Archive | June, 2012

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Hartford Gets $10 Million Transportation Grant

HARTFORD — Hartford officials are expected to hold a press conference today with Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau of the Federal Highway Administration to announce the city’s receipt of a $10 million federal grant to improve Hartford’s transportation.

Nadeau will be joined by Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01) will join Senator Richard Blumenthal, and other state officials, to discuss thel TIGER IV (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Grant.

The press conference will be held at 1 p.m. at the Bushnell Park Entrance at the corner of Trumbull and Jewell streets in Hartford.

The grant will be used to fund the Intermodal Triangle Project, a major transportation investment designed to create a seamless connection between Union Station and the rest of downtown Hartford.

Key elements of the project include renovation of Union Station, special signal and lane treatment for CTfastrak terminus, major bus stop enhancements around the station, and enhanced signage for pedestrians and vehicles, among other intended improvements.

Additionally the funding will benefit the, “iQuilt Plan” to create a sustainable, green walkway that will connect all of the city’s cultural and historical attractions.



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Hartford Cooling Centers and Pools Open for Heat Wave

HARTFORD — We’re having a heat wave. So Hartford offiicials have opened cooling centers for those who don’t have access to air conditioning.

For a third day, temperatures are in the upper 90’s and Mayor Pedro E. Segarra has ordered the opening of four cooling centers and four pools.

The following four of the cooling centers will open at from noon, to 8:00 p.m.

·        North End Senior Center, 80 Coventry Street

·         South End Wellness Center, 830 Maple Avenue

·         Parkville Senior Center, 11 New Park Avenue

·         Hispanic Health Council, 175 Main Street

The city’s pools are also opened.

Four community swimming pools have been opened for the summer, one week earlier than scheduled, and eight locations throughout the City have been identified for installation of hydrant sprinklers.

The following pools are open from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.(open swim is scheduled from 1 p.m.-4 p.m.):
· Colt Park Pool

· Goodwin Park Pool

· Keney Park Pool

· Pope Park Pool
The following streets have been selected for hydrant sprinklers, which will be operational from 12:00 Noon until 6:00 p.m.:
· Lisbon Street between Wyllys and Stonington Streets

· Rowe Ave between Capitol Ave and Park Street

· Nelson Street between Barbour and Clark Streets

· Liberty Street between Garden and Brook Streets

· Bethel Street between Mahl Ave and Mather Street

· Lincoln Street between Washington and Broad Streets

· Hughes Street between Hillside Ave and Zion Street

· Wilson Street between Brookfield Street and Hillside Ave

City officials are warning residents that high temperatures mixed with high humidity create a dangerous combination and are encouraging all to stay inside and wear loose fitting clothing to help protect against heat-related injuries”

Also, Hartford Fire Department’s Special Services Unit will be disseminating cold water to citizens at public transportation bus stops during peak high temperature periods.

Residents are also reminded residents and visitors to stay hydrated (while avoiding liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar); avoid being out in the sun too long if it’s at all possible; have the phone number of your family doctor clearly posted next to your phone (and stored in your cellular phone); check on family or neighbors who may need assistance; and never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.

Additionally, the Hartford Public Library is available for residents and visitors; below please find the hours of operation for the various branches:  Main Street: Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 a. to 8:00 p.m. and all Branches (except Dwight): Wednesday and Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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Can the Tea Party Clean Up Its Racist Act?

New America Media, Earl Ofari Hutchinson

LOS ANGELES–Arkansas Tea Party leader Richard Caster gave all the appearances at least publicly of being a man genuinely outraged at what one of his Ozark Tea Party steering committee members said and did.

Inge Marler told blatantly racist joke about blacks at a meeting of the Ozark Tea Party in Mountain Home, Ark., on the Baxter County Fairgrounds. And she reportedly did it in a mock black dialect. When the story hit the national wires, Caster claimed that he was aghast at Marler’s joke, raked her over the coals for it. She had resigned from the committee, and Caster implied in his statement that it was at least in part the result of his wrath.

Caster went on to add the obligatory retort that racism has no place in the Tea Party and ticked off the things that the Tea Party stands for–and that, he asserted, the media refuses to talk about in its rush to paint the Tea Party as racist.

There are problems with that, characterization, though.

Lily-White Silence

Caster’s seeming outrage came only after word leaked out about the racist slur. Even more telling was the reaction of the lily-white audience: They erupted in uproarious laughter.

The Baxter Bulletin, which covered the event, noted that not one of the participants called Marler out from the floor about the joke and no one uttered a word of disapproval. The confab quickly went on about its business. Marler has not commented on the joke or her resignation.

Caster’s effort to deflect the ever-present charge of racism against Tea Party leaders and followers fell flat not because he personally may have been offended, or because so many chapter members (judging from their laughter) weren’t. It crashes hard against the brutal realities of the Tea Party’s past and present actions.

Only two years ago, the Tea Party unleashed a proliferation of Obama “Joker” posters—showing him as Batman’s ultimate nemesis—crude, racist scrawls on signs and banners, Confederate flags and Texas Lone Star flags.

Also, when the Tea Party backed Kentucky GOP ran Rand Paul for the U.S. Senate, it tainted itself with his kind of- sort-of put down of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In choosing Paul, who won, the state’s GOP implanted the notion that it holds the Tea Party as its captive and that it may well be the wholesale creation of racists.

In the months since then the racist posters, Confederate flags and racist digs at the President and First Lady Michelle Obama have largely disappeared. Rand Paul is now in his third year representing Kentucky in the U.S. Senate. But that doesn’t mean that the racism, which seemed to define–and be a driving force of– the Tea Party has disappeared.

It has morphed into political respectability around the country.

Recently, a white federal inmate in Texas got almost as many Democratic votes in the West Virginia primary as Obama. Obama was beat out by a politically unknown Tennessee lawyer in dozens of counties in that state’s Democratic primary elections. Surveys in Ohio showed that many whites will still not back Obama, not because of policy issue differences but because of race. These are Democratic voters, bear in mind.

Tea Party Democrats, Independents

But that’s no surprise. In April 2010, a Winston survey found that four out of 10 Tea Party adherents are not Republicans, but independents and Democrats.

A follow-up New York Times survey revealed that Tea Party backers were not ill-educated, low-income, blue-collar whites, mostly in the South and Heartland. The majority was middle class, and many are wealthy and highly educated.

The poll found that the single, overriding factor driving them, no matter their politics or party, was the feeling that the country was going in the wrong direction. This is not merely a case of respondents saying what they thought would be politically correct to survey takers, so as not to not appear to be racist.

Nearly three decades ago, the GOP found that the volatile mix of big government and economics could whip frustrated, rebellious, angry whites into frenzy far better than crude race baiting. Many middle-class and working-class white males genuinely viewed government as big, insensitive and a hopeless captive of special interests. Many more actually believed that they were losing ground to minorities and women in the workplace, schools and in society.

The target of their anger was big government, which they believed tilted unfairly in spending priorities toward social programs that benefited minorities at the expense of hard-working whites. That translated to even more fear, rage and distrust of big government and shouts to fight back against the erosion of personal freedoms.

Tea Party leaders, such as Caster, push back hard against the charge that the party is racist by endlessly citing popular anger at the perceived big-government creep, taxes and runaway spending. And they always frame their arguments in terms of “socialist leaning” Obama administration programs as the sole cause for their rage at Washington and mainstream politicians.

But Marler’s joke and the Ozark Tea Party chapter’s favorable audience’s reaction to it were not an aberration. It stands as a telling indictment that as long as race lurks underneath the carefully crafted veneer of Tea Party moderation the party can’t and won’t clean up its racist act.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and 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. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter:

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Brash Hartford School Leader Heads to Baltimore

By Francine Nelson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — A brash, young professional, who gave himself  and colleagues $2.7 million in bonuses last year and then blurted out to a veteran politician that he would not  “apologize” for the district’s actions, is leaving Hartford.

Victor De La Paz, the Chief Operating Officer for the city’s 22,000 student  school district, is leaving for the Baltimore Board of Education. Baltimore has a larger school district with  85,000 students. According to the Baltimore, which first reported the news, De La Paz will succeed Mike Frist, who resigned after three years on the job.

De La Paz, 35,  moved to Connecticut nine years ago  to work for the Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. Former School Superintendent  Steven Adamowski hired De La Paz to serve as a special assistant  after tapping him in 2008 through a national Broad Residency program designed to develop urban school leaders.  De La Paz then became deputy chief financial officer and was promoted in October before the November mayoral election.

Born and raised in Union City, N.J., he is a graduate of  Rutgers University and the University of Virginia – Darden Graduate School of Business.

He will follow his close colleague, Penny MacCormack,  who left Kishimoto’s office in October to and is now the assistant commissioner and chief academic officer for the New Jersey Department of Education.

Last year, Mayor Pedro Segarra sent a letter to Superintendent Steven Adamowski  questioning the bonuses and demanding an explanation. Adamowski defended them as “performance pay.”

De La Paz met with Hartford  State Rep. Marie Lopez Kirkley-Bey at the State Capitol only to learn he was there to explain why there was $2.7 million in bonuses while the city and the nation was in a deep recession.

His response:  He was not there to apologize for anything.




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Hartford Receives Grant for Upper Albany

HARTFORD — Hartford officials on Thursday announced another grant to help fix up abandoned properties on Homestead Avenue and “turn them into productive properties.”

State Representatives Matthew Ritter (D-Hartford, Bloomfield) and Douglas McCrory (D-Hartford), Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) Commissioner Catherine Smith and University of Hartford President Walter Harrison highlighted a state “brownfield” grant to be used to help remediate three abandoned properties on Homestead Avenue.

City officials received a $500,000 Municipal Brownfield Grant  for the Upper Albany Neighborhood Revitalization Zone and targets city-owned sites at 111, 367 and 393 Homestead Ave.

“This is about building upon the great potential of the Upper Albany Neighborhood,” Ritter said.

The grant comes from the Department of Economic and Community Development, which has awarded more than $34 million in funding for brownfield projects throughout the state.

Money goes directly to municipalities, businesses, developers, and regional development agencies for a wide range of activities, such as environmental assessment, planning, design, remediation, demolition, construction, and acquisition.

Rep. McCrory  added that he was “very pleased the state” for helping with this initiative that’s been lacking for years.

Officials said that trio of Homestead Ave. sites span just over three acres and were previously home to defunct industrial manufacturing businesses. For example, 393 Homestead, the site of the news conference, housed a steel forging manufacturer, a glass container manufacturer and an auto top company beginning in the 1930s. In the 1960s it was occupied by the Hartford Empire Arts & Crafts and was a workshop for children with special needs.

Segarra said the funding marks “another significant step forward in helping to return pride to a neighborhood.”


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The Rubio Factor in Latino Politics

National Institute for Latino Policy, Angelo Falcón

This past week was unusual for the Latino community — we experienced back-to-back national political victories. First, the community mobilized to finally get the US Senate to confirm the appointment of the first Puerto Rican woman to serve as an Ambassador. Then, after much Latino pressure over the years, President Obama finally ordered a temporary lifting of the deportations of Dreamers. But another thing they had in common, but not mentioned much, was the role of Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

As Senator Rubio underwent what some see as a meteoric rise this past year within the national Republican Party, he did so in large part because of the increasing and perhaps unprecedented importance being given to the Latino vote. This was a reflection of his potential as the Republican vice presidential candidate and the political threat this could pose to the reelection of President Obama. With strong Tea Party support, Rubio became a popular and electrifying speaker at conservative Republican events and a significant player in the U.S. Senate for a freshman. The resulting media coverage he receives is, as a result, quite impressive.

While the reasons vary for President Obama’s June 15th order to provide a temporary lifting of deportations of undocumented youth who were brought to this country by their parents, one important one was the result of the pressure on the President from Rubio’s move to develop a so-called DREAM Act-lite bill that the Republicans could support and could possibly achieve bipartisan agreement on in the Congress.

This proposal generated a lot of interest and discussion in political circles and the media although the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, would only publicly state that he would review it while still holding to his “self-deportation” position. The big question was, would its passage present the Republican Party with an opportunity to make real inroads into what, to this point, has been a largely hostile Latino electorate? Remember, the Republican goal this year is not to get a majority of the Latino vote, but simply increase their share to 30-40 percent.

The president’s order to defer action on the deportation of DREAMers was a shrewd political move on what has become a very tight electoral chess game. It effectively countered Rubio’s move in the short run, especially since the king’s piece (Romney) on his side of the board hasn’t moved at all on this issue. That it was a largely political move by Obama is obvious since it appears that he could have made this immigration order years ago despite his excuse to Latinos that he didn’t have the legal authority to do so. But, within the Latino community, whether it was politically motivated or not, it gives real hope and relief to perhaps over a million younger undocumenteds, and could result in forcing a real move toward comprehensive immigration reform after the November elections.

The president’s immigration order does, however, present a risk for those who participate in this program. Those who qualify have to reapply for this new status every two years. The question is, what happens if there is no immigration reform or adoption of a DREAM Act in two years granting a path to citizenship and Obama loses the election?

During a news teleconference held on Friday by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus following the president’s announcement, the confusion over this became clear. New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez explained, based on the Cuban refugee experience, that once the government bestows a certain status to a group, it is not something that can be taken away. However, later during that same teleconference, California Representative Xavier Becerra contradicted Menendez, pointing out that, because it is temporary, this new status could be taken away by the next president or the Congress. Becerra made the point that because this is the case, it puts pressure on the Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The Obama administration has also reassured everyone that this new status could not be ended by the Congress, but didn’t they also reassure us that the health insurance mandate was constitutional, and now they’re not so sure?

This uncertainty about the long term viability of the Obama immigration order brings one back to the Rubio DREAM Act-lite proposal. On one of those MSNBC talk shows (I sometimes can’t tell them apart), Voto Latino President, Maria Teresa Kumar (an official MSNBC commentator), expressed her concern that while the president’s order was a short-term solution to the problem, Rubio’s proposal had a more long term effect. When the interviewer asked her if this meant that she thought the Rubio proposal was better, she kind of punted.

If anything, these two examples point to some confusion about the long term viability of the president’s order, in turn raising questions about the type of risks those participating in this program will be exposed to after two years. Does this weaken the program or does it create pressure for the Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform? But, once again, Rubio was at the center of this question.

This past week also saw another important Latino victory with the confirmation of Mari Carmen Aponte as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador. She had been an Obama recess appointment whose confirmation came due last December, and which got caught up in all sorts of political intrigue resulting in her not being confirmed at the time.

At the center of this Aponte confirmation controversy was, once again, Senator Rubio, who joined his fellow Republican Senator, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, in putting a hold on Aponte’s nomination last year. With Rubio’s rising star in the Republican Party, it was thought that his support of Aponte would get her the support she needed to be confirmed at the time if he could actively help get from the 4 to 7 Republican votes that were needed. Under pressure from Florida’s large Puerto Rican community, the White House, Senator Majorty Leader Harry Reid and others, Rubio eventually decided to support the Aponte nomination. This was critical to her conformation last week (although Latinos were lobbying other Republicans on this like Arizona’s John McCain, who admitted to the media that he had heard from over 300 people on this issue).

This was viewed as an important victory for Puerto Ricans and other Latinos who worked hard to support what they considered a highly qualified and respected Mari Carmen Aponte. For what were purely political reasons, the Latino community had to expend its limited political resources to get the Senate to select someone for this important post on the merits as they should have done in the first place.

Rubio protested that he was unfairly portrayed as obstructing this nomination by the Democrats for political purposes, while Senator Majority Leader Reid argued that Rubio and DeMint were blocking her confirmation for (guess what?) purely political reasons. In the end, Mari Carmen Aponte, who had to move out of the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador in January, now has to pack up her things again and move back. The Aponte confirmation process was a vivid example of the shameful waste of time and resources that the broken politics of Washington, D.C. has become.

In both of these cases, a common theme was the Marco Rubio factor. For those who oppose him, they illustrate how he is playing a key role in trying to bring to power what many see as an anti-Latino Republican Party. For those who support him, they illustrate that he is an important player already in shaping the Republican Party’s approach to reaching out to the Latino community. From whichever position you approach Rubio, an intriguing question is, without Rubio in the picture, would the president have issued his immigration order when he did and would Mari Carmen Aponte have been eventually confirmed?

After this election is over, will the verdict on the Rubio factor in Latino politics be a negative or positive one, whether or not he becomes the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate? Either way, he has been and will continue to be a factor in national Latino politics.

Angelo Falcón is president of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) and editor of The NiLP Network on Latino Issues. He can be reached at

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State Intervention: Coming to a School Near You?

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

HARTFORD — Connecticut’s education commissioner will announce as early as next week which low-performing schools the state will likely intervene in during the 2012-2013 school year.

As many as nine superintendents have offered up their schools for state intervention.

“We are considering how severe the problem is at the given school when making these decisions,” Stefan Pryor said Friday during an interview.

A Freedom of Information request to review the letters of interest from the superintendents went unanswered. Instead, during an interview Friday, Pryor listed the nine districts whose superintendents are seeking to join the commissioner’s network for the coming school year or the following year. Pryor declined to list specific schools.


lowest-performing schools


The districts include Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, New Haven, New London, New Britain, Norwich, Norwalk and Waterbury. Collectively, these districts house 23 of the 26worst schools in the state. Pryor told school leaders at the Legislative Office Building this week that these schools would be given preference when determining his network of schools that will be overseen by the state.

Another 122 schools are eligible for state interventionbecause specific groups of students, such as black or Hispanic, are significantly underperforming on standardized tests or their graduation rates are low. No charter schools were included in the list of eligible schools provided by the State Department of Education, but Pryor said he is willing to consider them.

“We need to increase the level of intervention at a couple of our schools,” New London Superintendent Nicholas Fischer said.

The New London school district may have to lay off as many as 68 members, including many teachers, of its 427-person staff in the next school year.

Becoming a member of the so-called Commissioner’s Network “will make resources available to us,” Fischer said. “We want to expand the school day, but to do that, you need money to pay teachers more.”

Legislators have allocated $7.5 million to the state education department these interventions next year.

Pryor has the authority to intervene in up to 25 schools for the 2012-13 school year, but said he intends to intervene in only a “limited number.” The remainder of the interventions will take place during the following two school years, he said. He plans to ask the legislature for more money to do that.

While superintendents and school boards in the state’s 30 lowest-performing districts have overwhelmingly supported state oversight, union leaders have been apprehensive.

When designated a Network School, a teacher union’s ability to bargain can be significantly restricted if the commissioner and local board-appointed members of a “turn-around committee” cannot agree on a plan. Instead, for the first time, a new state law provides for a single arbitrator to “give the highest priority to the educational interests” when settling a dispute of what to include in a school’s turnaround plan.

Pryor said that in the first round of state interventions, in “most cases, it will be unlikely” that an agreement will not be reached. By law, Pryor can reject a proposed turn-around plan and send it to the arbitrator.

“That may be required in one case. We are considering that possibility,” he said.

Fischer said he doesn’t suspect that will be necessary in New London.

“The union works with us very cooperatively… But we haven’t reached out yet” about a New London school becoming a Commissioner’s Network School, he said.

Regardless of which schools the commissioner taps, every district is required to create a plan for their worst-off schools. This is required of schools because the state has won a waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind law.

If the commissioner approves the individual school’s plans, local district officials will be able to direct their portion of $17 million in federal funding to their new initiative. There is also $39.5 million in additional state funding for the worst-off districts and their lowest-performing schools.

“It is so important that we are deploying multiple strategies,” Pryor said.

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Hartford Police Search for Bank Robbery Suspect

HARTFORD — Police are still investigating a bank robbery on Franklin Avenue after a  man stole an unspecified amount of  money early Saturday afternoon.

According to police report, a white male, seen in the pictures below, entered People’s Bank at 290 Franklin Ave. at 12:10 p.m. and passed a note to the cashier.

The cashier gave him an unspecified amount of  money in $50 bills, police said.

The suspect is described as a white male, black hair, approximately 5’10” tall, 170 lbs., wearing a red tee shirt with a “Red Sox” logo, light blue jean shorts, and white sneakers.

Police said the suspect may have fled on foot northbound on Franklin Avenue.

They said the the suspect may be a regular visitor to the Franklin Avenue and Benton Street area.

If  located, document accordingly and contact the Major Crimes Division Robbery Unit utilizing normal call back procedures.

Police is asking anyone having information regarding the identity or whereabouts of this suspect is asked to contact Detective Mike Rykowski at
860-757-4245 or by email at

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Adam Sandler Scores with ‘That’s My Boy’

By Jonathan Small, Film Critic

At this point in his career Adam Sandler movies are so unoriginal, and redundant that they make reviews of Adam Sandler movies unoriginal, and redundant. If you want to proof of such, just read this review of Just Go With It, change the names to protect the innocent, and Bob is your uncle.

If you are not interested in a mouse click though, here is the honest to goodness review.

That’s My Boy is actually the best thing to come out of Adam Sandler in years. That is not to say that it is particularly good, but it is better than what we have come to expect. It is still the same old trope of taking a familiar story, throwing in some moderately popular comedians with personal relationships with Sandler, and then watching the theatres half fill up across the nation. This time around we shuffle the characters a little bit so that Andy Samberg can be the straight man, Sandler plays a cross between Little Nicky and the Departed, and Rob Schneider is no where to be found.

As a writer, and actor Adam Sandler is awful. His movies consistently have premises that would be interesting, or even funny in a stand up comedy routine, but when he fleshes them out into a two hour film the audience consistently beats him to the punch. The idea is there, but the execution is always pretty poor, but this is mainly because we have had Adam Sandler doing the same thing for nearly three decades. He is only good, if you have never seen his stuff before.

Samberg for his part is OK, but so far he has clearly been much better at making obscene music videos than leading roles. For a movie with such low brow comedy, his talent is utterly wasted on being a straight man when he could have been just as wild, and uncouth as the rest of them, and we probably would have had a better movie for it.

If you choose to see this one, you are in for the usual. There are a few truly funny moments, a whole lot of failed attempts, and the obligatory nonactor celebrity cameo. At best we can describe Adam Sandler movies as being cute, but more a more realistic adjective would be “stale”.

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Veterans Get an Advantage with Benefit Program

HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday announced that the State Department of Veterans’ Affairs has partnered with Veterans Advantage, Inc. on an initiative to extend private sector benefits to veterans and their families who reside in Connecticut through the VetRewards Card program.

The program provides special offers, such as discounts on services through a network of retailers and service providers.  Funding from the program’s membership goes to the creation of a statewide scholarship program that will be awarded by the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Veterans Advantage is a national program that partners with private corporations that want to do their part to honor and thank all who serve in the United States military, state officials said.  Partner companies, such as retail stores, restaurants and service providers, show their appreciation for the program’s members by providing discounts on their goods or services every day.

Interested Connecticut veterans, Active Duty Military, National Guard, Reserve and their family members are encouraged to enroll in the Veterans Advantage through the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs website (, where they will be eligible to receive a special 25 percent discount on the program’s fees.


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