Archive | November, 2018

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Hartford to Receive Money for Displaced Students


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The Hartford Public Schools will receive about $600,000 from the state to help displaced students affected by Hurricane Maria and other storms.

The City Council will have a public hearing on Dec. 17 to discuss how the funds will be allocated.

Hartford was home to about 400 displaced students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to officials.

In Connecticut, 2,043 students displaced by the storms enrolled in schools.

Connecticut received $10.6 million for school districts that took in displaced students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria and other storms.

The top six school districts that enrolled students displaced after the hurricanes are Hartford, Waterbury, New Britain, New Haven, Bridgeport and Meriden.

Each district will receive $10,000 for each student with a disability, $9,000 for students who are English learners and $8,500 for other displaced students.

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How to Get Your Lawmakers to Listen


By Cynthia Gordy Giwa

Hello from the otherrr siiiiide…

You did it! In this month’s midterm election, you and a whole lot of your fellow voters turned out to the polls to make your voices heard. But you’re not done yet. Voting is just the beginning!

The User’s Guide to Democracy has always wanted to help you become not only a more informed voter, but also a more engaged citizen. So, with the winners declared, how do you get your elected representatives in Washington to listen to your voice now?

At a live event on Nov. 13 with the New York Public Library, Derek Willis (my colleague here at ProPublica) and Paul Kane (an ace Congressional reporter for The Washington Post) tackled this question with the help of a panel of Capitol Hill insiders. The event, called “Irregular Order: How Congress Really Works,” was moderated by comedian/actor/writer Wyatt Cenac.

James Wallner, senior fellow for the think tank R Street (and a former Republican Senate staff member); Lindsey Cormack, Stevens Institute of Technology assistant professor of political science; and Stephanie L. Young, communications director for When We All Vote (also a former Democratic House staffer); explained how to get lawmakers to listen to you and act on the issues you care about.

Courtesy of The New York Public Library

Even as Congress seems stuck, there are still things that you can do to influence your lawmakers. Here are a few suggestions from the panel:

  • Vote. Often. “We literally have the power,” Young said of the clout that comes with voting. “I think we forget that, and sometimes you feel powerless. … This is one opportunity for you to go out and make your voices heard, but you have to do it *every time*, and you have to encourage those that you care about, and the people who are influenced by you, to do the exact same. There’s no one who has greater influence than you do.”Even if voting sometimes feels like shouting into the void, the panel also stressed that your elected officials are actually paying attention to who their voting constituents are. “If you email or write something, and they have your address and your name, they’re going to look up your voter file,” Willis said. “The fact that they’re tracking that information should tell you that they’re concerned about hearing from their constituents, and that you’re important.”
  • Visit your district office. Young continued by emphasizing that every member of Congress has a district office you can go to. “There are staff that are there to hear from you. You can write letters. They actually read them; there is someone who is assigned just to do that, and they have to respond to you. I worked for members who were very keen on knowing their constituents — how they felt, what they thought, and they want to read those letters. … Don’t miss those opportunities that we all have because they actually matter. They actually work.”Town halls were raised as another opportunity where you can talk to your legislators in person. Kane recounted the example of Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who was moved by individual interaction with her constituents during the “repeal Obamacare” period of 2017. “She described how, throughout that spring and summer, she would have town halls when she got back to Alaska. Over and over again, people would tell their stories about a pre-existing condition they feared they were going to lose [coverage for], or a husband or wife battling cancer who was afraid to lose health care,” Kane said. “By the end, that won her over, and she voted no.”
  • Write op-eds in your local newspaper. “Senators and members of the house really care about their local newspapers,” Cormack said. “If you write an op-ed that describes why you disagree with what your member did, that freaks them out. That’s where they want their press releases to land. They want that space, and if they have constituents within their own district saying they have a problem with that, that’s a really big red flag for them that they need to come back to the district and figure it out, or they’re going to need to focus on whatever that issue is a lot more, or address it differently.”
  • Work with advocacy groups you agree with.Traveling all the way to D.C., possibly taking time off from work, or putting in the time to write and pitch a newspaper op-ed might feel like a daunting amount of investment to be heard by people who are supposed to work for you. Wallner recommended making use of advocacy groups (i.e. organizations like the Sierra Club or the National Federation of Independent Business).

“We talk about advocacy groups like they’re a bad thing, but it’s usually just the ones we disagree with,” he said. “They have people who care about the same issues, who focus [on them] and are paid to go down to D.C. They make life difficult for members; sometimes they help members. … See what they’re doing and try to participate with them. Their voice is going to amplify your voice, and it’s going to make it harder for Congress to ignore the issues that you care about.”

One thing many advocacy groups do is lobby Congress, both by encouraging members to visit their representatives and by hiring their own lobbyists. You can find advocacy organizations working on issues you’re interested in using Represent’s database of lobbying arrangements.

You can watch the full discussion here, thanks to the New York Public Library, or listen to it on NYPL’s Library Talks podcast. I promise, not only will you learn something, you’ll laugh too.

We’ve come to the end of the User’s Guide to Democracy — but, hopefully, this marks the start of your increased participation in our system of government. From Representto the Facebook Political Ad Collector, you have tools to track what your representatives are actually doing, as well as tactics to hold them accountable. Don’t hesitate to use them. And, remember: Congress works for you.

This was first published on Propublica.org. Cynthia Gordy Giwa is ProPublica’s marketing director.

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Hartford’s Winterfest is Open Now Through Jan. 3


HARTFORD — Hartford Winterfest has opened and will run until Jan. 3.

Greater Hartford residents can now participate in carousel at the Bushnell Park and free ice skating. Thanks to a $30, 000 grant from United Bank.

The grant from United Bank is to ensure that the event is free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Skate rentals are free. And skating lessons are free.

The Bushnell Carousel is open on the weekends and rides are $1.

There is also a Santa Workshop on Saturdays and Sundays from now until Dec. 23.

For more information about Winterfest, click here.

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CT Latinos Voter Turnout Signals New Political Engagement


Across the nation there was a significant jump in Latino participation in the midterm election, and most likely in Connecticut, too.

Latinos have for years had the potential to become a powerful voting bloc. But their failure to turn up at the polls has historically hurt their political clout.

In this year’s midterms, however, they helped give Democrats key wins in Senate races in Nevada and Arizona. In  Texas, turnout rose dramatically in heavily Latino precincts and was also high in Latino areas of California, Florida and New York. There will be 43 Latino representatives in the next Congress — a record number.

In Connecticut, it’s much more difficult to pinpoint Latino voting participation. But an analysis by the Connecticut Mirror determined that cities and towns in the state where Latinos make up 25 percent or more of the population all experienced a significant increase in voter turnout.

 

And, in some of those towns — including Meriden, Ansonia, Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury, New Haven, New London, Windham and Waterbury — the growth in turnout exceeded the boost in voter turnout in the midterm election statewide.

The statewide turnout in the 2014 midterm was 55.6 percent and 65.2 percent in the latest midterm. In New Haven, for instance, turnout was 38.3 percent in 2014 and 58 percent in 2018. Nearly 30 percent of the city’s residents identified themselves as Hispanics or Latinos to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many of the more than 540,000 Latinos in Connecticut live in the larger cities, which historically have lower turnout.

“People tend to be more transient in cities, and that leads to lower voting rates,” said Gabe Rosenberg, spokesman for the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office.

However, the gap between those larger cities and smaller, higher-turnout towns shrank in the midterm.

“Latinos saw there was a lot at stake, so they came out,” said Marie Bertrand, the incoming president of the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association.

Nationally, a record 29 million Latinos were eligible to vote in this year’s election, according to the Pew Research Center. Preliminary data suggests there was a significant jump in Latino participation.

Speaking at a panel discussion in Los Angeles, Tom Perez, the first Latino Chair of the Democratic National Committee, was quoted as saying the turnout of first-time voters, including Latinos, was “a remarkable phenomenon.”

Since Latinos, in general, favor Democrats over Republican candidates, their increased participation in the midterm bolstered a “blue wave” that helped Democrats seize control of the U.S. House of Representatives and a number of other political offices, including the U.S. Senate seats in Arizona and Nevada and governorships across the country.

The week after the Nov. 6 election, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Latino participation surged 174 percent in 2018, compared to the 2014 midterms.

“Latino voters played a pivotal role in taking back the House,” Lujan told reporters during a conference call organized by the political action committee Latino Victory. “Evidence is clear: Early and active and robust outreach to communities of color — in this case, into the Hispanic community — clearly pays off.”

In Connecticut, it’s harder to decipher the impact of the more energized Latino electorate, but it may have boosted Democrat Ned Lamont’s bid for the governor’s office and helped Democrats boost their numbers in the general assembly.

“Latinos may have helped Lamont, especially in the cities,” Bertrand said. “Most likely they did.”

A coalition of Latino groups has emerged in Connecticut to capitalize on the increased political participation of the state’s Latinos, and ensure that they are represented in positions of influence and power.

COURTESY OF SEN.CHRIS MURPHY
Graduates of the Hispanic Leadership Academy with HUD secretary Julian Castro, center, and members of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus.

The newly formed CT Latino Task Force, a coalition of about 20 individuals and groups that includes the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association, the Connecticut Chapter of the Hispanic Federation and NALEO, is collecting resumes from whom they say are qualified Latinos who want to work in the Lamont administration and is making sure they are reviewed by the governor-elect’s transition team.

“We want to really put a little pressure on the incoming administration to make sure that we can be adequately represented in government positions, but also on boards and commissions,” Beltran said. “We want to make sure that at the end of the day they can’t say ‘We did not receive any applications from qualified Latinos’.”

Rep. Chris Soto, D-New London, said the formation of the CT Latino Task Force is a first and an indication of maturing Latino politics in the state. He also said Connecticut’s Latinos may have come out to vote in greater numbers this year because they are opposed to President Donald Trump’s policies, but noted that wasn’t the only reason for turnout.

“People are starting to see the importance of being locally engaged,” he said.

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Gov. Dannel Malloy Invites Public to Open House at Residence


HARTFORD — The Governor’s mansion in Hartford will be opened to the public in December.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and First Lady Cathy Malloy recently announced that the residence will be decorated and open for tours on Dec. 7, Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There will be live entertainment at the annual open house.

This is the 28th year that the holiday decorations, including Christmas trees, wreaths and seasonal plants have been donated to the Governor’s Residence at no cost to the state.

Tours will be aided by volunteers, some of whom have participated in the event for more than 20 years.

The open house is free and no tickets are required. However, donations will be accepted for Operation ELF, the annual holiday drive that assists military families in need.

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Hartford Receives Loan for Housing


HARTFORD — Hartford’s Frog Hollow neighborhood will see renovations to buildings for affordable housing. Thanks to a $2.8 million loan from the Department of Housing.

The loan was granted to the Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford, Inc. to assist in the moderate rehabilitation of an existing thirteen building development. The project includes 68 affordable residential units. In addition, 21 affordable units will be created.

The loan package is a part of the latest round of funding under the state’s Competitive Housing Assistance for Multifamily Properties or the CHAMP program. The $22 million in awards will help create, rehabilitate or preserve housing and expand access to multi-family units across the state. This is the state’s effort “to prevent and end homelessness.”

Other cities that receive grants include New Haven and Waterbury.

The CHAMP program in these cities provides developers and owners of multi-family affordable housing the necessary gap financing to create more affordable units in their development, officials said.

The goal is to incentivize developers to create more affordable housing.

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No, Turkey Doesn’t Make you Sleepy – but it may Bring More Trust to Your Thanksgiving Table


By Kevin Bennett

‘Tis the season for giblets, wattles and snoods – oh my. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans consume about 68 million turkeys – one for about every five of us. In fact, 29 percent of all turkeys gobbled down in the U.S. are consumed during the holidays.

And where turkey is being eaten, there is inevitably talk of tryptophan – a naturally occurring chemical found in turkey and other foods. This building block of protein often takes the blame for eaters feeling sleepy soon after the Thanksgiving meal.

Science has cleared tryptophan, though – it’s not the culprit when it comes to drowsiness after the feast. There are far more important factors leading to those post-turkey comas, not least of which is my Uncle Clarence’s story about parking at the airport. Add that to free-flowing booze combined with a load of carbohydrates followed by plenty more booze and you have a foolproof recipe for dozing off on the couch. Turkey, chicken, lamb and beef all contain roughly the same amount of tryptophan – ranging from 0.13-0.39 grams per 100 grams of food – yet the sleepiness myth has never surrounded those other foods.

Overeating and drinking are more likely at the root of your post-feast nap. Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

So tryptophan is off the snooze-inducing hook. But researchers in the Netherlands suggest it does have a different psychological effect: They’ve discovered that doses of tryptophan (chemically known as L-tryptophan and abbreviated TRP) can promote interpersonal trust – that feeling you get when you look somebody in the eye, shake her hand and think, “I can cooperate with this person and she would reciprocate.”

In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, pairs of volunteers were each given an oral dose of 0.8g of TRP or a placebo. For comparison, a 100g standard serving of turkey about the thickness of a deck of playing cards contains about 0.31g of tryptophan.

Each duo then sat in separate cubicles and played a game where one person (the truster) was given US$7 and had to decide how much to transfer to the other person. The transferred money was then multiplied by three and the trustee could give back part of the tripled money.

The more money you’re willing to give away in the first place, the greater your return in the end – but you have to trust the other person to cooperate. A very simple and profitable game if played right.

The researchers found that the TRP group gave $4.81 on average and the placebo group offered only $3.38. This is a sizable 42 percent increase in transferred money between the two groups.

So what’s going on? Here’s the brain science behind how the tryptophan-trust connection works.

TRP is an essential amino acid found in many foods including eggs, soybeans, chocolate, cheeses, fish, nuts and, of course, turkey. The brain region associated with interpersonal trust – known as the medial prefrontal cortex – is powered by the neurotransmitter serotonin. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers found throughout the body that transmit signals from one nerve cell to another.

Our bodies synthesize many neurotransmitters from simple amino acids which are readily available in our food and can be quickly converted in a small number of biosynthetic steps. The neurotransmitter serotonin is controlled in part by the release of TRP. This means that as you increase levels of TRP you’re able to release serotonin in the brain region specially designed to process trust. Think of a flashing neon sign that reads “trust this person, trust this person.”

A plate of turkey won’t convince you to buy into Cousin Gerald’s pyramid scheme. Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

Keep in mind, however, that our decisions to trust or not to trust do not rely solely on ingesting TRP. In the real world we take into account personality factors, how well we know someone, previous cooperation with that person, tone of voice, eye contact, body language and so on. These all have a hand in shaping the conscious and unconscious rules that govern our pro-social behavior and trust preferences.

So this holiday season, eat your turkey (or salmon or cashews or cottage cheese or chocolate) and remember that few things are more pleasurable than the joy that comes from sharing a holiday meal with loved ones. Science shows us that tryptophan can promote social bonding, but there still is no substitute for giving thanks. Trust me.

Kevin Bennett is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University. This was first published in The Conversation.

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FBI Report: Hartford Sees Increase in Hate Crimes


Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford reported four hate crimes in 2017, according to the 2018 Federal Bureau of Investigation report.

That’s an increase from 2016, mirroring the national trend of an uptick in hate crimes in 2017 compared to 2016.

Of the 107 Connecticut law enforcement agencies that provided information about crimes motivated by hate, only 42 agencies reported 111 hate crimes.

Nationwide, law enforcement agencies reported 7,175 hate crimes in 2017.  In 2016, there were 6,121 hate crimes reported. The majority of victims, or 59.6 percent, were targeted because of a bias toward race, ethnicity or ancestry, according to the report.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program releases an annual report. Law enforcement agencies submitted criminal incidents that were motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity.

This year, there was a sharp increase with crimes motivated by bias toward religion–the second most common reason individuals were targeted. In 2017, 20.6 percent of the total number of criminal incidents were motivated by hate toward individuals based on religion. There was a 23 percent increase in overall religious based crimes and a 37 percent spike in anti-Jewish offenses.

The other hate crimes were motivated by sexual orientation, 15.8 percent; disability, 1.9 percent; gender identity 1.6 percent and gender 0.6 percent.

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Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez in Court Again


By Ann-Marie Adams,  Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  Should former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez keep his pension after being convicted of corruption?

That’s what a judge will decide on Wednesday in Hartford Superior Court.

Attorney George Jepsen sued last year to revoke or reduce Perez’s $2,300 pension. That’s because state law allows for the revocation or reduction of corrupt public officials’ retirement benefits. Perez has been collecting that pension since October 2016.

Perez resigned in 2010 after being charged and convicted for taking about $40,000 in kitchen and bathroom improvements from Hartford developer, Carlos Costa. Costa was a city contractor on a Park Street development project.

Perez’s conviction was overturned by the Appellate Court in 2013 and upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2016. However, Perez pleaded guilty to taking a bribe and attempted first-degree larceny by extortion last August after the state moved to retry him.

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Hartford Groups Form Coalition to Help Reduce Gun Violence


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — A group of community organizations has formed a coalition in an effort to stave off gun violence in Hartford and will kick off several initiatives at a public safety fair on Nov. 17.

The event will be from 11:a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Wilson-Gray YMCA at 444 Albany Ave. in Hartford. It’s free and open to the public.

The fair will feature  information on ways to prevent and reduce violence, raise awareness and address trauma. The fair will also have information on a range of services for recovery and addiction, re-entry employment and job training, health and wellness information.

Since 2013, Hartford has had 644 gun shootings, officials said. This year’s total number of shootings has increased by 24 percent. For example, in 2018 there were more than 120 shootings incidents by October, compared to 115 total shooting incidents in 2017. The majority of these incidents have been concentrated in poorer city neighborhoods, officials said.

In the midst of this violence, community based organizations have been providing a variety of response efforts to prevent further violence and to save lives.

The coalition includes COMPASS Youth Collaborative, Hartford Communities That Care, United Against Violence, Peace Center of Connecticut and the Wilson-Gray YMCA.

 

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