Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Who's withholding information? (Norton boiler 8)

As I mentioned in yesterday's post about "Being kept in the dark,"... as of April 22, I thought that staff had received this memo on April 7 (I've excluded the strongly worded middle of the memo):
and staff had decided to leave me (and all nine Council members) in the dark.* However, upon reviewing this video from April 8:
Council Chair Matt Hall seems to be acutely aware of the above memo from CT Combustion to the Town Manager (granted, there could be another memo, but I haven't seen it yet... and that would make this episode even more troubling).

So my question is... did the Town Manager make the Council Chairman aware of this memo between the time of receipt (you can see it arrived via fax at 01:31AM on April 7, so I'll assume the TM saw this by 8:00AM on April 7) and the time of the Regular Council meeting (7:30PM on April 8)?

And if so, did the Council Chairman direct the Town Manager to withhold the "corruption" memo from me (and others) and to exclude the "corruption" memo from his Town Manager's report on April 8?

And if so, where does the Chairman get the authority to withhold information from other Council members?

Or was the decision to withhold this information made by the Town Manager?

And if so, what authority is given to the Town Manager to inform the Chairman of certain information, but withhold that information from other Council members?

Taken in the context of this memo:

and noting that none of the GOP Council members requested this information (because we had all been kept in the dark), I'm wondering...

Did the Council Chairman attempt to cover up HotWatergate by directing the Town Manager to withhold this information from GOP Council members?

And if so, then when Democratic Council members learned that litigation was possible (the litigation document I have is stamped "confidential," but the town fax timestamp reads "Apr 02 08 03:36pm"), did they begin requesting information from the Town Manager?

And if so, then after eleven days (April 7 to April 18 - when Council packets were being delivered) did the Town Manager decide that he could no longer support a possible attempt by the Chairman to withhold information from GOP Council members?

Did staff decide that the "corruption" memo would need to be distributed to all Council members... regardless of party affiliation?

Since the taxpayers are getting screwed for an additional $70,000 for this botched project (plus attorney fees, wasted staff time and unnecessary heating costs due to the extended life of both an inefficient boiler and inefficient windows), I think the taxpayers have a right to get answers from the Chairman and Town Manager to the above questions.

And remember... if it weren't for Democratic Council members asking for copies of the "corruption" memo...or for the State Marshall-delivered CT Combustion "book"... it seems that GOP Council members may never have learned of this mess. And this whole thing would be chalked up as just another PBC project gone awry (now repeat after me... P-O-O-L).

Tim White

* This would be nothing new for staff. In more than four years on the Council, I've repeatedly requested that I not learn of town issues by reading the newspapers.

Tax rebate: date to be delivered / received

Straight from the IRS website, the Bushosi deficit-widening "stimulus payment" is to get mailed according to Social Security number as follows:


Last two SSN digits: Payments will be transmitted no later than:

00 through 20 May 2
21 through 75 May 9
76 through 99 May 16


Last two SSN digits: Payments will be mailed no later than:

00 through 09 May 16
10 through 18 May 23
19 through 25 May 30
26 through 38 June 6
39 through 51 June 13
52 through 63 June 20
64 through 75 June 27
76 through 87 July 4
88 through 99 July 11

Don't get me wrong. I'll be cashing my check (and paying off credit card debt). But the idea that this is somehow going to jumpstart the economy is ridiculous. I really wish we had a few more Sen. Tom Coburn's in Washington. (Coburn is the guy who took fellow Republican and PorKing Ted Stevens to task for his "$230,000,000 bridge to nowhere.")

Somebody has got to deal with the spending in Washington. Anyone who has ever had to deal with a household budget knows that spending is half of the equation.

Tim White

Bye-bye surplus; state deficit is here

According to the AP, the financial situation isn't looking so rosy for the state:

This fiscal year is now projected to end on June 30 at least $19 million in the red. "In all candor I believe we will see the revenues continue to decline," said Governor Jodi Rell.

The cause of the diminishing surplus appears to stem from a combination of slowing state revenues and a delay in federal Medicaid reimbursements. The bad fiscal news prompted Rell on Tuesday to threaten a veto of a key crime bill that includes tougher penalties for repeat violent offenders and $10 million for more prosecutors, state police, probation officers and other programs, such as housing for sex offenders. She said the state couldn't afford the spending portion of bill.

But beyond Governor Rell, it seems things are worsening. Even Speaker Jim Amann is taking on a Gubernatorial tone:

"Certainly, we'd love to help everyone in the state of Connecticut," said Amann, D-Milford. "But I think we're all hurting, including the state government right now. The best thing we can do is have a balanced budget."

I wonder if the state is going to pull another one of their "mid-year budget cuts" and tell the Town in December (or sometime after the election) that promised funds won't be delivered.

Tim White

Student survey deemed valid

The data from a town wide student survey about drug and alcohol use at Cheshire High School is valid, said Sarah Bogdanski-Bourdon, the project coordinator of the Cheshire Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking, on Friday. (MRJ, by Stacy Graham Hunt)

Tim White

Being kept in the dark (Norton boiler 7)

Now switching gears to my concern about the possibility of information being deliberately and systematically withheld from me (and others) in relation to HotWatergate... so you can begin to understand my concern... please watch this video:
IMO, the answer given by staff is totally unacceptable.

It's all a bunch of smoke'n'mirrors.

When town staff get any letter that even suggests corruption, let alone includes the word "corruption" in the letter... it is incumbent on staff to bring that letter to the attention of the entire Council immediately... not eleven days later... buried in a pile of papers under this memo:

But while this was unbelievably poor judgment on the part of staff... I'm beginning to wonder if it was staff's idea to bury this.*

In a departure from their usual protocol, I'm wondering if on April 7th (or 8th)... was staff actually directed to withhold this information from certain Council members (a.k.a. GOP members)?

Anyway, it's late. I'm going to bed. More on this tomorrow.

Tim White

* Withholding information from Council members is not new. From the meningitis diagnosis at the pool that was "a Chesprocott issue" to the police officer in Wolcott that was "a personnel issue," I believe that it's wrong for Council members to first become aware of a town-related situation by reading the newspapers.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ordinance Review Committee 4/29

I got an update of the Ordinance Review Committee's agenda for tonight's meeting:

1. Town and Police pension ordinance amendments.

2. Massage parlor ordinance.

3. Historic District fees.

4. Demolition delay ordinance – Status Report.

5. Building Use Policy – Status Report

I wonder if the building use policy remains unchanged from last year? Or maybe someone noticed that unaffiliated voters are disenfranchised by the foolish policy as it exists today? Seriously, why not generate revenue by renting buildings for political fundraisers?

By the way, I am glad to see the Charter is not being discussed. As far as I'm concerned, this Boiler Imbroglio has someone(s) in HotWatergate. And dealing with that is a much higher priority than discussing a possible Charter revision.

Tim White

Some energy updates

An interesting concept arose at last night's energy meeting... use the construction of turf as an opportunity to install a geothermal heating unit for the high school. I had never thought of it before, but there is logic to it. Consider...

To capture the geothermal energy (assume 50F), you need to dig down below the frost line... probably a few feet. And presumably the turf field would require us to dig down at least some depth. So we could just dig a bit deeper, bury the geothermal unit... then run the water piping system to the back end of CHS and avoid the purchase of a microturbine or fuel cell or anything else. And there you have it... a modestly intelligent use of Amann's slush fund! Unfortunately, I recall the Council just voted to speed along with the CHS electric retrofit... so I doubt anything will happen with this.

But maybe something can come out of tonight's BOE Planning Committee discussion with UPC Solar. UPC is an alternative energy provider that was offering its product (PVs / solar panels) and service to the school system. Basically, their pitch was similar to Sun Edison's of a few years ago... "give us the space and we'll give you the PVs, along with electricity at a competitive rate." Personally, I like the idea a lot... and the vendor was knowledgable. So something could happen... but with the relatively short remaining life expectancies of the school roofs (Highland has the most time left at around 14 years), I'm uncertain if anything will happen with this either... but there is a chance.

What really needs to happen though is some thoughtful planning. For instance, the Town is currently in an electricity purchase agreement that doesn't expire until December 2011. (The schools current contract expires around December 2009.) So the Town may have contractual problems if it engaged in either of these deals before the contract expires. In the meantime though, we can begin planning our infrastructure needs. And that began (albeit slowly) last summer. So hopefully over the next year or two, the Town will come up with an infrastructure plan and simultaneously learn about the many alternative energies and start using some in the not-so-distant future.

Tim White

Home Fabric Mills buyer

Olympia Properties of New Haven has purchased the former home of Home Fabric Mills at 882 S. Main St. for $1.3 million (MRJ, by Mary Ellen Godin)

Tim White

Monday, April 28, 2008

Does the Charter matter? (Norton boiler 6)

Yesterday I started explaining my concern about the possible deliberate and systematic withholding of Norton boiler-related information from me. But today I want to return to what may be another critical issue in getting to the bottom of the "documented"* part of the Boiler Imbroglio.

The issue is called the Town Charter. And while some people may have their own interpretation of the Charter (and perhaps other parts of the Charter override this particular section), I think it's worthwhile to read section 7-8 Purchasing - C - 6:

"If the lowest bidder meets all specifications, is responsive, and, if applicable, qualified, but the bid is not acceptable to the Manager, the Public Building Commission, or the Board of Education, the matter must be referred to the Council for its decision on whether to reject all bids, to accept a higher bid, or to take such other action as may be in the best interests of the Town."*

And here's the thing... as far as I can recall, the Council never voted to "reject all bids" or do anything else. The only thing I recall doing was to award bids 1 and 2... and then table the motion to award bid 3 (along with getting a whole bunch of runaround from staff whenever I asked questions).

Anyway, I feel a lot of people are pointing fingers at the PBC... questioning their actions, but I'll defend them on this point about the Charter. See, IMO, Charter rules must be followed, but it's also somewhat unfair to expect volunteers to be extremely well-versed in the Charter. That's why we have staff... the Administration (as compared to the various Legislative bodies) should be ensuring things are done correctly. Unfortunately, if we want staff to start ensuring the Charter is followed, the Council would need to direct staff to take such action. And I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

Tim White

* By "documented" I mean the issues that are noted in official documents and therefore are easily identified. I compare this to the possible second issue of information being withheld from me which, if true, would be inherently more difficult to demonstrate as it is like "proving a negative" and is therefore much less easy to do.

*To find this section, click on the word "Charter," then "Chapter 7: Finance and Taxation" will appear, then click on "7-8 Purchasing."

Number of pool users

For those of you who are curious about the actual usage of the pool, the Council was given these statistics recently:Speaking of people using the pool, I hear from them. And the common theme is that even the users are frustrated with the financial cost, the energy wasted and the bubble "environment" during winter. However, people seem to be very happy with the programs offered and the staff. So as much I want to move past the bubble, I need to point out that I feel the staff are doing a really good job.

In looking at these user numbers, it seems to me that a smarter course of action would be to cut our losses on the pool and make it a summer facility. Then we could take the $430,000/yr subsidy and just build a whole new, normal-sized pool with a permanent structure. Seriously, I bet that would be less expensive than what we've got.

Tim White

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Was information withheld? (Norton boiler 5)

I'm trying really hard to understand this Norton boiler imbroglio. It's extremely time consuming with a plethora of moving pieces, but considering how Cheshire's political lexicon just added a new word (corruption)... I think it's absolutely necessary to understand this situation in detail.

And when I say in detail, I mean in detail. Including answering the two original scandalgate questions:

1) what did you know? and
2) when did you know it?

Piquing my interest tonight was a review of the April 8, 2008 discussion on the Norton window project (which is inextricably linked to the Norton boiler project because both were funded via the November '06 Norton School Improvements referendum question for $500,000)... which was only two weeks before this debacle truly came to light: If you watch the five minute clip, you can probably tell that during that meeting I was at a complete loss as to what was happening with the Norton boiler project... yet knew something fishy was happening.

Finally, I've got lots to say on this. But it's going to take some time to document all of the moving pieces here. Nonetheless, I now have a third question that needs to be answered:

Was information being deliberately and systematically withheld from me throughout the course of this project?

Tim White

UTH on the bidding process

Cindy over at Underground Town Hall seems to be pretty happy that questions are being asked about the Norton boilers (among other issues I gather, such as the gas use policy... for which questions could still be asked):

...the calls for openness and honesty are finally taking root in this town. Finally, people are standing up and asking questions...
I agree with Cindy. Asking questions is appropriate. And problems will arise when questions are not asked.

Tim White

Southington plans trail to north

Southington got a $5,000 grant from the state. It's planning money for the Southington / Plainville section of the Farmington Canal trail (MRJ, by Leslie Hutchison).

Tim White

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pancake breakfast fundraiser

The semi-annual pancake breakfast fundraiser will be tomorrow morning from 7:30am to noon at the Masonic Lodge. Hope to see you there!

Tim White

Cheshire's political lexicon (Norton boiler 4)

In my four and a half years on the Council, there was one word that never crossed my mind in relation to local government.

At last Tuesday's Council meeting, that word was officially debuted in Cheshire's political lexicon:This Norton boiler imbroglio has already cost the taxpayers $70,000 via the screwed up bid process. There's also going to be legal fees and staff time* and of course, if the new boiler was installed last summer... we would have had a more efficient boiler that would have used less oil this past winter.

Considering the words that are being used in relation to the Boiler Imbroglio, I'm sure the Council will want to get a handle on all these additional costs.

Tim White

* staff time is money... remember how concerned some Council members were about my suggestion for the Bubble Study group... some Council members were up-in-arms over the cost of staff time.

Possible euthanization of geese

The MRJ gives its take on Cheshire's possible euthanization of Canada geese (by Stacy Graham Hunt) at Mixville and Bartlem Parks.

Tim White

Vote for Hillary!

In case it "wasn't obvious" why Barack Obama is unacceptable for America, watch this video:Now do you understand?

Kids in Motion celebration

Adinolfi supports 3 Strikes

I know Sam Caligiuri and Tom Gaffey have also voiced public support for "3 Strikes" since last summer. Does anyone happen to know the public record of Mary Fritz and Vickie Nardello? I happen to recall them offering legislation last year that would have been different from the very straightforward Adinolfi / Caligiuri "3 Strikes" rule... I'm sure it's all out there on the web. I just don't have the time to research it right now.

One last note... I didn't upload this video. So I'm glad to see there are others who are doing this and are helping us see our state officials in their own words.

Tim White

Friday, April 25, 2008

The "45 day" clause (Norton boiler 3)

For me, one of the critical issues to be considered in the Norton boiler mess (that has already cost the town an additional $70,000!) is the "45 day" clause. As the Herald editorialized today:

"The Council did not act within that 45-day window and Connecticut Combustion decided to raise their price, which was well within their right since it was spelled out in plain English in the contract."
But use your own judgment on the words spoken and the documents signed. And I suggest you start by watching the Feb 13, 2008 meeting video (go to the 0:56:30 to 0:57:30 segment) to hear for yourself that the 45 day clause "wasn't obvious": Then watch this one minute clip from the April 22, 2008 meeting... to hear my questions on this 45 day clause that "wasn't obvious":Then look at this document and decide for yourself if this 45 day clause "wasn't obvious."
And now the $69,000 question... is it fair to say:
the 45 day clause wasn't obvious?
it could be more complicated free polls
Tim White

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A dog park and food shortages

I forgot to mention this earlier (I've been preoccupied with the boiler disaster and the failures of town staff), but Laura DeCaprio's Planning Committee discussed a dog park last night. I didn't attend the meeting, but did email Laura last night with my concerns and she replied right away, which was nice.

I saw this "Fear of food shortages" headlining (across the top, above the fold) today's CT Post (by Rob Varnon)... and it gets to the heart of my concern.

Basically, the idea was to displace part of Arisco farms (corner of Marion and Jarvis) and have a dog park. To which I voiced my very serious concerns about "sustainability issues" and why we shouldn't be displacing cropland for recreation. I mean... along with other countries, India banned the export of rice. Why? There's fear of food shortages everywhere due a variety of factors (crops for biofuels, wealthier people now eat meat which requires more grain being fed to animals, etc.). And I just don't want to exacerbate the problem. So I voiced my concerns.

Anyway, Laura was very much on top of the issue... and apparently lots of people (everyone except Parks & Rec!) are opposed to that particular location. So it sounds like nothing will happen there, which is fine with me. Thanks Laura!

And seriously... if these jokers in Hartford can't recognize the massive shortcomings in CT land use policy at this point, I'm not sure they ever will.

Tim White

Open forum 4/24

I haven't done an open forum in a while. Feel free to bring up anything on your mind... and don't be shy about writing a front page guest post either.

The Cheshire Republican Town Committee met tonight. State GOP Chair Chris Healy stopped by unexpectedly. He had two things on his mind:

1) President Bush visiting a Dave Cappiello fundraiser at Henry Kissinger's house and
2) They're really recruiting people to run for each of the 187 legislative seats this year. (I added my two cents and encouraged David Schrumm to run against Tom Gaffey. Frankly, with public funding I wouldn't be surprised to see him jump in and go for it.)
On the way home from Town Hall tonight, I noticed that the Mobil station ultra was $4.14/gallon. The mid-range was $3.99 and the cheap stuff that I use was $3.89. Hello $4 gas!

According to Capitol Watch (by Christopher Keating), the state Senate passed a crime bill sans "3 strikes." It passed 32-3 with Sam Caligiuri opposed. "You will be lying to the people of Connecticut if you tell them'' that the bill includes tough, mandatory minimum sentences, he said. "It's nothing close to what the people of Connecticut'' want.

According to the MRJs Andrew Perlot, state funding for the linear park is moving forward.

Tim White

Amann retires as Speaker

Speaker of the House Jim "Crusher" Amann announced his retirement. I will miss him and his somewhat high-pitched raspy voice. It was always so easy to tell when he was on WPLR during the drive to work. I understand though that he's still running for Governor, thankfully. I'm sure he'll provide plenty of fodder for the CT blogosphere for the next two years. And if you enjoy the political side of all this (as opposed to the policy side), you should read the linked Capitol Watch post. It does a great job on giving the short version of Jim Amann.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Norton boiler (part 2)

I've uploaded the video from Tuesday's discussion on the Norton boilers.

It's costing all of us real tax dollars. So if you want to understand the situation... and hold people accountable... this may be a good place to start.

Part 1 (91 minutes)

Part 2 (5 minutes)

At this moment, I have two more questions that come to mind:

1) CT Combustion states that they contacted town staff, but staff did not respond. I wanted to know if this was true and, if so, why? Unfortunately, legal counsel intervened. But my followup question should have been... if staff doesn't respond for reasons of fairness, shouldn't staff ask legal counsel to respond? Shouldn't a response be given?

2) CT Combustion commented that they had tried to provide information to the Council and/or PBC... but they felt that the information never found its way to the Council / PBC. What did they mean by that?

Tim White

CNG cars

With the cost of gas skyrocketing, you may have been wondering if there are affordable alternatives to the usual gasoline-powered cars. Off the top of my head (and excluding diesel-powered vehicles), there are three "alternative fuel" vehicles available:

1) electric (including hybrids, such as Civic and Prius)

2) ethanol / e85 (a.k.a. flex fuel vehicles or FFVs)

3) compressed natural gas (CNG)

The purpose of this post is a simple guide to CNG cars in CT.

Of course, the first thing you need to know is where CNG vehicles are sold. I know of only one place that sells them: Manchester Honda. (When I bought my Honda Civic Hybrid in 2006, Manchester was the exclusive distributor in CT.) And here's the details of the CNG-powered Civic GX NGV.

And you'll also see there the cost: $25,225.

If that seems unaffordable to you, remember you can get a $4,000 federal tax credit through 2010. And these CNG cars avoid the 6% CT sales tax through July 1, 2008... which saves you another $1,000 when compared to a regular Civic.

As for the cost of fuel though, that's anyone's guess (CNG is a fuel and all fuels fluctuate in price, though NG and petroleum tend to mirror each other over time, despite periodic fluctuations). Regardless, it would have the benefit of an immediate reduction in America's consumption of mideast oil (most NG consumed in the US is extracted in the US or Canada). Anyway...

Those are facts as I know them (please correct me if I'm wrong!), but not everything is a cost saving with the CNG Civic. As you may have already asked yourself... "where do I phill up?"

Great question!

You phill up at home. As you can see in this photo, you can get your own "fueling station" at home (assuming you have CNG at your house) and then you never have to stop at the gas station again. You just phill up at home.

Of course, there are three remaining concerns that come to mind:

1) cost - I recall they cost about $2,000 installed... but I couldn't confirm because I called after their offices closed at 5pm today.

2) availability - and this is a problem... according to their website, they're not yet available in CT... they're only available in select parts of California, Arizona, Colorado, Illiniois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Oh well... they're not availabe around here yet... but that may change... and for all I know, other similar products may be available. I'm not sure... I just happened to know about this particular product (and for the record... I have no financial interest in this company or Honda).

3) range - while CNG fueling stations exist in NYC and Boston, you're range is reduced. So this probably makes more sense for a two-car family.

Anyway... if you are looking for a new car and already have CNG at your house... you may want to consider making a few phone calls and finding out if you could make something like this happen. Just think... you'll never again find yourself on the way to work passing gas stations that already have lines... and you'll also be reducing America's consumption of middle east oil.

Tim White

Romano's is closing

According to the NHRs Luther Turmelle, Romano's Seafood (you know... the big lobster near Richard's Corner) is closing.

Tim White

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Norton boilers (part 1)

For those of you who saw the meeting tonight, you may have noticed there was some discussion on the Norton boiler project. Ok... that's a bit of an understatement considering the many themes* of Council operations became apparent during the discussion.

Regardless, I want to help you understand this project. A project that is IMO very troublesome. And while most of the information I have right now has been provided by one side of this story, I think it may help you begin to understand the potential gravity of this mess.

Unfortunately, I was just about to start scanning in pages to the blog and noticed that the opening (summary) pages of the book (provided by CT Combustion to the Council via State Marshall delivery) is copyrighted! And since this seems to be such a mess (due at least in part to the administration's failures, not CT Combustion, IMO)... I don't want to take any chances.

Nonetheless, I'll offer my own summary.

Basically, in relation to the three different bids that have occurred over the past ten months... CT Combustion offers seven issues of concern and substantiates those issues with (what they state as, and I believe to be) Town documents. They then go on to provide "exhibits" A to Z... most of which seem to be town documents... though some are memos from CT Combustion to the Town, etc.... and of course, those documents may or may not have reached and/or been read by town officials.

CT Combustion's whole book seems to be pretty thorough from my perspective. Though as Elizabeth Esty rightly pointed out... it's only one side of the story. And that's why I wanted to ask questions tonight... even though we ultimately tabled the motion... I still felt it was important to begin shedding light on this mess... to let the voters know that not everything is right in town government.

And before I go to bed, for those of you who caught my comments on the administration's failure to act within the 45 day window for the second bid, you can see the Feb 13 Council meeting here:
To which you may want to watch the video from about 0:56:30 to 0:57:30 (Google video is finicky and the precise time seems to vary by a few seconds for different computers). It's in there that you'll see the comment about the 45 day window not being obvious in a two and a half page document. Maybe I'll post the document tomorrow, but I'm going to sleep now.

Tim White

* 1) a failure of the administration to provide relevant information to the Council in a timely manner (we basically didn't hear about the meningitis at the pool or the cop in Wolcott until we saw the front page news... and the list of issues goes on)

2) a failure of the Council to hold people accountable with real consequences (see the 45 day window being missed or the $153,000 financial software or the pool.)

Earth Day 2008

Do any of you have any good ideas for Earth Day? Any ideas to make the world more sustainable? My small part this year has been moving to a canvas bag for shopping.

Tim White

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reframing or misleading?

At the past few Council meetings, you may recall The Rubberstampers creating all sorts of excuses, strawmen and obstructionist tactics to oppose my goal of moving forward on an alternative to the pool bubble. Of course, they eventually succumbed to the overwhelming public pressure for action on the pool. So they accepted my idea that something has to happen with the bubble and created the Bubble Study group.

As a result we got this motion:The comment "including, but not limited to" certainly seemed to generate some discussion because the above motion did not include consideration for either "performance contracting" or a "summer-only facility." And the exclusion of those considerations concerned not only me, but others as well. As you can see here, Jimmy Sima felt compelled to amend the motion... though Matt Altieri said it was unnecessary: But that was April 8. And now fast forward to April 18 when I received an email from Matt Altieri that included this excerpt:

I am going to instruct all who are scheduled to come in and give input is to be precise be prepared and to stay focused on options that we outlined within the resolution we voted on that night.

Huh? Do these two statements jibe? Or are we witnessing the classic Washington-style "reframing" of the debate?

Tim White

Caligiuri may run unopposed

State Sen. Sam Caligiuri, R-16th District, has announced he will seek re-election, but with Town Council Chairman John Barry among the Democrats saying they will not run against him, Caligiuri may be unopposed this fall (MRJ, by Jason Vallee).

State Rep. John Mazurek, D-81st, has told Caligiuri he will not run for the Senate and both Town Councilor David Zoni, who ran against Caligiuri in 2006, and State Rep. Bruce Zalaski, D-80th, said there may not be a Democratic candidate ready to run.

"It's very possible that he could end up unopposed," Zoni said. "I enjoyed campaigning the last time around, but I made a commitment last fall to serve the people of Southington as a member of the Town Council. It's difficult to campaign to begin with and Sam has put himself in a good light, which will only make the task more difficult."
(emphasis mine)

Go Sam! Sam for Governor!

Tim White

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rewriting the pool's history

Is it fair to say that the history has been written on The Pool Consultant?

I think it is fair to say that the history has been written.

It was an absolute waste of $20,000. And I'm glad I voted against it because the pool consultant did squat for the fee. (USA Swimming offered some assistance, but they were free.)

But not to let history sit, watch on Tuesday for an historian to become a revisionist and provide a whole new story for the pool. The rewriting began in this week's Herald and I expect will continue on Tuesday when the pool is discussed. Watch for the new history to include the "valued pool consultant report." Ha!

Unfortunately, the revisionists have a problem. It's called the internet.

Click here to watch the 45 minute Pool Consultant vote from Nov 28, 2006: Some of the comments are true gems. And while I was busy this weekend with other stuff (cleaning the house), I expect to have time for some video editing next weekend. Should be fun!

Tim White

Paul & Bernanke on the value of the dollar

If you're interested in getting a six minute tutorial in economics and why gas costs so much (or why the US Dollar is worth so little), check out this clip of Austrian-schooled economist Ron Paul and Fed-schooled economist Ben Bernanke (Feb 27, 2008).Whether or not Ron Paul is correct (and I think he is correct about gold being an island of stability in the middle of our current credit-driven hurricane), understanding monetary policy (as compared to the Congress' spend, spend, spend fiscal policy) is IMO essential to maintaining value in our increasingly devalued dollar.

Tim White

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Turf stories

I got a couple of turf stories emailed to me today. Here's a blog post by Progressive Kid. And here's a really interesting story on the feds investigating the health risks of turf... though based on this article, the concern seems to be with astroturf... not Matt Altieri's beloved FieldTurf.

Would be interesting though to see what the Dynamic Duo (Altieri & Fritz) would do if the Federal Government put the kabash on new turf fields.

Although Jim "Crusher" Amann can obviously get anything approved by his Rubberstamping State Bonding Commission... even such an important Slush Fund owner as Speaker Amann may have problems pushing the Altieri/Fritz


thru to completion.

Tim White

Provide legislation, get concessions

As many of you know, I went to a renewable energy conference (on my dime... no taxpayer-funded trips for me... though I wouldn't accept it anyway) in early March. I found it fascinating, but since I came down with the flu as soon as I got back... then recovered and jumped into the seemingly endless dog n pony show budget meetings immediately thereafter... I never offered you much about the conference. And I'm not sure when I'll get to, but...

One session was particularly memorable. The topic was "The State of Pennsylvania as a leader in renewable energy." Based on the discussion, it certainly sounded as though PA has made some wise choices (choices that I know CT has gotten completely wrong).

The most memorable anecdote to the discussion was offered by PAs Secretary for the Dept of Environmental Protection. She explained how a Spanish company had approached her state in an effort to sell windmills. The hitch for the company was that while there was a market for windmills (electricity generation, onsite, high efficiency, etc.), the legal process was a hurdle that made the company question whether they could ever sell windmills in PA profitably. But since PA officials felt that windmills made sense for them (they don't make much sense in CT), they wanted to ensure something happened.

That's when PA negotiated with the Spanish company and came up with an offer they couldn't refuse!

PA said "give us the plants and we'll give you the policy."

Pennsylvania agreed to rewrite their laws, in exchange for the Spanish building plants in PA that (in just the past few years) have created nearly 3,000 new manufacturing jobs.

I think it was a fantastic idea.

Here's my question though... since the PZC "gave the policy" to the north end developers, why didn't the PZC ask for any concessions? Couldn't they ask for something simple like a multi-level parking garage that would reduce impervious surfaces and help protect the environment? Remember, they did put in that stipulation about "residential square footage being no more than 40% of the retail square footage." So couldn't they (for instance) require that "impervious surfaces related to parking represent no more than 1/3 of the total square footage dedicated to parking"... thereby creating a three-story parking lot?

Not having done this was a complete failure in planning.

As the Herald pointed out this week, this project is still moving forward. And I have absolutely no expectation that there will be any substantive changes to the proposed ND. But it sure would be nice if our new PZC stood up and said that this project was only moving forward in a more environmentally friendly manner.

Tim White

Friday, April 18, 2008

Council agenda 4/22

This should be an interesting meeting.

Here's some supporting documents for the boiler project:There's a lot more project info in the "Council packet" for me to read, but if I recall correctly... it was CT Combustion that originally won this bid... before everything started going wrong and getting rebid, etc.

Tim White

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Read this and cut your taxes!

In an effort to save money for the town's taxpayers, I need to:

1) ask for your support and
2) revisit one of last year's issues: should the position of Public Information Officer receive overtime pay? (click here to see the job description and responsibilities of the PIO)

My point is simple... I never accepted the idea that the newly created PIO position should receive overtime. I reject the idea in 2008, just as I rejected the idea in 2007. But when you watch this June 2007 video, pay closer attention than usual... particularly when staff explain the "legal memo" and how it's "clear" that this position should be paid overtime:

Then read the lengthy "legal memo":

(So there you have it... a post that I should've done last June, but was not yet able to edit video. So instead, I give this to you now. Regardless... the point of this post is not to revisit The Rubberstamping of the PIO vote, but to solicit input from you...)

and tell me... should the Council revisit the position of Asst. Town Planner to determine if it should be paid overtime?

(As you process all this information, keep one important thing in mind... when determining whether a position will be exempt (no overtime), the critical question to be asked by the Council of staff (and attorneys) is "is this position eligible for exemption?" Only after answering that question can the Council then ask of itself the much more political question "should this position be exempt or nonexempt?" Notice there is a subtle, yet significant difference.)

Anyway, I realize that without having the job description of the Asst Town Planner, you can't pass judgement. But from my perspective, this is a time consuming effort that requires several steps...

First you need to understand the law (see the legal memo)... then understand The Rubberstampers perspective... then understand the staff's perspective (see the video)... then understand the responsibilities of the ATP position (I need to get the job description)... then collate all that information and draw your own conclusion.

And for an indication of how much time this may take you... between reading documents, researching info and speaking with HR professionals... I probably spent between ten and twenty hours trying to understand all this before I concluded that the newly created PIO position should not be paid overtime. Regardless...

My goal here is simple. As new positions are created or employees leave and new ones are hired, should the Council review these positions and draw a political judgement on whether overtime pay is appropriate? I believe the Council should. But having gone down this path before, I expect there will be "vehement opposition" to any Council member who does not "take direction from (staff)" and instead asks questions. So I ask for your help in saving your tax dollars.

Please opine!

Tim White

p.s. Thanks to Lisa for your help over the past few years! I appreciated your fair, balanced and diligent approach to your job... particularly when zoning issues could get contentious.

80% of CT legislators are corrupt!

"There's probably 80% of the legislators here have some form of corruption, whether in their background or right now."

- Legislative intern, April 15, 2008, speaking on ethics reform on CT-N

Hat tip to Spazeboy for getting this four minute clip onto YouTube!

It's worth the four minutes of your time to watch this.

Tim White

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Financial ruin? Or is someone listening?

From the Courant's editorial board:

Who can blame David M. Walker for resigning as comptroller general and head of the federal Government Accountability Office with more than five years left of his 15-year term?

I can't. He poured his heart into convincing Beltway Insiders that America is headed for financial ruin due to our borrow n spend fiscal policy.

Mr. Walker believes that the retirement of the baby boom generation — a phenomenon he calls a "demographic tsunami that will never recede" — will incur Medicare and Social Security costs that will drive the national debt from its current $11 trillion to an additional $50 trillion in the next 20 years. That amounts to about $440,000 of debt per American household, he says.

So put me into the Walker Camp of political thinking...

Mr. Walker rightly wants presidential candidates to pay attention. "If [the candidates] don't make the debt one of their top three priorities, in my opinion, they don't deserve to be president and we can't afford for them to be president," he said last year. So far, with promises of more tax cuts and more spending, the candidates don't seem to be listening.

And FWIW, Ron Paul had the national debt among (what I saw as) his top three priorities:

1) Enforcing the US Constitution
2) Improved monetary policy - return to the gold standard... the cost of oil is stable in terms of gold... it's the US dollar that's lost value
3) Improved fiscal policy - cut spending... and balance the budget

And that's a big part of why I supported Ron Paul... and why I've asked the same question of the three CT-5 hopefuls (state Senator Dave Cappiello, US Congressman Chris Murphy and former state Rep. Tony Nania):

What do you plan to do about this "demographic tsunami that will never recede?"

Finally, if you'd like to learn more about the foundation from where David Walker will be advocating a sane fiscal policy, click here to find the Peter G Peterson Foundation.

Tim White

Votes of the State Bonding Commission

In an effort to understand the process by which Councilman Matt Altieri and state Rep. Mary Fritz got Speaker of the House Jim Amann and the State Bonding Commission (SBC) to dedicate $525,000 for the construction of an artificial turf field at CHS, I emailed the SBC yesterday.

Here's the text of my email:

Dear (staff name)...

I often hear about the State Bonding Commission and am writing to you in hopes of getting a better understanding of (three) issues in particular.

1) Over the past few years, how many times has a project (item) been on the Commission's agenda and it has not been approved?

2) Of the items that have been approved, how many were not by a unanimous vote?

3) How many projects (items) have been on the Commission's agenda? (over the time period that you recall)

Thanks for the help. And so as not to waste your time... feel free to answer from memory, if you have a pretty good recollection of the history.

Tim White

And here's the prompt reply I got from the SBCs staff today:

Mr. White,

Agenda items are rarely disapproved. Sometimes items are withdrawn and re-submitted at a subsequent meeting with modifications that address the members’ concerns.

Voting is by voice vote with an occasional no vote by a member or two or an occasional abstention by a member because of possible conflicts of interest. Over the last five years, there has been only one item that required a roll-call vote which passed by a one-vote majority. Every agenda has about 30 to 50 items on it, with some items having multiple projects within them.

(staff name)

And for further clarification on what is meant by a "voice vote" and a "roll call vote" (a.k.a. a recorded vote) from Wikipedia:

A recorded vote is a vote in which the names of those voting for and against a motion may be recorded.

In many deliberative bodies (e.g. the United States Congress), questions may be decided by voice vote, but the voice vote does not allow one to determine at a later date which members voted for and against the motion.

In other words... over the past five years, the SBC has voted on hundreds, perhaps thousands, of projects. And of those many projects, ONE project has been contentious.

I wonder if the SBC is similar to the Cheshire Town Council... does it follow Rubberstamping Robert's Rules of Order?

Tim White

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A question for HR professionals

Did any of you catch the comment (by the town's Finance Director) about "our HR person is only one person" during last week's Council meeting?That reminded me of something I had been meaning to do... ask if any of you are HR professionals? And if so, is it normal for an organization to have only two HR positions (a "payroll & benefits position" and a "Personnel Director position") and have them not be in the same reporting chain?

For a clearer explanation, I've included the two separate budgets here... first the budget for the Town Manager's office, including the position of the Personnel Director:Then the budget for the Finance Department (Accounting & Treasury), including the position of "one HR person:"Does this reporting line make sense? It seems a bit unorthodox to me.

Oh... and as for the title "Assistant Town Manager," since this post is about reporting lines... just pretend that it means nothing (more on that in another post).

Tim White

Presentation: stopping substance abuse

With the Human Services Committee's Alcohol Awareness week happening, they're planning an event:

April 24, 2008 7pm
Dodd Middle School, Cheshire CT
Ginger Katz: Courage To Speak (This is a community presentation focusing on the issue of substance abuse and what as parents and community members we can do about it.)

Tim White

UTH on grievances

Cindy Kleist is following up town employee grievances over at the Underground Town Hall. I guess she's got the actual grievances. My focus though is seeing if there are any trends over the past few years.

Tim White

Federal gov't issues RFIs

In recent weeks, the term "Request for Information" has come under fire from members of the Council for being undefined and, I guess, incomprehensible. And since the term RFI has generated a bit of a firestorm in relation to the pool bubble, I thought you may like to know I've been forwarded an April 11, 2008 RFI that was issued by the Federal Government (EERE). The RFI is four pages long and starts out with this description:

"This RFI is issued to encourage specific input from a broad-based cross-section of stakeholders, such as energy project developers, equipment vendors, engineers, investors, bankers, inventors and the like. This RFI is targeted to stakeholders directly involved in the promotion and development of energy efficiency, renewable energy and transmission technologies that employ new or significantly improved energy efficiency, renewable energy and transmission technologies addressing the production, consumption or transportation of energy that also achieve substantial environmental benefits. Through this RFI, the Department of Energy (DOE) is requesting input from these stakeholders in order to formulate and draft a solicitation for applications under a $10,000,000,000 loan guarantee authority that meets the goals established by Congress under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005."

And based on the email I received... yes... it does appear as though the email was something of a "cold call," going out to dozens, perhaps hundreds, of energy services companies (ESCOs).

I hope that as the Council moves forward with its new Bubble Study (BS), whoever's in charge, kicks it off with an RFI. In fact, they could just edit the Fed's RFI, use the same email list and really expedite this whole process.

But then, I'm not sure if the Council truly wants to accomplish anything with this BS.

Tim White

MRJ on survey criticism

Here is the MRJs take on the criticism being directed at the high school's drug & alcohol survey (by Stacy Graham Hunt) by Gerry Brittingham and Mary Underwood.

Tim White

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bubble Study Group could act fast, but won't

While the Council decided to continue dillydallying with another Bubble Study (BS) Group, and

While the Energy Commission continues to make real progress by not only making unofficial Requests for Information, but by receiving information because of the requests!...

I also continue to get new information about bubble alternatives.

Just today I got an unsolicited email from a David Lawrence of Signature Structures. He offered this in his email:

We manufacture structures similar in nature to Sprung that are designed to meet the new stringent Energy Efficiency Code as well as truly meet all loading requirements without the use of snowshed or aerodynamic theory. Since it’s a municipal project there must be an RFP out there for this project. (my link)

So there are people / organizations out there who clearly have an understanding of pool-specific structures and their particular requirements. Too bad Cheshire continues to stick its head in the sand with another BS Group that, even if they ever do anything, will certainly waste time and energy with another winter heating season that will come and go.

I hope I don't hear any of The Rubberstampers talk about their concern with global warming and fossil fuel consumption!

But who knows... maybe someday we'll get past the Council's self-induced paralysis:and take action.

Tim White

Ethics reform: fast track to nowhere

From today's Courant editorial on Hartford's failure to revoke pensions of corrupt officials. Last week:

Ms. Rell and Senate President Donald Williams had announced a "historic" bipartisan agreement just hours before it fell apart.

Thankfully though, the...

agreement was not to be. Senate Republicans, led by John McKinney of Fairfield, refused to sign on to the measure on grounds that the pension revocation portion had been watered down.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, got ahead of themselves in anticipating that the bill would become law without first obtaining the support of the Democrat-controlled House, which, according to Speaker James Amann of Milford, is split over the idea of pension revocation. Some members want it, some don't and others want to extend revocation to corrupt officials who were sentenced as far back as 10 years ago.

The failure to move forward on the ethics reform law makes Connecticut's lawmakers look foolish at best and deceitful at worst. We expect that in the light of day they will see that getting the measure back on track is in the state's best interests.

I'm not sure why the Courant mentions "the light of day," but I know that without shining light on various political issues... oftentimes politicians will hide behind strawmen or other deceitful tactics in an effort to avoid allowing the public to know their true motivations.

As I've said before, we need real ethics reform... including:

1) subpoena power for state's attorneys and

2) revocation of pensions for corrupt officials (not withstanding the Constitutional issues of "ex post facto" laws)

Tim White

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Deegan on Sunflower Relay fundraiser

I didn't say it during the meeting, but I thank Kerry Deegan for his efforts to both help a worthy cause (Relay for Life) and beautify his corner of Cheshire: Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Some community events 4/13

April 19 - Nature walk on the DeDominicus property (park on Old Lane at 9:30am) sponsored by the Environment Commission

April 22 - Presentation on "Seniors, Alcohol & Medications" at the Senior Center (11am to noon) sponsored by the Human Services and Youth Services Committee and the Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking

April 27 - Pancake breakfast fundraiser at Masonic Lodge (corner of Country Club and Rte 10 from 7:30am to noon)

April 28 - Tommy Fund benefit for Childhood Cancer (The Watch Factory Restaurant from 5:30pm to 9pm) $50 donation includes hors d'oeuvres, cocktails and a silent auction

May 3 - Ramband fundraiser $100/ticket raffle for a 2008 BMW Z4 (for tickets, call 272-1854 or Mike Rocci at 272-6121... he tells me he'll even hand deliver or airmail them to you at no extra charge!)

As always, feel free to remind people about your own projects / fundraisers here. I know I'm not particularly good at maintaining a "community calendar" here, but there's no reason why you can't remind people!

Tim White

Brittingham on drug & alcohol survey

The NHRs Luther Turmelle is reporting on the Town's recent survey on the use of drugs & alcohol by CHS and Dodd students. In particular, the article focuses on BOE member Gerry Brittingham and his frustration with the handling of the survey:

Problems associated with administering a survey of high school and middle school students about their attitudes toward alcohol, drug abuse and smoking made for some tense moments at a Board of Education meeting... “I can’t begin to quantify my level of frustration at how this happened,” Brittingham said at Thursday’s meeting, claiming that officials at the high school “bungled” the survey process.
Tim White

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blogging the 103rd

Al Adinolfi is accepting public funding for his campaign (MRJ).

And speaking of the race in the 103rd... if you're going to make charges of this or that, that's fine with me. But you're going to have to substantiate your claims... or I'll be deleting your comments... particularly the smears along the lines of "wait until the truth comes out."

Why wait? If your claims are true, then it should be easy to find links to reputable news sources and include those links right here. If you don't, those comments will be deleted.

And as always, if any of you are interested in doing your own front page post, feel free. But you will need to substantiate any facts that you offer.

Tim White

BOE vote on study of turf

From the NHRs Luther Turmelle (not online):

"The Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday night to create an ad hoc committee"
for a study on handling the installation of turf. The committee's membership will likely include the CHS AD, an administrator, a Council member and one or two members of the public.
Before the board voted, Florio seemed to suggest that he supports having the district use the state money rather than return it. "I will say this: The town of Cheshire sends far more money to Hartford than it gets back," the superintendent said.
Tim White

What's going on here??

Note: Video editing allows comments to be taken out of context.

Turf toxins under fire

From the Courant's Regine Labossierre:

Citizens groups in Connecticut have asked their town officials to stop installing the material, which some studies say can cause asthma, eye and skin irritations, cancer, and a decline in plant growth and aquatic life.
Local groups and state officials want to know for sure whether the turf being used in more than 80 municipalities across the state is really dangerous. A bill before the state legislature is asking the government to appropriate $250,000 to the state Department of Environmental Protection to study the issue...

What's unclear is which chemicals and how much of each are getting into the systems of the people using the fields, said Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health....

Not everyone has the same reaction to artificial turf. School officials say they have found nothing wrong with it and say their athletes enjoy playing on it....

Vincent McDermott, senior vice president of Milone & MacBroom, a Cheshire consulting firm of engineers, landscape architects and environmental scientists, said there is a significant body of scientific literature that supports the environmental safety of artificial turf. He said Milone & MacBroom conducts studies of the runoff from artificial fields.

Tim White

Friday, April 11, 2008

Explaining my police budget vote

In an effort to explain what happened during the April 3 vote on the police budget... I remind you that Jimmy Sima tried to add funding for an additional police officer:To which the response was this:and this:I'm not sure why there was vehement opposition to this amendment, but I do have to say that I've been through five town budgets as a member of the Council... and there has been a tradition of not offering amendments on the night of the budget vote. I'm fine with that tradition because as I understand it, there is a real potential for professional risk to staff... and it would be unfair of me to expect that of staff, if they voiced a concern.

However, since staff said only ten minutes was necessary to make the adjustment, I didn't understand the vehement opposition.

Anyway, the bottom line is that Jimmy clearly didn't have all the information to which other Council members must've been privy... either information about process (the tradition) or about substance (at what point did Jimmy, and others, learn of the additional police officers being reduced from 2 to 1?).

So here is Jimmy (at the April 8 meeting) starting to set the record straight on "what he knew and when he knew it."And for my own take on what happened with this... at the March 25 budget meeting, someone (Ecke??) mentioned the Council's desire to keep 2 new police officers in the budget. Then the TM said something to the effect of:

I hear the Council "loud n clear."
I'm not sure of the precise words, but I distinctly remember hearing the words "loud and clear."

So that begs the question... at what point were the two positions reduced to one?

I now understand that change was agreed to in the budget committee on Tuesday April 1. So in fairness to Matt Hall, he was going on the basis that Tom Ruocco knew of, and agreed to, this change. And that's fine. But I'm sure Tom also had a million things running through his mind during those budget meetings... and while this was a significant change... he didn't necessarily speak with the three other Republicans all the time.

And remember... we're talking about a 48 hour window here... from the evening of Tuesday April 1 (budget mtg) to the evening of Thursday April 3 (budget vote). So as I mentioned during a previous post, when there are substantive changes to the budget... staff should make the nine individual Council members aware of those changes.

Anyway... assuming that I'm correct about these dates (particularly April 1), then that begs another question... were either Jimmy or I there... and should we have known about this change? Well, I have no idea if Jimmy was there because (if I have all my dates straight) I wasn't there. Rather, I think I got there as the meeting was adjourning. So Jimmy may or may not have been there. I don't know.

However, I will also point out that I do recall Tom mentioning the police change to me at some point during that 48 hr period... and I recall thinking that there was no point in working to change it because everything was already "set in stone." Therefore, I chose to spend my remaining hours (the evening of April 2) working to identify spending reductions. And yes, I realize those spending reductions (such as eliminating the trips to Seattle and Virginia and Lake George) would not be adopted by the majority... but I also felt as though I needed to explain my perspective to the public. I needed to explain my vote.

That's my perspective on what happened with the reduction of police officers from 2 to 1. Essentially, it happened under the cover of darkness... and I believe I only became aware of it after the final budget meeting.

So were there any underhanded tactics by anyone here? No. I don't think so. But if this version of the story is correct (and it could have errors... I haven't researched this thoroughly... this is based on discussions with other Council members... D and R), then it reinforces my belief that the Council simply needs to direct staff to update Council members of substantive changes to proposed legislation in a more timely manner.

Tim White

Earmarks: Murphy v Cappiello, but no Nania

From the Litchfield County Times (by Scott Benjamin):

The incumbent Democrat and the Republican challenger in the Fifth Congressional District are addressing how to reform the use of congressional earmarks, the funding that gets steered to districts without even going to a public hearing.

In this article, the Democrat is Chris Murphy and the Republican is Dave Cappiello... no mention of the other Republican, Tony Nania.

Tim White

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Turf study committee recommended

Turf was on the agenda for the BOE tonight. And an anonymous poster said (on another thread) that the BOE recommended that the Council create a Turf Study Committee.

And since it appears I'm no longer allowed to attend Council meetings and ask questions that are not pre-vetted... I do have one question that I'd like answered about the turf:

What were
the criteria used by the state in determining that Cheshire should receive $525,000 for turf?

ECS has a formula. PILOT follows the same logic, as does the Pequot funding.

what criteria were used?

Tim White

Performing oversight

Here's the clip (4:41) of me asking about the financial software:

Q: Who (or what) is responsible for this?

A: a confidentiality agreement... I’m willing to take the hit for that.

(Unfortunately, at the time, I didn't exactly catch the phrase "a confidentiality agreement.")

Anyway, as much as I'd like to... I'm not going to delve into this... I've already been put on notice about the blog and too much discussion. Nonetheless, I did ask two questions that needed to be asked... and need to be asked every time we have these significant cost overruns:

Who is the individual responsible for this?

What are the consequences for that individual?

Frankly, I think one of the main problems with asking these questions is not a lack of recognition that these are important questions. No, it's not that.

The problem probably has several parts, but in Cheshire... this is one of the main problems we face in asking these questions:

To which I must ask: Who's in charge?

Tim White

Cox rates increasing May 15

From the Courant (by Mark Peters):

Cox Communications Inc. will raise its cable TV rates in May by a few dollars a month for most customers.

The increases, announced this afternoon, will affect all three Cox franchises in Connecticut, which cover the Meriden, Manchester and Enfield areas for a total of 19 towns and cities. The rate increase, which doesn't require state regulatory approval, begins May 15.

Cox blamed the increase on rising operating costs including higher prices for gasoline and utilities and increased costs for programming. The Atlanta-based cable company last raised its basic rates in the Meriden and Enfield areas in 2002 and in Manchester in 2004. Increases for some expanded packages last happened in 2006, the company said.

After the tax increase last week, I decided that something had to go for the time being. So I decided to axe my cable bill indefinitely (I pay my taxes every six months. And since they're not in escrow, cash flows are a big deal to me). I'm glad I did.

Tim White

The White Elephant drives food prices

I was watching ABCNews tonight (since I cancelled Cox cable last Friday, I can't watch the cable news) and they had a piece on the cost of food around the globe. It was both interesting and extremely concerning. I think it's fair to say that the piece was placing the blame for the rise in the cost of food largely on energy prices... particularly as crops are now being diverted from feeding people to making biofuels / energy.

This reminded me of the pool and its insatiable energy appetite... and it reminded me of my belief that the pool is a perfect example of how Cheshire could "think globally, act locally." Unfortunately, based on comments during Council meetings... it seems at least one member of the majority believes Cheshire shouldn't sacrifice its "quality of life" (an indoor / outdoor pool) for increased "energy security" (energy conservation).

Anyway... you probably could guess that I'm of the opinion that the Council (and this new bubble committee) have virtually no credibility, when it comes to the pool. Nonetheless, I hope the Council makes a real effort at dealing with the bubble. But to gain the credibility required for taking action... the rhetoric will need to change. And we're going to have to acknowledge that sacrifice (dumping the white elephant) is almost certainly necessary... and we can't simply increase the volume of natural gas fed to the pool, if we want take a responsible approach to directly dealing with the bubble (and indirectly dealing with energy costs and with food prices)... because ultimately, they're all related.

Tim White

NHR on financial software

The NHRs Luther Turmelle wrote this article on the town's financial software.

Tim White

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Personnel to discuss grievances

At last night's Council meeting, during the Committee Reports... Personnel Committee Chairman, Matt Altieri, said that my question about compiling a report on employee grievances by department for the past five years would be addressed at a Personnel Committee meeting later this month:Regarding the "however briefly" comment... it does make me wonder if there'll be much of a discussion. But then... I just want to see a report of numbers of grievances... I don't wish to see any names... so I'm not sure why there's even a meeting. Maybe there's a problem with employee morale and grievances are being filed more often than usual? I don't know. That's why I asked.

As for why it's taking a month and a half to compile this report, I'm at a loss. I figured that the Personnel Director could compile the report pretty easily. And since I presume that a Personnel Director would have little to do with the just-completed-budget... this report should've been done a while ago... I would think. But then I don't know the responsibilities of the Personnel Director... which by the way... did anyone else catch the comment last night by the Finance Director about how she has only one HR person? And since it's not the Personnel Director... what gives? Seems odd that an HR person wouldn't report to the Personnel Director. But again... I don't even know what responsibilities are given to the Personnel Director... well... except for being "Assistant Town Manager." And don't even get me started on that title... that deserves its own post.

Anyway, I am glad that other people seem to agree with me that my request is reasonable. From the WRA to the cartoon in this week's Herald, I think it's fair and necessary for the Council to maintain a basic grasp on employee morale. And whether or not the Council agrees with me... at least other people seem to believe it's a reasonable request.

And finally, I thank Matt Altieri for following up on this.

Tim White

These aren't the droids you're looking for

Energy Commission continues progress on pool

While the Council continues talk, talk, talking about the pool (and yes, I voted for last night's motion... but that's only because I had seen the majority's writing on the wall... "our way or the highway..." so I compromised), the Energy Commission's Dave Gavin continues to make REAL progress on the pool bubble.

I got an email from Dave today. He's in the process of scheduling a pool visit by Sprung, Inc.... one of the "pool building" vendors he identified in the Energy Commission report that was drafted by him.

And FYI... here's a brief comment on another use of Sprung's structures.

Tim White
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison