Archive | September, 2015

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Hartford Democratic Voters Ask for Change


Democratic voters overwhelmingly picked first-time candidate Luke Bronin to win the Democratic Mayoral Primary over incumbent mayor: Pedro Ernesto Segarra.

After a long day on Wednesday, Segarra opted to get rest to think about why—for perhaps the first time in history—an incumbent mayor lost the Democratic endorsement and the primary. Hartford is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Of the more than 46,000 registered voters, 35,745 are Democratic voters. About 9,500 — or 26 percent–voters turned out on Wednesday.

They wanted change.

editorialbannerthumbThat’s because Segarra is seemingly a “good person” led astray. His staff and his political team were not the best, some political insiders said. And Segarra and his staff brought on a lot of “additional problems” to the city, according to Hartford City Councilman Raul DeJesus.

Indeed. Segarra has been hampered by what is perceived to be an incompetent staff, several of whom he has had to demote or fire in the last two years.

Segarra replaced the former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez in 2010 after Perez was convicted of corruption. Before he was sworn in as the 66th mayor, Segarra pledged to change how city government runs.

About two years into his tenure, turmoil ensued. First, Segarra and a few staffers were caught dining on caviar at Max Downtown on the city’s credit card. Not long after, Segarra accepted the resignation of his first chief of staff: Jared Kupiec. Kupiec was arrested by the Hartford Police Department and accused of driving a city vehicle more than 1,000 miles after work hours.

Most recently, Segarra accepted the resignation of his Corporation Counsel Saudra Kee Borgues and demoted the lead counsel Catherine Freeman. The corporation counsel and her staff failed to realize that inaction toward legal matters—that can be avoided– only serve to deplete the city’s coffers.

David Medina, the Hartford Board of Education communications director, retired from his duties. Before retiring, Medina had failed to realize that all of Hartford residents need to be informed.

The city needs a strong mayor, who is competent enough to surround himself with a strong team. Perhaps Bronin, 36, got lucky despite his thin political resume because of Segarra’s “unfortunate string of misfortunes” since 2010.

After the mayor rests up, he will have to consider whether he as an unaffiliated candidate can win the general election in 2016 by garnering those voters he and his staff mostly ignored : small business owners, marginalized Hartford residents and Independent voters—the kind of voters Bronin worked to secure for a victory over what was a formidable incumbent.

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Connecticut Unemployment Rate Declines


By Ann Martinez, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The unemployment rate for August is now 5.3 percent, a decrease from last month, officials said on Thursday.

The state’s preliminary nonfarm August employment figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) business survey indicate the state added 3,200 jobs last month to a level of 1,698,900, seasonally adjusted.

This is the fourth monthly state nonfarm jobs increase in a row, state officials said. The state is now estimated to have added 33,200 nonfarm positions  over the year.

July’s originally estimated nonfarm job gain of 4,100  was revised slightly lower to 3,800.

Connecticut’s August 2015 unemployment rate was calculated at 5.3%, seasonally adjusted. This is down one-tenth of a percentage point from the revised July 2015 unemployment rate of 5.4% and down one and a tenth of a percentage point from the August 2014 unemployment rate of 6.4%. Connecticut’s unemployment rate has not been this low since May 2008 (5.4%).

“Connecticut’s estimated nonfarm employment growth pace and unemployment rates have come closer in line with national averages this summer,” said Andy Condon, Director of the Office of Research. “In August, earlier school openings and the later Labor Day holiday seemed to influence industry employment, earnings, and hours worked.”

The unemployment rate does not reflect those who have stopped looking for work and is out of the labor force.

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Celebrating Immigrants’ Contributions on Constitution Week


Leon Rodriguez, New America Media

Traducción al español

This week we celebrate Constitution Week, a time to reflect on the uniquely American idea that citizenship in this country is a matter of commitment and conscience.

Constitution Week focuses largely on September 17, “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” – a recognition of naturalized American citizens and an opportunity for them to express their pride in their citizenship. We also celebrate the Constitution and the rights and responsibilities it bestows in all of us.

At U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Constitution Week is an opportunity to celebrate the way in which the Constitution set the foundation for welcoming new Americans – those who have chosen to subscribe to our civic ideals of “liberty and justice for all” and have committed themselves to join “we the people” in our pursuit of “a more perfect union.”

Our celebration includes administering special naturalization ceremonies across the nation, highlighting the connection between the Constitution and the honor, privilege, and responsibility of becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization.

These ceremonies have special meaning to me. My parents and grandparents were refugees from Cuba. And as a young boy, I watched as my parents studied for, and took, their citizenship test. Before they took the Oath of Allegiance, I did not fully appreciate what citizenship truly meant. But seeing how proud they were to naturalize made it clear to me, even then, that they were fulfilling a life-long dream – for them and for me.

As a public servant for most of my professional career, I have often taken oaths to support and defend the Constitution. But as Director of USCIS, one of my highest privileges is to administer the Oath of Allegiance – the same oath my parents took – at a naturalization ceremony and welcoming new citizens to the promise and hope of America.

Today, the United States has almost 9 million lawful residents who are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. I encourage each of them to step forward and complete their journey in becoming an American citizen. And I pledge that at each step of the way, USCIS will be there to help, expanding our ability to reach as many audiences and communities as possible.

We have already partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency to expand services to agricultural and rural communities. This week, naturalization applicants can start using credit cards to pay fees. Also this week, we will launch the next phase of our Citizenship Public Education and Awareness Campaign, with new online test preparation tools. We are also announcing new award recipients under our Citizenship and Integration Grant Program to help build community capacity to prepare immigrants for citizenship.

Each new American citizen brings a unique set of skills and experiences which they can use to improve our communities and our nation. And each of them can help renew our shared hope that unlimited possibilities are available to everyone who embraces the opportunities that this country offers under its Constitution.

On that first Constitution Day in 1787, Benjamin Franklin emerged from the Constitutional Convention and was asked what kind of government had been created. “A Republic,” Franklin replied, “if you can keep it.”

That is the challenge on this Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. But I am fully confident that “we the people,” if we are faithful to ourselves and to each other, will “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” that we ordained and established by our Constitution.

León Rodríguez is Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He spoke last week in Dallas at the national United for Citizenship conference organized by the New Americans Campaign.

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Hartford Police Arrest Shooting Suspect


By Fran Wilson I Staff Writer

A Hartford man is in custody after police on Monday responded to multiple shots fired on Barbour Street.

Jamie Wilson, 22, of unknown address in Hartford, was arrested on Monday and charged with possession of a firearm, carrying a pistol without a permit and first degree attempted assault.

No one was injured, police said.

Police said they recovered seven spent 9mm “Winchester” Luger bullet shell casings after responding to 129 Barbour St. Monday at 10:49 p.m.

Upon arrival, officers canvassed the area,  where found shell casings but no suspects, witnesses or victims. Additional checks of nearby area hospitals failed to locate any victims, police said.

A second “Shot Spotter” activation came about one minute after the first activation in the area of 51 Barbour St., police said.

Nothing was located at that location as well.  It was unknown if the two separate “Shot Spotter” activations were from the same incident.

Wilson’s bond is set for $350.000.

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White House Celebrates Huskies NCAA Win


By Ann-Marie Adams I Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday honored the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team at the White House.

This was the Huskies’ third celebratory gathering at the White House during Obama’s tenure and the team’s 10th National Championship under Coach Geno Auriemma.

The Huskies won their 10th title after defeating Notre Dame in the April  championship game in Tampa.

Auriemma said it was a “special feeling”to be at the White House again.

“This is an incredible honor and it doesn’t matter how many times you are here,” Auriemma said. “When you walk into that door [at the White House] it’s still a special feeling.

President Obama recognized senior Breanna Stewart, the two-time national player of the year.

“[Stewart] has game,” Obama said. “She reminded how hard the team works to be the best by saying ‘We make it look easier than it is, but it comes with a lot of hard work … You don’t just step onto the court and get the trophy.”

Obama also praised the team for academic accomplishment and civic volunteerism, saying that these women do Thanksgiving and winter food drives.

They also spend their afternoons with senior citizens, Obama said.

Sport fans say UConn women are favored to win the title in 2016, which will be Obama’s final year in office.

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Car Hits Two Pedestrians in East Hartford, Streets Closed


EAST HARTFORD — Main Street in East Hartford was closed after a car struck two people Sunday night and police were investigating.

At about  7  p.m. police responded to a report of two injured pedestrians at 1209 Main St.  The two victims, only identified as a male and a female, were taken to a nearby hospital with non life-threatening injuries, police said.

The driver, identified only as a male, stayed on scene and cooperated with police.

Main Street was initially shut down between Burnside Avenue and Prospect Street at 7:30 p.m. while police investigated.

  The entire road reopened around 11:30 p.m.

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Himes’ New Dems May Bridge Troubled Congressional Waters


WASHINGTON – Rep. Jim Himes has not been a stranger to controversy this year, and he’s likely to pop up again at the center of new congressional scuffles.

He angered organized labor but his star rose at the White House when he helped give President Obama the authority he needed to negotiate a new trade pact.

Himes was denied a top Democratic Party job, but a group of centrists he leads may be growing in political clout. And House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who often chafed when Himes, D-4th District, crossed party lines, is likely to depend on the support of centrists like him if Democratic liberals abandon her when she negotiates with the GOP on key issues – especially the nation’s budget.

“Congressman Himes’ thoughtfulness and diligence will continue to be a valued asset to House Democrats’ efforts to advance a budget that invests in America and grows the paychecks of all Americans,” Pelosi said.

To many political analysts, centrists of both parties are a dying breed as congressional districts are increasingly reshaped to favor either liberal Democrats or conservative Republicans. Mixed or “swing” districts are on the wane. Even Himes’ district has become less of a tossup and more Democratic through redistricting and the growth of minority groups.

Himes is a co-chair of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of about 50 pro-business Democrats.  Scott McLean, professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, said it’s tougher for these New Democrats, a group created during President Clinton’s second term, to make a mark now.

“Congress is way more divisive now, and that makes it harder for people who want to go to the middle,” he said. “There are so many louder voices, stronger voices.”

Himes said he hopes the political trend reverses and the number of moderates – from both parties – grows. He also said he believes the Democratic Party has a “big tent” that accepts those who don’t vote a straight party line, while the GOP subjects its members to an ideological litmus test.

“We’re the party of tolerance; we celebrate our diversity,” he said.

Himes and other members of the New Democrat Coalition worked with the GOP to give the president broad authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact among the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries. In doing so, the lawmaker angered organized labor, which is concerned the agreement will result in U.S. job losses.

Himes responded to criticisms of his vote by saying, “I do an enormous amount of work to determine what is best for my district.”

Himes also often splits with other members of the Connecticut congressional delegation, all Democrats, on defense spending. By seeking some cuts to military spending, Himes votes with other Democrats more often that his Connecticut colleagues, who represent districts that are home to large defense contractors, such as Electric Boat and United Technologies’ Sikorsky Aircraft and Pratt & Whitney.

Even as their numbers have shrunk, the remaining moderates of both parties may be key players in efforts to resolve several looming crises this fall, including any federal shutdown in October. Coalition members see opportunities to assert themselves in coming fights over a massive highway bill and an increase in the debt ceiling.

These are all areas where House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has had a tough time fashioning legislation that can pass with only GOP votes because his party’s conservatives often reject compromises.

Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said New Democrats have a limited role in the budget-making process simply because they aren’t in the majority. Republican House leaders and the White House will do most of the negotiating, he said.

“But it’s possible that the New Democrats could get involved if a larger compromise deal arises…and House Republicans decide to seek out the help of some moderate Democrats in the House as a part of putting together a budget,” Skelley said.

Himes cautioned that any help New Democrats give the GOP will come at a price.

“We New Dems don’t exist for the purpose of compromising with Republicans,” he said. “To negotiate we need to know they will be reasonable.”

Any compromise budget would have to include an increase in funding for some New Democrat  priorities, including infrastructure, education and scientific research, Himes said.

For example, Himes said the New Democrats may use their “creativity and policy chops” to push reauthorization of a highway bill that would keep transportation money flowing to the states after the end of October.

In July, Himes and other New Democrats wrote to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Pelosi urging them to replenish the dwindling highway trust fund by taxing money U.S. corporations keep overseas.

Reps. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Elizabeth Esty-D-5th District, also signed the letter.

No ideological fights

Himes, 49, is a former investment banker who defeated a Republican, former Rep. Christopher Shays, to win the 4th District seat in 2008.

His knowledge of Wall Street served him well in securing a slot on the House Financial Services Committee, a good perch from which to serve his constituents, many of whom work for banks and investment firms.

His understanding of Wall Street also led him to support a couple of GOP-favored changes in the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, which infuriated Pelosi and other Democrats and led liberal groups to lobby against his candidacy to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Himes had earned the job of DCCC treasurer through his fundraising prowess, but Pelosi didn’t choose him for the organization’s top job. That went to Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., who rarely crossed party lines.

Himes’ political future seems secure, McLean said, even as he has attracted a challenger in state Rep. John Shaban of Redding, 51.

Himes has already become a “bundler,” one of dozens of “Hillblazers” who have each helped raise at least $100,000 for Hillary Clinton. Once again, Himes has used his ability to raise political cash in a wealthy district to help other Democrats and boost himself up the party’s ladder.

“He’s right at the crossroads of a lot of things,” McLean said, and if Clinton fails to win the nomination, “Himes can always say, ‘I back the person who is the Democratic nominee.”

Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., who co-chairs the New Democrats Coalition with Himes, calls the Connecticut lawmaker “pragmatic.”

“He focuses on what can be accomplished, he doesn’t get into ideological fights,” Kind said.

Kind said the New Democrats organize a policy lunch meeting every Wednesday and hold smaller “policy coffees” throughout the week.

Obama administration officials are often invited to these events – last week’s lunch featured Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

Kind said a priority for the New Democrats is to find a way to prevent a government shutdown, which would occur if House Republicans don’t agree to a short-term extension of current federal funding past Sept. 30.

Conservative Republicans insists the extension include the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which would force Senate Democrats to filibuster the short-term budget bill.

A similar scenario played out two years ago, when conservative Republicans insisted a budget bill defund the Affordable Care Act.

The government shut down for 16 days. Eventually Democrats helped Boehner push a bipartisan, two-year compromise through the House, and it passed the Senate. But that budget compromise will expire at the end of the month.

When it comes to the threat of a shutdown, Himes, said it would be blamed on the GOP and “would be a politically unwise thing to do.”

Pelosi appreciates that.

“With another Republican government shutdown looming and an infrastructure funding deadline on the horizon, Congressman Himes has amplified Democrats’ call for bipartisan solutions, not empty ideological grandstanding,” Pelosi said.

Recently, Himes showed off his budget wonkishness by tweeting a yellowed photo of a newspaper article in the National Archives. Written by Alexander Hamilton in 1790, it detailed the new nation’s debt “down to the penny!”

 

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Hartford Officials Unviel Plan for Coltsville Park


Maria Henry I Staff Writer

HARTFORD — City officials on Friday announced his latest agreement to give a boost to a Hartford heritage project.
Mayor Pedro Segarra unveiled a five-year plan with the National Park Service for the management of the Coltsville National Historical Park.
The nine-member City Council is expected to review the plan on Sept. 14 at City Hall. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Under the agreement, the City of Hartford will be responsible for providing adequate parking for visitors on city-owned parking facilities, restoring and maintaining the exteriors of historic Colt-era structures in Colt Park and assuring that City-owned land within the park is administered and managed consistent with the purposes and intent of legislation agreements creating the park, among other stipulations.
Officials said the agreement is one of the final steps toward establishing the Coltsville National Historical Park, a process that may be completed by late this year or early next year.
“I’m glad to see us moving closer toward establishing Coltsville National Historical Park. The once-thriving firearms factory played a significant role in our country’s history and deserves to be restored to a place of prominence where residents and visitors can learn from and appreciate it. I want to thank all the partners who worked hard on this historic project especially Congressman John Larson and our entire Connecticut Delegation,” Segarra said.
The Colt Gateway was the home of Samuel and Elizabeth and the site of the Colt Factory where the nation’s first revolver was manufacture.
The designation of Colt Part as a historic landmark will further restore the Colt complex and is estimated to generate $150 million for the regional economy and to create 1,000 jobs over the next five years.
“This has been years in the making, and Hartford richly deserves recognition for its cultural and historical impact on Connecticut and our nation,” said Congressman Larson.

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Tribes Set to Pitch Legislature on New Casino in ’16


Connecticut’s two tribal casinos staged a ceremony Thursday marking the start of a formal search for a community willing to accept a new gambling hall they want to maintain market share against competition coming to Massachusetts.

The Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans, owners of Foxwoods Resorts Casino and the Mohegan Sun, want to jointly pick a development site and win local approval before asking the General Assembly in 2016 for legislative authorization that is less than a sure bet.

The tribes set aside their contentious history as 17th-century combatants and modern business competitors Thursday to sign a deal creating the joint entity, MM4CT Venture, to face a common enemy: MGM Resorts International, licensed to build a casino in Springfield, Mass.

“While our past may have been marked by conflict and competition, our present and future will be defined by cooperation,” said Rodney A. Butler, the Mashantucket Pequot tribal chairman.

“Outside interests have made it perfectly clear that their business model depends on taking money and jobs from our state,” said Kevin P. Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council. “We’re not going to let that happen without a fight.”

 

Brown and Butler then sat down at a table in the Hall of Flags at the State Capitol to sign the joint-venture agreement, surrounded by tribal members and supporters, notably construction unions eager for work. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman also spoke in support.

Pearce Real Estate was named as the agent to oversee an RFP process that will advertise the tribes’ requirements for a development site next month and close the process by the end of November. Developers already have proposed sites in Enfield and East Hartford.

But the tribes, whose casinos are in eastern Connecticut, still face significant hurdles beyond the challenge of finding a community, preferably in the I-91 corridor north of Hartford, willing to welcome a casino situated to intercept Connecticut gamblers on the way to Springfield.

They failed in the 2015 session to win passage of an authorization bill that would have given them the right to develop Connecticut’s first casino off tribal lands without identifying exactly where the facility might be.

The bill never came to a vote after Attorney General George Jepsen warned that giving the Pequots and Mohegans exclusive rights to a new casino could jeopardize the tribes’ current profit-sharing deal with Connecticut and subject the state to claims of illegal favoritism.

Instead, the legislature gave the tribes a symbolic victory by passing a bill allowing the tribes to seek local support for a casino — a search they most likely could have undertaken without formal authorization.

MGM Resorts International filed suit in U.S. District Court last month, challenging the constitutionality of the limited law. Tribal officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, but they expressed optimism at addressing Jepsen’s concerns.

“We’ll continue to work with our legal counsel and the attorney general in the state as well, but we feel they are surmountable,” Butler said.

Butler said he is aware of a half-dozen developers ready to answer the tribes’ request for proposals.

Owners of the Enfield Square Mall asked Enfield officials this week to consider supporting a bid to attract a casino to their site, which has direct access to I-91. And the owner of the vacant Showcase Cinema in East Hartford, slightly outside the I-91 corridor, made a pitch to the tribes months ago.

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Hartford Officers Find Heroine, Weapons


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — About 700 bags of heroine and assault weapons were discovered on Babcock Street during a bust on Wednesday, police said.

Officers from three agencies stormed the first floor of an apartment building at 144 Babcock Street and at 68 Pliny St. and confiscated an AK-47 rifle, a .45 caliber handgun with ammunition and  38. 22 caliber rounds.

They also found 15 grams of crack cocaine and $2,052 in cash, police said.

According to reports, Luis Cruz, 37, of Hartford was arrested and charged with two counts of criminal possession of a firearm and possession of a high-capacity magazine.

Police also charged Cruz  with possession of narcotics, possession with intent to sell and operating a drug factory.

Detectives from the police department’s Vice and Narcotics Unit conducted the drug busts with help from the department’s South Conditions Unit and task forces from the state police and the FBI.

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