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Former Gov. Dannel Malloy to Join Historians and Others to Discuss Education in Connecticut


By Josh Leventhal, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will join historians, legal professionals and others to discuss the issue of education reform at Yale University Law School on April 22, 2020.

Malloy was invited by The Hartford Guardian to discuss his role as the education governor, address the challenges of segregation in the education system, and talk about closing the achievement gap. Malloy confirmed his acceptance again on Wednesday, saying he agreed because it was a good debate to have in the state, according to a staffer in his office at the University of Maine.

Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Many other education experts and professionals have been invited to speak on the subject of school segregation and the overall impact that it has on the achievement gap. Other topics will include why the gap still exists, and what can be done in order to close it.

“The discussion will certainly be an educational, informative, and entertaining debate,” said Ann-Marie Adams, editor and publisher of The Hartford Guardian.

In essence, the discussion will center on Adams theory about school segregation and the supplementary achievement gap that occurs in the state of Connecticut.

Dr. Adams is a leading expert in the field in American history. She is also a U.S. History Professor, an award wining journalist, and the founder of The Hartford Guardian. During the discussion, Dr. Adams will explain her theory in detail. She will also share the research that went into her book about the African American struggle for full citizenship including a quality education in CT, which in essence is the book’s innermost theme. It is also the very first published work that centers on the black Civil Rights Movement and black education in the state of Connecticut.

Dr. Adams graduated with distinction from Howard University after completing her dissertation about the African American experience and their fight for a quality education in Connecticut from the colonial period to the twentieth century. It is the first scholarly publication that covers the entire arc of the black presence in Hartford, Connecticut.

In addition, Dr. Adams has been covering the topic of education for more than 20 years at many prominent publications such as The Hartford Courant, the Norwich Bulletin, and the Times-Herald Record

There will be a short question and answer session after the debate, so participants are asked to bring questions. Please email editor@thehartfordguardian.com for sponsorship details.

The Hartford Guardian is published by the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities, Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2004. Early bird tickets are $35 each. After Feb. 15, 2020, tickets will increase to $40/each. Please note that the cost of tickets and other donations are tax deductible.

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Lighting the way to safe, permanent homes for kids


By Josiah Brown

November is National Adoption Month.  Amid the opioid epidemicwith the number of Connecticut children in foster care increasing past 4,300 (after having earlier dropped below 4,000)— and with the total number of children under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction due to abuse or neglect exceeding 10,000 per year— let’s consider ways to help these young people secure safe, permanent homes.

All children deserve this, whether with their biological families, extended kin, or adoptive families.  Let’s also recognize people who open their homes as foster parents, during traumatic periods of transition.

Public consciousness around adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is growing. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found six in 10 Americans experience at least one adverse experience such as household violence, drug or alcohol or sexual abuse, or incarceration of a family member— during childhood.  Nearly one in six endure four or more different types of such experiences, with women and African Americans among those at greater risk.

According to the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat, “Preventing ACEs can help children and adults…. The more types of ACEs a person has, the higher their risk for negative outcomes, which will limit their opportunities.”  Dangers range from health conditions like diabetes, depression, and hypertension to struggles with school, work, and relationships.

Progress, but serious challenges remain

Connecticut is making progress in caring for children at particular riskthe fraction who, after investigation by the Department of Children and Families (DCF, which decides to keep children at home in over 90% of cases), are placed under protection.  Especially encouraging was the move, as former DCF Commissioner Joette Katz notes, from institutions to families; the percentage of children protected in residential facilities fell from about 30% to 8% between January 2011 and 2019.  She observes, “of those who remained there, many have complex medical needs.”

Such progress is bolstered by public and nonprofit actorsfrom the Governor’s Task Force on Justice for Abused ChildrenOffice of the Child Advocate, and Connecticut Alliance of Adoptive and Foster Families, to the Center for Children’s Advocacy and Children’s Law Center.  (New Haven alone has, for example, Connecticut Voices for ChildrenClifford Beers‘r kids, and various school, university, faith-based, and hospital resources.)  Other things being equal, the aim is to return children to their families.  But if that’s not safe or wise in a specific case, having foster care and adoption available is crucial.

Judges play a fundamental role in determining a child’s best interest in such cases.  The process also includes professional attorneys and social workers, to protect children from birth to adolescence.  But these professionals often have large caseloads.  In this process, another valuable role is that of a court-appointed special advocate (CASA).

CASA volunteers can help

CASAs are volunteers from all walks of life whom judges appoint to collaborate in discerning and defending the best interests of children who have experienced abuse or neglect.  These volunteers meet with children at least monthly, getting to know them and their circumstancesincluding teachers and social workers, foster parents and families.  Carefully screened and trained through a systematic curriculum and part of a national network recognized for improving outcomes for kids, CASAs make evidence-based recommendations to judges.  At the center: these caring, consistent volunteers’ relationships with the children themselves—with whom these adults can make a lifelong difference through one-on-one interactions at a difficult time.

The CASA network has an established affiliate in Fairfield County and a new statewide association.  This work is expanding as a result of a 2016 state law.  Until now, only 1 percent of Connecticut’s children in foster care had CASAs, reflecting an unmet need and an enormous opportunity for volunteers to get involved.  In 2019, CASA of Southern Connecticut and CASA of Northern Connecticut started up, received 501(c)(3) status, and began welcoming applications from prospective volunteers.  The first cohort will train in December and begin volunteer advocacy in juvenile courts early in the new year.  Engaging as a CASA is one proven way to help change a child’s story.  Ultimately the goal is to identify a safe, permanent home where the child can thrive.

“Help … light the way”

As Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, says: “Keeping children safe must be everybody’s business.  CASA volunteers play a unique role on behalf of some of our most vulnerable children.  Their commitment, vigilance and persistence offer hope where there has been little.  They help to light the way for these children—and for all of us.”

November is Adoption Month.  This holiday, as we cherish blessings of family and friends, let’s also think of children whose family ties have frayed or fractured.  Whether through adoption, fostering, volunteering in some other way —including as a CASA— or supporting organizations advancing such efforts, there is much we can do— as well as much to be thankful for.

Josiah H. Brown is executive director of CASA of Southern Connecticut (New Haven, New London, and Middlesex counties). Twitter: @JosiahBrownCT

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No Bail, No Justice: How Politics and Poverty Trap People in Prisons


By Christian Spencer, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — For Wayne Francis, the wait to get out of prison was a bit much.

Francis, a Hartford-based attorney, was charged with first-degree larceny in 2017 and had to wait more than two years before he could cobble up about $200, 000 of his $2 million bail bond to get out of maximum security prison. Some observers felt his pre-trial detention bond and delay in prison was excessive and racist when compared to other individuals in similar situations.

Francis, now freed by his friend Barbara Frankson, was placed in a level five correctional facility, the highest and most stringent form of prison security. Francis spent 27 months in a prison surrounded by some of the most violent offenders in the state. 

“Level five is when you have lifers, murders, and Wayne was put in there with them,” Frankson said. “Innocent until proven guilty, is that what they say? He was guilty before proven innocent.”


According to Frankson, Wayne was assigned an ankle-monitor for 30 days and offered curfew after he was bailed out.

“But guess what, he still has an ankle bracelet and he didn’t get curfew. He is still [technically] in jail because he can’t get a curfew. It took him forever to get to his doctor’s appointment.”

Every year, more than 11 million people move through America’s 3,100 local jails and prisons, many on low-level, non-violent misdemeanors, costing local governments about $22 billion a year, according to a 2016 White House initiative. In local jails and prisons in Connecticut, about 550 people were in pre-trial detention.

Some of these pre-trial detentions are because of the politics of race or dire poverty. In both cases, the detainee has to stay in prison until he can afford bail.

To break the cycle of incarceration and wealth-based jailing, President Barack Obama’s administration launched the Data-Driven Justice Initiative with a bipartisan coalition of 67 city, county, and state governments, who have committed to using data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal justice system and change approaches to pre-trial incarceration, so that low-risk offenders no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond.

These innovative strategies, which have measurably reduced jail populations in several communities, help stabilize individuals and families, better serve communities, and often save money in the process, White House officials said.

Second Chance Society

Connecticut joined in on the DDJ initiative. Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration launched its Second Chance Society initiative, signed into law in 2016, to decrease both incarceration and crime rates; a second set of proposals targeted bail and pretrial detention. But it did not pass into law. It’s unclear whether Gov. Ned Lammont will continue with this initiative.

Often, what greets a person entering the criminal justice system is a bail amount they cannot hope to pay. Francis’s bail was excessive and way above the $5,000 that the bill covers but is necessary to consider, observers said.

While prison rates have stalled and begun to decrease slightly for people convicted of and sentenced for crimes, a high—and increasing — number of people are detained in jails without conviction, according to Camille Seaberry of DataHaven. Many of these people have cycled repeatedly in and out of jail and prisons. Some are being charged only with nonviolent misdemeanors. African-Americans and Latinos are held in pretrial detention at much higher rates than white people.

In New Haven, African Americans make up 33 percent of the population but 56 percent of custodial arrests—and similar disparities exist in Bridgeport and Hartford.

Courtesy of shutterstock.com

There is even evidence that the length of time spent in detention before trial may predict whether a person is sentenced to prison and for how long. There is also a growing movement toward more data-driven practices within criminal justice systems, such as risk assessments, though this is not without its concerns of bias, according to Seaberry.

While the Second Chance 2.0 bill failed to pass in 2016, Connecticut has built momentum toward some degree of bail reform. One promising new example, the Connecticut Bail Fund.

As a result of move, Connecticut could be the next state to reform the issue of bail bonds, a problem that continues to disadvantage thousands, who cannot afford bail sentences.

For low-income defendants with minimal bonds, a judicial committee of Superior Court judges is considering the prospect of releasing defendants while their criminal court cases are ongoing.

The proposal would require defendants to have 10 percent of the cash needed for court or a police department under a surety bond of $20,000 or less.

What is supposed to be a collateral exchange, intended to reduce the likelihood that the presumed to be innocent accused do not commit more crimes or skip their pretrial, is now the reason most inmates in jail have not been convicted.

Even if people were to be convicted of their alleged crimes, our due process system states that these individuals that cannot be punished in advance; this then raises the question: why is there a monetary policy that determines one’s freedom?

Oddly enough, holding a presumably innocent person in a jail cell does more harm than good in ensuring that the person does go to trial.

Possible Solutions

According to Dr. Christopher Lowenkamp’s research, The Hidden Costs of Pretrial Detention, that short-term pretrial detention for low- and medium-risk defendants may be ineffective or even counterproductive as a way to secure court appearance and prevent re-arrest.

Although the move has been embraced by the state’s Sentencing Commission, Chief Public Defender, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, many bond agencies have rallied against the potential plan, saying it would cause havoc to the legal justice system, including affecting the employment of bondsman.

“It would affect us in a bad way. It definitely puts a dent in our income. It will affect us from paying our employees,” Edward Angelillo, co-owner of Afford-A-Bail Bail Bonds, said. “New Jersey is failing. Ever since [the state has reformed it bond policies], it’s been failing. The cops don’t look for these people. How many people are wanted and were let go for free?

Bondsman like Afford-A-Bail Bail Bonds do more than offer payment plans, they force their clients, who might otherwise miss or skip due dates, into court.

“Legislators were unclear on what extent of bond enforcement. We apprehend hundreds each year, and if [our company] didn’t pick these people up, the police department are not capable of picking those people,” Brian, a colleague of Angelillo, who wish to leave his last name anonymous, said.

“Some of these people don’t comply. They don’t do what they’re supposed to do, and that’s a high risk,” Brian said.

Contrary to what Afford-A-Bail Bond said, crime in New Jersey has plunged in the past two years since the elimination of cash bail bonds, according to WNYC.

There were similar concerns about New Jersey’s initial Criminal Justice Reform Act that mostly did away with cash bail. On October 2019, California was the latest state to outlaw cash bail bonds with a referendum called Senate Bill 10 (SB-10), or California Money Bail Reform Act. The SB-10 initiative’s biggest critics are bondsmen who decry that this bill will nullify their industry, allowing suspects to leave jail before trial in between 24 and 36 hours.

However, after a steady decline in crime such as homicide and robbery by thirty percent, advocates like Brett Davidson, the Co-Director of Connecticut Bail Fund, are pushing to end cash bail bonds because they unfairly target minorities.

“The community members who suffer most as a result of the money bail system are poor people, people of color -particularly Black people, immigrants, queer and trans people, people with disabilities and chronic illness, and people with histories of violence and trauma,” Davidson said.

“The harms of pretrial detention are too many to name: eviction/ loss of housing, arrest by ICE and deportation, impoverishment, loss of healthcare, coerced plea bargains, the list goes on. A major reason why so many of our community members are being held on bail is that judges and prosecutors leverage wealth-based pretrial detention to coerce people who can’t afford bail into accepting guilty plea bargains,” Davidson said.

The result of being in a pretrial detention can cause job loss, financial hardship and the loss of child custody. The state of being in a pretrial detention can cause presumably innocent person to plead guilty and increases the risk of conviction.

According to the research in “The Heavy Costs of High Bail: Evidence from Judge Randomization,” it was discovered that defendants who are detained pending trial are much more likely to receive a custodial sentence, and to be incarcerated for a longer period, than similarly situated defendants who await the disposition of the cases in the community.

Local advocates, many of whom are broadly associated with progressive movements established around the 2016 election, have voiced their concerns about pretrial detention.

“There is no arguing whether or not person’s wealth determines their incarceration. It’s a simple fact: if you can pay, you go free; if you can’t pay, you stay in jail — and, as a result, you are at risk of losing everything,” Davidson said.

“We absolutely need to abolish this system of wealth-based jailing, but we also need to be careful not to replace it with an equally violent, racist system of mass pretrial incarceration (for example, mass preventive detention as determined by pseudo-scientific risk assessment algorithms claiming to predict likelihood of future crimes.) We want to see the abolition of money bail within a transformative program of mass liberation, community re-investment, and reparations.”

On Nov. 5, 2015, Governor Dannel P. Malloy asked the Connecticut Sentencing Commission to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of Connecticut’s pretrial justice system and investigate potentially reforming it.

The governor requested that the Commission prioritize non-violent, low-level pretrial detainees. These individuals are most likely detained because they do not have the financial resources to post bond.

Compared to New Jersey that already conducted this experiment, New Jersey pretrial jail population is in decline as of 2019, and defendants are still showing up for court appearances at about the same rate, according to NewJersey.com.

Malloy wanted the Commission to provide “an analysis of potential ways Connecticut can focus pretrial incarceration efforts on individuals who are dangerous and/or a flight risk,” according to resolution from 2015-2016.

The Director of the Connecticut Sentencing Commission Alex Tsarkov, who practices law in the Hartford area, states that, although he believes the bail bond system is one that relies on wealth, most of Connecticut’s legal proceedings are some of the best nationwide.

“We have a pretrial justice agency, there’s treatment available, validated risk assessment, uniformed state court system, and we have a culture of release, meaning we relatively release more [inmates] compared to the average state,” Tsarkov said.

Email editor@thehartfordguardian.com if you have questions about this article or leave a comment below:

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Some Hartford Residents Accuse Officials of Voter and Ethnic Media Suppression


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Voting polls opened at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, and Hartford residents trickled into polling stations to cast their ballot for who they think should lead the capital city of Connecticut.

This year’s elections are being held in 165 out of 169 municipalities in the state. In addition, voters will choose mayors, town council members, constables and a treasurer to be local leaders, who have an impact on city issues.

Registering to Vote

You can take part in Election Day registration at a designated location in each town from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

To register in person, you will need to provide proof of identity and residence. Check with your town hall for details on where to go and what you need to bring. You must be registered by 8 p.m. in order to vote, according to the website for the Secretary of the State. 

Secretary of State Denise Merrill said that Connecticut has improved its Election Day cybersecurity systems by installing extra firewalls and expanding virtual oversight of each town’s server.

No formal word yet on how the state is addressing voter suppression in the city of Hartford, which some residents say includes covert operations to undermine voters, removing names from the voter records, physically prohibiting voters from showing up at the polls in the city and other unchecked towns across the state.

Seats Up for Grab

Luke Bronin, the incumbent mayor easily won the Democratic Town Committee’s nomination and the September primary beating out other challengers such as State Rep. Brandon McGee, former Hartford mayor Eddie Perez, media owner J. Stan McCauley, Author and Publisher Aaron Lewis, Union Organizer Michael Downes and Business woman Giselle Gigi Jacobs.  All the candidates wanted to unseat Bronin because, they said, he was not doing a quality job of serving all of the city’s neighborhoods.

In addition, Bronin was accused of media suppression of ethnic publications by working with political operatives—some federal workers—to undermine black journalists.

See ballot here.

There was only one woman in the mayoral race, Jacobs. She spoke about the “divide and conquer” strategy used in the run up to the elections for a majority of the city, which comprises of Latinos, Africans of varied ethnic groups including native born and West Indians, as well as other minorities.

The city council seats that are hotly contested include Row 2A with Thomas “TJ Clark” who was endorsed by the Democratic Party. So was Nick Lebron on Row 3A; Maly D. Rosado on Row 4A; Marilyn E. Rossetti on Row 5A;  Shirley Surgeon on Row 6A; James B. Sanchez on Row 7A.

The council seats facing a challenge are mainly with TJ Clark, who is running against Republican Party candidate, Theodore T. Cannon, Working Families Party Joshua Michtom, Green Party Mary L. Sanders, Second Chance Party Corey J. Brinson, The Hartford Party John Q. Gale, Petitioning candidate and rJo Winch.

The shocker in this election is that Winch, who was always endorsed by the Democratic Party for more than a decade, was not considered a viable candidate, sources said.

Other contested seats include Lebron’s on Row 3A by Republican Party Gary Bazzano and Working Families Party Moise Laurent. Also, petitioning candidate Suzann L. Beckett is also in the running.

Also, Maly D. Rosado on Row 4A is being challenged by Working Families Party Wildaliz Bermudez.

Democrats Shirley Surgeon has no challenger on Row6A and James B. Sanchez, also a Democrat, has no challenger on Row 7B.

On the back of the ballot, Hartford residents have only one choice in who will be treasurer: Adam Cloud, a Democrat.

The four candidates for constables are Ellen S. Nurse, Radames V. Vazquez, Ronnie E. Walker and Mamie M. Bell. The Republican candidates for constables are Randy Correa and Ronald J. Perone.

Election Fraud Alert

The Office of the Secretary of the State and the State Election Enforcement Commission jointly run an Election Day hotline. If voters encounter any problems at a polling place, they should contact the hotline at 866-733-2463 (866-SEEC-INFO) or elections@ct.gov.

Results are also available on the Secretary of the State’s website at portal.ct.gov/sots.

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Kids in the Hall’S Star Kevin McDonald Comes to Hartford


HARTFORD — Wanna learn about theater? Learn from the Kid’s in the Hall’s star, Kevin McDonald. Then watch his show. All shows take place at the Sea Tea Comedy Theater, 15 Asylum Street, Hartford, CTGet your show tickets here. The Kevin McDonald master class takes place at Sea Tea Improv Studios, 75 Pratt Street, Hartford, CTRegister for the workshop here.

Saturday, November 2nd at 7:00 PM

Kevin Cheaters in Love is Kevin McDonald’s rock opera about love, cheating, New York & the 90s. And it’s funny. And Kevin sings!

Oh, that’s a bad thing. But Kevin will be joined by several fellow performers who can sing, along with live musical accompaniment, and that’s a good thing.

Stand-Up, Sketch and Improv with Kevin McDonald

Sunday, November 3rd at 7:00 PM

Tickets are just $20 for this big comedy show featuring stand-up artist by Kevin McDonald. Seating is limited!

Kevin McDonald Workshop

Don’t miss this chance to learn from one of the best, right here in Hartford!

Saturday 11/2 Workshop

10:00 am to 5:30 pm with a one-hour break for lunch

Bring a script for a sketch: Each student for this workshop will come in Saturday morning with a script of one comedy sketch that they have written. (Important: your sketch should be one that works for stage only — please do not bring in a sketch that’s meant to be filmed.)

Bring copies for all roles + 2: Bring enough copies of your sketch for people to read the scripts out loud. For example – if the sketch has 4 members in the cast, you should bring 6 copies. Four scripts for each cast member, one for someone to read stage directions and one for Kevin. If you have a sketch with 5 parts in it, you should bring 7 copies. If there are only 2 actors in the sketch, you should bring 4 copies, etc.

Bring a laptop / notepad & pen: Students will edit and re-write their sketches.

Sunday 11/3 Workshop (2-Day Students Only)
10:00 am to 5:30 pm with a one-hour break for lunch

Learn Sketch Comedy Acting: On Sunday morning, Kevin will talk more about sketch comedy but this time, about acting and not writing.

Rehearse with Kevin as Director: The class will start rehearsing the scenes, one by one with Kevin directing. (When rehearsing, students can read the scripts from their phones — the goal will be to memorize by the show that night.)

Collaborate: Everyone who isn’t in the scene that is being rehearsed will be watching and providing feedback. Everyone helps re-write, rehearse and work on all the sketches. We are creating and producing a sketch show, together. Everyone will be in 1 to 3 sketches. At the end of the day, Kevin & students do sort of a dress rehearsal in preparation to perform the sketches in the show, that night.

Sunday 11/3 Performance! (2-Day Students Only)
7:00 pm
A big show featuring stand-up comedy by Kevin McDonald, sketch comedy by & featuring the 2-day students, and an improv show with Kevin McDonald!
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For more information visit www.seateaimprov.com or call 860-578-4832.

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Secret Investigation After Adam Lanza Shooting in Newtown Prompts News Series in Hartford


HARTFORD — In December 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The killings reverberated across the country—and most definitely here in Hartford.

Under the supervision of Lt. Paul Vance, the message one year later to journalists was clear. There was no definitive or singular reason for the Newtown massacre, according to reports by the Connecticut State Police. State police detectives investigating the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and 36 Yogananda St. in Newtown talked to several practitioners as they pieced together Lanza’s history of mental health treatments.

In Greater Hartford, several locals, including undercover policemen, state police, secret service and the office of the chief state attorney, claimed they were concerned about whether the mental health facilities failed Lanza; and they contacted The Hartford Guardian in January 2014. After identifying themselves as authorized officials doing an investigation in secret, they also claimed they wanted to investigate medicaid fraud and hospitals.

Additionally, they wanted to observe the state of mental health facilities in Connecticut, namely in Hartford, Farmington, Middletown and New Haven. In each case a reporter was followed by undercover agents to decipher the make up of the staff, the quality of care and details that contributed to mental health disparities in the state. This wasalso undertaken by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.

The Hartford Guardian, an award-winning, hyper-local publication based in Hartford, was asked to participate while other journalists, gadflies, federal, state and local officials secretly watched with special microscopic devices. The Hartford Guardian was among the few journalism organizations that got to see the inside of these  facilities and can give a cogent report. There were multiple stories that came out of this five-year investigation and many firings and retirements. (Several firings or retirements in the state and federal government reportedly came out of this secret investigation: Aug. 4, 2014 with three simultaneous departures; Feb. 4, 2015 with Dan Pfeiffer, April 22, 2019 with Dan S. Cohen; Feb. 15, 2018 with Hartford Police Chief James Rovella; the March 20 announcement of David Rosado’s retirement; the August announcement of Kevin Kane’s retirement).

Adams and other reporters are eager to tell thier stories that came out of visits to these hospitals involved in this investigation: John Dempsey Hospital, Hartford Hospital, St. Francis Hospital, Yale University Hospital and Connecticut Valley Hospital.

See other related reports:

Hartford Courant: Citing Safety Concerns, Feds Move to End Medicare Funding at Connecticut Valley Hospital

CT Mirror: Prospect of Detox, psychiatric bed cuts worries hospital officials

NBC Connecticut, Len Besthoff

WFSB, Investigative Team

The Hartford Guardian would like to follow up on its 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 coverage of this secret investigation that allegedly came out of President Barack Obama, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Mayor Pedro Segarra’s administrations.

So far, we are mulling over several concerns presented to us and would like our readers input: 

The methodology proposed? Use a seasoned journalist to go inside these hospitals to see how the staff treat her as a patient—not a young white man such as Lanza.

By using a journalist that has worked in the state for more than 30 years, these secret investigators theorized, it would be established that she was not hiding the fact that she was a trained journalist. Other measures were taken to ensure her safety from threats by health employees and lobbyists.

 Here are some of the findings in these hospitals that are worth tackling:

  1. Psychiatrists and psychotherapists in hospitals and outpatient care are overwhelmingly white females. In some cases, they are culturally incompetent and erroneous in documenting cases. In some cases, workers falsify records.
  2. Psychiatrists and social workers are sometimes forced to  give a diagnoses quickly because they must produce a diagnosis for billing.
  3. If you are a Christian, the mental health facilities can allegedly be used to seemingly persecute believers. This is one of the most astonishing findings in our research. This was an allegorical case, which involved targeting Christians and claiming he or she is akin to Icarus. According to Greek mythology, Icarus is the man who escaped imprisonment by flying too close to the sun.
  4. Mental health facilities can also be used by corrupt politicians to imprison and undermine a political opponent.
  5. Forced medications can be used to silence or kill someone over time—based on their deadly side effects, especially because of wrong dosages and frequency.

If you or anyone have experienced any of the above or have been forced into a mental health hospitals on a Physician Emergency Certificate, especially using black magic or Santeria, contact us. The PEC can sometimes be used like the draconian vagrancy laws popular in the 1700s. You can reach us at editor@thehartfordguardian.com to be a part of our investigative series about your experience in mental health facilities. To help sponsor this important series, donate today. See link here.

The Hartford Guardian would like to thank the International Center for Journalists for hosting the Community Health Reporting workshop for helping to fund the beginning of this investigation in June 2014. This project was inspired by an October 7, 2008 death at Sands Apartment in Hartford, CT.

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New Movie Going Experience in West Hartford with Cinépolis


WEST HARTFORD — Greater Hartford residents have another option for how to enjoy the movies.

Cinépolis USA, a leading world-class cinema exhibitor
known for its enhanced movie-going concepts, announced this week the grand opening date of August 16 for Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas West Hartford.

This announcement comes after a complete transformation of its previous theater that closed for renovations in March. 

Guests will enjoy a free small-sized popcorn for ticket holders during
opening weekend. Additionally, the first 100 ticketed guests on Friday
will receive a complimentary ticket to return, while supplies last. The
revitalized six-screen, 21,462-square-foot Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas West
Hartford marks the exhibitor’s first dine-in theater in the Northeast.
It highlights the brand’s signature guest experiences and specialty
film-viewing programs, while serving as the cinema anchor of Blue Back
Square shopping, living, dining, and entertainment district.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the guest experience, and
this upgraded Luxury Cinema with enhanced dining and programming
exemplifies our commitment to offering an elevated and affordable
approach to entertainment,” said Luis Olloqui, CEO of Cinépolis USA. 

Following its multi-million dollar completion, Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas
West Hartford offers guests a movie-going experience with 359
fully-reclining leather seats in six auditoriums, each complete with
cutting-edge sound and high-definition projection technology. An upscale
lounge-style lobby space anchors the entry space complete with gourmet
concessions stand and seating options for guests to relax before or
after a movie.

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas West Hartford offers a full menu and in-theater
waiter service for guests to order dine-in food direct to their seat at
the push of a button. Delivered by stealthy, ninja-like servers to
ensure for minimal movie disruption, the menu features fresh
ingredients, gluten-friendly and vegan friendly options and dishes
created with a chef inspired approach — from hummus plates, edamame and quesadillas to truffle flatbreads, salads and burgers — that are
satisfying but also easy to eat inside a dim auditorium. Pending
approval of a liquor license, Cinepolis will offer a full bar menu that
includes craft beer, specialty cocktails and hand-selected wine program.

On Tuesdays, the theater will participate in the brand’s signature
Cinépolis Handpicked weekly movie-viewing program and offer discounted
$7 tickets to all participants. Cinépolis Handpicked is a carefully
curated alternative programming series that features a wide variety of
digitally remastered specialty content, including favorite cult classic
films, nostalgic oldies, special concert events, documentaries, seasonal
favorites, and more. 

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas West Hartford, located at 42 South Main Street,
West Hartford, will screen movies seven days a week with ticket prices
ranging from $7-12 for adults and $7-9 for children, with special $7
tickets on Tuesdays. Taxes and special format charges may apply. Guests
will be able to reserve seating via www.cinepolisusa.com [1] or the
Cinépolis USA APP upon the theater’s opening. For employment inquiries,
contact jobs@cinepolis.com

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Hartford’s Exorbitant Commercial Property Tax Curbs Economic Growth


By Greg Bordonaro and Matt Pilon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HBJ: John Gale, Hartford City Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas: CTMirror.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HBJ: Jon Putnam, Executive Director, Cushman & Wakefield

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

How did we get here?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out-of-whack property taxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HBJ Bruce Becker, Developer,
Becker & Becker

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

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

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

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

Delayed revals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom-line impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HBJ FILE PHOTO

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

Urban draw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hartford Boasts Unprecedented Number of Black Candidates for Mayor


By Kindred Gaynor, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — There is an unprecedented number of black candidates running for mayor of Hartford. Of the six candidates, five of them are men and one is a woman.

The men include State Rep. Brandon McGee, TV entrepreneur J. Stan McCauley, former board of education chairman Craig Stallings, former security guard Andre Thomas, and writer Aaron Lewis. The only female is Giselle Jacobs, a local business woman. All are Democrats.

They are running to replace the current incumbent mayor, Luke Bronin. Bronin current serves as the 67th mayor of a city WalletHub recently called one of the worst-rub cities in America.

The Hartford mayoral candidates have been making their pitches as to why they are the best fit for mayor to fix the unique challenges that beset the capital city.

The forum title was the State of Black Hartford Mayoral Forum and Conversation and went for three hours. The first segment consisted of the audience listening to the candidates, who were interested in getting the audience’s vote of approval to become the next mayor of Hartford. The second and third hours of the forum were designated for question and answers.

Four of the six black candidates for mayor are in the picture. The other two were absent from this forum in the west end of Hartford.

Bronin, 37, previously served as general counsel for the Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy before he was elected in 2015. Before that, he served in two senior posts at the United States Department of the Treasury during President Barack Obama’s first term. He also served as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and then as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.

 “The next mayor needs to govern the whole city — not just certain neighborhoods. The state has made significant investments in downtown,” Bronin said. “But we need to make sure we’re improving the quality of life in every neighborhood because when neighborhoods thrive, the entire city will thrive.”

Bronin also has a plan to improve employment opportunities for Hartford residents.

“As mayor, I will be out there every day talking, working with businesses big and small — to keep and attract jobs. I’ve also called for the creation of a Youth Service Corps.  This partnership between City Hall and the private sector would put hundreds of young people to work in Hartford and provide a real pipeline to employment in the city.”

The first black mayor of Hartford was Thirman Milner, who served two terms from 1981 to 1987. Carrie Saxon Perry was the second black person to serve as mayor from 1987 and 1993. Both served as a largely ceremonial mayor, paid a stipend of $17,500.

Eddie Perez, the first Hispanic mayor from 2001 to 2010, served as the 65th mayor of Hartford. Perez was the first mayor to be the CEO of the city, a strong form of mayor. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to receiving bribes and criminal attempt to commit larceny in the first degree by extortion; both are felonies.

Rep. Brandon L. McGee Jr., a self-described community activist and architect of social solutions for the people of Connecticut, is serving his fourth term representing areas of Windsor and Hartford.

Craig Stallings is a board member and the former chair of the Board of Education. Stallings has been a PTO president at two Hartford schools and was coordinator of the original governance council at Thirman Milner School.

J. Stan McCauley is a television entrepreneur. McCauley ran for Mayor in 2007.

During the forum McCauley said, “Hartford is one of 150 economically distressed cities in the United States. In an E-commerce society the playing field has been leveled for start-up companies, small businesses and entrepreneurs. What we don’t have is intentional focus to help those individuals succeed. I believe that we need to give the same type of incentives to entrepeneurs as we give to multi-million dollar national corporations to move into the city.”

Giselle Jacobs is also an entrepreneur who owns a cleaning company. She ran for mayor in 2015.

Andre Thomas is a relatively new candidate and this forum was his first.

Michael Downes, who is white, is a union organizer with the American Teachers Union.

The election is Nov. 5, and the new council is expected to assume office on Jan. 1. 2020.

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Give Cities Better Tools to Address Blight


By Luke Bronin and Neil O’Leary

In every Connecticut city and many Connecticut towns, you can find neighborhoods weighed down by blight – collapsed roofs, boarded windows, graffiti, overgrown vegetation.  Sometimes it’s just a single blighted property, standing out among well-cared-for homes and businesses.  Sometimes it’s property after property, whole blocks that have fallen victim to the contagion of unaddressed blight. Wherever it exists, blight is a major quality of life issue in Connecticut communities.

In Hartford and in Waterbury, we’ve made concerted efforts to combat blight, and we’re making progress.  But with additional legal tools, we could do much more.  In the next few days, the General Assembly has a chance to pass two bills that would make a big difference, without costing the state any money:  SB1070, An Act Concerning Abandoned and Blighted Property Stewardship, and HB7277, An Act Concerning the Creation of Land Bank Authorities.  We urge the General Assembly to pass both bills.

The Blighted Property Stewardship bill, also known as “receivership,” introduces an important new tool to Connecticut.  Receivership allows stakeholders to petition the court directly to address blight in the community. Under the bill that’s already passed the Senate, the owner of the blighted property will always have the opportunity to address the blight first.  But if the owner fails to act – which is all too common, especially with out-of-town landlords – the court can appoint a local non-profit or community entity to step in and stabilize the property.

Without receivership, communities often have to wait for lengthy and unnecessary foreclosure process and a change in ownership before the work of rehabilitating a severely blighted vacant property can even begin. Receivership enables residents, community-based non-profits, and local governments to get access to a vacant, blighted property faster, and get to work stabilizing and rehabilitating the property – while resolving ownership issues later.

The Land Bank bill, House Bill 7277, goes hand in hand with the stewardship bill.  Land banks have been used effectively in many cities around the country to help communities take control of vacant, deteriorated, and foreclosed properties that are truly abandoned.  A land bank with adequate funding, flexible and nimble acquisition and disposition powers, and a strong tie with the community can be an effective and efficient tool to acquire the property, eliminate the blight, and put the property back into productive use consistent with community goals and priorities.

It’s important to note that the Land Bank bill does not include any municipal mandates, and does not expand eminent domain authority in any way.  Rather, it would allow municipalities to create an entity dedicated to holding and financing the improvement of blighted property, often hand in hand with residents or other private parties willing to make investments in the community.  While a pilot program has already been authorized for the City of Hartford, there is no general enabling legislation allowing Connecticut municipalities or groups of municipalities to establish land banks.  This bill would change that.

Hartford has made real progress in the fight against blight over the last three years, with hundreds fewer vacant, abandoned, blighted properties.  The city passed an Anti-Blight & Property-Maintenance Ordinance, and created a Blight Remediation Team to focus exclusively on combating blight. The model is simple: Fix It Up, Pay It Up, or Give It Up.  Under that model, the team works with responsible, good-faith owners to help repair their properties.  But with bad-faith owners who have no interest or stake in the community, we use our enforcement tools aggressively – imposing fines and liens. This summer, Hartford’s non-profit land bank, established as a pilot program, will get to work.  The city is already preparing to transfer dozens of vacant, blighted properties to the Land Bank in the coming months.

The City of Waterbury has also been aggressive in tackling blight, and created a Blight Task Force in 2012 to coordinate property remediation and redevelopment efforts among various city agencies.  Stiffer penalties including automatic court appearances for blight code violators are in place, absentee landlords are required to register the properties they own and provide viable contact information, foreclosing entities are required to have a local property management company maintain any properties in foreclosure, and an aggressive tax auction process is paying dividends.

But even with all these proactive processes in place, the problems surrounding property abandonment persist.  Fighting blight is about improving quality of life, protecting homeowners and other property-owners who invest in and care for their properties, maintaining and growing the tax base, and beautifying our neighborhoods.  When we talk with our residents, blight is a common concern, and that’s why we’ve prioritized this work – both in our cities, and in our conversations with legislators.

We urge the General Assembly to support HB7277 and SB1070, so that our cities and communities across Connecticut can do more to fight blight and keep neighorhoods strong.

Luke Bronin is the Mayor of Hartford and Neil O’Leary is the Mayor of Waterbury.

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