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Judge Declares Mistrial On Lauretti-Related Botti Charges, Plus: Lowell Weicker’s Stones, Creative Coin And Pavia’s I-95

April 1st, 2010 · 33 Comments · City Budget, Development and Zoning, State Politics

Afternoon Update: A federal jury in New Haven has convicted Shelton developer James Botti on one count of mail fraud but was deadlocked regarding the conspiracy and bribery charges relating to Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti who has not been charged in the case. The judge has declared a mistrial related to the Lauretti counts.

The mail fraud conviction relates to the government’s charge that Botti schemed to influence public officials regarding development projects. This is good news for Lauretti. The Botti trial seemed more like a trial run against Lauretti and the mistrial weakens the case against the former Barnum Festival ringmaster as the government weighs a Lauretti prosecution. Botti refused to cooperate with federal investigators making the case against Lauretti thin.

The claims against Lauretti, even though he has not been charged with wrongdoing, prevented him from the seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Highway To Hell

Everyone’s looking for ways to increase revenues.

In New Haven, Mayor John DeStefano wants to lease out parking meters.

In Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is trying to persuade Trumbull to join Bridgeport in a regional sewer authority, a mini municipality, that would buy wastewater assets to help the city’s bottom line. The mayor had started this process under former Trumbull First Selectman Ray Baldwin who had difficulty selling it to local officials, and wasn’t crazy about pushing it in an election year. Ray was swept out of office by Republican Tim Herbst and now the guy on the other side of the table from Finch representing Herbst is former Bridgeport Public Facilities Director John Marsilio who has a similar role with Trumbull. Weeeeeeeee!

Attorney John Pavia, who’s considering a run for the GOP nomination for attorney general, has a creative, if ambitious, idea to raise state revenues: Lease I-95 from the New York state line to New Haven! Oh baby, never heard that one before, but you know what, how long have we talked about congestion–it’s what Gold Coast lawmakers cited to tank a casino in Bridgeport in 1995–on that stretch of 95? No one does coolie about it. Former Governor John Rowland’s solution was to open up the breakdown lanes during rush hour. Good grief.

Jesus, it took former Governor Lowell Weicker less than a year to shepherd through the unthinkable, a personal income tax to resuscitate state finances in 1991. Yeah, yeah, there goes Lennie again with another love letter to Weicker. Well guess what? Weicker did more for Bridgeport than every other governor combined in my lifetime. Weicker had balls that clanked. He gave a shit. What are you getting now out of Missy Moonbeam in Hartford? Which one of these guber candidates will bite the bullet and say screw it, I’m going to live and die on fixing transportation, making the rails consumer friendly, tax credits for folks that start home-based businesses (well, that would be me).

Check this out from Pavia:

Over the last 10 years, our leaders in Hartford have convened dozens of panels and commissions to study and craft recommendations designed to rejuvenate Connecticut’s economy. While these reports have spawned a number of great ideas only a handful have come to fruition and none have had a dramatic, or even material impact on stemming the tide of jobs leaving Connecticut, not to mention the number of college graduates who are relocating to other states at a pace surpassed only by Alaska.

There has, however, been one positive outcome from all this diligence, and it was on display at a recent candidates’ forum in Stamford that was focused on stimulating economic growth in Connecticut.

All of the participants agreed that the next administration must take decisive action to address our congested and weathered infrastructure, especially the I-95 corridor between New York and New Haven. As everyone who has studied this issue knows, modernizing that stretch of highway is a lynchpin to stimulating Connecticut’s economy. It connects our state’s greatest concentration of human capital to the world’s greatest concentration of financial capital. Unfortunately, after everyone found common ground on the severity of the problem, the conversation then devolved into a not-so-creative debate over tolls.

Re-installing tolls on our highways is an unimaginative, 20th-century response to an enormous and complex 21st-century problem. If we are going to talk about tolls in this election, then let’s have a full blown debate on the more radical idea of leasing I-95 to a private operator. But before we go and create another task force to analyze the concept, let me suggest a different approach that could accelerate the process and bring about a tangible result in the near-term.

Within six months of being sworn in, our newly elected governor (in conjunction with the transportation committee) should issue a request for expressions of interest (REI) to determine what the level of interest would be from the “infrastructure” community if Connecticut were to spin-off the New York to New Haven corridor to a public-private-partnership.

The responses we receive will tell us very quickly what the “art of the possible” is, and would spare us the anguish of watching Connecticut fall further behind more progressive states while we continue to analyze, study, and examine the problem.

We would assuredly receive numerous proposals from all of the major infrastructure players. More importantly, if we structure the REI properly, the proposals would include a number of compelling features that would provoke our leaders to take decisive action sooner rather than later.

These features could include an upfront fee to the state in the amount of between $10 billion and $20 billion. In addition, each applicant would need to consent to assuming responsibility for maintaining the roadway thereby relieving the state of an expensive and recurring obligation. The private operator would also need to enter into a services contract with DOT that would result in the state actually receiving a fee for performing maintenance services. Finally, the REI should require that all proposals include covenants to reconstruct and retrofit the most problematic portions of the outdated highway.

Is it too good to be true? Could be. But let’s find out.

Public-private-partnerships have been around for almost 20 years in Europe and Asia, and now have begun to take root in the U.S. The Indiana Toll Road, San Diego Freeway and Chicago Skyway are all assets managed under PPP’s. Connecticut needs to aggressively explore this option, and can easily do so by way of an REI, not another fact-finding commission.

If we pin our hopes on remediating our infrastructure through conventional, incremental means such as bonding and federal grants, we will fall further and further behind other states that have adopted more advanced playbooks. Our government leaders need to commit themselves to pursuing bold solutions that will enable Connecticut to get back in the game now, not 30 years down the road.

A senior executive for one of the top financial institutions that is a leading infrastructure investor recently shared with me his belief that privatizing the New York to New Haven corridor could accomplish in eight years what will otherwise take 25 to 30 years, and would generate more union and non-union jobs than any other initiative that Connecticut has undertaken in the last 50 years.

No one person can bring about the institutional change that needs to happen in Hartford. To provoke the magnitude of change that would allow for the privatization of our busiest highway, our next chief executive will need to be supported by a senior management team that is seasoned and adept at designing and executing progressive growth initiatives. In light of our state’s serious economic condition, our next governor, whether he or she is a Democrat or Republican, should have the benefit of a new slate of constitutional officers who can provide bold, innovative counsel that obviates the need to form any more special committees.

John Pavia is chief counsel and senior vice president for corporate development at FM Facility Maintenance in Hartford. He is also the finance chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party and is exploring a run for attorney general

Budget and Appropriations Committee budget sessions
Legislative Department
Fleeta C. Hudson, City Clerk

Budget and Appropriations Committee
Official Budget Hearing Schedule for FY2010-2011

Tuesday, April 6 6:00 pm
Budget Overview – Revenue & Expenditures
Wheeler Rooms

Wednesday, April 7 6:00 pm
Legislative Services / Labor Relations
Wheeler Rooms

Thursday, April 8 6:00 pm
Benefits Dept / Personnel Dept
Wheeler Rooms

Friday, April 9 6:00 pm
Capital Plan Discussion
Wheeler Rooms

Monday, April 12 6:00 pm
Registrars of Voters / City Attorney
Wheeler Rooms

Wednesday, April 14 6:00 pm
Finance Dept / ITS / OPM / CAO
Wheeler Rooms

Thursday, April 15 6:00 pm
OPED – All Divisions
Wheeler Rooms

Friday, April 16 6:00 pm
Fire Dept
Wheeler Rooms

Saturday, April 17 9:30 am
Overview, possible Capital Plan vote
Hansen Education Building

Wednesday, April 21 6:00 pm
Health and Social Services – All Divisions
Wheeler Rooms

Thursday, April 22 6:00 pm
Police Dept
Wheeler Rooms

Friday, April 23 6:00 pm
Public Facilities
Wheeler Rooms

Saturday, April 24 9:30 am
Budget Overview
Office of Legislative Services

Tuesday, April 27 6:00 pm
Board of Education
Wheeler Rooms

Wednesday, April 28 6:00 pm
City Clerk / Town Clerk
Wheeler Rooms

Thursday, April 29 6:00 pm
Public Hearing (BOE / General Fund)
City Council Chambers

Friday, April 30 6:00 pm
Central Grants and Community Development Dept
Wheeler Rooms

Saturday, May 1 9:30 am
Overview and possible committee budget vote
Office of Legislative Services

Tuesday, May 4 6:00 pm
Overview and possible committee budget vote
Wheeler Rooms

Wednesday, May 5 6:00 pm
Overview and possible committee budget vote
Wheeler Rooms

Thursday, May 6 6:00 pm
Overview and possible committee budget vote
Wheeler Rooms

Friday, May 7 6:00 pm
Overview and possible committee budget vote
Wheeler Rooms

Schedule is subject to adjustments as needed by Committee Co-Chairs Rev 3-26-10

Locations:

Hansen Education Building:
Beardsley Zoo
1875 Noble Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06610

Legislative Services Office:
City Hall Annex
999 Broad Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
2nd floor

Wheeler Rooms:
City Hall
45 Lyon Terrace
Bridgeport, CT 06604
1st floor

City Council Chambers:
City Hall
45 Lyon Terrace
Bridgeport, CT 06604
1st floor

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33 Comments so far ↓

  • town committee

    I am not sure about leasing out I-95 to a private company. What I am sure of is we need the revenue tolls would generate.
    I think putting tolls on all major highways leading into Connecticut is a good idea. I would put the tolls on the entry side of the roadways.
    We are the only state in New England and probably the only state on the east coast without tolls.
    We the people of Connecticut pay for all of the maintenance costs for our highways.
    We have trailer trucks ripping up our roadways and vehicle traffic from out of state clogging up our highways and who pays for the maintenance? We do.
    A one-way toll will not really affect the majority of citizens of Connecticut. The citizens it will affect pay tolls in New York & New Jersey and Massachusetts anyway why not pay a toll in your own state?

  • Up On Bridgeport

    Leasing of toll roads has been done in Chicago and Pennsylvania by Macquarie. This is the same Australian company that owns Aquarion, our water utility.

    Is Pavia a “Roads” Scholar?

  • Local Eyes

    Attorney Pavia: As everyone who has studied this issue knows, modernizing that stretch of highway is a lynchpin to stimulating Connecticut’s economy

    I disagree. I-95 is fine! What’s wrong is this: that road is crowded because everyone lives so far away from their homes and their increased distance causes traffic buildup. The longer your commute, the greater the traffic problem–it’s that simple. Bridgeport was in the path of this process until The Great Recession started and the future was delayed.

    Besides, I-95 is impossible to enlarge because the room is simply not there. I-95 was completed before deficit spending started in 1965 and real estate was consequently developed to the highway’s borders. Today, Connecticut is best served by home-based businesses that leave the highway to trucks that deliver essential goods.

    At present, I-95 isn’t a linchpin, it’s a sinkhole.
    Repairing the highway would be futile and a giant step backwards yet everyone remains fixated on its repair. I don’t think it needs to be fixed. I think it needs to be replaced and I don’t mean by another highway …

  • john gilmore

    A discussion about tolls on Interstate 95 might be worthwhile if Interstate 95 were a true interstate. How often have we all seen cars rip up onto I-95 at Wordin Avenue only to get off at Black Rock (exist 25)? Let’s admit it, I-95 is a high-speed local road without stoplights.

    Look at The New Jersey Turnpike or the the Ohio Turnpike, both toll roads. How far apart are the exits and entrances? The greater distance helps move the traffic.

    Look how many exits there are for Fairfield. Do we need that many?

    Yep, those soccer moms want an exit close to the field where their little darlings play and another by their home. I say make them drive a bit farther and play at Wordin Field, soccer is an international game anyway …

  • Stone Barrington

    All of this morning’s commentators are exactly right. Connecticut needs tolls to pay the infrastructure repair costs of I-95. Much discussion at the federal level has already taken place indicating there is a high probability of tolls at the inbound entrance to the highway. I live out of state and will gladly pay to use the highway. I’m for it.

  • Stone Barrington

    In case you haven’t noticed … there is widespread carnage on I-95. Far more fatalities than any other state in our union. Why? No steady police presence. Maybe adding tolls to the highway will provide funds for more police.

  • town committee

    JohnG You hit the nail on the head there are way to many exits and entrances on 95. I think there are at least 7 exits and entrances in Fairfield, there are about 5 in Bridgeport and the list goes on. People use 95 as if it is a local road. Taking the traffic off of 95 would or could be a boon for local businesses with an increase in vehicle traffic.
    Stone: we have a large group of State Police Officers the problem is they are doing everything except patrolling the highways. The State Police do the following:
    1. Operate the State Fire marshals Office
    2. Fire Code Enforcement
    3. Code interpretation
    5. Train Canine dogs in all the different fields arson, dope detection etc.
    6. They inspect carnival rides
    7. They inspect trucks traveling the highways
    8. Resident troopers in bedroom communities who don’t want to pay for a police department of their own.
    9. Major case investigation (duplication with city police departments)
    10. Gun permits, private investigator permits and such.
    By the time you subtract all of these troopers from their table of organization there are very few troopers left to patrol the highways.

    • Stone Barrington

      People are dying on CT highways at an alarming rate; almost daily. This can be stopped or minimized by putting a visual presence in place. Let me ask anyone–When was the last time you saw a Trooper pulling over an 18-wheeler? One of the first things you will see on I-87, I-91 in MA and VT and I-95 in RI are Troopers pulling over trucks and cars. You see it everywhere but in CT. I don’t understand.

      • Local Eyes

        I see state police officers on a regular basis, sometimes attending an 18-wheeler. Maybe the reason you don’t see them is because you don’t live here.

  • Grin Ripper

    Could this be the Pope’s Last Supper?

    Spin Doctors or Sin Doctors???

    www .nytimes.com/2010/03/31/opinion/31dowd.html

  • Jim Callahan

    Privatizing Pennsylvania highway-tolling is not going to happen. Tolling I-80 and putting it under the control of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority may happen.
    There are a variety of issues that would be foreign to Connecticut involved here. Pennsylvania is a large state by population and geography. One issue: running an east-west road through several north-south mountains is very expensive to maintain. Federal gas taxes don’t provide enough. The state and feds are trying to work around the interstate highway act, which calls for free highways. (Older highways with tolls, like the Pennsylvania Turnpike, were grandfathered into the 1956ish law.)
    Comparing the Connecticut Turnpike with other interstates is irrelevant for several reasons, as brother Gilmore noted.
    Re-tolling the Connecticut Turnpike is going to be tough. After the Mianus River bridge collapse and Stratford toll plaza catastrophe, residents in southwestern Connecticut wanted the tolls out. Connecticut gas taxes are supposed to be high enough to cover turnpike maintenance.
    Opponents of privatization see it as a way for someone else to get rich on the public nickel. Proponents see it as a way of getting meddling politicians away from needed public services. Both sides may be right. Pick your poison.

  • town committee

    The Mianus river bridge collapse had nothing to do with tolls. The catastrophe in Stratford was an isolated incident when you look at other states and their tolls and no accidents like in Stratford. If I remember correctly when you approached the Stratford Toll heading south you rounded a bed in the road and the toll was a very short distance away. If there was a back up at the toll and you were rounding that curve it got dangerous. I believe the Stratford toll had a design flaw just like the whole turnpike does.
    Connecticut tax is 35.5 cents a gallon add in 18.4 cents to the Feds and we are taxed 53.9 cents per gallon which is the 5th highest in the country. It is painfully obvious that these monies or a portion thereof are spent on other than highway repairs.

  • Mojo

    *** It’s worth finding out more info. on this PPP, however bottom line is there are more vehicles on I-95 than there is pavement space! Improving public transportation in Conn. is the ticket & tolls coming in & leaving the state would bring more revenue. Maybe even monitoring large tractor-trailers times on I-95 during rush hours would be an option? *** As far as Gov. Weicker is concerned I also agree, he was a no-nonsense type of politician who got things done; and I liked Gov. Grasso too! *** Glad to hear Bucky is in Trumbull, many may not like him for whatever reasons, however he’s also a no-nonsense guy & knows the job. While he & Herbst are in Trumbull, Finch has no chance with that sewer project! *** Looks like Botti & Lauretti will dodge a 44-mag. bullet & instead get hit with a BB round! Big ups to Botti for not making the deal to bring down Lauretti, “Omertà!” *** Old School–”G” ***

  • Bob Walsh

    This is an interesting concept, however it immediately begs a lot of questions.
    1) If the property is leased to a private entity, does it become taxable to the local municipal entity??? If so, this immediately gains significant importance.
    2) A private entity is going to lease a road that the federal government helped build and maintain. How big of a cut do they get out of this? Remember we’ve been told if we sold the airport we would have to repay all of the money the feds have dumped into improvements over there.
    3) A private entity is going to lease the road from the state with front-loaded money (sound familiar Lennie), pay for improvements, pay for maintenance, pay local property taxes (maybe) and repay the feds some portion of their investment, how much are they going to end up charging for the tolls that they will install? Sounds like a hell of a lot.
    4) To Mr. Callahan’s point (hey, Jimmy, how’s it going), limiting entrances and exits would make the road more profitable to the lessor. Will they be able to do so without local approvals? This is one of the reasons governments privatize; they don’t have the political will to impose these changes on localities.
    5) The state will be reimbursed for maintenance? Why in God’s name would you lease the road and then suggest that the state should maintain it unless this politician is looking to avoid going head-to-head with unionized state workers?
    6) And why is a candidate for Attorney General proposing this?
    But get me the answer to number 1 and I may quickly sign on board with this proposal.

  • Local Eyes

    O.I.B. Rumor Mill:

    Lennie Grimaldi–aka The Grim One–was selected as America’s top gossip columnist. The article below chronicles the competition he ruthlessly destroyed as he climbed the journalistic ladder.

    www .nytimes.com/2010/04/01/fashion/01gossips.html <–

  • Up On Bridgeport

    Lennie–Can you explain if the Mail Fraud can be overturned upon a ruling by a higher court regarding Mail Fraud?

  • Grin Reaper

    Hey Up. Who you talking about? The Postmaster General? Bush would tell you in post 9-11 America, a general can do whatever he wants to do!!!

  • Grin Reaper

    Hey Lennie, riddle me this. Why the “F” do they call it mail fraud? No one uses the mail anymore.

  • Grin Reaper

    Hey what’s up with that raid that the BPD pulled on video slot machines in the Hollow???
    Don’t they know who owns all of those? Success Vending or whatever name GC is using these days.
    Someone owes someone an apology …

  • Chris Russo

    I agree with John. Try shutting down some of the exits and on-ramps on I-95, there are way too many. It wouldn’t cost a lot of money and you could test it for a few months to see what effect it has. TC’s right, I could easily get to work without using I-95 from Bridgeport to Fairfield, but it’s just quicker and more direct.

  • Jim Callahan

    All the points raised here on the Connecticut Turnpike are legit. (I personally disagree with a couple from TC, but no one named me God either.)
    Hello Bob Walsh, nice to hear from you. Your questions are good ones and you know darn well what a muck that creates! Of the privatizing plans I’ve read about for existing roads, the ones around Chicago “seem” to be going well. I’ve read some bad stuff, but mostly good.
    The exit/entrance questions go back to John Gilmore’s point that the Connecticut Turnpike is less an interstate highway and more a Post Road without red lights. Closing exit and entrance ramps certainly makes sense. It didn’t make sense to build them in the first place. Even back in the early 1950s some people thought it was a half-assed idea. Gov. Lodge approved it to get local support to build the road.
    No one is going to approve barrier tolls again. The road is too busy. It doesn’t make sense to access toll with so many exit/entrances. See where this is going?
    All we need now is a plan to connect Port Jeff to Route 25-8 via a Long Island Sound causeway. The Bridgeport approach could run right through that university the mayor finds so annoying.
    Of course, I’m not trying to create trouble or anything.

  • Billy Hicks

    Question for the legal eagles in the crowd.

    3 of the BOE mechanics were at my school today and said they were forced to sign a document about buying stuff with the city accounts, if management felt it wasn’t right they could be canned.

    They said that if they didn’t sign it they wouldn’t get their pay.

    Is that legal?

    I know people in the BOE get threatened all the time now for using city phones to the smallest kinda stuff, while some favorites get away with everything.
    But withholding pay is not legal I think.

  • town committee

    I just watched a member of congress questioning a Navy Admiral about the 8000 Marines and their families that are being sent to our bases on the island of Guam. After much questioning this congressman asked the admiral if sending too many people to the island would cause it to flip over.
    Now when I first heard it I laughed then I got angry when I realized this moron from Georgia was helping pass laws that affect all of us. So much for voting the party line and not the person.

    • Billy Hicks

      BOE has a terrible tempered not tested custodian in charge.
      Can that be legal? I don’t think so.
      It is hard to work when you are written up and threatened for everything we do.
      Like a jail sentence just to feed your family.

  • Nancy Hadley

    The major I-95 issue is the just-in-time truck deliveries. Companies no longer have warehouses stocked with stuff, they order what they need, when they need it. Several years ago, a very important Hudson River bridge burned down that connected the NY Thruway with the Mass Pike. Before that bridge burned the trucks would go north to Albany and take a right. However, NY never rebuilt it so the trucks have taken over I-95. They will not go across I-84 because it is hilly, curvy and the trucking companies don’t want to buy that much gas. Sooo … I-95 is 75%+/- trucks. They are on deadline to deliver the just-in-time goods on time. The cars cut them off. The cars don’t respect the safe driving distance. The truck drivers drive too long without sleeping. Bam! Sure, there are too many ramps but remember when the Seaview Avenue circle was eliminated? Bridgeport went nuts over the closure of one set of exit ramps. Yes there will be tolls. There has to be those hi-tech easy-pass tolls. Since the governors have depleted the Special Transportation Fund, and cars are going further on a gallon of gas, CT is not getting the gas tax revenue. There will be tolls.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    I’m going to “Botti Bing” for a celebratory drink.
    “Botti refused to cooperate with federal investigators making the case against Lauretti thin.” Thank god Botti is no Paul Pinto.
    I wonder if after privatizing I-95, the State will start “Paviang” the State Roads.
    “… it’s what Gold Coast lawmakers cited to tank a casino in Bridgeport in 1995 …” Lennie did you read the CT Post today? We have five confirmed Casinos in Bridgeport.

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