gutless officials

Most Best Awesome Superlatives of 2014

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. (more…)

A Strikeout for Transparency in City Hall

Downtown North

At each of the three public meetings for the Downtown North plan in 2013, a stadium was not mentioned. In fact, it seemed like news to Utile that the XL Center would be looking for options to move for expansion. When proponents of the XL Center raised this concern, the response seemed to suggest that there would not really be room for this type of facility at any of the vacant parcels in the area being dubbed “Downtown North.”

What was discussed: a grocery store, smaller retail and restaurants, and academic uses which would connect Capital Community College and the University of Saint Joseph School of Pharmacy to Capital Prep Magnet School and Rensselaer.

The plan, ambitious and somewhat flawed, did pay attention to keeping developments at what is called a human scale. This creates an environment more conducive to walking and cycling. There had been talk of housing, which raised concerns about gentrification, but in any case, these units would not be in a high rise.

The Hartford Community Loan Fund had been working with a tenant and the City of Hartford on bringing a grocery store to this area. With UConn entering the picture, it had the possibility of being placed on hold, but this week, the City and UConn made it official that the college would be moving into the former Hartford Times building. In theory, this would mean that the grocery store would get the green light for the area near Main and Trumbull.


Today, Mayor Segarra announced that the New Britain Rock Cats would be moving to a stadium at 1214 Main Street (between Trumbull and Pleasant) in April 2016. All of those Downtown North meetings came after the time frame given for when Mayor Segarra originally entered secret talks about moving the Rock Cats to Hartford. This raises questions about transparency, as well as questions about how money is being spent.

Why had the stadium not been mentioned at any of those meetings that Thom Deller had taken part in? (more…)

Ban the Box: What does the law say?

As we move into the holiday season, some see it fit not to push toward creating a more just world, but to punish those who have already been punished. This is done selectively and in ignorance, or apathy, of the larger consequences and messages being sent. The same people lamenting recidivism are actively putting up stumbling blocks to those who have made mistakes and are trying to do right.

Last week what we saw in Hartford was not concern for public safety but a witch hunt.

We can speculate over why Kennard Ray was singled out more than others to have his background checked out. Maybe it’s his party affiliation — being part of a growing third party in a city controlled by the Democrats. There’s been open hostility toward that party by those who believe it is somehow responsible for both Republicans losing their footing here and for some Democrats to lose votes. Some have suggested that those calling for this investigation with such gusto all hail from a different racial background from Ray, and that their privilege prevents them from seeing how they are contributing to institutional racism.

I asked Kennard Ray why he thinks this got the spotlight, after all, not all new hires are given so much as a second glance by the media. His telling of it is that questions arose after a press release was issued by the Mayor’s Office, with reporters from the Hartford Courant initially raising the issue. At this stage of the game, he had been appointed and was due to begin work this morning, following the Thanksgiving weekend.

He says that he has “heard several theories on why [his past] may have been brought up, but I’m not sure if any of those theories lead me in a direction where I can form a solid opinion and I am not comfortable speculating. I’m sure we’ll hear more about why this became a public issue of interest in the days to come.”

Regardless of the reasons, this push to “investigate” Ray came largely from those whose own pasts are far from perfect.

The Debt That’s Paid is Never Paid

At what point has someone paid his debt to society? Is it after he has served his jail term? Stayed out of trouble for five years? Ten years?

Kennard Ray himself, in a statement on Facebook, has said that he has “worked tirelessly in my community and communities like it over the past decade to make good on past misgivings. I have in fact done the crimes that the media has reported on, and I have also done the time. In fact, over the past decade I’ve put more time and effort to doing right, than I ever have in doing wrong.”

Do we only consider him rehabilitated on his death bed when we can all be sure that he has obeyed the law for the remaining decades of his life?

What Does the Law Say?

The fact is that Ray, nor anyone else applying for a job with the City of Hartford — with only a few exceptions — needs to be upfront about his criminal past. Hartford has an ordinance spelling out as much. A resolution states:

The court of common council by substitute resolution dated January 12, 2009 resolved that the human resources department review its current civil services processes and eliminate any barriers during an interview process that may preclude applicants with criminal records from gaining employment with the City of Hartford.

Interpretation: a person who has a criminal past can be employed with the City of Hartford. (more…)

How Flower Street’s Closure Helps Transit Oriented Development

Ken Krayeske, a Hartford cyclist and lawyer, posed a question at Bike Walk Connecticut’s fundraiser dinner: How does the permanent closure of Flower Street to pedestrian and cyclist traffic enhance Transit Oriented Development (TOD)? The keynote speaker, Kip Bergstrom, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, gave a succinct response before swiftly changing the topic: “I’m not sure that it does.” (more…)

Capitol Grocery Moves into Former Coffee Shop Space

In July, Real Hartford reported that 405 Capitol Avenue — the space previously occupied by La Paloma Sabanera — was slated to become a convenience store. We had spoken with patrons of Capitol Grocery who said this is what store employees were telling them. Depending on who asked the questions, the answers about what the Bukhari brothers planned for 405 Capitol Avenue varied wildly, from a hookah lounge to an Internet cafe.

The next day, an article in the Hartford Courant stated that the space was going to become a restaurant, and that Capitol Grocery would remain open. Shahzaib Bukhari, who was interviewed for the piece and who said he planned to sign a lease, stated that the restaurant should have opened in early August.

At the end of the month, there is still no sign of a restaurant. Rather, what we saw this morning was quite different. (more…)

Constituents Sold Out in “Agreement” on Flower Street

Van Norden, making an appearance to read a letter

Following the latest hearing at the Connecticut Department of Transportation, one community member asked, “How much does Hartford’s Deputy Corporation Counsel Van Norden get paid to do nothing more than show up and read straight from a letter the Mayor wrote?”

The same could be asked of all ConnDOT representatives, aside from Judith Almeida, the Department of Transportation’s staff attorney and only employee appearing prepared for Wednesday evening’s first of two Flower Street Closing reconsideration hearings.

How could anyone have been prepared to respond to the City of Hartford’s 180° pulled minutes before the beginning of the hearing? This reversal, issued by Mayor Segarra, has been viewed by some in the community as a betrayal to residents and businesses, as a show of spinelessness, and one more poor decision in a stream of recent questionable choices.

In late April, officials from the City met with residents and stakeholders to discuss how to best move forward with the situation. The majority view was to keep pushing back against the DOT and not settle. This is what was supposed to be relayed back to Mayor Segarra: the neighborhood won’t settle. It wants to fight.

The few who did think having some settlement between the City and the DOT was a practical option insisted on having everything drawn up in writing to give it teeth. If it were to settle, the City, as of April, was going to include in its demands having the DOT commit to spend $30 million on Capitol Avenue improvements, look at making Sigourney Street safer for cyclists, alter State policies regarding affordable housing in Hartford, and more.

Throughout that meeting, the consensus was that nobody wanted a $6 million ramp built over the busway that would likely need to be removed in a few years when the viaduct is removed.

What also emerged in that meeting was the deep distrust everyone at the table — including City of Hartford employees — have regarding the Connecticut Department of Transportation. Thomas Deller, the Director of Hartf’ord’s Department of Development Services said he was “appalled” by how CTfastrak has done its planning, categorizing it as “haphazard.” A resident said, “the City has been victimized by the DOT for decades.”

By all accounts, it seemed that the City was going to fight the best it could for its residents and business owners.

Instead, Mayor Segarra effectively threw Hartford under the busway. (more…)

Another Look at the LSNI Assessment

The Livable & Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative (LSNI) has been troubled since its inception due to poor hiring decisions compounded by an absence of management. Why take time and money to provide training for LSNI employees when more qualified individuals could have filled these positions from the start?

That is just one of the questions that emerges after reading the recently leaked assessment of the six-month-old program.

Despite its critique of various employees, pieces of the assessment continue to show how the program is being handled too delicately. It begins:


Connecticut Improves in Bicycle Friendliness?

Connecticut was ranked 44 out of 50 for bike friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists in 2010; now, the state has moved to 20. South Windsor was the only new “Bicycle Friendly Community” in the state, receiving a bronze award.

Given the United States’ abysmal cultural attitudes toward people-powered transit, this move up the list may mean little. (more…)