Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Shopping Surprise

I'm getting ready for Christmas tomorrow, which means getting my apartment clean before my dad shows up in the morning. Partly as procrastination, and partly because the weather is perfect for a walk, and partly because my apartment doesn't smell "christmassy", I took a stroll down to Home Depot to buy a wreath.

Home Depot still had a couple dozen wreaths for sale, as well as some really nice fir centerpieces. They were all still fresh (only a few needles dropped when I shook the wreath). And they were only a penny each! That's right, one cent each! I could not believe it! It was almost surreal purchasing them at the self-checkout. I spent two pennies and walked out with a nice-size wreath and a festive centerpiece for the dining table.

Friday, December 23, 2005

No More Trees at Robinwood

Developers finally noticed that the intersection of West Main Street, Park Road and Robbins Street is conveniently located at an exit ramp from I-84. New construction started last year with medical buildings (and the new hotel next to the new cancer center further up the road). West Main Street on the hillside was rebuilt over the course of the past year. This past week, many beautiful old trees in the middle of the intersection were cut down. They also cut down some of the trees in Rowland Park (which, by the way, has no connection to the former Governor's family). The cute little storefronts next to the gas station are going to be torn down and replaced by a bank. Lots of big changes.

It makes me sad to see the trees at the intersection taken down. They really were wonderful. Without them, the Robinwood area there is going to look like a concrete wasteland, sort of like the stretch of West Main Street between Willow Street and the Green, or like Grand Street between Bank and South Main Streets. I think that trees and landscaping are an important part of a city's character and can make a city seem pleasant and inviting.

I've seen photographs of Waterbury from the 1950s (and earlier). The banks of the Naugatuck River were meticulously manicured--no overgrown weeds or bushes. For the past few decades, landscaping has been abandoned. The banks of the river are completely overgrown and look terrible. If I'm riled up enough about this in the spring, I think I might try to organize a grass-roots (pun intended) movement to improve Waterbury's landscaping.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Happy Holidays

I don't know how this got started, but apparently there are people in Waterbury and across the nation who are protesting the use of "Happy Holidays." The jist of their protest is that Christmas is being destroyed by crazy liberals who have somehow pressured retailers to replace "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays." In Waterbury, a local protester has been running radio spots urging consumers to shop only at stores with Christmas displays. According to an Associated Press article (, a Christian protester put on a Santa Claus suit and stood outside a Wal-Mart, urging shoppers to remember the meaning of Christmas.

The last time I checked, the meaning of Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with shopping or Santa Claus. In fact, if I were a conservative Christian, I would prefer that the stores have signs saying "Happy Holidays," rather than "Merry Christmas." In its purest and most traditional form, Christmas should not be associated with retailers, trees, reindeer or snowmen. And yet conservative religious groups have been urging retailers to include Christmas in their promotional materials.

Good Grief!

Transportation Center

Waterbury train station
It would be great if the Republican-American moved to a different building (maybe the Lilly Building on the Green). Then the brick McKim, Mead & White train station could be converted back to its original function and become Waterbury's new transportation center. It might be cheaper than new construction, and it would definitely look better than new construction.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Willow St. Intersections

Anyone who has ever tried to cross lower Willow Street, whether on foot or in car, knows what a nightmare it is. From the top of Willow Street to the bottom, there are no stop signs. Cars go flying up and down the street. There's a minimum of one accident a week at the intersection with Pine & Johnson Streets. Two or three years ago, this metal stump with a button for a walk signal was installed at the corner of Grove Street. Walk signals and traffic lights have yet to be installed.

What a waste of money! All we need are stop signs at the major intersections -- Pine & Johnson and Hillside Avenue are the two that seem to need help the most. I know there are plans at WDC to make upgrades to lower Willow, but maybe we could get some relatively inexpensive stop signs while we wait.

Ugliest Building in Waterbury?

I'm sure there are plenty of other ugly buildings, but this one gets extra points for being brand new. Vinyl siding, cheap plywood construction, small windows, depressing color and design. Oh yeah.

This is a Section 811 HUD housing project with 14 apartments. Section 811 is housing for people with disabilities. Surely they deserve better than this. Ten years from now, the building will need major renovations because it was built with such cheap, impermanent materials.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Eminent Domain

The Board of Aldermen schedule a public hearing to be held tonight at 7pm. The goal on the agenda was to solicit "public input relative to the proposed resolutions regarding acquisition of blighted properties." The meeting was rescheduled to 6pm without any public notice (as far as I can tell). There was no announcement in today's or yesterday's paper. The city's website still says the meeting was to be held at 7pm. The only reason I know it was held at 6pm is because I found copies of the agenda sitting on a shelf in the Aldermanic Chambers.
[Addendum: I had a nice email response from a board member, apologizing for the confusion. Because of the confusion, the topic will be brought up again, at 7pm on January 9.]

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Corruption Hotline

From the city's flyer:
The City of Waterbury has established a Hotline to provide a confidential and anonymous way for employees, taxpayers, vendors and others to report questionable practices or practices that will reflect poorly on the City.

Callers can remain anonymous. "Appropriate" problems to report include: abuse of authority; bribes and kickbacks; ethics violations; misuse of city property or time; illegal acts; and (my favorite) gross incompetence or inefficiency.

Vague allegations (which presumably includes complaining about the terrible condition of the streets after the snowstorm this week -- do we have only five snowplows for the whole city???) are not much help.

To report waste, abuse and fraud, call 346-2368, ext. 9090.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Public Transportation

One of my pet peeves is the lack of adequate public transportation in Waterbury. We have buses, but they don't run after 6 pm. That guarantees that anyone who lives in Waterbury and works office hours won't use the bus to get to work. That also means that anyone earning minimum wage who wants to work an extra job to makes ends meet has to work near home (or buy a car, which will eat up all the income from the second job). If you want to take evening classes while working full time during the day, you have to bum rides from friends, pay for a taxi or spend money you don't have on a car. I think there would also be fewer drunk drivers in the city if the buses ran until late at night.

Many downtown businesses close at 6 pm. I suspect they would stay open later if the buses ran later. The city is looking seriously at creating a new transportation center. I hope they also plan on providing better services to go with it. In other Connecticut cities, the buses run until midnight (or thereabouts). Waterbury should have the same.

And while I'm on the transportation subject... more trains would be great. Commuter trains would be helpful, but a late night train, even just on the weekends, would be fabulous. Right now the last train to Waterbury leaves Grand Central at 9:07 pm. So you can go to NYC for an early dinner, but forget about seeing a show. Taking the train is the best way to get to NYC; it's cheaper than driving, there are no traffic jams and you can just hang out and relax.

Alderman Ramirez

Democrat Sandra Ramirez has been appointed to the board of aldermen to replace Mike D'Occhio. I assume there must be something in the city's charter that says replacement aldermen are appointed by the mayor's office (or whoever). I had thought that the next runner-up from the election would have been appointed to the board. I'm sure she's a good choice for the job, but she didn't run in the election because she lost the primary. Of course, the mayor also lost the primary, but at least he was genuinely elected to his current post.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Sam Caligiuri, who did a great job as acting mayor when Giordano was whisked off to prison, has announced his intention to run for a state senate position. The headline in today's paper was "Ex-mayor to seek seat being vacated in 16th District."

When I was eating lunch today, I overheard a college-age couple discussing the day's headlines. Their discussion of the Caligiuri article included comments like "Is that one of the corrupt mayors?" and "That's crazy--there's no way he could possibly win that." They also declared themselves unable to pronounce his name, and that they had never heard of him before, which suggests that Caligiuri's status as a former mayor of Waterbury has killed his political career. It made me sad to realize that there is such a deeply rooted assumption that Waterbury mayors are corrupt, and that the title "ex-mayor of Waterbury" immediately conjures up images of political corruption and immorality. I wonder how long it will be and what it will take to change that perception.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Christmas Lights on the Green

Today was the lighting of the Christmas tree on the Green. I really love the downtown events. It's great to see crowds of people downtown at night. The events are usually family-friendly, so, ironically, the after-dark events are usually packed full of little kids.

Horse & carriage rides are becoming a staple -- they had one in October at the Marty Gross event too.

The lights were turned on when the crowd counted down from ten and shouted "hip hip hooray" three times.

There were hot dogs, hot chocolate and plenty of lights!

Glowing reindeer ring the Lux clock.

The band convinced the mayor to get out of the hot dog line and come up to the podium to sing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" -- he got better after the first chorus.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Snowy Thanksgiving!

I woke up this morning to the soft, muffled quietness the city gets when it snows. The holiday helped cut down on the number of cars on the road before 8:30am, so it was all very calm and peaceful.

It looks very grey and dark in this photo, but it seemed much brighter at the time.

I was tempted to go for a walk around the city, but decided to stick to my original plan of cleaning the kitchen and cooking a turkey.

The sun came out by early afternoon, so most of the three or four inches of snow melted. It was beautiful while it lasted!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Blighted buildings

From today's Republican American article, "City aldermen to consider eminent domain": "'To me, a vacant lot is better than a vacant building,' [Michael] Gilmore said."

A lot of great buildings have been torn down and left as empty lots in Waterbury. Neglected empty lots fill up with garbage, weeds and tall plants that give junkies a nice sheltered spot for shooting up. Empty lots that are "maintained" are desolate, barren wastelands in the heart of the city. Waterbury is full of lots that have been vacant for years.

I don't know which are the 22 properties Gilmore wants the city to purchase and demolish. I can think of several examples of vacant and run down buildings that would be better as vacant lots, but I can also think of many more examples of abandoned buildings that should be restored as city assets.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Things I Don't Understand

About a month or so ago, I noticed that there was a piece of pastry on the ledge outside my kitchen window. My apartment is on the third and top floor. There had been some extremely strong winds earlier in the day, so I assumed that the pastry was lightweight enough to have blown up onto the window ledge. I also assumed that the mouse eating the pastry had somehow stumbled across it, or maybe the mouse had a really great sense of smell. The cat, of course, is very easy to explain, since she lives in my apartment. Incidentally, the mouse has one eye on the cat and one eye on his escape route.

A couple days ago, I noticed a large piece of chicken or pork sitting on the ledge outside the other kitchen window.This one I can't explain. It's definitely too heavy for either wind or mouse to have delivered it. It's an unlikely spot for a bird to have landed. Do squirrels eat meat? The most likely scenario is that a person climbed up the fire escape and left it there. But why would anyone do that?

The mystery is compounded by the chicken bones on the first floor window ledge. For more than two years now, chicken bones have been appearing on the ledge outside one of the first floor windows of this house. No one has ever been seen leaving them there. At first it was assumed that someone in the neighborhood was eating chicken while walking home from La Cazuela or KFC and randomly decided to leave the chicken bones on the window ledge. Then it was thought that maybe this was some sort of prank. But now it's just plain weird.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Catching Up...

I made the big effort to get my blog going, and then I was waylaid by a sick cat who needed my constant attention (which, now that I think about it, is not really all that different from normal cat behavior...). The cat, while not yet fully recovered, no longer seems to be in immediate danger of dying. Over the next few days, I'll be adding posts that I had originally intended to write nearly a week ago.

On a related note: the Banfield Pet Hospital is absolutely wonderful! My cat is receiving better treatment from them for her mystery illness than I did from the doctors I saw when I had lyme disease many years ago. They are professional, thorough, respectful and sympathetic. I am very grateful that they were recommended to me.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Day

My vote is cast. Now it's time to wait for the results. I'm still a little annoyed at not having been able to find information on any of the candidates other than those running for Mayor and Board of Aldermen. The Republican-American newspaper sometimes prints "special sections" focusing on single topics ("Autumn Lifestyles"; "Careers and Education 2005"; "The Great Flood of 1955"). I'm really surprised that they didn't do a special section for all of the elections in this region. It would have been extremely useful, especially if it were in Spanish as well as English. It could have been published on the Sunday before the election (and posted online!), detailing all of the candidates for every position in all of the towns they cover. They could have even included descriptions of the different elected offices to help voters determine if the candidates are qualified. The Observer's October issue claimed to focus on Election 2005, and it did have really great interviews with the mayoral candidates, but they really should have covered all of the other candidates as well.

I hear a lot in the news about voter apathy and low voter turnout. I can't help but wonder if it's not due, at least in part, to how difficult it is to be informed about the candidates and their qualifications.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Political Candidates

Three days until the election. So far I've received letters from DePillo, Tremaglio, Jarjura and Mulcahy asking for my support. I've also received phone calls from the recorded voices of DePillo and Mulcahy. The Republican-American newspaper has done numerous stories about the feud between Jarjura and Mulcahy. I've seen commercials on television: Jarjura demonstrating how simple it is to write in his name, and Ivelisse Cruz standing with the rest of "team Tremaglio" asking for my support. I've read interviews with the mayoral candidates in The Observer, and I caught part of a series of interviews with the mayoral candidates on WATR.

Today I downloaded the sample ballot (which I found on the Republican-American website, not on the city's website; as far as I can tell, the city's website does not provide sample ballots). It turns out that I will also be voting for Town Clerk, City Clerk, City Sheriff, nine members of the Board of Aldermen and three members of the Board of Education. Okay, this wasn't a total surprise: DePillo's mailing had photographs of his party's candidates, and Tremaglio comes as a "team." But it is the first time the full roster was laid out for me.

How am I (and the other voters of Waterbury) supposed to make a decision about these 52 candidates? Waterbury's Democrats have no information about the election on their website. The Republicans don't seem to have a website at all. The Concerned Citizens' website has no local candidate information. The website for the Working Families party profiles only two candidates from across the state, neither of whom are in Waterbury.

DePillo's website has a "Meet the Candidates" section, but only 9 of his running mates have any information posted. That information ranges from short biographical blurbs to full resumes. Only three candidates bothered to explain why they were running for election. So, out of 52 people running for political office in Waterbury, not counting mayoral candidates, only 3 have given me reasons to vote for them.

I really hope that the rest of Waterbury knows how to find information about the 52 non-mayoral candidates. Maybe there's something I missed.