Archive for President’s Message

Another “Special” Meeting

This past Monday the Common Council of New Britain approved millions in bonding for textbooks and technology. While I recognize the need for educational equipment such as textbooks and technology the idea of bonding for these things is ridiculous. What is even more unbelievable is that the Common Council, yet again, is passing these bills during “special sessions” called for by a Mayor’s warrant. Why? Because then the Mayor doesn’t need to allow for public comment and participation.

This is a tactic they have been employing for months now. Whenever they have an issue that might be controversial they hold a special meeting instead of voting on it at the next regular meeting of the Common Council. These bonds won’t be sold for months, so there was no legitimate reason the Council had to vote this Monday rather than wait for a real meeting.

When O’Brien took office he promised “transparency” but his administration has stood for anything but. He repeatedly refuses to release documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act, he has issued a gag order to the staff of City Hall, he repeatedly calls for last minute meetings, even when there is no need to do so. The only thing transparent about this administration is their disdain for free and open access to government.

Taking Action on HRA Deal

As you may read in the paper today or tomorrow, the CPOA is currently looking into our legal options for opposing the proposed deal the mayor is brokering with the HRA. It is our opinion that this deal, which we feel is of questionable legality, is bad for the taxpayers and sends the wrong message to both the taxpayers and to other charitable organizations. » Read more..

HRA Taxes Forgiven

In a troubling move the Common Council has authorized the Mayor of New Britain to enter into a “tax liabilities agreement” with the New Britain HRA. You can read a bit more about this here. Essentially the Mayor has been authorized to not only forgive more that $223,000 in back taxes, but he has also been given permission to make them exempt from any future taxes. » Read more..

Sherwood lies about position

This past week a controversy has surfaced over the position of community organizer, a $47,000 per year position which was created earlier this year by the O’Brien administration and given to Briggitte Brown, wife of Alderman Brown. The root of the controversy is that the Mayor office and members of the Common Council repeatedly stated that over the past six months that this position was funded by grant money from the Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency. What we know now is that those funds were never received, furthermore, the city never even applied for the grant after HUD officials informed the administration that they would have to apply for a waiver due to a possible conflict of interest and that said waiver, according to HUD officials would have most likely been denied.

But this is where it gets interesting. » Read more..

Bigger Fish to Fry

I’m sure some who may have read the recent article that was published in the New Britain City Journal may be wondering why the CPOA withdrew their complaint against the city of New Britain. After talking with a member of the Freedom of Information staff at the State level I determined that the only thing that may have happened would be for the city to receive a letter of censure for their failure to reply expediently to my request.

I chose to weigh the costs with the benefits of going forward. While having a letter of censure written to the city would certainly help vindicate the way I was treated by the Mayor communications director it would do little to change the way the city conducts itself. They claim that their oversight was merely that, and I plan on holding them to that. In the coming months as the budget season gets underway I know I will have several questions that I will want answered and the Mayor’s office will have multiple occasions to prove that they take freedom of information seriously.

I would rather that the City have more time to devote to actually enacting feasible and realistic policies for economic development. It is critical that we turn our city’s economy around. We are facing too many economic burdens, such as a crushing unemployment and staggering poverty levels, to engage in non-productive distractions. Hopefully the Mayor’s office will feel the same way and begin to actually address the real problems facing our cities.

A Quick Lesson about Taxes

In a recent New Britain Herald article, Mayor O’Brien called lowering property values “good news for homeowners.” He was talking about the upcoming revaluation that will see lower property values more reflective of the market after the housing crash. Aside from the fact that the Mayor is completely out of touch if he thinks lower property values are ever a “good thing” for home owners, his statement that this will lead to drastically lower taxes shows a lack of understanding on how taxes work. So here is a quick lesson on the basics of a grand list and how it affects taxes, take the time to read it and share it with your friends. » Read more..

CPOA President speaks on fallout from Licensing Ordinance

I was invited to speak at a recent meeting of New Britain property owners who are concerned about the recently passed ordinances as well as the effects it would have on their property values. These ordinances, poorly written, hastily implemented, and ill-conceived threaten a housing market in New Britain that is still reeling from the last four years of economic downturn.

I shared my views on what the long term effects of these ordinances, as well as the anti-investment stance taken by the current administration, would have on the city of New Britain.

 

Mixed Signals from City Hall

“Budget Crisis: $4M in cuts looming”, “O’Brien: $30M deficit ‘as plain as day’”, “Mayor’s Office: Won’t use Water Dept. funds again to close deficit”, “Deficit confirmed: Auditor puts it at $9M-13M”, and  “Budget Shocker: Mayor says City has $11.5M deficit” are just some of the headlines readers of the Herald have seen over the past year. I imagine many of them were confused the other day when they awoke to see this headline: “New Britain ended 2011-2012 with $105k surplus.”

For those who may have forgotten the timeline of events, here is what transpired. Shortly after taking office the O’Brien administration declared that the city was facing a $11.5M dollar deficit. Former Mayor Stewart claimed that there was no deficit, but that the budget hole should be closed through concession efforts that he was brokering during his final term. After numerous panels and discussions the Common Council voted to borrow money from the water fund by encumbering themselves with a debt previously held by the Water Fund.

At the time there was harsh criticism from several Aldermen and members of the community, myself included. We felt that the actions of the council were being taken hastily and there was no way to predict what, if any, deficit would exist at the close of the fiscal year. This most recent headline proves that we were right.Claiming a “surplus” after raiding the water fund’s piggy bank, regardless of being technically correct, is disingenuous. If I take out a $10,000 car loan and purchase a $9000 car I do not have a $1000 surplus. I have a $10,000 debt.

Claims by the administration that this surplus will come as a sign of relief to the ratings agencies are laughable. Ratings agencies like municipalities who have surpluses and large cash reserves, certainly, but they value stability as well. Over the past year the headlines have been one budget crisis after another, on top of that the City placed the Finance Director Curry on administrative leave with no public explanation. There was even one memorable week where the Mayor’s office simultaneously declared a budget crisis while pledging to not raise taxes next year. These are not headlines that will entice any credit rating agency to give a favorable outlook.

With the pervasive anti-business, anti-tenant mentality of this administration, their constant reliance on “quick fixes,” and their inability to create a budget that can go a single quarter without going in the red I see a rating agency downgrade in our city’s future. I hope for the sake of the entire city that I am wrong.

Note: This originally appeared as a letter to the editor by CPOA President Nicholas Mercier in the October 18, 2012 edition of the New Britain Herald.

Public Hearing Tonight!

Tonight at 7:00PM the Common Council will be holding a public hearing on the 2012-2013 Municipal Budget at Slade Middle School. It is of vital importance that taxpayers attend and speak their mind with regards to the budget.

While the Mayor’s proposed budget includes no tax increase there are several troubling factors that the public should be aware of, a short list includes:

  • Massive staffing cuts reducing the municipal work force by 4 in 10. This could have drastic effects on the effectiveness of vital city services, such as public works.
  • Draconian cuts to long established public institutions that provide crucial support to our community, such as the public library which is facing a 30% reduction under the Mayor’s budget
  • New hidden fees, such as a “police hot spot” fee that is the Mayor believes will bring in an unrealistic $5.5 million, a trash collection fee that will allegedly bring in close to $4 million, and an anti-blight ordinance that he has projected to bring in $500,000, even though to date it has resulted in less than $1000.

While fiscal prudence is important, our ability to rely on government to be open and transparent is also vital. The Mayor’s 10 page budget, which contains no details, no line item descriptions, no reliable historical data on revenues, or any information as to how these drastic cuts will be implemented without disrupting city services is an insult to the tax payers of New Britain.

I will be urging the Common Council to reject the Mayor’s budget, to work from the Board of Finance and Taxation’s budget, and implement cuts there to create a workable, transparent, and fiscally sound budget for the upcoming year, and I ask you to do the same.

Greetings from the New President

Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to visit the CPOA website. I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead and organization with such a rich history into the next chapter of it’s existence. As I said when I spoke at the annual meeting this past week, I feel the CPOA can stand up for everything we need in our community.

We are certainly a group that is focused on fiscal responsibility and accountability, but more over we are a group focused on the good of our local property owners, and through them, the good of our community. The stated mission in our by-laws includes advocating for the interests of taxpayers. And while this charge certainly includes helping keep taxes at a reasonable and manageable level, it also means advocating for the vital municipal services that make our community safe and a wonderful place to grow, live, and raise a family.

As we struggle out of one of the worst economic downturns in our nation’s history a great deal of attention is being paid to the role of government in the economy. All across the nation the status quo is being challenged in areas from labor relations, to regulation of markets, to educational policy. It is an important time for taxpayers and property owners to stand together at the national, state, and local level and to speak up for our interests, since it is on our hard work that government is funded.

If you are not currently a member of the CPOA I urge you to join. It will take you less than 2 minutes to sign up when you click here. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us for any information you may need.