This morning Mayor Segarra gave a dizzying account of changes and projects that are underway, from “nodal development” along Albany Ave to the $500,000 that he said has been secured for environmental remediation of the former Swift Factory. The new public safety complex on High Street, which has its opening ceremony scheduled for Wednesday, was called a “catalyst” for the development of North Downtown. By all accounts, Segarra views Hartford as moving in the right direction. Continue reading 'Optimism Reigns in Update on City'»
Who pays for the Black Friday steals?
Nearly every major retailer opens its doors before dawn on the day after Thanksgiving. Last year, a Connecticut Kohl’s employee said he had to cut short his time with family on Thanksgiving so that he could nap in order to take on a a Black Friday shift which actually required he arrive late on Thursday. This year, Walmart employees are being told to come in on Thanksgiving, as stores are slated to open on Thursday at 8pm.
With this dismal economy, workers know that they are more disposable than ever. Not showing up for a shift can mean job loss; as one Walmart employee in central Connecticut explained, had she called out during a snow storm when the governor had warned motorists to stay off the roads, she would have been fired.
To protest the practice of what the Corporate Action Network is calling retaliation against workers “for speaking out for good jobs with decent pay, regular hours, affordable healthcare and respect,” there are strikes and demonstrations planned at Walmart stores nationwide, with many occurring on November 23, 2012.
Here in Hartford, there are plans for a solidarity demonstration at the Walmart on Flatbush Avenue. Festive caroling and leafleting is scheduled to begin around 11 a.m. at the front of the store. The public has been invited to join in. Continue reading 'Solidarity Action at Hartford’s Walmart on Black Friday'»
Candidates for state office discussed a range of pressing issues facing the city of Hartford this past Monday at a forum held at the Hartford Public Library. Some of the candidates were long-time veterans of political campaigning and public policy, while others were running for the first time. Generally, the issues remained consistent; however, more than once, the conversation turned to the topic of Connecticut’s tax structure and its disparate effect on cities like Hartford.
The forum, moderated by the Hartford Courant’s Tom Condon, highlighted that Hartford is over-reliant on property tax for revenue. Several factors play into this. As the Capitol city, Hartford has several public buildings that are exempt from paying the tax. As a result, the burden falls on businesses and homeowners. Furthermore, as an urban area, the city must provide for more publically funded services for residents on a greater scale than its non-metropolitan counterparts.
Every candidate present agreed that over-dependence on property tax amplified several of the city’s struggles, such as financing education, closing the achievement gap, and improving the climate of the city in terms of attracting businesses and jobs. While there was consensus that property taxes are an underlying structural problem, each candidate had a somewhat different solution. Continue reading 'Hartford’s Property Taxes in the 2012 Election'»
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Hartford between 2006-2010 was $28,970; the average per capita income for the same period was $16,798. People living below the poverty rate: 32.1%
Knowing that the rate of concentrated poverty is one of the highest in the nation, it may seem as if something is out of place when the Superintendent — who makes decisions for a student body, most of whom are eligible for free or reduced school lunch — through her lawyers, makes demands for a bonus which is more than what many families in the school district earn in one year.
Though Dr. Kishimoto backed down after receiving criticism for demanding a $15,450 bonus following a failing performance review, the language of her messages to the press indicates a sense of entitlement to a possible $30,000 bonus, regardless of the quality of her work.
But the amount of money being doled out in the form of bonuses does not end with Kishimoto deciding not to pursue one through her lawyers. Continue reading 'Hartford Schools: The Bonus Round'»
32BJ SEIU reports that the “National Labor Relations Board has filed a formal complaint against Pressroom Cleaners, for failing to hire the eight cleaners at the Hartford Courant offices and for failing to bargain fairly with the workers’ union [...] when the company was brought in as the new cleaning contractor in December.”
The National Labor Relations Board is seeking to reinstate the eight cleaners who lost their jobs in December 2011. They are also seeking back pay for these workers. Continue reading 'Federal Labor Complaint Filed Against Pressroom Cleaners'»
Connecticut is not boring. It is revolutionary. Still.
But tourism websites and ad agencies never capture this for a multitude of reasons, giving the masses yet another branding campaign to mock.
One reason these don’t work: they are too slick. We know someone is trying to sell us on a trip here or there. The realness is removed through photography and videography that is just too polished. There’s no human voice there.
Contrast that with two homegrown sites that exist primarily for the authors’ own amusement. Connecticut Museum Quest, authored by Stephen Wood, comes with its own mission statement: “destroying the myth that there is nothing to do here.” Wood, often with his family in tow, travels around the state exploring museums, trails, food, and specializing in the quirky. This is how I learned there is something called “peak-bagging,” which is not what it sounds like. If all you know about Connecticut is Mystic Seaport, Mark Twain, and Mohegan Sun, this is the site to visit. He’ll show you everything on and off the beaten path, make you laugh while doing it, and tell the truth about which places have employees with nasty attitudes or venues with inconsistent hours. Even if you have lived in Connecticut your entire life, this site will introduce you to at least one thing you did not know existed.
The Size of Connecticut is a blog about the author’s “attempt to discover (and live in and travel around and photograph) these 4,845 sq. miles.” Johnna Kaplan was raised in Westport, where she understandably developed a skewed sense of what the rest of Connecticut was like; now, in New London, she travels the state learning about life outside of Fairfield County. This is where to find out about synagogues randomly in the middle of nowhere, replica schoolhouses, and what might attract young(ish) people (back) to Connecticut. Yes, she writes about Nathan Hale, but her portrayal has flavor.
There is nothing touristy about these sites, yet they are compelling in ways that the well-funded official sites are not.
The Connecticut Office of Tourism’s website is not without merit. There is information. It does make Connecticut appear attractive. But there are gaps. Look at the “Creative in Connecticut” list, for example. Someone unfamiliar with our state may glance at it and believe that we lack in creativity; we simply lack in people willing to put together comprehensive lists about creative offerings. To be fair, the “This Weekend” lists are better than the “Getaways.”
The other major failing of the “Still Revolutionary” official propaganda is that it wholly ignores activism in Connecticut today. Governor Malloy should get credit for acknowledging Connecticut’s role in the sexual revolution, but he speaks of it in the wrong verb tense. Continue reading 'Still Revolutionary, Real Hartford-Style'»
Making claims that we live in a post-racial society would get most people laughed at, under the best of circumstances. We recognize that the success of Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Oprah Winfrey does not mean racism has vanished from the United States.
But misogyny? Some are still boggled by the continued presence of that beast.
Sitting on a bench near Corning Fountain, I had several people approach me to ask about the small rally happening on Saturday afternoon. A neutral, factual explanation was met with sneering. Online, I read remarks mocking the event; others seemed genuinely naive about the status of women in 2012.
Auxiliary Bishop Martin D. Holley of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., visited Hartford in February. He told congregants during the Black Catholic Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph that the use of birth control is linked to an increase in out-of-wedlock pregnancies, as well as to the increased transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Continue reading 'Rally for Gender Equality in Bushnell Park'»
Sidewalk mattress clutter — been there, done that.
Last night was “trash night,” which is often the beginning of larger objects’ indefinite stays at the curb. Months ago, a neighbor set out several of those glorified paper bags filled with leaves. For an unknown reason, one bag was never removed until weeks later. There was nothing sketchy about what was in the bag. It was placed at curb when the City announced leaf recycling time.
Items that are not being disposed of properly have a worse outlook.
The normal curb life of bulky items is an ugly one. They tend to be slowly disassembled. They might get pushed or kicked into the gutter. Migration is not out of the realm of possibility.
I have seen cabinets set out in salvageable condition get rendered completely useless. The drawers are pulled out. A loose handle will get separated. That handle will wind up in the gutter, two houses down. A week passes. That piece of hardware will turn up two blocks away. Continue reading 'Scenes from the Sidewalk: Installment 40'»
It’s been reported that when the USA PATRIOT Act was originally introduced, nobody in the U.S. Senate read the bill before signing it.
Right now in Connecticut, Governor Malloy’s unwieldy 163-page Act Concerning Educational Competitiveness (SB24), is getting a lot of attention, yet there are some who would be content having the bill pushed through with little understanding of the terminology or the issues.
In what has been turned into a war against teachers, truthiness is replacing actual truth. Tenure, for instance, is being presented as a way of keeping ineffective or “bad” teachers employed until their frail, limp bodies have to be carted away. Tenure actually guarantees due process, granting teachers the right to not be fired for arbitrary reasons.
For those outside of the classroom, it may be a surprise that teachers’ jobs are threatened for reasons outside of competency issues. In Hartford, in low performing schools where gains in adequate yearly progress are modest, some teachers have received the message that they could be let go, even though they are fairly new to the school where these achievement issues have had a long history. None will go on the record because they fear job loss. Tenure would alleviate some of those fears of speaking truth to power. Continue reading 'Deciphering the Education Reform Debate'»
“We have a bad way of looking at things, that what gets tested is what gets taught,” Gary Highsmith, said at an education forum on Thursday. Highsmith is the Principal of Hamden High School, where he said students are taught things that are not tested, such as arts and music.
At a forum about inclusive housing policy and its impact on education, it seemed both incongruous and inevitable that the conversation would include the buzzwords of reform and accountability.
The forum — “Connecticut’s Achievement Gap: How Housing Can Help Close It” — held at the Lyceum explored the philosophy of housing policy as school policy, focusing on “Montgomery County,” a single example.
An inclusionary zoning policy — mixing housing affordable to those at different income levels — was adopted in Maryland’s Montgomery County (suburb of Washington, D.C.) in 1974. Heather Schwartz, a policy researcher with the RAND Corporation, conducted a longitudinal study from 2001-2007 of students in public housing who attended schools with very low-to-moderate poverty rates and those who attended schools with a moderate-rate of students living in poverty. Additionally, the moderate-level poverty schools received more resources, enabling smaller classes and more academic supports. The study found that while students in public housing at both types of schools scored about evenly for the first few years, students attending the schools with a low-to-moderate poverty level outscored their peers eventually. Students were placed randomly in these schools, taking out the option for more involved parents to steer their children into the “better” schools.
This study — and the speakers at the forum — failed to address some variables. Continue reading 'Student Transiency and Concentration of Poverty Tied to Academic Success'»