Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Budget Time Brings A Return of Cheshire's Punch And Judy Show

If you're looking for the modern day,  municipal government equivalent of the "Punch and Judy" puppet shows that originated in England in the late 1800s, look no further than the annual spectacle that is the town of Cheshire's budget making process.

But instead of a male puppet fighting with his wife, Cheshire's Town Council has Republican David Schrumm sparring with Democrat Michael Ecke. Schrumm (shown at left in campaign photo from last year) is the current council budget chairman and has been ever since the Republicans retook control of the governing body in 2009.

When the Democrats were in control before that, Ecke chaired the budget committee and set the agenda, the way Schrumm does now. But now with Republicans holding a virtually bullet-proof 6-3 majority, Ecke's clout on the council has been reduced to taking his case to the public via the media.

After not making any comments during the council's first public hearing on the proposed budget Tuesday night, Ecke made a beeline to reporters covering the meeting.

"This budget was announced a month ago and we still don't have any indication of what they're going to do with it," said Ecke (shown in photo below). "When I was budget chairman, we always held two hearings."

Ecke, of course, knows full well that the Republican majority will look to cut the $99.76 million budget that Town Manager Michael Milone has proposed for fiscal 2013. The question, as even Milone himself admitted during the presentation, is how large the cuts will be.

Milone's proposal would be a 2.09 percent, $2.04 million increase over the budget that was adopted for the current fiscal year. And while some residents at Tuesday's hearing called for a zero percent increase over the current budget, even Schrumm admitted that might not be possible.

But that's not to say he won't try. Where some politicians don't enjoy playing the bad guy at budget time, Schrumm seems to revel in it.

In the span of a few minutes following Tuesday's budget hearing, Schrumm had:

- Called Ecke's comments about the budget process "vapid" and accused his Democratic rival of "carping" rather than offering real solutions for cutting the budget.

- Suggested that rather than adding three new teachers at Doolittle Elementary School to reduce class sizes, as proposed in Superintendent of Schools Greg Florio's budget, that the school system undergo a massive redistricting effort  to shift students to Chapman Elementary School, where enrollments are down.

Some politicians are reluctant to suggest anything controversial as they prepare their community's budget. But not Schrumm, who loves the limelight, sees controversy as a way to attract attention and goes out of his way to provide reporters with a memorable quote.

But budget making is a process that turns on the smallest of details. And without even the slightest of details on what the final budget will look like, it makes it hard for members of the political opposition like Ecke to rally the public around.

And so it goes in Cheshire, with Schrumm playing a political "Punch" doing his best to tweak a Democratic "Judy" in Ecke.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Mushinksy Supports Energy Efficiency Bills

State Representative Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, testified at a legislative hearing Monday on a pair of bills before the General Assembly's Energy and Technology Committee.

One of the bills, S.B. 450, would exempt buyers of vehicles like electric and fuel cell cars from having to pay Connecticut's sales tax on those purchases through 2014. The proposed legislation would create a fund of up to $10 million through a gross receipts tax on petroleum that would be used to help home and business owners pay for more efficient oil heating burners and other types of equipment.

Another piece of legislation, S.B. 451, would add boilers to the list of heating devices that would be eligible for a state-backed loan program. The purpose of the program is to help make purchase of more efficient equipment more affordable.

"I would like these bills to be combined because many of my constituents live in old housing stock, heated by oil," said Mushinsky, who is show in the photo above. "Without an energy audit followed by furnace replacement and plenty of insulation, they face impossibly high energy bills. People who never applied for heating assistance in their lives applied this year and in 2011 because their small monthly incomes can not keep up."

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cheshire GOP Annual Fundraiser Set For Friday Night

Every community has its annual political rituals.

Boston has its annual St. Patrick's breakfast and roast that always draws political luminaries. Cheshire has its annual spaghetti dinner, now in its 27th year.

The latest edition of the Republican Town Committee's all-you-can-eat affair is scheduled for Friday from 5:30 p.m. to to 7:30 p.m. at Cheshire Academy's dining hall.  

The event will draw a four of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the Fifth District Congressional Seat being vacated by Democratic incumbent Chris Murphy. Mark Greenberg, Lisa Wilson Foley, Justin Bernier and Mike Clark will be vying for the attention of Cheshire voters in between bites of pasta and meatballs.
The dinner will include a raffle and entertainment. Tickets for the event are $11 for adults and $3 for children.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Esty Gets Endorsement of General Assembly Environment Committee Chairmen

Fifth District Congressional Candidate Elizabeth Esty announced her latest endorsement on Monday.

 Esty, a Democrat from Cheshire who is a former state representative, now has the support of State Senator Ed Meyer, D-Guilford and State Representative Richard Roy, D-Milford. The two lawmakers chair the General Assembly's Environment Committee.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wallingford Man Found Dead Saturday Night

WALLINGFORD – A 61-year-old man was found dead in a Grieb Road home late Saturday night in what police are initially a suicide.
Randall Fitzpatrick of 29 Grieb Road was found dead in his home at around 10:35 p.m. Saturday, police said. Officers were initially called to the home shortly before 6 p.m. after Fitzpatrick’s girlfriend told police that while talking with him on the phone, she heard gunshots being fired.

Officers went to the home and set up a perimeter around it. Police made numerous attempts to reach Fitzpatrick, but were unable to speak with him.

Police enter the home and found Fitzpatrick’s body. Investigators were on the scene well into the early morning hours of Sunday, Lt. Marc Mikulski said in a written statement. 

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tonight, Tonight, Won't Be Just Any Night.....

If you care about the electoral process and the way the media covers elections, then tonight is your night.

For everyone who feels the media never listens, now is your chance to give us your feedback about this year's elections.

My New Haven Register colleagues and I want to increase voter participation. We are polling the electorate and holding voter forums across New Haven County and Northwestern Connecticut to find out which issues you want a focus on coverage of the 2012 elections.

There will be a targeted focus where candidates are vying for open seats: the U.S. Senate and 5th District House contests.

Please join our Ed Stannard, Angie Carter and I starting at 6 p.m.  at The Funky Monkey Café & Gallery, 130 Elm St. in Cheshire.

 Ed and Angie are the Register's Community Engagement team and I am the paper's North Bureau Chief, covering Cheshire and Wallingford news

Help us prioritize the issues for in-depth coverage by the Register and our sister papers, the Middletown Press, Register Citizen in Torrington and Litchfield County Times.

We’ve met already with voters, civic and business groups in the Milford, New Haven and Torrington areas. I'll be at the Funky Monkey tonight and I hope you will, too.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

A New Owner For High Profile Restaurant Location in Cheshire

The former Brix Restaurant, which closed late last year won't sit vacant for long.

Stephen Press of Press/Cuozzo Realtors said Monday that the now vacant restaurant building at 1721 Highland Ave., has been purchased for $715,000. It will remain a restaurant, although Press has no immediate word on when the new eatery might open for business.

The building sits on a little over an acre and has 5,200 square feet of restaurant space, he said.

I'll update this story as soon as we get more details, such as the name of  the new owner and his plans for opening.

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