Wednesday, May 26, 2010
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
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.
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
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
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 www.bristolpress.com.
Monday, May 17, 2010
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: www.bristolpress.com.
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
Here's the link: http://wildfireapp.com/website/302/contests/28169/voteable_entries
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
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 www.BristolToday.com.
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.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
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 http://www.youthjournalism.org/, or just ask me! I'm not shy about YJI.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
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 (www.bristolpress.com)
Thursday, May 6, 2010
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.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
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 www.bristolpress.com.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
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.
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.
Monday, May 3, 2010
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
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!
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, http://www.bristolpress.com/.
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.