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So, These Oakwood Avenue Shootings

Posted by whforums on November 1, 2008

I’d be curious to hear the general town reaction to the October 19th shootings at the UAW Hall on Oakwood. You know, the “baby shower shootings” (as if a shooting on the periphery of a baby shower is worse than a shooting anywhere else).

As I read through the coverage, it seemed pretty obvious that there was a (non-organized, unconscious) desire to make the forceful, implicit argument that the violence came to West Hartford but didn’t start here — that the violence had its origin in some other town where these sorts of things happen. And at the same time, I found myself wondering, had this shooting happened a half mile down the road — in Hartford rather than in West Hartford, would it have received the same media attention? Or would it just be another “Hartford shooting?”

So let me get you started with my opinion — which you can probably smell 3 websites away. The sources of this violence are regional, folks, and it’s as much West Hartford’s problem as anyone else’s. And you know what? My guess is that, if we sorted through the news stories from 2008, we’d find a significant percentage of arrested “Hartford Residents” with West Hartford roots.

Here’s the problem. If we continue to dismiss regional violence as a non-regional problem, even if we do so implicitly — if we continue to dismiss this as a problem we can safely appropriate to a city’s limits — then we ignore that its scope, impact and origin are decidedly regional, and our dismissals only serve to perpetuate the violence and its myths. Until our thinking, even in these “belt-tightening” times, is a regional thinking, it’s going to be too easy to close our rental halls (and I don’t blame the UAW for doing that), put our fingers in our ears, and pretend that our greatest problems are our budgets and our development projects — rather than the economic segregation West Hartford (and when I write West Hartford, you better believe I’m writing “You and I”) both enacts and enables.

4 Responses to “So, These Oakwood Avenue Shootings”

  1. iBlog said

    You warn us not to “. . . pretend that our greatest problems are our budgets and our development projects — rather than the economic segregation West Hartford (and when I write West Hartford, you better believe I’m writing “You and I”) both enacts and enables”

    Can you elaborate on how/why you believe West Hartford is promoting economic segregation? Which policies, practices, attitudes, actions? And perhaps suggest what you think we could be doing differently?


  2. whforums said

    Dunno that I’d say I “warn” or that West Hartford “promotes” — I would say I “point out” and that West Hartford both “enacts” and “enables” economic segregation. Mind you, I’m not arguing this is necessarily always a conscious enactment or enabling, so I’m not sure it’s an issue of policy/practice/action as it is an issue of attitude — which surfaces in policy/practice/action in implicit ways.

    I would argue that WH enacts economic segregation (not as policy maker but as existential thing) simply by the opportunity its socio-economic status grants to its residents. We shouldn’t for a second pretend that the average kid growing up in Hartford has equal access to opportunity as the average kid growing up in West Hartford. More practically, I would imagine that the average West Hartford salary and net worth is much higher than the average salary or net worth in Hartford. It seems entirely untenable to me to argue that Hartford county doesn’t suffer from economic segregation and that West Hartford isn’t a big part of that problem. As we exist, and as we hold wealth (and as we sponsor development that keeps that wealth in while keeping non-wealth out), we enact economic segregation. I’m not arguing it’s bad to be wealthy — I am arguing that geographic structure of wealth goes a long way toward defining opportunity and imagination. More simply: West Hartford enacts economic segregation both existentially and politically. Which isn’t to say we don’t also take steps to mitigate it — but clearly, not steps that are substantial enough to begin to eradicate that segregation.

    We enable this economic segregation through what seems to be a collective will to imagine that Hartford’s problems are not our own. We also enable the segregation in more concrete ways — consider BBS, for example, and the way it positions itself not for the good of a neighborhood or region, but rather, for the good of the moneyed. West Hartford had a chance to promote a mixed use development for a diverse economic group — but, in this case, actively chose who they would exclude.

    These paragraphs off the top of my head. I don’t mean to dismiss our local budget battles or our local development battles, because both are important, and the identity and well-being of our town are important, too. But lost in this is the importance of West Hartford as a regional force, especially its responsibility to its region (and I’ll grant my own hyperbole here). The seeming desire to ignore this responsibility — or to pretend that it’s not there in light of a certain economic segregation — at the very least suggests that we are complicit in the problem.

  3. Cynic said


    I think you have it backwards. If Hartford is economically segregated it did it to itself with inept leadership over the years. You can’t keep a city going by chasing business out. You can’t attract a middle class without a school system.

    Yes BBS could have been a different type of development. But it was presented and designed to increase the tax rolls, a much needed event. Unfortunately it may not pan out as hoped. Were we lied to?

    The WH Budget as it stands now will require things keep going up scale, which may not be possible in this economy. Rumor I’m hearing is if things don’t change fast next years budget will require a 7% increase + reval of 4.5%. Scary. In this economy the 4.5% due to reval alone will be hard for many to swallow.

  4. pdgoselin said

    A very thoughtful post on a hard topic. I think it’s very insightful to see a connection between “regional violence” and economic segregation.

    I live on the dividing line between the two towns – not far from where the shooting occurred. Where we live that dividing line sometimes seems like something very concrete – like when I moved across the line from Hartford to West Hartford and my car insurance costs plummeted. But it often seems like most borders – something that exists only because we imagine it does. I can’t imagine thinking about what happens on Park *Street* as if it did not have any impact on Park *Road*.

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