Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lifestyle center IV

Wow... this one was a doozy. I felt like I got raked over the coals.... the big item tonight was the proposed amendment to the Plan of Conservation & Development. The item started off with an unusual twist in David Schrumm asking for public input... despite the public hearing having happened last week. And while the Council unanimously supported the idea, allowing public input, we may have gone too far in that the developer was not present and therefore unable to present its case... there could be legal implications, but I doubt it as the developers proposed changes were ultimately adopted (6-3, Orsini, Ruocco & Schrumm opposed).

There were lots of points made by all Council members.

The three main discussion points though probably were discussed in the form of amendments made by Dave Orsini. They were:

1) removing the language prohibiting retail over 50,000 sq ft
2) removing language prohibiting residential
3) keeping language related to the "Apple Valley" mall proposal.

My feelings (beyond what I wrote last night) are this:

1) retail over 50,000 sq ft is not necessarily bad. It depends on what goes in there. I'm not keen on getting a Walmart, but there may be other ideas that the community would give widespread support. And as I mentioned before... this is another unknown which can still be rejected by P&Z... if the developer even wants to continue down this path. Don't forget, they can pull the plug at anytime. (Failed, 3-6, Orsini, Ruocco, Shrumm supported)

2) Since I began thinking about the residential aspect, I've tried to be upfront about my concerns with adding 100's of new kids to the school system. I really don't want to do that. However, based on the advice of legal counsel, I believe this argument is a red herring. And as I mentioned before... I think studio apartments are one form of residential that could be good. But that's only one idea. There may very well be many more ideas out there that would work well. However, I'm not a developer or a planner. So I really don't know where this could lead. Again though, this is another unknown which can still be rejected by P&Z... if the developer even wants to continue down this path. Don't forget, they can pull the plug at anytime. (Failed, 3-6, Orsini, Ruocco, Shrumm supported)

Btw, if the developers don't have a good idea for housing... something besides a typical "4 bedroom colonial," then I doubt the PZC will allow it.

3) I thought David Orsini had a good idea in keeping the "Apple Valley" mall wording. Basically, my purpose here was simply to keep the wording, thereby limiting retail development to 900,000 sq ft. I figure, the proposed project is smaller than that, so this would simply limit retail development... to the point where, developers would have to ask again before turning the other three quadrants of the interchange into a massive strip mall. (Failed, 4-5, Orsini, Ruocco, Shrumm, White supported)

The last point I made that I forgot to mention in yesterday's post is...

As many of you know, I can go on and on about binding arbitration. And much of that consternation relates to my feeling that the State is telling the Town (and me) what to do. It seems as though the State doesn't trust the Town (and me) to make the right decision. And with a bit of a libertarian bent in me, I really don't like that feeling. So although unintentional I'm sure, it smacks of arrogance, as if the State is saying it is smarter than the town (and me).

In turn, I feel that P&Z should be allowed to go down this path. Else the Council would be treating the PZC in much the same way the State treats the Council.

So I disagree with the idea that Council should have rejected this proposal in an effort to require a P&Z supermajority (6 of 9 PZC votes, instead of 5 of 9). I'm confident that the 9 duly-elected members of the P&Z will use their best judgement and make a good decision.

Another comment that seems to continue being mentioned as a reason to oppose this project is that it will not be a "tax benefit" to the town. I again mentioned that I am completely uncertain whether that will be the case or not, as there are so many variables... particularly sewers and schools.

Again though this is another unknown. And upon completion of an impact study, I understand that the PZC could require the developer to add infrastructure, such as sewers.... keep in mind though that sewers would not necessarily be necessary.

For instance, there was a development off of Rte 322 in Cheshire that recently put in its own "mini sewer" system. I believe that is possible, dependent on the ground... is it sandy or rocky... perhaps clay or soil? I don't know. This is another unknown that will need to be addressed by the PZC. And these may be legitimate snags which ultimately doom the project. I don't know. But I firmly believe that is a decision to be made between P&Z and the developer... a decision that should be based on a greater understanding of the facts... facts which we don't yet know.

And one last time for good measure... this is the beginning of a long process... anywhere along the way, there may be legitimate reasons to halt the project. In my mind, those "reasons" could be "bad" answers to any of the unknowns that I've mentioned...

1) housing & schools (I don't want to see four bedroom colonials with lots of new kids),
2) sewers (will we need to expand our sewer plant?),
3) traffic (Rte 10 is bad enough. No point in adding shopping if the traffic gets so bad, no one is willing to drive there.), etc..

And if you want to be heard, the Planning & Zoning Commission has tentatively scheduled the public hearing on this for Feb 26. And keep in mind, if the hearing goes on for a long time, it will almost certainly be extended to another night... so that everyone's voice is heard... although, I gotta tell ya... I think your voices are being heard right here on this blog... which I think is kinda cool. lol.

And last, but unrelated to the Council deliberations... I'm a bit stunned at how high passions seem to have run on this particular Council vote.

Following the vote, I had several of my (formerly) biggest supporters make clear to me that they would never again support me. While others mentioned my "courage." It's reminiscent of the "zero budget" a few years back.

See I just try to gather the facts, listen to opinions and make a decision. For me, the votes I cast always begin with the facts, but often end with simply how I feel about a particular item. I just try to do what I feel is right. In this case, I felt that with all the unknowns, some of which could be good and some of which could be bad, the best thing I could do would be to get answers... to listen.

Anyway... I have to get to bed, so... I think I'm done with this for now.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

P.S. If you are concerned that what happens in the "northwest quadrant" could effect the other three quadrants of the interchange zone, we were told that is not the case. The Town Planner, Bill Voelker, assured us that "Land Use" law does not acknowledge "precedent." In other words, whatever we do with the development has no bearing on any other developments. And that significantly influenced how I voted tonight... it gave me comfort that we're not necessarily opening the floodgates, per se.

(Waterbury Rep-Am, by Lauresha Xhihani)

Lifestyle center III

Some thoughts on the proposed development:

1) I like the overall idea and expect to support it tomorrow.

2) I'm not convinced that this project is a windfall in tax revenue... it may be or it may not be... there are simply too many unknowns on costs.

3) I'm not necessarily averse to residential. I don't want the school system to get an unexpected influx of 300 new kids one year, but that's not necessarily the case. One of the biggest concerns I hear from people is the need for housing for post-college grads. There's not too much for them in CT. Perhaps some retail shops on the first floor with studio apartments (single room apts w/ a bathroom... not even bedrooms... just studios) on the second floor? Just a thought which gives me pause in simply opposing residential.

4) I wouldn't be averse to recommending changes to only the northwest quandrant of the interchange zone. We could change more at a later date.

5) I am convinced that many residents would see this as an improvement in quality of life.

6) Traffic and other issues are the purview of Planning & Zoning (and Inland/Wetlands). And P&Z is elected. As elected officials, we (including me) put our trust in them... that they'll do a good job. This project has lots of unknowns... unknowns that will still be unknown at the time we vote tomorrow. So when I cast my vote, I'm expecting to do so with reservations about the unknowns, but still support the project and trust that Planning & Zoning will do a good job.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

UPDATE: Tonight’s Council meeting will not be televised. The reason is that the town’s cameraman is unavailable. I wish this weren’t the case… that we weren’t entirely dependent on one person, but… so it goes. Anyway, if you’re interested in hearing everything, you’ll need to attend tonight… 7:30pm, Town Hall.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Council on ETR

It's late, so just a quick post or two....

The first elderly tax relief meeting was held by the Council (budget & ordinance review) tonight. I thought the meeting went well. It seemed as though most members of the committees were generally in support (of many, if not all) of the recommendations.

My main reservations related to measurement and enforcement of various issues.

As well, I tried to be clear that I would be flexible on many aspects. That is, the tax relief committee recommended ranges of categories. In such cases, I'm open-minded to what others feel is best.

As I've said before, helping those in need is appropriate. In Cheshire, those most in need tend to be seniors. So I think doing something of this nature is appropriate.

Upcoming meetings: The next ERT meeting was scheduled for next week. However, that may be delayed. I'm gone all next week (I'll be stuck on a deserted tropical beach... life can be so unfair!) And the public hearing on ERT is tentatively scheduled for March 6.

Tim White
Town Council, Budget Committee

Council agenda 01/30

Upcoming meetings:

Tonight, Jan 29, 7pm, Town Hall: monthly meeting of the Energy Commission
Tonight, Jan 29, 7:30pm, Town Hall: 1st mtg of the Council's Budget and Ordinance Review meetings on Elderly Tax Relief
Tomorrow, Jan 30, 7:30pm, Town Hall: special Council meeting

Agenda for Council meeting (not everything):

1) Plan of Conservation and Development (I expect this will pass)
2) Final design for renovations and additions to Fire Station #3 (This may generate some discussion.)
3) Final design for CHS window replacement project
4) Former Boulder Knoll Property (Just look at my post on "need for land" for some of my concerns, but I'm guessing this will pass without much discussion.)
5) Land acquisition, executive session

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Power of the internet

"In a dim editing room, two video snippets of Republican presidential hopeful John McCain fill the monitors. In the first, he says same-sex marriage should be allowed. In the second, he says it should be illegal.

The contradictory clips are the result of an Internet search, carried on by filmmaker Robert Greenwald and his production team in Culver City, Calif., for damaging video of the Arizona senator. Greenwald, the producer of scathing documentaries about Fox News and Wal-Mart, hopes to shatter the Arizona senator's image as a straight-talking maverick." (LA Times, by Michael Finnegan)

The internet is a powerful tool. I can't believe some of the Lieberman videos being posted on My Left Nutmeg and Spazeboy this weekend. Long story, short, this past weekend Lieberman made clear that Iraq may be the single deciding factor in casting his Presidential vote in 2008. But last summer, he slammed Lamont for being a "one issue candidate."

Ouch. The internet may be making and breaking even more political careers besides George Allen's.

Tim White

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Need for land

NPR ran this very interesting story (by Scott Horsley) on the need for land when making alternatives to "trans fats."

They mentioned that you would need 12.5 million acres (the land equivalent of Massachusetts) to grow enough soy beans to offset all the trans fats that are currently used in America. And of course, this comes in direct competition with increased crop production for biofuels.

So if you're a fan of reducing trans fats and increasing biofuels... make your choice! Actually, I think it just ends up being a balancing act with farmers deciding what is most profitable for them. For me though, reducing our dependence on foreign oil is more important than reducing our use of trans fats.

Tim White

Green to Gold on TV

Sorry I didn't mention this before... this evening at 9pm on CNBC will be a discussion including Dan Esty. I believe included in the discussion will be his new book Green to Gold. I haven't read his book, but I have read several articles that mention it. And if I have a correct understanding of the premise of the book, it is a stroke of genius. (Btw, it's not just me saying this. Click here to see the Amazon reviews of his book.)

It sells traditionally liberal issues (going green & protecting the environment) from a traditionally conservative viewpoint (avoid legislation and let the free market decide). That is, I think the book is predicated on the notion that private businesses can make money by being green-friendly.

As I've mentioned before, that was very much part of the reason why I bought my (Consumer Reports-recommended) Civic Hybrid. So I'm sure this strategy will work for companies.

Tim White

UPDATE: I just watched a bit of the CNBC show. Partly contrary to what I posted above, Dan made the case for some gov't intervention/regulation in the energy marketplace. I think his argument was that the free markets have not progressed quickly enough over the past few decades. And that a gov't standard or framework would be worthwhile at this point.

Obviously the devil is in the details, but generally, I agree with him. Case in point... it's estimated that 90% of global oil reserves are owned by foreign governments. And since oil is a commodity... gov't needs to be involved in energy (in this case, oil) to some extent.

One example of a gov't standard or framework that I would support is increasing the CAFE standards for cars.

Huckabee is in

Having been mentioned a few times on this blog, I thought I'd mention that Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) has officially thrown his hat in the ring... he's running for President (AP). I don't much of anything about him, but this article makes it clear that he's hoping to win the conservative wing of the Republican party... a group that seems to be disinterested in the two most recognizable names, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.

The article also mentions the other candidates vying for conservative Republican vote:

Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a favorite son of the religious right, is already in the race. Other conservatives, such as California Rep. Duncan Hunter and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, will battle for their share of the vote.
I'm not yet sure who I'll support, but I do greatly admire the always principled stance of Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Tim White

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pat's driving

US Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) is supporting Chris Dodd for President. And now if Chris Dodd can secure an endorsement from State Rep. Pat Dillon (D-New Haven), I'm sure he'll be a shoo-in for endorsements from some groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Drunk Driving.

Btw, Pat Dillon still has her title "Asst Majority Leader" and the "raise" that comes with it. Have any members of the House Democratic caucus publicly called for Speaker Amann to remove her title?

Back to Dodd though. Obviously, anyone can endorse anyone. And Kennedy's endorsement of Dodd probably has little to do with the Senator. So just to be clear, I don't see this as a reflection on Sen Dodd. But I do see drunk driving incidents as reflections on the body politik and all body members who fail to take a stand.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Friday, January 26, 2007

My day

I've had an interesting day. I decided to take a day off and it was worth it.

I kicked off the day by meeting with our Town Planner, Bill Voelker. The topic was the W/S Development's proposed lifestyle center and I learned a lot. I think this could definitely be a worthwhile project, although, if approved, the PZC & Inland/Wetlands will need to keep a close eye on, not only energy requirements, but the impact on everything, including traffic, sewers, the river, etc..

Then it was off to the studios of WFSB where I was fortunate enough to meet another of CTs new Congressmen, Joe Courtney. I didn't talk politics with him. I just congratulated him and wished him good luck... I really don't like chewing people's ears off, unless it's understood that is why we're talking. In my mind, a chance encounter doesn't qualify.

After the Congressman was interviewed, it was my turn. I didn't speak alone though. I asked Lee Grannis, of Clean Cities, to accompany me. I thought that was best as Lee was really the person who sold our DPW on the idea of biodiesel in Cheshire.

I thought the interview went well. Al Terzi started off the interview by calling me "smiley," which I thought was kind of funny. Not sure if that will make it on the air.

I don't think I said anything that will surprise any of you. Although I did mention converting our school buses to biodiesel. And if you're wondering why I haven't been advocating for the conversion of our school buses, you can stop wondering. It was probably a year ago that I started trying to get our school buses to convert. But since I got nowhere, I decided to see if I could get our DPW to convert. And they did. All I needed to do was lay the facts on the table.

(Don't forget... if you happen to be watching TV tomorrow morning at 11:20am or so, flip on WFSB.)

Following the "Face the State" interview, I headed over to the Capitol. I wanted to testify about the mines. Unfortunately, the wait to testify was three hours long and I couldn't wait that long. So I just wished Lauren Korman and Bill Baker the best of luck with their testimony. They mentioned that several people came to testify in support of the mine remediation, including state Sen. Sam Caligiuri, Diane Visconti, Vickie and Michael Milone. State Rep. Al Adinolfi couldn't be there though as he was in the hospital. (I think he's well though. I visited him last weekend.)

It was an interesting day.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

End of Feb vacay

Prospect schools (Region 16) are considering eliminating the traditional February vacation (WRA, by Emily Beaver) in an effort to improve mastery test scores.

Since the state mandated Connecticut Mastery Tests were moved to March in 2006, curriculum committee members thought February vacation was disruptive to learning prior to the test, said the board's chairman, David Byrne.
I've been told by several educators that disruptions to learning (even small things such as a three day weekend) do have a noticeable detrimental impact on how well kids learn. So I think this is definitely worthy of, at least, a discussion.

Tim White

CRRA payment

CT Resource Recovery Authority (CRRA) is being sued by 70 towns represented by them (WRA, by George Krimsky). And now CRRA is planning on making payments to the towns for approximately $14.8million.

I know that Cheshire disposes our waste at the trash-to-energy facility in Wallingford. As well, I believe that facility is related to CRRA.

Can anyone confirm that? And if so, do you happen to know if Cheshire will be getting a payment?

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Thursday, January 25, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth airing

I saw this on the Herald's events page.

Saturday, Jan. 27 - The celebrated film about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, will be shown on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in the reception hall of the Cheshire United Methodist Church (205 Academy Road, 1/2 mile east of Route 10 on Route 68).

I'm curious. I might go.

I've only seen part of the film so far. And some of it is certainly debatable. But I do think it could be a good conversation starter for a debate.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Pool consultant starts

The pool consultant has begun its work (Herald, by Leslie Hutchison).

We've already spent the money on this. So at this point, I'm just curious to see their report. I'll be sure to try to post it here when we get it.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Writing a wrong

I noticed this Courant article about Wikipedia and couldn't resist mentioning it here.

The story is about Microsoft offering to pay someone to change the text in Wikipedia. And while that may not mean much to you, the whole concept of Wikipedia is a

free encyclopedia that anyone can edit, (but) requires articles to have a "neutral point of view"
So to offer someone money to change it, at minimum, looks bad. Anyway, I'm not particularly concerned about Microsoft's public image. They have plenty of money to deal with that. Rather, I just wanted to point out a problem with Wikipedia. Imagine this...

I've visited Wikipedia before, including the Cheshire homepage. While there, I had noticed that there were only five Council members (all at large) listed there. Obviously listing only "at large" members was wrong. So tonight I looked around the page a bit more and figured out how to edit "the box" which lists the names of Council members.

Having found how to edit "the box," I took the liberty to write a wrong... I added the names of the four District Council Members. And I listed our names above the names of the mere "at large council members."


I did it because everyone knows that District Council Members Rule! We're just cooler than "at large council members." It's that simple.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District!!!

p.s. OK, OK... obviously I'm kidding about this post. It is a bit ridiculous. The real purpose of this post was just to let you know that you can go into Wikipedia and edit it as you like. People will read it. That's really important. It's a wonderful demonstration of the power of the internet.

Mayor Bob on CNN

I'm not sure if this piece ran on CNN, but Mayor Bob Chatfield is mentioned on their website. The story is about saving pets from fires while using "pet oxygen masks."

The story mentions that back in 2004, the Prospect Fire Department received some pet oxygen masks as donations. Then only two days later used them to save some pets.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The anti-incumbent

Do you recall the "I'll restore honor and integrity to the office" lines from 1999 & 2000? George W. Bush ran as the anti-Clinton.

Wouldn't it be ironic if Hillary ends up running and winning on the "I'll restore America's respect within the world community" lines? Hillary is already running as the anti-Bush.

Tim White

Special needs registration

The Cheshire Human Services Committee, in collaboration with the Cheshire Police Department, and Cheshire Social Services Department would like to invite Cheshire residents to participate in a Special Needs Awareness and At Risk registration event.


Cheshire Police Department
500 Highland Avenue


Saturday February 10
9:00 am - 12:00 pm (please arrive at 9:00 am)


To familiarize families who have a child or other family member with special needs with the police department and also to provide an opportunity for families to register their loved one on an At-Risk List with the police department.

The intention of the registry is to make available valuable, time saving, and perhaps lifesaving information to police in the event that they are called upon to respond to an incident involving your loved one. This would include medical emergencies, 911 calls, as well as any other routine calls. The Cheshire Fire Department as well as the Ambulance corps will be represented at the event so that you and your family can become acquainted with personnel and ask questions.

Please note that the registry is absolutely voluntary and all information contained in it will be kept completely confidential.

For more information and registry forms please click to visit CheshireCares.

Please note: If you complete and submit the form to the Police Department on or before Monday, February 5, 2007, will enable us to produce a photo ID badge for your son or daughter.

Tim White
Town Council, Human Services Committee liaison

And a hat tip to Vickie Canale for giving me this info!

Energy Security Leadership Council III

OK, President Bush didn't mention the ESLC by name, but he did mention each of their three key goals:

1) conserve oil
2) increased use of alternative fuels
3) increased production of oil within US borders.

While he gave little attention to #3, he did mention it. But given the political reality of Washington 2007, I'm not altogether surprised that he gave it little mention.

The text of the President's comments on oil are as follows:

Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America's economy running and America's environment clean. For too long our Nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists - who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments ... raise the price of oil ... and do great harm to our economy.

It is in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply - and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power - by even greater use of clean coal technology ... solar and wind energy ... and clean, safe nuclear power. We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol - using everything from wood chips, to grasses, to agricultural wastes.

We have made a lot of progress, thanks to good policies in Washington and the strong response of the market. Now even more dramatic advances are within reach. Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we have done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next ten years - thereby cutting our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.

To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory Fuels Standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 - this is nearly five times the current target. At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks - and conserve up to eight and a half billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but will not eliminate it. So as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must also step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment - and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.

Hopefully, unlike last year, there will be some followup this year.

Tim White
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison

Boyle leaving

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle is leaving his post (Courant, by Tracy Gordon Fox). Following the early December report which slammed the CT State Police, I think new people at the head of the CSP is best, if for no other reason than to return public confidence in the department.... now if we can just get some new people to head up the DOT.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Lifestyle center II

Tonight's Council meeting was good. I think it was very informative. I tried to convey many of your concerns, which I share. I think one major concern is:

Will tax revenues exceed the cost of services?

By services, I mean:

1) operational costs for sewers
2) capital costs for sewer plant upgrade, including possible pumping station
3) widening of roads (avoiding traffic congestion)
4) maintenance of roads
5) installing of stoplights
6) electric bill for stoplights
7) cost of increased staffing for police
8) cost of increased staffing for fire
9) cost to build new northend fire station
10) cost of additional teachers for kids in schools
11) etc.

Obviously, this list could go on and on. I believe that depending on just a few key factors, this could either be a boon to the grand list (and taxpayers) or we could take a major hit in taxes. I'm really not convinced one way or the other. And unfortunately, that's the way this is setup. Although as David Schrumm pointed out several times this evening, at least the Council now gets to opine. But that's about all we do.

Beyond taxes & services, there's also the general question:

Will this improve or hurt our "quality of life?"

I do believe that the majority of people in town would enjoy this. So that is another plus for me in supporting this.

Anyway, if you had a chance to watch the meeting (personally, if I were home tonight, I probably would've been watching the State of the Union), then I'm very curious to hear your thoughts on this project... now that you've heard from the developer.

I'm not yet 100% certain how I'll vote, but as I said during the meeting, I am expecting to support this. And as was said during the meeting, the Planning & Zoning can still do whatever they want, regardless of the Council's action (although the number supporting the proposed changes would increase from 5 to 6).

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

NH Register, by Luther Turmelle
Waterbury Rep-Am, by Lauresha Xhihani

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Clean energy 01/23

I forgot to mention... make sure to check out page 1 of the second section of this week's Herald and the local section of the Jan 23 edition of the NH Register. Both have nice articles (neither online, by Leslie Hutchison and Luther Turmelle, respectively) about Cheshire's participation in the 20% by 2010 clean energy campaign. The also both mention the photovoltaic arrays (solar panels) that the town will be getting and hoping to install on the roof of the public library by April 22, Earth Day.

And on a somewhat related "clean energy" note... tell your friends and don't forget to watch CBS' "Face the State" with Al Terzi this Sunday at 11am. I'll be spouting off about Cheshire using biodiesel.

Tim White
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison

Sr Tax Relief Report

The Town Council's Budget and Ordinance Review Committees will meet next Monday, January 27 at 7pm in Town Hall to discuss the report & recommendations of the Elderly Tax Relief Study Committee. The two committees (Budget - Ecke, Esty, White; Ord Rev - Ecke, Esty, Orsini) will make a recommendation to the Council. If you're available, please attend the meeting. The text is as follows:

The Elderly Tax Relief Study Committee was formed by the Cheshire Town Council through the approval of Resolution 102606-1. The Town Council formed this Committee after over 1,760 residents of the Town of Cheshire supported a petition for a tax freeze for eligible residents.

The sole purpose of the study Committee is to review the current elderly tax relief ordinance and to make recommendations for changes, if any, to the existing ordinance along with making recommendations for the adoption of new or additional ordinance.

The Town of Cheshire has offered an elderly tax relief program since 1989. The current program consists of a tax credit program along with a separate tax deferment program. Applicants of the local credit and deferment programs may also be eligible to apply for the State of Connecticut Elderly Tax Circuit Breaker Program which is available to residents who are at least 70 years of age and that meet qualifying income requirements.

Applicants of the local tax credit program must be age sixty-five (65) or over, or under age 65 and be eligible for disability benefits under Social Security. The amount of the local tax credit is dependent upon their qualifying income of the applicant along with their period of residency in the Town. The qualifying income levels are adjusted annually to equal the qualifying income levels of the State circuit breaker program. The Town has also added two additional income levels, which are greater than the State qualifying levels for single and married applicants. The additional two income brackets have actually allowed an additional 125 applicants into the program. The local tax credits are normally adjusted annually but that is left to the discretion of the Town Council.

Qualifying residents may also choose to defer up to 75% of the payment of their real estate taxes until their home is sold or the death of the applicant. The applicant’s home is subject to a lien by the Town and interest accrues monthly at a rate of ½ percent per month on the balance of the taxes that are deferred.

The tax relief programs that are presently in place have become base for which this study group has developed its recommendations. The study group over a very short period of time has had to analyze the present programs and develop recommendations and form a consensus about those recommendations. This group has worked very hard to accomplish a difficult task in a short time frame and we are proud to present the following recommendations:

Local Tax Credit Program:

A.) Adjust the local qualifying income categories to conform to, the recently adopted State circuit breaker qualifying income revisions, along with proportionately increasing the local upper qualifying income categories.

B.) Increase the tax credits for all income categories for each of the next three fiscal years by 8% to 12%.

C.) Establish new residency criteria for new applicants to the program:

1.) 1 to 5 years 20% of the available credit.
2.) 6 to 10 years 40% of the available credit.
3.) 11 to 15 years 60% of the available credit.
4.) 16 to 20 years 80% of the available credit.
5.) 21 years or more 100% of the available credit.

Current participants of the program would be grandfathered in under the current residency criteria.

D.) Consider a bonus tax credit for residents of 25 years or more.

E.) Consider re-evaluating the upper qualifying income limits of the program.

Tax Deferment Program:

A.) Revise the current tax deferment program ordinance to allow qualifying residents the ability to defer any amount of the net real estate taxes that are owed after the application of all local and state tax credits, 75% of the total tax bill may be deferred. (Recommendation is to offer dual programs – tax credit and deferment.)

B.) Consider lowering the rate of interest charged.

C.) Retain the tax lien provisions of the present ordinance.

Tax Freeze Program:

A.) Adopt the State age, income and residency guidelines.

B.) Establish an asset limit:

1.) Asset limit of which does not include applicant’s principal residence.
2.) Assets to be included would be the values of all bank and credit union accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, individual retirement accounts (including ROTH IRA accounts), 401(k) plan accounts, tax deferred annuities, second residences and any other asset category that the Town Council might consider.

C.) Consider a tax lien provision.

Medical Hardship Waiver:

A medical hardship waiver should be established that would help applicants who may be excluded, upon reapplication, from the tax relief programs due to an increase in their income which was the direct result of the applicant drawing upon their retirement savings to pay for medical expenses.

The waiver would be granted to an applicant whose qualifying income has increased to a level which now excludes them from the State tax circuit breaker program. If the applicant can sufficiently prove to the Town Assessor that the reason for the increase in their income was related to the payment of medical expenses, the additional income associated with this medical expense can be deducted from their qualifying income (e.g. liquidation of an IRA, sale of stock, etc.). An increase in an applicants income which results in moving up into a higher qualifying income category, would not be considered a hardship if the applicant was still receiving State tax circuit breaker benefits.

The medical hardship waiver would only apply to the local tax credit; due to the fact that the State does not presently have a medical hardship waiver.

Sunset Provision:

The Town Council should establish a sunset provision for the adopted tax relief programs, after a three year duration, so that a program re-evaluation can be conducted in conjunction with the upcoming property revaluation. The sunset provision that would be adopted should also address future property revaluations, so that the Town Council can have an opportunity evaluate future costs of the programs and allow for realignment of benefits.

Cap on Program Costs:

The Town Council should develop a formula for the establishment of an annual cap on the overall cost of the tax relief programs. The establishment of an annual cap on the cost of the programs is also fiscally responsible and is needed to protect the Town residents and businesses who are not involved with the tax relief programs.

Public Information Efforts:

During the period that this study group has met it has become apparent that there continues to exist confusion or a lack of awareness about the tax relief programs. The Town has made a concerted effort to inform the public, but we recommend that the Town expand its public information efforts.

Establish a Tax Relief Study Group During Future Revaluation Periods:

The general consensus of the members of the Study Group is that the Town Council should establish a Tax Relief Study Group during future revaluations to re-evaluate the program.

State Legislative Initiatives:

The study group feels strongly that the Town Council along with the Town Manager’s office should pursue the following legislative initiatives:

A.) Complete funding of the tax circuit breaker program by the State.
The Town presently receives reimbursement of approximately 89% from the State for benefits provided under the circuit breaker program, which equates to a shortfall of roughly $30,000. The State should fully fund its programs as the annual shortfall to the Town could be used to help provide additional benefits to residents who need them.

B.) Increase the tax circuit breaker credits
The State of Connecticut has not increased the tax credits offered under the circuit breaker program since 1991. An increase in the credits is needed so that the State will begin to share more of the burden in providing property tax relief to the residents of Connecticut.

C.) Establish a medical hardship waiver
The State of Connecticut presently does not offer any type of medical hardship waiver in conjunction with the circuit breaker program, we feel that this waiver is not only needed at the local level but also at the state level. Applicants that qualify for circuit breaker benefits are at low income levels, and should not be penalized when a medical emergency occurs.

D.) 50/50 Sharing in the cost of the tax freeze program
The State of Connecticut with the passage of the recent tax freeze legislation has saddled the municipalities of the state with an unfunded program which will be funded by the residents and businesses who do not qualify for benefits under the legislation. We feel that it is the obligation of the State to initially reimburse municipalities at least fifty percent of the tax revenue lost related to a tax freeze, this reimbursement rate should increase over time until full funding is achieved.

Property Tax Reform Proposal developed by State Representative Timothy O’Brien:

State Representative Timothy O’Brien of New Britain has developed a property tax reform proposal which we feel the Town Council should review and consider supporting. The proposal is available on Representative O’Brien’s website.

Items Requiring Further Research:

A.) Re-evaluate possible inequities that may exist in qualifying income categories and tax credit benefits.

B.) Re-evaluate the definition of “Adjusted Gross Income” in determining an applicant’s income category.

C.) Consider developing a catastrophic hardship waiver.

And a special thanks to the members of the committee: Beth Tannenbaum, Rebecca Simpson, Dave Pelletier, Derf Kleist, Ed Hines, Wayne Winters and Paul Bowman.

Comments? I don't have time to comment on this right now... gotta get to bed and still want to do something on tonight's lifestyle center meeting.

Tim White
Town Council, Budget Committee

Open forum 01/23

As you'll see below, I went off on various topics last night. But just in case I didn't hit your particular concern, here's an open forum to let loose...

Elsewhere in the news... I booked tix for me and Danielle for Nicaragua for the beginning of February... I wanted someplace a bit more off the beaten track, but I'm impressed that I could even get her to go to Centro America. You're a trooper D!

And in case you missed it, the MRJ's Cheshire Post ran a front page article on biodiesel in Cheshire (including a nice photo of Rich Kaczer, DPW Fleet Manager). But that's not the end of the publicity tour for Cheshire's biodiesel. I'm also scheduled to be on Al Terzi's "Face the State" this weekend. It should run Sunday morning on WFSB... I believe at 11am.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Monday, January 22, 2007

State of the Union

The President "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." - U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3

And so was born the annual "State of the Union" address to Congress.

I truly hope that come tomorrow evening, President Bush seriously addresses energy. I don't mean the lip service he paid a year ago when he spoke of America's "addiction to oil." No. I mean seriously address our energy (oil) concerns. But if he simply repeats his performance of last year (mention oil, then fail to followup), it will be a continued disservice that he does to our country.

My suggestion to the President would be this... if you don't mention the "Energy Security Leadership Council," then at least mention (and act on) their three main goals:

1) increased conservation
2) increased use of alternative fuels and
3) increased exploration within US borders.

President Bush needs to create, and bring to fruition, a "Marshall Plan" for America's energy security. Politically, he ought to be able to make at least the first two happen. Action on fewer than two of these goals will be a failure.

Tim White

I-84 investigation begins

The state Department of Transportation is run by Commissioner Ralph Carpenter. And with the I-84 debacle in west Cheshire (who can forget the "storm drains to nowhere?"), Mr. Carpenter finally had to testify before the legislature's Transportation Committee. According to the AP,

"Ralph Carpenter said state staff were not physically watching over the operations.... 'Maybe we should have been.'"
Oh man... those sorts of statements don't exactly instill confidence in me. But at least the Transportation Committee is investigating... finally. Hopefully people will be held to account not only for this colossal waste of money, but for the tax dollars wasted on Route 42 too.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Turf in Seymour

If you're curious to learn more about artificial turf, you may want to follow what happens in Seymour. They are just setting sail in their quest for turf (WRA, by Jodie Mozdzer). "The town will seek bids this week to install artificial turf at the DeBarber Sports Field at Seymour High School."

I'm not sure how Seymour is planning on funding their project, either through local tax dollars, state tax dollars, private fundraising (as initially suggested in Cheshire) or through other means. But "First Selectman Robert J. Koskelowski said... initial estimates for the project have come back at about $900,000." Unfortunately, the article doesn't seem to give any substantive cost details on things such as the "foundation" or annual maintenance.

I've requested such "lifecycle" cost details several times for the proposed CHS turf. I haven't seen anything yet though.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Justice may prevail

With Pfizer's announcement (NYTimes, by Andrew Pollack) today of their intention to layoff 10,000 employees, I couldn't help but read of their anticipated financial woes. And considering that the whole injustice of eminent domain (CNN.com) began with Pfizer, wouldn't it be ironic if their financial troubles someday lead to a new decision by them to scrap their plans for their New London "economic development?"

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Democratic Presidential primary

With Hillary jumping into the race via this online video , the Democratic field is officially getting crowded. (And for what it's worth, I can't see myself voting for her, but the video is a good.)

But how crowded is it? I think it's eight declared Dems for now: Hillary, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Governors Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsack. And while most people seem to be relegating Richardson and Vilsack to irrelevancy, I'm a firm believer that Governors have a better chance, than Senators, of being elected President. (Although in the interests of full disclosure, I like Richardson and Vilsack better than any of the other democratic candidates.)

And if you're wondering why people seem to be "announcing" earlier than ever, I think this NY Times article (by Broder & Healy) does a good job analyzing recent trends in the timing of "announcing" one's intentions in our much coveted quadrennial Presidential sweepstakes. The article describes a cycle in which one needs to announce early, so as not to miss out on potential fundraising.

Tim White

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Northend meeting

The Council will be meeting this Tuesday, January 23 at 7:30pm to discuss the proposed northend development. We'll meet again the following Tuesday, Jan 30 for a special meeting on various topics.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Speaking truth to power

The February issue of GQ magazine has a great layout on a US Senator who speaks truth to power. His name is Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK). Yes, he's a Republican. And yes, I know in 2006 that means spend, spend, spend, (again... the "$100 gas card") BUT... as I said... this guy speaks truth to power.

Having served several terms in the US House, he was first elected to the US Senate in 2004. Here's a classic example of who he is:

While fellow newcomers like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama observed the customary “freshman silence,” Coburn’s first major move as a senator was to pick a fight with one of his party’s most venerated leaders, Ted Stevens of Alaska, a forty-year veteran of Congress who also happened to be the Senate’s president pro tempore.

The fight was over pork. As the 2006 transportation budget passed through the Senate process, Coburn noticed something odd: $200 million to pay for a bridge in Stevens’s home state—a bridge almost as long as the Golden Gate and taller than the Brooklyn Bridge, connecting an island of fifty people to the coast. In the Senate, these kinds of giveaways are not unusual; members, and especially those in a position of influence, are frequently given millions of dollars for personal spending projects back home, items that bypass the normal review process and are quietly ushered in by their peers (whose own projects get the same deal). But to Coburn, who hadn’t spent forty years in the Senate and didn’t have any of his own special projects and didn’t particularly care about keeping pacts with his new colleagues, $200 million seemed like a lot to spend on a bridge for fifty people. So he tried to take the earmark out. And that’s when Tom Coburn discovered what his life in the Senate would be like.

Almost as soon as Coburn proposed to eliminate the bridge, Ted Stevens came tearing down to the floor of the Senate with his face red and his fists clenched, bellowing that he would not be treated with such disrespect, that the rest of the Senate would have to rise up and protect his project or he, Ted Stevens, would pack up his bags and quit the Senate and never come back. By the end of the day, eighty-two senators had voted with Stevens. Voted to spend $200 million on a bridge to nowhere, while Tom Coburn could find only fourteen members to agree that the money might be better spent somewhere else—like, say, rebuilding New Orleans.
Although I don't agree with him on everything, there are some great things about him. And again, I simply love the fact that he speaks truth to power.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Eminent domain 2nd tier

According the Stamford Advocate, State house Democrats are calling eminent domain a "tier two" issue (by Brian Lockhart). Speaker Amann said issues such as "health care, energy, smart growth, transportation, property tax relief and public safety" are the tier one issues.

House Republicans and Senate Democrats are on a different page than house Democrats though. "House Republicans and Senate Democrats yesterday said the General Assembly should take up the issue of property seizures this session."

I think action should be taken... and that action shouldn't take a great deal of time. To me, eminent domain is simple. It should be reserved for public use... schools, highways and the like. For anything else, such as the Pfizer case, the owner gets what they ask. And if the owner refuses to sell, too bad. They own it. They keep it.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Friday, January 19, 2007

Dodd done

Scarce, over at My Left Nutmeg, is reporting that Senator Chris Dodd is hangin' it up in 2010. If true, that would be big news on the CT political scene. MLN (and Yahoo) also points out that by declaring his desire to not run again for the Senate, Mr. Dodd is permitted to transfer Senatorial campaign funds to Presidential campaign funds.

Tim White

Ballpark numbers

I got some "ballpark numbers" (lol!) on field usage:

Approximate # of baseball fields: 34
P&R: 20
Schools: 14

Average # of games per week:
Spring: 180
Summer: 25
Fall: 75

Games per week that could be hosted by 4 lighted fields: 30

Number of leagues in Cheshire: 11

All leagues are run privately, none are managed by P&R. Conditions of fields varies, so some can be used more often than others.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Energy Action Day

Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards is promoting January 27 as the "National Day of Energy Action." I'm not sure what will come of this program, but I give him credit for doing something. Regardless, if you click on the link, you'll find some useful energy conservation tips.

Tim White
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Happy birthday!

Our blog community is one year old!

Thanks to everyone who comes here to comment and participate in the discussion... and to all those who simply check out current happenings. I think it's really starting to take off. Lately, I've actually had people mention the blog to me... which says to me that people are visiting. So your voices are being heard!

I hope '07 is even better than '06. I'm looking forward to the upcoming local election. I can't help but wonder if the internet will play an actual role in November. I just hope I don't get YouTubed. lol!

And again... if anyone wants to do a guest post, feel free. Just contact me (439-4394 / TimWhite98@yahoo.com) and we can talk about it. And since I haven't done one in a while, feel free to use this post as an open forum.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

"Conn" Ed

Deregulation may (or may not) start to be felt soon as the Empire State’s Con Edison wants to travel across the border and sell electricity in CT (AP). If the DPUC approves the venture, CT would have five electric options:

1 basic option – CL&P/UI
2 clean options – Sterling or Community or
2 cost-saving options – Levco or Con Ed

(see sign up forms for "Levco" and "clean energy" to the left below my picture)

Unfortunately though, my guess is that even with increased generation competition, we won’t be looking at major rate reductions… but hopefully we (homeowners) will be able to find some modest savings in our electric bills. And as I've mentioned before, I used Levco for about two years and was happy with their service.

Tim White
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison

The First 100 Hours

Congressman Chris Murphy made the cover of this week's Herald (by Leslie Hutchison). I thought it was a nice article about him and, again, I'm glad he gave his first press conference in Cheshire. He could've just as easily gone to Meriden or Waterbury.

Anyway, I was thinking a bit more about his comments during the press conference. There was one thing that confused me. If I recall correctly, during "the first 100 hours" of the 110th Congress, he's supporting many bills, including two in particular:

1) advancing healthcare science (via stem cell research) and
2) fiscal responsibility (going back to the "pay as you go" system in which "taxes = spending")

Now maybe it's the accountant in me, but if we're currently operating with a budget deficit (and have been doing so for years... with an ever increasing national debt), then don't these two goals seem to conflict?

I guess I just wish the new Congress (old Congress was hopeless... I'll never forget the "$100 gas card") would close the budget deficit before acting on new spending initiatives.

Tim White

Rte 42 update

The Route 42 reconstruction project (from Broadview to Rosemary at the corner of King) continues to drive me bonkers! No, seriously, this project seems to consist of nothing more than delay after delay!... except, of course, for all the money that was wasted on repaving it last summer...

But onto the story...

I was made aware of this most recent delay in November. The "head's up" came from the Central Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (Waterbury region). They mentioned it to the Town Manager, who then mentioned the delay at a Council meeting. Subsequently, I asked the Town Manager to try to get to the bottom of this delay.

But how?

My main thought was this... key decision makers within the DOT don't seem to care about what I, or the neighborhood residents, think. However, whenever those decision makers delay a project, there must be a reason for the delay. So, my main goals are these...

- learn the reason for the most recent delay, and
- learn the criteria used by the DOT in prioritizing their project list.

My apologies... I lost this image. I'm having some technical difficulties.

(I think those are fair and reasonable questions.)

As such, I asked the Town Manager to send a letter to the DOT asking for answers to these questions. The letter is here (click on it to expand it):

You may notice that the letter is dated December 21, 2006. I haven't heard back yet, but I'm not too concerned. With the holidays and such, I'm sure things are just moving a bit slow in Hartford.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Property tax reform

The state Senate Republicans are calling for a reform of the property tax system with which I agree. They want to hand over control of tax policy to municipalities and end the tax policy monopoly controlled by Hartford. I agree with them and have been calling for this change for a while. (I also believe a Massachusetts-style Prop 2 1/2 could benefit our state.)

However, based on comments from legislative Democrats (see the MRJ, NHR & WRA), I'm convinced that nothing will happen with this. And my experience with this topic is deeper than today's news articles.

In December 2005, I attended a meeting of the Legislature's Program Review & Investigation Committee. At that meeting I both listened and testified. It was at that meeting where I was given the documents that, to varying extents, "proved" this sort of reform was wrong. The proof showed that for a town to offer a "municipal" income tax, there would be negative consequences because the state already has an income tax. And the state's theory held that it would be bad to compound the income tax at different levels of government. To this I ask, then isn't it bad for the state to have an income tax on top of the already existing federal income tax? (As usual, I hear crickets.)

Bottom line to me is that taxes should be linked to ability to pay. And untying the hands of municipalities, offering more options in tax policy, would be a good thing. So while I don't care for the income tax, I think there's a strong upside to the proposed reform.

I think a sales tax would be an improvement over the property tax. Why? Unlike the property tax or the income tax, you can very easily avoid the sales tax.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

I'd love to do more on this, but really wanted to do a quick post on this before I go to work. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this one... although I am convinced it's going nowhere in Hartford.

Cato & the surge

As discussion of "the surge" gets ratcheted up in Washington, I can't help but read more about the situation in Iraq. And as I was clicking around on the internet today, I found this particularly troubling statement...

The Sunni-led insurgency against U.S. forces is now merely one component of an increasingly chaotic situation. The upsurge in sectarian violence is an even larger problem, and it has undeniably embroiled the country in a civil war.(by Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato Institute)
I haven't listened to all of the discussion today (Senators Biden, Hagel, Lieberman, McCain, Brownback, Levin et al), but I'm not yet convinced that the surge is going to turn the situation around. My guess is that to turn the situation around, we'd probably need several hundred thousand more troops.

Tim White

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Meningitis outbreak

Cheshire's got its second case of meningitis in less than a year. This time though it's at the prison (AP).

If I recall correctly, both cases were "bacterial meningitis." And if that's the case, this must be highly unusual. According to this website, there are only 3,000 such cases per year in the US... 3,000 out of 300,000,000 people or 1 in 100,000. And we've now had 2 in 30,000 people.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Murphy in Cheshire

Our newly minted Congressman, Chris Murphy, was back in town this weekend. He even stopped by Cheshire Town Hall this morning. He was there to do his first news conference "from the district." I appreciated that. Unlike Chris Dodd "announcing" his Presidential bid on Imus (Courant, by David Lightman), Murphy had his first big press conference here in Cheshire (WRA, by Michael Puffer). He could've easily done his news conference elsewhere.

But to the substance of his comments... CT-N ran it this evening and I was pretty much OK with what he said... at least what I heard.

There were a few points with which I disagreed, such as how he mentioned the failures of the "Republican Congress." (I thought that was an entirely unnecessary comment. Can we move forward please?) But on the whole, he spoke of just the win-win stuff they're passing right now in DC... things like reducing the cost of college loans (I'm uncertain of the impact, but it sounds reasonable) and raising the minimum wage (I can't see much of a downside to CT).

Anyway, I thought it was a nice gesture on his part to visit Cheshire Town Hall.

Tim White

Flexing muscles

"Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Monday she strongly opposes new Democratic proposals that would undercut a governor's authority over state bonding and end the gubernatorial power to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy." (NHR, by George Hladky) (Also see the WRA, by Paul Hughes)

The theory here is that the democrats in Hartford will use their newfound House supermajority to override the Governor's veto of such a plan. However, any override would require a supermajority in the Senate too. And I find a Senate override extremely unlikely.

Why would a Senate override of Governor Rell's veto be unlikely?

Well, if you're a "sitting state Senator & aspiring Governor," would you want to vote to remove powers that may someday be yours... as Governor? I find that possible, but unlikely.

I'm guessing that both of these proposals are going nowhere fast.

Tim White

Monday, January 15, 2007

Titles = $$

This WRA editorial is a real beauty. It starts out:

The state Senate has 36 members. Guess how many hold "leadership" positions?

Those who said 36 get an A in civics for today.

And let's not forget the House side where Democrats added 8 caucus members and then created 11 new "leadership positions" (on top of the existing 34), ostensibly because of the growth in their caucus.

The editorial's closing paragraph is a doozy:
Each party and chamber requires a small number of leaders to manage the flow of legislation. But self-aggrandizing and payroll-padding of this magnitude says a lot about lawmakers' exaggerated sense of self-worth and their utter disrespect for the people's money.
Does anyone happen to know if it's true that these "titles" are basically a way for them to avoid a vote on a raise?

Tim White


Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

-U2, "Pride"

I visited the Lorraine Motel in June '05. I'm glad I went. Strange as this may seem, it was a part of America that I missed while growing up.

See, at age 34, I was too young to experience the civil rights movement (or Watergate or Vietnam for that matter). And to continue my general lack of knowledge, I don't recall my history classes ever really getting past WWII in any meaningful manner. That is, during the 1980s, history pretty much "ended" in 1945 or so... at least that's how I remember it. I'm not sure why that is, although I have some ideas.

Anyway, I've tried to take it upon myself to learn about the 60s and 70s... doing as much "in person" research as I can... by visiting places such as the Lorraine Motel and the Edmund Pettis Bridge.

If you ever have the chance, I strongly encourage you to visit Memphis (great town) and the current occupant of the Lorraine Motel, the National Civil Rights Museum. From the perspective of someone who was never taught too much about the civil rights movement in school, this tribute to both the movement and to Martin Luther King is both painful and inspiring.

Tim White

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Canton shoppes

As I mentioned before, my parents visited the Shoppes at Farmington Valley (in Canton). While there, they picked up a copy of their brochure. Here's a copy of the map on the brochure. And here's a link to their website.

Question 1: How do you feel about this proposed project? Support, oppose, undecided, don't care?

Question 2: What are your reasons for that?

Just trying to get a sense of how people feel.

Tim White

Town Council, 4th District

Friday, January 12, 2007

Up or down?

"Let's see if we have this right. Enrollment in Cheshire schools is projected to be 1.1 percent lower (down 57 students from 5,158) next year. Yet to educate fewer children, the schools will need $3 million more? And that $3 million includes money for eight new teaching positions, again to teach fewer children?" (WRA editorial)

Interesting question.

Tim White
Town Council, Budget Committee

The blog

Sorry I disappeared for a couple days. Despite how it feels sometimes, I do have a life outside of politics and blogging. lol.

That reminds me though of an earlier proposal I made... if anyone is interested, I'd be happy to have a guest poster here. I don't care if you're a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, political or apolitical... just as long as it's interesting. Depending on how fired up you get over a given topic, it might be worth your time. Just based on how many comments we seem to be getting now, we're clearly getting a lot more visitors. So it might be worth your time. You don't even need to reveal your name... just so long as I know. I don't want anyone posting stuff under my name, particularly if it gets inflammatory. Which brings me to another point...

My rule on comments is this... if I can imagine you saying it at a Council meeting, I'll let it fly. But if you wouldn't say it at a Council meeting, then it's getting deleted.

And now back to our regularly scheduled broadcast... anyone happen to go to the BOE budget meeting tonight? I didn't finish work until 9pm (very unusual for me) and couldn't even make my Human Services meeting... I'll need to call Deb Kelleher, HSC Chair, this weekend.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Booming economy?

For all the naysaying (including some of my own) about taxes & the cost of living, healthcare, transportation, education, energy, etc... here's some good news (NHR, by Steve Higgins)... the job market is hot. In fact, lower Fairfield County's unemployment rate is down to 2.5%! That's pretty good.

And if you're looking to make a move and are willing to work that far away, you can make good money. Thing is, I used to work at UBS... the investment bank. I can assure you that they pay handsomely. As well, another investment bank is opening right across the street (and also adjacent to the train station). So my friends have been telling me of people getting offers that double and triple their salaries. Salaries that were already in six figures. And as far as I'm concerned... that's damn good money.

Of course, the commute stinks. That's why I quit. I live as far south as you can get in Cheshire and the commute was still close to 90 minutes each way.

Tim White

Pet projects

For all the talk of "state money," from artificial turf to the linear pork... I was reading this from an old post...

And if you're curious about what other projects may be eligible for this grant, I think this link to pork barrel funding (scroll down to see "special act grants") may be the place to visit. Items "such as improvements made to a high school track, or the installation of lights at a football field" appear to be covered by this program.
I believe Mary Fritz got funding for Sheehan High for "High school track improvements." Maybe we could get installation of energy-efficient lights at a football field? Maybe tack on a generator? Maybe tack on a windmill as a generator? A windmill that could power all the electricity for CHS?

By my (uneducated) estimate, a windmill to power CHS would cost about $600,000... maybe $700,000 - $800,000 for a windmill to power CHS and the pool... and maybe the Harmon J. Leonard Youth Center and Yellow House too? By another one of my (uneducated) estimates, under good conditions we might reduce electric costs at CHS by $200-300k/yr and the pool by $30-40k/yr.

Anyone game? (I hear crickets.)

Tim White
Town Council, Budget Committee

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Council mtg 1/9

I've been on the Council for three years now. This meeting seemed to be the smoothest one I've been to so far. That was nice.

All of the votes were unanimous, so not much to mention there. If you couldn't tell by watching the tv, I was happy to get a chance to do my blowhard routine about biodiesel. lol. Seriously though, we got some useful meeting dates:

WPCA - tomorrow, Wed Jan 10, town hall - will discuss changing the sewer fee. You may want to mention this to your friends. I doubt many people know about it. If enacted, look for single person homes to benefit, while multi-person houses take the brunt of it. And if you're curious... my neighborhood doesn't have sewers.

Full Council - may have a special meeting next week, exclusively to discuss northend development. Matt Hall to update us.

Council Budget Committee -
Wed, Mar 14, 6pm - revenue, benefits, debt, capital non-recurring

Tues, Mar 20, 7pm - public hearing (unusually early this year... an idea from Budget Chair, Mike Ecke... I like the idea)

Wed, Mar 21, 6pm - elections, town clerk, planning, public works/public properties/WPCD

Thurs, Mar 22, 6pm - finance/general services, building inspection, police/animal control, fire

Mon, Mar 26, 6pm - youth & social services, senior & transportation services, parks & recreation/pool, performing & fine arts, economic development, town mgr/council/town atty

Tues, Mar 27, 6pm - library, education

Wed, Mar 28, 6pm - agenda TBD

Mon, Apr 3, 7pm - additional public hearing, if necessary

Tues Apr 11, 7:30pm - regular Council meeting, including budget vote

Any thoughts on tonight's meeting?

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Freedom of speech

During Governor Rell's recent inaugural parade, Ken Krayeske, a Green Party Activist, was apparently arrested and detained for 13 hours because he was determined to be a threat to Jodi Rell.

Supposedly, he was arrested and detained because of his political activity. And now the blogosphere is abuzz with word of the state police's "threat list." (Courant, by Mark Pazniokas). The blogosphere story appears to significantly differ from the official CSP version. Ghengis Conn over at CT Local Politics is doing some very interesting reporting on this whole event.

Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle claims no such list exists. But when you read all of the accounts, including calls from Gov Rell and State Rep Chris Caruso (Gov't Affairs, Chair) for investigations, it certainly seems that there's something going very wrong inside the state police.

Bottom line to me on this one... whether or not anything comes of this particular investigation... following the December report in which the state police were slammed, I'd suggest replacing the top brass at the CSP immediately. On the heels of that report, why would anyone have confidence in them?

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

I've updated this post a bit.

Green to Gold

Cheshire's own Dan Esty is featured in the current issue of Time Magazine.

As Gordon Gekko might say today, green is good, and behemoths like GE and DuPont are carving profits out of a worldwide green-business market worth more than $600 billion. "This is a watershed moment in the business community," says Daniel Esty, director of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University and co-author of the book Green to Gold. "The environment has become a strategic issue. It's something every company must do to stay competitive." (by
Bryan Walsh)
I haven't read the book, but may pick it up. I'm not sure if I'd agree with everything in it, but I certainly agree with the basic premise. Heck, I'm proof-positive. I bought a hybrid in part because of the environment. (Of course, cost was the primary concern, but not the only concern.)

On a side note, I can't believe how many conservative Republicans mentioned (in a positive way) either Al Gore or his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, to me in just the past few weeks. Just yesterday I had a well-respected, life-long military, life-long Republican, Cheshire resident mention Al Gore to me. (And nooo... it wasn't my dad!) He suggested that people should watch An Inconvenient Truth... watch it critically, but watch it.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Monday, January 08, 2007

$0.05 returns

There's more talk of expanding the "bottle bill" (Courant editorial). Essentially, this bill adds five cent deposits to water bottles. It would be treated the same as the already existing soda/beer bottle law. The main goal of the program would be to increase recycling and reduce litter.

I don't drink much bottled water, but don't think this would bother me much anyway. For the most part, I return my soda bottles on Saturday or Sunday afternoons... when there's always someone collecting money outside Stop & Shop or Everybody's... so I usually just drop my bottles, grab the receipt and give that to whomever is trying to raise money... people always seem to appreciate it.

I think if I were in the legislature, I'd probably vote for this bill. I figure you can get your money back, if you want it.

Any thoughts on this?

Tim White

Living abroad (part III)

I took the time to build some good friendships while I was in Vietnam. We'd go out at night for dinner or a beer and we'd talk about much of the same stuff I might talk about here in the good ole US of A... work, sports, girls... politics was always a bit risque... but really whatever came to mind.

Occasionally though, the war would surface. And of course, I always asked the $69,000 question:

Why did America lose?

There were varied answers, but there certainly was a trend.

The most common answer for why we lost?

America came to be seen as an occupier. At that point in time, the south Vietnamese began asking themselves a basic question:

Would we rather be ruled by foreigners who we hate? Or by our own brothers who we hate?

At that point, the answer was simple for them. The south Vietnamese gradually turned on the foreigners who they hated and America left on April 30, 1975.

I feel we should ask ourselves this same question about Iraq. Are we seen as occupiers or as liberators? If we're seen as liberators, we can turn the corner in Iraq. But if we're seen as occupiers, we must turn the corner or we will never achieve the goal of "a stable Iraq."

And, of course, the timely question:

Will a troop surge cement feelings of liberation? Or galvanize hatred toward occupiers?

Thoughts? Comments?

Tim White


Due to a rash of criminal proceedings facing New Haven's Board of Aldermen (30 seats total, 3 have police problems), the NH Register's editor has called on the Board to hold its own members to account. I agree with the Register. As well, I think the Legislature should be doing the same with its own members.

State Rep. Pat Dillon (D-92, New Haven) was arrested for drunk driving a few days ago (New Haven Independent), but don't worry. She's already apologized. So all is well.

Seriously though, Speaker Amann ought to immediately punish her. He should remove her title. This may have already happened. Does anyone know? Because as I mentioned in a recent post, one way that legislators give themselves a raise without calling it a raise, is by giving themselves titles and attaching payments to those titles. Rep. Dillon is an "Asst Majority Leader." She should lose the title, thereby giving her a pay cut.

I doubt anything will happen though. I know US Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), pulled this same stunt last year. And as far as I know, nothing happened to him. So I'm not expecting anything to happen to Rep. Dillon.

How low are our standards that we tolerate this and don't call for real punishment? I recognize that elected officials are to be held to account by the electors. But they also ought to be held to account, to at least a minimal degree, by their own body... in this case, the state House.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Council update 1/9

Tomorrow's meeting has had two items removed: the fire station and the legislative package.

The fire station is getting further reviewed by the Public Buildings Commission.

The legislative package is getting referred to the Council Budget Committee. I'm fine with that. I just hope none of my fellow Councilmen ask me, as a member of the Budget Committee, to use the legislative package as an opportunity to make a motion to request money from the state for the linear park.

Although the request has not been mentioned to me, I have heard that at least one member of the Council continues to actively pursue the linear park.

Tim White
Town Council, Budget Committee

p.s. and totally unrelated to tomorrow's Council meeting, I was told that the MRJ will be running an article on "biodiesel in Cheshire" in tomorrow's paper!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Making a dent

According to this NH Register article (by Mike Gannon), Guilford-based Bishop's Orchards is switching to biodiesel. And Cheshire's efforts continue to pay off with a mention in the article:

Cheshire recently switched to biodiesel for several of its public works vehicles. The town cited numerous reasons, from reducing greenhouse gases to improving the quality of air breathed in by its employee.Cheshire officials said their fuel costs would increase by $1,000 per year, and that they will have to monitor effects on their engines, such as clogged fuel filters.
They're using a higher % than Cheshire does... 20%, not 5%... or B20, not B5.

The article also makes a good point about farmers helping farmers. Bonnie Burr, the CT Farm Bureau’s director of government operations said
"Aside from the environmental concerns, using biodiesel is farmers helping farmers. Who would the average farmer rather help out? Another farmer in Iowa, or Saudi Arabia?"
Exactly my point. Unfortunately, we're stuck with elected officials who either fail to understand this relatively simple point or understand it, but refuse to act.

Tim White
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison

p.s. I also heard that Woodbury's DPW decided to just make the switch to biodiesel!

Council agenda 1/9

Sorry for getting this up so late. I've been pretty busy this weekend.

The consent calendar doesn't seem to have anything that'll cause a stir on Tuesday. It has the usual: 7 grants, ranging from $200 to $12,000.

Old business has one item. Although not required, there was no vote on the "legislative package" last month. I'm sure there will be plenty of discussion on this. I'm not sure where the conversation will go, but as I mentioned in a previous post... it may be worthwhile discussing the "prevailing wage" law.

As I see it, the basics of this law are: any government funded construction project that exceeds certain dollar thresholds is automatically required to pay the "prevailing wage." The prevailing wage is a level paid to unions... a level higher than that which is often paid to non-union shops. Basically, this means that when a town construction project exceeds certain dollar amounts, the town has to pay more. The dollar thresholds are: $500,000 for new construction & $100,000 for retrofits.

Last year, there was a bill introduced in the legislature to increase those dollar amounts to $1,000,000 and $400,000 respectively.

I support increasing the thresholds. And I believe that any reasonable person would support increasing the thresholds by some amount. My rationale is that, at minimum, those levels should be indexed for inflation. My understanding is that those levels have not changed for many years.

How does this impact the town? Well, the school window projects cost more if they cost more than $100,000. And we're spending a lot more than that. Furthermore, I've been told that the typical cost increase related to the "prevailing wage" is 20-30%. Assuming all these numbers are true (and I have not researched them), when the town spends $400,000 on new windows at Norton School, we may have been able to get those same windows for $325,000, IF the prevailing wage law had been changed. I'd certainly prefer to see the taxpayers save that $75,000.

I don't see how any reasonable legislator opposes increasing these levels by some amount.

New Business

A. $75,000 gift to the library from the Cheshire Nursery School Association - I can't see this turning into much of a discussion.

B. Purchasing procedures - I need to read up on this, but I'm guessing that this is housekeeping.

C. Annual disclosures of conflicts of interests - This is interesting. Although this is "annual," I don't recall ever having done this before. Hmmm... Anyway, I'll disclose my conflict right now... I work for People's Bank. And the Town is a People's Bank customer. So whenever any votes come up that relate to People's Bank, I should recuse myself. Frankly though, the only time those votes come up are usually with saving money without impacting services. So the votes are always unanimous.

D. Approval of proposal for design services by Milone & MacBroom for improvements to Bartlem and Mixville Parks - I think this is for about $10,000. I'll need to read up on this one. But part of this is to rebuild the ballfield at Mixville. And if the town can build a stronger relationship with private organizations, like CYB (Herald, by Greg Lederer), I think this is probably worthwhile.

E. Approval of final design for fire station - I'm fine with this.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District