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Thursday, December 12, 2013

CHOOSING THE RIGHT BATTLES

Hartford is a City that has more than its share of issues to be dealt with. Increasingly  I am surprised by what the priorities for our community are. We seem to be plagued by incompetence and poor leadership, if there is any leadership at all.

The recent Kennard Ray uproar just seems to highlight our problems. I will say upfront, I am not a supporter of Mr. Ray and I don't believe the issue is being framed properly .It starts with the "ban the box" ordinance. This is nothing more than a feel good law that essentially has no real protections for anyone. OK, so you don't ask if the applicant has any felony convictions . Once they get hired and you find out they do, you terminate them. A total waste of time for everyone involved, not to mention demoralizing for the applicant.

Anyone that has to renew a trade license in Connecticut , electricians, plumbers, barbers, and many others have to check off a box that you have not been convicted of a felony in the past 12 months. It is a reality of life. we are thinking adults and need to accept responsibility for our actions as adults, and felony convictions typically do not open doors for anyone ( except maybe John Rowland)

And what employer shouldn't be allowed to know who they are hiring. I would think some convictions may be very pertinent to the position that a convicted felon might actually be getting hired for. Financial crimes or embezzlement might not be the best thing for someone looking for a banking job. Is an employer supposed to be prevented from knowing about that?

What would seem more important is finding an employer, or a Mayor, with a backbone that is willing to stand behind their choice to give a felon a second chance. Or in Mr. Ray's case a 5th , 6th or 7th chance. I think Mayor Segarra was caught off guard by the backlash in the Ray hiring because he never did his homework in the first place.

But when the matter started to erupt, Segarra , if he thought Ray was the right choice, should have sttod up and taken a stand on the matter. But the fact of the matter was that Ray most likely wasn't the best choice for the job, but may have been the best "political" choice for the job. I don't think any one is discounting Mr. Ray's ties to the Working Families Party  weighing heavily on Segarra's choice.

If it was about "second chances" Segarra should be one of the first people to acknowledge that and stand up for his choice. We have probably all made choices in our past that might not have been the most stellar, and Pedro Segarra is no exception. Ask him about the Cuban connection and see what kind of response you get.

And the community support for Mr. Ray surprises me when no one seems to be mentioning the name of Thomas Clark. Mr. Clark was an employee in the Mayor's Office until recently when he was for all intents and purposes driven out.

Thomas Clark is a young African American male , well educated( he holds an MBA), hard working professional and a person of faith. From what sources  have told me , Thomas was driven out of the Mayor's Office because he was perceived as not being a "team Player" . God forbid someone in the Mayor's Office actually speaks his mind.

Maybe if more people in Segarra's inner sanctum actually did speak up, many of the missteps by Segarra could be avoided. But Clark was  out in the community and projected an image for a young black man that should set him up as a role model for Hartford's Youth before they need to fight the battle for a job because they have the title convicted felon attached to them. Clark's salary was also close to a third of the salary of most people in the Mayor's Office, how is that fair?

Rather than everyone rallying behind a man that has had numerous felony convictions, why don't we actually begin the conversations on trying to end the pipeline from adolescence to prison that draws in the majority of Hartford's young men. Now there is a battle worth fighting. for.

What we really need to do is hold our elected officials accountable for their election year rhetoric. We always hear about "re-entry" programs for felons returning back from prison from candidates and how important they are. But then once the campaign is over, the talk goes away until the next election cycle.

Let's talk about jobs for Hartford people before they get into trouble. Let's talk about jobs for Hartford's young men before they turn to crime to put money in their pocket and get wrapped up in criminal cases and get the felony record.

A Mayor with vision would be sitting down with every Hartford employer and asking them to allocate  maybe 10% of their annual hiring to be set aside for Hartford residents. That would make a dent in Hartford's joblessness, and probably crime stats also. A Mayor with vision would be working with the MDC to leverage jobs from a huge project that is disrupting just about every neighborhood in the City to create jobs for those same residents that are being affected.

Vision requires thinking "outside the box" and then standing for what you believe in, sometimes even when that stand is uncomfortable. Right now the only job creation seems to be on the Mayor's Staff. But in the meantime, lets look for those that can serve a dual purpose as City employees and also role models for Hartford youth, I think Thomas Clark would have served that purpose. There may be a place for Kennard Ray in Hartford government, but I am not sure it is a high profile position in the Mayor's Office.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

What I don't get is Mr. Ray waging this self-promotional campaign when HE WITHDREW FROM THE JOB. If this was so important, why didn't he show up for work on December 2? He just quit and then blamed everyone else. If this was a fight worth fighting, he would've told the Mayor he had to make the call to fire him.

Brendan said...

Kevin, you are entitled to your opinion about Mr. Ray, but you are entirely incorrect about how the ban the box ordinance actually works. The text of the ordinance is available here and since I wrote it, perhaps I can provide some insight.

Hartford has a huge ex-offender population. We all know this and hold a million community meetings about the issue. We also know that employment is a highly effective tool against recidivism. In 2010, a council member whom you detest decided to do something about it, much in the way that many other cities do. We can't control all the employers in town, but can control ourselves and our vendors.

So entered the ban the box ordinance. The thrust of it is that the background check is delayed until a conditional offer of employment is made. This removes the "box" from the job application, which has been shown to function as a deterrent or a reason to lie and get an application thrown out. The ordinance also means that the cloud of a conviction doesn't cast a pall over the candidate during his interview, etc. If an offer is made, the candidate has a chance to reveal the conviction and explain the circumstances as well as explain what has changed in the individual's life that mitigates the conviction. After the conditional offer, the City may do a background check if it is relevant to the position.

If the background check is required by law (teacher, cop, etc.) the ordinance is not in effect.

This is a sound policy that cities throughout the country have adopted and it's a shame we haven't quite figured out how to use it in Hartford. It's not some feel good thing without purpose, it's a smart idea intended to benefit residents and keep our city safer.

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of interacting with Mr. Clark a few years back, it is a shame that he has had to resign his position. Kevin hits the nail on the head with this analysis.

KEVIN BROOKMAN said...

brendan,

first off, it is rather presumptuous of you to claim to know who I detest, I didn't agree very often with your idol, Councilman Cotto, but then again he wasn't paying my salary so I didn't have to be beholding to him. And what good does it to for a criminal history to come out before and interview or after if the result is still the same in the end, you are still unemployed, how does that benefit any resident. I am sure Mr Ray is probably not a strong believer in your methodology right about now. Like I said in the posting, if we had a Mayor with a backbone who believed in what the ordinance that might make a difference, but until then, the feel good ordinance you apparently wrote means nothing as we just saw. And when you wrote the ordinance as you claim, did you also attach a list of felonies that are acceptable, Are drug offenses and gun crimes acceptable, what about morals and sex crimes? Are all of these suitable for second chances?Until you instill integrity in our City leaders to do the right thing, ban the box means nothing

Ken Krayeske said...

Kevin -

Your attack on Brendan's and Kennard's integrity is too much for me to bear. Twice in two sentences you deride Brendan's credibility by suggesting he may not have written the ordinance. He did. What do you think council aides do? Run political campaigns on city time? Lollygag?

Effective council aides like Brendan helped make things happen. Ineffective council aides explain 75% of the Democratic Party for the past 6 decades.

While I agree with much of your assessment of Segarra's weaknesses, I cannot abide your disrespect to Kennard. Once I heard Kennard planned to leave WFP for 550 Main, I knew it was a mistake. Not because Kennard was the wrong guy, as you suggest, but because Segarra accepted the Republican nomination, and sadly, City Hall has made unwelcome persons of Kennard's competence and courageous convictions.

And by convictions, I don't mean the scarlet letters you seek to tattoo on KRay for his mistakes and five centuries of racism I don't think you make an effort to understand. By convictions, I mean Kennard's deeply held beliefs in liberty, equality and fraternity: the right to a decent wage, the right to decent housing, the right to food, the right to a quality education, the right to health care, the right to employment, the right to be free from the sinister impacts of prejudice of any kind.

Although I can't quite sketch the contours of your position on crime and punishment, I think you would support the new bill from Sen. Joe Crisco and Rep. Themis Klarides preventing registered sex offenders from living anywhere near children. This means no sex offenders could live in Hartford, Bridgeport or New Haven. That's demagoguery, not realism.

http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20131211/2-connecticut-legislators-want-to-keep-sex-offenders-away-from-children

How much of a stigma do you want to put on someone's bad judgment or bad luck, after they have paid the dues society demands? You can have Nathan Hale's dystopia, I prefer Nietzsche's counsel: "distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!"

Jean ValJean is a hero because he does his best to overcome the shame of his status as a convict, yet society refuses to spare him his guilt even after he did his time. Valjean creates jobs, gets rich, raises Cosette, a daughter not his own in penance for unwittingly destroying her mother, Fantine. Valjean saves lives, yet France won't free him of the disgrace of years on a brutal chain gang for stealing bread.

What kind of people are we who have not learned the uselessness of branding the fleur de lis into flesh and brain? Heed Alexandre Dumas: "Learn to know the heart of men, and henceforth make yourself less easily the instrument of their unjust vengeance."

Regards,
Kenneth J. Krayeske, Esq.


Anonymous said...

This situation is just a BIG MESS.
The new position of Deputy Chief of Staff is ridiculous. What on earth dose Hartford need this appointed position for? Mr. Mayor wake up and save the tax payers money. Appoint qualified folks and you will not need any more on board.

Anonymous said...

Ban the box or not, Juan Figeroua is now gone as of today and I don't know if you noticed your buddy the Deputy Corp Counsel is retiring. Does anybody work in City Hall anymore?

No more felons in city hall said...

Listen here kenny krayeske, are you an idiot? The bottom line is that brockman is logical. Should a convicted criminal be deputy chief of staff for a major city ? Maybe he can earn the respect by starting at the bottom and working his way up. But no , lets all jump on the band wagon. He can have a second chance somewhere out of the public eye. Face it, google and the internet will prevent all the multiple wrongly convicted refined individuals from any job that are paid with my dime. Dont do the crime if you cant do the time. Gun charges are no joke. Oh and drugs too, that is swell.

And what does esq attached to your name mean. Are you trying to pretend to be educated or just fancy .?.

Anonymous said...

Brendan,

Ae you sure you didn't mean disgust as opposed to detest when you referred to Kevin's opinion of your beloved leader, the former Councilman?

Could it be that Kevin, as well as a few others, know more than most about the Councilman that allowed him to form his opinion?Maybe he is aware of the fact that the Councilman himself might be looking for a second chance if his departure from the Charter Oak Cultural Center had gone in a different direction? Maybe the Councilman would have been labeled a convicted felon if not given the chance to pay restitution for his acts that resulted in his sudden termination. Might people look at your beloved Councilman differently if they knew the history of jobs handed out to his family members at the taxpayers expense or the lucrative position handed to his baby's mother at CRT after she was fired from her job in New Haven?

Don't make this guy out to be some martyr, he was another scab on the political process in Hartford.

And as far as "writing" the ordinance, cut and paste is a wonderful thing, just take out another municipality and insert Hartford and a new ordinance is born.Your beloved Councilman never had an original thought but he was good at copying legislation from NYC, Portland and other places.

By the way, is he still paying restitution or has the Cultural Center been fully reimbursed for the losses?

patty gonzales said...

Anonymous,

Kevin, a few months ago you ran an article on "Discrimination at City Hall" you never followed up. In this month article you mentioned that gentlemen Thomas Clark. Everything you said about Thomas is accurate. Thomas worked faithfully and he was always very respectful to his co-workers and the public. Thomas left City Hall because his shell was a major setback. The mayor and his immediate staff wanted him out. They never gave him a salary increase. But the mayor supported a $20,000 increase for kupiac. The position Thomas held was Susan MeMullens old position paying $120,000 yrly. Thomas salary was almost 3/4 of what Susan took home When Thomas left, he was replaced by an Hispanic female. She was rushed into his position and her salary increased to almost $65,000 or more. She had no training or degree. Kevin, FOI that to see if i'm lying. Where is the leadership in city hall that reflects the community? All I see is a majority of one race. All i'm saying is, there's other educated people in this city that have degrees without criminal records that need to feed their families. City Hall has a literacy problem that is centered around its incompetencies. As a taxpayer, i dont like the way this administration is spending our money. The residents should protest city hall because we are paying to be mistreated and under represented by this administration. The problem starts with the weakest leadership i've ever seen. Enough is enough already. Show me some other cultures working. Afterall other cultures live in this city.

Anonymous said...

Only in Hartford....at the audit commission, in addition to learning that Cloud hasn't implemented any reforms to keep him from helping out his buddies again, we find out that political appointee applicants don't even go through HR! HR didn't have an app for KRay at all.

And KRay says he never had an opportunity to "disclose" his convictions becasue he doesn't go through HR, and even if he did, the box is banned. Are you kidding me Mr. Ray? He obviously spoke to people about the job, and accepted it, so there was plenty of opportunity to mention "oh by the way, just want to let you know I did time and have a few felony convictions on my record. And unemployment comp had to garnish my wages earlier this year"

Anonymous said...

The problem with Mr. Kennard is that he has too many chances and he chose the wrong ways again and again...Some felons can't be rehabilitated, Pedro should have known that. It is not about the stigma but about the many chances he had and chose to commit another felony. He might have a friend inside who wanted to give him a "piece of the cake". It is all about the money gain game...