The NHR (by Luther Turmelle) continues to report on the proposal for new financial software in Town Hall:
The Town Council will take two weeks to evaluate a request by the community’s finance director to appropriate $153,500 to replace a financial software system that didn’t function properly after it was purchased last year....
“It’s a lot of money, and I didn’t get the feeling that everybody in the room was comfortable with it,” Democrat Michael Ecke, the council’s vice chairman, said Wednesday, explaining the decision to postpone the vote on the additional appropriation.
The Budget Chairman, Mike Ecke, is right.
There are a lot of people in town saying it's a lot of money.
And as I said at the last meeting... someone needs to sell this $153k to the public. Because if the public aren't sold, I doubt I'll be sold.
Friday, February 29, 2008
The NHR (by Luther Turmelle) continues to report on the proposal for new financial software in Town Hall:
Thursday, February 28, 2008
The MRJ (by Stacy Graham-Hunt) is reporting a proposed new bus route in town. "The proposal is for a Meriden Transit District vehicle to travel from the Westfield Meriden mall to the Cheshire Public Library to the Southington Green, and then back to the Westfield Meriden mall." And what sounds particularly important to me is what "the new bus route will do for seniors." It will "get them to MidState Medical Center, said Doreen Pulisciano, director of the town's senior and transportation services."
Also worthy of mention... it seems the Cheshire/Southington route would go directly past the ND.
I've had several people ask me about the town's gas use policy for town vehicles. So following the Feb 13 Town Manager's report, I figured that would be a perfect opportunity to ask the question and have the whole town get a quick tutorial. Unfortunately, I got the Heisman... and was yet again left with the feeling that open discussion is not welcome during Council meetings unless the majority knows where the discussion will lead.
Anyway... here's the clip of the brief discussion:And here's the followup answer from the TM on the gas use policy:
Gasoline is dispensed at the Public works garage and the Police Department. Employees who are eligible to dispense gasoline have individual access codes which they use to engage the pump. The respective departments receive monthly reports indicating the amount and frequency of an individual’s fill-ups, which is monitored by these respective departments.
...to which I wonder... yeah, it was 11:30pm, but how long would it have taken the TM to speak those words or simply say he was uncertain and would get back to me? Either of those answers would've left me feeling a lot better than the answer I got when I tried to ask a simple enough question.
Finally, for your reference... the TM also gave us a copy of the town vehicle use policy... that's the policy that governs the 170 or so vehicles in the town fleet (schools not included). Here's the policy:
Town vehicles are assigned for use to certain employees in conjunction with the employee’s performance of assigned, official Town duties. This policy establishes the parameters for the utilization of Town vehicles by employees in the performance of their duties. This policy does not apply to any vehicle assigned for use to the Town Manager.
Town vehicles are to be used for official Town business only in connection with the performance of an employee's assigned duties. Use of Town owned vehicles for personal purposes by an employee is prohibited, except as described below.
Certain employees who hold positions that may require them to return to duty during off duty hours on a frequent basis may be authorized to utilize a Town vehicle to commute to and from their places of work. This authorization is made for the convenience of the Town to enable employees to perform assigned duties required of them outside of normal working hours. Employees should limit the amount of personal stops made the amount of times family members are in Town vehicles. This provision shall apply to employees authorized by the Town Manager for this privilege. In general it will apply to the following Departments:
Parks and Recreation
Employees authorized for use of Town vehicles for commuting, except for Police and Fire personnel, shall be subject to Treasury Internal Revenue Service Regulations relating to the taxation of fringe benefits and the Town will withhold taxes on the value of commuting use accordingly.
I have some thoughts on the gas use policy. But it's late and I'm beat. Any of you have any thoughts on the gas use policy? How 'bout the vehicle use policy?
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
At last night's meeting, the town was given an update on the happenings of the Historic District Commission. Included in Jeanne Chesanow's presentation was a brochure. The brochure included this map and photographic explanation of the 4th District's South Brooksvale Road Historic District:I love the whole area over there... between the people and the stories I'm told, I always enjoy knocking on those doors.
I think one of my favorite tidbits... the front yard of the Enos Brooks house was designed by a gentleman named Frederick Law Olmstead. And if you've never heard of Mr. Olmstead, you may have heard of some of his other work... for example, NYCs Central Park.
And another factoid I learned while over there one day... Brooksvale is derived from the Brooks family name and the word vale, meaning river or river valley. So the stream that runs adjacent to South Brooksvale (from Mt. Sanford to the linear trail) gave name to two of the main arteries in the 4th district.
And one last point of information... the Enos Brooks house has been owned by the same family since it was built in 1733. And that the longest that any Connecticut house has been continuosly owned by one family.
Town Council, 4th District
p.s. If I got any of my facts wrong, please correct me! I'm pretty sure that's all correct though.
It's nearly 1am and I'm too tired to write a blog on tonight's meeting. In the meantime, here's the NHRs take on tonight's discussion about the pool and an article about the financial software that was scheduled to be discussed tonight (both by Luther Turmelle).
Tomorrow night I'll try to post on tonight's meeting.
Town Council, 4th District
Labels: council mtg
This is the sixth installment of a continuing piece about my dad's experience. For the previous installments, click here to see part I, part II, part III, part IV, part V and part VI.
Coverup or Conspiracy? part 1
Why do I say "clearly known"? Schaperjahn told me “and he agreed to let me tape record our conversation” that when the investigation got underway, he was in the Portsmouth, Virginia, Naval Hospital. An admiral called him from the Pentagon to ask whether he knew me. Schaperjahn's recollection of my name was not clear at the time, so he answered no. That closed the conversation, but he was left with the distinct feeling that if he'd said yes, there would have been a lot of flak coming at him. Later on, he realized he did indeed know me because of our brief meeting, but by then the investigation was over. The Defense Department had used a cloak of silence about my error in naming Schaperjahn's ship to stonewall the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
To reinforce that cloak of silence, Schaperjahn was immediately transferred to a ship in the Black Sea and was virtually incommunicado during the Gulf of Tonkin hearings. At the time, he was just two months short of retirement. It is customary for such a senior person with so little time left in service to be stationed ashore prior to discharge. Schaperjahn's urgent reassignment was totally out of the ordinary and later led him to think that it was directly connected to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's search for John White's missing sonarman.
So in the interest of setting the public record straight, I offer this footnote to the history of the war in Vietnam. I also point out that the Register editorial statement about me being a contender for "most naive man" was dead wrong and would better apply to the editorial's own position since:
(1) the Navy did indeed conceal Chief Schaperjahn, through sins of both omission (the list of names) and commission (the immediate transfer), and
(2) an admission by North Vietnam was never made because, as I originally claimed, no attack on our destroyers occurred.
to be continued...
Monday, February 25, 2008
I had an Energy Commission meeting tonight and the Council is tomorrow night. So this is just a quick post without much analysis... I figured you can take a look and see if you have any questions on this fifth (of six) parts of the school budget.Ok, ok... I guess I have to offer a wee bit of commentary. I'm an auditor and I just can't help myself. See... being a beancounter by trade means that I believe 1 + 1 = 2. And when I don't see that, I start to ask questions. Such as in this case where the "sum" of Instruction Accounts = $3,203,185... but the "total" Instruction Account = $3,272,199.Huh?
Not to worry though, by the time the $3,272,199 got transferred to the Mission Statement page, all the numbers were back in order! So what's my take on this? Not much really. I'm sure it's just a simple error. But I wasn't exactly looking for errors either. So when I take this in conjunction with my question a couple years ago (how many teachers do we have?) for which no one had an answer... and a dozen other head scratchers that I never mentioned publicly... it kinda makes me wonder... as an elected official, should I be asking questions?
Questions do require critical thinking. And that can take time. And since I'm pretty busy, it'd be easier for me to avoid thinking and avoid questions.
So maybe I'll just avoid all that and take advantage of the fact that there's a new sheriff in town... with a new motto...
Council does not need to know what is going on...
Yippee! I don't have to go to anymore meetings!
This is the sixth installment of a continuing piece about my dad's experience. For the previous installments, click here to see part I, part II, part III, part IV and part V.
Solving the Mystery (2 of 2)
"Did you see any boats?"
"Not a one. No boats, no boat wakes, no ricochets off boats, no boat gunfire, no torpedo wakes”nothing but black sea and American firepower. But for goodness' sake, I must be going crazy. How could all of that commotion have built up out there without something being behind it?"
"Have a look at this. This is what Herrick, the commodore on the Maddox, has been putting out, flash precedence, plain language to Washington and the world in general tonight."
I was handed a few sheets of a rough communications log on which were transcribed all the messages from the Maddox since I had left the ship. The document as a whole read like a monologue of a man turning himself inside out. For the first hour or so, it was all assertive. Then every so often a message of doubt, a message expressing reservations, would pop up about sonars not operating properly, about radars not locking on targets, about probable false targets, about false perceptions due to lack of visibility. But still, it mainly reflected the tone of victimized vessels being attacked that is, until I got to the last page and a half; then, as I read down them, everything seemed to flip around. There was denial of the correctness of immediately preceding messages, doubt about the validity of whole blocks of messages, ever more skeptical appraisal of detection equipment's performance, the mention of overeager sonar operators, the lack of any visual sightings of boats by the destroyers, and finally there were lines expressing doubt that there had been any boats out there that night at all. The commodore urged a complete evaluation of the mixup before any further action be taken.
After the program, I wrote to Stockdale. A few weeks later, to my surprise, he called me. "I think I know where you can find your sonarman," he said, and pointed to a passage in Eugene Windchy's 1971 book, Tonkin Gulf. In fact, there were several references to Schaperjahn, identifying him as chief sonarman of the Turner Joy and noting his evaluation of the situation that night.
I called Schaperjahn, with the gratifying result of finding, after 20 years' uncertainty, that I hadn't been substantially wrong and that those who thought I was lying could finally have the full truth. Schaperjahn had not spoken publicly about any of this except for his comments to Windchy, who sleuthed him out in 1970, and he never expected to see his words in print. (However, he read and approved the first draft of this note for the public record.)
Now it's clear why "John White's sonarman" was never found. It hinges on the fact that I made a simple mistake by saying he was on the Maddox when he was actually on the Turner Joy. That error was due to faulty memory, nearly three years after my brief chance meeting with him in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard in March 1965, after we'd returned from WestPac duty. Although the complete list of crew members on the two ships was requested by the Senate investigators, reporter Joseph C. Goulden discovered after the hearings that eight sonarmen were missing from the complete list. In his 1969 book Truth Is the First Casualty, Goulden commented that this incident is indicative of the enthusiasm the Pentagon has for inquiries into the Tonkin episode (p. 212). In other words, the Navy Department never pointed out the fact ”clearly known to it” that I'd misidentified Schaperjahn's ship.
to be continued...
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I've had this idea in the back of head for a few weeks, but am only finding time to mention this now....
You may remember Jimmy Sima's idea to establish a new subcommittee of the Council, a "Liaison Committee." I think Tom Ruocco gave a good synopsis of Jimmy's idea at the Jan 17 Personnel Committee meeting:
According to Mr. Ruocco, this is committee is nothing more than a suggestion box, and is a way for employees to voice suggestions to the Council, and it gives the Council the opportunity to hear a different aspect of the way the town is being run. Mr. Ruocco sees this suggestion box for employees to bring ideas and suggestions directly to the Council, giving a different perspective on how the town operates, and provide a grass roots input to town operations.
Explained in that manner, I figured Mr. Operational Review himselfwould strongly agree with Jimmy and Tom.
Here was his response:
Mr. Altieri said he has always felt that things are done on a daily basis, and if something is wrong, there is a process to go through in order to change things.... It seems to him that Mr. Sima wants to know what is going on at ground level, and Council members will never know this, and it is the job of the administration to know what is going on…not the Council. The job of the Council is to set procedures and staff oversees employees and insures they do a good job. When there is dissatisfaction with employee performance, the administration explains what needs to be worked on, offers ideas to help, and Council does not need to know what is going on at ground level.
Hmmm... were any of you surprised to learn Mr. Altieri's
current long-held view on town government operations?
Town Council, 4th District
This is the fifth installment of a continuing piece about my dad's experience. For the previous installments, click here to see part I, part II, part III and part IV.
Solving the Mystery (part 1)
In 1987 I located the missing chief sonarman. He is Joseph E. Schaperjahn, then retired and living in Richmond, Virginia. In a telephone conversation, Schaperjahn confirmed that he was the man I spoke with. He also reiterated that he informed his commanding officer during the Tonkin events that there were no torpedoes being fired at the ships, and that the images on the sonar scope were "knuckles" in the water, large subsurface swirls formed by the violent motion of a ship's rudder at high speed which give a sonar return that appears as a solid object. And, most important, he said he was told during the event that ship's command didn't want to hear his negative reports; the same thing was said to him in a debriefing afterward in the Philippines. (That left him, he said, with the uneasy feeling there may have been a kind of script from higher authority played out that night in the Gulf of Tonkin to give the semblance of unprovoked attack.)
I found Chief Schaperjahn thanks to Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, coauthor with his wife Sybil of their 1984 book In Love and War, which was dramatized on television in 1987. At the time of the Tonkin events, Stockdale was a Commander on the aircraft carrier Oriskany; he flew air defense for the destroyers during the August 4 alleged attack. He was later shot down, held as a POW for nearly eight years, and served as commanding officer of the POWs at Hoa-Lo Prison in Hanoi. (The prison, now destroyed, is better known as the infamous Hanoi Hilton.) For his heroic action there, Stockdale was awarded the Medal of Honor. He is now deceased, but at the time of the TV program, he was retired from naval service and a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. As I watched Stockdale’s story unfold, I was struck by his statement about not seeing any torpedo boats that night. Here is how he put it in his book as he described his debriefing after returning to the carrier:
"Did you see any boats?"
"Not a one. No boats, no boat wakes, no ricochets off boats, no boat gunfire, no torpedo wakes”nothing but black sea and American firepower. But for goodness' sake, I must be going crazy. How could all of that commotion have built up out there without something being behind it?"
to be continued...
Saturday, February 23, 2008
If you've looked at Tuesday's agenda, you may have noticed item 10 - federal legislative requests... that's also what is known as "earmarks." Below is the Town Manager's explanation on this agenda item, along with his suggestion for an earmark:I disagree with the TM. I'm fine with his suggestion, but I think there are other issues that are of higher importance. For example, what about turf? (j/k!). Or on a serious note, there's the energy wasted by the pool every winter. And I'm sure there are other projects that would, IMO, be a higher priority than extending the linear trail... though I like the linear trail.
Maybe funding for a public safety issue... deconstruction of the Strathmore Dam?
And, of course, there's the question of whether the town should request any earmark at all?
Anyway, if you're interested in your own personal earmark, here's the form:What do you think? Should the town request any earmarking? If so, what should the request be?
And one last question... who among you believes the Council will have real discussion on this topic? Or will the discussion be purely symbolic with the decision being made beforehand, behind closed doors... as seems to have happened in the past?
This is the fourth installment of a continuing piece about my dad's experience. For the previous installments, click here to see part I, part II, and part III.
A Matter of Conscience
My intention in going public was to help end the war. It was a matter of conscience for me. While I was in Vietnam, I'd felt the U.S. was right to be there defending democracy against Communism. But after leaving naval service in June 1965, I began to have doubts as I learned things contrary to the military mindset and to what my fellow officers and I had been told by a Vietnamese general who briefed us in Danang, where my ship, the USS Pine Island (AV-12), had gone in response to the Tonkin events to set up a seaplane base immediately after the alleged attack. The Pine Island, which had been in Japan at the time, was the first ship to enter the war zone from outside, although several other U.S. naval ships were already there. I was the Pine Island's nuclear weapons officer.
The U.S. government's position is that there have never been American nuclear weapons in Vietnam. McNamara reiterated that in 1995 when promoting his book on Roger Aisles' CNBC-TV program. But that position is not true, strictly speaking. While my ship was anchored in Danang Harbor in August 1964, I had responsibility for 40-plus atomic depth bombs (technically known as Mark 101 Lulus) in the ship's nuclear weapons storage area. We were anchored there for about two weeks. Our mission was to provide naval operations support and, if ordered, to load those atomic depth bombs onto seaplanes whose targets would be enemy submarines.
In time I came to feel I'd been conned and America had no moral right to be in Vietnam. Moreover, the war itself looked more and more unwinnable by America. As the body count mounted in an action I regarded as militarily and morally wrong, I became active in the antiwar movement as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I didn’t march in the streets carrying a placard, but I did sign on to an ad by VVAW which was published in The New Republic over the names of several hundred Vietnam vets, including mine. (I left the VVAW about 1969, after two years membership, because my inclination toward that sort of political action waned. I recognized that the antiwar movement was not the same thing as the peace movement. The former was political, the latter was spiritual. The former was based on anger, the latter was based on “the peace which passeth all understanding.” Moreover, the peace movement ”the process of developing inner peace or enlightenment as the basis for outer peace or world unity” applied to all aspects of society and culture, not just the political. The peace movement, as slow, difficult and uncertain as it may be, is senior to the antiwar movement because it has a more fundamental aim.)
Although I felt that an ad wouldn’t be enough, I was unsure of what else I might do. Then in November 1967 I heard Senator Wayne Morse (D-Oregon) say on the evening news that President Johnson was replacing the Constitution with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Morse’s remark dissolved my perplexity and crystallized something deep within me. Because of his comment, I thought I could help the antiwar effort and my country by undercutting the basis on which the war was conducted, namely, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
I knew the resolution was based on false information. Johnson had a draft of it in his back pocket, so to speak, when he addressed Congress on August 5, 1964; his staff had written it six weeks earlier. He called for Congress to rally ‘round the flag and then stampeded it into authorizing a legal instrument which allowed him to "take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent any further aggression." So, after several weeks of anxious reflection on the situation ”Am I sure about this?” “Will I get fired from my job?” “Will I hear a knock on the door from the FBI?” I wrote my letter.
As the political scene heated up around the Senate investigation, an editorial entitled "Is John White's Sonarman Listening?" appeared in the Register. It said, "If this mysterious chief sonarman does indeed exist, surely he would have come forward or had been produced by now. We're certain that even if the Navy wanted to, it couldn't keep such a key witness concealed. We wonder whether White even wants to believe the destroyers were attacked when he remarks, 'I think that an admission by North Vietnam would be the most conclusive evidence [that an attack took place].'The title for 'most naive man' has another strong contender." The matter ”and my public shaming” rested there for two decades.
to be continued...
Friday, February 22, 2008
The NHR reported on the beef recall(by Elizabeth Benton):
Fourteen school districts statewide received beef that has been recalled following allegations of animal abuse at California slaughterhouse Westland Meat Co...
There have been no reports of illness resulting from the meat...
Madeleine Diker, director of food and nutrition services for Cheshire, said six cases of the recalled beef have been destroyed. But a case and a half of beef was consumed by students and staff at the Cheshire High School since an Oct. 30 shipment....
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Above are two pictures of the location of the proposed 20 ft. Retaining wall and the approach to the wooden bridge. Note the 10 mile river in the back ground. This area is the flood plain of the river where the wall and approach to the wooden bridge will be built. The 20 ft retaining wall is necessary because there is a 30 ft. drop from route 10 to the river. The proposed map at the town hall shows a retaining wall all around this area north of the pond. They will cut down 4 to 6 ft.along Rt.10 and build up 20 ft. along the river by the pond. The cost of this retaining wall will be expensive as it is located in the mud of the flood plain. My guess is the expense will be too high and it will never be built as proposed. I am amazed that our elected officials would back a plan like this.
As always, this blog is open to everyone, including guest posters on every side of every issue.
Labels: northend development
I got to Town Hall for a few minutes tonight and got to hear Congressman Chris Murphy speak for a few minutes about energy. While I was there I didn't get a chance to mention the Energy Security Leadership Council (perhaps the only group with real answers to our dependence on foreign oil), but it was obvious that finding "energy solutions" is a passion for him.
After he spoke about energy (including nuclear), I asked him about what I believe is the single biggest issue facing America: our unfunded long-term liabilities.
He agreed with me that the current annual national budget includes $3,000,000,000,000 in spending and a deficit of several hundred billion dollars (because the federal government will be collecting less in taxes, than it spends). He also agreed with me that we've got $50,000,000,000,000 in unfund long-term liabilities (social security, medicare). Having agreed on these basics, I had two comments:
1) Congress and the White House are being intellectually dishonest when they ignore this.
2) I told him I don't blame this mess on him at all... it goes back decades. But I wanted to know what he's doing to address this disaster in the making (btw, Medicare has solvency issues in 2019... Soc Sec doesn't have those problems "until" 2042).
Chris was very honest. He basically said there's a lack of political will, but that wasn't acceptable to him. He feels if it's a tough issue, then it's incumbent on our elected officials to make the case... not ignore it. I couldn't agree more... and frankly, I was pretty surprised that he said he'd be willing to take the time to make the case on entitlement reform. I was really impressed.
And on a somewhat related topic... I watched some of the Dem debate tonight. I didn't see much, but I was glad to hear Obama said that he'll work to take back America from "the powerful, the connected." Whether he's elected POTUS or not, and whether he succeeds in ending the reign of the powerful and the connected, remains to be seen. For some reason (probably because he's spent so few years in Washington) I feel that he's sincere and it may not just be more of the same empty rhetoric. But I come from the perspective that some people have been around too long and just need to go.
Labels: federal government
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Gov. Rell is advocating "ethics reform" in CT. And she wants it at both a state and local level.
Now the Courant editorial board is supporting her initiative:
The governor's proposed ethics reforms call for an expansion of financial disclosure requirements to state agency division heads — roughly, third-tier managers — as well as top legislative staff and state employees involved in awarding contracts. Chiefs of staff to the governor and lieutenant governor would come under the new requirement....
She'd also require all municipalities to adopt a local code of ethics within two years.
I'm not sure if this would apply to Cheshire as we already have "conflict of interest" rules, but I'm sure they could be refined.
The editorial continues with an issue I mentioned to the TM and Town Attorney six months ago and again last week:
Pensions of corrupt public officials are being targeted this year by Ms. Rell and Senate Democrats. Both propose revoking the benefits...
Unfortunately, while I think this is a no-brainer, I gather legal barriers exist... and, of course, there's that North Haven case that really started me thinking about this in the first place. But maybe the state will pass legislation that addresses this?
The Courant wrapped up with:
We think these proposals would challenge public officials' long-held assumptions about the way they do business. They would become more aware of how their actions are viewed by constituents.
Government — and public confidence — would be better for it.
Hats off to the Courant for this opinion.
The Wire is the best show on TV. Though I haven't met many people who watch it, I love it and highly recommend it.
For anyone who can 1) netflick it (cuz you probably won't find it anywhere else) and 2) find the time to watch from the beginning... and with 50+ episodes at an hour each... it's quite a commitment... but well worth it.
The whole show is based in Baltimore.
The first two seasons take the unorthodox view of telling the story of the good guys (the cops) and the bad guys (the drug dealers) from the points of view of each. And what do you get? Well... a view that makes everyone look a little good and a little bad.
Then the story moves into the worlds of politics and journalism, while keeping the original story line going. I think the most poignant moment for me was when the "soon-to-be-kids-turned-drug-dealers" start making progress in school, then have a run-in with the NCLB act... which, of course, relates to the city politics... and is covered by local media.
Wikipedia notes "(the show's creator) has said that despite its presentation as a crime drama, the show is
"really about the American city, and about how we live together. It's about how institutions have an effect on individuals, and how…whether you're a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge [or] lawyer, you are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution you've committed to."The Wire is a fantastic show. It's amazingly well done. Check it out, if you ever get the time.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
From the Courant's editorial board:
Pinched by soaring energy costs and the need for economic development, a growing number of Connecticut cities and towns are exploring setting up their own energy micro-grids. It's an intriguing idea. Legislation authorizing the so-called "energy improvement districts" was adopted by the General Assembly last year. It gives municipalities the authority (and a lot of flexibility) to establish the districts and provide assistance, including issuing and guaranteeing a district's bonds to build energy facilities.
I'm not advocating property taxpayer subsidies for the proposed northend development. But I'm still perplexed as to why neither microgrids nor transfer development rights were discussed in the context of the ND.
The editorial continues:
In just the last few months, districts were established in Ansonia and Stamford. Berlin, Bridgeport, New Haven, Oxford, Wethersfield, Manchester and Watertown are considering them, too.
I wonder if Cheshire's elected bodies will ever consider these options?
Monday, February 18, 2008
I'm a fan. Here's the two minute trailer for this summer's release...How can I not love it at 1:01 when one of the most recognizable theme songs of all time kicks in?
Following the first and second parts of my dad's story, here's the third installment:
In Hanoi, he (McNamara) continued his shameful charade of being ignorant about what happened. Here's how I know.
An International Furor
In December of 1967, I wrote a letter to my local newspaper, the New Haven [Connecticut] Register, accusing President Johnson, Defense Secretary McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff of giving false information to Congress in their report about American destroyers being attacked in the Gulf on August 4, 1964. I identified myself as a former naval officer and said I based my charge on two sources of information: (1) reading the classified radio messages sent at that time by the two allegedly attacked destroyers, USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy, and (2) talking, a few months later, with the chief sonar man (whose name I did not recall) of the Maddox.
My letter got international attention. I was covered by everything from the wire services, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CBS Evening News and TV crews from Japan and the Netherlands to local media, radio interviews across the country and a documentary film, In the Year of the Pig. Even the Soviet Military Review got into the act, saying I had "confessed" to a frame-up in Vietnam. The letter became, in the words of one book about the Tonkin Gulf events, "a national sensation." Make that “international.”
My letter helped Senator J. William Fulbright (D-Arkansas) to launch the Senate Foreign Relations Committee into a full-scale investigation of the Tonkin events. He brought me to Washington to testify, and was soon locking horns with the Administration. However, the radio messages were classified and therefore not publicly disclosed in full. Furthermore, the man I claimed to have spoken with was never found by the Senate investigators. My veracity and my sanity were questioned by some people, and, of course, my patriotism. I, myself, even wondered initially, when I met such resistance and denial from official quarters, whether I'd somehow fantasized the whole thing.
to be continued...
I haven't seen the entire Pettite press conference. Nonetheless, he seems like a standup guy. He appears to be completely candid and honest, even explaining his reason for taking HGH... he said he felt as though (at least in part) he had to take the stuff not because he wanted to outperform other players, but because he was injured and got paid a lot of money... so he needed to get back in the rotation asap.
One reporter asked if Pettite considered himself a cheater. Andy didn't say yes or no. He just said it was for others to decide.
Andy Pettite seems to be completely honest (and remorseful) about this. For that, I respect him. I just hope the other players (and not just the NYC players treated by McNamee) will admit what they did, say it was wrong and help get the baseball family past this... particularly the kids and/or minor leaguers who may have thought these drugs were ok.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
This is a repost from a year ago, but I think it's very much worthwhile:
With Presidents' Day fast approaching, I wanted to share my thoughts on why I believe George Washington is not only America's greatest President, but also one of the greatest people to have ever lived. The following excerpt, from PresidentialExpert.com, says it all:
Also coming to mind is Lord Acton's comment that "power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." George Washington never wanted power, especially "absolute power." He only wanted to serve his country.
As president, Washington served the nation, kept the peace, saved lives and preserved the Union. Washington's greatest gift was passing the torch of leadership. Washington was greater than the nation when he became the first president under the Constitution we have today. He refused to become king or serve for life but insisted upon passing leadership to John Adams as president and retiring from public life. The nation had become greater than him and could survive without him. Like his hero Cincinnatus, Washington returned to his farm.
Washington decided to leave when he was at the top of his form. Washington always knew when to quit before he reached the Peter Principle. He quit as dictator of America in 1776, resigned as the general of the Continental Army in 1783 and retired as president in 1797. Like his hero Cincinnatus, he returned to his farm each time.
In conclusion, Washington's leadership never goes out of style. He offers standards and examples that are worthwhile imitating. Washington was in the public eye for over thirty years. If Washington's time tested principles worked for him and our country, they can work for us. Colonel Henry "Light Horse Harry Lee," said upon George Washington's death that he had been "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." These words remain true today and his principles of leadership remain timeless.
Town Council, 4th District
Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
- George Washington
This is a continuation of a piece I started yesterday about my dad's involvement in exposing the Gulf of Tonkin coverup that led to the escalation of war in Vietnam:
"McNamara Learns 2nd Tonkin Gulf Attack Never Happened" said the Associated Press headlined account of former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's visit to Hanoi in early November 1995. Upon meeting Vietnam's retired military strategist and war hero, 85-year-old Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, McNamara asked what really happened in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 4, 1964.Â "Absolutely nothing," replied Giap.
In a followup interview with The Washington Post, McNamara said he was now absolutely sure the August 4 attack never happened. But it was precisely that nonevent which McNamara reported as fact to President Johnson, who in turn reported it to Congress on August 5, deceiving it into passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The Resolution became the legal basis for America to conduct full-scale war in Vietnam.
Earlier in 1995, McNamara had concluded his book In Retrospect with "the lessons of Vietnam." Speaking in the first person plural, he listed 11 major causes for "our disaster" there. I suggest there is a twelfth lesson he should have noted: "We lied to Congress about the events in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 4 and then covered up our mistake." In Hanoi, he continued his shameful charade of being ignorant about what happened.
I just got this in an email from Chris Murphy:
"Too often, our government officials spend all their time sitting in their offices, waiting for people to come to them with their problems and opinions.... This Thursday, February 21st, I'll be hosting a town hall meeting in Cheshire at the Cheshire Town Hall at 6pm." - Congressman Chris Murphy
Labels: federal government
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United States naval vessels, and
Whereas these attacks are part of a deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression and
Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of southeast Asia to protect their freedom and has no territorial, military or political ambitions in that area
Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed by Congress on August 7, 1964
The U.S. war in Vietnam essentially began in 1964 in response to what our government claimed was an unprovoked attack upon two naval ships, the destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy, while they were steaming peacefully on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin. Although there was a U.S. military presence in Vietnam prior to that, the Tonkin events led to congressional action which allowed President Lyndon Johnson (and, later, President Richard Nixon) to escalate our military presence enormously and to wage war not only in Vietnam but also covertly in Southeast Asia.
Among the many books written about the Vietnam War, half a dozen note a 1967 letter to the editor of a Connecticut newspaper which was instrumental in pressing the Johnson administration to tell the truth about how the war was started. The letter was mine. It became, in the words of one author, "a national sensation." This is an account of my role and its aftermath.
I'm pretty sure that at this point, most people agree that LBJ (or his administration) was not truthful with the American public. And I know I've mentioned my dad's involvement in exposing the Gulf of Tonkin coverup in the past. Nonetheless, I wanted to mention it again... probably over the course of a few days this time, since capturing even only a very distilled version of the events takes more than a "few inches" of reading.
According to the NHRs Luther Turmelle, the Cheshire Education Foundation has received a $10,000 grant to study the installation of turf. And it seems the funding came from one of our regular bloggers, Mr. Anonymous. j/k... but Luther does mention that the funding source is anonymous.
Anyway, the study would need to be conducted to ascertain costs, according to Superintendent Florio:
“We need to get an idea whether we’re talking $850,000 or $1 million to do this, and using the money from the foundation would allow us to do that without having to touch the Bond Commission money or any amount that booster groups might raise,” Florio said.
The difference between $850,000 and $1 million is significant.
Keeping in mind that the "Fritz/Amann lollipop" is $525,000. And the "Council lollipop" could be $349,000 (just below the referendum threshold of $350,000), that means the total "lollipop" is $874,000. And any cost incurred by taxpayers, greater than $875,000, would require voter input.
I wonder how the voters would feel about this?
Anyway, I was glad to read that BOE members are at least considering lifecycle costs and the long term liabilities:
“We’d need to set up a plan where money was being set aside for replacement costs if this is approved,” Massey said.
Unfortunately, I'm skeptical that such long-term planning for liabilities would remain with the BOE. Peter, and every other current member, would probably be gone from the BOE by the time the turf got replaced in ten to 15 years. Then what happens?
And if the replacement costs were not properly funded over time and if a replacement goes to referendum... could the referendum fail? If so, do we have to "condemn" the field? I have no idea, but it's probably something that should be considered. Although, maybe people would see the increased availability (200 days vs. 30 days / yr) as a reasonable offsetting benefit to a possible loss of any field use in ten years?
Friday, February 15, 2008
The planned replacement of an aging boiler at Norton Elementary School has already been out to bid twice, and could go through the bidding process a third time because of a technicality.Tim White
Although the Town Council voted 8-1 Wednesday night to accept the $194,996 low bid from Middlebury-based Connecticut Combustion Corp., plans for the work might have to be put out to bid again because the town missed a 45-day window for which the price was valid. The company had asked town officials to pay an additional $16,000 for the job....
Part of Sima’s concern over the boiler replacement project is that the problem with Norton’s boiler system dates back to early 2006. Both school boilers were corroded and although one has since been replaced, Sima said he wonders how long the second unit will continue to function.
Forget about what Congressman Chris Shays said during the Congressional hearings on baseball drug use. A lot of people listen to Mike and the Mad Dog. And this is what they heard:(posted by CTBlogger)
What I'm still trying to understand is when Pettite says Clemens juiced, how do Republicans end up getting in the middle of this and looking as though they're taking sides?
Thursday, February 14, 2008
It was a late meeting... we adjourned after an executive session at about 12:45am. Ugh. Anyway... no update on the meeting now... way too late.
Anybody watch the Clemens hearing though? Ouch. Listening to Clemens and McNamee speak left me with the idea that one of them must have been committing perjury... they were literally contradicting each other. As for why Congress is holding hearings when we're at war and there are other issues that are clearly within their purview... ummm... I'm not sure. From a Constitutional perspective, I wish they wouldn't have the hearings, but from a PR perspective... I'm glad to have Congress shine a light on the problem... so hopefully kids and minor leaguers will realize these drugs are unacceptable... besides they could be doing a lot worse things!
Feel free to make this an open forum.
Labels: open forum
From the NHR (by Brian McReady)
With a protracted legal settlement behind him, Ravenswood Homes developer Dean Fiske can begin construction on 63 age-restricted units behind the town transfer station.
Last week, the Town Plan and Zoning Commission unanimously approved an out-of-court settlement with Fiske, a Cheshire developer, which reduces the number of units from 72 to 63.
Fiske filed his application under the state’s affordable housing statute; the Inland Wetlands and Zoning panels had repeatedly denied the proposal, citing safety and health concerns.
TPZ Chairman Walter “Beau” Clark said a Superior Court judge Friday accepted the settlement.
Clark said if the project had not been filed under the state’s affordable housing statute, it’s likely the town could have prevailed at trial. But under that statute, the onus is on the town to prove that the project is not necessary. Towns must have at least 10 percent of their housing stock designated as affordable in order to shift the burden to the developer.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I've mentioned before that during 2007, I heard from more than a few of Cheshire's "power brokers" about TWL. Basically, none of them were happy with this blog. Or more precisely, they weren't happy about us shining the light of day where it often hasn't shone for years.
And in 2008, I'm really hoping we can grow Cheshire's fledgling blogosphere by leaps and bounds.
To that end, here's my attempt at a complete list of Cheshire-based blogs that seem to have content added fairly regularly:
Cheshire Smart Growth
Friends of Boulder Knoll
Cheshire Town Post
Levers and Pulleys
Tim White Listens
Underground Town Hall
My personal favorite is Underground Town Hall. Cindy does a great job of adding new content about local issues on a daily basis.
Does anyone know of any other Cheshire-based blogs?
Although the WRA has reported that the Matt Altieri / Mary Fritz / Jim Amann turf has already been
rubberstamped approved by the state bonding commission, and it appears this is a fait accompli... I still think it'd be worthwhile to try to take an objective look at turf.
I found this study by the group New Yorkers for Parks. They claim to be independent and their executive summary seems fair. But for Cheshire to use their guidance may be impossible.
Well, the NY4P study calls for including "maintenance plans and cost-benefit analyses in requests for capital funding for athletic fields so that educated funding decisions are made."
And we all know that in Cheshire... "costs" don't necessarily exist. I mean, with regard to our recently adopted Democratic
tax hike fund balance policy, a cost/benefit analysis would be impossible because as we've been told "the start is a false premise that there is a cost involved. There is no cost; there is a revenue investment."
So there you have it... "costs" don't exist in Cheshire Town Government. Yippee! Everything done by the town is an "investment." So a cost/benefit analysis of the turf would be impossible. Right?
Maybe not. Perhaps the budget committee could consider doing a cost/benefit analysis? Maybe if the Budget Committee had a CPA, they could figure out how to do one?
Ok, ok... all kidding aside... I hope you take a look-see at the NY4P study and comment. It seems to provide a fairly objective view of turf.
As for me, I'm still of the opinion that it's more important to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil (and building a natatorium, such as they have at the Milford/Orange YMCA, could help with that) than it is to have a turf field.
Monday, February 11, 2008
I got my first phone call on it this weekend.
A constituent said he had seen the paper's discussing Jim Amann's "slush fund," also known as Jim Amann's "discretionary fund." And since we could apparently use the "slush fund" for anything, he suggested we use the money to extend the linear trail.
I respectfully disagreed. I offered my higher priority... reducing America's dependence on foreign oil... and said we could have a direct impact on Cheshire's consumption of fossil fuels by building a permanent structure over the pool.
Nonetheless, I was candid with him. I told him that the Council leadership is in a "state of paralysis" over the pool... and that at least one other member of the Council majority is both opposed to the linear trail (at least he was in Nov 05) and has been actively advocating the turf for the two years he's been on the Council.
So I have my doubts about the "slush fund" being used to extend the linear trail.
Besides, Matt Altieri already spoke to Mary Fritz.
And Mary Fritz already spoke to Jim Amann.
And Jim "Crusher" Amann already decided.
These aren't the droids you're looking for. Move along.
While one Cheshire Democrat feels that oversight and accountability are important:It seems that not all Cheshire Dems agree with Congressman Chris Murphy. After all:
"Mr. Altieri trusts that the town manager and department heads are the ones who address such issues on a daily basis, get good information, and deal with it."
I bet President George W. Bush would love to replace Congressman Murphy with Councilman Altieri. GWB could count on Congressman Altieri to trust him.
And I'm sure most Cheshire Dems wish that Senators Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer would've stopped peppering Alberto Gonzalez with so many questions last summer. I mean, why didn't Leahy and Schumer just trust AG Gonzalez? We could've just skipped over all the Q&A and gotten down to brass tacks.
The Council should have a top priority and accomplish it. Staff can take care of everything else.
No questions asked.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Here are the minutes to one part of the Jan 17 Personnel Committee meeting. It's fairly long, so I've only skimmed over the minutes so far. Nonetheless, I found the discussion to be quite interesting:
MINUTES OF THE CHESHIRE TOWN COUNCIL PERSONNEL COMMITTEE MEETING HELD ON THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2008 AT 7:30 P.M. IN ROOM 207, TOWN HALL, 84 SOUTH MAIN ST., CHESHIRE CT 06410
Chairman Matthew Altieri; Committee members Laura DeCaprio and Thomas Ruocco. Council member James Sima.
Staff: Town Manager Michael A. Milone; Personnel Director Louis Zullo; Town Clerk Carolyn Soltis.
1. ROLL CALL
The clerk called the roll and a quorum of the Personnel Committee was determined to be present.
2. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The group Pledged Allegiance to the Flag.
3. PROPOSED LIAISON COMMITTEE
Chairman Altieri reported that Councilor Sima had recommended the formation of a Liaison Committee of the Town Council.
Copies of information on reasons and roles of a Liaison Committee were distributed to the committee members and staff present.
Town Manager Milone advised he made copies of the Board of Education (BOE) contract which speaks to this issue. He further advised the committee that Labor Attorney Floyd Dugas was contacted regarding formation of a Liaison Committee, and his response was distributed to the committee. The proposed policy and legal response were read by the committee members.
Councilor Sima explained his reasons for bringing the concept of a Liaison Committee of the Town Council, stating it was not to broker agreements between the town’s bargaining units, but to get a better sense of what is going on in the Town of Cheshire, at the Council level by the people working for the Town. It would provide new ideas and help the Town Council members with discussions about what is going on during their tenure. This same vehicle was used by the BOE; there were 3 or 4 meetings of the Liaison Committee annually; and issues arose before they became a problem. During the time this committee met there were no major labor issues on the BOE, and BOE members would go back and talk to staff about situations and rectifying any that were discussed at the meetings. The BOE was able to see better ways to implement curriculum.
Mr. Sima said there are ways to bring this same vehicle to the Town Council side. If there is room for growth or change in town government, the Council should be aware of this before a major issue comes forward.
Regarding membership on this committee, Mr. Altieri asked who would be included, i.e. the Town Manager, Town Council members, town employees.
At the BOE level, Mr. Sima advised that the committee included the Assistant Superintendent of Schools, members of different bargaining groups (particularly teachers), because the committee dealt with many curriculum issues.
There are town issues which would be dealt with, and Mr. Sima said the membership could include 3 or 4 Council members sitting on the committee and having a better awareness of what is going on.
On the BOE level, Mr. Sima reported that the committee never made any formal comments which would interest any of the bargaining units. The committee was a vehicle to bring information to the full BOE, and he sees this committee doing the same thing on the Council level.
Ms. DeCaprio expressed concern about the issues raised in the response from Attorney Dugas. She could see the committee not being a formal vehicle of the Town Council, but the interpretation of what the committee is, and what it is, are two different things. Some of these concerns bear some thought, and any such conversation would constitute bargaining history Just because the committee is not thought of as a formal vehicle, the Council cannot necessarily look at it, and say the conversations were looked at as being informal. This is putting some things out there that could be construed differently than the Council wants.
Under the Town Manager/Town Council form of government, Ms. DeCaprio said that much of what the committee would discuss or address is being handled by the Town Manager’s office.
According to Mr. Ruocco, this is committee is nothing more than a suggestion box, and is a way for employees to voice suggestions to the Council, and it gives the Council the opportunity to hear a different aspect of the way the town is being run. Mr. Ruocco sees this suggestion box for employees to bring ideas and suggestions directly to the Council, giving a different perspective on how the town operates, and provide a grass roots input to town operations. He did not see this as a permanent committee, and it could be set up as a temporary committee on a pilot basis with a start and end date.
As for the makeup of this committee, Mr. Ruocco sees 3 Council members, one of whom would be chairman. There should be some parameters set, i.e. no entertainment of labor issues, and discussions limited to operations of the town. Mr. Ruocco believes town employees should feel comfortable with Town Manager Milone on labor disputes. For non-union employees, it could be different, but union and non-union groups seem to run on parallel standards. Mr. Ruocco stated he is opposed to forming this Liaison Committee, but the Council should not jump into it, and it should be considered a pilot committee to see the reaction among employees.
For a better understanding of the suggestion for a Liaison Committee of the Town Council, Town Manager Milone said that the natural reaction on his part is whether there is evidence of a problem that has to be addressed. He presumes that the genesis of this is a perception that something could be done differently or better, and it is in reaction to something Mr. Sima observed for something that was stated to him.
In response, Mr. Sima said “no” it was nothing like that, and this perception does not exist. This is why he brought the suggestion forward as soon as he got on the Council so this perception would not exist. His idea came up because of his 8 years on the BOE, and coming to another part of town government, and he believes it would be useful for the Council.
Mr. Milone asked if the intention of Mr. Sima was to make this institutionalized and mandatory as the committee exists in the BOE teacher’s contract.
Mr. Sima said “no”.
Town Manager Milone explained what is taking place on the town government side on communication with and for town employees. A lot of time has been spent in the last 5 to 8 years, going to great lengths, to expand communication opportunities for town staff. The staff knows that if there is an issue which they want to present to the Town Council, they can do so, during the Public Communications portion of the agenda. Mr. Milone advised that the Police Department availed themselves of this on one occasion.
Mr. Milone stated he believes the Town Council’s Personnel Committee functions in this capacity, and it has in the past with retirees seeking redress of things. The Personnel Committee is the place for employee issues or concerns to be addressed, and this is the role of this committee, outside of employee’s having direct contact with the Town Manager and his staff on personnel issues. At this time there are certain avenues which people can pursue.
Mr. Milone further stated that under bullet point #2 in Mr. Sima’s information, it says “Employees will be able to communicate directly with Council without filtering by administration”. This is a judgment, suggesting that Mr. Milone is filtering information, and he said he does not operate that way. If people have a grievance and they want to go around him, they can do so. This bullet statement suggests there is a process to change the nature or extent of a recommendation or complaint. If there is, Mr. Milone said he would like to know about this. In his 8 years, Mr. Milone said this has not been a problem. When he saw the word “filtering” it implies the fact that the Council is not getting a complete and total representation of facts where there are situations involving employees. This is a concern to Mr. Milone, who said this has not been the case, and it is contrary to the charge that he has as Town Manager.
Mr. Sima stated that the did not write this as a bullet point saying that the Town Manager was filtering information. He used the word “filter” to mean Mr. Milone taking all the viewpoints of the entire operation of the town, and putting a little of what he sees as he transfers this information to the Council. Mr. Sima commented on one piece of information being taken, and by the time it gets around the table, it has changed somewhat because everyone’s eyes are a little different. He said he wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth…this is what the people at the lower level/working level of government thinks, and it comes to the Council without any changing in the wording of the situation.
It was stated by Mr. Sima that he is not saying the Town Manager is trying to deceive or change what is actually going on. It is just the way people transfer data, as it actually becomes different as it is brought forward from one person to another. Mr. Sima said he is getting the perception that he wanted this committee to go around or bypass the Town Manager, when his idea was to have government be a little more open in the Town of Cheshire.
Again, Mr. Milone said it suggests to him that there is a problem and we need to address it. If there is a problem, it is incumbent on the Personnel Committee to tell him about the concerns and ways he should improve his communication skills.
Mr. Milone stated that one of the cornerstones of his goals and objectives is expand communication efforts to enhance citizen awareness of and involvement in town government. Another goal is to enhance the effectiveness of the staff to insure the highest level of customer service. Key to both of these is communication.
In order to improve communication, there has been expansion of technology so that people in this government are well informed about what is going on. Mr. Milone said there are innumerable meetings. He meets with the Personnel Committee and establishes goals and objectives; these are filtered down to department heads; and, then to town employees.
Mr.Milone explained that this is unlike the BOE where there is no performance evaluations. About 75% of town employee groups undergo performance evaluations, with the exception of the police department. The bargaining units get step increases, whether they get a good evaluation or not. For people with 5 or 10 years of service who get an above average or extraordinary evaluation, they are given a bonus on top of this. This has forced the town to establish direct lines of communication on a regular basis with 75% of the employees.
Mr.Milone explained that employees meet annually for their evaluation, and in many cases meet semi-annually for a six-month assessment. As part of their evaluation, they sit and tell the supervisors what can be done better as an organization, and what can be done better as supervisors. The idea is to develop a dialogue with employees, to allow them to have an opportunity to tell the supervisors how operations can be done more efficiently and effectively.
In addition, the Town Manager meets with department heads monthly; good dialogue continues with them; there is encouragement to continue this dialogue with employees; and encourage feedback. Department heads have meetings with staff to encourage communication as well.
There is a monthly newsletter to the employees to keep them informed on what is important and what is happening. It encourages direct feedback to the Town Manager, Mr. Zullo, Ms. Talbot or Ms. Sepp.
The town administration started meetings with the executive boards of the unions with Mr. Zullo every three months so, just so things can be addressed such as responsiveness to the unions, dealing with issues before they become problems, etc. The town administration tries to encourage and foster communication in many ways.
The town has embarked on more in-service training for employees, giving them tools to tell the supervisors about how to run the departments they work in. These are all basically things that are consistent with what Mr. Milone has discussed with the Personnel Committee and the Council over the years, and they have endorsed them as good practices to continue to build on.
These things create a situation where it circumvents the idea of the CEO in the town’s form of government. Mr. Milone stated he is not sure a Liaison Committee would generate or derive a greater benefit than any of the ongoing programs he has mentioned at this meeting.
In the BOE, many years ago, there was a chasm between the Superintendent and the teacher’s union, and there was a need to create some sort of vehicle to improve the communication, and the Liaison Committee was the vehicle. Mr. Milone said he likes to think and hope that the town government has preempted this by all of these communication efforts and formalized processes that have been established so that kind of situation does not occur.
Mr. Sima stated it was not his goal or desire to circumvent the role of the Town Manager. He wanted a vehicle to improve his role and that of all the Council members in making decisions, and this committee would be another vehicle to become better informed on the operations of the town and how government in town can be improved.
Mr. Milone stated that this process could likely circumvent his role as Town Manager. It runs counter to the role of the chief executive.
In regard to the suggestion for a liaison committee, Mr. Milone suggested that Mr. Sima go through the town government’s budget process, which is thorough and exhaustive in evaluating what goes on in town departments. Mr. Milone explained that he talks about the operation of town government; department heads talk about the operation; department heads bring staff to discuss the operations; there is a dialogue with the Council members. This might give Mr. Sima a higher comfort level or sense of participation on the part of the people who work for the town in terms of the decision making and developing the ideas and priorities brought to the Council.
Regarding the town government budget process, Mr. Sima said he has only sat in the audience for budget meetings. His concern is that the only vehicle he knew was a subcommittee of the Council to do what he proposes. He is not trying to get information from department managers, but from the regular everyday employees which can be passed onto Council members. He wanted to open up his eyes to make sure he knew exactly what was going on, and it would be just another vehicle to do this.
Mr. Sima apologized to Town Manager Milone if he thought the goal was to circumvent the role of the town manager, when he just wanted a source of information to him and the other Council members.
According to Mr. Sima the liaison committee of the BOE was very beneficial when he was on it for a few years.
Mr. Milone commented on his understanding of how the BOE liaison committee worked…before anyone went to the BOE, the ideas were discussed with the Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent. Then, the Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent, along with those individuals, appeared before the BOE to discuss their situation. So, these people first had to go through the Superintendent’s office to discuss their suggestion. Mr. Milone asked if this was correct.
In response, Mr. Sima said he was never aware of any of that pre-discussion. He said there was usually 50% of the bargaining group that would come forward…the negotiating team…to the BOE liaison committee meetings. During the meetings, discussions would go off in tangents, and much information was received, with true issues stated and they were addressed by the BOE members.
Another point was made by Mr. Milone in that there is a dynamic on the landscape that exists in the BOE that is very different. The BOE has 400 people in one bargaining unit, and they are the heart and soul of what happens in the school system. The town government has 5 bargaining units, some with 5 members, and some with up to 45 members, and 50 non-union staff. It is very fragmented in that sense; there is a difference in the roles and responsibilities that people play.
Mr. Milone made the point that he does not know that simply looking at the BOE and trying to draw an analogous situation with the town can be a valid comparison. They are different in terms of the dynamic in the landscape that exists in the way the BOE and town do business.
Chairman Altieri commented on the fact that he has sat on both sides of this issue, and agreed that during meetings there were tangents which took place. His sense about the proposal of a liaison committee is that as far as staff or town employees having problems or issues…it really needs to start with their group at their own level, i.e. a Public Works Department driver talking about truck routes. Mr. Altieri noted that he knows nothing about truck routes…but Mr. Michaelangelo and Mr. Milone do…and such an issue should be handled at that level because this is where it can be fixed. To have the Council members hear about it, he is not sure the problem would be fixed. This is the Town Manager’s responsibility, and Mr. Altieri trusts that the town manager and department heads are the ones who address such issues on a daily basis, get good information, and deal with it.
Mr. Altieri said this is why town government has the town manager and department heads. For the Council to sit down and go face to face with employees and discuss issues…he would advise that employees talk to department heads or the town manager about what is going on in departments, the town, etc. He could see that the Council might gain some information, but this would be information gotten by meeting with department heads.
It was further stated by Mr. Altieri that the way town government is set up, the administration and supervisor’s job is to communicate, figure out what is going in a department, and how to operate it more efficiently. If they are not doing it very well, then the Town Manager will let them know this. If this were not to work well, from the Town Manager’s point of view, it would be discussed at the Personnel Committee level. Mr. Altieri does not see Town Council members getting involved in the problem solving process.
Mr. Ruocco commented on Councilors not knowing on things are going, and he wants to know more about the details of how a town department works. He sometimes gets feedback from town employees by phone call or mail, and this provides some input and status, but Council members do not know everything that is going on. He said hearing from town employees is important, and he does not know if employees know the Council is accessible to them.
It was explained by Mr. Milone that if an employee has a grievance they go to the bargaining unit.
On safety issues such as the parking lot not being sanded, Mr. Milone said an employee would call to follow up on such an issue.
There is an executive committee which meets a few times a year and Mr. Zullo said at the last meeting 6 minor to immediate issues were referred to this committee. There is an internal system of committees with information meetings providing people with a vehicle to discuss issues.
Mr. Milone explained that a town employee from the PW Department presented a suggestion on revamping the town leaf pickup program, and it was used by the town for this work, saving money and crew time. There have been suggestions made and utilized regarding snow removal.
This information is being relayed to the Personnel Committee, but Mr. Sima said the entire Council is not aware of this information.
According to Mr. Zullo this is not information to go to the Council, and what is done professionally is done on a day to day, month to month, year to year basis without thinking that there is cause to report to someone. Some of the information goes into the Town Manager’s Report to the Council each month.
Mr. Milone confirmed that he has reported to the Council on the changes in the way things are being done. What goes on daily is a natural part of doing a job. If there is a good idea, people are encouraged to bring it forward.
Ms. DeCaprio commented on the good staff of town employees, who are well aware of problems which can be brought to a department head, and there is a recourse for them to speak to Council members, if necessary. From what she has heard, there are no problems to be brought forward for resolution by the Council. The legal concerns raised in Attorney Dugas’ e-mail on the suggestion of a liaison committee are of concern to Ms. DeCaprio, who said she is not willing to take on these risks at this time. As for a pilot type program, she questioned whether this would be legal and binding on the Council.
As a new Council member, Ms. DeCaprio stated she was amazed at how much comes before the Town Council, and what is being done in town. If employee concerns are huge, they can come to the Council.
As for the day to day operations of the town, Ms. DeCaprio said Council members do not have the time to listen to normal concerns, and every idea brought to department heads is not implemented. These things are not within the purview of the Council, and it is not worth the risk to have this liaison committee.
Stating he does not see this as a day to day vetting committee to hear about daily things, Mr. Ruocco said it would be a situation where employees have exhausted all outlets for recourse and come to the Council. He does not know of any situation where an employee was frustrated beyond despair, and interaction with employees has been minimal.
In his experience, Mr. Zullo said that if there is a situation happening, an employee would come to him or the Town Manager.
Mr. Altieri said he has always felt that things are done on a daily basis, and if something is wrong, there is a process to go through in order to change things. He served on a committee to change curriculum in his school district, and they lost on the BOE level. It seems to him that Mr. Sima wants to know what is going on at ground level, and Council members will never know this, and it is the job of the administration to know what is going on…not the Council. The job of the Council is to set procedures and staff oversees employees and insures they do a good job. When there is dissatisfaction with employee performance, the administration explains what needs to be worked on, offers ideas to help, and Council does not need to know what is going on at ground level.
According to Mr. Sima he was not implying the Council needs to know what is going on day to day. He commented on there being perceptions in Cheshire about what the Public Works Department does, i.e. constructing sidewalks, leaf collections, etc., and that there is inefficient operations.
There are many things which come out of dialogue with people, and Mr. Sima said the liaison committee is a way to deliver better services to the people, and this is his goal.
Mr. Ruocco said that some of these things could be discussed during the budget process.
The perception of people cannot be changed, and Mr. Milone stated that Cheshire’s budget document is the most transparent of any community in the State, and information in this document comes from employees in the town departments. This document measures the performance of the Town. There is always the perception about the way the town does business, and everyone cannot be convinced that things are done the best way. But, if there are alternatives, Mr. Milone said he listens.
Regarding the comments in Attorney Dugas’ memo, Mr. Sima said it does state that the committee would not be binding to the town as a matter of law, but Mr. Dugas could see a claim being filed by an employee. This is not opening up the Council to litigation from a subcommittee. Mr. Dugas said there may be a grievance filed by having this subcommittee.
Mr. Zullo stated that he read the memo to say that if the liaison committee agreed to get something done for an employee, and it did not happen, someone could say the town reneged, and a grievance would be filed.
Mr. Altieri said it could constitute bargaining history, and that is what Mr. Dugas was trying to say.
In reading the memo, Ms. DeCaprio agreed that it could constitute bargaining history. Also, as a matter of law, Mr. Dugas says he could see a union filing a labor board charge.
MOTION By Mr. Altieri; seconded by Ms. DeCaprio.
MOVED that the Personnel Committee recommend that the Town Manager be allowed to continue to monitor and supervise employee communication input, and is opposed to the suggestion of forming a Liaison Committee of the Town Council.
This committee is a good idea and Mr. Ruocco said that what is heard from management is not the same as what is heard from employees. He would like some interaction with Council and employees, with a formal process in place. He is not opposed to this committee, without infringing on the authority of the Town Manager.
Mr. Sima asked about the motion stating that the idea of a Liaison Committee is not being moved forward at this time.
Ms. DeCaprio commented on her concerns with such a committee and what the Council would be getting into, and she is not willing to take that risk.
VOTE The motion passed with 2 in favor (Altieri, DeCaprio)
And 1 opposed (Ruocco).
Your thoughts on the formation of a liaison committee? I wonder how town staff feel about the formation of a liaison committee.
Town Council, 4th District
Reported by the MRJs Stacy Graham-Hunt:
The rising cost of fuel and utilities is affecting the public school system. Rising fuel costs may mean an increase in the price of school lunches next school year. A basic school lunch currently costs $2.65 and a premium lunch is $3.65 at Cheshire High School. Madeleine Diker, the town's food service director will have to evaluate the rising prices being set by the food vendors, before she can say what will happen. However, grocery prices and oil delivery charges have gone up, so she said she expects an increase. Her department will have to reflect the increased prices in what they charge.
Further into the article are other school "energy issues," including a mention that
the Planning Committee of the Board of Education approved a new heating and cooling system for Cheshire High School.
That's good news from the BOE. They've been thinking about this retrofit for a while. So with energy costs having risen dramatically, staff ought to be able to make the case for this "dual-fuel" (both oil and natural gas work) heating system fairly easily. And since this project has been estimated to cost between one and two million dollars, the case will need to be made because projects costing in excess of $350,000 must go to referendum.
Of course, as many of you know... this leads to the question of which financing mechanism to use: bonding, performance contracting or some other mechanism.
And that's a difference of opinion that has existed between myself and the Town Manager for some time now. I think the town should be seriously considering the use of performance contracts because we could avoid major cash outlays and expedite projects. On the flip side, the Town Manager is concerned that ratings agencies and/or others would look at the value of the performance contracts (what would have been bonded) and consider that as part of the Town's total debt.
That's a legitimate concern, but... when the choice is between a rapid rollout of energy conservation measures or a lower theoretical debt burden... to me, energy conservation and reducing America's dependence on foreign oil is clearly the higher priority.
(As for why I think we could roll out such energy conservation measures quicker... I believe that by going through the steps required to engage in performance contracts... we would force ourselves to look at lifecycle costs in a detailed fashion... and that analysis would lead to increased support from the public.)
Regardless of how I feel, the answer to this choice lies with the Council majority.
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison