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Archive for the ‘Federal Government’ Category

Trains and “Greater Hartford”

Posted by whforums on December 29, 2008

So, I’ve been thinking about trains lately.  And I’m not the only one – although this particular post has been kicking around in my head for a while, a lot of other local blogs have written about the topic already.  In fact, trains are the transportation trend of the moment.

For example, Heather B. over at Urban Compass has written extensively about the proposed Springfield to Hartford line (that’s where, in the comments section, I first worked out a draft of what I’m trying to think through here).  West Hartford’s own Representative Chris McCluskey has seconded the notion, arguing that a line that connects Springfield-Hartford-New Haven makes more sense than the proposed New Britain-Hartford Busway, not in small part because it would provide Hartford (and the residents of the West Hartford he represents) easier access to New York.  Over at Real Hartford, a similar argument has been made for investing in train infrastructure.

What I find particularly alluring about the proposal I’ve read about the Springfield-Hartford-New Haven line is the way it regionalizes not only the service, but our cities.  One of the great strengths of New England (and one of its great weaknesses, too) is its provincialism – because we are a band of “small cities” (we are Hartford, Providence, Springfield, Worcester, New Haven, etc.) with definite senses of identity, we too often limit ourselves within those cities and identities.  What rail has the potential to do – especially if the trains move fast enough – is to unite our small cities while still protecting (if not further defining) their provincial identities.  Because such rail would lead to an inherent reconsideration of the geographical relationships between these places (a shrinking region), we would also likely see a significant reconsideration of the social and economic relationships between these places (in other words, it would be a “naturally imposed” regionalization).  Let’s face it – does Hartford’s economy stand a better chance of rebounding on its own, or does it stand a better chance of rebounding through an alliance with Springfield, New Haven and beyond?  The answer to the question seems self evident, and the Springfield-Hartford-New Haven line promises a greater inflow of people (and cash) into each city.

When I had first started thinking about rail – before reading the stuff that others have written – I have to admit my thought process was a lot more short sighted.  I was thinking of light rail that could serve to connect the center of Hartford to it sprawl in a rapid “off-road” kind of way.  I was imagining a train that ran with consistent and fairly constant service to New Hartford in the west and Bolton or even Mansfield (to connect UCONN to Hartford) in the east.  My thought was that this would provide a convenient way to cut down on traffic congestion in greater Hartford while also making it easier for everyone to get to Hartford – to make Hartford not just an economic hub, but a thriving downtown destination not seen since our Hartford Whalers salad days (ha!).  Such rail could also lead to significant new development along the line itself while fostering regional solutions to local and regional problems (it would be a way to link municipalities through transportation, just as Mayor Slifka, along with the mayors of East Hartford and Middletown, are trying to link the needs of their “small cities” politically). While the Springfield-Hartford-New Haven line certainly offers more significant economic opportunity and advantage, the success of such a line (and, once the economy turns around, newly rising gas prices) may make such a “local line” seem more and more palatable.

Rail, of course, comes with its own expenses.  I don’t know how much it costs to lay or lease rail (I’m sure it’s not cheap), I don’t know how much a train would cost, and I certainly don’t know how much money it would suck from the state budget in terms of annual and long term maintenance.  Stations and parking would need to be built. And despite the narrow-minded idealism of what I’ve just written, I certainly would agree with anyone who argues that any local or macro-local transportation solutions must be intermodal (and, since I think we all agree on the importance of intermodal transportation, why on earth would trains not be one of our significant “modes”)?  Fact is, nouveau-rail is an idea that’s of its moment both locally and nationally.  As Obama promises funding for national infrastructure improvements, it seems to me that if we don’t get on the train “train” now, the next scheduled stop will be long in the making.

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Posted in Federal Government, Hartford, Regionalism, Transportation, West Hartford | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The 2008 Election in West Hartford

Posted by whforums on November 3, 2008

Where Do I Vote?

To figure out where you vote, click here and then click on the first letter of your street name. This will reveal a list of all streets in West Hartford that begin with that letter. Locate your street, and, in column 4, your voting district. Click “Back” and use your district number to find your actual polling place. Got it?

What’s my “Assembly District?” What are these local races?

So, this is how you cast your vote for state rep. There are three different assembly districts in West Hartford — 18, 19 and 20. To find your Assembly District, click here again and enter the first letter of the street on which you live. Your assembly district is located all the way to the right. The local races are as follows:

Assembly 18: Andy Fleischman (D) v. Tom Knox (R)
Assembly 19: Beth Bye (D) v. Theresa McGrath (R)
Assembly 20: David McCluskey (D) v. Chad Thompson (R) v. John Mertens (CT for Lieberman Party)

CT Senate 5: Jonathan Harris (D) v. Joe Merrit (R)

US Senate: Stephen Fournier (G) v. John Larson (D) v. Joe Visconti (R)

Educate Yourself

Once you know where to vote, and who’s on the ballot, you can watch local debates here. If you’re too busy to watch local debates, you can check out the uber-helpful “Voter’s Guides” from the League of Women Voters here.

Review a Sample West Hartford Ballot, So You Cut Down on Lines

Here.

(It’s a .pdf I bogarted from the League of Women Voters).

Know the Ballot Questions

So, there are two questions on the ballot this year. Question one asks if you want to call a constitutional convention. Which sounds fine, until you realize that many of the people who want this constitutional convention want to call it in order to codifiy discrimination (they want to undo equal rights, such as gay marriage, granted by “activist judges”). If you believe in equal rights, you’ve gotta vote “No” on question one.

Question Two would allow 17 year olds to vote in primaries for elections in which they’ll actually be 18. This seems like a no-brainer “Yes” vote.

Any Other Bright Ideas for Me, WH Forums?

Yup. Vote for Stephen Fournier in the race for house of rep — the only one of the Fournier/Larson/Visconti group to give this website (and its readers) the time of day.

Another bright idea? Check in tomorrow (Tuesday) night, as we live blog the local election results. We’re not going to do much to keep you up to date on Obama/McCain, but we will track Harris/Merrit!

Posted in 2008 Election, Federal Government, Local Democracy, West Hartford, WHCTV | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Casting Your Votes, Down the Ballot

Posted by whforums on October 17, 2008

A couple of quick links this morning as we shift our attention to our next trip to the “privacy screens” — the November 4th election.

First, check out whctv’s programming schedule. Last night, they started showing pre-filmed debates for the 18th, 19th and 20th House districts as well as the 5th Senate district. These debates will keep running through the 4th of November.

If you’re into meeting the candidates more than you’re into watching them on local access, there’s a Candidate Forum at Blue Back Square’s Outdoor Gathering Space on Sunday from 2-4. This is a great opportunity to engage your local democracy by expressing your concerns to those who represent you and your family. It’ll also give you a chance to educate yourself about those names on the ballot that might otherwise make you feel under-informed. Check out a flier for the event in .pdf form (yeah, it’s going to start a download in some browsers) here.

And if you’re not registered to vote, register already. If you’re eligible and unregistered, what’s wrong with you?

More Guest Posts? “If You Build It …”

I’ve sent an email to Larson, Visconti and Fournier asking them to submit guest posts to WH Forums in the last week of October. No promises that we’ll hear from the candidates, but maybe if you folks make enough noise …

Posted in 2008 Election, Blue Back Square, Federal Government, Local Democracy, Media, West Hartford | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Renewable Energy, Renewable Larson/Visconti, Renewable Town Council Meeting

Posted by whforums on September 23, 2008

3 quick hits for your Tuesday morning.

1. West Hartford rocks at using renewable energy. According to this article in Saturday’s Courant, West Hartford the leading consumer of renewable energy — no small task in a ‘burg the size of ours. Now, I’m not much of a person to celebrate consumption (it really irks me when I’m told I’m a consumer, not a citizen), but if we’re consuming energy that has long range “less negative” effects, so much the better. In the program, communities with the highest rates of participation (and West Hartford has nearly 1000 households enrolled — which is great, and also pretty crappy) are given solar panels, and our solar panels are going on top of Town Hall, Hall High and Conard. The panels at Hall and Conard will also be used in Environmental Science classes — which I’m sure will be the source of ire for some in the town who believe all the students need in the science classroom are a notebook, a dead frog and some pins …

2. I’m tempted to say the race for US Rep between John Larson and Joe Visconti is heating up, except the Bristol Press remains the only place where the race actually seems to be covered (though props to Rick Green for doing what he can). They have an article on the race for the 1st district here, and it of course features the two candidates using words like “reformer” “Main Street” and “finger-pointing.” Meanwhile, last we checked, Stephen Fournier is still running for the same seat, albeit without the cloak of buzzwords (or any media buzz, apparently — though last I heard anything about this fracking election, he had raised as much as Visconti).

3. Town Council meeting tonight. I’d link you to the agenda, but the town website is down as I type this. I’m working Tuesday nights at the moment (yes, that’s consumption getting in the way of citizenship) and can only get to Council/BOE meetings via my TIVo. I’m interested in farming out a Wednesday “Meeting Recap Post” to anyone who’s interested and who thinks they can provide the community with an objective recap/highlights of what occurred. Email to whforums@gmail.com

Posted in 2008 Election, Federal Government, Local Democracy, Quick Hits, West Hartford, West Hartford Town Council | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Just Because Your House Wasn’t in a Flood Plain Yesterday …

Posted by whforums on August 26, 2008

According to a release on the town’s list-serve (list-serves are so … PINE) FEMA has declared that about 160 West Hartford properties that were not in a flood plain yesterday are in a flood plain today.  In other words, everything is the same as it was yesterday, but now you may be required to pay for flood insurance (on the upside, maybe you can get a lower assessed value on your home and relieve some of your tax burden.  I guess that upside kinda sucks, too).

The town provides this link to a FEMA site where you can enter your home address to see if your house is one of the few impacted.  As fair warning, I tried the link twice.  The first time it crashed my browser and the second time I got access to the map, but had some real trouble zooming in to see anything (thanks, FEMA).

Because the town is part of the National Flood Insurance Program, impacted homeowners can receive a 10 percent discount on their new flood insurance premiums if they contact an insurance agent by 9/26.  Letters go out to impacted homeowners today (8/27).

Good story on the situation in the Courant here

Posted in Federal Government, West Hartford | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »