Hispanic Coalition Awards & Scholarships, 9/27

The Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury is staging its 12th Annual Coqui Scholarships & Awards Banquet on Friday, September 27, at La Bella Vista, 380 Farmwood Road in Waterbury.

Cocktails and registration begin at 7 pm, and dinner and the program begin at 8 pm. Tickets $50 per person and can only be purchased in advance of the event.

For more information, tickets, or sponsorship opportunities please call Angie Medina or Nancy Gonzalez at 203-754-6172

Problem Solving During First Day At Walsh School in Waterbury's North End

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary inspects the rear entrance to Walsh School yesterday with Prinicpal Gina Calabrese, and they both agreed the fence should be locked, and students should arrive at the front entrance where the area was supervised.

                          Story and Photographs By John Murray

   It was the first day of school in Waterbury, and Mayor Neil O'Leary climbed in his black SUV and drove up to Walsh School to see how Principal Gina Calabrese was faring at her her new assignment on Dikeman Street, in the city's North End.

   Walsh School has done very poorly on standardized testing, and it's previous principal, Eric Brown, was removed from his position last year after an investigation into his management style inside the building. Brown - who is black, had strong support in segments in the black community, but was replaced.

Riding Shotgun With Alfalfa Bill Murray

Alfalfa Bill Murray wrote the constitution for the state of Oklahoma, was elected to Congress, was Governor of Oklahoma, and ran for President of the United States in 1932. He has been described as the most influential politician in Oklahoma history.

                                           Story By John Murray

    On a rolling hill of red dirt, burnt grass and bristles, we arrived at Alfalfa Bill Murray’s grave in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, with a bag of ice, a bottle of blended scotch whiskey, and a sweet potato pie. My daughter and I had sliced our way south from Connecticut through Washington D.C., the Blue Ridge Mountains, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, and into Oklahoma in two days. We set a blistering pace and stopped to eat, refuel, sleep, and occasionally pose for ridiculous photographs with a ten-inch chalk bust of our deceased ancestor that I had purchased on ebay.

O'Leary Would Collect Pension In A Second Term

                               Story and Photographs By John Murray

   If he is re-elected in November, Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary has decided he will contact the city’s pension and benefits department on December 1st, and reactivate the $90,000 a year pension he earned during his thirty-year career in the Waterbury Police Department.

   “I made a campaign promise in 2011 that I would not collect my pension in my first term,” O’Leary said. “I left $180,000 on the table, and I will not do that again. It was not a wise decision for my family. I could have used that money.”

Waterbury Native Rick Mastracchio Will Orbit Earth For Six Months On Space Station

Waterbury native Rick Mastracchio is a NASA astronaut and is headed back into space in November for a six month stay on the International Space Station. Mastracchio, Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and veteran cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin of the Russian Federal Space Agency, make up space station Expedition 38.

Gomes' Defense Helps Win Summer League Title

   Waterbury's Ryan Gomes, right, played tenacious defense against former UConn star Jerome Dyson last night during the championship game of the Greater Hartford Pro-Am. Gomes was playing for Harte Nissan which won the title with a thrilling 141-140 overtime victory. Gomes, is 6'7" and weighs 250 pounds, and throughout the game he defended the opponents point guard, shooting guard, wing player and center. His defensive prowess and quick hands created several turnovers, and illustrated to the 1200 fans in the Crosby High School gym why Gomes, 30, was recently signed to a contract by the Oklahoma Thunder of the NBA. Photograph by John Murray

Basketball Stars Compete In City Summer League

Former Waterbury high school star Julian Allen crushed an attempt by former UConn player Doug Wiggins during the semi-finals of the Greater Hartford Pro-Am League last night at Crosby High School in Waterbury, Connecticut. Allen was comfortable playing in the Crosby gym where he earned Connecticut Player of the Year honors in 2005, and led the 27-0 Bulldogs to the state championship, and the top ranking in the state. Despite Allen's stellar play, his team was defeated by a group of former UConn stars who will begin a best of three championship series Wednesday night at Crosby High School. Photograph by John Murray

Mayor O'Leary Taps Half-Way House Residents To Clear Land In Exchange For Tutoring And Training

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary announced a new initiative in Waterbury that will use volunteer half-way house residents to clear an abandoned park, and in return, interested residents will be offered free tutoring and an opportunity to enroll in an underutilized manufacturing training program run by the city.

                                                      By John Murray

   Many people in Waterbury believe manufacturing is dead and is no longer a viable means of economic development in the city. Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary is not one of them.

   During a sweep across Waterbury yesterday afternoon in his SUV, O'Leary provided the Observer with a quick peek at an overgrown 38-acre parcel of land in the East End of the city known as Scott Road Park, and how he plans to link the project to an underutilized manufacturing training facility run by Waterbury Adult Education.

Fascia's Chocolates To Expand; Creates 'Hands-on' Demos/Tours

FASCIA’S CHOCOLATES closed on the purchase of their ‘new home’, 44 Chase River Road in Waterbury, on July 12th. This permanent new location will offer both ‘behind-the-scenes’ factory tours and the unique opportunity for visitors to make-your-own-chocolate bar. Family-owned since 1964, acquisition of this property is part of the celebration of Fascia’s Chocolates’ 50th successful year in business.

When Nana Danced With Hope

                              Story and Photographs By John Murray

    Nana Assibey-Yeboah stood at the edge of the dancing and watched intently as a line of Albanian women moved past her at the Albanian Festival in Waterbury on June 8th. Slowly Nana's head began to move, and her feet began to scrap the pavement beneath her sandals.  One week before The Gathering, on May 18th, in downtown Waterbury,  Nana had reached out to ask why there were no Africans coming to the festival. When I told her we had been unable to locate any, she announced, “I’m Nana from Ghana, and I’m coming to The Gathering.”

   And she did.

O'Leary, Blasius Buy Holy Land, Plan To Restore It

   During lunch two weeks ago Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary was bursting with a secret that he simply could not contain any longer. O'Leary was having lunch at Paisano's Restaurant with Observer Publisher John Murray and he finally blurted out, "I can't keep this in any longer," he said. "Fritz Blasius and I are buying Holy Land and we're going to restore it."

Portuguese Festival In Waterbury This Weekend

   Chicken, quail and sardines are on the grill at the Portuguese Sports Club on Baldwin Street in Waterbury for the Festa De Sao Joao. The festival will feature music, food and dance from Portugal Saturday and Sunday. The festival goes until 1 am tonight (traditional dancing around 8 pm) and from noon to 11 pm on Sunday. Check it out, everybody in Waterbury is invited. There is beer, wine and a full bar available on the premises.

"Energize Waterbury" To Save Residents Money

   Now through September 15, 2013, the City of Waterbury is participating in a comprehensive energy efficiency campaign, called “Energize Waterbury,” as part of the Energize Connecticut initiative.  The campaign’s goal is to save residents money through increased participation in Connecticut’s energy efficiency programs, which are administered by Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P).

State Grants Target $360,000 Towards Six Waterbury Youth Organizations

   Six youth-based organizations in Waterbury just received an infusion of $360,000 in state grants to help run their programs. The River-Memorial Foundation, Inc., the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury, Inc., the Police Activity League, Inc. (Long Hill Recreation Center), the Willow Plaza Center; the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Waterbury and W.O.W. (Walnut Orange Wood) NRZ Learning Center have been awarded $60,000 each in a grant from the State Legislature.

Alexis Rotella Lands Permanent Job As Advocate For Senior Citizens In Waterbury

Alexis Rotella and Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary.

                                                 By John Murray

  Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary announced that he has hired Alexis Rotella to be the full-time Municipal Agent for the Elderly. Alexis will head up the Waterbury BRASS Program (which stands for Bringing Resources to Action to Serve Seniors), and will be housed out of the new senior center opening in a few weeks in the East End of Waterbury.

Negotiations To Bring Post University Into Downtown Waterbury Have Collapsed

The Sovereign Bank building in downtown Waterbury was the focus of the negotiations.

                                                   By John Murray

   Negotiations to bring Post University into downtown have collapsed, Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary told a gathering of downtown merchants tonight. More than a year of intense efforts by state and city officials to get Post University to expand it's burgeoning online college into the Sovereign Bank Building on the Green is over.

Waterbury Mayor O'Leary Undecided About Seeking Re-Election In November

                                           By John Murray

   Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary is a decisive man. He is either all in on a project, or all out. O'Leary is not prone to dipping his toe into the water to gauge the temperature. He's a cannonball kind of guy  who enjoys making a big splash, which makes his statement today that he is "undecided" about running for re-election in November newsworthy.

   "I'm not trying to be cute or play some kind of game," O'Leary told the Observer in an interview this morning inside City Hall, "I just don't know right now."