Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fireworks Update

Mayor Art Ward just told me that there's a chance the fireworks for Bristol's 225th anniversary party will go on after all. He said City Councilor Ken Cockayne is working hard to make it happen. And people have called his office to offer donations, Ward said.
Stay tuned.

Sickening Vandalism at Senior Center

At the left is a photo that Peggy Sokol sent me of a dogwood tree damaged by vandals Saturday afternoon.
If you look closely, you can see where the bark starts, high up just under the branches. All the lower, tan-colored part of the trunk has been stripped of bark.
Someone carved "Bree & Branden 4 Ever" in the tree trunk after the bark was removed.
Sokol said she called tree experts, who told her there wasn't much that could be done to save a tree with this extensive damage.
I'll have a story to file for Saturday's edition of The Bristol Press.
In the meantime, my puzzler will grow sore trying to figure out why someone would do this.


I wrote a story for today's edition of The Bristol Press ( about how the celebration for the city's 225th anniversary will not include fireworks as organizers had planned for months.
The root of the problem seems to be the city's insistence on a certain number of cops on duty, based on what the police say they need.
Chief John DiVenere said he can't compel officers to work on their day off in a non-emergency situation.
Mayor Art Ward is reluctant to pay all the overtime and isn't questioning how many cops are needed or if they are, whether out of town subs could be used for this special event.
According to the 225th committee, the city won't consider alternatives that organizers suggested, like using volunteers, police Explorers, firefighters or rent-a-cops.
It's too bad, especially on the heels of the new downtown deal.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Rest of the Banking Story

I guess there was a space crunch in The Bristol Press today because only a little part of the story I wrote about the Wall Street reform bill appeared in the paper. For those gluttons for punishment who want the whole thing, here it is:

HARTFORD - The sweeping financial reforms championed in Washington by Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Dodd are designed to protect consumers, but also to spur the economy through building confidence in the banking industry, Dodd said Monday.
“Never, ever, again,” said Dodd, should American taxpayers be asked to bail out a financial institution. Without confidence in the financial industry, the senator said, “the damage is incalculable.”
Bill Englert, owner of City True Value hardware store on Farmington Avenue, said he wasn’t sure how much sweeping financial reform would matter to him or his business.
“I guess it trickles down to me,” said Englert. “By the time it hits me, I don’t know what hit me.”
Under the bill, consumers will have a resource for trouble within the finance industry, Dodd said. He said some changes will help business owners, too, including a provision to prohibit credit card companies from charging a fee for each retail purchase.
“It’s a huge change,” said Dodd.
Englert said the elimination of fees per credit card charge – which he said range from 1.3 percent to 2 percent, depending on the card – would make a difference to him.
“It would be a lot of money at the end of the year,” said Englert.
Farmington Bank President John Patrick said there is a cost to credit card companies or financial institutions that issue cards, in processing and more.
If the bill becomes law with merchant fees eliminated for credit card use, Patrick said, the cost will have to be made up elsewhere.
“I don’t think it’s a good solution,” said Patrick, who said he thinks the cost will show up in higher credit card interest rates or the elimination of some free banking services. “At the end of the day, the consumer ends up paying for it.”
Businesses make a decision as to whether to accept credit cards or not, Patrick said.
“No one’s forcing anyone to take credit cards,” Patrick said.
Patrick said the new legislation is unfairly punishing all financial institutions – even community banks like his that didn’t take part in the subprime mortgage lending or other practices that caused the crisis – for the misdeeds of some.
“We weren’t part of the problem,” said Patrick, who said Farmington Bank and other similar institutions continued to make loans throughout the crisis. “We slug it out at work every day like everybody else.”
The bill, said Patrick, doesn’t have much to do with the “nuts and bolts” of banking.
Though he thinks Dodd is “a very patriotic individual trying to do the best thing for the country,” Patrick said, “Nobody knows what this is going to mean at the end of the day.”
Dodd, whose Wall Street reform bill passed the U.S. Senate last week, spoke with reporters Monday outside the University of Connecticut School of Business.
“There will be other financial crises,” said Dodd, but the legislation will “provide the tools for the coming generation” to stop the problem before it gets out of hand.
Chris Earley, dean of the UConn School of Business, called the bill “revolutionary and very critical and important,” and something that will help the nation move forward after a difficult economic time.
The system now, Earley said, is “chaotic” and “unpredictable” and the legislation, while it won’t prevent abuse in the future, is creating incentives for financial institutions to do the right thing.
The bill puts the onus of responsibility onto the financial industries, said Earley, and because of that, will help get it going again.“The industry is going to feel more confident,” said Earley. “Somebody is watching. It’s not business as usual.”
Phil Sherwood, deputy director of Connecticut Citizen Action Group, said the bill addresses a long overdue issue.
The reforms, Sherwood said, are necessary and will provide a new transparency and protections for consumers that have been missing in the past that will ultimately make the marketplace more fair.
Patrick has been doing his best to keep up with the bill and all its revisions. He said there are many amendments, some of them having nothing to do with banking.
“I think it’s going to have unintended consequences,” said Patrick.
When the final version becomes law, Patrick said, it appears that regulations will require lenders to maintain more of a financial cushion than they do now. That may mean banks like his won’t be able to loan as much, Patrick said.
Patrick said banks are already one of the most regulated industries in the country. He said he doesn’t know how more regulations will give people confidence or make things better.
“Nobody knows,” said Patrick. “That’s the biggest challenge right now. It’s not finished.”
State Rep. Ryan Barry who chairs the House banking committee in Hartford, and Sen. Bob Duff, his counterpart in the state senate, applauded Dodd’s work at the federal level.
“Here in Connecticut we’ve brought reform as far as we can,” said Duff, who called regulating the financial industry “very, very complicated stuff.”
But Duff said the legislation “will bring confidence back to Main Street.”
Dodd said he’s grateful for support from both Republican and Democratic senators for the bill, a version of which is in the U.S. House of Representatives.
There is more work to be done to mesh the House bill and the Senate bill, Dodd said, but he expects it to be ready for President Barack Obama to sign by July 4.

The Deal is Done

Don Monti's Renaissance Downtowns is now officially on board as the preferred developer for the 17-acre, city-owned former mall property in the heart of Bristol.
Unlike some people, I don't think it's taken the BDDC all that long to find a developer, particularly given the property's track record and the lousy economy we've all been living with in the last couple years.
I especially credit Frank Johnson for his leadership on the board and Jennifer Janelle for her diligence and courage throughout her time on the BDDC. Without either of them -- and this is not to take away from the valuable work that others did -- things could have turned out very differently.
Since I arrived on the Bristol scene in 1993, I've watched a lot of botched attempts on the mall property, and a lot of potential investors take a look and walk away.
Monti sees something different, and I hope it works.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dodd on Blumenthal

I saw Sen. Chris Dodd in Hartford today, along with a mob of other reporters. When he finished talking about the sweeping Wall Street reform bill that passed the Senate, he talked a bit about his own future and that of his would-be successor, Dick Blumenthal.
Dodd said the flap over Blumenthal's misstatements about his service during the Vietnam War was overblown by a rival during the political season. He said Blumenthal's apology was more than enough and that the voters of Connecticut will remember Blumenthal's long career in public service when it comes time to cast a ballot.
Voters here are savvy, and know Blumenthal and his record, said Dodd. He said people here get offended when candidates pour money in and try to buy an election.
Voters don't judge a candidate based on wallet size, he said.
“That’s not the Connecticut I know,” said Dodd. “These jobs are not for sale. This is about a seat in the United States Senate.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ESPN's New Veterans Monument

Today I went out to ESPN, one of my favorite spots in Bristol, for a nice ceremony honoring the company's veterans.
In addition to ESPN employees, the company invited a color guard from the Bristol American Legion, Post 2, Mayor Art Ward and state Rep. Frank Nicastro, who showed up in uniform to play his trumpet as part of the ceremony. It was generous the way ESPN included people from the community and nice to see the enthusiastic response from Bristol.
I wrote about it for Thursday's edition of The Bristol Press, so check out the story and probably a photo or two, at

Monday, May 17, 2010

BDDC Approves Contract With Monti

Tonight, the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. approved a long, detailed contract with Don Monti, president of Renaissance Downtowns.
The deal, which next goes to the city council for approval, gives Monti two years to come up with a concrete plan for the 17-acre, city-owned site in the heart of Bristol. It is largely empty now but was the place where the old mall once stood.
Councilors will take it up next week.
Read details of the deal in my story in The Bristol Press on Tuesday:

For You, My First Rose of Spring

So here is my Monday morning gift to all the readers of Extra B.S., a photo of the first rose blooming in my rose garden this year.
You probably didn't peg me for a rose grower, but I am.
This is my favorite kind, at least of the ones I grow. The blooms are large and sweet-smelling.
Don't ask me the name of it. I bought the plant eons ago from the old Ocean State Job Lot store in the mall. I have no idea what variety it is.
There are plenty of buds on my roses, but this is the first flower to unfold this year, showing itself on Sunday.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Please Vote One More Time for YJI

Last chance to vote for Youth Journalism International -- vote on facebook and vote directly online, today, Friday, May 14:
Here's the link:
Voting is truly easy and it's free, but it ends today. Contest organizers say we are in a "nailbiter" of a race with another non-profit, a New Haven group, and we'd like to win!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Give Downtown Project a Chance

Yesterday I wrote a story for The Bristol Press ( about the realistic timeframe people can expect for the downtown project.
The deal isn't even signed yet between the city, developer Don Monti of Renaissance Downtowns and the Bristol Downtown Development Corp., but both Monti and Frank Johnson, who chairs the BDDC, kindly spoke with me a little bit about the plans.
I'm sure many people in town are as eager to know what to expect there as I am, and hopefully just about everyone is also as eager to have something good there.
They were honest enough to say downtown won't be built in a day. In fact, expect it to be built in phases, a piece at a time, over a period of years. The whole thing could take the better part of a decade. At the moment, Monti plans what he called a "boutique" hotel as part of it all. That means a small one. That would be part of the big picture of mixed use, commercial, residential, retail, pedestrian-oriented development that Monti is pushing.
As I understand it, the investment could be really significant.
Of course, the anonymoust reaction to this in the stupid blogosphere is outrage -- it'll never be built, why should it take so long, the hotel will be terrible... yada, yada, yada.
My husband and favorite co-worker, Steve Collins, wrote in the Bristol Blog about how shameful this anonymous and moronic tirade is. See what he had to say in
Now it's time for my two cents.
Too bad the silent majority is so silent. How about a little confidence in the members of the community -- homeowners, business leaders and others like Frank Johnson, Jennifer Janelle, John Lodovico and the rest on the BDDC as well as Mayor Art Ward and the entire city council and a host of professional staff, some of whom live in town and others who are professionally invested-- who have given their own time (well, yes, the professionals were paid) and energy into figuring out what to do with the old mall property and done it all by using their real names, in public?
How about giving Monti, the chosen developer a chance to see what he can do? He's putting his own money on the line, after all.
From my interactions with him, I can tell you that Monti is very high energy. I know Bristol needs that. He's got successful businesses elsewhere and other towns have put their faith in him.
He's got a track record of bringing all sorts of people together and he sees great potential in Bristol.
It seems Monti believes more in Bristol than the anonymous posters who can't wait to go on the attack and trash him, the city and everyone else who is trying to do something for the good of the community.
I think the people of Bristol can return that faith, at least to give him a chance to give it a go. I hope they do, and I hope he ultimately gives them reason to cheer.
I may no longer be eligible to vote in Bristol, but I was for some time. My children were born there and I've invested the bulk of my professional life in the Mum City. I care about people who live there and I truly want good things for the city.

Comcast Customers Can Get ESPN 3D

Just in time for the FIFA World Cup this summer, Comcast cable customers will be able to watch 3D programs from Bristol-based ESPN.Comcast is the first cable company to sign on to with ESPN’s venture into 3D programming.It’s not clear yet whether Comcast customers will have to pay extra for the experience.
I wrote about the deal for Friday's edition of The Bristol Press (, so if you want the nitty gritty, it should be there.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Can You Spare a Minute?

Dear Readers,
I'm posting this to ask you for your help. It's easy and it's quick. It's anonymous and free. What more could you ask?
The educational non-profit organization that my husband Steve Collins and I founded and run, Youth Journalism International, is in an online contest that includes two weeks of public voting.
We were in the lead for about a week and now it's a regular horse race between us and another group.
The voting ends Friday. Anyone can vote. If you use Facebook you can vote there (facebook voting is not anonymous) and also vote online. If you don't use Facebook, you can just vote online.
Pretend you are in Chicago and vote early and often! :) Each computer can vote once every 24 hours, plus once every 24 hours on Facebook. Please take a minute to vote. It really is quick and easy. Click on the link below and click on Youth Journalism International:

Thanks to everyone who has already voted, and especially to those who have voted multiple times! If you'd like more information about Youth Journalism International or the contest, go to, or just ask me! I'm not shy about YJI.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Time to Say Thank You

Here's Chris Bailey, the longtime curator of the American Clock and Watch Museum. He's retired now, but a whole pile of people showed up on Saturday to wish him well. He's shown in this photo by Bristol Press photographer Mike Orazzi in the gallery that the museum recently named after him.
Very cool. I'm sure from his perspective that it was a lot nicer to get in his retirement than a gold watch...
I've known Chris since he came back to work at the museum for the second 15 years of his 30 years there. That was in 1995. He is a dear man, gracious, helpful and full of knowledge and more than willing to share it. He's really busy, but he's always had time for me.
This guy is a walking encyclopedia, not only about clocks, but about clockmakers and a lot of Bristol history.
Before his retirement, Chris finished work on a terrific history of the museum called Fifty Years of Time, The First 50 Years of the American Clock & Watch Museum. It was good of him to get a lot of that important information down for posterity, and to help his successor, Mary Jane Dapkus, as she finds her footing as the new curator.
There are a few copies for sale at the museum gift shop, and also some charming commemorative tee shirts with Chris' picture on them.
Chris himself has an interesting story, and I wrote about him for Monday's edition of The Bristol Press (

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gratitude and Understanding

After Bill Hamzy dropped the bombshell that he wouldn't run again, I spoke with some of the people around town who have worked with him and whose organizations have benefited from his efforts over the years. I wrote it for Wednesday's paper, but for reasons unknown to me, it didn't run that day or Thursday. So, here it is:

BRISTOL – Though sad to lose a friend in Hartford, leaders of area organizations that relied on state Rep. Bill Hamzy said they appreciated his work and understood his decision not to run again so he can spend more time with his children.
“We truly appreciate his service and sacrifice, but totally understand his decision,” said Thomas Morrow, executive director of the Bristol Community Organization.
“We also believe that families should come first.”Patricia White, co-chair of the Hoppers-Birge Pond Committee, said she was “stunned” to learn that Hamzy wouldn’t seek re-election.
“While I understand Rep. Hamzy’s reasons for not running again, his voice in Hartford on behalf of Bristol will be missed,” said White.
“This is a good move for him and his family,” said Jean Letourneau, White’s co-chair on the Hoppers committee.
White said Hamzy lobbied in the mid-1990s for funding that was used for the dredging and restoration of Birge Pond and Pine Lake, making him “instrumental” to the success of the Hoppers-Birge Pond Nature Preserve project.
“Rep. Hamzy has been an outstanding representative of our area during his time in the legislature,” said Tunxis Community College President Cathryn Addy. “He is knowledgeable, has been a good communicator back to his constituents, and he has been honest and straightforward.”
Addy said she’s sorry that Hamzy won’t seek reelection.
“I have a great deal of respect for him,” Addy said.
Bristol Hospital President Kurt Barwis said he’s disappointed to lose Hamzy.
“He has been an absolute asset to me and the hospital,” said Barwis. “I’m going to miss that connection.”
Barwis said he hopes Hamzy will run for office again in the future.
Though Hamzy lives in Plymouth and represents both towns, Barwis said, “He really did care a lot about Bristol.”
Al Fermeglia, who is the principal of the Bristol Technical Education Center, said Hamzy has been one of the tech school’s strongest supporters.
“He helped keep us open when we were slated to be closed,” Fermeglia said. “We are very happy to count Mr. Hamzy as a friend of Bristol TEC.”
Hamzy visited the school for graduations and other occasions over the years, Fermeglia said, and helped when the school was up for accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in 2008.
Hamzy backs the school’s model of students entering as juniors, Fermeglia said, based on the idea that younger students may not have a defined career path.Hamzy sponsored a bonding bill that brought in $1.5 million towards the construction of the new educational building at Indian Rock Nature Preserve, said Jon Guglietta, executive director of the centers.
“Bill was a strong advocate for the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut through his work as a state legislator and as an individual, helping to build relationships with business and individuals in the community,” Guglietta said.
Morrow said Hamzy has always been a strong supporter of BCO and the elderly, low income and handicapped people it serves.
“He has always made himself available to us,” said Morrow.
Letourneau said that while he didn’t always agree with Hamzy on the issues, he appreciated the work he did to get funding to dredge Birge Pond.
“In my opinion Bill was very nice servant to the voters who elected him and he will be remembered for that,” Letourneau said. “Unlike many who hide behind anonymous comments, he always put his name behind the issues he supported.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

City Planner Not Stuck in a Moment


That's Bono's message. But it's also what City Planner Alan Weiner says about the cantankerous situation between the vendors and the restaurant owners.

Weiner and Frank Johnson, who I'm sure are both awesome rockers at heart, both say that there's room in downtown Bristol for a nice little restaurant and a nice little hot dog cart. I wrote about it for Thursday's edition of The Bristol Press, so you can check the story out in full at

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

All For Women and Girls

Melanie Dumont was kind enough to forward this photo to me. It's from the Wonder of Women event last night for the Main Street Community Foundation's Women and Girls' Fund benefit dinner. From left to right are Margi Fletcher, Sanita Gingris, Sharon Stotz, CPTV host Diane Smith and Jeanne Radcliff. Other than Diane Smith, these women are current or past members of the Women and Girls’ Fund Advisory Board.

Whit Betts Wants Hamzy's Seat

Republican Whit Betts, a former Bristol city councilor who has been active with a wide variety of non-profit organizations in town, is throwing his hat into the ring for the state House seat now occupied by Bill Hamzy.
Hamzy isn't seeking re-election, and Betts is the first to publicly state that he wants the job.
I'm working on a story about it for Wednesday's edition of The Bristol Press.

Shocking, Yet Understandable

There's nothing like growing kids to emphasize the passage of time.
Children grow quickly and before we know it, they're towering over us. The other day, I had the pleasure of re-introducing my teenage son to Bill Hamzy.
Bill, the former basketball player, had to look up to say hello to my boy. He was shocked, and why not? He's known my son and daughter since they were babies.
When I met Bill, I was a newlywed without any children. Bill was a bachelor running for state office.
Now, after eight terms in office, he's leaving the state House to spend time with lovely wife Anita and their two children, nine-year-old Zachary and eight-year-old Gabriella. He sees precious time flying while he's toiling in Hartford and knows that he can't get it back.
After all this time covering him, I'd say I know Bill pretty well. We've had long conversations about all sorts of things, both related and unrelated to the news of the day. Sharing the joys and concerns of parenthood, we've spent a lot of time talking about our kids.
This I can tell you: Bill's an intelligent, decent, caring man who loves his family and works hard for his community. He's respectful of other points of view and is willing to listen to opposing ideas, especially when the opposing view is respectful as well.
He's also a pragmatist who knows how to work effectively in the minority party with the Democrats across the aisle.
But I can see how managing a sole practitioner law office, trying to provide for and raise a young family and serving as a state lawmaker all at once leaves little time for what is truly important. So while I was shocked at his decision not to seek another term, I completely understand. I'm not really sure why I didn't see it coming. I guess I got used to him being there.
He is a very good legislator and along with many others, I'll miss him. I suspect that years from now, we may well see Bill back on the ballot.
Bill's stated reason for choosing not to run again may be an overused cliche, but in his case it is real and true. There's no scandal in Bill Hamzy's decision to leave the state House, only honor.
Enjoy those babies, Bill. Before long, you'll be looking up to them, too.

Positively Packed

The Main Street Community Foundation held its ninth annual Wonder of Women event last night and wow, it was packed. Organizers said they had about 400 tickets sold and I wonder if there may have even been more.
Diane Smith, the television host of "All Things Connecticut," was the featured speaker. She gave a speech that was part motivational, part inspirational and sometimes, pretty funny.
I'm not someone who watches TV much at all, so I wasn't familiar with Diane, but I can see why people enjoy her so much.
She definitely was a hit with the crowd last night, and it was all for a good cause. Proceeds went to the Women and Girls' Fund.
Hats off to the hardworking organizers and volunteers who made it all happen!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Ducky Day Was Had By All

The ducks had a great day on Sunday, because they were the ones floating in the nice, cool water of the Pequabuck River.
Wow, it was hot out there in Forestville -- at least in the upper 80s -- but everyone had a great time anyway. We especially appreciate the hard work of D.J. Roberge -- he is awesome at the music and the microphone.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Youth Journalism International booth to say hello!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

This is Mariechen, the African ducky

I'm pleased to introduce our final member of the worldly ducky family, Mariechen. She's named after Mariechen Puchert, a writer for Youth Journalism International and a citizen of South Africa. This bright and fun loving young woman, who is at the moment working hard in med school where she also runs the student newspaper, is coming to the U.S. next month for a visit, when we'll have the pleasure of meeting her. For now, we'll have to settle for Mariechen the ducky, who will be making an appearance at the duck race in Forestville Sunday.
I'm not exactly sure why the international ducks sold to us were from five individual countries -- Scotland, the U.S., Japan, Germany and Spain, and one for an entire continent, Africa.
Africa isn't all one country, after all.
Remember, if you can correctly name all the duckies at the YJI booth in front of Nuchies at the Duck Race in Forestville on Sunday afternoon, we'll give you a prize!

Bristol's Loss: Jack Denehy, Founder of Memorial Military Museum

Jack Denehy, who founded the Memorial Military Museum in Bristol more than 35 years ago, died late Friday. He was 75.
Jack was a gracious gentleman, known to so many in town for his work with the military museum, the Bristol Historical Society, veterans organizations and the Bristol Choral Society.
He was a husband, father, grandfather and friend. He was loved and respected and will be missed by many.
My sympathies to his wife Carol, their children and grandchildren and their many friends.
I wrote a story about Jack which will probably run in Sunday's edition of The Bristol Press,

Friends just called with information about the funeral services for Jack.
Calling hours are Tuesday from 5-8 p.m. at O'Brien Funeral Home in Forestville. A funeral service will be Wednesday at 11 a.m. at St. Ann Church, with military honors at the church.