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Veteran Affairs Will Hold ‘Stand Down 2020’ Event to Support Veterans


ROCKY HILL — The Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs will hold its annual Veterans Stand Down this month.

Stand Down has been a signature outreach event to support Veterans for nearly three decades. And this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have adapted with an event that combines online benefits presentations and for the first time, regional resource access sites. 

Stand Down 2020 will be a two day event.  Day one on Thursday, Sept. 24 will begin with a kickoff ceremony at 9:00 a.m.

at the Rocky Hill Campus broadcast via social media.  Following the ceremony will be a day of virtual informational sessions, including information on a variety of federal and state agencies and community service providers on topics, including housing and homeless services, state labor/employment and vocational resources, veteran caregiver support, legal assistance, education resources and more.

On day two, Friday, Sept. 25, there will be four locations throughout Connecticut, Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwich and Rocky Hill.  These locations will be staffed by representatives of the regional Vet Centers, CT Bar Association and the DVA to provide benefits information, pro-bono legal services and free COVID-19 testing and flu shots by medical professionals. 

During this day, COVID mitigation protocols will be strictly enforced and only a certain number of individuals will be allowed to enter at certain scheduled times, so registration is necessary.

Attached is the Stand Down 2020 poster and schedule of events which I hope you will circulate broadly.

For additional information and to register for Stand Down 2020 please visit: https://portal.ct.gov/DVA/Pages/Veterans-Stand-Down.

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Hartford’s Census Rate Dismally Low, Officials Say


HARTFORD — The numbers are in.

Hartford has a dismal record for filling out the census. Consequently, it is the lowest response rate in the nation.

That’s according to U.S. Census officials on Wednesday. That’s why Hartford Public Library will be hosting events to help get city residents to fill out the U.S. Census.

The Library is offering two great incentives — free books and ice cream. The special census events will be at all of its locations from now until Sept. 30 census deadline.

Volunteers will assist with forms and voter registration.

“Voting and completing the census are two of the most fundamental – and easy – things a citizen can do to help their communities. It is our goal at HPL to encourage as many people as we can to participate in the civic process,” HPL’s President/CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey said in a statement Monday morning.

Connecticut has a 66. 7 percent response rate, compared to the national average of average of 62.9 percent. As of August, Hartford has a 44.6 percent response rate, the lowest rate of any city in the country.

There are seven Hartford Public Library census events between now and the end of September:

  • August 25 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Barbour Library, Unity Plaza, 261 Barbour St.
  • Sept. 8 and 15 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Camp Field Library, 30 Camp Field Ave.
  • Sept. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Artbox Lot, 769 Park St. across the street from the Park branch library.
  • Sept. 17 at Dwight Library, 7 New Park Ave., time to be determined.
  • Sept. 18 from noon to 2 p.m. at the main downtown library, 500 Main St.
  • Sept. 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Park Library, 744 Park St.

For more details about the events, visit hplct.org.

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Gov. Lamont Awards Grant to Improve CT Transit Link


By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – Gov. Ned Lamont announced that the Connecticut Department of Transportation has been awarded a $6.7 million federal grant to modernize the CTtransit bus facility in Stamford, similar to that of Hartford.

This grant will help to provide accommodations for battery electric buses, which will soon be used on the system.

Lamont said that there will be major improvements to the bus system with this grant, which came from the Federal Transit Administration’s Buses and Bus Facilities Program.

“Connecticut’s public transit system is long overdue for a modernization, and this grant will help in our transition to an electric bus fleet on the CTtransit system, which will provide both environmental and economic benefits to the region,” Lamont said.

The grant will also be used to upgrade the infrastructure at the CTtransit Stamford bus facility to handle battery electric buses. 

Electric buses are currently on order and were funded through Connecticut’s share of the 2018 Volkswagen emissions settlement, along with FTA funds (80 percent federal, 20 percent state). Twelve buses are being purchased for operation in the New Haven and Stamford service areas.

According to a press release, the Stamford facility improvements include upgrades to the building’s HVAC system, electrical upgrades to handle increased loads as well as upgrades to fire suppression systems and LED lighting upgrades. 

These improvements will retrofit the existing bus garage to accommodate the unique needs of the new electric buses.

Federal money for the Stamford facility modernization comes a few months after CTDOT received a $2 million FTA grant for a two-year program that will run autonomous buses on the Hartford-to-New Britain rapid transit bus line. 

Senator Richard Blumenthal said that there are various advantages to having good, efficient bus transportation systems.

“Clean green energy bus transportation reduces pollution and global warming,” Blumenthal said. “These federal funds will help spur much-needed upgrades and repairs for the existing fleet, and pay for new electric buses,” Blumenthal said

Blumenthal said that the state is approaching their original goal for general bus transportation.

“Benefiting our environment and the economy, Connecticut is one step closer to making eco-friendly the go-to public transportation option for all residents,” Blumenthal said.

Connecticut Transportation Commissioner, Joseph Giulietti  said that the department assured people that these new efficient buses will be an improvement.

“CTDOT is committed to incorporating electric buses into our fleet to significantly reduce emissions,” Giulietti said. “This grant represents great progress toward our electric bus future and helps to recognize the ongoing value of these continued investments in our public transportation system.”

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Gov. Lamont Fines Residents for COVID Travel Violations


By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – Two residents were recently fined Monday for a violation of the state’s requirements from COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to Gov. Ned Lamont.

Both travelers, who came back from Louisiana and Florida, were fined $1,000 for failing to fill out a public-health form required of passengers landing at Bradley International Airport and the Louisiana traveler was fined an additional $1,000 for refusing to self-quarantine for 14 days, officials said.

Lamont said that safety is the number one priority and anyone who opposes these rules will be disciplined no matter what.

“I hate to do it, but we’re going to be serious and show people we are serious about this, and to date it’s made a difference,” Lamont said, in a press conference.

Anyone arriving from a state with a daily positive COVID test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or has a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average must fill out a disclosure form and, under most circumstances, self-quarantine for 14 days.

Louisiana and Florida are among the 34 states, as well as Puerto Rico, that are currently on the travel advisory list used by Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, three of the states hit the hardest by the pandemic, which now have low infection rates, according to state officials.

Recently, the state has had less than a one percent positive rate in recent weeks. Results released Monday for the past three days showed less than one percent of the 38,309 latest tests showed new infections, a sign of real progress.

The Department of Public Health issued the fines after investigations resulting from tips, at least in one case, from a co-worker, according to Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer.

According to Gebelle, 20,000 people have completed the COVID disclosure form, with another 1,000 filed each day.

Lamont applauded public health officials in Bridgeport for shutting down a half-dozen bars that were “masquerading as restaurants,” attracting large crowds.

Lamont said he appreciated everyone’s effort to slow the spread of the virus and encourages vigilance.

“Overwhelmingly, people are doing the right thing,” Lamont said. “For those who aren’t, please be on notice.”

Officials could not identify their names but were known to be from Windham and Harford counties.

Completing the COVID health form is required of anyone who has spent “24 hours or longer in one of these affected states within 14 days prior to arriving in Connecticut, and if you plan to stay in Connecticut for more than 24 hours,” Gebelle said.

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Rep. Brandon McGee Hesitant to Declare Victory


By Susan Thomas, Contributor

HARTFORD — Hartford and Windsor residents in the fifth district now face a nail-biting vote-counting process in the tally of the votes in Tuesday Democratic primary.

Late Tuesday, Rep. Brandon McGee had a decisive lead over his challenger, Craig Stallings in the Democratic primary.

The tally for the vote was expected by Friday. But it might be next Monday because of a confluence of events that led to low voter turn out; the COVID-19 pandemic, and its aftermath of social distancing in an urban enclave.

Additional obstruction to Hartford seeing a high voter turn out is media suppression of ethnic journalists or ethnic publications in the capital city of Hartford, according to sources close of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Also, Gov. Lamont signeed an executive order late Monday limited the deadline–despite the carefully crafted obstructions, to accept absentee ballots postmarked by Aug. 11 and arrival of these ballots by Thursday Aug. 13.

In the 5th House District in Hartford and Windsor — incumbent state Rep. McGee held a commanding lead over challenger Craig Stallings with all but one polling location reporting, according to The Hartford Courant.

McGee was unwilling to declare victory because of the low in-person turnout and theuncertainty of the absentee ballot count, but said he appreciated all the hard work of his supporters.

“At the end of the day, I’m really excited and appreciative of the efforts,” McGee said. “I’m honored with the unofficial numbers to say thank you.”

By 9:30 p.m., Stallings conceded.

“This was always a uphill battle. … My purpose for running was to create a new conversation focused on accountability in our community,” he said.

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Some Businesses Ease Back Into Normalcy


By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – At least one local business has reopened to a tepid response from the public after the restaurant has being closed for a few months to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Lynne Russell, one of the manager of Sorella’s Italian Restaurant on Main Street in Hartford, said that business has been random since they reopened.

“They have been people passing through and stopping for a bite to eat,”
Russell said.

According to Russell, there are guidelines implanted to lesson the spread
COVID-19.

“We are following all guidelines  put forth by the state which include
constant washing of tables, and masks,” Russell said.


The restaurant took “online classes In order to help with the new protocols
put in place,” Russell said.

These businesses, which have been opened to the public since June 22 with limitations, include restaurants, barber shops, libraries and sports facilities as part of the state’s phase two reopening plan.

Samantha Savran, association director of marketing at the YMCA of Greater Hartford, said that the facility has implemented guidelines as required by the governor.

“We now have temperature checks as well as continuous cleaning. social distancing measures and mask requirements,” Savran said.

Savran said that even during the coronavirus, kids have been enjoying their time at the “Y.”

“At our day camp we run at the facility, children have been having a blast,” Savran said. “They like playing with their peers in a different and more controlled environment.”

Savran said that the YMCA has been the go-to place to go for people dealing with stress during these pressing times.

“The YMCA’s purpose is to build stronger relationships with members,” Savran said. “Our wellness center has always had strong bonds with its members.”

As of July 14, 2020, there have been 47, 287 positive cases of the virus with 4,348 deaths in Connecticut, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Black and Puerto Rican Caucus Fights for ‘agenda for equity’


By KELAN LYONS and KEITH M. PHANEUF

Members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus added their voices Tuesday to the growing calls for systemic reforms that would make life safer and more equitable for Connecticut’s residents of color.

Recognizing that “no single bill can right centuries of wrongs, let alone a few summer days in the Capitol,” Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford and caucus chair, said the proposals were “a table-setting moment for what we hope will be viewed as a years-spanning commitment to racial equity in Connecticut.”

The proposals are similar to Senate Democrats’ Juneteenth agenda released last month. McGee said the measures are not in conflict with the ideas raised by his legislative colleagues, several of whom joined him Tuesday on the Capitol steps.

“Together they emphasize a growing commitment to systemic change among members of this legislature,” McGee said. “What we’ve done as a caucus, however, is honed in just a little bit more on some of those very, I would say, low-hanging fruit opportunities that would provide again, a larger conversation for policies that we’ve been working on so long, to be able to be passed, supported by our governor.”

Caucus members identified six pillars for reform: voting rights, economic justice, police accountability, education and housing equity and environmental justice. They called for more personal protective equipment for those on the pandemic’s frontlines, closing opportunity and resource gaps for children living in under-resourced school districts and expanding “no-strings-attached homeownership” opportunities. And they proposed updating environmental laws to account for the disproportionate impacts of poor air quality and industrial pollution on communities of color, especially important in the COVID-19 era.

“An individual with underlying health conditions attributed to poor air quality [and] industrial pollution are more susceptible to the detrimental effects of the virus,” said Rep. Geraldo Reyes Jr. , D-Waterbury, vice chair of the caucus.

McGee said caucus members are working with Sen. Gary Winfield, a New Haven Democrat and co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, on a police accountability bill for the upcoming special session. It isn’t clear whether those bills will be separate proposals or a part of the same measure, but they have similar themes: ending discriminatory policing that leads to a disproportionate number of minorities behind bars, expanding community oversight of police officers and creating an independent entity to investigate and hold cops accountable for breaking the law.

The particulars of the proposals are still being negotiated. McGee suggested parts of the agenda, like police accountability measures and new laws that would make it easier to vote, could be floated in the upcoming special session later this month, but others could be dealt with in a second special session later in the summer or fall.

A notable absence: tax reform

Absent from the caucus’ agenda were any proposals to redistribute wealth through tax reform.

Over the past few years, various progressive groups have advocated for higher income tax rates on Connecticut’s wealthiest residents, new and expanded credits to provide state income tax relief to poor and middle-income households, and increased municipal aid to the state’s urban centers.

The Black and Puerto Rican and House Democratic Progressive caucuses, which share many members, pushed for many of these initiatives as recently as last January, when the regular 2020 General Assembly session began.

“True economic justice cannot be achieved until we end the criminalization of poverty and level the playing field for all,” McGee said.

Democrats advocating for a more progressive state and local tax system know one major obstacle to sweeping reforms lies at the head of their party — Gov. Ned Lamont.

The governor, a wealthy Greenwich businessman, defeated a Democratic proposal during his first year in office to impose an income tax surcharge on the capital gains earnings of the state’s wealthiest people, and consistently has argued that higher taxes on top earners would drive them to move out of state.

Connecticut ranks above nearly all states in terms of both income and wealth inequality. Wealth, which takes into account stocks, other investment holdings, property and debt, is even more concentrated at the top here than income.

Critics say Connecticut’s tax system, with its heavy reliance on municipal property taxes and a state sales tax, exacerbates this inequality. These levies are largely regressive, meaning the rates are the same regardless of the taxpayers’ wealth. And many businesses can transfer their tax burdens onto consumers, also disproportionately harming the low-income households.

The working poor in Connecticut pay nearly one-quarter of their earnings to cover state and local taxes, or to cover business taxes shifted onto their households, according to a 2014 state tax analysis. The middle class pay about 13%, while the top 10% of earners pay 10% and the top 1% pay almost 7.5%.

Advocates for progressive state and local tax reform argue increased public sensitivity toward systemic racism make now the right time for legislative action. They attribute this awareness both to the disproportionate toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on communities of color as well as the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

But McGee said that while his caucus is committed to mobilize “a growing commitment to systemic change” among legislators, leaders also realize the planned July special session offers a limited “window of opportunity” for change.

After the news conference, McGee said the caucus was still discussing potential progressive tax proposals they could float in a special session, perhaps after the July session, which will be focused on policing and voting access.

“As you can imagine, there are a lot of moving pieces to this,” McGee said. “I really believe that we will have ‘Part Two’ of special session, and (tax reform ) is a part of our long list of items that we want to support.”

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A grassroots policing alternative in Hartford spreads its wings


Men Standing Up Against Violence’s community-based stewardship model is expanding

YEHYUN KIM :: PHOTO CT MIRROR

By ISABELLA ZOU

Fred Phillips, right, founder of Men Standing Up Against Violence, and Charles K. Evans share a fist bump on Thursday, July 2 in Hartford.

On a recent night, Fred Phillips stood on a historically violent street corner in his childhood neighborhood in Hartford and greeted dozens of people as they passed by him.

He talked with a woman carrying an enormous bottle of gin and found out her best friend had been killed. He comforted her. He met a man who had been shot several months ago and was out to find the one who did it.

“Listen, you can’t live for revenge,” Phillips, 66, counseled him. The man broke into tears.

Phillips and members of his group, Men Standing Up Against Violence, go out into what he called the North End’s “hotspots of crime” about 40 times a year, especially on holidays and during city events when they tend to see more activity and violence on the streets.

They aim to have conversations with youths, mediate conflicts and deter crime. The 40 active members, most of them retired and volunteering full-time with the group, know these spots and these people well. They grew up here.

“It’s our duty as people who grew up in the community to protect and serve,” said Phillips, retired from a long career in teaching, youth services and government work.

It’s our duty as people who grew up in the community to protect and serve.”— Fred Phillips

At a time when the role of police is being reevaluated, especially in Black communities, the group’s work — which extends beyond crime mitigation to holistically care for the needs of their own community — shows the effectiveness of hyperlocal, grassroots groups not just for community self-policing, but also for improving community wellbeing more broadly.

It’s a blueprint that’s spreading throughout the state – Phillips said that in addition to Hartford, there are growing chapters in New Britain, New London, Waterbury and Bridgeport. And there’s a chapter in the works in Phoenix, Arizona.

Bosco James Miller recently started the New London chapter by gathering old friends and church members in the area.

“We want to be a bright light in the community,” he said, explaining that he’s in the thick of organizing their first action — hosting a voter registration drive for his community that will also pass out food and COVID-19 supplies.

It’s in keeping with Phillips’s vision. He founded the group five years ago to “fill in the gaps” for the community’s needs. Last Tuesday, the Hartford branch hosted a COVID-19 supplies giveaway at Phillips Metropolitan C.M.E. Church on Main Street, which Phillips and several other members of the group attend. They handed out more than 200 meals and 2,000 face masks to members of the community. Half the supplies had been donated by local pharmacies and catering companies, Phillips said. The other half was paid for out-of-pocket by members of the group.

Phillips said that other COVID-19 supply giveaways have been hosted in locations that are hard for community members to reach.

“We tried to fill that void by bringing the stuff directly to the people, so it’d be within hands’ reach,” he said.

They volunteer to assist individuals familiar with their work in the neighborhood too. If an elderly person needs someone to help mow their lawn, they’ll call someone from Men Standing Up. Last week, Phillips cut up and removed a tree that had become buried in a man’s backyard.

When people offer them money, they refuse it.

“We just say, ‘It’s a pleasure for us to be of service to you,’” Phillips said.

They also focus on youth mentorship, beginning with looking out for children’s safety. Members of Men Standing Up have stationed themselves along streets with drug activity to make sure children got to and from school safely.

Steve Harris, a former city councilman, retired firefighter and key North End figure and advocate, said that he watched Phillips and the other men in the group grow up. Now, they’re widely known and trusted in the community.

“In my community, you gotta have cred — street cred,” he said. “A lot of their success comes from the fact [that] these are homies. These guys grew up in this neighborhood.”

Essential partners

Men Standing Up members say that they deter violence just by being a visible presence on their neighborhood’s streets, an action that is often more effective than policing but can put them into potentially dangerous situations.

“At any point, our lives are in jeopardy,” Phillips said. “The police have guns, and we have each other.”

Both Phillips and Harris attributed the group’s success to its reputation in the neighborhood, and the trust members have cultivated with community members. It’s something that Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody said is an essential complement to policing in the city’s higher-crime areas.

JOE AMON :: CONNECTICUT PUBLIC RADIO

Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody takes a knee at the Hartford Public Safety Complex with protest leaders during the Self-Defense Brigade Anti-Oppression Rally for George Floyd in Hartford on June 1, 2020.

“They’re doing work that, frankly, I don’t think we can do,” he said. “These guys are old school, they’ve been around a long time, they’ve got credibility with people.”

Occasionally, Thody said, he reaches out to the group to help address a “particular pocket of violence” by “walk(ing) through those streets and have(ing) conversations with people.” The police department also asks them to be out on North End streets during events with a “potential for violence,” such as Hartford’s Riverfest, to intervene in conflicts and deter violence.

The group’s relationship with the police didn’t start out this friendly. Two years ago, Phillips and three other members were standing on the corner of Barbour Street, monitoring the kids in the area to make sure they were safe, when several police officers confronted them and said they had to move.

“We explained to them who we are and what we were doing,” Phillips said. “And when we did that, he said, ‘Well, we got a complaint that you guys are loitering, and you can’t stand here in front of this store.’”

They complied, he said, but “no sooner than we crossed the street, the dealers were back on that corner.” Fuming, Phillips called then-police chief David Rosado, he said, and they met the next morning. He recalled telling the chief, “It’s so strange that we get put off the corner by your officer only to get replaced by people who were up to no good.”

They’re doing work that, frankly, I don’t think we can do. These guys are old school, they’ve been around a long time, they’ve got credibility with people.”— Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody

After that, he said, they established a relationship with the department, and the officer who confronted them two years ago even came to assist with the mask giveaway last Tuesday. Phillips said that the group has had an “ongoing positive relationship” with the police department. “We have similar objectives,” he said. “We just go about doing our thing differently.”

Growing up, Phillips said, police brutality was commonplace.

“When we saw the police, we just took off running, whether we did anything or not,” he said. The first of several times he remembers being mistreated by law enforcement, he was 16. “I was picked up for something I didn’t do, and beat up by the police. It was traumatic.” As a result, he said, there was a deep fear and distrust of the police within his community that persists to this day.

Harris agreed.

“I’ve lived on this street for 70 years, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my community service officer,” he said. “When I see police, they’re usually riding past. And even if they look as they ride past, they kinda look at you like, ‘OK, is this one of the people I’m supposed to be looking for today?’”

Still, Phillips said, Men Standing Up has been hesitant to join in the current protests for racial justice and police abolition. He said that his group’s work fundamentally relies on the community’s trust, which could be jeopardized if the group associated with a protest that turned violent. Instead, they “try not to get caught up in the political stuff” and instead focus on their own community work, which he sees as “proactive, not reactive.”

“We all have our different ways of protesting, just like we all have our different ways of grieving,” he said.

Thody said that community groups like Men Standing Up, and larger groups like COMPASS Peacebuilders and Mothers United Against Violence, are essential partners for the police in the work of reducing crime. “We should expand the use of civilian and citizen-based groups to help us,” he said.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin recently announced the creation of a civilian crisis response team that would respond to certain 911 calls instead of police, or alongside them.

Harris said he finds Bronin’s initiative “insulting,” given the underfunding of groups like COMPASS, Mothers United Against Violence, and Hartford Communities That Care, and the fact that more informal groups like Men Standing Up receive no government funding at all.

“Why don’t we just take those funds and distribute them to these organizations that are already doing the work?” he said.

A harmful system

Reaching a point where civilian groups can take over more completely requires time and deep systemic changes, said Thody, not just an isolated, immediate defunding of the police.

“I hope that, for whoever is still here a hundred years from now, that we’re in a place where we need less police, where order and management can be done on a civilian and neighborhood basis,” he said. “But I don’t think we can flip the switch and do that in a year, or even five years… there are bigger issues in socioeconomics and access that have to be addressed, too, before you get a neighborhood that can self-sustain in that way.”

YEHYUN KIM :: CT MIRROR

Rodney Matthews (left), owner of a custom t-shirt store, talks to Fred Phillips.

Phillips said that over the decades, things haven’t gotten better in North Hartford. He sees street violence even more frequently than in childhood, he said. Amid an overall downward trend in Hartford crime in recent years, the Northeast District saw a 58% increase in gun violence from 2018 to 2019, according to the Hartford Courant. Harris pointed out, too, that COVID-19 has ravaged the community, as it has other communities of color — due in large part to underlying health conditions like diabetes and hypertension, resulting from food deserts and lack of health care.

Harris said that 15 years ago, he and other community advocates were negotiating with several major grocery chains to get one to open a grocery store stocked with fresh produce in the North End. Ultimately, not a single one agreed.

There’s a whole built-in system that’s not designed to really lift us up and help us out.”— Steve Harris, former Hartford city councilor

“They didn’t feel that a store in our neighborhood could financially sustain itself,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the dollars and cents.”

In his community, and in other communities of color, he said, health disparities, poverty and unemployment, drug addiction and crime, lack of access to basic resources, simply “haven’t changed.”

“There’s a whole built-in system that’s not designed to really lift us up and help us out,” he said.

Lifting hopes

One of Men Standing Up’s primary goals is give a sense of hope and direction to the community’s youth to help create lasting change, Phillips said.

They do this by modeling educational attainment — all members of Men Standing Up completed high school, and some graduated from college as well, and successfully pursued a variety of careers from professional basketball to law to religious leadership.

And they do it by modeling behavior, particularly for young men.

“We must show the young men in the community, who are doing all kinds of stuff, this is how men run things, this is how men conduct themselves,” Phillips said.

Men Standing Up members also directly engage youth in a variety of ways. They regularly visit high schools to share their life stories and speak against bullying and violence.

LISA CLAYTON :: HARTFORD PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL

Members of Men Standing Up Against Violence wait to speak to students at Hartford Public High School at a Black History Month assembly on February 27. From left to right: Hartford Hospital nurse Marlene Harris, Hartford Police Officer Jaquan Samuels, Men Standing Up members George “Shorty” Davis, Fred Phillips and Joseph Pina.

Lisa Clayton, a music teacher at Hartford Public High School, said that she knew Phillips through church, and she invited his group to speak as part of the school’s Black History Month programming this year. On February 27, they spoke to the ninth-grade class about the trauma and challenges they experienced growing up, and their journeys since. Clayton remembers “looking at [the students’] faces and seeing them being inspired.” They then moved into individual classrooms to have more intimate conversations.

Students need to see that there’s a way to be authentically themselves and authentically successful.”— Lisa Clayton, teacher, Hartford Public High School

“The kids were captivated,” she said. “They did such a great job inspiring the young people to take pride in who they are, to take pride in their community.”

Clayton said that students hear from various speakers every year — in the past, these have ranged from U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes to city councilmen and local pastors. But it’s especially helpful for them to hear from people who grew up in their own community. After Men Standing Up’s visit, she said, students told her how encouraging it was to “hear from people who are from Hartford, who have been able to do amazing things in their lives, being from the same streets, being from the same neighborhoods.”

“Students need to see that there’s a way to be authentically themselves and authentically successful,” she said.

Before schools closed due to the pandemic, she said, her colleagues were working with Men Standing Up to connect them with students who were on what Phillips called a “downward spiral,” with low grades and attendance. Once schools reopen, Phillips said, the group plans on mentoring these students one-on-one, taking them to dinner and baseball games and offering consistent guidance and encouragement.

“You need people in your corner telling you, ‘You can,’ rather than telling you why they believe you can’t,” Phillips said. He believes this so strongly because credits his own success to his neighborhood mentors — neighbors, church leaders, family friends — with helping him get through high school and into college.

Phillips graduated from Allen University, a historically Black university in South Carolina, in 1976 with a degree in education. He married his college sweetheart, and for 36 years, he followed his “love for kids.” He taught at Wintonbury Early Childhood Magnet School and Laurel Elementary School, both in Bloomfield, worked in Bridgeport’s department of mental health, ran a program for high school dropouts at the (now-defunct) SAND corporation’s North End housing project in Hartford, worked as a youth services officer in the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (which closed in 2018), and returned to teaching before retiring in 2012.

Founding and working with Men Standing Up, he said, is his way of continuing his passion and “giving back to my community.”

“We can’t keep the neighborhood from deteriorating,” Phillips said. “But we can lift the hopes of people in the neighborhood up until things improve.”

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2020 Political Round Up


By Thomas Nocera, Staff Writer

All five of Connecticut’s U.S. House of Representative seats are up for grabs in this year’s election. A field full of Republican hopefuls are intent on staging their own small upset against the five Democratic incumbents. While they might not agree on much, candidates from both parties claim this election could well shape the face of politics for years to come. The Republican primary will be Aug. 11. The general election will be Nov. 3.

With virtual conventions wrapped up, here’s a list of the heavyweight contenders, who have gotten nods from their respective parties.

First District: Central, includes Bristol, Torrington, and Hartford

Republican: Mary Fay

Mary Fay is currently West Hartford’s town councilor. A self-professed fiscal conservative, Fay intends on bringing that ideology with her to Washington if elected. She has a long history of campaign experience, winning two-terms as an elected member of the West Hartford Town Council where she served on the budget and finance committee. In her professional life, she was an executive director for the Connecticut Retirement Service Authority, and worked in finance for General Electric and ING. Fay will be running against incumbent John Larson – her former high school history teacher.

Democratic: John Larson

John Larson has served as the first District House Representative since 1999. Before that, he was a multi-term state senator. During his time in D.C., he has championed a number of causes: in 2007 he sponsored the Energy Independence and Security Act, which sought to increase the development and use of renewable energies. He also introduced the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 to Congress, which sought to provide loans and support to small businesses nationwide. Most recently, he was allegedly involved in a social experiment with food stamps, Medicaid, and social security issues to help shape policies in congress.

Second District: Eastern, includes New London, Enfield, Norwich

Republican: Tom Gilmer

An Ohio native, Gilmer moved to Connecticut in 2014 where he founded and operated a large a construction management company that has worked throughout the state. He also served as a trade market manager for energy giant BP. Gilmer believes the private sector thrives when the government is kept on the periphery. He favors the looser regulations in the private sector, and has struck a heavy economic note on campaign trail thus far.

Democrat: Joe Courtney

Courtney was a lawyer and Connecticut House of Representatives member before being elected to Congress in 2006. There, he serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. Courtney was a vocal opponent to the Trump corporate tax cuts and Muslim travel ban. He is well known for his support of District 2’s large defense jobs industry.

Third District : Central, includes New Haven and Middleton

Republican: Margaret Streiker

Streiker hopes her background managing large real estate investments and operations will give her an edge in the uphill battle to replace District 3’s long serving incumbent, Rosa DeLauro. Her flagship company, Newcastle Reality, managed and invested millions in residential and commercial properties in New York City. However, it was not without controversy. Before closing in 2019, Newcastle Reality was accused of cost inflation on projects, receiving illegal kickbacks from construction contractors, and illegal buyouts of rent-stabilized apartments. Streiker herself was never singled out – but other employees, and the company as a whole, were.  She has made it a point to highlight that, though she is a republican, she would be willing to oppose the president and work across the aisle when necessary.

Democrat: Rosa DeLauro

DeLauro began serving as District 3’s representative in 1991. Since, has a history of championing progressive causes in D.C. DeLauro’s taken vocal and progressive stances on healthcare, gun control, and campaign finance reform. She is one of the original members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and currently sits on a subcommittee dedicated to the organization of federal funds for coronavirus relief efforts.

Fourth District : Southwestern, includes Stamford, Bridgeport, and Norwalk

Republican: Johnathan Riddles

Riddles is a New York native and self-professed “green” republican who has worked extensively in the financial services industry as a private wealth manager. He is currently vice president of The Private Bank, a division of Bank of America catering to clients with substantial assets. With little previous entanglements in party politics, he is hoping voters will see his appeal as a political outsider.

Democrat: Jim Himes

Himes has served as District 4’s representative since 2009 and currently sits on the Committee on Finical Services, and the House Intelligence Committee. He has been a consistent advocate of financial industry reform and a supporter of green energy initiatives. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare reformation will be one of his campaigns central initiatives.

Fifth District : Northwestern, includes Waterbury and Danbury

Republican: David X. Sullivan

Sullivan has been an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump and his economic policies. He’s running on a platform centered on lowering taxes and the deregulating the private sector. Sullivan has voiced strong opposition to the ‘Green New Deal’ and ‘Medicare For All’ initiatives in Congress – efforts supported by District 5’s incumbent, Representative Jahana Hayes. Prior to being nominated, Sullivan worked as a prosecutor for the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General. 

Democrat: Jahana Hayes

Waterbury resident Jahana Hayes is the first African American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. Before politics, the one-term incumbent was a career teacher. The first term representative won the 2018 election with nearly 56 percent of the vote and has since focused heavily on education and healthcare reform. In her first term, her key vote was to impeach President Donald Trump. During the coronavirus pandemic, Hayes has been vocal in highlighting disparities and difficulties in distance learning regiments, and has been critical of the safety of economic re-openings. But Hayes is unaware of a pending lawsuit against her for political obstruction by her former campaign staffers, who helped sabotage a stronger candidate than Hayes to run for congress against former House Representative Elizabeth Esty. Hayes waited out Esty’s scandal and jumped in the race after she resigned amid a scandal about sexual harassment in her office. Some say Hayes had news of Esty’s impending resignation and her cronies worked for three years to stage adverse experiences for the other black woman, who was deemed the most eligible to be the first African-American congresswoman from Connecticut. The plan to put Hayes in congress began when she enrolled in graduate school while the other black woman was a professor at a top 20 university.

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Hartford Launches Emergency Funding


HARTFORD — Hartford on Tuesday joined community-based organizations to launch a $1 million grant program to help about 100 small businesses with cash.

Hartford, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, HEDCO, Inc., and Capital for Change launched a $1 million Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program that will provide a grant of up to $10,000 to make lease or mortgage payments, pay salaries, make vendor payments, pay taxes, or pay for other eligible expenses.

Officials said the Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program is aimed at small businesses that may have difficulty obtaining funding from other federal or state initiatives, with a particular focus on providing assistance to small businesses owned by women and people of color, located in low-income neighborhoods in Hartford.  

Many small businesses hire locally, hence the need to support them, city officials said.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and we are proud to join with these partners to get them critical support during this unprecedented time,” said City Council President Maly D. Rosado.

The program will be administered by Capital for Change and applications will be accepted online beginning on May 4, 2020.  A link to the application will be available at Coronavirus.Hartford.gov.  

Grant awards are expected to be made on or before May 22, 2020.  Program dates are subject to change.

Beginning on April 27, 2020, interested businesses can access technical assistance to ensure they are prepared to submit an application.

Organizations providing technical assistance include the Blue Hills Civic Association, the Upper Albany Merchants Association, the Spanish American Merchants Association, HEDCO Inc., the Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Hartford, the Minority Construction Council, and the Hartford Chamber of Commerce.

In order to be eligible for the grant, businesses must: (a) be located within the City of Hartford, (b) be able to provide at least one federal tax return, (c) have positive revenues not exceeding $500,000 for the submitted tax years, (d) have an EIN and/or DUNS number, if applicable.  Other eligibility requirements will be available in the grant application.  

In an effort to make grants available to as many business owners as possible, principal owners of multiple businesses will only be eligible for one grant.


“This pandemic has devastated small businesses, and we want to do everything we can to help our small businesses here in Hartford survive, reopen, re-hire, and start growing again,” said Mayor Luke Bronin.  “All too often, small businesses in communities like Hartford don’t have the banking relationships, the connections, or the ability to access federal grants or loans, and this partnership is aimed at helping those small businesses that are most likely to be left out.”


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