suggestion box

IDEAS FOR 50 MILLION CARROT STICKS

This is a reader-submitted piece by Miguel Jose Matos, Hartford resident of twenty years. This fits in with our Suggestion Box series and addresses the recent pledge of $50 million over five years to the City of Hartford by Aetna, The Hartford, and Travelers.

by Miguel Jose Matos

by Miguel Jose Matos

 

Three of our local corporations have stepped up as committed partners to back Hartford to the tune of $50 million dollars over five years, if the City can get its financial house under control and come up with a workable plan for a viable future.

Funding the money hinges on the City putting forth a comprehensive and sustainable set of solutions for Hartford. The key piece of language in the corporate announcement was to be “part of” a plan, this was the clue. But based on media reports, the “when and how” have not been clearly spelled out, so it’s a great carrot but as yet no one is sure how long the stick is, and what will it take for our community to come together. A little over three million a year from each company is a great start.

“Push the corporate folk to drop their dime, while the City hammers out some fixes, use their dimes now to fund fixes; that without money remain unfixable”.

$10 million over 5 years is a good first step when having to climb out of a sinkhole fifty million dollars deep. But to get grounded we must back into the numbers, because the City is crippled with debt and limping with weak cash flow. It will be difficult to concoct a financial plan strong enough because of the City’s weak cash position, only making it harder to satisfy the conditional $50M Corporate Offer.

Corporate leaders are good community folks doing their part, protecting their investment and their workforce, but they understand risk and do not want to throw good money after bad. This narrative puts the City in a tricky position.

This point in time is a good opportunity to show the local corporations that the City has a plan that can be funded bit by bit with the corporate funds that are being offered. A project-by-project funding process based on a pay for performance system may mitigate some the upfront risk that has tied these moneys with a tough condition.

This tactic has relevance because it is not meant to only address the corporate funding offer, but to serve as the foundation for an annual Business Challenge Fund. Let’s get back to the corporations and be as corporate in approach as they are. Corner their attention by putting forth a recovery plan that is based on a return on their money and their participation. The approach is in many ways how corporations look at investing themselves. (more…)

Suggestion Box: Plan Outside the Conference Room Box

Ample space for a bike lane and other street improvements on Bartholomew Avenue

Ample space for a bike lane and other street improvements on Bartholomew Avenue. Pics in this article were all taken in the middle of a regular workday.

 

If you’ve been to one planning workshop, you’ve been to nearly them all. Typically, these are held in a meeting room with no windows. To an extent, we get why this happens. We live in a sedentary society that bristles at even temporary discomfort. That, and everyone always wants to use Powerpoint.

But is this the best way to solicit input from those who are using the streets, parks, and buildings under discussion for redesign? Barring weather extremes where participants might get heat stroke or frostbite, could we reconsider at least some of these venues? (more…)

Suggestion Box: More Comprehensive Drivers’ Education

If you spend any amount of time commuting in Greater Hartford by way of anything other than single-occupancy vehicle, you know there is a stigma to it. More than the stigma, there are countless safety issues — motorists turning right on red without stopping to look in all directions first; drivers who use no judgement about whether or not they can completely move through an intersection, who end up blocking crosswalks; bus stops that are not shoveled, forcing people to board by standing in snowbanks or the streets; motorists who choose to not remove copious amounts of snow from their vehicles before getting on the highway. (more…)

Suggestion Box: Big Community Baking Events

Young children, elderly, and all ages in between participated in the Mega Challah Bake at the Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford last weekend. Imagine: 250 girls and women, in one giant room, making bread together — many for the first time. Participants were provided with all ingredients, tools, aprons, and even bags for taking home their bread.

The event opened with a few words and an open buffet. Directions were provided in print, on an overhead projector, and over the sound system. While everyone mixed and kneaded ingredients, lively music played. More experienced bakers helped out the newbies at their tables. The challah buffet re-opened and a guest speaker took to the stage while everyone waited for their dough to rise. Challah was braided, covered in egg, and given a few extras — rainbow sprinkles were a popular topping with the younger participants. (more…)

Suggestion Box: More Visible Bike Parking

Traveling through Downtown Hartford, it seems that the parking lots are among the most visible features. That’s partly why it is so laughable when people complain about this alleged lack of parking. It’s everywhere and it’s damn hard to miss.

But for those who ride (or would like to ride) bikes, our version of a parking lot — bike racks and lockers — tend to be invisible while out in the open. Or, invisible while hidden away. (more…)

Suggestion Box: Ask More of the Chain Stores

There are six CVS stores in Hartford. Only one is in a building with any architectural flair, and that downtown location is set to move into another space in the near future. (The one on Washington Street built in place of an historical building that was torn down instead of reused does not count as having character.) Otherwise, the ubiquitous pharmacy with a penchant for dull, box construction — with an easy-to-reverse-your-car-through façade —  presents opportunity for visual improvement. This is equally true of other chain stores found in Hartford, from gas stations to doughnut shops.

A CVS on the corner of Thayer and Cushing Street in Providence shows that another reality is possible. CVS paid RISD students to create the mural. It has not been without some controversy, partly because everything just has to be controversial these days, but regardless: Artists were paid. (more…)

Suggestion Box: Patching the Budget Hole

How we got here

The City of Hartford’s economic problems did not just happen. They did not spring up when Mayor Bronin was sworn into office. They did not emerge last year or even the year before that. (more…)