Archive | September, 2011

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Hartford Receives Grant To Hire More Cops


HARTFORD — The U.S. Justice Department has approved funding for 10 officer positions for the Hartford Police Department.

Under the 2011 COPS Hiring Program, the estimated amount of the three-year grant is more than $1.9 million.  CHP funding is designed to hire or rehire full-time sworn officers for state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies nationwide.

“This is critical funding for the city during this economic downturn.  Recovery is all about jobs and funding public safety positions in particular helps the enforcement of quality of life issues and the strengthening of Neighborhood Policing.  We accept this funding to ensure that people are and feel safe in our city,” said Mayor Segarra.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal  and Congressman John Larson helped funnel the money to the capital city.

“Fighting crime and violence in Hartford is supremely worthy of federal help – for the sake of residents and visitors, and especially Hartford’s children,” Blumenthal said.

Larson agreed.

“This grant could not come at a more important time. With State and Municipal governments being forced to make budget cuts, this grant will give the Hartford Police Department the crucial aid they need right now,” said Congressman John Larson.

The CHP grant award start date was September 1, 2011.  That means agencies can be reimbursed for expenditures made on or after this date.  The COPS Office awarded 238 of these grants totally approximately $240 million.

 

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U.S. Department of Education Investigating Record Number of Civil Rights Complaints


WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Education is seeking to improve the quality of education for minority and poor public school students by aggressively launching civil rights investigations aimed at preventing district administrators from providing more services and resources to predominantly white schools.

Faced with public schools more segregated today than in the 1970s, the department is using the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to improve the quality of education for students from minority and low-income backgrounds. The department has outpaced the Bush administration in initiating civil rights probes.

During 33 months under the Obama administration, the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has launched 30 compliance reviews compared with the 22 begun during the eight-year Bush administration. Investigators determine whether school districts have violated Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

“The civil rights laws are the most sorely underutilized tool in education reform and closing the achievement gap,” says Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, who has run the department’s OCR since May 2009. She said President Barack Obama has emphasized that he wants the department investigating education-related civil rights violations. “This is the most important civil rights issue of our time,” she says.

Last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced on the 45th anniversary of Bloody Sunday—the day that Alabama state troopers brutalized civil rights activists marching on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma—that the department’s OCR would significantly increase enforcement actions. Duncan acknowledged that over the last 10 years, the office had not aggressively pursued Title 6 investigations to improve the quality of education for minority and poor students.

The OCR received about 7,000 complaints last year, a record for the department. School districts are being investigated for a range of possible violations, including failure to provide minority students with access to college- and career-track courses, not assigning highly qualified teachers to schools with predominantly minority students and disproportionately placing such students in special education courses and suspending minority students.

The OCR has also investigated schools for failing to protect female students of color from sexual violence and not offering access to higher-level math and science courses.

Judith A. Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project in Washington, D.C., which advocates for quality education, acknowledges a significant change in direction for the department’s OCR. Ali served as deputy co-director of the organization from 1999 to 2000.

“For years, we couldn’t rely on the federal government to enforce civil rights law, so now we have an Office for Civil Rights that is finally taking up the torch,” Browne Dianis says. “During the Bush administration, we wouldn’t encourage anyone to file a complaint. The feeling was that even if you filed a complaint, they probably wouldn’t investigate or would say there was no racial discrimination.”

Education Department officials express concern that a wide disparity exists between the achievement level of graduating white and African-American high school students in specific subject areas, such as biology and math.

Data show that white students are six times better prepared than black students for college biology when they graduate from high school. White students are four times as prepared for college algebra as their black counterparts. Furthermore, white high school graduates are twice as likely to have completed Advanced Placement (AP) calculus courses as black or Latino graduates.

Addressing the statistics, Ali says the solution is not “just about adding more courses” but better preparing minority students in these subject areas. The civil rights investigations are forcing improvements.

In South Carolina, the OCR has targeted school districts for concentrating AP courses at majority white high schools, robbing black students of the chance to take college-track courses. Because of the OCR probe, AP classes have become more widely available at majority black high schools.

Ali is also addressing the practice of assigning the least qualified teachers to poor and predominantly minority schools. By forcing school districts to end this practice, she hopes to narrow the achievement gap between whites and students of color, preparing more minority students for academically challenging courses.

The Education Department and education advocates are examining the higher percentage of minority students assigned to special education classes in many districts.

“Special education is another reflection of huge disparities,” says Daniel J. Losen, senior education law and policy associate at The Civil Rights Project at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Losen says school administrators often use subjective criteria to place students in special education programs, resulting in a disproportionate number of minority students being removed from the general classroom setting. Moreover, Ali says the department is evaluating why white and Asian students are overrepresented in gifted and talented programs, while blacks and Latinos are overrepresented in special education classes.

Based on an NAACP complaint, the OCR is investigating the Wake County (N.C.) Public School System for planning to assign students to schools based on their neighborhoods of residence. Critics contend that the plan would kill diversity in the school system and concentrate poor students, effectively resegregating the district.

Ali says “housing patterns and the correlation between race and poverty” also cause resegregation of school districts. “The federal government is working to end that kind of resegregation,” she says. “We’re very much trying to end discrimination no matter where students go to school or who they go to school with, if they go to school with kids who look like them or to an integrated school.”

Owatonna (Minn.) Senior High School is a case in point. The OCR received a complaint that the mostly white school had not acted sufficiently to stop racial harassment of East African students. When racial tension erupted in 2009 and white and Somali students brawled, school officials disciplined the African students more severely.

Due to the OCR investigation, Owatonna Public Schools agreed in April to take measures to prevent Somali students from being bullied. School officials issued an anti-harassment statement to students, parents and staff while training the school community on what constitutes discrimination and harassment, and meeting with Somali students to review their concerns.

The district must also submit annual compliance reviews to the OCR and the U.S. Department of Justice for the next three years. The case is the most recent race-related Title 6 investigation that the OCR has resolved.

The resolution was a coup for the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which filed the complaint on behalf of Owatonna’s largely Muslim Somali population. Many Somali refugees have settled in Minnesota over the past two decades, and the state houses almost 40 percent of all Somalis in the United States.

Taneeza Islam, civil rights director of CAIR-MN, says none of the 30 CAIR chapters nationally had filed such a complaint. “We just took our chances,” she recalls. “I had no idea how many cases they had and what their investigation findings looked like. Thankfully, we picked the right [presidential] administration to work with. The process has been really easy. It surprised us how proactive the investigators were.”

Resolving the complaint took about a year, Islam says. Since the resolution, CAIR has heard no more concerns about treatment of East African students at Owatonna Senior High. CAIR-MN has also filed a complaint to stop reported harassment of Somali students in St. Cloud, Minn. That case, under investigation for 18 months, is pending.

The Owatonna situation exemplifies racial disparities that persist regarding discipline in public schools. For instance, the OCR has reviewed schools in North Carolina’s Winston-Salem/Forsyth County system and Louisiana’s St. James Parish for infringing on civil rights of black students by disciplining them more severely than other students.

“There’s a national trend of students of color being suspended from school for minor actions,” Browne Dianis says. “When we think about discipline, it was originally intended to cover violent acts.” Data show that African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely to be expelled as their white peers.

Too often, Browne Dianis says, schools remove minority children from class for minor infractions such as tardiness or talking back to teachers. She adds that in today’s schools, where standardized test scores are emphasized, a child can easily fall behind academically, and the likelihood of dropping out increases. “Once you drop out, the more likely you are to end up in the criminal justice system,” she says.

In 2008, Browne Dianis worked with Baltimore schools on their discipline code to reduce the suspension rate. After the number of student offenses punishable by removal from class was narrowed, the suspension rate plummeted from 26,000 to 9,000 the following year, she says.

John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, urges the OCR to address racial disparities in several education areas.

Jackson is concerned, for instance, that some local school districts remove unqualified teachers from poor schools but replace them with substitute teachers. He also says states must stop uneven funding of black and white schools.

“Look at how the revenue flows to districts and being based on property taxes, it creates an inherent inequity,” Jackson says. “If you know the process for distributing resources is creating an inequity, there has to be a process that rights it.”

He calls on the Education Department to withhold federal funding to enforce civil rights compliance, a tactic that the federal government used to help integrate public schools in the 1960s and 1970s.

Jackson applauded Ali for her leadership in re-engaging the OCR and examining racial disparities in U.S. education. “These disparities did not begin today,” he says. “They have been here for the last five, 10, 15 years.”

While Ali says the OCR’s aggressive pursuit of civil rights violations is continuing the historic fight for racial justice begun decades ago, she cautions that the current racial opportunity gap could reverse gains of the civil rights movement.

“You can’t give better to some than you do to others,” Ali says. “That’s not equity. That’s a farce. It goes without saying that equity without quality is not equity at all.”

 

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City Officials Put Noisy Residents On Alert


HARTFORD — One of the drawbacks of city living is noise pollution–usually from neighbors playing loud music or yapping away after 10 p.m. on weekdays and weekends.

Well, the city of Hartford has pledged to enforce its existing noise ordinance.

Officials on Wednesday rolled out a public service announcement to let city residents know the city has reaffirmed his commitment to enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance .

In the City of Hartford it is illegal to make noise that can be heard 100 feet from its source at any time of the day or night.  In 2009 the City of Hartford adopted an ordinance regulating noise in the city to any noise that one can hear from a distance of 100 few away from its source anywhere and anytime of day.

“Quality of life issues remain the number one priority of my administration; and quality of life in our neighborhoods begins with enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance, Mayor Pedro Segarra said in a press release.  “City residents need to report excessive noise violations and it is our expectation that this renewed commitment will once again remind residents about how important it is to hold elected and appointed officials accountable.”

Outgoing Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts also reaffirmed the department’s commitment to noise violation enforcement by encouraging the public to report such incidents, “We cannot enforce the noise ordinance if we do not know there has been a violation.”

Noise Ordinance Enforcement links:
What constitutes a noise violation and how to report a noise complaint
Quiet Please community flyer, English and Spanish
Click here for roster of Neighborhood Zone Commanders and Community Service Officers.

To report a noise complaint day or night, call the Hartford Police Department at 860-757-4000. Violation of the City of Hartford noise ordinance can result in a $90 fine, judge-ordered community service, or a jail sentence of up to 25 days.

The City of Hartford’s noise ordinance, (Municipal Code Chapter 23, 23-1 through 23-8) is enforced 24 hours a day.

 

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Legislators Add $15 Million to Heat Assistance Plan


By Arielle Levin Becker

HARTFORD — Legislators voted Tuesday night to provide federal energy assistance to all households that qualify, effectively rejecting a plan by the Malloy administration that would have made up for a projected shortfall in federal funds by limiting the benefit to households not heated by utilities.

To do so, legislators assumed that the federal commitment to the program will be $15 million more than what the administration expected. If the federal funding is below what the plan counts on, Rep. Vickie O. Nardello said, officials will find money for it in the state budget.

After the vote, Benjamin Barnes, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget director, said he is nervous about the additional federal money coming through, but said he can live with the plan.

“This is a reasonable outcome,” he said. “I’m not unhappy.”

Congress hasn’t yet set the funding level for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, but the Malloy administration projected that the state would get $46.4 million. The number is close to what the state would receive under a recommendation by President Obama that would slash the program’s funding. Last year, the state ran the program with $115 million in federal funds.

To handle the projected cut, the Malloy administration proposed limiting the assistance to households that buy fuel from dealers and rely on so-called deliverable fuel, such as oil, propane, kerosene, coal or wood. That would have eliminated assistance for more than 80,000 low-income households with gas or electric heat. The administration argued that state law protects them from having their utilities shut off for nonpayment between Nov. 1 and May 1, while no such protection exists for deliverable customers.

But after a public hearing Tuesday, legislators on the Appropriations, Energy and Technology, and Human Services committees unanimously endorsed an alternative plan that would provide assistance to everyone who qualifies. It assumes that the state will have $61.6 million to use for the program.

“We are recognizing that in adopting this plan we are going above what the president has recommended,” said Nardello, a Democrat from Prospect who serves as co-chair of the Energy and Technology Committee. “We have reason to believe it will be higher than the president’s proposal.”

Barnes said there is reason to be hopeful about additional federal money coming through, although he said he tends to be pessimistic and added that it’s hard to tell what Congress–particularly new Republican members–will do. “I really don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said.

Last year, 117,876 households in the state received money through LIHEAP. The administration’s plan would have provided funds to about 36,826 households. The plan adopted by the committees would provide benefits to 122,127 households. Because the expected program funding is still significantly below last year’s level, the amount of money each household receives will be significantly lower. The benefits vary according to several factors including income, and will range from $10 for some renters whose heat is included in their rent to $1,300 for some deliverable customers.

The vote drew applause from those left in the Legislative Office Building hearing room close to 10 p.m. It followed a public hearing that included heavy criticism of the administration’s proposal.

Critics of the proposal asked that the state distribute the money among all households that qualify. Advocates had hoped that the administration would present an alternative plan Tuesday, but officials did not. Barnes and Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby said they could not develop a plan that would give meaningful benefits to everyone while providing deliverable fuel customers with enough funding to get through the winter.

Several lawmakers asked about alternative ways to distribute the funds.

Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, questioned the fairness of the administration’s plan, noting that he could have two constituents who are alike except for their heat source, and only one would get energy assistance.

Barnes said that there’s a difference: Utility customers are protected from having their heat shut off, and utility companies can make up any lost payments through other charges. Oil customers and oil vendors don’t have that protection.

Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, suggested that it would make more sense to provide smaller benefits to all households that qualify. Utility customers who can’t pay their bills without help might not be in danger in the winter, he said, “but they’re certainly in debt,” and could lose their utility service in May.

Bremby said the administration’s proposal was aimed at making sure no one loses heat, rather than focusing on financial risk. Barnes said that after making sure that people with deliverable fuels had enough money to get through the winter, utility customers would only be left with $70 to $100–not likely enough to keep people current on their bills. While deliverable customers could be unable to afford heat and face financial ruin, health problems and homelessness if they don’t get enough aid, Barnes said, the plan gives state officials time to address the needs of utility customers.

Others suggested limiting the benefits in other ways. Rep. Al Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, recommended not providing the benefit to people who receive an earned income tax credit next year, and Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, suggested finding other ways to determine who is most needy.

Critics of the proposal raised concerns about a possible consequence of the plan–utility-heated households losing service in May because they couldn’t afford their bills. Gas and electric heat are particularly common in cities, leaving many urban residents at risk of losing energy assistance.

Deb Polun, legislative director for the Connecticut Commission on Aging, noted that Tropical Storm Irene showed the effect of being without electricity for days at a time, and pointed out that in that case, temperatures were not a factor.

Polun is a member of the board that oversees LIHEAP, which recommended that the state provide benefits to all qualifying households, regardless of heat source.

She also suggested that the legislature consider reducing the minimum number of gallons required for a heating oil delivery from 100 to 50. And she recommended that the state establish a rapid response team to address problems that occur, including making sure people are offered shelters or other alternate housing.

Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, said he was concerned that the administration had not offered a plan for utility customers facing shut off in May. Some could go through the rest of the year without getting their utilities turned on. By next winter, they could be left without heat, he said.

“I don’t know what happens to these families that we’re excluding here,” he said.

Barnes said the administration hasn’t given a firm answer to what it would do if additional federal funds don’t become available. “Frankly, they’re not good choices,” he said, noting that the state budget is tight and the state is currently only about $1 million below the spending cap.

Appropriations Committee co-chair Sen. Toni N. Harp, D-New Haven, said that since the dates during which utilities cannot shut off service are set by statute, the legislature could change them. Although he did not endorse them, Barnes said there were several similar options, including restricting shut-offs after May 1 or changing the ability of utilities to recapture bad debts.

Several people who received heating assistance in the past attended the hearing, which began nearly 90 minutes late.

Candace Donnelly and Carlos Morales of Manchester brought their 6-year-old and 5-month-old, hoping the program would stay as it was. They have electric heat and have received LIHEAP to help pay their bills.

“I work, but I don’t make that much, so every little program that they have helps,” said Donnelly, who has a job at McDonalds.

If she doesn’t get assistance this year, she said, she would “try to work something out with the light company, see if they can help.”

The leaders of several community action agencies, which handle applications for the program and would see their funding cut in half under the administration’s plan, also attended the hearing. James Gatling, president and CEO of New Opportunities, Inc., and chairman of the board of the Connecticut Association for Community Action, praised the intent of the administration’s plan, but said it did not fairly address the needs in Connecticut and would have “serious unintended consequences, possibly including the loss of life.”

When asked whether the plan would be devastating to the people his agency serves, Gatling said it would.

The association wanted the legislators to prepare to use state funds it necessary to make up for the shortfall in federal funds.

If federal funding is below what the plan counts on, legislators will meet again to address the shortfall, Harp said. Asked about what happens if the federal money doesn’t come through, Barnes said, “We start making cuts that everybody hates.”

In Washington, the funding picture for LIHEAP remains murky. President Obama has recommended slashing LIHEAP funding, while House Republicans have not yet set a top-line funding figure for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bill, which sets spending for the LIHEAP program.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democratic on the Labor, HHS appropriations subcommittee, said Republicans suddenly nixed a scheduled committee debate on that funding bill a few weeks ago. That’s a sign, she said, that GOP leaders still don’t have an agreement on how much federal money they will channel into those key domestic programs.

“The speculation is they can’t get their folks to vote for it–that people wanted deeper cuts,” said DeLauro, D-3rd District.

A spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee said the subcommittee mark-up of that bill hasn’t been rescheduled yet, and it was too early to speculate about how LIHEAP might fare.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said the potential outcome is concerning.

“We’re going to have to have the balmiest winter in history to live within that budget,” he said.

Deirdre Shesgreen contributed to this story.

This story originally appeared at www.CTMirror.org, an independent, non-profit news organization covering government, politics and public policy in the state.

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Foodshare ‘Convey of Caring’ Delivers


HARTFORD — Since 2002, Foodshare has publicly recognized the food industry for their efforts to end hunger with the Annual Food Industry Convoy of Caring and Recognition Breakfast.

Each year, companies donate over 21 million dollars of food, in-kind, to help fight hunger here in Greater Hartford.

On Tuesday 24 companies joined the Convoy, the largest number of participants to date.

Gathering at the Rocky Hill Marriott, trucks lined up beginning at 4:30 a.m. During the breakfast, Gloria McAdam, President & CEO of Foodshare, honored each attendee with a certificate of recognition, while Scot Haney, of Better Connecticut fame, emceed the event.

“I am so proud to see Foodshare’s partnership with the food industry growing year after year. I know that we could never meet the demand without their help, and it really shows a strong commitment to our cause,” McAdam said.

Immediately following the breakfast drivers made the 21-mile journey to the Foodshare distribution facility in Bloomfield, trucks loaded with nearly 113,000 pounds of donated food.

More than 128,000 people in Greater Hartford depend on these donations and Foodshare’s services, organizers said.

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Malloy Announces $550K SBA Grant


HARTFORD – Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today announced that the Small Business Administration (SBA) awarded a $546,822 grant to Connecticut to help increase state exports and the number of small businesses that export.

“Connecticut has a diverse industrial base and an innovative and highly productive workforce that is already exporting its products around the world.  But there is potential to grow,” Malloy said.  “As exports are an engine of growth, I believe this new program and the resources it provides will create economic optimism by helping even more Connecticut companies capitalize on their products, expand their markets, and increase their value in the highly competitive global marketplace.”

The SBA created the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) pilot grant initiative earlier this year to provide grants to state export offices over the next three years.  The program, authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, is aimed at increasing the number of small businesses that want to export.

The $546,822 represents year one of the three-year grant.  States must apply each fiscal year for their annual allotment.  Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) will administer the program and direct funds toward international business development opportunities and technical assistance programs.

Businesses seeking export assistance should e-mail Laura Jaworski in DECD’s Office of International and Domestic Affairs at laura.jaworski@ct.gov.

 

 

 

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In-state Tuition Law Has a Big Impact for a Small Number


By Caitlin Emma

Lucas Codognolla’s story is the classic immigrant saga: He’s working two jobs to put himself through the University of Connecticut’s Stamford branch, where he’s determined to be the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. But there’s a twist: He’s one of a handful of students taking advantage of a new law granting in-state tuition to undocumented residents.

That law is what is making UConn possible for the 20-year-old Brazilian immigrant.

“Because of my status as an undocumented student, I’m not allowed to get any sort of federal aid,” he said. “Coming out of high school, I felt like I hit a wall. You have dreams of pursuing a college degree and a career. It’s a shame that your dreams can be crushed because of financial reasons, simply because you can’t afford college.”

The law was passed in May over the objections of critics who said giving undocumented students a tuition break would take seats away from legal residents. Backers said the impact would be minimal.

It appears the supporters were right, at least so far:UConn reported nine undocumented students currently receiving in-state tuition, three at the Storrs campus and six spread among its regional campuses. The Connecticut State University System, consisting of Central, Southern, Eastern and Western Connecticut state universities, reported fewer than 10 students system-wide.

The situation at the state’s 12-campus community college system is less clear. There is no centralized data, and many of the colleges aren’t tracking the number of undocumented students. In addition, assistant chancellor Mary Anne Cox said, some of the community colleges never considered legal residency a requirement for in-state tuition eligibility, and simply asked students to prove they lived in the state or declare that they intended to seek citizenship.

Codognolla took that route to get in-state tuition at Norwalk Community College, where he graduated with an associate’s degree and a 3.8 grade point average. But pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science at UConn Stamford would have been out of the question without the new law.

“It helped me out a lot,” he said, explaining that he comes from a family of six children, including a sister who started at NCC this fall. She is also receiving in-state tuition.

“It helped my family out a lot. It gives us the opportunity to continue. I know that, based on my status, I’ll run into bigger obstacles in my life, but at least I have that college degree.”

Codognolla fulfilled the legislation’s requirements by attending four years of high school in Connecticut and signing an affidavit stating his intent to seek citizenship. His tuition bill for the year is about $8,256, a third of what he would have paid at out-of-state rates.

Even at the reduced in-state rate, however, Codognolla can only afford to go to school part-time: His undocumented status makes him ineligible for state or federal financial aid. He works as an English and math tutor and takes care of administrative office work for a construction company to help pay the bills.

“I think that with having the in-state tuition pass, we were able to provide some awareness about undocumented youth,” he said. “Hopefully other policies will come up later on that can help us, like other states passed legislation that allows undocumented students to receive in-state tuition and financial aid from the state.”

Codognolla, who has lived in the United States since he was 9, said the in-state tuition bill has meant more than a less-expensive college education: It has empowered him and other students as undocumented citizens.

“I’ve become much more confident in myself and my abilities, regardless of my status,” he said. “I’ve gained a lot of support.”

“There are students like me out there, students who have so much potential,” he added. “Once they reach that age where they realize the impact of their status, many of them drop out of school because they feel like they have no future. There’s still hope. Regardless of your status, you can still get an education in Connecticut.”

 

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Does Cain’s Florida Win Prove the GOP Isn’t Racist?


By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, New America Media Commentary

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s wipeout of the GOP presidential field in the Florida straw poll got much attention partly because he was so far behind presumptive GOP presidential front runners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.
But it also got attention because it seemed to refute the relentless charge that the GOP is racist. Cain is black, grew up poor, and did not shy away from talking about black issues during his stint as a radio broadcaster. Despite his unabashed spout of ultra conservative views, he doesn’t shirk away from his blackness. His win in Florida — not a Northern state — among a virtually lilywhite slate of voters does seem to make a case that the knock of racism against the GOP is overblown.

It doesn’t. True, at times, straw polls provide some gauge of the support a presidential contender has among the general party electorate. Reagan in 1979, George H.W. Bush in 1987 and Bob Dole in 1995 won the Florida straw poll and went on to win the GOP presidential nomination. But they were seasoned, name-recognizable GOP stalwarts, and the clear frontrunners for the nomination. Cain could hardly be considered any of those things. And the slightly more than 2,500 voters that bothered to cast a ballot in the straw poll could hardly be considered a representative sample of the GOP electorate.

In any case, straw poll votes are pure symbolism. More times than not the front running, that is, electable candidates spend little time, energy or resources bothering to court those likely to participate in a straw tally. Romney spent minimal time in the state, and Perry took it seriously only because as the new kid on the presidential block — and with dismal showings in the GOP presidential debates, as well as mounting questions about his conservatism — Florida was his chance to get momentum going again in his campaign. That’s why Cain sneaked to the top. It was more a message to Perry that there are a lot of conservatives who have serious doubts about him and his candidacy. Cain was the perfect foil to register that doubt.

The real name of the game is the primaries, where GOP voters will turn out en masse and determine who will be their standard bearer.

Cain’s candidacy, race and win in Florida meant little because he likely will not be around for the long gruel of the primaries. Even if he is, he will be a minor footnote on the ballot, when the serious business of courting voters, state officials and party leaders begins in Florida and other key primary states. But let’s say that he’s still a viable candidate during the primary run and has a real shot at being the GOP presidential choice, the evidence is strong that Cain wouldn’t get very far, and the issue then would be his race.

In a 2006 study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, a Yale political economist found that white Republicans were 25 percentage points more likely to cross over and vote for a Democratic senatorial candidate against a black Republican foe.

The study also found that in the nearly 20-year stretch, from 1982 to 2000, when the GOP candidate was black, the greater majority of white independent voters backed the white candidate. In the November 2010 mid-term elections, more than 30 black GOP candidates ran in congressional primaries. The majority of voters, or a significant percentage of them, in these districts were white. The black GOP candidates all went down to crushing defeat with two exceptions: congressional candidates Allen West in Florida and Tim Scott in South Carolina. Both got a majority of white votes and easily beat their Democratic opponents. But West and Scott won in lockdown GOP districts and against weak, under-funded Democratic opponents. Their wins were regional wins with absolutely no national implications.

Former three-term New Hampshire Governor John Sununu put his finger firmly on the inner pulse of mainstream GOP conservative sentiment during an interview he did earlier this year, after hearing candidate’s views on what Cain’s likely fate would be if he ever made it into the GOP presidential contender box. Sununu, one-time chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush and previously chair of New Hampshire’s GOP, said he was willing to listen to Cain, but that his pick for the GOP 2012 presidential contender would have to be the second coming of Ronald Reagan, as well as a politician with experience.

There’s much hyperbole in the Reagan analogy. None of the current crop of GOP contenders will ever be mistaken for Reagan in style, charisma and virtual party deification. But there’s truth to the Reagan analogy when it’s remembered that a big part of Reagan’s appeal was his racially coded pandering on states’ rights and his veiled anti-civil rights appeals. A black GOP candidate, no matter how rabidly conservative, would be unable to totally overcome, let alone allay, the racial antipathies and fears that always lurk among a large segment of conservative white voters when the White House is at stake.

No matter how many meaningless straw polls Cain wins, he won’t be the GOP candidate to change that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. thehutchinsonreportnews.com
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson.

 

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Hartford Opens New Little League Field


HARTFORD — Children in the South End of Hartford have another play thing to cherish.

And they did.

Dozens of Little League players and their families at Hartford’s Hyland Park last Saturday to dedicate a brand new baseball field recently completed there. Thanks to the help of Sen. John Fonfara (D-Hartford).

The field was immediately put to use during a triple header that followed the dedication. The ceremony had been delayed a week by heavy rains that left the field waterlogged the week before.

“Too often, Hartford little league players have visited very nice ball fields in other towns on their away games—only to come back to play on an old, deteriorating field here in the city. Hartford kids deserve a great field they can be proud of, where they can play their games and host opposing teams. Now they have one,” Fonfara said.

The ball field was constructed with $500,000 in state bonding that Fonfara secured for the project. It will be used by 400+ players a year, from both the Mayor Mike Peters Little League and the Roberto Clemente Little League.

The new facility replaces an older field built in 1990 that had greatly deteriorated over time. Its design is based on another field located at Mill Woods Park in nearby Wethersfield.

Construction of the little league field included installation of new fencing, a bullpen, dugouts and bleachers. The parking lot was repaved, and a new walkway now runs to the field.

“I think the community is very excited about this new ball field,” said Tim Cheever, Commissioner of the Mayor Mike Peters Little League. “For years, our Hartford teams have played away games with other teams in much nicer facilities. It feels good now to have our own, modern facility to host out-of-town teams and to play our own in-town games as well.”

Featured Photo: Derek Soto of the Mayor Mike Peters Little League presents a jacket to State Senator John Fonfara (D-Hartford) at the newly renovated Hyland Park baseball field in Hartford. Senator Fonfara secured $500,000 in state funding to finance the renovation.
 



 

 

 

 

 

 

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NAM Radio: The Rise & Fall of the American Teacher


By Shirin Sadeghi, Contributor

He’s that guy who takes care of your kids all day long everyday. She’s the friend they need when they’re alone. He’s the authority they turn to when they need help. He or she is your child’s teacher and teachers are a dying breed in America.

There are currently 3.2 million teachers in America, but in the next few years 1.8 million of them will be up for retirement. Of the other teachers, statistics indicate that 62% of them leave the profession within five years and it has nothing to do with not loving what they do.

Jonathan Dearman was a teacher in San Francisco for 5 years before he left the profession to go into his family business of real estate. He is one of a handful of teachers who are featured in the new documentary American Teacher and he told New America Now Host Shirin Sadeghi what it’s like to be an educator in America.


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New America Now is the radio program of New America Media. The program is hosted by
Shirin Sadeghi and is broadcast on 91.7 FM KALW San Francisco on Fridays at noon and Sundays at 3 pm.

New America Now’s Complete Show for September 23 and 25, 2011:


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Click here to follow Shirin Sadeghi on Twitter.


 

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