perception bias

Top Ten Non-Twain Things to Do in Hartford

Between lists written by those who can’t see beyond the major institutions and shoddily researched, outdated articles authored by someone who spent little time in Hartford and has since moved elsewhere, it seemed appropriate to revisit just a few of the things we have going on here. As we have said before, we have to ♥ Mark Twain because when you move into Hartford you take an oath swearing as much, but we know that Twain and his legacy are not the only game in town:

One bike decorated for the Real Ride

  1. The Real Ride: during times of year when snow is not on the ground, cyclists of varying ability decorate their bikes with lights, streamers, giant puppets, beads, and more, and take a ten-mile slow ride around the city, at night. The group — in the hundreds — leaves from the Real Art Ways parking lot, taking a different route each time. On one ride, a cyclist towed a trailer on which an entire drum kit was set up and played during the ride. Other rides have featured a shopping cart bike with a giant dragon head mounted on it. This is free and all ages, beginning around nightfall and ending several hours later, as the group makes stops to view fireworks, participate in a drumming circle, or watch improv. What makes this significant? The ride gets people on the streets of Hartford after dark, doing more than just running off to their cars. 
  2. Cedar Hill Cemetery: this is a place of peace and quiet, a place to see deer grazing around dusk, and a place to quietly recreate. That’s encouraged. They have hosted films, bird walks, and tours of the cemetery’s notable residents. Around Halloween, actors portray some of those residents in a lantern tour. Art, history, and nature collide here.
  3. One contestant in the Art Sled Derby, 2014

  4. Art Sled Derby: For two years in a row, people have gathered at the hill in Elizabeth Park with sleds, some simple, and some seeming to challenge the idea of “sled.” There are no waivers, no fees. And there shouldn’t be. This is one of the regular sledding hills…but there is not usually the possibility of winning a bizarre trophy made of doll parts or competing against someone riding a bed down the slope. Unlike art galleries where work is curated, all entries are viewable. Even the creations that fall apart within seconds earn cheers from onlookers.
  5. (more…)

Superintendent’s Pick for Kinsella Site Opposed

For its preschool-through-eighth grade, the Kinsella Magnet School for the Performing Arts has a permanent location on Van Block Avenue, in the Sheldon-Charter Oak neighborhood. It has expanded to create a high school, currently located temporarily on Locust Street, one mile away in the South Meadows, a predominately industrial area of Hartford.

The Hartford Board of Education had planned to vote Monday evening on a permanent site for this high school but the vote on this and approval of a lease agreement for the Weaver Culinary Arts Academy with Lincoln Culinary Institute were tabled until the meeting next week. City Council already approved $33 million for construction of a new Kinsella high school facility.

The Superintendent’s suggestion that the Kinsella Magnet School for the Performing Arts High School be built on City-owned property adjacent to SAND Elementary School (America’s Choice at SAND) on Main Street did not go over well. (more…)

Sprucing Up Burns with a Little Help from the Neighbors

The house cleaning that happened at the Burns School last spring was more than metaphorical. Besides the change in leadership, there have been renewed efforts to get the community involved. There was a major cleanup of the school — inside and out — in March.

In recent weeks, the Summer of Solutions program went to work on a corner of the school grounds, among its other projects in Hartford. The youth cleared weeds and rubbish; installed and painted raised beds; planted vegetables in those raised beds; and placed brightly-colored benches near the new garden space. Previously, this area was an overgrown and underutilized space.

On Thursday, the community was invited to welcome Dr. Monica Brase, the new principal at the school. She is replacing Mr. Sullivan, who served for a few months in the capacity as interim principal. The event also served as an opportunity for voter registration and new student registration.

Today, Knox Parks and Billings Forge led another beautification effort. After tackling more debris, volunteers planted several trees along the property. The school happens to be across the street from Pope Park North, which has received funding for the restoration with an expected completion date of 2013.

ConnectiCon: A Peaceful, High-Energy Weekend by the River

Worlds Collide

Photo by Helder Mira/Rabbit Ears Media

As some movie theaters around the nation have opted to respond to the shootings in Aurora, Colorado by banning costumes, it is worth reflecting once more on ConnectiCon, the multi-genre convention that was held in Hartford earlier this month.

This is one of the few gatherings that offers discounted admission for MENSA members, but not for senior citizens. Most attendees are young, year after year. The giddy, teen energy just about grabs Columbus Boulevard by the shoulders and shakes it for three days.

With 10,500 individuals — a majority of them belonging to the age group most likely to be involved in violent crime — attending this year’s convention, there were no serious incidents. (more…)

Student Transiency and Concentration of Poverty Tied to Academic Success

Miguel Cardona, Susan Marks, and Gary Highsmith (left to right)

Miguel Cardona, Susan Marks (Superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools), and Gary Highsmith (left to right)

“We have a bad way of looking at things, that what gets tested is what gets taught,” Gary Highsmith, said at an education forum on Thursday. Highsmith is the Principal of Hamden High School, where he said students are taught things that are not tested, such as arts and music.

At a forum about inclusive housing policy and its impact on education, it seemed both incongruous and inevitable that the conversation would include the buzzwords of reform and accountability.

The forum — “Connecticut’s Achievement Gap: How Housing Can Help Close It” — held at the Lyceum explored the philosophy of housing policy as school policy, focusing on “Montgomery County,” a single example.

An inclusionary zoning policy — mixing housing affordable to those at different income levels — was adopted in Maryland’s Montgomery County (suburb of Washington, D.C.) in 1974. Heather Schwartz, a policy researcher with the RAND Corporation, conducted a longitudinal study from 2001-2007 of students in public housing who attended schools with very low-to-moderate poverty rates and those who attended schools with a moderate-rate of students living in poverty. Additionally, the moderate-level poverty schools received more resources, enabling smaller classes and more academic supports. The study found that while students in public housing at both types of schools scored about evenly for the first few years, students attending the schools with a low-to-moderate poverty level outscored their peers eventually. Students were placed randomly in these schools, taking out the option for more involved parents to steer their children into the “better” schools.

This study — and the speakers at the forum — failed to address some variables. (more…)

Hartford Unity Community Conversation: “Empower People Already in Hartford”

Not unusual: people coming into Hartford with big ideas about what residents need and what will “save” us.

The Public Allies — an AmeriCorps program — promise that is not their mission. They insist that they are “not here to re-market Hartford.”

Young adults in the program work with a non-profit four days every week; each Public Allies “community” — Connecticut has ones in Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven — undertakes a service project each year.

This year, the group’s goal is to “strengthen community through figuring out assets and problems,” Al Riccio, one of the Allies on the “Greater Hartford Team”, told participants at the Hartford Public Library Monday evening during the Hartford Unity Community Conversation. In chatting with residents, the Public Allies identified that many residents feel “proud to be from the city,” but believe that there are negative perceptions of it due to the news media. He added that a lack of jobs, housing, and access to resources were other issues identified.

During the first of what Public Allies say will be several community conversations, residents were told that the Allies — several of whom are long-time Hartford residents — would be facilitating discussion, but not participating. Heads nodded as residents commented that these conversations need to be in the neighborhoods, not just Downtown. The library was named a “hub,” a natural place for civic discourse to take place, and there are library branches throughout the city.

Broken into small groups, residents and stakeholders named activities that could “create attention toward positive aspects.” In the brainstorm, two groups named the Walk the Frog tour as an example of an event that has highlighted the positive aspects of a neighborhood (more…)

Today: West Indian Day Parade

The parade begins at Main and Battles Streets at noon. It heads South on Main Street, turns onto Trumbull, then continues on Jewell, Ford, and Asylum before ending in Bushnell Park around 2pm.

Dr. Neil Parsan — the Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago — will be the parade’s Grand Marshall.

There will be a reggae festival beginning around 3pm in Bushnell Park, following parade.

Click here to see photos from the event.

Climate Summer

Eighteen people, ranging from traditional college students to retirees, gathered in a musty basement bordering the Trinity College campus, yet not one was currently affiliated with this institution. Reaching them required navigating around the bicycles; bikes were tied to the chain link fence, to other bikes, to the porch, or just leaning against the narrow hallway walls inside.

Five young adults from New England Climate Summer were meeting with community members during their week-long stop in Hartford. They are one team of six taking part in this action and are cycling across New England specifically to speak with local activists in various towns and cities so that these individuals and organizations are acknowledged.

The Connecticut/Rhode Island team — an all female team — began in Providence (RI) before coming to Hartford. Next, they will make stops in Bridgeport, North Kingstown (RI), Westerly (RI), Stonington, Mystic,New Haven, and will end their trip in Roxbury/Boston (MA). The majority of all New England Climate Summer participants, actually, are women.

After Thursday evening’s potluck meeting, attended by folks affiliated with CCEJ and The Summer of Solutions, and others, I spoke with women from the Climate Summer Connecticut/Rhode Island team about their adventure so far. To set out on such a trip, one would expect the cyclists to have raced or at least trained for it. Instead, they said:

No one in the group has [done] anything like this before. In fact, most of us weren’t even avid cyclists before the trip. We’re learning as we go, and I think a lot of us will definitely be inspired to bike much more now that we’ve had this experience. Now that we’ve done a couple of 50+ mile days, biking one or two miles to the store won’t seem like a big deal.

This home in Shandaken, New York (near Woodstock) is one of many with anti-fracking signs in the yard.

This might not seem like a lifestyle change to some, but 40% of trips people in urban areas take are within two miles of home, yet 90% of those trips are made using an automobile. In an age when peak oil is no longer something that may possibly happen in a few generations’ time, it’s hopeful that there are young people taking energy issues seriously.

While they report a few minor snags, like potholes, debris in the road, and the lack of shoulders, they say that generally, their experience has been “very positive”:

Avoiding using automobiles for the summer is much more doable than people might initially think.

The Climate Summer group says they have “most enjoyed (more…)

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