Archive | November, 2011

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Shot Fired Near Bravo Supermarket on Albany; Two Injured


Posted: 11-29-11, 6:35 p.m.

HARTFORD — At least two men were injured Tuesday in Bravo Supermarket on Albany Avenue during what appeared to be an attempted robbery, according to eye witnesses on the scene.

Hartford Police and police dog survey the crime scene at Bravo plaza on Albany Avenue

According to three witnesses, they heard a shot fired at about 6: 15 p.m. Afterward, they saw one man with his wrist severed and another man with a wound in his back.

Both were taken to St. Francis Hospital.

At least three men were seen running from the scene of the crime .

Police are now on the scene and have cordoned off the premises to investigate.

A police dog is now tracing the scent of the suspects, who fled in the vicinity of Upper Albany, near McDonald’s.

 

More to come…

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Hartford Council Approves Treasurer’s Salary Increase


Updated 11-29-11, 11:31 a.m.

HARTFORD — The Hartford City Council on Monday voted for a resolution to increase the city treasurer’s salary.

Seven council members approved a $10, 000 salary hike for Adam Cloud. Effective January 1, 2012, Cloud’s annual salary will be $150,000. The city ordinance authorizes 75 percent of the treasurer’s salary from the city’s pension fund. The other 25 percent comes from the city’s general operating budget.

Democratic Councilman Robert Painter said he voted for the resolution proposed by outgoing Council Chair rJo Winch because the salary hike was “appropriate.”

Several city residents disagreed with that assessment. They appeared before the council on Monday to vehemently oppose the salary increase after exchanging e-mails earlier in the day with, among others, the Democratic caucus, Working Families Party Councilmember Larry Deutsch and Mayor Pedro Segarra.

The irony was not lost on Democratic Town Committee members from the first district. They appealed to Deutsch for assistance to plead their cause regarding this “fiscally irresponsible” action by the council.

“It’s a slap in the face,” said Elaine Hatcher, a DTC member.

According to Hatcher, former treasurer Kathleen Palm Devine tapped Cloud to be her replacement after she resigned in 2010.

“And once he was appointed to that job,” said another DTC member Lelia Bouyer, “ he felt he automatically should get the job.”

Both Hatcher and Bouyer also raised the issue of nepotism and cronyism, saying that Cloud and his wife were both “controlling” the city’s money. It’s unclear whether Cloud’s wife was moved to the Finance Department, or has yet to be moved.

Deutsch was the only councilmember who voted against the salary increase.

The treasurer’s salary increase comes after voters on Nov. 8  voted to rescind a salary increase for city council members. That’s because in 2008 voters approved a salary increase from $15,000 a year to $26,650. The pay hike was scheduled to take effect January 2012.

 

 

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Don’t Expect Much Diversity from “President” Romney


By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Contributor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sooner or later, presumptive GOP presidential nominee frontrunner Mitt Romney will have to publicly answer which Romney will show up on the issue of race and diversity, if he indeed gets the GOP nomination and snatches the White House in 2012. Will it be the Romney who claimed in an interview on Meet the Press in 2007 that he got teary-eyed when he heard his Mormon church’s ruling that blacks would no longer be barred from the Mormon priesthood. Romney didn’t directly say it, but he strongly hinted that the moment stirred strong emotions in him because he never went along with his church’s decade’s old racial bar.

“I was anxious to see a change in my church,” Romney said. My faith has always told me that, and I had no question that African Americans and blacks generally would have every right and every benefit in the hereafter that anyone else had and that God is no respecter of persons.”

Now contrast that with the Romney that former GOP congressman J.C. Watts, a staunch black conservative, recently ripped for having a virtually lily white campaign staff. Romney was unmoved by the knock and flatly said that he hires the best persons he can find. He underscored that with the rhetorical emphasis “What’s the charge? Is there something wrong with that?”

Nothing, nothing, that is, if Romney’s political ambitions didn’t extend any further than seeking to win a GOP seat in a GOP friendly congressional district in the GOP’s hard core voter geographic vote base in the Heartland and the Deep South. The presidency is a far different matter. The teary-eyed Romney who chaffs at racial bigotry can’t trump the Romney who glibly condones it in picking his campaign staff.

Romney’s record on diversity as Massachusetts governor gives a strong hint of what his White House would look like. When it came to appointing minorities and women to judicial posts, his record was atrocious. The Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association repeatedly lambasted him for his near-exclusive white male state house. Romney partly in response to the public pounding, and partly with an eye on a presidential run where he knew his state record on diversity would be closely scrutinized, made a slew of appointments of minorities and women to the state bench in his last year in office.

Romney’s successor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, and the state’s first African-American governor, wasted no time in knocking Romney for his blatant race and gender blind spot on appointments. In his inaugural address, he made it clear that he would make diversity and inclusion a huge part of his administration. Romney, not surprisingly, did not attend Patrick’s inaugural.

Late night comedian-talk show host Jay Leno was bothered enough by Romney’s blind spot on diversity to ask him point blank in an interview during the 2008 GOP presidential primary campaign what he thought about diversity. Romney gave the GOP formula answer and said that he supported it in government and corporations. Leno wasn’t satisfied and pressed him on what his administration would do to promote diversity. Romney wouldn’t budge from the stock retort that discrimination is wrong. That’s even less than the bare minimum response to racial bigotry that any candidate for public office is required to give.

The embarrassing litany of Romney race-tinged gaffes that include the metaphorical reference to hanging Obama, a joke about Obama’s birth certificate, using the racially offensive word “tar baby” to describe a public works project, and an animal reference in a pose with an African-American doesn’t tag Romney as a racist. He apologized or pleaded ignorance in every case. But it does touch off warning bells on race.

The loudest bell is what Romney will have to do, or more particularly who he’ll have to satisfy, to seal the GOP nomination. Romney will have to do a massive sell job to Christian evangelicals, ultra-conservatives and Tea Party leaders that he’s really at heart one of them. To appease them, he has little wiggle room on race. The mere mention of race, let alone diversity, emblazons red flags among conservative hardliners. They relentlessly bait him as a flip-flopper and closet moderate who will not dump conservative principles at the drop of a hat. There’s no likelihood that Romney would pick the nettlesome Watts as his VP running mate as the influential ultra conservative blog, redstaterusa.org, dared him to do in 2007 when Romney was fighting hard for presidential nomination. The Watts for VP call though was done more to needle Obama than any serious interest in promoting diversity in a GOP White House.

Romney’s actions, not tears about Mormon Church bigotry and protestations against discrimination, tell much about what to expect with a Romney in the White House. And that’s not much.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media.

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Foodshare Partners with L&F Ministries


HARTFORD — With resources from its “Partnership Program”, Foodshare has worked with Loaves & Fishes Ministries to help them replace an outdated freezer. With the new commercial freezer, the soup kitchen will be able to continue safely storing food, according Foodshare.

Representatives said Loaves & Fishes Ministries, Inc. directly impacts families throughout the Asylum Hill neighborhood and beyond. In 2010, the soup kitchen provided more than 36,110 meals.

The program also encourages clients to make use of other available resources such as the organization’s Opening Doors Program, which provides job skills training and employment.

In addition to this recent collaboration, Foodshare provided 16,753 pounds of food to Loaves and Fishes Ministries in the past year to support individuals and families experiencing food insecurity in Hartford.

 

 

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Increased Reimbursements Pay Off In Getting State Closer To Desegregating Hartford Schools


By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

HARTFORD — It took more than just luck in the school choice lottery for 11th-grader Safiya Francis to leave one of thelowest-performing schools in the state and land a seat in Newington High School.

It took a huge boost in financial incentives for Newington, a high-performing district, to be able to afford to enroll Francis and other Hartford students. Twenty-five city students attend Newington High School.

 

safiyaSafiya Francis, a junior from Hartford attending Newington High School: ‘I got in the first time I applied’

 

“The issue has always been money for why we couldn’t offer more children [from Hartford] enrollment in our schools,” said Newington’s Superintendent William Collins, whose district doubled the number of Hartford students it enrolled this school year through the state’s Open Choice program.

But these significantly increased reimbursements approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy earlier this year were not simply just an act of altruism to get students into better schools, they are up against an October 2012 deadline to comply with a state Supreme Courtorder to reduce the racial isolation in Hartford schools.

Until now, suburban schools said that money is why they have accepted only a trickle of students from Hartford. This has typically left thousands of students like Francis on a waiting list.

That’s no longer the case for many students thanks to a sudden influx of new seats being offered by school districts this year.

“I got in the first time” I applied,  Francis said while sitting in study hall doing homework with a other students who also all got in the first time they applied. “I’m glad I got in. I wasn’t learning anything at my old school (an institute at Weaver High). They rarely assigned homework and when they did they wouldn’t even collect it.”

The State Department of Education reports it has added 134 seats so far this school year through Open Choice, which is the largest increase in several years. Districts may also offer additional seats until January, so participation is expected to increase even more. So far, five suburban districts each added more than 10 seats for Hartford students this year. That includes Newington, which will now be reimbursed $6,000 per student versus the $2,500 they previously received.

“A whopping $2,500 is what they were giving us,” Collins said, explaining that the district’s costs per student were “easily” double that.

But even with this increased participation, the state is still a long way from the finish line in complying with the agreement reached to desegregate the schools, which requires that 41 percent of Hartford students be attending an integrated school or that 80 percent of those who wish to leave their neighborhood school be provided the opportunity to do so.

To reach these benchmarks, the agreement calls for 2,500 students from Hartford to be enrolled in suburban schools through Open Choice. The state is still 1,000 students shy of reaching that goal.

Bumps in the road

Joan’ay Rhodes, an 11th-grader at Newington High School from the North End of Hartford, wakes up around 5:30 a.m. to get ready and catch a city bus so she can get to school by 7:40.

The problem is sometimes that bus doesn’t even show up, so she is forced to catch a bus that will get her as close as possible to her new school.

“It was raining. I had no umbrella, and I had to walk from the hospital to get here,” she said of a recent experience.

 

Joan'ay RhodesJunior Joan’ay Rhodes: ‘It was raining. I had no umbrella and I had to walk from the hospital (down the street) to get here’

 

“Some of our students aren’t getting here until 10 a.m. That’s a problem,” Collins said of these students who are oftentimes significantly behind their peers academically. “Missing school is not helping them catch up.”

Because so many of the 25 students attending the high school are routinely tardy, the state paid for a bus — which starts running Monday — for them to get to school so they no longer have to rely on city transportation.

“They had more than enough students to fill a bus,” said Kathy Demsey, who runs the education department’s efforts to comply with the court settlement, explaining why the decision was made to begin offering transportation.

But what happens when just five students from Hartford are attending a school, like in Windsor?

“In communities that abut Hartford, they get a (city) bus pass so we can contain the costs,” said Demsey.

Transportation for students wanting to participate in afterschool activities is also a point of concern. While Demsey said students are guaranteed a late bus so they can participate, Newington students are still waiting.

“I’m excited. I’m going to join the wrestling, swimming and soccer teams,” said Resheem Barnaby, a freshman at Newington who also lives in the North End of Hartford.

Waiting…

Terra Piela, an assistant principal in Newington who is in charge of coordinating the Open Choice process, said besides waiting for adequate transportation for her students, she is also waiting for the state to send her more students from Hartford.

Almost halfway through the school year, three seats Newington High School offered remain vacant.

“We’re ready for them, we’re just waiting,” Piela said.

 

Resheem BarnabyFreshman Resheem Barnaby was offered a seat in Newington schools a month into the school year

 

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Sheff vs. O’Neil desegregation order have said this delay in filling empty seats is systemwide.

“Many of the new suburban openings were offered to Hartford families after their children had already started attending school in the fall. This is unacceptable,” Philip Tegeler, one of the original lawyers who filed the class-action lawsuit, wrote in an email newsletter to those in the Sheff Movement Wednesday.

This was the case for Barnaby and Francis, who were both offered enrollment at Newington a few weeks into the school year.

The SDE does not have an estimate of how many seats still have yet to be filled, but Demsey estimates that it is fewer than 100.

She makes no excuses for this delay.

“After the school year starts it depends on a parent’s willingness to remove a child from where they are. We’re taking steps to improve the process” so all the seats are filled before the start of the school year, she said.

Of the more than 3,000 students who apply to Open Choice, only one out of three accept their placement. This process to find out that a student has rejected the offer takes a few weeks and delays the state finding someone to fill that seat.

To remedy this low-acceptance rate, the department has decided to give preference in the annual lottery to students who only apply to Open Choice, and not the other magnet and charter school options.

“Hopefully this will push that acceptance rate up” and free up the lag time, she said.

The state has also pushed up by one month the application deadline for students to apply so the lottery can begin earlier. They also have a new $1 million pot to divide among the districts that let the state know by March 1 how many seats they will be offering. Demsey says oftentimes they aren’t even informed until late into the summer how many seats districts will provide.

Delays in the suburban districts’ obtaining the records of Hartford students headed their way are also proving to be an obstacle, says Newington officials.

“The records are hard to get. They’re either incomplete or not accurate. There is definitely a disconnect there,” said Sue Hayes, who tutors the Open Choice students at Newington.

By law, Hartford Public Schools has 10 calendar days to transfer student records.

Demsey agrees these records need to be transferred more quickly.

“At times, we have had to go and drive them from school to school,” she said.

 

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Election Day For New Britain State Rep Set


HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday announced that a special election to fill a vacancy for State Representative in the 24th General Assembly District, covering parts of New Britain and Newington, will be held Tuesday, Jan. 10.

The seat became vacant on Nov. 15 following the resignation of Tim O’Brien, who was elected mayor of New Britain in the November 8 municipal elections.

Under state law, the Governor is required to issue a Writ of Special Election, and a special election must be held within 46 days of its issuance.

The writs, one for each of the town clerks of New Britain and Newington, were filed today and are attached.

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Lauryn Hill Coming To CT


HARTFORD — Neo-Soul and Hip-hop/R&B singer Lauryn Hill is coming to Connecticut.

The conscious, soulful singer, who went on hiatus after her solo album, The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill, outsold Beyonce and Alicia Keys in 1998. She will perform Dec. 17 at Mohegan Sun.

Before her solo act, she was a member of the three-member hip hop group, The Fugees from 1991 to 1996.

Tickets are $78 and $58.

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Hartford Guardian: Happy Thanksgiving!


GREATER HARTFORD — It’s indeed a beautiful morning in Hartford and its surrounding suburbs.

And today is Thanksgiving Day in Greater Hartford, Connecticut and America. It’s a day when we as a nation pause to express our gratitude and gather with family, friends and  in some cases, frenemies and strangers.

In most cases, though, we gather over a feast with Turkey, or whatever your traditional dish is, to share joy and laughter with our loved ones.

This year, The Hartford Guardian is thankful for its loyal readers, supporters and their families. We are also glad to be celebrating seven years as a community-based organization.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving Day?

 

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Foreclosed Homeowners Re-Occupy Their Homes


By Zaineb Mohammed, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO – Carolyn Gage was evicted from her foreclosed home in January. Earlier this month, she moved back in.

“I’ve been in here for 50 years. I know no other place but here. I left and it was just time for me to come back home,” said Gage, who is in her mid-50s.

Gage’s monthly payments spiked after her adjustable rate mortgage kicked in, and she could no longer afford the payments on her three-bedroom house in the city’s Bayview Hunters Point district. She says she tried to modify her loan with her lender, Florida-based IB Properties, but to no avail.

When Gage initially left about 10 months ago, she took some personal items with her, but left most of the furniture and continued paying for some utilities.

“It didn’t feel right for me to move. I just left my things because I knew I was going to return to them eventually,” she said.

She had to re-activate a few utilities when she returned, like the water, but found the process fairly easy.

Walking back into the house was an emotional moment for Gage, but a joyous one.

“I was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz; there’s no place like home,” Gage said. “It’s a family home; I plan to stay there.”

Gage was one of about two dozen homeowners who gathered Tuesday for a community potluck on Quesada Avenue for residents facing foreclosure and are refusing to leave their homes.

Homeowners expressed outrage at the way predatory lenders have targeted their community.

Residents of the Bayview are starting to see how the African-American community was especially victimized in the foreclosure crisis.

Gage believes that single women and elders in the black community were targeted for predatory loans. At the peak of the housing boom she was solicited for an adjustable rate loan to do some home improvements, even though she told the loan agent that she was on disability and did not have a steady income.

According to a report released last week by the Center for Responsible Lending, African Americans and Latinos were consistently more likely than whites to receive high-risk loan products. About a quarter of all Latino and African-American borrowers have lost their homes to foreclosure or are seriously delinquent, compared to under 12 percent for white borrowers.

Bayview residents Reverend Archbishop Franz King and Reverend Mother Marina King, who are founders of the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, are also facing foreclosure. Their eviction date is set for Dec. 22.

King expressed deep anger and sorrow at the situation facing the black community in the Bayview.

“First redevelopment moved us out of the Fillmore and now we’re losing our properties too? It’s like there’s nowhere for us to go,” he said.

Grace Martinez, an organizer with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) who helped to arrange the event, commented that banks have become increasingly hostile to their efforts. “They call the police on us; they laugh at us.”

Vivian Richardson, a homeowner on Quesada Avenue whose house was also foreclosed on, also has no intention of leaving. Her current eviction date is set for Dec. 31, but she, like many of her neighbors, is asking her lender to reduce the principal on her loan in order to make the monthly payments more affordable.

Richardson has been attempting to modify her home loan for the past two years. Earlier this month, tired of the lack of communication from the lender, Aurora Loan Services based in Delaware, she worked with ACCE to coordinate an e-mail blast to Aurora’s chairman.

On Nov. 3, over the span of one to two hours, approximately 1,400 emails were sent and more than 100 phone calls made, imploring Chairman Theodore P. Janulis to stop Richardson’s eviction. A spokesperson from the bank called her an hour after the blast and asked her to send an updated set of financial information so that they could review her case.

Two weeks have passed and she has yet to hear anything further. The bank spokesperson commented that Richardson’s case is still being reviewed internally and they hope to get back to her by the end of next week.

However, Richardson has lived in her house for 13 years and plans to stay regardless of the bank’s decision.

“I will defend the home,” she said.

On Dec. 6, there will be a national day of action, “Occupy Our Homes,” where people across the country facing predicaments similar to Gage and Richardson may follow their lead.

Partly inspired by the Occupy movement, the day of action is supported by various community organizations like Take Back the Land and ACCE. The call to action is for people to move back into their foreclosed properties and to defend the properties of families facing eviction.

Martinez commented on the growing anger people are feeling. “The idea is, ‘I want what’s mine.’” She said many homeowners had trusted the banks and ultimately, “People were buying into a lie.”

 

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Hartford Offers Free Parking Friday


HARTFORD — Here’s one less worry for Black Friday: no parking tickets.

The Hartford Parking Authority and Mayor Pedro E. Segarra announced Tuesday that the City of Hartford will provide free, on-street parking in Downtown on Friday, Nov.25, starting at 12:00 p.m.

In addition,  three City-owned garages will also provide free parking starting at 3:00 p.m. to accommodate those visiting Connecticut’s Capital City for the WinterFest opening ceremony at Bushnell Park.

“Given the many great things there are to do in Hartford this holiday week, we wanted to offer an added convenience to enjoy what our City has to offer,” mayor Segarra said.

 

Hartford Parking Authority Chief Executive Officer Mark McGovern added that free parking will be available at metered spaces; all other parking and traffic laws will be fully enforced.

 

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