Community Foundation’s Ginsberg earns chamber’s highest honor

 

 

NEW HAVEN — One of the nation’s oldest business groups held a party last month to fete an old friend.

The 217-year-old Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce held its 2011 Annual Awards Luncheon October 13 at the Omni-New Haven Hotel. The event, which drew some 600 to the hotel’s Grand Ballroom, exists to honor chamber members for achievements in small business, manufacturing, the non-profit sector and the like.

But its flagship is the Community Leadership Award, which since the 1960s has confirmed community-pillar status on a couple of scores of Elm City grandees. Like Republican nominees for President, the naming of Community Leadership Award-winners each year causes few heart attacks (it is difficult to imagine a troublemaker such as Steve Jobs receiving an award from the New Haven chamber), the 2011 honor likewise was conferred on an individual whose worthiness few would debate.

William W. Ginsberg has been president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven since 2000. With some $320 million in assets, the foundation is the largest charitable organization in south-central Connecticut, placing the 56-year-old Ginsberg in a position to do much good. In that role he has seldom disappointed.

Beyond that, his New Haven roots run deep. Just four years out of Columbia Law School, Ginsberg was lured from the world of New York corporate law to the rough-and-tumble of New Haven politics, joining the administration of then-Mayor Biagio DiLieto as development administrator. He remained at City Hall for four years before being tapped to head the Science Park Development Corp., a non-profit technology incubator, for six years before heading to Washington in 1994 to join the Clinton administration.

In accepting the award, Ginsberg noted that communities such as New Haven ought to measure prosperity by “How we take care of our needy.” The strength of the community, he added, is a function of “people being connected — and by this measure New Haven is an unusually strong community.”

In the 27 years since he arrived in the Elm City, Ginsberg said, “New Haven has emerged as an urban success story.”

But not all the bon mots at the luncheon were Ginsberg’s alone. Said Allison Schieffelin, CEO of the West Haven-based Lighting Quotient, which earned an award for Achievement in Manufacturing, “Manufacturing in New Haven, despite the rumors, is not dead.”

Observed Francis McCarthy, whose Marrakech Inc. was cited for Leadership in health Care & Non-Profit Partnership, “The non-profit community in New Haven would not exist without the for-profit community.”

And finally this from Michael Iannuzzi, whose Tyco Printing earned honors for Small-Business Achievement: “Our work ethic is the foundation of our achievement.”

 ORANGE — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration has cited Valley Tool Inc. for 13 alleged violations of workplace safety standards. The metal fabrication shop faces a total $46,970 in proposed fines following an OSHA inspection prompted by an employee complaint. OSHA's inspection found improper storage of materials in a flammable storage cabinet, failure to provide annual training and fit-testing for all employees who use respirators, and failure to provide chemical hazard communication training to employees working with chemicals. OSHA had cited the facility for similar hazards in 2009 and 2010.

The employer had 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.

 Growing budget deficits tied to pension, insurance costs

 

NEW HAVEN — Confronting yawning budget gaps of $4.2 million this year and nearly $6 million next year, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. wants to recast city workers’ health insurance and pension benefits.

In a April 28 City Hall press conference, DeStefano noted that employee health insurance and pension costs have skyrocketed from 12 to 22 percent of the city budget. He called those costs the “Pac Man” of the municipal budget with an unquenchable appetite for dollars.

 

To fill this year’s gap, the city will have to dip into its rainy-day fund. The fund war at $9.2 million, now it will fall to $5 million, DeStefano said. That is far below the level — five percent of the operating budget, or $23 million in this year’s budget — that city auditors recommend.

 

The mayor forecasts that next year’s $475.4 million budget will have a $5.9 million shortfall, with gaps ballooning to $15 million, $27 million and $39 million in fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively.

 

Among the reasons for this year’s deficit, according to DeStefano, were higher-than-budgeted police and fire overtime costs (accounting for $1.65 million of the deficit) and $1 million in planned union concessions that were never achieved.

 

On the revenue side, more “aggressive” tax collections increased revenues by $2 million. But state aid for education fell by $2.1 million, and parking meter revenue declined $1.3 million because, the mayor said, “for part of the winter, the meters were literally covered with snow.” (In January and February alone, meter receipts were down 22 percent).

 

DeStefano discussed changes to the fiscal 2012 budget, including a reversal of the decision to sell the Temple Medical parking garage. The property was appraised at $9 million, and listed for $7 million, but the only offer for the structure and land was $2.5 million. “We were viewed as a distress seller,” DeStefano explained.

 

With regard to pension and health-care benefits, which now account for nearly a quarter of the city’s budget, DeStefano said, “I don’t see a way to manage down that budget gap” without changing the benefit structure.

 

Thus he proposed a defined benefit pension plan with new eligibility and benefit rules, and changing to a new base health care plan with higher deductibles but free preventative care — a proposal one union official later called “out of touch with reality.”