Five Questions with J. Stan McCauley

I spoke with J. Stan McCauley (AKA Pastor Stan) by phone.

What are your top three favorite things (events, places, people, etc) about Hartford?

“The opportunity and potential of Hartford is off the chain. That’s probably number one.”

He quickly followed that: “second I would say is the city itself,” referring to the entirety of it. McCauley said that he does not exaggerate when he says “Hartford is the greatest city on Earth.”

His third favorite thing about Hartford is “the richness of its diversity.” (more…)

Five Questions with Edwin Vargas

I spoke with Edwin Vargas by phone.

What are your top three favorite things (events, places, people, etc) about Hartford?

“I believe the people of the city of Hartford are a great diversity. We have a great vibrant arts and entertainment scene,” he said. Vargas said that he enjoys Real Art Ways, along with the Bushnell, Hartford Stage, and Cinestudio. The arts, he said, is “one of the bright things” in Hartford. He added, “I also like the fact that we have the potential to be a green city.” (more…)

Five Questions with Mayor Segarra

I spoke with Mayor Segarra in person at Elizabeth Park.

What are your top three favorite things (events, places, people, etc) about Hartford?

Before we sat down to talk outside of the Pond House, Segarra said a few words thanking representatives from Knox Parks and “Friends of” various city parks at a dinner in the Banquet Hall. In his remarks, he described the parks and green spaces as one of Hartford’s assets.

That’s the type of comment to expect when addressing an audience of park enthusiasts, but I wondered if he would be consistent when later I asked about the positive aspects of Hartford.

“The people, the diversity, the different communities of people, the culture” were ranked first on the mayor’s list of favorite things. This was followed by architecture, parks, and historical sites. He named the Lyric, Lyceum, Billings Forge, and the John E. Rogers House as examples of architecture and historical sites. Segarra described the old industrial buildings as being “underutilized” historical landmarks.

“Institutions — public, corporate, and religious” ranked third on his list of favorite things about Hartford. Among them, he named the United Way and Real Art Ways. (more…)

Five Questions with Shawn Wooden

This interview with Shawn Wooden was conducted via email.

What are your top three favorite things (events, places, people, etc) about Hartford?

I am endlessly inspired by the people of Hartford, who are resilient and diverse. I love the range of restaurants that reflect where our people are from and the foods we eat. And I love watching my kids, and all the others, play basketball at the Wilson-Gray YMCA. (more…)

Five Questions with the Candidates

Death and taxes.

That’s all people ever seem to ask candidates about. What will the magic wand look like that they will wave over the city to make violent crime and high taxes disappear.

When I interviewed the four viable mayoral candidates, I began with a question about their favorite things in Hartford. Too often, interviews, forums, and debates are framed in a negative way. Hartford is terrible. It’s broken. It’s unusually violent and should be pitied. Now, who will be the superhero to rescue us? And, who will we blame when this superhero turns out to be merely human? It’s a bogus approach. No place is perfect, including Hartford, but it is not a cesspool either. So, I thought that by framing this differently, I could do two things: (1) encourage candidates to be positive, and (2) find out quickly who lacks civic pride. Using that as a base, I wanted to continue in the positive. Rather than finding out how they would “fix” the city, I asked how they would “boost” it.

The third question is much more specific. It came about by asking a few Real Hartford readers what they would want answered by the candidates. (more…)

Livable & Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative: Last Segment

Read a general overview of the LSNI or learn about the projects and accountability


Blight extends beyond a few notable buildings in or just outside of Downtown; when such conditions exist unchecked, the problem eventually becomes one that can be corrected by nothing other than demolition.

The Neighborhood Conditions Report divides blighted properties into three categories: those the City has taken action on (fines, foreclosure, demolition), those the City is working with owners to clean up, donate property, renovate, etc., and those that are being monitored.

Under the LSNI, the City has identified targeted blighted properties within demonstration areas. (more…)

Livable & Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative: Part Two of Three

Read about the basics of the LSNI here.


The perennial complaint, and one I heard made specific to this initiative, is that brainstorming and planning have been happening forever, but little measurable progress is being made. Some of this is sheer impatience with the rate at which it takes for change to occur, and some is with how work that can be done in ten hours is stretched out to forty.

A combination of paper trail and vocal residents has to exist. These meetings do contain both elements, but more people need to get involved. The Monday evening meeting was not large enough to warrant a microphone.

According to the LSNI meetings, it appears that it is mostly the City holding itself accountable. That’s a start; it also requires we trust the City to do the right thing. (more…)

Livable & Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative: Part One of Three

Aside from specifying which blighted properties would be cracked down on, explaining what the “demonstration areas” were, and describing how the City would be accountable throughout this initiative,  little new information was shared during the recent Livable & Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative (LSNI) meetings. It was not new, anyway, to those who have been involved in One City, One Plan. (more…)

Secret Gardens

Elizabeth, Bushnell, Colt, Keney, Pope, and Goodwin are usually the spots that come to mind when green areas are mentioned. Maybe Riverside Park and Charter Oak Landing will be included.

Not always as public as the actual parks, community gardens provide an equally relaxing environment, yet they might seem “hidden” to those who rely on private transportation to move about the city. Most of these gardens are, in fact, not hidden at all.

Unlocked gardens allow anyone to pass through, though going into individual garden plots is discouraged unless the gardener extends an invitation. Likewise, it’s poor etiquette to pick flowers and vegetables unless invited: anything growing outside of the main fence, however, is generally up for grabs.

If you’re looking to relax, smell some flowers, listen to birds chirp, and covet your neighbor’s heirloom tomatoes, here are some places you can do this: (more…)