Sunday, February 28, 2010

Charter Revisions

I had intended to speak at a meeting of the Charter Revision Committee, but that meeting was cancelled due to a double-booking at WAMS. I was unable to attend the next meeting due to a work commitment (but hopefully the rest of my neighbors made it and spoke out). In lieu of speaking my thoughts in public, I'll post them here. Not all of this is relevant to what the Commission is specifically looking at--there were a couple things that jumped out at me when I read the charter.

The Board of Aldermen should consist at least in part of official elected by district in order to better represent the city’s diverse population. Waterbury is a city of neighborhoods, and each neighborhood faces different challenges. Opponants of aldermen by district have claimed that this would limit the quality of our choices—this is a fundamentally flawed argument. First, if this argument had merit, then we should take it to the next “logical” step and allow residents of Middlebury, Cheshire, Naugatuck and Wolcott to run for office. Second, by stating that an aldermen by district election system would reduce the quality of our choices is flat out insulting. Does my choice of neighborhood make me a less qualified candidate?

I recently learned a lot about how politics in Waterbury does and does not work. While on the campaign trail last year, nearly everyone I spoke to in the North End and downtown on the Green felt that the city government didn’t care about them, that the city government has abandoned their streets, their sidewalks, their safety and their quality of life. There is a tremendous and terrible disparity between neighborhoods like mine and neighborhoods like Bunker Hill. The overall disparity is unhealthy.

I would also recommend that the charter include a description of Qualifications for the members of the Board of Aldermen, just as it does for the Mayor.

Section 11B-2, regarding snow removal, needs to be enforced. Anyone who has ever tried to get anywhere in Waterbury during the winter knows how important this is. If a sidewalk is unusuable because the property owner does not remove the snow, pedestrians are forced to walk in the street, putting themselves at risk of being hit by a car.

Sec. 11F-4 and 11F-5, regarding Sidewalk Construction Fund and Street Improvement Funds—this is something that is good to have, and it is something we need more of. I don’t know if this is suitable for the charter, but I think we need to be more proactive in acquiring these funds. A city is effectively a non-profit organization, and every successful non-profit has regular fund raising events. Rather than relying solely on tax money, why not encourage people to make donations to city improvement funds? Most of the city parks were made possible by the charitable donations of private citizens who have long since passed away. Why doesn’t the city actively cultivate new donors, just like colleges and museums do?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Here it Comes!

Once again, picking up litter in my yard led me to discover the first flowers of the year--two little snowdrops basking in the sun.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Scovill Bulletins

A dedicated and persevering former employee of Waterbury Farrel (second-generation Farrel worker) has taken the tremendous trouble to scan decades' worth of Scovill Bulletins and Scovill Standards for everyone to access on his website,

The files are large, so the downloads take a little time. Depending on how your computer and browser are configured (I'm using Firefox on Mac), you might be able to option-click on the links to download the pdf files instead of waiting for them to load first.

This is one of the best things about the internet--making rare documents freely accessible to the world.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tax Time

Hopefully you are not like me and you therefore remembered to pay the second installment of your car tax bill which was due last month (or, even better, paid it all in one lump sum last summer).

If you are like me and forgot, you can pay online at