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.

Brass City Brawlers To Play For National Title

The Brass City Brawlers were deliriously happy after capturing the New England Championship 27-12 against the Southern New England Rage on October 25th.

                           Story and Photographs By John Murray

   The Brass City Brawler football team is the best sports story in the city. It’s not because the Brawlers are East Coast champions in their division of semi-professional football. It’s not because they’re playing for the national championship in Orlando in January against a team from Michigan. No, the football accomplishments are great, but the Brawlers are the best sports story in Waterbury because they really aren’t about football.

  The Brawlers are about redemption and second chances.

Lawyer Hired To Oversee Aldermen By District

Daniel Casagrande of Cramer & Anderson. (Photo from Danbury News-Times)

                                        Story By John Murray   

   There is not much time for city leaders to implement aldermen by district for the November 2015 election, but Mayor Neil O’Leary said there is no choice. The process is moving ahead at a vigorous pace and an outside lawyer was hired yesterday to oversee the historic change in municipal government.

   “The voters spoke loud and clear on Election Day that they want aldermen by district,” O’Leary said, “and we’re going to give it to them.”

   But it’s no easy task.

Aldermen By District Creates Uncertain Future

                                           Story By John Murray

    The impact of the historic alderman by district vote continues to ripple through the political power structure in Waterbury. During its first meeting since the November 4th election, the Democrat Town Committee met at the Portuguese Sports Club in the South End of Waterbury and during the 45-minute meeting there were more questions than answers.

Smith, Wallace, Lamb, Buck Enter Waterbury Hall

Webster Bank CEO Jim Smith and Baltimore Oriole pitching coach Dave Wallace.

  The Waterbury Hall of Fame inducted four new members at a ceremony inside the Mattatuck Museum this afternoon; Daniel Buck the co-founder of The Waterbury Clock Company, Gerald Lamb, the first African-American elected to state office in American history, Dave Wallace, right, pitching coach of the World Champion Boston Red Sox in 2004 (and currently pitching coach of the Baltimore Orioles), and Webster Bank CEO Jim Smith (left).

Job Rumors Swirl Around Mayor O'Leary

                                               Story By John Murray

   The whispers started before Election Day. If Governor Dan Malloy won re-election Neil O'Leary was going to step down as mayor of Waterbury and join the Malloy administration. We disregarded the speculation until a close political insider said it was true. "If Malloy wins, O'Leary is gone."

Concerns About Implementing Aldermen By District

   The Waterbury Observer just received a letter from Raechel Guest about the the challenges the city faces implementing aldermen by district in the coming months. Guest was a staunch supporter of electing aldermen by district and wrote this open letter to the 15 current aldermen who are tasked with executing the will of the people.

Dear Aldermen,

   After listening to Mayor O'Leary on WATR, it is my understanding that the boundaries for the new Aldermanic Districts will be drawn up by an outside consultant, guided by a commission to be selected by the Board of Aldermen. It is also my understanding that final approval of the plan rests with you.

Waterbury, The Dalai Lama and the F-Bomb

   A message to the citizens of Waterbury from John Murray, the Publisher and Editor of The Waterbury Observer......

   There has been a lot on my mind the past few weeks as the Waterbury Observer has risked its objectivity to champion systemic change in Waterbury municipal government. I’ve published the Observer for 21 years and the newspaper has never endorsed a political candidate for public office. It was our original intent to provide information to our readers and encourage them to vote. At various times in the past two decades we have been referred to as the Bergin Gazette, a Democrat rag, in the tank for John Rowland, too close to Phil Giordano and a Neil O’Leary mouthpiece.

Plea For Help Illustrates Need For Electing Aldermen By District In Waterbury

                                   Commentary By John Murray

   We received a text message the other day that simply said, "Can we get together and talk about this?" Not familiar with the number, or what we'd be talking about, we responded with, "Who are you?"

   It was community activist Steve Schrag and he wanted to get together to discuss the need for a stop sign in the South End of the city. We were on deadline of publishing blockbuster stories about an interview with a juror from the trial of former Governor John Rowland, and a huge commentary about our take on aldermen by district, and couldn't get our minds around the minutiae of a stop sign request.

Aldermen By District Empowers Neighborhoods

                                   Commentary By John Murray

   In the past four months Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary has been successful in leveraging his influence on the local political scene to help secure $35 million dollars in state and federal aid. This November voters in Waterbury will be asked if they want to elect aldermen by district, or whether to keep the current at-large system in place. The idea of electing aldermen by district has been kicked around since 1994, and while much of the debate has been defined by ethnicity and skin color, it really is an issue of fairness and equal representation.

Rowland Juror Speaks Out About The Verdict

                           Story and Photographs By John Murray

   During jury selection for the trial of the United States of America versus John G .Rowland prospective jurors were handed questionnaires and asked to fill them out. Bob McCormack was in a crowd of more than 100 candidates, and when he read the first question he was sure that would be the end of his day in federal court. The question was, “Do you know John Rowland?”

   “Yes,” McCormack wrote. “Rowland was a 1975 classmate of mine at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury.”

"Billy's Law" Reintroduced In U.S. Congress

 

Billy Smolinski Jr. and his dog Harley before he vansihed in 2004.

 Today, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), as well as U.S. Congressmen Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) introduced Billy’s Law, also known as the Help Find the Missing Act – legislation that would close loopholes in our national missing persons systems.

$14.4 Million Flows Into The WATER Project

An artist rendition of a revitalized Freight Street with a Greenway trail on the right.

   United States Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced that the City of Waterbury has been selected as a recipient of a $14.4 million TIGER VI (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Decade Of Anguish For Smolinskis As They Press For Answers About Their Missing Son, Billy

                                                           By John Murray

   Ten years after his 31-year-old son vanished from Waterbury, Bill Smolinski Sr. uncorked a raw emotional speech last night during a Missing Persons Vigil held on the Naugatuck Green. When Billy Smolinski disappeared on August 24th, 2004, his family had trouble getting the Waterbury PD to take the report of a missing adult male seriously. Frustrated, the family had little choice but to search for Billy themselves. The results have been nightmarish.

Waterbury Leaders Iced For ALS

    Photographs By John Murray, Chelsea Murray and a GoPro Camera

   Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary reacted as a bucket of ice water was dumped on his head today in Library Park as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. O'Leary and 30 department heads and supervisors in city government participated in the event during the annual Back To School Rally in downtown Waterbury. O'Leary was challenged last week by Board of Education commissioner Jason Van Stone, and accepted in honor of his first cousin Carl Carlson, who was diagnosed last month with ALS. It was Van Stone and Carlson who doused O'Leary with the ice and water.