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Ron's Rap

May 23, 2007

My Visit to the Blue Dump

By Ron Gambardella

Yesterday, at the urging of several officers, I toured the Hamden Police Department facility. I wanted to judge for myself the working conditions of the men and women in blue. Chief Tom Wydra met me there and guided me through the building. He did not need to say much; all I had to do was to look. What I saw made me ashamed.

Ashamed at the conditions we have asked the police to endure. I felt I had to apologize for the people of Hamden to allow such conditions to be neglected for so long.

The first thing that hits you is the stifling air in the building. There is no fresh air circulation. Any pathogen released into the air from a contagious person would more than likely spread throughout the building. The place smelled musty and was suffocating. In the few minutes it took to tour the building, I felt my sinus passages closing.

There was open wiring everywhere. The ceilings, walls and floors are water stained. Periodically, raw sewage leaked into the locker room. The carpeting was tattered and torn. The showers disgusting. The floors filthy. The cells are inhuman, not even fit for an animal. In short, the place is beyond salvaging and should be leveled.

What has the Henrici administration done? Nothing. Not only has nothing been done, there isn’t a plan on the table to do something.

I propose an immediate resolution to the problem. Talking about it doesn’t get it done. I propose we replace the police facility. The logistical problems arising from rehabbing the existing facility while the department is operating are daunting, rendering this option an unlikely solution. This means constructing another police facility. The recently acquired town property on Putnam Avenue would make an ideal location to build a state-of-the-art police facility as well as a new fire facility, or perhaps renovate the old Town Hall into such a facility. Whichever location is best and most cost effective, action must be taken immediately.

There is no reason plans cannot begin immediately toward construction. I urge the mayor to put a proposal before the Council so we can take action to move this project forward. The police have waited long enough. This project is way, way over due. The time to act is now. The police deserve better.

Raw and uncensored, Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella opines on the latest goings-on from behind the legislative bench. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

May 21, 2007

I Told You So

By Ron Gambardella

A few weeks ago, I pointed out that in order to prevent yet another tax increase the Council needed to remove $8M from the mayor’s recommended budget. I further suggested that the Council, at best, would remove about $4M. It seems even my best guess was woefully overestimated. It turns out that a scant $28,000 was cut from the budget.

This was the best they could do after many evenings of useless deliberation over minor details. Oh, yes, they did manage to move funds around within the budget, but this was nothing more than switching seats on the Titanic. In the end, the ship still sank. The only possible conclusion one can draw from this abysmal display of pathetic politics is that the Council believes the folks in town will accept just about anything this administration and Council heap upon the taxpayers.

I have been managing and developing budgets for over 20 years. Over that entire period, there has not been a single budget I ever reviewed that was accepted as submitted. That is, of course, with the exception of Hamden’s town budget. If you believe we could not have done a better job of removing waste, mismanagement, over-inflated salaries, job creation, favoritism, cronyism and downright incompetence, then you should continue to support this band of politicians who will continue to reach deep down into your pocket to pay for it all.

Who wins? To start with, labor continues to enjoy the tremendous support by the current administration and Council. Look for labor to support the incumbents for another job well done. The money contributed to their campaigns is money well spent. This Council and administration wholeheartedly supported the recently negotiated contracts to set the stage for the current inflated budget. In Majority Leader Matt Fitch’s words, the contracts included “generous benefits” -- 35-hour workweeks, rigid work rules, excellent overtime opportunities, longevity payments and sick time accumulations that are well beyond reasonable. Department heads received their salary increases, the help desk remains intact, we still have more library branches than we need. In short, nothing changed and the status quo is as healthy as ever.

Who loses? We do. We always do. The residents in this town have been left holding the bag. The budget is up 5.9 percent -- or nearly three times the rate of inflation.

Raw and uncensored, Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella opines on the latest goings-on from behind the legislative bench. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

May 7, 2007

Bad Budget News:
A $2M Faux Pas

By Ron Gambardella

The budget process thus far has been slow and tedious producing little in the way of any meaningful results. The process the Council follows is convoluted and counterproductive. For example, the Council chooses to discuss personnel after all other line items have been debated. However, it is nearly impossible to adequately address the line items without knowing how personnel will be affected.

To make matters worse, the administration dropped a bomb on the process last week when Finance Director Mike Betz said that the medical benefits may have been understated in the 2007-08 budget by as much as $2M. Currently, the line item shows $23M and evidently should be $25M.

Apparently, this information was known for a least a month, but the administration failed to notify anyone on the Council until the night we discussed this part of the budget. You can imagine the chaos this created especially as the Council likes to pride itself on the fact that it can debate endlessly over $250. The Council can be easily distracted and become lost in the minutia.

It cannot see clearly that there is an $8M elephant in the middle of the room that threatens to break the back of the taxpayer.

Before Mr. Betz's announcement concerning the understatement of employee insurance benefits, the Council needed to remove nearly $8M from the budget to avoid yet another tax increase, largely due to the mismanagement of taxpayers’ funds by this and prior administrations. If the problem wasn’t challenging enough, the administration thought it might make some sense to wait till the final stages of deliberation to drop another $2M problem on the Council.

I cannot for the life of me understand how such a problem could ever get this far without prior disclosure. The explanations offered up by the administration appear woefully inadequate. Unfortunately, at this stage of the game we do not appear to be any better off than when the prior administration went from one finance director to another taking the town deeper and deeper into a quagmire of financial mismanagement, uncertainty and fiscal irresponsibility.

Pressed further for some sort of an explanation, Mr. Betz indicated that he thought he might be able to reduce the problem from $2M to $900K by taking a projected under run (unused funds) in this year’s benefits line item and applying it to next year’s budget as well as implementing other fiscal maneuvers. Folks, I’ve got to tell you that I do not get a warm and comfortable feeling when the administration and the finance director propose a solution to a problem they created. In fact, the only solution this administration ever seems to offer the citizens of Hamden ends up costing more money.

This administration has lost all credibility. If the administration told me the time of day I would have to look at the clock on the wall to verify its accuracy. Nothing can be taken at face value anymore. This administration does not appear to possess the necessary skills to get the job done. We, as a community, can no longer support the status quo of cronyism, favoritism and poor fiscal management that this administration represents.

Raw and uncensored, Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella opines on the latest goings-on from behind the legislative bench. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)


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