Archive | January, 2009

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Better Days Ahead?


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Is economic relief in sight for working-class people?

Only time will tell.

President Barack Obama signed three executive orders that would “reverse many of the policies towards organized labor that we’ve seen these last eight years.”

The orders he signed would require federal contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change and would make it more difficult for federal contractors to discourage union activities.

The Obama administration, through vice president Joe Biden, also plans “to bring together those Cabinet members who have the greatest impact on the well-being of the middle class.”

The task force meeting scheduled for Feb. 27 in Philadelphia, will look at issues as diverse as health care and college opportunities  and will focus on “restoring the balance in the workplace,” Biden said.

The focus of the first meeting will be “green jobs, those jobs that pay well, can’t be outsourced and will help us move toward a cleaner, more self-sufficient energy future,” Biden  said.

In addition, more  monthly meetings will be held across the country to discuss concerns of working-class people like child care, workplace safety and retirement security, Biden said.

–Ann-Marie Adams

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Colleges Garner “Green Jobs” Grant


HARTFORD — The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a $2 million grant to the state’s 12 community colleges to help train students for “green jobs.”

The state joins a nation-wide effort in the quest to prepare a workforce with the skills needed to enter careers in growing fields of employment.

The fund will go toward educational programs in automotive technology, clean water and energy efficient operations and renewable and alternative energy.

The core curriculum will modify existing college courses to build basic academic and technical skills within sustainable operations, according to community college officials. Occupational specialty courses will be adapted or developed by individual colleges with input from business leaders.

“Preparing students to enter Connecticut’s Knowledge Economy with the education and skills needed to succeed is a primary focus,” said Marc Herzog, chancellor of the Connecticut Community College System.

Courses will be modified or developed with input from business leaders, and a sustainable operations certificate program will be offered.

The program will also offer tuition assistance.

–Charmaine Hall

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Police Posts YouTube Video of Robbers


HARTFORD —  Hartford Police Department today posted a video of two shoplifting suspects on YouTube.

See video below.

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Cheap Winter Getaways


AREAWIDE — Have those winter blues? Maybe it’s time to get away. But wait. Can you afford to get away in these economic times with no relief in sight? It’s something to think about.  But just incase you are itching to get some relief from this economic and winter depression, we put together a list of cost effective adventures for those who are low on cash and high on anxiety. If you are thinking of relaxing and releasing and would like a short weekend winter get away that will fit their budget, we have put together a list of hot spots.

We will add to the list  until spring is near. So if you have any hot spots you would like to share with us,  feel free to send them our way.

 jamaicanice

 

WINTER PACKAGE

Jamaica  has slashed its price as temperature continues to drop and snow piles up. The island bills itself as a “destination for fun-filled getway for families and a romantic retreat for couples.

The island’s winter package includes:

SuperClubs 

The Super-Inclusive “Gift of Travel” Promotion offers the season’s lowest rates to guests who stay at participating resorts now through Aug. 31, 2009:

  • Breezes Runaway Bay – US$145
  • Breezes Montego Bay – US$125
  • Hedonism II – US$149
  • Hedonism III – US$149
  • Starfish Trelawny – US$86 (US$50 per night for kids ages 2-13 years)

To learn more about Jamaica’s resorts and hotels, or to book a trip, go to www.visitjamaica.com.

 MORE TO COME….

 

 

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State’s Case Against Perez Thins Out


HARTFORD — That’s it? That’s all the state could come up with after 18 months of digging into allegations of corruption by Mayor Eddie Perez and others around him?

Some of us were expecting much more than this.  We were salivating, waiting for the juicy stuff. But the Office of State’s Attorney failed to come up with anything that has satiate Hartford residents.

The charges, as outlined in the arrest warrant, goes like this: First Count: Bribe Receiving, Second Count: Fabricating Physical Evidence, Third Count: Conspiracy to Fabricate Physical Evidence. Perez is charged with using USA contractors owned by Carlos Costa, to renovate his bathroom vanities and countertops for less than market price. Perez, according to the affidavit, paid about $20,000.

This, according to the arrest warrant, happened between 2005 and 2007.

editorialbannerthumbIronically, news of the arrest warrant broke on the same day Congress was holding a hearing on the financier Bernard Madoff.  Madoff allegedly stole $50 billion in what’s called a Ponzi scheme, while someone at the Securities and Exchange Comission apparently turned a blind eye. By comparison, this small city allegation seems, well,  small.

But as  journalists, we understand the implication of Perez’s alleged action. The apprearance of impropriety is far more damaging than the act of having your “friend,” who just so happen to have contracts with  the city for “significant sums of money”  help  with work on your house for less than the actual work would cost.

We’re not sure the average Hartford resident sees how this  arrangment affects her daily life.

We hope the the Chief State’s Attorney office will come out with more “evidence of corruption” to justify the 18 months of work and thousands of tax payer dollars that went into chasing a political nemesis to somebody, who obviously has a grudge. The state formed an investigatory grand jury to probe allegations of political corruption in the mayor’s administration in late 2007.

We want to know more and the information can’t come soon enough.

We’ll be watching and waiting in the next three months.

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Senate Poised to OK First Black Attorney General


WASHINGTON — Eric Holder today moved closer to being the first Black attorney general of the nation.

He picked up bipartisan support after a flood of support from the likes of Barbara Streisand and some Republicans.

In a 17-2 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to recommend Holder’s confirmation to the Senate. The Senate is expected to vote on Thursday.

The two senators who voted against Holder in committee were Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

But Holder had high praise from key senate leader.

“Eric Holder is a good man,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “He’s a decent man. He’s a public servant committed to the rule of law and he will be a good attorney general.”

Most senators echoed Leahy’s sentiment. The opposition made their concerns known.

Cornyn said Holder’s actions in the Rich pardon and the commutation of sentences for Puerto Rican nationalists left him with “doubts about his judgment and his independence.”

Both Coryn and Coburn said Holder doesn’t understands the terrorism threat, and is hostile to the right of individuals to keep and bear arms.

 

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Fire Consumes Home, Singes Fire Fighter


HARTFORD — Firefighters reponded to a  two-alarm fire about 9:40 a.m. today.

Neighbors reported ” flames shooting everywhere” from the vacant home at at 166 Martin St. in the city’s North End. One fireighter is reportedly injured.

The firefighter, whose name was not released, was taken to a nearby hospital after being treated by his colleagues.

Fire officials said the fire broke out at a three-family vacant home on the corner of Judson and Martin streets. The home was for sale. 

Eyewitness News Reporter Tina Martin said one firefighter was injured while battling the blaze when he slipped on some ice.

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City Seeks Funding to Erase Blight


HARTFORD — The captial city  has been selected to receive up to $2.7 million to  purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed properties in the Capital City, according to city officials.

The City’s proposed “Local Action Plan” was submitted by Mayor Eddie Perez to the State Department of Community and Economic Development, for HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program Funding, according to a press release today.  The Plan will also be submitted to the Hartford City Council for their review and approval.  The Federally funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program is designed to reduce the negative effects of vacant and foreclosed properties. 

 In keeping with the Mayor’s priorities, the City’s proposed Local Action Plan is focused on homeownership.  It is anticipated that 60-70 vacant, blighted, or foreclosed properties will be rehabilitated and then sold to low, moderate and middle-income families. 

“Since 2002, we have cut the amount of blight in half and this funding will help ensure that we don’t lose that momentum, that we continue to build vibrant neighborhoods, and most importantly, we grow homeownership in our City,” Mayor Perez said.

The release also said that Hartford “has and will continue to partner with community stakeholders, community development corporations, minority contractors, non-profit organizations, neighborhoods and others to address the sudden influx of foreclosed and abandoned properties and ultimately, help new buyers achieve the dream of homeownership.”

The Program, administered by the Department of Development Services, will focus on projects that can help stabilize those neighborhoods with the highest number of foreclosures, sub-prime mortgages and steepest rise in rate of foreclosures.  Those areas include the Asylum Hill, Blue Hills, Behind the Rocks, South End, Southwest, Northeast, and the Clay Arsenal neighborhoods.

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Wadsworth Offers Free Admission Days


HARTFORD — Economy got you down?  Cheer up for FREE – with a visit to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.  The museum’s new Free Morning program will provide free admissions to all visitors the last Saturday of every month between the hours of 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. 

Slated to begin on January 31, the program is part of the museum’s ongoing Community Engagement Initiative, which focuses on broadening the museum’s audience, attracting new visitors and providing greater community access.    

The museum also announced today that it will be reducing its hours of operation by closing to the public on Tuesdays, beginning February 3. 

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“Tuesday is our least attended day, so this measure will enable us to better weather the current economic crisis with little impact to our visitors,” said Susan L. Talbott, Director, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.  “At the same time, the Free Morning Program on Saturdays will provide broader access to the community on a day when people are most able to visit.”   

“We are particularly excited about the Free Morning program because feedback from our numerous community ChatBack sessions told us that for some, admission costs precluded them from visiting,” Talbott continued.  “Additionally, this initiative was completely funded by members of the museum’s Board and our patrons, which demonstrates commitment at the highest levels of the museum to providing access to everyone in the Hartford area and beyond.”

Combined with the three free community days the Wadsworth already provides, including its recent MLK Community Day on Jan. 19, the museum will now be free to the public 15 days a year.

The Wadsworth’s new Free Morning program is in addition to its participation in Bank of America’s “museums on us” program, which gives free admissions to all Bank of America card holders the first Saturday of every month.  The Wadsworth also provides free busing and free admissions to Hartford Public School students. 

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is located at 600 Main St. in Hartford, Connecticut.  The Museum is open Wednesdays to Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more information, please visit www.wadsworthatheneum.org.

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State’s Budget Deficit “Sykrockets”


HARTFORD — State officials today announced the state’s latest budget woes.

Gov.  Jodi Rell said that her budget office now estimates the deficit for the current fiscal year at nearly $922 million – even after the latest round of budget cutting . The reason, she said in a press release, is because income tax, business tax and sales tax collections have fallen dramatically below expectations.

The most recent deadline for quarterly estimated income tax payments was Jan. 15. Those payments were 20 percent below projections, and if these trends continue income tax revenues for the entire year will likely fall $665 million – nearly two-thirds of a billion dollars – below projections, Rell said.

 The latest deadline for corporation tax estimated payments was December 15, and those payments are trending $100 million below projections. Sales tax collections, meanwhile, are running $50 million behind projections.

In all, the Office of Policy and Management – Rell’s budget agency – projects a shortfall for Fiscal Year 2009 of $921.7 million.

 “Our state is challenged as never before – and we must rise to that challenge as never before,” Governor Rell said. “The economic tempest that has already ravaged so much of the nation has now made landfall in Connecticut with all of its fury.”  

Rell said she will work  with Legislature “to ensure that we close this looming budget gap.” 

In its Jan. 20 letter to the Office of the State Comptroller, the Governor’s budget office said it is recognizing a deficiency in the Department of Social Services of $56 million, stemming largely from costs associated with the expansion of eligibility for adults under HUSKY. Partially offsetting the shortfall is an expected lapse of $19.4 million, much of it from the Department of Children and Families.

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