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State Rep. Brandon McGee Launches Campaign for Mayor


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford State Rep. Brandon McGee on Monday announced his candidacy for mayor.

The Hartford native kicked off his campaign on Barbour Street, calling for a united city of different enclaves pitted against each other.

McGee, 34, was recently elected to serve a fourth term as a two-town representative in the General Assembly. His district includes parts of Windsor and Hartford. He said his run as mayor is a natural progression from his current position as a legislator because he has fought for education equity, fair housing and blight remediation.

He said he wants to tackle inequalities and spur economic development in neighborhoods, not just downtown Hartford.

“I want to create a city that embraces each and every resident and creates the conditions for them to succeed,” McGee said.

McGee currently serves as the chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. A Democrat, his bid for City Hall comes one week after Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin announced his reelection campaign.

Both McGee and Bronin will face other challengers in the Sept. 10 primary. So far, Hartford Board of Education Chairman Craig Stallings,  local television businessman J. Stan McCauley and an educator Aaron Lewis have filed papers to run for mayor. The general election is Nov. 5.

McGee currently chairs the housing committee and the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

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State Rep Brandon McGee Faces Challenger


HARTFORD — The 5th Assembly District State Rep. Brandon McGee will face off his challenger Lawrence Jaggon at a forum on Tuesday at Hartford Public Library.

The event will begin at 5:30 p.m.

The fifth district includes parts of Hartford and Windsor.

McGee, 34, was first elected in 2012. He is a marketing and communications coordinator at Capitol Region Education Council.  McGee failed to get an endorsement of the 5th Assembly District Convention in May.

Jaggon, 55,  is a registered nurse at Community Health Services, and he is the endorsed Democratic candidate. Jaggon is an alternate on the Windsor Planning and Zoning Commission since 2013.

The democratic primary is set for Aug. 14.

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Hartford Boasts Unprecedented Number of Black Candidates for Mayor


By Kindred Gaynor, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — There is an unprecedented number of black candidates running for mayor of Hartford. Of the six candidates, five of them are men and one is a woman.

The men include State Rep. Brandon McGee, TV entrepreneur J. Stan McCauley, former board of education chairman Craig Stallings, former security guard Andre Thomas, and writer Aaron Lewis. The only female is Giselle Jacobs, a local business woman. All are Democrats.

They are running to replace the current incumbent mayor, Luke Bronin. Bronin current serves as the 67th mayor of a city WalletHub recently called one of the worst-rub cities in America.

The Hartford mayoral candidates have been making their pitches as to why they are the best fit for mayor to fix the unique challenges that beset the capital city.

The forum title was the State of Black Hartford Mayoral Forum and Conversation and went for three hours. The first segment consisted of the audience listening to the candidates, who were interested in getting the audience’s vote of approval to become the next mayor of Hartford. The second and third hours of the forum were designated for question and answers.

Four of the six black candidates for mayor are in the picture. The other two were absent from this forum in the west end of Hartford.

Bronin, 37, previously served as general counsel for the Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy before he was elected in 2015. Before that, he served in two senior posts at the United States Department of the Treasury during President Barack Obama’s first term. He also served as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and then as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.

 “The next mayor needs to govern the whole city — not just certain neighborhoods. The state has made significant investments in downtown,” Bronin said. “But we need to make sure we’re improving the quality of life in every neighborhood because when neighborhoods thrive, the entire city will thrive.”

Bronin also has a plan to improve employment opportunities for Hartford residents.

“As mayor, I will be out there every day talking, working with businesses big and small — to keep and attract jobs. I’ve also called for the creation of a Youth Service Corps.  This partnership between City Hall and the private sector would put hundreds of young people to work in Hartford and provide a real pipeline to employment in the city.”

The first black mayor of Hartford was Thirman Milner, who served two terms from 1981 to 1987. Carrie Saxon Perry was the second black person to serve as mayor from 1987 and 1993. Both served as a largely ceremonial mayor, paid a stipend of $17,500.

Eddie Perez, the first Hispanic mayor from 2001 to 2010, served as the 65th mayor of Hartford. Perez was the first mayor to be the CEO of the city, a strong form of mayor. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to receiving bribes and criminal attempt to commit larceny in the first degree by extortion; both are felonies.

Rep. Brandon L. McGee Jr., a self-described community activist and architect of social solutions for the people of Connecticut, is serving his fourth term representing areas of Windsor and Hartford.

Craig Stallings is a board member and the former chair of the Board of Education. Stallings has been a PTO president at two Hartford schools and was coordinator of the original governance council at Thirman Milner School.

J. Stan McCauley is a television entrepreneur. McCauley ran for Mayor in 2007.

During the forum McCauley said, “Hartford is one of 150 economically distressed cities in the United States. In an E-commerce society the playing field has been leveled for start-up companies, small businesses and entrepreneurs. What we don’t have is intentional focus to help those individuals succeed. I believe that we need to give the same type of incentives to entrepeneurs as we give to multi-million dollar national corporations to move into the city.”

Giselle Jacobs is also an entrepreneur who owns a cleaning company. She ran for mayor in 2015.

Andre Thomas is a relatively new candidate and this forum was his first.

Michael Downes, who is white, is a union organizer with the American Teachers Union.

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

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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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Blue Earth Compost to Unveil CT’s First Food Scrap Truck


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Elected officials will help unveil Connecticut’s first food scrap dump truck on Wednesday in Hartford.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Rep. Matthew Ritter, Rep. Brandon McGee and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin will join the owner of Blue Earth Compost to highlight the company’s first commercial food scrap collection truck.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin 1:00 p.m. at the State Capitol.

The truck is the first of its kind in the state, according to representatives from Blue Earth Compost. The purchase of the truck was made possible with a loan from the Department of Economic and Community Development and matching donations received through crowd sourcing.

Blue Earth Compost, which picks up compostable materials from homes, businesses, and events, and delivers compost in return, is now positioned to be the largest diverter of food scraps in Connecticut, representatives said.

“This truck is the result of a supportive community that cares about our planet and values the principles of environmental justice,” said Alexander Williams, owner of Blue Earth Compost. “At Blue Earth, we are working to change the present waste hauling paradigm, towards one that values the health and safety of our Earth and all communities in our state.”

Of the state’s 2.5 million tons of trash produced each year, about 500,000 tons is food scraps. This represents the single largest component of solid waste sent to incinerators and landfills.

Hartford is host to the Mid Connecticut trash plant, which burns more than 40 percent of the state’s waste. The environment gets polluted from the burning and affects low-income, minority communities, producing one of the highest rates of asthma in the nation.

Blue Earth is offering an environment friendly way of scrapping trash as well as meeting the state’s ambitious recycling goal of diverting 60 percent of municipal solid waste through reductions, reuse, recycling and composting by 2024.

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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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A Push to End Housing Discrimination Against Ex-Offenders


By Mark Pazniokas, ctmirror.org

HARTFORD — As Connecticut’s prison population shows signs of stabilizing after years of shrinking, the General Assembly and administration of Gov. Ned Lamont are tackling new ways of lowering recidivism, including a push outlined Wednesday to discourage housing authorities and other landlords from barring ex-offenders as tenants.

A working group of the legislature’s Commission on Equity and
Opportunity released a 30-page report  that identifies restrictive
housing policies and a lack of re-entry support as obstacles to
Connecticut continuing to lower recidivism and shrink its prison
population.

“Up to 95 percent of people who have been incarcerated in Connecticut will return to our communities one day,”  the report says. “Having a safe and stable place to live is essential for their successful reintegration. Research shows that if a person has stable housing, they are less likely to commit a new crime and end up back behind bars.”

Rep. Brandon McGee Jr., D-Hartford, the co-chair of the legislature’s Housing Committee, said legislation is being drafted based on the working group’s recommendations, as well as proposed directives for the state Department of Housing.

“Today starts the real work,” McGee said.

The report was released at a two-hour workshop at the State Capitol, where the participants include two new players in the state’s criminal justice reform movement: Correction Commissioner-designate Rollin Cook and Marc Pelka, the criminal-justice policy adviser to Gov. Ned Lamont.

Lamont, who was downstate, canceled a planned appearance at the
workshop, but his chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz, told the group Lamont was intent on continuing and building on the criminal justice reforms of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a leader in the national bipartisan movement to reassess sentencing policies that have given the U.S. the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

His hiring of Cook and Pelka, who both have reputations as reformers, is seen as evidence of Lamont’s commitment, but McGee warned that the administration ultimately will be judged on what it delivers in resources and policies.

“We’re all in on this,” said Cook, whose references include Scott
Semple, the man he is succeeding as commissioner.

The workshop was Cook’s first opportunity to meet with a broad audience of community-service providers and policy makers. Cook, who comes from Utah, said he was attracted to the Connecticut job by what he sees as a commitment to progress.

He also noted that the profession as a whole was changing rapidly

“The thing that I’ve seen in corrections over the years is we’ve
changed.  Many people comment on my size,” said Cook, who has the frame of an offensive lineman. “The reality was when I was hired as a correction officer, I was hired for size and athletic ability. They didn’t ask if I could think. They didn’t ask if I could communicate. They didn’t ask if I could problem-solve. They didn’t ask if I was empathetic or anything like that. The world is changing in corrections.”

Connecticut is generally credited with making great strides in making prisons more therapeutic than punitive under Malloy and Semple, who recently retired as the correction commissioner. But community-service providers complain the state still could do much better in preparing inmates for release.

Nearly 11,000 men and women were released from prison from August 2017 through July 2018, with more than 6,000 leaving though parole or some other discretionary release. They typically had some continuing help in finding housing and employment. But 4,677 served their full sentences and left prison without supervision — and in many cases, without support.

Stable housing is crucial to finding and keeping a job, and steady work is one of the best ways to keep ex-offenders from returning to crime, researchers say.

“We don’t want anyone released into homelessness,” said Sarah Diamond, a researcher. “That shouldn’t happen.”

The report concluded that Connecticut has no unified system for tracking the housing status of everyone newly released from jail or prison, particularly those individuals who are released at the end of their sentence.

The working group recommends that the state Department of Housing revise policies that discourage or even bar families getting rental or other housing assistance from welcoming home a relative after a prison term. Parole officers should no longer reject public housing or Section 8 addresses as part of a release plan.

It also recommends legislation banning property owners from looking at criminal records beyond seven years and another bill that would automatically seal all or most convictions after seven years of a person’s release from prison.

The group urges that the sex offender registry be refined to focus on those judged as a danger by a formal risk-assessment system.

“In Connecticut, our sex offender registry is not an indication of risk
or danger to the community, and does not take risk assessment into
account at all,” the report said.

A state recidivism study in 2017 found that within five years of leaving prison, only 4.1 percent were arrested for a new sexual offense.

Featured Photo: Facebook

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Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin Launches Reelection Bid, Cites Progress


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin wants a second term in office.

On Tuesday, he and his supporters stood on the steps of Hartford City Hall and launched a reelection campaign, touting accomplishments since 2016.

Since Bronin entered office, he has tackled the city’s budget, moving the city from the brink of bankruptcy to what he calls stability. He negotiated with the state and received a $550 million bailout and a five-year financial plan, which averted bankruptcy. In return, Hartford officials ceded some power to run the city.

He has also followed up on his promise to address blight. So far, he hired a full-time blight director who runs a blight remediation team that has revitalized 137 buildings.

And he is not done yet.

“We’ve got lots of work left to do. But we’ve got momentum and can’t afford to slow down now,” Bronin said.

Bronin, 39, will face Stan McCauley who launched his bid in November 2018, and Aaron Lewis who launched in December. 2018. Also rumored to run are State Rep. Brandon McGee and State Sen. Doug McCrory.

Bronin is vulnerable in his run for mayor, though. That’s because two years after he entered office, he launched a bid for governor. He was widely criticized by his opponents and encouraged by his supporters.

He also wrestled with the unions over concessions, leaving some dissatisfied. And some residents have complained about garbage and rodent problems that consume the city.

The challenges remain and Bronin said he has his performance in the last three years to build on.

“With crisis behind us, we’re going to focus relentlessly on those basic quality of life issues that matter in every neighborhood,” Bronin said. “But we have a path, and we have a plan. And I’m asking for your help to keep Hartford moving.

Bronin, who served as the legal counsel to former Governor Dannel P. Malloy, raised almost $1 million during his first bid for public office. He defeated the incumbent Mayor Pedro Segarra.

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Hartford Democratic Incumbents Win Races


HARTFORD — Democratic incumbents easily trounced challengers in thier quest to return to the General Assembly.

Incumbent Sen. John Fonfara, a Democrat who represents Senate District 1, easily won his seat over Republican Challenger Barbara Rhue and Green Party Challenger Barbara Barry. Fonfara garnered 10,860 votes over Rhue’s 1,945 and Barry’s 259.

Incumbent Sen. Doug McCory ran unopposed.

Democratic Reps. Matt Ritter and Minnie Gonzalez, both of whom ran unopposed, will return to the General Assembly to represent District 1 and District 3 respectively.

Rep. Julio Concepcion in District 4 beat his challengers Republican Bryan Nelson, and Working Families candidate Kennard Ray. Concepcion garnered 2,659 votes over Nelson’s 330 and Ray’s 309. Mary Sanders of the Green Party garnered 57 votes.

District 5 Rep. Brandon McGee beat Republican candidate Charles Jackson. McGee captured 6,474 votes over Jackson’s 1,144.

Democratic State Rep. Edwin Vargas beat Republican challenger Michael Barlowski. Vargas of District 6 had 3,368 votes over Barlowski’s 485.

District 7 State Rep. Joshua Hall beat Giselle Jacobs, who was a petitioning candidate. Hall captured 3,742 votes over Jacobs’ 92.

Check back for updates.

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Hartford State Senator and State Rep Candidates to Meet


HARTFORD — Candidates for State Senator and State Representative in Hartford will meet at an interactive forum on Oct. 18 at the Hartford Public Library.

They will meet and talk with Hartford residents in small groups about how they will represent the people of Hartford in the State Legislature and what issues are most
important to them, the neighborhood, and the Hartford community.

All candidates who will be on the Nov. 6 ballot have been invited. The interactive forum will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Incumbent Senator John Fonfara, a Democrat who represents Senate District 1, faces Republican Challenger Barbara Rhue and Green Party Challenger Barbara Barry.

Incumbent Senator Doug McCrory is unopposed.

Incumbent State Representatives and their challengers are also invited. They include Matt Ritter, Minnie Gonzalez, Julio Concepcion, Bryan Nelson, Kennard Rey, Mary Sanders, Brandon McGee, Charles Jackson, Edwin Vargas, Michael Barlowski, Joshua Hall and Giselle Jacobs.

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