Archive | October, 2010

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The Uninitiated: Who Is Peter Kelly?

HARTFORD — Peter Kelly is a Hartford attorney–mostly known by local politicos in the area and in Washington, D.C. as an effective fundraiser.

His life has touched so many. And most area locals don’t know how or why.

Tonight, Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) will premiere a new original documentary, The Last Bipartisan: A Tribute to Peter Kelly. The documentary will give the uninitiated a 30-minute introduction to Kelly.

And as the promo for the show note, the accolades for Peter Kelly come from both sides of the aisle: “He is an extremely loyal friend, somebody you can always rely on,” commented former Vice President Al Gore.

CNN’s Mary Matalin called him “One of the world’s best great guys of all time.” See why in a new CPTV documentary that presents a bipartisan toast and affectionate roast for a man former Republican party chairman Frank Fahrenkopf simply acknowledges as, “…a great american.”

Watch the premiere Sunday, Oct. 24 at 10:30 p.m. on Connecticut Public Television (CPTV).

This documentary will be the first CPBN original production to be broadcast in HD on the web.

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‘Puppy Love’ Play Brings Lots Of Laugh To Hartford

HARTFORD — On a cold blustery night, Weaver High School’s auditorium emanated with warmth from city residents who waited 90 minutes for what many knew would be a night full of belly laugh from a veteran, international actor-comedian: Oliver Samuels.

Cast includes L to R: Earl Brown, Natalie Cole, Oliver Samuels and Dahlia Harris

Samuels is arguably Jamaica’s top comedian who is currently starring in the play Puppy Love. The well-loved actor is on an international tour of a play promoted by Everybody’s magazine, a New York-based Caribbean publication that makes claims as the only promoter in America that produces the Samuels brand, one akin to the Tyler Perry brand. Samuels, however, has enjoyed as successful career as an actor and comedian for last 40 years ago.

This year, his play made its first American stop in Hartford.

Penned by Patrick Brown, the well-crafted, two-hour comedy was deftly directed by Trevor Nairne and included a stellar ensemble cast. Samuels plays the lead character, Dick.  The four-member ensemble also includes Dahlia Harris as his wife, Denise; Earl Brown as his business partner and friend, Harry. Natalie Cole rounds out the cast as Harry’s daughter, Karen.

The play centers on Dick and Denise, who have been married for 30 years. Both have been loyal to each other while Harry, a widow, dates younger females—his daughter’s age. Harry soon encounters karmic troubles when his 20-year daughter suddenly develops a crush on his 56-year-old friend, Dick. Karen pursues Dick until he gives into her seduction.

The play tackles class issues contoured with shenanigans. But it also embeds poignant threads woven skillfully to tackle infidelity, loyalty and commitment.

It moves at a brisk pace and brims with excitement throughout, thanks to Samuel’s trademark traits as a comedian.

It was a given that Puppy Love was worth the wait.

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Rell: CT Exporters Can Now Access Finance

HARTFORD — Gov. M. Jodi Rell today announced that Connecticut employers will benefit from a new financing partnership that will help them strengthen and grow their export business.

Rell said the Connecticut Development Authority (CDA), the state’s quasi-public business financing arm, will now be able to provide international trade financing to small businesses thanks to a partnership with the Ex-Im Bank of the United States.

“This is tremendous news for our small exporters in need of lines of credit to sustain and grow their businesses,” Rell said.  “Connecticut exports have been a traditional bright spot in our economy and this will allow us to build on that success.

Connecticut exports totaled over $10.3 billion through Aug. 2010, a 17.8 percent increase over the same time period last year, according to state officials.  Currently, the state’s top exports are: (1) Aircraft, spacecraft, parts; (2) Industrial machinery, including computers; (3) Electric machinery; sound equipment, TV equipment, parts; (4) Optic, photo, medical or surgical instruments and (5) Cereals, because of state-based hedge funds that buy and sell grains on international markets.

“This City-State Partnership –  Ex-Im Bank’s first in Connecticut – will give us the opportunity to provide many more Connecticut small businesses with the competitive financing tools they need to successfully compete in the global marketplace, and create Connecticut jobs,” said Diane Farrell, a member of Ex-Im Bank’s Board of Directors.

Designated a “Delegated Authority Lender” by Ex-Im Bank, the CDA may now make credit decisions and provide up to $1 million in international trade financing to eligible exporters.  The lender is guaranteed for 90 percent of its principal and interest under each line of credit under Ex-Im Bank’s working capital guarantee.

The Connecticut Development Authority is a member of the state’s economic development team. To learn more about the CDA, Please or call 860-258-7800.

Ex-Im Bank, an independent, self-sustaining federal-government agency, helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by filling gaps in export financing and strengthening U.S. export competitiveness.

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Jury Awards Mother $900K In Malik Jones Case

HARTFORD — Emma Jones waited 13 years to yesterday’s news.

Late last night, a jury in the District Court in Hartford awarded $900,000 to the estate of Malik Jones, a black man who was gunned down by white East Haven police officer. His mother Emma Jones brought the suit against the town of East Haven.

Paul Bass tells the story of how Jone’s long vigil to vindicate her son began. Read more here.

It was the latest twist in a long-running civil rights drama that has exposed raw debates over race and criminal justice and consumed countless hours of state and federal authorities’ time.

David Rosen, the attorney representing Emma Jones, called Thursday’s verdict a “vindication for Malik’s mother who has hung in there for more than 13 years trying to do the right thing by her son.”

Read more here.

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Hooker Day Parade Lineup Announced

Updated: 5:47 p.m.

HARTFORD — The city loves a parade, especially when it’s a birthday party to boot!

So this Saturday, Mayor Pedro E. Segarra is inviting people to the “Hooker Day Parade”— a quirky, little downtown event in honor ofHartford’s founder, the Reverend Thomas Hooker.

The fun kicked-off on Friday with two recognition ceremonies.  The first, thanked downtown restaurants for getting into the spirit of Hartford’s 375 anniversary celebration by sponsoring specialty drinks.

Trumbull Kitchen, City Steam and Salute all will provide a special menu item and give out a Hartford 375 lapel pin to all patrons who make the special order.

The mayor later made a presentation to Patti Christians who, through her ancestry research, discovered that she is a 13th generation descendant of the Rev. Thomas Hooker.  She has made a pilgrimage from Alabama to Hartford and will be the Hartford 375 Celebration Committee’s guest at the parade on Saturday.

“There’s so much interest today in discovering our family roots.  We are honored to meet Ms. Christians and help her learn more about Hartford.  It is a great pleasure to roll out the welcome mat, especially as the City celebrates this milestone.  Her participation in the ‘Hooker Day Parade’ helps make this year’s event even more memorable,” said Mayor Segarra.

Christians was presented an autographed copy of a book about Hartford and a Hartford plaque during a ceremony in the Function Room at City Hall.

For information on the parade, please go to the Hartford Business Improvement District’s

Hooker Day Parade 2010 Parade Route

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DMV Improves Registration Renewal Process

WETHERSFIELD — DMV is now making it simpler to renew a vehicle’s registration by combining everything needed into one mailing from the agency.

The change, which began this month, will save taxpayers about $400,000 annually, state officials said. It will also streamline the process so that customers receive their actual registration in the renewal reminder from the DMV.

“Modernizing the way we do things and saving taxpayers money has been my number one focus at the DMV,” Commissioner Robert Ward said. “Eliminating this mailing will save on postage and printing costs in this time when taxpayers are looking for the government to find cost savings.”

Vehicle owners previously received two mailings. One had the renewal notice and the other contained the new registration that was sent after DMV received payment for the renewal. Now owners will receive from the DMV only one registration renewal mailing, which will include a renewal notice with the center portion being the actual registration certificate. Vehicle owners will be instructed to keep the center portion of the application – the actual registration certificate – in the vehicle.

Customers will still mail-in their payments as usual to the DMV. They also can renew online by credit card if they have fulfilled all obligations required to receive a renewal. These include payment of property taxes and biennial (every two years) emissions tests on vehicles.

People who want to check that the registration has been renewed can use DMV’s new online verification system The validity of their registration can be checked by law enforcement through computer links with DMV registration information.

Customers who were previously mailed an old registration renewal application should still receive their registration in the mail in approximately 8 to 10 business days.

For more information please visit the link for verifying a registration was incorrect in the press release below. It should

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Will Foreclosure Scandal Lead to Better Laws—or Just a Pause?

New America Media, News Report, Ngoc Nguyen and Suzanne Manneh

MILPITAS, Calif.—Ching Sun has been trying for nearly two years to renegotiate his mortgage and stave off foreclosure on his family’s modest home in this San Jose suburb.

So he ought to feel heartened by a push for a national moratorium on foreclosures in the wake of a growing scandal involving some of the largest U.S. lenders.

But Sun, who fell behind on his mortgage payments after his import-export business collapsed in 2008, is skeptical that a moratorium would do much beyond provide borrowers like him a temporary “breather.” After six fruitless attempts to modify his loan, Sun received a notice from PNC Financial Services last month that his house is now formally in foreclosure. He and his wife don’t know if and when they will have to leave.

“People need something like [a moratorium by Congress], because there is nothing we can do anymore,” Sun said. But ultimately, instead of merely delaying foreclosures, “we need legislation to prevent them. I think [the banks] should be mandated to do loan modifications. This will be most helpful.”

Calls for a national moratorium have grew louder in recent days, fueled by outrage over revelations that some of the nation’s biggest financial institutions broke the law by failing to properly verify foreclosure filings. Court documents revealed the widespread practice by bank employees of rubber-stamping—“robo-signing”—foreclosure paperwork that they did not personally review.

Sun’s lender, PNC Financial, as well as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Ally Financial Inc, are among the institutions that have joined in temporarily halting foreclosures while they review their procedures. (Bof A said Monday that it will resume foreclosures in 23 states in coming weeks.)

Foreclosures Approaching Record Levels

Meanwhile, foreclosures have been approaching record levels. From July through September, banks seized 288,345 properties around the country, the most ever in a three-month period, according to data released last week by RealtyTrac, a foreclosure listing service. In the same quarter, some 930,437 U.S. homeowners received a foreclosure-related warning—or approximately one in 139 households, up 4 percent from the April-June period.

Banks have repossessed more than 816,000 homes through the first nine months of 2010, RealtyTrac reported.

“If [the big banks] are concerned [about the foreclosure process], the rest of us should be, too,” Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told’s Congress Blog. “A [congressionally imposed] moratorium would give regulators an opportunity to review the procedures that each lender has in place. It would prevent them from moving forward until they could prove they were conducting foreclosures in compliance with the law. In this way, it would be very similar in purpose to the moratorium that President Obama imposed on deepwater drilling in the Gulf following the BP spill.”

A number of lawmakers—mainly Democrats—have also been pressing regulatory agencies to take action. Dean DeBuck, spokesperson for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), said in an email: “Immediately after concerns surfaced regarding Ally foreclosure processing issues, the OCC ordered large national bank servicers to review their procedures to ensure compliance with state and federal law before foreclosing on seriously delinquent borrowers.” The lenders targeted by the OCC include JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, HSBC Finance Corp., PNC, and Wells Fargo.

Meanwhile, attorneys general of all 50 states have launched their own probes.

In California, prior to foreclosing on a property, banks are required to do due diligence and make a good-faith effort to contact homeowners, discuss the various options, and work out a solution, according to Jim Finefrock, spokesperson for the state Attorney General’s Office. Jerry Brown, the current holder of that office, is locked in a tight race for governor against Republican Meg Whitman.

But the banks’ actions in other states suggest that they might not be obeying California’s foreclosure laws, Finefrock said. His office has sent letters to Ally Financial, previously known as GMAC, and JP Morgan Chase, both of which have acknowledged engaging in sham verifications of foreclosure filings, and has ordered them to prove that they are complying with state law “or stop doing foreclosures in California,” Finefrock added.

Finefrock said the state is also in discussion with other banks to ensure they comply with state law.

Too Little, Too Late

While Ching Sun welcomes the investigations, he also sees them as too little, too late. “They should have done this a long time ago,” he said. In his effort to get his mortgage modified, he has consulted lawyers and written to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Federal Reserve and the Better Business Bureau—all to no avail. “I have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a loan modification,” he said.

Adding to Sun’s frustration is the fact that PNC Financial—formerly National City Bank—has never explained why his applications have been denied. His wife is employed, so they have some income, and their house—which they purchased for $460,000 in 2004—is underwater (meaning the mortgage exceeds the current value) by only 20 to 30 percent.

“Banks will modify loans if they see that it’s to their own benefit,” Sun says. “If you lose 50 percent of your [home’s value] or more, they lose a lot of money, so they would never foreclose on you.” But in his case, he adds, “they would rather foreclose on us. … If [the lender resells] the property, anyway, why [not let] the former owner buy it back?”

Maeve Elise Brown, executive director of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates in Oakland, Calif., echoed Sun’s concerns.

Stringing Borrowers Along

“A moratorium could be very helpful for people in our own state,” she said, “but you have to crack down on lenders for failing homeowners and stringing them along.”

As Sun has discovered, lenders are not obligated to explain why a loan modification was denied, which encourages many people to reapply even if their chances are nil, Brown said. “A moratorium doesn’t fix the problem of false hope.”

Preeti Vissa, community reinvestment director with the Berkeley, Calif.–based Greenlining Institute, says homeowners would benefit most in the near term from options that reduce the total amount of their loan.

“We know today that principal reduction is the most sustainable part of a loan modification,” Vissa said. “We’re seeing that without that, the homeowner is paying [perhaps just] $15 less a month [on their mortgage], and they end up defaulting in 90 days anyway.”

But she notes that homeowners face severe hurdles in trying to renegotiate their loan principal, because 80 percent of home loans are owned by investors, “and [banks] can’t reduce principal without investor approval.”

Vissa says the current scrutiny on big lenders and a foreclosure moratorium could be opportunities for housing advocates, policymakers and bankers to step back and see what they could do to lessen the foreclosure crisis.

“I see the banks are doing a lot to contact the homeowner,” he said. “About a year ago, you wouldn’t have seen that, but there still is a lot to be done… They are discussing options, but are they really following through and aggressively pursuing the options that keep the homeowner in the home?”

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Women’s Breakfast Meeting Hosts Susan Beacham

United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut will launch its Women’s Leadership Initiative at a breakfast featuring nationally recognized financial literacy expert Susan Beacham.

The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at the Pond House Café in Elizabeth Park, West Hartford.

The United Way Women’s Leadership Initiative will focus on celebrating the power of women as leaders to bring about lasting change in the community.

Members of the Initiative will advocate for issues important to working families, specifically in the areas of financial literacy, stability and independence.

United Way focuses on helping local families become more financially stable by supporting programs and initiatives that help local people gain the skills they need to land jobs and advance in their careers, make the most of their income, pay off debt and save for the future.

Members of the United Way Women’s Leadership Initiative will become part of a national movement.  More than 130 United Ways across the country have women’s leadership programs that engage more than 32,000 women in solving their communities’ most pressing problems.

Members will have the opportunity to network with other leaders, engage in volunteer opportunities, advocate for issues around financial stability and independence, and attend special events featuring women of influence.

Beacham, the first featured speaker for the initiative, is a columnist, author, and nationally recognized financial literacy expert. She was recently featured in both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut is a nonprofit organization that has been meeting human care needs in 40 towns across central and northeastern Connecticut since 1924. United Way advances the common good by focusing on the building blocks of a good life: education, income and health.


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Connecticut Students Still Waiting For Superman

By Ann-Marie Adams | @annmarieadams

It was a noble plan: screen the latest film about America’s failing schools and hope to spark meaningful dialogue in Hartford, Connecticut — home of the nation’s widest academic achievement gap.

Last Wednesday at Bow Tie Cinemas in Hartford, that plan failed.

During the almost two-hour screening of the gut-wrenching documentary, Waiting For Superman, the audience winced, sighed and cried as they watched on screen five families struggle for access to quality education for their children—only to see that the odds are against them. The structural racism was illustrated well enough to prompt nation-wide anxieties about losing the gains of the civil rights movement.

In the contemporary moment, the complexity of the fight for quality education is illustrated with the diversity of the protagonists in the film: four are working-class black and Latino. One is white and middle-class. Except for a few announcements in the theater afterward, the audience last week remained reticent about a film that had received plenty of media buzz.

Education advocates will not give up, however. In the coming months, other reform-minded individuals and groups in Connecticut will use this film as a catalyst for conversations about the lack of progress to fix Connecticut’s failing schools and to eliminate the achievement gap, a catch phrase lobbed around to describe the fact that some students’ national test scores are low and others are not; that more than 50 percent of students in some school districts drop out of high school and even fewer go on to four-year colleges.

Education advocates are also mindful that the storyline in Superman is not new. After watching the film, some parents became frustrated. It didn’t take long for them to realize the documentary was an old story repackaged as something new.

When pressed for comments about what they had seen in the film, the audience sat in awkward silence. Minutes later, one woman from Waterbury punctured that silence. And she was blunt.

“I’ve seen The Lottery. Now this,” she said referring to the other documentary, which tells the story of low-income students in the Newark, New Jersey school district entering a lottery to win spots at top performing charter schools. “I’m not going to anymore of these screenings. I’m frustrated that there is still no change. Let’s talk about the resistance out there.”

No one did.

They talked around it, though.

State Rep. Doug McCrory added:

“Let’s deal with the reality here,” he said. “We have studied the problem. And we know the solution.”

But there was no discussion about what exactly the problem is.

And although Davis Guggenheim’s documentary zeroes in on the political underpinnings of America’s public educational system, it presents an ahistorical view of contemporary poor, black and brown students fighting for quality education.

Davis’s provocative documentary presents the story as though those children’s troubled situation popped up in 2010. However, the reform-minded filmmaker concluded that the issue is complex and the powerful teacher’s union is at the crux of the problem. He might be true. But the lingering problem is that the filmmaker puts that problem in a vacuum and apparently has forgotten that past is prologue.

See free online video here.

That’s because America has a history of not educating some of its students; that less than 50 years ago, there were vicious verbal and physical attacks on those, like the Little Rock Nine, who tried to integrate schools after the Supreme Court decided in 1954 that separate schools were unequal and therefore unconstitutional; that immediately there was white flight from city schools after some states implemented the first phase of the Brown remedies.

More than 50 years after the Brown decision, Connecticut has New England’s only ongoing school desegregation case because the state is moving with deliberate speed (translation: slow) to enforce court mandated remedies. Plaintiffs in Hartford’s 1996 Sheff v. O’Neill case will return to Court this month for a status conference about the implementation of the court-mandated remedies.

Those remedial efforts—even though it would benefit all students—are moving at glacial speed, mostly because of a strong resistance to regionalism—a true solution that would give children access and choices to quality schools, many argue.

But there’s a larger—and more insidious– issue at play. And it’s also an inconvenient truth: many people think some students cannot learn, especially students who are black and brown. This sentiment is undeniably the classic definition of racism. Embedded in this notion is that these students are intellectually inferior.

And no matter which charter school pops up and produces all college-bound students, intellectual inferiority among these children will persist when they go on to college and enter the workforce. That’s because the idea that some people are inferior is deeply ingrained in the psyche of many white people—and increasingly some black and brown people—that not all students can learn. And there’s nothing soft about this kind of bigotry.

In April 2009 after the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network ran an episode of Where We Live with host John Dankosky about the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Sheff lawsuit, an anonymous commentator posted this on the radio’s website:

“The cognitive abilities of these poor descendants of agri-workers will not increase no matter where you attempt to educate them for the greater part.”

Davis does not address the issues of the kind of race or bigotry displayed by that anonymous commentator, but he chooses instead to focus on the economic implications of this familiar American story about the ongoing struggle for quality education.

In the coming weeks, there will be more forums and debates among liberal whites, who have ideas about how to create a solution for everyone, including the majority of black and brown students in “drop out factories.” This kind of paternalistic behavior in Connecticut continues to foster the belief that only whites can be Superman. The students get that. The adults get it, too. But most of them can only silently oppose this kind of showmanship displayed by top business and civic leaders in the area.

But know this: If Connecticut is to close the achievement gap, it ought to start first with candid dialogue with racially and economically diverse stakeholders. As an education reporter and educator, I’ve been to many of those conversations about education. And I have yet to see those candid conversations in all the forums I’ve been to in the last decade. Feeble attempts at dialogue will not effect change, nor create an environment for anyone to boldly “speak truth to power.” It’s going to take many current leaders with political will to speak and act boldly.

And while we wait for individuals already in key positions to act decisively, Connecticut’s children continue to wait for Superman.

Ann-Marie Adams is a Ph.D. Candidate at Howard University and is writing her dissertation about the state's 1996 Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation lawsuit and the full arc of the African-American experience in Connecticut from colonial period to the twentieth century.

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Hispanic Health Group To Celebrate 30th Anniversary

HARTFORD — For three decades, the Hispanic Health Council has been a pillar of Hartford’s large Latino community, improving health, promoting social justice and building healthier communities.

On Oct. 21, the council plans to celebrate its proud heritage with a reception in its building at 175 Main St., at the crossroads of the city’s downtown business district and Park Street, the hub of Hispanic life in Hartford. The event is from 5 to 8 p.m. The public is invited.

The Hispanic Health Council was born in 1978, but its roots took hold some years earlier, when 8-month-old Rosa Maria Rivera died in the back of police car on the way to a city hospital. Her mother spoke no English and had already sought care for her sick baby at two other city hospitals before the child’s condition became critical. The death certificate said the baby died of dehydration, but activists say that discrimination and a language barrier contributed to the little girl’s death.

The tragedy illuminated widespread barriers to healthcare experienced by Hartford’s growing Latino population and the Hispanic Health Council was born.

Today, Latinos, mostly Puerto Ricans but a growing number from other parts of the Caribbean and Central and South America, account for 40 percent of Hartford’s population. The Hispanic Health Council provides service and advocacy that is grounded in research and infused with the spirit of social justice and activism that led to its founding.

From its flagship Comadrona pregnancy support program to diabetes peer counseling, breastfeeding support, nutrition assistance and education and HIV/AIDS prevention programs, the Hispanic Health Council’s programs have been developed to meet community needs and tested to make sure they work.

For more information about the Hispanic Health Council, visit

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