Archive | February, 2011

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DMV, Others Study Ways To Reduce Multiple Offenders


WETHERSFIELD – The Department of Motor Vehicles plans a special study of license holders with multiple suspensions and violations to review whether changing laws and regulations makes it possible to reduce those numbers of violators.
“As a new Commissioner at DMV, this an issue I think we need to look at closely,”  Commissioner Melody A. Currey said. “We need to determine if DMV can do more,” she added.
Commissioner Currey said that the DMV will study the statistics related to these offenses as well as the current laws and regulations. Part of this examination will include what kinds of other actions can be a deterrent to the behavior leading to multiple suspensions and violations. She expects the study to take about six weeks.

She plans to bring together a study committee of outside representatives including law enforcement, State Police, legislators and prosecutors as well as DMV’s licensing officials, legal and regulatory staff. The Commissioner, the former mayor of East Hartford, also will testify before the legislature’s Transportation Committee on this matter.
At present license holders usually receive a suspension either as a result of a court conviction for a driving offense mandating a suspension or for failing to appear in court on a motor vehicle-related charge. Suspensions can also result from judges’ orders as a condition of bail or probation.
There also are drivers with habitually multiple violations and under certain circumstances DMV can suspend their licenses. State regulation (14-137-82) authorizes a 30-day suspension for a history of unsafe operation of a motor vehicle. Under this section, on the fourth conviction for specific moving violations that occur within a two-year period DMV can impose this 30-day suspension.
At present about 130,000 license holders, about 3 percent of the total number of licensed drivers in the state, are under suspension for various reasons. Most suspensions result from failure to appear in court and as of December 2010 amounted to about 64,000 drivers. Another 19,000 were suspended for failing to satisfy operator re-training. The combined total for both categories is 64 percent of the 130,000 under suspension.
At present nearly 1,000 license holders, included in the 130,000, are under suspension for having six or more points on their licenses. When reaching 10 points a person’s driver license is suspended for 30 days. A change to state law in 1995 allowing mail-in payments made it more difficult for the point system to issue suspensions to those drivers who are habitual offenders.
The following language was added in 1995 to section 14-137a: “ No points shall be assessed for an infraction or any violation specified in subsection (b) of section 51-164n for which the person sends payment of the fine and any additional fees or costs established for such infraction or violation to the Centralized Infractions Bureau in accordance with the provisions of subsection (c) of section 51-164n.”
These persons may be required to attend operator retraining classes, possibly on multiple occasions, but may not have any points on their driving histories.

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Malloy Names New Board of Ed Members


HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has appointed eight new members on the State Board of Education.

“It is incumbent upon us to put in place a set of standards that will allow Connecticut students to be the best educated and best prepared in the world—one that provides them with the tools necessary to compete in a global economy,” Malloy said in a statement to the press on Friday.  “These nominees come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and I’m confident they can help set the standards needed to bring our students to the top.
Joseph J. Vrabely, Jr. was appointed as an interim member of the State Board of Education by Gov. M. Jodi Rell in 2010. He was reappointed. The new members include retired teacher Patricia Keavney-Maruca of Watertown; family farm operator Terry Jones of Shelton; former teacher Ellen Camhi of Stamford; and Pfizer Inc. regulatory manager Charles Jaskiewicz of Norwich.

Others are former Connecticut State University System Vice Chancellor Estela Lopez of East HartfordMetro-North Railroad program manager Ferdinand Risco Jr. of New Haven; andTrumbull attorney Stephen Wright.

Jaskiewicz, Risco, Wright and Camhi are current or former members of their local school boards.

The State Board of Education establishes academic standards and sets policy for Connecticut’s 149 local and 17 regional school districts, including preschool, elementary and secondary education, special education, vocational education and adult education.

The Board consists of thirteen members, at least two of whom have experience in manufacturing or a trade offered at the Technical High School System, at least one of whom has experience in agriculture, and two nonvoting Grade 12 student members.  The eleven voting members are appointed to four-year terms.

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Why the GOP Has Declared Open Season on Michelle


By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Op-Ed

Former Arkansas Governor and almost certain 2012 presidential contender Mike Huckabee recently told reporters that attacks on Michelle Obama by Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and others in the GOP were silly, foolish and counter-productive.

Huckabee’s push back at the Michelle-bashers was as noble as it was futile. The GOP has declared open season on the first lady for the simple reason that she’s not just any first lady, and this year is not just any political year–it’s the dress rehearsal year for the 2012 contest for the White House.

Frequent comparison is made between the GOP’s ruthless and relentless bashing of Hillary Clinton and the intensifying attacks on Michelle. But there’s a difference between the two figures. That Hillary was a major Democratic force inside the White House was confirmed when she became a U.S. Senator towards the end of her husband’s second term. She also, for a time, became the front-running Democratic presidential candidate. In short, Hillary Clinton was clearly a political threat to the GOP. Michelle Obama seemingly is not.

Yet, the attacks on Michelle are planned, well timed and calculated to sow even more doubt about President Obama and his policies. Slamming Michelle is a key part of the dirty pool equation. The safe and sensible things Michelle talks about on child nutrition, obesity, aid to military families and, of course, breastfeeding might get brief mention in the soft features section of a newspaper if it came from any other first lady and at any other time. She’d be cheered as a first lady who’s a staunch advocate for the welfare of military families and who uses her position to encourage Americans to be healthier. But those safe and sensible goals have been twisted and reviled and made the butt of cheap quips and racist cartoons from the professional Obama loathers. Curiously, with the exception of Huckabee’s criticism of Michelle’s detractors, the GOP mainstream has been noticeably silent about the attacks.

GOP has always viewed Michelle as an especially inviting surrogate for hammering Obama from the earliest days of the 2008 presidential campaign. They twisted the context of a remark she made to make it appear that she didn’t have faith in America. The Obama campaign sensed the danger and tactfully made sure that Michelle would play a traditional low-key role in her husband’s campaign, as other presidential candidate’s wives had. But the snide criticisms never really went away, especially once the Obamas were in the White House. Michelle got pilloried for her push for the failed Chicago Olympic bid, and later for uttering a few words on health care reform. Her shopping excursions, vacation in Spain and workout routine all became fodder for political sniping, gossip and ridicule.

A viral email buzzed around the Internet for a time accusing her of “unprecedented hiring” of a large staff. Even Michelle’s undergraduate thesis written in 1985 with the hardly incendiary title of “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community” was blasted as an open call for black militancy. These smears fizzled, but the jibes, taunts, and racist cartoons on the Internet never stopped. The aim is to firmly etch Michelle in the public’s mind as a power behind the White House throne and identify her with Obama’s “bad policies.”

GOP strategists frankly said as much when they slammed Michelle for sending out an email to friends and supporters touting the selection of Charlotte, NC for the 2012 Democratic Convention. Her carefully chosen words praising the city as “vibrant, diverse and full of opportunity” were about as Chamber of Commerce-tame as could be. But that was more than enough for the GOP to spring on the attack. After all, said one GOP pundit, conventions are politically partisan and because the first lady uttered a word about the Democratic convention site she was fair game.

When Michelle was asked what role she saw for herself as first lady she firmly declared she had no plans to be an overt political wife ala Hillary Clinton or Eleanor Roosevelt. She saw her role as supportive of efforts to improve the health and welfare of children and families. This is no different from the role played by Laura Bush and most other first ladies, none of whom drew a peep of criticism, let alone vilification, for their mild advocacy of pet issues. Michelle is, of course, not them. She’s the wife of the president most politically reviled by conservatives in modern times. For conservatives, the open season on her makes as much political sense as the open season on him. That’s the GOP game plan and it’s not likely to change.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles and WFAX Radio Washington D.C. streamed on ktym.com and wfax.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson

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New America Now: Celebrating Black History Month



MP3
A Foundation of Black History
Clarence Lusane shows us that the history of the White House is most definitely not just white in his new book The Black History of the White House.

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City Announces Parking Ticket Amnesty


HARTFORD — The City of Hartford and the Hartford Parking Authority  kicks off a first-time ever Parking Ticket Amnesty Program during the month of March 2011.

During the program, any motor vehicle registrant (or operator) with outstanding parking tickets may reduce their financial obligations to the City by paying  the original preset fine amounts due on the citations and have all late fees and addition court costs waived by the City of Hartford.

Mayor Pedro E. Segarra believes this is a mutually beneficial opportunity for the City and motorists.

“This program will enhance revenue for the City while providing one time financial relief to area residents.”

There is currently a backlog of more than 265,000 unpaid parking tickets, some of which are more than 15 years old.  The value of these tickets totals more than $18 million.  The goal of the City and HPA is to collect $200,000 through this program.

Payment of all outstanding parking tickets may be made via mail or in person at the Office of Parking Management (OPM) located at160 A Market Street, Hartford, CT 06103.

Payment can be made in person with cash, money order or personal check or through the mail by money order of personal check. Unfortunately, the online payment system cannot waive late fees, penalties and/or court costs.

Motor vehicle registrants issued parking tickets prior to December 31, 2010 will receive a notice in the mail at the address last shown on the ticket. In addition, the OPM has established a dedicated phone line at (860) 757-0883 for motorists to check to verify the existence of outstanding tickets and applicable amounts due and to answer any questions related to the program.

“The HPA is committed to developing creative parking programs that benefit the City,” said Mark K. McGovern, Chief Executive Officer of the HPA. “No one likes to receive a parking ticket but enforcement promotes turnover at the curb which creates more parking opportunities for customers that support local businesses. It is essential to enforce the parking regulations to create these opportunities and it’s the responsibility of violators to pay what is owed,” he said.

Following the Parking Ticket Amnesty Program, the City and HPA will commence a concentrated effort to collect the remaining outstanding parking citations. In accordance with the Municipal Code, any vehicle with five (5) or more outstanding parking citations against it may be towed by the City of Hartford Police Department. Once towed, the vehicle will not be released until the outstanding fines with all court costs and late fees are paid in full along with any towing and storage fees due under the law. The existence of six (6) or more tickets charged against a vehicle will also restrict vehicle registration renewals at the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles.

For more information, please visit www.hartfordparking.com.

Contact:                 Mark K. McGovern

Chief Executive Officer

Hartford Parking Authority

(860) 527-7275





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Hartford School Board Should Start New Superintendent Search


FEATURED LETTER

It’s unfortunate that Christina Kishimoto had to face the news that her celebratory evening had to be canceled because Mayor Pedro Segarra called for a national search for a new school superintendent.

Hello! There is a reason Segarra did that. He found out that [David] Medina was engineering news coverage to place Kishimoto in a glowing light. If that is true, how is that fair to the other candidate—or would-be candidates who already read about the apparent pick?

I think the mayor had to step in.

The school district’s press guy was advocating for Kishimoto to the press, calling her  the best qualified. Then you had parents who were supposed to be watching out for things like this, repeating the phrase “best qualified” like puppets.

By the way, those are code words. And most people who know the business of human resources understand that phrase means they had an excuse to skip affirmative action hiring procedures.

The board of education should know better. And Kishimoto should also know better and accept that the process was tainted.  That’s not how anyone should fill a vacancy in a tax-funded entity.

It’s unclear where we should put the blame. But with conflict of interest on almost all sides of this process, side deals and perceived pay offs and only two candidates available in the selection – this search deserves to be upended.

In a system filled with cronyisms and political appointments, the board should have considered the implication of having only two candidates for this important job.

That is a dangerous message to send, no matter who feels Kishimoto was the best qualified. And stop talking about the economy and the need to skip corners. The board found $15,000 for a proposed nonprofit parent group. Saying the search would be cost-prohibitive is only an excuse to skirt the long established process—put in place for a reason.

The Hartford school system is unique in that it is segregated from its suburban counterparts with more than 95 percent black and Latino students. It’s also the home of the school desegregation case, Sheff v. O’Neill. It is notorious for turning away qualified black and brown teachers and administrators, including me.

The whole process needs to be scrapped and start over again. The school board should forget perceptions at this point and really think about the students, who include my nieces and nephews.

Arlene B., East Hartford

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CT Condo Owners Fight Back


STATEWIDE  Press Release– A grassroots organization entitled the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition (CCOC) has been formed to address the many issues facing owners of condominiums and common interest properties in Connecticut.

There currently are approximately 250,000 owners of condominiums in Connecticut. The Attorney General’s Office has received hundreds of complaints from owners about problems with the association boards and property management companies that run these communities. For years, owners have complained about abuses of power, incompetent management, unfair treatment, even fraud and corruption.

The only recourse owners have is to sue, which, in many cases is cost prohibitive for the homeowner. When sued, the association often hires and attorney whose fees are divided among association members.

For those owners who sue their associations they pay legal fees twice.Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition Supports Proposed Condo LegislationAs of July 1, 2010, the laws governing condos have changed giving owners of condos much greater say in the management of their real estate investments and the social environments in which they live. Unfortunately, many boards and managers either are unfamiliar with these changes or are ignoring them. As a result, several condo owners came together to form the CCOC in an effort to pool their efforts and to work with the Connecticut legislature to pass laws that will further protect the investments of condo owners and will resolve the conflicts many have with their boards and management companies.

At the moment, there are several condo bills being considered that focus on everything from more transparent financial reporting to how members are elected to serve on condo boards, to the establishment of an Office of Ombudsman where complaints regarding condo association boards and property managers can be investigated and resolved without the huge expense and time-consuming need to go to court.

This is an important time for condo owners. Keeping owners informed of their rights and the legislation that is being proposed that will affect them remains the focus of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition.

Over 500 unit owners have contacted either the State of Connecticut Attorney General’s Office or the Department of Consumer Protection to voice concern about common interest ownership issues, only to be told these agencies cannot assist them. Unit owners band together through the coalition, keep informed about relevant proposed legislation, and contact legislators in support of bills that help protect all condo owners statewide.

All unit owners are welcome as members of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition, and membership is free. Hundreds of homeowners from 95 cities and towns across Connecticut compromise the organization’s membership.

For more information or to join the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition, email ctcondoowners@yahoo.com.

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State Rep Calls On Mayor To Disclose Records


HARTFORD — Hartford State Rep. Kelvin Roldan today called on Mayor Pedro Segarra to release all city documents concerning the decision of his administration and the city council to authorize the payment of $485,000 to Carlos Costa and his firm USA Contractors in September of 2010.

In a statement to the press, Roldan stated that Costa was denied Accelerated Rehabilitation today in Hartford Superior Court for his alleged role in a bribery scheme involving the very contract the Segarra administration authorized additional payments for in 2010.

“Mayor Segara defended this $485,000 payment to Costa in September by stating it was in the financial interests of the city. However most citizens find it hard to understand why the Mayor and city council would  think it was in the best interests of the city to pay nearly half a million dollars to a contractor accused of bribery, who was at the center of a scandal that seriously damaged the public trust in city government. Segarra should release all documents concerning this settlement to the public as immediately. Only through full disclosure of all documents, including e-mails, letters, briefs and memos will the public have the chance to make their own judgment about the soundness of the decision by the Mayor and council to authorize this nearly half a million dollar payment.” Roldan stated

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Death Sentence for Arizona Minuteman Who Killed Girl and Dad


By New America News, Valeria Fernández

PHOENIX, Ariz.—Shawna Forde, a leader in the Minutemen border watch movement, has been sentenced to die for the 2009 killings of a Latino father and his 9-year-old daughter in their home.

Forde, 43, was convicted last week of first-degree murder in the deaths of Raul Junior Flores and his daughter, Brisenia Flores. She was also convicted for the attempted murder of Gina Gonzalez, Brisenia’s mother.

Prosecutors argued that Forde plotted the home invasion, believing Flores was a drug dealer. She aimed to steal money to finance activities of the Minuteman American Defense (MAD), a splinter group of the Minutemen, which she founded to report undocumented immigrants to the Border Patrol.

In her testimony, Gina Gonzalez, the only witness in the case, gave a heartbreaking account of the massacre that unfolded May 30, 2009, at her home in Arivaca, Ariz.,13 miles from the Mexican border.

Gonzalez testified that her husband woke her, saying that police was at the door. Their daughter, Brisenia, lay sleeping on the couch with her puppy.

Brisenia Pleaded for Her Life

When Flores opened the door, he saw a woman standing there, accompanied by two men, later identified as Albert Robert Gaxiola and Jason Eugene Bush. They told him they were looking for fugitives. When Flores questioned them, Bush allegedly opened fire, fatally shooting him and injuring Gonzales in the leg.

Gonzalez played dead on the floor, and listened as Brisenia pleaded for her life, only to then hear the shooter reload his gun and kill the little girl. Her other daughter was spending the night at her grandmother’s.

Moments after the intruders left, Gonzalez called 911, but the woman returned with a gunman and told him to finish her off. Gonzalez, though, was able to shoot him in self-defense with a gun she had found in the house.

During the trial, defense attorneys Eric Larsen and Jill Thorpe argued that Gonzalez couldn’t positively identify Forde as the woman who invaded her home, and that prosecutors had no direct evidence to prove Forde was even there that day.

They also said there weren’t fingerprints in the home, or DNA that could tie her to the murders.

But Pima County attorneys’ Rick Unklesbay and Kelly Johnson presented evidence that Forde had attempted to recruit people to go after drug dealers. Text messages left on her phone also implicated her in the murders.

Authorities also presented the jury jewelry that belonged to Gonzalez found in Forde’s possession.

While Flores had a history of drug-related offenses, no drugs were found in the house.

Before the jury imposed the death penalty, they heard arguments from the defense to spare Forde’s life. She was presented as someone who had suffered sexual and physical abuse from one of her husbands. Thorpe argued she suffered a stroke that resulted in brain damage that impacted her judgment, leaving her open to manipulation.

Bush and Gaxiola will be tried later this spring and could also be sentenced to die if found guilty.

The Forde decision comes in the aftermath of January’s deadly public shooting in Tucson that left six people dead, including another 9-year-old girl, and injured 13 people, among them U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.



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Florida Court Finds Singer Buju Banton Guilty


TAMPA, Fla. — Grammy-winning reggae singer Buju Banton was convicted Tuesday of conspiring to set up a cocaine deal in 2009, a verdict that elicited anguish and disbelief among supporters in a crowded courtroom and from other artists in his native Jamaica.
A federal jury deliberated for 11 hours over two days on the fate of Banton, who won a Grammy last week for best reggae album for his work entitled “Before the Dawn.” He was found guilty of three of four charges, and his attorney said he’s facing at least 15 years in prison.
The 37-year-old Banton, whose given name is Mark Myrie, remains wildly popular in Jamaica, and the trial — his second over the drug accusations — was packed with supporters that included other well-known reggae artists. The first trial ended in a mistrial last year after the jury deadlocked.

Read more here.





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