Community Activist Geraldo Reyes Jr. Partners With The Waterbury Observer

   The Waterbury Observer is delighted to announce that Geraldo Reyes Jr. will be partnering with the newspaper on special projects. A well known and highly visible community leader in Waterbury, Reyes will help the Observer increase its circle of influence in the Hispanic community, and act as a liaison between the Observer and the nearly 30 neighborhood groups scattered around the city. Reyes has also agreed to help facilitate meetings in the city’s five political districts that would bring aldermen face to face with residents to identify district goals and solutions.

Sacred Heart Basketball In Rarified Air

                                                          By John Murray

Sacred Heart High School star Mustapha Heron drove to the rim Saturday night against Foothills Christian at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts. 55 teams from 20 states (and one team from Canada) participated in what is widely known as the top high school event in America. The classic featured many of the top teams and recruits in the land. Unbeaten Sacred Heart, the #1 team in Connecticut, gave the #5 ranked team in the United States a scare, but fell 82-80, snapping a 40 game win streak.

Medical Marijuana in Waterbury

   Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris announced today the names and locations of three new dispensary facilities that will be licensed by the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. Currently, there are 8228 medical marijuana patients registered in Connecticut.

Hayes Finalist For National Teacher Of Year

Jahana Hayes, the history teacher at Waterbury's John F. Kennedy High School who was named the Connecticut State Teacher of the Year, is now a finalist for the 2016 National Teacher of the Year Award.

Dr. Kathleen Ouellette, Superintendent of Waterbury Public Schools, was informed Jan. 12 by the Council of Chief State School Officers that Mrs. Hayes is one of four finalists for the coveted title of National Teacher of the Year.

Inauguration of Municipal Officials Tonight

   Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary and other municipal officials elected earlier last month will take their respective oaths of office tonight Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium at John F. Kennedy High School, 422 Highland Avenue, Waterbury. A 5 p.m. Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception will precede the Kennedy High ceremony.

Tina Agati Honored By Main Street Waterbury

   On October 21, 2015, Main Street Waterbury will host a celebration to honor Tina Agati, Executive Director of Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury by presenting to her the Main Street Waterbury Community Partnership Award.  This award was originally created, in memoriam, to celebrate the leadership and contributions of the late Stephen R. Sasala II.  Steve was the former CEO of the Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce and former President of Main Street Waterbury’s Board of Directors. He continually provided support for addressing local work in ways that ultimately benefitted the more global good while also fostering partnerships and cooperative undertakings.

O'Leary To Annouce Re-Election Plans Today

                               Story and Photographs By John Murray

   Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary doesn't listen to a lot of music, but if he did, a song by the Brittish punk band, The Clash, would aptly describe the tangle inside his head the past month. The song is titled, Should I Stay Or Should I Go.

   Today is decision time for O’Leary who will announce his plans for re-election during a 1 pm show on WATR radio. For months he has been undecided whether he was seeking re-election. The issue has bounced around his head like a tennis ball at Wimbledon until he made the decision to not run on Tuesday. Senior advisors were told, and O’Leary began making a long list of telephone calls to top political leaders in Connecticut.

The Blind Spot

                                          By John Murray  

   Like a truck driver barrelling along I-84, former Connecticut Governor John Rowland has a blind spot. While the truck driver is unable to see cars approaching from certain angles, Rowland is blind to a world outside of politics where not everything is partisan, and laws are not crafted and manipulated, but meant to be obeyed.

Aldermen By District At Crucial Juncture

 

My view of Afghanistan today from 32,000 feet.

                                   Column By John Murray

    Afghanistan, Selma, Waterbury….

   Thoughts are weaving and swirling inside my skull, and I’m beginning to sweat. I think about war and skirmishes and people standing up to power and demanding change. I see Afghanistan, I hear Selma, and I’m headed back to Waterbury to continue pushing for change in municipal government.

    I’m onboard a Turkish Airlines flight from Bangkok to Istanbul, and peer down upon a vast landscape of snow and mountains 32,000 feet above Afghanistan. The view is mesmerizing, haunting, heart breaking.

Key Vote Monday On Freight Street Project

 

The future of a multi-million dollar economic development project on Freight Street rests in the hands of the Waterbury Board of Aldermen on Monday night.

                     Story and Photographs By John Murray

    The members of the Board of Aldermen in Waterbury have a dilemma Monday night when they vote on a $19.5 million bond project that would unlock the redevelopment of 60 acres along Freight Street, and reacquaint the city with the Naugatuck River. At issue is whether to commit $5.1 million of taxpayers dollars to receive a $14.4 million federal grant from the Department of Transportation.

Into The Lion's Den

Dr. Peter Morrison, right, handled sharp criticism directed towards his draft map with grace, and afterwards met with State Representative Larry Butler, center, to begin working on a second draft focused on the 2000 state representative districts in Waterbury.

Naugatuck River Advocate Opposes Oxford Power Plant, Could Impact Wildlife and WATER Project

 

Kevin Zak of the Naugatuck River Revival Group has questioned what impact millions of gallons of grey water dumped into the Naugatuck River from a proposed power plant in Oxford will have on the health of the river, and what affect will it have on the millions of dollars of economic development proposed in Waterbury.

Story By Michael Kaneb and John Murray

 Opposition is mounting against the construction of a massive power plant in Oxford that threatens the safety of air traffic at Waterbury-Oxford Airport, and presents a possible threat to the vitality of the Naugatuck River and the economic development projects being planned along its shores (including the W.A.T.E.R. Project in Waterbury).

District Lines Drawn As A "Starting Point"

Demographer Peter Morrison inadvertantly created a a mini-firestorm when he posted his first district plan onto the city website without an explanation that it was only a starting point, and that public input and direction from the District Commission will refine the plan to include neighborhood identity.

                       Story and Photographs By John Murray

 The first district proposal for electing aldermen by district has arrived in Waterbury, and while some outspoken critics of the process are supportive, others see it driven by inside politics, gerrymandering, and a ridiculous concept of joining Bunker Hill and portions of the East End in one district. The plan was created by Dr. Peter Morrison of Nantucket, Massachusetts, described as an impartial demographer with an impeccable record of creating and defending district lines.

   “What we’ve created is simply a starting point,” Morrison cautioned. “At tomorrow night’s meeting I look forward to hearing from the District Commission and the public about how we can refine the plan.”

Waterbury Police Arrest Murder Suspect

Johnathan Pape 

   Waterbury Police continue to investigate the discovery of a body on New Year’s Day in the driveway at 34 Mitchell Avenue. The body has been positively identified as Donald Curtis (9/18/64) of Waterbury and the medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide resulting from blunt force trauma to the head and chest.

Black Community Wrestles With Issues

Dr. Aresta Johnson spoke about the importance of voting during last night's forum that was organized by Pastor Rodney Wade, left, and Pastor Pamela Hughes, middle.

            Story By Robert Goodrich and Photographs By John Murray

   A group of black citizens held an unapologetically honest and unabashedly self-reflective forum on black lives in the Brass City last night inside Waterbury City Hall. Pastor Pamela Hughes of Faith Generation Ministries and Pastor Rodney Wade of Long Hill Bible Church, were co-facilitators and led the discussion by directing poignant question about black on black crime, black owned business, black youth, community activism and what the roles of voting, government, church, pop-culture, education, and personal health should play in building strong black communities.

District Commission Begins Historic Task

Charles "Chuck" Pagano was named chairman of the District Commission by Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary. Pagano lives in the Bucks Hill neighborhood of Waterbury and is the Executive Vice President of Technology and Chief Technology Officer of ESPN, and has been with the company since 1979. Pagano is also the President of the Board of Directors for Holy Land LLC, the non-profit group operating Holy Land USA in Waterbury. O'Leary sought Pagano's leadership on the District Commission because Pagano is an unaffliated voter "who is above reproach." 

                    Story and Photographs By John Murray  

   When Waterbury voted to fundamentally change the structure of city government they handed a hot potato to Mayor Neil O'Leary who had less than six months to implement an historic aldermen by district initiative that won by a surprising 2000 vote mandate on November 4th. Legal counsel had to be hired, an eight-person District Commission had to be formed, a demographer had to be hired to analyze population and voting patterns, and most importantly, the city needed to be carved into five voting districts.

Murphy Assigned To Appropriations Committee

   U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced he will join two new U.S. Senate Committees in the 114th Congress. Murphy will join the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, which is responsible for funding all of the federal government’s agencies, departments, and organizations. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Murphy will focus on securing funding for Connecticut’s priorities, such as defense manufacturing, transportation infrastructure, and federal safety net programs. Murphy will also be a strong voice in pushing back against Republican attempts to defund the Affordable Care Act, anti-gun violence programs, and U.S. diplomatic efforts abroad. Connecticut has not had a U.S. Senator on the Appropriations Committee since 1987.

Special Meeting To Begin District Process In City

                                             Story By John Murray

   Picture a timeline as a python, and imagine the snake tightening it's coils around the city of Waterbury as it races to implement the aldermen by district ballot initiative passed in November. It is a vast and historic undertaking and city leaders have a tight schedule to follow to make it all work. Eight commissioners have been selected, an outside lawyer has been hired, and last Friday was the deadline for selecting the firm that will actually draw the lines on the five districts in Waterbury.