Archive | April, 2019

Agency to Host Session on Business Access to Capital


HARTFORD — This summer, small business owners will have access to training that will help them grow.

Thanks to a partnership with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the Boston-based organization, Inner City Capital Connections.

ICCC will host an information session on Wednesday, April 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Trinity College. The goal of the event is to inform and encourage business owners in Hartford to take advantage of the free program.

The ICCC will bring its 40-hour executive leadership program to Hartford for the first time this summer.

The program aims to help position small and medium sized businesses in economically distressed areas for long-term growth through capacity-building education, one on one coaching and access to capital.

The program will kick off with an all-day training seminar on May 29, followed by a series of online webinars where participants learn strategy, entrepreneurial finance, marketing, and capital options.

The program also offers one-on-one coaching with local and virtual mentors ranging from small business bankers to top consulting firms. The program culminates with a national conference in Boston this November where participants will connect with different capital providers.

Organizers said the program was designed for urban entrepreneurs. Businesses must have been in operation for at least two years to participate.

For those interested in attending the information session, register here.

Those who want to apply should apply here.

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TSA Agents Say They’re Not Discriminating Against Black Women, But Their Body Scanners Might Be


The full-body scanners at airports across the country frequently give false alarms for Afros, braids, twists and other hairstyles popular among black women.

By Brenda Medina and Thomas Frank, ProPublica

Dorian Wanzer travels frequently for work. And almost every time she steps out of an airport body scanner, security screeners pull her aside and run their fingers through her hair. It’s called a hair pat-down.

“It happens with my natural Afro, when I have braids or two-strand twists. Regardless,” said Wanzer, who lives in Washington, D.C. “At this point in my life I have come to expect it, but that doesn’t make it any less invasive and frustrating.”

Wanzer, who had her hair patted down by Transportation Security Administration officers two weeks ago while she flew home from Raleigh, North Carolina, said she feels singled out when she is asked to step aside.

“When you find yourself in that kind of situation, it makes you wonder,” Wanzer said. “Is this for security, or am I being profiled for my race?”

Black women have been raising alarms for years about being forced to undergo intrusive, degrading searches of their hair at airport security checkpoints. After a complaint five years ago, the TSA pledged to improve oversight and training for its workers on hair pat-downs.

But it turns out there’s an issue beyond the screeners: the machines themselves.

The futuristic full-body scanners that have become standard at airports across the United States are prone to false alarms for hairstyles popular among women of color.

In a request to vendors last summer, the TSA asked for ideas “to improve screening of headwear and hair in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.” That law bars federally funded agencies and programs from discriminating — even unintentionally — on the basis of race, color or national origin.

Two officers interviewed by ProPublica said the machines’ alarms are frequently triggered by certain hairstyles.

“With black females, the scanner alarms more because they have thicker hair; many times they have braids or dreadlocks,” said a TSA officer who works at an airport in Texas and asked not to be named. “Maybe, down the line, they will be redesigning the technology, so it can tell apart what’s a real threat and what is not. But, for now, we officers have to do what the machine can’t.”

A government report in 2014 found that the machines also “had a higher false alarm rate when passengers wore turbans and wigs.”

Asked about the false alarms, the TSA said in a statement to ProPublica that the agency “is reviewing additional options for the screening of hair.” (Read the agency’s full statement.)

A senior TSA official said in an interview that hair pat-downs are not discriminatory and are done when a body scanner indicates that a passenger has an object in his or her hair. “I get a hair pat-down every time I travel. I’m a white woman,” said the official, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that she not be named.

“Procedures require that if there is an alarm on the technology, the pat-down [must] be conducted,” the official said. She added that the agency has found no evidence of discrimination in hair pat-downs or any pattern that pointed to a particular airport.

The TSA advises passengers to remove all items from their hair before going through airport security and warns on its website that “wearing a hairpiece, extensions or a wig as well as a ponytail, a hair bun or braids” may trigger an alarm.

The TSA would not say if it had ever found a weapon in a passenger’s hair. Its website says: “You’d be surprised what can be hidden in hair. The most notable things we’re looking for in hair are explosives and improvised explosives device components.”

The false alarms affect more than the passengers whose hair is searched. The government report from 2014 noted that patting down passengers slows security lines and may increase costs by requiring extra screeners.

Full-body scanners — millimeter wave machines — have become standard at airports over the past decade. The TSA accelerated their installation after failed “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a flight on Christmas Day 2009 from Amsterdam to Detroit with plastic explosives inside his pants.

The scanners are made by L3 Technologies. A governmentreport said they cost about $150,000 each, and that the TSA spent more than $100 million deploying the machines. An L3 spokesperson declined to comment on the machines, and pointed us to the company’s website.

Unlike metal detectors, the scanners can detect nonmetallic items. But they can’t tell what objects are — or, apparently, if it’s just thick hair. That requires humans.

Last month, ProPublica asked people to share their experience with hair searches at airports. We received 720 responses. More than 90% were from women. Of the respondents overall, 313 identified as white only, 311 as black only and 96 as other ethnicities such as Latino, Asian American, Middle Eastern, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or mixed.

Most black women and other women of color we heard from described the hair pat-downs as intrusive and disrespectful. They said they felt singled out during the process.

Wanzer, who lives in Washington, D.C. (André Chung, special to ProPublica)

“I get TSA workers have a job to do, which is to keep us safe,” said Wanzer, the Washington, D.C., resident who frequently has her hair searched. “But there needs to be a level of sensitivity about how different people perceive these kinds of searches.”

Black women have long been discriminated against for wearing their hair as it grows naturally or for sporting hairstyles mostly associated with black culture, like braids, two-strand twists, cornrows and locks. Natural black hair has been deemed unhygienic, unprofessional and radical, and it has beenpoliced for centuries.

Most white women we heard from said they didn’t mind the searches or considered them a minor annoyance.

Toni Moss, who is white, said she travels by plane about four times a month. Moss said she is occasionally flagged for a hair search. The searches happen only when she keeps her short, voluminous hair in its naturally curly state. When Moss straightens her hair before traveling, she doesn’t get a hair pat-down, she said.

“It isn’t really something that I mind. I just find it funny when it happens but, then, it doesn’t happen every time I travel,” said Moss, whose hair was searched most recently in January while going through security at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas.

“The last time it happened I was joking with TSA [officers],” Moss said. “I told them, ‘Sorry you didn’t find a pork chop in my head.’ And they laughed.”

The agency has said that even if the machines don’t sound an alarm, agents can still choose to do hair pat-downs if “an individual’s hair looks like it could contain a prohibited item or is styled in a way an officer cannot visually clear it.”

That discretion enables profiling, said Abre’ Conner, a lawyer with the ACLU of Northern California, which filed thecomplaint against the TSA in April 2014. “When that discretion comes into play, unless there is explicit- and implicit-bias training, that can play out in a way that harms people of color, black people,” Conner said.

When Jazzmen Knoderer traveled by plane for the second time in her life, in 2012, TSA officers at Dayton International Airport in Ohio asked her to step aside for a full-body pat-down. It happened again the next time she took an airplane and went through security, at an airport on the Hawaiian island of Maui in 2013. And again, for her fourth plane trip in 2014, at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The first time Knoderer’s hair was searched, it was short and styled in two-strand twists. The second time, she had an Afro. The third time, her Afro was no more than 3 inches long, she said.

Knoderer said she didn’t go through a body scanner or metal detector before she was searched.

“It doesn’t feel random when it happens three times in a row. It doesn’t feel random when you see that all the people around you, who don’t look like you, aren’t asked to step aside,” Knoderer said. “I don’t want to change the way my hair grows out of my head.”

The number of complaints filed with the TSA by passengers alleging racial discrimination in hair pat-downs rose from 73 in 2017 to 105 in 2018.

It’s not clear what has caused that increase. One reason may be growing scrutiny of the issue, in particular a powerful story in Cosmopolitan last year in which the writer recounted her own experiences and those of others. Most people we heard from said they had not known they could file a complaint.

The TSA is one of the most diverse agencies in the federal government. One-quarter of the nation’s 46,000 airport screeners are black and 23% are Hispanic, according to Office of Personnel Management data.

Conner, the ACLU lawyer, said black airport screeners seem just as likely to conduct hair pat-downs as white screeners. The only difference is that a black screener “doesn’t necessarily leave my hair as messed up,” she said.

Thomas Frank is a journalist in Washington, D.C., and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2012.

Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

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Choral Group Offers Opportunities for High School Singers


HARTFORD — The New England-based choral group Voce will conduct a day-long program of intensive workshops, coaching and performance opportunities for high school singers prior to its final concert of the season.

The final concert will be on May 11, 7:30 p.m. at St. Patrick – St. Anthony Church, 285 Church St. in Hartford.

About 150 students are expected to participate in the program, which is sponsored by the Nicholas B. Mason Charitable Trust.

Organizers said this program will help students understand what it’s like to sing as a professional.

 “The program is designed to give students the opportunity to work directly with Voce Artistic Director Mark Singleton and Voce’s professional singers,” said Andrew Brochu, a choral teacher at Avon High School who sings with Voce as a tenor and serves as its Education Coordinator.

“Participating students, their choral teachers and Voce members will have a chance to hear and perform together. It is essentially a day of learning through collaboration. We hope that this festival shows students that they, their teachers and professional singers are all life-long learners.” 

The initiative, called the Voce Music Educators Festival, takes advantage of Voce’s large roster of music teachers who worked together to design the workshop. 

Voce’s concert on May 11, entitled “With OneVoice,” will close with individual performances by the student choirs and a finale featuring all of the students singing with Voce. 

Voce will perform works by Eric Whitacre, Ola Gjeilo, Paul Mealor and Ēriks Ešenvalds.  The concert will also premiere a setting of “Loch Lomond” commissioned by Voce from composer Michael Merrill. 

  Tickets can be purchased on-line at www.voceinc.org.

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Hartford Public Library Offers Security Officer Training Program


HARTFORD — Do you want another way to make money?

If so, the Hartford Public Library will be offering training for those who want to make money as a security guard.

The library will offer its popular eight-hour security officer training program on a monthly basis. The next training is on April 17 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 500 Main Street.

This is a required training to become a Certified Security Officer. The successful completion of this program will qualify candidates to apply for a Security Officer Identification Card.

The average pay for a Security Officer is $36,174 per year.

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Hartford Woman Facing Deportation Continues Fight to Stay in U.S., Court Grants Reprieve


Updated Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 6:35 p.m.

By Christian Spencer, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Facing deportation, Wayzaro Walton is on a quest to stay with her family in Hartford.

Walton on Monday received a reprieve. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered a stay of deportation for her while the federal Board of Immigration Appeals considers her case. However, federal officials said Walton will remain in a detention facility in Massachusetts.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Walton, 34, is a convicted felon. So on a routine visit to check in with a private agency that works with ICE, officials arrested her on March 26 and transported her to detention.

According to ICE, the British-born immigrant was convicted of third-degree larceny and had several misdemeanor charges for shoplifting. After a judge in 2012 deemed Walton deportable, ICE moved in.

Advocates for Walton said ICE officials made the wrong move. That’s because Walton was pardoned for her past crimes on January 15. And according to a pardon waiver clause, an immigration statue, if she had a full pardon, her past conviction should no longer be used against her as they were used in her 2012 immigration case.

And there are other factors at play, said Erin O’Neil Baker, Walton’s attorney.

“We’ve been trying to reopen that case about her deportation, arguing that her crimes are not deportable crimes,” Baker said.

Walton’s is one of hundreds of individuals in Connecticut who have been detained by ICE officials. Since 2017, 436 people in Connecticut have been detained, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nationally, the fiscal year of 2018 was considered a successful year that aligned with President Donald Trump’s agenda for stricter border control and deportation of undocumented or unlawful immigrants, according to  ICE and Enforcement and Removal Operations. There were 158,581 arrests in 2018, the greatest number of arrests over the last two fiscal years, according to an ERO report.

Since January 2017 when Trump issued his executive order to “enhance public safety,” detention facility bookings nationwide have increased more than 22 percent.

In 2017, there were 4,019 immigration cases pending in Hartford, according to the U.S. Department of Justice report.

Wayzaro Walton’s wife, Tamika Ferguson, wipes away tears after a press conference on Tuesday with Attorney General William Tong in Hartford. Photo: Ann-Marie Adams

Walton Detained

Walton is a legal resident, who is married to an American citizen, Tamika Ferguson. They both have a 15-year-old daughter.  Nevertheless, ICE arrested Walton the night before her state pardon for felony larceny and other misdemeanors became effective.

Since Walton’s arrest, her wife has been talking to her by phone every day.

“She’s just ready to come home. She misses her daughter,” Ferguson said after wiping away tears in the aftermath of a press conference on Tuesday. “She’s just ready to be home.”

Last month, supporters rallied before the federal building in Hartford to help reunite Walton with her family. Consequently, they started a MoveOn.org petition to help keep Walton in Hartford with her family.

Hartford Deportation Defense’s community organizer Constanza Segovia said Walton’s pardon should have prevented her from being detained.

“ICE refuses to accept [Walton’s pardon]. And it’s not recognizing the power of pardon in Connecticut because of the process,” Segovia said.

Legal Question

At issue is a legal question that involves the state’s sovereignty. That’s why Attorney General William Tong has intervened. He recently filed an amicus brief with the Second Circuit Court arguing that the parole board should be viewed as a part of the state’s executive branch. And ICE should have recognized the pardon.

“We needed to step in to make clear that when we pardon someone, they are cleared. It should be recognized. ” Tong said. “The federal government needs to respect the sovereignty of Connecticut.”

The pardon process in Connecticut is different than other states in which a governor grants pardon. In Connecticut, a Parole Board approves pardons. Last month, Gov. Ned Lamont wrote to the Department of Homeland Security asking for Walton’s pardon to be recognized.

“I’m grateful to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for recognizing the gravity of Wayzaro’s case and granting her a temporary stay of deportation. But this fight is far from over. We need to fight for permanent relief for Wayzaro,” Tong said. “This is another example of how the Trump Administration has separated children from their parents, and it doesn’t just happen at the border.”

Tong said he visited the border. And the country needs to have an honest discussion about immigration.

“The separation of children from their parents is not just happening at the border,” Tong said. “It’s happening here in Connecticut.”

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Eddie Perez Announces Bid for Mayor, Asks for A Second Chance


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD –– Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez is asking for a second chance to lead the city.

Flanked by an energetic group of supporters at Arch Street Tavern on Thursday, Perez, 61, made his official announcement to run for mayor.

“It’s time for a change in city hall,” said Perez, a Democrat. “We need leadership that cares about the struggles in our neighborhoods. We need leadership to act and improve the lives of all our residents.”

Perez is hoping to follow Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who was convicted on corruption charges, served time, ran for office and won. Ganim was in prison for seven years for extorting city contractors. In 2015, he was reelected mayor.

Like Ganim, Perez was charged with corruption. The state tried Perez on five felonies for taking about $40,000 in kitchen and bathroom improvements from a Hartford developer, Carlos Costa. Costa was a city contractor on a Park Street development project.

But unlike Ganim, Perez did not serve prison time. His conviction was overturned by the Appellate Court in 2013 and upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2016. Perez pleaded guilty to taking a bribe and attempted first degree larceny by extortion in 2017 after the state moved to retry him. Since then, the state has revoked his pension.

Eddie Perez talks to reporters after he announced his bid for mayor of Hartford
Photo: Ann-Marie Adams

Perez will join a crowded field of candidates vying for the city’s top job. State Rep. Brandon McGee, Hartford Board of Education Chairman Craig Stallings, businessmen Stan McCauley and Aaron Lewis have all registered to run for mayor. And the incumbent mayor, Luke Bronin, launched his re-election campaign in January. All are Democrats.

In a 30-minute speech, Perez took his audience on a journey back to 1969 when he first arrived in North Hartford from Puerto Rico. He began as a Vista volunteer and founded ONE CHANE in North Hartford. He continued to work as a community organizer in the south end of Hartford before he became president of Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance.

He ran for mayor in 2001 and was elected the first Hispanic mayor in New England.

In 2010, he resigned when he was charged with corruption.

“I let many people down and for that I’m sorry,” Perez said. “The people of Hartford have every right to hold me accountable. I ask for your forgiveness. I ask the city to give me a second chance.”

Perez’s now works as a transportation coordinator for Capitol Region Education Council.

Former City Council member Cynthia Jennings was among the cheering crowd supporting Perez’s bid for a second chance. The crowd that packed the downtown tavern was ecstatic, shouting: “Yes, we can,” and “Si se puede.”

Jennings said she was there to support Perez because “Eddie works on the assumption that we’re all one family and that’s how the city is going to come together.”

Perez said money will be a factor. He already knows he will face Bronin, who is “probably getting money from outside the city.”

The primary election is Sept. 10 and the general election is Nov. 5.

There are 69,531 total registered voters in Hartford.

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Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez to Announce Decison on Mayoral Bid


HARTFORD — Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez is expected to announce his bid for mayor on Thursday.

Perez, 61, was mayor from 2001 through 2010.

However, 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 in 2017 after the state moved to retry him.

Perez was the first Hispanic to become mayor.

He was also the first strong mayor after the city’s charter moved from having a town manager and a weak mayor form of government.

The announcement will be at Arch Street Tavern at 5 p.m.

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Education Committee Approves Lamont’s Watered-down Regionalization Bill


By Kathleen Megan, CTMirror

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont’s two key education bills — including one intended to push school districts toward regionalization — were approved by a legislative committee Friday, but with a few notable changes.

Members of the Education Committee eliminated the governor’s proposal to have municipalities chip in on teacher pensions and scrapped a plan to require homeschoolers to register in their school districts.

The votes, which went largely along party lines, were on House Bill 7150 — an act implementing the governor’s budget — and Senate Bill 874, the controversial bill that includes what some view as punitive steps to push school districts toward regionalization. The latter bill also would have established a commission charged with creating a plan for redistricting.

Last week, the Lamont administration changed language in Bill No. 874 making it more palatable to many by removing every reference to “redistricting” and “consolidation” and by empowering the commission to make only recommendations.

Senate Bill 874 was one of three bills that prompted hundreds of opponents to turn out for a hearing last month out of fear their school district would be forced to merge with others and that local control would be lost.

Earlier this month, two of the bills died, and last week Lamont recast his proposal to emphasize that his effort to get school districts to share services and save resources would be voluntary.

The original bill called for the establishment of a Commission on Shared School Services, charged with developing “a plan for redistricting or consolidation of school services and school districts.”

The revised bill not only eliminates the words “redistricting,” and “consolidation,” but also replaces “plan” with “recommendations” as a way to emphasize the advisory nature of the commission’s report. It says that the commission “shall develop recommendations for the sharing of school services and additional collaborations within and among school districts.”

“He [the governor] heard the people loud and clear and he heard committee members loud and clear,” said Rep. Bobby Sanchez, D-New Britain, and co-chairman of the education committee.

The bill approved by the committee maintains the governor’s language, but also eliminates a provision that was considered punitive by many. That controversial section of Lamont’s bill required small districts– defined as districts with fewer than 10,000 residents, fewer than 2,000 students, or with fewer than three schools — to share a superintendent with another district or name a chief executive officer to oversee the schools.

Education Committee Ranking Member Kathleen McCarty voiced concerns about the governor's education bills and voted against them. Ranking Member Sen. Eric Berthel is to her right.

KATHLEEN MEGAN :: CT MIRROR

Education Committee Ranking Member Kathleen McCarty voiced concerns about the governor’s education bills and voted against them. Ranking Member Sen. Eric Berthel is to her right.

The bill said that if such a district chose instead to maintain its own superintendent without sharing, the commissioner of education could withhold funding in an amount equal to the superintendent’s salary.

However, Republicans said the steps taken by the administration to water down the bill did not alleviate their concerns.

Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, said that despite the language changes, “which do show there was listening and acknowledgement,” she is concerned about the “original discourse and the original intent” of the bill with its references to re-districting and regionalization.

“Most disturbing,” Lavielle said, was that the original language was “all based on the premise that effective local school districts must be prodded somehow to act in their own best interests. So many school districts in Connecticut are effective and efficient already and I don’t believe the state has any business to spend time and energy interfering with them.”

In addition, Lavielle said there is nearly $1 million in the governor’s budget to create and run the commission.

“I don’t see a reason to spend that money, especially in our severe budget straits, because I don’t see a reason for the bill,” she said.

Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, a ranking member on the committee, said she opposed the bill because it leaves the structure for a commission to move forward.

“At some point this could turn to more forced regionalization,” she said.

She said the possibility of “forced regionalization” resulted in a “a lot of angst in the school communities through-out the state.”

Sanchez noted that the bill also is stripped of the provision that would require home-schoolers to register with their district.

“So you don’t have to send me thousands and thousands of emails,” Sanchez said to the knowing chuckles of a dozen or so home-school advocates in the attendance.

Twenty two Democrats voted in favor of Senate Bill 874, while 13 Republicans voted against it. Two legislators were absent.

After it was approved, about a dozen opponents, who were at the meeting were disappointed.

Wilton resident Jennie Wong said, “We made our voices clear. The intent is still there to regionalize. I just think they should have heard us.”

Republicans and Democrats alike spoke in favor of the committee’s decision to eliminate Lamont’s plan to have municipalities pay for 25 percent of teacher pension costs, and a greater share if teachers were paid above the statewide median.

Betsy Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST), sent out an email after the vote saying, “This proposal would have overwhelmed property taxpayers in small towns and cities throughout Connecticut.”

She said the plan would have shifted $73 million “onto the backs of already burdened property taxpayers…COST is very pleased that lawmakers recognized that shifting a greater property tax burden on homeowners and businesses is bad public policy. This is a big win for municipalities and property taxpayers,” Gara added.

However, those voting against the bill said they were concerned about a provision that accelerated a plan to reduce education cost sharing funds to wealthier districts.

Under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, an agreement had been reached to phase in a shift in education funding over a 10-year period from wealthier districts to struggling, poorer districts. Lamont’s proposal would phase out the funds to wealthier districts over a shorter period of time.

“I am against this proposal,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, shortly before a vote was taken. “This really represents the undoing of a bipartisan budget that worked hard to re-establish a true [Education Cost Sharing] formula that took the appropriate educational needs into consideration as part of that formula.”

McCarty said the measure would “impact adversely over 74 towns, so for that reason I will be voting ‘no’ on the bill.”

Twenty Democrats voted in favor of House Bill 7150, while 15 Republicans and two House Democrats — Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire,  and Jill Barry, D-Glastonbury — voted against it. Two legislators were absent.

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