Category: corruption

Another Disorganized Convention Results in Endorsements Over Two Days

By , July 28, 2015 11:45 am

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. Continue reading 'Another Disorganized Convention Results in Endorsements Over Two Days'»

Conversations with the Candidates: Impressions

By , May 14, 2015 9:39 am

“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. Continue reading 'Conversations with the Candidates: Impressions'»

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'»

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'»

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