corruption

Best Most Awesome Superlatives 2015

Best Low-Expense Improvements Award

Best New Dining: Little River Restoratives, 405 Capitol Avenue

PARK(ing) Day: Forget, for a moment, that these improvements were temporary. Pavement, usually reserved for parked cars, was covered with sod for a few hours. These tiny parks were populated with musicians, improv performers, and artists. In some cases, these were simply places to sit. The appearance of these spots changed the mood of passersby on their lunch breaks. No need to construct stadiums or monuments. A few square feet of green can be enough to make a difference, if not financial, at least emotional.

Reducing the thing people seem to believe there is not enough of actually boosted the quality of street life in downtown Hartford for part of one work day.

Sweetest Under-the-Radar Event Award

This is a tie between Cranksgiving and Sharing the Warmth.

The former is the local edition of a widespread event that is basically a scavenger hunt and food drive combined. It engages children and cyclists of all levels, and the benefits go right back to a food pantry in our community. Given its start at Trinity College, it also acts as a way of encouraging positive interaction between students and the community.

Sharing the Warmth was a one-day clothing drive and giveaway, but done in a way that allowed those in need to gather up what they need while maintaining dignity. Coats, gloves, hats, and scarves were brought to where those who’d benefit from having them could be found. (more…)

Another Disorganized Convention Results in Endorsements Over Two Days

The parking lot at Bulkeley High has seen better days. Grass grows up in a handicapped spot. An empty bottle of booze sits where someone left it. The building is imposing, with few windows and no signs of joy. It looks and feels like a place one attends by force, not because it’s a center for intellectual growth that one may opt into.

With the Democratic Town Committee‘s convention slated to begin at 6 p.m., politicians, committee members, and families began to gather hours in advance on Bulkeley’s steps, some to rally for their candidates, others to avoid sitting down.

It’s not hard to stand and chat, delaying entrance to what will no doubt feel like a cage for the rest of the evening. Knowing how these go, we knew it would be inexpedient and frustrating. Snacks would need to be eaten surreptitiously, lest we get asked to leave and end up missing something. They want to preserve the auditorium’s new carpet, and who can begrudge them of that? It appears to be the only update to the room that is otherwise stuck in the mid-1970s. There’s no Wi-Fi. Outlets are hard to find. If they have any technology developed in the past 40 years, they weren’t using it, with the vote tally later being kept on a large white board that could barely be read. (more…)

Conversations with the Candidates: Impressions

“Why isn’t the mayor here?”

That was the first question asked by an audience member, before the official time for questions began — before anything really began — at the Business for Downtown Hartford’s “Candid Conversations” event. (more…)

Most Best Awesome Superlatives of 2014

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. (more…)

Behind the Scenes at the Hartford Democratic Town Committee Convention

A large room crammed full of powerful people (and those aiming to be) dressed in red, white, and blue, with buttons and signs galore. The party casts its votes, maybe some numbers don’t match up and a recount is needed, but the endorsements get made and the evening moves on. Reporters pushing their way through to get to the newly endorsed or to those left behind. That’s the image that comes to mind, and to an extent, that is what happens. But for those who have never been to a convention and who are not politically connected, it might be eye-opening to learn that the behind the scenes “back room deals” are not so secretive after all.

The Hartford Democratic Town Committee’s convention was scheduled to begin at 5:30 on Thursday evening in Bulkeley High School’s air conditioned auditorium. We assumed that this was the fake time, which is told so that events kick off on time about thirty minutes later. Segarra’s supporters were gathered around the building’s entrance with signs and stickers at 4:30 pm. By all accounts, I thought I would be home by ten, latest.

Upon entering, we had our choice of seats. Nothing was roped off. Nobody was serving as an usher. I sat with Emily of Live in Hartford, and near reporters from The Hartford Guardian and The Hartford News, two small, local newspapers that work hard to get the story, like journalists from days of yore. We were in the second row, center, and nobody seemed to mind.

Waiting for the event to begin, we noted who was conversing with whom. Julio Concepcion, an HDTC member, stopped over and we chatted about the waves he made when he publicly questioned the 2-2-2 strategy days prior. In the audience was a young man, a teenager about to enter Hartford Public High School after attending Bellizzi. He began the evening as the embodiment of idealism. We never saw if he looked the same, or disenchanted, when he slipped out later.

At 6pm, we thought the event was going to begin when the committee announced that the little people had to move our seats:

The rationale made sense. Leave room so that HDTC members can easily access the microphone and be heard; one wonders why this was not announced earlier. One also wonders why this was even attempted, as the members were scattered throughout the auditorium, some griping that they could not hear, all the while not moving their seats, despite the vacant ones now reserved for them. (more…)

Mandatory Minimums for Youth

The Hartford school system has been no stranger to controversy. There’s the achievement gap, illiteracy and drop out rates, and racial isolation. There were bonuses doled out to teachers and paraprofessionals; these were intended to reward teachers for gains in CAPT scores, but many having nothing to do with that achievement benefited. There have been questions raised about the increase in district test scores; some have asserted that the sharp improvements are not due to mere student achievement, but to the mass exclusion of special education students.

Here’s something new to add to the list of complaints: mandatory minimum grades. Teachers in the Hartford school district are being told they are not permitted to assign a final grade lower than a 55 in any given marking period.

The practice of grade inflation itself is not a new one, though it’s not openly discussed for obvious reasons.

In the past, teachers could enter grades that accurately reflected what the students earned. If a student earned 12 points, the teacher could let the record show that this was the case. Administration could modify the grade, but the teacher would not be forced to lie about a student’s performance.

Now, we’re being informed that teachers are forced to artificially boost student grades. Not all are pleased about this. A group of teachers within the Hartford school system have decided they are sick of cheating students and bilking taxpayers. They have complained about this policy, which forces teachers to break the Connecticut Code of Professional Responsibility for Educators:

(h) The professional educator, in full recognition of the public trust vested in the profession, shall not:

(A) Exploit the educational institution for personal gain;
(B) Be convicted in a court of law of a crime involving moral turpitude or of any crime of such nature that violates such public trust; or
(C) Knowingly misrepresent facts or make false statements.

Beyond the professional code of ethics, some have spoken about how this forces them to break with their own personal codes of ethics. Some teachers are attempting to find ways of coping with this. (more…)

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