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Archive for the ‘Local Democracy’ Category

Mayor Slifka to Deliver “State of the Town” Address Tomorrow (1/20)

Posted by whforums on January 19, 2009

A “state of West Hartford” address.  I think we all know what we’d like to hear (keep my services, and don’t raise my taxes), and I think we all know what those in attendance likely will hear (cuts in services, higher taxes, difficult times, etc.).  I’m not seeing the speech on the WHCTV schedule (and a part of me wonders if, by its label, it may purport to be a more important speech than it is), though there may be some rehash on “The Mayor’s Report.”

The address happens during a West Hartford Chamber of Commerce lunch tomorrow (from 12-1:30, advance registration required).  I can’t go, but if any of you out in the great wide Internets are attending, I’d love if you could post what you heard to this thread.

Posted in Local Democracy, West Hartford | Tagged: | 16 Comments »

They’re Talking about the ACLU Report in New York and Chicago …

Posted by whforums on January 9, 2009

As you probably know, a few weeks ago (way back in 2008 ) the ACLU released a report that cited alarming arrest rates in West Hartford, Hartford and East Hartford schools. The ACLU’s essential concern was that, in our schools, “the trend is toward criminalizing students, not educating them.” The “them” in that sentence, however, is the real problem — the ACLU found that there are significant racial and ethnic disparities in school-based arrests. You can read my “close-reading” of the ACLU report as it relates to West Hartford directly in the post West Hartford and the ACLU’s “Hard Lessons” Report. The report is linked for download in that post as well.

What’s surprised me, in a period that’s been fairly lively for this blog, has been the lack of local conversation about the ACLU report. I mean, maybe there’s nothing to say — maybe we implicitly (or explicitly) accept discrimination and this report fails to elicit dialog because it confirms an implicit belief. Yet when it comes to protecting and developing an equal quality of life (and, more basically, equal treatment for all people), there’s little more poisonous than complacency.

With out without us, the web is becoming less and less complacent about the report. Around the web …:

➫ Shortly after the release of the report, “a public defender” (a Connecitcut legal blog) wrote a post that echoed the ACLU’s sentiment about the “school to prison pipeline” and, in the comments section, connected the finding to the racial and ethnic disparity in the American prison population.

➫ On January 4th, the New York Times wrote an editorial citing the report, arguing that “Connecticut and other states also need to issue public reports of school-based arrests and take steps to ensure that they are not racially motivated.” While the NYT recognizes that the problems cited in West Hartford, East Hartford and Hartford are not just local problems, we can’t ignore that the word “Connecticut” at the start of that sentence is at least in part a pronoun for “West Hartford, East Hartford and Hartford.”

➫ On Monday, Small Talk, an education blog in Chicago, picked up the story, using the report (and the arrest disparities in West Hartford/East Hartford specifically) as a way to argue against what it perceives to be “barbaric school district policies.”

The short of it? Conversation about the report is happening, and Greater Hartford is the proxy (or worse, the example) for that conversation. While West Hartford, East Hartford and Hartford may only be ways for many communities to beging to talk about a larger, national problem, that does nothing to change the fact that the report is screaming at our communities “the problem may be ours, but we can prove it’s yours.” Which leaves me with the question I started with one month ago — what steps do we take, both big and small, in light of the ACLU’s report?

Posted in Hartford, Institutionalized Discrimination, Local Democracy, Media, National News, West Hartford, WHPS | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Someone Really Wants You to Know Your Taxes “Could Go Up 7 Percent”

Posted by whforums on January 7, 2009

The question of “why is this news” was probably lost when your eyes bulged out of your head.

From an article in The Courant today:

If no programs or personnel are cut and state aid doesn’t increase, residents will likely be facing a tax hike of about 7 percent in fiscal year 2009-10.

The town council and school board will host a community summit Jan. 28 to begin identifying which services to preserve and which to cut, and to spell out what local officials can and cannot do with respect to union contracts, property revaluation and other issues.

“We think that 7 percent is unacceptable, but it’s going to take significant program cuts to lower it,” Mayor Scott Slifka said Tuesday. “The changes could be dramatic, and the community needs to be part of that discussion.” …

Hoping for a large turnout, officials are seeking participation from business owners, parents, union members, the Exchange and Rotary clubs and other fraternal groups, the West Hartford Taxpayers Association, which has opposed the last several budgets, and West Hartford FIRST, which has supported those budgets, particularly in the area of education funding.

The whole thing catches me a little bit short — the announcement of such a startling “possible” tax increase could simply be an effort to increase turnout at the January 28th meeting (to really listen to the community and to seek help from the community — a “people, help your government with this problem” moment). In that case, it’s a beautiful example of democracy. In an election year, however, a 7% tax increase seems unlikely (and we already know where some budget cuts can be made — like leaf collection). This makes the cynical voice in my head say “How do you get people to swallow a 3.5% tax increase? You tell ’em you’re going to increase their taxes 7% first.” Or maybe, since no one likes cutting programs and personnel, this is a wake up call to that necessity, or, at best, a way to make that necessity more palatable (or politically safe). Or maybe it’s just a way to ratchet pressure on the state — one of the above “ifs” is “if state aid does not increase.” This seems equally likely considering there is likely going to be state aid coming from Washington soon (though I’m not sure it will be here soon enough for the start of the West Hartford budget making season).

The WHTA is encouraging the Council to reject the new teacher contract (which ensures raises, above and beyond step increases, of 1 and 1.25 percent — which, as I figured in some post somewhere else, is about the cost of a year of leaf collection). The Council seems unlikely to do so. Asking the union to accept a pay freeze or a step freeze for academic year 09-10 doesn’t seem unacceptable to me, but there would have to be a a significant payoff (in pay or step increase) down the road. And it would be unfair to ask teachers to take a pay freeze if other town employees don’t take the same pay freeze (granted, with union contracts, such equal “treatment” of all employees is likely impossible).

So. Yeah. Your taxes “could” go up 7 percent. What’s the strategy behind news like that?

Posted in Budget, budget cuts, Crap Economy, Local Democracy, Sorry I'm So Cynical, Taxes, West Hartford | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

West Hartford FIRST Proposal for a Better Budget Process

Posted by whforums on January 3, 2009

A few weeks ago, iBlog West Hartford had a post about the WHTA’s attempt to work more closely with town leaders (and to soften an image that may generally be perceived as partisan). As the WHTA attempts to gain access to the political process, West Hartford FIRST also remains active in making proposals for significant change in the way that West Hartford composes its budget (though WH FIRST has received less publicity – I mean, as far as I can tell, their proposals – and, more simply, their attempt to gain access to the political process – didn’t get any coverage in The Courant).

Even though you probably haven’t heard about it (at least I hadn’t heard about it until the document below showed up in my inbox), WH FIRST has written a detailed, nine point proposal that calls for a more clear – and a more democratic – budget process for West Hartford. WH FIRST would like to see a budget process that’s not only more transparent, but that also encourages and engages resident participation in each of its drafting stages. While the proposal mostly delineates specific ways that the budget process could be improved, WH FIRST’s more general point seems to be the following: the current problem with the West Hartford budget is that its residents only intersect the budget as a product (as a completed document with which one can largely agree or disagree) – not as a process. The document suggests that WH FIRST would prefer that West Hartford residents have formative access to budget development. In order to accomplish this end, the document argues not only for a more transparent process, but for more clearly organized and complete budget information. Highlights of the WH FIRST proposal (you should read the whole two page proposal, linked below, to get a real sense of what WH FIRST is after):

  • Improved presentation of information on all town websites, and better distribution of that information (via websites, listservs, etc.). This includes subcommittee minutes, agenda, etc.
  • More convenient times for subcommittee meetings /workshops (enabling more public participation) and television access for those meetings/workshops.
  • More proactive efforts to make sure that any inaccurate budget information is corrected during the budgeting process.
  • More question and answer sessions before public budget hearings.
  • Improved – and more consistent – disclosure of all personnel costs.
  • Evaluation of all town expenditures toward the goal of efficiency and sustainability.

Take a gander at the whole thing here (it’s a .pdf, and it’s two pages, so just download the doc already) and let your other web denizens know what you think. To me, it seems both reasonable and moderate. I guess the next step is to transform it into a checklist and to see what improvements we see in this year’s budget process.

Here’s to the dialog, etc.

Posted in Budget, Local Democracy, West Hartford | 17 Comments »

West Hartford Election Results Live Blog

Posted by whforums on November 4, 2008

We’ll post the numbers in local races as they roll in.

If you’ve got a reaction or a good election day story, please chime in!

All numbers courtesy CTN. CTN projected winners in italics.

Results as of 7 a.m. …

State Senate
Harris 32,128

Merrit 13,736

96% reporting …

State Assembly 18
Fleischman 6,187

Knox 2,350

86% reporting …

State Assembly 19
Bye 7,688

McGrath 4,617

100% reporting …

State Assembly 20
McCluskey 6745

Mertens 161

Thompson 2204

100% reporting …


US House
Larson 192,779

Visconti 77,520

Fournier 6,580

94% in …

Posted in 2008 Election, Live Blog, Local Democracy, West Hartford | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Your Experience at Your Polling Place?

Posted by whforums on November 4, 2008

I’m off to vote now, but would be curious to hear what the general experience has been at polling places across West Hartford today.

One blogger had a 36 minute wait at 6 — I’ll let you know what the 9 am wait is like.

Other experiences?

Live blogging local results tonight — swing by if you’d like to chime in on results, your experience voting, or whatever else.

Posted in 2008 Election, Local Democracy, West Hartford | Tagged: , | 12 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


(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 »

Watch West Hartford Debates on Your Computer

Posted by whforums on October 29, 2008

Wanted to throw a quick morning link over to WHCTV’s blog/vlog, where local debates are currently available for streaming.  Check out US House 1 (better know as Larson/Visconti/Fournier), CT senate 5 (Harris/Merritt), and CT Assembly 18 (Fleischman/Knox), 19 (Bye/McGrath) and 20 (McCluskey/Thompson/Mertens).  @WHCTV — I still would love to see Town Council and Board of Ed Meetings posted every week, but baby steps to get there, I know.  You folks rock.

Not sure if you’re in CT Assembly 18/19/20?  Use this map to find your street and district.  The map has some craptastic qualities (it’s too small to read as is, and when you zoom in, it’s too large to easily maneuver), but with some practice, you can find out which of these races will appear on your ballot.

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

For Your Monday Morning Consideration

Posted by whforums on October 26, 2008

Walking through the Center this weekend, I was heartbroken to see Lane and Lenge was gone (I was on the other side of the street and saw an empty store front. I pondered — and then said to my wife “Isn’t that where Lane and Lenge was?”). We had our wedding flowers done by them (and, by the way, they rocked and I highly recommend them to any local couple in the “market”), so I walked over to the storefront to read the signs posted to the door. Turns out they’ve left the Center and moved to Park Road. While this sucks, it’s still much better than having lost them! So go to Park Road and buy your significant other (maybe your husband, because we like getting gifts, too) some flowers from Lane and Lenge and help offset their moving costs …

Connecticut Magazine has ranked the top 35 high schools in the state. Hall came in 13th (that’s 90th percentile) and Conard came in 22nd. Not too shabby out of 135 high schools, huh? While you’re over at Lane and Lenge, buy flowers for our teachers, too …

To the person who keeps landing on this site via the search term “Is 1690 a good SAT score?” The answer is, sure. It’s good. I mean, it’s not super-great, but it’s not by any stretch of the imagination a bad score. It will get you into a good college. But, really, most colleges are good. So, stop worrying about your score, and start worrying about how you’ll make the most of your time in college. Start by declaring a philosophy major.

To NeefBremo and SpooryDroopy, my two most prodigious spammers, who send me 20-30 posts a day about viagra, tramadol and direct-print coupons — enough. I love you both, but I’m going to have to put you in spam time-out if you don’t chill out a little bit …

Speaking of “being put in time-out” — no word from Visconti, Larson or Fournier per West Hartford Forums’ invitation to write guest posts before election day. Maybe I’ll write in old Noah …

Posted in 2008 Election, Local Democracy, Quick Hits, SAT Scores, Uncategorized, West Hartford, West Hartford Center, WHPS | Tagged: , , , | 7 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 »