Archive | February, 2019

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Hartford Public High School Celebrates Black History Month


HARTFORD — Hartford Public High School on Wednesday will continue its celebration of Black History Month with musical guest, Kymberli Joye.

Joye was a semi-finalist on the NBC show, The Voice.

The Windsor native will be joined by Andre Gray, an inventor and internet pioneer who created the Ringtone and the Ringback.

The event will be from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the school library and auditorium located at 55 Forrest St in Hartford.

At 8:00 a.m. in the school library, students will meet and discuss their future goals with Hartford professionals and community leaders.

At 9:00 a.m., students will be invited to the auditorium to hear Joye sing and to hear a keynote speech from Gray.

The presentation follows Monday’s events which featured Congresswoman Jahana Hayes and Connecticut State Troubadour Nekita Waller,

 

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Raising Costs of Transit and Rail Fares is Not Fiscally Sound


By Yanil Terón

Connecticut has four cities, Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, and Bridgeport, in the top thirty in the nation for zero-car households.  Seven neighborhoods in Hartford have household zero-car ownership rates above 40 percent.  Almost two-thirds of Hartford’s workforce, many of them using bus transit, work outside of Hartford.

During the 2018 transportation budget crisis, the CT DOT threatened to cut funds from the regional transit districts while raising bus and rail fares across the state.  Raising transit and rail costs while cutting service is a terrible strategy for getting Connecticut residents to work.

Cars are not an option for our state’s low-income residents and cutting their connection to jobs is not fiscally sound. Employers need workers, and transit gets them where they need to go.  A robust multimodal transportation system is egalitarian and provides key jobs access for both our urban professionals and the rest of the state’s workers.

The Center for Latino Progress works on equity and inclusion matters in a very inequitable state. We are involved in transportation topics because too often we find our neighbors and community limited by the inability to get to work. A transportation system that requires car ownership prevents many workers and families from building family savings and following the American dream.

We, as a grassroots organization, are in support of investment in our transportation system generated by tolls.  Toll revenue must be dedicated to building the sustainable transportation infrastructure of Connecticut’s future.  Tolls, as fees for highway use, are sorely needed for maintenance, bridge replacements, and continued investment in our transit and rail systems.  A modern, multimodal transportation system will allow businesses and communities to thrive while supporting the workers that power the economy.

The state’s commerce and community health should be driving the decision making.  Connecticut has the eighth oldest population in the nation and needs transportation options that support our aging seniors while simultaneously attracting a generation of young adults and professionals that are moving back into cities and town centers.  Both of those groups are looking to drive less and have an appetite for environmentally sustainable transportation that improves health, supports their neighborhoods, and connects them to opportunities.

A state that values all workers invests in accessible and high-quality transit systems and focuses on new development around transit corridors and stations.  Not everyone is going to take CTtransit, CTfastrak, or the Hartford Line commuter rail to work, but as more do, it will lift our local economies, reduce highway congestion, and improve our environment.  Considering the equity impact of tolls, we must provide a reduced fare structure for the working poor that are driving to work.

While federal and state gas tax rates have been flat for decades, transit fares have continued to rise. We need to consider how the transportation system of the future will serve our children and grandchildren with a livable world and green jobs.  Forty percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the transportation sector, the largest contributing sector by far.  Without a shift to a higher percentage of transit, rail, walking, and biking for commutes, we will be contributing to the global climate catastrophe. As a coastal state, Connecticut cannot pretend to ignore the ravages we will face from rising waters and extreme weather events.

The state legislature and the governor are currently considering the structure and funding for Connecticut’s infrastructure investments and transportation system that will serve future generations. We are one of a few Northeast states that have yet to reimplement highway tolls, and that hinders our ability to invest in a transportation system that builds a vibrant and sustainable state.

Gas tax revenues are flat and will be falling as cars become more efficient and the percentage of electric vehicles climb.  We are not reducing the number of highways, while the costs for maintenance and replacement of those aging interstate structures are climbing rapidly as they reach the end of their useful lives.  A highway toll is a reasonable user fee that needs to be implemented to invest in our state’s future.

Yanil Terón, Executive Director, Center for Latino Progress – CPRF, founded in 1978. The Center’s Transport Hartford Academy focuses on the multimodal transportation sector.

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Hartford Police Identify City’s Fifth Homicide Victim, Make Arrest


HARTFORD — Hartford Police identified the man who was stabbed and killed with a knife Thursday, the city’s fifth homicide in 2019.

At a news conference on Friday, police said Mayceo Montford, 44, of Hartford stabbed Shawn Bates, 40.

Police responded to 2327 Main St. around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday after calls about a fight with a knife.

Upon arrival, police found Bates with several lacerations and stab wounds. Bates was transported to St. Francis hospital and pronounced dead at 2:52 a.m. Friday.

According to police, a Montford was taken into custody after officers found a knife they believe was used in the stabbing assault.

The case is the capital city’s 4th homicide this week and the total of five homicides in 2019.

 

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It May be Bumpy, But Lamont Sees ‘a path forward’


By Mark Pazniokas, ctmirror.org

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont cast his first budget proposal Wednesday as “a path forward,” a map for a wealthy state struggling to wriggle free of a crushing pension debt amassed over decades, end crippling cycles of deficits and spark economic growth.

In a televised, 35-minute speech to the General Assembly, Lamont politely challenged lawmakers to suggest improvements if they don’t like his approach, pleading for “a different type of politics.” But at least for now, the new governor drew few hard lines beyond which he would not cross, all but inviting a robust debate. 

“Politics in Washington is a dysfunctional mess. Let’s show that here in Connecticut, we can work together on an honest budget, on time, one that gets our state moving again,” Lamont said. “When we disagree, don’t go to a microphone. Come to my office. My door is always open. Let’s get it done.”

The plea prompted an extended standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.

But other applause lines — promises of a higher minimum wage, a paid family and medical leave program, a pledge to preserve collective bargaining for state employees — only resonated among the majority Democrats. 

“I think it is a responsible budget that meets our needs. We are facing a deficit of about $1.5 billion in the next year and more than that in the year after that,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven. “We need some additional revenues. We also need to make sure we have an economic development plan that keeps the state moving forward and promotes job development. I think that’s a key.”

Republican leaders, however, responded coolly after the speech to the governor’s ideas for raising new revenue.

“Well, clearly Governor Lamont has an interest in fixing the state,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “I think unfortunately the way he’s trying to do it now is only hurting Main Street America. The middle class is being hurt by far the most in this. I believe in a path forward for Connecticut as the governor mentioned, but this is not the path.”

Lamont, 65, a Democrat and Greenwich businessman, is only Connecticut’s second governor since Chester Bowles, who was elected in 1948, without experience as a legislator in either Hartford or Washington. The other was his predecessor, Dannel P. Malloy, who was mayor of Stamford for 14 years.

Since taking office on Jan. 9, Lamont has invited a steady procession of legislators and other stakeholders, including the state-employee unions that contributed to his victory, to the Executive Residence, listening more than talking.

“Politics in Washington is a dysfunctional mess. Let’s show that here in Connecticut, we can work together on an honest budget, on time, one that gets our state moving again.”

Gov. Ned Lamont

On Wednesday, it was Lamont’s turn to speak.

He was not quite as relaxed as during his inaugural on Jan. 9, when he displayed a goofy charm, offering commentary and asides on his own speech as he delivered it. There were no taxes on the table then, no tolls, no hard requests. But he occasionally ad libbed, playing off the lawmakers’ applause —or their silence.

His promise to save nearly $600 million a year by curtailing borrowing and putting the state on a “debt diet” drew predictable applause.

“Now, I’ve talked to a lot of you,” he said. “I know you agree in principle, but then you generally have ‘one more special project that’s in the queue in my district.’ So be forewarned — if it is not tied to economic or workforce development, or cost-saving shared services, Connecticut is on a debt diet – and I am going to make sure we stick to that plan.”

He raised his voice, punching what was intended to be an applause line.

Lawmakers offered only a stony silence.

Lamont smiled.

“Crickets,” he said.

That prompted laughter — and applause.

If Lamont faces resistance from lawmakers about closing the bonding favor bank, he is looking at trench warfare over his call to end sales-tax exemptions for most everything but groceries and prescription medications. He noted he is seeking no raises in the rates for income or sales taxes, but said Connecticut needs to modernize its sales tax structure.

“Our current sales tax is designed for a Sears Roebuck economy driven by over-the-counter sales. Today we live in an Amazon economy, which is driven by e-commerce, digital downloads, consumer services,” he said. “So my sales tax reform would broaden the base so that digital goods are treated equally and more significantly that we are capturing a growing segment of the economy.”

He suggested there is no rhyme or reason to the current exemptions. Haircuts are exempt, not manicures. Netflix is exempt, not movie tickets. Lamont insisted he knows the size of the fight he is inviting, that he has been warned off by legislative leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers.

“Believe me, I’ve been forewarned by all of you —there was bipartisan consensus on this — that every tax expenditure has a strong lobby behind it and the pushback will be ferocious,” Lamont said.

The new governor promised to push back.

For the first time since announcing Saturday he would propose options for electronic tolling on all motor vehicles — not just trucks, as he promised during his campaign — Lamont explained his rationale to a live audience.

The governor said his lawyers convinced him that trucks-only tolling would survive judicial scrutiny only if the tolls were collected on specific bridges to pay for their reconstruction. He promised Connecticut car drivers would get discounted rates, as other states provide to their motorists.

Democrats applauded.

“By the way, it is estimated that over 40 percent of tolling revenue would come from out of state. As we foot the bill when we travel through their neighboring states, it’s time for out-of-state drivers to help foot the bill for fixing our roads and bridges,” he said.

Republicans, who see tolls as a wedge issue for 2020, did not.

Lamont cast tolling as part of a larger plan to grow the economy,  saying there is little chance of extended growth without modern transportation infrastructure, and there is no way of modernizing infrastructure without tolls.

Tolls would allow Connecticut to speed rail service from Hartford through New Haven and Stamford to New York City and add more frequent service to Waterbury and New London, he said. They also would help his economic-development team when companies ask about gridlock.

“Rather than nervously looking down at our shoes or checking our watch, our economic development team will now be able to answer, ‘I’m glad you asked me that,’ ” he said.

“I believe in a path forward for Connecticut as the governor mentioned, but this is not the path.”

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby

Lamont faces structural deficits, as did his predecessor, but the immediate task is not as daunting as the $3.7 billion shortfall that greeted Malloy. In some ways, however, Lamont faces a more difficult political task.

Eight years ago, Democrats working with their first Democratic governor in two decades readily yielded to Malloy on difficult revenue questions, such as the $1.8 billion tax increase Malloy proposed in his first budget. The novelty of working with a Democratic governor is long gone — as Malloy discovered in his final two years in office, when legislators shut him out of budget talks.

Lamont needs to find his own path forward, as well as a way to coax lawmakers to join him on the trip. That is a work in progress.

A key talking point Wednesday was Lamont’s intention to break the cycle of deficits, a tempting prospect for lawmakers exhausted by the constant struggle to balance budgets, ignoring the future while paying off debts from the past.

“I will not allow this budget to be another scene from Groundhog Day, where I come to you year-after-year, hat-in-hand, lamenting the fact that we still haven’t addressed our structural deficits,” Lamont said. “Fixed costs inherited from the past consume nearly a third of Connecticut’s budget – much more than our peers. This hurts our ability to make investments in our future.”

He said he can offer a solution, but only if he is backed by lawmakers, selling his plan to business and labor, mayors and selectmen, town councils and boards of education. 

Everyone is going to have to sacrifice — take a haircut, as debtors tell creditors when there is not enough money to pay everyone.  And that includes paying the sales tax on every haircut.

Featured Photo Credit: Connecticut Public Radio

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United Way to Host Legislative Forum on Financial Hardship


HARTFORD — The Connecticut United Way on Feb. 25 will host a legislative forum in Hartford about the “true scope of financial hardship” and how working families can achieve financial security.

The forum will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Room 2E at the Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Ave. in Hartford.

The forum comes after a 2018 report on the increase in the number of Asset Limited Income constrained Employed, or ALICE households. These families in the state included those who despite working hard, live paycheck to paycheck and are unable to afford life’s most basic necessities such as housing, food, child care, transportation, technology and healthcare.

About 40 percent of Connecticut households are unable to make ends meet. They are considered ALICE households. Many ALICE households are one emergency away from a financial crisis impacting their ability to feed their family, heat their home, maintain their housing and ensure their medical care, organizers said.

The other sponsors to this event are the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors and the Commission on Equity and Opportunity.

For more information and to register click here.

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Time to Gear Up for District and Magnet School Lottery


By Madeline Perez De Jesus

My daughter benefits from a different education reality than I did. My own working-class Puerto Rican parents, conversely, thought that all public schools were the same. My guidance counselor convinced my parents to allow me to apply to a prestigious exam high school in New York City allowing me to by-pass a low-resourced neighborhood school. Now I am writing a book on families navigating school choice. My experiences as a student, educational researcher (and now as a mother) have led me to understand that while the school choice system created by Sheff. v. O’Neill 30 years ago is not perfect, it has increased opportunity for Hartford children from backgrounds like my own who were previously shut out from high quality schools.

As my husband and I consulted our social network about the “process”, we realized their worldview and resources shaped the conventional wisdom many families shared with us.  As college professors, interpreted this advice through our own worldview and were mindful of the resources available to us as parents (that were not available to us as children).  We also learned that these perspectives are always tempered by reality. Below I list some of this conventional wisdom on public school choice followed by realities to consider:

Learn about your school options early.

Reality: Your options may already be shaped before your children are born based on where you’ve chosen to live (or didn’t choose). Where you live already shapes the menu of schools available to you (as well as your odds of getting in). Folks who are low-income are not likely to be able to access the full range of options with zoning.

You have to talk to lots of people to get the scoop on how they are experiencing the schools.

Reality: This assumes that you can access a network of parents whose children attend a wide variety of schools. If you don’t, you need to muster up the courage to speak to strangers. Trust and safety concerns impact one’s ability to engage strangers. When I was conducting my research in New York City, many wealthy parents told me it was the norm to be approached by prospective neighbors who wanted to learn about the schools. The working class and poor parents I interviewed thought it was crazy to approach strangers because of safety.

You have to make time to attend school open houses as well as workshops on how the lottery process works.

Reality: It was vital for us to visit schools observing classes in session. This gave us a strong sense of our top schools early on. Not everyone has the opportunity to visit on a weekday between 8am-3pm.  Parents who have overall control of how they schedule their time are the ones who are able to do this best.

You can apply to the HPS lottery every year and any year.

Reality: For Hartford residents, if you don’t apply in preschool, your chances diminish rapidly afterward. The Pre-K 3 year has the most seats available and therefore the highest chance of allowing you to get selected. Even if the seat you are offered was not one of your top choices, you are still advantaged as you are now the “in the system” and given priority if you choose to reapply next year. In her policy brief on the Sheff Movement, Mira Debs highlights that pre-k3 children are not provided transportation by the school system. Therefore, those who have control over their transportation are the ones who can take advantage of this.

Apply to the schools in your order of preference.

Reality: If you live in Hartford, zones really matter. (Jack Dougherty, from Trinity College writes about this.)  In order to increase your chances of being matched to a school, rank them while keeping in mind your odds of getting in. The press publishes the percentage of applicants from each town who get offers to schools which can be used to inform the way you rank your selections. Not everyone knows this. Therefore, parents who seek out data from reputable sources can rank in the ways that are most advantageous.

Consider sharing this information with someone who might need it before the February 28 lottery deadline. And let’s work to further efforts to make the lottery process support the needs of the families in Hartford with the fewest resources. Our entire region is better off as a result.

 

 

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Hartford Receives HUD Grant to Combat Homelessness


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford officials have secured housing vouchers to help combat youth homelessness in the city

Mayor Luke Bronin announced the news on Friday, saying vouchers are one of the most effective ways of addressing homelessness.

The city applied to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and secured 83 new housing vouchers worth $734,831.

The vouchers are a part of HUD’s Family Unification Program designed to secure housing for families with children who are in foster care and at risk of being separated because of lack of housing. But this new grant award can also be given to young people between 18 and 24, who have aged out of foster care.

“Hartford and Connecticut have built powerful partnerships to help reduce homelessness, but far too many young people in our city wake up every day without stable housing, wondering where they will spend the night,” Bronin said. “This grant is a really important way to combat youth homelessness and help young people find stable housing.”

City officials said Hartford won more vouchers than cities like New York, Seattle and Pittsburgh. The city has joined forces with other social agencies to fight homelessness.

“These new vouchers represent a great opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the country that with the right investment, coordination, and partnerships, long-term solutions to youth homelessness are possible,” said Matt Morgan, executive director of Journey Home, a nonprofit organization that is a part of the Greater Hartford Youth Engagement Team Initiative, which is a program started by a coalition of social service agencies, government agencies and other stakeholder aiming to combat homelessness.

In November 2018, HUD rolled out 3,000 vouchers to combat youth homelessness across the nation.

The other two cities that have received HUD’s housing vouchers are Bristol with 31 and Stamford with 28. The Connecticut Department of Housing received 72.

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Legislative Caucus Urges Residents to Participate in Forum


HARTFORD — The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus is urging Greater Hartford residents to participate in a public forum to address general issues facing thier communities.

The forum will be on Feb. 19 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

People who wish to speak must sign up the day of the forum from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the LOB lobby. Speakers will be allowed three minutes. Written testimony may be submitted in advance to Georgette.Cicero@cga.ct.gov .

“We need direct input from the public, advocates and other lawmakers about their concerns and ideas about issues affecting Black and Latino communities across Connecticut,” said Chair of the Caucus, Rep. Brandon McGee.

Participation is crucial, officials said.

“The caucus plays a very important role in shaping major policy initiatives, and I am looking forward to advocating and leading legislation that in the long run will benefit all people of Connecticut,” said Rep. Geraldo Reyes, (D-Waterbury) caucus vice chair.

More information may be obtained by sending an email toGeorgette.Cicero@cga.ct.gov  or by calling (860) 240-8323.

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Veterans to Host an Evening of Comedy to Benefit Veterans


BRIDGEPORT — Veterans will be helping veterans when three comedians perform on March 8.

Homes for the Brave, Treehouse Comedy Productions, and Funny4Funds will present a lively and memorable night out at the Third Annual “For Veterans By Veterans” Comedy Night, hosted at Vazzano’s Four Seasons at 337 Kenyon St. in Stratford.

The “For Veterans By Veterans” Comedy Night features a buffet dinner, door prizes, 50/50 raffle, and a hilarious lineup of professional comics, all of whom are U.S. Military Veterans.

Jay Are Adams (US Navy, served 2000-2016), Rich Carucci (US Army, served 1983-1986), and Jody Sloane (US Coast Guard, served 1985-1989) are scheduled to perform. Proceeds raised from the event will fund programs and services that assist homeless veterans to get back on their feet, organizers said.

Opening its doors in 2002, Homes for the Brave is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing safe housing, case management, vocational services, and life skills coaching to homeless individuals, primarily veterans.

Money raised from the Comedy Night will benefit HFTB’s offerings. To date, the organization has served over 1,250 individuals.

Tickets are $75 per person and tables of 10 can be purchased for $750. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. for dinner and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. To purchase your tickets or for more information visit www.homesforthebrave.org/comedynight or call (203) 338-0669.

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The Losers in this Competition: Hartford Students


By Julia Rosenblatt and Ajia Loomis

Let us say first that we believe in magnet schools. We believe in neighborhood schools, too. Unfortunately, we believe the state has done everything in it’s power to avoid taking real responsibility for Hartford schools, despite the Sheff v. O’Neill ruling that says they are obligated to combat segregation and provide equal educational opportunity for all students. These failures of the state are playing out right now at a school that predates that ruling by a full decade.

Starting in the fall of 2019, the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts will split into two schools. There will be a full-day school with academics and arts enrichment, and a half-day professional arts training program. Students will have to choose one school or the other. However, for the last six years, Hartford Public School district (HPS) has refused to bus Hartford students to the half-day program. Knowing this, CREC Superintendent Timothy Sullivan still went ahead with his plan, leaving Hartford students with no real access to the professional training program (there are a handful of students that go to Bulkeley in the morning but they have to walk to the half-day program. They are often late and therefore miss important Academy classes).

Why won’t HPS bus their students? Because the school choice system we have says that money follows the student. Schools, and therefore districts, are in constant competition for students dollars. So while HPS is closing schools, supposedly due to low enrollment, they sure aren’t going help CREC get more student dollars.

Although Sullivan says he rushed this decision through in order to give families time to re-enter the lottery, this has actually been the plan since May of 2018. CREC didn’t let the public know until the middle of October. You see, October 1 is the date by which the state calculates how much money each school gets based on their number of students. By waiting until after October 1, Sullivan didn’t risk losing student dollars for the school year.

And for CREC, it all comes down to dollars. For years the non-profit organization has subsidized its 16 schools through their lucrative real estate and construction side jobs. But the state is pushing CREC out of this business, and CREC is passing that pain onto its schools.

At this point, HPS and CREC  are in cahoots in segregating our students, directly in violation of Sheff. Systemically though, this is the planned outcome and effects of a market-based education regime that pits schools against each other.

The city, the state and CREC can, and will point fingers at each other, but the only real victims here are the students.

Julia Rosenblatt and Ajia Loomis are the parents of Hartford school children. This was first published on ctmirror.org.

Photo by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

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