Thursday, September 30, 2010

Obama's healthcare: long-term costs to Cheshire

Here are some of the details provided to the Council on Tuesday night. This sheet provided some details on what healthcare legislation means to Cheshire in 2018:

BOE Chairman Gerry Brittingham asked if the 40% tax kicked in at $0 or was only on a plan above the "Cadillac" cost. The insurance rep wasn't sure. And I'm guessing that members of Congress don't know either.

Tim White

Meccariello's replacement is decided

From the MRJs Jesse Buchanan:

SOUTHINGTON - Democrats nominated former Cheshire Town Council Chairman Matt Hall Wednesday evening to face Republican Matt Jalowiec for the combined probate court judge seat.

Hall, unanimously chosen by delegates from the Cheshire and Southington Democratic town committees, will replace candidate and Southington probate Judge Bryan Meccariello, who dropped out of the race this week.

But to me the problematic part of the story is near the end.

Southington DTC Chairman John Moise said that getting behind one candidate was important for Democrats in both towns and that Southington Democrats were in favor of Hall's nomination. "We didn't want a big battle, not this late in the game," he said.

Meccariello should've dropped out of the race sooner and there should have been a primary.

Tim White

Turf life: 6, 8, 10 or 12 years?

My biggest concern with the turf -- and with all projects -- is spending. I want to know about initial and lifecycle costs. As such, there have been statements made during Council meetings that current turf products typically have eight year warranties, but are used for ten to twelve years.

That sounds reasonable, but I want to parse that statement a bit.

Beside assertions that the turf would definitely last eight to ten years or more, it's been stated that the turf would allow for 300 uses annually, but...

What is a use?

I distinctly recall a "use" being defined at a Council meeting a few years ago and a use is not a day. Rather...

1 use = 2 hours

So the Relay for Life is 12 uses. And how many uses is each game? 1 use or 2 uses? How about practice after school? If practice lasts for four hours, then that's two uses.

My point is this... I'm guessing that if the turf is installed, the school's AD will come under immense pressure to use the field more than the 300 uses. And if the life is ten years, but it gets 400 uses annually... does the field last only 7.5 years? Is the 8 year warranty invalidated due to excessive use?

Considering we'd be taking on a known long-term liability, I hope the BOE gets details on this.

Tim White

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

End-of-quarter reporting: Sam Caligiuri

Sam Caligiuri is pounding the pavement and raising money. If you'd like to help Sam's campaign financially, click here. He needs to boost those all-important end-of-quarter reporting numbers. I support Sam 100%... though I'm far from enthused about Washington Republicans.

There are relatively few federal elected officials I like. By far my favorite is described here by Southern Avenger... I think he does a pretty good job explaining why Ron Paul is right and much of my own national party is lacking credibility:

Tim White

Foley / Malloy: NR on slush fund means I go deep

On September 14, I emailed and called the campaigns of both Tom Foley and Dan Malloy. I asked them a simple question. As a voter, I want to know if they support the existence of Mary Fritz' slush fund:

Unfortunately, despite calling and emailing the two camps since September 14, I haven't heard anything. So I decided to escalate the issue.

Since I quoted a WRA editorial when I posed my question, I've called the WRA editor and reminded him about his 2008 editorial. My hope is that he'll do an editorial and get this issue back in front of the voters.

Considering that Tom Foley is apparently running on a fiscally conservative message... and Dan Malloy is apparently running on a good government message... I see no valid reason why they would support the existence of the slush funds.

Yet they remain silent.

Maybe I'll try Dennis House? He's probably moderating the CBS Gubernatorial debate.

Tim White

Planning Committee agenda -- 7:30pm, Sept 29

The 20th Council took office last December. At that time I realized that the pool and the operating budget were going to occupy most of the Council's time through the May / June timeframe. Then summer vacations and the capital budget occupied July & August. But September is here and the Planning Committee has a full plate:

1. Roll Call

2. Pledge of Allegiance.

3. Sidewalk repair planning.

4. Pavement management review.

5. Rosemary Lane project.

6. Potential school gas line hook-ups.

7. Drainage issues at Cheshire High School boys’ locker room.

8. Boulder Knoll pond.

9. Potential cell tower at Waste Water Treatment Plant.

10. Linear Park extension.

11. Adjournment.

Most interesting to me is the first discussion item on the agenda: sidewalks. This relates directly to one of my good government efforts in the former Council. Back in August 2008 and since then, I've suggested:

using staff's recommendations, the Council should vote to establish the criteria used in prioritizing improvements to roads (along with sidewalks, curbs and perhaps tree trimming)... then the Council should set the budget (subject to voter approval at referendum) and there should be no deviation from those lists unless there is an emergency.

This idea has taken on new importance this month. It's not only about making government work, it's about appropriately using the $200,000 sidewalk fund created by the Council in the capital budget last month. Do we know how and where that money be spent?

Another item of great interest to me is Rosemary Lane. Why did we repave the road in 2008, then install dry wells in 2010? You can see some of my recent posts here, here and here.

And another item of particular interest that I've been following is Cheshire's increased natural gas capacity, including for schools and households.

I thank the Planning Committee Chairman, Jimmy Sima, for placing all of this on the agenda.

As for why the Council is discussing the linear trail... got me. I have no idea. I know one Councilman who loves it, but as far as I'm concerned, the 2010 vote on the pool and especially the 2005 vote on the linear trail should have sent a very clear message to the Council. And frankly, in looking at recent trends in referenda results, I'm wondering if the voters will view this November's track referendum as a school project or a recreation project? We'll see in another month....

Tim White

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jimmy Sima questions Rosemary Lane work

Two years ago the Town repaved Rosemary Lane. At that time I knew this project was a problem. But I wasn't sure how to best address the poor planning, particularly since the former Council majority had no interest in holding staff accountable.

Fast forward to this summer and I got more vocal as the problems related to Rosemary Lane became quite visible. Though I mentioned the problems a year ago during the TMs annual review, it was this summer that anyone could see the poor planning that led to storm drains being installed two years after Rosemary was repaved.

The Town is lucky though. While the Council's Planning Committee Chairman, Jimmy Sima, is very fair and even-handed... he's also willing to investigate areas of concern. And now that the Rosemary repaving work is largely complete......Jimmy has begun asking questions and placed Rosemary Lane on the agenda for Wednesday's Planning Committee meeting:

If you believe that a legislative body should hold an administration accountable, then you got a big win last November when you voted for Jimmy Sima. Jimmy may "speak softly," but he "carries a big stick." And as long as he has a seat at the dais, you should know that you've got someone in Town Hall who believes in -- and fights for -- good government.

Tim White

Monday, September 27, 2010

Grippo gets his wish: Meccariello quits

Cheshire Republican Town Committee Chairman Adam Grippo made a wish last week. And now the WRA reports that Probate Judge Bryan Meccariello quit the probate race!

Hooray for the people of the 18th Probate District! Everyone wins!

As for how this plays out in election terms, I'm not sure.

I presume the Democratic convention for the 18th district had a vacancy committee. And that vacancy committee would normally search for someone to fill the slot. But we're getting close to election time. I understand that absentee ballots are already printed and some have been distributed. Hmmm....

This is by far the most intriguing local race I recall in my 37 years in Cheshire... though I've been told the race for the 1st Town Council* in 1971 was fascinating... with the Election Day results showing 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans on the Council... and The Fightin' Fourth District having an actual tie... ha! Now that would be fun....

Anyway, good luck Matt!

Tim White

* Currently we're in the 20th Council.

Jimmy Sima to discuss NG pipelines for schools

For the past year, I've been covering the expansion of natural gas pipelines in Cheshire. I started in September 2009 here and here, mentioned it again in December 2009 and continued in February 2010 here and here. But at this point, we're finally seeing the town government discuss the potential value of the increased NG capacity.

In August of this year, the BOE began talk of using NG to heat Norton and Doolittle. And in September (see here, here and here) I began to understand and explain some of the details of how households could take advantage of the new Yankee Gas pipelines. But a central part of the Council and BOE natural gas discussions begins on Wednesday.

The Planning Committee's Chairman, Jimmy Sima, has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday night @ 7:30pm. The natural gas pipeline extensions to the schools are on the agenda.

If you live on North Brooksvale -- or on any Route 10 / Route 42 feeder roads that may get paved in the next few years -- you may want to attend. It would reinforce the idea with Town staff that residents are interested in NG as a heating source. And it would remind them that if they pave any of the feeder roads in the near future, they should be mindful of the possibility of working with Yankee Gas to provide people with another home heating energy option.

Tim White

Al Adinolfi campaign update; Jalowiec fundraiser

Al Adinolfi's Facebook fan page hasn't gotten 100 fans yet, but he is up to 55. Please consider joining it.

I spoke with Al at last week's RTC meeting. I asked him how the campaign was progressing:

And in other campaign news, the honest and competent candidate for Probate Judge -- Matt Jalowiec -- had a hugely successful event this Saturday. While at the event, I probably saw at least 100 guests. Here's a few of them:Tim White

The price of natural gas vs. the price of oil

If you heat your home with oil, then you may want to consider converting to natural gas. Click here to see a ten year history of the prices of the two different fuels.

Yesterday I began detailing the areas of town that may soon benefit from a natural gas option.

Tim White

I haven't confirmed the accuracy of the chart, but it is in line with what I know to be true... that the price of NG tends to mirror the price of oil... but is less expensive than oil in a fairly consistent manner.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Natural gas for households may be available soon

At the September 14 Council meeting, the TM commented on the Yankee Gas pipeline installation. I then commented:

Since Sept 14 I've gotten some additional information.

There are two likely extensions, one to Doolittle and one to Norton. The Doolittle extension is a bit complicated for a number of reasons. And at this point, there's no good reason to believe that households would be able to connect. But the Norton School extension is a different story.

With the regulator being installed at the Episcopal Church, the gas line headed south is appropriate for household hookups. And if the gas line is extended down North Brooksvale to Norton School, that pipeline would also be appropriate for household hookups.

And household hookups potentially have no initial cost. Instead, if the DPUC-regulated numbers make sense, a household may get the hookup free-of-charge... with Yankee Gas locking your house into a 15 year natural gas purchase agreement. This agreement would be for heat, not just stoves.

But that only benefits houses located directly on Route 42 and Route 10. In order to ensure the Town is working to provide a quality standard of living in Cheshire, I asked a few more questions.

One of Yankee's main cost considerations is cutting & repaving road. But if the town is repaving a road, there may be an opportunity for Yankee and the Town to work together to make NG available to other households.

I'm not sure which Route 42 feeder roads will be paved in the next year or two, but Broadview, Long Hill and Farmington Drive all come to mind as possibilities. So if you live in the area and your road has not yet been paved, you may want to learn more about this. And while I've got the Norton extension on my mind, I presume this collaborative effort could work on any Route 10 feeder roads that are south of the Episcopal Church.

Tim White

Wall Street's alchemy: lead to gold

There's some good news for people who oppose the decades-long love affair between The White House and Wall Street. HuffPo's Shahien Nasiripour reports:

During a little-noticed hearing this week in Sacramento, Calif., a firm hired by Wall Street to analyze mortgages given to borrowers with poor credit, which were then packaged and sold to investors during the boom years, revealed that as much as 28 percent of those loans failed to meet basic underwriting standards -- and Wall Street knew all along.

Worse, when the firm flagged those loans for potential issues, Wall Street banks ignored its recommendation nearly half the time and likely purchased those loans anyway -- selling them to unwitting investors who were never told that the biggest home loan due diligence firm in the country had found potential defects in these mortgages.

The revelations give a better picture of what many have likely known for years: Wall Street firms knew they were buying lead yet passed it off as gold to investors who had no knowledge of the alchemy behind the scenes.

There is a shortcoming here though. While Wall Street may finally take a hit for their wrongs, the Clinton / Bush / Obama / Greenspan / Bernanke / Paulson / Rubin / Geithner team will remain in power. That's unfortunate for working class America as they continue to abate Wall Street through a number of means, including the "quantitative easing" that steal our money everyday.

I can't wait for next spring. I'm guessing that my guy, Ron Paul, will again run for POTUS. Hopefully he'll get a real chance to discuss monetary and banking policy in depth this time.

Tim White

A Royal invitation for CHS

From the MRJs Kimberly Primicerio:

Seventy-four Cheshire High School students dressed in their red and black marching band uniforms piled into the school auditorium Tuesday afternoon to perform for some special guests from across the Atlantic.

On behalf of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Deputy Lord Lt. Roger Bramble and Robert Born of Youth Music of the World were at the high school to formally invite the band to play in the New Year's Day Parade and Festival in London in 2012.

Congratulations! A wonderful honor.

Tim White

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Grippo calls for Meccariello to leave Probate race

The MRJs Jesse Buchanan is reporting that the Cheshire Republican Town Committee Chairman, Adam Grippo, has called for sitting Probate Judge Bryan Meccariello to leave the Probate race:

Republicans have called for Southington Probate Judge Bryan Meccariello to drop out of the probate court race following his censure by the State Council on Probate Judicial Conduct.

Meccariello's absence would leave Republican Matt Jalowiec the only candidate for the Southington-Cheshire Probate Judge seat.

I agree with Adam. But the MRJ continues by noting that Jalowiec would then be uncontested in the race. I'm not so sure about that. Typically, the selection process for political candidates begins at a convention. And such groups typically have an internal committee -- a Vacancy Committee -- that fill candidate vacancies that occur after a primary, but before election ballots are printed.

I believe one very notable, recent use of a vacancy committee was when US Senator Bob Torricelli (D-NJ) quit his race in October because he was down in the polls and former Senator Frank Lautenberg wanted to return to the US Senate. Another instance when a vacancy committee may have been used was following the death of Paul Wellstone (D-MN). I seem to recall Walter Mondale running in Wellstone's place and Norm Coleman winning the seat.

Anyway, I'm uncertain of Probate race rules. But I'm guessing that even if Meccariello walked away, there'd still be a Dem on the ballot.

Tim White

Friday, September 24, 2010

Council meeting agenda -- September 28

The agenda for Tuesday's Council meeting:

1. Roll Call.
2. Pledge of Allegiance.
3. Presentation of Youth Risky Behavior Survey results and video.
4. Health Care Reform overview.
5. Cheshire Public Schools Administrative Personnel bargaining agreement.
6. Approval of minutes of August 24, 2010 Special Meeting.
7. Adjournment.

My understanding is that the discussion regarding the rollout of President Obama's health care plan will be significant.

Tim White

The lame duck Council's turf vote: does it matter?

I'm sure many of you have seen the recent Heralds, including a new talking point for turf:

The Council voted for the "50% goal." Now the Council is moving the goal line!

That's a factual statement, but also a serious distortion of reality.

Perhaps a more honest and complete talking point would be:

Last November's Lame Duck Council voted for the "50% goal." Now -- of the current nine Council members, including one elected Council member who voted for the "50% goal" -- the new Council is moving the goal line!

Seriously, this is ridiculous. I hope somebody submits an LTTE and reminds people that the November 2009 Council vote included only one elected Council member among the nine current Council members.

Don't get me wrong though. I respect the fact that people are raising money. And I understand the concerns that Councils have not historically asked for replacement funding -- look at the playground at Bartlem -- but for me The Bailout changed everything. And I do think the current Council has a legitimate -- though short -- record on considering long-term, lifecycle costs. We did it with the pool structure. And I hope we continue to do that, particularly with the more visible, larger ticket items.

I think the turf would be really nice. But I also think it's going to drive up long-term costs for taxpayers. And I still need to hear a convincing argument addressing those costs, if I'm going to support the turf.

Tim White

Malloy on binding arbitration

Dan Malloy is trying to shore up his support within the Teachers' Union. Raising Hale's Zachary Janowski reports:

Democratic candidate for governor Dan Malloy made a pitch to 3,000 teachers Wednesday night.... “If you want a governor who understands that binding arbitration is the hallmark of quality education in Connecticut,” Malloy said. “I am not going to change your right to binding arbitration.”

He also mentioned that binding arbitration avoids strikes. I agree that is important. But I also think Cheshire's 4.4% annual raises are too much right now... and somebody needs to address that. There is a middle ground with ideas I've suggested, such as eliminating the "date certain" for completion of contract negotiations... or perhaps allowing teachers to take a smaller raise, but a bigger contribution to their retirement plan... funded by way of avoiding the federal income tax.

Bottom line though is that binding arbitration for teachers should change. No other municipal or state unions have the same beneficial rules that are provided to teachers.

As for Mr. Foley's view on binding arbitration, I'm not sure where he stands.

And with regard to my question about Mssrs. Malloy and Foley supporting the continuation of Mary Fritz' beloved $36,000,000 slush fund, I still haven't heard anything from Dan or from Tom Foley.

Tim White

Probate Judge Meccariello: untruthful or incompetent?

Continued from a previous post on Ken Byron's Courant article:

Meccariello was accused of disinheriting Smoron's designated heir — caretaker Sam Manzo — and giving her estate to three local churches, which in turn planned to sell her Southington dairy farm to a developer who wants to build an $18 million sports complex on the property.

In its report, the Council On Probate Judicial Conduct said Meccariello failed to meet the standards of conduct for probate judges and condemned his actions in harsh language.

"There is no justifiable reason why a judge of probate, knowing of a pre-existing will which documents the ward's testamentary intent, should approve the creation of a trust that vitiates the purpose and language of the will," the council said in its decision.

I intend to vote for a someone who will be a truthful and competent judge: Matt Jalowiec.

If you want to support Matt, he's having a fundraiser this Saturday:Tim White

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Completing the Rte 42 / Towpath / Higgins / linear trail loop

A year or two ago, I had some residents on Towpath ask me about extending the Higgins Road sidewalk from Towpath to the linear trail. There was a relatively short section at the corner of Higgins and Towpath that had no sidewalk and was a relatively narrow section of Higgins. It was a fairly dangerous area to walk, particularly with strollers, etc.

I've penciled in the area here:This image also shows you the South Main Street / Higgins Road / North Brooksvale Road / Ward Lane area that -- with a sidewalk added at the corner of Towpath -- would have a sidewalk on at least one side of each street with a short exception on Ward Lane.

And now Public Works is constructing this stretch of sidewalk to complete the North Brooksvale / Towpath / Higgins / linear trail loop:I know this took some time and effort on the part of the Town Manager and his DPW team. I thank them for their efforts on this. I know the residents appreciate it.

Tim White

Regional taxation: The TM may get his wish

Back in April I questioned the TMs use of his office to advocate a regional sales tax. Immediately following my comments, Council Chairman Slocum echoed my concerns.

I appreciated Chairman Slocum's support, but now we see the TMs words coming home to roost. The CT Mirror's Keith Phaneuf reports:

With the potential for deep municipal aid cuts looming less than 10 months away, Connecticut municipalities' longstanding cry for a new alternative to the property tax could be answered next year at the Capitol.

For the full story, click here. No doubt about it though... in using his title as TM, Cheshire now faces an increased likelihood that we'll see regional taxes. Taxes that will likely offer benefits to residents that'll be pennies on the dollar.

Taking this into consideration, the Council has not yet voted to extend the TMs contract. I hope that my fellow Council members will remember how he used his office when we vote... and let's not kid ourselves. This behaving as if an unelected TM is an elected Mayor will continue until it is made crystal clear that a TM is not elected and such advocacy will not be tolerated.

Tim White

Meccariello committed a "grave injustice"

From the Courant's Ken Byron:

Southington Probate Judge Bryan Meccariello has been censured by a state probate council for his handling of the estate of Josephine Smoron, an elderly woman who wanted to leave her estate to her longtime caretaker.

The Council On Probate Judicial Conduct, which released a report Tuesday in a months-long investigation into a complaint against Meccariello, said the probate judge committed a "grave injustice."

I'm voting for Matt Jalowiec on November 2.

Tim White

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The DPW "to do" list should be made public

I've been on the Council for seven years now. One thing I have yet to fully understand is why I make requests of the DPW -- and get agreement to perform the work -- then months later some work is not yet done, while some work is done the following day. And I'm not talking about a major project vs. fixing a pothole.

I'm saying that the responses from the DPW seem haphazard. It's almost as if the DPW doesn't maintain an ongoing "to do" list... not a list for every request that is made, but just a list for every request that is made for which the DPW has agreed to act.

But I must be wrong, right? The DPW must keep an ongoing to do list of all work that is to be performed, right?

Assuming I'm wrong and such a list exists, I've asked the TM to make public the list.

I asked him at last week's Council meeting:Since such a list must exist, I figured I would've gotten a copy of it by now. But I haven't.


For the time being, I figured a scratchpad would suffice. But going forward, this may be something that should be institutionalized. Perhaps we even set up some sort of website database that allows residents to report problems, including:

1) street address;

2) phone number / email / best contact;

3) description of problem and maybe even an option for photo attachments to expedite the process.

Then residents could track the followup, such as:

1) whether the DPW takes ownership of the issue; and if so

2) an estimated completion date, etc.

This would probably lead to better customer service. And it would certainly lead to greater comfort that issues are getting a closure. And with the DPWs closure... if a resident did not get a satisfactory response, then s/he could begin to escalate the issue to the TM and eventually to the Council. Barring a satisfactory response by the Council, the resident has the voting booth.

But without a clear response / action from the DPW, it leaves people wondering what's happening. That's not good government. And it's not acceptable.

Tim White

P.S. -- This request is different from my years old request for the DPW to provide the Council with the criteria they use in prioritizing the use of funds in constructing / maintaining sidewalks, roads, curbs, etc... as well as the list of projects after the funds have been prioritized.

Foley / Malloy: a big NR on the discretionary funds

A week ago I sent an email to the two major party candidates for CT Governor -- Dan Malloy and Tom Foley. I asked them if they supported the continued existence of the annual $36,000,000 slush fund discretionary fund that's controlled by the:

1) Governor -- $12,000,000;
2) Speaker of the House -- $12,000,000; and
3) Senate President -- $12,000,000.

Yesterday I reached out to both camps for the second time. I got a response from the Foley camp. They acknowledged my question, but have not yet provided an answer. But I've only gotten crickets from Dan Malloy.

Obviously Foley's response is inadequate, but Malloy's is even worse.

This past summer I spoke highly of Dan Malloy here, here and here. But he hasn't even responded to my legitimate question, let alone answered it.

I certainly hope both candidates find this to be a simple, if relatively small, way to begin addressing the state budget deficit / state debt.

Tim White

Some CPD updates, including promotions!

With the CPD retirements of Captain Ren Marchand and Lieutenant Kerry Deegan, other officers are taking on new roles and climbing the ladder. The NHRs Luther Turmelle reports on the various moves, including the highest promotion in rank:

(Lieutenant Jay) Markella, who is currently the department’s public information officer, will be promoted to captain and will head the detective division.

Among the other moves... Brian Pichnarcik, a regular follower of local government, is being promoted from Sargeant to Lieutenant... as is Chris Cote. And Councilman Ecke's brother, Mark, is being promoted to Sergeant.

I congratulate all the officers on their promotions and new job roles!

As for what's happening in the search for a new Chief, I have no updates. The search is ongoing.

And with regard to the other big reason for why the CPD is in the news, I support the department 100%. And frankly, it seems unfathomable the charges they're facing. I just hope the trials end soon and the two predators receive capital punishment. Not many people are more deserving than those two.

Tim White

Monday, September 20, 2010

My dad supports Richard Abbate & other bits...

My dad submitted this LTTE...

Dear Editor:

I support Richard Abbate for State Representative from the 90th District. His opponent is Mary Fritz, who has held the seat for more than two decades.

Connecticut is in deep economic trouble. The blame for that belongs to the Democrat majority which has controlled the General Assembly for years. Although Mary’s voting record is more moderate than the ultraliberal Dems who have spent Connecticut into the disaster zone, her continued presence in Hartford empowers them to continue their suicidal fiscal policies. For the sake of rescuing Connecticut from bankruptcy, she and her big spender colleagues must go.

I've known Richard for nearly two decades. He served Cheshire as Republican Registrar of Voters for ten years. For four years he was President of the statewide 700-member Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut. He did an excellent job and received overwhelming support from the members of that organization, both Democrats and Republicans, in his race for Secretary of the State in 2006.

Now Richard wants to help restore sanity to Connecticut’s General Assembly. He is politically experienced but not a career politician. If elected, he has promised to serve no more than two terms as State Representative. He believes firmly that those who hold political office should not make it a career, and should remember they are representatives of the people, not superior to them.

It’s time to elect someone who is willing to stand tough against big spending and big government. Let’s vote Richard Abbate in as State Representative.

John White

From my perspective, Rep. Fritz embodies what is wrong with Hartford. She very much deserves to be fired in November. And here's one example of why she has earned her dismissal... in November 2009, she claimed the $525,000 for turf didn't come from an annual $36,000,000 slush fund:

(For a complete video and context, click here.)

Yet in August 2008, the WRA laid plain the reality of Hartford's annual $36,000,000 slush fund.

While Rep. Fritz probably deserves an Oscar for "Best straight face while making nonsensical claims," she simultaneously deserves The Boot from the voters.

And in other state legislative races, Al Adinolfi has created an FB page: Adinolfi 2010. If I understand it correctly, it's a fan page of sorts... not a personal page. As a fan page... if it gets 100 people who "like" it, then he can "promote" it. But I really dunno what that means. I just know that I've had other friends ask me to "like" something or other... so that they have access to additional FB features. Elizabeth already has 159 people who "like" her page, Kathy Brown has 359 people, Matt Jalowiec has 210 and Tom Gaffey has 57. Len Suzio has a Facebook page for his State Senate campaign, but it's a "friend" page, not a "fan" page. And I'm not sure if any other state-based candidates have a "fan" page for their campaigns.

Tim White

Rosemary Lane: TM on installing dry wells AFTER paving

Last week I mentioned the dry wells that were just installed on Rosemary Lane. Now here's some video of the TM responding to the concerns I raised regarding the paving of Rosemary in 2008 and the installation of dry wells, including road cuts, in 2010:

Listening to his response again, I continue wondering if there was proper engineering involved in the planning of this work.

FWIW, there are real drainage problems in this area of town. I think the town is responsible for some of the drainage problems and therefore should bear the burden of dealing with the related flooding. But I also think the town should plan properly for addressing the flooding problems.

Tim White

Democratic infighting -- who will win?

Many of you were probably aware of the Democratic effort to reform the D.C. school system. Given credit for the reform was the district's Superintendent, Michelle Rhee. But in Washington, the Sptd reports to the Mayor. And incumbent Mayor Fenty lost his Dem primary last week. Politico's Ben Smith explains:

The American Federation of Teachers spent heavily to unseat Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and to put the brakes on his aggressive efforts to shake up the city's schools system.

I'm sure there were other issues related to his loss. But the Teachers' Union certainly sent a message to Dem officeholders last week.

Michael Barone further explains that this Democratic infighting is not unlike the GOPs current Tea Party vs. The Establishment fight... and that the Unions vs. Gentry Liberals extends beyond Washington D.C.

Gentry liberals and public employee unions were allies in the Obama campaign in 2008. But now they're in a civil war, in city and state politics. This raises the question of whether the Democratic Party favors public employee unions that want more money and less accountability, or gentry liberals and others who care about the quality of public services. Right now, the unions are winning.

Unions should to be treated fairly. But if we bring this home to Cheshire, I find it hard to believe that any union getting nearly 5% annual wage increases -- in this economy -- is going to be getting widespread support from the taxpayers. But then, I'm not even sure the 4.4% will be the focus of taxpayer outrage in another week.

Next Tuesday, the Council will be meeting to discuss employee benefit plans... plans that range in cost from $12,000 for individuals to more than $20,000 for some family plans. It is likely our plans would get hit with 15% cost increases each of the next two years... and soon be required to pay President Obama's 40% fee tax on "Cadillac Plans."

Tim White

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Natural gas update & pipeline extension synergies

Back in February I began publicly discussing the possibility of
Cheshire households taking advantage of natural gas as an energy option.

At last week's Council meeting, we got an update from the TM on the natural gas pipelines being constructed from Wallingford to Waterbury through Cheshire. The TM noted the possibility of residents and businesses hooking up to the NG pipelines that pass their property. It may be possible for some to fight their oil consumption by using NG as soon as November 2010.Since there are residents beyond the main pipelines of Routes 10, 68 & 70 who are interested in using NG, I'm hoping the Council remains cognizant of this. There may be synergies found in extending NG pipeline at the same time that roads are excavated for other reasons, such as sewers, water and underground electric lines.

Tim White

Saturday, September 18, 2010

BOE tables turf

The MRJs Jesse Buchanan reports on the BOEs turf vote:

Some Board of Education members still have unanswered questions about the Cheshire High School artificial turf project and a motion to forward it to the Town Council was tabled Thursday.

Remaining questions, such as how the field's replacement will be funded, will be discussed at an upcoming board planning committee meeting.

"There were more questions than answers," said board member Tony Perugini of the turf project.

Thank you Tony for asking questions.

Tim White

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Getting the Town Gov't Channel on AT&T U-Verse

I recall advocating that the Town Government Channel be offered on AT&T U-Verse at least a year ago. But I'm not finding any mention on TWL farther back than January of this year, which you can see here. Regardless, at Tuesday's Council meeting the Town Manager informed the Council that AT&T U-Verse may begin offering the Town Government Channel by the time the holiday season arrives.

That's great news because I've heard from a number of people in town who have U-Verse, but still want to see the Town Government Channel.I thank Town Manager Michael Milone and his staff for their efforts.

Tim White

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Storm drains on Rosemary Lane

As I previously mentioned, I was more-than-annoyed with the road work done on Rosemary Lane two years ago. But when the Council voted on the TMs contract last year, I mentioned it only briefly and explained that it was part of a larger pattern. Anyway, there was a reason that I revisited this issue at this time.

To put the kindest face on this possible, your tax dollars are -- at minimum -- being spent haphazardly.

Two years ago Rosemary Lane got repaved. Yet I took these photos only a few weeks ago:

At last night's Council meeting I asked the TM for details regarding the installation of these necessary storm drains after the road was constructed.

I intend to post that video in the next week or so. In the meantime, I offer that I didn't find the answer adequate... nor did Jimmy Sima seem to find it adequate. He thankfully placed this on the Planning Committee's agenda... since there clearly was not adequate planning on this project.

Tim White

Why switch from DB to DC pension plans?

For years I've been urging the Council to move from Defined Benefit Pension Plans (DB) to Defined Contribution Pension Plans (DC). I've been blogging about it for four years, but have been advocating it even longer.

I intend to post a few times about the DB / DC conversion in the near future, so I want to revisit my reasons for advocating this.

Despite assertions by many elected officials and candidates for office, I do not believe that this would necessarily save any tax dollars. Rather, the issue is risk:

Who bears the risk?

My preference is for both the upside and downside risk to be carried by the employee as the ee will have a better understanding of his / her future goals. Additionally, DB plans allow government to act irresponsibly by underfunding pensions today and saying the underfunding will be addressed at an unspecified time in the future... in other words... kick the can down the road. And though Cheshire has acted responsibly, elections occur every two years. So I simply want to eliminate the potential mischief that lies past every election.

Furthermore, a basic rule in accounting is the "matching" principle. An organization should match revenue with expenses. IMO DB plans do not strictly adhere to this principle because services (i.e. expenses) today may be funded (i.e. tax revenues) tomorrow. On the other hand, DC plans do not permit this. They would match taxes with services and require elected officials to address the tax question today, not tomorrow.

I think it is important to note that the town has six employee groups: five unions and other non-union employees. Of these six groups, one union and the non-union employees only offer DC plans to new hires.

During the ongoing union negotiations,* I hope to move the three open contracts to DC plans for new hires.

Tim White

* Three contracts are still being negotiated for the July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2012 contract period.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bush-On-Steroids is back in the news

President Bush-On-Steroids -- a.k.a. Barack Obama -- is back in the news. Ignoring his previous claims that waterboarding of foreigners was torture and shouldn't occur, President Obama is up to his old tricks!

Back in May, CBS reported on President Obama's "kill list." And now Emptywheel at Firedoglake is reporting that President Obama has his DOJ working to ensure that the American citizen on his "kill list" has no legal protection if he returns to the USA.

I said it then and I say it now: Waterboarding of foreigners shouldn't occur. But the assassination of American citizens??

Where exactly does He draw the line??

This is one very good reason to hand Mr. Issa the gavel for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Clearly Nancy Pelosi isn't too concerned about the assassination of American citizens.

Tim White

Foley / Malloy: Will "discretionary funds" survive?

Many of you are aware of my distaste for the slush funds discretionary funds in the state budget. The Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate President each get a $12 million slush fund discretionary fund annually for a total of $36,000,000 that can be distributed without a vote by the legislature.

This practice should end. It should end not only because of our huge budget deficit, but also because it embodies bad government.

Now bringing this Hartford issue back to Cheshire... it was former Speaker Amann's fund that provided the $525,000 turf grant. Recognizing that fact -- but not because of it -- I contacted both the Foley and Malloy campaigns and asked them for their thoughts on these so-called discretionary funds:

Dear Mssrs. Foley and Malloy,

The August 3, 2008 editorial in the Waterbury Republican American clearly explains the existence of an annual $36,000,000 discretionary fund in the state budget. You can find
the editorial here

Do you support or oppose the existence (continuance) of these discretionary funds?

Furthermore, while the Bond Commission has already voted in favor of discretionary funds over the past few years, not all of these discretionary funds have actually been spent. In relation to balancing the state budget, do you support or oppose a “clawback” of unexpended discretionary funds? (This question is related to both the $10m x 3 people that goes through the Bond Commission and the $2m x 3 people that does not go through the Bond Commission.)

Tim White

I haven't gotten a response yet from either camp, but hope to get responses soon. When I hear from them, I'll post their responses.* By the way, I'm thinking that this may be an appropriate question for all the state legislative candidates as well.

Tim White

* I called both camps and told them that I intend to post their responses on TWL.

The 2010 CT Gubernatorial debate schedule

At the race for Governor unfolds, I couldn't find the Foley / Malloy debate schedule online. As such, I called each camp and they confirmed their attendance at four televised debates:

October 5 - Hartford, Courant/Fox61

October 13 - New London, The Day/WTNH-Channel 8

October 19 - Rocky Hill, Channel 3 / NPR

October 26 - West Hartford, NBC30

In addition to the four televised debates, the Malloy camp said they had agreed to 15 debates / forums that had been proposed by independent organizations. And the Foley camp said they had agreed to seven debates / forums. Personally, I'd prefer to have more tete-a-tete discussion, but there will still be plenty of interaction between the two major party candidates.

And in other 2010 election debate news, Sam Caligiuri has requested that Chris Murphy debate him 41 times -- one debate in each CT-5 town. I find it highly unlikely that Murphy will agree to 41 debates. But elections should be a debate of ideas. And the more the candidates share their thoughts, the better.

Tim White

More history of referenda results -- blank votes

I previously posted all referenda results from 2002 to 2010. Now here's another look at the results. Below is a brief analysis of the "blank votes" cast on each referenda. I define a "blank vote" as any issue or candidate race for which a voter was in the booth, but chose to abstain from voting on that issue or candidate race.

Here you can see the percentage of blank votes for each referenda:The most obvious conclusion I draw from these results is that when we changed to the new ballot in 2007, more people began voting on the referenda. My guess is that many people probably didn't notice the referenda in the old voting booths. But there is another trend I'm seeing.

Without doing any detailed review, it seems to me that the referenda with the least support -- i.e. 2008 Mixville pump station, 2009 school energy improvements -- also seem to have the most blank votes in their respective years.

Tim White

Monday, September 13, 2010

Third World America: The crossroads of CT & Haiti

Due to a combination of factors, including the current state of the economy and the failed economic policies of Bush / Obama / Bernanke / Greenspan et al... The Huffington Post has begun a new series called Third World America.

Having just visited Haiti and walked around a school:I learned that it is not uncommon for 1st thru 9th grade classes to have up to 60 or 70 kids in a class. But I also learned that the government is pushing a new mandate to prohibit classes exceeding 45 students per classroom.

And while that may sound like little more than some random cocktail party trivia, it reminded me of a recent comment from Congressman Chris Murphy regarding the $26 billion teachers' job bill:

"I've got cities in my district about to lay off 135 teachers-New Britain, for example-and class sizes could balloon to 40 kids per class," Murphy said

I don't think the phrase Third World America is so far from the truth. And I hope that We the People demand real answers from our elected officials this November. Hope'n'change is nonsense. We need our elected officials to debate the merits of fiat money vs. sound money ... fractional reserve banking vs. full reserve banking ... and the existence of a central bank... among the range of economic policies that must be discussed if America is to avoid Third World status... or at least avert a prolonged stay there.

Tim White

A few more pix from my Haiti trip

A few more images of my trip to Haiti...

Here's the 18-seater I took from PAP to Jeremie... not the smallest plane I've ever taken, but the small ones on dirt strip runways always make me at least a little bit nervous...Rush hour at the Jeremie Airport:The airport and, yes... that's the terminal, the air traffic control tower and the entire airport building infrastructure behind me...A school that was paid for by the Foundation:A little girl who was provided a home by the Foundation:Part of my duties... provide evidence of the existence of a USAID sticker on a motorbike:The road to the village where a clinic would be conducted that day:This is part of the clinic's opening ceremony. Much of the opening ceremony is conducted in song. That's a traditional form of communication as an alternative with a population that is largely illiterate.Helping weigh the babies at the clinic:Mixing the Akamil at the clinic... the idea is to mash rice & beans together into a porridge. This stops people from taking out the less desirable beans and eating only the rice. The rice is the expensive food, but the beans are the nutritious food.This is Betty toying around with a little girl who attended the clinic. Betty's from Bristol, CT and she's making some amazing strides in Haiti.A lizard that let me get close enough to take a pic:Tim White

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Council agenda -- September 14, 2010

Here's the Council meeting agenda for Tuesday night:The main issue I question is 7A -- PBC assignments. While the PBC -- as a body -- is much improved from twelve months ago, I believe the TMs representation to the PBC is unchanged. That is unfortunate for both the town and the taxpayers. The election was ten months ago. I hope the Council takes action soon. The taxpayers deserve it.

In other under-the-radar situations though, my GOP colleagues are making great efforts at giving the taxpayers a fair shake. Such is the case with the WPCA. I understand the TMs representation to the WPCA has changed. And that's an improvement.

Frankly though, I don't understand why all the necessary changes aren't yet made. To me, it's quite simple. Either the TM makes the necessary changes in his management team or the Council changes the TM.

Tim White

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Richmond Glen returns...

The MRJs Jesse Buchanan is reporting that Brodach Builders is suing the Town over their proposed Richmond Glen / Serenity Ranch development. And lest we forget, this issue has quite the storied history (scroll down for prior posts).

Tim White

Some images of Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Sept 2010

Some images of the now infamous tent cities:Much of the destruction still stands in place:But the rubble piles throughout the streets makes plain that the clearing and rebuilding process has begun:Unfortunately, it's also evident that there are almost certainly people still laying in the collapsed buildings.

Here's some pix of a market in PAP:Here is the still-collapsing cathedral:And here are some pictures of the Presidential Palace:

But life goes on in Port-au-Prince. Here's a pic of the oft colorful local Caribbean buses... a tap tap in Haiti:And here's a monument for which I have no idea why it exists... but it caught my eye:And though the catastrophe seen by America was memorable to most, Haiti is very much a part of the developing world. As such, I'm guessing this image would have been largely the same pre-earthquake.

Tim White

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Capital Budget '10/11: Council vote

The NHRs Luther Turmelle reports on the 2010 / 2011 Capital Budget:

The Town Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to approve a $74.89 million, five-year, capital expenditure plan that includes spending nearly $7.13 million on 25 projects in the current fiscal year.

Though I was out of the country at the time of the vote, it's obvious that Smartboards were a discussion point on Tuesday night:

Falvey said he believes the use of smart boards in the district’s classrooms has been mixed.

“I think we need to get a better idea how the smart boards we have already are being used,” Falvey said. “Some classes use them heavily ... and some don’t.”

Also, I'm wondering if the track passes at referendum. Besides trends that indicate declining support for some types of non-recreation projects, we've seen the outright failures of the town's two recreation projects (linear trail & pool) in recent years. Furthermore, Councilman Falvey's 3rd district predecessor voiced concerns that the 2008 failure of the Mixville Pump Station was because a number of residents thought it was for money to be spent on Mixville Park.

Do you think the $325,000 (+$130,000 previously appropriated) CHS track will pass in November?

Any other comments on the vote?

Tim White

p.s. I have internet access, but it's weak and sporadic here.