Category: commentary/editorial

Hartford’s Plan to Make City Attractive for Young People

By , February 18, 2015 7:04 am

As dirt was piled on top of frozen ground, destined to be “broken” for a project that had been declared done before any consultation with the public, and as distraction-upon-distraction was thrown at residents on an evening utterly overloaded with City meetings, a group of young(ish) professionals were told they do not belong here.

Without an inspection being conducted, residents of 68 Scarborough Street received a cease-and-desist order last year because their definition of family does not mesh with that of those living around them. Continue reading 'Hartford’s Plan to Make City Attractive for Young People'»

Neo-Puritans and Political Sex Scandals

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By , February 9, 2015 7:48 am

Note: This was written in October 2011 in anticipation of a mayoral candidate’s decades’ old personal history being released as a way to fling mud. It has sat dormant as a draft until now, since that “news” was just published elsewhere. I will be providing no links to that material and will let this piece speak for itself. Continue reading 'Neo-Puritans and Political Sex Scandals'»

Suggestion Box: More Festive Winterfest

By , January 2, 2015 7:56 am
Winterfest is no longer a brand new thing. There has been time enough to iron out the kinks, yet, kinks remain. Since June, residents have been essentially ordered by the mayor to dream big, so here are some modest-sized dreams for improving upon what already exists.

Gimme Shelter

The rink has already been closed several days this season when it has been cold enough for ice to exist, but the skating surface got wrecked by a little drizzle. Extreme cold, extreme heat, and monsoons should close down Winterfest for a day now and then, but a little rain shower should not. A temporary canopy over the ice rink would provide shelter for skaters during light rain and would extend ice time. When severe storms are predicted, that canopy could be taken down and stored. We know that access to one of these exists — it has made appearances at Envisionfest.

At the very least, the Winterfest powers-that-be could redirect those wanting some public skating time to use the year-round indoor rink inside of the Koeppel Community Center on New Britain Avenue on days when the outdoor rink is closed. Continue reading 'Suggestion Box: More Festive Winterfest'»

Most Best Awesome Superlatives of 2014

By , December 22, 2014 10:07 am

There are people who hate year-end lists because it sounds like the creator is putting out some clickbait while spending his days going to Christmas parties.

We’re using this opportunity to review the operation of the city and the City– what helped to build up Hartford and who needs to have a time out to think about what he has done. Continue reading 'Most Best Awesome Superlatives of 2014'»

Family Faces Eviction from West End Home, Despite Paying Mortgage on Time

By , November 20, 2014 12:00 pm

Interracial marriage was not permitted in many states during the early 1960′s. In fact, anti-miscegenation laws existed in the majority of the United States through the middle of the last century, allowing for racism to dictate the nature of marital and intimate relationships. The Supreme Court struck down those laws in 1967.

A few years later, the push for same-sex marriage began. Again, hateful legislation defined marriage in a way that includes some, while excluding others. It took a few decades for this movement to take hold, and there has been much backlash along the way, as one can witness through the enactment of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and the incessant verbal diarrhea from pundits. In 2010, one state began to fight against the federal government’s restrictive definition of marriage. Many others followed. Same-sex couples can not be legally married in the entirety of the United States yet, but there is no doubt that opinion has shifted toward that happening eventually.

Sometimes the law is wrong. When it is wrong, we are obligated to recognize that and change it. These are, after all, civil laws, not God’s laws.

Hartford

The West End is currently looking at what appears to be an outmoded law:

The purpose of the R-8 district in the city is to provide for and protect single-family residences sited on a lot having a minimum area of twelve thousand (12,000) square feet. The R-8 district provisions encourage the future development of these very low density residential areas for primarily residential purposes by prohibiting conversions, roomers, most institutional uses and all business uses.

On the surface, this might look sensible. Who wants factories or prisons in her backyard? Zoning can be useful in that way.

All of Scarborough Street is zoned for R-8 use (see above). The language is seemingly vague. What does “primarily residential purposes” mean? On this street, in the same zone, a property is owned by the University of Connecticut. In an article the Courant ran on this, there was no mention of neighborhood opposition to what is used as a place for donor events. The Wadsworth Atheneum owns a property on the street. So does Jumoke Academy. Two properties are owned by trustees, another is a land trust. There are two churches operating on Scarborough Street. This leaves 21 other properties, one of which has been on the market for several years.

The issue at hand is 68 Scarborough Street. Continue reading 'Family Faces Eviction from West End Home, Despite Paying Mortgage on Time'»

Suggestion Box: Bike to Shop

By , August 19, 2014 5:05 pm

A possible destination east of the Connecticut River

The purpose of Bike to Work is to encourage people to use bicycles more than automobiles. The intentions are good, but the event feels like a poor fit for those who work something other than first shift, work at home, or work in a direction opposite of the gathering place. It serves a purpose, but it is only one way to get butts on bike seats.

Here’s an alternative: Bike to Shop Day(s). This already exists elsewhere — California, to be exact — as an annual event. Here are ways it could work here.

Bike to Farmers’ Market Tour: Gather in Bushnell Park by carousel (1-6miles): A slow and easy ride for less experienced cyclists who can get tips on site for securing their produce. Tour should feature a farmers’ market that is hosting live music or when a festival or health screening is planned. Distance changes by which market is featured. Continue reading 'Suggestion Box: Bike to Shop'»

#younghARTford: Second Time Around

By , February 19, 2014 10:08 am

Enough Elephants in the Room for a Circus

Hartford is a small, diverse city. The 2010 census data indicates that 38.7% of its population identifies as black, 43.4% identifies as Hispanic, and 15.8% identify as white, non-Hispanic. The rest falls into categories of white, Asian, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and biracial/multiracial. Of course, we know these numbers do not reflect those who are not reached by data collectors; historically, blacks and Hispanics are undercounted.

Knowing this, questions were raised going into last week’s #youngHartford forum about the blatant lack of racial diversity on the panel.

Carlos Hernández Chávez, a local with a solo exhibit currently on display in the ArtWalk Gallery, posed a similar line of questions while in the audience of the Courant/Fox/HYPE-sponsored event: “I’ve been here [in Hartford] 47 years,” he said. “Hartford right now is over 50% Hispanic. How many of you are Hispanic here?” he asked the audience. A few hands were lifted. “That’s not 50%.”

Hernández Chávez said this was not about creating guilt for anyone, but this subject had to be discussed.

“How many dark faces do you see here?” he continued. “If we want to see Hartford thrive,” he said, “then “you have to look at that issue.”

But not everyone has been wiling to do that. Sidestepping unpleasant controversy is just easier for some, including those who had both an audience and a microphone but chose to use neither for the greater good.

That’s not to say that all of the panelists were complacent. Continue reading '#younghARTford: Second Time Around'»

When the Media Teams Up with Public Schools

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By , February 4, 2014 5:38 pm

Those not immersed in the field of education might believe the recent attention to Common Core and teacher evaluations came out of nowhere. With the exception of items that are unavoidable, such as the nonrenewal of the superintendent’s contract, local news reporting has trended glossy on education, biased toward the status quo which goes by the name “education reform.”

Last month, the Hartford Courant and Hartford Public Schools announced the plan to partner, specifically with the Journalism Academy. The details on this, along with potential price tag, are still being hashed out.

Already, HPS has contracts with Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Inc.

With such partnerships, there are a few clear winners. Continue reading 'When the Media Teams Up with Public Schools'»

Policy Delay a Sign of Responsiveness?

By , January 30, 2014 3:50 pm

Governor Malloy issued a letter to the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council on Tuesday urging more “flexibility” and a delay regarding the planned changes to teacher evaluations. There was no mention of delaying or canceling the standardized testing in March; those tests are central to this issue.

This relieves stress for many of those directly affected by the policy that was pushed through in 2012, but some in the media are playing this off as politicians merely being responsive to constituents. Although the current standardized testing does not encourage this, let’s apply some critical thinking and see what evidence leads us to believe. Continue reading 'Policy Delay a Sign of Responsiveness?'»

Opportunity or Charade? BOE Talks Money for School Design

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By , January 9, 2014 7:04 pm

The Burns Latino Studies Academy on Putnam Street has been named as a potential applicant for the Commissioner’s Network in school year 2014-2015.

After Board of Education members were sworn in without fanfare on Tuesday, the conversation picked up basically where it left off last year, but with some unexpected contributors to the dribs and drabs of critical thinking.

The Minimalist and Inadequate Explanation of What the Lighthouse School and Commissioner’s Network Are

The “Lighthouse School” is part of the new Sheff agreement. The Sheff v. O’Neill case agreement was approved in Connecticut’s Superior Court. That’s legally binding, folks. According to Kathleen England, “there’s ample funding across three years to support” the school chosen for a Lighthouse School redesign. The amount being promised is $750,000 per year for at least three years. England said that the school selected would be one making progress rather than at the bottom, but that the neighborhood the school is in would also need to be “on the cusp of improving.” To be eligible, the school would also need to be a neighborhood, non-magnet with what the Hartford Public Schools is calling “potential for natural diversity.” There is a tight timeline for the selection and application process. England says that “it’s a great opportunity” for schools “to get financial commitment,” to “maybe take a design you have in place and take it and make it more robust.” With this process, she said, it would “absolutely” remain a neighborhood school and not become a magnet school. This would be money to enrich existing design. The Global Communications Academy IB was named as a potential candidate.

The Commissioner’s Network, in contrast, has been around a few years and already taken in one of our public schools– Milner. For 3-5 years, the school district loses complete control over the public school, but according to State Department of Education documents, there will be a “transition” of the school as it leaves the Commissioner’s Network. Operating expenses must still be provided by the local school board while it is potentially “partnered” with another not-for-profit management organization. When Milner entered the Commissioner’s Network, the school was closed down, teachers told they would have to reapply for their jobs, and then re-opened as Jumoke Academy Honors at Milner. This time around, Superintendent Kishimoto says HPS is not necessarily suggesting a change in school leadership and not talking about a closure because there is not time for that. Kishimoto is continuing to push for America’s Choice at SAND and Clark Elementary School to apply to the Commissioner’s Network.

But It’s More Complicated Than That, So Keep Reading. This isn’t Reader’s Digest

There was insistence that a Lighthouse School would not be turned into a magnet model, but Kishimoto said that there is possibly legislation being drafted that could make this model a magnet. There are a number of unknowns. Continue reading 'Opportunity or Charade? BOE Talks Money for School Design'»

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