Friday, March 31, 2006

Smart Growth

The Waterbury Neighborhood Council has submitted a proposal to the city asking for a six-month hold on developments (Rep-Am, 3/30/06). Given the realities of development, a six-month hold is extremely unlikely to happen. However, I think they make a very good point about what's happening with development in Waterbury. There are new development happening all over the city. In some cases, thriving businesses have been forced to relocate or close in order to make way for bigger fish. In other cases, small parklets and wooded areas have been demolished. There does not seem to be a master plan for development that would enhance the quality of life for city residents. Mayor Jarjura was once quoted as saying that Waterbury has enough open space with existing parks and cemeteries. Anything not currently protected as open space is in danger of being turned into concrete. The city has huge budget problems to resolve, and the new developments are a possible way to increase revenue, although they can also generate more expense for the city.

The outlying areas of Waterbury, left as almost untamed wilderness for decades, are changing rapidly. Change, when it happens so quickly, can be unsettling. Given Waterbury's recent history of corruption, residents are certainly justified in being concerned about what is happening now. I think there is an underlying sense that the quality of life and other concerns of neighborhoods is being ignored by developers, aided by city officials, who are concerned only with benefitting themselves. It's not just happening in Waterbury. Parts of Middlebury are no longer recognizable. Middlebury, once rural, is decidedly suburban now, and the developers aren't done with it yet.

When I drive around the region and see all the developments underway, I keep wondering what the driving force is behind them. Who are the people moving into the new McMansions? What is bringing them here? Why are so many office buildings being constructed? What impact will the new developments have on the city as a whole -- in ten years' time, will Waterbury still be a country city, or will it be a new metropolis?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Campaign Promises

Mayor Jarjura has kept one of his campaign promises. Shortly before the election last November, he said that the city's mill rate, currently 53.9668, would need to go up a point or two. No one seemed to care, even though everyone complains about the high taxes. Last week, Jarjura announced his proposed budget for next year, with a mill rate of 55.9496. Spending is to increase 4.3 percent from $333,599,242 to $347,936,614. Here's hoping the money gets spent wisely.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Taxing the Non-Profits

Twelve non-profit organizations in Waterbury neglected to fill out paperwork with the city. Apparently this needs to be done every four years in order to maintain their tax-exempt status with the city. It seems very strange that so many of them didn't do it. The city sent out two letters reminding them about it, but did not follow up with phone calls. Considering the importance of the paperwork and the fact that mail does sometimes get lost, I think the city really should have followed up with phone calls to the twelve organizations that didn't file.

The city is citing state law prohibiting them from waiving the taxes that will be owed. Mayor Jarjura says he hopes the state legislature agrees to return the non-profit groups to their tax exempt status. This is the same man who refused to allow the city tax collector to collect tax from his personal friend Lestorti. It's okay to make a special exemption for your friends, but not for non-profit groups who would normally not pay taxes?

Sheila O'Malley, Jarjura's Chief of Staff, was quoted in today's paper as saying that "the punishment does not fit the crime." I'm sure she was just using a cliche carelessly, but still. Crime? Neglecting to file paperwork is a crime? Talk about blowing things out of proportion! (to use another cliche)

So now the state legislature will decide the issue. It would be nice if something positive came out of this, considering the amount of time being spent on it. Non-profit groups do a lot of good things for their communities on shoe-string budgets. Having to face the nightmare of going under because they didn't file a form seems very unjust.