Four Years Ago He Won With
An Historic Write-In.
Can “Mayor Mike” Bring Home A Record
6th Consecutive Term?
Story By John Murray and Photographs By Michael Asaro
As we begin the election coverage of Waterbury’s 2011 Mayoral Election the discussion has to begin with the reigning champ, Mike Jarjura, who has won ten general elections in Waterbury in a row. Five as a state representative in the East End of Waterbury, and five for mayor of Waterbury. If Jarjura wins in November he will be the only man in Waterbury’s 300 year history to be elected mayor six elections in a row. That’s impressive.
Jarjura has announced he is seeking re-election in November, and at the moment he has two serious challengers for the Democrat nomination – former board of alderman president J. Paul Vance Jr., and former Waterbury Police Chief Neil O’Leary. Republican Bryan Baker is the only other candidate officially in the race, but the Independent Party will have an opponent ready to brawl in November.
Some of the issues of 2011 are the same ones the city faced two years ago. The Observer sat down with Jarjura in late September 2009 for a 90 minute Q&A session, and the results are what follows. As we begin this campaign it might be intriguing to journey back two years to see what Mayor Jarjura had to say about these important issues, and what he’s done to address them in the past two years.
How the voters answer these questions will determine if Jarjura wins his sixth term, or whether a hungry challenger seizes the moment to move Waterbury in a different direction.
(editor’s note – this is a Q&A with Mike Jarjura and Observer publisher, JohnMurray, in September 2009)
Observer: Let’s start off with the primary. Only 19% of the voters showed up, what’s up with that?
Jarjura: Well, you can look at it a couple of ways. Some people who wanted to be positive said the voters thought the mayor was doing a good job and basically stayed home because they were happy with the way things are going. The other way to look at it is general apathy. People are so involved in the economic crisis, the war in Afghanistan and the national debate about health care that they just aren’t focused in on local politics. Any way you look at it I think a 19% turnout is a disgrace.
Observer: I agree. In the 16 years I’ve had the Observer there are less and less voters every election. Everyday you pick up the Republican-American and look at the obituaries you see the people we are losing who were involved in the process.
Jarjura: We are not losing population but we are losing the involved community-minded people. We saw some districts in the primary where barely 5% of the voters showed up. One of the biggest voting districts by registration is at Maloney School and they had the smallest turnout.
Observer: That’s largely Hispanic isn’t it?
Jarjura: Yes, and we had a very poor turnout in the North End as well. The big turnout was Bunker Hill, Town Plot and the East End.
Observer: Historically the minority community has not participated in the voting process as much as the other ethnic populations in the city.
Jarjura: But they came out when they wanted. They came out for the Obama election so it shows they can come out if they want to.
Observer: If they are motivated..
Jarjura: How do we motivate them? We ran ads, we put up signs, we did phone calls and we had Hispanic candidates and African-American candidates on the ticket. What else can you do?
Observer: Out of the total registered Democrat voters you got 10% and Paul Vance got 9%. That’s too close for comfort. How were you feeling that night?
Jarjura: I got the feeling during the day with the exceedingly low turnout that it was going to be a close election. You could feel it from the early morning when we were wondering “Where is everybody?” It was a gorgeous day and I was getting concerned. I knew we had to get my voters out because those who were against me were more motivated. I also knew that the Independent Party had a separate operation going. Many of the families of Independent Party members are still registered as Democrats.
Don’t forget that most of the Independent Party started off in the Democratic Party. Not all, but most of them. They have a big cadre of relatives and they were calling them that day not to come out and vote for Mayor Jarjura, but to vote for the other side. So we had two operations going against us. When the votes came in and it was so very, very close, I wasn’t that surprised. When the first big one came in – Tinker School – we lost that significantly. But then when I saw St. Pete’s, where Vance and his mother and father were at almost all day, and we won by a clear 70 votes, which equalized Tinker.
When the vote came in from Lady of Loretto in Bunker Hill we won there by 70 or 80 votes. We tied in a bunch of places and when the machine count showed I was up by six votes I felt pretty good because I usually have a tendency to do better with the elderly; they are the ones who use absentee ballots.
Observer: How were you feeling during the back and forth during primary night?
Jarjura: While it was very tight Paul Pernerewski (majority leader on the Board of Aldermen) came up to me and said, “You know Mayor this is your best showing ever in a primary.”
And he was absolutely right. The first time we won by 14 votes in a three way primary. We lost some of our under ticket and that’s when we had DePillocrats and Jarjuracrats.
In 2005 we had the primary or primaries between myself and Karen Mulcahy. With her negative ads she did a job of portraying me…
Observer: She defined you.
Jarjura: She did define me to the voters. By the time we caught on to how bad it was it was too late to reverse and she beat me by about 300 votes. This time Paul did do a little of that, the distortions and the character assassinations, but nowhere to the degree of that of the Mulcahy camp.
Observer: Vance wasn’t as angry as she was.
Jarjura: She’s still an angry person. I bear the brunt of her anger even though I had little to do with her termination, but that’s all water under the dam.
This one we did win by 168 votes. I feel good because I have a tendency to do extremely well in general elections. I do appeal to the center, which I think is the majority of voters whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or consider yourself unaffiliated.
Observer: If you had lost the primary would you still be on the ballot in November as the Republican candidate? (Editor’s note – the Waterbury GOP did not put up their own candidate and have endorsed Mayor Jarjura)
Jarjura: I publicly announced that I would offer that back to the Republican Party because they may not to have wanted to continue with just me on their row. So I would have offered that back to them if they wanted to choose someone else or thought there was a better opportunity for themselves.
Observer: Suddenly there would be no shortage of Republican candidates for mayor.
Jarjura: You’re right. But the honorable thing would be for me to offer that back to them, and I would have done that.
Observer: Many people in Waterbury are gnashing their teeth about your cross endorsement and see it as a blatant attempt by the Democrats and Republicans to knock out the Independent Party. The Independents have been a thorn in your side for the past eight years.
Jarjura: I don’t think it’s because they are a thorn in my side, it’s that they have consistently conducted themselves to bring down the image of the city to our surrounding neighbors and to the State of Connecticut. Their level of conversation is generally negative and does not portray Waterbury in a very positive light.
If it was just the way they talked about me, that’s one thing. It’s more about the fact that they have not been good ambassadors for the city. They have not embraced any of the steps we have made from the Oversight Board and my own administration to advance the governing capability, to improve the financial practices of the city and to repair the infrastructure. They have been against just about everything we have been for. The differences between the Independent Party and myself these last eight years couldn’t be more pronounced.
It started with the move to open the Palace Theater, to open the UConn branch in downtown, to the magnet school, to the infrastructure I put forward – the neighborhood schools.
Observer: You feel they have opposed everything you have tried to implement?
Jarjura: I don’t feel that way, it’s all documented. I could bring out the records and show you their statements, which are over, and over, and over again opposed to my proposals. They forced a referendum on the neighborhood schools, and they lost that. We tried to do a couple of new firehouses and they fought that. They brought City Hall construction to gridlock.
Observer: What about the Republicans? If they were in the aldermanic seats instead of the Independents, wouldn’t they have been doing the same thing?
Jarjura: No. The first year I was in we had five Republicans, five Jarjuracrats and five DePillocrats and it was a tremendously productive time. It was because we could work with the Republicans. They had people like Joe Pisani, Billy Pizzutto, Lisa Mason, Brian Monguluzzo and Debbie Lewis. The Republicans could have really jammed us up, but they operated from what was best for the city and it was a very productive time. It was a healing time for the city.
Then the De Pillocrats created their own party for the 2003 election when they formed the Independent Party. At that point the Republicans got seriously wiped out. They didn’t have the strongest of mayoral candidates at that time.
Observer: Mark Forte?
Jarjura: Yes, it was Mark Forte. They were either left with one alderman, or none, I don’t remember. But they were seriously wiped out.
Observer: You’re saying the Independents are opposing everything you do, but some people would say it’s good for democracy to have opposition, to have that proverbial pebble in the shoe. With the Republicans wounding most of your eight years one could make a case that the Independents are acting in a similar oppositional role to you that Republicans would have. With you now at the top of the Republican ticket it seems like you and they are gambling on using your influence to knock the Independents out.
Jarjura: It’s a huge gamble on the Republicans part because you don’t really know how it’s all going to work out. Clearly the Independent Party runs a full slate and they are very formidable. John Theriault, no matter what you want to say about him, has a level of credibility. Unfortunately he has the eight-year track record of his party and his running mates that he can’t distance himself from. Clearly what they have stood for he now has to stand for. There is no way you can differentiate the two.
The Republicans are gambling because they didn’t have an individual who was a dominate force that they could bring forward at this time, so they figured let’s at least attempt to get a foot hold and then build off of that. We’ll know if that works on November 3rd.
I don’t oppose critical thought or debate, but anyone who has been an Observer of local government and some of these public access TV shows will see that the Independent Party makes it personal. The level of vitriol is so vile, so hate driven, that it is not productive or healthy.
Observer: We just interviewed John Theriault and he took some swipes at you, but they were about issues. He did not attack you personally.
Jarjura: John doesn’t represent the bulk of what he is running with. I have to judge on the track record of that party and the leadership of that party.
Observer: You said to me years before becoming mayor that you never really saw yourself in local politics because of personal attacks, rumor and innuendo. Once in office you were highly sensitive to criticism. You said it bothered your mother and your father, but it seemed to hurt you too.
Jarjura: Sure it did. I have a thick skin, but not that thick. I’ve gotten better at it now.
Observer: You really have. Theriault called Waterbury politics a blood sport. If you’re going to give a punch you’ve got to be ready to take a punch.
Jarjura: I don’t think John is used to it yet. I gave him just a little bit the other night and I’m sure he is still reeling from that. He’s been allowed to stay out of the foray. He’s been at the Board of Ed and once in a while he’ll put a toe in, and pull it out, but it’s at the leadership level – the Board of Alderman and their chairman and vice-chairmen, Larry De Pillo, Mike Telesca and some of their operatives who have really done the blood sport.
John is in it now and I think he is going to really have a hard time struggling with his under ticket and where he philosophically is at.
Observer: At some time in the future the odds are that the Republicans rebound and reclaim their minority status in Waterbury. They are a national party and have deeper historical roots in this city than the Independent Party. If and when that happens, do you see any good that has come out of Larry De Pillo and the Independent Party in Waterbury?
Jarjura: No. I can’t point to one thing that has been positive regarding their participation to date.
Observer: That’s quite a statement.
Jarjura: I really can’t point to one thing.
Observer: What about Larry De Pillo leading the fight against Chestnut Hill BioEnergy?
Jarjura: Yeah, well there are a few things personally that he has worked on, but as an organization, or a group, their track record, their actual empirical record has been absolutely horrible.
Observer: So you’d be happy if the Independent party vanished?
Jarjura: It’s not a matter of me being happy or not, it’s a matter of bringing civility back to the process. I think Waterbury is ready for that. It’s time to get away from this blood sport and this continual, never ending attack. It’s always attack, attack, attack. The election no sooner ends and it’s still there. It’s always there. It’s time to get away from that for the good of the city. For the psyche of the city this has to end.
Observer: What happened to electing a mayor to a four-year term?
Jarjura: The Independent Party worked against that, but I also think it was too soon after the Giordano scandal, and the people voted it down.
Observer: It seems like a four-year term would eliminate at least two years of the blood sport.
Jarjura: And it would provide for a much more stable government. Constantly shifting gears is not good for a corporation. It does make sense if an organization is floundering to make a change, but change for the sake of change is not good and I think that has hurt Waterbury in the past. Look at Stamford with Mayor Dan Malloy, he’s been there 16 years now. Down in New Haven Mayor DeStefano has been there for 16 years. Longer terms gives a leader time for real critical decision making without having to look over your shoulder.
Look at this last term. I wasn’t even in six months when J. Paul Vance announced he was challenging me. How crazy is that?
Observer: You have a tremendous record balancing budgets and reorganizing the systemic workings of municipal government. A criticism that remains from inside and outside your party is that, yes you’ve done a yeoman’s job of building a sailboat, but you have no idea where to sail it. Where is the goal? Where is the leadership? You’ve held things together in a very difficult time, but where is the vision?
Jarjura: That criticism is coming from people that can’t refute that the main responsibility of the mayor, of the CEO, is the financial and business management of the corporation. They know on the merits that they can’t come anywhere near my track record and the success that I have brought to the financial management of the city. So what my opponents try to do is divert attention by saying the mayor is not a visionary, the mayor doesn’t have a long-term plan. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do have a blueprint and we do have a vision. The vision is to continue to build and make Waterbury a quality, strong community and to portray that out to the world so that when economic opportunities do present themselves that people will look to Waterbury as a place they will feel comfortable to raise their families and that they feel comfortable to bring their business operations here.
That’s the vision.
All this other sort of lofty, very vague, we’re going to sit down with all these people and we’re going to talk about a vision…..haven’t we done that year after year after year and it sits on somebody’s shelf.
My vision is to continue to keep Waterbury financially strong and to continue to improve the infrastructure. Let’s make the schools the best they can be and continue to work off our natural assets here, like the Naugatuck River. I brought forward that Greenway project, but obviously I’ve turned it over to key people like Cathy Smith, yourself, Ron Napoli, because I know you guys can run with that. The Greenway is going to be a great destination location. There is no silver bullet that is going to save us, we just have to continue to build on the things we have like the Palace Theater and UConn.
Jarjura enthusiastically paddled in the 1st Naugatuck River Race in 2008.
Observer: Flash back 18 months to the Economic Summit that was held at the Waterbury Magnet School. All the key players were there; the Waterbury Development Corporation, Main Street Waterbury, the Chamber of Commerce and you, the mayor of Waterbury. There were a lot of bold statements made that night. You stated there was an individual who was going to invest $200 million in the city, and we were promised a detailed downtown revitalization plan within 30 days. Obviously the economy took a nosedive, but downtown business people are still waiting for the plan. What happened?
Jarjura: I’m not one to make excuses, but a big proponent of making the plan was Steve Sasala, and he got sick. (Sasala was president and CEO of the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce and passed away from cancer earlier this year.) While Steve was sick Lynn Ward was filling in and John Rowland was pitching in, it was a difficult situation.
You know who has a great story to tell – it’s Main Street Waterbury. They had an event just the other day that brought 2300 people from all over New England to their BrewFest in Library Park.
Observer: They should do that every weekend.
Jarjura: I know. (Big laugh) That would be great. When the festival ended you couldn’t get inside any restaurant or bar in downtown. Business was tremendous in downtown Waterbury.
Observer: It was a unique group of people that flocked into downtown Waterbury for that event. They were young, educated and had money to spend. It goes to show that if we give people a reason to come downtown, they’ll come.
Jarjura: The other thing I took away from that Economic Summit 18 months ago was that no matter how much we agree on everything a lot of our success, or potential for success, has to do with the state and federal government and the policies that are being imposed upon us. That’s where we have to start to look to influence policy. Look at the Pratt & Whitney situation. We were all working very hard behind the scenes to try and figure something out there. Seventy-five of those people who lost their job in Cheshire live here in Waterbury. These are good paying jobs. This loss doesn’t just affect Cheshire, it hurts us too. We have to look at this on a macro-level. People can come up with all these grandiose ideas, but until we get the state humming again you are not going to get the flow into Waterbury and Bridgeport.
We are poised and ready for good things, and we are able to accommodate people, but right now they are going to Singapore. They are not going down the street.
Observer: The history of the economy is a roller coaster. It’s going to come back.
Jarjura: And when it does come back we have properties ready to be developed, we have skilled workers, we’ve got good institutions and we have good infrastructure. That’s why I say we are poised to really move forward when the economy rebounds.
Observer: Waterbury has had an alarmingly high unemployment rate for the past nine years. I heard you on WATR radio one morning saying that it’s hard to compare Waterbury to Simsbury or West Hartford because the demographics and education levels are so different. But when you compare Waterbury to Bridgeport or New Haven…
Jarjura: We are on par with Hartford. It’s nothing to brag about. Part of the problem is that Waterbury has the highest rate of teenage, unwed pregnancies. It’s the highest rate of any municipality in the state. It’s staggering. Young babies having babies, they aren’t even out of high school yet. These girls aren’t going to be readily employable, quickly. This is adding to the unemployment numbers.
Another problem is that many people in Waterbury have a less regard for education than people out in the suburbs. People are not staying and taking advantage of an excellent school system. Employment skills are absolutely necessary.
There are opportunities for people to work but some of these jobs aren’t in the city, but in the region. The key is that you have to be able to do the job or they are going to hire someone else. We do need more jobs here, but we also need some people to take more responsibility for their life. They need to focus more on education and realize life isn’t about going out and having a good time every night and engaging in premature sexual activity. These kids have to realize that they have to take care of themselves one day.
Observer: The truancy problem in the city was so bad that you formed a Blue Ribbon Commission to address the issue. Forty percent of the students entering 9th grade were not graduating four years later. The commission has been tackling this issue by reaching out into the community and trying to engage the parents.
Jarjura: You have to. When we were growing up our parents took our education very seriously. They were on you, or here came the strap. Today you don’t see that same sort of seriousness about education and parents don’t fight for their kids to stay in school. This is absolutely the wrong attitude to have.
Observer: The one issue that Paul Vance continued to pound on in the primary was that Mayor Jarjura was disengaged from the educational process in Waterbury. He said you seldom attended Board of Education meetings and that you paid little attention to education. What is your philosophy as mayor in dealing with the school system?
Jarjura: My job is to secure the necessary resources so that our professionals either here at Central Office, or the ones running the schools; the principals, the vice-principals and the teachers have all the tools they need to take their training and deliver it to the students in their care.
I don’t go to a lot of board meetings because the work I have to do isn’t at the board level where they are talking about curriculum and what teachers are going to be assigned where. My job is to work with the most senior staff; the superintendent and the assistant superintendents to deal with the larger issues of education – the mandates, the special education requirements, the physical facilities, the text books and to make sure we provide a safe and healthy environment. I work here with them at this level and if necessary – if requested – I will attend the board meeting and give my input if there is an issue they are struggling with.
Observer: What’s your take on Duggan School?
Jarjura: This is an issue John Theriault is trying to dump in my lap. There is now a problem with a tremendous amount of overruns because a decision was made by the Board of Education, by the school board building committee, in concert with the neighborhood groups over there, to try and save a portion of the original Duggan School building. I think these people did their best, they did due diligence in making that decision.
Unfortunately when there was some selective demolition work done they found out there was a much bigger subterranean situation than they had thought. There may be a contractor or consultant held responsible for the mistake later down the road. We’d have to have the lawyers look at that. Now we have John Theriault trying to lay this issue at my feet. He has called it the $10 million albatross around my neck, but it was the Board of Education that approved the effort to renovate Duggan School. They choose to renovate instead of knocking it down and building new. They voted 9 to 1.
Observer: And John Theriault was the one.
Jarjura: Yes, he was. John voted against it, but it was the building committee that controlled the process from soup to nuts. I originally went out and got the bonding and fought for the three neighborhood schools. I got it through the Board of Aldermen with the necessary 10 votes. I worked with Laura Nesta, who at the time was the minority leader, and she was very vocal in wanting to keep the historical section of Duggan School. I needed her vote at the time to get it through the Board of Aldermen and we had to compromise and agreed on three pre-K through 8th grade neighborhood schools.
The Independents then took it to referendum and tried to have the neighborhood school project defeated, but we won. After all that is said and done, it is the building committee and the Board of Education that chooses the sites, that chooses the team that manages the construction and chooses the architects and engineers. Unless there is something amiss that they need me for, they choose the colors, the window design…
The shell of Duggan School.
Observer: Who decides what to do now?
Jarjura: Now there is a problem. Now Central Office comes to see me because in order to solve the problem they need additional resources from the city, and additional resources from the state. The project is an 80-20 split between the state and Waterbury.
So rather than get into the blame game, or see who is trying to use the school as political one-upsmanship, which John Theriault is trying to do, I’m going to wait and see which way the Board of Education wants to go on the issue and I’m willing to support either way. (Jarjura pounded his fist on the table and said), But at the end of the day I want to know that there aren’t going to be any more surprises. This is the Board of Education’s decision and ultimately they have to tell me do we spend $6.5 million and continue the project, saving the front portion of the school, or do we abandon that and spend $10 million and do everything brand new.
If the board chooses to move forward with the renovation project then it is my job to go to the state with Dr. Snead (Superintendent of Schools) and Paul Guidone (Chief Financial Officer of Waterbury) and explain to them what happened. We would try and get their change order approval and then put my side of the money in so they can continue the construction and finish it. That’s my job.
John Theriault is really playing up this issue, but what is he saying about his running mate Ann Sweeney, or his good friend Chuck Stango? He touts them as all good people, but they were all part of the decision too. And the Democrats were too. Larry De Pillo and Mike Telesca were running around saying we had to save Duggan School. We were all in on this, and to say otherwise is disingenuous.
I am engaged in education but I understand the rules. This is why we have a superintendent and two assistant superintendents. That is their job to run education. Too often people want to have it both ways. If you go too much then you are criticized for being too involved in the details. They’ll say “Who does the mayor think he is to get involved and to interfere with our job running education?”, or the other is “Where is he? Why isn’t he here?”
Observer: If you are re-elected are you going to impanel a Charter Revision Commission?
Jarjura: We’ve been trying, but we’ve been blocked by the Independent Party. You need ten votes to get a Charter Revision Commission and even a few of the Democrats who will no longer be on the board helped block the commission. We have not had one in five years. I put one forward every year I’ve been here but it keeps getting blocked.
Observer: What do you want to tackle?
Jarjura: There is a bunch of things. There is a bunch of stuff left undone when we did the major rewrite five years ago. Not everything will get passed, but we should at least be talking about it. We should delve into charter issues.
Observer: Seniors are getting frustrated with the promised senior center at the site of the old Mattatuck Manufacturing. What’s going on out there?
Jarjura: They have a right to be aggravated. We are all aggravated with how long this has taken. From my perspective now it really is in the final leg of the race. The site is 99% cleaned up. Then according to the plan we will turn the project over to the selected contractor and part of the agreement is that he builds a 7000 square foot facility for a community/senior center. That will be about another year or year and half until completion.
Observer: Some of the seniors are asking what can we do now while we wait for the new senior center? Can’t the mayor…..
Jarjura: But there are a lot of things we are already doing. There are senior centers already operating and people are welcome to go there. They have nice activities. There is The Forever Young which operates out of the Mt. Carmel Church, we have the East End Senior Center that has a lot of activities all week long, we work closely with the Western Connecticut Area on Aging and they provide a lot of health pamphlets and assistance with the prescription programs and they are located right here in the East of Waterbury.
Observer: So the one that is coming is a Waterbury senior center instead of the ones scattered around in the neighborhoods right now?
Jarjura: Yes. It’s for anyone who wants to come. This will be available to the whole community and we’ll have to decide on its programmatic needs as we go along. It could be line dancing or a place for the community to gather. It’s located right on the bus line. We never said we were going to close the other centers. Grace Baptist has a big program, La Casa has a big one. Many of the seniors are not going to want to leave their individual centers.
There is a lot going on right now. It’s not like anybody is being denied while we wait to get the new senior center open.
Observer: The community response has been incredibly positive to the proposed Naugatuck River Greenway Project. The only opposition has come from a Republican-American editorial that said we are wasting money building the Greenway before the mixmaster construction is finished. What’s your take on that criticism?
Jarjura: The people working on the Greenway project, Alta, have met with Department of Transportation people. Alta is fully aware of what the state’s plans are, and what their alternative plans are. All that has been adjusted accordingly. That’s my understanding. I don’t think we have to wait.
If you read today’s paper there is an article about a state project to improve I-84. The project is supposed to have already begun and now there are reports it’s no where on the radar screen and could take another four years to begin. This is a simple project compared to rebuilding the entire mixmaster exchange. We can’t wait for the mixmaster. Whatever we do with the Greenway they will adjust around us, or we will adjust around them.
Observer: Have you seen an issue or project that has elicited as much positive support as the Greenway?
Jarjura: The Greenway has excited the community like nothing I have ever seen before. The only thing I can compare it to, and that was on a much smaller scale, was Kevin Zak and his river race. People that never get excited about anything came out to the river race and were really excited. The Greenway is on a much larger scale.
Observer: That river race had a lot to do with launching the Greenway project. Many of the political people needed to support the Greenway – yourself included – paddled down the river and discovered what an amazing asset we had right under our noses.
Jarjura: The energy from that race was transferred over to the Greenway. It’s all been positive.
Observer: Right now we have enough money to plan a route, design the Greenway and maybe put a few shovels in the ground. Where does the rest of the money come from?
Jarjura: That’s my job. I’m out there banging the drums, lobbying, talking to Senator Dodd and Senator Lieberman. We just got another million, so we need another $10 million. That’s my job to find it.
Observer: Speaking of Dodd, that’s who you were equated to in today’s editorial in the Republican-American…
Jarjura: In the last year they have blamed Dodd for everything wrong in the world. I think they even blamed him for the plane landing in the Hudson River. Anything that happens they blame Chris Dodd. The newspaper lost it’s credibility years ago, at least the editorial page has. They have gotten more bizarre than ever.
Observer: Mike Asaro and I were talking on the way over here about the near universal opposition to the trash to energy plant proposed at the old Anamet site. Everybody was against it. The mayor, the board of alderman, the entire state delegation, the neighborhood groups, the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Waterbury. Everybody was against it except the Republican-American newspaper who wrote a scathing editorial about Waterbury going bananas because we were turning away business. They were completely out of touch with the community they cover. How do you process editorials like that, or the one in today’s paper challenging your ethics and comparing you to Chris Dodd?
Jarjura: The editorial today is so far divorced from reality and fact that I don’t know where to begin to talk about it. (Jarjura laughs) When you read the editorial I am confused. Do we live in the same world? What scandal are they talking about?
The editorial states that the people of Waterbury deserve to know the full extent of the scandal. What are they talking about? There is no scandal. The issue is whether city employees can do private work for people who supervise them. We’ve been exploring the issue for months and we’re waiting for the Board of Alderman to address the situation. They are the ones that can legislate – I can’t.
This issue brings out what is my biggest disagreement with John Theriault. John tends to engage in a sort of Joe McCarthyism (McCarthyism is used to describe reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents. It was coined after Senator Joe McCarthy who smeared political opponents in the 1950s). John will attach himself to an issue and portray it as something nefarious (flagrantly wicked). When we look into it and peel the onion back we find out that there is nothing there. This is not good or healthy politics.
John made a big deal about school janitors getting overtime while the schools were open for public use because the school board wants them open for theatrical events and sporting events. If those school buildings are open from early morning to late in the evening there has to be someone there to be responsible for the building. And that is the maintenance and janitorial staff.
John takes great umbrage at someone challenging his integrity, but he has no problem calling people names who clean the toilets, wash the floors, wash the windows, rake the grass and he had no problem challenging their integrity. After the facts were revealed there was nothing there.
There was nothing inappropriate going on under the laws, If John Theriault had a problem with the policy then he should have addressed it at the Board of Education. He’s been on the board for six years and the board sets the contracts. Why didn’t he try to fix the problem? But to make these people look like crooks, like they were doing something wrong, like they were stealing from the taxpayers without a scintilla (tiny particle) of evidence, this is what Joe McCarthy used to do back in the 1950s.
Observer: You’ve called this time of year “silly season”.
Jarjura: No, I call that dangerous. I call that the height of being irresponsible from someone who is supposed to be an enlightened man. I call it disgusting because these people can’t fight for themselves, but I can fight for them.
Observer: You have one minute with a voter before they enter the booth, Tell them why they should vote for you.
Jarjura: I’m very proud of the fact that while ot6her communities are srtruggling and have serious budget deficits that we have not had to lay anyone off and our tax rate has remained exactly the same as it was last year. There has been no tax increase. We have not curtailed city services one bit. The budget is balanced. We’ve had tremendous news with the bond rating upgrade to the A level. I don’t think people understand the importance of that. That’s huge. Not only did they upgrade our bonding to the A level, they gave us a rating from good to strong in terms of financial practices. There are only two municiapalities in the state that have a strong rating – us and West Hartford. There are so positive things happening here and let’s keep them going.