politics/government

Pay to Play

It used to be highly controversial to ask families to pay for their children to participate in public school sports, but the visceral anger has more or less dwindled as practicality has won out. In the same way, some of the “freebies” in Hartford that have become traditions — parades, summer movie nights, ice skating — have been revealed as costing more than is fair to pass along to the taxpayer in a time when important services have been slashed.

The reactions have varied. Some did little more than create a hashtag. Others have taken more vocal and fruitful actions.

In April, Real Hartford suggested that events like Envisionfest and Winterfest charge a modest admission fee for out-of-town users. No word on if anyone will take up that suggestion, but it stands. Meanwhile, those hoping to hang on to Winterfest activities, like ice skating in Bushnell Park, have started a crowdfunding campaign. As of publication, it has collected $200 toward its $200,000 goal.

Cops: Don’t Dish if You Can’t Take It

The horses make an appearance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Garden and Ashley on May 11, 2016

It’s been a tough few weeks for the police, perhaps tougher for those who have made questionable moves.

Budget cuts have eliminated the Mounted Police, effective at the beginning of July. A few mounted police made an appearance at the Zunner Building opening ceremony on Wednesday, where the governor, mayor, and other elected City and State politicians were present. Though well attended, the need for crowd control at this event was not apparent.

The Animal Control Unit has been significantly reduced; ACO Sherry DeGenova, who has earned the reputation of being valuable for her non-stop passion and commitment to her work, was among those cut. Responding to this decision, the community — including many people from beyond Hartford’s borders who adopted dogs that would have otherwise been killed — has marched, petitioned, filled City Hall during a Council meeting, and gone very public with its discontent over a budget cut that some are claiming will actually cost the City of Hartford more money in the long run. (more…)

Zunner Building Opens in Asylum Hill

L-to-R: Yvonne Matthews, Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association; Andrea Perreira, Local Initiatives Support Corporation; Luke Bronin, Mayor of Hartford; Lynda Godkin, NINA; Jack Ellovich, Hartford Community Loan Fund; Matt Ritter, State Rep.; Dannel Malloy, Governor

 

“Government sometimes gets it right,” Malloy told onlookers at the grand opening ceremony for The Zunner Building, a restoration project that has been, according to Lynda Godkin, 15 years in the making.

View of Asylum Hill from inside the Zunner Building, located at the corner of Garden and Ashley Street

In this case, the State of Connecticut was a significant source of the funding for what turned a 90-year old, much dilapidated building, into a refreshed mixed-use building with help from Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (NINA).

Besides the State Housing Tax Credit Contribution Program, State Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program, and Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, funding for $2.4 million renovation of 207-215 Garden Street came from the City of Hartford Fa├žade Improvement Program, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Eversource Energy, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Hartford Community Loan Fund, Travelers, Wells Fargo Bank, Connecticut Natural Gas, and ConnectiCare Insurance Company. (more…)

Urban Birds Celebrated in Elizabeth Park

Audubon Sharon sharin’ “Mandala,” a Red-tailed Hawk

Audubon Connecticut and Park Watershed presented a celebration of migratory birds at Elizabeth Park on Thursday, in part to mark 100 years of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Besides a guided bird walk and the chance to check out some birds of prey, the event featured chats from national and local experts.

Scott Johnston, Chief of Bird Population Program, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, explained what sparked the need for the treaty. Unregulated hunting of birds, primarily for use in hats, impacted the populations. These hats included all, pieces of, or just feathers from egrets, herons, terns, owls, and hummingbirds.

Today, Hartford and New Haven are recognized as two of the 26 places in the United States designated as Urban Bird Treaty Cities, meaning they have committed to education and action. (more…)

Bronin Releases Recommended Budget

The mayor’s 300+ page proposed budget can be reduced to one sentence: The party is over.

For years, certain parades and festivals had been held despite their organizers failing to pay for associated costs in full. This is one of Hartford’s open secrets. Even when the events may not have been well-executed or marketed, the City of Hartford continued to pick up the tab. Cultural events like festivals and parades could draw money into Hartford, but a single glance at the food trucks present for many of these events shows this not to be the case. How, then, can the strain on the HPD traffic division and on the DPW (for funsies, visit Bushnell Park at end of day following one of the major festivals before the crews come out in force to remove litter, empty the trash, and hose everything down) be justified if negligible revenue is created? Should Mayor Bronin’s proposed budget be adopted, we could still have parades for days, if we pay for them without help from the City. (more…)

Temporary Closure of Bushnell Park Playground

Citing numerous safety concerns, Hartford’s DPW will begin removing the playground in Bushnell Park on Monday, April 18. The map, amphitheater, and “literary picnic grove” will remain.

Bushnell Park Foundation and DPW intend to install an accessible playground, with construction starting in the fall. To pay for this, the Bushnell Park Foundation has set up a donation page.

In the meantime, there is a public playground located in Pulaski Mall, just south of Downtown.

City Council Revisions Need Closer Look

The April 11, 2016 City Council meeting included on its agenda a resolution:

(COUNCIL PRESIDENT CLARKE II) The Court of Common Council highly encourages the Mayor to negotiate with all collective bargaining units and offers the following additional suggestions for achieving savings and generating more revenue, which suggestions are not intended to be an exhaustive list.

(more…)

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