Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Governor, Attorney General, Lt. Governor, Comptroller

 Beginning at least in January, the newspaper has been keeping track of Mayor Jarjura's state-level political ambitions. First he was considering running for Governor, which caused quite a stir (no matter what you think of the job he's done as mayor, the sad reality is that there is absolutely no way a Waterbury politician will be elected governor in the near future, especially one who gave ex-Governor Rowland a high-paying job).

After rumors that he would run for Attorney General and a brief stint as a potential candidate for Lieutenant Governor (he wasn't selected as running mate by the candidates for Governor), Jarjura has finally settled on Comptroller.

While all of this jockeying for position was going on, Jarjura submitted a city budget to the Board of Aldermen that called for an increase in the mill rate, after bragging during last year's campaign that he hadn't raised taxes. I know a few things about budgets, and it seems to me that Jarjura could have done a much better job with Waterbury's budget. He's had eight years at the helm, shouldn't he have been able to anticipate the need for higher taxes and spent the past couple years finding ways to avoid this? I'd still like to know why he refused to switch the city's electricity provider, which has the potential to save the city close to a million dollars a year.

The impression I have is that Jarjura simply does not care about Waterbury. I'm not sure he cares about the state, either. It seems like he doesn't care which state-level position he runs for, he just wants to climb the political ladder.

Theoretical motivations aside, let's look at the situation as it stands. Jarjura is challenging the official Democrat nominee for Comptroller, Kevin Lembo. The primary election will be held on August 10. So what exactly does a Comptroller do? In essence, the Comptroller is responsible for the state's finances. A full description and mission statement is available on the Comptroller's website.

In the news reports so far, which presumably are quoting a press release from Jarjura, he states his qualifications as follows:

“The fiscal and structural problems that Connecticut faces are nearly identical to what I faced when first assuming the Mayor’s office in Waterbury,” Jarjura said. “I look forward to the opportunity to work on righting Connecticut’s financial ship and bringing the same best practices to Hartford that served taxpayers in Waterbury so well.”
This is a fascinating choice of quote for several reasons. First, he seems to be ignoring the contributions of the state oversight board, which was able to turn the city's finances around in ways he could never have possibly done himself. Second, Waterbury's taxpayers are furious with him right now. His own brother was quoted in the Rep-Am as saying that he won't vote for him again. I think it's safe to say that the taxpayers in Waterbury would disagree about these nebulous "best practices" he's referring to.

Here's another quote, from today's paper:

“While I may not have been the pick of the Democratic par­ty bosses, I have won 16 elec­tions and primaries over the last 20 years, including an his­toric write-in victory in 2005”
Great, but how does that qualify him for Comptroller? 

There are plenty of other issues that I'm sure we'll all be talking about between now and August 10, but there is one last thought I have for today: when Paul Vance challenged Jarjura in last year's primary, Jarjura declared that Vance was being disloyal to his party by forcing a primary. Vance was able to force the primary by collecting signatures from voters who wanted more options. Jarjura is now forcing a primary because he was able to use back-room politics to get enough votes to qualify for the primary. If Vance was disloyal, what is Jarjura?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

City Budget Cuts

The good news is that the swimming pools and lake will remain open this summer. The bad news is that they are still thinking about closing two fire stations, on Walnut Street and Willow Street.

Public safety should never be cut from a budget. No one has ever complained that we have too many fire stations. Sometimes hard choices have to be made, but this is not the right choice. It's like deciding that you won't refill the brake fluid in your car because you can't afford it, but you have to drive your car in order to keep your job. Something else has to be cut, or you have to find a way to increase your income.

Here's something sent to me by a Waterbury fireman:
It is being argued that the closing of these firehouses would save the taxpayers from paying higher property taxes. Unfortunately, it would have an adverse affect on the cities ISO rating. The ISO rates municipalities from 1 to 5 with 1 being the best. Presently, Waterbury has a rating of 3. An increase in our ISO rating would mean higher insurance premiums charged by the insurance companies. The difference in the premiums charged could quite possibly be more than the savings realized from the closure of firehouses.

Here's another way to look at it, in terms of city finances: worst case scenario, closing those fire stations means that someone living near one of them loses their home and all their belongings because the remaining fire stations, and then they or their insurance company decides to sue the city for negligence (or something like that--I'm not an attorney!). Flat out worst case scenario: someone loses their life because their neighborhood fire station was closed.

There is a budget hearing tonight at Kennedy High School, 7 p.m. If you can, please attend and demand that the city not endanger our lives by shutting down these fire stations.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Busy Weekend at the Train Station

Up until today, this year was a good one for parking your car at the Waterbury train station. New security cameras were installed and many months went by before I saw any shattered glass from car windows being broken into. Last week there was one window broken, the first I've seen in months. This morning, sadly, there were at least five.

The cars that get broken into are pretty much always parked behind the abandoned building, hidden from view from the street. The activity over the holiday weekend proves that security cameras are of limited use as a deterrent.

A better deterrent would be a real station. You know, like the one proposed by consultants hired by the state but objected to by the only privately-operated public bus company in the state.