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Developing Connective Tissue in Downtown

photo: kerri provost. photo may not be reproduced or republished without prior permission from kerri provost

Nobody argued when David Panagore announced that “We are the epitome of the Eisenhower Interstate system.” Those with an interest in downtowns would be hard-pressed to justify any continuation of advocacy for the poor designs that have dissected cities, sucking the life force out of them. Today, we are given the task of recreating a vibrant downtown, which means addressing issues like walkability.

Hartford’s Chief Operating Officer, David Panagore, participated on Monday evening in a HYPE (Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs) sponsored discussion regarding the direction of development in downtown. The MetroHartford Alliance Conference Room on Pratt Street was filled, allowing for a fairly intimate conversation between about two dozen individuals who had some interest — they live, work, or recreate — in downtown.

Panagore explained how the “Six Pillars” were a fine goal to have at one point, but now, to complete the economic development, these pieces (Connecticut Convention Center, Capital Community College moving into former G.Fox building, etc.) must be connected. Continue reading “Developing Connective Tissue in Downtown”

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Procedures, Policies, Politics, and Police

In the recent campaign for State Representative, word got out that Hector Robles — the current rep for the sixth district and an officer with the Hartford Police Department — was facing some serious accusations. It’s finally been revealed what he has been investigated for — double-billing and more.

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Whose Interests Are We Guarding?

Other than the military personnel who are armed to the teeth with coffee and junkfood from Dunkin Donuts, I rarely see significant foot traffic near the Legislative Office Building. Mostly, people drive to the parking garage and enter the building through the pedestrian entrance, never needing to come into contact with sunlight. Yet, there are large, well-marked warnings painted on the driveway, warning motorists to slow down. There are stop signs posted in places that make them more noticeable. There are even neon yellow signs telling motorists to stop for pedestrians — the signs are posted right in the crosswalks. I do appreciate this, as I use the area as a safer passage to downtown, given that the alternative of continuing along Capitol Avenue means having to cross the I-84 on/off ramp. Even with the stoplights all working and with the pedestrian walk signal on, the cars do not stop. Last week I saw a noticeably pregnant woman pushing a stroller across and the cars were not even obeying the law for her. It seems strange that few such safety features exist along a major street, but within a parking lot, traffic is managed quite well.

Sunday morning, when I read about the volunteer crossing guard who was threatened with arrest for keeping children safe, my heart sank. I read the article a few more times, trying to find a hidden clue that would make this story make sense. In a nutshell, a grandfather, who happens to be a disabled Vietnam Vet, decided to contribute to society by helping children safely get across the street to the Achievement First Academy in the Blue Hills neighborhood. He began this back in September. He had been honored by the school in the school newsletter and by being given a vest and stop sign. That sounds like his actions had been more than merely approved of by those he was interacting with directly.

Why threaten a man with arrest for helping society? Continue reading “Whose Interests Are We Guarding?”

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78 Fewer Firearms

A bit of good news that should not be overlooked is that 78 firearms were voluntarily handed over. The Hartford Police Department reports:

Hartford – On December 5, 2009 the Hartford Police Department in conjunction with Hartford Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and the Community Renewal team conducted a
Gun Buy Back Program” at 555 Windsor Street. The Gun Buyback Program allowed citizens to turn in unwanted firearms for a gift card. Citizens received a $25.00 gift card for a shotgun or a rifle, $50.00 for a revolver, and $75.00 for a semi-automatic handgun.

As a result of the program, 78 firearms and numerous rounds of ammunition and gun magazines were safely relinquished to the Hartford Police Department. All firearms and ammunition were brought to the Hartford Police Department. All recovered firearms will be destroyed unless forensic testing confirms they have been used in the commission of a crime.

Giving people a non-threatening way to make the right choice has positive results.

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Local Missing Teen Returned Safely

We all are familiar with the disappearance and tragic murder of the Yale student.

Unless you read the Hartford Police Department website or somehow caught a brief mention of it at WTNH, you might not have known that a young Hartford teen went missing recently. The HPD announcement says that the girl was “missing from the Gray Lodge Facility since last week” in their September 11th press release. The 15 year old garnered no media attention (at least nothing that is searchable on their web sites, which publish most news items) from the Hartford Courant, WFSB, NBC30, or the Journal Inquirer. A broader search on Google showed the same. Only WTNH bothered. One can only speculate as to why the media can afford to devote constant coverage to one missing persons case, but not to another, especially one involving a youth. Fortunately, the HPD reported yesterday that this girl was safely returned to the Gray Lodge. Thank you to the Hartford Police Department and WTNH for giving a damn about our city’s teenagers.

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Towing Reform

George Gombossy (formerly of the Courant) reports that there will be some significant towing policy changes in Hartford. A few years ago when my stolen car had been recovered, I was informed that it was towed (without my consent or choice of who would tow it) to an autobody and storage in the South Meadows. While this was not the biggest headache in the entire ordeal, I would have preferred to have my car towed using AAA and brought to an autoshop I had already developed a relationship with. Fortunately, it looks like others those cars break down or are stolen will not have to tolerate the HPD making these types of decisions for them in the future.

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Staycation 2009

When my friend David told me he’d secured a reservation for a trip to the top of the Travelers’ Tower, I had no choice but to invite myself along. This would bring me downtown in the late morning, and since I had plans to be less than a block from there later in the afternoon, I figured I would just spend the time in between downtown.

At eleven we zoomed to the 21st floor. I did not think about the logistics of this. After having walked 2.5 miles to get downtown, the three flights of stairs did not seem so fun. The view was worth the panting. From the street, the tower does not look like it can hold more than two people. We had six people up there, and there was plenty of room for more. I had no luck locating my apartment.
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East Hartford
Continue reading “Staycation 2009”

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Whose Guardians?

It’s been reported that the Guardian Angels had been contacted after a series of murders; on Sunday, a group of the Guardian Angels walked the Garden Street area. This “patrol” was designed to assess the situation. The Hartford Courant reports that Guardian Angels will begin weekly patrols, and that the group’s founder wants there to be a Hartford chapter; an earlier attempt to do just that failed in the 80s. For those who do not remember, there was controversy about the group then. Recent news about the GA’s visit to Hartford reference controversy, without really spelling out what the issues are.

According to their own website, they have won presidential praise, are global, and are a way for people to do community service.

In the recent Courant article, someone questioning the group was described as a thug:

“That’s for show,” said one bystander, a young man with a mouthful of gold-capped teeth and dressed in a matching yellow shirt that read “Born Killers.” “They can’t stop nothing. We’re out there every day. When they leave, there’s gonna be a shooting.” The man would not give his name.

His comments — which might have been construed differently had he been described as an elderly man or a shop owner — only echo a critique of the Guardian Angels that has been made elsewhere. In a discussion about the GA’s presence in New Bedford, one person commented:

They came to Brockton, and are hardly seen… ** ONLY ** when a news camera is around, they come out!

Continue reading “Whose Guardians?”

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Bed Bugs, Noise, and Other Things to Make Your Skin Crawl

If you have gripes about any of the following, then the place to be on July 15th is the Hartford Public Library: bed bugs, public safety, crime, violence, noise, street racing, graffiti, neighborhood cleanliness, and blighted buildings.

From 6-8pm the “Summer in the City: Quality of Life in Hartford” panel will be moderated by Councilperson Jim Boucher. Light refreshments will be available beginning at 5:30. A representative of the Hartford Police Department will be on hand.

At the same time, there will be a forum on bed bugs. The Mayor’s office sent out a press release for this:

The City of Hartford Health and Human Services Department in collaboration with the Hartford Public Library will be offering a community forum to inform Hartford residents about solutions to an issue affecting urban centers such as Hartford in recent years- bed bugs. Continue reading “Bed Bugs, Noise, and Other Things to Make Your Skin Crawl”

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