The "Festival-of-non-Lights" took a step forward tonight in the positive side. After the bashing that opening night took for the non-event, tonight was a little bit better. Unfortunately there weren't many people there to take part in the opening of the skating rink, but those that were there seemed to enjoy it. The crowd probably numbered around 100 people, and those there didn't seem to mind braving the bitter cold.
Mayor Segarra skating and Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Nasto in his spandex skating outfit was well worth the price of admission. Oh wait, it was free,
A bon fire might have livened the event a little bit, but at least this time Santa was there as scheduled and was greeting those at the rink. Additional lights had been strung on trees near the carousel and more trees were illuminated on the edge of the park.
It would have been nice to have seen it all pulled together on the opening night. Even Mayor Segarra shared his disappointment with me last night as to the event he had envisioned and what actually happened. Apparently his original thoughts were more of a "Winter Festival" type theme with snow-making and sledding, skating combined with lights and other winter events.
Now the challenge will be to lure back those who felt disappointed with the original event and be willing to give Hartford a second chance. I would hope some leadership will evolve at City Hall and with others involved and challenge the planners for next year to "think outside the box".
This could be a great event for next year combined with expansion to the Riverfront and revitalize the festival on Constitution Plaza. The announcement this week that Channel 3 and the Channel 3 "Kid'sCamp" will be resurrecting the former "Holiday Fantasia" in Goodwin Park could be the glue that brings the whole plan together. Hartford could potentially be known as the place to head to for Christmas holiday displays .
Throw in some horse drawn carriages for a few weeks and maybe some hayrides from downtown, running a route past restaurants and businesses and the plaza and the riverfront. And don't wait until a week before next Thanksgiving to start planning it, and maybe it would be a good idea to keep an arms length from some of the planners from this years event who thought the first opening was sufficient.
And while we are at it, lets set a date to shut down Main Street and bring the Taste of Hartford back to the streets of Hartford for a weekend and start showing off all we have to offer. Jamaican patties, barbecue, seafood, italian food, the best grinders you will find anywhere, spanish food, I'd keep going but I am getting hungry now. And top the weekend off with a street concert and a block party.
Today Hyacinth Yennie, Chairperson of the Maple Avenue NRZ, called and asked if I would help her decorate the tree in the Barry Square triangle for Christmas. Is it PC to say Christmas or should I say for the "Holidays"?
I had hoped she would have picked a warmer day, but I agreed and we met and began decorating. When she asked me to begin stringing the lights on the tree, I was reluctant to comply.We had recently been educated by the Mayor's spokesperson that Christmas lights could be detrimental to wildlife, and Barry Square definitely has its share of wildlife.
Throwing caution to the wind, I began wrapping the tree in lights and garland and hanging ornaments with constant oversight and instruction from Supervisor Yennie. When I thought it couldn't get much colder, fortunately a couple of Santa's elves arrived on the scene in their individual sleighs, 455 and 453.
In the true spirit of Community Policing, Officer Ted Sposito and Carlo Faienza stopped by for a few minutes to make their presence known in Barry Square. Hyacinth has a way of getting everyone involved and no one seems to be able to say no to her (or else).
Hyacinth Yennie on ladder assisted by CSO's Carlo Faienza and Ted Sposito (aka Batman and Robin)who have contributed to an over 16% reduction in crime in the Southeast area, including Barry Square.
The tree and the decorations look great and we have begun the effort to have the "Festival of Lights" moved to Barry Square next year, squirrels or no squirrels.
To read more about the squirrelly squirrel explanation, click here
Several sources have confirmed for me that an offer of a position in the Malloy Administration may be on the verge for Hartford's 1st District Senator John Fonfara.
Apparently Fonfara is potentially being offered a position on the Connecticut DPUC, Department of Public Utility Control, most likely as Chairman or a Commissioner. Fonfara has been co-chair of the Legislatures Energy and Technology Committee.
This could prove interesting, if it occurs, as the posturing begins to fill Fonfara's Senate seat. MDC Chairman William DiBella, who held Fonfara's Senate seat previously, has told others that he would push for his son Marc DiBella to fill the seat when it was time for Fonfara to "move on". Ed Vargas, who campaigned hard to unseat Fonfara this past election would most likely be a contender. Kelvin Roldan's name has also been heard as someone who might be interested in Fonfara's seat. Roldan's move on the seat could potentially be a political "bridge burner" though considering his ties to the DiBella's and Halloran's, the MDC's attorney.
If you were applying for a job and had an interview with your potential employers, would you send someone else in your place?
That was the case last night at the Hartford Republican Town Committee's special meeting. The meeting was called to fill the upcoming vacancy by Hartford's only Republican Councilperson, the corrupt Councilwoman resigning under the excuse of "early retirement".
Several potential replacements submitted resumes to the Town Committee and they were each allowed 5 minutes to address those in attendance. Among those submitting their names were Steven Bonafonte, Corey Brinson, Michael Fryar, Mike Lupo, Kevin Carroll, Gerry Pleasent, Nyesha McCauley and John O'Connell. In the end, Bonafonte received the most votes (5) although his presentation was given by a stand-in, playing the part of Steven Bonafonte.
The selection and the replacement process seems to be raising a lot of questions though. First off was a question raised as to whether or not it was proper to accept resumes from an individual who wasn't even there to speak. RTC Chairperson Michael McGarry explained that it was an emergency meeting and they needed to move quickly to provide names to the Council.
No action can be taken by the Council on the Republican vacancy until most likely January 5, 2011 , so I really can't understand the rush. The Council President's position and his Council seat was left open for a couple months after his June vacancy was created. This delay by a Council usually unable to make quick decisions. Also at the time, Segarra played a key role on the Council, I'm not sure the same can be said about Airey-Wilson.
Another big question is why the Democratic Council can choose whoever they want to fill the Republican vacancy. I find it hard to believe that anyone on this Council would vote to put a hard line Republican, such as John O'Connell, on the Council if they didn't have to. If there was any leadership on the Republican Town Committee, I would think their message should be loud and clear, "the Democrat's are not going to choose our Republicans, we selected a replacement and we demand that choice be honored".
But we know that is not going to happen. The RTC never even took a stand on Hartford's corruption scandal, probably because their fellow Republican was neck deep in the scandal, but to say anything would involve exercising some integrity, and that is not a strong point for the RTC Chair.
It would seem that a common sense approach to the replacement is simple. If we really want to follow the will of the people who voted for Council candidates last go around, go back to 2007 and look at the vote results. Kevin Carroll was the 2nd highest vote getter in the Council race and should be Hartford's version of the "Miss America" runner-up. If the number one can't complete the term, the first runner up steps in.
We tend to make these things much more difficult than they need be.
If you aren't familiar with the name Willie Edwards, you will be if you check back in here later this week. His story is apparently the story of a city employee who was penalized for ,what most have told me, doing his job.
It is a story that will make you wonder if we have really turned the corner on corruption at City Hall or is it business as usual.
The Maple Avenue Revitilization Group (MARG) will hold it's annual holiday "meet and greet" this Thursday at 6:00PM. The event will be held in the basement of Saint Augustine's Church located at 10 Campfield Avenue in Hartford.
MARG's chairperson Hyacinth Yennie says everyone is invited and urges people to come meet their neighbor's. Refreshments will be offered and feel free to bring an item if you would like.
In addition, Hyacinth says the group will be collecting non-perishable food items for the St. Augustine Food Pantry.
Items such as toiletries, gloves and socks will also be collected for the South Park Inn
The biggest reason I get from people when I ask them why they don't vote is pretty much the same. "All politicians are crooks and the whole system is corrupt".
As much as I try to persuade them that is not true, I think deep down we know it is. A disgraced convicted felon former Mayor of Hartford gets an interim assignment at a non-profit partially funded by the City before his next job in the license plate shop. A corrupt Councilwoman is rewarded with a cushy retirement package and lifetime medical.
The recent voluntary retirement package offered to Hartford city employees may not be as voluntary as everyone thinks, especially for one individual.
It seems as though Hartford's Deputy Treasurer Donna Nappier had no intention, or desire, to stop serving the people of Hartford. Through an FOI request I obtained Ms. Nappier's "acceptance" letter to the City. Attached to that letter was a detailed explanation as to why Nappier considers her "voluntary" retirement as something that was forced upon her.
In speaking with Ms. Nappier today, she made it quite clear that she fully understands that she serves at the will of Treasurer Kathleen Palm-Devine. The Treasurer is also taking the early retirement package. Nappier also said that she did not plan on running for the Treasurers position in November.
Nappier's letter is detailed below, but the whole matter of offering early retirement incentives to elected officials seems somewhat questionable to me for a couple reasons. The first ,and what seems to be the major reason, is that there will be no cost savings in the resignation of an elected official.
Unlike a regular employee, there is no option of leaving an elected position vacant. The Treasurer and Council positions are mandated by Charter and can not be left unfilled as a clerical or laborer position could be. The fact of the matter is that the medical insurance costs and the early pension payments will actually cost the tax payers of Hartford more.
The only way to save money is if the replacement Treasurer and Councilperson agree to work for free, and I highly doubt that.
The second issue I have is whether it is proper for the Administration or the Council to offer incentives to essentially change the will of the voters. Kathleen Palm-Devine and Veronica Airey-Wilson were both duly elected by the voters of Hartford. There should be no incentive by anyone to circumvent that.
If the Treasurer decides it is time for her to retire or move on, that should be her decision and not because someone dangles the carrot on the stick in front of her. In Airey-Wilson's case, the excuse of accepting the retirement incentive gives her an easy out to escape without addressing calls for her resignation due to her corrupt activities.
In researching early retirement incentives offered by other municipal and state governments, every one that I could find excluded elected officials and in most cases also excluded appointed officials on the State level as well.
Here is an example of the exclusions from a recent offering by the State of New York:
Participation Exclusions for the State of New York program
Individuals serving in the following positions are specifically excluded from eligibility for the Part A & Part B incentive benefits:
* Elected officials; * Officers described in specific sections of Executive Law, as listed in the legislation and any agency or department head appointed by the Governor, Comptroller or Attorney General; * Appointed members of boards or commissions of participating employers, any of whose members are appointed by the Governor, or another State officer or body;
In the meantime, there seems to be a lot of questions on why Nappier seems to be being forced out and why the short list of names, actually the one name, being floated for Palm-Devines successor shouldn't be left up to the voters to choose next November.
In Nappier's letter below, she specifically mentions Adam Cloud as the choice Palm-Devine has mentioned as her replacement. She further states that Cloud, according to Palm-Devine, needs to start "learning the ropes". After Kathleen fought off numerous attempts by former Mayor Perez to tap the pension fund to balance the budget, she should know that the Treasurer's office is no place for on the job training.
Donna Nappier has spent over seven years in the Treasurer's Office and I would hope has no need to "learn the ropes"
With the demise of Hartford Corporation Counsel John Rose after his termination by Mayor Segarra, I had high hopes that the promises of transparency would actually ring true. I had the expectation that FOI requests would actually become requests rather than the battles I had grown accustomed to under Rose and Perez.
As much as I had high hopes, that has definitely not been the case. Rather than re-type everything, below is an FOI complaint I just made against the City of Hartford and the Corporation Counsel Saundra Kee-Borges for failing to comply with a Commission order. The Commission's order from the September 8, 2010 ruling that Kee-Borges has failed to comply with is also below.
FOI COMPLAINT-FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH COMMISSION ORDER
On September 1, 2009 specific documents were requested from the City of Hartford through a written FOI request. The request was not complied with and an FOI complaint was filed on September 19, 2009. The matter was heard as a contested case and on December 17, 2009 a hearing was held. On December 19, 2009 hearing officer Kathleen Ross issued an in-camera ordered for respondent Rose to submit the requested documents for review. Respondent Rose failed to comply with that order and the hearing officers report was prepared and presented to the Commission on April 14, 2010.
At the April 14, 2010 meeting,respondent Rose requested the matter reopened so he could now comply with the Commissions in-camera order. The Commission re-opened the matter. Respondent Rose subsequently complied with the in-camera review and a second hearing and proposed findings were prepared and presented to the Commission at its September 8, 2010 meeting.
Prior to the September 8, 2010, on or about July 6, 2010, respondent Rose was terminated as the Corporation Counsel for the City of Hartford. Before the September 8, 2010 meeting , I contacted the new Corporation Counsel , Saundra Kee-Borges and she advised me that they would not be opposing the proposed Final Decision, nor did they intend to appeal the decision or offer any arguments.
After the hearing and the Commissions acceptance of the hearing officer's report I contacted Ms. Kee-Borges to obtain the documents. She advised me that there was a problem since respondent Rose had not kept any copies of the documents provided for the in-camera review and the only copies were in possession of the Commission.
During the September 8, 2010 Commission meeting, a letter was introduced from Carl Nasto, Deputy Corporation Counsel stating that copies were not kept. While accepting the letter, the Commission stated that copies could be made for the City at the statutory rate of $.50 per page. Previous testimony by respondent Rose during hearings detailed that the documents filled two cardboard file boxes and apparently accounted for several thousand pages.
I had been told by the Commission that there was a 45 day waiting period for any appeals. Even though the City had claimed that they would not appeal, the Commission was obligated to retain the documents until October 31, 2010, the end of the 45 day appeal period. I spoke with Kee-Borges and reluctantly agreed to another 45 day delay in obtaining the documents because of respondent Rose's incompetence in not retaining copies . Since the copying of several thousand documents at $.50 a page would cause the City to incur substantial costs, the 45 day period was acceptable.
The 45 day period expired October 31, 2010 and despite several promises from Kee-Borges, the documents have not been provided “forthwith” as ordered by the Commission on September 8, 2010.
A fourteen month delay in obtaining public documents is unacceptable, and a 3 month delay since the Commission's order should be intolerable.
I would ask for immediate action on this matter and additional Civil penalties be considered for failing to comply with the Commission's lawful order.
After filing the complaint for failing to comply last week, today I received an e-mail from Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Nasto. Essentially,he is claiming the delay because they don't know what they gave to FOI so they don't know what to give me. That explains an awful lot, how long to you think any of these attorneys would survive in the real corporate world?
Here is the text of Nasto's e-mail:
Kevin: Our office retrieved the files from FOIC; however, the exhibits that we were given do not match up with exhibit #s referenced in the decision so we cannot determine which documents we need to disclose to you. We have contacted FOIC and are trying to resolve this problem as soon as practicable. If you have any questions, please contact me at 757-9710. -Carl
This is only the beginning, tomorrow I will detail an attempt by the Hartford Police Department and Assistant Chief Heavren to avoid the release of documents I requested regarding a 2001 HPD investigation. Those documents were discovered by police investigators working on recent sexual assault allegations made by several individuals to the Hartford Police Department. Although Chief Heavren claims the investigation was destroyed years ago, that is the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, through a series of mistakes by HPD, it is very likely that those mistakes allowed a man ,who several police sources have identified as a sexual predator, to remain on Hartford's streets to this day.
After getting fed up with the lack of openness in Hartford City Hall, I decided to begin a program on Hartford Public Access Television called "WE THE PEOPLE". Through tips received we have been able to expose numerous issues that the Perez Administration would prefer to keep quiet.
Any information received is kept in strict confidence, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 860-883-2297 with any information.