Archive | April, 2018

‘Second Chance’ Program Recognized

HARTFORD — Hartford-area advocates and volunteers of a program that gives former offenders a second chance will be recognized by state officials this week.

The Second Chance IBEST Program, led by Capital Workforce Partners in partnership with a dozen other agencies, will be holding its Second Annual IBEST Second Chance Recognition Awards Event at the Chrysalis Center in Hartford on April 12 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The event will honor Returning Citizens, advocates, employers and other partners who have participated and supported 275 Returning Citizens working to gain employment in the Capitol Region in the past two years.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Department of Labor Commissioner Scott Jackson, and Jay Williams, President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving will join Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner Cheryl Cepelak and other state and local officials to recognize the success of the former offenders who have received training and placed in jobs and other partners.

Through the collective efforts of the Hartford’s Best Chance Program, the partnership has supported diverse employment, training, support and retention services to several hundred Returning Citizens for placement in a variety job sectors including manufacturing, culinary, construction, retail, and hospitality.

“The Best Chance Program serves as a model ‘Second Chance Program,’ supporting the importance of employment and training services for Returning Citizens to gain the necessary skills needed to obtain employment self-sufficiency and contribute to the local and regional economy,” said Alex Johnson, President, and CEO of Capital Workforce Partners.

This annual event is in the second year and will issue awards for Personal Achievement, Professional/Community, Employer recognition and the Sharon O’Meara Community Partner of the Year Aw

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Statewide Candidates Speed-Date Latinos


The challenge: convince well-connected Hispanic politicos why you’re the best candidate to represent them in statewide office —  and do it in under one minute.

That round of speed-dating, involving four potential governors, three treasurers, two attorneys general, one comptroller and the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus, took place Wednesday at a New Haven gathering at the Greek Olive on Long Wharf.

Yolanda Castillo, Manchester Democratic Town Committee member

“As a Latino community, for those that have been involved in political life for all these years, we want to make sure that we support the people that think about our community and that are interested in making sure that everyone in Connecticut has a better quality of life. Latinos, people of color, our numbers are growing, and we have a voice,” said Yolanda Castillo, the caucus’s vice-chair and a member of Manchester’s Democratic Town Committee. “Think of our community, because our community is in need.”

With the clock racing, the crowded field of Democratic candidates tried to differentiate themselves by giving similar short pitches, touching on their resistance to the Trump administration and the kitchen-table issue of good jobs. A couple threw in rehearsed lines of Spanish.

Currently, only one Hispanic is officially running for statewide office. Connecticut has never elected one. Yet Latinos comprise the fastest-growing segment of the population; Latinos involved in politics have been pushing their parties to diversify their tickets.

The four 2018 Democratic candidates for governor, two for attorney general and one for comptroller who showed up Wednesday night are all white. The candidates for treasurer included an African-American man, a man of Sri Lankan descent and an Indian-American woman. Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, a union organizer in Newtown considering a run for lieutenant governor or secretary of the state, was the one Latina who spoke to the voters.

Despite the lack of representation on the ticket, the candidates all know that Hispanic voters will be a powerful voting bloc that could play a role in deciding the front-runners from among a wide field of candidates. At the end of the meeting, the caucus members started counting up the delegates they’ll send to the Democratic convention next month, where candidates need to draw at least 15 percent support to make it on the primary ballot.

In conversations with a reporter during a meet-and-greet hour, some of the candidates struggled to get specific about what they plan to do for the Hispanic community.

All those aiming for the governor’s mansion expressed a willingness to revisit the Connecticut Trust Act, which prohibits state law enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration agents — with seven broad exceptions, such as if the target has had a felony conviction, been identified as a gang member or terrorist, or appeared to be an “unacceptable risk to public safety.” Advocates, like the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance’s Alok Bhatt, argue that loopholes are leading to courthouse arrests. Sean Connolly was the only one who hesitated, saying it didn’t fit with his “style [of] collaboration” to get into a dispute with the feds.

Several candidates also said they’d be open to funding legal aid for immigrants facing deportation cases. In 4,000 cases involving New Haven County residents, legal representation proved to be a strong predictor for who won relief from an immigration judge.

During the pitch to the caucus members, most focused on amping up the crowd.


Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris, a former state senator, state consumer protection chief, and West Hartford mayor, kept his pitch short with fewer than 10 words.

“Tough times, challenges: we can do this,” he said. “Go, fight, win!”

Speaking with the Independent, Harris enumerated a much longer list of what he’d done for the state’s Hispanic population. As a legislator, he introduced a bill allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities. (Jodi Rell vetoed it; Dan Malloy later signed a similar version.) As head of consumer protection, Harris persuaded Medicaid to reimburse payments for medical interpreters, cracked down on notarios without a law license and simplified language on the department’s forms to be more readily understandable to non-English speakers.


Sean Connolly

Sean Connolly, the former state commissioner of veteran services, said that newcomers today should have the same opportunity that his Irish grandparents found in Connecticut.

“My father came 52 years ago to our great state, bought and operated his own landscaping business and had his career in Connecticut, I’m running because too many people I’ve encountered said those opportunities don’t exist here in Connecticut anymore. We need to ensure and expand that opportunity: a fair shot for everybody, no matter who you are.”

He closed with a sentence in Spanish that earned cheers: “Ellos están conmigo. Quiero que ustedes estén conmigo tambien!” Translation: They are with me. I want you to be with me too!

Susan Bysiewicz, who’d just officially declared her entry into the gubernatorial race, said she worked hard to diversify state boards and commissions when she served as secretary of the state.

Sí, se puedo!” she declared, mistaking the verb’s conjugation. “We can win together!”

Bysiewicz said she planned to elevate the need for more federal funding for the cities that have taken in Puerto Rican evacuees — a bipartisan effort that would require getting Connecticut’s elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, to pressure the White House.

Guy Smith, former CEO of Americares and a liquor distribution company, said he’d stand up to the Trump administration.

“In my administration,” he said, “we’re going to have serious diversity and serious candidates from your community, and I will protect every citizen in Connecticut from you-know-who in Washington.” The line implied non-citizens wouldn’t get the same protections, earning a tepid response from the audience, at best.

The biggest applause of the night went to Kevin Lembo, the state comptroller. He originally launched an effort to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year, then surprised everyone when he dropped outciting personal reasons. He’s running for reelection.

In the attorney general race, Chris Mattei, a former federal prosecutor, and Clare Kindall, a former assistant attorney general, described different approaches to how they’d respond to Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

Mattei said he’d “run to the courthouse” to challenge any threats to the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who’ve been raised in this country and received special protections under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. “This is a community that, in some ways, feels under siege,” he said. “I’m here to stand in solidarity.”

Kindall said she, too, would try to help the Dreamers by “doing everything permissible,” but she pointed out the limits of that strategy in a courtroom. “The state does not set immigration policy,” she said. “I wish I had a magic bullet.” Kindall said the resources of the attorney general’s office could be best used by defending sanctuary cities from retaliation and by looking into funding public defenders in immigration court, if they could get insurance.

Some candidates — including gubernatorial hopeful Luke Bronin and attorney general candidate Paul Doyle — arrived too late to make presentations, but in time for some last-minute schmoozing. Gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont sent representatives in his stead; Joe Ganim, another gubernatorial hopeful, later said he hadn’t received the invitation.

This story originally appeared April 5, 2018, in the New Haven Independent.

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To Help Prevent Sexual Assault, Consent Needed

Dear Editor,

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and comes at a time when our country is experiencing a reckoning with sexual violence. Many people are sharing their experiences with sexual harassment and assault, more institutions are holding perpetrators accountable, and space is being created for authentic conversations about consent.

Now more than ever is the time to highlight the important role comprehensive sex education plays in our schools and communities. Providing young people with critical information and skills around seeking and giving consent, how to respond when someone is pressuring them, and ways to step in and help a friend, can help prevent sexual violence. Young people deserve access to education and it needs to happen before they start college and before they become sexually active.

At Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, we provide sex education, information, and resources that teach about consent and healthy relationships. We help people across Connecticut and Rhode Island communicate respectfully and confidently, make well-informed and healthy decisions, and engage in relationships that are healthy and positive. Now is the time to make strides towards a culture in which consent is the norm and everyone has control over their bodies and lives.

Pierrette Comulada Silverman
Vice President of Education and Training
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
New Haven, CT

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In Event Honoring MLK, Bernie Sanders’ Comments on Race and Barack Obama Raise Eyebrows

By Anne Branigin, The Root

There’s a lot to appreciate about Sen. Bernie Sanders, a longtime public servant who’s helped propel truly progressive policies, like a $15 minimum wage and universal health care, into the mainstream political conversation.

But one frequent complaint is that the 76-year-old Sanders remains dusty on race matters, and critics of the Vermont senator have more evidence to cite in his latest appearance. 

The latest perceived misstep came Thursday, on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Speaking in Jackson, Miss., alongside progressive black Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba (whose candidacy Sanders supported), Sanders honored the slain civil rights icon.

Here’s the quote in full, from BuzzFeed News:

“The business model, if you like, of the Democratic Party for the last 15 years or so has been a failure,” Sanders started, responding to a question about the young voters who supported his campaign. “People sometimes don’t see that because there was a charismatic individual named Barack Obama, who won the presidency in 2008 and 2012.

“He was obviously an extraordinary candidate, brilliant guy. But behind that reality, over the last 10 years, Democrats have lost about 1,000 seats in state legislatures all across this country.”

On the anniversary of King’s death, it would be the only reference Sanders made to the country’s first black president.

Critics of Sanders called the remarks tone-deaf, particularly given their timing.

But Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ top strategist, said that people had misunderstood the senator’s comments.

“What Bernie was doing last night was praising the power and significance of the Barack Obama presidency, while at the same time pointing out that the national Democratic Party has had a lot of failures over the last 15 years, as evidenced by our loss of state legislative and congressional seats,” Weaver said in response to the criticism, according to BuzzFeed News.

It should be noted that Sanders really didn’t talk about Barack Obama’s presidency, other than to say that it coincided with the failure of the Democratic Party. The plaudits Sanders gave Obama centered on his smarts and charisma as a candidate.

While the dustup over Sanders’ comments about Obama may seem like an unfair misreading, another, less-talked-about exchange seems to bolster a commonly held belief that the 2016 presidential candidate is still uncomfortable talking about race.

Take this, from the Washington Post:

Seated with Lumumba, the senator was asked about the marginalization of black LGBTQ citizens. He shifted the question to people “you didn’t talk about” like “people working two or three jobs” and “people who spend 50 percent of their limited income on housing.” He repeatedly turned discussion of fighting racism to fighting poverty.

Of course, the fight against poverty cuts across all racial demographics and is a pressing concern as economic inequality grows in the U.S. But any analysis of poverty that eschews race is incomplete and ignores very real and troubling trends—like how black and Latinx middle-class families are headed to zero wealth. It’s necessary to have targeted solutions to address this, and it’s necessary to have candidates comfortable with addressing this.

In his remarks in Jackson, Sanders also said that the Democratic Party “has got to be a 50-state party” and listen to voters all over the country, “including some of the poorest states.” Those presumably include Southern states, which Sanders had appeared eager to write off during the presidential primaries in 2016.

Sanders attributed his losses in the South to Democratic voters being more conservative in the region. If you want to know why that particular comment stung, just peep the map below, which shows America’s black population, in percentages:

Sanders’ latest remarks are undoubtedly another political Rorschach test: People inclined to distrust Sanders on race will remain concerned about his tone-deafness and inability to combine race and class analysis. Sanders’ supporters, meanwhile, will see another attempt from centrist Democrats to discredit a man whose support from young voters crossed racial lines.

The Vermont senator, who has shrugged off questions about a 2020 run, offers little in the way of clarity himself.

As BuzzFeed News reports, Sanders continues to frame civil rights and economic justice as two separate issues.

“Of course we need civil rights in this country, but we also need economic justice,” Sanders said backstage at the Jackson event.

But when asked by BuzzFeed about whether his presidential campaign had changed the way he talks about racial justice, Sanders affirmed that it had.

“It’s not a question of talking about it. It’s not phraseology. It’s what you’re gonna do about it,” he said. “Coming to Mississippi, coming to Alabama, to Flint, Mich.—did I learn something? Did I change as a part of that? Of course I did.”

But when pressed about how he changed, personally, Sanders again preferred to change the subject: “You’re asking about me. And I’m not important. What’s important are the kinds of policies that we need to transform this country. OK?”

Featured Photo by Getty Image.

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Hartford Churches to Commemorate King

HARTFORD — In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., six Hartford churches will ring their bells for one minute at 7:01 p.m. on April 4, the day King was shot 50 years ago.

Faith Congregational Church, Asylum Hill Congregational Church, Church of the Good Shepherd, St. Lawrence O’Toole Church, Emanuel Lutheran Church, and Trinity Episcopal Church will be participating will honor MLK50 years later in a tribute to King’s legacy of civil and human rights.

The death of the civil rights leader is being commemorated with marches, speeches and reflections across the nation. He was 39 years old when he was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968.


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East Hartford Public Library to Host Poetry Reading

EAST HARTFORD — The East Hartford Public Library will host poet John L. Stanizzi on April 17.

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. and is free at the Library at 840 Main St.

Stanizzi is the author of six collections – Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, and High Tide – Ebb Tide. Besides the CRR, his poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, American Life in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, The Cortland Review, The Paterson Literary Review, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, and many others. He’s been translated into Italian and appeared in El Ghibli, the Journal of Italian Translations Bonafinni, Poetarium Silva, and L’Ombra delle Parole. His new collection, Chants, will be out in 2018 with Cervena Barva Press.

Stanizzi has read at venues all over New England, including the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival and Mystic Arts Café, and he is a teaching artist with Poetry Out Loud, as well as the coordinator of Hill-Stead Museum’s Fresh Voice Poetry Competition

A former New England Poet of the Year, Stanizzi grew up on Collimore Road in East Hartford. After graduating from St. Mary’s School he went on to East Hartford High School, where he first began to work seriously on his poems, with the help of his English teacher and dear friend, Teresa Vincenzo. John also worked in his father’s upholstery business, “Office Seating Service,” on John Street in East Hartford before heading off to Wesleyan University. These days, he teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT and he lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry.

Stanizzi’s reading is co-sponsored by the East Hartford Public Library and the East Hartford Commission on Culture and Fine Arts. For more information and to register, visit or call the library at 860-290-4332.

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Veterans Department to Host Heroes for Hire Job Fair

WETHERSFIELD — The 2018 edition of the Heroes 4 Hire Veterans Career Fair returns this Wednesday, featuring more than 100 employers who will be on hand from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Rentschler Field Ballroom in East Hartford.

The largest of its kind a veterans-focused event in New England,  Heroes 4 Hire is sponsored – the Connecticut Department of Labor, the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, Entercom,  Pratt & Whitney and Travelers.

“This is our 14th year holding the Heroes 4 Hire Veterans Career Fair, and all indications are that this year’s event, with 100-plus companies and service organizations already signed up, will be one of the largest yet,” notes State Labor Commissioner Scott Jackson. “Attendees and their spouses will be able to meet with a wide range of companies, service providers and educational institutions regarding employment opportunities and programs that serve veterans. Admission is free, and there is plenty of parking.”

Among the companies taking part will be Albertus Magnus, Foxwoods General Dynamics  –  Electric Boat  Mohegan Sun, Pratt and Whitney Stanley Black and Decker, Tilcon, USPS, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Yarde Metals.

A complete list of participating companies, as well as directions to Rentschler Field, is available at

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