Sunday, January 23, 2011

Energy conservation plan: initial proposer walkthru

It’s taken years to get here. But with gasoline inching toward $4 / gallon, the time couldn’t be better for the Council and BOE to be moving forward with their town wide energy conservation plan.

The next step in the long process to overhaul potentially dozens of buildings is scheduled for Tuesday at 9am in Town Hall. All proposers for the energy conservation RFP are to attend a walkthrough that will include staff from both the Town (esp. Town Hall and PD) and BOE (esp. CHS and Dodd).

Including CHS is particularly helpful. You may recall that the August 2009 capital budget saw the electric retrofit for (the back 1/3 of) CHS balloon from $1.9 million to $4 million... and get indefinitely delayed. But this project is intended to cover CHS. So hopefully the two will dovetail with the lifetime savings of the improvements offsetting the capital costs of the project.

But beyond the initial four buildings, if things move forward as anticipated, the town could eventually expand the scope of the work to include all town buildings and schools. However, it was decided that a more limited group of buildings was the best approach to begin the energy conservation plan.

H/t to Councilman Steve Carroll for the head’s up!

Tim White

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thin Lizzy plays Haiti!

When I ponder the last fifty years of the men who have run Haiti:

Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier -- 1957 to 1971
Jean Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier -- 1971 to 1986
General Namphy -- 1986 to 1987
Jean Bertrand Aristide -- 1987 to 1991
General Raoul Cedras -- 1991 to 1993
Jean Bertrand Aristide -- 1993 to 1995
Rene Preval -- 1996 to 2000
Jean Bertrand Aristide -- 2001 to 2004
Gerard Latortue -- 2005
Rene Preval -- 2006 to present

I know that Papa Doc is dead. And I understand that several generals were reportedly little more than short-term Cold Wara era US puppets. Which leaves us with Rene Preval, Baby Doc Duvalier and Jean Bertrand Aristide who have run Haiti for 36 of the past 40 years.

Preval is struggling to hold onto power. Baby Doc just returned. Aristide is apparently itching for a homecoming.

It seems Thin Lizzy is playing Port-au-Prince...

Guess who just got back today?
Those wild eyed boys they’ve been away.
Haven’t changed. Haven’t much to say.
But man I still think them cats are crazy.

Tim White

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

No Joe = Smurf for Senate = fun in the CT-5 !!!

Joementum is retiring. Yay! From his big government domestic policy (he loves bailouts for banks) to his globalist foreign policy (there were always more countries worth bombing), Joe stood as the polar opposite of what I want in my Senator. But there’s plenty of talk about Senate hopefuls, including our own Chris Murphy. Which brings us to the previously scheduled open CT-5 seat in 2012.

Ohh… did you miss the schedule?

John Rowland (R) – ‘84 to ‘90
Gary Franks (R) – ’90 to ‘96
Jim Maloney (D) – ’96 to ‘02
Nancy Johnson (R) – ’02 to ’06
Chris Murphy (D) – ’06 to ‘12

Yup. No one holds our seat for very long. And it’s a swing district, meaning there are always viable candidates from both parties interested in a run.

But that’s history. Looking forward, who will run in our 2012 equivalent of the 2008 race for POTUS? Who will run for our open seat in this swing district? I’m guessing both sides will get a lot of interest.

For Democrats, I see:

Elizabeth Esty – Cheshire resident and a former state rep who has a liberal track record on social policies… the stuff that motivates the select group of voters known as “likely primary voters.” But if the Teachers' Union President loses the special in the 13th, might she run in a legitimate primary in the 13th district in 2012? She'd avoid almost all of the fundraising.

Mary Glassman – Multiple runs at statewide office and currently the 1st Selectwoman of Simsbury.

Mike Jarjura – He got clobbered in the statewide primary for Comptroller last year. And the very liberal, very likely-primary-voter-crowd at MyLeftNutmeg seems to be disgusted with his policy views.

Paul Vance – A spokesman for the state police from Waterbury. He considered primarying Chris Murphy for the CT-5 in 2006.

For Republicans, I see:

Mark Greenberg – He got 30% of the vote in the three-way primary against Sam Caligiuri last year.

Justin Bernier – He also got 30% of the vote in the three-way primary against Sam Caligiuri last year.

Mark Boughton – The Mayor of Danbury and the GOPs Lt. Gov. candidate in 2010.

Tim Stewart – The Mayor of New Britain. And I believe he’s running in the special election for Don Defronzo’s state Senate seat.

Ryan Bingham – The Mayor of Torrington. I believe he was first elected in 2003, the same year I was first elected. At the time, he was the youngest Mayor in America at age 23 or so. So he may still be in his 20s, single and no kids. In other words, he may have lots of free time not available to other candidates.

And of course there are lots of state Senators and state Reps on both sides of the aisle who may be interested. But these seem to me to be the most obvious people who may be waiting for Chris Murphy to make it official.

And back to the Senate’s Dem race for a second… my two cents on the first few names to drop… Although he supported Dodd – Frank, Courtney opposed TARP. That was a very important vote that he got correct. And Susie B… she’s an embarrassment. I certainly hope Malloy's party doesn't nominate her.

Tim White

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pension reform with town unions

Although I haven't seen it mentioned online, I understand that at last week's Council meeting the new Library Union contract was adopted. Included in the contract was the elimination of defined benefit pension plans (DB) for new union employees. Going forward, new library employees who are union members will only be offered defined contribution pension plans (DC).

DB plans are a traditional pension. DC plans are similar to a 401(k).

Contrary to what I've heard from many candidates for office, ending DB plans and moving to DC plans does not necessarily save money now or in the future. A DC plan may cost more or less than a DB plan, either now or in the future. It's really a tossup. But there is a huge benefit.

DC plans allow organizations to properly match taxes with services. DB plans do not allow that because you never know what the future cost will be for a DB plan. It's all just based on actuarial assumptions that are, IMHO, pie in the sky since they're predicated on Keynesian economic theory. And Keynesians, such as Governor Malloy, believe that money grows on trees. Money doesn't grow on trees. Everyone -- except a few policymakers -- knows that.

Anyway, the Council -- particularly David Schrumm -- and the TM deserve credit for making this happen. It certainly took a while. The library union had been operating under a contract that expired on June 30, 2009... and this new contract probably expires by June 30, 2012. Regardless, it's done.

Looking forward, the Council will need to ink deals with both the Town Hall and PW unions soon. I believe their contracts are also long overdue. But there is an upside to the long outstanding negotiation process.

A town's history is part of the overall view taken by the arbitrators. So when you consider that the Town has eliminated DB plans for future union hires for both the Dispatchers and Library unions, as well as non-union employees, there's a distinct possibility that the arbitrator will reach the same conclusion for both the PW and TH unions.

And if both of those unions reach agreement with the town to eliminate their DB plans for future union members, then the only remaining DB plans on the town side will be the Police Union and volunteer firefighters. So to recap where DB plans are headed for future town employees / volunteers:

1) Dispatchers union -- ended June 30, 2006

2) Non-union employees -- ended June 30, 2008

3) Library union -- ended January 11, 2010

4) Public Works union -- under negotiation

5) Town Hall union -- under negotiation

6) Police union -- continuing, current contract expires June 30, 2012

7) Firefighters -- no contract negotiation, but when I asked a few years ago it was suggested to me that the issue be raised after no one else has a DB plan.

So in terms of future town employees, that's where our DB plans stand now. Slowly, but surely, the Town is making real progress on this.

Tim White

Monday, January 17, 2011

5ive years old: Happy Birthday TWL!

TWL was born five years ago today. I thank the entire TWL community -- front page publishers, regular commenters and even the occasional lurker -- for making our community what it is.

Tim White

And the gunfire returns...

I hadn't heard gunfire in the neighborhood since December. But tonight, the shooters are back for an encore presentation! It started around 6pm... the same time I learned that "Baby Doc" Duvalier returned after 25 years in exile.

This could get interesting....

But on a more fun note, I got out into the field today. I visited the coastal town of Testasse. We've been involved there for a while, including home construction, a fishing collaborative among the local residents and some other stuff. It was fascinating to sit there and absorb -- not all, but -- some of the discussion regarding the things that could be done to improve their lives.

The great thing I see is that our field staff are so involved in the communities. They know what's actually happening and what can to be done. They know who is trying to improve their lot in life and who is sitting on their keister waiting for another handout. So they can distinguish between those who want to learn to fish... and those who want to be given a fish. I love it.

And even better than today was an upcoming project in which I may be able to get involved. Outside of work, some staff are planning a reforestation project. The goal is planting 100,000 trees by Arbor Day. It would be fantastic. My understanding is that Haiti is the most deforested country in the world... only about 3% of Haiti is still forested.

Tim White

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Safety in numbers

Early to bed, early to rise. Was awake around 7am today. Not bad for a Sunday. It was gorgeous outside. The sun was shining without a cloud in the sky. No snow on the ground in Haiti!

I had worked much of Saturday and knew I had to work some today. (It seems everyone has been working overtime as a result of the cholera outbreak… which btw, our field staff have been fantastic and our unofficial numbers so far are encouraging.) So I was determined to have some fun.

Beach day!

I’d been to the nearby beach – Plage Azur – several times. And it normally was crowded with UN troops. But that was always in the afternoon. By arriving early, I was hoping I might beat the crowd and have the beach to myself.

But before I tell you about the beach, I want you to visualize the Grand Anse. Much of the coastline is cliffs or steep embankments. The beaches here are generally coves where sand accumulated, but they still tend to be at the bottom of a steep hike. Azur is no exception.

I had taken a moto taxi for the usual 50 gourdes, about $1.25. The driver dropped me off near the top and I walked down. As I descended, I passed two kids. And all I could think was… hmmm… what are these kids doing here? The reality is that few locals swim. And these kids had neither swim trunks, nor any sort of bags that could contain wet clothes with them. I was suspicious and cautious. The reality is that for Grand Anse, Azur is a “tourist destination” and such places always attract pickpockets, purse snatchers, etc. So despite the relatively low density (or more correctly, non-existence) of tourists, I knew I had to be cautious.

When I got to the beach, there were a few other foreigners there and no locals in sight. But I had seen those kids, probably ten to twelve years old.

After a few minutes, I got comfortable and went out into the water. With several foreigners there, I figured the likelihood of my bag being stolen was minimal. I mean, if they’re rich enough to travel to Haiti, they’re probably not purse snatchers. And they were clearly the tourists at Jeremie’s tourist destination.

They left after about ten minutes and I promptly left the water to attend to my bag, but with no one else in sight… I decided to head back into the water… knowing my bags would be unguarded.

Upon making that decision, I was fully aware that those kids had seen me headed to the beach and that I was alone. And since they clearly weren’t swimming… nor were they friendly… and since I had heard about vehicle break-ins / window smash’n’grabs occurring at the top of the hill where cars had recently parked… I knew there were thieves in the area. So I decided to take one very small, and seemingly useless, precaution.

I “clipped” my backpack to a tree. By clip, I mean I simply put the packs waistbelt around the tree and snapped the clip. Although such clips are quite common in the USA, I haven’t seen any in Jeremie. So I reasoned that a local wouldn’t know how to unclip it quickly and it would potentially deter any purse snatchers.

How right I was.

I went back into the water and kept watching the beach for about ten minutes. In looking at the length of the beach, I figured there were really two entry and exit points.

How wrong I was.

Although I was generally watching, out of nowhere one of the two kids appeared. I saw him run right past my bag and then scurry up the hill… a place I didn’t think anyone would be able to climb. Damn. Thankfully though, my assessment was right. The stupid little kid wasn’t particularly sophisticated. Even though he didn’t understand the clip, if he’d had a knife he’d have gotten my bag. What a jerk. What a dumb jerk. And poverty is no excuse. There are lots of people in Jeremie living in destitute poverty. But they don’t turn to a life of crime. Nope. He was just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill criminal.

I think the funniest part of the incident was that it was the same exact bag that another purse-snatcher tried to steal from me in an internet cafĂ© in Romania in 2002. That was another punk. He did outrun me, but not without me first smacking him… which had the instant reaction of him letting go of my bag.

I hate thieves.

Anyway, I decided to leave rather than hang around and wait for the criminals to return and try again. I headed to the top of the hill. On my way I saw the kid about 50 yards behind me. I hesitated and considered going to yell at him, but thought better of it. I wouldn’t be shocked if he had a knife. And I have no interest in that. I turned back up the hill and kept walking, now a bit more briskly.

Reaching the top, I was pleasantly surprised for the second week in a row. Both today and last week I scored rides back to town… and both times they refused to let me pay them as they weren’t moto taxi drivers. Last week, it was a member of the National Police. And this week I got a ride from a well-to-do printer who was going into town to pick up his son. I think both of them really just wanted to practice their English. I accommodated them both. I love learning and teaching languages. And it was good for me to get my mind off that little SOB at the beach.

The other highlight for me today was that I was finally given my driving test on a stick shift. I had told everyone that I was fine driving a stick, but no one believed it. So I went for my first test and was told that I passed with flying colors. I knew today wouldn’t be a problem though.

Outside of town, this particular area is mostly flat and straight with relatively little traffic. It’s the steep hills in downtown Jeremie that concern me. With all the people and motorbikes flying every which way… driving a stick on steep hills isn’t something I’ve ever done. Heck, most of my driving a stick was nothing more than a summer or two driving a forklift for John Romanik.

That was easy. 1st, 2nd, reverse and you never go more than five miles per hour… and there are no hills. Jeremie is a bit more challenging. But it is nice because now I should be able to go pick my dad up at the airport when he comes to visit in a few weeks! I’m looking forward to that and I know he is too. I think the last time he was in this part of the world was when he was the lead officer in some sort of “blockade” of Cuba back in the early 60s….

Tim White

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rennie on Mary Glassman for the CT-5

Kevin Rennie's daily ruction is about perennial candidate Mary Glassman possibly running for the CT-5. You may recall her name.

In 2006, she started her candidacy for statewide races by clobbering Destefano's LG running mate, West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka. She was Governor Malloy's running mate. Then four years later, Ned Lamont picked her as his running mate. Unfortunately for Ms. Glassman, Dannel's running mates always get the nod. And so Nancy Wyman had her name placed on the November ballot.

Clearly Rennie isn't fond of Ms. Glassman and expects she'll get clobbered again, if she runs for Congress:

If the chronic candidate runs for re-election in Simsbury and then launches a run for Congress in 2012, that would make 7 campaigns in 6 years... She may also face questions about her role in running-mate Ned Lamont’s accusations of racism against primary and general election winner Stop-Calling-Me-Dan Malloy. Democratic loyalists won’t forget Glassman’s heavy-handed attempt to portray Wyman as an aging relic in contrast to the 52 year old Glassman’s notion of her own charm.

And Chris Murphy certainly sounds like he's running for Senate, regardless of what Joementum decides. I figure in a high turnout Presidential election year, it'll be tough for any non-Dem to win a CT Senate race... even if it is Joe as a Republican... and that's a big if.

Tim White

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Torrez Ferguson is not only the MDTC Chair, she's also Donovan's Chief of Staff!

Although Elizabeth Esty is out of the running for the Dem nomination in the 13th Senate district, there's still a footnote to be told.

As has been mentioned here and elsewhere, CTs special elections do not allow for primaries. As such, the nominating convention controls everything. And of the four towns -- Cheshire, Meriden, Middlefield and Middletown -- in the 13th district, Meriden has more than half the votes at tonight's nominating convention.

And Meriden's DTC Chair, Millie Torrez Ferguson stiff-armed Elizabeth. The MDTC Chair refused to even return Elizabeth's phone calls. Ms. Torrez Ferguson is just plain rude. But the story gets worse.

I now understand that Torrez Ferguson has the cushy job title:

Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the House

Yup. She works for Chris Donovan. So she's not only rude, she's also apparently a pawn for the corrupt Chris Donovan... the same Chris Donovan who gave Crusher his $120,000 / year no-show job... and the same Chris Donovan who fawned over the criminal Tom Gaffey as he exited the legislature.

So it seems to me that Millie Torrez Ferguson is probably just taking her marching orders from Donovan and atrociously failing the 13th's Democratic party. All this is the same crew that brought us The Fraudster, Tom Gaffey.

I wonder who Democrats will vote for on February 22:

A: The Republican


B: The Teachers' Union President

With Elizabeth getting so rudely ignored, it wouldn't surprise me to see Democratic liberals -- which IMO are a distinctly different demographic from Democratic teachers-- stay home and take their chances with a Dem primary in 2012. Considering that they may be facing an incumbent R in a highly Democratic district with a high turnout in a Presidential election year, you may see liberals sit out this special.

Tim White

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

RIP: The pool bubble

Most importantly, no one was injured... which brings me to the memorial service...

Via referendum in 1996, the white elephant was born. As with many government projects, it contained two critical issues:

1) the capital budget; and
2) the operating budget.

First, we had the $2.9 million capital costs. But by the time the capital costs stopped being recorded, it was already in excess of $4.0 million.* And while Council after Council have been fired by the voters every two years since 1999, in part because of the pool, the voters were never really given an honest take on whether the additional $1.1 million was legal. Instead, Council's simply skirted the rules by spending less than the $330,000** referendum limit.

Second, we had the annual operating subsidy of $400,000. With the explanatory text of the referendum suggesting both a year-round and self-sustaining facility, the pols who brought forward the pool in 1996 were lacking:

1) intellectual honesty;
2) the ability or willingness to critically analyze the proposal; or
3) the means to tell the future of energy costs.

I think the biggest problem was #3. Though I think all three issues played some role to varying extents.

And of course, Council after Council refused to address the problems of the pool directly. Instead, the M.O. was to throw more good money after bad. It wasn't until 2010 that a Council accepted the need to tackle the pool head-on.

The $7 million referendum failed, but it was the first time that a Council acted responsibly. And the PBCs work is still outstanding. I expect they'll soon return to the Council with a plan for the bubble. But I also expect the proposal could exceed $1,000,000. If so, it'll probably be sunk even before a Council vote. In other words, my feeling is that the PBC work is an exercise in futility... other than showing the voters that it's not viable... at least in this economic climate.

So my guess is that although the Council will continue to have discussions regarding a year-round pool into the 2011 fall election, the pool has finally met it's match... a combination of:

1) Father Time;
2) New England's winter snows; and
3) the voters.

Yup. Between the seven million dollar pool structure and the half million dollar track, the voters have made it clear to the Town's elected officials that there's a difference between necessities and niceties.

Looking forward to the immediate consequences of the bubble collapse, what will happen with pool programs? I'm sure some will be cancelled, but others will be relocated. One thing to keep in mind -- not for this year, but next -- is that if the pool structure passed, it was stated that it would've been possible to relocate swim programs. So programming would have continued without a great deal of interruption.

Looking farther into the future, this raises a question about the scope of an agreement between the Town and Yankee Gas. The pool would've been profitable for Yankee in the short-term. But laying pipeline extensions to Norton and Doolittle may have a 30-year payback. Combining the two would've been beneficial to the town and, perhaps, acceptable to Yankee. But the lack of the pool will certainly be taken into consideration by Yankee as the DPUC requires their projects to have timelines for their projected ROI.

And looking to our spring ritual, I expect the PBC to complete their bubble study prior to the adoption of the Town's operating budget. It'd certainly make the budget process easier having a sense of whether there could be another $400,000 subsidy for a year-round pool... or if that subsidy may be reduced for a summer-only pool. My guess is that the Council will adopt a budget with a $50,000 to $100,000 subsidy for a summer-only pool.

As for how that $300,000 savings plays out politically... I venture that if you ignore all the moving pieces of the budget, there will be a Democratic proposal to increase the education budget by the amount reduced in the pool subsidy. If that happens, most eyes will be on the annual debate of the school budget... not on the pool. That would signal the planting of flowers on the bubble's grave... with the year-round pool being unceremoniously walked into the sunset.

Or maybe the Y will lease the facility for $1 / year?

Tim White

* This does not include all capital improvements to the pool, such as the $250,000 wasted on mold remediation in September 2009.

** The threshold is now $350k, but it was raised after the pool construction was supposedly completed in 2003.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Earthquake: the one year anniversary

The epicenter of Haiti's earthquake was Leogane. Leogane is a town about 20 miles west of Port-au-Prince. And my town, Jeremie, is about another 80 miles west of Leogane. The earthquake had a serious, but indirect, impact on Jeremie. The ground shook here and buildings were damaged. But there wholescale destruction happened in Leogane and to the east, where there was much more human development.

There's been a lot of progress since January 12th, 2010... though there's a great deal more that needs to be done... beginning with political stability. But rather than discussing that stuff -- which seems to be covering the web these days, along with the tragedy in Tucson -- I offer a brief recap of my personal experience related to the anniversary.

It was around 9pm on Sunday January 9th and I heard the horn. I'd heard the horn once before. It was part of the manifestation in December that followed the disputed election results. And earlier in the day I had read that the Organization of American States would soon announce their findings related to the election results.

I had just returned to Haiti and the riots were already starting. Oh well. C'est la vie. Oddly though, there was no gunfire.

By midnight I was fast asleep and by 4am I was awake. No gunfire, but there was... a... parade?? Yup. That was the only way to describe it. Or I guess more appropriately, a vigil, as I learned when I got to work on Monday morning.

That's how some of the churches are mourning here. They are conducting turn-up-the-volume, singing vigils through the streets of Jeremie from around 2am to 5am. It's happening each night for the three nights leading up to the anniversary.

It scared me at first when I awoke on Sunday night. But now I understand it and appreciate it. It's something I could never imagine seeing in America, but it does make a point that people remember.

Tim White

Esty denied consideration in the 13th

Cheshire's newest online news source, The Cheshire Patch, is reporting on the Meriden Democratic Political Machine's refusal to even acknowledge Elizabeth Esty as a candidate for the state Senate seat being vacated by the disgraced criminal, Tom Gaffey.

Although I doubt she meant it, I feel her comments in the story inadvertently made the case to vote for anyone but the Democrat.

Elizabeth says that the Meriden Democratic Chairwoman wouldn't even return her exploratory calls. How rude is that? And this comes from the same crew who knew full well that The Gaffe was a criminal, yet renominated him anyway? It seems to me that the Chair, Millie Torres-Ferguson, could have at least returned Elizabeth's phone call and let her make her case.

But no, that wasn't in the cards.


When I look at the history of Gaffey, the C.V. of Thomas Bruenn and the fronting done by the corrupt Speaker of the House, Chris Donovan (D-Meriden), I can't help but feel that the Meriden DTC -- not the voters of Meriden and not Meriden Democrats -- is basically a subcommittee of the Meriden Teachers' Union. And since Elizabeth isn't a spokesperson for the teachers' union, she was denied any consideration whatsoever in the 13th's Democratic nominating process. Sad.

Now I just hope that I can vote. It can takes months for mail to get to / from Jeremie. And with absentee ballots requiring four legs in the mail system, I'm not sure I'll be able to do it. But I'll try because this process just stinks and we need to some change in Hartford. Governor Malloy will need some more adults -- not hacks -- to help send Donovan and Williams to their room when they throw their temper-tantrums.

Tim White

Christie challenges the NJ teachers' unions

The NYTimes' Richard Perez Pena reports on the anticipated State of the State address by NJs Governor Christie:

“I propose that we reward the best teachers, based on merit, at the individual teacher level,” the text of Mr. Christie’s speech reads. “I demand that layoffs, when they occur, be based on a merit system and not merely of seniority.”

“And perhaps the most important step,” it says, “is to give schools more power to remove underperforming teachers.”

I fully agree with him, but am uncertain about one thing. How do you measure merit? I believe anything is possible, but this has been the tricky negotiating point that has been a legitimate concern of teachers' unions across the country.

Also, though he will likely address spending elsewhere in his comments, moving to a merit system does not necessarily reduce spending. A merit system is about improving schools and student achievement. And while that's important, addressing spending is also important.

Tim White

Monday, January 10, 2011

GOP promises: Will they cut $100 billion?

No, I doubt it. But can they? Yes, they can.

Fiscally conservative members of Congress simply need to understand the tricks used by The Big Spenders. One such trick is an encumbrance.

Let me explain using an example of the now extinct balanced budget:

Federal budget = $3 trillion
Money spent or cash out-the-door = $2.9 trillion
Money encumbered = $100 billion

In this case, the $100 billion of encumbered money is related to various programs or projects.

Some is likely encumbered on a department's electric bill. And some is probably encumbered on rail trail money. Yes, the rail trail.

Didn't you notice that the $560,000 has been available for ten years now? Well, encumbering money is a typical way for The Big Spenders to hide the money hoping that people forget. But money can be encumbered on anything. Electric bills and rail trails are just two examples of federal encumbrances.

And if my understanding is correct, then the $525,000 state grant for turf could be characterized as encumbered money.

Continuing to the local level, who can forget the 2009 publicity regarding the $900,000 Public Works garage slush fund? That money was encumbered back in the 1990s.

So it happens at all levels of government: federal, state and local. And the Board of Ed encumbers money annually.

To be clear though, not all encumbrances are bad. I think it makes sense to accrue for your monthly telephone or electric bill.

But the bottom line to me is that there is a lot of encumbered pork that could -- and should -- be cut by the various governing bodies. Unfortunately, the collective mindset of most legislative bodies is spend, spend, spend! And of course The Big Spenders view the money as "already spent." So it doesn't even cross their mind that this is an area where taxpayers could save money.

If you have the time and inclination, I encourage you to call some elected officials and ask them if they would consider defunding some encumbrances. At the town level, you could follow the lead of Councilman Jimmy Sima and request the encumbrance list to begin looking for spending reductions.

Tim White

Sunday, January 09, 2011

13th Senate district's special election taking shape

Now that the criminal Tom Gaffey is gone from office, the February 22 special election is taking shape. Based on the MRJs reporting by Dan Ivers and Lisa Backus, Meriden has more than 50% of the votes at the Dem nominating convention. In fact, of the district's four towns -- Cheshire, Meriden, Middlefield and Middletown -- Meriden Dem convention delegates comprise:

five more than the three other towns combined

and Meriden Dems intend to vote as a block, supporting Thomas E. Bruenn:

a retired Platt High School teacher who also has served as the president of the Meriden Federation of Teachers. He has been on the Board of Education for the past three-and-a-half years.

And since there are no primaries in a special election, it appears that Elizabeth Esty won't be a candidate. That could be bad news for the Cheshire GOP in 2011. If she's not running for Congress, she may have some time on her hands this year. I'm sure Ernie Dipietro would love to have her as the campaign manager for the local campaign.

As for the GOP, we still don't appear to have coalesced around a particular candidate. While I'm figuring Len Suzio will be the choice, the MRJ indicates that Middletown's Republican Mayor lives within the 13th district. So he'd have to be considered. And there are some other Meriden Rs considering a run.

Looking forward, the Dems are set to nominate their candidate on Thursday. And the MRJ says that the GOP will nominate someone on Monday, though it's unclear if it's tomorrow or eight days from today.

The important thing for both sides to remember is that special elections tend to have low turnout. So while the 13th district is a Dem district by most measures, a high turnout among Republicans could swing the district to the GOP column. But that requires boots-on-the-ground, trudging through snow in the cold February winds of the central Connecticut valley.

Who's up for a victory party?

Tim White

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

2010: Cheshire's two major political parties

Cheshire Dem insiders failed to stop either Gaffey or Meccariello from attempting to return to office... even though we all knew they were corrupt.

And Cheshire GOP insiders also played games with the 18th Probate District race. But grassroots Republicans had their say on that one.

Common theme?

Insiders attempting to rule the day, but others poo-poo-ed on their parade.

Will this theme continue in 2011?

Based on comments I've heard around Cheshire over the past week, I suspect that theme may continue into the new year. For those who do want to get involved, I encourage you to do so. But also recognize that there are rules for participation in the two parties. For a better understanding of the rules, I suggest you start with the Town Clerk and the Chair of your party.

Tim White

Monday, January 03, 2011

Tom Gaffey resigning in disgrace

I guess I was right. According to the CT Mirror... Cheshire's senior state Senator, Tom Gaffey, is resigning! Yippee!

But he's history. Looking forward, who's gonna throw their hat in the ring for the special election?

My guess is that GOPs 2010 13th senate district candidate, Len Suzio, will run. I'm not sure he'll get the GOP nod, but he seems like the logical choice. The Dem side is more interesting though. I doubt there's any immediate frontrunner.

While the demographics suggest the Dem nomination would go to a Meriden Dem -- I think Meriden has four state reps who are Dems -- I've got to think Elizabeth Esty is already looking at her viability in this race. How many delegates are there to the special election's nominating convention? How many Cheshire delegates will be at the convention? How many anti-death penalty delegates will be there? Etc. It may be possible for her to get the nomination.

As for the district population numbers. Off the top of my head, I think a state Senate district represents about 100,000 people. That 100,000 includes about 2/3 of Cheshire... or 17,000 to 18,000 people. It also includes all of Meriden... about 50,000 to 60,000 people. And the balance of the 100,000 covers part of Middletown and all of Middlefield. And the convention will probably have delegates in proportion to either population or Dem registrations... not sure which.

This'll certainly make Cheshire's politics interesting for the next week or two as the parties move toward choosing candidates. And FWIW, I'm pretty sure that special elections do no allow for primaries. I think the nominees are determined by the party conventions... which are normally -- though not exclusively -- filled by Town Committee members. But for real go-getters, you should know that those conventions are filled with delegates who are probably elected at town-level party caucuses. And if you have the energy, you're free to invite hundreds of your friends and effectively "stack the deck" in favor of whoever you and your friends feel is the best nominee for your party.

Tim White

Hitchcock-Phillips House: Who has controlling authority?

The NHRs Luther Turmelle is reporting on the Town Historian story. Based on my limited knowledge of this discussion, it seems to me that there's a critical issue that should be explored:

legal papers filed with the court cite reasons that include an unspecified violation of the terms of the lease and termination of the original rights and privileges that allowed Gagliardi an office at the Hitchcock-Phillips House.

Gagliardi said he never received anything in writing that he believes would constitute a lease when the society agreed to let him have an office in the Hitchcock-Phillips House.

This is obviously an important issue that needs to be resolved. But before moving forward with a conclusion to any conflict, one should understand the issues from which the conflict arose.

My three questions -- questions which don't seem to be getting addressed -- for understanding the genesis of this conflict:

1) What is the structure of the "ownership" and "use" of the HP House?

2) Who has the authority to permit the use of the HP House?

3) Who authorized the Town Historian's use of the HP House?

I understand the answer to my first question is that the Town of Cheshire owns the HP House and leases it to the Historical Society. And I understand the answer to my third question is that the TM authorized the use of the HP House.

But that raises a potentially critical question, my second question.

In terms of the use and / or subletting of the HP House, does the TM have controlling authority?

Tim White

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Connecticut's municipal bailouts

Cheshire's not included here, but from a CT perspective I thought this link to the Federal Reserve bailouts might be interesting. It appears that:

1) Bridgeport -- $105 million
2) Bristol -- $106 million
3) Milford -- $163 million
4) Stamford -- $63 million

cashed in on the Federal Reserves $13 trillion in various bailouts by getting a collective bailout of $436,000,000 via the TALF.  The TALF was one of numerous bailout programs created by King Ben. Other bailout programs included the TAF, TSLF, PDCF... and many others.

Anyone happen to know if Gov-elect Malloy was asked about Stamford bailouts during the campaign? The act of receiving the bailout is now irrelevant. But it would be worthwhile to get our next Governor on the record regarding his general philosophy on bailouts.

Tim White

2010: Looking back, including an untold story

While the Herald takes a look back on 2010, I want to highlight another story of 2010. I'm fairly certain I never blogged about it, but it needs to be mentioned.

If you're concerned about taxes and spending, you can thank the Council -- led by Councilman Jimmy Sima -- for fighting wasteful spending and saving the taxpayers $10,000. That's the money that was saved when he demanded an explanation for the TMs unnecessary request for a new pickup truck that included an extended cab pickup. The pickup was needed. The extended cab was not.

The reality is that the $10,000 for an extended cab was simply another request for wasteful spending. It was typical of Town Hall's wasteful spending that consistently benefits the members of The Inner Circle... at the same time the taxpayers get fleeced.

Anyway, there are many stories that are left untold. But I thought this one was important... not as a story of an elected official saving the taxpayers $10,000, but as part of the much larger story of elected officials who are more concerned with fighting bureaucrats ever-growing call for more taxing and spending, than with attempting to satiate their thirst for benefiting their cronies.

And before we look forward to 2011, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, good holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Tim White