Category: politics/government

Superintendent’s Transition Report Released

By , October 21, 2014 8:53 am

Much of the school superintendent’s transition report is predictable, as its framework had been provided to the public in June. Since coming to Hartford, the new superintendent gathered input from meetings, focus groups involving 700 participants, and surveys completed by 1000 community stakeholders.

What is surprising about the report is not the content in itself but that what has been common knowledge — problems that have persisted for years — is acknowledged in writing by the new superintendent:

  • “Portfolio Strategy” used for most of the last decade has serious flaws, including that “schools were created with agreed-upon design specifications, but in several instances, core specifications have not been realized. Sometimes this appears to be due to limited resources, and on other occasions, this seems to be the result of ambiguity around what a redesigned school can expect from the district” (11).
  • Schools deemed to be high-performing are said to contribute to inconsistencies in curriculum: “Curriculum across schools lacks consistency and significantly more curriculum work is needed at all levels. Decision-making autonomy for high-performing schools has also led to more curriculum inconsistencies across schools” (8). Continue reading 'Superintendent’s Transition Report Released'»

Redefining Clean Water

By , October 16, 2014 9:48 am

South Branch of Park River

The water of Gully Brook, along with that of the North and South Branches of the Park River is not potable, not fishable says Mary Rickel Pelletier of Park Watershed, Inc. Continue reading 'Redefining Clean Water'»

Dispatching with Safety

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Nothing on the City Council agenda hinted at there being a shortage of emergency telephone operators, yet person-after-person in Council Chambers spoke about the need for more dispatchers.

The public learned that for approximately the last three months, some dispatchers have had mandatory double shifts almost every day. 16-hour shifts. Some members work over 100 hours each week. Continue reading 'Dispatching with Safety'»

The Little Park That Could

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By , October 15, 2014 6:12 pm
In an area of Downtown, beyond the parking garages and towers, is a park that sits atop the I-84 tunnel. Two of its three segments — east of Main Street and west of Trumbull Street — are nothing more than vegetation and rarely used benches. The central piece, known as Heaven, has evolved from hosting underutilized four square and basketball courts, to attracting skateboarders, graffiti artists, and others. It has been featured in skateboarding videos and magazines.

Downtown North Plan Approved

As expected, the deal was voted through, with no nay votes but three abstentions: Larry Deutsch (Working Families), David MacDonald (Democrat), and Raúl De Jesús, Jr. (Democrat).

Before casting his vote, De Jesús said the serenity prayer in Spanish, then English. Continue reading 'Downtown North Plan Approved'»

Reader Questions About Downtown North Development

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By , October 13, 2014 5:30 pm

As the controversial Downtown North proposal goes to vote on Tuesday, there are still dozens of questions remaining unanswered, not to mention an outstanding FOIA request placed initially to Thomas Deller and Wayne Benjamin, and now to Maribel La Luz. Two camps seem to have emerged on this issue, and it’s not pro-stadium/anti-stadium. It’s those who find it reasonable to ask questions and expect thorough, detailed answers, and those who find critical thinking cringe-worthy.

We have been compiling reader questions since June. Here is what people still want to know about this project. Some reader questions were edited to add clarity:

  • What details exist on the retail space and potential tenants?
  • The City would be contributing land for the the construction of a brewery. Is it acceptable to use public funds to facilitate the production, distribution, and consumption of alcohol?
  • What would the rent be for the housing? Would this fulfill the demand for the type of housing that exists in Hartford?
  • How exactly would a stadium drive development? Give details. How has this occurred in cities that are comparable to Hartford in terms of population and wealth?
  • Why isn’t there a proposal without a stadium?

DPW Audit

By , October 10, 2014 5:03 pm

The City of Hartford’s Department of Public Works was recently audited. The resulting report includes details such as the cost of a part entered incorrectly (“$5,180 instead of $5.18″) and how 30% of the parts inventory is either overstocked or obsolete.

Works Equipment Services Division Accounts and Operations Audit

Management has been given until the end of 2014 to take action.

G.E.R.M. in Connecticut Education

By , October 8, 2014 9:44 am

Robert Cotto, Jr.

What does it mean when changes to educational policy that begin in urban districts go on to shape the policy for schools statewide?

That was a question asked by Robert Cotto, Jr. in his talk: “Connecticut Catches a Case of the G.E.R.M.” at Trinity College as part of the Center for Urban and Global Studies’ Global Vantage Point Lecture Series.

The G.E.R.M. referred to is the global education reform movement, which he said “pushes a prescribed curriculum” and includes “test-based accountability and control.”

“We think the suburbs is where where the action” is in terms of changes to education policy, Cotto said, but cities are where the theories get tested.

In 2012, Gov. Malloy declared that it was the “Year of Education Reform” and unveiled six principles. Of those, three were already being practiced in Hartford and New Haven; New Haven was already using test-based teacher evaluations, and both cities had limited expansion of preschool programs and limited use of conditional funding.

The Hartford and New Haven models “appeared” to be successful, but Cotto chalked that up to what he calls “addition through subtraction,” or test scores getting an artificial boost when students with disabilities no longer had to take the same standardized test. Continue reading 'G.E.R.M. in Connecticut Education'»

Random Facts from Open Data: Zones

By , September 29, 2014 8:23 am

Until last week, zoning regulations did not permit a stadium in the B-1 district (Downtown Development District), the area the covers most of Downtown.

If City officials had met for over a year discussing the possibility of a baseball stadium when one had not been allowed where they were seeking to build it, one might ask what else is or is not allowed in different sections of Hartford.

At the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting where this matter was being discussed, there was also confusion about if a brewery — one of the proposed items for the Downtown North re-development project — would be permitted in this area.

Package stores are allowed, as evidenced by the existence of Spiritus Wines. There is no shortage of bars — see Allyn Street, Union Place, Asylum Street, and Ann Uccello Street. There are restaurants that serve beer and wine, along with the hard stuff.

But a brewery is different. There is manufacturing, not just serving or selling. This introduces the question of scale. Would the beverages brewed on site be only available for retail, or would larger, wholesale orders be filled?

The Planning & Zoning Commission defines brew pub as:

any building where beer is manufactured, stored, and bottled, with retail sale of alcoholic liquor to be consumed on the premises with or without the sale of food, with retail sale of sealed bottles or other sealed containers of beer brewed on such premises for consumption off the premises, and with wholesale sales of sealed bottles or other sealed containers of beer brewed on such premises, and as otherwise defined and regulated by the Liquor Control Act of the general statutes.

A former restriction on brew pubs in this area required that manufactured beverages be consumed on site only, and that the production area be no more than 2000SF.

This is no longer the case. What had been allowed in B-1 is also permitted in I-2 (Industrial District, mostly North Meadows and South Meadows), C-1 (Commercial District), and B-2 (Downtown Perimeter District). While a brew pub may exist in B-1, it requires a special permit.

Where, then, did the rumors come from that a brew pub would not be permitted in Downtown? Likely an outdated document found in the City website.

Get in the Zone for Economic Development

Nobody is arguing that Hartford does not need to diversify its types of employment. We can’t and shouldn’t all be working for insurance companies and nail salons. But, some have questioned if the proposed types of development in Downtown North fits Hartford’s needs. What could we have besides or instead of  a minor league baseball stadium? Continue reading 'Random Facts from Open Data: Zones'»

October 2014 Events

By , September 26, 2014 8:24 am

October 1

  • Free gallery talk with Carole P. Kunstadt whose Between the Lines exhibit is currently at Charter Oak Cultural Center. Noon.
  • AK Smith Visiting Scholars Series: “Society, Gender and Politics in Iranian Documentary Films”: The long history of the Kurdish people reveals a tangled web of geography, covering large portions
    of the modern-day Middle East. Road to Kurdistan examines the relationship between Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan after the fall of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent opening of the Iraqi border. The film follows a group of Kurdish travelers crossing the border in search of their dreams. A young musician wants to promote his music in Kurdistan, the filmmaker’s father wants to find the grave of a famous Kurdish poet, and they all want to witness a land that has been off-limits to Iranian Kurds for many years. Of Kurdish descent, Persheng Vaziri ‘81 was born and raised in Iran and lives in New York City. She directed several personal documentaries about Iran such as Women Like Us and A Place Called Home. She is a producer for Bridge to Iran series on Link TV, and has worked on documentaries in the U.S. and Iran. A graduate of Trinity College and New York University, she is completing her PhD at Temple University in Philadelphia. For more information, contact Christina Bolio at Christina.Bolio@trincoll.edu.This will take place in the Smith House Reese Room of Cinestudio. Lecture at 4:30, reception at 6p.m.
  • Get HYPEd, the monthly networking event for younger (generally in the 25-35 range) adults, will be at Nixs on Front Street from 5:30-8:30pm. There’s no need to register. Admission is free. There are typically some complimentary snacks, but if you want other food or to drink you will have to pay for yourself or sweet-talk someone you meet into picking up the tab. This is described as “casual,” but we have learned that this really means “business casual.” (Those of us who work from home or in non-corporate careers need to have that type of warning). Bring your business cards.
  • Want another type of networking event? Come to Faculty Lounge, a free after-hours social event for educators. 5:30-7:30p.m. at the Connecticut Science Center. Pre-registration required.
  • Take a Jamming 101 class with Kelly and Caroline at the Hartford Public Library. Billings Forge describes it: “This hands on class will cover the basics of making simple jams. Kelly and Caroline will share techniques for making lower sugar jams; cover the use of pectin; introduce savory jams; and briefly review basic canning practices.” This is $45. Participants will leave with jars of jam, recipes, and an instructional booklet. 6-8p.m.
  • MakeHartford Show & Tell takes place from 6-9p.m. at 30 Arbor Street, B7. Bring something that you are working on, or just stop by to check out others’ projects. Free.
  • Edward Quinlan will discuss the new book The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked the American Dream. This free talk begins at 6p.m. in the Center for Contemporary Culture in the Hartford Public Library. Refreshments available at 5:30.
  • Trinity College Spanish Film Club will be screening La Yuma at 7p.m. in the McCook Auditorium at Trinity College. This is free and open to the general public. Post-film discussion will be in English and Spanish. Continue reading 'October 2014 Events'»
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