Friday, September 25, 2009

Keep Watching This Space

Progress is being made, ever so slowly, on getting construction started for the downtown Facade Improvement Program. As I wrote previously, Main Street Waterbury has awarded improvement grants to several building owners. Since then, there have been designs submitted and revised, contracts written up and sent to Corporation Council, and all sorts of other stages of the process.

One of the projects that is just about ready to go is the newly renovated apartment building on the corner of Bank and Center Streets. I've heard great things about the quality of the apartments, I can't wait to see how the exterior looks when it's completed!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Petroleum Man

Last night I made a trip to Target for some chicken soup and orange juice--I was hit by the flu early this week, and Target has really low prices on chicken soup. I also made a stop at the Sunoco station on the corner of Wolcott and Lakewood. I was a little surprised to see a panhandler asking drivers for spare change, and I was a little surprised by how cheery and friendly everyone was being. Usually people being panhandled become surly or terrified, but the people he panhandled cheerily wished him good luck. I don't know why they weren't upset, maybe the gas station is close enough to Wolcott that people feel safe?

When he asked me if I had any spare change, I warned him that I had the flu. He then told me that things like swine flu and pneumonia are caused by water. Bear in mind that, thanks to the flu, I wasn't entirely coherent, but I think maybe he wasn't all that coherent either. He went on to explain that the germs get in through the pores in your skin, possibly via water (I didn't entirely understand how water factored into the equation), therefore you should coat your skin with a layer of petroleum to keep out the flu. If only I had known that sooner! Somebody inform the CDC and start spreading the grease around!

On a more serious note, there are reports of a recent spike in flu-type symptoms at Connecticut emergency rooms, and it does seem like a lot of people have been getting sick lately. There's some speculation that Waterbury has a higher immunity to swine flu, because we had more cases of it in the spring. The first delivery of swine flu vaccine isn't due to arrive in Connecticut for several more weeks, by which time we may already be well into flu season. While I don't recommend coating your skin with petroleum, I do recommend stocking up on flu supplies before you get sick, so you don't have to make a late-night, half-delirious chicken soup run.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


The second public meeting for the Greenway project was held on September 16. I am very impressed with the consultants for this project--they are getting good things done at a very good pace (unlike the consultants for the transportation center, who seem to be working at a snail's pace).

The updated information about the greenway trail will be available on the project website next week,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thank You!

My sincere thanks to everyone who voted in the Primary on Tuesday. Sadly, only 19% of the eligible voters came out that day. I am, however, very proud of my district (72-2) which I had been told is not worth bothering with because voter turnout is always so low here. We had 173 voters, while the supposedly busier and more worthwhile 73-5 had 168 voters.

One of my goals going forward is to increase voter participation in the 72nd district. The city has been ignoring this neighborhood for many, many years (we've been asking to have the sidewalks repaired/replaced for just over a decade with no results), and one reason surely must be the low voter turnout. In fact, there seems to be a direct correlation between neighborhoods known to have high voter turnout and neighborhoods that are well-maintained by the city.

At some point when I have time, I'll write up a long article about my experiences on the campaign trail. But first I have a few household chores to get caught up on!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Primary Day

11:14 a.m. ~ So far a slow day. I was assigned to Blessed Sacrament this morning, where we averaged approximately 12 voters per hour. Coleen Flaherty-Merritt was there as well and told me that polling location usually sees 30 in the first hour and another rush before 8 a.m. There were no rushes at all.

Next I took my dad over to Chase School so he could vote. They were at maybe 40 or 50 voters. Jarjura was there, and he very graciously offered me a piece of fruit. I wish I had thought to say that I would prefer new sidewalks, but I was trying to be polite.

Third stop was my home district at the WOW Center. I was voter number 36. From what I saw after, I'd say the pace is about 12 voters per hour. The 72nd district is known for low voter turn-out, but so far today it doesn't seem to be lagging that far behind the supposedly busy 73-5. We'll see if things change later today.

3 p.m. ~ Hot, hot, hot! A slow afternoon but definitely worthwhile. If only I had thought to put on sunblock! Today is definitely the most stressful day of the campaign. My sister is going to stop by with water and moral support before she goes to her polling place. Five hours to go. What a day!

6 p.m. ~ Back at Blessed Sacrament, which had a little over a dozen voters in the past hour, so really not much busier than the WOW Center, where Joyce Petteway is currently doing a hard sell of Jarjura for the rare undecided voter. Two hours to go.

6:45 p.m. ~ Mosquitos!!!

12:44 a.m. ~ A shocking upset, thanks to the Berginesque absentee ballots and ridiculously low voter turnout. There's a lot I learned, there's a lot I still have to process, but I still love this city and am determined to bring it up out of the muck.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


I'm sitting on the train platform right now, waiting for the 9:15. I don't normally sit around waiting, but I had to drop my car off at 8 for much-needed maintenance. A young woman just came up to me and asked if she could give me a copy of Watchtower. When I said "sure, can I give you one of my flyers?", she looked flustered and politely said no. I handed her the Vance for Mayor flyer anyway, pointing out my photo on the back, and she instantly went from worried to pleased and interested. I gave her a quick spiel, the she and the other woman, with small child in tow, went on their way.

Monday, September 07, 2009

River Baldwin Forum

I love political debates (and wish we would have one during this election season!). Last Friday's Democratic Forum at the River Baldwin center had a brief moment when Vance and Jarjura slid into a debate, but the moderator quickly got them back on format. While the two hours were relatively calm, it certainly was informative.

I was astonished by some of the things Jarjura said, especially considering that the first round of Q&A was prepared in advance. Most notably (if that's the right word for it), he proposed several scenarios in which he will raise taxes and one scenario in which he will be cutting funding to some city programs.

Most infuriatingly, at one point Jarjura claimed, in effect, that things are great in all of Waterbury's neighborhoods. I was so outraged by his claims that I almost started shouting at him. The question to which he was responding (I wrote notes, but not verbatim) asked what his plan was for improving the city's suffering neighborhoods. Jarjura answered with a sort of anecdote about how terrible things were when he first became mayor eight years ago, that back then city residents were so fed up and frustrated that they were ready to leave Waterbury, but now (after 8 years of Jarjura as Mayor), everything is fine, we have plenty of grant writers, there is money available for homeowners to upgrade their houses, and we have no extra money to fix up neighborhoods.

Now, granted, I'm writing this 48 hours later, working from notes I typed quickly into my phone, so these are not direct quotes, just the gist of what he said. Tearing it apart one piece at a time:

~Most everyone in my neighborhood is frustrated and fed up and ready to leave Waterbury; in the past 8 years, they have seen their property taxes more than double without seeing any improvements to city services, and in most cases they don't feel like they have seen any city services worth mentioning;

~If we have "plenty" of grant writers, why don't we have any extra money to fix up neighborhoods? if we can spend $2 million buying Drubner's land, why can't we spend $2 million fixing up blighted neighborhoods? If we have neighborhoods that NEED fixing up, then how is it possible that everything is fine?

It was clear from what Jarjura said that he has never been to my neighborhood, or any other neighborhood that has been suffering for years. He is completely oblivious.

Other memorable highlights from the forum: in response to the lack of diversity in city hiring (for example, every member of the Mayor's office staff are white, in a city where 25% of the population is Hispanic), Jarjura said "the problem is primaries", that Cicero Booker has failed to recommend minorities for assorted positions, and that the Board of Aldermen, which according to Jarjura has nothing to do all year except approve his budget, hasn't done anything and "hopefully the next Board of Aldermen will do their jobs." I wondered what the incumbents on his ticket thought of that. I spoke to Alderman Nogueira after the forum--he was furious.

After a mid-forum break, members of the public had the opportunity to have their questions asked. One woman from the South End wanted to know what each candidate was going to do about the poor conditions of some of the school buildings and school supplies. Jarjura was flummoxed, and insisted that everything was fine with schools, implying that the woman didn't know what she was talking about.

The forum started out with a general question about problems Waterbury faces. Jarjura responded by citing the national financial crisis and, for the next question concerning future policy decisions, warned that he will have to stop funding some programs in order to avoid raising taxes. Later on, he described a plan to increase the sales tax for anything sold in Waterbury so that the city will gain extra revenue. This is apparently a plan concocted by the mayors of several cities, but it seems fundamentally flawed. It increases taxes for the poorest city residents who are unable to go to a town with lower taxes to do their shopping.

The overall message from Jarjura was "everything is fine, there's no need to make any changes or improvements," except when he was blaming problems on anyone other than himself (in addition to the above examples, he also blamed the school problems on single-parent families, teen pregnancy and abusive households).

In contrast, Vance proposed numerous ways to improve city services, lower taxes and improve quality of life in Waterbury. His plans include ways to make the city friendlier to businesses, establishing the Mayor's office as a hub for economic development, reducing the city's expenditures for legal fees by putting legal services out to bid, hiring a grant writer (which was in the city budget for last year, but instead a new aide was hired for the Mayor's office), establishing monthly community meetings for the Mayor's office and making the Board of Aldermen more accessible to the public by holding some meetings in community centers, give neighborhood associations grant funds to help improve the neighborhoods, create tax incentives to help fight foreclosures, and reduce pollution (whereas Jarjura spoke about bringing in more industry to the heavily-polluted South End).

By the end of the 2-hour forum, Vance had earned several new supporters.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

$1.75 million

I'm trying to avoid having this blog dwell too much on campaign issues, but this one is really bothering me, and I think there are a couple of reasons for it. Mayor Jarjura's proposal to purchase the 130+ acre Park Road parcel of woodlands from Norman Drubner is a proposal I would support if there was a plan to preserve it as open space (instead the plan seems to be to sell it to the next eager developer--who will that be? Jarjura?) and if the price were more realistic. Spending $1.7 million to buy land that has been assessed at less than $40,000 just doesn't sit right with me.

Jarjura says the expenditure is an investment for the city. I have a better investment proposal. For $1.75 million, the city (or designated organization, for example, WDC) could purchase every abandoned, blighted house in my neighborhood (and there are a lot of them!), rehabilitate them, and then sell them to people who would live in them and maintain them. The city would possibly make an immediate financial profit, followed by an increase in tax collection from the newly owned buildings, and the improvement to this neighborhood would be phenomenal. In one year, my neighborhood could go from being blighted to being one of the nicer neighborhoods in the city.

Or we could just stick with Jarjura's plan and funnel the money into Drubner's bank account without making any improvements to the city in the short or long run. That's Jarjura's plan, isn't it? Use the property exactly the same way as Drubner would, but first give him a big chunk of taxpayer money.

Now that it's been re-appraised for $4.3 million, wouldn't it be more profitable to let Drubner keep it and pay the appropriate taxes on it?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Comment Apologies

Thanks to a new web marketing strategy in which hired spammers in Sri Lanka and India post fake blog comments with links to commercial sites, I have changed the options for leaving comments on this blog. Going forward, no comments will post until I have reviewed them. Hopefully this will take less of my time than going back through old blog posts to individually delete the spam comments.