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Rick Guinness

Agent: rick guinness
New Britain, Connecticut, United States

Email: rguinness1959@hotmail.com

Rick (right) at the Stanley Golf Course for New Britain Mayor Timothy Stewart's campaign kickoff in July 2009, standing next to infamous blogster Frank Smith (lefty), the man reputed to be Guinness's illegitimate father and unfriendly competitor
PHOTO MARY CHAPONIS

*In response to preemptive, character-assasination attacks against Guinness by raving mad mayor Timothy Stewart and his cabal on Smith's blog and the Herald website, Journal Inquirer editor Keith Burris, sets the record straight in the following 10-17-09 statement:
"I have known Rick Guinness for many years. I knew him as a student interested in newspapers and as a reporter for The Advocate before he ever worked at the JI. We worked together on many of Rick's op-ed pieces while at the JI, a good many of which involved original reporting. We often talked about his work and the news business generally. Rick is the last guy who would cut any journalistic corner. He has a big heart and a tremendous work ethic. In 25 years in the business I don't think I have ever met a more industrious or committed reporter than Rick. l trust him and believe in him."
--Keith C. Burris, Editor of editorial pages, the Journal Inquirer

Here's what investigative reporter and editor Alex Wood had to say.

I worked with Rick Guinness for several years at the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, mostly as a fellow reporter but, at times, supervising his work as a fill-in editor. I always enjoyed working with Rick because he was passionate about chasing news. When the police scanner was going crazy, I couldn't have kept him in the building if I had wanted to. He had to be on the scene, getting the story. On his way out the door, he would say, "I'm on it." You can dismiss that as posturing, except that when he called in from the field or came back to the office, it was obvious that he really was on it.
Rick will never be anyone's lapdog, and officials who want that will never get along with him. With Rick, you get full-blooded reporting all the time. His flaws are flaws of passion, not flaws of laziness, and that's the way it should be in the inevitably imperfect business of writing news on daily deadlines. So my suggestion for people in New Britain is not to let character assassins destroy him. Read what he writes. Of course, it should never be the last word any more than any newspaper's reporting should be the last word. People who believe whatever they read in papers that have built an aura of establishment "reputation" around them -- like the Hartford Courant in Connecticut or the New York Times nationally -- are deluded. All reporters and all publications bring to the table their biases and preconceptions, their likes and dislikes. And any publication that tries to strain all that out to produce "objectivity" is just going to produce boring pap. So the challenge for a reader is to discern what those biases are, and the key questions to ask are: "Is this writer fair-minded?" "Is he or she trying to cut through everyone's baloney and tell me what's really going on?" In asking those questions about Rick, a good place to start is the long blog entry by Marc Levy that is reprinted on Rick's Writer page. It is easy for a public official to make a reporter appear biased simply by refusing to talk to him or her. I've had it done to me, and it is a very difficult situation to deal with. It appears that is exactly what happened toward the end of Rick's time at the Herald. That's an extremely important factor to consider in deciding whose word to rely on.

Rick Guinness

Former athlete, catastophic illness and injury survivor
Won first and second place in 1999 Society for Professional Journalists Awards for best indepth reporting while at New Britain Herald.
fired at behest of mayor (Lucian Pawlak)
rehired by Herald in 2007
Won first place in 2008 SPJ awards for best in-depth series about a Polish Imigrant who was wrongly deported
Fired by Herald's new publisher at the behest of new mayor, {Stewart} who decided he didn't like Guinness after all.

Born 1959
IQ clocked at 155 in 1970.
Started high school at age 12 in 1972.
Earned diploma 1976.
Began studying law enforcment in college at age 17 in 1977.
Earned black belt same year.
Picked to compete in kyokushinkai knockdown system karate tournament in England.
But diagnosed with terminal cancer 1978 and dropped out of training.
Dropped out of college.
Arrested and charged with stealing and totaling Manchester Police Department Police Cruiser Jan. 1, 1979 (after drunkn rampage)
Rejected by U.S. Marine Corps. when return of cancer discovered.
Struck by hit-and-run motorist on Interstate 91 in Rocky Hill, CT in October 1979 while assisting stranded motorist.
Diagnosed with degenerative bone disease 1981.
Made brief comeback to the ring as a 220-pound heavyweight instead of as 175-pound terror. Knocked out twice.
Took pain killers and worked construction for 10 years
Returned to college full time in 1993.
Wrote Tricks or Treatment for Hartford Advocate Nov. 4, 1993
Story changed the face of drug treatment in Connecticut, by reliminating 9-month waiting list for addicts.
Fired by Advocate for demanding that AIDS patient's doctor get her into treatment on emergency basis
Woman thanked Guinness in 1995 on Maury Povich show -- "Thank you for Saving My Life" after getting into methadone program and being reunited with family.
Yolanda Redin lived another five years and died at home after becoming an advocate for AIDS patients

Solved two drive-by shootings in New Britain, one baby-killing in Somers while at Journal Inquirer (The voices made me do it)
Elicited confession from baby's mother Kathryn Meigs
Journal Inquirer lauded by Associated Press for sharing the Voices story with AP before going to press.
With warrant sealed for two weeks, all papers that used info had to trust that it was right.
It was.

Saved farm for eledery widow in Cromwell by exposing dubious nature of eminent domain procedings.
Served at Cambridge Day in 2005.
Interviewed neighbors of Harvard construction project who were concered about blasting near their gas lines and their fragile foundations.
Woman kiled by blast when house DID exploded the following day.
Earned reputation as monster shoeleather reporter over 16-year-journalism career.
Compared to Hunter Thompson -- not for talent, but for drug use.
Arrested three times in two weeks after wife kicked Guinness out in 2008.
Editor bailed him out in order to get work out of him, because JRC parent company was too cheap to replace any Herald staff prior to buyout.
Despite horrendous health problems and personal shortcomings, Guinness sucked it up and worked as long as he could and never sacrificed any journalistic principles.

Here is how Marc Levy told it
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Closure on Connecticut (Part 1 of 3): The Post-Herald

Following through on the details to leave Connecticut again — packing up, arranging to shut off gas and electricity and such — also begged some closure on what I tried to accomplish there as editor of the Bristol, Middletown and New Britain dailies. (I really didn’t have too much to do with the day-to-day creation of content for the related weekly newspapers, and most of those are sadly shut down now anyway.) Lacking another venue, I figured I might as well throw it on my long-defunct blog.

Apologies to anyone who ventures into the older material here at Misanthropicity. My advice is: Don’t bother. I’d estimate 99 percent of it is worthless.

And a warning to everyone about this posting (and those that may follow on the matter of central Connecticut): It’s for me, basically, to get some thoughts down. I’m aware this is a public blog, and the posting may be stumbled across by any number of people, but it’ll be deadly dull for nearly all. It’s merely unfortunate that the closest thing I have to a diary is appended to something that also holds items of more general interest. Unless you’re having trouble sleeping, then, you’d best stay away! “Remembrance of Things Past” is more concise! You’ll undoubtedly find “The Phantom Menace” more entertaining! And better written! Et cetera.

For those who still haven’t gotten the message …

The job I took was a killer. Since I was responsible for some 20 publications, there were many seven-day weeks, during which I worked from 72 to 80 hours, and even when I had a day off, I was almost always on call and working in some way. I didn’t just edit. Like many other editors in the chain, I designed pages. I wrote stories. I even took photos. In the roughly two years I was there, I had only a single actual weekend, meaning two nonholiday days off in a row (and I worked, I think, every holiday), and yet for all the hours put in there was never a paper published with my name on it that didn’t embarrass me in some way. Although it will astonish some readers to see, I have high standards. The typos we let go, the shortcuts we had to take and the failure to pursue important stories and even entire beats were humiliating and hurtful to me. But the realities of the situation were overwhelming, made up in large part of extremely low pay and dire understaffing. Such problems are endemic to the industry, and all my hours on the job couldn’t make up for it.

Still, even with those hours and the difficulties of the job, I was interested in staying in central Connecticut just on the merits of serving the newspapers’ communities and seeing if I could finally make some needed improvements; there was also justification when contemplating the horrible economy and worse job market for journalists.

If anyone from New Britain finds this posting, they’re likely to wonder about one aspect of my time there: reporter Rick Guinness, as controversial a topic (or metatopic) as you can find in local journalism. Over the years, Rick has been a great shoe-leather reporter, and he was for a long time ideal for the papers I was given to run. That is to say, I inherited tabloid newspapers, and I was told by the publisher at the time of my hiring to pursue a tabloid strategy — one main story on the front, and a bold headline that could be read from some distance away. This was deemed necessary because The Herald, especially, was reliant on sales from vending machines and news racks rather than from subscription sales, even though it was my goal to produce a newspaper of such quality that people who bought an issue here or there were ultimately inspired to subscribe.

Until we reached the point where subscriptions reigned again, we were encouraged to focus strongly on New Britain, not the surrounding towns, and to sell the paper with stories that some would consider sensationalistic. I tried to follow my bosses’ orders in this regard as responsibly and sensitively as possible, and sometimes I failed. But for quite a while, Rick Guinness fulfilled the publisher’s needs extremely well; his stories drove Page One, and that drove sales, and I feel we did some good work in that time.

For what it’s worth, a look at the Monday-to-Friday sales averages in the spring of 2008, a year after Rick, the education reporter and I started in New Britain, shows circulation topping 10,000. (This is around where sales were a year earlier, but those 2007 figures had been described as soft and suspect — the implication is “unreliable” or “faked” — by the circulation director, who said he was working to ensure reliable numbers. While it was dispiriting to see numbers dip over that year, despite assurances the newsroom was not to blame, it was conversely very exciting to see the numbers rise again to that peak and be able to credit the work of staff throughout the building.) The most recent figures I have, in mid-January of this year, puts Monday-to-Friday sales at 7,882. By now, the spring of 2009, the numbers may have risen again, but I don’t have access to them. Either way, for at least a year, the publisher’s tabloid strategy and the newsroom’s work to fulfill it seemed to be working. The Herald has a different strategy now, with the text of stories appearing on Page One and jumping inside. It was not a strategy I was asked to pursue, nor one I would have fought.

Every reporter at The Herald came with pluses and minuses, and while Rick was no exception on the minuses side, his reporting was energetic and substantial. And he could write in complete thoughts, in actual English. Believe it or not, that wasn’t always a given at The Herald’s level of hiring before I came on. (It’s a strange thing to say that when I had the opportunity to hire, I felt I had to ensure applicants could simply write a coherent sentence.)

Rick’s personal life sometimes overtook his professional skills. That’s no secret. Rick has been open about the more problematic aspects of his life. As his boss and friend, sometimes I had to hang on and wait for those personal problems to be ironed out and for his work to rise to more ideal levels, but that wasn’t just because of Rick as an individual or a legal obligation to hold jobs for people with illnesses or similar problems; it was also due to company policy that made it extremely difficult to hire when the newspapers I edited lost a worker. An example of this is when New Britain education reporter Fran Morales left the paper in March 2008; surely many in the city noticed we never got to replace her, and with her leaving, The Herald lost 20 percent of its news staff.

The bottom line: As crazy as it may sound, if Rick had left or been fired from his role as city hall reporter, it was a gamble whether the company would give permission to fill the gap, and The Herald could have had three reporters scrambling to fill the pages once filled by five. So it was necessary to move with extraordinary caution on any personnel changes.

But there was more going on than weakness or misjudgment on the part of Rick, me or the company that owned The Herald. The mayor of New Britain, Timothy Stewart, decided to punish Rick and the newspaper in early February 2008 by withholding information needed for stories and quotes needed to balance them. He vowed not to speak with us and to force us to “FOI” for everything, meaning any information wanted from his employees at City Hall would have to be formally requested through a formal Freedom of Information filing — a process that could be followed for a longer-term piece written over a matter of days, weeks or months, but impossible for people trying to put out a daily newspaper. I tried to talk to the mayor by cell phone and e-mail shortly after his decree, but he would not talk to me and did not reply by e-mail.

The mayor’s order, placed only on The Herald as punishment and not on The Hartford Courant, obviously runs contrary to what the state is trying to accomplish with its FOI law, and is certainly fodder for a lawsuit (if only I had the means or energy). But Stewart’s City Hall has been bad on freedom of information for a long time, obliging the Common Council to pass two local FOI laws to reinforce state statutes. The state Freedom of Information Commission also heard four complaints filed by The Herald against New Britain’s City Hall, finding in The Herald’s favor three times. The loss of the fourth was unnecessary and pains me.

The awfulness of this may be too esoteric or dull for some to fully grasp or care about. A better way to put it might be: No public official should be allowed to choose which laws to enforce, or to enforce them for some people but not for others, and nor should a law ensuring a freedom be used to deny that freedom. How can you have faith in a government acting this way? Even if you do, are you automatically willing to allow the next regime to act in exactly the same way, with the same caprice and whimsy, the same willful ignorance of laws it dislikes or finds inconvenient, not knowing who will be leading it? It’s why we’re a nation of laws and why no one is supposed to be above those laws, and every voter and citizen must ask themselves whether they believe that. The alternative, at least at the extreme, is a cult of personality, shadow government and dictatorship. At a more mundane level, decisions that are made out of the public eye stand a good chance of being made incorrectly and for the wrong reasons. It allows corruption and waste to take root and flourish.

Newspapers are supposed to watch out for those things, and that requires the asking of questions that may seem offensive, stupid or that sometimes go nowhere. But they must be asked, just as in any kind of reporting. A most basic example: Reporters should confirm the spelling of even the most basic of names (Is it Jon or John? Is it Smith or Smythe? Etc.), and feel stupid doing it. When the questions aren’t asked, reporters can get information wrong. When the questions aren’t answered, the information can come out skewed as well.

Sometimes I felt even people in the newsroom didn’t understand I wanted questions asked or accusations investigated not because I wanted them proven, but because they had to be pursued if true and disproven if not. If true, we’d get a helluva story. If untrue, we did our due diligence, and the truth about elected officials is worth knowing whichever way it comes out.

Rick and The Herald were consistently denied access and information at City Hall, then criticized for getting facts wrong. Republicans in New Britain refused to talk, then blasted The Herald for talking too much to Democrats. (Here’s a weird but telling example: Once we delayed publishing the schedule of meetings for the Democratic Town Committee so we could run the Republican Town Committee’s schedule as well; the Republicans refused to respond and share their schedule, so we ran the Democrats’ with a note of explanation.) There were accusations Rick and the paper got “everything” wrong, but no examples were offered and virtually no corrections requested.

The Herald, meanwhile, bent over backward to be fair, continuing to call the mayor for comment on stories even after he made clear the effort was pointless and never shying from publishing stories that made the mayor look like a hero. (Every once in a while the mayor would comment to Rick, then suddenly withdraw from contact again, never explaining why.) As editor, I wanted to do things carefully and responsibly, and sometimes that meant losing stories completely. For instance, I have confirmed from eyewitnesses that the mayor once tried to bar Rick from City Hall and threatened to assault him when he saw Rick inside anyway, but a story about this never appeared in The Herald.

Just to be clear: As witnesses describe it, the Dec. 23 incident involved the mayor trying to block a citizen from pursuing legitimate public business in a publicly owned building. Rick had to pass through a common area, a lobby, to get to a meeting with members of the Common Council, and in that common area a holiday party was being held. The mayor didn’t want Rick at the party, and that, on its own, is fine.

But would it be acceptable for some other random citizen to be told they can’t get to their previously arranged meeting with aldermen — arranged without the knowledge there would be a holiday party taking place nearby — because they weren’t liked by the mayor? Perhaps the party could have been held somewhere away from where public business was being conducted. Perhaps passage through the party could have been granted on the way to, and from, legitimate public business.

Rick exacerbated the situation by taking a picture of the party, but that doesn’t justify the mayor’s subsequent threat (again, as described to me by witnesses and confirmed in a conversation with a police officer who became involved) to knock out his teeth or retroactively justify the barring of a citizen from City Hall while engaged in legitimate public business. I think those actions display a lack of respect for or understanding of the law, both of which hardly recommend the mayor as a public figure, as well as a lack of judgment and erratic temperament.

At least in this situation, the mayor hardly took the high road.

The Herald taking the high road never seemed to help. And over time it became clear that what the mayor wanted was a newspaper without Rick, and, I was told by several people, without me.

In a Jan. 31 e-mail to the publisher of The Herald, I wrote:

“I truly hope we can get some peace and progress on this from Stewart; I am beyond sick of this situation, but I keep enduring it because I truly feel it is dangerous to let any public servant get away with bossing around their local newspaper just so they can run City Hall the way they want, without questioning. This is not JFK asking silence as he prepares the Bay of Pigs invasion (and look what happened there!); this is a small-town mayor who seems to think it's more efficient to decide things himself instead of letting the taxpayers in on the process. We've supported Stewart when he's been right on things, we've been beyond polite and forbearing when he's acted up … He badmouths the paper, Guinness and myself constantly, loudly, out in the community. And I really don't see how that helps the community.

“… bowing to his demands would make him the de facto boss of the newspaper, and the word goes out that he ‘beat The Herald.’ I just don't think a public official should have that bragging right, not [ex-governor of Illinois Rod] Blagojevich, not Stewart.”

Rick’s leave-taking from The Herald was ambiguous; he wasn’t really fired and didn’t really resign. I’d spoken repeatedly about the newspapers’ need for reliability from the staff, and health issues left Rick unacceptably out of contact for several days. When he finally called, we both understood that was the end — that he had to focus on his health and couldn’t do that while working at The Herald. Nor could he do the kind of work we needed, the kind we’d once run day after day on Page One, when bogged down by those health issues.

He wrote his last Herald staff story Jan. 30, before health issues led to his disappearance, and his employment limped to an end about a week later. My last day was March 6. Rick wrote later in The Journal-Inquirer of Manchester, Conn., about Stewart’s wishes for me to be gone from The Herald, and comments about Rick’s essay found on the blog of New Britain resident Frank Smith shows that some people — at least those interested enough to comment — felt Rick’s reporting and my editing were damaging the reputation of The Herald and hurting circulation. Any responsible person who shared such an assessment would certainly act to end that.

The comments on Smith’s blog do, however, show some lack of comprehension of how journalism works, and of the sequence of events. They make reference to “a slant in coverage that seemed to favor Democratic members of the city council … many articles were devoid of quotes from the Republican (conservative) members of city government,” for instance. People forget that for a time, before the mayor stopped talking to Rick, The Herald was perceived to be in Stewart’s pocket. When a tape of the mayor cursing was leaked to The Herald during his 2007 reelection run, we ignored it as not being newsworthy, then — after The Hartford Courant ran a story about it — defended him because cursing when awoken at 3 a.m. to deal with a crisis was really a nonissue compared with Stewart’s actions to help his constituents. And we supported Stewart's re-election in an editorial, calling the campaign of his opponent pointless and lacking in ideas.

In short, the lack of GOP coverage was a policy of the mayor and Republicans, not of Rick, me or The Herald. I told the mayor and other Republicans that the party’s refusal to comment would hurt, because Democrats would dominate the conversation, and that was true enough. It hurt in some unexpected ways.

The conflict with the mayor certainly didn’t make my job any easier, and neither did Rick’s health problems, and both hobbled Herald coverage of New Britain as surely as the loss of the education reporter. Journal Register Co. policy at the time, a resistance to bend on journalistic ethics and an unwillingness to hurt neighboring communities and beats by redirecting the work of other reporters contributed to something of a standoff. This probably hurt The Herald, too. I wish there had been another way to resolve these issues.

Had I stayed on, I would have continued efforts to create a pull-out section (meaning the center eight or 12 pages of each days’ newspaper) incorporating coverage of arts and events in the cities and towns we covered; a comprehensive calendar of events of all sorts; and features such as comics, puzzles and television and movie listings. One of the complaints about tabloid newspapers is that they rob readers of the ability to hand one section of the newspaper to a companion while hanging on to another, and this would have been a way to address that.

The arts have been portrayed as vital in formal plans for New Britain’s downtown revitalization, and artists and public officials alike have talked about how the city can and must go from Hardware City to “Artware City,” as The Herald coined it in the headline to a Feb. 7 story about the hoped-for transition. Leading this effort is the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance, which alone represents more than 40 creative local organizations. There are far more individual playwrights, musicians and visual artists at work throughout the area.

That’s why as far back as Dec. 18, 2007, I met with the city’s arts council in the public room of the downtown library and told those assembled of my hopes to hire a reporter solely to cover the arts and other such features — something I’d already proposed to my bosses.

It took 13 months, but I was finally allowed to hire a reporter for that beat. Jennifer Abel, who’d been a columnist for the papers, started Jan. 26 of this year and hit the ground running, providing stories that not only illustrated a wonderful, creative side of the city but served to promote local arts organizations and lead residents to edifying and fun events taking place, so to speak, right around the corner.

The other element to all this is that a consistent focus on arts and events could give people a new or renewed reason to buy the newspaper. I felt this would boost circulation among the paper’s traditional readership but, even more importantly, bring in new and different kinds of readers, including younger ones. (Circulation of newspapers has been plummeting nationwide for more than a decade. The central Connecticut publications I edited suffered also from reports they would shut down, and work to sign up subscribers or renew subscriptions lapsed. A further drop in circulation was brought on by the outsourcing in that time of many aspects of newspaper circulation to a company considered unresponsive to reader — and company — complaints. In the year starting Jan. 17, 2008, recorded circulation dropped 21 percent for The Herald and 19 percent for The Middletown Press, even though The Press didn’t suffer similar political stresses. I cannot give circulation figures for The Bristol Press, which had a different circulation director in this period; I know the figures were better in Bristol, but her reports didn’t get to me regularly.)

When the city’s revitalization plans finally result in the building of downtown apartment towers and a growing population, I had hoped they would find a newspaper that was a must-read for anyone interested in exploring and taking full advantage of their new city.
Posted by Scape7 at 17:32 0 comments
Closure on Connecticut (Part 2 of 3): Leftovers

All of my business with New Britain is old business; these three items I wanted to clear off the agenda happen to be about business as well. All are offered in the spirit of constructive criticism, not to bash a city and people for whom I have a great deal of affection.

First: Hardware City Tavern is a beautiful place with friendly owners and workers. It is a boon to downtown New Britain, and it is exciting that people have somewhere to go before and after shows at the Trinity-on-Main performance center and Hole in the Wall Theater. I have had a few meals at the tavern and even spent some time at the pool tables (another huge plus for the tavern and downtown).

The quality of the food and service, though, have been indifferent the times I have gone. Despite the tavern’s essential monopoly on evening or slightly higher-end diners downtown, this may be something the owners and managers should know to ensure their long-term success. This delightfully designed restaurant and bar, the very presence of which is a great gift, shouldn’t suffer any avoidable loss of business, and its creators deserve all the riches they can get for taking a chance on the city and doing it as thoughtfully as they did.

Second: In discussions with several city residents over the past few months, I encountered a great deal of skepticism about New Britain’s downtown revitalization plans. In short, the area seems too spread out, with too little retail, dining, nightlife and entertainment uses clustered to achieve the critical mass suggested by planners during presentations a couple of years back. It’s doubtful ground-floor business in the proposed police station at Main and Chestnut, or on Chestnut on either side of the Harry S. Truman Overpass, will reach that level.

That puts in doubt the ongoing arrival of masses of university students on the busway expected to be running in 2013, and the building of a downtown events center (once to be built in NewBrite Plaza but displaced by the opening of stores such as A.J. Wright) is also iffy. Apartments, retail and a semi-public park going on what is now The Herald property could be first to come, as it may cost more for developers to pull out than to complete the job, but it’s yet to be seen whether the economy will force compromises there or at the site most likely to see renewal after that, the police station.

Charter Oak State College will be slower to move from Paul J. Manafort Drive than developers once thought; the reconfiguration of roads and parking over by Liberty Square and the courthouse looks to be an asphalt desert, hardly conforming to the New Urbanist ethic suggested elsewhere by master developer Arete and Haddam-based designers Harrall-Michalowski Associates; and state transportation officials say a New Britain terminal will be among the last steps taken on their busway plans.

The main question is how well the master plan works when construction proceeds haltingly, providing less for the young professionals intended to move in to new apartments and condos and take advantage of a bustling downtown and easy access to highways and mass transportation.

That’s why it would be interesting to hear what the economic downturn has done to revitalization plans, but I’ve only seen tangential references or cursory analysis. The last real look at the overall $300 million plan, which relies largely on private investors at a time few are investing, was in August.

One city official I spoke with referred to the plans as “stalled,” while another seemed optimistic — largely based on the positive things he saw about downtown New Britain now — but in agreement that the economy was taking its toll on the overall scheme.

It would be nice to see the city’s plans work out, but before that is needed a good analysis of what’s at stake and how the plan is expected to function in the current environment.

Third: The city’s chamber of commerce stumbled in creating its municipal economic development Web site, called — take a breath, or at least flex your fingers before typing it into a browser — newbritainmunicipaleconomicdevelopment.com.

It’s a fine site, and I hope it serves as that desired first step in drawing businesses to the city. The name, though, while descriptive, is a tad on the long side.

With search engines being as efficient as they are, and considering the nature of those most likely to go to the site, the exhaustively spelled-out nature of this URL may be unnecessary or even counterproductive. While it may sound unlikely, having someone type 38 characters in a row without spaces can result in a typo that thwarts a user from finding the site, and that gets in the way of the chamber’s goal. (Using a search engine such as Google to find the site avoids the need to type the URL at all, but it also obviates the need for a name that lengthy. Search engines pay more attention to site content than to URLs.)

At the very least, the name raises problems when used in print: If it appears at the end of a line, a word processor may want to break it at a syllable, and readers will have to wonder if the hyphen they see in text is supposed to be used on the Web as well.

Web experts frown on extremely long URLs for a number of reasons, and although newbritainmunicipaleconomicdevelopment.com isn’t quite so long as the bandwidth-wasters and broken-link-creators they generally warn against, why not consider going shorter in the future? The URLs nbmunicipaleconomicdevelopment.com and even nbmunied.com are available, for instance, and similar shortcuts could be used if there are additional sites to be made and named.
Posted by Scape7 at 17:21 0 comments
Closure on Connecticut (Part 3 of 3): Election

In November 2007, I made a tacit endorsement of Republican Mayor Timothy Stewart for re-election, although even then there were concerns about his “anger and paranoia.” If Stewart looks for a fourth term, I hope New Britain decides for another candidate.

It’s not that there’s much to criticize in terms of what we know of Stewart’s efforts to improve or safeguard the city, although the success of some have been on hold. The $6 million purchase of the former Pinnacle Heights public housing site, for instance, is crawling toward a June 30 signing deadline after the Common Council gave its approval in mid-August. The nation’s economic downturn has reportedly stalled the deal, just as it’s caused a halt to the redevelopment of the New Britain National Bank Building downtown. The economy, of course, is not the fault of Stewart, and in the case of Pinnacle Heights, it’s not clear things would be working out differently had the city gone with another company’s $4.5 million bid.

In one regard, Stewart has really stood out: His focus on the securing of jobs for the homeless, in addition to places to stay and a safety net of services, has drawn applause from the White House’s homelessness czar, Philip Mangano.

But most of his work has been less revolutionary. It’s impossible to say another mayor wouldn’t have done as well at bringing business to the city, especially with others in its economic development team — such as William Millerick at the Chamber of Commerce and Donald Courtemanche at the Downtown District — still in place. And in the case of Tilcon Connecticut Inc.’s bid to move into New Britain, Democratic legislators cited Stewart being secretive, untrustworthy and deceptive as a cause for the withdrawal of their support.

Make no mistake: It looked reckless for the delegation to back the plan, then reverse course, and I have no way of knowing if their eleventh-hour concerns were sincere or merely political. And, as longtime City Hall watchers describe the situation years ago, before two Republicans joined the Common Council, Democrats deserve a rebuke for freezing out Stewart. It was an uncalled-for and classless display of power that undoubtedly contributed to the current animosity and lack of communication between parties.

Taken as a whole, though, Stewart’s long-term response has been not just lacking in class, but verging on the dangerous; there has been no healing, and a recurring bloom of suspicion over motives makes the mayor and council function poorly together. His “anger and paranoia” has grown and sometimes burst out in public, and even supporters say he has “a well-documented pattern of using abusive language and bullying tactics.” There is no telling when or how this could backfire (or, if Tilcon is included, backfire again). It may repel other politicians or cost points in economic negotiations if potential business partners consider the point man in New Britain to be unstable or just distasteful.

There’s also another, greater danger. My experience with the mayor, mainly through taking on him and some board members and City Hall workers before the state Freedom of Information Commission (three wins for The Herald, one for City Hall that I truly wish could be appealed) has revealed a disregard and even contempt for transparency in government and the rule of law. Stewart feels he knows what is best for the city, and he doesn’t want petty statutes, political opponents or an ignorant public to get in his way. That’s not right.

Writ large, we have seen before this kind of arrogance, secrecy and hostility for our governing principles. We saw it with President Richard Nixon’s subversion of domestic intelligence in a bid to stay in office and justify war in Vietnam; we saw it when President Ronald Reagan defied Congress and funded the Contras by doing what he said America shouldn’t — negotiate with terrorists; we saw it again as President George W. Bush and his administration manipulated, tortured and spied, diminishing civil liberties and exploiting fears to pursue gratuitous war in Iraq. These are all the results of leaders who didn’t want to bother with the details in pursuit of what they considered the greater good, even if the goals weren’t shared by the majority of their equals throughout the country. They rejected due process and proper explanations, perverting rather than persuading.

This kind of comparison may strike many as over the top. The point is that shadow government and the deciding of public issues behind closed doors is wrong on any scale. Stewart’s tendency toward secrecy happens to be on the mayoral level of economic development and smaller financial matters rather than on the presidential level of national security, but checks and balances are written into every level of government for a reason. Stewart prefers not to bother.

Is he making good decisions for the right reasons? Without access to the decision-making process, citizens can’t know. His efforts to hide information, resulting not just in The Herald’s four FOI cases but in two city FOI statutes passed by the council, are disconcerting and worrisome and may lead to waste and corruption.

We know in February 2008 he decided to make it difficult for The Herald to get information from City Hall, and he did so through abuse of the state FOI law. That’s improper, and it leads to questions of who else he may decide to punish — without discussion or appeal — through the abuse of some other law.

That’s not the kind of concern citizens should have about their mayor, just as they shouldn’t have to worry about what’s going on behind closed doors or when anger will burst profanely and irrationally into the public arena.

Democratic state Rep. Tim O’Brien may be running against Stewart in November. I endorsed O’Brien for re-election when I was editing The Herald and happily endorse him now. He has good ideas, is responsive to his constituents and will likely be a steady hand to oversee the next steps in New Britain’s growth.

here is the piece that everyone was responding to, but which was not reprinted.




Look for my notes in paranthesis and caps responding to each lie they tell about me and in a few other examples of this online harassment campaign
Other Opinion Columnists
New Britain Herald …#8221; watchdog or lapdog?
By Rick Guinness
Published: Monday, March 23, 2009 6:09 AM EDT
All eyes were on the New Britain Herald and the Bristol Press this past January when media mogul Michael Schroeder took over from Journal Register Corp.

“Finally!” I thought, “someone who can see the potential for profit in a newsroom driven by editor Marc Levy, a staunch traditionalist in the field of journalism and a true watchdog of government.

But maybe that’s not what Schroeder was looking for when he took over circa Jan. 16.

In my view, from the time he took over, he has showed himself to be nothing more than a lapdog for New Britain Mayor Timothy Stewart.

Within days of taking over the paper[s], Schroeder decreed that Stewart be quoted in any article in which Democrats expressed criticism of him. If Stewart declined to comment to me (I was covering City Hall at the time), he would be contacted by another reporter of his choosing.

If that didn’t work, Schroeder would play reporter and get the comments from the mayor himself.

Schroeder told me in front of the whole newsroom that Stewart didn’t like me, and that something needed to be done about it.

Fortunately I didn’t have to find out, because I became too sick to ever go back to work.

Then, on March 5, I learned that Schroeder had fired Mark Levy.

Thank God, I thought. I can’t see Levy being a lapdog for anyone.

Couldn’t use quotes

The PR effort for Stewart became so ridiculous that in one of my last stories for the paper, Schroeder told me I could not use the quotes I had transcribed from a phone conversation with former Democratic Mayor Lucian Pawlak regarding how he and other prominent Democrats were condemning Stewart’s threats against council member Greg Gerratana. Gerratana was investigating rumors that Parks and Recreation Department employees were being used on a job at Stanley Golf Course restaurant that the common council had approved for a private contractor. Stewart threatened Gerratana with jail.

What did Pawlak say?

That this was a new low in New Britain politics.

Levy managed to get some of the quotes back into the story against the initial objections of Schroeder, but the story — which had been laid out on the cover as the lead article — was back-paged.

I don’t begrudge anyone for trying to preserve relationships with high-level sources. Access is great. But are journalists supposed to jump through hoops to appease sources?

Besides, I was always able to get comments from Stewart — right up until Schroeder took over as the mayor’s publicist.

Mayor Stewart told me on many occasions that he was going to have Marc Levy and I fired. Now we are both gone.

Stewart said he was convinced we had a liberal Democratic mindset that made it impossible for him to receive fair treatment, which was nonsense.

I wrote extensively about Stewart’s laudable efforts to rebuild downtown and keep taxes down — to the point that the Democrats called me “the mayor’s newsboy.”

But then, when we covered issues that the mayor and his supporters did not want covered — such as the mayor’s ongoing feud with the local firefighters’ union. Stewart and his supporters — comprised of the old school, conservative Democrats and the local GOP cabal.

Stewart went ballistic when we covered his various attempts to secure his full pension benefits as a firefighter with 18½ years on the job — he needs 20. He is currently on leave so that he can serve in office.

After winning a third term in 2007, Stewart began to violate the FOI Act by barring us from public meetings, and his wild outbursts of profanity in City Hall became more common.

A personal encounter

Several weeks before Schroeder appeared on the scene, on the afternoon of Dec. 23, Stewart tried to start a fight at City Hall at a Christmas party Stewart had staged on the entire second floor of City Hall (during business hours).

I was there simply to interview Gerratana regarding an ethics ordinance that he and Alderman Phil Sherwood had proposed, and knew nothing about any Christmas party — that is until Stewart rushed up to me and told me I could not go to it.

When I failed to depart, and started taking pictures, he threatened to knock my teeth out and have me removed. Police told me if I pressed a criminal complaint against the mayor for threatening and breach of peace that Stewart would press a complaint against me for trespassing.

I recently won two back-to-back FOI complaint cases against Stewart and his cronies for barring me from public meetings. I couldn’t believe he could or would pull such a stunt at a Christmas party.

This was news! But when I returned to the newsroom to write about the incident, I was greeted with nothing but abuse from the covering JRC editors. The story never ran. Just like with many of Stewart’s appointees at City Hall, everybody was afraid of Stewart, who has apparently now acquired his own personal public relations bureau at the Herald.

So much for the salvation of New Britain’s watchdog.

With the city taking over the Herald building anyway — it’s slated for demolition to make way for economic development — perhaps Schroeder can move the newspaper operation to City Hall.

Rick Guinness is a former New Britain Herald and Journal Inquirer reporter.
Copyright © 2009 - Journal Inquirer



AND NOW FOR THE FIRST OF MY FAN MAIL
New Britain Herald ��” watchdog or lapdog? by: Rick Guinness

Print Version > New Britain Herald ��” watchdog or lapdog?
Posted by Frank Smith at 24.3.09
16 comments:
Anonymous said...
The smear merchants have been purged from the Herald. I thought the Herald was a community newspaper not a watchdog smear rag?

Didn't Pawlak have Guiness fired when he was Mayor?

March 24, 2009 12:02 PM
Anonymous said...
Gee, How do you start with this one?

First off I guess we have to look at the coverage of politics the last several years by the journal inquirer company.

Clearly there was a slant in coverage that seemed to favor democratic members of the city council. Many articles were de void of quotes from the republican (conservative) members of city government. ...

[CHRIS POWELL a liberal??]

... Alderman Phil Sherwood was quoted so often that members of the public wondered if it was not the freshman alderman who was controlling policy for the democratic caucus in New Britain.

That being said, Mr. Guinness is making some very provocative accusations against not only the Mayor (who has a well documented pattern of using abusive language and bulling tactics) but also the new owners and editors of the New Britain Herald.

The new owner Michael Schroeder and editor James Smith have very strong credentials and backgrounds in journalism. I for one am having difficulty believing that they are in the back pocket of Mayor Stewart.

Rick Guinness also has a long history of investigative reporting covering local towns. Many people attribute the cities get tough on gangs policies of the late eighties and early nineties on the well written and sometimes shocking stories that Mr. Guinness provided the readers of the New Britain Herald.

My opinion is that, as many folks involved in local issues would tell you off the record are that Mr. Guinness may have issues that are more personal in nature.

Having attended several town Council meetings in the last few years I myself have been approached by Mr. Guinness. He had become, for lack of better words, unkempt or at the least very unprofessional in appearance and attitude.



YOU ARE WRONG AND YOUR MOTHER BLOWS.


March 24, 2009 1:04 PM
The Thorn said...
Boy do the liberals get nasty when they don't get their way.

Sounds like someone is upset that the Herald is finally doing some responsible reporting, and of course the left wing lunatic fringe doesn't ever want fair reporting about anything involving Republicans.

YOU ARE WRONG. THE HERALD IS DOING IRRESPONSIBLE PR for Tiny Timmy Stewart.


YOU ARE WRONG AND YOUR MOTHER BLOWS.


THE REPUBLICANS ARE ALL WUSSIES. THEY CLAMMED UP BECAUSE TINY TIMMY STEWART TOLD THEM TO FREEZE ME OUT. SO YOUR LIBERAL DEMS GOT MORE INK. BRILLIANT TACTIC ON THE PART OF STEWART. BUT FOOLS LIKE YOU ACTUALLY THINK I DIDNT TRY TO GET THE WUSSY REPUBLICANS AND MUTED DEPARTMENT HEADS TO TALK.
THAT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE SCUM-SUCKING MAGGOT-LICKING PIECE OF WHITE TRASH.
All they want to do is spread their socialist propaganda.

The Herald was as one sided as the New York Times, and that is why it suffered the same fate--financial ruin.

If Mr. Schroeder wants to turn this paper around, he will keep up the fair and balanced reporting, but where have I heard that before?

Could it be from the most watched news network in America--8 years running?

March 24, 2009 1:11 PM
Anonymous said...
wow- that article and that man are crazy!

As someone who has been "quoted" by Guiness, I am glad he is gone. He would take a 5 min conversation, pick out small portions from all over and then string them together as if I said it like that. Totally changing the context / meaning of what I said. He is a poor excuse for a journalist and THAT is why he is gone!

As for the Gerratana incident - funny how he reported that Ald. Gerratana called Mr Demaio and ASKED for some info - when in fact he called Mr Demaio and DEMANDED that his orders be followed! That is the issue - the council has no power to directly order dept heads around. Report on the whole story Rick!


YOU ARE WRONG. I DONT CARE ABOUT YOUR SILLY SEMANTICS -- WHETHER HE ASKED OR DEMANDED OR BEGGED.
WHAT MATTERS IS THAT HE COULD NOT GET THE INFORMATION, WHICH YOU AND YOUR MASTER LIKE TO HORD LIKE A COUPLE OF LITTLE CHIPMUNKS.
YOU ARE WRONG -- ALL THE WAY. AND YOUR MOTHER BLOWS.
AND THAT IS THE WHOLE STORY, MAGGOT BREATH!


March 24, 2009 1:25 PM
Anonymous said...
Pat Thibodeau was an excellent reporter that not only took on City Hall BUT also provided insightful in-depth analysis FROM ALL SIDES.
Pat never allowed one side to dominate the media coverage. HE knew what journalism was. Pat was fair and balanced long before Fox News.
Good luck to Mr. Schroeder, Mr. Smith, Jim Craven, and Scott Whipple.


Mark Bernacki

March 24, 2009 1:48 PM
GOP guy said...
sounds like sour grapes because the public wasn't buying the left wing propaganda that he was peddling.


YOU ARE WRONG, you communist wussy. THE HERALD IS DOING IRRESPONSIBLE PR for a sleazy mayor.


YOU ARE WRONG AND YOUR MOTHER BLOWS.




why do you think no one wanted to read the communist manifesto as the New Britain Herald had become in recent years?
I delivered the Herald door to door when I was a kid, but it got to the point where I wouldn't even take one for free if it were offered to me.

March 24, 2009 2:47 PM
Tim Stewart said...
Frank, PLease don't allow smear merchants to misrepresent themselves on your blog, especially as the mayor. If I am to write a comment I would not be cowardly like your last post and not identify myself. And for the record it's about time the Herald did report the news instead of trying to create it!
Mayor Stewart

CONGRATULATIONS FOR SHOWING SOME BACK BONE AND SIGNING YOUR NAME.
BUT YOU ARE FULL OF CRAP. (REPORT NEWS INSTEAD OF MAKING NEWS). WHAT IS the translation? Print only what Timmy likes?

March 25, 2009 9:59 AM
Herald Reader said...
Too bad Rick Guiness let himself get under the influence of the likes of Phil Sherwood and company. In so doing he alienated himself from many readers in the political arena. Rick had written compassionate articles, such as the woman on dialysis, whose husband was deported to Poland. When it became clear Rick was under the influence of Sherwood and company, the Herald should have pulled his City Hall assignments and assigned him to community interest articles.
March 25, 2009 3:54 PM
Anonymous said...
Copy of the Mayor Stewart's letter to the Aldermen and department heads: - January 22, 2009

Alderman Gregory Gerratana
674 Lincoln Street
New Britain, CT 06052

Dear Alderman Gerratana:

Given the tenor and content of your recent phone messages and conversations with Parks and Recreation Director Bill DeMaio, I find it necessary to clarify the roles, responsibilities and authority of New Britain’s executive and legislative branches of government.

New Britain City Charter Article Five delineates the authority and duties of the office of Mayor and specifically Section 5-3(a) states, “It shall be the duty of the Mayor to: cause laws and Ordinances to be executed and enforced and to conserve the peace within the City and to be responsible for the good order of efficient government of the City.” In this capacity, the Mayor is responsible for the day to day operations of city government which is done through department heads that report directly to the Mayor.

The roles and responsibilities of the Common Council are put forth in Article Four of the City Charter. If you would take some time to read it, you would see that nowhere does it indicate that an individual Council member has the authority to call a department head and give them an order. Mr. DeMaio or any department head is certainly ready, willing and able to answer any questions you have on operational issues, but he does not need to clear his actions with you before carrying out his duties which clearly fall under the executive, not the legislative branch of city government.

To specifically address your concerns on the work being done at the Stanley Golf Course, as with any change in tenant, there is minor maintenance and repair work that needs to be done before the new tenant takes possession of the premises. This is what is occurring and does not rise to the level of capital improvements as outlined in the lease between the City and Jordan Caterers that was approved by the Common Council.

Furthermore, I am dismayed at your lack of common courtesy and hostile demeanor when dealing with city employees. Department heads are professionals who are trying to carry out their duties as best they can. They do not deserve to be put in the middle of partisan political agendas and I would ask that your future interactions with them be respectful and mindful of the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government as discussed above. While they are obligated to answer your questions and provide public records, they do not have to endure bullying and strong arm tactics.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to caution you and your fellow alder persons regarding the adverse consequences of continued blurring of the lines between the authority of the Mayor and the Council. New Britain City Charter Section 5-7 provides penalties to any person who “. . . shall hinder or obstruct the Mayor in the execution of the duties of office . . . “It would seem in these tough economic times for our country, state and city, all government officials have difficult tasks ahead of them. I would suggest you turn your attention to your job and allow me and my administration to do ours.

Respectfully,
Timothy T. Stewart
Mayor, City of New Britain

Cc: Member of the Common Council
Department Heads
January 28, 2009 2:47 PM


Here is something that the Herald ran Aug. 17-18, 2008, which I did like -- the story about an immigrant who was wrongly deported, despite his being needed by his wife awaiting kidney transplant -- the following in-depth series won first place in the society for professional journalists for that year.

Husband and wife's lives hang in the balance: Part 1 of 2

By RICK GUINNESS and MARC LEVY

NEW BRITAIN - Even though he's done his time for a 1989 robbery conviction and a 2005 drug possession case, Andrzej Nowakowski is imprisoned again to await deportation to a country he doesn't know.
It may literally kill his wife.
Vivian Nowakowski, 43, of High Street is suffering from end-stage renal failure, meaning her kidneys are no longer working to maintain the right chemical balance in her body.
She needs an organ transplant, but isn't allowed to have her kidney transplant operation at Yale-New Haven Hospital without someone to take care of her after surgery.
"I feel like I'm falling apart physically and mentally," she said. "I don't know what to say. If I don't have my husband, my life is over."
"They are denying my life," she said, choking back a wave of tears.

Sick and alone

Nowakowski bursts into tears often when she talks about her son, a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps who can get only short-term leave from his California base, or her husband, who is awaiting deportation in a federal holding cell in Rhode Island.
Instead of having someone to take care of her, she is taking care of her parents, who are in their 70s. They suffer from ailments including arthritis and high blood pressure, and one is in a wheelchair after two hip replacements, the installation of a pacemaker and weakness from dialysis.
Once an employee of Aetna Life & Casualty at offices throughout central Connecticut, Vivian stopped working four years ago to concentrate on her family and her health. She dreads the burden of paying the premiums and co-pays on her three insurance plans - Medicare, a supplemental from her former job and her husband's - but also the loss of it, which she feels is imminent. Her dialysis, which replaces the work of her failing kidneys, costs anywhere from $13,000 to $42,000 a month, and it keeps her from visiting Andrzej.
It takes two and a half hours to reach the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, in Central Falls, R.I., and double that to return. But she has to undergo dialysis in New Britain three - sometimes four - times a week, leaving her too weak and tired to drive.
So she's seen Andrzej only two or three times since his arrest. She sits at home between treatments, talks with him by phone, works on her husband's case and awaits word of the decision in an appeal filed in late May and a stay-of-deportation form filed on her husband's behalf Aug. 4.

Lawmakers and the law

Before the appeal came an exhausting series of legal efforts and attempts to get help from officials, starting with city- and state-level officials such as Mayor Timothy Stewart, state Sen. Donald DeFronzo and state Rep. John Geragosian, who were unable to weigh in on a federal matter, and federal-level politicians such as U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and U.S. Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Chris Dodd.
Any intervention on the part of lawmakers is problematic. Immigration matters fall under the executive branch; even immigration judges are considered within the executive branch, not the judicial.
"We don't have any jurisdiction," Geragosian said from the state level, but his office spoke with representatives of Murphy's office and found them aware of the situation and working on it. DeFronzo also deferred the case to Murphy.
"Things go very slowly," Geragosian said.
Nowakowski also credits Valeriano Ramos, in the office of Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, for his help, including sending a letter to Murphy's office. But that road seems to dead-end.
"They have never even offered to help. I called them several times," Vivian said.
Josh Raymond, Murphy's chief of staff, said Monday that was not the case. Confidentiality laws kept him from commenting in detail, but "we have been in contact," he said, "and have expended significant effort on her behalf. We will continue to help in any way we can."

Representatives for Dodd and Lieberman did not return calls.

From the point of view of immigration officials, the case is simple. "When you become a permanent resident, you have to fulfill the laws and regulations. When charged and convicted of crimes, you may very well be deported," said Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reached by phone Monday. "That's been in the books, in the law. That was in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952."
It was the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, however, that introduced a criminal category called "aggravated felony" that includes drug trafficking. The definition has been expanded several times over the years to include even entire categories of crimes and drug misdemeanors, and that's how Andrzej found himself ensnared.

Andrzej and Vivian

It is a quirk of U.S. law that Andrzej Nowakowski isn't already a citizen. His father came to America from Elk, in the flatlands of Poland near Bialystok, in 1968, and it was six years before his wife and sons could follow.
"In those days, both parents had to be citizens at the same time for their kids to become citizens," explained Chris Nowakowski, Andrzej's older brother. And, although their parents and Chris became naturalized, Andrzej did not.
He may as well have been a citizen. Having come over when he was 9, only shortly after he began serious schooling, he has no roots or grounding in Poland. He speaks New Britain Polish, not the pure language, Vivian said, and can neither read nor write in the language.

Interests: preserving First Amendment clearing name and reputation "New Britain City Hall reporter Rick Guinness has pounded away at blight, hunger and freedom of information issues while the same topics have barely been mentioned in other publications.

Published writer: Yes

Freelance: Yes

 

Published works:

Nonfiction

  • She was all he had
  • 91-year-old man credits his good health to walking everywhere, and drinking
  • Partners in poverty, and recovery, tell their tale
  • Council urges gov't to review deportation
  • City man charged with illegal transfer of guns
  • Council takes up resolution in support of couple
  • Council takes up resolution in support of couple
  • Polish immigrant's appeal denied
  • 'Husband and wife's lives hang in the balance: Part 2 of 2
  • Husband and wife's lives hang in the balance: Part 1 of 2
  • gunclub wins in court against developer