Friday, April 10, 2009

Dossin Beach Showdown?

Apparently, there is a conflict brewing between two local organizations dedicated to enjoying the natural environment Meriden provides.

I received this e-mail from Anna Neumon today.

"The Quinnipiac River Watershed Association needs your help.

I am sending this email as an individual and former Deputy Mayor of Meriden. I am very concerned and appalled that an action of The Meriden Linear Trail Advisory Committee will jeopardize the presence of the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association Headquarters in Meriden at Hanover Pond.

The QRWA has a lease with the City, which gives them use of eighty feet of land around the building as well as water access.

On April 23, 2009, @6:30 p.m. Meriden City Hall, room 28, the Linear Trail Committee members will vote on the design of Phase II of the trail. The design shows that the trail will be constructed directly behind the building which QRWA leases and effectively obstruct access to the water. It is irreprehensible that this would be allowed to happen and that the actions of a Committee of the City would cause financial harm to a non-profit organization. This action will heavily impact income from any water related programs as well as make it physically difficult to cross over a paved trail with pedestrians, bicycles, roller blades, baby strollers and wheelchairs etc. passing while carrying a canoe or kayak by staff and youth members.

The QRWA has offered alternative solutions which have fallen on deaf ears (see minutes of meetings posted on City website). The committee seems intent on placing the trail behind the building, regardless of any concerns of or consideration of the QRWA.

Should the committee decide to construct the trail behind the building, it may force the QRWA to move its headquarters and programs to another location in another city. Should you agree that the trail must NOT go behind the building, please attend the meeting on the 23rd if you can not attend, call or write the following, as well as forward this email to inform any interested party of what is about to take place."

Anna P. Neumon

Now, Anna has a long history of community involvement, including terms on the City Council (and its Deputy Mayor) and the Conservation Commission. So, too, does Joe Zajac, who has been heading up the Linear Trail Committee since its successful inception of Phase I of the Meriden Linear Trail. At issue here is the extension of the trail under Phase II, which was approved by the City and undergoing planning for some time. I'm not aware of the details, but it seems strange that there is a possible argument over access. The City has provided property to both organizations to develop greater appreciation of the natural resources in Meriden. I can't see a trail blocking access to Hanover Pond from the QWRA building, nor can I see why trail builders cannot make sure a crossing point can be designed to accommodate the carrying of kayaks, canoes and boats to the pond. Coincidentally, Mary Mushinsky, the Executive Director of QWRA is also the prime supporter of the Wallingford Linear Trail. I'm sure her years of experinence with both entities can provide some enlightened solution.. Before this escalates into another episode of Meriden fighting Meriden, let's hope all parties (The Linear Trail Committee, QWRA, the City) can get in a room and reason together.

There's plenty of outdoors for everybody.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Boards and Commissions II

It looks like we have a controversial appointment this season. Democrat Ross Gulino, a potential alternate to the Planning Commission, has been called into question by someone who believes he has a lawsuit against the city. The Record Journal has weighed in via its editorial page as well.

Because another interested party was not accepted as an appointee by the mayor since she had lodged a complaint regarding potential discrimination over bidding notifications, a cloud formed over Gulino because of a lawsuit filed with his name on it a decade ago regarding the Ridgeline Protection Act. The mayor, desiring to be fair, wants to be sure the vetting rules are being applied consistently.

As noted in an earlier post, the vetting process has never been overly formal. As long as the appointee was an elector, paid up in taxes, and expressed a desire to serve the City in some appointed capacity, they were generally approved. Usually, there was no deep dive into one's background...their word was usually good enough. And a willingness to volunteer for normally thankless jobs in this "let someone else do it" day and age was a big qualification. But, over recent times, a check of the registrars' and tax records was made to confirm the word. Litigation never really was an issue discussed or pursued.

This year is different. Because of the recent flap over Gulino's appointment, a more formal vetting process is being proposed. Letters are to go out to all potential appointees, whether new or veteran board members or commissioners, seeking light on matters of current political affiliation, taxes and legal actions against the City. It is hoped that the responses will show taxes paid, and courts and regulatory agencies free of any initiatives on the appointee's part. It will be interesting to see what happens, though, if any prominent folk owe a motor vehicle tax for several years, or have a "slip and fall" suit that's been lingering for years. And even the best vetting process will have its flaws, as President Obama continually finds out.

As to Gulino, I understand that he has no ownership interest in the corporation that filed suit under his father's name 10 years ago, and that in fact he doesn't believe the corporation, of which he was secretary in order to meet the filing guidelines, even exists anymore. If that's true, and should be easily found out, this particular objection to his appointment should be removed.

I'm sure his opponents will come up with something else, though.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Boards and Commissions

As recently reported in the Record Journal (Boards and Commissions), the Mayor has submitted his appointments to the City Council. The City Charter grants the mayor this power of appointment:
§ C3-3. J. How appointments by City Council made. The Mayor shall recommend any and all appointments to officers or positions within the appointing power of the City
Council (except as to chairpersons of Council Standing Committees to the City Council) for approval. The City Council may, within its next two regular meetings after submission of a recommendation by the Mayor, reject said recommendation by
majority vote of the entire membership except as herein otherwise specified, in failure of which said recommendation shall be deemed confirmed.
Most often, the appointments are ratified readily, although there have been fights. The Council debated heavily on the reappointment of Roger DeZinno to the planning commission by former Mayor Joe Marinan. DeZinno was reappointed on parliamentary procedure. Curiously, back in 2006 when I started this blog, Ross Gulino was appointed in place of Art Geary, who had fought his removal. (Week in Review). Art was ultimately reappointed. This time, Ross is to be appointed, as an alternate, and Art will be leaving once again. And I recall rejecting former Mayor Mark Benigni's replacement for Brit Hall on the ZBA several years ago. The Republicans wished to replace Brit with another of their party. Brit wanted to stay on, and he had been doing a good job in my estimation. I supported him, even though we've disagreed on a number of zoning appeal issues, but I didn't think there was a good reason for a good man like him to be ousted. The mayor reappointed him, and the Council approved.

That's the way it works. Openings occur from time to time on all the boards and commissions. Usually recommendations to fill positions come from the respective party chairmen, but occasionally citizens will write or contact the mayor directly with their interest. The mayor may consider the offer, see if there's a good fit on a board, and presumably does some vetting of the individual (a local elector, no tax delinquency, a commitment to serve, and ideally some expertise in the area the board or commission controls). When I was Majority Leader, I would review the proposed recommendations with the Mayor before they were presented to the Council to see if there were any problems, and to advise whether the Council would have any potential objections. (for example, the Brit Hall removal several years ago.). The Charter requires a two-meeting vetting period after the list is presented to the Council, and then it's generally approved. Mark Benigni started the 2 week vetting period for the off-cycle appointments, and that seems to have been working well.

This is Mayor Mike Rohde's first time at appointments, although he's well-versed in the process, having served as Majority Leader twice before his appointment by the Council last July. I have no doubt his recommendations are sound. It's interesting that he's added We the People representatives along with the regular mix of Ds, Rs, and Us. One thing I don't necessarily agree with though: I don't think length of service should be a major reason to remove a board or commission member. New blood is a good thing, if the process allows for it. But if a member has been serving well, a minimum of absences, and isn't totally out of whack philosophically with the Mayor, they should be allowed to continue if they choose. If it is the philosophical reason, then say so. For example, the mayor has made it clear that the current ZBA Chair, Ed Jones, should resign. Although he's not up for appointment this year, I have no doubt the mayor would not accept Mr. Jones offer to continue. But that's all up front as it should be. If it's just length of service, then some politicians should not be allowed to run again; Mr Weischel would not have been able to serve Southington as its town manager so well over the last 3 decades. And I'm not going to comment on the mayor of Wallingford's number of terms in office. AndI'm sure there are a number of fine Meriden citizens who've been serving for years on boards that are not being asked to leave, just because they've been there a long time. Fair's fair.

If you want to review the list of appointees, call the City Council office for a review. If you have comments on any, let your City Councilor know. And then see how the vote goes in a month.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Update on State Board of Ed nominee

I see that Linda McMahon was appointed to the state Board of Ed after successful votes in the House and Senate. (See post below).

After emailing all our House delegation, I had heard back from Buddy Altobello, who noted the Senate had approved her, and Cathy Abercrombie, who was waiting to hear the debate on the floor. I did not hear from Chris Donovan.

Checking the vote tally, all three voted in favor of the appointment. I'm still wondering what Ms McMahon's qualifications were, beyond being a contributor to Governor Rell's campaigns, and that she's a trustee of Sacred Heart University.

Gubernatorial Chats

Former General Assembly Speaker James Amann came to the Meriden Democratic Town Committee this past week to discuss his candidacy for Governor. He is the only declared candidate so far, but Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and Stamford Mayor Dann Malloy are only a press conference away from joining officially. Unofficially they've been off and running.

The meeting was attended by a reasonably good crowd of town committee members, elected officials from the City Council and BOE (the state delegation is busy in session), several Teamsters there to support Jim, and a few other interested parties.

Jim gave a brief history of his knowledge of Meriden (no better or worse than other politicians outside our city) and a nod to the fact that we're the home of a past Majority Leader (Tom Luby) and his current successor as Speaker, Chris Donovan. After giving his pitch on becoming governor, he took questions. I say took, because instead of directly answering most of them, he recounted the history of why some of the issues were so important: jobs, educational funding, avoiding the divisiveness of primaries, release of approved bonding monies. All were important to the attendees, and while Jim clearly had a command of the facts, he shared little of what he would do if elected governor. It may be because it's too early in the game to get pinned down, but it will be interesting to see how his competitors will answer those questions when they come to town. Susan Bysiewicz is up to bat next month.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

State Board of Ed Nominee

I was surprised to see that the State Senate almost unanimously voted for Linda McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment for a position on the State Board of Education.

Linda McMahon Story

I only know of the woman from what I've read, and while her entertainment acumen seems strong, just having an interest in education doesn't seem enough credentials for this important board. Kudos to State Senator Joan Hartley of Waterbury for her lone vote against.

It now goes to the House, and I've written our Meriden delegation on my opinion that they vote to oppose. Or let me know why they think she'd be a good add. We'll see what happens.


I think the Meriden City Council was prudent in holding off any decision to move the Jack Barry Little League from its current site on Brittania St. The City has invested both its own and state money to improve this complex over the years, and its a great venue for those kids in that part of the City. We should look to solving the flooding problem, and I'm pretty sure that area is part of the flood control implementation study being led by Phil Ashton these many years. Even if you move the league, the flooding needs to be resolved, so let's do it. As to the 90 foot major field, I hear the American Legion is selling its field. The City should buy it and maintain it as a field that can be used and shared by Jack Barry, Ed Walsh and So Meriden Leagues. (If you're interested in helping out the Jack Barry Little League, check out this interesting and creative method found in

bigbassdrum 02-12-2009 03:21 PM

You can Help Jack Barry Little League
Barry Little League has been nominated for the Frosted Flakes Plant a Seed program. If Jack Barry were to be one of the 30 winning fields in the country, they will come in and rebuild the playing fields at no costs... Imagine that! But it is based on votes on the website so we need people to vote, many times each - kind of like Florida politics! Here is the link:
Please forward onto everyone in your network and take the time to vote for Jack Barry...takes 1 minute.

I don't agree with moving the Raiders to Ceppa, either, and I'm glad that organization agrees. One of the main reasons we redeveloped Falcon Field was to remove the stress that regular football placed on Ceppa. Keep them in Washington Park as they wish, let them continue to earn money to support themselves at the concession stand, and leave the rest of the park unfenced.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Time to dust off....

Wow, it's been almost two years since I posted here! It goes to the belief that blogs are not easy to keep up with, even though everyone seems to have one. While on the City Council, I thought it would be a good way to keep information flowing, but learned how hard it was to write here with council activities, regular (read: paying!) work and family commitments eating up the day's time. No guarantee that won't occur again. But I don't have the City Council's workload anymore.

So here's another attempt to reach out into the blogosphere, where there are as many entries as there are stars, it seems, some with great followings, some just a place to jot musings with nary an echo. Also, with the advent of the Record Journal's blogs and forums, there is a central place to check what's going on in the city and observe, opine or just plain vent. But there's room for other places to visit, and I hope this can be one.

There's a lot to talk about in Meriden: the looming budget, the Plan of Conservation and Development (full disclosure, I was on the committee that created the update); zoning issues, economic development (or non-development, depending on your point of view), educational issues, the fall municipal elections, our state delegation's notoriety of late...plenty to jaw about.

Let's see if I get any echoes on anything.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Budget Time

There have been two meetings so far concerning the 2007-2008 Municipal Budget. Both have been televised, and based on feedback I've been getting around town, that's been appreciated.

The Finance Committee has heard presentations from Planning, Code and Enforcement, Public Utilities, Public Works, Parks and Rec, Police, Fire, Library and Finance. The council members have been asking good questions, not necessarily poking holes in the City Manager's recommendations, but not leaving them unchallenged either. Especially in the Police and Finance budgets, both which have positions either being left unfilled (Police) or eliminated (the Tax Collector in the Finance Department). The latter is the most radical, and bears close scrutiny.

I've told my fellow councilors that everyone of us has favorite areas we've supported over the's no secret I've worked hard over the years to keep the BOE satisfactorily funded to meet its goals, and the Library open and staffed as much as possible...but this year the line must be seen and held.

The public is invited to listen and ask questions of the staff or councilors regarding the budget. Unfortunately, only one or two do, and they are at most meetings enjoying their time in front of the camera. The BOE's budget is on tap for review next Thursday, April 12. As it consumes near half the city budget, it would be a good one for people who have strong opinions to come and ask their questions. You will get answers...maybe not the ones you want, but this is the time and place. Brian Kogut has been doing a good job managing this portion of the meetings, making sure questions are asked and answered. As he points out, the time for comment will be at the public hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, April 17, starting at 6 pm. We've arranged to have the public hearing held at Lincoln Middle School, and it will be video-taped. Again, that time is for public comment, not debate, on the budget. The Council will be listening, I assure you. Of course, your input via the normal channels, letters to the editor, emails or calls to the council members, informal meetings around town at the stores, fields, coffee shops and restaurants, or even posts to this blog will be acknkowledged as well. At least by this councilor...