Concern About Registrars, Years After Previous Complaints

Though Mayor Segarra did not return comment about why the Registrars’ of Voters errors during past elections had not caused deep concern within City Hall, his public relations contact issued a statement today on behalf of both the mayor and Councilperson Wooden, announcing that the duo have “co-sponsored one resolution that will launch an investigation into yesterday’s voting issues and a second that will restructure the office of the Hartford Registrars of Voters.”

Last year voters had the opportunity to weigh in on the Registrars, but as we reported, there was little effort to translate the ballot questions into language accessible to the average resident.

The call for an investigation seems to replicate what is already expected to occur as a complaint is being filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

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Snarled Process Offers Results Days Later

Between the low voter turnout and the small number of ballot items — three ballot questions and four Board of Education spots to fill — one would expect that Hartford’s results would have been among the first returned to the Connecticut Secretary of the State.

Hartford 2013 Election Results (Official)

Following the election, the voting process in Hartford has received sharp criticism from the Courant on more than one occasion. Last week we reported how one resident needed to make multiple stops in different parts of town in order to vote. We continue to hear more from voters who had less than ideal experiences on Election Day.

Voters had reported that the several pages of text required to understand the ballot questions had been missing on Tuesday morning. Some places received these documents hours after the polls had been open. One resident who knew of this issue did not get to vote until early evening, around 5pm. Frank Gordón-Quiroga, whose polling place is at the Hartford Public Library, said the explanatory materials were present, but on the corner of a table. Continue reading “Snarled Process Offers Results Days Later”

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Unofficial Election Results Show No Surprises

In the lead up to most elections in Hartford, various entities — libraries, churches, etc. —  provide opportunities for citizens to learn more about the candidates and the issues. This year was marked by an initial absence of forums based on the assumption that four candidates running for four spaces means that there is no contest, and possibly, no reason to learn about the candidates. Real Hartford has gotten reports of voters being told they had to vote for four Board of Education candidates when the truth is that a person could vote for anywhere from zero to four candidates.

When it came time to understanding the ballot questions, even less effort went into translating the legalese into standard American English. The one public forum we heard of which was designed to explain these complicated questions was poorly promoted; the event was not listed on the venue’s website. We received reports yesterday that a person working at City Hall was allegedly part of the problem of misinformation. Few knew that ‘yes’ votes on two of the ballot questions would change nothing unless the State changed policy or essentially granted permission for the city to move forward on those items.

So, with the relative absence of information combined with voters who admitted to not doing their homework, there’s no surprise that voter turnout was astoundingly low, or that there was no consensus across districts on the ballot questions, according to the unofficial election results:

Unofficial Election Results in Hartford 2013

The unofficial numbers show some districts being on the fence. Continue reading “Unofficial Election Results Show No Surprises”

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How Many Trips Does It Take to Vote in Hartford?

Would we even recognize Election Day in Hartford if it weren’t for the near-ritual of shenanigans?

As of mid-afternoon, CT News Junkie reported a low, even by our standards, voter turnout of 2.2% in the city. This number may deceive one into believing that each voter’s experience would be positive, as there’d be no rushing folks away from the voting tables and out the door. Continue reading “How Many Trips Does It Take to Vote in Hartford?”

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On the Ballot

The last attempt to revise Hartford’s Charter went nowhere due to the proverbial ball being dropped, but this time the proposed changes will make it onto the November ballots so citizens can approve or reject.

This time around the group “was a pretty functional body,” Brendan Mahoney, one of the Charter Revision Commissioners said. “There was no grandstanding.

The flaw in this system is having voters — mostly not lawyers — vote on changes written in legalese. The first time many will encounter these questions will be at the polls. The questions you will find on November’s ballot will read as follows:

What does all this mean? Continue reading “On the Ballot”

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Hartford 2010: Resolutions for the New Year

It’s way easier to delegate than to take on every last responsibility, so rather than work on gaining muscle mass or weaning myself off chocolate, I’m creating a list of things I would like to see Hartford work on in the upcoming year. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Make the Riverfront Accessible
  2. After having my heart set on a lovely afternoon bicycle ride along the Connecticut River, my plans were thwarted. Continue reading “Hartford 2010: Resolutions for the New Year”

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Revised, Ready, and Waiting

A few months ago when the revision process began, there was a public hearing. Subsequently, at every meeting of the Charter Revision Commission, the public have had the opportunity to vent voice their concerns for a few minutes. During the regular meetings, less than a handful of people bothered to show up to express their opinions. Predictably, some have already begun to complain about the outcome. This kind of kvetching into the abyss is purposeless and would be more effective if directed to those who have at least a semblance of control over the matter. Draft revisions are being made available beginning on Monday and can be picked up in the Town Clerk’s Office and in City Council Offices, as well as online. Since there are actually some major suggested changes, I do think it’s worth taking the time to read through and show up at the public hearing if Hartford’s politics even remotely matter to you. This Wednesday (May 13th) a public hearing will be held at 6pm in the Hartford Public Library.

Here is a preview of some of the revised sections:

Composition of the Court of Common Council. (it is changing!)

The Council shall consist of thirteen members, consisting of one member elected from each of five Districts and eight elected at large. The Council shall designate such council districts by number. The maximum number of at-large members of the Council who may be members of the same political party shall reflect the requirements of the General Statutes with respect to minority party representation.

The following section explains how the districts will be determined, providing an idea about why there is this desire to switch from At-Large to Hybrid.

Sec. 6 Establishment of Districts for Court of Common Council.
(a) No later than thirty (30) days following the completion of reapportionment of the General Assembly, as required by the Constitution of the State of Connecticut, as further set forth in the General Statutes, the Council shall appoint a districting commission consisting of seven (7) to fifteen (15) members, no more than fifty (50%) percent of whom shall be members of the same political party (“Appointment Date”). The districting commission shall report to the Council no later than seventy (70) days following the Appointment Date, setting forth the recommended boundaries of the five (5) Council districts.

(b) Council districts shall be:

(1) of substantially equal population and otherwise consistent with all federal and state constitutional and statutory requirements;

(2) to the extent possible, consistent with preceding, maintain the integrity of recognized neighborhood planning areas;

(3) geographically contiguous and compact; and

(4) to the extent possible consistent with the preceding, consistent with existing legislative districts.

(c) The districting commission shall be supported in its work by appropriate City staff which shall have available to it the necessary support to facilitate the work of the commission and well as such other professional assistance (subject to appropriation) as it shall choose.

(d) The districting commission shall hold a public hearing at least one week before it submits its report to the Council, and shall make a tentative map of its proposed districts available to the public electronically, in hard copy available at the City Clerk’s office, and by causing it to be published in one or more newspapers of daily circulation in the City at least three (3) days before the public hearing. The districting commission may modify the tentative districts before submitting its report to the Council.

(e) The Council shall vote on the establishment of Council districts within three (3) weeks of its receipt of the districting commission’s report. The Council may amend the district boundaries recommended by the districting commission before approving districts, but the districts approved by the Council must comply with the standards of subsection (c) of this section. A resolution approving districts must be affirmatively supported by a majority of the members of Council, and shall not be subject to veto by the Mayor.
Continue reading “Revised, Ready, and Waiting”

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D.I.Y. Debris Removal

Last Saturday, Trinity students and community volunteers removed trash from the Flatbush Avenue/Brookfield Street area. To give you an idea of how neglected this area was, there were 8-tracks and pull-tab soda cans found, along with a purse containing an ID that expired in 2001.
If you missed the chance to help beautify Hartford, you have three more upcoming opportunities on April 25th, May 2nd, and May 9th. For more details contact the Knox Parks Foundation.

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Charter Revision Winding Down

At this stage, the Hartford Charter Revision Commission is mostly doing what some would call nitpicking. I found myself wishing that my students had been in Council Chambers last night because the need for precise language was actually demonstrated outside of the classroom. When does exact wording and comma placement matter? When one is dealing with politicians! Loopholes are created when the wording is not as clear as it could be, or when a missing comma means the difference between a mandate and a mere suggestion. In this case, it was the difference between The Mayor having the option to serve on the Board of Education, and being obligated to serve on the Board of Education. We know how politicians like to play dumb and equivocate. Move the comma, take care of the problem.

The commission clarified the role of Corporation Counsel. If you were wondering, the half dozen lawyers on the commission explained that the advice given from Counsel to the Mayor or City Council is not legally binding. It’s advice. That’s all. Just as some members of the commission were confused about Counsel’s role, so too was it suggested of some of the current politicians.

Another item of confusion was about the Mayor’s authority to lay off employees during fiscal crisis. Continue reading “Charter Revision Winding Down”

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“Only Power They Lack is Willpower”

In a burst of uncharacteristic fervor, Chairman Richard Wareing told the Hartford Charter Revision Commission that the City Council has power, just no willpower. This was in response to what he described as a succession of council-members coming forward with the complaint that current Corporation Counsel is unresponsive to their needs. Continue reading ““Only Power They Lack is Willpower””

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