Berger reels In $600,000 For Brownfield Clean-up In Waterbury

State Rep. Jeff Berger, State Senator Joan Hartley and State Rep. Larry Butler at the Brownfields press conference in Waterbury City Hall.

                           Photographs By John Murray

   Brownfields are contaminated and often long-abandoned properties that can be remediated and turned into productive sites for economic development, open space or other public uses. Rep. Berger has been working to bring state and federal dollars to Waterbury as many properties lay contaminated and dormant due to its industrial history.

It's Official - Neil O'Leary Is Now The Mayor Of Waterbury

Neil O'Leary was sworn in as mayor of Waterbury at 12:01 am today in a brief ceremony inside City Hall. The ceremony was originally planned as a small gathering of family and friends inside the mayor's office, but at the stroke of midnight there were 200 people packed into aldermanic chambers to witness the event. Afterwards, O'Leary made his way down to the mayor's office where he tried out his new chair and checked out some strategic items placed on the desk by his transition team (including name cards and keys to a vehicle). A second swearing-in ceremony will take place Friday night at the Palace Theater on East Main Street. The public is invited. The Observer will publish more images later on today.

Jarjura And Staff Wind Down With Gathering

Five-term Waterbury mayor, Mike Jarjura, cuts into a celebratory cake during a gathering of his staff and friends inside City Hall yesterday afternoon. Jarjura is winding down a 20-year-run in public service and completes his final day in office, today, November 30th.

                                    Photographs By Michael Asaro

Emotional Day In Court For Smolinski Family

Attorney Mark Lee, Paula Bell, Bill Smolinski and Janice Smolinski in New Haven Superior Court.

                                     Story By John Murray


   Janice Smolinski sat at the defense table with her daughter, Paula Bell, and Attorney Mark Lee, and listened to Madeline Gleason testify under oath about the events surrounding the disappearance of Billy Smolinski. Gleason had been dating Billy Smolinski at the time of his mysterious disappearance and was named a suspect in police reports written by the Woodbridge Police Department in the Spring of 2005.

Smolinskis Sued By Suspect In Son's Disappearance

One month after Billy Smolinski disappeared in August 2004 hundreds of flyers with his photograph on them were being systematically destroyed in Woodbridge, Seymour, Ansonia and Bethany. The Smolinski family investigated and discovered that Billy's old girlfriend, Madeline Gleason, and her friend, Frances Vrabel, were the culprits. The women grew so bold as to tear the posters down seconds after Janice Smolinski tacked them up. Pictured above, Vrabel, left, begins to tear down one of Billy's posters even before Janice has finished hanging it. In a weird twist, a complaint filed by Vrabel  with the Woodbridge police led to the arrest of Janice Smolinski, and Gleason sued Smolinski for harassment. The lawsuit is being heard in New Haven Superior Court on Tuesday, November 29th.

Meet New School Superintendent, Dr. Kathleen Ouellette December 6th At Public Reception


  There will be a public reception for Dr. Ouellette on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 from 6 to 7 pm at the Waterbury Arts Magnet School. This is a good opportunity for any staff  member, parent or community member to “meet and greet” Dr. Ouellette on a less formal basis.  This event will be open to the public, so please feel free to invite any community members who might be interested. There will be light refreshments served.

The Knockout - Neil O'Leary Stormed To Victory In Waterbury's Bruising Mayoral Election

(Editor’s Note - The Observer began this documentary project in January 2011 with a coffee and a bull session with Neil O’Leary. We asked if he were willing to let us occasionally peek behind the curtain of his mayoral campaign, to sit in on strategy meetings, and to ride along with him on election day. The only ground rule was that sensitive information could not be published until after the election. Observer publisher John Murray first met O’Leary on election day 1995 when O’Leary was the driver for seven-term mayor, Mike Bergin, and Murray was shadowing Bergin for the day. Bergin lost that election to Phil Giordano, and at a post-election party, at the Hills Restaurant, O’Leary told Murray that the Democrat Party was now in the hands of Mike Jarjura. Six years later Jarjura was elected mayor and served for ten years, until November 8th  2011, when Bergin’s young driver picked him off. The project was published in November 2011 in print, but was posted online six years later, November 9th, 2017. This is the story of the 2011 mayoral race in Waterbury.)

                                 Story and Photographs By John Murray

   At the outset Neil O’Leary's campaign for mayor had the aura of General George Patton storming across Europe at the end of WWII - nobody could stop him.

   O’Leary announced his candidacy on February 6th inside a dilapidated store front on East Main Street in downtown Waterbury. During his speech he laid out his platform and rationale for seeking the office of mayor. At the end of his speech O’Leary sang along to Petula Clark’s song “Downtown”, and seemed to be having the time of his life.

Final O'Leary Fundraiser Of 2011 Campaign November 30th, Needed To Retire Debt

  The bruising mayoral election in Waterbury is over and Democrat Neil O'Leary was the winner. O'Leary will be sworn in as the city's next mayor at 12:01 am, December 1st, but he is hoping to eliminate his campaign debt in the hours preceding the private ceremony.

   The O'Leary campaign is staging it's final fundraiser on November 30th and it will be staged at the Portuguese Sport Club at 1966 Baldwin Street in Waterbury from 6 pm to 9 pm. The event is being called a "Celebration Fundraiser" with a suggested contribution of $100. For more information about the fundraiser and opportunities to market in a Celebration Fundraiser ad book contact Mikey Albini at mickey@olearyformayor,com

   The formal O'Leary Inauguration will take place on December 2nd at the Palace Theater at 6:30 pm and is open to the general public.

"It's A Wonderful Life (A Live Radio Play)" Opens In Naugatuck, November 25th

   Phoenix Stage Company (PSC), proudly presents "It's A Wonderful Life (A Live Radio Play)" by Joe Landry, a play the Las Cruces Sun News referred to as "...a delightful comedy with a touch of silliness...a zany and funny story with plot twists galore" beginning November 25th in Naugatuck.   The production will run from November 25th through December 11th for nine performances.

Federal Aid Available In Wake Of Halloween Nor'easter

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Connecticut and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by a severe storm during the period of October 29-30, 2011.  

Public Invited To O'Leary Inauguration At Palace Theater, December 2nd

Mayor-elect Neil O'Leary addressed the crowd packed into his Grand Street headquarters on election night after learning he had defeated five-term incumbent, Mayor Mike Jarjura. Photograph By John Murray

    Waterbury’s elected officials will take the oath of office at a public ceremony to be held at the Palace Theater on Friday, December 2. The program will begin with a Mass at 5:00pm at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, located on the Green in Waterbury, with Henry J. Mansell, Archbishop of Hartford, as the principal celebrant. Clergy from within Waterbury will also be invited to participate. Immediately following the Mass, most of the participants, other dignitaries, and several marching bands will join a procession, led by newly-elected Mayor Neil M. O’Leary, to the Palace Theater on East Main St.

    The ceremony at the Palace Theater will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by a reception catered by the Waterbury Public School Culinary Arts program in the Palace Theater lobby, starting at 7:30 p.m. The O’Leary transition team anticipates more than 1,000 people will attend the ceremony and reception. Numerous state dignitaries are expected to attend the swearing in ceremony. The event is free and open to the public.

General Bill Cugno Dead At Age 63

                        Story and Photograph By John Murray

   General Bill Cugno, a prominent figure in Waterbury politics under the administration of former mayor, Philip Giordano, died unexpectedly last week in Naples, Florida. He was 63 years old. Cugno burst on the political scene in Waterbury in early 1996 when he was appointed Giordano's chief of staff. His impact was immediate, and high octane. Cugno was responsible for the daily operations in the city, and used his extensive military background to organize the Giordano team.

Local Writer Joan Lownds Tackles Honeymoon Cruise Murder, And Billion Dollar Cruise Industry, In Her New Book, "Man Overboard"

Journalist Joan Lownds, of Naugatuck, CT, took on the billion dollar cruise industry while researching her book "Man Overboard". 

                                        Column By John Murray

   Harrison Salisbury was one of the greatest journalists in American history. He was the first American journalist to report on the Vietnam War from inside North Vietnam. Salisbury had been invited to North Vietnam by the Communists in 1966, and his dispatches from Hanoi shook the world. While the United States insisted it’s bombs were micro-targeted to military posts and ammunition factories, Salisbury documented that errant U.S., bombs had destroyed schools and orphanages. Salisbury took considerable heat from President Lyndon Johnson for reports the U.S., government called treasonous, but Salisbury’s dogged reporting triggered opposition to the war, which pressured our eventual withdrawal.

O'Leary Considering Backing Charles Stango For Board Of Education President

Charles Stango

                         Story and Photographs By John Murray

   Republican Charles Stango has been mentioned by mayor-elect Neil O'Leary as a strong candidate to serve as the next president of the Waterbury Board of Education. O'Leary, a Democrat, said he is unfazed about crossing political lines to find the right individual to help move Waterbury forward. "I don't care about political party so much as who can get get the job done," O'Leary told the Observer on Saturday. "Charles Stango is the elder statesmen on the board right now and I think he would do an excellent job as board president."

Waterbury Police To Crack Down On Seat Belt Use


Waterbury Police Lieutenant Scott Stevenson. Photograph by John Murray

   Seat belts save lives.

   Yet, too many motorists – especially those at night – are not getting the message. That’s why the Waterbury Police Department will join with thousands of other law enforcement officers, highway safety officials and safety advocates across the country in support of the Thanksgiving holiday “Click It or Ticket” mobilization from November 14th-27th. During this campaign, officers will fan out across Waterbury, cracking down on motorists who fail to wear their seatbelts, especially those who fail to seat belt their underage passengers. “Children, teens and young adults who fail to buckle up are at an increased risk of dying in a crash, as motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death for young Americans,” says Waterbury Police Lieutenant Scott Stevenson. “Seat belts provide the best defense against impaired, distracted and aggressive drivers, but a seat belt can’t save even one life if it’s not used. This is where enforcement comes into play.”

Sculpture Unveiled In City Hall That Honors Grief And Sacrifice Of Gold Star Mothers

Mary Kight of Waterbury gestures towards the new Gold Star Mothers Memorial that was unveiled Friday night in City Hall. Since 1917 there have been 529 men from Waterbury that have lost their lives in service to the country and the new memorial recognizes the sacrifice and sorrow endured by their families. Kight's son, Michael, died in Vietnam attempting to evacuate injured soldiers from the battlefield. Kight was a pilot in the US Army, 336th Air Helicopter Command, and died May 19, 1967. Kight said the emotion on the statue's face captured the shock and pain a family experiences when they lose a  family member. Standing behind Kight are Bob Dorr and Doc' D'Occhio, the two members of the Waterbury Veterans Memorial Committee that drove to Philadelphia and transported the statue to Waterbury. Committee. Photographs by John Murray

Band Of Brothers Rocked Waterbury's Election

Waterbury Police Chief Mike Gugliotti, left, embraced Waterbury's mayor-elect, Neil O'Leary, in a private office two floors above O'Leary headquarters moments after the bruising election had been decided. O'Leary had been the Waterbury police chief preceding Gugliotti and the two have been close friends for nearly 30 years.

                            Story and Photograph By John Murray

    Mike Gugliotti was in a tough spot. One of his best friends on the planet was campaigning to unseat his boss, Waterbury mayor Mike Jarjura, a man Gugliotti had a tremendous working relationship with.

   "I'm not a political person," Gugliotti said, "and it was difficult to watch these two good men go at it these past five months."

Larry De Pillo May Be Bringing His Watchdog Talents To City Hall After All

                     Story and photograph by John Murray

   During a post election interview Wednesday morning on WATR radio a caller told Independent Party mayoral candidate Larry De Pillo he had run a terrific campaign, and the city of Waterbury owed him a huge thank you for his decades of public service. Then the caller predicted De Pillo would return to the political arena, "You're like poison ivy," the caller chuckled, " you may not see it for a while, but you know it's coming back."