Archive | Hartford

Hartford Residents Get Relocation Assistance


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

Hundreds of Hartford residents will be able to move from poor housing conditions in the North End of the city. Thanks to a grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

The foundation awarded a $220,000 grant to the Christian Activities Council, which is starting a new project that will help residents get safe and decent housing leaving Barbour Gardens and Infill, two subsidized apartments in the North End of the city. The two complexes were closed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Council’s program, billed “Empowering Choice” will provide technical, bilingual, legal and relocation information and assistance to residents.

“We are grateful for this support from the Hartford Foundation at a critical time in our No More Slumlords campaign,” said Christian Activities Council Executive Director Cori Mackey. “Helping residents organize for decent, safe, and sanitary living conditions was the first goal. When we realized the owners were unwilling to make needed investments, relocation become the only option.”

She continued: “Many residents want to stay in Hartford, in the neighborhoods they love, and others want to move to other neighborhoods outside of Hartford or outside of Connecticut. Unfortunately, the relocation process is ripe with discriminatory practices and residents face one obstacle after another as a result of the very intentional barriers put before them by a legacy of housing discrimination and systemic racism.”

The affected families were given access to relocation assistance and housing vouchers, which can be used anywhere in Connecticut. Families in disadvantaged areas have faced significant barriers to mobility that confront them when they try to move out of subsidized housing in high-poverty, resource-poor areas of racially and economically segregated metropolitan regions. The Council will provide leadership training and ongoing support and outreach to affected residents. The Open Communities Alliance, a nonprofit civil rights organization that addresses racial segregation through housing policy, will collaborate with the Council. The OCA will provide legal expertise, consultation with residents, and national civil rights experience.

OCA Executive Director Erin Boggs thanks the Foundation for recognizing the extent of the structural barriers faced by residents in Hartford’s North End.

“This generous support enables us, in collaboration with our highly skilled and courageous partners at the Council, to provide vital guidance and advocacy services for residents on a continuous basis and in real-time as they contend with the many challenges of relocating under tight time constraints in a voucher program and rental market that for many are unfamiliar.”

Other organizations that will lend support are The Yale Law School Housing Clinic, the Greater Hartford Legal Aid and the Connecticut Fair Housing Center.

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Hartford’s Exorbitant Commercial Property Tax Curbs Economic Growth


By Greg Bordonaro and Matt Pilon

When D&D Market closed its Franklin Avenue storefront in Sept. 2016, Hartford lost more than a landmark small business.

The third-generation family grocer, caterer and purveyor of fresh foods traces its Capital City roots back to 1932, when present-day owner Daniel D’Aprile’s grandfather opened a bustling market that became a mainstay on one of Hartford’s most vibrant small-business corridors.

However, things changed dramatically over the decades. Shifting demographics, a shrinking customer base and higher rents all made doing business in Hartford more difficult, Daniel D’Aprile said in a recent interview.

But the biggest pain point was property taxes. Though D’Aprile didn’t own D&D’s old Hartford quarters at 276 Franklin Ave. — his father actually does — he was still responsible for paying real estate and personal property taxes. At its peak, he owed $54,000 a year to the city — a sum that became too much to bear and led him to buy a smaller property less than four miles away in Wethersfield, where he’d eventually relocate his entire business and 38 employees.

Since opening the Wethersfield location on Wolcott Hill Road in 2014, sales are up 35 percent, D’Aprile said. Just as important, he’s paying less than a quarter of the property taxes — $12,000 annually — than he did in Hartford.

“I never wanted to move my business out of Hartford, but the rent was skyrocketing, the property taxes were skyrocketing, and sales weren’t going up,” D’Aprile said. “We were working very hard for nothing. There was no money left over after paying property taxes.”

“If we stayed in Hartford we would have been out of business,” he added.

D&D Market’s story isn’t wholly unique. For years, Hartford’s small and large businesses have complained they’re paying an exorbitant and disproportionate share of property taxes, hurting their ability to prosper.

At 74.29 mills, Hartford’s property-tax rate is by far the state’s highest and among the nation’s highest. In fact, the effective property-tax rate for a commercial landlord in Hartford (over 5 percent) is higher than what New York City, Boston and Chicago landlords face.

That’s stifled economic growth in the city — Hartford’s $4 billion grand list is valued 30 percent below what it was near the turn of the 21st century, and 38 percent below its 1990 peak of $6.5 billion.

By comparison, neighboring West Hartford — one of the region’s wealthier communities with half the population of Hartford — has a 41 mill rate and $6.3 billion grand list.

New Haven, a city with a comparable population to Hartford but lower mill rate (42.98 mills) has a $6.6 billion grand list.

HBJ: John Gale, Hartford City Council

“[Hartford’s mill rate] has brought development to an absolute screeching halt,” said Hartford City Councilor and lawyer John Gale. “It’s a huge drag. This has been the biggest single financial issue the city has faced in the last 15 years.”

With limited exceptions, private development has eschewed Hartford over the last decade or longer, unless it’s been supported by state government subsidies or city tax breaks.

The city’s small businesses in particular have felt enormous pressure from the high property-tax rate, part of the reason key commercial avenues — Franklin, Maple, Main, Albany, etc.  — in various neighborhoods have lost their luster.

And for anyone who thinks commercial taxpayers will soon get relief after the state last year helped the city avert bankruptcy by agreeing to pay off Hartford’s $550 million in general obligation debt over the coming decades, think again.

Despite its bailout, Hartford’s finances remain in a precarious position, and commercial taxpayers aren’t likely to see a tax-rate reduction anytime soon, according to Mayor Luke Bronin.

Kyle Constable: CT Mirror.org file photo:
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin

“For a small business or any property owner paying the full freight 74 mills, it’s an unsustainable and unfair burden,” Bronin said. “I think it’s a huge issue and one that our state has to confront if we want to be competitive.”

For Hartford’s mill rate to be competitive over the long run, Bronin said it needs to be cut in half. That, however, would likely require major reforms at the state level, or a miraculous surge in new commercial development.

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) said he agrees Hartford still has a long road to recovery, but he also thinks the bailout he helped broker provided the city with much-needed financial stability. He said it could take 10 to 15 years to put any sizable dent in the mill rate, and that’s only if Hartford is able to grow its grand list and secure additional state funding, among other efforts.

He also said the bailout deal was the best the city could have hoped for, given the political environment.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas: CTMirror.org

Rep. Matt Ritter, the new House majority leader, addresses the chamber.

“For anyone who thinks the deal could have been better, they are sorely mistaken,” Ritter said. “There was not an appetite to reduce the mill rate.”

The Hartford Business Journal has spent months interviewing property-tax experts, commercial property owners, landlord-developers, policymakers, homeowners, city officials and others about the effects of Hartford’s property-tax system, which is complicated and broken in myriad ways.

Occupying just 18 square miles, Hartford is a tiny city that also houses many tax-exempt properties, significantly limiting the city’s ability to grow its grand list.

In fact, 59 percent of the assessed real estate in the city is exempt from taxation because it’s owned by governments, nonprofits, churches or other tax-exempt organizations, an HBJ analysis of city property records shows. Meantime, Hartford is also home to one of the poorest populations in the country, increasing the need for social, health care and other services.

Adding insult to injury, Hartford has the state’s only bifurcated property-tax system, in which commercial property owners pay a higher tax rate than residential homeowners.

Hartford’s challenges are a statewide concern because the city’s fortunes are directly tied to the state’s, especially as more employers and skilled workers want to be in or near vibrant cities.

Despite its challenges, some business leaders are still bullish about Hartford’s future, especially given downtown’s new vibrancy in recent years, helped by the additions of Dunkin’ Donuts Park, UConn’s West Hartford campus, a fledgling tech scene and about 1,500 new apartment units.

HBJ: Jon Putnam, Executive Director, Cushman & Wakefield

“I’m more optimistic about Hartford’s increasing attractiveness as a location for companies due to the urbanization trend,” said Jon Putnam, executive director of commercial realty broker Cushman & Wakefield.

How did we get here?

Hartford didn’t land in its current financial and property-tax predicament overnight. Numerous factors over many decades stacked up to create an unstable and untenable situation with no clear or easy solutions.

The start of the decline of Hartford’s property-tax base and system can be traced to the mid-20th century when the city — like many others in Connecticut and across the U.S. — was going through major economic and demographic shifts as more people moved to the suburbs. That squeezed out a large portion of Hartford’s middle class, and the affluence that went along with it. The city’s manufacturing and industrial base also began to shrink, while its impoverished populace grew, leading to higher city-government costs.

As taxes rose to compensate, more properties also shifted to nonprofit ownership. That came on top of the enormous share of city property already owned by tax-exempt institutions like colleges, hospitals, sewage plants and even the state itself.

Over the past half-century, the portion of Hartford’s tax-exempt grand list has more than doubled.


State government reimburses the city for some of its tax-exempt property, but it doesn’t come close to filling the gap.

City government, too, has exacerbated the problem over the decades by overborrowing, making pension promises whose costs have outpaced grand-list growth, and then kicking the can down the road either through short-term and costly debt restructurings or by raising taxes.

However, Bronin, who is running for reelection this year, said much larger structural issues have been the leading cause of Hartford’s fiscal stress.

“At the root of the problem is the fundamental flaw of having an 18-square mile city with an enormous concentration of non-taxable property and intense concentration of poverty and asking that city to run itself on only one local source of revenue,” he said, referring to the fact that municipalities in Connecticut are only allowed to raise revenue through the property tax (in addition to permit and other fees). “The biggest problem is that you have a city built on the tax base of a suburb. That, from the start, is a structural flaw that has all kinds of consequences.”

“The biggest problem is that you have a city built on the tax base of a suburb. That, from the start, is a structural flaw that has all kinds of consequences.”

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin

Bronin said his administration is running a “very lean government” and has made deep cuts over the last few years. The city council just passed the mayor’s $573.2 million budget for fiscal 2020, which does raise spending by $3.2 million, but doesn’t rely on borrowing and keeps the city’s workforce — excluding public-safety personnel — 11 percent below 2015 levels. Notably, since taking office in 2016, Bronin has also managed to not increase the city’s sky-high mill rate.

Even still, Hartford is unable to lower its property-tax rate. That shows excess borrowing isn’t the root cause of Hartford’s problems, Bronin said, since the state essentially eliminated most of the city’s long-term debt.

“If the city had never borrowed a single dollar, you would still have a mill rate of 74.29 to make the city function,” he said, noting that city finances are now reviewed by a state oversight panel.

Without the state bailout or bankruptcy, Hartford would have had to quickly raise its mill rate an additional 10 to 15 mills, Bronin said, which wouldn’t have been sustainable.

He argues much more drastic reforms are still needed at the state level, including giving the city additional ways to raise revenue. The bailout has provided enough relief to prevent a financial Armageddon, but the city still has limited financial flexibility, Bronin said. At the end of the day, he said there is a cost to delivering basic core services in Hartford and the value of taxable property does not come anywhere near funding that.

Claude Albert: Ctmirror.org
State Rep. Jason Rojas, D-Hartford

State Rep. Jason Rojas, a Democrat from East Hartford who co-chairs the powerful Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, said the city will likely continue to lean on the state.

“Absent pretty significant economic growth in the grand list, which I think is difficult to do, … I think there’s still a lot more work to do for the long-term future of the city,” Rojas said.

Marc Fitch, an investigative reporter for the Yankee Institute, a free-market think tank, said there’s plenty of blame to spread for Hartford’s fiscal situation.  

On the one hand, the city awarded “really generous” labor contracts in the past, so Fitch views the bailout, at least partially, as rewarding fiscal mismanagement. On the other hand, the state has not fully reimbursed Hartford for its tax-exempt property, shortchanging it of vital operating funds.

Hartford has avoided bankruptcy for now, but Fitch, who credits Bronin for his budgeting discipline, said the city appears stuck in limbo for the foreseeable future.

“Even with the bailout and everything, their finances are razor thin and they’re relying on potential grand list growth to hopefully fill those gaps in the next few years, and that is a gamble,” Fitch said.

Out-of-whack property taxes

Hartford’s financial and economic instability over the years have birthed arguably the most dysfunctional commercial property-tax structure this state has seen in the last half-century.

Besides the exorbitant mill rate, Hartford is the only Connecticut municipality allowed to assess commercial property at a higher tax rate.

To calculate any property-tax bill in Connecticut, owners must multiply their property’s assessed value by a city’s or town’s mill rate and then divide by 1,000.

In the 1970s, Connecticut passed a law requiring municipalities to adopt a 70-percent assessment ratio. That means to determine the assessed value of a property — whether it’s a single-family home, commercial property or apartment — assessors multiply its market value by 70 percent.

By the late 1970s Hartford faced a crisis. The city was in the middle of its first revaluation in 17 years and many residential properties experienced a significant spike in value. If all properties were assessed at the same level, some homeowners faced average tax increases of well over 80 percent, which was deemed practically and politically untenable.

So, city officials hatched an agreement with state policymakers that, among other things, allowed Hartford to lower its residential assessment ratio to 45.8 percent. That shielded homeowners from a major tax hike, while leaving commercial property owners with a higher tax rate.

That initial bifurcated tax structure was actually phased out by 1986, but adopted again in 2006 and remains in place today. Commercial and apartment properties are assessed at 70 percent of value, while single-family homes are assessed at 35 percent.

There is a formula in place that gradually raises the residential assessment ratio to 70 percent, but it will take decades before that happens, said City Assessor John S. Philip.

HBJ Bruce Becker, Developer,
Becker & Becker

Hartford and New Haven developer Bruce Becker says the uneven property-tax setup matched with the high mill rate dissuades commercial investment and fosters an environment in which the city must cut tax deals to spur development, especially for larger, costly projects.

He knows that firsthand. He redeveloped the 777 Main St., 26-story office tower into 285 apartments in 2015, an $85-million project that relied heavily on public financing and tax credits.

He also got a tax break from the city. Without that support, he said the project wouldn’t have happened.

“Relying on the property tax exclusively to fund municipalities,’’ is inefficient, Becker said.

Delayed revals

One source of Hartford’s problems over the years is that it often waited long periods between revaluations. When that coincided with wild swings in the real estate market it led to dramatic changes in assessed property values.

For example, Hartford waited 10 years before conducting its 1998-1999 reval, which shrank the city’s grand list 38 percent, to $3.6 billion, while the mill rate jumped from 29.50 to 47.

The grand list nosedived because assessed property values hadn’t fully taken into account the effects of the late 1980s and early 1990s savings-and-loan crisis, which put Connecticut and the nation into recession.

Over a 40-year period starting in 1962, Hartford only conducted three revals. Today, state law requires municipalities to do revaluations at least every five years.

“Waiting 10 years to do a revaluation is not a great idea,” Philip said.

Some have pitched the idea of conducting revaluations more frequently to better capture real estate value changes in a more timely manner, but it’s seen by many as too costly.

Hartford has also experimented with a commercial property-tax surcharge that reached as high as 15 percent and stayed at that level for nine years, starting in 1997. The surcharge drew the ire of the business community, led by the MetroHartford Alliance, which eventually lobbied to phase out the additional tax in 2010.

Hartford’s mill rate has stabilized since 2011. There have been no tax increases under the Bronin administration, but the mill rate went on a consistent and steady climb at the turn of the 21st century going from 29.50 in 1998 to its current 74.29 mills today.

Bottom-line impact

The effect of Hartford’s bifurcated tax system is that commercial landlords and their tenants are shouldering a much higher tax burden than homeowners.

In fact, city homeowners have an effective tax rate of about 2.2 percent, on par with the statewide average, while commercial properties have an effective tax rate of more than 5 percent.

That means for every $1,000 of assessed value, a Hartford commercial taxpayer pays more than $50 in taxes vs. $22 for residential. By comparison, the effective property-tax rates on commercial properties in Boston and New York City are 1.8 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively, according to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. (Businesses in those cities, however, face other unique costs. Property values are also much higher in those cities.)

Hartford’s high tax rate has a negative effect on commercial property values, said John McDermott, a former Hartford city assessor during the 1970s, who is now a consultant to Connecticut businesses.

Commercial properties are valued based on how much net operating income they generate from rents. Property taxes are typically the second-highest expense behind a mortgage. When taxes rise, they eat into a building’s profitability, thus eroding their market value.

That, in turn, negatively impacts the city’s grand list. In 1996, when Hartford’s effective commercial mill rate was 33.4, the grand list totaled $5.8 billion. Today, Hartford’s grand list sits at only $4 billion.

Making things more challenging for commercial landlords, particularly those who own downtown’s Class A office towers, is that rents have been stagnant for nearly three decades, settling in at about $22 to $26 per square foot, while property taxes and operating expenses increased, squeezing their bottom lines.

Combined, operating expenses and taxes cost downtown landlords around $10 to $11 per square foot in the late 1980s, but reached as high as $15 to $17 in the early 2000s. Those costs have retreated a bit more recently as landlords found ways to reduce operating expenses and the city kept a lid on real estate tax increases, said Putnam, the Cushman & Wakefield commercial realty broker.

And it’s not just landlords stuck paying higher property taxes. Many commercial tenants have a “triple net lease,” meaning they must pay a share of a building’s property taxes.

Businesses must also pay taxes on personal property like machinery and equipment and motor vehicles. That’s how tax bills begin to add up for small and midsize merchants — like D’Aprile’s D&D Market — that rent space in the city.

McDermott said Hartford’s mill rate is a major impediment to renaissance efforts taking place downtown.

“It’s a competitive environment,” he said. “In today’s world, clearly entrepreneurs have an opportunity to go anywhere they want to go. There are clearly advantages to being in the city, but also from an economic perspective, the suburbs have a tax impact that is dramatically less. You can very easily go to Glastonbury or Rocky Hill where the tax burden is half or two-thirds of the city’s.”

HBJ FILE PHOTO

Andy Bessette, Travelers Cos.’ executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said he is bullish on Hartford, despite the city’s challenges.

Urban draw

Despite Hartford’s tax burden, the city, particularly downtown, has seen noticeable development and investment in recent years. Most of it, however, has been subsidized by the state, or is the beneficiary of city tax breaks.

Still, many employers find it necessary to have a Hartford presence, especially as Millennials and others desire urban settings where they can live, work and play. In fact, Hartford has seen some employers move from the suburbs to downtown in recent years to be closer to a wider talent pool and the various amenities the city offers.

The vacancy rate for Class A office space downtown is currently 17.7 percent, down from 25.5 percent in the first quarter of 2011, according to commercial realty firm CBRE. The city’s overall office vacancy rate fell from 26.1 percent to 16.5 percent over that same time period.

The state’s purchase of two major office towers and the conversion of vacant office buildings into apartments have helped lower the vacancy rate.

Meantime, the grand list, despite being well below historical highs, is up 23 percent since 2006.

The city lately has also attracted out-of-state realty investment, including from New York landlord Shelbourne Global Solutions LLC. Shelbourne has invested more than $200 million since 2014 buying up some of downtown Hartford’s most prized office towers, cementing it as one of the center-city’s most prominent landlords.

Most recently, it teamed up with Hartford parking giant Laz Parking to buy the city’s iconic “Gold Building” skyscraper for $70.5 million.

Shelbourne managing member Ben Schlossberg said his group finds the city attractive because it’s walkable, uniquely located between New York and Boston, and has a strong corporate and higher-education presence.

However, he is also cognizant of Hartford’s high tax rate. Shelbourne sued the city a few years ago after its appeal for lower property taxes on several of its recently revalued buildings was denied. It eventually brokered a tax-break deal with the city to resolve the issue. Without that helping hand, some of Shelbourne’s properties would have gone into foreclosure, Schlossberg said, an issue familiar to downtown, especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

“We are very excited about what is going on in Hartford,” Schlossberg said. However, he added “the state needs to find a way to lower the mill rate, which is oppressive.”

Travelers Cos. is one employer that has made significant investment in Hartford. In recent years the property-and-casualty insurer spent about $55 million giving its famous Travelers Tower office high-rise and campus a facelift. It’s currently spending millions more to spruce up its interior offices.

The company was also one of three insurers — in addition to The Hartford and Aetna — to promise a combined $50 million donation to the city over five years to help Hartford deal with its budget crisis.

Travelers, which is the second-highest taxpayer in the city with $143.2 million in assessed real estate and property, is aware of the high property-tax rate but is also bullish about Hartford’s future, said Andy Bessette, the company’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer.

He said companies look at more than just taxes when deciding where to locate and he’s attracted to Hartford because of the insurance talent here and the quality of life and amenities the region offers.

Bessette also sits on the board of the Capital Region Development Authority, which has helped finance development of 1,500 apartment units downtown in recent years. That, along with a growing innovation ecosystem, has added to the center-city’s vibrancy.

“Do we care about property taxes? Absolutely,” Bessette said, adding he recognizes that the high tax rate might impact small and midsize companies more than a large corporation. “Would you like to have them lower? Absolutely. But you know what, we believe in the city and want to be sure it’s successful.”

“You need a thriving urban environment,” he said.

The Cities Project, a collaboration between CT MirrorConnecticut Public RadioHearst Connecticut MediaHartford CourantRepublican-American of Waterbury, Hartford Business Journal, and Purple States, will publish periodic articles exploring challenges and solutions related to revitalizing Connecticut’s cities. Send comments or suggestions to ehamilton@ctmirror.org.

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Hartford Mayor Confirms ICE Officials not in City


Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin wants residents to know that the city was not used as a checkpoint for an Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation.

Hartford Police “have confirmed that this was not an ICE checkpoint,” Bronin tweeted Monday night.

Folks, please share this too: @HartfordPolice have confirmed that this was *not* an ICE checkpoint. DHS and the CT State Police were conducting a routine explosives check at the train station, as they often do at major public transit locations. https://t.co/2qLi3xUP8O— Luke Bronin (@MayorBronin) July 9, 2019

The Hartford Police tweet Bronin commented on was deleted. The Department of Homeland Security and the Connecticut State Police “were conducting a routine explosives check,” the mayor said.

And the Hartford Police confirmed that it was NOT ICE, and “was in fact a routine state and federal explosive check.”

On Monday afternoon, city residents had fears that ICE officials were conducting a checkpoint at Union Station. The rumor spread on social media, especially Facebook, saying “There is an ICE Checkpoint at the Hartford CT Train Station.”

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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.

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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)

Hartford Approves 2020 Budget with Slight Increase


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford residents will see a slight increase of city spending after the City Council on Tuesday approved Mayor Luke Bronin’s proposed $573.2 million budget for 2020.

City spending will increase by $3.2 million, or less than one percent over the current year. The budget is effective July 1.

Under the new budget, the size of the city’s workforce remains smaller than previous years. For example, there are 54 fewer workers than in 2015. However, spending for the Hartford Police Department increased by 0.3 percent to $46.6 million so that the city can hire 60 additional police officers. The department is expected to add 26 officers. In all, there will be 436 police officers by July 2020.

Spending is also flat with the education budget. That budget maintains the educational spending of previous years, $284 million. It will be supplemented by an additional $3.2 million from the state’s budget. Part of that amount will be used on reducing chronic absenteeism.

There is an increase on public safety. The Hartford Fire Department’s budget increased by $1 million or about 3 percent over the current year to $34.3 million.

Capital improvements also got a boost with $24.5 million paid through grants and the city’s general fund. The budget will cover ongoing renovations such as Weaver High School, roads and sidewalks.

The Municipal Accountability Review Board, which will oversee the state’s agreement to pay off the $550 million in Hartford’s debt, will review the budget.

Posted in Business, HartfordComments (0)

Asylum Hill Church to Host Immigrant Advocate


HARTFORD — Champions of immigrant and refugee’s rights will gather at Asylum Hill Congregation Church this June to hear a keynote address from Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year.

Manning will deliver the keynote at a forum focusing on the problems and triumphs of immigrant and refugee students. Manning has spent the year advocating for refugee and immigrant teens.

The event will be held on June 9 at 11:45 a.m. in the church 814 Asylum Ave.

Contributed Photo:
Mandy Manning

The Council of Chief State School Officers praised Manning for her exceptional work in helping children to “overcome their fears and seek out new experiences.”

In her classroom, Manning emphasizes connections between her students and the community helping them to process trauma, celebrate their home countries and culture, and learn about their new community. When she was interviewed on CBS This Morning last year, Manning said she loves teenagers because “there’s so much possibility all the time.”

Two leaders in working with immigrants and refugees in Connecticut will respond to Mandy’s  remarks: Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, a New Haven nonprofit that helps to resettle refugees throughout the state; and Homa Naficy, executive director of The American Place at the Hartford Public Library, which provides a range of services, including ESL classes and citizenship preparation, to immigrants and refugees.

George, like Manning, began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer. Manning served in Armenia and George in Oman. Naficy, on the other hand, was born in Paris to Iranian parents and was named Connecticut Immigrant of the Year in 2001.

Posted in Hartford, NeighborhoodComments (0)

Mothers United to Hold Forum on Families and Trauma


HARTFORD — Mothers United Against Violence will hold a forum on May 23 about families living with trauma.

The free event will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Parker Memorial Community Center at 2621 Main St.

Families will get the opportunity to share their experiences coping with trauma and how they have been able to remain hopeful for a better future for their families and their community, organizers said.

The event will feature performances by Lance James and Youth Impact. Catering will be provided by Refined Twist.

Mothers United is a community organization in Greater Hartford that seeks to provide spiritual support, closure and social justice for victims and families impacted by violence.

The group is a part the Community Safety Coalition, which comprises of several local nonprofit agencies responding to the rising incidents of crime in Hartford. These organizations are working together to address the increased violence in the city.

Organizers said the goal is to create healthy communities through the reduction of urban violence and trauma in Hartford.

Posted in Hartford, YouthComments (1)

East Hartford Summer Camp Invites Applications


EAST HARTFORD — East Hartford Parks and Recreation is now accepting applications for six different summer camps.

The summer camps are open to children and teens from three-years-old to 15-years-old. The camp will be held at different sites throughout the town  and will begin the week of June 24 and run for seven weeks, except for Camp Munchkin, which is for three and four year olds.

All summer campers will participate in a variety of activities including theme weeks, arts and crafts, sports, nature activities and more. Some campers will visit pools, where they will receive free swimming instructions. There will also be off-site field trips at places such as Jump Off, CT Science Center, Dinosaur State Park, bowling, batting cages and movies.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided for all campers through the Summer Meals program.

Camp brochures are available at the Parks and Recreation office at 50 Chapman Place or online.

Registration is available on a weekly basis for all camps. Pre-registration is required for all camps at the Parks and Recreation office.

For more information, call Parks and Recreation at 860-291-7160 or visit www.easthartfordct.gov.

Posted in East Hartford, Hartford, YouthComments (0)

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