Archive | June, 2019

Council Candidate Forum Addresses Concerns


By Kindred Gaynor, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — About 65 Hartford residents on Wednesday had their say at a forum with candidates who are vying for a seat on the city council in the November election.

The two dominant issues discussed at the round-robin style forum for Democratic candidates were lack of employment opportunities for Hartford residents and bulky waste policies. The Democrats are the only ones holding a primary this year on Sept. 10.

At least five incumbent Democrats are seeking re-election.

“Now is the time to fight for a brighter future. I have made hiring local residents as one of my top priorities,” said rJo Winch who is seeking a fourth term on the council. “We are a city with a population of 90 percent minorities. Our government and local businesses should reflect that.”

Winch also believes that residents shouldn’t have to pay to pick up bulky waste.

“The bulk trash ordinance didn’t succeed because there wasn’t an opportunity for a pilot program,” she said.

The forum was held at the downtown branch of the Hartford Public Library and each candidate was given one-minute for opening remarks. Instead of a having a traditional forum where the audience asked questions and the councilmen answered, the audience took part in a unique group style discussion.

Hartford Councilwoman rJo Winch and Council Candidate Ramon Espinoza meet with residents, Photo Courtesy of Facebook

There were 12 Democratic candidates in attendance. The Republicans do not have a forum scheduled for this year but they have one individual running for office, Theodore Cannon. Former Republican City Councilman Corey Brinson is also running on the Second Chance Party. Brinson, who served in 2011 after his aunt Veronica Airey-Wilson vacated the seat, was on the council until January 2012.

Dave McDonald is a former board of education member, who served one term on the city council. He is hoping to get another chance to sit on the council. His reason for running, he said, is the acute poverty in the city.

“Unless we address the issue of poverty in the city, we’re not going to see any other problems get resolved or addressed,” McDonald said.

John Gale is a lifelong Hartford resident. Gale currently serving his first four-year term as a councilman and has been practicing law for 42 years in Downtown Hartford.

Nick Lebron is a founding member of Active City, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that Hartford’s young people have access to organized and affordable youth athletic programs.

Eli Mercado is a district sales manager for Frito-Lay North America, Inc. Mercado was raised in the city’s south end to Puerto Rican parents and embodies the traditional first-generation American story.

Maly Rosado was appointed to the City Council in July 2018 to fill the seat vacated by Julio Concepcion. Maly said she plans to focus on women’s issues, criminal justice reform and public safety matters.

Marilyn E. Rossetti has council experience having served on the City Council 20 years ago. Her top three priorities are (but not limited to) employment, housing, and quality of life issues.

James Sanchez is currently on the majority leader on the City Council and works as a technician in the Metropolitan District Commission’s Utilities System Monitoring and Surveillance Department.

Ronald A. Simpson is the Regional manager of the state of Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities in the Capitol Region office. Simpson is an ordained Itinerant Elder minister in Hartford where he lives with his wife and three children.

Ronnie E. Walker is a retired Correctional Officer, who devoted 25 years to the state of Connecticut, Department of Corrections. Walker has served as a member of the Democratic Town Committee for the past 6 years.

Ramon Espinoza is a Hartford resident who is committed to the community in many ways. He is a new candidate and is determined to do what’s best for the city of Hartford.

Councilman TJ Clark was elected Court of Common Council in 2015. He chaired the city council until he was replaced in 2018.

Connecticut Working Families’ candidate Mary L. Sanders is seeking to join the council this year. Current Councilmember Wildaliz Bermudez is also a Working Families candidate, who is running for re-election. The CWF is an independent political that “stands up for hard working families across Connecticut.”

Hartford resident Sean Holloway said he hopes the candidates recognize the purpose of serving in government.

“I want the councilmen to understand their full responsibility,” Holloway said. “They are the policy arm of the government. They are present to approve policies, they shouldn’t just rubber stamp.”

The election is Nov. 5, and the new council is expected to assume office on Jan. 1. 2020.

Posted in HartfordComments (4)

Give Cities Better Tools to Address Blight


By Luke Bronin and Neil O’Leary

In every Connecticut city and many Connecticut towns, you can find neighborhoods weighed down by blight – collapsed roofs, boarded windows, graffiti, overgrown vegetation.  Sometimes it’s just a single blighted property, standing out among well-cared-for homes and businesses.  Sometimes it’s property after property, whole blocks that have fallen victim to the contagion of unaddressed blight. Wherever it exists, blight is a major quality of life issue in Connecticut communities.

In Hartford and in Waterbury, we’ve made concerted efforts to combat blight, and we’re making progress.  But with additional legal tools, we could do much more.  In the next few days, the General Assembly has a chance to pass two bills that would make a big difference, without costing the state any money:  SB1070, An Act Concerning Abandoned and Blighted Property Stewardship, and HB7277, An Act Concerning the Creation of Land Bank Authorities.  We urge the General Assembly to pass both bills.

The Blighted Property Stewardship bill, also known as “receivership,” introduces an important new tool to Connecticut.  Receivership allows stakeholders to petition the court directly to address blight in the community. Under the bill that’s already passed the Senate, the owner of the blighted property will always have the opportunity to address the blight first.  But if the owner fails to act – which is all too common, especially with out-of-town landlords – the court can appoint a local non-profit or community entity to step in and stabilize the property.

Without receivership, communities often have to wait for lengthy and unnecessary foreclosure process and a change in ownership before the work of rehabilitating a severely blighted vacant property can even begin. Receivership enables residents, community-based non-profits, and local governments to get access to a vacant, blighted property faster, and get to work stabilizing and rehabilitating the property – while resolving ownership issues later.

The Land Bank bill, House Bill 7277, goes hand in hand with the stewardship bill.  Land banks have been used effectively in many cities around the country to help communities take control of vacant, deteriorated, and foreclosed properties that are truly abandoned.  A land bank with adequate funding, flexible and nimble acquisition and disposition powers, and a strong tie with the community can be an effective and efficient tool to acquire the property, eliminate the blight, and put the property back into productive use consistent with community goals and priorities.

It’s important to note that the Land Bank bill does not include any municipal mandates, and does not expand eminent domain authority in any way.  Rather, it would allow municipalities to create an entity dedicated to holding and financing the improvement of blighted property, often hand in hand with residents or other private parties willing to make investments in the community.  While a pilot program has already been authorized for the City of Hartford, there is no general enabling legislation allowing Connecticut municipalities or groups of municipalities to establish land banks.  This bill would change that.

Hartford has made real progress in the fight against blight over the last three years, with hundreds fewer vacant, abandoned, blighted properties.  The city passed an Anti-Blight & Property-Maintenance Ordinance, and created a Blight Remediation Team to focus exclusively on combating blight. The model is simple: Fix It Up, Pay It Up, or Give It Up.  Under that model, the team works with responsible, good-faith owners to help repair their properties.  But with bad-faith owners who have no interest or stake in the community, we use our enforcement tools aggressively – imposing fines and liens. This summer, Hartford’s non-profit land bank, established as a pilot program, will get to work.  The city is already preparing to transfer dozens of vacant, blighted properties to the Land Bank in the coming months.

The City of Waterbury has also been aggressive in tackling blight, and created a Blight Task Force in 2012 to coordinate property remediation and redevelopment efforts among various city agencies.  Stiffer penalties including automatic court appearances for blight code violators are in place, absentee landlords are required to register the properties they own and provide viable contact information, foreclosing entities are required to have a local property management company maintain any properties in foreclosure, and an aggressive tax auction process is paying dividends.

But even with all these proactive processes in place, the problems surrounding property abandonment persist.  Fighting blight is about improving quality of life, protecting homeowners and other property-owners who invest in and care for their properties, maintaining and growing the tax base, and beautifying our neighborhoods.  When we talk with our residents, blight is a common concern, and that’s why we’ve prioritized this work – both in our cities, and in our conversations with legislators.

We urge the General Assembly to support HB7277 and SB1070, so that our cities and communities across Connecticut can do more to fight blight and keep neighorhoods strong.

Luke Bronin is the Mayor of Hartford and Neil O’Leary is the Mayor of Waterbury.

Posted in Featured, HartfordComments (0)

Hartford Holds Public Hearing on Neighborhod Assistance Act


By Kindred Gaynor, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Katie Glass, the executive director of the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center, wants to create a safe environment for artists in an old building that was donated. So she plans to fix it up.

That’s why she applied for $143, 002 from the Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act. The organization hopes to do roofing and lighting updates.

“It is a 40-year-old building that requires renovations,” Glass said. “Our roof being fixed is critical because it means that people can keep coming to a safe environment.”

The organization, which enriches lives through hand weaving, is also asking for a new HVAC system because the one that is in place now is original to the building.

Glass was one of the 67 agencies that apply for the program. Only five of them showed up to the public hearing Monday night at city hall.

The NAA Tax Credit Program is designed to provide funding for municipal and tax exempt organizations by providing a corporation business tax credit for businesses that make cash contributions to these entities.

The Hartford City Council must take action on 67 eligible 2019 Neighborhood Assistance Act proposals no later then June 10.

The organizations will benefit from the Neighborhood Assistance Act because unlike loans, grants don’t have to be repaid. These grants are designed to help these organizations grow. The types of community programs that qualify for the NAA tax credit program include energy conservation, employment and training, child care services, neighborhood assistance, substance abuse, open space acquisition, crime prevention programs, and affordable housing development.

This year the caps on individuals are the same. There is a $150,000 cap for non-profit organizations for the amount that they can raise from donors that is covered by tax credit. There is also an $150,000 cap for each dollar on the amount they can donate in any one tax year.

 In previous years, the total amount of credits that were permitted state wide was $10 million dollars. Two years ago they cut that maximum in half to $5 million dollars state wide.

Joan Gurksi, director of grants, explained the process of the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. “What the Connecticut DRS does after they receive all of the applications is they not only determine whether or not they agree with the programs but they also assign a limit of the amount that can be raised with tax credit.

There is a formula that is applied in order for DRS to generate the amount that each organization/agency is supposed to receive. There is some discretion during this process.”

Connecticut DRS lets the public know how much tax credit is allotted to each donor from each non-profit. The lists that Central Grants gets from Connecticut DRS will be posted on the Central Grant web page.

Adria Giordano, director of development for Chrysalis Center, explained why her company is requesting a $150,000 grant from the state. “We provide homes for homeless individuals, people who are on the brink of homelessness and those who suffer from mental health issues,” said Giordano.

The Chrysalis Center has a total of five sites in the state of Connecticut, one of those sites being for veterans. The organization recently received a grant to purchase the home for 21 homeless veterans. Giorando said, “The home that was purchased is a turn of a century building that would benefit immensely from renovations. It needs a lot of work to be energy efficient.” The organization wants to get the renovations done as soon as possible to improve the overall safety of the building.

Jennifer DeJong represented the Village for Families and Children. The organization is requesting a $150,000 grant for numerous upgrades to their facility. It has been brought to their attention that they are experiencing high levels of carbon monoxide.

They have been advised to replace the boilers that they currently have with high energy efficient stainless steel boilers. This organization works in collaboration with the Department of Children and Families and needs to refurbish their facility without any further delay.

Council President, Glendowlyn Thames, concluded the public hearing by telling each of the representatives that she doesn’t see any issues with their grant requests and they should expect to know if their grants were approved by Labor Day.

Posted in Business, Hartford, Neighborhood, PoliticsComments (0)

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