If I'm unable to find five votes to hold the line on spending and defund the position of Personnel Director / Assistant Town Manager, I have another idea to reign in the spending in the TMs office.
Starting here:I'm thinking that the Council could eliminate two positions:
1) Personnel Director / Assistant Town Manager - $105,000 / year
2) Executive Assistant / Public Information Officer - $66,000 / year + overtime
And create two new positions with:
1) Chief of Staff - $70,000 / year
2) Executive Secretary - $44,000 / year + overtime
That small change would provide a savings of $57,000.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
If I'm unable to find five votes to hold the line on spending and defund the position of Personnel Director / Assistant Town Manager, I have another idea to reign in the spending in the TMs office.
From the NHRs Luther Turmelle:
Replacement of the bridge will require Route 70, a main thoroughfare between Cheshire and Meriden, to be closed for an undetermined amount of time, he said. About 20 residents who live on the eastern side of the brook, near the border with Meriden, would not have direct access to other parts of Cheshire while the bridge was fully shut down, Michelangelo said.
Anyone happen to know where exactly this is? I'm thinking there's a bridge on the way when I take the back roads to the Square... it's right before that retaining wall (that's kinda freaked me out since I was little kid cuz it's so odd-looking... ha!). Is it that bridge? I never really was sure where Cheshire ended and Diamond Hill started. I just figured the river was the border.
Anyone attend the school budget rally tonight? I'm wondering if there were any signs taking specific Council members to task? Also kinda wondering if there were any funny signs?
Regardless of bent, I always appreciate the humorous signs:(source: http://rlv.zcache.com/are_you_drinking_tea_or_kool_aid_card-p137822027664685396q0yk_400.jpg)
more than the straightforward policy view signs.
I wasn't going to post tonight, but I found the irony of this too tempting...
Apparently this is Councilman Ecke's proposed 2010 / 2011 operating budget:And here are his comments reported by the MRJs Jesse Buchanan:
"The Board of Education has taken some real hits in the last couple of years," said Democratic Councilor Michael Ecke.
Anyone else see the irony?
Regardless, it's good to see Mike making a proposal. Now I'm wondering if any member of the unusually large GOP caucus will be offering another alternative proposal? I doubt the Budget Chair would appreciate it. But then, the Budget Chair is not the most fiscally conservative member of the GOP caucus.
This could get interesting.
Personally though, I'm just hoping five Council members agree with me that the responsible course of action is to defund the position of Personnel Director and either increase funding for the schools and / or police... or simply reduce spending.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Here are the highlights of the initial budget proposal brought forward by the Budget Chairman David Schrumm:So for clarity, that's a $160,000 reduction (or non-property-tax revenue increase) to the Town budget and an additional $365,000 reduction to the school budget.
There wasn't much comment from Council members attending tonight's meeting when David passed out the proposal. But the TM did suggest that hitting an even mil rate should include budget changes of $554,000, not $525,000. So to address that difference, I jotted down a few notes that move the Council to the TMs suggested budget change. And at the same time that we save money, we could also strengthen our schools and public safety!
Monday, March 29, 2010
Last October the issues at the CPD became quite public, though regulars here already had an idea that there was trouble brewing. I detailed a 2009 history in this post, but never dug back to 2008.
Lately though there's been a lot of discussion about the CPD issues as a result of the whitewashing of the
consultant fact-finder report and resulting FOI requests*, including:
1) Who knew what? and;
2) When did s/he know it?
To answer those questions, I offer this post to challenge suggestions by staff that these issues only became known in September 2008.
I first began trying to address the issues at the CPD in March 2008. And I did it privately because I felt that was best. But by May 2008, I realized my private efforts were in the fast lane to nowhere. So I began commenting here on TWL.
You can see a comment from me in May 2008 and a comment from me in June 2008. And it was no later than July / August 2008 when I had a very frank discussion with the TM. Unfortunately, I got the all-too-typical response - anger and defiance. The same response that - having seen it numerous times - made me eventually come to the realization that he had created a hostile work environment in Town Hall... a work environment that no one should have to tolerate.
With regard to the hostile work environment, here are some comments from me in August 2009 when I opposed the contract extension of the TM:
As for why the current Council tolerates this misbehavior by Management... I'm not sure. Perhaps you could ask the Council leadership?
* I still have no idea what the Council was thinking when they decided to do this.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Several people have voiced concerns over the years about the cost of overtime consumed by the Town Manager's Office. In relation to those concerns, the TM offered this spreadsheet at a budget meeting to defend the use of OT in his office:He defended the overtime by saying it's been decreasing over the years.
Nonsense. Though true, it's simply a diversionary tactic.
For someone who needs to control every aspect of information* that comes out of Town Hall and for someone who weighs in on every aspect of the budget... does it really make sense to have an hourly employee come to a budget meeting to present the budget for the TM's Office?
It doesn't make any sense. So is it a sincere effort on the part of the TM to reduce overtime in his office?
It's just more wasted money that's being slowly reduced over the years - not due to sincere efforts at cost reductions - but due to public outrage.
Regardless, I don't want to gut the TMO's budget. So I could live with an overtime budget, but stand by my proposal to defund the position of Personnel Director. I think the $103,000-per-year position is not nearly as valuable as a teacher in the classroom and cop on the streets. And the Council needs to set priorities.
But barring my ability to find five votes to defund the position completely, perhaps it could be reduced to 20 hours / week... or maybe there should be a reorganization of the TMs office? I wonder if anyone will speak to this proposal at the public hearing next week?
P.S. - Can't wait to see the comments on this post!
* Anyone notice the Herald editorial mentioning the lack of comment from the PD Chief? Hmmm... wonder why?? Could it be another example of "control the information, control the agenda" ??
In an effort to minimize the impact of the current school budget gap, I suggest the following:
1) the teachers' union again offers the "promissory days" (valued at $491,000)
in exchange for:
2) OPEB funding
As I suggested in the linked post, OPEB funding is supposed to start next year. But as I understand it, there will not be any rigid enforcement. So although Cheshire is slated to begin funding the OPEB account in next year's budget to the tune of $2,000,000 annually... all bets are off because there is no requirement to do it.
Nonetheless, I'd like to begin paying down the Town's long-term liabilities. And since the lion's share of the OPEB fund will be spent on retired teachers, I'm thinking the town could exchange OPEB funding this year for the promissory days. In other words, this would not be a deferment. The teachers' union would exchange promissory days for guaranteed funding for their retirement healthcare benefits.
And since I've already passed along the idea, let's see if the union returns to the table now...
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Not only is Probate Judge Ray Voelker retiring... but Connecticut's Probate Court System is undergoing some serious changes. So there's a lot happening with Cheshire's probate court. More specifically, Cheshire will no longer be part of a Cheshire / Prospect court. Instead, we'll be part of a Cheshire / Southington court.
At the time of these changes, Cheshire resident Matt Jalowiec is running for Probate Judge. Here is Matt in his own words:
I stopped by the Notch this morning and got an earful about the logic of the Marion Road reconfiguration. Then I went for a ride to see it for myself. Unfortunately, I didn't have the benefit of an overhead view. Nonetheless, here are a couple pix of the ongoing work:Of the residents with whom I spoke, they uniformly disagreed with the idea of making the problematic S-curve into (what appears to be) an even more acute S. They thought it should have been straightened with the road reconfiguration beginning at the stop sign at the corner of Huckins - here:Tim White
Labels: public works
Thursday, March 25, 2010
IMO, today's Herald editorial on the CPD situation was spot on. Catching my attention in particular was the end:
it is a blackeye for everyone that the issues were allowed to fester to such a point... If mediation is to continue, new techniques and new individuals must be utilized. But the Town may be at the point where more permanent action is required, whatever that might be. (Cheshire Herald, March 25, 2010)
But do the Cheshire Town Government's problems end with the CPD?
Not as far as I'm concerned.
Let's not forget the Serenity Ranch development slipping thru in the middle of the night to which Councilman Schrumm wrote:
If the leaders of this community are so cowed into silence by a developer's legal tactic, they should quit and perhaps serve the Town in a capacity where courage in the defense of town residents is not needed. Was it really fear of the lawsuit or a convenient favor to the development community, who makes campaign contributions and provide work for real estate attorneys?
And who can forget hotWatergate and the related allegations of corruption? Personally, I don't think there's any corruption. But there was nearly unbelievable incompetence involved.
At what point do we connect the dots and begin to hold people accountable for their actions?
As I wrote back in October 2009:
If reelected, I will continue to push the Council to deal with the Town's failed management.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Cheshire residents are organizing on Facebook to Save Cheshire Public Schools!
I think FB is a great way to organize. I've set up a few groups that I expect will be useful and fun over time. And I love the fact that people are keepin' me honest! Ha! It's great. It's often the activists who make big things happen.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
On Friday I received an email from Town Hall. It included the agenda for last night's Council meeting, including:
3. Executive session re: Town Attorney opinion on Freedom of Information requests for police department issue documents.
Based on my understanding of Monday's discussion, I felt the school meeting would be more important to attend. I figured all that was going to happen at last night's Council meeting was the release of the initial ICMA report... something I tried to make happen from the outset. And by the time last night's meeting rolled around, I thought it was going to be a very straightforward discussion and release of the initial report, perhaps with a few emails.
I was wrong.
As I vaguely mentioned in this October 2009 post on the timeline of the CPD meltdown,* there was a report issued by the Police Union in May 2009. It was not necessarily a factual report - it was opinion - but it did give a good sense of the Police Union concerns.
It also touched on police business that currently falls under a court-ordered gag order. For a sense of where I'm going, see the first line in some breaking news by the NHRs Luther Turmelle:
Criticism of Police Chief Michael Cruess that led up to last October’s no confidence vote against him by the patrolman’s union includes complaints of his handling of the department in aftermath of July 2007 Petit murders, according to information obtained by the New Haven Register.
I wish so much that I was at the executive session last night. As much as I believe in transparency, I also believe in justice. And there must be a reason for a judge's gag order, right?
Regardless, I have one question that I want answered now... before this information was released, did the Judge give authorization to release this information?
Or perhaps more broadly:
1) Who asked what? And
2) When did they ask it?
* see Memorial Day Weekend
Sorry for the fuzzy video, but here's the Teachers' Union Counsel giving some sort of nonsense answer about why the Teachers' Union cannot discuss wages. In my opinion, it was a bunch of hokey bunk.
I'm sure many of you can do a better job than me at dissecting these arguments:
Monday, March 22, 2010
I attended tonight's Teachers' Union / PTA meeting. The Cheshire Teachers' Union President, Beverly Jurkiewicz, explains the union's perspective on the problems with changing the union contract:
The union lawyer also spoke. IMHO, it was a bunch of bunk and legal-ease. If they're opposed to a reduction in the increase in their wages, just say it. All this talk about "risk" in opening a contract was nonsense. Besides, as I understand it the contract does not need to be reopened. A memorandum of understanding is supposed to be a sufficient way of addressing the budget gap.
I also found one particular comment to be honest, yet disingenuous. At one point it was mentioned that 4.4% raise isn't for all teachers. In fact, one teacher is only getting a 1.8% raise. And while I'm sure that's factually true, it also means that someone is getting a 7.0% raise... resulting in the average 4.4% raise.
How many people are getting 7.0% raises this year?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
A reminder that Monday's budget meeting will cover public works, finance & the library. Thursday's meeting will cover Social / Senior Services, Parks & Rec, the pool and Performing & Fine Arts.
And there's a Teacher Union meeting on Monday night. I understand that this is the notice that was sent home to parents via the PTAs:
I agree that it is appropriate for taxpayers to have a sense of the impact of changes to the Super's proposed budget. But it seems a bit ridiculous to state "The Town Council holds your last hope to preserve high-quality education in Cheshire." I mean... seriously?! There's NO other options out there?! Cuz in case they missed it... I could think of at least one other group - besides the Council - that has a role to play in this.
I figure there are about 20,000 adults in Cheshire. I wonder how many got 4.4% raises this year?
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay as long as I wanted... but I had fun last night at David Schrumm's annual Meatball Madness GOP fundraiser. I have no idea how much money was raised, but it sure seemed to me like the best attendance I'd ever seen... and definitely a lot better than just a few years ago.
I thank David and everyone who helped make this happen. I'm confident that everyone who attended had fun... though I'm not sure why we had so many different colored tickets?!
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The Board of Education is considering elaborating on the rules regarding their annual operating budget vote - the pre-Council, not post-Council, vote.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I know that a couple of you enjoy suggesting that my statements about staff are exclusively negative, derogatory, etc. But despite such false claims, I do try to be fair and highlight when I agree with staff actions:
Of course, there are also times when I offer constructive criticism.
Labels: town manager
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Council budget committee met tonight to hear about the police and fire department budgets.
And here is Luther Turmelle's take on BOE Chairman Gerry Brittingham's comments regarding last night budget meeting regarding the education department.
Monday, March 15, 2010
The budget of the Town Manager's office was discussed tonight:The first item that drew attention was a favorite of Anne Giddings - overtime. The defense offered by the TM was that overtime has been reduced from $26,000 three years ago to only $14,000 today. Frankly though, the overtime in the TMO was a lesser concern to me. I had another suggestion tonight for the TMO. I said something along these lines:
In an effort to:
1) minimize taxes and spending; and
2) align tax dollars with services for taxpayers...
What would be the impact if the Council:
1) increased the school budget by $50,000 (or one teacher)
2) increased police overtime by $25,000*
3) reduced overall spending by $30,000
by way of the Council defunding the position of:
Personnel Director / Assistant Town Manager?
The response from staff was puzzling. Two points were made:
1) Ten years ago the former TM spent $50,000 to negotiate the union contracts; and
2) If employee qualifications are a concern, executive session is a better forum for that discussion.
I didn't bother continuing the discussion, but offer a few thoughts here:
1) Union contracts are typically negotiated every three years. So even with additional unions and increases in attorney fees, I still suspect the attorney fees - incurred one of every three years - would be less than the $315,000 for three years of salary for the PD / ATM position; and
2) I didn't mention employee qualifications. I simply asked about the need for the position of PD / ATM. Similarly, I suggested the currently unoccupied position of Assistant Town Planner / Zoning Enforcement Officer also be defunded... at least for six months. Then, if necessary, someone could be hired on January 1, 2011.
I think my suggestion to minimize taxes & spending and to focus tax dollars on services that benefit taxpayers makes sense.
* Several people have told me that last week alone there were two officers who sent out their resumes and were offered police jobs within 24 hours. And does anyone think it'll stop there? I certainly don't. And barring dramatic changes, I expect more officers to do the same with significant increases needed in the overtime budget.
Tonight's budget meeting started with department that usually gets the most interest - education. The discussion covered the usual varied range of topics, but also got into teacher union contract discussions. The proposal to defer some costs to a later date was broached.
Wanting to be on the record, I shared my general philosophy that I don't want to incur additional long-term liabilities. I added that the turf is similar to this teachers' union proposal. I'm just not comfortable with it.
We've already got:
1) Other Postretirement Employment Benefits or OPEB that's estimated to cost about $2million annually or more than $20million over the next ten years;
2) Heart & Hypertension is another few million dollars over the years; and the
3) Pension plan almost certainly will need some big funding... though this won't be measured until June 30 of this year... and we probably won't know those numbers until December.
Anyway, my point is that I don't want to incur any new long-term liabilities. At some point we have to draw the line.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
From the MRJ:
The wastewater treatment plant upgrade will likely be the most expensive project the town has ever undertaken, according to the Town Manager Michael Milone, but Water Pollution Control officials are confident that residents understand the project's necessity.
The project, expected to cost about $30 million, will have to pass a voter referendum.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Here's a great story apparently broken by the NHRs Luther Turmelle:
The suspended head of the town’s police union is being investigated because he used a key he had in his possession to look into the lockers of several other officers, sources told the New Haven Register.
Sources within the department say Lt. Kerry Deegan was never accused of taking anything from the lockers when the incident occurred more than a year ago. Deegan had the key in his possession for several years, having been given it during a previous supervisory assignment, the departmental sources said.
Based on everything I know, I don't question the legitimacy of the suspension and investigation. But assuming there was a significant delay between the incident and the suspension, I'm still wondering about the timing of the suspension. Specifically:
a) Who knew what?
b) And when did they know it?
I also want to know why the TM failed to inform the Council before the suspension was reported by the press?
I was hoping the days of control the information, control the agenda had ended. But I still haven't heard of any consequences for this all-too-typical misbehavior.
Frankly, this situation reminds me of a funny little thought I had several years ago. I'd love it if I had the ability to bring former and current Council members (including me), several town staff and several other prominent town residents before a grand jury... place everyone under oath and let the questioning begin. I think shedding some daylight would work wonders for improving our town.
David Schrumm is going to be having a busy month. Not only is he organizing the 25th annual Meatball Madness GOP fundraiser:
Friday March 19
5:30PM to 7:30PM
but he's also got plenty of budget meetings. The first one is scheduled for this Thursday, March 11th in Town Hall... I'll post the full schedule in the next few days, but I'm going to bed now.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Monday, March 08, 2010
The Cheshire Republican Town Committee met tonight. Top of the agenda was the election of a new Chairman for a two-year term. Adam Grippo was unanimously elected our new Chairman. The MRJs Jesse Buchanan wrote this about tonight's election.
And here's a word from Adam:
And here's Adam being interviewed by the Cheshire press corps:Considering his main role is to help elect Republicans, I believe Adam will do a good job. He's helped me on many campaigns - from making phone calls to acting as a delegate to a convention, holding signs on Election Day or helping hand out
political propaganda campaign literature - and has a good sense of the many moving pieces needed for a winning campaign.
Now he gets to lead.
Unrelated to politics, I've known Adam since our days at Norton School... though I was two years ahead of him in school. The Avon / Long Hill neighborhood was our stomping ground.
Good luck Adam!
Saturday, March 06, 2010
With Cheshire Police Union President Kerry Deegan suspended, the Union's VP Joe Mazzini is speaking on their behalf. The MRJs Jesse Buchanan reports:
Police Lt. and union vice president Joseph Mazzini was displeased with the report, saying it didn't address the concerns that led to last year's no-confidence vote.
"The situation was grossly understated in the report," he said. "This report does nothing; it doesn't address our concerns."
Lt. Mazzini is absolutely correct.
And as the NHRs Luther Turmelle reported, I'm already on the record agreeing with Mazzini:
“To me, it’s a whitewash of the real problems” between the town manager and those people who report to him.
Also disturbing to me is the analysis provided by ICMA that suggests the TM and Personnel Director have done a good job. Absolutely ridiculous. The fact is that they are principals in this investigation who knew about the problems long before they took any action whatsoever.*
To paper over their abject failure in mediating this conflict - as well as their involvement in other PD-related problems - is worse than a whitewashing of this crisis. But what's to be expected here? The TM is a member of ICMA. Therefore, ICMAs independence is impaired. And the TM controls the budget. So did anyone actually expect any sort of criticism of him? Ha!
IMO, the best course of action for the Council to address these problems - along with other problems, such as the DPW - is to stop looking at the symptoms and deal with the root cause.
* In fact, I made sure the TM knew of this problem at least six months before he took any action. But of course, when I mention something of this nature to him he just gets angry, raises his voices, effectively tells me my input is not wanted and ignores me.
If you read this article by the MRJs Jesse Buchanan about the ICMA report on the CPD, you may notice the bipartisan belief that the report includes few, if any, facts.
I voted against wasting this $5,000. Nonetheless, I can't help but wonder how Councilman Schrumm is feeling about his vote to hire this fact-finder.
Did anyone notice the MRJ article that showed a difference between me and my esteemed colleague, Councilman David Schrumm?
I said the TM screwed up bigtime again. In his all-too-typical fashion, the TM chose to not disclose information to the Council. In this case, it was the suspension of the Cheshire Police Union President.
On the other hand, David defended the TM for not bombarding the Council with information.
For those of you who are interested, this is actually part of a much bigger difference between me and David.
My view is that staff should be held accountable. Frankly, I'd prefer doing that in private. But if I can't find the Council support necessary to ensure staff will behave appropriately, then I'll use the bully pulpit to get action.
I think David's worldview is quite different... and frankly, similar to that of the TM. It's a school of thought that believes if your subordinates screw up, then people will think you screwed up. Therefore, you can never acknowledge an error on the part of a subordinate. Unfortunately, this leads to a situation in which people enter denial and start to cover up reality... as is the case with the whitewashing of the problems at the CPD.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Labels: 2010 election
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
The MRJs Jesse Buchanan called me today. I'm guessing his piece will run tomorrow.
With regard to the suspension of the Police Union President, he asked me for my thoughts on The Boss withholding that information from the Council. I tried to be candid. I said something along the lines of "I'm tired of the Washington-style politics: control the information, control the agenda."
And for clarity, I'm not speaking to the cause of the suspension. I'm speaking to the fact that the Council was not advised of the suspension. And I spoke with a number of people today. Everyone with whom I spoke agreed with me 100% that the right thing to do would have been to tell the Council of the suspension. The failure to do so was yet another example of poor judgment.
I certainly hope the Council doesn't stand for this.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
With a number of police, residents and reporters at tonight's meeting, the Council entered executive session by a vote of 6 to 3 (Adinolfi, Ecke, White opposed). The Town Manager, Town Attorney, Labor Attorney, Personnel Director and two ICMA
consultants fact-finders were also invited to join the meeting.
My opinion of the meeting? No comment.
But as I've been saying, the Council has no direct reporting relationship with the Chief or PD staff. Rather, the Council has a relationship with the TM.
Last fall, Cheshire residents voted for change. I recommend the new Council continue voting for change.
Monday, March 01, 2010
The meeting is to occur on the second floor in Town Hall tomorrow night. So I don't expect it to be televised. The more interesting tidbit though is that the Town's failed management continues in their typical fashion of withholding information from the Council.
I understand the Police Union President has been suspended from work with pay.
Call me crazy, but if I were Management I would kinda mention that to the Council. Say... maybe an email? Or maybe that's too complicated?
Oh, oh... wait... I know... after Management sees this blog, then they'll advise the Council that it wasn't mentioned because it is a "personnel issue." But then, Management doesn't read this blog.
Or maybe Management will claim to have "forgotten" to mention the suspension to the Council. I've heard that line before. Reminds me of this classic exchange between Rep. Dan Burton and Ben Bernanke. Scroll to the 3:10 mark and listen for about 20 seconds or so:
I'm so tired of this BS. And so you know, I still don't see any direct reporting relationship between the Council and the Chief... though there is a direct relationship between the Council and the TM. I think that is where the Council needs to begin making changes.