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Q&A With Waterbury's Republican Party Mayoral Candidate, Incumbent Mike Jarjura
Mike Jarjura has enjoyed a magical run in Waterbury politics. He was elected five times as a State Representative in the East End, and has served five consecutive terms as mayor, tying him with Mike Bergin for the most consecutive terms in office, If Jarjura wins an historic sixth term in November he will establish a new record.
Interview and Photographs By John Murray
Observer: How do you define the role of mayor in Waterbury? Give a brief description of the job you’d like to be re-hired to.
Jarjura: The Mayor of the City of Waterbury is the chief executive officer of the corporation. It is a $400-million dollar budget corporation and has nearly 3,000 employees. The corporation provides a number of essential human services to over 110,000 people. In addition to being the CEO of the corporation, the mayor is also the chief elected official and really the number one public persona of the city. That’s really what the job as Mayor is best defined as.
Observer: Mike, you have been the mayor for ten years, tell our readers the #1 reason why they should give you two more.
Jarjura: The number one reason that the people of Waterbury should rehire me and honor me with the privilege of serving them once again is that in the 10 years I have been Mayor we have had unprecedented reformation in the way that the city has done business. We have every aspect of the government of the city modernized and improved to the point where we are recognized quite frankly across the state, and the region, as one of the best managed municipalities. Obviously, it came from one of the worst managed municipalities. I think one of the things that is paramount on people’s minds is the fact that I brought honor and integrity to the position of mayor. In my ten years of service, not even a whisper of impropriety with Mayor Jarjura. We have been the most transparent, open administration in the history of the city. All of our budget documents are extremely detailed so that all you need to do is pick up one book and you will know where every penny is allocated on a line item basis. Every aspect in terms of getting the bond rating and investment grade up to an A+ level with a positive outlook. That is a huge achievement. Obviously, taking care of some of the long-term vexing problems, like the pension and the unfunded liability. When I took office they didn’t even know what an undesignated fund balance was. We rapidly achieved a maximum of 5% and have maintained that every year I have been here. It sits at about $20 million today. There wasn’t a rainy day account before I got here.
Observer: I remember you saying the last couple years that the accomplishment you are most proud of is getting systems in place for finances. You said when you first came in here it was chaos. One hand didn’t know what the other hand was doing. You’ve put business practices into the city.
Jarjura: Absolutely, and we’re continuing to refine that to the benefit of the people of Waterbury. It’s not just putting them in, you make adjustments, you make upgrades. Even the information technology system is adding on different modules to a very complex system that is serving us well. Now that people have gotten used to the basics, we add new modules on and work with the department heads and employees to get them accustomed to the new modules that will help them actually enhance the ability of reporting to the elected boards, legislative boards and to the people of Waterbury.
Observer: What single characteristic is most critical to governing the city of Waterbury?
Jarjura: I think the most important thing is to be a statesman, to be diplomatic, to be receptive to people who have different opinions and different ideas on how to do things. The most important thing is that your department heads, the people that directly report to you have to feel comfortable coming to you with whatever is going on, and that they are not going to be degraded or spoken down to or barked at like they are an insignificant individual. At all times I think the mayor has to be professional and make the final decisions after receiving all the information and doing the heavy lifting. You don’t have to scare people in the process of doing that. You don’t have to intimidate them.
Observer: Your two opponents have criticized your management style which allows department heads great flexibility in making decisions. You’ve been described as a jovial guy who helped stabilize city finances, but have allowed fiefdoms and turf wars to erupt underneath you. Mayor, your leadership skills are being questioned. How do you respond to that criticism?
Jarjura: That is probably paramount in the voters minds as they go into the booth November 8th. There is a vast distinction between the way Mayor Jarjura runs the corporation and the way either Larry De Pillo or Neil O’Leary will run it. Chief O’Leary is used to a paramilitary type of management style, which may go well for a police department, but is absolutely wrong for the city of Waterbury and the Mayor’s office. It will not work. You will lose very good people that have many opportunities to go elsewhere. There are no fiefdoms. Your department heads are absolutely essential to the running of this city and I am fully engaged in all aspects of the city. I think the fact that I allow the department heads to have great flexibility and great autonomy is actually the real reason why you should vote for me. Under Larry De Pillo nothing will get done because he will micromanage the city to death, or under Neil O’Leary, where basically they will be afraid to make any decision out of fear. There’s no way around it - it’s legendary with Neil O’Leary - it’s his way or the highway. Everybody who knows Neil knows that’s exactly the way it is. I know a lot of his command staff were afraid to go in and tell him anything because they were afraid they would either be demoted, or face retribution. I’m glad you asked that question. That is exactly what this campaign is about.
Observer: Neil O’Leary was also was a department head underneath you and enjoyed the flexibility and autonomy that you gave him as the police chief, which he makes a very compelling case that it worked in his department. There is a clear distinction between the three of you on leadership and style, can you take me through the process of a key decision you’ve made in the past two years?
Jarjura: I’ll give you the example of modernizing the operations of the water department. We want to obviously go to an automated meter system. To get to that process, we’ve worked with the department head, his senior managers, the finance director and the budget director. There were different proposals that obviously researched the matter and had guidance from consultants that put forward a ten year plan, not just for that, but to reline all the pipes. A real capital project so we’re not continually going back to the boards for these very little incremental increases to cover capital needs. We thought we would do a bonding package, which was more than sufficient to cover all of their needs over a five year period with a payback mechanism for that. We gathered for many meetings before we brought it to the Board of Aldermen. Everybody had different ideas of varying component parts of it, but at the end of the day everybody got on the same page and we thrust it forward for the benefit of folks. That’s just one example.
Another great example was transitioning EMS first responders from the police service, who had been experiencing tremendous overloads on their call volume, to the fire department. The fire department had not had many calls to the upgrades of buildings and sprinkler systems and fire safety consciousness because they were going to the first responders. There was a lot of angst in the beginning. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t get a call how appreciative people are that these four firefighters have shown up with the apparatus. They have come in and saved lives, comforted people during one of their most difficult times. Working with the then Chief Maglione and now Chief Martin has been a tremendous success. It was getting all the players together - the police, fire, their senior management staff, the communications center, all of that together in collaboration. Hearing everybody’s voice explain what was keeping them up at night. How is this concerning you? How can we address it?
Observer: One of the knocks on you that keeps dragging along from election to election is vision. I don’t think there are many people that don’t acknowledge that you have stabilized city government, but now people are knocking you for a lack of vision as to where we go from here. You’ve brought systems into place, now where do we take the boat?
Jarjura: I appreciate the universal recognition by everybody that the first priority was stabilization. We have long ago achieved that, but I don’t think we get adequate recognition beyond stabilization. We have gone way beyond that and advanced in a dramatic way the position of the city of Waterbury. I’ll go over a couple of them. Returning back to kindergarten through 8th grade neighborhood schools. Every one we have built is not just to take care of overcrowding, but to provide the most premiere system of education for those lucky to be going to these institutions. Every one has smart boards, every bell and whistle you can think of in terms of education, but they have also created pride and opportunity in the neighborhoods they are being placed. You see all around these new structures housing stock being replaced and restructured and you are going to continue to see that. That’s a scenario where we have excelled in terms of vision. We have excelled in terms of bringing together the different agencies that were scattered throughout the city, putting them under the umbrella over at Jefferson Square. Much better working conditions for those at the Health Department and at the Special Education Department and the various departments that are there. Obviously, it increased morale with the workers getting more output from their endeavors. The partnership we struck early on between the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Waterbury, WDC, and the city.. I can rattle off a number of companies that came in from plastics, Frito Lay and they brought many jobs. Nelson Heat Treating has been here forever and they just invested a huge expansion up on Chase Avenue. Look what they built up on West Main, that whole West Main corridor and the tenants that are moving in over there, a big commercial circuit breaker moving in with another 20 or 30 jobs. It’s much bigger than stabilization. Our educational institutions, all of them have experienced tremendous growth. We’ve been working in collaboration with the presidents of Post University, UConn downtown and NVCC. These things don’t just happen. They happen because we have fostered relationships, worked in collaboration, brainstormed together to make things happen. Working with the Mattatuck Museum and the Palace Theater. These are regional assets, making sure they are reaching out to the community and thriving. It is far beyond stabilization.
Jarjura began his ten-year run as mayor in difficult times - former mayor Phil Giordano had been carted off to federal prison, and the city was on the verge of financial collapse. Jarjura said his most important accomplishment to date has been the implementation of sound financial systems in municipal government.
Observer: Would you do anything differently if you’re sworn in as mayor on December 1st? Is there a dramatic policy you want to implement?
Jarjura: Along with everyone else who could have anticipated that I would have to go through two major recessions. One back when I got here in the 2002 era, and now one that is still going on if you ask me, starting in 2008 and continuing until today. With those economic uncertainties.. just look at the census data that was reported. This isn’t Mike Jarjura, it’s the US Census Service. Out of the five major cities in Connecticut only Waterbury has seen dramatic improvement in all categories. Whether it is median household income, family poverty, even unemployment was reduced here in Waterbury, but has gone up in the other Big Five, as we refer to them. You’ve got to have a plan, a vision, bring in a committee. That all sounds good, but it gets you nowhere. We have a tried and true proven record of results following the course we have been following. I think that’s why people are going to send me back into office because they know I deliver with not rhetoric, but actual results. Look at the parks. A lot of the parks have been upgraded greatly. Look at the roads a lot of them have been taken care of.
Observer: Stop for a second, look at Fulton Park…
Jarjura: No, no, no. Let me finish for one second. You look at all these things we have done marked improvement. Have we gotten to everything? Absolutely not. Fulton Park...
Observer: I was about to compliment Fulton Park with its new sidewalks and refurbished tennis courts...
Jarjura: Right, but everybody likes to focus on the negative, especially during elections, especially if you are running against a very popular, very accomplished Mayor. Some focus on what hasn’t been done, I say look at what has been done. I’ll readily recognize that we’re not a utopia yet. It’s going to take us time. At least give credit for what we have done. Sorry for interrupting you, but you have recognized, yes the brand new tennis courts. We’ve been planning on this, but we wanted to get the Fulton neighborhood families involved. We don’t want to be a dictator. Jimmy Nemec has reached out and we have over $900,000 from the trust fund that we can expend without touching the corpus (the body of the trust fund). We want to make sure the neighbors are apart of it. They had a big argument about whether or not to put in a playscape. You have to put a playscape, but they wanted it to be historical in nature and we’re going to do that. That’s just a few of the things.
Observer: Under Mayor Giordano the people in the neighborhoods tried to get hands-on and help fix the parks. It was a no-go because the unions saw that as a threat to jobs..
Jarjura: That’s gone. We welcome neighborhood involvement. We work with the unions and the public works people. We are happy to have the neighborhood’s involvement and assistance.
Observer: How do you control that?
Jarjura: Obviously, we have to be informed of any efforts and the Park Board and the commissioners have to bless it. I know a big sore issue in Fulton Park has been that green house, which quite frankly we don’t grow flowers there anymore. We are 15 minutes away from the bedding capital of the world, Cheshire, Connecticut. We can’t grow the quality of flowers and plants for the price that they do. We’ve been working with a fantastic horticulturist there, Mark Lombardo. He handles all the plantings. You can see just driving in all the beautiful Mums that have been planted. They have taken out the summer flowers. He works with Jimmy Nemec to make sure all the planting things are appropriate at Fulton Park.
Observer: Some of the flowers in downtown at the corner of Bank and Grand are spectacular.
Jarjura: That’s Mark Lombardo. He takes care of all the flowers. He’s been on board about two or three years now.
Observer: It’s gone way beyond tulips. They are almost Hawaiian now.
Jarjura: Yes, I love the tulips when they do them too.
Observer: There have been lots of wild looking things like they are from...
Jarjura: Hawaii, or Indonesia.
Observer: On election day in November the most influential group of citizens going into the polls to cast their votes are senior citizens. The seniors have been waiting patiently for the new senior center that you promised would be built and operating by Spring of 2011. Where is it?
Jarjura: Unfortunately, the DEP had more stringent requirements that the WDC had to meet. The remediation and monitoring took us longer to get that into compliance. I can tell you now that the property has been turned over and the plans of the center are finalized. Construction, I believe will be starting in earnest in the spring in about a year. There won’t be any more delays on our part and I know that the contractors are anxious to get everything built.
Observer: Let’s switch gears. In the past two years you’ve been in TV debates for governor, declared that you are a candidate for Lt. Governor, then a candidate for state comptroller and in May of 2011 you switched from being a life-long Democrat to a Republican? You are being called an opportunist. What are the voters supposed to make of that?
Jarjura: There was so much change going on and uncertainty with regard to the state office holders. I don’t think people could fully appreciate the unprecedented change in such a short time. Never in the history have we lost two sitting US Senators in 2 years. You had a Governor decide not to run for re-election. What I was offering to the people of Connecticut was a proven leader from a large municipality to go up there and help them solve some of the vexing systemic structural problems that we faced on a lower scale in terms of dollar amounts, but same type of problems we had here in Waterbury. I thought I would be excellent candidate to do that given the experience I’ve had as a legislator and a chief executive, both for ten years each. I put myself out there for that, oviously, it was unsuccessful, especially in a Democratic primary. It’s hard especially for a moderate conservative Waterbury Democrat to make headway in the rest of the state. One of the things I learned - it was a great learning process - is that there is still a lot of ill will towards Waterbury and towards political figures from Waterbury across the state. We still have a lot of bridge building to do in terms of representing truly the high ethical moral standards of the people of Waterbury. We have been projected a different way by a number of high profile individuals.
With that said, I’m proud of the fact that I ran for office and offered myself up to serve not only the people of Waterbury, but the state of Connecticut. Quite frankly, I think I would have been a better individual than the individuals that ultimately won the primary and went on to win the elections. But, that is for other people to decide. If they are happy with the change that they have seen, whether it be on the state or national level, I say God Bless them. I’m not happy about that.
The main focus of the Democratic party has drifted away from its roots, it used to be a lot closer towards Democrats like Tom Conway, Mike Jarjura, Reggie Beamon, Joan Hartley, John Wayne Fox, Laura Lyons, I could keep going on and on. They are the moderate wing of the Democratic party. The party drifted away and it did cause a certain uncomfortableness between myself and the local party when the leadership informed me that it was highly unlikely that I would become the nominee of the party. There is a lot that we have talked about of allegations of back room deals and promises and about who made deals with who. Put that aside. You had a sitting incumbent mayor that brought a city back from the brink, who brought a party that was eviscerated back in 2001. It had been eviscerated for about a decade before, when Bergin was there, it was barely a viable party. I brought all that back and gave everyone a seat at the table. Then to be told very nonchalantly that they would be going with someone else after 10 very successful years left me a couple of options. One was to primary. One was to run as a petitioning Democrat or as an independent if I so chose. Then I had to make the decision that had been in my mind for awhile, which was to make the party change and run with one of the other major parties.
For three elections in a row Mike Jarjura promised ambitious fellow Democrats to support him, and it would be his last term. All three times Jarjura reconsidered and plunged back into the next municipal election. In 2011 the broken promises caught up to him when Democrat party leaders held firm on their end of a brokered deal, and supported Neil O'Leary for mayor. Jarjura could have primaried, but instead switched to the Republican Party in May, where the five-term incumbent mayor was warmly received.
Observer: What is the difference between a Republican and a Democrat on the local level?
Jarjura: In Waterbury? None. The great thing about Waterbury is that they don’t vote labels. You can go back into every presidential, congressional, municipal election and you can’t pigeon hole them. Much to the nerve wrackingness of the big party leaders of the state and national government.
Observer: How many registered Democrats in the city of Waterbury?
Jarjura: About 24-25,000 registered Democrats and there are only about 7,000 registered Republicans and 21,000 unaffiliated.
Observer: In that environment, the fact that a Republican could get elected shows a very free spirit of the voters.
Jarjura: That’s great. That means they are educated and out examining each individual.
Observer: If we go back to the state wide offices for a moment. When you were talking about the Democrat in Waterbury is a fiscally conservative Democrat. Joan Hartley is voting against budgets up in Hartford. She’s calling people out. She’s very conservative financially and so were you as a state representative and now as mayor. Is that how you explain what happened against Kevin Lembo in that primary? You were up against the liberal Democrats out there.
Jarjura: Let’s face it, in the primary you are dealing with a very exclusive audience of registered Democrats across the state. There is no getting around that this is a deep blue state, we are not a Southern Democratic state. If you are not in lock step with the progressive wing then you really have no chance of winning in the primary. Clearly, the Lembo folks, and Jonathan Pelto who we all know was the head of the Socialist Party in the state of Connecticut when he was in the Legislature. I say that tongue and cheek, but Jonathan has his views, which are in line with the very progressive wing of the party. Take a Mike Jarjura who has taken a very hard-line stand on Pro-Life. Who is a very much a voter for harsh criminal penalties and will not in any way eliminate the death penalty. Lembo used the John Rowland appointment very effectively. All of these things added up to what happened in that primary. In a general election, I think when I saw the conduct of the Republicans running in the general election, not so much Ambassador Foley, but the under-ticket, it was almost like they didn’t put up a fight. It was like non-existent. I couldn’t even tell you the guy that ran against Lembo, I met him once, but I couldn’t tell you his name. He may not have even put an ad on. They had a real shot if they worked it. They just sort of got the nomination and went to bed.
Observer – The last time the name Mike Jarjura came before the voters in Waterbury in a mayoral primary for state comptroller you barely defeated J. Paul Vance Jr.. How do you explain that?
Jarjura: What I’m finding out now, and I’m not going to expound on it too greatly, is that there were a number of people that indicated disingenuously, who were supporters of mine, who were working behind the scenes to help all of those who were primarying me. There has been a concerted effort over a number of years from people who weren’t happy that I would not allow them to have inside access for their benefit, not for the benefit of the people of Waterbury. They wanted to see me unseated. This is what I’ve learned now, but back then I did not know the different affiliations and alliances that were working behind the scenes to beat me. I’m more of a trusting person and I think that’s one of my character flaws. There were devious people at work to advance their own agendas, that were not necessarily good agendas. They wanted to get me unseated through the primary system and thank God they were unsuccessful. I think that’s what attributed to,.. and I don’t want to take anything away from J.Paul Vance, he ran a hell of a campaign and came a lot closer that people thought, but he had assistance from people that said they were with me, and obviously weren’t inside the ranks of the Democratic party. That gave me a good wake up call, too.
Observer: I think the general population doesn’t understand the machinery behind the election vote. People in neighborhood houses working the phones, getting the vote out. They think “Ah, it’s America, one person has to vote”.
Jarjura: It’s very Machiavellian in a primary. It’s much easier in a primary for a small group to have a more dramatic impact. It’s low voter turn out and a limited audience, much more controllable. It’s tougher in a general election, but it still can happen. You have to be working all angles,
Observer – Did your primary challenge to Kevin Lembo for state comptroller strain your relationship with Governor Dannel Malloy.
Jarjura: I don’t really care if Dannel Malloy likes me or doesn’t like me. I don’t stay up nights concerned about it. At the convention there was obviously a lot of secret-ness going on. Who honestly thought that Nancy Wyman was going to run for Lieutenant Governor? Nobody. That was put together last minute and then the whole thing with Susan Bysiewicz changing from Governor to Attorney General. There was just so much going on that it was hard to prepare in an adequate amount of time and to get out to all the delegates. We tried the best we could in terms of that process. We were behind the 8-ball with that, but don’t forget I run a city too. It wasn’t easy to just pick up and go on this state-wide tour to a very select group of delegates who were probably already previously committed. I think we did pretty good with the short amount of time we had. Malloy made his choice known. Part of why I was involved in the governor debates was to get some recognition and quite frankly I think if people watched that televised debate I hear a lot people say Jarjura made the most sense of anybody out there. We all knew it was going to come down to Dan Malloy and Ned Lamont. The other candidates were probably ultimately going to get out of the race. He’s the Governor and I respect his position as Governor. I’m the Mayor, I’m sure he respects my position as Mayor. Politically, I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never seen a Governor get this involved in a local election as Governor Dan Malloy has. I don’t know who his political advisors are, but I think they are really setting him up for big trouble by doing that because once you start ticking off local folks. that will have effect in 2 or 3 years when he is out looking for help, whether I win or not.
Observer: Do you feel the Governor’s presence in the mayoral race in Waterbury?
Jarjura: I don’t feel it myself, but I’ve heard that he has sent a lot of his top lieutenants down to assist to try and hold Waterbury as much as they can, and assist Chief O’Leary. Yes, I’ve heard that, but I don’t have any evidence of it. I’ve heard that Duby McDowell had some fundraiser up in Hartford and that Dan’s lieutenants were making some phone calls for that. You know what? Bring Dan on. His popularity couldn’t be any lower. Come down and endorse and come to the conventions. Listen, I don’t want this to be between Mayor Jarjura and Governor Malloy. This is between Mayor Jarjura, Larry De Pillo and Neil O’Leary, and at the end of the day that’s what people have to decide. If the Governor wants to get involved, come on in, Waterbury is warm.
Observer: Does your having an issue with Malloy personally impact the city of Waterbury? Does it get that petty?
Jarjura: What’s he going to do? Try to carve us out in some way. It’s impossible to do. The same thing with DeStefano (mayor of New Haven). I guess he doesn’t like him either. He needs us more than we need him. As go the Big Five goes the state of Connecticut. He needs to reach out to us. We respect him and show him due deference as the Governor, but you know what? You want to start a fight with DeStefano, Jarjura and who else? You are only hurting yourself in the end.
Observer: You’ve sat here as the mayor while John Rowland was Governor. Obviously, that was a very good relationship. He resigned and Jodi Rell came in. Did you feel any difference the way Hartford treated Waterbury with bonding and through the legislature? Was there any blowback?
Jarjura: Absolutely not. Jodi Rell was phenomenal to deal with and we continued to have a great relationship because her and I served together at the legislature for many years. I’m sure today I could get on the phone to the Governor Malloy if I had a problem and needed his help. His Chief of Staff or someone would get back to us.
Jarjura cruises through the hallway of the newly completed Duggan School with Paul Guidone, the chief financial officer for the Education Department,
Observer: Let’s talk about taxes. All kinds of numbers are being hurled around. O’Leary is putting out press releases that taxes have gone up 200%. Steve Gambini (who sat in on the Q&A interview) fired off press releases saying that is BS. I was talking to O’Leary yesterday and he started quoting the 200% figure when I asked him, “isn’t it true that if you were mayor in 2001 that re-val was coming?” It didn’t matter if Moses was the mayor in 2001, higher taxes were coming. I don’t know, is it disingenuous? Is there some truth in there?
Jarjura: The truth is taxes did go up, I always said that. The fact is that they didn’t go up by 200%. My concern is if you are willing to lie about that, what else are you willing to lie about to get this job? The fact of the matter is that I assumed the office at the time New Years Day 2002 under the old charter. I inherited the budget that was already in place at the time. My first budget that I worked on was in cooperation with Ophelia Matos and the Oversight Board because we had no budget director here, the senior management was decimated in the wake of the Giordano debacle. Sam did his best to keep things going for the four or five months he was in charge. My first budget took effect on July 1st 2002 taking that budget and going to the budget that just began on July 1 2011 taxes have gone up 17% all ten years combined. Also in that time frame there were years when taxes stayed the same, there were years where there was a slight decrease and years where there was increases. All of that is documented.
Observer: After the re-val came?
Jarjura: There were three re-vals. Three in my term as Mayor. Not one, but three. Obviously, the big one was the more dramatic one it was the first one after 20 years. There were another two after that in which I oversaw and people said we could never survive. The most important point of all this is that every budget I proposed was reviewed first and foremost by the Board of Aldermen and that was not always a very friendly Board. The first time I had five Jarjuracrats, five Depillocrats and five Republicans. The five Republicans had the most stature. They had been here longer, Joe Pisani, Billy Pizzuto, these guys. They knew their way around. J.Paul Vance was a first time Alderman and he became the president of the board. That was unheard of. Then we had the Independents. Every budget I don’t think there was a change in $2,000 or $3,000 at most in a $350-$400 million budget. Think about that. If there was anything in excess, any big cuts to be made they would have done it first and foremost. There were some years the Board of Aldermen actually increased my proposed budget a couple hundred thousand here or there. Then the budgets for the first five years were ratified by the Oversight Board. If there were any big excesses in terms of spending that’s what you have to think about. It’s not about the taxes, it’s about the spending.
Keeping control of the spending, that’s the key, not the taxes. The taxes are a function of the mil rate and the grand list based on the budget. Getting your spending under control and taking care of and not camouflaging your true cost was the biggest step to stabilization. They were all ratified and then in my next five years when the Oversight Board was gone, again I never saw anything big change on the Board of Aldermen. Many of these people are now running for re-election with Chief O’Leary. This to me is such a non-issue, I just wanted to clarify. Hearing 200% tax increase scares you. That would mean our taxes would have to be anywhere between $15,000-$20,000 instead of $6,000-$8,000 on average. These numbers are disingenuous and beyond inflammatory. It’s a lie, that’s why we wanted to correct it. Think of the other aspects in there, the fact that we now have paid off a lot of the debt that we were left with. The city has now had balanced budgets 10 years in a row. This means that we aren’t spending more than we are able to take in, so that you aren’t accumulating any deficits and you aren’t adding to debt. We actually created a rainy day fund. We used a lot of receipts of extra money to go back to the tax payers. Every year we are returning any surplus in what they call mil rate mitigation. It was $2-$3 million right back to the tax payers. We weren’t keeping the money. Some of it we used for capital needs whether it was fixing the windows or gym floors or lockers in the schools, or doing some extra road ways or fixing up the parks. Rather than borrow the money we used some of the surplus money for that, so it went right back to the tax payers.
Observer: The taxes, everyone feels in Waterbury are burdensome. Is there anyway to alleviate some of this? How do you lessen the burden?
Jarjura: There’s a couple things. Waterbury housing stock is very good quality and affordable. When you look at your total payment, what you buy a house for, the mortgage and your tax bill, it’s almost less than if you went to the smaller surrounding communities because they have more expensive housing. It’s not better quality, but because it’s a different address. Your taxes may be a little lower, but not by much, the overall payment is higher. Look at your monthly payment in Waterbury, it’s still one of the most affordable communities, even though we can all recognize our burdensome taxes. The reason they are burdensome is because administration after administration made serious legally binding expensive commitments for decades that we are paying for today. We are paying the nearly 2,500 retirees their exorbitant pensions. Many of them are retiring in their mid 40’s to early 50’s and are going to be around for awhile. We have to pay their medical for them and their spouse. If we didn’t have that burden you would be able to reduce the mil rate by 13 mils. That is not where you find ourselves because we’re paying that disaster off.
Observer: Is there a light somewhere?
Jarjura: Yes, there is a light. We’ve added on two major grand list growths in the past few years. They are both coming on in phases. One is the first light power plant and the LAG, which is another $120 million. That will be $230 million coming on in phases. When they are both on they will generate between $4 to $8 million in taxes per year. You have natural growth there. The fact that we can continue to hold the line at the negotiating table and keep the cost of our current employees below what other cities are paying theirs, which is a credit to our employees. We get the medical co-pays up, but also reduce the medical cost through negotiations with our suppliers. That is why we are able to keep our tax rate stable, and it has been stable. Unless the state of Connecticut really gets crazy and cuts every municipality $10 or $15 million across the board, I see no reason why we can’t continue to maintain the current burden. Overtime it will begin to dip down a little bit.
Observer: We have the hospital right? In three or four years.
Jarjura: We have to wait for that all to take place. That’s not going to come on tomorrow, but that could be another grand list growth.
Observer: Is there a point, maybe in 2025, that the burden of the pensions start to lessen?
Jarjura: It’s a way out there, but not as far out there as we were ten years ago. The longer we keep going the closer we are to getting that wrapped up. Provided, that someone doesn’t come in here and unravel what we worked so hard to achieve. We’ll be right back where we started. They could camouflage it for a few years, but then you’ll be in trouble again.
Observer: It’s easy for someone to challenge the Mayor. Taxes are high, that’s a big buzz word for voters. Challengers can say they are going to grow the grand list, but how difficult is it to grow the grand list? What are the obstacles that you are having with the economy?
Jarjura: First, you are in a state that has not seen job growth in 20 years. You are in a state, despite the rhetoric, that continues to be an anti-business climate state and actually has added to that reputation in the last legislative cycle. Waterbury is one of the big cities in a state whose reputation for being business friendly is probably number 50 out of 50 states. This is one of the big challenges. Waterbury is also faced with tremendous challenges in cleaning up old abandoned brownfield sites that have environmental challenges that many developers don’t want to take a chance on. What we have been doing in a very effective way is addressing every site where we think there is a potential, there are over 300 of them. We are addressing them, we are finding remediation plans. We are meeting and partnering with people to get them back on line. We’ve been very successful in working with our state and federal colleagues to get that done. Cherry Street right now is going to be demolished and cleaned up.
Mattatuck is finished and has been turned over to the private developer, he is going to be building a medical plant and other buildings over there. One of the big projects that we have worked on with Congressman Chris Murphy has been the Industrial Commons. We’re going to maintain all the private sector jobs there, grow the jobs and find a permanent home for the public works campus. Harper Leader, we knocked down the buildings, cleaned it up and are going to address if maybe one of the neighbors may want to expand and work on a remediation plan for what is left in the soil. Many of the school buildings that we’ve built, especially the Jonathan Reed school, required a lot of environmental work and we did it all. There’s going to be a tremendous growth for that neighborhood. This is what we’re doing. Getting the space and enough buildable land in the core city is the biggest challenge. There is not a lot of space where you can go cut the trees and start building.
Observer: There’s a big chunk in the South End, right?
Jarjura: The work on that site alone will run you $3 million to build up to it.
Observer: I’ve heard about a certain sports company sniffing around the property. Is there anything happening there?
Jarjura: There has been a lot of lookers and proposals over the years, but nothing firm yet. It’s there, we want to consider it, but we also want to look at reclaiming some of these sites and putting them back in action. It’s not all done yet, but we’re working on it.
Observer: What can you tell me about the Annemet Task Force? I just heard about it the other day. What’s going on with that?
Jarjura: That’s something I created because the current owner, Don Heye, has already done a tremendous amount of remedial work cleaning the site up. I think they have spent almost $4 or $5 million already in cleanup. Recognizing that this is a strategic piece of property in the South End, Loyola is doing some great work over there, so we put together this task force to work with the current owner in light of the legitimate rejection of the trash to energy plant. He obviously felt very burdened by that, and we went to him, and we’re working with him to find out what type of enterprize could be more acceptable.
Observer: Is the city involved in buying this property or just facilitating business?
Jarjura: No, no, no. Facilitate discussions, and facilitate between the state DEEP and the owner and find out if there are grants available. We’re working with the state delegation and different developers that are out there to see if this may fit the bill for something they are looking for.
Observer: So there is no particular idea that you have?
Jarjura: Not right now.
Observer: I know the Greenway is trying to carve a slice of land out along the Naugatuck River.
Jarjura: That Greenway is right on track and will go along there. The Greenway is going to happen.
Jarjura's decision to participate in the 1st Naugatuck River Race in May 2008 was key to drawing a spotlight onto the city's underutilized natural resource, and helped trigger the political will to launch a massive Greenway project through Waterbury.
Observer: You’ve talked about building a new Public Works campus out on the old Chase Brass factory, who is going to manage that project? Leo Frank has publicly stated that his organization, the Waterbury Development Corporation, is designed to handle a project like that. You were quoted as saying you wanted the Mayor’s office, or the city to do it. Can you clear up the confusion?
Jarjura: The development agency has different aspects of what they are charged to do. One of their roles is project management. The most important role is business attraction and retention and that’s what I wanted the development agency to focus in on. Don’t get me wrong, they are a fantastic agency at managing projects. They did the City Hall project. They are going to do the old Rectory building project. There are a number of projects that they handle on behalf of the city. This Industrial Commons is a very complex project. We are dealing with current tenants that can’t afford to be in any way interrupted in their business operations. They are going literally 24/7 to keep up with their customer demands. You have the public works campus, and the public works department is really ultimately the project manager of all public buildings. That’s a big aspect to this. You can’t just say you are going to take the public works campus and give it to the WDC when it’s their own building. John Lawlor, the Director of Public Works is heavily involved in his aspect of this. We have two extremely competent and qualified companies that project management is part of their contracts, Weston and Sampson and Woodard and Curran. There is a role for WDC because this is so mammoth of a project. Leo and I have talked about it and we are in agreement of what that is. It’s much more than just managing the Good Jobs and making sure there’s compliance there. He will have key members of his staff there on a day-to-day basis as they are getting all the nuts and bolts to begin demolition and construction.
Observer: I had never heard that the WDC would be the lead in economic development. I always thought they were project managers.
Jarjura: They are broken down into three major aspects. One is obviously project management, which is headed by Kevin Taylor. Another one is business retention and business development. The third aspect they have is the management in their community development block grant funding and other grants, Diane Toolan and Tina Lubus with the Home Program. That is a major part of what they do over there too. When we created WDC it was far beyond Naugatuck Valley Development Corporation and their role. They wanted to have three different prongs to what they do. and they do it exceedingly well. Leo is a phenomenal manger and brings a wealth of information. It’s not like we are all in our own little fiefdoms. We work in cooperation with one another. John Rowland and what he does with the Chamber, Lynn Ward and the entire Chamber staff, working with Carl Rosa and Main Street, and you have WDC, all working with the Mayor’s office. You have a number of components that will bring all of their forces to bear when we have a prospect that needs help.
Observer: Is there a point person in all of that? Is that you? When John Rowland was first hired it was reported all over the media that he was the economic czar.
Jarjura: Within seconds, John Rowland, Leo Frank and I could be sitting here together and have a rapid response to a corporation that came to either Leo, John or myself.
Observer: Does that happen?
Jarjura: It happens all the time. All the time.
Observer: So it’s working?
Jarjura: The proof is the results. We’ve had great results.
Observer: John Rowland has been like a human pinata to a lot of people here in Waterbury. They just whack him around.
Jarjura: I don’t think he cares. He takes it.
Observer: Nobody likes it. The last few times that his contract came up it gets very personal with some of the Aldermen.
Jarjura: This is what the Aldermen don’t understand. They are not paying for John Rowland. They are paying for a partnership with the Chamber, who is probably the best outreach to private sector that we have.
Observer: They personalize it with John Rowland.
Jarjura: It’s because it’s easy politics, not constructive politics, not good government. It’s easy political sniping and carping.
Observer: How do you think the partnership with the Chamber and John Rowland is working? How has it worked out?
Observer: You would give it a thumbs up?
Observer: You are re-elected, you’d continue on the same way?
Observer: That’s pretty unequivocal. Do you have any issues with his radio show?
Jarjura: I have never heard it once. I just don’t have that time. People ask me all the time and I say if he had to depend on me for ratings, he’d be in trouble. To be honest with you, once in awhile, during the day I listen to WATR with Larry Rifkin, but not all the time. After that you can’t get to me, you know how it is.
Observer: Yeah, you are a busy guy. I think a lot of the angst that I hear, and I hear it a lot more since he’s on the radio, is that he’s not focused on Waterbury. He has to be in Farmington for his radio show. He’s working this job part time.
Jarjura: That’s what people have misunderstood from the very beginning. It wasn’t about just John Rowland, the money was also about Lynn Ward, Jeff Rouleau (he has moved on and has another job), and the Executive Board of the Chamber. Who better to talk to business people than business people?
Observer: That’s a good point. People focus on John and it’s a consulting relationship. Even with the Chamber he doesn’t have set hours. He shows up late at night, or early in the morning, it’s all over the place. He could fly some where and do something.
Jarjura: The Chamber allow us to use their lobbyist, Armando Paolino, that they pay for. If there is something going on at the legislature and he gets wind of it, he will call over here and we can do a joint lobbying effort with our delegation. There are a lot of aspects to this partnership.
Observer: My 23-year-old daughter and I were driving around Downtown and we were talking about UCONN.....
Jarjura: She’s a credit to you and your ex-wife. She really is.
Observer: Thank you. We were driving around Downtown and she said “Dad, I don’t feel the college students here at all.” And she's right, there are 1,000 students in UConn and they never leave the fortress. This is a big problem. Does the Rectory Building project across the street from UConn have any link to the school or the students?
Jarjura: It does. State Senator Joan Hartley was able to secure about $2.4 million from the state and her dream is to transform the Rectory Building into a community center for the students. They don't have enough space inside the branch right now to provide one.
Observer: That’s fantastic.
Jarjura: As part of that, they are going to allow the Palace to use some of the floor space of that building. It literally attaches to their second floor area. They would also like to get some youth oriented business, like a Starbucks, and that type of stuff.
Observer: I’ve heard Starbucks mentioned all the time. The kids would just stampede across the street.
Jarjura: Whatever the young people like to go to.
Observer: Besides the Rectory Building, is there something else that can be done by the mayor of Waterbury to lure these kids out?
Jarjura: Again, I think what Perag Mehta is doing Bank Street on his own with very little help from the city is tremendous. He is finishing one building and he is going to do the Apothecary building. I understand that he is moving at lightening speed there. I think there is a number of young and recently married couples that are taking advantage of that. A lot of the local businesses try Thursday night specials, bringing in karaoke and local artisans. Ede Reynolds at John Bale Book Company does it, as does The Turf. The Chamber does comedy hours with some of the different locations. Dave Walsh does some of that at Dreschers. They are doing the best they can and I think at some point it will click. It just hasn’t clicked yet. The ingredients are there, though.
Observer: It was two years ago that the city got involved removing the homeless living in tent city along the Naugatuck River. The tents are back. How are you planning to address that?
Jarjura: We work very closely with the Connecticut Department of Social Services. I don’t know if you know Brian Gibbons, but he’s phenomenal. I'd almost call him a Saint.
Observer: Oh yeah, Brian is unbelievable dedicated.
Jarjura: Brian Gibbons and Rick Politis, these two gentleman literally get their boots on, they are out there talking to the homeless population all the time. They heard about this becoming some what of a campaign issue, and they were greatly upset. They told me that of all the people that were in tent city they were able to locate 99% of them into permanent, clean housing, using Title 8 vouchers. There are some tens that have popped up and there is one gentleman in particular who has built a fortress and we can’t coax him out. I told him it was river front condominium property and he better not let Dave Dietsch, the tax assessor, find out about it. He may get taxed for that.
Observer: I see that guy sometimes lugging plywood wood down to his encampment.
Jarjura: I was worried about him during Hurricane Irene, I wondered if he was going to get wiped out or not. 99% of the folks, they really get the help that they need from Rick Politis and Brian Gibbons. We don’t want people living in tents along the river and we don’t want people living by the railroad underpasses. Does it go on? Sure, it goes on. We do have people out there that are trying to help them. I don’t think people can appreciate the network of givers. The Tornaquindici family up at Shop Rite literally allows the homeless to pick out what they want to eat, places it in a backpack and delivers to them where they may be. It’s unheard of. Not to mention how many millions he gives to the food banks and pantries. The group from St. John’s, from Interfaith Ministries, and the St. Vincent dePaul are all trying to help those who are falling on hard times. It’s not an easy group to deal with, and some of them have mental health problems too. The by-product of the state closing down all the mental hospital facilities and not having a real good plan of what was going to happen, has come to roost in all the major cities. Waterbury has a better handle on it than most others.
Observer: That dovetails into the next question, Downtown Waterbury with an inordinate amount of group homes and social service agencies, has become a public safety net for the poor and individuals who do not contribute to society. If there is a tipping point, it appears that downtown Waterbury is now being defined by social ills and people in need. This fact has led to a perception that downtown Waterbury is unsafe. How are you addressing this sensitive issue?
Jarjura: We had a meeting the other day, we met with the leadership of the Immaculate Conception Church (Father Bevins and his committee over there). We have met with the Downtown merchants. Carl Rosa from Main Street has facilitated that. We are aware of the problem and we have doubled our efforts to have a greater police presence, and a longer presence, even on weekends and nights. It is still a beautiful green. It’s a beautiful Downtown. I feel safe. I’ve been out night and day.
Observer: It’s a perception.
Jarjura: It’s beyond perception. There are those people that come up to you on the street asking for a few dollars. Those of us that have it, give it to them. We don’t want anybody to feel unsafe, especially people coming and going from the Palace Theater, churches and to the shops. We have redoubled our efforts and it will be ongoing. I could tell you in terms of cleanliness, Bobby Gaetano and the crew are out everyday sweeping, cleaning and picking. It looks pristine in the morning, but then people, being people, mess it up. The garbage can is right there, put the wrapper or the coffee cup in it, you know? It’s going to be an ongoing concerted effort as we continue to upgrade the demographics, as I just mentioned working with Perag and other business owners. Maybe doing something more creative with some of the buildings Downtown. I think it’s going to get better, but it will take constant effort. It’s obviously not all going to be solved.
Observer: What’s your take on the enforcement of the liter ordinance that is in place?
Jarjura: I heard that Chief Gugliotti, Chief Riddick and Chief Spagnola ticketed people if they flicked a cigarette. They aren’t doing it every day, but I think that will get the message out.
Observer: It’s all about enforcement. I was down in Charlotte a few weeks ago, it has 700,000 people there, and we’re driving around downtown and there was nothing on the sidewalks. It was immaculate. Years ago in Seattle, when I first went there, it was immaculate. I asked how they kept the place so clean? They had $500 fines for littering so the people aren’t throwing things on the ground.
Jarjura: I think our maximum fine under state law is $200. We can’t go beyond $200.
Observer: You believe it’s being enforced right now?
Jarjura: Within the resources he has, I mean obviously the Chief has a lot of things that require his attention. The protection of life and property is number one, but also I know he is very focused on the quality of life.
Observer: Mayor you heralded Renaissance Downtowns as your plan to ignite a rebirth in downtown. From talking to property owners in downtown it appears that Renaissance has vanished. What happened?
Jarjura: It just never really materialized to what we had hoped it would be. It was going to require a leap of faith by a lot of the current owners to sign up. I don’t think there was that leap there to sign up to the concept. If we were able to pull everybody together they would work in a partnership.The Renaissance folks met individually with some of the major land owners there, John Lombard, Phil Nargi, Tom Gessler and a few others. We are just now hopefully coming out of what is going to be known in history as the Great Recession. It was probably a very bad time in commercial investment.
Observer: So, they are gone?
Jarjura: They are not gone, but I wouldn’t say it was on the front burner.
Observer: Is there something else you are trying to pursue?
Jarjura: Again, it has to be user driven. I know that the property owners have commercial brokers that are constantly promoting their locations and properties. If we or they come across somebody, we will fully put together a package to make it very lucrative to make it locate here. The facade improvement plan, which has been a tremendous success. I don’t know if you have seen the before and afters.There are a lot of tools in our tool shed to use, but we obviously need the end user.
Observer: We asked for public input on formulating questions and Mike Ptak from East Mountain asked, “What are your plans on handling blight and litter, would you be interested in raising taxes by a mill to fund a blight team year round, I have submitted a proposal for this when I was on the litter commission and it paid for 12 guys and a supervisor for 12 months/5 years”
Jarjura: We do have a year round crew, not 12, but we usually keep 4 permanents on year round. That is in the structure of the budget. I would be willing to look into that within reason because as we talked about earlier people are still concerned about their tax burden. I do think there is value in that. I’d obviously work with community leaders. We also have four part-timers that come in for six to eight months and then they are off. Right now, we have a total of 8 people working and will be for awhile. I would definitely consider this something that we can work on with the budget team and Aldermen.
Observer – If you are re-elected would you impanel a Charter Revision Commission again?
Jarjura: I don’t really know if there is anything big that needs to be addressed.
Observer: Here is a quote out of your mouth from 2001.You described the process we have of electing aldermen un-American. You said, and I quote you, “We have to go to a system of electing aldermen differently, whether its head to head, or drawing districts, we are committed to looking at this the issue.” It’s been 10 years now. Why hasn’t this happened?
Jarjura: We’ve tried several times. I think there have been three to five charter revisions impanelled under my administration, I think it is five. The issue has been brought forward and it has never been able to pass the Board of Aldermen. That includes the City Clerk and Town Clerk, which I believe should be outside the election process because they are not involved in policy, they run offices like different department heads. I’ve brought these issues forward and they have been met with deaf ears.
Observer: Last May it didn’t even get to the Board of Aldermen. Aldermen by District was squashed right inside the Charter Revision Commission. What’s going on with that? I think a lot of people think it’s un-American. You said it was un-American.
Jarjura: I think it is. I know we have three slates running now, so there are 27 aldermen candidates. We’ve had three for a long time, but not always. Normally, two of the three slates seem to be predominant, so you are really talking 18 in which 15 get elected. There’s something odd about that. This is one area, and I’m not trying to pass the buck, that is the domain of the aldermen. They have to vote to create it, they have to vote to impanel it, they have to put members on.
Observer: Boil it down for me. The aldermen don’t want to change the system?
Jarjura: If you have a 90% chance of re-election, would you? (laughs)
Observer: Good point.
Jarjura: It’s like the process we have going on now. Every ten years we reapportion (drawing district lines for elected state officials). Who’s doing it? The very people that are there. Is there something un-American about that? Maybe we should give it to some outside interest, a non-partisan group.
Observer: Right now, Charter Revision, you don’t see anything?
Jarjura: I would support it if people want to do it again, but I hope the results would be more meaningful.
Observer: Over the years there are a lot of huge issues that come out of Charter Revision Commissions, but when it's time to come before the people for a vote, the choices are poorly marketed and explained.
Jarjura: It’s easier to get people to vote no on something than to get them to vote yes. It really requires a concerted effort, time and money. Unless someone is willing to do that, you know, it’s not going to go too far.
Observer: Are you supportive of a four-year term for mayor?
Jarjura: It has worked well in other communities, but at this point, I know the people of Waterbury do not seem to support that.
Observer: There is still a lack of trust?
Jarjura: I’m so used to every two years now. I’m willing to put up with it. Now that I’ve had to go through it, somebody else has to go through it too (laughs).
Observer: What role does the Waterbury Neighborhood Council and the neighborhood groups play in your decision making process?
Jarjura: I believe they are the conscience of the city. They will be a fair broker in trying to bring forward the pros and cons of different governmental proposals. They are also great at disseminating information. It’s easier than going through the different neighborhood representatives and getting them to the individual neighborhood councils. We can get information out and get feed back, it is a network. They are not bashful. I don’t think they are in any way aligned with a political party. I’m sure individually they have different people they support or don’t support, but they never let that interfere with their goals and objectives.
Political allies for two decades, Mike Jarjura and Neil O'Leary (right) are now embroiled in a slugfest to win the 2011 municipal election. Controversial stories about both men have been leaked to the Republican-American newspaper by the opposition.
Observer: What’s your take on the controversy surrounding Neil O’Leary and his pension issue? When did you know he had remarried his first wife?
Jarjura: I found out about it probably around four or five months ago. I did not know at the time. It was not brought to my attention. Obviously, it’s using his own words, it is what it is, and people have to draw their own conclusions. When you look at the time line of it, it is startling in nature. Literally the day before you put your papers in. I think people, his close associates and family were more stunned than anybody. They didn’t know anything about it. It is what it is, people can draw their own conclusions (laughs). I think more importantly though, the pension. He has every right under the law to what he got, but it is emblematic of what we are facing here as a city. It’s part of why we have the burden we have. He was under an old system, many others were under the old system that left before the windows were shut. His window was extended by the Oversight Board because he was the Chief. We didn’t need more turmoil than we already had going on with the different departments. It was a system that was unsustainable. It was a system that allowed people in their later 40’s-early 50’s to retire with 70-80-90,000 dollar a year pensions and medical coverage for them and their spouses for life, without any actuarial reduction for the spousal options. Usually when you retire you have a choice to go to the HR department and decide if you want just the pension while you are living or do you want the spousal option? So if you choose the spousal option there is a reduction of what you are going to get on a monthly basis because the mortality tables tell you that when you die, your spouse will live longer. The system that bankrupted the city was that there was no reduction spousal option. There was no cost in choosing the spousal option. Anybody leaving here made sure they were married before they left here. It wasn’t just Neil O'Leary, there were probably several of these cases and I just think it is emblematic of a time gone by. An unsustainable system of the malfeasance and mismanagement that went on with the management side and the labor side. Too cozy of a relationship that led to these excesses that no longer exist, but the payment will exist for at least the next 25 years.
Observer: In talking to almost everybody around town, everybody understood the taking care of family part. It seemed to resonate with people. His father died young. He’s got mortality swirling around in his head. He’s trying to take care of his family. I think what shocked people was the situation with his sister. She is a principal and his now new wife is working underneath the sister. For two years his sister was unaware of that, which brought out all this nepotism stuff. He’s embarrassed by it. He says he screwed up. Do you have issues with the nepotism?
Jarjura: It did place his sister in a very awkward position because she is required to notify central office once a nepotism conflict situation comes up. How they handle it is a different matter, but there is that requirement that she has to notify within 30 days or 60 days of this supervisory family relationship. It was very poorly handled. I think people were placed in very awkward positions. The only saving grace here is that his sister and his wife are phenomenal educators, respected by everybody. It did place the school board in an awkward position because now that they sort of set a precedent of, okay, it happened, we're going look the other way. What is going to happen if this happens again in the future? It may be somebody that they don’t necessarily defer to. That’s the problem they'll run into.
Observer: What’s your take on the controversy surrounding your renting out property on East Main Street to a brothel? What went on there?
Jarjura: It’s been talked about for about ten years. Every campaign seems to bring up that the mayor owns private property. It seems like the same issues every two years. This is the issue that the Mayor is a land developer, I don’t know what’s bad about that. One of my properties on East Main Street was an old gas station and then developed into a bank. I bought the property I believe in 1999 or 1998, and I sold it 2002. When I had it, the major tenants were J.J.Misson, they sold donuts and bread and twinkles and things like that. Then there was Irene’s Tailor Shop, and then H&R Block tax and then a consignment shop. I get brokers to get tenants because I don’t manage day to day operations. The last tenant was a Reflexology and Acupuncture Center. That was what was presented to me. I didn’t know at the time that there was this whole subculture of massage parlors. I didn’t know about it until the whole big thing occurred in 2006 when the police raided it. What I learned now was that there was this whole subculture being presented as legitimate massage or chiropractic or reflexology, but in fact these were places where other things went on inside. To drive by it, you would think it was a doctor's office. It looks no different today, which now is a St. Mary’s Hospital run facility. I did sell it to the person that became the tenant, and he sold it to somebody else. Sometimes when you buy and sell property, part of the sale is that you have to hold the mortgage because they can’t get it. The purchase price was $275,000. They put down $175,000 and asked me to finance $100,000 over a five year period. They were making their monthly payments. At that point I had no control of the ownership. I couldn’t dictate who went in or out. It was strictly a mortgage secured note for $100,000 payable in so many increments, payable by a mortgage. Much like any bank or mortgage company. Later on we found out there were 8-10 parlors connected to the Korean folks out of New York. They were all shut down. That’s what I know about it. I think the story was an attempt by my political opponents knowing I was a conservative Democrat.
Observer: Now you are a liberal Republican?
Jarjura: I guess. There goes the labels again (laughs). We want to be a family friendly community. Obviously for those that existed here when I was in grade school like the Mr.Happy’s, they are grandfathered in. We don’t want an expansion of these adult themed establishments. What’s here is here. The constitution and first amendment upholds that. I took a hard line on that and I think they got mad at me for that for some reason. I don’t know why. There was a big brouhaha between myself and the President of the Board, Paul Pernerewski, over this text change. I wanted it to go back to where it was. We went to court over it and we were upheld by the court. I want it to go back. I don’t know why they changed that. A lot of religious folks that I have had a great relationship with, Pastor Lily, and some of the priests and religious folks came out in large numbers. I think it was an attempt by my political opposition to try and embarrass me. I think people know it is what it is. I have a morals clause in all my leases if we are duped in any way I can then evict them if it becomes an issue. Nobody ever complained about this to me, and as I said, if everybody knew about it, why didn’t the police do anything about it in 2003, 2004?
Observer: I guess they didn’t know about it either.
Jarjura: If they don’t know about it, how am I supposed to know?
Observer: People have called me and said that back in 2000-2001 that you would personally walk into your leased buildings to collect rent checks. ? Did you?
Jarjura: You know? I heard that rumor out there. When I had a couple of residential units back before I was even Mayor I would have to go because they were always late. I’m somewhat of a softy on that. I would go and say, "come on now, you’ve got to keep up." They would get further and further behind. When it came to the commercial, they were all mailed into the office that handles it and recorded and everything.
Observer: So you wouldn’t have gone into 254 East Main Street and asked for the rent check?
Jarjura: No, no. Then again, I wasn’t getting a rent check. I was getting a mortgage payment and it was always on time and that was that.
Observer: Okay. I had to ask you.
Jarjura: I don’t know who. I heard this rumor out there and I began to think outside of a few duplexes I had where I would have to go once in awhile. I sold it before I was Mayor or just after. Those were the only ones that I had to personally track down.
Observer: The feedback I've gotten from the general public is that they believe the O'Leary pension story and the brothel story are both both politically driven. One by you, and one by O'Leary. People are sick of this crap.
Jarjura: My understanding of that first issue, I wasn’t there. At the Democratic convention at the AOH that when he brought Dale, Maggie’s mother, and Kathy, Patrick’s mother, who was his first wife, and now his current wife, that there was some type of a murmur in the crowd. when he introduced Kathy as his wife. People thought he made some type of mistake and that’s what was brought to me from the reporter who brought the story out. I said I don’t know anything about it, I wasn’t there. So, believe me or not, I don’t care, but that’s how this whole thing got generated. Then they had to look into it.
Observer: What would they be looking into?
Jarjura: I don’t know. They looked into his marriage certificate. I knew Kathy lived in Watertown, and I know her paycheck goes to Watertown.
Observer: We have six more weeks until the election and people are fearing what’s coming next. They want to hear about how the candidates can lower the taxes and clean up the city. The people don't want anymore personal attacks.
Jarjura: Let me tell you, I am laser focused on the issues, always have been. I’m not the one going into these crazy things. I don’t think my opponents want to talk about the real issues. There are 10 balanced budgets in a row. The highest bond rating the city has ever had with a positive outlook. Infrastructure repair going on as we speak in regard to the schools, public buildings, roads, and parks. Those are the issues I’m happy to talk about. I think they are embarrassed because there is no burning issue for change. There is nothing they can present to say Mayor Jarjura is a bad mayor and we have to get rid of him. I think that is where you start to get all this craziness out there.
Observer: The Chase building.
Observer: We sit here in this beautiful remodeled City Hall and you look across and see all those air conditioners hanging out. I know at one point a year or so ago, you said we can’t do this now. It was too much to ask the tax payers to bond. What is your take on renovating the Chase Building now?
Jarjura: It’s the top of my wish list. The big thing about the Chase Building is to get what we need done with the exterior we need to put in duct work. We need an HVAC system that we have here. That is a complicated process in a historic building. When that is done, all that can come out, put the new windows in. Other than that, it’s not quite as challenging as this one. You are still talking about $15 million. We had to take a little break because we were taking on a lot quickly and the debt service line item was growing quickly. Once we absorb where we are, it is still one of my greatest wish list items to get that building as nice as this one.
Observer: Could that happen in the next two years?
Jarjura: It absolutely can. It can start. I don’t know if it will be finished. Part of what I wanted to do to is by that point the public works campus will be almost complete. I will move all the public works folks to their new office because they are currently in my old office. Truth be told, I miss my old office. This is nice, and I don’t mind being here, but I didn’t mind that office and I wouldn’t mind going back there (laughs).
Observer: Describe for our readers the Waterbury you envision in 25 years? Will there be a mixmaster, a massive Greenway, aldermen by district, a minority mayor…lay it out for me. Where do you see this all going?
Jarjura: 25 years from now Waterbury will be a thriving metropolis. The highway and byway system as we know it will have been radically changed. There will definitely be a Greenway. You will see families, senior citizens and people on their lunch hour having lunch along the Greenway. Recreational activity will be springing up around the Greenway. It will definitely be a thriving metropolis with new housing and re-established inner city living neighborhoods. The demographics will probably have changed several times over, but it will still be one of the best places to raise your family in the state of Connecticut. That will not change.