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Friday, December 30, 2011

Remap to shift voting districts

As published in the Record Journal, Saturday December 24, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

While the recent redistricting of the state House and Senate districts for Meriden, Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire didn’t result in radical changes, local registrars of voters say the new lines will require shifts in local voting districts. The changes will be in effect for the Republican presidential primary in the spring.

Now that the redistricting plan has been approved at the state level, local officials are beginning the process of realigning precincts and districts to fit into the new legislative districts.

Republican Registrar of Voters Chet Miller said voters in five of Wallingford’s nine districts — Districts 1, 3, 5, 6 and 9 — may have to go to new polling places the next time they go out to vote.

“A portion of District 3 is moving into 9,” Miller said. The outer edge of District 9, near the Durham line, is moving into District 1.”

Other changes include a chunk of voters in District 1 near Pond Hill School moving into District 9, and some voters in District 5 will be moved to District 6.

The local shuffles become necessary because ballots must be the same at each polling place. With the new boundaries, some voters in a district will be electing new state lawmakers in the 2012 elections.

Miller said letters will be sent to voters who are affected by the change, and anybody who has a question about their polling place may contact the registrars of voters office.

“Once the plan has been settled, we’ll inform those people that have changed,” he said. “If there’s no change, you won’t receive a notice.”

Redrawing districts could also affect the makeup of the local town committees. Vincent Avallone, Wallingford’s Democratic town chairman, said the party is allowed one town committee member for every 75 registered Democrats in a district.

“It could impact the number of town committee members,” he said. “We could have members move or move members in another district.”

But Avallone said he didn’t think there would be a very great impact. Democrats will meet Jan. 11 to elect new committee members.

Miller said that for Republicans the new districts could pit incumbent town committee members against each other.

“In district one, everybody but one person on the committee is moving into the 9th District,” Miller said. “And some members in the ninth are still there. There could be competition for the seats.”

State Rep. Emil A. “Buddy” Altobello, D-Meriden, who participated in the last two local redistricting efforts in Meriden, told the Record-Journal this month that the city could look to cut the number of voting precincts from 17 to either 16 or 12, which would save money.

Lillian (Toni) Soboleski, the city’s Republican registrar, said Meriden officials were waiting for final maps from the state before they began redrawing boundaries in the city. “Our changes depend on the changes the state makes,” she said.

Soboleski said that “it would be nice to cut down on some of the precincts if that’s something that could be done.”

Anyone who has their polling place changed will be notified, she said.

In Cheshire, Republican Registrar of Voters Susan Pappas said new voting maps hadn’t been completed yet but that there shouldn’t be any major shifts in voting districts.

“A few voters might be changed, but overall there were very little changes for us,” she said.

In previous years, the Meriden City Council, which must approve any district changes, has tried to avoid having incumbents face each other because of new boundaries.

Cheshire and Meriden both have area representation on their local governing bodies, while Southington and Wallingford elect all their councilors at large.

The state must reconfigure its congressional, legislative and local government districts, based on the U.S. census, every 10 years. A legislative committee was charged with forming 151 House districts with near equal portions of the state’s population of 3,574,170.

The next election that local municipalities are preparing for is the Republican presidential primary, scheduled for April 24. Miller said that according to state law, all of the town’s polling places must be opened.

Thursday, December 29, 2011



Pursuant to the rules of the Democratic Party and the state election laws, you are hereby notified that District [caucuses] will be held on January 11th at 7 P.M. at Dag Hammarskjold Middle School, 106 Pond Hill Road, Wallingford [Voting Districts 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 9] and at James Moran Middle School, 14 Hope Hill Road, Wallingford [Voting Districts 5 – 6 – 7 – 8] to endorse candidates for election to the Democratic Town Committee and to transact such other business as may be proper to come before said caucus.

“Any resident of [this] Voting District whose name appears on the last completed Democratic enrollment list may have his or her name placed on the ballot at [this] caucus by filing with the Democratic Registrar of Voters not less than five [5] days prior to the caucus a signed statement that he or she desires to have his or her name to appear on the ballot. Any such resident may also have his or her name placed in nomination from the floor at the caucus itself.”



Democratic Town Committee of Wallingford By Vincent A. Avallone, Chairperson 1 Ashford Court, Wallingford, CT 06492

Lyman Hall and Sheehan bands still in running for Pepsi grant

As published in the Record Journal, Tuesday December 27, 2011

By Melissa Chicker
Record-Journal staff

WALLINGFORD — The marching bands at Sheehan and Lyman Hall high schools have teamed together to encourage the community to vote in a contest that could result in a $50,000 grant for new uniforms.

“Combining our efforts gets more people of the community involved,” Sheehan band director David Giardina said. “We thought if we combine the two schools in this competition, we will get a lot more votes and give us a better chance to win the grant.”

The schools are competing as one against 322 other groups around the country in a contest sponsored by the Pepsi Refresh Project, which gives away millions of dollars each month. The top 10 groups in the competition that ends on Saturday will receive $50,000.

“Grants are for wide-reaching ideas and with groups and organizations putting in significant time and effort,” officials said on the Pepsi Refresh Project website.

The grant would go toward about 125 uniforms for each of the two marching bands. Each new uniform costs at least $500, setting a steep total price of up to $140,000.

Uniforms, said Giardina, typically last 10 to 13 years. Sheehan’s uniforms are between 15 and 17 years old.

The Sheehan and Lyman Hall bands were in second place Monday — they have been among the top five the entire time, including some time at No. 1. Giardina believes the effort to get out the word is the key.

“We spread the word through our band parents’ organization and throughout the schools,” he said. “Word has spread quickly and I think this is why we have been so successful so far.” The competition began Dec. 1, and both band groups have been working since the start to urge people to log onto the site and cast their vote. Supporters have passed out fliers at Stop & Shop on weekends, created a Facebook page and sent emails to family and friends.

“The schools have always been rivals, and while it’s good to have a rivalry, this is a great way to foster the community spirit and work together for a common goal,” said Heidi Belcourt, co-president of the Sheehan Music Parents Association.

Voters can vote up to three times per day until Saturday.

2010 Dickinson dinner would have been illegal

State agency issues ruling on canceled event

As published in the Record Journal, Monday December 19, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

WALLINGFORD — The State Elections Enforcement Commission has ruled that a $40-per-ticket dinner planned for February 2010 in honor of Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. would have been a violation of state election laws, but because the event was ultimately canceled, no action will be taken.

In a decision dated Dec. 14, commission Chairman Stephen F. Cashman wrote that “as planned, the event, had it occurred, would have violated General Statute 9-609(b) as a ‘testimonial event.’ ” Because the event was ultimately postponed indefinitely, the commission ruled that no laws had been violated.

According to state statute: “No testimonial affair shall be held for a candidate, or for an individual who holds any such office during the term of such office, except to raise funds on his behalf for purposes authorized in this chapter. A testimonial affair which is held by an organization duly organized for charitable purposes shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter.”

The issue was brought to the SEEC by Democratic Town Committee Chairman Vincent Avallone, who said Tuesday, “The Republican Party should be grateful to me for filing the complaint because they would have been guilty of breaking the law if they held the party.” Avallone said that, before he filed the complaint, he sent a copy of the statute to Republican Town Committee Chairman Robert Prentice as a courtesy.

Prentice could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Dickinson said Tuesday he was aware of the decision, and that while he understood the rationale for the state’s wanting to keep track of money raised, he questioned its ability to say who can and cannot hold a social function.

“To say people can’t plan an event, there are bigger issues there,” he said. “You can tell people what they need to do with the money, but to tell them an event can’t be held seems to be overreaching.”

The statute was amended in the past legislative session to allow testimonials to raise money for “party committees” as of January 2012, but Cashman wrote, “The event planned for February of 2010, however, preceded this change in the law, so the law as previously written would apply to the testimonial that was the subject of this complaint.”

The event was scheduled to be held at Villa Capri on North Colony Road and was to include a buffet dinner , music by the Johnny Bass Band, speeches and dancing.

Republican organizers of the event said the money was to go the Wallingford Center for the Arts. Mary Ellen Kingsland-Eckels, director of the Wallingford Center for the Arts, has said that organizers of the event had contacted the organization about receiving profits from the dinner, but that the organization was still in the process of obtaining nonprofit status and would not have been eligible to receive the funds.

Republican Councilor Rosemary Rascati, who helped organize the aborted event, said she wasn’t aware of the recent SEEC ruling, but said the event had been canceled because organizers hadn’t gotten a clear answer as to its legality.

“We made the decision since we did not get an answer,” she said. “We thought it was best to cancel the party and return the money.”

Rascati said they had offers from other charitable organizations to participate in the event, “but we thought the best thing was to cancel it.”

Avallone said Tuesday that his decision to file a complaint was based on his belief that the mayor and his supporters should abide by the law as written.

“The purpose of the complaint was to emphasize the fact that no one is above the law, not even a sitting mayor in office for 28 years,” he said.

The complaint was originally filed Jan. 26, 2010, and Avallone said that he didn’t receive the ruling until Monday.

Rascati said there are no plans for any other events to honor Dickinson while he remains in office. “If and when [the mayor] retires, and we’re still around, we’ll have a party,” she said.

Special Town Council Meeting - Swearing In Ceremony

Special Town Council Meeting
Swearing In Ceremony
Monday, January 2. 2012  8:00 P.M.


1. Color Guards:
American Legion Shaw-Sinon Post #73
American Legion Siedlicki Post #187
VFW Major Raoul Lufbery #591
YEW Stanley Budleski Post #9965
AMVETS Post #83
Wallingford Elks Lodge #1365
Knights of Columbus
Edison Division Sea Cadet Corps
Dean DellaVecchio and the Lyman Hall High School Jazz Ensemble
Posting Colors — Past Commander Roy Cannon, American Legion Shaw-Sinon Post #73

2. Invocation — Reverend Anne Bracket, Yalesville United Methodist Church

3. Pledge of Allegiance — Lorraine Devaney, Public Celebrations Committee National Anthem - Dean DellaVecchio and the Lyman Hall High School Jazz Ensemble

4. Swearing in of Mayor William W. Dickinson, Jr. by Judge of Probate Phillip A. Wright, Jr.

5. Remarks by Mayor William W. Dickinson, Jr.

6. Swearing in of the Town Council by Judge Wright
Vincent Cervoni
Robert F. Parisi
Nick Economopoulis
Rosemary Rascati
Craig C. Fishbein
John J. Sullivan
Thomas Laffin
Jason Zandri
John LeTourneau

7. Roll Call Mayor William W. Dickinson, Jr.

8. Mayor Dickinson Presiding at Election of Town Council Chairman

9. Remarks by Town Council Chairman

10. Election of Town Council Vice-Chairman

11. Swearing in of the Board of Education by Judge Wright
Michael Brooder
Roxane M. McKay
Kathy Castelli
Chet Miller
John J. Cei, Jr.
Patrick Reynolds
Christine Mansfield
Michael J. Votto
Joseph Marrone

12. Appointment of Town Clerk and Swearing in by Judge Wright

13. Benediction - Reverend Anne Bracket, Yalesville United Methodist Church

14, Prepare to Retire Colors — Past Commander Roy Cannon, American Legion Post #73

15. God Bless America by Junior Vice Commander James Dunn, American Legion Shaw-Sinon Post #73

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A joint housing agency?

As published in the Record Journal, Friday December 23, 2011

It could be done - Both Wallingford and Meriden have questions, though

By Mary Ellen Godin

Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2255

The Wallingford Housing Authority can’t afford to pass up a recent offer of help from its counterpart agency in Meriden, according to Wallingford Town Councilor Nick Economopoulos.
“I consider it a nice gesture,” Economopoulos, a Democrat, said Thursday. “I think our commissioners are confused right now. I don’t think they should be hiring a new director or an outside management company. When you are under the pressure they are under, it’s a recipe for failure” The WHA is operating without an executive director, and its deputy director is also leaving. The authority has been plagued in the last year with management issues, tenant complaints, partisan bickering and the turnover of four of its five commissioners.

Meriden Housing Authority Director Robert Cappelletti extended a hand to WHA board members and town officials several weeks ago through a letter offering to help the authority get through the many changes. Cappelletti suggested a partnership between the two agencies.

“We should invite him to our next meeting,” WHA board member Thomas Mezzei said Thursday. “It’s a courtesy to talk to him.”
Both housing authorities are overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development but generally accept some input from local officials. According to HUD officials, collaboration between authorities is permitted.

“We do allow it,” said Julie Fagan, director of the HUD field office that oversees the housing authorities. “As long as they ensure they have the staff and resources to meet the needs of tenants.”

Fagan said any arrangement would have to be approved by the local boards of commissioners but would not need
HUD approval.

Craig Fishbein, a Republican town councilor in Wallingford, said he would leave the decision whether to accept Cappelletti’s offer to the WHA board members. But he would question the structure of any potential partnership and the level of commitment from Meriden, he said.

“I was a little surprised that the executive director of Meriden (Housing Authority) would have the time,” Fishbein said. “But I’ll leave it to the commission’s expertise.”

Meriden City Councilor Hilda Santiago is the council’s liaison to the Housing Authority. She also questioned the amount of time Cappelletti could devote to Wallingford, given the many projects on his plate in Meriden. “I feel there is a lot of projects he’s working on in Meriden that are worthy of his time,” said Santiago, a Democrat.

The MHA was given a failing grade for its physical inspections at federal housing projects earlier this month. Cappelletti is under a deadline to appeal some of the points made in the evaluation and return the appeal to HUD. It was also cited two years ago for faulty financial reports under a prior administration and is correcting deficiencies.

Economopoulos said he had heard Cappelletti had a “top shelf” reputation, but any potential blemishes would need to be reviewed by the WHA prior to making a decision to work together.

Under Cappelletti , work has progressed on the nearly $27 million redevelopment of Chamberlain Heights after more than six years of talking, failed applications and delays. About $1.4 million has been put into renovations of Mills Memorial Apartments and just short of $1 million into Yale Acres. The authority has also teamed with the city to apply for a grant to study redevelopment of Mills, and plans for a veterans’ housing project on Hanover Street are progressing.

Without knowing specifics, Meriden City Council Majority Leader Brian Daniels said Cappelletti’s offer is an example of municipalities collaborating to share resources and solve problems. He points to the city’s challenge several months ago when its health director abruptly left her post and Southington’s health director, Charles Motes, filled in for the interim.

“Communities help each other out,” said Daniels, a Democrat. “That’s what they do. But I know nothing about the arrangement or if it’s apples to apples or apples to oranges.”

Santiago said the difference between the two scenarios is that city Development and Enforcement Director Dominick Caruso was placed in charge of the Health Department and Motes signed off on necessary paperwork.

She believes the vacancies at WHA would put more responsibility on Cappelletti.

Economopoulos said he’s impressed that the MHA handles its own Section 8 program in house and wants the WHA to do the same. The Wallingford authority outsources its Section 8 program to the Hamden Housing Authority and he’d like to see it get more training in finance.

Whether the WHA accepts Cappelletti’s offer or not, Economopoulos said he thinks it’s a mistake for the board to make any rash decisions on hiring a new director or outsourcing the operation. Instead, it should hire an interim director and study its options.

“Right now, all we can think about is getting our ship ruddered straight,” Economopoulos said.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pepsi Refresh Challenge: FINAL WEEK. Replace parts of 17 yr old band uniforms at 2 Wallingford High Schools


We slipped to third place this morning (Tuesday December 27th). This is a make or break week. 

Not only is it the last week but MANY people who might otherwise vote are not online as much as they might normally be as they are off from work. (Our supporters included).

If we can stay organized, focused and keep getting the word out we can do this!

Vote every day. Email the link to your family and friends.

Housing director extends aid offer to WHA

Cappelletti says partnership could also help MHA

As Published in the Record Journal, Thursday December 22, 2011

By Dan Brechlin

Record-Journal staff

MERIDEN — Noting the challenges faced by the Wallingford Housing Authority in the last year, the Meriden Housing Authority has reached out to offer assistance. The WHA’s longtime executive director, Steve Nere, recently accepted a buyout and Deputy Director Teresa M. Ravizza announced that she would be leaving due to the increased workload. The Wallingford agency has also had to deal with management issues, tenant complaints, partisan bickering and the turnover of four of its five commissioners.

“We want to try to get them through their crossroads of changes,” said Meriden Housing Authority Director Robert V. Cappelletti. “We asked how we can help them while they have nobody available to help them.”

Cappelletti wrote a letter to Wallingford housing officials asking whether they wanted help with the transition. He offered to work part time in the Wallingford office, if necessary. Becoming a property manager for the WHA was also an option Cappelletti floated.

Cappelletti said he did not want to consolidate the two housing authorities, but wrote in the letter that the two could partner.
“The MHA could assist in a number of ways, from combining our purchasing power, providing technical assistance with modernization planning and construction management,” he wrote. “Other efficiencies can be gained through combining certain administration or property management functions.”

Since sending the letter, dated Dec. 2, Cappelletti said he has received no response and has assumed that the board and WHA officials are moving in a different direction. Wednesday afternoon, however, WHA board member Thomas Mezzei said he had not been told about the letter. Calls to Ravizza and board Chairman Michael Misiti were not returned.

WHA tenant commissioner Patricia Hogan said she received the letter and that the WHA is “considering all options,” including the MHA’s offer. All of the information, she said, would be discussed at a future board meeting.

Over the last year, Cappelletti said, he has been following the turnover on the WHA board and other challenges, mostly through newspaper articles. He said it would make sense for the Meriden authority to help its neighbor.

“I figured we have worked a lot with Wallingford and the homelessness program,” Cappelletti said. “It makes sense to step up and help.”

MHA board Chairman Cornelius J. Ivers said the offer was something he was aware of and agreed it could help the WHA and possibly generate revenue for the MHA.

“We’re getting squeezed on the revenue side from the government,” Ivers said. “We have to generate some more revenue and could help the WHA with their mission.”

Ivers said he had discussions with Cappelletti about the possible aid. MHA tenant commissioner James White, however, said he had not been in on discussions and was concerned that a decision could be made without the board’s vote. Ivers said he was sure Cappelletti would have let the board know at its monthly meeting, which was canceled this week. “Nothing will happen without the commissioners voting on it,” Ivers said. “It may come to nothing and Wallingford could say, ‘We’re not interested in you guys.’ ” Board member Scott Griffith said the board had discussed the possibility of Cappelletti’s filling in for a few months and simply saw it as a “neighborly gesture.” Such collaboration is something that is done around the country, he said.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thomas Laffin - New Wallingford town councilor seen as ‘a gentleman all the way’

As published in the Record Journal, Wednesday December 21, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

WALLINGFORD — When Thomas Laffin interviewed Town Council Chairman Robert Parisi for a college assignment about local politics, he never thought that nine years later he’d be serving on the council alongside him.

image       Photo by Dave Zajac – courtesy of the Record Journal

Laffin, 31, will be sworn in and join the council next month. Active in the Republican Party since he graduated from college, Laffin said he never had grand political aspirations.

At my very first Republican Town Committee meetings I sat with the town councilors, but I had no desire at all to join them,” he said. “It wasn’t until years later that people approached me and suggested that I run.”

At the age of 22, Laffin was appointed to the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission, and three years later was elected to the Board of Education in his first try. After four years on the school board, Laffin was endorsed by the party for a council run. He was unsuccessful in 2009, but earned a seat in November.

Laffin said that the most important lesson from his first council campaign was to knock on as many doors as possible and increase fundraising.

"The first time, I spent about $1,000, and I fell short," he said. "I was outspent by the next Republican by several thousand. This time I had a goal of raising, and spending, between $4,000 and $5,000, and I probably spent a little over $4,000."

Laffin said he spent every weekend from Labor Day to Election Day going door to door.

A political science major at Siena College, Laffin was president of the Student Senate. He is between jobs, but most recently worked for Edible Arrangements as a new store coordinator. He has two children, Jack, 5, and Abby, 3, with his wife, Heather, who is a former Board of Education member.

Laffin said that as a school board member he learned a lot about the school budget, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the town's entire annual spending. When it comes time for the council to hear the school board's proposal, Laffin said, the experience will help.

"I know there are great people on the Board of Education and a great administrative team that will get it done," he said. "I'm not worried. You have to be cautious, but at the end of the day we'll be fine."

Laffin credited Town Clerk Barbara Thompson, a former Republican town chairwoman, for keeping him involved with the party, despite his youth. At 31, Laffin is the youngest person to join the council since Jerry Farrell Jr. was sworn in 16 years ago at 28. Parisi said he can't recall a councilor younger than Farrell since he joined the panel in 1970.

"I was a believer of youth," Thompson said. "It's an important aspect to build the young people as part of the party."

Thompson said that Laffin is "a quiet, thoughtful person" and that she hopes he'll "bring a lot to the table."

"I've known him since he was 22," she said. "I respect him; he's a hard worker."

Laffin said that he sees his youth as an obstacle, but one he thinks he can overcome.

"It's an extra hurdle to go over, but I was a hurdler in high school; I'm used to it," he said.

Republican Town Chairman Robert Prentice said he was happy when Laffin joined the slate of council candidates and sees his election as a way for the party to continue reaching out to young people.

"As a group, we're looking to get the younger group involved," Prentice said. "We're looking for young people to get involved and put the effort in to help the town."

Prentice said that Laffin "moved up the ranks," and hoped he would bring some new ideas to the council.

"There are always better ways to do things, and I hope he'll help with that," Prentice said.

Nicholas Economopoulos, a Democratic councilor who served on the Board of Education with Laffin, said he was "a pleasure to serve with."

"He's a gentleman all the way," Economopoulos said. "He's very open-minded. Never did he seem to have a personal agenda; he was always for the kids."

Through his time in politics, Laffin said he has grown to appreciate serving, a desire to give back he traces to his early days as a Boy Scout. Laffin said the town is going in the right direction, and he wants to be part of the conversation to make sure that continues. To that end, he's willing to make sacrifices, including spending time away from his young children.

"I would come home from work, throw on a tie and be off to a meeting," Laffin said. "It's hard to hear the kids when they want you to stay and play. But I think someday they'll understand the sacrifices you have to make."


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Vincent Avallone defends record as Democratic town chairman

As published in the Record Journal, Sunday December 18, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

— Since Vincent Avallone was named chairman of the Democratic Town Committee in 2008, municipal elections have not gone in the party’s favor, but Avallone says he’s the man to lead the town’s Democrats for the next two years and is optimistic about the future.

“I think it’s going in the right direction,” he said. “The core is as together as I’ve ever seen it on the town committee.”

Avallone will seek re-election as chairman in March and, so far, nobody has come forward to challenge the local attorney. He had thoughts about stepping down from his time consuming role, noting that his daughter, Joy, recently joined his law practice, but Avallone still he feels there is work that needs to be done.

The Democrats had a 5-4 majority on the Town Council after municipal elections in 2007, but Republicans regained a 6-3 advantage in 2009 and held the same majority in November’s election.

Republican William W. Dickinson Jr. has held the mayor’s seat since 1983.

While people can judge him on the outcomes of the last two municipal elections, Avallone said that there’s more to the role of chairman than simply being a campaign manager. Avallone said that more work needs to be done to get the Democrats out to vote.

In the most recent election, 3,314 Democrats came out to vote, 45.8 percent of the 7,232 registered in town. By comparison, 49.4 percent of registered Republicans came to the polls. Unaffiliated voters, the largest segment of the electorate in town at 13,025, came out at a rate of 32.8 percent. Vincent Testa Jr., the Democratic candidate for mayor, garnered 3,551 votes to Dickinson’s 6,210. Avallone admits that there was a divide in the party in the 1980s and 1990s — following a 1983 primary, in which Democratic then-Mayor Rocco J. Vumbaco lost to Pat DeBaise, who lost handily in the general election to Dickinson — but said that no such rift exists today.

File photo – courtesy of the Record Journal.

“Since those days, the makeup of the town committee has changed,” he said. “We’ve turned it around. There’s been about 60 or 65 percent turnover.”

Avallone acknowledges that it’s tough to campaign against the longtime mayor, but pointed to the election in 1989, when Democrat Peter Gouveia lost by only 31 votes, as an example of how close the party has come. With the council and school board, Avallone said that having Dickinson at the top of the ticket is a boost.

“The biggest difference in the parties is Bill Dickinson,” he said. “There’s a coat-tail effect running on a ticket with Bill Dickinson.”

But Stephen Alexander, a Democrat who moved to town a couple years ago and is not a member of the Democratic Town Committee, said he thinks the local party needs to do better.

In a letter to the editor published in the Record-Journal on Dec. 11, Alexander contended that “Democrats in Wallingford deserve a new leader who can win elections.” “There are a lot of new people in town,” Alexander said in an interview. “We’re a lot more Hispanic today than we were before. We have more renters in town. These are people that traditionally vote Democratic.” John Sullivan, a Democrat councilor, defended Avallone and said that it’s up to candidates to win elections, and that Avallone, and the town committee, are just there to offer support.

“You can’t judge a person by their record,” he said. “The candidates need to do it; it shouldn’t fall on the chairman’s shoulders.” Sullivan said he knows of nobody on the town committee who has come forward to challenge Avallone, and lauded the chairman’s fundraising efforts.

Avallone says the party is making an effort to reach out to new members while strengthening its base. He used the example of Jason Zandri, who ran as an independent for Town Council in 2007, but was convinced to join the Democrats. He also mentioned Christian DeCarlo, who planned an independent run for mayor this year before folding his campaign and joining the Democrats.

Samuel Carmody, the Democratic registrar of voters and a district leader on the Democratic Town Committee, said he thinks Avallone has helped bring the party together in his years as chairman.

Carmody, 25, has been involved with the party for nine years.

“We are unified, the party internally has become more unified,” he said. “There’s more momentum building within the party. I have hopes for the future as well.”

Carmody said that Avallone has also made efforts to reach out to young Democrats, and used the example of David Leonardo, a 24-year-old who ran in November for Board of Education and is expected to take a seat on the town committee.

The Democrats will caucus next month to elect new committee members. Avallone said he has a good group together that he hopes to build on, and wants the party to be in good position for the day when the mayor’s seat becomes vacant.

“You can’t give up, you have to keep trying,” he said. “You keep pushing. It’s difficult to beat the incumbent.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Councilor-elect Zandri eager to begin his term in Wallingford

As published in the Record Journal Sunday December 11, 2011 

By Russell Blair

Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

— After an unsuccessful run for Town Council in 2007 as an independent, Jason Zandri ran as a Democrat this year and won. He’s eager to join the council in January.

100B3960_crop_color_psZandri, 42, a computer systems engineer for Bloomberg, said he’s spent the month since the election studying the issues before the council.

“I’ve been attending meetings since then, and getting the information packet that the councilors get,” he said. “I’m going over the rules, the procedural stuff. I’m trying to get in that mode.”

Even before he began campaigning, Zandri had already made himself known to many in town through a number of different efforts. He has maintained two blogs, “Wallingford Politico” and “Jason Zandri for Town Council,” has written “From Wallingford” for the Record-Journal’s opinion pages, and has helped in the fundraising effort for the town’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration. John Sullivan, a Democratic councilor, closed up his political blog after he was elected, but Zandri said he plans to keep both his blogs up and running as a source of information for residents.

“I look at the blog as an ability to communicate with people,” he said. “On Wallingford Politico, I post stories, with very little editorializing. But on my own blog, I’ll express a little detail, some of my thoughts on an issue. It’s a prudent way to get information out there.”

Zandri has a long lineage in Wallingford, and his four children represent the fifth generation of Zandris living in town. He also has a history of political service in his family. His father, Geno, was a town councilor for 10 years.

Democratic Town Chairman Vincent Avallone Jr. said he hopes Zandri will bring some fresh ideas to the council.

“He’s extremely energetic,” Avallone said. “He’s someone that, when he starts a task, he wants to see it completed.”

A year before his 2007 run as an unaffiliated voter, Zandri left the Democratic Party. After his failed council bid, he took some time to evaluate his options.

“I had to think about whether to try for another shot,” he said.
Zandri was able to work out his differences, get involved with the Democratic Town Committee and eventually got on the Democratic ticket for 2011.

“I sat down with Vinny Avallone and I worked out my differences with the party, and became an active part of the group,” Zandri said.

“I’ve known him since he was young,” Avallone said. “He felt comfortable with me.”

Zandri commutes to his job in New York City, and he acknowledged that balancing work, family life and the council will be a challenge. But he said he can handle the time commitment to the council.

“I think being able to campaign for the fireworks allowed me to see if I could handle the burden of both,” he said.

Zandri said he doesn’t expect to put items on the council agenda right away, and wants to take the first four or five months — most of which will be spent on the budget process — to get his feet wet.

But he added that he has a good working relationship with the eight other councilors and won’t be afraid to engage in debate.

“I don’t feel like I can’t express my thoughts and have a discussion,” he said. “We may not agree all the time, but I don’t think it will be an issue. I want to build bridges and work across the aisle.”

Though he understands that he’ll be a freshman councilor in the minority party, Zandri has already identified a few areas he’d like the council to examine.

Zandri said he hopes to see the council look toward adding voicemail and email to Town Hall and also to see action taken on the Wooding-Caplan property. The town purchased the 3.5-acre parcel for $1.5 million in 1992 and it has remained vacant since. A 2006 referendum overturned a decision to sell it to a developer. Other ideas that have been proposed include a parking lot or a new police station.

“If we’re going to put the police station there, I’d like to see that outlined,” he said. “I’d like to see a plan.”

Republican Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, who worked with Zandri on the fireworks campaign, called him “a gogetter.”

“He’s full of ideas and energy,” Fishbein said. “He’s not afraid to speak his mind, and roll up his sleeves to get the job done.”

Sullivan said that Zandri is “an extremely dedicated person” and he’s looking forward to working with him on the council.

“After the election, the council isn’t Democrats and Republicans, it’s nine people that need to work together,” Sullivan said. “I think Jason can be a bridge builder.”

Zandri said he will bring a “can get done” attitude to the council.

“Of course we should be careful and cautious, but if there’s something we want to try to accomplish, we need to look at how we get it to completion,” he said.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fishbein redistricted out of 85th

By Dan Ivers
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2275

— The recent remapping of state House and Senate districts has left local Republicans without a clear choice to oppose longtime Democratic representative Mary Mushinsky in next year’s election.

Craig Fishbein, a second term town councilor, had indicated an interest in running for state office, but the new districts place his Grieb Road home out of Mushinsky’s 85th District. He is now a resident of the 90th District, which also includes portions of Cheshire and is represented by Democrat Mary Fritz.

Republican Town Committee Chairman Bob Prentice said he was disappointed Fishbein would not be able to challenge Mushinsky, who has held the 85th District seat since 1981.

“It’s unfortunate, because I know he was talking pretty heavily about it. We’re not sure how it’s all going to pan out at this point,” said Prentice.

Mike Vitali, who opposed Mushinsky in 2008 and 2010, has also been moved out of the district, although Prentice said Vitali had informed committee members that he was unlikely to seek the nomination again next year.

Last month, Fishbein told the Record-Journal that he would be open to possibly running for state office in the future, fueling speculation he would challenge Mushinsky next year. However, Fishbein said he never committed to a run and had yet to take any steps to prepare a campaign.

“I have thought about running for state rep,” he said. “But I can tell you categorically that I have not asked anyone to be on my team for any run in 2012.”

Fishbein indicated that the prospect of ousting a longtime incumbent such as Mushinsky is not a primary factor in his plans, and that he would not be opposed to challenging Fritz if he runs.

“That’s not the way I do things. If I was to run, it wouldn’t necessarily be because of potentially unseating someone. It would be because I think I would do a good job,” he said.

Cheshire resident Richard Abbate has already indicated that he plans to oppose Fritz this year, according to Prentice, but official discussions on nominations will not begin until early next year.

Mushinsky, who has announced her intention to seek a 16th term, called Fishbein a “very active councilor.” Despite being members of rival parties, they recently found common ground in their opposition to a plan to upgrade the Simpson Court parking lot using $500,000 of taxpayer dollars. Fishbein broke with other Republicans on the Town Council in opposing the deal.

Mushinsky has gone through the redistricting process three times since being elected, and said the 85th District has undergone at least a minor shift each time. This year, its borders moved slightly to the south and the west, toward Cheshire.

“There generally is some kind of boundary moving every time redistricting happens,” she said.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mayor names Small to big post

Wallingford Law Dept. shuffle involves three

As published in the Record Journal, Saturday December 17, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

— The town’s new corporation counsel is a familiar face in the Law Department.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. announced Friday that Town Attorney Janis Small would be taking over as corporation counsel, filling a vacancy created when Adam Mantzaris retired after 37 years. Small has been town attorney since 1988.

The appointment comes amid a shuffle of personnel in the Law Department. Assistant Town Attorney Gerald E. Farrell Sr. will take over the duties of town attorney, but on a part-time basis, and local attorney Geoffrey T. Einhorn was named the new assistant town attorney.

In her new role, Small, 53, will have more job security. Both the town attorney and the corporation counsel are appointed by the mayor, but the mayor also has the power under the charter to remove a town attorney. Corporation counsel is a classified service job, meaning that if a new mayor were elected, he or she could not remove Small.

“Full-time classified positions, those job openings don’t come along very often,” Small said. “I enjoy the work; it’s an area of law I want to remain in. This was a good opportunity for me.”

Dickinson said that while the town attorney is the head of the Law Department and oversees the corporation counsel, the duties of the two are very similar.

Town Councilor Jerry Farrell, Jr., a Republican who did not seek re-election in November and is the son of Gerald E. Farrell Sr., had expressed interest in the open positions in the

Law Department, but ultimately told Dickinson he no longer wanted to be considered.

“I started my own business, and that’s occupying me full time,” he said. “I don’t know that I would have the time.”

Farrell Jr. added that if he were appointed to a position in the office, his father would have had to leave the office because of nepotism policies.

“I didn’t want the mayor to have to make that choice,” he said. “Him staying on is best for the town.”

Farrell Sr., 69, has been assistant town attorney for 28 years, and was retained as counsel for the town before that, in the 1970s. Dickinson said that Farrell has spent a number of years doing legal work for the town’s utility departments, and he didn’t want to lose that experience, necessitating the shift to a part-time town attorney position.

“Gerry wasn’t interested in a full-time position,” Dickinson said. “We didn’t want to lose that expertise.”

Farrell Sr. said that while he couldn’t commit full-time and drop his private practice, he wanted to continue “to see the town move forward.”

“I’ve lived in town for 45 years; I’m proud of the town and I want to see it continue,” he said. “Being involved with helping that come about is important to me.”

Einhorn, who operates a private practice on Route 5, will join the Law Department as a part-time employee. He has been practicing law for 12 years, including 10 for a firm in Hamden and more recently at his Wallingford office. He has been a resident of Wallingford since 2002.

“The mayor is a very persuasive guy,” Einhorn said of his decision to take the job. “It’s an honor to be asked. It seems to complement my practice.”

Einhorn, 39, said that he had worked on cases in which the town was a defendant and had experience with Small and Farrell Sr.

Dickinson said the Law Department is “an important asset,” and he was happy to say there would be “no major changes” in service.

“They bring a lot of experience and legal knowledge to the town,” he said.

Small will make $136,162 in her new job, Farrell Sr. will make $25,000 in his part time role and Einhorn will earn $23,166, according to Personnel Director Terrence Sullivan. The new appointments will take effect Jan. 3.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Editorial Cartoon from the Record Journal, Sunday December 18, 2011.

This editorial cartoon appeared in the Record Journal on Sunday December 18, 2011.

I have a saying I am fond of “there are only 36 hours in a day to get done what I need to do”; if I could really have that it would be awesome because I could get more done.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

POLL RESULTS - How much should the town be responsible for regarding Wallingford Center Parking?

Sixty votes in total. This is the sentiment of just those 60 respondents for whatever it is worth.

The majority of the respondents in this poll felt that if Wallingford is going to make any type of investment it should be as close to equal as the property owners


Obviously this is not a full representation of the wishes of the voters.

The referendum, just six days after the municipal election, drew 6,888 voters, with 2,768 in favor of the lease and 4,120 against.

There is no way to say just what the nearly 6,900 voters would want unless you could poll them all.

I do expect this issue to come up again so with that I will be trying to solicit the input of the voters and I will be reaching out to try to do that.

For those that would be willing to proactively reach out to me I can be reached at or by phone at 860 614 6069

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Federal Budget in simple terms

Not much more to say here; either you understand this or you do not.

If you click on the image it will enlarge for you.


For more information please see:

National Debt Clock

Debt Clock for Connecticut

Debt Clocks from around the world

Pepsi Refresh Challenge: we are back in first place. HELP KEEP US THERE.

imageWe slipped last night to 2nd place but as of this morning (12/15) we are back to first.

Help keep us there! VOTE EACH DAY!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bagged leaf collection to begin in Wallingford

As published in the Record Journal on Wednesday December 14, 2011

WALLINGFORD — Residents will have their bagged leaves picked up by the town’s Public Works Department starting Monday December 19. All leaves to be picked up must be placed at the curb in paper bags, sealed with masking tape only, if needed. Bagged leaves need to be at the curb no later than Sunday.

This is a one-time pickup of leaves only; brush, trash and garden waste will not be accepted.

Residents who miss the pickup may take leaves to the compost area on John Street at no charged.

Compost hours until Saturday will be as follows:

8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Wednesday and Friday
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday
8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The compost area will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 15. The area will be closed from Jan. 16 to March 15.

Last day for the poll - How much should the town be responsible for regarding Wallingford Center Parking?

Cast your vote at

100 percent of the cost
75 percent / 25 percent should come from the property owner
50 percent / 50 percent should come from the property owner
25 percent / 75 percent should come from the property owner
zero; all of the costs should come from the property owner. It is their property


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Council approves principals’ contract

As published in the Record Journal, Wednesday December 14, 2011

By Russell Blair
(203) 317-2225

— The Town Council approved a new, three-year contract Tuesday for the school district’s administrators that runs from 2012 to 2015 and includes pay raises totaling more than $130,000.

The pay increases over three years, including general wage increases and step increases, amount to 4.79 percent, according to Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Jan Guarino: 0.75 percent in the first year, 2.09 percent in the second and 1.95 percent in the third, for a total of $130,930.

But the raises are coupled with higher insurance co-pay­
ments for the bargaining unit, the Educational Administrators Association of Wallingford, which includes the town’s principals, assistant principals and other school administrators. Currently, the copayment is 16 percent, Guarino said. In the first year of the new contract, the amount contributed by the administrators increases to 18 percent, in the second year 19 percent and in the third year 19.5 percent.

School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said additional insurance-related savings include co-payments for services that used to be cost-free to employees.

“Zero dollars was common across the co-pays,” Menzo said. “We’ve made significant changes; this is something we cannot continue to offer in these economic times.”

Menzo said this year’s contract is less costly to the town than past agreements.

“There is a significant reduction in terms of total cost,” he said.

The three previous contracts for administrators contained increases of $373,000, $266,000 and $234,000, Menzo said. The multi-year raises amounted to 15.05 percent, 10.65 percent and 12 percent.

Menzo said he was pleased with the outcome of the negotiations.

“We do feel that we made growth in the contract,” he said. “There are a lot of areas. This is a challenging contract with many aspects that are unique to Wallingford that we have to work through over time.”

“I want to thank you for your diligence and negotiating hard,” said Democratic Councilor Vincent Testa. “You’re seeking out areas of potential savings that may have been overlooked in the past.”

Councilor John Sullivan, a Democrat who voted in favor of the agreement, said there were still some aspects he didn’t agree with, including longevity payments and an insurance waiver that allows administrators to get cash payments in lieu of taking benefits.

Before the council began talks on the contract, there was a debate about the agenda item, which called for a temporary adjournment of the meeting for the purpose of discussing the agreement.

Town Attorney Janis Small said such talks in the past were held in executive session, but pursuant to Freedom of Information laws the council meeting can be temporarily adjourned and the matters can be discussed in a “non-meeting.”

Sullivan said he has gone into executive session before, not to discuss strategy, but specific questions about the contract that eventually were asked again in public. He said he was in favor of discussing the agreement entirely in public.

An initial motion to recess the meeting and hold a “non-meeting” failed, but after an hour of public questions, a second motion to go behind closed doors, made by Republican Councilor John Le-Tourneau, who said he had strategy questions, passed. Sullivan and Democrat Nicholas Economopoulos, who opposed both motions, remained in the auditorium during the closed-door discussions.

Tuesday’s vote came after the contract was tabled at the council’s last meeting on Nov. 30, when several councilors said they received backup material just a day before the meeting. Tuesday’s meeting was the last for Republican Vice Chairman Jerry Farrell Jr. and for Testa.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wallingford mall project reborn

As published in the Record Journal, Monday December 12, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

— Dominick DeMartino said that when his family bought property on South Colony Road, the plan was always to have a complete retail plaza alongside the family’s business.

When the economy began to turn for the worse, those plans were put on hold, but DeMartino says he has been hard at work the last six months and hopes to have the retail plaza at 920 S. Colony Road completed by next September.

Please see the entire story on

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stevens School's Brophy is in tune with his students

As published in the Record Journal, Monday December 12, 2011

By Jesse Buchanan
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2230

WALLINGFORD — On occasion, Stevens School Principal Nicholas Brophy can be found in the school’s lobby, greeting incoming pupils with “Oh Susanna” or “She’ll Be Coming ’Round the Mountain” on his guitar. Brophy, who recently joined a barbershop quartet and dabbles in recording, said the students appreciate getting to know their principal’s interests and hobbies.

Brophy sat down with the Record-Journal for an interview Friday.

Read the entire article on

Work week extended for brush cleanup

As published in the Record Journal, Friday November 25, 2011

By Robert Cyr
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

— Town officials are looking into hiring outside contractors and having public works staff work overtime to finish clearing brush and tree debris left by last month’s early winter storm.

Public Works crews have been slowed by vacations and holidays like Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, said Henry McCully, department director. The crew of 31 will work six days a week starting next week until the brush is picked up, he said. The curbside collection began Nov. 7. “It’s just a lot of brush, and we’re going to see if we can get some help,” he said.

A town-wide parking ban starts Monday at 7 a.m. to allow crews to maneuver the large equipment needed to remove debris, which is especially challenging downtown, he said. The ban will end when the brush is cleared.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said the extended work week would mean more money for overtime hours, as would hiring outside contractors and renting equipment.

“We are looking to increase the resources in order to get it done quicker,” he said. “If you could possibly move it yourself and take it to the compost area it would be much appreciated. If you’re waiting for public works, you have to be patient and we’ll get there as soon as we can.”

The town is attempting to clear all the brush away before another snowfall. The town has applied for federal financial assistance with the cleanup, he said. Hours have been extended and the compost center on John Street is open an extra day to help handle the debris, McCully said.

While the storm at the end of October all but cancelled Halloween festivities and caused long-term power outages in most of the state, customers of the Wallingford Electric Department fared better than Connecticut Light and Power Co. ratepayers and most had their power restored within a few days.

Tree specialists working for the electric department are still cutting downed limbs and clearing debris from electric lines, and will continue to do so for some time, said George Adair, director of public utilities.

Tree crews only cut the limbs, and do not clear debris, he said.

“Anytime we’re cutting something clear of our power lines, that’s all we’re going to do,” he said. “Our objective is reliability of our electric wires, whether it be the distribution system or service lines. Removal of any of that debris is the responsibility of the property owner and or the town.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pepsi Refresh – Let’s keep Wallingford’s schools at the top through 12/31


You can vote daily. Let’s all try to do this and get this money for Wallingford’s high schools and their bands!

We are in first place – c’mon Wallingford; let’s keep us there!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

CNN Heroes: An All Star Tribute Airs Sun 12.11 8PM ET



CNN, the worldwide leader in news, announced that Kid Rock will perform a special live version of "Care" from his platinum selling album, "Born Free", on CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute, hosted by Anderson Cooper live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA, on CNN, Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 8:00 PM ET. In addition, CNN announced that Miley Cyrus has also been added as a celebrity presenter along with Dancing with the Stars winner, J.R. Martinez, The Black Eyed Peas', global maternal health advocate and founder of Every Mother Counts, Christy Turlington Burns, and NFL Super Bowl champ and MVP quarterback Kurt Warner, all of whom were confirmed last week.

CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute honors individuals who are making extraordinary contributions to help improve the lives of others. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the multiple Emmy-award winning chief medical correspondent for CNN, will be doing exclusive backstage interviews live on during the show.

This news comes on the heels of CNN announcing that J.R. Martinez will also be co-hosting the live pre-show, Showbiz Tonight @ CNN Heroes, with AJ Hammer, host of HLN's evening show, Showbiz Tonight. Holly Robinson Peete will be hosting the social media suite on the red carpet. Showbiz Tonight's correspondent, Kareen Wynter, will also be part of the pre-show, interviewing the arriving celebrities on the red carpet. The Showbiz Tonight @ CNN Heroes pre-show will air live on CNN and HLN at 7:00 PM ET.

Fans are encouraged to vote up to 10 times a day, every day, for this year's "CNN Hero of the Year". Voting continues through Wednesday, December 7, 2011, at midnight PT, and the "CNN Hero of the Year" will be announced live at this year's CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute show. Fans can also make a direct charitable donation to their favorite Top 10 CNN Heroes' nonprofit using Google Wallet, through December 31, 2011. Google is waiving all transaction fees enabling 100 percent of the donations to go directly to the heroes' non-profit organizations. Visit online or on your mobile device to learn more about the 2011 honorees, cast your vote and to donate.

Kelly Flynn is the Senior Executive Producer for the "CNN Heroes" initiative and CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute. This year's show will be produced by Ian Stewart and Hamish Hamilton of Done and Dusted.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Registrars lament low turnout in municipal elections

As published in the Record Journal, Thursday November 24, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

Turnout for the Nov. 8 municipal election was similar to two years ago and that’s the problem, according to local registrars of voters. Not enough people participate, they say. Wallingford led area towns with 39.56 percent of registered voters coming out to the polls, followed by Cheshire at 30.48 percent, Southington at 29.33 percent and Meriden at 23.62 percent. Statewide, 30.67 percent of the 1,940,432 eligible voters cast ballots. Samuel Carmody, Wallingford’s Democratic registrar, said that, even though the town was almost 10 percent better than the statewide average, it was still not a noteworthy accomplishment.

“Below 50 percent, that’s nothing to be proud of,” he said.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she hoped voter turnout would rise in future elections.

“I hope in the future we can help all of Connecticut’s citizens understand the importance of choosing the right leaders in their communities so we can see more people going to vote,” she said in a statement. Turnout in Wallingford was up from 2009, when it was 35.6 percent, a year that Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. ran unopposed. In 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007, turnout was 43.1, 49.9, 47.6 and 45.7 percent, respectively. Dickinson had an opponent in each of those years.

Carmody said it was hard to predict the reasons for turnout in a given year.

In Southington, 8,041 voters came out to decide the makeup of the Town Council, Board of Finance, Board of Education and Planning and Zoning Commission. Turnout was about the same as 2009, when 8,317 voters came out, or 29.8 percent of the electorate.

Southington’s Democratic registrar, Edward Malczyk, said there “were no burning issues in town” that might have driven people to the polls.

“I think that played into it,” he said. “The snowstorm, the power outages worked against us. I thought the middle school referendum would have brought more people out though.”

Despite a rare October snowstorm that left much of the city in the dark for up to a week, Meriden voters came out in numbers similar to past municipal elections. In elections for mayor, City Council and Board of Education, 7,557 voters cast ballots, compared to 7,845 in 2009. Percentagewise, turnout increased by a fraction of a percent.

But the city’s Democratic registrar, Maureen E. Flynn, said the numbers were still disappointing.

“The lowest voter turnouts are municipal,” she said. “People have to vote for the president, but not during the municipal elections. But who are you going to call if there’s a pothole? You should vote for the people you complain to.”

Flynn said that if Meriden had a strong mayor the turnout could have been higher, but she added that it was similarly low this year in cities that have that system of government.

In Cheshire, turnout was about 6 percentage points below 2009. That year, 6,624 people, or 36.3 percent of registered voters, cast ballots.

Aleta Looker, Democratic registrar of voters, said she felt the snowstorm could have had an impact on Cheshire’s electorate.

“I think it’s partly because of the aftermath of the storm,” she said. “They had too much on their plate already.”

Looker said that she’d like to see more voters in local elections, but “you can’t legislate people’s behavior.”

“When people vote, that’s their right and privilege,” she said. “But not everyone sees it that way.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nere’s deal is buyout, not firing by WHA

As published in the Record Journal Tuesday November 22, 2011

By Robert Cyr
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

— Attorneys for the Wallingford Housing Authority and housing director Stephen Nere say that Nere was not fired last week by the housing board, but is leaving voluntarily with a six-figure severance package agreed on with the authority.

Nere’s attorney, Jaime Mills, and Warren Holcomb, the housing board’s lawyer, said an article in Saturday’s Record-Journal inaccurately stated that Nere was fired by the board and offered a severance package of $130,000. His contract was set to expire Aug. 31, 2012.

“Mr. Nere was not terminated,” Mills said. “There has never been any claim that there was cause to terminate him. In fact, they’re buying out his entire contract, which I think any of us would agree to if offered by our employer the full amount that is owed to us.”

The resolution approved by the housing board Friday night states that “it is in the best interest of the Authority to terminate Executive Director Stephen Nere’s written employment agreement early on December 2, 2011, to accept his retirement effective December 2, 2011, and to approve the Separation Agreement and General Release submitted.”

Nere said Friday night, after the resolution, he was too young to retire and was concerned about ongoing health issues. Holcomb said poor health was the primary reason Nere and the board reached an agreement for him to end his contract 10 months early and retire. “He was not fired,” Holcomb said. “If you fire somebody, you fire them for cause and they don’t usually get anything. He (Nere) also indicated that he had some health issues, so it was a situation where the parties sat down and said it would be in their best interests if they went their separate ways.”

Nere and the Housing Authority have been immersed in controversy for more than a year amid allegations of mismanagement, with scrutiny from local, state and federal officials. Nere, 60, has been director for 26 years and earns about $100,000 a year. The cost of the settlement and the severance package will be covered by the roughly $200,000 remaining in the “Ridgeland” account, Misiti said. In 2003, the authority sold its housing units on Ridgeland Road to a New Haven company for $1.2 million.

The authority operates 317 low- to moderate-income and senior housing units with an annual budget of about $1.5 million.

Board Chairman Michael Misiti was not available for comment.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fishbein broke from party line

As published in the Record Journal Monday November 21, 2011

By Robert Cyr
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

— One of the most high-profile opponents of a Republican-backed parking lot lease agreement was a Republican town councilor, Craig Fishbein.

Fishbein campaigned against the agreement despite the possibility of upsetting his fellow Republicans. He found himself on the winning side last Monday when residents rejected the deal in decisive fashion.

Elected to his second term on the council this month, Fishbein aspires to higher office.

Asked if he was considering a run for state representative next fall, Fishbein did not rule it out. He lives in the 85th House District and would be running for a seat Democrat Mary M. Mushinsky has held since 1980.

“At some point in my life, if the stars are aligned, I would have to say yes,” he said. “At this exact point, I have my role, as frustrating as it is to act it and stay in, I have my role. Six months from now is when I’ll start to actively think about it; that district is very tough.”

Mushinsky, 60, is a lifelong Wallingford resident who, like Fishbein, voted to repeal the controversial parking agreement.

“I was changing my mind even as I was walking up the driveway to the voting place,” she said. “I think it’s critical to have a lively downtown, and that was weighing in my mind, but so was the apparently one-sided nature of the deal.”

The 30-year arrangement between the town and commercial property owners on North Main Street stipulated that up to half a million dollars from an Electric Division fund for nonrecurring projects would be used to upgrade the privately owned lot with assurances that it would remain available for free public use for the life of the lease.

Fishbein and other lease opponents said it is inappropriate for the town to spend public money on private property. The one-issue referendum drew 28 percent of eligible voters to the polls. In comparison, 39.8 percent of voters turned out for the municipal election just a week earlier.

“I think we need to look at a differently structured deal, and find another way to make the parking happen that’s more acceptable to taxpayers and keep these downtown merchants satisfied,” Mushinsky said. “It would be really tragic if they started charging for parking.”

Bob Stern / Record-Journal
Craig Fishbein, carrying a sign opposing the parking lot lease agreement last Monday, talks with with voter Carole Koty outside the polling place at Lyman Hall High School. Fishbein is a Town Council Republican, but he broke with his party on the lease issue.

She said she had heard that Fishbein might run against her next year.

“No matter; I put my record out and I run on my record,” she said.

Fishbein and Democratic Town Councilor Nicholas Economopoulos voted against the agreement when it came before the council. Economopoulos announced at a Democratic Town Committee meeting last week that he plans to run for mayor in two years.

Fishbein said his position on the issue was not politically motivated. “I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he said.

“People have to understand that I am not a politician. That’s not my base,” he said. “I don’t usually do things with ulterior motives.

I usually tackle issues as they come to me. I wasn’t even on the Republican Town Committee when I was elected in 2009.”

Fishbein, 46, has been a lawyer since 2001, following in his father’s footsteps after a stint working in retail after college, he said. He became involved in politics in 2007 when he saw what he called the downward spiral of the U.S. economy. But he met resistance from his party at first, he said.

“I found myself yelling at the TV and I knew I had to stop doing that, so I started attending meetings,” he said. “I did have some very high up Republicans tell me I should not run because I had not done enough for the party. I had not been a good soldier.”

Republican Town Chairman Robert Prentice said he was not happy with Fishbein’s campaigning against the agreement. Fishbein handed out flyers and talked to voters outside polling places.

“I think he went a little too far, but that’s not the opinion of the party, it’s my opinion,” he said. “He took it a little too far with some of the things he did. But he’s still a Republican and still on the council, and hopefully he’ll make the right decision next time.”

Fishbein registered as a Republican in June 2003, a switch from his previous registration as a Democrat, according to Samuel Carmody, the Democratic registrar of voters.

Open Mike with Michael Cuomo Wednesday November 30, 2011

From the Open Mike with Michael Cuomo promo: “A very special reminder ladies and gentlemen, that this Wednesday’s guest on "Open Mike" with Michael Cuomo will be Jason Zandri! The show starts at 8PM Live on Comcast Ch18 and AT&T Uverse channel 99 and live on the web at Call in (203) 265-6310 to talk to myself and Jason Zandri! Thanks everybody.”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wallingford board seeks parent input on school budget

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff 
(203) 317-2225

WALLINGFORD - Parents who want their voices to be heard as the school budget is built for 2012-13 are encouraged to attend a forum next week.

On Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., a parent budget forum will be held at the Lyman Hall High School's vo-ag community room. Board of Education member Chet Miller said it's important to get parent input as the school board prepares its budget.

"They're more in touch with specific problems and issues they feel are in danger than we are at the board level," said Miller, a Republican. "We see things on a broader spectrum, whereas they might be in touch with a sport or an activity."

Miller said that parent input is crucial because the budget process will be beginning shortly.

"We like to know going in if there are areas that need attention," he said. "It's harder to change things after the fact."

School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said he hopes to hear specific areas of the budget that parents would like to be examined.

"We want them to share with us areas they'd like us to consider in the process," he said.
Menzo said that the district uses its strategic plan to help build the budget. The six areas covered by the Wallingford plan include community outreach, curriculum and instruction, district climate, facilities, finance and technology.

"We're taking each one, and want to see things that they want continued and possible changes," he said. "We use that as another piece of information."

Menzo said last year's budget forum for parents was the first, and while only about a dozen parents attended they all came with ideas and questions.

"It's so important to hear from parents," Menzo said. "This is not my budget, it's not the Board of Education's budget, it's the town's budget for the children."

The 2011-12 education budget was $4,779,296 less than the $91,573,029 the board had proposed to the mayor. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.'s budget represented a 0.42 percent increase over the 2010-11 budget; the board has sought a 5.95 percent increase.

School officials have said that if the district receives no increase in its budget for the next year, it could face a shortfall of several million dollars.