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CAIR: Spike in Hate Crimes

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has reported that there’s a spike in hate crime against Muslims and is calling for stepped up security measures.

The call comes after an envelope containing white powder and hate mail with derogatory comments about Islam were sent to a mosque in Groton.

A 43-year-old man was exposed to the powder after he opened the envelope at the Islamic Center of New London at 16 Fort St, according to police.

The Groton Police Department and the FBI are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

“We are in contact with mosque officials and law enforcement authorities and will continue to monitor the situation,” said CAIR-Connecticut Executive Director Alicia Strong. “We advise all Connecticut mosques and other Islamic institutions to remain alert for any suspicious letters or packages. If you do receive anything suspicious notify authorities immediately and report the incident to CAIR-Connecticut.”

Strong is also urging Islamic institutions to take extra security precautions using its “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety” booklet. The advice in CAIR’s security publication is applicable to religious institutions of all faiths.

The booklet may be viewed here or at:

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights organization recently released an update on anti-Muslim incidents nationwide between April and June of 2018 indicating that anti-Muslim bias incidents and hate crimes are up 83 and 21 percent respectively, as compared to the first quarter of 2018.

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Group Receives Grant for Crash Reduction Efforts

By Kevin James, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — City residents may be noticing neon signs and yellow crosswalks around Hartford.

Thanks to a national grant to support crash reduction efforts in the city. Hartford has one of the highest car, pedestrian and bike crashes in the metro area, according to Transport Hartford.

And crash rates in the capital city are an urgent concern for the Greater Hartford region. That’s why bright, durable signs reminding drivers to yield to pedestrians are now placed at 30 crosswalks throughout Hartford.

The National Safety Council Grant supporting Transport Hartford at the Center for Latino Progress was used to purchase 46 crosswalk signs and repair parts. The crosswalks were then donated to the city. A team from Hartford’s Department of Public Works placed the signs throughout high risk pedestrian crossings in the city on Sept. 14.

The project is a result of the work of Transport Hartford, which during the summer sought community input at neighborhood meetings and local events to identify locations for the signs. At those meetings, organizers shared a map of pedestrian and bicycle crash locations to best focus safety improvement suggestions.  Before the signs were installed, Transport Hartford’s youth interns conducted research at high crash corridors and crosswalk locations in Hartford, observing pedestrian, cyclist and driver behavior. They tracked how many cars passed before pedestrians could cross safely, what level of conflict existed between crossing pedestrians and cars, and how many pedestrians crossed within marked crosswalks.

Now that the signs are placed, the Transport Hartford Road to Zero coalition is gearing up for a busy fall. In addition to the signs, the yearlong grant is funding part time employment for over a dozen young adults across the city, to conduct research, education, and outreach to improve vulnerable user safety. The Road to Zero team based at The Center will develop a presentation about road safety to share at schools, libraries, community organizations, and other neighborhood spaces. Interns working with the Hartford Police Explorers will evaluate the effectiveness of the crosswalk signs with continued the counts and observations, while learning about traffic enforcement.

The Blue Hills Civic Association will lead a service learning internship project, including a public education on road safety in high crash corridors in North Hartford.

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Hartford Council Expected to Confirm Erik Johnson

By Kevin James, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The City Council is expected on Monday to confirm Mayor Luke Bronin’s pick for one of the city’s top economic development job.

Bronin selected Erik Johnson to serve as director of the department of development services. Johnson is expected to start Oct. 2. His annual pay will be $148,000.

“Erik Johnson is a seasoned, highly-regarded economic development professional with extensive experience, and I am excited to bring him on board,” Bronin said.  “Erik has worked in New Haven for almost a decade and in cities around the country for most of his career, as well as in the private sector.  He has helped create the kind of public-private partnerships that are key to Hartford’s continued economic development, and we’re looking forward to working with him to pursue projects across our city.”

Johnson currently serves as the Senior Director of Strategy, Policy, and Innovation at the Housing Authority of the City of New Haven. Between 2010 and 2015, he was Executive Director of New Haven’s Livable City Initiative. He was also head of New Haven’s anti-blight agency. One of Bronin’s campaign promises was to address blight in the city.

“I’ve watched the beginnings of a revitalization take root in Hartford, and I am thrilled to help lead economic and community development in Capital City at an exciting time,” Johnson said.  “I’ve worked to bring residential and commercial development projects to life across the country, and I think Hartford is in a strong position to build on the growth we’ve already seen.”

Johnson will replace Sean Fitzpatrick, who resigned in January after questions about his residency. Department heads must live in Hartford.

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Hartford to Open Reentry Welcome Center

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Beginning on Monday, ex-offenders will have a welcoming center to guide them as they transition back into the community.

“They’ve served their time and it’s time we help them achieve a better future,” said City Councilman James Sanchez.

On Wednesday, city officials and representatives of several community agencies formally unveiled the Re-entry Welcome Center. It is located on the ground floor of city hall off Prospect Street. The center will be opened Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

City officials billed the center as a “one-stop-shop” where those returning from prison can get connected to services and supports as they work to successfully reintegrate into their communities. They will also get complimentary backpacks with toiletries, towels and other basic items after the Department of Corrections drop them off at the center.

The Center will be run by Community Partners in Action with support from other community-based organizations. The center was funded by a $450,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

“This Re-entry Welcome Center is about making our city safer and our community stronger,” said Mayor Luke Bronin. “And it’s about helping those who are serious about making the most of a second chance. Helping returning citizens rebuild their lives in our community doesn’t just help those individuals. -it helps their families, their neighborhoods and our city as a whole.”

In 2016, there were 1,021 people released without a probation officer in the Hartford region, according to state officials.

Beginning on Sept. 17, the welcome center will be staffed with three case workers and a program coordinator to help ex-offenders with resources such as food, shelter, and job training.  Organizers are hoping to direct ex-offenders within 90 days of their release from prison. The center will also serve as a data collection hub and track ex-offenders and their success with the program.

“I’m thrilled that as a city we are opening our doors and working directly with people who deserve a second chance,” said City Council President Glendowlyn Thames. “This has been a priority for Mayor Bronin and many of my council colleagues since we took office.”

Hartford’s Reentry Welcome Center is the first of its kind in the region.

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Reading Program Seeks Volunteers

WEST HARTFORD — Looking to work with children?

Volunteers are needed to read to at risk students in kindergarten through sixth grades in Bloomfield, Hartford, Manchester, New Britain and West Hartford. This is a part of the Children’s Reading Partner’s Elementary Express program that offers enrichment opportunities for local children at a public library in Bloomfield.

To become a reading mentor, volunteers must attend a training session, submit an application and select a 30-minute-per-week time slot to read to a child. Volunteer time slots are available during the school day, after school or in the evening.

Prospective volunteers may attend any of the following training sessions: Thursday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at Congregation Kol Haverim, 1079 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury; Monday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.n. at the Community Services Building, 333 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford; and Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. at the Community Services Building, 33 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford.

To learn more or to sign up for a training session, contact Children’s Reading Partners at or call 860-236-7323.

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Hartford Soccer Team Names First Head Coach

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford’s soccer team has its first head coach: Jimmy Nielsen.

Nielsen was coach of the Oklahoma Energy FC from 2014 to 2017. During his tenure there, the team made the playoffs three out of four seasons. Nielsen was also a finalist for the 2015 United Soccer League Coach of the Year Award.

Neilsen joins the team immediately to prepare for the franchise’s inaugural season next year.

“I am honored and excited to be named the first head coach of Hartford Athletic,” Nielsen said. “We are here to win titles and make our community proud. Our promise to our fans is to leave everything out there on the field, every match. We have a lot to do to prepare for 2019, and I cannot wait to lead our Club onto the field for our first match.”

Prior to his coaching career, Nielsen competed for 19 years as a professional player in Denmark, England, and with the Major League Soccer franchise Sporting Kansas City. At Kansas City, Nielsen was captain, a two-time MLS All-Star, Goalkeeper of the Year  in 2012 and winner of the U.S. Open Cup  and the MLS Cup.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jimmy to Hartford Athletic,” said Bruce Mandell, Chairman & CEO of Hartford Athletic. “Jimmy’s passion, vision, and leadership make him the perfect fit for our Club. We look forward to building a championship tradition with Jimmy at the helm.”

Nielsen will be introduced to the fans at an upcoming event in Hartford.

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Hartford Parents to Discuss Agreement with BOE

HARTFORD — Connecticut Parent Union on Friday will be hosting a discussion on an agreement between the Hartford Board of Education and school resource officers about the collection and reporting of data on school based arrests.

Hartford City Councilwoman Rjo Winch will be sharing information to “help keep Hartford and all children safe and justly educated” in the 2018-2019 school year, organizers said.

The event will be on Aug. 31 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hispanic Health Council Auditorium, 175 Main St. in Hartford.

Other topics to be discussed include the importance of documenting unsafe and unjust incidents of bullying in your child’s school and creative ways to build a strong sustainable parent, guardian and community networks to protect children.

Attendees will also meet the parents, plaintiffs and attorneys in the Robinson v. Wentzell case that is fighting to ensure no child in Hartford is denied entrance into a Hartford magnet school.

For more information, contact Gwen Samuel at or call 203-443-3203.

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CRT to Host the Big Potato, Meals on Wheels

HARTFORD — The Community Renewal Team on Wednesday will be hosting the Big Idaho Potato as a means to attract Greater Hartford residents to services and programs available in the area.

The Big Idaho Potato is 28 feet long, 12 feet wide and weighs in at about 12,000 pounds. The public is invited to come see the world’s largest potato and at the same time support Meals on Wheels.

The massive tuber, hauled by tractor trailer, will be in the parking lot across the street from Community Renewal Team’s main office at 555 Windsor St. in Hartford. The event will be on Aug. 22 from noon to 4 p.m.

“There’s no better way to show people the importance of Meals on Wheels than with a gigantic potato being carried by an 18-foot wheeler,” said CRT’s Director of Nutrition Gariann Chiarella.

During the day, visitors can get a up close with the giant potato and enjoy food from local food trucks, including Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, Criollisimo Restaurant and the Rolling Dish.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn about CRT’s various programs and services for the community, including Early Care and education, Youth Build Meals on Wheels and more.

The Big Idaho Potato is being carried from coast to coast by the Idaho Potato Commission. The special appearance is to support CRT’s Meals on Wheels program.

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CT Tax Free Week to Begin Aug. 19

HARTFORD — The state’s annual sales tax free week is slated for Aug. 19 through Aug. 25, a time when residents can save on back to school shopping.

Sales Tax Free Week allows retail purchases of most clothing and footwear items priced under $100 exempt from tax.

Connecticut shoppers are expected to save big.

“Sales Tax Free Week has become an anticipated tradition in Connecticut, offering savings on a variety of clothing and footwear purchases at a time of year when families do their back-to-school shopping,” said Connecticut Department of Revenue Services (DRS) Commissioner Scott Jackson. “Sales Tax Free Week is a great platform to promote Connecticut’s retail sector, and an opportunity for shoppers to take advantage of savings and incentives.”

Connecticut retailers traditionally offer additional clothing and footwear discounts during sales tax free week. Tax is calculated on the final sales price of an item, after all reductions and coupons are applied. Items that cost $100 or more are subject to sales and use tax for the entire price of that item.

For more information, visit the DRS home page at (look for CT Sales Tax Free Week button).

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CRT to Offer Free Summer Meals for Kids

HARTFORD — The Community Renewal Team will once again offer free breakfast and lunch to children in Hartford and Middlesex counties.

This important program provides this free service to students during the critical summer months when school is not in session.

“When school is out for the summer, children really need access to healthy, tasty breakfasts and lunches to supplement their daily nutritional needs,” said Gariann Chiarella, Director of Nutrition for CRT. “We are proud to once again be a part of this vital program that helps to prevent childhood hunger here in Central Connecticut. CRT has been a part of this annual program for over the past 20 years.”

More than 1,300 breakfasts per day will be served, and more than 1,900 lunches per day will be served.

CRT’s Summer Food Service Program will be offered in the following cities and towns: East Hartford, Enfield, Farmington, Glastonbury, Hartford, Middletown, Portland, and Windsor Locks.

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