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Nation Remembers Sandy Hook Shooting Victims, Flags Fly Half-Staff

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Today, the nation remembered the lives lost in an unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, when a man entered a school and killed 20 first graders and six adults.

It wasn’t Connecticut’s first shooting massacre. But it was the first that shook almost every soul when they learned of the young victims and saw their faces on Facebook, TV and other social media.

Many searched for a motive behind such killings. And for almost a year, the state probed the depths of the killer’s psyche for clues to this evil act. But they found little to soothe the wound that has yet to heal.

See Report Here.

On Saturday, national and state leaders pledged to “never forget” this shooting, which has galvanized many and formed a lasting bond among Newtown residents and others around the world. Together, they have continued to push for ways to mitigate the damage caused by the mass shooting, or to stave off another Sandy Hook shooting incident in Connecticut and across the country.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lieutenant Gov. Nancy Wyman on Friday directed U.S. and Connecticut flags to half-staff on Dec. 14 in honor of the 20 children and six adults who were killed one year ago today at  Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.




Flags were at half-staff from sunrise and will end at sunset on Dec. 14.

In addition, Malloy encouraged citizens to perform an act of kindness, and  asked houses of worship and other organizations to ring their bells 26 times Saturday at 9:30 a.m. as a way of honoring the lives lost.

To mark the anniversary of that senseless tragedy, President Barack Obama on Friday also called for a moment of silence and honored lives lost at Sandy Hook.

In his weekly address, Obama highlighted the silver lining of  a tragedy that drew world-wide attention.

“Over the past year, their voices have sustained us. And their example has inspired us – to be better parents and better neighbors; to give our children everything they need to face the world without fear; to meet our responsibilities not just to our own families, but to our communities,” he said. “More than the tragedy itself, that’s how Newtown will be remembered.”

He also asked Americans to “never forget” and work to make all children and all communities safe.

“On this anniversary of a day we will never forget, that’s the example we should continue to follow. Because we haven’t yet done enough to make our communities and our country safer,” he said.

At a national vigil held in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, organizers of the Sandy Hook Promise said this of Ana Marquez, who died that day:

“Everyone who was there there started to sing, in honor of the little girl who couldn’t anymore.”

The audience included Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy from Connecticut and  Rep.Mike Thompson, D-Calif., chair of the House task force on gun violence. In the grand push for gun control reform last summer, the Senate rejected a bill to expand background checks for firearms.

On Friday,  Murphy and Blumenthal remembered the Newtown victims in the Senate Chamber. Murphy indicted members of Congress who did not vote for gun reform.

“It will be a week of mourning,” Murphy said. “But here in the Senate, it should be a week of shame.”

Blumenthal vowed to bring closure in the form of legislation.

“No words can capture what I feel about that day. No words ever will capture that day,” he said. “We will do everything in our power to make sure that kind of mass murder never happened again.”


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Award-Winner Angela Johnson Comes to Hartford

HARTFORD — Angela Johnson, the three-time Coretta Scott King award-winner and recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant, will give a talk at the downtown Hartford Public Library on Nov. 23.

Angela Johnson

Angela Johnson

Greater Hartford-area residents are invited to this free event on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Center for Contemporary Culture at 500 Main Street. The discussion will center on loss and “the healing process, building community and broadening our understanding of the world in which we live.”

Johnson will use her book, A Certain October, as background material to help facilitate the discussion. The best-selling young adult novel is described as a”wrenching, honest book about surviving the unimaginable and finding a way to go on.”

Johnson has been writing for over twenty years with more than 40 picture books, novels and books of poetry to her credit. A threetime Coretta Scott King Award winner for Toning the Sweep in 1994, Heaven in 1999, and The First Part Last in 2004, she was also the runnerup twice, for When I Am Old with You in 1990 and The Other Side, Shorter Poems in 1998. In addition, she was awarded the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award for Tell Me a Story, Mama in 1991 and the Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association in 2004, recognizing The First Part Last as the year’s “best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit.” In 2003 Ms. Johnson received a McArthur Genius Grant.

This program will be streamed live the day and time of the event – for access, go to www.hplct.org.

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Same-Day Voter Registration Now Law, Available Today

HARTFORD —  Didn’t get a chance to register to vote? No problem.

You can still vote today. Thanks to a recent law, Public Act 12-56. The law allows any eligible voter in Connecticut who wishes to cast a ballot but has not yet registered with their towns for cities.

Eligible voters are  permitted to go to their Registrar of Voters office on Election Day, present the proper identifying documents, register to vote, and cast a ballot at their city or town hall, state officials said. Connecticut became the 11th state to enact Election Day voter registration in 2012 when Governor Malloy signed the bill on May 5, 2012.

Hartford-VotersGov. Dannel P. Malloy and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on Tuesday are reminding all eligible Connecticut voters (any U.S. citizen residing in the state age 18 or older) not yet registered to vote that Election Day Registration takes effect for the first time for the municipal elections on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

“The right to vote and access to elections is a paramount right and responsibility of our democracy,” said Governor Malloy. “Same day voting helps to ensure that all citizens have a voice in their government.  I am proud of the work we’ve done in Connecticut to bring our electoral process into the 21st century by using technology to make voter registration more efficient and easier and not impede participation in our electoral process – while some states are moving in the opposite direction.”

” We want to give every eligible voter in Connecticut a real chance to make their voice heard on the crucial budget, educational, environmental and economic issues facing many towns in Connecticut this fall,” Malloy said.

Apparently, some states have had Election Day Registration in place for more than 40 years. Observers said that states that allow this practice see voter turnout percentages of up to 10 percentage points higher than states that do not.

The law enacting Election Day Registration permits anyone to register and vote in person on Election Day if he or she meets the eligibility requirements for voting in this state and is either:  (1) not already a registered voter or (2) is registered in one municipality but wants to change his or her registration because he or she currently resides in another municipality.  By law, a person is eligible to register and vote if he or she is (1) a U. S. citizen, (2) age 18 or older, and (3) a bona fide resident of the municipality in which he or she applies to register to vote.  Those wishing to register and vote on Election Day must appear in person at the designated location at town or city hall and declare under oath that they have not previously voted in the election. They must complete the application for voter registration and provide documents to prove their identity and residence.

Once the new voter is properly registered, the Registrars of voters must provide a special Election Day Registration (EDR) ballot and envelope to the voter and record its issuance to that particular voter.  The voter must (1) declare under oath that he or she did not previously vote in the election and (2) sign an affirmation that is printed on the back of the security envelope.  The new voter must secretly mark the ballot in the presence of the registrars or their designees, place it in the EDR envelope, and deposit the envelope in a secured EDR ballot box.

Polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. on Nov. 5, 2013 for municipal elections in the vast majority of Connecticut cities and towns.

Secretary Denise Merrill encourages voters to go online at www.sots.ct.gov to find out more information about Election Day Registration.



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CT College Students Rally for Ed Reform

HARTFORD — Students for Education Reform, the nation’s largest student-led education advocacy non-profit, will convene members of twelve Connecticut colleges in Hartford on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. outside the State Capitol.

The rally will consist of students representing the University of Bridgeport, the University of New Haven, Yale University, Wesleyan University, Quinnipiac University, Central Connecticut State University, University of Connecticut – Storrs, Eastern Connecticut State University, the University of Hartford, Trinity College, Connecticut College, and Fairfield University. Students from these schools are expected to come from across the state in hopes of finally having their voices heard in the debate surrounding education reform.

As Connecticut college students begin to plan their futures and approach graduation, Connecticut looks less attractive due to the issues with public schools.

“A paramount part of ensuring that there is a promising future for the state of Connecticut is ensuring that our phenomenal college students stay here. We are the future of this state and our voices have yet to be heard in the debate on education reform,” said Quinnipiac SFER Chapter Leader Jordan Nadler. “Our college students need a reason to stay here and we are crying out for public school reform. It’s time that our voices are heard.”

Connecticut’s college students are calling for education reform that includes teacher tenure reform, strong school choice, and turnarounds in the schools and districts that need it most.

These students feel that it is unacceptable to sit by and do nothing when they are living in a state with the highest achievement gap in the country.

“These college students are the future parents, teachers, and taxpayers of Connecticut,” said Trinity SFER Chapter Leader Liora Mann. “But we will not be parents in Connecticut if our children cannot receive the top notch education they deserve. Give us a reason to stay.”

SFER’s policy agenda includes ensuring teacher and school leader effectiveness, quality school choices for every family, and meaningful standards and assessments in every state.

To learn more, visit: www.studentsforedreform.org.

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Foreclosed Homeowners Re-Occupy Their Homes

By Zaineb Mohammed, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO – Carolyn Gage was evicted from her foreclosed home in January. Earlier this month, she moved back in.

“I’ve been in here for 50 years. I know no other place but here. I left and it was just time for me to come back home,” said Gage, who is in her mid-50s.

Gage’s monthly payments spiked after her adjustable rate mortgage kicked in, and she could no longer afford the payments on her three-bedroom house in the city’s Bayview Hunters Point district. She says she tried to modify her loan with her lender, Florida-based IB Properties, but to no avail.

When Gage initially left about 10 months ago, she took some personal items with her, but left most of the furniture and continued paying for some utilities.

“It didn’t feel right for me to move. I just left my things because I knew I was going to return to them eventually,” she said.

She had to re-activate a few utilities when she returned, like the water, but found the process fairly easy.

Walking back into the house was an emotional moment for Gage, but a joyous one.

“I was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz; there’s no place like home,” Gage said. “It’s a family home; I plan to stay there.”

Gage was one of about two dozen homeowners who gathered Tuesday for a community potluck on Quesada Avenue for residents facing foreclosure and are refusing to leave their homes.

Homeowners expressed outrage at the way predatory lenders have targeted their community.

Residents of the Bayview are starting to see how the African-American community was especially victimized in the foreclosure crisis.

Gage believes that single women and elders in the black community were targeted for predatory loans. At the peak of the housing boom she was solicited for an adjustable rate loan to do some home improvements, even though she told the loan agent that she was on disability and did not have a steady income.

According to a report released last week by the Center for Responsible Lending, African Americans and Latinos were consistently more likely than whites to receive high-risk loan products. About a quarter of all Latino and African-American borrowers have lost their homes to foreclosure or are seriously delinquent, compared to under 12 percent for white borrowers.

Bayview residents Reverend Archbishop Franz King and Reverend Mother Marina King, who are founders of the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, are also facing foreclosure. Their eviction date is set for Dec. 22.

King expressed deep anger and sorrow at the situation facing the black community in the Bayview.

“First redevelopment moved us out of the Fillmore and now we’re losing our properties too? It’s like there’s nowhere for us to go,” he said.

Grace Martinez, an organizer with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) who helped to arrange the event, commented that banks have become increasingly hostile to their efforts. “They call the police on us; they laugh at us.”

Vivian Richardson, a homeowner on Quesada Avenue whose house was also foreclosed on, also has no intention of leaving. Her current eviction date is set for Dec. 31, but she, like many of her neighbors, is asking her lender to reduce the principal on her loan in order to make the monthly payments more affordable.

Richardson has been attempting to modify her home loan for the past two years. Earlier this month, tired of the lack of communication from the lender, Aurora Loan Services based in Delaware, she worked with ACCE to coordinate an e-mail blast to Aurora’s chairman.

On Nov. 3, over the span of one to two hours, approximately 1,400 emails were sent and more than 100 phone calls made, imploring Chairman Theodore P. Janulis to stop Richardson’s eviction. A spokesperson from the bank called her an hour after the blast and asked her to send an updated set of financial information so that they could review her case.

Two weeks have passed and she has yet to hear anything further. The bank spokesperson commented that Richardson’s case is still being reviewed internally and they hope to get back to her by the end of next week.

However, Richardson has lived in her house for 13 years and plans to stay regardless of the bank’s decision.

“I will defend the home,” she said.

On Dec. 6, there will be a national day of action, “Occupy Our Homes,” where people across the country facing predicaments similar to Gage and Richardson may follow their lead.

Partly inspired by the Occupy movement, the day of action is supported by various community organizations like Take Back the Land and ACCE. The call to action is for people to move back into their foreclosed properties and to defend the properties of families facing eviction.

Martinez commented on the growing anger people are feeling. “The idea is, ‘I want what’s mine.’” She said many homeowners had trusted the banks and ultimately, “People were buying into a lie.”


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