NB Politicus

City Hall Watch: Rep. Sanchez Condemns Charter Change Eliminating City Council Districts

Posted in City Charter, city government, city politics and government, civil rights by nbpoliticus on February 10, 2016

 

 

By John McNamara

The Common Council is set to create a Charter Commission at its February 10th meeting to consider sweeping changes in municipal government at the behest of Republican Mayor Erin Stewart.

The Stewart administration, taking advantage of a Republican Council majority, seeks to eliminate neighborhood representation on the city council in favor of an all at large system that would replace the current 15-member council composed of two members from five council districts (wards) and five at large members.

Proponents of the ward system, who fought a long battle to gain neighborhood representation on the Council, maintain that the current make up of the Council provides geographic and racial diversity in the legislative body in a city that is increasingly diverse.

Rep. Bobby Sanchez

Rep. Bobby Sanchez

Council districts give residents accessible voices on the Council for every area of the city, not just the west side whose upper income residents dominated city councils under the at large system to the exclusion of other parts of the city and the city’s growing Latino and African-American citizenry.  Republicans, led by Registrar of Voters Peter Gostin, have sought a return to the at large system in which five members of the minority party are guaranteed seats whether or not they receive a majority or plurality of votes.

State Rep. Bobby Sanchez (D-25) is taking strong exception to Mayor Stewart’s move to end ward councillors and opposes the call for charter change to eliminate neighborhood representation on the Council. At the same time Sanchez linked the charter proposal to a plan drafted by Republican Registrar Gostin to eliminate polling places in his district.

“I’m very disturbed but not surprised that Republicans would try to suppress the vote by their attempts to close polling places and now, in particular, by opening the charter to eliminate the ward system. In the past, the at large system did not reflect the diversity of our city. With the ward system not only do we have a more diverse council, we also have city wide representation. It is my hope that the people of New Britain will see the injustice and make their voices heard in the coming days and months.”

The Republican Stewart’s agenda for the Charter Commission, in addition to re-establishing an all at large council system, includes other recommendations:

  • eliminating the election of the Tax Collector and Town and City Clerk by popular vote in favor of appointment by political patronage.
  • Increasing the mayoral term from two to four years [ironically the 2015 Democratic Mayoral Candidate John McNamara was the only candidate to support this idea last year]
  • A compensation plan for “non-union” appointed and elected officials including the Mayor and the aforementioned patronage jobs of tax collector and town and city clerk as well as the Registrars of Voters.  The provision for raising the salary of Registrars of Voters raises a potential and immediate conflict of interest since one of Stewart’s Republican picks for the commission is none other than Peter Gostin.
  • the creation of a quasi governmental “Golf Authority” to run Stanley Golf Course removing direct control by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

In addition to Republican Registrar of Voters Gostin, a leading advocate for restricting voter access and closing polling places since his election as the GOP’s chief election official, Republican picks for the Charter panel include Catherine Cheney and Efrain Rosado. Democrats proposed for the charter commission include Attorneys Adrian Baron, Michael Carrier and Mary Pokorski ( a municipal employee whose job security undoubtedly depends on agreeing with Team Stewart).

The resolution to create a charter commission is sponsored by Republican caucus leaders Danny Salerno and Jaime Giantonio. It stipulates that the Commission will issue a report by June 3rd to put a charter change referendum on the November ballot.

The Common Council meeting on February 10th begins with public participation in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 27 West Main Street.

 

Inside City Hall: Republicans Seek To Eliminate Polling Places in Center of New Britain

Posted in City Hall, city politics and government, Voting Rights by nbpoliticus on January 27, 2016

By John McNamara

Republican Mayor Erin Stewart and Registrar of Voters Peter Gostin are moving quickly to reduce voter access to polling places for the November Presidential election.

A  plan drafted by Republican Gostin will  come up for a fast-tracked feasibility study vote at the Wednesday January 27th Common Council meeting. right-to-vote1

The feasibility study apparently has the support of Democrat Carlo Carlozzi, Jr., the council minority leader. Consideration of the plan would appear to be a done deal if the Council majority  agrees to look into sudden changes in where the electorate votes in 2016 . Carlozzi, however, maintains that he will oppose sudden changes in polling places despite supporting the feasibility move by Republicans.

Democratic legislators and other Democratic leaders are expected to strongly oppose any changes so close to a primary and the general election especially for its impact on elderly and minority voters.

Facing a tight timeline,  GOP leaders and the Registrars met on Monday to float the plan to reduce the number of polling places in the city from 17 to 13 on the eve of an April 26th presidential primary and the November general election.

The plan takes direct aim at two polling places in the central part of the city — the Graham and School Apartment polling places — where a minority and older population reside.

The GOP plan would eliminate those polling places and residents would apparently be offered a shuttle to the New Britain Senior Center to vote, according to Democratic Registrar Juan Verdu.

Also under consideration is the elimination of two additional polling places including the Holmes School (District 11) and the Armory (District  6). The Armory District is also in the center of New Britain where many minority residents live.

Republican Registrar Gostin has previously floated a plan to reduce polling places in the city from 17 to 10.  Gostin, who lobbied heavily for a pay raise for himself in 2015, is calling for reduced voter access as a way to save the city money,  but apparently not to reduce  the payroll and administrative expenses in his office.

The Common Council meeting on January 27th begins at 7 p.m. with public participation.

 

“Revolutionary” State Budget? Property Tax Relief, New ED Aid For NB Is Part of Democratic Package

by John McNamara

A tentative agreement among Democratic leaders on a biennial state budget  that begins July 1st appears to be good news for New Britain and other municipalities in terms of property tax relief and continued aid to the under-funded city schools.

Late Saturday (May 31) Democratic legislative leaders and representatives of the Malloy Administration agreed on a revenue package that will drastically cut the car tax. The measure will set aside the city’s property tax rate of 49 mills on vehicles and cap the tax for cars to no more than 29 mills in a statewide formula.   The levy on vehicles will be in effect for the 2015 tax year if OK’d in a final vote. At the same time the plan will designate a percentage of sales tax revenue for transportation and new funding to cities and towns to reduce burdens on property taxes.

New Britain's legislative delegation will wrap up the 2015 session June 3. From left Rep. Bobby Sanchez (25), Rep. Peter Tercyak (26), State SenatorTerry Gerratana (6) and Rep. Rick Lopes (24). Absent from photo is Rep. Betty Boukus (22)

New Britain’s legislative delegation will wrap up the 2015 session June 3. From left Rep. Bobby Sanchez (25), Rep. Peter Tercyak (26), State  Terry Gerratana (6) and Rep. Rick Lopes (24). Absent from photo is Rep. Betty Boukus (22). ( F Gerratana photo 2014)

The Democratic package, if approved by the Legislature, represents the most significant change in Connecticut’s tax structure in decades, making the system more progressive and fairer to New Britain and other cities.

Taxes will most certainly  increase by a smidgen for high-income individuals with the ability to pay. For most citizens burdened by one of the nation’s heaviest property tax burdens there is relief.  State Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven) called the proposal “revolutionary” and said “this budget meets the state’s obligations and provides historic property tax relief for the people of Connecticut,”  It includes provisions to:

–  Raise the income tax rate on millionaires from 6.7 to 6.99 percent

–  Maintain the state sales tax at 6.35 percent and designating half a percent each to local property tax relief and the Malloy transportation initiative. Proposed sales taxes on accounting, engineering, advertising and dry cleaning were eliminated from the plan.

– Triple the tax on computer and data processing from 1 to 3 percent.

– Adjust Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) grants to municipalities with high mill rates where state property and nonprofit institutions hold significant amounts of property.

As the legislative session ends New Britain’s legislators have been mobilizing to retain a fair share of municipal aid,  support state-funded programs and maintain New Britain’s share of education funding.

Details will be forthcoming over the next several days, but it is likely that the delegation has succeeded and the city will improve on the $85 million (covering 68%)  it now gets under state cost sharing formula to underwrite the education budget proposed by the Stewart administration at a flat-funded $124,183,673.

Despite billion dollar deficits confronting the Malloy administration and legislators in  state budgets since 2011, New Britain’s education aid has steadily increased over the last four years.  It will do so again if the budget package wins approval by Wednesday, June 3.

To be sure New Britain schools will remain under-funded in comparison to comparable communities in the absence of more equity in the way educational funding is distributed. The state budget package now on the table, however,  is a step in the right direction.  New Britain has fallen behind more sharply than others because of a consistent pattern of the city setting budget priorities that stiffed the schools year after year, but increased spending in municipal government. This year is no exception.

Attention now turns to the adoption of the municipal budget. The Common Council is due to act on  the Stewart Administration’s $224,757,851 budget and 49 mill tax rate by mid-June.  No matter how the city acts there is now room for optimism on property tax relief and education aid given the prospect of a “revolutionary” state budget plan being adopted.

Inside City Hall: Stewart’s Civil Service Commission Abuses Power, Violates Charter

Posted in city government, city politics and government, ethics, Republicans by nbpoliticus on January 15, 2015

The Civil Service Commission’s  efforts to remove from office and impose fines on Council President Pro Tem Suzanne Bielinski over the Council’s hiring of her niece, Jessica   Gerratana.  as the Common Council secretary,  is a costly misuse of government for partisan purposes.

Ignoring  the City Charter , the Commission voted last  October 6th for the ouster of the long-serving  Bielinski  and  for a $2,500 fine on the alderwoman after  Commission members agreed to take up  a complaint and the unsubstantiated accusations of  Ward 5 Republican Ald. Louis Salvio.  The Commission’s latest gambit came last week when, upon advice of lawyers from  Murtha Cullina, it backed away from recommendations for  a $2,500 fine and the removal of Bielinski , referring the matter “informally”  to the Common Council for action, but still insisting on a $250 penalty.

Civil Service Commissioners, acting without a shred of legal standing  and with the tacit approval of the Stewart Administration and its Corporation Counsel,  attempted to set  itself up as judge and jury of Alderwoman Bielinski’s conduct. Despite high-paid legal advice to back off, the commission continued to double down on its illegitimate actions.

Nearly forgotten in this charade of an “investigation”  and abuse of power by the commission is the earlier decision by the city’s ethics commission to throw out Salvio’s complaint for insufficient evidence.  By charter and ordinance,   the ethics commission is the only municipal body sanctioned to consider conflicts of interest by the Mayor and Council members.

By retaining an outside firm to avoid any “conflict of interest” in advising the Civil Service Commission,   Corporation Counsel  Gennaro Bizzarro side-stepped his non-partisan responsibilities in favor of rewarding political friends.

His choice of a law firm reinforces the partisan nature of the Civil Service Commission’s actions against Bielinski.  Murtha Cullina’s partners are Republican-leaning, having represented New Britain Republicans in the Ward 5 ballot case in 2013 and serving as “observers” on Election Day last November in an intrusive attempt to challenge Democratic voters at the polls.

Attorney Bizzarro knows very well that one of the city’s full-time staff attorneys could have interpreted the City Charter and rendered  an opinion in a heartbeat.  The City Charter could not be clearer on this issue. A commission in the executive branch of government has no role in the censuring or removal of a Council member.

With litigation and a grievance pending Ald, Salvio and the Republicans are heading for the exits and doing damage control. The immediate and unfortunate result, however, is that legal costs to the city are likely to escalate by the tens of thousands of dollars because of the partisan use of government  by New Britain Republicans. It’s budget time and not a good time to be playing politics on the taxpayer’s dime

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Questions Linger On Money That Fueled 2013 Campaign Against Democrats

Posted in Campaign Finance, city politics and government, Housing by nbpoliticus on October 4, 2014

The Waterbury-based Connecticut Property Owners Alliance, which  last year hosted campaign meetings prominently featuring former Farmington Hills Apartment Complex Owner Sam Zherka, announced the formation of a political action committee (PAC) in the final two months of the  2013 municipal campaign. “The CT Property Owners Alliance is pleased to announce the formation of its Political Action Committee and will host an event on Wednesday September 18th, 7:00 pm at the Whinstone Restaurant in New Britain to celebrate. It’s only fitting the event be held in New Britain with all the controversy created by its current Mayor Tim O’Brien and his housing policies. Michael Telesca, a longtime landlord and chairmen of the State Independent Party is heading up the committee” stated the CTPOA in a press release posted to its web site.

The CTPOA, representing absentee landlord interests in New Britain and other communities, was acting appropriately by forming a political action committee to oppose policies they were against and to support candidates pledging to change those policies.    The CTPOA PAC, however,  gave  no money to any candidates in the legal, legitimate way it was set up to do. It raised $150 and spent $150 — the only reported expenditure was a $150 cash payment for bookkeeping expenses to the PAC’s treasurer, according to the committee’s termination report earlier this year.

You didn’t have to be a political junkie to know that by the time the landlord group’s PAC formed there were already tens of thousands of unreported and unaccounted for dollars in circulation on behalf of the Mayoral campaign of Erin Stewart.  Individual absentee landlords were taking out full-page ads in the New Britain City Journal.  The shadowy and now defunct website,  www.savenewbritain.com,  was promoting candidates and smearing Mayor O’Brien and City Council Democrats — its web domain registered to the CTPOA’s Bob DeCosmo.  Stewart and her slate became the darlings of the CTPOA for a promise to repeal a fee on absentee landlords used to pay for housing code enforcement — a common practice in cities across the United States that reduces burdens on the property tax.

The CTPOA political committee also escaped a complaint filed by the New Britain Democratic Chair at the height of the campaign for disseminating an email from “Allen Court Apartments” that “invites you to meet Erin Stewart….there are only 13 days left till the election. New Britain needs Erin Stewart to win this election to fix  the mess the current Mayor has created.”  The complaint was part of a tit-for-tat when the Republican Party Chair filed a frivolous complaint against a member of the Democratic slate.  Subsequently, a November 1 2013 full-page political ad supporting Stewart for Mayor  was published with a “paid for by CTPOA PAC” but no expenses were ever reported as required by the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC).

This excerpt from a full-page ad in the 11/1/13 New Britain City Journal on behalf of the Stewart Mayoral campaign says "paid for" by the CTPOA but no expenses were reported for the ad.

This excerpt from a full-page ad in the 11/1/13 New Britain City Journal on behalf of the Stewart Mayoral campaign says “paid for” by the CTPOA-PAC but no expenses were reported for the ad. The PAC was opened and shut with $150 in contributions and $150 paid the the PAC Chair for bookkeeping expenses with no other expenses reported.

At issue in the “Allen Court Apartments” e-mail  is a prohibition in state statute that bans an independent expenditure for communication, including web-based communication, that promotes the success or defeat of any candidate  “unless such communication bears upon its face the words “paid for by.”  The State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) concluded that the CT POA PAC was just forwarding a communication from someone else and not required to do a disclaimer.  The SEEC, under-staffed and increasingly  limited in its ability to do full-scale investigations at the municipal level,  “declined to investigate the matter further.” And who can blame them? It’s hard to find anything wrong about a committee that is neither raising money nor doling out contributions nor incurring any expenses.

No one, Democrats included, during 2013 or since has really “followed the money” behind a campaign of yellow journalism, personal attacks and off the books political organizing.

Back in the fall of 2012, at the same Whinstone Tavern where CTPOA celebrated its short-lived “PAC”,  Sam Zherka,  charged last month with witness tampering and multiple fraud charges amounting to more than $150 million, told his CTPOA audience that a group of  “seven landlords”  had already raised $100,000 to “wipe out” Mayor Tim O’Brien and Common Council Democrats in the next election. Former Mayor Tim Stewart warmly introduced Zherka at that meeting,  saying  Zherka “is the driving force behind the steering committee to fight this issue” after which Zherka announced a $100,000 fund against Democratic elected officials.

All of which brings us back to the question: what did the CTPOA PAC do and when did it do it? Aside from a pre-election, full-page ad in the New Britain City Journal for which no expenses were reported,  the CTPOA PAC, according to SEEC reports, opened and shut without doing much of anything.

Instead, the out-of-town landlord group and the Stewart campaign, both with “plausible deniability”, hitched their wagons to Sam Zherka, the New Britain City Journal and a model of political mayhem imported from Zherka’s Westchester Guardian newspaper in New York to reach their goals and attain public office.

Questions will continue to linger on the assault on civility and democracy in New Britain last year.

 

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate: Rock Cats Owners Didn’t Even Bother To Tell The Big Club

Posted in baseball, city politics and government, Hard Hittin' New Britain by nbpoliticus on June 13, 2014

One of the biggest complaints coming out of the pending deal by the Rock Cats and the City of Hartford is that key “stakeholders” were not let in on the talks nor intentions of the team’s ownership to vacate New Britain Stadium in 2016 for the proposed I-84 linked Parcel 12B in downtown Hartford.

Neither New Britain’s Mayor Stewart nor State Senator Eric Coleman nor even the team’s big corporate sponsor, The Stanley Works, among others, were consulted or given as much as a courtesy call.

Well move over Erin and Eric. As it turns out local officials and sponsors were not the only ones left out of the loop. The ownership group led by Boston real estate mogul Josh Solomon didn’t even bother to inform the big club in Minnesota.

A news blog out of Minneapolis reports that the MLB Twins of which the Rock Cats are a Double A affiliate in the Eastern League were also blindsided by the New Britain to Hartford project. And we’re not talking about the busway here.

“The Twins were not consulted about the plans of their Class AA affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats, to move into a $60 million stadium in Hartford, Conn., for the 2016 season, a deal announced in the state’s capital Wednesday. But Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said the Twins understand why owner Josh Solomon is making the move, and will likely support him,” wrote Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune on June 5th

Hartford city officials are giving the Rock Cats owners a pass about their insistence on cloak and dagger negotiations. Hartford’s Development Director told Connecticut Public Radio  that development proposals, if they are to come to fruition, need to be  under wraps before moving into the public domain.

So much for planning the use of taxpayer money with transparency. And the Twins — a long way away from New Britain anyway — are excusing the Solomons for their pursuit of a new park in secrecy.

The Rock Cats owners, however, may be in for a rude awakening now that the $60 million plan is subject to oversight and the full involvement of stakeholders in the process.

They want to walk away from New Britain’s sweetheart deal of a $120,000 or so annual lease because they want even more public subsidies from their current local government.

They see dollar signs and corporate sky boxes at their proposed band box of a publically financed park in downtown Hartford. But if it can’t be built, if the project won’t survive a legitimate public vetting, they — the fans and corporate sponsors –will not come.

Mr. Solomon may think he has a back up in Springfield but there are no guarantees there.

In the end the Rock Cats owners may have to come crawling back to hard hittin’ New Britain just for a place to play two years hence. If that occurs let’s negotiate the deal in the open with the involvement of all stakeholders.

Mayor Hires GOP Chair: SEEC Complaint Involving Peter Steele For Campaigning From Mayor’s Office Still Under Investigation

Posted in city politics and government by nbpoliticus on January 12, 2014

“Oh. What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”  – Sir Walter Scott

In her campaign for Mayor last fall Erin Stewart was critical of Tim O’Brien  for rewarding political friends while in office. As Ms. Stewart said last year, she wanted to “take the city back from political cronyism.”

In her first announced appointments Stewart tapped staffers from her youthful campaign team and appointed John Healey, an aide to Republican House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, to be a $90,000+ a year chief of staff. So far so good. New Britain mayors, coming into office just one week after elections, are entitled to assemble an office with people they know  — even if the hires are political friends.

Two months after the election, however, Erin Stewart’s promise to root out cronyism is just that — a campaign promise not meant to be kept. More important,  her recent and unannounced hire raises new concerns about the use of  government resources for partisan political activity. Republican Town Committee Chair Peter Steele, a perennial GOP candidate, comes in — “returns” is a better word — as an aide at $45,000 annually. For Steele this is a pay hike and political reward.  He was a $25,000 a year aide to  Mayor Tim Stewart during his time in office.

GOP Town Chair Peter Steele
(NBRTC)

Here is where candidate Stewart’s anti-cronyism pitch falls apart.  In that previous stint in the Mayor’s office, Steele may have blatantly used  city resources to do political campaigning on the public’s dime in the Mayor’s office..

In a complaint filed early last year to the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) by O’Brien Aide Rosemary Klotz, Klotz asserted that when O’Brien came into office city information technology employees discovered “at least 200 files on city computers that indicate former Mayor Stewart and his staff, including Steele, used the machines to conduct campaign business.”  After the complaint was filed SEEC investigators subsequently visited City Hall and collected evidence in the still unresolved case.

The New Britain Herald in a March 26, 2013 story by Lisa Backus, reported:

“Klotz’s complaint alleges that the files, which range from campaign fundraising lists to lists on which residents would allow campaign signs on their lawns, were created and maintained on city computers, by Stewart and city staff members Peter Steele, Joe Shilinga and Lisa Carver, on city time.”
The dates of when the files were created range from 2003 as Stewart was running a mayoral re-election campaign to 2011 when Stewart ran in a special election to fill a vacancy in the state Senate 6th District. The documents, obtained by the Herald, include drafts and final versions of campaign mailings, scripts for electoral “robo-calls,” and “primed” voter lists indicating voter preference.”

As of now that SEEC investigation about  using the Mayor’s office for partisan Republican work is active and awaits a judgment from the commission.

The hiring of  GOP Chair Steele in and of itself isn’t surprising. What is disturbing is that an unresolved case  alleging campaign work in the Mayor’s office by former Mayor Stewart and Peter Steele still hangs in the air.

To be true to her high-mindedness against “political cronyism” it’s time for Mayor Stewart to publicly announce the hiring of GOP Chair Peter Steele and provide the specifics on what his job functions are at $45,000 a year.

For all the campaign talk of cronyism in the O’Brien administration, every position in the last term had a clear function and every hire was tasked to be working in service to the city, not a political party.

At the very least the public has a right to know what Peter Steele does and when he does it on the City Hall clock.

Mayor Uses On-Line Survey To Encourage Participation: Appointments Pending For Boards and Commissions

Posted in city politics and government by nbpoliticus on December 11, 2011

Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated voters — are welcome to submit their names and qualifications to be considered for a nomination to one of the volunteer boards where citizen oversight and participation can make local government more accountable to residents. Over the last week Mayor Tim O’Brien completed his appointments to the city Police Commission. But 26 other bodies must be filled to have all hands on board for the new administration.

Mayor O’Brien has invited interested residents to submit information via an online survey available at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/93LHK6X

Commissions such as Fire, Parks and Recreation, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Board of Finance and Taxation, Civil Service/Personnel and Veterans are mandated by the City Charter. Special acts require the Board of Water Commissioners and the Fairview Cemetery Commission to be filled. Other commissions that have been established or re-established by ordinance after Charter change in 2003 include the Arts, Building, City Plan, Aging, Persons with Disabilities, Youth and Family Services, Ethics, Human Rights and Opportunities, Parking, Public Works, Health, Conservation, Ordinance Appeals Board and Housing Board of Appeals. Mayoral appointments will also be made for the Commission on Community & Neighborhood Development and the Municipal Economic Development Agency. Complete information on commissions, their composition and schedules is available at the city’s website: http://www.newbritainct.gov/liv_boards.html

Persons interested in serving may call the Mayor’s office at 860-826-3303.

Reflecting On the Inauguration: Tim O’Brien Wants To Be The "Education" Mayor

Posted in city politics and government, public education by nbpoliticus on November 15, 2011

Today’s swearing in of the new Mayor, Tim O’Brien, and other municipal officials elected last Tuesday was most significant for where it was held as much as what was said at the ceremony.

 The New Britain High Band played the music and the Madrigal Singers sang the National Anthem as classes at the high school, the state’s largest, were in full session.

As a legislator O’Brien has been nothing less than passionate about public education and how it can be improved in a city where pressures on keeping the property tax down are paramount. O’Brien has balanced the need for aid to education with solid plans to reduce the reliance on property taxes to pay for quality education.  O’Brien should fervently hope that Governor Malloy, formerly an urban Mayor, will address the school funding issues if he can get out from under the state’s recession over the next two years. Among other things O’Brien has called for use of magnet school funding  to give New Britain parents a choice and to develop Sheff-O’Neill regional schools within the city which hosts one of the major teacher colleges in the state in CCSU.  Upwards of 600 New Britain students now journey to Hartford every day to attend the Classical Magnet or the college-oriented Capital Prep.

In the last two City Hall administrations (Pawlak’s  and Stewart’s 16 years)  the local allocation to the schools has been contentious and successive administrations have skirted or scuttled the requirement for a minimum level of support to education. Less than two years ago the Democratic Council restored more than $1 million  to avoid larger classroom sizes only to have it scuttled by the Mayor.

Unquestionably, Tim O’Brien faces enormous fiscal issues as he takes office amid the deep recession and less in the way of help from Hartford or D.C.  But based on his call at today’s inaugural for cooperation and a clear statement that education IS a priority in his administration the terms of the debate have significantly changed.  Education will be a priority and O’Brien intends to be the “Education Mayor”.  As the more perceptive politicians in our town have pointed out that is the only and best  strategy to retain and attract middle-class families to stay here and move in from anywhere else.

Beware of Professional Politicians Accusing their Opponents of Being A "Professional Politician"

Posted in city politics and government, national politics by nbpoliticus on September 17, 2011

I once knew a state representative in Lynn, MA who came up with a winning slogan: “Tim Bassett Is A Lousy Politician”.  As I recall, the  Lynn lawmaker used the phrase to win  a term or two or three up on Beacon Hill giving  meaning to the use of irony in politics.

That same claim has been resurrected over and over again at every level and every year since I first heard it.

In presidential politics this year Mitt Romney, the former Governor of MA, the  former nominee for U.S. Senate and 2008 presidential contender, is using the line again, having accused his GOP opponents of being “professional politicians” in a recent speech. Shameless.

In New Britain, Mayoral Nominee Tim O’Brien’s primary opponent, a multi-term alderman and office seeker, labeled himself the “people’s advocate, not professional politician!!!”  Shameless again.

Most voters easily dismiss the “professional politician” charge because it always comes from a professional politician trying to deflect attention from issues and their own credentials.   The use of the tag line, however, is just another way of putting down the pursuit of politics and public service — a meaningless phrase that further contributes to voter apathy and indifference.
And what’s wrong with voting for a professional politician? He or she may know what their doing when they attain public office.