims are being managed.
These are liabilities to the town, and Mr. Milone explained the benefits of the heart and hypertension for the police and fire departments, which is separate from workers compensation, and there is no coverage if it is a heart and hypertension claim. Cheshire tries to protect itself by funding a reserve account. The legislature is trying to extend this benefit to include a cancer provision, even if not job related. The risk is great, and premiums would be unbelievable, so there is no insurance coverage.
Given all the long term obligations, Mrs. Esty asked if there is guidance as part of the GFOA recommendation; or is there any thought about how the town goes about considering these long term obligations; what the appropriate amounts are to be set aside for them. In the lean years nothing would be set aside, and there are concerns about looking at the guidelines. The Town needs to get a handle on the time period for the long term debt, and how much should be set aside for this debt for which there is no insurance. There should be calculations on the long term debt which will play into what the reserves should be.
Mrs. Esty also commented on the major costs for the WPCA, its infrastructure, and the entire town’s infrastructure based on the age of the buildings.
According to Mr. Milone, the hope is to agree on a fund balance policy, then with the final audit report, the exact levels of liability in various other funds can be seen. There can then be a determination of how to take the balance over 8% and allocate that amount of money, and establish guidelines on allocation of this year’s surplus. The final audit numbers will be available in a few weeks.
In FY 2009-10, the debt service is expected to increase by $600,000 more than it is today; in FY 2009-10 there will be a property revaluation. These two things will be significant and impact on what it costs to run the Town. The staff is trying to work with the Council to prevent spikes in the mill rate and budget.
If we are going to maintain an 8% fund balance, Mr. Slocum asked about a lean year or fat year, and the cost of maintaining the 8% being higher in a lean year and impacting the taxpayers. He asked how this 8% target will be maintained each year.
Mr. Milone replied that the suggestion is two things – if there is a 9.4% fund balance now, 8% sits as protection for the town; 1.4% is redirected into various reserve accounts to protect against future swings, heart and hypertension, debt service, mill rate increase. We are talking about preserving the 8% and re-directing anything over 8% the way the Council decides.
On page 7 of the report, Mr. Milone pointed out that the more money appropriated from fund balance the bigger the hole in the subsequent year. Without another $1 million to replenish this account, it must be made up on the back of the taxpayer, and there is a balancing act on the taxpayers. We are starting at a reasonable point, and trying to preserve it, and this is the time to redirect some of the money to reserve accounts.
Mr. Slocum asked what the cost benefit analysis is for the taxpayer and the cost to them to have this one month of operating expenditures set aside.
This cannot be characterized as a cost, and Mr. Milone said the surplus is due to increase in State aid, consistently higher tax collection rate. There must be a concern about a possible recession. Mr. Milone pointed out that this fund balance does not lend itself to a cost benefit analysis, because the start is a false premise that there is a cost involved. There is no cost; there is a revenue investment that sits there that is being debated as to its use. The Town needs some protection; there has not been a recession in many years; when there was a recession the tax collection was 2% less than budgeted; and the fear is that this could happen again. There could be a down swing. 75% of the budget comes from tax collection, and with a recession or bad real estate market, ¾ of what the Town relies on could be impacted.
In 2003, just 5 months after the fiscal year started, the State pulled $1.4 million in revenue from Cheshire. This was made up by cutting costs, going into the CNR fund; and it took 5 years to get back today to where the CNR was 5 years ago. As a result, there was $1.4 million foregone which could have been used to pay for capital projects for cash. The projects were let go, or borrowing was done with interest to pay for them.
Mr. Milone commented on the fact that Cheshire has not had a budget referendum since 1993, and if there was a referendum, tax bills cannot go out until late July, with cash coming to the Town in August. There are debt payments due in August. With a referendum there would be a cash shortfall of $6 million to $8 million. $30 million in tax revenue comes into the town in July, and if a referendum is forced, this money does not come in until mid or late August. The town would have to go out and borrow short term to find the cash for this shortfall.
Additionally, WPCA decided not to send out the sewer use bills until February 2008 pending a revaluation of the sewer use charge; this is $2 million in revenue that is being foregone. The WPCA will be supported by the money in this reserve account. For every $1 million in this reserve account, it is about $40,000 in investment income as well. There are many major benefits in having a reserve which do not appear on the surface every day. Mr. Milone noted that the Town has been prudent, has had the fall back, and the reserve has helped with bumps in the budget road.
Mr. Ecke asked if anyone does a cost benefit analysis, and he is not sure how this would be approached.
Mr. Spoerndle stated that a cost benefit analysis of the surplus and reserves relative to cost savings cannot be done. The town is saving money in a fiscally responsible way, generating interest, and as a benefit to that there is a reward of a higher credit rating, reduction in borrowing costs with a low interest rate. Mr. Spoerndle stated that he has never heard of this type of analysis before, and does not believe it can be done.
Regarding insurance, Mr. Ecke asked if municipalities purchase insurance when issuing bonds.
Mr. Spoerndle explained that bond insurers will charge a lower rate for He also commented on the fact that it is the underwriter’s discretion whether or not there is insurance put on the bonds, and the cost of the insurance is cheap. It is rare to see an issuer buy insurance on their own. When a bond is sold with Aaa there is a lower rate because of the better credit. In this environment the underlying rating is still very important. In the current environment the insurance providers are getting hammered by the sub-prime, because they insure mortgages and invest many assets in these mortgage backed securities. There is defaulting and they are taking millions in write-offs. There is so much exposure. The underlying rating is always important.
Mr. Ruocco commented on the idea of a cost benefit analysis, from the taxpayer’s standpoint asking about the 8% fund balance, and the town wanting to get a better credit rating for lower interest on borrowing. The taxpayer may ask how much is saved each year on interest rate reduction. If it is $50,000 in borrowing costs, the people are taxed $8 million, and Mr. Ruocco asked how much taxes per household there is to get the fund balance to 8% versus paying the extra cost in interest. He asked how much a taxpayer pays to get the better credit rating, but if there is significant savings on interest, then it must be proven to the taxpayer. On the day to day borrowing, he is not sure it is cost effective, and people are asked to pay more taxes than savings in interest.
Mr.Ecke said it is hard to estimate in April when the budget is done; there is risk to the budget in getting it so close to perfect for what the Town will get in tax revenues.
According to Mr. Spoerndle if the primary goal in having a fund balance level was solely to get a good credit rating and thus save on borrowing costs, then that is a good question.
It was made clear by Mr. Milone that one of the benefits of a good credit rating is getting lower borrowing on debt. But, that is one of 15 reasons…the primary reason is to maintain a reserve so the town can deal with things that cannot be predicted. In 1992 the collection rate was 2% less than projected; in 2003, the State reduced aid by $1.4 million; the town had to carry the WPCA for two months cash, $2 million. For every million taken out of the reserve account, take $40,000 to $50,000 out of interest income account on the revenue side. Because the Town has a healthy fund balance, it can go into the bond market every two years because there is cash to support the capital projects. Traditionally, the Town was in the bond market every December; the borrowing costs were higher; and there is payment of more in debt.
Mr. Milone said he must dispel the argument that it is all about the credit rating. There are industry standards; those are the best practices; and the municipal industry is saying one to two months worth of reserves. The credit rating is one of many reasons for a fund balance, but it is to support the operation of Town government for any of numerous, unforeseen things that could happen, and to help mitigate against larger increases that will occur with property revaluation, $600,000 debt increase, and the heart and hypertension fund ballooning beyond anything that could be predicted. Having a reserve account is a good fiscal practice.
It was stated by Mrs. Esty that better interest rates is not the sole reason for the fund balance. We all have savings accounts for unexpected expenses, not to get a better credit rating. It is not right to think that the fund balance is on top of what we are taxing people. The Council must talk about what is the right amount in the reserve, not what is the right interest, or what are we getting on savings on differential credit amounts. The big picture is what the level should be for this community, with rising utility costs, rising uncertainty at both the state and federal level of support. The credit rating is far down on the list.
In the spring time, Mr. Altieri said that Mr. Spoerndle stated there are many benefits, and businesses wanting to relocate to Cheshire look at the fund balance and fiscal health of the town. He cannot look at the fund balance as just the bond rating, and when explaining this to people they do get it. There are more important things beyond the bond rating.
Mr. Sima asked about clarification on the $3.4 million heart and hypertension in the future for this obligation. He asked if this is part of the surplus to be maintained, or once it is funded, it is out of the picture. He also asked about the 8% or 10% fund balance, and the cost to the Town.
If the budget increases by 2%, Mr. Milone said the fund balance goes up by 2% of the value of the fund balance, no 8%.
Regarding the 3 year payback for money taken out of the fund, Mr. Sima asked about a lean year, and the debt is funded for 3 years, it could be difficult, and this could be looked at further.
Mr. Milone cited a scenario of a household annual cost of $10,000 in 1990, with $500 in reserve. Today it costs $25,000 to run the household…do you still want to keep $500 in that reserve…is it adequate. That is what we are talking about with the fund balance account. The fund balance must grow to deal with the exigencies that have been talked about…a budget referendum with the town $6 to $8 million cash poor; a lower tax collection rate; and these are the things that we are trying to protect against. Without the fund balance growing, there is running the risk of having an inadequate supply or reserve relative to the expenditure exposure.
Mr. Milone said that the fund balance is a protection, and the policy can be revised at any time based on the situation being faced by the Town.
With regard to heart and hypertension, Mr. Sima asked about funding them now.
In response, Mr. Milone said that they have been funded, but there is still a liability, and the Town is trying to pre-fund with money put aside so there are no high peaks in claims.
Ms. Ryan stated that heart and hypertension reserve is a separate fund, outside of the general fund. The rainy day account is in the general fund. The 8% is used as a floor and we want to take the additional funds, recommend that the Council put money away for the long term liabilities, one of which is heart and hypertension. If all claims were due today, the Town is looking at $3.4 million in claims as of June 30, 2007. The Town has $575,000 in this reserve fund; the Council has been putting money away for this liability for several years. The Council has also provided property tax relief, and funded some of these liabilities out of the year end surplus. There are four reserve funds, outside of the general fund, and any surplus will be put into these reserve funds.
Mr. Sima commented on the heart and hypertension reserve fund being a surplus with a designated use.
Mr. Milone said this fund is protecting the Town against spikes in claims. Before there was a fund, Mr. Milone advised that payment was made out of the general fund.
The Council reviewed the draft fund balance policy.
Under #4, Ms. Ryan noted that it said…within a three year period.” Having a goal in mind shows commitment.
Mr. Ecke said that the Council could come up with a plan, but not outline the time period.
Mr. Ruocco noted that at the September 17th meeting, “within a three year period” was deleted.
This was confirmed and the draft policy will be so amended.
Mr. Altieri discussed #4 and fiscal emergency, and sees a fiscal emergency as being problematic, and one person’s emergency can be different from someone else.
Mr. Ecke stated this should be left open to interpretation for future Budget Committees to determine a fiscal emergency. $1.4 million taken away by the State in 2003 would be considered a fiscal emergency.
Ms. Ryan informed the Council that the policy was modeled after another fund balance policy.
#1 – 8% target fund balance. There is no maximum stated, and Mr. Ruocco said he would want a range, i.e. 8% to 9% or 7.5% to 8.5%.
If the fund balance is above 8%, Mr. Ecke said it would be funded as noted in #2.
Mr. Ruocco said the 8% puts pressure on the taxpayers, and he wants a maximum amount in the fund balance.
Mr. Ecke said he could go with 8% to 9%.
There is a big range, and Mrs. Esty said the 8% to 9% could be funded for now. WPCA is advised to have 180 days of operating expenses in reserve. The Council wants to keep taxes down, but there is an obligation to do long term planning, with reserves and the surplus. People want to be protected from bad things happening such as aging infrastructure issues, and without a fund balance this could kill a budget. Mrs. Esty said that the Council will have an option to review this fund balance policy annually.
Mr. Slocum asked about 8% being the standard for a fund balance.
There are industry guidelines, and Mr. Milone said that if best practices change, he would go to the Council, and he hopes there would be rationale to determine what is best.
According to Ms. Ryan the rationale is one to two months of operating expenses in reserve. The ceiling for Aa communities is 9.8%, with no town going over 10%. One month of Cheshire’s operating expenses is 8.33% of the operating expenses. The question is do we want one month of reserve or 8.33%.
Mr. Altieri could support 8% to 9%, with most towns with Aa rating at 9%.
In Connecticut there is talk about property tax relief, and Mr. Sima said that the legislature looks at towns being healthy with 8% reserve in the fund balance. He believes the State will not give the town property tax relief. Arbitrators could vote against Cheshire because it is a wealthy town with a fund reserve. He is concerned the State will raid the town’s surplus. He asked if this should be on the minds of our legislators in the future at the State level.
Mr. Ecke said it would be a sad state of affairs if the Town were punished for being fiscally prudent and having a good reserve.
It could happen, and Mrs. Esty said if the State did this, there would be an outcry to the State. She said the Council should do the right thing for our community. Looking at the real estate market, the Town raised its assumptions on tax collection last year, and this year they may have to be lowered looking at the number of houses on the market and reduction in prices.
Mr. Milone said that the State will balance their budget on the back of the communities because it does not have a fiscal conscience. Every municipal grant and PILOT program is funded well below the statutory limit. Cheshire is funded at 79% rather than 100% for PILOT programs.
Mr. Sima asked whether it is prudent to stay on the lower side or higher side of the one to two months of operating expenditures.
The Town of Cheshire is in great financial shape, and Ms. Ryan said that the VEBA trust is funded beyond accounting standards. The staff is fiscally responsible, and the Town has controlled its own destiny because of the fund balance. The State raided Cheshire with a $2 million reduction State aid after the budget was already adopted. The Town did have the ability to set money aside and control its own destiny. With the fund balance, we continue to protect the mill rate and the citizens.
Regarding arbitration, Mr. Altieri stated that the State can only look at 5%, and Cheshire would have to bring its fund balance to this level for good binding arbitration. This is a chance the Town does not want to take. It is difficult to see the town going from 8% to 5% for better binding arbitration. All communities are faced with the problem of binding arbitration, and Mr. Altieri would not support a reduction in the fund balance for this reason.
#2 – Mr. Ruocco asked about adding wording about the end of the fiscal year when there is more money left over or there is a shortfall. He wants to consider a taxpayer reserve fund to tap into if there is a dramatic increase in the real estate values after revaluation. This could come under “d” Direct mill rate relief.
Mrs. Esty said that the Council could consider looking at the revaluation was a separate reserve, and more will be known in the next 6 months on how WPCA approaches their situation. It may be that WPCA should have a separate reserve; and there should be determination on whether there should be another line item for other reserves.
Mr. Ruocco wants a specific accounting transaction applied to a separate reserve account for taxpayers.
In reviewing all that has been stated, Mr. Milone said that these are all issues for another day. The goal is to adopt the policy and then decide on how to allocate the funds.
In #2, it was recommended it read, line 5, “will be studied in conjunction with the annual audit report”…
This will force revisiting this policy every year, with decisions made on how to allocate or redirect funds.
Mrs. Esty recommended that the last line of #2 read…”general fund balance may be allocated to accomplish the following goals:”
In #2, Mr. Ruocco suggested adding a tax rebate as a goal.
Mr. Ecke said this was discussed and determined to be unreasonable.
Ms. Ryan made the recommendation to increase the $550,000 contribution to $850,000 and reduce the mill rage to the taxpayers in the next year’s budget.
#3 – Mr. Ruocco suggested line 4 read…”may be made upon a specific vote of the Town Council.”
There was a discussion about the 8% as one month’s reserve.
Mr. Ecke stated that the changes can be incorporated into the policy; they will be e-mailed to everyone for review and discussion at the January 8, 2008 Council meeting. The fund balance policy will be on the Council agenda and a public hearing is not required.
(Mr. White entered the meeting)
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Few Americans understand that all government action is inherently coercive. If nothing else, government action requires taxes. If taxes were freely paid, they wouldn't be called taxes, they'd be called donations. If we intend to use the word freedom in an honest way, we should have the simple integrity to give it real meaning: Freedom is living without government coercion. So when a politician talks about freedom for this group or that, ask yourself whether he is advocating more government action or less. - Dr. Ron Paul, February 7, 2005
Labels: Ron Paul
If you're trying to save money, you may want to click through to this chart of CT electricity options over at the CT energy blog. I try to follow the energy stuff fairly closely and even I was surprised by how many options CT consumers now have... probably as a result of the 1996 deregulation.
Actually, I wasn't that surprised by the residential aspect. Due to Luther Turmelle's reporting at the NHR I had known about the half dozen residential options (excluding clean energy options). But (if I counted correctly) businesses now have 26 options.
On a somewhat related note, the clean energy folks seem to be learning the fine art of marketing. I received a letter from them in which they announced a partnership with Jiminy Peak Ski Resort in MA. Basically, Jiminy Peak now has a windmill to produce much of their electricity... and they're also giving $100 discounts to season ticket buyers. I like the idea.
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison
Friday, December 28, 2007
With the holidays, I've been a bit busy for the past week and haven't been posting daily. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I am working on two pieces in particular that I'm hoping to publish next week. They're both on the town's financial matters... so I'm not sure if you'll enjoy them as much as a post about the north end, but they are what interests me. And hopefully we'll be able to "move the ball down the field" and make some progress on some matters that seem to be largely ignored... or simply dismissed out of hand... by the Council.
In the meantime, I just wanted to thank all of you for what I believe was a productive 2007 in Cheshire's blogosphere.
On the downside, I've tried digging around the tubes to find more linked blogs, but I haven't gotten very far. Yes, there are a lot of Cheshire-based blogs, but not much that discusses Cheshire (politics, sports, schools, religion or anything else "Cheshire")... at least not much beyond the Underground Town Hall and Cheshire Town Post... that I could find this year.
And speaking of CTP... just a reminder that anyone can post over there... or right here (just email it to me). I'd be happy to get some guest posts. I haven't had any in a while.
Anyway, on the upside for Cheshire's blogosphere, I do believe we've had a productive year. We've shined the light on many issues that the local press simply don't have the time/space/fill-in-the-reason to cover. And shining the light is necessary. After all...
"Light and liberty go together." - Thomas Jefferson to Tench Coxe, 1795
And I know that we've ruffled more than a few feathers... but in the long run, that's a good thing for the town. Without openness and honesty, any government is headed in the wrong direction. Keep in mind...
"The diffusion of information and the arraignment of all abuses at the bar of public reason, I deem [one of] the essential principles of our government, and consequently [one of] those which ought to shape its administration." - Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural Address, 1801
The diffusion of information.
Long live the internet and unfiltered information! It's truly amazing. Witness the arrival of Ned Lamont and Ron Paul to the American political scene. Whether you like them or not, they found an immense following as a result of the internet... and probably more specifically... as a result of the diffusion of information unimpeded by the MSM.
One last thing to keep in mind though... if any of you are interested in swaying widespread public opinion... don't expect any blogs to do it. As 2007 comes to a close, I think it's fair to say that blogs do not get nearly as much widespread exposure as the local newspapers. So if you really want to sway public opinion, you'll need to come out from the shadows of blogonymity, put pen to paper, sign your name and send your letter to the editor. And I expect that to remain a reality for the next few years at least. And in the meantime...
And as always, feel free to use information from TWL. It's all open to the public domain as far as I'm concerned.
You may recall last week's post entitled "impeachment proceedings." And while last week's Herald covered the same topic, including the email that precipitated that post... the MRJ has the most recent coverage (by Leslie Hutchison) of the "3 Strikes email." And with the MRJ going as far to report that it "raised the ire of the Democratic council majority" and that "some town councilors saw (the email) as threatening," that email has really caused a stir.
Nonetheless, we mustn't lose sight of the issue at hand: reform of the criminal justice system... a system which just about everyone agrees is screwed up to one extent or another.
Town Council, 4th District
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
State Rep. Al Adinolfi got written up in today's Register (by Luther Turmelle). When asked why he's running, Al said:
“I’ve been working hard in a variety of areas and I’d like to see my efforts through to completion.”
And while many TWL readers know Al has been actively involved in strengthening CTs corrections system, he's also been hard at work on other things:
Adinolfi also cited his efforts dealing with the problem-plagued and scandal ridden project to widen Interstate 84 in Cheshire and Waterbury, as well attempts to get legislation passed that would help communities cover the cost of remediating abandoned mines.
Speaking of the I-84 debacle, I'm still wondering if anyone will ever get to the bottom of that Fritz Fiasco. I tend to doubt it... unless the FBI decides to press forward.
Anyway... Al is out there working for another term. In the meantime, does anyone know if Senator Big Boy, I mean... Tom Gaffey, is going to run again? I'm assuming he will.
My 2006 campaign call for limits to property tax increases is still alive as the Governor still likes the idea:
Gov. M. Jodi Rell is already encountering opposition to a property tax cap even though she has not formally asked the legislature to enact one yet.
The top majority leader in the Democrat-controlled Senate has all but declared a property tax cap legislatively dead on arrival.
"We looked at it last year, and we decided it wasn't a good idea," said Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn. (WRA, by Paul Hughes)
The article continued:
"They are not speaking for the taxpayers. The taxpayers in Connecticut want property tax reform," said Christopher Cooper, the governor's chief spokesman...."CCM's answer is for more money for mayors to spend, whereas the governor wants to see that cash kept in local taxpayers' wallets," Cooper said.
I agree with the Governor and have offered a few of my own property tax reform ideas, including some here and here.
Watch out though. Although the Governor's recommendation (last year) included a stipulation for voter override to approve tax increases in excess of 3%, you can be sure that Advocates of Big Government (even at the local level) will be out in force to oppose this measure. They'll offer all sorts of straw men to stop the initiative. But the unfortunate truth is that they don't want things like "voter approval" to stand in their way of ever bigger government.
Waterboarding has been a hot topic with the Presidential race lately. I believe all the Dems are vocally opposed to it, but the GOP field is split (Huckabee, McCain & Paul opposed). Having lived in the Hanoi Hilton for five years, Senator McCain speaks to this issue with real life experience.
For me, the closest "experience" I have is from a visit to a prison of Brother Number One (a.k.a. Pol Pot). When he took Phnom Penh in 1975, he converted Tuol Sleng High School to "Security Prison 21." I visited it in 1996. (I've visited concentration camps from Auschwitz to Andersonville and it's probably because those atrocities happened before I was born, but... for me Tuol Sleng hit home even harder.)
Anyway, between visiting The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng, it definitely was one of the more moving experiences of my life. Here you can see the memorial at the center of The Killing Fields that I walked through... a place where I, quite literally, could've picked up the clothing of the people who lay there dead and half buried. I'll never forget their clothes at my feet.http://upload.wikimedia.org/
Then I visited Tuol Sleng where these paintings were drawn by a native Australian who decided to remain in Phnom Penh... when all the other foreigners were evacuating.
Here's the painting where the Khmer Rouge used scorpions:http://img.scoop.co.nz/
Here's a painting of something else the Khmer Rouge did:www.downtheroad.org/
And here's a photo of the actual "tool":www.downtheroad.org/
And while I remember seeing all of these things in person... and still being distraught over the thought of how people could actually do these things to people, here's the painting that seems relevant todayhttp://unusuallystupidpoliticians.com/
Then compare that image with this image:http://southdakotapolitics.blogs.com/
Seems a bit too similar for my taste. And while the "ticking time bomb" scenario is possible, I'm not comfortable with America using the same tactics as one of the most despicable regimes in history.
I doubt this will be a significant factor in the GOP primaries, but as far as I'm concerned... Huckabee, McCain and Paul are right on this one.
“Person of the Year: Ron Paul, the physician-politician. He injected the Presidential campaign with a dose of truth serum. Paul’s straight talk on Iraq, and his straight talk on the Constitution, as Buchanan pointed out, and the limits of government have made him an Internet phemonema. In fact, Paul has become an independent force in the nation’s life.”- John McLaughlin on Ron Paul
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
In case you missed it, I went to New Hampshire this weekend. It was a spur of the moment thing. I just couldn't help myself. I don't recall a moment in my life when I ever considered going to New Hampshire to stump for a candidate... I enjoy campaigning for myself and for friends of mine in Cheshire, but New Hampshire? Nope.
But when I surf the tubes and come across stuff like this...well, I was a fan of Dr. Paul a long time ago... and to see this grassroots effort taking shape... to see this r3VOLution taking form... I just couldn't resist any longer.
I had to jump in the car and see it for myself.
So quick summary of the weekend... I got to Rye (just south of Portsmouth) around 10pm on Friday. I chatted with other RP supporters for a bit, then was brought to a nearby house and given a private bedroom (which frankly surprised me... I was expecting dorm rooms and the like and would've been fine with that). On Saturday, we canvassed for about five hours, including a bit of sign waving. I found a few RP supporters among what I'd call likely GOP primary voters... and lots of support (such as independents) outside that group. But since independents can vote in the NH primary... despite RPs low poll numbers, I think he stands a chance.
Also on Saturday, one of my fellow supporters went to a Mitt Romney event and asked a few questions.
Throughout the weekend, I heard only two people up on the air with radio ads: Hillary Clinton and... Ron Paul! So he is making use of the $18,000,000+ he's raised so far this quarter.
Today we decided to skip the canvassing (which btw, I didn't get a negative reception at all... quite the contrary, people were very supportive of my effort... although they were getting annoyed with all the phone calls) and went to (what I gather is) the biggest mall in NH. It's in Manchester.... we had a 20-30 person sign wave. I left after three hours to return to CT... it was a ton of fun. Most people were either holding 2' x 4' signs or asking people if they wanted to learn more about Ron Paul's platform. And if they said yes, we gave the passers-by a copy of the US Constitution. Fun, fun! For part of the time, I was holding a broken down cardboard box that read "Will work for freedom." Ha! But the best part of the wave was when two guys pulled out a Ron Paul sign 10' x 20'. They needed PVC piping to hold it up! It was great. The head of security said he hasn't seen anything like it... and while he was trying to make sure we didn't inadvertently cause any traffic problems, he even said the enthusiasm of the group was rubbing off on him.
As for where the Paulites called home... in casual conversations, I heard New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan, Arizona, California and on and on. There were more states, but that's what I recall off the top of my head. And yes... several even quit their jobs. The sacrifice of some was really astounding.
Anyway, it was a great time. I had a lot of fun. And whether I'm right or wrong about Ron Paul, in my heart I felt as though I was taking advantage of the gift granted me by the young men of Valley Forge and Yorktown.
I had a fantastic time and loved every minute of it. Go Ron Paul!
Friday, December 21, 2007
I doubt I'll be posting much this weekend... need to go knock on some doors for Ron Paul in NH! And as a reminder... please tell your friends to check out my favorite Ob Gyn turned Presidential aspirant this Sunday on Meet the Press with Tim Russert. He'll be on for the full hour.
The NHRs Luther Turmelle reported on the WPCAs proposed user fee. I don't have a link, but the basic idea is that they want more time and have ruled out a user fee for this year.
Does anyone know who paid for "CheshireSmartGrowth" ad in the Herald? I haven't heard... although I haven't asked anyone either. I think those ads run between $500-1,000... hence the reason I didn't run any during the recent campaign!
I haven't seen many headlines about Senator Big Boy... er, uh... Tom Gaffey lately. I still think Rennie had a point though about receipts, payments and putting it all out there to help restore public confidence.
The Town Hall had its annual Christmas Party. I couldn't make it. But it's usually a nice affair with many town employees turning out for the breakfast.
I believe the Historical Society is having it's Christmas Party this Sunday (2-4pm??) at the house on the Green. I'm pretty sure it's open to the public... and it's always nice. So if you have time, you may want to stop by.
The UV system has been installed at the pool.
What else is happening?
Labels: open forum
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I'm not sure. But despite resistance to transparency in government, it is a possibility that the taxpayers will learn what benefits they receive for the millions of tax dollars collected in the past few years and the additional $100,000 or so that, going forward, would be collected annually... if I can garner the support of at least one member of the majority. (For some details on where your tax dollars go, see here).
Anyway, if I can get that support, there may be some good news for Cheshire's tax payers... and I think at least one member of the Council majority may be willing to support a cost/benefit analysis.
But who is it?
Of course many TWL readers know, despite Matt Altieri's recent call for the Council to act in the Town's best interests in a nonpartisan manner, I have not yet gotten a commitment from him to support my call for a nonpartisan cost/benefit analysis for the Town's rainy day fund. See the brief history here, here and here. I don't know why he hasn't given me his commitment, but he hasn't.
Nonetheless, this week's Herald notes:
Budget Committee member Elizabeth Esty said it was (the Council's) obligation to do long-term planning for the town and to try to keep taxes down. "People want to keep their hard-earned dollars, but they also want to be protected," she said.
I don't know about you, but that sounds to me like a reason to support a cost/benefit analysis. Otherwise, how can the Council do proper long-term planning and ensure that we're doing a good job with the proverbial balancing act of taxes and services?
Perhaps I'm dreaming.
Consider... the rainy day fund is currently 9.4% of the annual operating budget. And as the Herald's Josh Morgan reported the facts that were provided to him:
The recommended percentage from town staff was for 8 percent of the annual expenditures, so it is up to the Council to determine where to allocate the other 1.4%.
so it is up to the Council to determine where to allocate the other 1.4%.
oh! I get it. Silly me! I was under the impression that the Council sets policy, including the size of the rainy day fund. But I guess I was wrong.
So has everyone taken a peek at the new online version of the Herald? For me, I think it's great that they're moving in that direction... still a bit too complicated for my taste though. I'd prefer to avoid the "virtual" *.pdf files and popup windows... just give a list of all articles/op-eds on the homepage.
I know that may compete with, what I presume is, additional sales revenue for the advertising that's displayed online. But heck, as a customer, I'm probably ready for online retail's long-desired microsales... buy one article for $0.10 or $0.20 or whatever. And maybe even have to deal with a popup window advertisement. But that may be just me. After all, I'm a CPA, not an online media content editor.
Regardless, good on the Herald for making the effort to move into cyberspace... and a special hat tip to whomever recognized the need for asking if you have hi-speed or dialup. Poor connections can be so annoying.
p.s. Remember... Ron Paul will be on Meet the Press this Sunday for the full hour. I hope you tell your friends.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Last night there was quite a bit of chatter among Council members on an email all members received. It related to Council support (or lack thereof) for "3 Strikes" legislation. The email's unedited text is below.
As for me, I absolutely support improved persistent offender laws. And support state Senator Sam Caligiuri who (I believe) suggested that if the law is written correctly, CT should have only an additional 140 prisoners... 140 people who will likely never reform. Anyway... here's what Council members, and the press (who I assume were also notified, since I've been contacted), are talking about...
To my newly elected Town Council:
I'm extremely displeased and angered with what has transpired between the pre-election forum by all of the candidates for town council and the recent public forum to approve a judicial agenda to be sent to Hartford as a single united voice of the residents of Cheshire. It is in my own opinion that the 3 Strikes and Your Out Legislation was intentionally overlooked and omitted from this agenda. In-which I am outraged to put it mildly.
As you know I was present at the pre-election public forum and I watched and listened carefully to every one of the candidates as each one of you raised your hand and your voices in favor of a mandatory 3 Strikes and Your Out legislation as part of your individual campaign promise to the voting public of Cheshire.
This information was in my thought process as with many if not all of those in attendance or watching on their televisions at home. How your response was taken was part of my deciding factor when it came time to choose the correct candidate to vote for on November 6th to be a complementary voice in the decision making processes of my town.
We were all lied to by you whom deceived us that day to sway our vote for you and now for whatever reason either lied at that public forum or has reversed their support of a mandatory 3 Strikes Law just one month later, intentionally or not.
I as a voting citizen of this town demand a one word answer (by way of reply to this email,)from you all on the question that was simply posed to you on that day of the pre-election public forum of whether you do support this proposed law or not. I demand a quick and simple one word answer of "YES" or "NO." I will presume that anyone who does not reply has answered "NO" by default.
I do not wish to have a long drawn out letter describing your position, I just demand a "YES" or "NO" one word answer.
If I receive a "NO" answer from any one of you even by default, I would have no other recourse but to petition the Secretary of the State of Connecticut, The Elections Enforcement Commission and the Governor to invalidate the past Town Council elections of the Town of Cheshire. I will call for another election to take place, this time with the voters knowledge of your truthful position on this most serious issue.
I will have right to do so under State Law as it pertains to election fraud. If this does not get approved I will then be pressed to call for an impeachment of those candidates that lied at the pre-election public forum who deceived the voters of The Town of Cheshire into voting for them with subsequent intent to defraud in order to win your council seat.
If I fail for a second time, then this information gathered here by means of your replies will be published in all the local news papers and other Media in order to divulge your true position on the safety of the citizens of Cheshire and the State of Connecticut. I'm sure the voters who were deceived will not forget when election time comes around again in two years, I certainly will not.
Michael J Rocci
Labels: public safety
In response to my post from yesterday in which I called Ron Paul a "radical," my dad offered the following:
As an amateur linguist and teacher of English, I want to point out that the nonpolitical meaning of "radical" comes from the Latin "radix," meaning "root." So the meaning of "radical" in the political realm means "one who gets to the root" of a situation or problem.
In that sense, Ron Paul is a radical. But that's only because the federal government has gotten so far removed from the principles of our republic that any course-change requires, first, going to the root of the problem and, second, deconditioning the electorate which has been propagandized (by the media) and bribed (by the welfare system) into intellectual and moral blindness. Ron Paul is the ONLY candidate--and I'm talking about both parties--who understands the problem at the root cause and is offering solutions which include waking up and reeducating the American people to the fact that they, not the federal government, are owners of the country and are responsible for running the country.
So calling Ron Paul a radical is not only correct, it is also a badge of honor which he seems willing to receive because he cares about the fundamentals of America, beginning with FREEDOM.
p.s. Remember to tell your friends that Ron Paul will be on Meet the Press this Sunday for the full hour.
Mike Ecke had two items on the agenda tonight: fund balance policy and performance contracting.
Due to the fact that the Town's consultant is a People's United Bank employee (as am I), I skipped this part of the meeting. I'll have to get the minutes and read them, but my understanding is that my call for a cost/benefit analysis was discussed. And my concerns about using $5,500 of bond insurance as an alternative to collecting $2,000,000 - 3,000,000 in taxes was also discussed. I don't really have much to say until I read the minutes.
However, I want to remind everyone that this fund balance policy is usually discussed in terms of the rainy day fund as a per cent of the operating budget. That is to say, if the budget is $100,000,000 and the fund balance policy calls for a 5% fund balance... then we should have $5,000,000 in the bank. If it's 8%, then we should have $8,000,000 in the bank. But remember... the Town's rainy day fund is just one of several reserves controlled by the Town.
The Town also has a "heart & hypertension" fund, a medical trust fund, a debt reserve... and there may be others. All of these should be considered as part of the rainy day fund. Otherwise, we should probably determine what the potential risks are beyond these risks... then use those risks to draft a list of other potential liabilities that may benefit from the rainy day fund... come to think of it... we probably should just draft of list of other likely liabilities, regardless. Anyway, more on this later.
I joined the meeting when we got to performance contracting. And since it's late, I'll cut this short. Mike Ecke gave me the floor and I conveyed my concern to the Council...
America is highly dependent on foreign oil. And I want to reduce that dependence. In order to achieve this goal, I want to conduct a comprehensive townwide energy infrastructure improvement project as expeditiously as possible.
Because while the pool runs on natural gas and Highland runs on electric... both are interchangeable with oil. That is... CHS runs on a dual-fuel heating system... depending on the price of fuel (NG or oil)... the facilities people can change it every day... so in that way, NG and oil (heating fuel is basically diesel fuel and petroleum-based) are interchangeable and, effectively, the same thing. If we use less NG at the pool, we can consume more at CHS... and our dependence on foreign oil decreases.
As for electric... about 30-40% of CTs electricity generating power plants are fueled by NG or oil. So to use electricity is to use oil... and is to increase America's dependence on foreign oil.
Anyway, I told the Council that I'm not worried about how we finance our energy conservation projects. My main concern is getting the projects done and done now. I don't want to wait for ten or twenty years to do a project that could be done in three years... that would just require us to consume that much more fuel in the interim... and if we can avoid that, we should.
So if we use performance contracting, that's fine with me. I personally believe that it may help us expedite these projects. What's key to me about performance contracting though is that it helped jumpstart a conversation that had been stalled in the fast lane to nowhere. So thanks to Mike Ecke for putting this on the agenda and asking the Energy Commission to take the lead on this. Until he took action... this concept had been collecting dust on a shelf in Town Hall.
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison
Monday, December 17, 2007
"What unites us is a love of liberty, and a determination to fix what is wrong with our country, from the Fed to the IRS, from warfare to welfare. But otherwise we are a big tent." - Ron Paul, on his recordbreaking one day fundraiser in which he received more than $6,000,000
And as one poster noted in a prior post, Ron Paul will be on Meet the Press with Tim Russert this Sunday (10am on Cheshire's Cox).
If you have the time, I sincerely hope you tune in... and mention it to your friends too. I wouldn't be surprised if he says some thing with which you disagree. But I'd be even more surprised if you don't agree with at least some of his thoughts.
For me, I think the main reason that I like him is that I feel as though he tells me what he believes... not what he thinks I want to hear. He doesn't pander. And I'm so sick and tired of listening to politicians, such as HRC, who seem to be so completely contrived... I'll never forget her line about not staying home to bake cookies.
To reinforce my disgust with Washington, when I got home from Town Hall tonight I turned on CSpan. And I learned a new word: eardrop. Based on the House conversation, it seems that an eardrop is an earmark that no one is supposed to know exists... apparently someone knows that earmarks exist... but not eardrops. Nope. Apparently no one, except the author, knows they exist. And tonight's bill had 300 hidden in it, according to Rep. Shadegg (R-AZ).
And our elected officials wonder why America is so disgusted with them and their "approval ratings" are down to 20%?
Just tonight I was having a philosophical discussion with Matt Hall on Washington. I told him... when I saw Chris Murphy about six months ago I really appreciated his support of pay-go. Then a month or two ago, I'm pretty sure that Congressman Murphy voted for SCHIP... but the tax increase wasn't included in it. (Please correct me if I'm wrong on this... I could be.) And I'm thinking, huh? What's going on? I thought the Democrats were supposed to change Washington?
Seriously, I thought they would at least improve things by changing from a "borrow and spend" to a "tax and spend" fiscal policy. But from what I can tell... that's not happening. And that's what's so upsetting to me. Don't get me wrong... I like Chris Murphy. But what's going on in our country? And who is going to change things? It's certainly not the Dem Congress.
Anyway, that is one of the main reasons that I support Ron Paul. I want honesty and I want change. And yes, Ron Paul is a bit radical. But heck... considering how far offtrack (and institutionalized) things seem to be in Washington... a radical may be the only thing that can cause any change at all.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
The effort to stop drunk driving arose at last week's Council meeting. I then mentioned a new product... an ankle bracelet... that monitors alcohol consumption 24/7. But I didn't have any details, so I looked it up. It's called SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor). Here's an imageSo if you're interested, you may want to google it. As far as I know, this is not yet in use in CT. But I hope the legislature considers this as they tackle crime and punishment in the upcoming session. It seems to me as though it might be able to help stop repeat DUIs.
Today, Ron Paul has both achieved his 4th quarter fundraising goal ($12,000,000) and broken the one day GOP fundraising record (previously held by him). He's up to nearly $5,000,000 so far... and it's only 8pm.
But for one reason why I support him, read here...
Each year the people of the United States write a check to subsidize China, one of the most brutal, anti-American regimes in the world. Lately it has been in vogue for everyone in Washington to eagerly denounce the egregious abuses of the Chinese people at the hands of their communist dictators. Yet no one in our federal government has been willing to take China on in any meaningful way.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I seem to recall that less than two weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Don Williams was quoted saying:
These aren't the droids you're looking for. Move along.But now, rather than Senator Tom "Big Boy" Gaffey moving mountains for his friends... he's rearranging his own seating chart and asking to be reassigned to a new committee:
Gaffey currently serves as vice chairman of the General Assembly's Higher Education and Career Advancement Committee, and he is looking to be reassigned before the start of the 2008 legislative session.Gaffey has been under fire recently because he voted on a portion of the bond package that would give the Connecticut State University System $1 billion for renovations and expansion over a 10-year period. He is dating Jill Ferraiolo, the system's associate vice chancellor for government relations and communications, and several wonder if this was a conflict of interest when the CSUS 2020 bill was discussed by lawmakers. Gaffey did not disclose his relationship until after the vote was taken. (MRJ, by Amanda Falcone)But as far as I'm concerned, this won't cut it. We need real reform in CT... at the state and local level. We need to stamp out all the funny business. At the state level, state's attorneys should be given the power of subpoena. And at the state and local level, corrupt officials should lose their pensions. Unfortunately, I have doubts about any real reforms happening... I mean... it's more important to be friends with your colleagues, than it is to represent the public... right?
Seriously though, the more I hear about this, the more I wish one of his fellow Dems would primary him.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Major League Baseball should be ashamed of itself. But what happens with the likes of Clemens and Pettite is not my main concern. After all, Roger Clemens has his own kids who will ask him if the stories are true. No. That's not the #1 issue here.
I want to know what MLB is going to do to reach out to college and high school kids to let them know that using these performance enhancing drugs can be dangerous to their health. And that if they want to play professional ball... it won't be tolerated in either the Major or the minor leagues.
My suggestion? A minimum outreach effort would include: every time scouts go to a game, they set up a meeting with all players of both teams and let them know... MLB doesn't tolerate it. If it's a half hour talk by the scout, it may take 30 minutes to schedule... and wouldn't take more than an hour of a scout's time per day... I think it's the least that MLB could do for the next few years to reinforce the idea with kids that this alleged behavior will not be tolerated.
Major League Baseball... both management and the players' union... should be ashamed of itself.
You may not recognize the date, but on December 16, 1773, a few people got together in Boston and had a party... a tea party!
Whether or not you support Ron Paul for President, if you watch this video, then I think you'll agree... his supporters are very creative. Between the score and the imagery, it looks like a Hollywood production to me. Over at Tea Party 07, grassroots supporters have already gotten commitments for over $3,000,000 for donations this Sunday. Even if it were another candidate, I'd still love the grassroots nature of the campaign.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
State Senator Don Williams announced his proposed ethics reforms for the 2008 legislative session, including:
1 Revoke pensions of corrupt officials.
2 Require ethics training for legislators and municipal elected officials.
3 Examine Extending restrictions to State Officials who lobby legislators.
4 Create a permanent bi-partisan process for investigating alleged misconduct by legislators.
5 Enact a code of conduct and a criminal penalty for elected officials who fail to report a bribe.
But now Governor Rell is weighing in:
saying that ethics proposals made by Senate President Pro Tem Don Williams and other Democrats yesterday are not going to cut it with them unless the ethics committee the Democrats propose looks into the controversy surrounding Democratic state Senator Tom Gaffey of Meriden.
I don't disagree with this. But as I discussed in a post six months ago, the NYTimes editorial board really made a critical point about real ethics reform...
CTs state's attorneys should be given the power of subpoena.
As the NYTimes opined:
the federal government cannot keep galloping in like the cavalry to save the day. Connecticut has to change its culture of corruption in much the same way, says Andy Sauer of Connecticut Common Cause, as the South had to change its racist attitudes 50 years ago to make repeated federal intervention unnecessary. The analogy is apt.
Strengthen the chief state’s attorney’s office by giving the state’s top prosecutor the power to issue subpoenas during investigations. The Legislature stripped away that power several decades ago when the chief state’s attorney was deemed too aggressive in fighting in-state corruption. The office must have more authority...
Sooner or later, state legislators must set aside their ingrained desire to protect their friends and instead strengthen the rule of law for everyone. It is the only way to fix a state that, for good reason, has become known nationwide as Corrupticut.
I hope Hartford does the right thing. But I have to admit... I don't have very high expectations for reforms with real teeth, such as subpoena power, being passed. After all, such reforms would need to garner the support of the people who work Under the Gold Dome.
Labels: state government
USA Today did this writeup on an exchange (see link below) between my favorite Presidential candidate, Ron Paul, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke... and how this exchange has really taken hold of the internet with hundreds of thousands of views...
Texas Congressman Ron Paul is getting help from an improbable source in his long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Video clips of Paul — who supports the gold standard and has sponsored a bill to abolish the Fed — ripping into Bernanke at congressional hearings are getting hundreds of thousands of hits on the video-sharing website YouTube.
If you watch the clip here, you'll see one of the characteristics that I appreciate about Congressman Paul... he takes a philosophical approach to public policy. He doesn't discuss "process" or other means to obfuscate his real concern.
Labels: Ron Paul
WRA - In 2007, the Red Sox brought their second World Series title to Boston in four years. On Thursday, they bring the World Series trophy to Waterbury for the first time.
The road tour will open in New Haven with a rally from 10 to 11 a.m. at New Haven City Hall.
The largest rally will take place in Hartford from 2:15 to 4 p.m. at the state capitol, where the trophy will be on display on the first floor.
The Waterbury visit will be a brief one. The Sox entourage will arrive with the trophy at approximately 12:15 p.m., and deliver it to the office of Mayor Mike Jarjura in the Chase Building.
There will not be a public rally in Waterbury, but fans can gather outside the Chase Building to take pictures.
It's 1:13am right now and I only got home from the Council meeting a few minutes ago... and I also have to get up early tomorrow morning to (hopefully) go do an interview with the New Haven Independent about my support of Ron Paul and the Ron Paul Blimp!
Anyway, it's too late to do an update on the Council meeting and do it justice. So instead, I offer you this letter I received in the mail today from some avid supporters...
On one final note though... there are two people in the Town Manager's office who receive that $18,000 overtime budget... though by June 30 of each year, we always seem to be doing those year end budget transfers to increase that $18,000 budget.
Town Council, 4th District
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
You may recall a recent post I did following the PZC public hearing. I questioned the legitimacy of the fiscal impact study and said that in particular it
concerned me because while the Town Manager presented this revenue of $1.16 million (with offsetting costs of approximately $100k), he didn't mention that in CT, it is basically illegal for towns to "turn a profit" in a municipal building department. In other words, building department revenues cannot exceed building department expenses... or at least that's what the Council has been told for each of the past four years whenever we've discussed the building department fees. And when I asked for clarification... perhaps I missed it, but I didn't hear anything about the law changing. So I'm still wondering... is this "million dollar windfall" for real? Or will the town approve this project, get paid these fees, then get sued by the developer and refund this $1,000,000? I don't know, but I know the Town Manager has testified with some very contradictory information.Anyway, since I finally saw Tuesday's agenda on Sunday, I noticed that the fiscal impact study was not on the agenda. So I spoke with the person who matters... Matt Hall... and he assured me that the fiscal impact study is going to be addressed tomorrow. Specifically, the Town Attorney will be addressing my concerns on the legality of these possible building inspection net revenues.
I'm looking forward to getting my hands around this issue.
Town Council, 4th District
Considering the beating that former Senator Lou DeLuca (rightfully) took for his ties to trash hauler James Galante, the WRA is also right to point out:
The state is investigating whether Mr. Galante broke the law by using his network of trash firms to bundle tens of thousands in donations to dozens of legislative incumbents, including House Speaker James A. Amann and Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams Jr. For upward of three years, lawmakers kept quiet about it. But once word got out they had taken Mr. Galante's soiled sums, they feigned surprise, then promised to give to charity an amount equal to what he gave them.These guys (and gals) are simply unbelievable.
But this is typical of Capitol denizens who believe "laws are for thee, not for me," and let no opportunity pass to enrich themselves or the people around them. Sen. Gaffey, for instance, left a make-work state job in 1989 to become a lobbyist — sorry, "legislative liaison" — for the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority. Until someone blew the whistle on him, he routinely stuck CRRA — taxpayers, ultimately — with thousands in personal expenses. One of the few CRRA executives to survive the post-Enron purge, he pulls down a six-figure salary as CRRA's recycling chief, a promotion he got the same year he became deputy majority leader. Coincidence?
In his role on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, this paragon of virtue helps manage the legislature's money-laundering machine. Lawmakers appropriate billions for pork and slush funds, then wait for lobbyists to come around with bundled donations that ensure the incumbents will remember their clients in future appropriations bills. And it's all legal because lawmakers say so.
Monday, December 10, 2007
What's happened to my party? I think Bob Novak summed it up over at TownHall.com
"Given the lack of time available," Sen. Mitch McConnell said last week, "the best way to deal with the troop funding issue would be in the context of some kind of settlement on an overall omnibus appropriation bill." Instead of following the president's hardline on spending, the Republican leader of the Senate was opting for a compromise bill that George W. Bush might be forced to sign because it contains money for Iraq.Thankfully there are a few GOP Senators, such as Tom Coburn (R-OK), who remember why they were sent to Washington. One other Republican Senator worth keeping in Washington is described by Novak:
House Republican Leader John Boehner sounds determined about sticking to President Bush's budget and ending up with a continuing resolution (CR) keeping spending at present levels. McConnell plays his cards closer to his vest than Boehner but seems to favor cutting a deal with the Democrats for a compromise exceeding Bush's limits. A CR would contain no new earmarks, while an omnibus bill would be festooned with earmarks for lavish pork-barrel spending back home -- desired by McConnell among others.
This poses a fateful choice for a troubled Republican Party in danger of national decline. Rank-and-file House Republicans press Boehner to "regain our brand" as the party of fiscal responsibility. But the Senate GOP, led by McConnell, sees a different route to survival. They feel the need to bring home the bacon to constituents, and that means cutting a deal with Majority Leader Harry Reid for an earmark-heavy omnibus bill...
These seasoned purveyors of pork outgun and outnumber GOP reformers such as Sen. Jim DeMint, a first-termer from South Carolina, who told me: "A CR is the only way to keep spending at any sensible level. An omnibus bill would be a defeat for the Republicans. I don't see any reason to cave in on our principles. The Republicans have no discipline when it comes to appropriations." DeMint was careful not to mention McConnell and the other Republican appropriators by name, but there was no doubt whom he was talking about.I have to wonder if this party will ever come to its senses? Think about it... the "conservatives" here are Boehner and the people who want to stick with Bush's "frugal ways."
I know he's a radical, but at least Ron Paul would challenge these Senators who are neither true Republicans nor true Democrats... they're true Incumbents... in the worst sense of the word.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
The Courant's Kevin Rennie continues to tattoo Cheshire's Sen. Tom Gaffey.
As I've already posted here, here and here, Mr. Gaffey should be in some hotwater right now, but it seems as though few in Hartford are interested in protecting the public trust.
Don't believe me that nothing is happening? Even the WRA weighed in today in plain English, explaining the mindset in Hartford:
(Gaffey's) response to getting caught feathering his lover's bed was indignant and instructive:
"Jill is a state employee. ... State employees aren't lobbyists under the legal term of lobbyists." How Clintonian. Her job is to lobby lawmakers, but she is not "a lobbyist" under the Gaffey Gang's definition, so it's all "legal."
"We've got people in the administration who are married to lobbyists. We have legislators who are married to lobbyists. I never thought I had to explain who I'm dating." Sen. Gaffey is a creature of the corrupt culture of government, so it never occurred to him that reasonable people might think his leading the charge to shower his girlfriend's bosses with $950 million might be a conflict of interest requiring his recusal.
But this is the same culture that spawned the likes of Kevin B. Sullivan, who as Senate president pro tempore rewarded Trinity College for giving him a no-show job by funneling hundreds of millions in taxpayers' dollars to the school while his legislative colleagues looked the other way. But it must be said he didn't invent the quid pro quo; he just kicked it up a notch, and Sen. Gaffey has kicked it up another.
Not surprisingly, Democrats agree with the ethics office's assessment of Sen. Gaffey's conduct and relationship with a de facto lobbyist. To disagree would require them to admit the illegality of the multitude of votes they have cast for bills benefiting themselves, their employers, their campaign donors, their friends and relatives, and yes, their lovers.
CSU Chancellor David Carter Sr. and Gov. M. Jodi Rell apparently concur, too. Their silence says all you need to know about their desire to uphold ethics and morality in government.
But this all comes as no surprise. After all, just this year these stalwarts of good government have decided that driving drunk, witnessing a bribe and requesting the mob to "visit" someone are no big deal... oh wait... excuse me... since he resigned, I guess the legislature never really had the opportunity to opine on that one, right?
But on a serious note... do you think it's right that our legislators behave this way?
Remember though, before you just post an anonymous comment here... it's been estimated that only 5-10% of people read blogs... even the big ones like Drudge or HuffPo get only a few million visitors... out of a few hundred million Americans.
So please... let the world know your thoughts. I encourage you to write a LTTE and tell the world if this is appropriate behavior...
Saturday, December 08, 2007
One small line excerpted from the WPCA article in this week's Herald:
A sewer line would also cross the Ten Mile River on the site under a proposed Timber Bridge that would service vehicular, as well as pedestrian, traffic. (by Josh Morgan)
My suggestion... don't allow residential on the northwest side of the river. If the project is to proceed, place a conservation easement on that property and either stop or stack the residential (above the retail).
Labels: northend development
Yesterday's Courant editorial opens:
Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-(Cheshire), argues that his affair with a legislative liaison at the Connecticut State University System doesn't violate either the letter or the spirit of the state's ethics laws. Yet the romantic relationship raises troubling questions about Mr. Gaffey's role in a $1 billion bonding package for CSUS approved by the General Assembly this year.And concludes:
Mr. Gaffey has caused his own judgment to be called into question. His relationship with Ms. Ferraiolo is a conflict of interest and clear grounds for his removal from the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. His conduct is also grounds for censure by the Senate.Based on the undisputed facts of the case, I agree with the Courant. Unfortunately for Nutmeggers, legislators seem to believe their chambers are located in Las Vegas... what happens Under the Gold Dome, stays Under the Gold Dome.
I didn't get the "Council pack" tonight, so I'm not yet sure what's on Tuesday's agenda. I'll try to post it asap.
Anyone know who was elected BOE Chair last night? I'm assuming it was Steve Mrowka, but haven't heard word one about it... as for PZC, I haven't spoken with any PZC members... but many non-members are saying it will be Sean Strollo.
Is the Everybody's holiday party tonight? I'm thinking that it's probably tonight at 6:30pm... if you haven't been, I highly recommend it. I know I always have fun.
One of my favorite CT Dems, Speaker of the House Jim Amann, is mulling a bid for Governor in 2010.
And if you miss the grand opening of the CT for Ron Paul Headquarters (this Sunday, 6pm, 2404 Whitney Ave Hamden), then look out the window and up into our Nutmeg skies next weekend... you may get a sense of just how big the Ron Paul r3VOLution is...
Beyond Dr. Paul, did anyone see what Huckabee is doing in the Iowa polling? He seems to have some real traction there. Interesting to me is that I thought Romney had a much better week than Huckabee... but the polls tell a very different story... good for him.
Labels: open forum