The more I see first hand the violence in Hartford, the more aggravated I get by the entire system.
I spent a good part of the day Wednesday at the intersection of Thomaston and Ridgefield Street in the Blue Hills neighborhood, the site of Hartford's latest homicide. Mid afternoon a man approached me and a reporter standing there and asked us what happened. He was told a shooting had taken place and the victim was dead. He told us he thought that it might be his cousin, Gregory Parker, were we sure he was dead. The reporter told him that was what the police were saying.
At about that time the homicide victims car was towed out of the driveway where he was shot. The man kind of let out an "oh no" and said that was his cousins car. Right about then his cell phone rang, and although I only heard one side of the conversation, it was a conversation no one wants to have. He kept repeating "no Gramma, he's dead, I said ,Gramma he's DEAD". What a way to break the news to a young mans grandmother that her grandson was now a statistic, Hartford's 10th homicide for 2011.
I try to go to as many community meetings as I can and I am a supporter of Reverend Henry Brown. People ask me if I am out of my mind when I go stand on Edgewood Street or Albany Avenue when Rev. Brown holds a vigil. Lately, they seem to be used as campaign stops by those running for political office.
Since I'm not usually shy about calling people out, last nights vigil on Thomaston Street was very well attended by community people and family members of the victim, 24 year old Anthony Parker. It was also attended by Hartford's politicos who I don't recall seeing at any other vigils on a regular basis. Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra in a political battle for re-election was there, one of his challengers Sean Wooden was there. Andrew Wood, who has been funded very well by the City to prevent violence was there. He also attended Tuesdays vigil on Edgewood Street.
For the Mayor and Andrew Wood to show up at the vigil might be nice to show respect for the family, but I would have preferred to see them touting Anthony Parker heading off to college rather than a cemetery.
It was even more disturbing this morning when I spoke with Chief Roberts and he told the story of meeting with Anthony Parker's mother about four years ago. He explained how Parker and his younger brother were identified as being on the fast track to trouble. Chief Robert's said that after meeting with Parker's mother and offering help to try to get them on the right track he was surprised by the mothers response.
She said that she was placing her sons in God's hands. Well we now know how that worked out. Anthony is clearly in God's hands now and his younger brother is in the hands of the Connecticut Department of Correction, serving time in prison.
I guess my big question is what do these organizations that are funded very well by the City actually do in return for Hartford. We know under the previous administration that many of Hartford's non-profits were expected to return votes at election time in appreciation of their City funding. Organizations that knew how to play the game with our former Mayor got their funding, those that wouldn't play had their City funding cut.
Last year I requested a record from the City Treasurer of all the funding given to organizations that Andrew Woods was affiliated with or the "director" of. The result was very interesting. According to the records, from 2001 when Eddie Perez became Mayor until the time of my 2010 request, the Treasurer gave me records showing that $2.3 million had been paid out to Hartford Communities that Care, Hartford Behavioral Health, Stump the Violence and various other organizations.
What have we received for that money? We know that adults are making a very good living off of the City, but Hartford's youth are still dying. The interesting part is that we have no way of tracking most of this money. Ask for reports on how the money is spent, who is served, what are the demographics served and no one can provide the answers. It seems like a very poor system where the money is thrown around without any real accountability.
I ran into the perfect example last year when I looked at the amount of money given out by the City to the Ebony Horsewomen.Although the money was supposed to be used for youth programs, the fact of the matter is that the President of Board of Directors was channeling over a $100,000 a year back to herself through an LLC that both her and her husband ran.Click here to read the details from 2010. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprising if you realize how Hartford works, not a question arose on the part of the City Council when I raised the issue when the group was up for funding again.
I think it is a legitimate question to ask to these groups receiving funding for violence projects, how did Anthony Parker end up dead? If Chief Roberts and his staff identified Anthony Parker and his brother as "bad dudes", what was done from that point on. The Hartford Police are not meant to be social workers, but Andrew Woods and the others are.
Since there is no real follow up, I guess we will never know. What efforts were made to deal the Parker's? Not everyone can be saved from themselves, but it would be interesting to know what was done from the day Chief Roberts met with their mother to ensure that the Parker boys "got into God's hands" later than as we saw this week, far too soon.
Here is the latest Federal Tax Form 990 for Hartford Communities that Care for 2009, it shows almost $280,000 in income for the period 2007-2009 for this one group alone. Note the expenditures, the majority was paid out to "consultants", it might be interesting to know who those individuals are. Also note that one of the Board members, Patricia Kelly, is the subject of my Ebony Horsewoman post linked above