Archive | November, 2011

Connecticut Helps the Working Poor


By Mark Pazniokas

HARTFORD — It was nearly lost amidst the challenge of a gargantuan deficit, the outcry over a record tax increase, and the drama of a new Democratic governor’s struggle to obtain concessions from his allies in organized labor.

But Connecticut was the only state to adopt an earned-income tax credit this year, a long-sought benefit for the working poor in a time of fiscal crisis, when other states reduced their tax credit or slashed other social programs.

On Tuesday afternoon, social-service advocates publicly thanked old allies like Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, and a new recruit pivotal to the cause: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“This is about working families and encouraging work and making our economy stronger,” Malloy told an audience of advocates, calling its passage one of his proudest accomplishments in an eventful first year as governor.

The celebration had another purpose: to mark the start of an outreach effort to publicize the availability of the tax credit, which can provide as much as $1,700 to eligible workers.

The IRS estimates that one fifth of eligible tax filers fail to claim the federal earned-income tax credit.

The credit is generally available to workers who earned $48,000 or less in 2010 and were raising children, as well as single workers without children who earned less than $13,460. The average state payment will be about $540.

Kevin Sullivan, the commissioner of revenue services, said no eligible worker should have to pay a tax preparer to obtain the tax credit. Help to file is available from an extensive network of volunteers.

The tax credit was first proposed in Connecticut in 1999 by an advocacy and research group, Connecticut Voices for Children, with Looney as a prime sponsor. Twice, an earned-income tax credit was included in budget, only to be removed at the insistence of a Republican governor.

Looney wryly acknowledged his 12 years of work on the issue as he stepped forward Tuesday to accept an award.

“First of all, I want to make the argument against term limits,” Looney said.

His audience laughed.

Some in the audience had fought with Malloy over his tax increases, which included the first sales-tax hike in 20 years. They complained that income tax increases should have landed more heavily on the wealthy.

But Jim Horan, the executive director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services, said Malloy still proved to be a strong protector of the working poor in one of the worst fiscal environments in decades.

Faced with an inherited deficit of more than $3 billion, Malloy minimized social service cuts and more than offset the impact of the sales tax increase by passing one the nation’s most generous earned-income tax credits, he said.

Next week, Horan is speaking at a national conference on budget priorities, where others are expected to report harm suffered by the working poor in their states, where the value of the tax credit was reduced.

“That’s now the trend, to cut back on it,” Horan said.

Malloy convinced the General Assembly to increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 6.35 percent and expand the list of taxable items to clothing under $50.

The earned-income tax credit adopted by Connecticut is worth 30 percent of the similar federal credit. It will cost the state $108 million. Combined with the federal credit, it will put about $500 million in the hands of working families.

“This was an important statement about our values. And our values are to encourage work and to support working families,” Malloy said after the ceremony. “And we did that in this budget, even though we had some great difficulties.”

In a dozen communities, at least 15 percent of tax filers are believed to be eligible for the credit: West Haven and Ansonia, 15 percent: Meriden, 16 percent; Norwich and East Hartford, 17 percent; Windham, 20 percent; New Britain, 21 percent; New London and New Haven, 22 percent; Waterbury, 23 percent; Bridgeport, 25 percent; and Hartford, 31 percent.

But the tax credit also is available to some residents of the state’s wealthiest communities, including 4 percent of filers in Greenwich, Glastonbury, Fairfield and Farmington.

This story originally appeared at www.CTMirror.org.

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Maria Sanchez Awardees Named


HARTFORD —  The Connecticut Institute for Community Development (CICD) Puerto Rican Parade, Inc. on Monday announced the 20th Annual Maria C. Sanchez Award Recipients. Selected honorees will receive their award Dec. 3, 6 p.m. at the CT Convention Center.

Awardees for Leadership – Leticia Colon – Hartford Hospital

Education – Lillian Ortiz – Naugatuck Valley Community College

Community Service – Yvette Bello – Latino Community Services

Arts & Culture – VIVA Hartford!

Youth Services – Nancy Roldan-Johnson – Latina A.R.M.Y.

Youth Leadership – David Buitrago – West Hill High School

Honorary President’s Award – Antonio Colon

The event will provide live entertainment beginning with a cultural “parranda”, live salsa band and a special keynote address from Thomas Ritter, a community leader and long-time friend of Maria C. Sanchez.

Organizers said the award recipients were selected based on their outstanding contributions to the Puerto Rican and Hispanic community in the areas of leadership, education, community empowerment, cultural enrichment, and activism.

Maria C. Sanchez, a native of Comerio, Puerto Rico arrived in Hartford in 1953. She was active in the Puerto Rican community for the better part of her life. She co-founded Hartford’s Puerto Rican Parade in 1964 and its Miss Puerto Rico of Hartford’s pageant which is the longest standing cultural pageant in existence.

She also co-founded La Casa de Puerto Rico and the Society for Legal Services. She was a member of Hartford’s Board of Education for 16 years. In 1988, she was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the Connecticut State General Assembly. Although almost twenty years has passed since her death, she has been and will always be remembered as a woman who gave selflessly of herself to better enrich the Puerto Rican community.

This event celebrates her legacy by providing scholarships for young people while honoring those who have provided a positive impact on the community.

 

 

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What Teachers Don’t Get About ‘Low-Performing’ Students


Yvette Jackson, NAM Contributor

All students should have the chance to be motivated to achieve in ways that are usually expected of those students labeled “gifted,” but that’s not the case. Often educators and parents feel a sense of hopelessness in the ability of our leaders to enact policies that can transform public education.

What has been ignored in policies that attempt to address underachievement is the focus on the individual. Instead, there has been a proliferation of practices that lump students together into programs of generalized instruction, as if all the causes for the underachievement are the same.

While the learning process is pretty much the same for all of us, what ignites learning and stimulates that learning to the point of achievement is different for everyone.

We are all born with an intrinsic desire to learn. Just go into any school around the country right now and watch kindergarten students of any background enter school and you will see children excited with anticipation.

They anticipate having their inner drive to learn quenched and want to collect on the promise made to them by their parents that in school they would learn and be motivated to succeed.

However, as Dr. James Comer, who teaches child psychology at Yale, illustrates, motivation from academic success is an acquired taste. In other words, students are motivated to achieve academically by the identification and development of their interests through enrichment and through opportunities to research and apply their earning in stimulating and authentic ways.

Those who create programs for students labeled as gifted get the point about how to motivate achievement in school. But for students in schools tagged as “low performing,” their anticipation is quickly squelched by tests that identify under-developed skill areas, which in turn become the overwhelming focus of their instruction. This often leads to the exclusion of instructional approaches that stimulate their interests, strengths, or engagement.

Instead, school is repetitive, boring, and lacks enrichment. This cycle leads to failure and the harshest punishment of all: Many students never experience success in school and their motivation for academic success is extinguished.

All students can experience school as a place where they can learn, grow, and be successful, but that takes bold direction from the local to the state and federal levels.

Leaders must understand that individual student interests and abilities have to be addressed, engaged, and supported.

This understanding is critical if our students are going to meet the promise of the new Common Core State Standards to be college and career ready. The standards require student engagement so they are motivated to be confident as self-directed learners.

The question for policymakers willing to go down this path is: how will they help all students develop the acquired taste for academic success?

Two major shifts would transform how we motivate academic achievement.

*First, change the expectation for all students to that of intellectual development and self-directed learning and not just literacy skills. Instead of focusing on underdeveloped skills, change assessment to identify students’ strengths and focus on individual learning growth. This growth would be indicated through an increase of strengths and a decrease in under-developed skills.

Districts must detail how they will give teachers the flexibility to create practices that provide enrichment and promote self-directed learning that uses students’ strengths to build their skills. Professional development should help teachers activate, guide, and assess the learning process. This would include exploring and adapting the latest research from cognitive and neuroscience.

*Second, policies should reflect the understanding that self-directed learning requires investment, ownership, and responsibility from students. This ownership would be established through individualized plans for student-generated, teacher-guided learning goals. The goals would include identification and application of student interests and strengths for meeting instructional outcomes; identification of skills to be developed; and opportunities for mentoring, tutoring, and/or
internships.

These two goals alone would change two pernicious policies. One is the elimination of the term “achievement gap.” This term has fostered measuring the distance in achievement between races as opposed to addressing the growth of individual students to close the gap between their potential and their achievement. The second is shifting away from the practice of using tests that provide a snapshot of where students are at a particular time.

That status quo would be replaced by dynamic approaches that encourage students to work with teachers to assess their own growth through their responses, classroom work, and other instructional opportunities.

These changes not only transform how we “do school” but they ensure that students experience individual success that builds their taste for self-directed learning and academic achievement. It is in such change that we can find true hope for transforming how we do school and where we will find concrete ideas to act on this hope.

 

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Hartford’s Voter Turnout Relative; Lowest At 6 Percent


By Shawn Murray, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — As it turns out, Hartford’s low voter turn out was relative, compared to other towns around the state. The city’s voter turn out was 16.2 percent.

According to Secretary of State Denise Merrill, the town of Sterling and nine others had a lower voter turnout than Hartford in the Nov. 8 municipal election. In fact, Sterling, to date, was the lowest of all the towns reported. Only 6.01 percent of registered voters there cast ballots. Other towns with low voter turn out include Norwich, Plainfield, Lyme and Windham.

Merrill’s office on Friday released voter turnout numbers from the 2011 Municipal Elections which showed that overall, the statewide voter turnout among registered voters in Connecticut was 30.6 percent.

The town with the highest voter turnout for the municipal offices was Hampton, where 63.75 percent  of registered voters cast ballots.

A complete listing of turnout among towns that held elections on November 8, 2011 is available online at www.sots.ct.gov .

Two towns that held municipal elections on November 8th have yet to report turnout figures to the office of the Secretary of the State.  In addition, five towns held municipal elections in May.

Merrill attributes the over all turn out rate to the October snow storm, which, she said, “presented some serious challenges to election administrators all over the state of Connecticut, and  that shows up in the somewhat lower turnout figures compared to past municipal elections.”

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Democrats Play Dangerous Game in Shunning Obama


New America Media, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Contributor

LOS ANGELES –The excuses some Democrats give for their chill toward backing President Obama’s reelection bid would fill up a legal pad. He’s made much too nice with the GOP. He’s put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block. He hasn’t pushed aggressively enough for a full-blown FDR style jobs program. He let Wall Street and banks off the hook with a placid, terribly compromised financial reform bill. He hasn’t done enough on home foreclosures.

The Blue Dog and moderate Democratic congresspersons and senators representing shaky swing and conservative districts are scared stiff that if they rub shoulders too close to Obama they will be signing their political obituary for reelection.

Their frost toward Obama is far more worrisome than the pesky, nuisance rants of Ralph Nader about finding some progressive, pro-labor Democrat to run against Obama. This is, of course, beyond ludicrous, and not much more than a cheap momentary headline-grabbing ploy to feed the naive and delusional thinking of some radicals that a challenge to Obama would somehow shove him and the Democratic party to embrace an unabashed anti-corporate, anti-war, anti-poverty, pro-union, bank and financial crackdown agenda.

This talk quickly faded into the news dustbin. But it was revived for a hot moment when it seemed that Occupy Wall Street might actually become an organized movement with visible leadership, tangible goals and might actually target Obama as much as protestors targeted the corporations and GOP for aiding and abetting corporate pillage. This didn’t happen.

But the talk and action by entrenched, well-connected Democrats is another matter. If even a handful of the Democrats expressing wariness of the president don’t give Obama their full campaign support, endorsements, and a voter platform for him in their states and districts during the campaign, it would be tantamount to an endorsement of the GOP. The effect would be to create party paralysis and division at worst, and uncertainty at best. This would be disastrous to a presidential campaign.

This was amply proven when Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford in 1976 and when Sen. Ted Kennedy challenged President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Their challenges weakened both presidents, divided the party and ultimately helped make possible Carter’s win over Ford and Reagan’s win over Carter possible.

At the lower rung on the political ladder, a Democrat member of Congress, who refuses to vigorously push their constituents to support their party’s presidential standard bearer sends the strong message that the party’s standard bearer’s policies and actions are questionable or outright harmful to their constituents.

The inescapable conclusion that voters would draw from this is that Obama’s GOP opponent might actually have something better to offer voters on the crucial make-or-break issues of the jobs and the economy. This is especially dangerous with polls consistently showing that a solid majority–including a lot of Democrats–gives Obama low marks on his handling of the economy.

The other great danger in the Democrats’ pushback at the president is that it waters down even more the critical enthusiasm level for Obama. This was the biggest factor that powered him to the White House in 2008.

Independents and youth voters were fired up by Obama’s message of hope and change, and fed up with the GOP’s corruption, bungling, blatant cronyism and scandals, and Bush’s fumbles and ineptitude. They stampeded to the polls in droves to back Obama. This made the crucial difference in the must-win swing states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia.

Bush won three of these five states in 2000 and 2004. Obama won all five in 2008. In 2012 they are up in the air. Obama and his GOP opponent will fiercely fight over them. The slightest stoke of voter disillusionment by wary Democrats would further damp down enthusiasm from the very same voters that Obama will again need to turn out in big numbers.

The burden on an incumbent president is terrible, and unfair, but real, and that’s what Obama will have to contend with. He will have virtually no margin for error to ward off the distraction of Democrats that have a beef with him and threaten to fold up their tents and not fully support him.

It’s not enough for Obama and Democrats to bank on the GOP to self-destruct in their rancor and division to ease Obama’s path back to the White House. It will take tight-fisted unity by the Democrats behind the man who is their party’s presidential standard-bearer. Anything less than that by Democrats is playing a dangerous game.


Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com

Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/earlhutchinson.

 

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Food Stamp Customers Eligible For Aid


HARTFORD — Current recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) can apply for replacement benefits if they lost food from storm-related power outage, Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby said today.

To be eligible, recipients must have lost food costing more than 15 percent of their October SNAP benefit amount. Reports may be made by calling 2-1-1 or visiting www.211ct.org by midnight Saturday, Nov. 19.

Determination of replacement benefits will be made after return and review of signed affidavits, in accordance with federal rules.

Commissioner Bremby said the over-15% threshold for reporting food loss stems from the federal government already approving across-the-board replacement of 15% of October benefits for SNAP recipients in Connecticut. The Department of Social Services is issuing those federal replacement benefits to SNAP recipients Thursday, Nov. 17.

Benefits are issued through ATM-style debit cards for purchasing only federally-approved items at supermarkets and groceries.

No ‘Disaster SNAP’ for October snowstorm

Commissioner Bremby noted that so-called ‘Disaster SNAP’ benefits will not be available from the federal government for October snowstorm losses, as they were after Tropical Storm Irene.

To apply for federal approval of Disaster SNAP, states must be granted a major disaster declaration that includes Individual Assistance. Preliminary damage assessments of uninsured major damage to homes from the October snowstorm showed that the state would not meet the FEMA threshold for the FEMA Individual Assistance Program.

 

 

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Teachers Say They Should Write Their Own Professional Standards


By Caitlin Emma, Contributor

HARTFORD — No one can evaluate a teacher’s performance in the classroom quite like another teacher, educators, union members and administrators testified at a public hearing Monday night.

The Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, wants state legislators to remove the State Department of Education’s (SDE) authority to set professional standards for teachers. Rather, CEA proposes an autonomous panel led by educators to determine those standards for themselves, something a number of states already do.

 

LucindaYoungLucinda Young said Wash. state’s independent professional standards board worked and it can for Conn., too 

 

“When you’re only in an advisory role, people really don’t have to listen to you and often they don’t,” said Mary Loftus Levine, CEA’s executive directior.

The state seems more guarded about the idea, however.

Marion H. Martinez, the associate commissioner of the Division of Teaching, Learning and Instructional Leadership at the SDE, said department members attended the hearing only to collect information about the idea of an independent professional standards board. She said the SDE has not established a position about an independent board.

“Given the fact that the commissioner is relatively new, having come on board officially Oct. 7, and the fact that we have so many new board members, they are intent on gathering additional information, hearing what other states do and then making a decision after careful deliberation,” Martinez said.

Nancy Pugliese, who leads the teacher certification division at SDE, has said that removing the education department’s authority for setting standards is a bad idea. She said the CEA has thwarted efforts by the department to update the standards for years.

The hearing took place before the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee (PRI), which issued a preliminary report on teachers’ standards in late September.

“Our teachers know more about learning and academic achievement than any other group of individuals in the educational system,” Levine said. “Yet our current debate is like a traditional New England town hall meeting with the people who know the most about the subject, our teachers, left outside in the cold watching silently through the windows.”

Connecticut’s current board on professional teaching standards plays only an advisory role to the SDE and state Board of Education (SBE). Seventeen members comprise the board, including four teachers appointed by CEA and other educators, business and industry officials, school administrators and two parents of public school children.

Cheryl Prevost, an East Hartford teacher and chair of the Connecticut Advisory Council for Teacher Professional Standards, said council members think that the SDE and SBE fails to value their opinions.

“I can say with confidence that this lack of decision-making authority takes its toll on teachers who sit on the council,” she said. “They often feel as though their opinions aren’t valued when decisions are made that have an impact on how they do their jobs.”

“I believe this (advisory) council could do much more if restructured and replaced by an independent professional educator standards board that had much more decision-making authority in governing our profession,” Prevost later said.

State Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, who is PRI’s co-chair, said he wondered whether public school teachers should define their own standards like some private professionals, such as lawyers or engineers.

“We have a choice as to whether we walk into attorney Kissel’s [state Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield] office, but I don’t have a choice as a youngster assigned to a public school teacher.”

Other public unionized professions in Connecticut already regulate themselves through their own autonomous professional standards boards. For example, Connecticut’s fire commission and police council issue certification, develop professional standards and provide their own training.

Twenty-one states, including Connecticut, use their educational professional standards boards for advisory roles, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Maine and Rhode Island. CEA wants to make Connecticut one of 18 states with a standards board that makes decisions in some capacity. Boards from states like California, Georgia, Minnesota and Pennsylvania play a large to limited role in making decisions about educator licensing, preparation, disclipline and ethics.

Four states, including Delaware, Maryland, Mississippi and Texas, use semi-autonomous boards that make joint decisions with other state government agencies.

Lucinda Young, chief lobbyist for the Washington Education Association, and Jill Mack, licensure officer at Saint Joseph College in West Hartford and former member of the Vermont Standard Board for Professional Educators, both said independent professional standards boards worked in their states and it’s Connecticut’s time for one.

“For a state who claims to be on the cutting edge of education reform, the time is right,” Mack said.

Neither Vermont or Washington state suffers from an unprecendented educational achievement gap like Connecticut, said PRI member Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford. She asked if either state saw measurable progress in closing any form of achievement gap through their independent professional standards boards, and Young and Mack said they did not.

PRI will make final recommendations in December.

This story originally appeared at www.CTMirror.org.

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Hartford Guardian To Hold Luncheon


HARTFORD — The Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities Inc, doing business as The Hartford Guardian, is proud to celebrate its seven-year anniversary as a civic journalism organization that focuses on hyper–local news in the capital city of Connecticut with a media luncheon on Jan. 6 at the Hartford Club.

The Civic Engagement Media Luncheon from 11: 30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. will feature keynote speaker Anthony Duignan- Cabrera, Editorial Director for AOL Patch East. Duignan will speak to the intersection of online media and the urban landscape—the new frontier in journalism. The Guardian will also recognize other civic journalists in the state.

“I am honored to be a part of this exciting event and to have the opportunity to speak about the changing local and urban media landscape, Duignan-Cabrera said. “The Internet has obviously played a key role in shaping the evolution of the news industry.”

Founding Editor and Publisher of the online magazine, The Hartford Guardian Ann-Marie Adams agreed.

“The Internet has democratize news,” Adams said. “And The Guardian is proud to be among the pioneers in this new media landscape.”

Since its inception in January 2004, The Guardian has been a vanguard. It has broken news about predatory schemes with condo associations and the foreclosure crises in Connecticut In 2010, The Guardian won a national award from the International Center for Journalists, which touted its work as “competent and competitive.” In addition, it has garnered recognition from The Hartford Business Journal and the University of California-Berkeley’s Knight Digital Media Center. The Guardian was the first of the new wave of hyper-local news organizations in Connecticut.

Over the last seven years, The Guardian has partnered with the University of Hartford, the University of Connecticut, Capital Community College, AT & T, McGraw Hill Companies, International Center for Journalists and other local small businesses and residents to present our Summer Journalism Workshop for high school students and our Community Conversations on issues that impact the city of Hartford and its neighboring suburbs.

CABC Inc is a 501 ( c ) 3 Hartford based nonprofit organization that aims to spur civic participation, develop youth and family media literacy skills ad help build cohesive communities. It’s fulfills its three-fold mission by using 1) The Hartford Guardian, our award-winning hyper-local online news magazine that provides cutting edge reporting; 2) the Summer Journalism Institute, a training program that fosters critical thinking skills and media literacy for high school juniors, seniors and city residents. 3) the Community Conversations, periodic forums to foster understanding and build consensus about issues that impact city residents.  Moreover, CABC Inc embodies civic journalism by expanding the discourse in our democracy and by building communities through civic journalism.

For tickets and information, please call 860-515-8821.

For more information please visit www.thehartfordguardian.com. Follow us on Twitter @guardianeditor and ‘Like’ our Facebook page.

 

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Latinos Surpass Blacks Living in Poverty, Census Study Shows


BY Chris Levister,  Contributor

HARTFORD — Here’s a mind numbing number to ponder: 16 percent. That’s the rate of Americans living in poverty, according to an alternate way of measuring the problem, released by the U.S. Census Bureau Monday. The official poverty level is nearly 1 percentage point lower. The much anticipated economic data show more Hispanics, elderly and working-age poor have fallen into poverty. 

For the first time, the share of Hispanics living in poverty surpassed that of African-Americans based on new U.S. Census data.

For the first time, the share of Hispanics living in poverty surpassed that of African-Americans based on the new measure, reflecting in part the lower participation of immigrants and non-English speakers in government aid programs such as housing and food stamps. The report shows children and residents living in more rural areas as well as the Midwest and South also fared bet ter, due to lower costs of living.

The 2009 census estimates show that of the nearly 50 million Latinos in the country, 28.2 percent are living below the poverty threshold compared with 23.4% for black people. That’s 742,000 more than the official poverty count of 13,346,000 poor Hispanics.

Under this new analysis known as the “Supplemental Poverty Measure”, a record number of Americans — 49.1 million — are poor, based on the new census measure that for the first time takes into account rising medical costs and other expenses.

Broken down by group, Americans 65 or older sustained the largest increases in poverty under the revised formula – nearly doubling the 15.9 percent, or 1 in 6 – because of medical expenses that are not accounted for in the official rate. Those include rising Medicare premiums, deductibles and expenses for prescript ion drugs.

But the worry now is that the downturn — which will end eventually — will have long-lasting effects on families who lose jobs, become worse off and can’t recover.”

Traditional black inner-city ghettos are thinning out and changing, drawing in impoverished Hispanic people, who have low-wage jobs or are unemployed. Neighborhoods with poverty rates of at least 40% are stretching over broader areas, increasing in suburbs at twice the rate of cities.

After declining during the 1990s economic boom, the proportion of poor people in large metropolitan areas who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods jumped from 11.2% in 2000 to 15.1% last year, according to a Brookings Institution analysis. Extreme poverty today continues to be prevalent in the industrial Midwest, including Michigan cities Detroit and Grand Rapids, and Akron, Ohio, because of a renewed decline in manufacturing. But the biggest growth in highpoverty areas is occurring in newer Sun Belt metro areas such as Las Vegas, Riverside, California, and Cape Coral, Florida, after the plummeting housing market wiped out home values and dried up construction jobs.

Elizabeth Kneebone, a senior research associate at Brookings, described a demographic shift in people living in high-poverty neighborhoods, which have less access to good schools, hospitals and government services. As concentrated poverty spreads to new areas, including suburbs, the residents are now more likely to be white, native-born and high school or college graduates — not the conventional image of highschool dropouts or single mothers in inner-city ghettos.

The more recent broader migration of the US population, including working- and middle-class blacks, to the South and to suburbs helps explain some of the shifts in poverty.

A study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that the population of 133 historically black ghettos had dropped 36% since 1970, as the US black population growth slowed and many blacks moved to new areas. The newest residents in these ghettos are now more likely to be Hispanic, who have more than tripled their share in the neighborhoods, to 21%.

Just over 7% of the 39 million African-Americans nat ionwide now live in traditional ghettos, down from 33% in 1970.

“As extreme-poverty neighborhoods emerge in more places, that is shifting the general makeup of those populations,” said Kneebone, the lead author of the Brookings analysis.

The report makes that longbelieved argument that the official poverty levels for a family of four, set in the 1960s, no long apply. The current threshold does not consider, among other factors, government policies like food stamps and payroll taxes, rises in cost of living and changes in medical costs, not to mention transportation to work and which state a person lives.

We think it’s a measure people should look at but it’s still a work in progress, says Census Bureau economist Kathleen Short. She says pol icymakers can glean valuable information from it, like, are food stamps working? Short says today’s data shows the poverty rate would jump 1.7 percent without that government program.

“So food stamps have been an effective way to pull people across the poverty line,” said Short Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. In 2010, 31.6 percent of households headed by single women were poor, while 15.8 percent of households headed by single men and 6.2 percent of married- couple households lived in poverty.

But living above that line, argue social workers, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not struggling to meet basic needs. Many of the working poor are simply making hard choices like whether to pay for medicine or gas for the car. Or they’re doing without what most of us take for granted. Riverside County’s Hispanic population surged 60 percent between 2000 and 2009, and San Bernardino County’s rose 47 percent.

Los Angeles County had only a 10 percent increase — although because it has a much larger population, it added more Hispanic residents than any county in the nation, according to research from the Washington, D.C. -based Brookings Institution.

Research shows the Inland suburbs are home to a third of the nation’s poor. Many people moved to the Inland Empire for a more affordable lifestyle. But poverty rates in suburban cities, like Riverside, are actually growing faster than in bigger cities like Los Angeles.

Companion research, also released by Brookings, suggests that the social safety net in such fast-growing suburban areas is dangerously thin, compounding economic hardships.

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Hartford Offers Free Public Skating


HARTFORD — First there is Veteran’s Day; then there is Thanksgiving; then on  Nov. 25, iQuilt Presents Hartford Winterfest opens to the public.

Free public skating and skate rentals will be available for the season that runs through President’s Day, February 20, 2012.

“The City of Hartford, iQuilt, and Champions Skating are proud to present this exciting season that highlights our historic park and the enjoyment of Hartford as a choice destination for family fun and entertainment,” said Mayor Pedro E. Segarra.

Opening Night:

4:00 p.m.— A short procession will go from the Bushnell Park Carousel to the Skating Rink and will feature an antique fire engine leading the way for Mayor Segarra, Santa, Pucky, and cast members of “A Christmas Carol’ at Hartford Stage.  A quartet from the professional choir CONCORA will perform holiday music as the procession arrives at the rink.

Approximately 4:15 p.m. —A few brief speeches and a quick ribbon cutting ceremony to welcome everyone to a season full of family fun.

4:30 p.m. — The Skating Rink opens.  Public Skating will last until 6:00 p.m.  Don’t forget Santa will say hi to all the good little boys and girls back at the Carousel until 9:00 p.m.

6:00 p.m. — The first Ice Skating Performance of the season.

Approximately 7:00 p.m. — Public Skating resumes until 10:00 p.m.

11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. — The Carousel is open

5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. — Aquastone Graphics Presents “Frozen in Time” Art Exhibit at the Pump House Gallery

This year there will be a bigger rink, a longer skating season, and traditional lights from the rink along the pond to the Bushnell Park Carousel.  The Carousel will be open on weekends and Santa will visit with the children there from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on weekends in December and vending kiosks will be stationed in the park.

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