Archive | August, 2012

Hartford Mayor Announces Layoffs


HARTFORD — Mayor Pedro Segarra is expected to lay off at least 12 people who work in City Hall, according to a statement issued on Friday. Notices are expected to go out  Sept. 21.

The layoffs are necessary, Segarra said, in order to meet obligation in the City Charter and the Fiscal Year 2012-2013 budget that was unanimously adopted by City Council in May. Oct. 7 will be the last day for layoff employees.

Additionally, the Mayor said that all non-unionized classified and unclassified city-side employees, including Police, Fire Command Staffs and non-sworn personnel, who make more than $45,000 per year would be required to take furlough days.

A majority of layoffs would come from middle-management ranks and the average per employee savings will be approximately $80,000, including fringe benefits.

Segarra said the layoffs are necessary because of a more than $50 million dollar deficit in FY 12-13, more than $30 million was a result of revaluation, and working collaboratively with Council, we closed that gap and reduced overall spending by more than $7 million dollars.

He said he’s expecting most of the layoffs to come from the mid-management ranks.

In addition to layoffs, the Mayor announced that two positions in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer will be eliminated from the budget.

Posted in Hartford, NeighborhoodComments (0)

Nine School Districts to Apply for Race to the Top Federal Money


By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

HARTFORD — Having watched the state strike out in its three attempts to land federal Race to the Top money to reform schools in Connecticut, officials at eight urban districts and the state’s technical high school system have decided to try their luck in the fourth round.

“We look forward to submitting a strong application that speaks to our successes and articulates a vision for the future of the district,” said Hartford Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto, saying her district’s recent reforms and improvements make the district “very competitive” for federal funding.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Friday afternoon that officials from Bridgeport, Meriden, New Britain, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford and Waterbury also have informed them they will be applying by the Oct. 30 deadline. Collectively, these districts are asking the federal government for between $170 million and $270 million to fund their initiatives.

The federal government intends to award $383 million to support local reform efforts for the upcoming year. Nearly 900 districts across the country are expected to apply, but only 15 to 25 of them will receive funds. Federal regulations require that this money be awarded to districts with plans to enhance the relationships between students and their teachers through personalized learning initiatives.

In a statement announcing the long list of districts vying for the federal money, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “The best ideas come from leaders at the local level. … We hope to build on this nationwide momentum by funding districts that have innovative plans to transform the learning environment, a clear vision for reform and a track record of success.”

Connecticut applied in all three previous state rounds of Race to the Top money. The first two applications led to new state laws that, among other things, increased high school graduation requirements. Those reforms were eventually delayed because of the costs associated with implementation.

In the third round, the state pitched adding more high-quality preschool seats and grading preschool programs for their quality. That application was also unsuccessful, but lawmakers managed to find the funding for both initiatives.

Districts will find out by Jan. 1 if they have been chosen to receive funding.

This article was also published at ctmirror.org.

 

Posted in Featured, Nation/WorldComments (0)

Hartford Gets Millions for Project


HARTFORD — Hartford is one of nine towns to receive federal money for transportation projects designed to improve traffic and reduce energy.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday announced that nine Connecticut cities. Hartford is expected to receive $3 million to upgrade or replace 14 downtown traffic signals along Columbus Boulevard, Prospect Street and Main Street.

“While these projects will produce environmental and transportation benefits, they will also provide jobs and help spur economic growth,” Malloy said.  “These local traffic improvement projects include computer-coordinated traffic signal systems that will help eliminate traffic bottlenecks and improve the flow of cars and trucks between traffic signals.  With less idling at signals and less stop and go between signals, there will be fewer exhaust emissions and less fuel wasted.”

The grant was awarded under the Federal Highway Administration’s competitive Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, which funds projects that improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion.

To qualify, municipalities must demonstrate that their projects will result in reduced vehicle exhaust emissions and, at the same time, be cost effective.

Other towns awarded funding are:

  • Bridgeport – $1.6 million to create a city-wide bicycle route network and “Bike-Share” project, which will allow participants to pick up and return bicycles at designated locations when needed.
  • Glastonbury – $1.16 million to realign the intersection of Griswold, House and Harris streets.
  • Greenwich – $2.75 million to install Adaptive Signal Control Technology along the Arch Street corridor. This technology will improve the flow of traffic between traffic lights.
  • New Haven – $2.87 million for a computerized traffic signal upgrade along Chapel Street, Elm Street, Wall Street and Grove Street.
  • Norwalk – $3.0 million to complete the third phase of an ongoing traffic signal upgrade program on Route 1, Route 123, East Avenue and Strawberry Hill Avenue.
  • Norwich – $2.08 million for the Regional Alternate Fuel Infrastructure and Clean Vehicle Project to construct two compressed natural gas fueling stations and  purchase alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Plymouth – $86,524 to replace five municipal vehicles with hybrid electric vehicles.
  • Waterbury – $3.0 million to improve the downtown traffic signal system bounded by Meadow Street on the west, West Main Street to the north, east Main Street to the east and Grand Avenue to the south.

 

 

Posted in Hartford, NeighborhoodComments (0)

Tags:

Hartford Police Say Albany Avenue Death of 73-Year-Old Man a Homicide


HARTFORD — A Hartford man was charged with the death of a 73-year-old man found on Monday in his home on Albany Avenue, police said.

Police Chief James C. Rovella confirmed that the Office of the Chief State’s Medical Examiner on Friday informed Hartford Police that the Aug. 27 death of Johnny Armstrong, 73, of 710 Albany Ave., was ruled a homicide.

Chief Rovella also announced that Hartford Police Major Crimes detectives caught a suspect in the case.  The suspect, Anthony Lowenstein, 47, of Hartford, was taken into custody by Major Crimes Division detectives on August 27 and charged with second degree assault in connection with the incident, police said.

  “In light of today’s finding by the Office of the Chief State’s Medical Examiner, additional charges will be pursued,” Rovella said.

Police gave this story about the incident:

At approximately 2:30 p.m., on Monday, Aug. 27, Hartford police were notified of an injured person who might be deceased at 710 Albany Ave.

Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel responded.  On arrival, a dead man was located in a third floor apartment.  The HPD’s Major Crimes and Crime Scene Divisions began an immediate investigation of the death, which remained unclassified pending the results of an autopsy by the Office of the Chief State’s Medical Examiner.

Lowenstein remains in custody on $ 250,000 bond with a court date of September 20, 2012 in Hartford Superior Court.

The investigation remains ongoing.  Anyone with information about the incident as asked to contact Hartford Police Major Crimes Division Sergeant Brandon O’Brien at 860-757-4089.

Anonymous, confidential tips, for cash reward, may be made by contacting Hartford Crime Stoppers at 860-722-TIPS (8477).

Posted in Featured, HartfordComments (0)

Study Questions if Connecticut Emerged from Recession


By Keith M. Phaneuf

HATFORD — New data show Connecticut’s economy was damaged more severely than most economists originally thought in the last recession, according to a provocative new report released Wednesday by the University of Connecticut’s economic think-tank.

The latest analysis from the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis warned the state “has an even steeper hill to climb” and could see little or no net job growth over the next 18 months, a grim prospect as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy looks ahead to a re-election campaign in 2014.

And the study suggested that the state technically might still be in a recession.

The center also hit again on one of its favorite themes, urging the Malloy administration to mobilize unused research and development and other related business tax credits to underwrite major capital projects to grow jobs.

“The new understanding of the depths from which we are recovering re-enforces … the absolute necessity for Connecticut to pursue aggressive policies and sustained investments to accelerate recovery and job creation,” the report states.

It added that there are fewer jobs in Connecticut now than in 1988, calling it “a generation without job creation.”

The report hinges on new data from the National Bureau of Economic Analysis, which provides information on Connecticut’s real gross domestic product, or the value of goods and services produced by its businesses, adjusted for inflation. A recession generally is described as two consecutive quarters of declining GDP.

Many economists say the last economic downturn, which became known as the Great Recession, began nationally in December 2007 and ended by July 2009. In Connecticut, which tends to both enter and leave economic downswings later than the national average, the recession generally is charted between March 2008 and the first few months of 2010.

But the UConn center noted that the National Bureau of Economic Analysis recently “sharply lowered” its seasonally adjusted numbers for Connecticut for 2006 through 2010.

The low point, which came in the fourth quarter of 2009, was supposed to be a GDP of $204.5 billion. But new data show the state’s rock bottom of economic output was actually about 7 percent lower, coming in just above $190 billion.

Based on the national bureau’s numbers, Connecticut fell into the Great Recession as early as the third quarter of 2007.

And if the measure of a recession’s end is regaining the GDP level held prior to the decline, then it could be argued the Nutmeg State is still in a recession, said Fred V. Carstensen, an economist and the UConn center’s director.

“We thought we’d recovered,” Carstensen said, “but we never really got out.”

A downturn in the state’s finance, insurance and real estate sectors was a precursor to the recession, which also strongly hit certain other services, manufacturing, transportation and utilities.

And while services and manufacturing have enjoyed a “relatively strong” recovery, improvement in finance, insurance and real estate “appears to be fizzling out,” the report states.

Not all is gloom and doom, though, with permits for new housing construction recovering strongly during the first half of 2012, the report states. And that comes despite new federal data showing the median price for single-family house sales fell more sharply in Connecticut during the second quarter of this year than in any other state.

The center projects economic growth rates of 0.6 percent from now through the first half of 2013, after which it should climb to 1.3 percent by 2014.

Carstensen described this as “very weak growth” that could lead to a meager 5,000 new jobs being added over the next 18 months, and possibly less if the Federal Reserve doesn’t take steps to control escalating interest rates. If true, the state’s economic troubles could linger until the early months of the 2014 campaign.

“The administration has a much larger problem to address than they’d realized, than we had realized,” he said.

The center has praised Malloy for several of its biggest economic development efforts, including developing a bioscience research initiative with the Jackson Laboratory and the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. But it also repeatedly has urged the administration to mobilize a portion of the nearly $2.5 billion in so-called “stranded” business tax credits that have built up on the state’s ledger over several decades.

These are credits that companies are entitled to, but can’t claim because they don’t earn enough or they don’t owe enough taxes to use the benefit.

Carstensen insists that by tying credits to job growth targets, state officials could ensure that new income, sales and other taxes generated by new workers would offset the cost of any corporate tax relief provided to businesses.

But when the center made that argument in its May report, state Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith was openly skeptical.

“Mr. Carstensen’s assertion that unleashing stranded tax credits is the cure-all for our economy is off the mark,” Smith said at the time. “These credits are not ‘entirely self-funding’ because they reduce state revenue when redeemed and there is no evidence that the holders of unredeemed credits would take advantage of Professor Carstensen’s scheme at all, much less at a level that would create tens of thousands of new jobs.”

The commissioner added that Connecticut’s economic turnaround would depend on “a comprehensive, strategic approach that addresses all the issues that make us more attractive to workers and companies alike, including education, economic development, housing, innovation, and  worker training — something the governor has long been committed to.”

Posted in Featured, Nation/WorldComments (0)

Tags:

Hartford Job Corps Celebrate National Commencement Day


HARTFORD — Ranked among the top 20 of its kind in the nation, the Hartford Job Corps Academy recently joined the 125 Job Corps centers across the country to celebrate the second annual “National Job Corps Commencement Day” ceremony and to congratulate the Job Corps graduates.

Recent Job Corps graduates employed in Connecticut, employer partners, local policymakers, community leaders, family members and many more recognized these students’ achievements and the investment they made in their futures and our community, organizers said.

A unique national program, Job Corps offers at-risk youth a set of diverse academic opportunities and career pathways tailored to meet the needs of business and industry. Each year, Job Corps gives 60,000 youth a second chance to complete their education and advance into careers, higher education or the military.

The Hartford Job Corps Academy is ranked in the Top 20 and is one of 125 Job Corps centers located across the country and in all 50 states.

“Based on the 50 year history of this organization, based on the fact that Hartford is one of the top 20 rated programs in the nation, what we can reasonably predict for each and every one of you is that if you work as hard in life, for the rest of your life as you did when getting to this day and this program, you will be successful,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the keynote speaker at Hartford Job Corps Academy’s ceremony.

Mark Shriver, author of A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver, served as the national keynote speaker for the event. Shriver, the son of Job Corps founder Sargent Shriver, congratulated the 60,000 students who graduated from Job Corps this year.

“Job Corps is a great investment for the American people,” Shriver said in a special nationwide video address delivered in front of the United States Capitol. “Your commitment and dedication to get good-paying jobs make Job Corps the most successful federal training program serving your age group.”

“That’s why we need Job Corps for 50 MORE years – to continue helping young people like you who may not have the same opportunities others have had but are willing to work hard to overcome their obstacles,” he told the students.

Job Corps has served more than 3 million out-of-work young adults and underserved youth nationally. Many are high-school dropouts or public-assistance recipients, and Job Corps helps them become active contributors to their communities.

Malloy was joined by local business leaders, who attended the ceremony at the Hartford Job Corps Academy to support a program that benefits the local economy.

 

Posted in Featured, Nation/WorldComments (0)

Quinnipiac: It’s McMahon by 3, Obama by 7 in Connecticut


By Mark Pazniokas

Republican Linda McMahon leads Democrat Chris Murphy by three percentage points in the race for Connecticut’s open U.S. Senate seat in Quinnipiac University’s first poll of likely voters in 2012.

The poll released today found President Obama leading his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, by a surprisingly close seven points, 52 percent to 45 percent. Obama carried the state by 23 percentage points in 2008.

“This smaller-than-expected margin for Obama could affect the Senate race,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director. “The Murphy campaign is hoping to benefit from Obama’s coattails, but right now they are not very long.”

The Senate results of 49 percent to 46 percent for McMahon are identical to last week’s Rasmussen poll, the latest sign she is now competitive in a blue state where she lost a Senate race by a crushing 12 percentage points just two years ago after spending $50 million.

“McMahon has worked on her image in the last two years, and it shows. Voters like her more now than they did when she faced Richard Blumenthal in 2010,” Schwartz said.

After struggling with negative favorability ratings for much of her first campaign, McMahon is viewed favorably, 47 percent to 35 percent. Murphy is viewed favorably, 38 percent to 30 percent, with 32 percent saying they do not know enough to form an opinion.

Those 32 percent of voters represent a potential upside for Murphy and a fat target for McMahon. She has been attacking Murphy in TV commercials since well before the Aug. 14 primaries, trying to define the 5th District congressman while he still is relatively unknown statewide.

With a 4-1 advantage in spending, McMahon was on the air early, first with softer ads aimed at rehabilitating her image after the 2010 race, when her business success as a co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment ultimately was judged a liability.

Murphy has yet to attack McMahon, other than running a commercial accusing her of misrepsenting his attendance record in Congress. McMahon already is on the air with a response ad, quoting a Hartford Courant analysis of her commercial as being “generally accurate.”

The seat is now held by the retiring Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, one of two independents who are members of the Democratic caucus, giving Democrats their 53-47 majority.

The last time a Senate seat shifted from Democratic to Republican control in Connecticut was in 1970, when Lowell P. Weicker Jr. unseated a weakened Tom Dodd, who ran as an independent after being denied the Democratic nomination. Weicker lost to Lieberman in 1988.

The margin of error in the telephone survey of 1,427 likely voters is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. It was conducted from August 22 to 26. With a different methodology that attempts to screen for likely voters, it cannot be directly compared to previous Quinnipiac polls this cycle.

In both the Senate and presidential races, there remains a significant gender gap, with women breaking Democratic and men going Republican, though McMahon is performing better among women than two years ago.

McMahon trails Murphy among women just 50 percent to 46 percent. Her lead among men is 54 percent to 42 percent.

Obama is overwhelmingly favored by women, 58 percent to 38 percent. Romney is more narrowly favored by men, 53 percent to 45 percent.

Echoing national polls, the Quinnipiac survey found the economy is by far the issue of greatest interest to voters, followed by Medicare — an issue very much in the news after Romney’s selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.

A Pew Research Center poll last week found that 72 percent of Americans were aware of Ryan’s proposal to replace traditional Medicare with a voucher plan, which he has since revised.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat who has been a campaign surrogate for Obama, on Monday called Ryan’s selection “the gift that keeps on giving.”

Neither running mate is providing a lift in Connecticut.

The new Quinnipiac survey found Vice President Joe Biden and Ryan with favorability ratings under water: 38 percent favorable and 43 percent unfavorable for Biden; 30 percent to 33 percent for Ryan, with 37 percent saying they do not now enough to form an opinion.

But by a margin of 43 percent to 35 percent Connecticut voters say that Biden is qualified to be president, while Ryan is viewed as qualified by 29 percent and unqualified by 26 percent. Forty-four percent are undecied on Ryan’s qualifications.

Obama is viewed favorably by 51 percent and unfavorably by 46 percent, while Romney has a negative rating of 41 percent to 44 percent.

 

Posted in Featured, Nation/WorldComments (0)

Malloy Taps Safety Net Advocate


By Mark Pazniokas

HARTFORD — Terry Edelstein, a social-services advocate for 30 years at the State Capitol, was named Monday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as his liaison to the private non-profit agencies that Connecticut pays $1.2 billion annually for a wide range of services to 500,000 residents.

Edelstein, 63, will assume a cabinet-level post responsible for trying to coordinate services from 350 non-profits through contracts with every major state agency. She begins work Oct. 5 in the $115,000-a-year job.

The appointment means deferring retirement plans for Edelstein, who has been a witness to the dramatically expanding role of non-profits over a 30-year career. Edelstein had announced in April she was resigning at the end of 2012 as president and chief executive of the Connecticut Community Providers Association.

 

Edelstein and Malloy
(In Picture: Terry Edelstein with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy)

Malloy created the liaison position in his first days as governor, an acknowledgement of the role the agencies play, as well as the fiscal pressures that threatened the state’s safety net for those who rely on public services.

“Engaging the not-for-profit community is a concerted, strategic way to maximize services and minimize costs and is a large part  of how we absolutely secure our safety net in our state,” Malloy said.

Funding levels for non-profits has been constant source of tension for the Malloy administration as it navigated two difficult budgets. In his first year, Malloy inherited a projected deficit of $3.6 billion.

Edelstein was a member of Malloy’s transition team, but the association she led for three decades also was cast an advocate for funding in an environment where the governor’s budget staff was desperate to find cuts. Malloy generally is credited for protecting core services.

The administration had been consulting with Edelstein about possible successors to Deborah W. Heinrich, who left the liaison post in February without a long-term successor. The consultations turned into an effort to recruit Edelstein.

“I am so pleased and honored to be designated by Gov. Malloy as his non-profit liaison,” Edelstein said. “The position provides an important linkage between community providers and executive branch and reflects a strong message from the administration of its ongoing commitment to non-profit health and human services organizations.”

In naming Heinrich, the administration touted the liaison post as the first of its kind in the nation.

Non-profits are contracted by nearly every major state agency to provide a wide range of services to 500,000 residents, including residential and therapeutic services for the developmentally disabled, assistance for the homeless, and counseling for the unemployed.

The Department of Developmental Services is the biggest contractor of services, spending at least $500 million annual on private group homes and other services.

She has a master’s of public health from Yale University and a B.A. from Oberlin College.

Posted in NeighborhoodComments (1)

Hispanic Group Pledges $50K To DREAMers


HARTFORD — Connecticut’s Latino ‘Dreamers’ are expected to receive money for legal help to file applications under President Barack Obama’s amnesty program for immigrant children who were brought here at the age of 16 or younger.

Thanks to a $50,000 grant to be awarded by the Hispanic Federation.

In conjunction with 10 Latino nonprofit partner organizations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania who are providing free or low-cost legal application assistance to these DREAMers, the Hispanic Federation will select and provide 100 deserving immigrant youth with scholarships to cover the cost of the application.

The 10 Latino nonprofit partner organizations along the east coast include the Center for Latino Progress in Hartford.

For those who have relatives in New York and Philadelphia, El Centro del Inmigrante in Staten Island, NY and Esperanza Immigration Legal Services in Philadelphia, PA will offer services.

Other nonprofit organizations include the Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury (Danbury, CT,  Immigration & American Citizenship Organization (Passaic, NJ), Juntos (Philadelphia, PA), La Casa de Don Pedro (Newark, NJ), Make the Road NY (Brooklyn & Queens, NY), Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (Manhattan & Bronx, NY, and Westchester Hispanic Coalition (Hudson Valley, NY).

Continuing its long and successful track record as a national advocate for the Hispanic community on vital issues including education, immigration, health and economic empowerment, the Hispanic Federation proudly announced today it would raise $50,000 to aid eligible immigrant youth applying for the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Immigration Program.

Announced by the President on June 15th this policy allows qualifying immigrants under the age of 31 who came to the US before the age of 16—popularly known as DREAMers—to obtain protection from deportation and work permits for at least two years. Viewed by immigrant families and advocates as a significant milestone for undocumented youth, the Deferred Action program is the first step for over 1.7 million DREAMers to pursue higher education, gain meaningful employment and have an opportunity to contribute more fully to society.

Immigration advocates said that  this federal policy initiative has one obstacle which may prove to be a major impediment for many of the young people it was designed to help—the high-priced $465 fee for the program being offered through the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Without financial assistance, the $465 fee (which does not include related legal fees in order to meet eligibility requirements) puts the program economically out of reach for many of the most deserving DREAMers. “While this new Deferred Action Program is a huge benefit to so many undocumented youth and families, the high USCIS fee is a significant financial barrier for most low-income immigrant families struggling to pay rent and put food on the table,” said José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation.

Funds will be awarded to families demonstrating the greatest need due to their low socioeconomic status and/or cases where multiple youth from the same family are eligible to apply for the program. Due to the limited funding available, the Hispanic Federation is only able to support youth identified as eligible through 1 of the 10 partner organizations listed above.

Donations to support DREAMers can be made to the Hispanic Federation through our website (www.hispanicfederation.org) or by contacting Tania Munguia at the HF headquarters at (212) 233-8955 or tmunguia@hispanicfederation.org.

Posted in Nation/WorldComments (1)

Photo-ID Laws Pose Hurdle for College Voters


News Report, Khalil Abdullah, Posted: Aug 24, 2012

As college students begin returning to campus, registering to vote may prove far more challenging than registering for classes. For some co-eds, their vote in November’s election is in jeopardy in states where newly enacted laws prohibit the use of student IDs at polling sites.

Across the country, restrictive voting laws — such as requiring a photo ID at the polling place – are sweeping the country. Since 2011, 19 states have enacted 24 restrictive voting laws that civil rights advocates say are more likely to disenfranchise ethnic voters. Among those states, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee have passed laws that either make it harder for students to use school IDs or outright exclude student IDs as an acceptable form of identification at the polls.

In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, “laws were actually drafted in such a way that not a single existing public university or school ID complied with the requirements as set out in the legislation,” said Lee Rowland, counsel at the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Speaking to media in a teleconference this week co-hosted by New America Media, Rowland said laws that seek to limit student voting are not only bad policy but interfere with students’ Constitutional right to cast a vote in the places they choose to call home.

In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, she said colleges and universities have taken steps to ensure their students will have acceptable IDs in time for the election. Some schools have begun either issuing new IDs or stickers that can be affixed to current IDs that would bring them into compliance with the new laws.

Yet, Rowland pointed out South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee, “explicitly exclude student IDs from the list of acceptable photo identification that is taken at the polling place.” She called Texas the most “egregious” offender because its new laws would tend to have a disparate impact on African-American voters.

Photo-ID laws hurt minorities

The Texas law allows the use of a concealed weapons permit as a form of ID to vote but only seven to eight percent of African Americans have one. She explained the gun permit ID provision carries little racial import in isolation but when viewed in conjunction with a student ID law that could potentially affect the state’s public university population, of which 17 percent is African American, the intent to provide access for one group of voters while limiting access for another is thinly veiled.

African-American and Hispanic students typically have lower rates of car ownership and would thus be affected in higher numbers than their white peers by the student ID law, because state-issued driver’s licenses are the prevailing form of photo ID. The reasons for the gap in rates of car ownership between the groups are due to differences in income levels as well as the geographic reality of population distribution. Urban dwellers often rely more on public transportation than their rural counterparts. Wisconsin’s low rate of car ownership among African-Americans and Latinos is another well-documented example of this pattern.

Photo-ID laws are not the only barriers that students may now face. Rowland cited states that have shortened the timeframe during which a student may declare residency. Laws imposing unrealistic bureaucratic burdens and costs on voter registration drives have been particularly burdensome.

Pushback to restrictive voting laws

In some states, members of the public, galvanized by civil rights groups, are pushing back against restrictive voting laws.

In Florida, early voting days have been restored by a panel of judges this month and, in a separate May decision, a federal judge blocked provisions of a law he termed “impractical” due to its onerous fines and reporting requirements for organizations conducting voter registration drives. Rock the Vote, with the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida Public Interest Research Group, brought the suit that successfully rescinded those requirements.

Like the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin school systems’ initiatives on reissuing student IDs, Rowland of the Brennan Center cited the Florida victories, as well as other citizen-led push backs against restrictive laws as victories in the rapidly shifting landscape of the voter suppression wars.

Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote, said one unfortunate aspect of the rash of new laws is that her organization has had to spend time challenging them as opposed to getting about its core mission of registering new voters and educating them about the political process.

Courting the youth vote

To assist young voters to obtain the information they need about voting, Rowland said the Brennan Center has posted its 50-State Student Voting Guide as an on-line resource. Smith said Rock the Vote, at the end of August, plans to launch a massive public education campaign through social media, campus newspapers, billboards and other avenues designed to reach Millennials.

Regardless of the scale of Rock the Vote’s outreach, Smith has no illusions about the difficulties of the task ahead. “The Census [Bureau] reported that over six million voters in the last presidential election didn’t cast a ballot because they didn’t get registered in time,” she noted, adding that students often fail to understand that “they have to register in the place where they want to vote.”

The laws tightening restrictions on young voters — shortening the time lines for registering or for reporting a change in residency — have arisen from Republican legislatures concerned about the youth vote, particularly its burgeoning African-American and Latino segments, that have trended Democratic in recent presidential elections. Smith said “50,000 Latinos are turning 18 each month,”  and “just over 12,000 kids every single day become eligible to vote.”

Still, some analysts predict that the youth vote will be very much in play for several reasons. For one, the Millennial Generation is clearly concerned about their job prospects in a lagging economy, but additionally, young voters and first-time voters are often enthusiastic for change. On the flipside, some are so jaded that they decline to participate in electoral politics. None of those sentiments bode well for incumbents.

Smith didn’t speak to political aspects of restrictive laws, but she was critical of those who claim to desire a better democracy, while simultaneously erecting barriers to voting.

“When young people participate at an early age, they’re voters for the rest of their lives,” Smith said, “and if the strength of a democracy is determined by the participation of its citizens, we should be celebrating and encouraging participation amongst our newest and youngest voters, not making it harder for them to show up.”

Posted in Featured, Nation/World, NeighborhoodComments (1)

  • Latest News
  • Tags
  • Subscribe
Advertise Here