Category: tax money in action

Land Purchases Approved for Downtown North Area

By , August 12, 2014 1:57 pm

Exactly one person spoke favorably about the stadium deal during Monday’s public hearing, yet members of City Council went ahead and approved the three Downtown North land purchases anyway, two of which are directly connected — either in print or geographically — to the proposed stadium.

Raquel, the one voice overtly supporting the stadium, said that “Hartford is a dead city” and that if people are out of work, it is nobody’s fault but their own. It’s not the City’s responsibility to get people to work, she said. That was the message in between her continued support for the stadium. No statistics, no research. The City is here to provide entertainment, she implied, but not jobs.

Ten individuals — eight residents, one former resident, and one individual moving into Hartford soon — spoke against the stadium plan. One woman did not speak directly about the stadium, but said that the “city looks like crap” and that it is a “dead land.” Continue reading 'Land Purchases Approved for Downtown North Area'»

Speed of Capital Improvement Projects

By , July 7, 2014 8:51 am

With so much talk of how the City has been spending money and plans to use bonding in relation to the proposed stadium, it’s time to take a look at how Hartford is using Capital Improvement Project funds elsewhere.

Recreation

The recently re-opened George Day Park is one of those items. With new playground equipment, basketball court, garden area, and water features, this Parkville spot cost $870,000 to renovate.

In neighboring Frog Hollow, the Pope Park North/Baby Pope playground has been under construction for months. The underutilized tennis courts, broken chain link fencing, and dated playground equipment were ripped out, along with a concrete spray pool. Neighborhood kids have been, in the meantime, playing basketball and football on the first block of Putnam Street, in the roadway. Here, the City has said that the spray pool and playground construction would be completed by May, but a sign at the site says July. There is some playground equipment and picnic tables in place, but work remains to be done for the $570,000 price tag.

The Goodwin Park spray pool construction is scheduled to be completed in August: $190,000.

The carousel in Bushnell Park opened for the season at the end of June, approximately two months later than it normally does. That it has been open for more than only two days this season is an improvement over what was expected — one day in June, one day in September. The necessity of some of these renovations has been debated, but ultimately, the funds were approved. A document produced by the City lists the CIP funds for this at $900,000, yet the City Council approved $1M for it. Construction should complete in late November. Continue reading 'Speed of Capital Improvement Projects'»

City Officials Blow Opportunity to Inform Public, Answer Questions

By , July 3, 2014 1:35 pm

Councilperson Deutsch holds a level

Councilperson Larry Deutsch held a Stanley level to demonstrate the need to keep politicians “on the level.” Then, he showed a brass union to call attention to how union jobs are a good fit for the city.

The frequently outspoken elected official said he had been promised five minutes to speak before the crowd of nearly 300, but was later told he would have to sign up and take a one- or three-minute spot like everyone who was not Mayor Segarra or Thom Deller.

Deutsch arrived prepared with hardware props and a list of seven questions:

  • what, exactly, will be the full-time union or living-wage jobs for Hartford residents?
  • will the mayor’s administration and team owners commit to a signed community benefits agreement regarding a fund for school and park improvements, blight remediation, community centers, and more?
  • can there be a binding and secure guarantee for residents and taxpayers for full repayment of all City expenses — from consultants to construction to publicity — if the owners decide to relocate the Rock Cats before the lease is up?
  • how will there be compensation for workers and small businesses that depend on the stadium games if the team leaves before the contract is up?
  • who exactly will pay for police overtime and Department of Public Works sanitation?
  • why haven’t Hartford taxpayers and City Council been asked what they want for downtown and he rest of the city before spending money to plan and put out proposals for a stadium?
  • how will workers losing jobs in New Britain be treated?

Neither Segarra nor Deller had answers to his questions.

Few answers were provided for anyone’s questions. Continue reading 'City Officials Blow Opportunity to Inform Public, Answer Questions'»

Stadium Lease Agreement

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By , June 11, 2014 2:29 pm

Here’s what’s been drafted as a lease agreement between City of Hartford and Connecticut Double Play, LLC.

City of Hartford / Connecticut Double Play Lease Agreement

There’s a bit to read.

At the press conference one week ago, Segarra said he did not anticipate additional parking. This document states that there would be “ballpark dedicated parking.”

City Hall Dominated by Voices Against Stadium

By , June 10, 2014 12:59 am

If members of City Council have been checking their email and reading social media since the rumors of the stadium began last week, the major opposition to the project vocalized during Monday’s public hearing should have come as no surprise to elected officials.

Seventeen people spoke strongly against the stadium. There were three — two of whom are politicians — on the fence, and one business owner who seemed generally cautious. There were a total of five in favor, two of whom are politicians. Of those supporters, only three were what could be called strong supporters.

Although Segarra talked a good game at last week’s rushed press conference, we have learned that most members of the City Council only found out about this “done deal” at the same time or after the general public did last Monday.

Councilwoman Jennings said something needed to happen for Hartford’s economy to improve, but she had many questions that she wanted answers for. Monday, she asked to have her name removed from the list of those sponsoring the land transfer item.

In another interesting turn, Shawn Wooden, who spoke in favor of the stadium in the capacity as Council President at that press conference on Wednesday has revealed that his firm (Day Pitney) represents the seller of that land: Rensselaer. Monday night, he recused himself from voting on the land transfer item. Continue reading 'City Hall Dominated by Voices Against Stadium'»

Proposed Crosswalks, Sharrows, and Bike Lanes That May Happen During Your Lifetime

By , May 29, 2014 3:36 pm

The area of State House Square that had been proposed to change into a lane for buses.

With so little useful information traveling between City Hall and the general public, it is easy to get the impression that projects have stalled when that’s hardly the case. Continue reading 'Proposed Crosswalks, Sharrows, and Bike Lanes That May Happen During Your Lifetime'»

Public Support for Funding Carousel Renovation

By , May 20, 2014 6:45 am

City Council’s monthly public hearing did not even reach twenty minutes on Monday.

Nobody signed up to speak.

There were two items up for discussion.

One (an ordinance creating a Commission on the Homeless) received no comments from the public, nor explanation from the five (Alexander Aponte, Joel Cruz, Jr., Raul De Jesùs Jr., Cynthia Jennings, and Larry Deutsch) present members of the Council.

The other — a move to allocate a chunk of change from the Parks and Playground Enhancements account in the Capital Improvement Fund to an account for renovation and expansion of the carousel building in Bushnell Park — garnered a whopping five comments from the public after some awkward attempts on behalf of the Council to get those folks out of their seats and to the microphone.

None of those individuals speaking in favor of this identified themselves as living in Hartford. Continue reading 'Public Support for Funding Carousel Renovation'»

DOT Mitigation for Closure of Flower Street: Ain’t Nothing New Under the Sun

By , May 13, 2014 10:26 am

This is what the east-west mitigation path (Flower Street to Broad Street) looked like at 10:30 last night. At the meeting, two representatives from the Hartford Courant said that building a bridge would be “extravagant” and that they think the DOT did a “good job” with this pathway.

Fighting with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to lock down safe and reasonable pedestrian and cyclist access is a long process, so it’s unsurprising that those attending the latest round were small in number– a mix of those who understand the project better than some of those presenting on it, and those who were uninformed about how we came to be in a room discussing a multimillion dollar project that nobody wants.

Background for those just tuning in: The DOT barricaded one of Hartford’s city streets last year. Pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, even emergency vehicles, are unable to go from Capitol Avenue to Farmington Avenue on this street.

Neighborhood groups opposed this for obvious reasons, like losing north-south access between Frog Hollow and Asylum Hill. Area small businesses opposed this out of fear of losing significant foot traffic; later, those stores along Capitol Avenue would experience the loss in revenue predicted. The City of Hartford initially opposed this, but then backed off. Aetna had been ready to provide legal support to fight this, but they eventually cowered. Christopher Brown, a resident of Frog Hollow and board member of Bike Walk CT, sought a writ of mandamus — for us plain folk, that means he sued the DOT, not to get any money, but to force them to keep Flower Street open for cyclists and pedestrians. In Superior Court, as in these public neighborhood meetings, the argument for keeping the street open got twisted; instead of the case being about safety, it was interpreted as being about convenience — something that has never been the emphasis for vocal residents and business owners. What came out of that time in court was that the DOT is now on record as being committed to building a bridge that would actually move pedestrians and cyclists in the north-south direction.

Still no word on how this would be funded

At Monday’s meeting intended to update the community on the DOT’s plans for this Flower Street up-and-over, the attention once again was placed on convenience over safety. Though the method for obtaining these numbers was never disclosed, we were told that taking the Broad Multi-Use Path would take 6.3 minutes, the Skywalk, 5.5 minutes, and the elevator, 5.6 minutes. During this process, the community has asked the DOT for data on pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries at at-grade crossings versus at busy intersections and at Interstate ramp crossings. To date, the public has not received this information.

At the meeting, Brown raised the point that according to the DOT’s own internal emails obtained through a FOIA request, there is a simple solution that would not require millions of dollars or minutes of detour: go from a double lane of busway to single for a small portion of the New Britain-to-Hartford path. According to the DOT Continue reading 'DOT Mitigation for Closure of Flower Street: Ain’t Nothing New Under the Sun'»

Marketing “Downtown North”

By , April 3, 2014 5:30 am

After a series of frustrating public meetings culminating with one during which designers filibustered as dozens of (mostly) young Heaven supporters waited all evening to speak, we are now seeing a first draft of MECA’s (Marketing, Events & Cultural Affairs for the City of Hartford) Downtown North marketing brochure. This will include additional materials tailored to whichever developer might be requesting such information.  Continue reading 'Marketing “Downtown North”'»

Hartford Promises

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By , March 20, 2014 2:47 pm

In recent months, the entire Weaver High School community has been mobilized by the Hartford Board of Education’s poor communication about the school’s temporary move to the Lincoln Institute and the plan to eventually rehabilitate and rebuild the north end school. Tuesday night’s Board meeting once again found students, teachers, and Weaver families demanding action and answers from the Board. There were few to be found, but much talk of “due diligence.” The uncertainty and anxiety among the Weaver community was palpable, as too was the growing mistrust of the Board and its hollow words. Speakers, including Principal Tim Goodwin, admonished Mayor Segarra, who was not in attendance, for suggesting that Weaver’s low enrollment could affect the school’s reconstruction. Goodwin demanded that enrollment issues be taken off the table and not be a part of the discussion. He cited the school’s continued improvement according to multiple metrics, including decreased disciplinary referrals. Through the years, Weaver High has been especially hampered by the breaking up of Hartford’s traditional high schools and the “school choice” reform scheme. Lastly, it was clear Tuesday night that Michele Rhee’s privatization front group StudentsFirst had attempted to glom onto Weaver’s struggle, going so far as to blindly hand out as many of their unrelated t-shirts as possible to students.

Since the Board’s failed attempt to hand the Clark School to the Achievement 1st charter school corporation two months ago, Clark was entered in to the Commissioner’s Network of schools in need of “turnaround.” A “turnaround committee” of parents, teachers, and the State Department of Education has been meeting to develop a plan for Clark. Parallel to this, HART was contracted by the Board to garner support among the community for another charter takeover of the school. This time a charter school corporation called Friendship Charter School of Maryland has been identified as the favorite by the Commissioner of Education. As has been reported in Real Hartford, the Clark community is unwilling to be bullied, bought off, or threatened into this deal. During Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Kishimoto blamed outside interests for the problems with the committee. In her report on Clark, she warned of parents being “lobbied heavily by organizations placing pressures on parents on matters beyond the immediate and urgent needs of Clark School students.” She chided these mysterious groups and mentioned that parents were complaining to her personally about the “pressure.” Continue reading 'Hartford Promises'»

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