Category: corruption

On Residents’ Minds

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By , January 9, 2012 8:52 pm

Although City Council took its first official action of 2012 last week, Monday evening was its first regular (read: not accompanied by ceremony) meeting.

The public comment session showed two prevailing issues on residents’ and stakeholders’ minds: housing and employment. Continue reading 'On Residents’ Minds'»

Is this what Democracy Looks Like?

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By , July 22, 2011 2:12 pm

Because the Hartford Democratic Town Committee convention did not start on time, there was opportunity to check out the fashions. Continue reading 'Is this what Democracy Looks Like?'»

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. Continue reading 'Behind the Scenes at the Hartford Democratic Town Committee Convention'»

Mandatory Minimums for Youth

By , February 12, 2011 12:31 am

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. Continue reading 'Mandatory Minimums for Youth'»

Learnings (and some unanswered questions) from the 2010 Election

By , November 3, 2010 3:38 pm

After voting, I felt dirty. Continue reading 'Learnings (and some unanswered questions) from the 2010 Election'»

Will People Vote for Him Anyway?

By , November 1, 2010 2:08 pm

Hector Robles has been fired from his job at the Hartford Police Department. The announcement of this comes one day before Election Day.

Because Some of Us Do Not Like to Exercise in Gyms

By , July 19, 2010 7:51 am

A public hearing will be held tomorrow, July 20th, at 5:30 pm in the West Hartford Town Hall Auditorium. This is a chance for members of the community to speak out regarding the possible closure of the MDC properties (West Hartford reservoirs) to recreational use.

The West Hartford Reservoir on Route 4 is a way for Hartford residents to conveniently get our fix of nature. From Downtown, it takes about 15 minutes to drive there and maybe half an hour to bike. You can even take the bus there without much fuss at all. The MDC website describes the five reservoirs in West Hartford and Bloomfield as offering:

3,000 acres of beautiful forestland; there are more than 30 miles of paved and gravel roads for joggers and bicyclists, hiking trails [...], wheelchair-accessible picnic groves, cross-country skiing and snow shoeing.

There are also areas offering scenic views. Having a well-maintained recreational area is important for Hartford residents, most of whom have no (or small) yards because they rent rather than own. This site is a convenient, free, and fun mini-vacation spot for people who can not afford to (or choose not to) live in the surrounding expensive suburbs where green space is more plentiful.

Recently, a frivolous lawsuit filed against the MDC ended in a poor legal decision, which not only makes a mockery of the legal system, it has pressured the MDC to consider making poor decisions of their own. There is talk of them threatening to close the reservoirs to public recreational use.

For complete background, check out the numerous articles by Rick Green or the Save the MDC website. In a nutshell, what happened was that a cyclist was riding in the wrong direction on the paved trails and had been riding with her head down; as a result of this, she did not see a gigantic yellow gate, rode right into it, and wrecked herself. She damaged her vertebrae, but has since recovered and from several accounts, is still riding. A recent letter sent to the Courant by John Craggs says it best:

Maribeth Blonski’s lawyer stated that all the Metropolitan District Commission had to do was post a sign on the trail showing that there was a gate ahead. Yet, if Ms. Blonski did not see the gate, how would she have seen a smaller sign?

It’s difficult to see how the MDC could possibly be at fault on this one. Anyone who has been to the reservoir and has the ability to see has no doubt taken notice of the many signs (too many in my opinion) dotting the area. If someone abides by the site policies and walks or bikes in the correct direction, then she is given more than enough fair warning. Besides, one knows that there is a certain degree of risk involved in athletic activities. In this case, the gate used to keep motorized vehicles off the trails (making the area infinitely safer) only posed a risk to someone who was not riding right; by painting it yellow, rather than camouflage, the MDC had acted responsibly.

Now, since the MDC had to pay an outrageous lawsuit ($2.9 million) once, the concern is that future asinine lawsuits will continue to hurt them financially. While this concern is understandable, closing the reservoirs is not the answer!

A press release on the MDC website says:

The Water Bureau of the Metropolitan District (MDC) will conduct an informational
meeting relating to the recreational use of its reservoir land on Tuesday, July 20, 2010, at 5:30 p.m. in the
West Hartford Town Hall Auditorium, 50 South Main Street, West Hartford, Connecticut. The purpose of this
meeting is to receive public input on the issue. The Water Bureau will not take any formal action on this issue
at the meeting.

Under the MDC Charter, the Water Bureau is charged with making periodic recommendations to the District
Board regarding the uses permitted on and within MDC reservoir property. For example, in 1998, the District
Board, upon recommendation of the Water Bureau, adopted ordinances requiring bicyclists, skateboarders and
roller skaters using MDC property to wear certain protective equipment.

In response to a recent Superior Court decision in the case of Blonski v. Metropolitan District, the Water
Bureau, through its chairman, Commissioner Timothy Curtis of Windsor, has decided to reevaluate the MDC’s
policy in this area. “As a public entity funded by rate payer money, we have an obligation to assess our risks,
particularly in light of recent events. We intend to proceed in an open and deliberate manner as we review our
policies. In the meantime, the public should not assume that the Water Bureau has made, or will recommend,
any changes to the District’s recreational use policy,” said Commissioner Curtis.

On behalf of the District Board, and in response to a good deal of misinformation on the issue, Chairman
William DiBella stated, “Let me be perfectly clear. No decisions to change our current policies have been
made, specifically in regard to closing the reservoir property to the public. Any statements to the contrary
should be disregarded. The District Board has yet to take any formal action, and individual statements or
conclusions do not reflect Board policy. I commend Chairman Curtis for his leadership on this issue in
conducting an open and constructive dialogue.”

The meeting will include a brief presentation by MDC staff on its recreational facilities with public comments to
follow. Those attending the meeting who wish to speak will be asked to sign in for the record, and all speakers
will be limited to 3 minutes in duration. Organizations are welcome to choose a representative to speak on their
behalf.

They say that no formal decision has been made yet, but even an informal discussion of closing this area is cause for concern. If you share this concern but can not attend the meeting, you can email your thoughts on the matter to kshaw@themdc.com.

Continue reading 'Because Some of Us Do Not Like to Exercise in Gyms'»

Do Hartford Residents Care About the City?

By , May 27, 2010 8:03 am

This has been the question posed, but the definition of caring is one that I reject. The Courant has framed the issue as follows: Hartford residents do or do not care about the city based on political corruption and/or low voter turnout.

As if those were the only indicators of caring!

Don’t Blame Me for Perez
I have voted in every election. Because I am not able to see the world through rose-colored glasses, I know that people can be corrupt, evil, or just plain stupid, regardless of party affiliation; thus, I do not vote along any party line. Although I do not despise him as many do, I have never voted for Perez. And guess what? Many others in Hartford did not vote for him either. Citing as proof that Hartford residents do not care because Mayor Perez was reelected is like saying Americans did not care because GWB was elected twice. I do not understand why some would cast their votes in favor of certain candidates, but they do.

Low voter turnout is a problem, but it is not a problem unique to Hartford. Even in presidential elections, Americans do not take part as they could. Do we blame voters for not participating in a system that they view as broken or unable to be affected by the people? I don’t. I’ll admit to not always believing that my vote matters, but I do it anyway…in the same way that I wear a seatbelt or a bike helmet. It might be futile, but then, it might not, and it does not hurt me to do so.

Instead of framing the outcome of an election as a sign that Hartford residents do not care, why do we not ask instead why better candidates are not running for political office?

I do not care about Perez

Sure, I care about him as a human being. He’s never been unpleasant in my very few interactions with him. But I do not care about his trial. There. I said it.

The media cares about the Perez trial because it is scandalous (low grade scandal is what I would call it) and scandal sells papers, gets viewers, and allows “reporters” to sit in a court room tweeting inane, irrelevant observations, passing that off as news.

It’s not that I am a supporter of corruption. If the Mayor did in fact do something illegal, he should be punished appropriately for it. But — here’s a shocker — his fancy counter tops do not affect my everyday life. They are not the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing before I go to sleep. No, the last thing I think about when going to bed is how the “noise ordinance with teeth” is more like one with dentures, in that when residents call for enforcement, the teeth have been removed. I care about the need for stronger enforcement of leash laws. There are people who let their pit bulls roam, which causes problems when they tangle with other dogs; there are some in my neighborhood who are afraid they will be bitten. Another thing I care about is how lackadaisical traffic law enforcement is. The police only need to park themselves at the corner of Broad and Capitol to meet any ticket quotas they might have. Every single time I am at this intersection I see people running red lights, speeding through the intersection, and doing other amazingly idiotic things, like texting while turning. Sit by the highway on and off ramps. I would feel safer standing in the middle of a driving school parking lot. I care about low literacy, bullying in schools, and the lack of employment for residents. I care that in certain neighborhoods where there are high rates of diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, I see prominent billboards advertising alcohol and fast food. I care about the way downtown landlords price out low income residents or new small businesses, how the city demolishes buildings they own rather than maintain them so that they can be used, how the parks are not maintained as they should be, and how a minority of violent thugs make life unbearable in small sections of the city.

When I do not have so many other things to care about, then maybe I will have room in my brain for caring about a rather minor accusation made of a politician, who, by the way, has not gotten us into a war (or two), permitted torture, or wrecked the economy. Let’s prioritize our outrage. If Perez acted illegally, then he should be punished, but there is no need to sensationalize the trial, as this is not worthy of sensationalism.

Perez Resigns as Chairman

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By , February 16, 2009 5:17 pm

Today Mayor Perez announced that he would be stepping down (or not running for re-election or resigning or however you’d like to spin it) from chairing the Board of Education and the School Building Committee. This act has been the smartest political move he has made in awhile, as it eliminates some obvious conflicts of interest and helps residents to think about restoring their trust in him as a leader.

Perez cites Hartford’s budget mess as the reason for relinquishing these positions. I don’t doubt that’s part of the reason, but people never have a singular reason for doing anything. Still, making a fuss about precisely what his reasons were seems like a fruitless exercise in self-righteousness.

The Mayor’s move can allow the Charter Revision Commission to more fairly examine certain policies without their own feelings toward the mayor getting in the way. It frees the Board of Education and School Building Committee from possible ethical quandaries. And yes, it frees up the mayor to focus more on Hartford’s budget. As someone who pays obnoxiously high car tax already, my daily concerns have more to do with what I have to take out of my wallet, than what someone else pays (or doesn’t) for kitchen remodeling.

Calixto Torres Retains Position

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By , February 4, 2009 6:49 am

The job of the City Council is to vote.
Yesterday, Veronica Airey-Wilson failed to do her job.

The message that I got from her decision to abstain was this: Airey-Wilson wants to be everyone’s friend. Airey-Wilson wants to make no enemies. Airey-Wilson is unable to summon the courage to do her job, which, by the way, requires that tough decisions be made from time-to-time. In a time of economic meltdown, in a time when many people are losing their jobs, Airey-Wilson should show a little gratitude to at least have a job by performing one of the central tasks that she is being paid to do.

Much is being made of Cotto’s vote and remarks, some of which you can read on CT News Junkie. I have to wonder if anyone on the Council cared when he announced that he was “not down with the way this is happening.” Applause or lack of in the chambers is not what I’m referring to. Did anyone else voting (or in Airey-Wilson’s case, not voting) yesterday try on some empathy? Did anyone question the unethical and painful attempt to strip someone of power when he had not shown any wrongdoing other than having poor choice in friends?

Here is the full text of the statement given by the Working Families Party (Cotto and Deutsch) regarding the attempt to remove City Council President Torres from his position yesterday:

It is time for change in Hartford. Just as change has been needed at the national level and is now happening in Washington, it has also been needed for a while here in our city – and not just for the past week. We’ve been calling for change since the day we took office.

Throughout the past week, we’ve heard many people say they want to do what is best for the City. What’s best for the city is measured in terms of the quality of life of our residents. That’s the kind of change that we need and the kind of change that we in the Working Families Party are committed to.

What is our job in city government? It is to serve the people, honestly, directly, responsively.
Continue reading 'Calixto Torres Retains Position'»

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