Friday, January 29, 2010

Press Changed Hands 25 Years Ago

My good friend Bob Montgomery, who is also the city historian and a Bristol Press columnist, just told me that today marks 25 years from the date that the Press announced it had been sold by the Barnes family, which had owned it for generations. Read Bob's column, Bristol Bits, in Monday's Bristol Press for more.

Connecticut Uses Federal Stimulus Money for Appliance Rebates

If you're thinking of buying a new appliance this winter or spring, here's a way to save a few clams:

BRISTOL -- Now is the time to replace electric appliances with more efficient, energy saving ones -- new federal stimulus rebates of $50 to $500 are available for those who do.

Connecticut is using $3.4 million in federal stimulus funds to offer rebates on Energy Star-rated refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, room air conditioners and central air systems.

Sen. Tom Colapietro announced Connecticut’s new applicance rebate program -- paid with federal stimulus dollars -- Friday at the Bristol Community Organization, a regional non-profit agency that handles energy assistance applications.

“People are hurting,” said Colapietro. He said the rebates should help stimulate the economy by encouraging people to buy appliances.

Those who can afford to replace old appliances, he said, will save themselves some “real money” as the buyers get a rebate and the stores get a sale.

“Everybody wins,” said Colapietro, comparing the deal to the “cash for clunkers” program. “We try to help people as much as we can.”

The rebates are easy to get, Colapietro said. He said the forms are online and simple to fill out, joking that even he was able to manage it.

Rebates are $50 for refrigerators, freezers and room air conditioners, $100 for washers and $500 for central air systems.

The rebate program runs through the end of April and may be extended if funds remain. State residents are eligible for one rebate per appliance but can get as many as three for room air conditioners.

Federal tax credits are already in place for people who make larger investments in energy saving measures in the home, such as new windows.

Colapietro praised BCO for offering many types of assistance, and the expertise to help people find the help they need from other agencies as well.

“The trouble with people today is they don’t know where to go for help,” said Colapietro. “There’s lots of help for people.”

Thomas Morrow, executive director of BCO, said the agency has seen “unprecedented increases” in the number of people seeking help with energy costs.

Compared with two years ago, the number of applicants is up 200 percent, Morrow said.

“It’s a whole new class of client,” said Morrow, many of whom have never sought help before.

Joseph Roy Jr. of Bristol, an artist and illustrator for religious books, said his work slowed in the recession and he found himself struggling. A friend suggested he come to BCO for help, he said.

“It’s a great organization,” said Roy. “There are a lot of people out there who need this. This is a dream come true.”

Roy said it wasn’t hard to get help with his heating bill through BCO. He just had to provide some financial information to qualify, he said.

“I’m so glad that I found out that they were here,” he said.

Another way people can save, Colapietro said, is to shop around for electricity. He said the power companies are required to provide a list of competing electricity suppliers if asked.

Consumers can purchase power from a variety of outlets, Colapietro said, and may be able to save $10 to $15 a month by doing so, if they’re careful shoppers.

“Read the fine print,” he cautioned.

More information on the rebate program is available online at Forms will be available in stores after Feb. 1 and forms will be sent in the mail to those who call 1-877-947-3873.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dan Malloy Says He'll Herd the Cats in Hartford

Driving in from Stamford, Dan Malloy must have gotten up even earlier than I did to get to the chamber coffee at 8 a.m. today. He was pretty sympathetic about Bristol being without highway access and made his pitch for the governor's post. He was the first in a series of candidates who are expected to come to Bristol to meet the chamber folks in an informal setting. Here's what I wrote about it for Friday's edition of The Bristol Press (

BRISTOL – Declaring that state government is “badly broken,” former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy said he wants the job of fixing it.
“People have run away from the fire and I’m running to it,” said Malloy, a Democrat seeking his party’s nomination for governor.
“This is a bi-partisan train wreck we have,” said Malloy, blaming both Democrats and Republicans for Connecticut’s economic woes. “There has been no fiscal discipline in this state.”
Malloy, who spoke to the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce Thursday, said as governor, he would concentrate on creating jobs, something he said he did in Stamford.
“You can build the economy,” said Malloy.
Malloy, 54, is the first of the candidates for governor to address an informal gathering at the chamber office, but he won’t be the last. Chamber President Mike Nicastro said the plan is to bring in each candidate so members can hear what they have to say and ask questions.
About two dozen people turned out to hear Malloy, who promised a streamlined, “honest and transparent” state government if he wins the top job.
“I present myself as a change agent,” said Malloy, but one with experience in government, ready to tackle the challenges Connecticut faces.
The midst of economic crisis is not the time for newcomers to take the reins and learn on the job, he said.
Malloy said he would tackle the issue of unfunded mandates, something that is vexing mayors struggling with municipal budgets. But Malloy said some mandates are good ones, such as the requirement that restaurants be regularly inspected.
Attorney Tim Furey, who is active with the chamber, told Malloy that they recently met with the local delegation to talk about the coming session as they do each year.
But this year was the first time in about 15 years, Furey said, that the elected officials looked at them and in essence said, “We got nothing.”
Malloy said the problem isn’t with the individual representatives, who he said are “great people,” but with the way things work in Connecticut, aren’t the ones making the decisions.
“Legislators don’t debate anything anymore,” said Malloy. Instead, he said, decisions are made by a group of about 10 people, including the governor, the governor’s budget director, the president of the senate, the speaker of the house, the majority and minority leaders in both houses and the leaders of the finance committee.
Only when a deal is reached is the legislature called in to vote on it, said Malloy.
Malloy said he’d like to see “systemic change,” from property tax reform to school funding formulas and the regulations placed on small businesses, but said the first priority has to be the economic crisis that threatens to collapse state government.
He said he’d be an active, engaged governor, someone who perfectly positioned to work with the General Assembly because he is more conservative than most of the Democrats there, and more liberal than most of the Republicans.
“I’ll herd the cats by showing leadership,” Malloy said.
The state is likely to end up borrowing more money to operate, Malloy said, adding another $200 million to the fiscal burden the next governor will inherit.
“We’re running on empty,” said Malloy. “Nobody wants to raise taxes in an election year, so they won’t.”
Malloy said he wouldn’t want to balance the budget at the expense of those who can least afford it, so he wouldn’t touch the “safety net” funding for drug and mental health treatment, probationary programs, rape crisis centers and similar items.
“Everything else has to stay on the table,” said Malloy.

Blood Donors, Roll Up Your Sleeves

My pal Doc Jerry Jensen just let me know that there will be a blood drive at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on Monday, Feb. 15th from 11:30 to 4:15. He says, "Call for appointment 1-800-GIVE LIFE."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Soweto Gospel Choir Brings Harmonies to Bristol

Okay, dear readers, I promised you'd hear it here first. Listening to the choir, I couldn't keep still -- the music demands that you move. Afterward, I talked to one of its singers. Stirring, powerful music, lovely people. I wish everyone could have been there. Here's what I wrote for Thursday's edition of The Bristol Press ( about it:

BRISTOL -- The Soweto Gospel Choir served up gorgeous South African harmonies and impressive choreography to about 200 appreciative ESPN employees in the company cafeteria Wednesday.

“I thought it was absolutely outstanding, spiritually moving, uplifting and inspirational,” said Ty Frison, studio director. “It kind of took me back to my Baptist days, growing up in the church.”

The choir stopped between East Coast gigs to deliver a powerful 30-minute performance, singing in English and also in some of South Africa’s many dialects.

John A. Walsh, executive editor at ESPN, stood in the throng in the cafeteria and soaked in the music.

“Four 12 years, the company has been working on the challenge of diversity in the workplace and seeing gradual success from year to year,” said Walsh. “But never in those 12 years have we experienced such an energizing, enjoyable and entertaining presentation of the case for diversity.”

ESPN Senior Vice President Jed Drake, who introduced the choir, is coordinating the company’s effort to cover the World Cup in South Africa this summer.

Along with the games, the coverage will feature authentic South African music and highlight the diverse people and customs of the country.

Claude Mitchell, coordinating music director at ESPN, said the Soweto Gospel Choir will be featured prominently in the World Cup coverage.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to get the choir here,” said Jed Drake, senior vice president and executive producer. “Every once in a while, things work out.”

Sipokazi Nxumalo, a lead singer in the choir and its narrator, said the group had seen ESPN on television and was honored and humbled to come to the campus to perform.

She said the choir members have “a family bond” and come from different parts of South Africa, though 90 percent now live in Soweto.

They tour about nine months a year, Nxumalo said, and sometimes get lonesome for South Africa and its climate.

“Sometimes, it’s so far from home,” she said. They’ve learned, though, in five years of touring in the United States, to bring “our big jackets and our warm clothes.”

Though they don’t all speak the various dialects that they sing in, she said they easily learn them through the music.

“It just flows and comes naturally,” she said.

The choir has a four-piece band, but most of the time, Nxumalo said, they use only drums for accompaniment.

“We prefer our audiences to hear the beauty of our harmonies,” she said.

Nxumalo said American audiences are their favorite because of the warm response the people give to the music.

“They’ve always treated us well,” she said.

Nxumalo and about two dozen other professional singers, two of them playing djembe drums, filled the cafeteria space with music.

The Soweto Gospel Choir has toured internationally for years, Drake said, and was featured on the Grammy-award winning Peter Gabriel song, “Down to Earth,” that is part of the soundtrack for the 2008 movie “Wall-E.”

Drake told the gathered employees that the choir would give them “what may be one of the most spectacular performances we’ve had on our campus, ever.”

No one disagreed.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Will ESPN Be Like Church Tomorrow?

South Africa's Soweto Gospel Choir ( is coming to perform and make friends at ESPN tomorrow. The choir will be providing some of the music that ESPN will use in its coverage of the FIFA World Cup, which will be held in South Africa this summer. I'm pretty excited since my pals at ESPN kindly invited me to come over, give a listen, talk with the choir and write about it. Don't worry, I'll be sure to soak it all in and report back to you.

Young Writers on Haiti

If you haven't already, check out This week's issue features three new writers from Youth Journalism International. There are a couple of compelling pieces on Haiti and four movie reviews. Don't miss it!

Colapietro Wants to Hear From Businesses

Here's something unexpected from this morning's chamber of commerce legislative breakfast. I wrote about it for Wednesday's edition of The Bristol Press ( but you can read it here first. And please leave the hateful Colapietro bashing and the requisite nasty backlash for the Bristol Blog. This is a different kind of blog and I'm not having that here.

BRISTOL – State Sen. Tom Colapietro reached out to the business community Tuesday, inviting conversation.
“I’m not known to schmooze,” Colapietro told the audience of about 115 people at the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce legislative breakfast.
Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat, joined his fellow lawmakers in talking about the economy, the budget, bloated government and other troubles.
The proudly pro-union Colapietro has at times clashed with the business lobby. He hadn’t initially planned to attend the breakfast Tuesday, but when he did, he came bearing an olive branch.
“We’re not your enemy. We’re your friend,” Colapietro said.
Colapietro invited the business owners and others at the breakfast to call him or visit to talk about issues.
“You want to yell at me, I’m going to yell right back at you,” he warned, adding that it is just the way he was raised.
But he said he’s willing to calmly talk business with anyone.
Colapietro acknowledged the economic mess Connecticut faces, but said it isn’t the fault of anyone around here.
“We didn’t do it and you didn’t do it and Wall Street did do it,” said Colapietro.
Colapietro said he wouldn’t tell a business owner how to trim his budget.
“It’s not easy to cut some of your favorite things,” he said.
But Colapietro said he knows that everyone has a job to do.
In cutting the state budget, he said he wants state lawmakers to work carefully, to inflict the least amount of pain.

Think this year is bad? Wait for 2012, 2013, 2014

At the risk of sounding like the uber-negative Bristol Blog, I have to say the message this morning at the chamber's legislative breakfast was pretty much doom and gloom. Here's what I wrote about it for The Bristol Press (

BRISTOL – The state will get through this year’s economy and the next one alright, lawmakers said, but the real trouble is coming in the years to follow.
“We’ve got a heck of a task in front of us,” said Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat who predicted a “multi-billion-dollar deficit” in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Nicastro and several of his fellow lawmakers spoke at the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce legislative breakfast before a crowd of about 115 early Tuesday, with the tough economy taking center stage.
“It’s a lousy hand to be dealt, but it’s the hand we have and we have to play it,” said Rep. Chris Wright, a Bristol Democrat.
Rep. John Piscopo, a Republican who represents Burlington, Harwinton, Litchfield and Thomaston, said the $500 million deficit puts Connecticut “in a world of trouble.”
Wright, a freshman lawmaker, said it’s been frustrating that people are playing “gotcha” instead of working together to solve problems.
“Pointing fingers doesn’t make any sense,” said Nicastro, who said lawmakers have an obligation to set politics aside. “Everybody has to step up. It’s about time all sides became one team, united to solve the problem.”
Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose district includes Bristol, said the role of lawmakers is not to agree. Debate is healthy, he said, but lawmakers must listen to everyone, draw conclusions and act in the best long term interest of the state, “being the adults in the room.”
When his late father came to Connecticut about 50 years ago, Hamzy said, he found a job in a factory and economic opportunities for himself and his family.
That’s what Connecticut should be, but isn’t anymore, said Hamzy, who said throwing money at the problem won’t solve it. Instead of maintaining the status quo and hoping the storm will pass, Hamzy said, lawmakers should acknowledge problems realistically and keep in mind “the people who are paying the tab.”
Connecticut lawmakers have to look out for all facets of the state, Nicastro said, and need the help and understanding of constituents.
“Give us a chance to do it,” said Nicastro. “The cuts will be made.”
Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat, said negotiations are the toughest thing to do. “No matter whose budget passes, somebody’s going to say, that’s not a good budget.”
Colapietro said there are “too many people in high places,” but he wasn’t talking about the General Assembly. He said state senators bring home $28,000 salaries while members of the state House make about $17,000 a year.
“We’re doing the best we can,” said Colapietro. But he said state departments are filled with far too many deputy commissioners who lost an election somewhere along the way and were “slipped in” to a cushy government job.
The padded layers of government start at the municipal level, move on to the state level and really get out of control at the federal level, said Nicastro, when committees that are formed grow into permanent commissions.
Nicastro, who is heading up a state committee that will look at eliminating mandates, said if some can be removed or even temporarily suspended to give municipalities a break during the recession, lawmakers will do it.
“We’re going to listen,” Nicastro promised the crowd, adding that he’s supposed to produce a list of potential changes by March 1. “I will do everything humanly possible to get you the relief that I can.”
Chamber officials are pushing lawmakers to get more efficiency in government through regionalization, something the lawmakers in general seem to support.
“I always believed in strength in numbers,” said Colapietro.
Piscopo said the government’s role should be to remove the impediments to regionalization, not mandate it.
Wright said gains from regionalization won’t be immediate, but will probably be realized in five to 10 years.
Some state offices are aimed at promoting the rights of women, of African American citizens, or the elderly, said Wright, who said they might be able to be merged for efficiency’s sake into a human rights office.
“A lot of the work they do is overlapping,” said Wright.
When Connecticut’s 169 towns were drawn up, Wright said, it was based on whether residents could walk to the government center in a day. He said what may have been practical generations ago might not be the best system for today.
But Nicastro said there are drawbacks to regionalization, too, such as when the state was poised to build a massive new hospital in Farmington for the University of Connecticut and Hartford Hospital – a project that could have wiped out Bristol Hospital and other community hospitals in the area.
“Sometimes regionalization can hurt,” said Nicastro.

Coffee with the Future Governor, Anyone?

I'm not saying Dan Malloy is the next governor. He's just the first up at the chamber's series of coffee with the candiates. Catch him Thursday morning at the crack of dawn... er... 8 a.m. at the chamber. Here's what I wrote for Wednesday's Bristol Press ( about it:

BRISTOL – Starting with Democrat Dan Malloy on Thursday morning, candidates for governor will be invited to meet local business leaders through meetings set up by the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.
Chamber President Mike Nicastro announced at the organization’s legislative breakfast that it would host visits with all the candidates for governor, a group that he said seems to continue to grow.
Malloy will be the first, said Nicastro, and is scheduled for an 8 a.m. coffee at the chamber’s Main Street office on Thursday.
“We definitely want to hear from these candidates for governor,” said Nicastro.
Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, a Republican who is running for governor, is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 25, and others will follow, Nicastro said.
“The chamber’s going to be very busy,” said Nicastro.
Nicastro invited anyone to attend.
“Come, sit, listen to these folks,” said Nicastro. “Ask questions.”
Leadership in the current economic climate – and in the uncertain years ahead – is crucial, he said, and without it, Connecticut will have serious problems.

Hamzy Inching Closer to a Run for AG?

Bill Hamzy dropped an interesting comment into his remarks this morning to the chamber crowd. Here's what I wrote for Wednesday's Bristol Press (

BRISTOL – State Rep. Bill Hamzy took a shot at Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz early Tuesday, suggesting he’s looking ever more seriously at a run against her for state attorney general.
Speaking at a legislative breakfast sponsored by the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, Hamzy briefly brought his potential rival’s name into remarks he was making about inefficiency and waste in government.
Hamzy gave credit to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal for reaching into his own pocket to pay the $110 client security fund fees that Connecticut lawyers have to fork over to the state Department of Consumer Protection each year.
He contrasted Blumenthal’s personal payment with that of Bysiewicz, who charged her $110 fee to her state office.
That kind of spending, said Hamzy, is part of “the mindset that drives me nuts.”
Hamzy has said he’s thinking of running for Blumenthal’s seat. Bysiewicz declared her candidacy for the job after Blumenthal announced he would run for the United States Senate.
Bysiewicz was not at the breakfast forum.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pay for Parking in Downtown Bristol?

I'm sure you're all on pins and needles about that parking study, so without further delay, here's what I wrote for Tuesday's Press about it --

BRISTOL -- When the city’s new downtown takes shape, it should include a fee for parking, consultants told the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.

If a parking garage is part of the downtown project, it’s going to have to bring in revenue to support it, said Chris Granatini of Tighe & Bond, a firm that the BDDC hired to do a parking study of downtown.

Granatini said the last thing the city wants is to have people driving up and down the street looking for a free parking space. The time to institute a fee for parking is when the new downtown is built, he said.

John Lodovico, who serves on the BDDC board, said he didn’t disagree about the necessity of charging for parking but warned that people wouldn’t like it.

“It’s going to be quite a culture shock,” said Lodovico.

Granatini and a colleague, Joe Balskus, gave a presentation to the BDDC Monday about the downtown parking situation.

Citing downtown Middletown as a model, they suggested creating a parking authority -- an entity Bristol already has -- to oversee, manage and operate the parking.

Downtown Bristol has more than enough parking spaces for now and for the planned development, the consultants said.

Granatini said 1,900 parking spaces are regularly used out of a total of 4,700 spaces downtown, when all public and private lots are considered.

The former mall site, which is expected to be developed by Renaissance Downtowns, is tentatively slated to have 750 residential units, a 100-room hotel, commercial space and 1,550 parking spaces.

“The existing supply can accommodate what’s proposed in the future,” said Granatini.

Frank Johnson, chairman of the BDDC, said it’s important to remember that what Renaissance has now is a “concept plan” that may well change.

The firm identified several places they referred to as “hotspots” where parking is in high demand.

The hotspots on the street were along North Main Street in front of City Hall, the post office and fire station; on West Street between Laurel Street and School Street; on High Street in front of the library and along Main Street between the library and Riverside Avenue.

Off the street, the hotspots included the municipal parking near the post office where Foley Street meets Meadow Street, and across from City Hall on the former mall site, which they identified as “municipal area overflow parking” and on the old mall site on Main Street, identified as overflow parking for Main Street businesses.

The parking analysis suggests several potential spots for new parking lots, including the Bristol Boys and Girls Club site on Laurel Street, the former site of the Mamatseos building on North Street and North Main, the former Bristol Press building on Main Street and the former Mills box factory site on Church Street, among others.

The study also advises “road diets,” or a narrowing of some multi-lane streets like Riverside Avenue to make room for on-street parking. The consultants suggested some could be added on North Main Street near the junction with Riverside Avenue and along Riverside between Main and North Main streets.

Johnson said an alternate idea might be to accomplish the same thing by expanding the former mall site out to include those lanes and have additional parking on the property. Johnson said it is also possible that a parking facility could be a public-private venture.

Granatini said the city could gain some parking spaces in the municipal garage between City Hall and the police station, which he said is not used to capacity. He suggested that perhaps the city could assign some of the spaces to municipal employees to encourage its use.


The Rest of the City Hall Scene

What else is going on over there? I just attended a BDDC meeting and the highlight for me, anyway, was the downtown parking study. Stay tuned, readers because you'll see it revealed here first.
The BDDC had to keep things short because the Democratic Town Committee was busy piling in for their meeting.
They had a few candidates who were going to make a pitch... Jonathan Harris, who wants to be secretary of the state, Merrick Alpert, who wants to be a U.S. senator, and James Amann, who wants to be governor. I didn't see any of them because I had to leave to write about that fascinating parking study and I was on deadline.
I did, however, see a smiling Sen. Tom Colapietro, who planned to announce his re-election campaign tonight.
Then, I had to leave.

The Scene at City Hall

Apparently I have a few more readers than it seems. I was at City Hall tonight and a few people told me they'd checked out Extra B.S., which was rather jolly, and then another person stopped me to trash it. I happen to know that trasher guy is a regular reader of the Bristol Blog, which seems to draw a lot of critical people without much to do except bash other people. I can live without that, thanks.

ESPN Employees Have All the Fun

As if there weren't enough great reasons to want to work for ESPN -- their office chairs are really comfortable, for one thing -- here's another:

ESPN, which is making a big push to cover the FIFA World Cup this summer with authentic South African music and other cultural treats, is bringing the Soweto Gospel Choir to sing in their ESPN Cafe at lunchtime on Wednesday, just to get the locals here fired up so they can fire up the viewers about South Africa and the World Cup. I wrote this about it for Tuesday's Press (

Bringing their vocal harmonies northward, South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir is making a special stop at ESPN Wednesday.
The choir’s work will be some of the music featured during ESPN’s coverage of the FIFA World Cup this summer, said Claude Mitchell, coordinating music director for ESPN.
“They’ll have a fairly prominent role,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said ESPN identified the Soweto Gospel Choir early on in its World Cup planning as a source “to represent the local sounds of South Africa and Africa in general.”
ESPN will incorporate “a lot of authentic African music” in its presentation of the soccer games and other programs throughout the monthlong World Cup championship, Mitchell said, including jazz, pop, urban, hip hop, reggae and rock and roll.
“I would hope that a lot of it’s going to be new” to viewers, Mitchell said, and “highlight the pageantry and emotion” of the World Cup.
According to Mitchell, the Soweto Gospel Choir combines traditional American Baptist gospel sounds, with traditional African music and pop influences.
The choir, which will perform in the company cafeteria around lunchtime, sings in some South African dialects – the country has about a dozen – and performs much of its music in English, as well, he said.
Much of their catalog has a religious bent, but Mitchell said the choir also draws from music traditionally used to cope with hardships and also from protest music.
“They also do covers of pop tunes,” said Mitchell. “It’s kind of all over the place.”
Mitchell said ESPN will use work from the choir’s catalog, but is also talking with them about the possibility of new songs specifically for the World Cup event.
ESPN is bringing the choir to Bristol to help build excitement among the staff for the World Cup and to give the choir a chance to get to know ESPN.
Coverage of the World Cup is a company-defined top priority for ESPN this year.

My date tonight with the BDDC

Yessir, it's that time again... for the monthly meeting of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. at City Hall. Come one, come all. If we're lucky, we might even hear about the parking study!
Seriously, it probably won't be as much fun as recent meetings, but then, those were pretty exciting by City Hall standards. I for one am pleased that things seem to be moving ahead with the downtown project and we have to give this little posse some credit for that.
Anyway, dear readers, I will brave the rain along with the plucky board members of the BDDC and their professional staff, and then I will bring you the latest word. I hope there's something juicy to report.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hope for Haiti Now Telethon

A moving, impressive evening of soulful, heartfelt music by a diverse group of artists and assorted famous people, united for a worthy cause. A beautiful evening. Thank you.

Soweto Gospel Choir coming to ESPN

I just heard from my pals at ESPN that the Soweto Gospel Choir will be coming to ESPN to perform next week. That is something I won't miss. More later, but you heard it here first!

ESPN, the Moviemaker

Those creative folks at ESPN are offering up a bunch of films this spring for people who love sports and love movies. Here's what their hardworking PR department recently released about the lineup:

Spring Schedule for ESPN Films’ Acclaimed '30 for 30' Series Announced

Run Ricky Run about Ricky Williams Added to Lineup

ESPN Films and its acclaimed “30 for 30” series will return this spring with eight films from a star-studded filmmaker roster that includes Ice Cube, Steve James, Dan Klores, Brett Morgen and more. Joining the lineup will be Sean Pamphilon’s intimate portrait of embattled football player Ricky Williams’ hiatus from football in Run Ricky Run. The slate begins with a special presentation Sunday, March 14 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPNHD with Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks. The schedule then gets underway again in its regular Tuesday slot with No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson April 13 at 8 p.m.

The schedule:

Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks (Dan Klores) – March 14, 9 p.m.

Reggie Miller single-handedly crushed the hearts of Knick fans multiple times. But it was the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals which solidified Miller as "The Garden's Greatest Villain." With seconds to go in Game 1, and facing a seemingly insurmountable deficit of 105 - 99, Miller scored 8 points in 8.9 seconds to give his Indiana Pacers an astonishing victory. This career-defining performance, combined with his give-and-take with Knick fan Spike Lee, made Miller and the Knicks the spotlight story of the 1995 NBA post season. Award-winning director Dan Klores will explore how Miller proudly built his legend as the Big Apple’s Public Enemy #1 to become the king of the New York streets.

No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson (Steve James) – April 13, 8 p.m.

On Valentine's Day 1993, 17-year-old Bethel High School basketball star Allen Iverson was bowling in Hampton, Va., with five high school friends. It was supposed to be an ordinary evening, but it became a night that defined Iverson’s young life. A quarrel soon erupted into a brawl pitting Iverson’s young, black friends against a group of white patrons. The fallout from the fight and the handling of the subsequent trial landed the teenager -- considered by some the nation's best high school athlete -- in jail and sharply divided the city along racial lines. Oscar nominee Steve James (Hoop Dreams) returns to his hometown of Hampton, where he once played basketball, to take a personal look at this still-disputed incident and examine its impact on Iverson and the shared community.

Silly Little Game (Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen) – April 20, 8 p.m.

Fantasy sports are estimated to be a $4 billion dollar industry that boasts over 30 million participants and a league for almost every sport imaginable. But for all this success, the story of the game’s inception is little known. The modern fantasy leagues can be traced back to a group of writers and academics who met at La Rotisserie Francaise in New York City to form a baseball league of their own: The Rotisserie League. The game quickly grew in popularity, and with the growing use and attractiveness of the internet, the “Founding Fathers” never foresaw how their creation would take off and ultimately leave them behind. Innovative filmmakers Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen will chronicle the early development and ultimate explosion of fantasy baseball, and shine a light on its mostly unnoticed innovators.

Run Ricky Run (Sean Pamphilon) – April 27, 8 p.m.

Ricky Williams does not conform to America’s definition of the modern athlete. In 2004, with rumors of another positive marijuana test looming, the Miami Dolphins running back traded adulation and a mansion in South Florida for anonymity and a $7 a night tent in Australia. His decision created a media frenzy that dismantled his reputation and branded him as America's Pothead. But while most in the media thought Williams was ruining his life by leaving football, Ricky thought he was saving it. Through personal footage recorded with Williams during his time away from football and beyond, filmmaker Sean Pamphilon takes a fresh look at a player who had become a media punching bag and has since redeemed himself as a father and a teammate.

Straight Outta L.A. (Ice Cube) – May 4, 8 p.m.

In 1982, Raiders owner Al Davis beat the NFL in court and moved his team from Oakland to Los Angeles. With a squad as colorful as its owner, the Raiders captivated a large numbers of black and Hispanic fans in L.A. at a time when gang warfare, immigration and the real estate boom were rapidly changing the city. The L.A. Raiders morphed into a worldwide brand as the team’s colors, swagger and anti-establishment ethos became linked with “Gangsta Rap” and the hip-hop scene that was permeating South Central Los Angeles. Rapper-turned-filmmaker Ice Cube was not only witness to this revolution, he was also a part of it. As a member of the controversial rap group N.W.A, Ice Cube helped make the silver and black culturally significant to a new generation and demographic. Still a die-hard Raiders fan, Cube will explore the unlikely marriage between the NFL’s rebel franchise and America’s glamour city, and show how pro football’s outlaw team became the toast of La La Land.

The Two Escobars (Jeff Zimbalist) – May 11, 8 p.m.

Born in the same city in Colombia with the same last name, Andres Escobar and Pablo Escobar shared a fanatical childhood love for soccer. Andres grew up to become one of Colombia's most beloved players, while Pablo rose through the ranks of the criminal underground to become not only the most notorious drug baron of all time, but also arguably the secret weapon responsible for Colombian soccer's unprecedented rise to glory. Soccer was the vehicle for Colombia to transform its image on the international stage. But after its shocking early elimination from the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the mysterious murder of Andres Escobar dashed the hopes of a nation. Fifteen years later, The Two Escobars investigates the secret marriage of crime and sport, and uncovers the surprising connections between the murders of Andres and Pablo.

June 17, 1994 (Brett Morgen) – June 16, 10 p.m.

Do you remember where you were on June 17, 1994? Thanks to a wide array of unrelated, coast-to-coast occurrences, this Friday has come to be known for its firsts, lasts, triumphs and tragedy. Arnold Palmer played his last U.S. Open round at Oakmont, the FIFA World Cup kicked off in Chicago, the Rangers celebrated their first Stanley Cup in 54 years on Broadway, Ken Griffey Jr. reached a milestone in Kansas City and Patrick Ewing desperately pursued a long evasive championship in the Garden. And yet, all of that was a prelude to OJ Simpson leading America on a slow speed chase in a white Ford Bronco around Los Angeles. Oscar-nominated and Peabody Award-winning director Brett Morgen will artistically weave these moments and others to create a unique and nostalgic look at a day that no sports fan could forget.

The 16th Man (Cliff Bestall, Lori McCreary and Morgan Freeman) – June 22, 8 p.m.

Rugby has long been viewed in South Africa as a game for the white population, and the country's success in the sport has been a true source of Afrikaner pride. When the long entrenched injustices of apartheid were finally overthrown in 1992, Nelson Mandela’s new government began rebuilding a nation badly in need of racial unity. So the world was watching when South Africa played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Though mostly white, the South African Springboks gained supporters of all colors as they made an improbable run into the finals and then beat heavily favored New Zealand. When Mandela himself marched to the center of the pitch cloaked in a Springbok jersey and embraced the members of the South African team, two nations became one. Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, producer Lori McCreary and director Cliff Bestall will tell the emotional story of that cornerstone moment and what it meant to South Africa’s healing process.

Festival Selections

Winning Time has been named an official selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival while No Crossover has been tagged for the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival, continuing the series’ presence at prestigious industry events. Kings Ransom and The Band That Wouldn’t Die were official selections of the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.

Ratings So Far

The December 12, 2009 airing of Billy Corben’s The U, posted a 1.8 rating for an average of 1.8 million homes (2.368 M viewers, P2+) making it ESPN’s highest-rated documentary of all time (The Greatest Game Ever Played aired December 13, 2008, and earned a 1.4 rating – 1.369 million households, 1.811 M viewers). To date, the series’ first seven films earned an average 1.0 rating (1,007,000 homes, 1,258,000 viewers).

“30 for 30”

Other previously announced “30 for 30” projects are: Reggie Rock Bythewood (One Night in Vegas), Academy Award winner Bill CouturiĆ© (Guru of Go), Academy Award winner Alex Gibney (Steve Bartman: Catching Hell), Jonathan Hock (The Best That Never Was), Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine (Birth of Big Air), two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple (The House That George Built), Academy Award nominee Frank Marshall (Right to Play), Steve Michaels, Joel Surnow and Jonathan Koch (Charismatic), two-time NBA MVP and first-time filmmaker Steve Nash (Into the Wind), Academy Award nominee Ron Shelton (Jordan Rides the Bus) and two-time Academy Award nominee John Singleton (Marion Jones: Press Pause).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bristol Hospital Made Money Last Year

Despite the truly lousy economy, Bristol Hospital, which has been in the red every years for too many years -- CFO Peter Freytag guessed seven years -- made money last year. Bravo to the hospital for doing the impossible. Their profit was less than $10,000, but I give them a lot of credit for turning the ship around and moving in the right direction. Here's what I wrote after the annual meeting:

BRISTOL -- For the first time in years, Bristol Hospital ended its fiscal year in the black.

Especially given the dire economy, the hospital’s overall profit of about $8,000 “was a substantial improvement for the organization,” said Peter Freytag, the hospital’s chief financial officer.

Freytag called the accomplishment a “direct result of how everybody’s worked” to control costs.

The hospital’s chief numbers cruncher didn’t speak at the annual meeting Thursday, but President Kurt Barwis and Cary Dupont, who gave the auditor’s report, praised Freytag’s work in front of the audience of about 200 at the Clarion.

Mark Blum, who chairs the hospital’s finance committee, said the organization’s fiscal condition is steadily improving, despite the challenging economy. The hospital grew revenues from patient services by 5 percent and controlled expenses, Blum said, by staffing according to volume and reducing overtime.

The hospital also cut in half the losses from operations and reduced its bad debt, according to Blum.

“It was a very difficult year,” said Barwis, with unemployment rising and many more people without insurance. Still, the hospital did what it said it would, said Barwis.

“We actually made budget,” said Barwis.

The first quarter of the hospital’s last fiscal year, which started in October 2008, was strong, said Freytag.

“The bottom literally dropped out in January,” he said.

Freytag said he’s not expecting a banner year this time, with the hospital already behind. He said the census at Bristol Hospital is down, mirroring hospitals all around the state.

“It has the makings of another difficult year for us,” said Freytag.

Barwis, who spent a lot of time last year fighting a potentially devastating plan for a new University of Connecticut hospital in Farmington, made a point of thanking Bristol’s state lawmakers.

“Our local delegation has worked hard for us,” said Barwis. “They rallied support around our concerns.”

Barwis noted the public fight the hospital had with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield over reimbursement rates. That battle still goes on, though less publicly, and Barwis reminded audience members that the hospital still accepts Anthem insurance.

Barwis said businesses can’t take on more health care costs.

“Employers can’t pay any more and the costs just keep going up,” said Barwis. He said it’s getting to the point where hospitals may not be able to provide their workers coverage for all the services they provide.

Medicare payments to hospitals will be reduced, said Barwis, who said change is already here.

“On the ground, each and every day, health care reform is happening,” said Barwis.

The hospital’s response, said Barwis, is to provide efficient, quality care, keeping it on a path to success no matter what health care reforms take place.

Tom Barnes, who chairs the hospital’s governance committee, urged everyone to do what they can to support the hospital.

“The hospital really is in my mind the most important asset we have in our community,” said Barnes.


Dr. Vitale Steps Down as Hospital Chief of Staff

Lots of people showed up at the hospital's annual meeting at the Clarion tonight. They gave a nice chair to Dr. Valerie Vitale, who stepped down as chief of staff. Here's what I wrote about all the praise she got:

BRISTOL -- The hospitals’ new chief of staff, Dr. Kenneth Rhee, M.D., looked over the files on his predecessor, Dr. Valerie Vitale, M.D.

Doing so, he got a little depressed, Rhee said.

“I realized how woefully unfit I am to fill her shoes,” Rhee told the audience at the hospital’s annual meeting Thursday.

Vitale is “the hardest working mom, wife and doctor in Bristol, Connecticut,” Rhee said.

Rhee was just one of several hospital officials to sing Vitale’s praises as she steps down from the position she’s held for four years.

Vitale, said Rhee, is “incredibly bright and energetic.”

She graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rhee said, with a degree in chemical engineering and for a time, worked as a chemical engineer.

Vitale then went to medical school, Rhee said, and concentrated on ear, nose and throat work -- a specialty that Rhee said attracts “all the smart ones” because “the human head and neck is very complicated.”

Rhee noted that Vitale managed a medical practice and the duties of chief of staff while raising three kids, sometimes on her own, when her Army surgeon husband was deployed.

Hospital board Chairman Nancy Blanchette said Vitale’s has been a strong voice on behalf of the medical staff.

“She truly has helped to form all that we have done together as a team,” said Blanchette.

Mike Adams, another former board president, said Vitale “worked tirelessly” with medical staff.

“Valerie has always put the hospital needs ahead of her own,” said Adams.

Tim Furey, another former hospital board president, said Vitale has “quiet and intelligent ways” in working with the medical staff and provided “invaluable services” to the hospital’s future growth.

“She has already led change that is going to be lasting forever,” said hospital President Kurt Barwis.

Barwis applauded Vitale continuing her leadership role on the Hartford County Medical Society.

“We need people like Dr. Vitale to step up,” said Barwis. “She certainly made a huge difference for us.”

Vitale said she enjoyed her tenure as chief of staff, which included the transition period when Barwis took over as president.

She said she appreciated working with Blanchette and Marie O’Brien, the board’s vice chairman, who “give tirelessly and voluntarily” to the hospital and make a special effort to understand the perspective of the medical staff.


Bristol Hospital's New Chief of Staff

There's a new chief of staff at Bristol Hospital.The hospital's medical staff elected Dr. Kenneth Rhee, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist, as its new chief of staff for a two-year term. Rhee replaces Dr. Valerie Vitale, who completed two consecutive two-year terms.

Some Board Changes at Bristol Hospital

The hospital boards are changing a bit this year.
A new member of the hospital board is Kenneth Benoit, MD. Current board members Michael Adams, Cary Dupont and Jean Pierre van Rooy are stepping down after completing their terms.
Bristol Hospital Development Foundation Board Member Michael Adams, Gregory Fredette, Sr., and Patrick Nelligan will be stepping down after completing their terms and will be replaced by Kenneth Sheptoff and attorney Timothy Furey.

New Hospital Corporators Named

Bristol Hospital has a great system of bringing in people from the community as corporators. This helps them lock in support, which the community hospital needs in these tough times. Three state lawmakers are among the bunch this year, Bill Hamzy, Betty Boukus and Tom Colapietro. They've also got some doctors, Fire Chief Jon Pose and others.
Corporators endorse nominations for the hospital's board of directors.

Tonight, they're naming 26 new corporators. They are: Sharon Adler, M.D., Rainer Bagdasarian, M.D., Elizabeth Boukus, Amy Breakstone, M.D., William Brownstein, M.D., Lisa Casey, Susan Colapietro, Thomas Colapietro, Robert Cordeau, Richard Croce, Douglas Devnew, Jill Fitzgerald, Todd Fitzsimons, William Hamzy, Kate Houlihan, Jonathan Krumeich, M.D., Peter Longo, Joseph Ofusu, R.Ph., Donna Osuch, Jon Pose, Susan Scully, Robert Sener, Kenneth Sheptoff, Kathi Sorey, Susan Sylvestre, and Derek Werner, Esq.

Hospital's Annual Meeting Tonight

Bristol Hospital's annual meeting is tonight at the Clarion. I will be there, so if you see me, say hello! I'll be the one with the notebook.

Bristol woman, 57, gives birth to three babies, John Edwards denies paternity

Now that I have your attention, perhaps you'll check out Extra B.S. more often, even if you have to tear your eyeballs off the Bristol Blog to do it.
Your eyes will thank you.
Anyway, this was for my favorite reader, Sgt. Schultz, who is trying to drum up support for my new adventure. Thanks, Sarge!
P.S. Just to clarify... of course the part about John Edwards fathering triplets with a 57-year-old Bristol woman isn't true. I blame the headline writer.

Colapietro Willing to Listen to Chamber

Well, folks, you can't count Tom Colapietro out. Word was that he wouldn't show at the chamber's annual legislative breakfast, but he fooled everyone, including me. He told me that he will attend the soiree next Tuesday morning at 8 at the Clarion. I'll be there, too. Here's a story I wrote about it for Thursday's Press:

BRISTOL -- When state lawmakers go back into session next month, city business advocates want them to focus on the budget and on ways to address the deficit, said Michael Nicastro, president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.
Nicastro said chamber members want to hear from the local delegation before the session starts, and will listen and ask questions at a legislative breakfast Tuesday.
“This is a short session legislative year,” said Nicastro. “We’re facing another deficit and it’s a re-election year for these guys.”
The upset in Massachusetts this week when a Republican won the U.S. Senate seat long occupied by Democrat Ted Kennedy shows that something is in the air, said Nicastro.
“There’s clearly a movement against incumbents right now. One election doesn’t tell it all,” he said, but added, “Something’s afoot.”
People are concerned about how their tax dollars are being spent, said Nicastro, and that includes business owners.
“We’re concerned about the budget deficit, how it’s going to get managed,” said Nicastro.
Lawmakers should continue important work on regionalization, Nicastro said, but he said it will take a long time to accomplish that.
What they can do now, Nicastro said, is reduce redundancy in government that carries a high monetary and efficiency cost.
The state’s got several different entities working on economic development, said Nicastro, including the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Connecticut Development Authority and Connecticut Innovations.
“They all have their own infrastructure,” said Nicastro. “Everyone’s got a marketing director. Everyone’s got a head of HR.”
That’s costly, and confusing for new businesses or business owners who are new to the state, Nicastro said.
“They’re not sure who to talk to,” said Nicastro. “The process should be streamlined. They’re all great programs, but in the end, they have to be run efficiently.”
Nicastro said the economic development isn’t the only realm where efforts are duplicated. State government has “too many fiefdoms,” he said, where the same is true.
Chamber members want to see action from lawmakers on transportation, too, said Nicastro.
“We can’t keep building highways. We need a transit strategy,” said Nicastro. “Wasting enormous sums on the busway is not a strategy.”
The proposed busway from New Britain to Hartford carries a cost of nearly $60 million per mile, said Nicastro.
Connecticut needs a good system to move freight as well as people, said Nicastro.
Getting freight onto trains and out of over the road trucks will save money and reduce congestion on the highways, Nicastro said.
In addition, Nicastro said, the state ought to put together a review board to look at the unfunded mandates that municipalities have to shoulder to see if they still make sense.
State Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose district includes Bristol, said he’ll be there. When he first took office more than a decade ago, Hamzy said, there were a lot of forums like this one, but now, there are only a few.
“It’s kind of a lot of work to put together,” said Hamzy. “That’s probably the central reason.”
State Sen. Tom Colapietro said he’ll be there, too.
“I know pretty much what they’re going to say,” said Colapietro, a Bristol
Democrat. “I’m willing to go and listen to ‘em again. Maybe they’ll come up with some new things.”
Colapietro said sorting out what to cut is taking time.
“If cuts must be made, they must be made compassionately,” he said, with a scalpel rather than recklessly with a meat cleaver. “Everybody wants us to cut, but not them.”
The legislative breakfast is at the Clarion on Tuesday, starting at 8 a.m.
Tickets are $20 in advance and are available at the chamber. They’re available at the door for $25.

Oh, the Irony! Building Official Takes a Fall

I like Guy Morin, the city's building official. He's a decent, fairminded fellow. He recently took a bad fall at home, which resulted in a lot of missed work. He's back on the job now and was good-natured enough to talk with me about it. Here's a story I wrote for today's Press:

City Building Official Guy Morin learned too late to take a ladder seriously.
Morin, who recently came back to his City Hall office after seven weeks recuperating from a bad fall, said he made the mistake of not paying attention while standing on a 27-foot ladder at his house.
“I was cleaning the gutters out,” said Morin. “I was almost done.”
But the ladder slipped out of his reach, slid along the fascia board of his house and he fell 14 feet down, landing on mulch and ground cover.
“You don’t have to be up that high to get hurt,” said Morin.
He dislocated the bones in his foot and his tendons became entangled, requiring surgery.
“I was just hanging in midair. I came down on my left foot,” said Morin. “It was like Chevy Chase in ‘Christmas Vacation,’ without the lights.”
Morin, who said he was right in front of his picture window when he fell, said his wife was inside at the time.
“She heard the ladder slide. She looked up and I was dropping,” he said. “We laugh about it now. At the time, she was upset.”
His injury kept him in the hospital for three days, said Morin, in bed for two weeks and out of work for almost two months.
He’s got three screws in his bones and now wears a walking boot for support, but hopes to get out of it soon.
“It’s still a little swollen,” said Morin. “I’m just happy that I’ll be able to walk again. I was pretty lucky.”
He said he’s acquired a couple unwanted nicknames: “Gimpy” and “Hopalong.”
“I’m ready to get rid of those,” said Morin.
After becoming chief building official three years ago, Morin said he stopped the common practice of Bristol’s inspectors climbing up on ladders to check out a roof.
“We do that on a very limited basis now,” said Morin. “Most of the time, the ladders weren’t that safe. I didn’t want anybody hurt.”
Most residential roofs can be inspected from the ground, said Morin, because nearly all are slanted and visible. Commercial roofs are more often flat, and accessible from a door, he said.
When inspectors do have to go up on a ladder, said Morin, they make sure the ladder can carry their weight and that someone below is holding the ladder steady.
Morin sees the irony in his own mishap.
“I grew up on ladders. I just got too complacent,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t up there securely, but I went up there anyway.”
The accident left Morin hurting – but not crying, he said – and with one more household task to finish: selling that ladder.

New Literacy Blog

Remember Darlene Hurtado, who used to help run The Family Center in Bristol? Well, she's in charge of the area Literacy Volunteers of America and she just let me know she has a new blog. She probably even has as many readers as I do:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Hasselbeck Switcheroo

Here's what I wrote for Wednesday's Bristol Press about Elisabeth Hasselbeck's afternoon at ESPN:

Elisabeth Hasselbeck, co-host on “The View,” wowed her husband’s colleagues at ESPN when she filled in for him Tuesday.

“She did great,” said Seth Markman, senior coordinating producer for the “NFL Live” show who said Hasselbeck was well prepared and comfortable on television.

“It’s actually really refreshing to talk football,” she said, adding that she loves the game.

Hasselbeck and her husband, ESPN football analyst Tim Hasselbeck, agreed to switch places for a day. By all accounts, she passed with flying colors Tuesday and next Thursday, he’s due in the ABC studio in New York for his turn.

“Now the presssure’s on Tim,” said Markman.

The biggest difference she noticed at ESPN, Hasselbeck said, was the number of men and the way they exchanged ideas.

“There’s no crosstalk,” she said, unlike on “The View,” where she and the other women talk back and forth on a number of issues throughout the morning.

A mother of three young children, Hasselbeck said the early morning hours on “The View” are easier to handle than her husband’s ESPN schedule.

“I think I took for granted what he does everyday,” she said.

Hasselbeck said she felt her views were “incredibly respected” by her husband’s co-workers.

She first appeared on “NFL Live” with host Trey Wingo and analyst Tedy Bruschi, then on “The Doug Gottlieb Show” on ESPN Radio. She also taped a segment of “SportsCenter” with co-anchors Jay Harris and Brian Kenny.

“Everyone here has been incredibly nice and welcoming,” she said.

Bruschi said she did such a great job he’s ready to make the trade permanent.

“She was nervous at first. Tim gave her a lot of good tips,” said Bruschi. “You could tell once the camera was on how professional she is.”

Bruschi said he didn’t know Hasselbeck before she appeared on the show with him.

“I was actually nervous,” Bruschi said. “I didn’t know how it would go.”

But Bruschi said it was such a pleasure, he wouldn’t mind working with her again.

Watching in the “SportsCenter” studio as technicians fiddled with his wife’s microphone, Tim Hasselbeck expressed confidence in her ability to handle his job.

“I have way more worries about my appearance on ‘The View,’ than her appearance here,” he said.

Sports, said Tim Hasselbeck, formerly of the Washington Redskins, are a “friendly topic” that typically is without much controversy, unlike what he thinks he may encounter on “The View.”

“They touch a lot of hot button issues,” he said.

Bruschi agreed.

“That show she’s on is tough,” he said. “I think he’ll hold his own, but it’s going to be heavier lifting than she had today.”

There are “some “very opinionated women” on “The View,” Bruschi said.

“I think he’s in trouble. Good luck, buddy.”

Celebrity stalking at ESPN

Met the Hasselbecks. Met Tedy Bruschi, former New England Patriot player. Stalking celebs is not my cup of tea, but these are all very nice folks. Stay tuned for the full story.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Celebrity stalking at ESPN, the old switcheroo

I'm going to ESPN tomorrow, readers, to find out what happens when Elisabeth Hasselbeck tries to do her husband's job. Wish I could go to the studio in NYC, too, to see how he does hers. If you have any ideas about what I should ask her, I'm all ears.

Here's what ESPN sent about the switcheroo:

Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a Daytime Emmy Award-winning co-host of ABC’s “The View,” and her husband, ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck, are changing jobs – for one day.
Elisabeth will spend the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 19 on the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn., where she will appear in Tim’s place on ESPN programs, including NFL Live (4 p.m. ET), to discuss the NFL playoffs and other sports topics.
Tim will complete the job swap Thursday, Jan. 28, at the ABC studios in New York, where he will occupy Elisabeth’s seat on “The View” (11 a.m., ABC) alongside co-hosts Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd and Barbara Walters. The former NFL quarterback will share his perspective and match wits with the all-female panel as they discuss the latest news, celebrity gossip and events of the day.
“We think fun and sports should go together, and the job swap will be fun for our viewers and for fans of ‘The View’ who will get the chance to see and hear from Elisabeth and Tim in completely different settings,” said ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman, who oversees NFL Live.
“So many times we ask, ‘How did work go today?’ ” said Elisabeth. “Undoubtedly we will be finding out the hard way as we switch jobs. The question then will be, ‘What have we gotten ourselves into?’ "
Added Tim: “Hopefully I can pull this off because I see her preparation on a regular basis each week – reading, and watching cable news shows, other television programs and upcoming movies. I will enjoy this because I know they will have fun with me at ‘The View’ and, of course, when I get back to work at ESPN. I’m sure I’ll have a greater appreciation for what she does on a day-in and day-out basis.”
The Hasselbecks have been married since 2002, and they first met at Boston College in the late 1990s. Tim was quarterback of the football team and Elisabeth captained the back-to-back BIG EAST Conference champion women’s softball team. No stranger to sports, Elisabeth also completed the 1999 Boston Marathon and participated in Survivor: The Australian Outback reality series in 2001, in which she finished among the final four contestants. A native of Rhode Island, Elisabeth is a fan of the old-school Boston Celtics and the Seattle Seahawks, whose starting quarterback happens to be Matt Hasselbeck (Tim’s brother). Tim spent six seasons in the NFL (2002-07), most notably with the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, for whom he served as backup to Eli Manning.

Abandoning the Bristol Blog for greater things

Steve Collins is out of town tonight, so don't bother looking at the Bristol Blog for awhile, not that you would, unless you like that kind of thing, I guess.
Anyway, Steve has been invited to speak to a Rotary Club about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s history of picking tobacco in Connecticut as a teenager. I heard his speech yesterday -- he gave me a sneak preview. I'd say those Rotarians picked the right man. It's interesting, as Steve so often is, when he's not blogging.
I hope he gets something good to eat.

Applause, applause for high school singers

One nice thing about a blog is that I can inject a little of my own point of view. It's not something I'm used to doing, since outside of the occasional review, I almost always write news stories.
But I am going to have a few things to say now and then.
Something I want to do today is to give a big round of applause to the madrigal singers of both Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central High School for their gorgeous a capella performances Monday.
The kids got up early on their day off school to sing at the NAACP breakfast to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Getting somewhere at 8 a.m. on a day when school isn't in session is no small feat for a teenager. First of all, they get props just for getting up and to school at the appointed hour.
But if you were there and sitting close enough to hear, you'll know that these kids sounded really great. Their voices blended beautifully and the soloists did their school proud.
It was definitely a highlight of the program.
The NAACP choir had a lot of guts to follow those kids but they did all right, too, helped out by a couple of guitars and some drums.
My only gripe was that no one thought to get a microphone in front of these kids. I was sitting close to where they stood, so I could hear them just fine, but I wonder how frustrated the people in the back had to be because they probably couldn't hear at all.

Museum offers BYOB ballroom dancing

This just in from the New England Carousel Museum:

Bring your buddies, bring your booze, bring your dancing shoes and take a spin on the beautiful hardwood floor at the New England Carousel Museum. Enjoy classic ballroom dancing and music from 7-10:30PM. Beginners are welcome and encouraged. Dances will be held regularly on the last Friday of the month at the Carousel Museum, 95 Riverside Ave, RT 72 Bristol. Entry cost is $10.00 per person. For additional information call 860 585-5411 or visit

King Day preacher rails at Beulah

Here's what I wrote about the service at Beulah A.M.E. Zion Church on Monday, which was after the breakfast at the high school:

BRISTOL – The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous dream of a time of justice and equality was a great idea and something America should have followed decades ago, said the Rev. John Walker.
But instead, the nation slipped into slumber, said Walker, of St. James Missionary Baptist Church in New Britain, the featured speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day service at Beulah A.M.E. Zion Church in Forestville Monday.
“It’s time to wake up,” said Walker.
Walker said King, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, led a revolution that changed the American South, but also the whole world.
King’s dream was “rooted deeply in the American dream,” said Walker, that everyone should have the same rights and privileges of health care, education, decent housing and a fair shake from the justice system.
We’re not there yet, Walker said, and there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Blacks have suffered indignities, but they share some responsibility for their own lack of progress, he said.
“We’ve had great opportunities, but we’ve wasted nearly 30 years,” said Walker, who railed on black-on-black crime, teen pregnancy, rampant divorce, drug use and more, calling on mothers with a Section 8 certificate not to allow a lazy boyfriend to move in and jeopardize her housing arrangement.
“You don’t have to be in the gutter anymore,” Walker said. “You can pick yourself up. You can dust yourself off.”
Walker preached that having faith in God like King did, and in oneself can bring education, money and an apartment not connected to public housing.
The spirited service at Beulah, complete with rousing musical offerings from the Beulah A.M.E. Zion Mass Choir and from the St. James Missionary Baptist Choir, drew about 75 people to the church on Circle Street.
Beulah’s pastor, the Rev. Patricia Flowers, said if King were alive today, he’d be on a plane to Haiti, offering help to the people devastated by last week’s earthquake.“They’re our brothers and they’re our sisters,” said Flowers.
City Councilor Cliff Block filled in at the service for Mayor Art Ward. Block told listeners that he was there as “your friend and neighbor,” but said when he agreed to take Ward’s place, the mayor neglected to mention that he’d be called upon to speak.
Block said he’d be more comfortable singing a song than doing any public speaking, but hailed King as “a man taken from us too soon” who started a movement that changed the world.

NAACP breakfast honors King

I wrote this for Tuesday's edition of The Bristol Press (

BRISTOL – About 260 people turned out early Monday to pay tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The greater Bristol branch of the NAACP hosted the breakfast with the theme “A Community Working Together” at Bristol Eastern High School.
Lexie Mangum, president of the local branch, recognized a host of businesses and organizations and made sure community leaders, including the mayor, fire chief, police chief and a school board member all had a chance to speak.
“This is our town. We pay taxes here. We live here,” said Mangum, who said he wanted the breakfast to be a chance for residents to get to know some of the city officials. “Let us get involved in any way we can to make our town better.”
The morning wasn’t without music. Madrigal singers from Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central High School performed, and the Bristol NAACP Choir also favored the crowd in its first performance anywhere.
“I would say your debut was a resounding success,” said Doris Arrington, dean of students at Capital Community College, who was the keynote speaker.
With his ideals of democracy, freedom and equality for all, Arrington said, King had a “global vision in which all people would share in the wealth of the earth.”
But African Americans and Latinos struggle with double the unemployment numbers of whites, said Arrington, less health insurance, more new cases of AIDS as well as underfunded schools that turn out fewer students who are college bound.
About 25 percent of Hartford high school students, she said, attend higher education, compared to 80 percent of their suburban counterparts.
King’s vision can only be achieved, Arrington said, by a community that still has faith in its fellow human beings.
“There is still much work to be done, as all Americans have not achieved equality,” said Arrington exhorting her listeners to get involved in their community. “The time is now. We are the ones that we have been waiting for. It is up to us. What we do today or what we don’t do today will be our legacy.”
Patricia Bentley, a breakfast organizer, welcomed the crowd and said she was happy to see so many community officials at the event.
“This is actually a great turnout,” said Bentley.
Mayor Art Ward said it was the largest turnout he’d ever seen in Bristol on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and credited Mangum and others for “bringing the NAACP back into a viable organization within the community.”
Ward said he hopes that with the growth of the local NAACP, dialog between the group and the city will improve.
Ward invited those in the audience to get involved in civic work.
“We have many, many boards and commissions that need you, and we want you to be part of our community,” Ward said.
Emcee Ray Ortiz talked about competing and winning as the 2009 Connecticut Youth of the Year for the Bristol Boys and Girls Club.
“It was hard,” said Ortiz. But he said when he went on to represent the state in the national contest, he experienced a lot of “firsts” in his life, including riding on a train, visiting Times Square and eating at the Olive Garden.
Mangum said the local NAACP branch has more than 100 adult members and almost 40 youth and encouraged non-members to join.
“The NAACP is not and never has been a black organization,” said Mangum. “If you are a resident of Bristol or surrounding town, you can join the NAACP.”
The group’s next meeting, Mangum said, will be Saturday at the Bristol Public Library. The executive board meets at noon and the general membership at 12:30 p.m., he said. Only members are allowed at the meeting, Mangum said, but anyone who wants to join can arrive a few minutes before noon to register.
Dues are $10 for members 16 and under, $15 for members 17-21 and $30 for adults age 21 or older.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bristol Blog sinks even lower

American Idol?
Really, is that the best that Steve Collins can come up with?
Readers, abandon the Bristol Blog, or at least spend less time on it.
Convert, readers!
The Extra Big Scoop awaits you.

Football blast on Mike and Mike

This is for all the football fans out there in blogland. Today, ESPN's wildly popular morning radio show, Mike and Mike in the Morning, interviewed the big boss of the NFL. Dan Quinn at ESPN sent this over:

NFL Commissioner Goodell on ESPN Radio This Morning January 15, 2010NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was a guest on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning (6-10 a.m. ET M-F) today at 8:43 a.m. ET. Co-hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg questioned Goodell about the effectiveness of the league’s “Rooney Rule,” requiring that minority candidates be interviewed when an NFL head coaching job is open, following Washington’s interviewing secondary coach Jerry Gray prior to hiring Mike Shanahan. The Mikes also asked Goodell if he is looking at ways to ensure teams play their starters at the end of the season, of the reaction to moving the Pro Bowl’s date and location, and about conversations regarding a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. To hear the interview, go to

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Need for home heating help still rising in Bristol

Here's a story I wrote for Friday's Bristol Press ( about how the dramatic rise in requests from residents for help with home heating bills continues to rise. Tom Morrow, the executive director of the Bristol Community Organization, didn't know of any reason for the increase other than the lousy economy. The caseworkers at BCO are scrambling to process all the applications:

The number of people applying for energy assistance to heat their homes through the Bristol Community Organization continues to rise.

“The volume has increased dramatically,” said Thomas Morrow, executive director of BCO.

Morrow blamed the poor economy as the primary source of the 2,202 cases as of mid-November, three and a half months after starting to accept applications. That’s 230 more households in need this winter than at the same time last winter.

“They’ve lost their jobs. They’ve had their hours cut,” Morrow said.

Some people may have had money put aside, said Morrow, but had to use it to cover expenses.

“Now they’ve depleted all their savings,” he said.

Because of the high demand, BCO caseworkers are processing more than 80 applications for help every day, according to Morrow.

Appointments are backed up until March, with people who use deliverable fuel like oil, propane, wood or coal served first because they aren’t protected by a shutoff ban.

“We want to hear from them sooner than later,” said Morrow.

Customers of utility companies can be classified as a hardship, which means the company can’t cut off their heat during the coldest months. It buys some time for processing a heating assistance claim, so those applications are handled later in the winter or early in spring.

When someone comes to BCO for help with heating bills, the caseworker will also advise them about other programs they may qualify for, said Morrow, such as food stamps or home weatherization.

“We can kind of triage the situation,” said Morrow, and give guidance on how and where to apply for other help.

Morrow said a comparison is best made between this winter and the winter of two years ago because in both instances, the agency began accepting applications on August 1. Last year, the intake began a little later, Morrow said.

The difference between those two seasons shows a jump of more than 200 percent, said Morrow.

“We’re the highest increase of any area in the state,” said Morrow.

According to information from Connecticut Association for Community Action, an organization of a dozen community action agencies like BCO, the Bristol-based non-profit showed an increase of 229 percent increase in the number of applications through mid-November.

The state average for the same time period was a 125 percent increase.

After Bristol, the area that showed the biggest increase in the two-year time span was Stamford, with a jump of 201 percent, followed by Danbury with a leap of 185 percent.

BCO serves low income, handicapped and elderly residents of Bristol, Plymouth, Plainville, Farmington and Burlington.

To apply for heating assistance, call BCO at 860-584-2725.