Category: commentary/editorial

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'»

Grid, Interrupted: The Bushnell Neighborhood

By , January 6, 2014 8:51 am

Today Real Hartford introduces a new series: Grid, Interrupted. This will be a glimpse at some of a street or block’s history.

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A recent piece in the Courant painted a kind of dreamer’s dream. It reported that the State of Connecticut’s laboratory building, pictured above, is being vacated and is potentially slated for demolition. The Bushnell is eying this spot for condominiums and apartments. Other desired changes to this area: retail and restaurants. A potential change: a parking garage on part of a surface lot and the possibility of a garage elsewhere with (maybe) housing and (maybe) a restaurant surrounding it.

Lovely, ain’t it?

But what the iQuilt supporters have skated around is obvious and simple: no neighborhood is going to exist until all those hideous and isolating surface lots are dealt with, seriously. Continue reading 'Grid, Interrupted: The Bushnell Neighborhood'»

Lame Duck Superintendent Pushing Again to Hand Over Clark and SAND

By , January 2, 2014 9:35 am

A scene from inside Milner at Jumoke Academy, the one Hartford school that is currently part of the Commissioner’s Network

Mayor Segarra and the Board of Education could intervene any time to stop outgoing Superintendent Kishimoto from pushing an agenda that the community has loudly spoken against. They could urge her to focus on addressing the actual concerns that School Governance Councils want addressed at their respective schools. Instead, residents continue to scratch their heads over how someone whose contract was not renewed could stay on for an entire school year and wield power after being slammed on her own performance review, which incidentally, was the only review the Board of Education officially conducted for her.

In November, parents said “No” to the proposal to toss SAND School to a newly formed private management company linked to Capital Prep Magnet School’s principal, Steve Perry. Just days before that, Clark School parents said “No” to the plan to hand the public school over to the Achievement First charter school chain.

Opponents of public schooling have framed this as a grand conspiracy led by unionists; while the teacher’s union has had involvement, it has been minimal, which is plain to anyone who has been paying attention. Parents have been leading the fight against disrupting their children’s educations by closing schools.

Now, Superintendent Kishimoto is pushing for Clark and SAND to become part of the Commissioner’s Network; Continue reading 'Lame Duck Superintendent Pushing Again to Hand Over Clark and SAND'»

Scenes from the Sidewalk: Installment 76

By , December 5, 2013 8:04 am

This was the scene on Wednesday (and on many other days over the years) on Scarborough Street.

The bike lane is not where you (or your landscapers) should put the leaves. Continue reading 'Scenes from the Sidewalk: Installment 76'»

Ban the Box: What does the law say?

By , December 2, 2013 8:42 am

As we move into the holiday season, some see it fit not to push toward creating a more just world, but to punish those who have already been punished. This is done selectively and in ignorance, or apathy, of the larger consequences and messages being sent. The same people lamenting recidivism are actively putting up stumbling blocks to those who have made mistakes and are trying to do right.

Last week what we saw in Hartford was not concern for public safety but a witch hunt.

We can speculate over why Kennard Ray was singled out more than others to have his background checked out. Maybe it’s his party affiliation — being part of a growing third party in a city controlled by the Democrats. There’s been open hostility toward that party by those who believe it is somehow responsible for both Republicans losing their footing here and for some Democrats to lose votes. Some have suggested that those calling for this investigation with such gusto all hail from a different racial background from Ray, and that their privilege prevents them from seeing how they are contributing to institutional racism.

I asked Kennard Ray why he thinks this got the spotlight, after all, not all new hires are given so much as a second glance by the media. His telling of it is that questions arose after a press release was issued by the Mayor’s Office, with reporters from the Hartford Courant initially raising the issue. At this stage of the game, he had been appointed and was due to begin work this morning, following the Thanksgiving weekend.

He says that he has “heard several theories on why [his past] may have been brought up, but I’m not sure if any of those theories lead me in a direction where I can form a solid opinion and I am not comfortable speculating. I’m sure we’ll hear more about why this became a public issue of interest in the days to come.”

Regardless of the reasons, this push to “investigate” Ray came largely from those whose own pasts are far from perfect.

The Debt That’s Paid is Never Paid

At what point has someone paid his debt to society? Is it after he has served his jail term? Stayed out of trouble for five years? Ten years?

Kennard Ray himself, in a statement on Facebook, has said that he has “worked tirelessly in my community and communities like it over the past decade to make good on past misgivings. I have in fact done the crimes that the media has reported on, and I have also done the time. In fact, over the past decade I’ve put more time and effort to doing right, than I ever have in doing wrong.”

Do we only consider him rehabilitated on his death bed when we can all be sure that he has obeyed the law for the remaining decades of his life?

What Does the Law Say?

The fact is that Ray, nor anyone else applying for a job with the City of Hartford — with only a few exceptions — needs to be upfront about his criminal past. Hartford has an ordinance spelling out as much. A resolution states:

The court of common council by substitute resolution dated January 12, 2009 resolved that the human resources department review its current civil services processes and eliminate any barriers during an interview process that may preclude applicants with criminal records from gaining employment with the City of Hartford.

Interpretation: a person who has a criminal past can be employed with the City of Hartford. Continue reading 'Ban the Box: What does the law say?'»

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