What Purpose Should the Freedom of Information Serve?

In an article about how the Freedom of Information Commission decided that the City of Hartford needs to release documents that are part of the mayor’s criminal investigation, the Courant fails to explain one thing while applauding themselves for being “the social conscience of the citizens of the City”: What has taken so damn long?

Right after the Cheshire invasion and murders, the news media made a similar request for access to sensitive documents. In that case, such information is unnecessary. The public does not need to appease their morbid curiosity by knowing gruesome details about one family’s tragedy. On the other hand, Eddie Perez, who affects the policy of a city where many people’s lives are impacted, has been protected, it seems, by a drawn out request process. Apparently, the documents were requested back in March. In the meantime, he’s been endorsed by the Courant and re-elected to office.

Let’s be reasonable about how we determine which crimes deserve pages upon pages of ink. As tragic as the Cheshire murders were, no amount of public fury will bring those three individuals back. However, in this case, we have a suspected criminal holding high office, where he can continue to use his poor judgment.

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Be Thankful if You Aren’t Living in Fear of Having Your Home Raided at 5 in the Morning

In response to recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, there will be a public meeting tomorrow night at St. Augustine’s Church in Hartford. Luis Cotto reports that a resolution will be brought before the City Council tonight.

Statewide Public Meeting to Oppose the ICE Raids in Hartford

Tuesday, Nov. 27, 7:30 p.m.

St. Augustine’s Church (in the church basement), 10 Campfield Ave., Hartford

Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 21 Hartford residents from the Brazilian neighborhood of Parkville over the first two weeks in November. Its agents barged into people’s homes before sunrise and dragged them away. They
surrounded a local buffet restaurant and arrested its employees. They crossed the street and raided a car mechanic’s garage. They have made Parkville into a ghost-town. Merchants have no customers. Stores close early. Restaurants are
empty. Residents keep to their homes in fear of the next ICE attack. Some have fled the city.

There was a time when an ICE raid of this magnitude was considered out of the question in a city like Hartford. Now the question is how soon will there be another?

Please join concerned residents of Hartford, New Haven, Danbury and elsewhere to plan a protest to turn up the heat on ICE and alert immigrant communities that they are not alone.

For more information, call Frank O’Gorman of CT People of Faith at 860-841-5006 or Kate Prendergast of Stop the Raids! Trinity College at 610-209-9264.

This meeting is endorsed by the Stop the Raids! Trinity College, American Friends Service Committee of Connecticut, CT People of Faith, National Lawyers Guild – CT Chapter, The Campaign to Stop the ICE Raids in Danbury, and Queers
Without Borders. More endorsers are forthcoming.

It’s all too easy to buy into the myth that if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Even if you believe that people who are “illegally” living in this country should be sent away, the reality is that legal immigrants and children of illegal immigrants are also subjected to these raids.

The news media do not hesitate to report on how traumatizing it is to experience a home invasion, but they say little about the traumatizing home invasions that are planned and executed by ICE agents.

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Ebeneeza: A Hartford Holiday Carol

If the sappy Christmas films and plays don’t do it for you, maybe this will. From December 6-30, HartBeat Ensemble will be performing Ebeneeza at the Charter Oak Cultural Center. HartBeat Ensemble says,

Set in present day Greater Hartford, Ebeneeza brings a new multi-cultural twist to the Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol.

As with the traditional A Christmas Carol, Ebeneeza travels through time, examining how the present day situation has been shaped, and if the current path is followed, how things will likely end up.

Ebeneeza, is a 75-year-old woman who has made her money from Hartford real estate. The story takes us from Ebeneeza’s childhood home on Front Street during the Depression, through the civil upheavals of the 60’s in Hartford’s North End, to the Greater Hartford suburbs of the 80’s, and finally into one frightening possible future. As Dickens’ would have it, Ebeneeza wakes up from her horrible night and realizes she still has a chance to change not only her ways but also the course of her community.

For tickets, call 860-249-1207.

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World AIDS Day

According to the Institute for Community Research, “Hartford has the highest rate of new HIV infections and the highest number of people living with AIDS of any city in the state.” Having come of age when AIDS prevention was actually talked about everywhere, it seems odd whenever I realize that upcoming generations have not been taught to view AIDS as this horrible, deadly plague. Growing up, I saw public service announcements urging condom use for the explicit reason of preventing the spread of HIV. I remember when hip hop and pop artists changed or added lyrics to their songs to include safer sex messages. This seems to have been since lost. I could be wrong, but it seems like HIV is either considered to be a long term nuisance like Herpes, or is totally beyond the realm of possibility.

There have been people close to me who are HIV positive, and some who have developed AIDS. There are others in my life who I care about who have been much more profoundly affected by this virus, syndrome, whatever you want to call it. What I do know is that for those who are fortunate enough to have that privilege to be oblivious to AIDS, unfortunately, statistics show that eventually they will have to deal with it at some point.

In Hartford, there are World AIDS Day events running from Nov. 30-December 21. You can get a schedule here.

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A Thanksgiving Blog Post I Can Stomach

I hate holidays. And it seems like for weeks upon weeks all anyone can talk about are their cozy families that fit the American Dream mold so well. I can’t hate anyone for that. If you’ve managed to pull it all together, why should you be denied it? But for some of us, there isn’t the family. The family is dysfunctional or non-existent. It’s filled with problems like you’ll see in sitcom families, only in real life, we don’t all accept each others’ quirks in the end. Our problems can’t be dealt with in 30 or 60 minutes.

So, holidays are a source of depression for me. I just do not have the close-knit family (or surrogate family in form of friends) that others have. If I could evade responsibility (work) by hiding out from November 1 through January 2nd, I would do it.

Anyway, I did finally see one Thanksgiving post that didn’t make me want to barf:

Queers Without Borders gives thanks to people who have worked toward social justice. I’ll take that over turkey any day.

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Green Friday

The day after Thanksgiving when people go to shop at stores at 4 am, with no regard for the workers who have to get up and be there even earlier than that, is called Black Friday.

A week and a day after Thanksgiving this year Hartford will be having its very own Green Friday.

From 7-9 in the morning, the November Bike-to-Work (“Icebike”) will be meeting up at JoJo’s on Pratt. I don’t work downtown on Fridays, but I’ll admit that I’m tempted to get up early to ride down there before going to my other job. I don’t think I can do this with a clear conscience since it’s only about a mile trip for me.

As far as I know, there’s nothing in particular happening in the middle of the day, but maybe that is when you can familiarize yourself with the issues that the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice is working on. If nothing else, look at the graphics on the Healthy Hartford website that provide visual explanations of the distribution of poverty in Connecticut alongside information about Hartford’s high asthma rate.

From 6-10 in the evening, the Alchemy Juice Bar will celebrate their grand opening of the Eco Boutique. We can already get some environmentally-friendlier products from Whole Foods, Wild Oats, and Rose Gourmet, but the Eco Boutique will feature items that they do not carry, like organic linens and bedding. The Alchemy Juice Bar and Eco Boutique are on New Britain Avenue near Trinity College and the new ice rink.

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Moving Toward Success in Sheldon-Charter Oak

Thanks to the Courant for running a positive story today that shows how one school has turned itself around.

Among the reasons for why students were doing poorly in the past: high teacher and faculty turnover, minimal parent involvement (no PTO), and children’s behavior. With dedicated teachers and intervention from a family resource aide, the environment has begun to change at Betances— and 80% decrease in discipline referrals.

What the article leaves out are some things that are alluded to on the Betances website: economic, ethnic, and racial isolation. The elementary school is located in Sheldon-Charter Oak, the neighborhood right next to mine. Sheldon-Charter Oak is about 28% Black and 53.2% Hispanic–only 17.4% White (non-Hispanic). This area has a poverty rate of 40.2%. That is above the 30.6% citywide poverty rate. The poverty rate for Connecticut is at 7.9%, and the racial and ethnic population is totally reversed from the trends in the city.

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Sentenced to be Stereotyped

Hartford’s got issues.

Most places do.

But when a city has got issues, it seems that all sorts of classist and racist attitudes come leaking out the woodwork. Since the collapse of industrial work, the development of a car culture, and welfare to create suburbs (FHA), white Americans have emptied out of cities, leaving mostly racial minorities in areas of concentrated poverty. In areas where there is a smaller tax base (poverty=not getting to own a home many times), there is less funding available for education. The kids get sub par educations, can’t get into decent colleges, and have far more obstacles to overcome from the start than their suburban counterparts.

A few weeks ago I played a game with my college students. I read a few statements and asked them to make educated guesses as to whether the statement I just read was fact or opinion. Now, most of the students are coming from private schools or good public schools. Very few could tell what was fact and what was opinion, and these were not trick questions.

Knowing this must indicate some kind of trend, I should not be surprised when I see people respond the Hartford’s problems in a way that ignores facts.

There was a letter to the editor in the paper today with a sentence that made me stop, in awe, of the various ways that Hartford can be labeled a cesspool:

Perhaps the city already has a good school system, but defective and unruly students.

Continue reading “Sentenced to be Stereotyped”

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All is Right with the World

The Red Sox have re-signed Mike Lowell.

Something that I am almost embarassed of is that for two of the halloween parties I went to this year, I dressed as Lowell. Besides that I am not Cuban, male, athletic, or anywhere close to his height, I’d like to believe that my costume choice somehow altered energy somewhere that contributed to his MVP win and now his three-year contract.

I know that is unrealistic thinking, but not much more than usual. It’s more reasonable than believing that waging wars of aggression in the Middle East will somehow end terrorism.

If my political votes don’t pan out often, maybe my baseball actions can.

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It’s the American Way

Today the Courant reports that a grand jury has been appointed to investigate the mayor. Though they do not say what exactly he is being investigated for, it could be a number of things.

While some have stated that Hartford residents deserve what we get because this place is just a “cesspool” anyway, I would like to take this chance to remind would-be pundits and Hartford haters that while, yes, it’s unfortunate that people chose to re-elect Perez, there are many other douche bags (note to high school kids wanting to name call on their blogs– “douche” has an “e” at the end. It’s a French term. Always spell as correctly as possible when it will come back to haunt you) who have been elected and re-elected in this country. Continue reading “It’s the American Way”

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