cities

A major battle is coming to a head over the fate of a century-old Boston Public School building that most recently housed the Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury.

The building is scheduled for demolition to make way for the first new school to be built in the city in more than a decade.

A seven-member board has been appointed to oversee eight middle schools in Springfield that are among the lowest performing schools in Massachusetts.

The board will report to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Springfield Superintendent of Schools.  Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city and the state struck a deal on control of the 8 schools in an effort to quickly improve student achievement.

D.C.'s new mayor Muriel E. Bowser surprised advocates for the homeless in the district when she filed an emergency motion late Thursday, hoping to end a mandatory demand to provide all homeless families a private room when temperatures drop below freezing.

DoNo Hartford LLC

With the first pitch for the New Britain Rock Cats just 14 months away, Hartford's plan to turn an empty lot into a minor league baseball stadium is moving forward. 

Contract documents between the developer DoNo Hartford LLC and the city could be signed as early as Wednesday.

"There is a pretty fair chance that we'll be signing documents tomorrow, but certainly by the end of this week they will be executed," said Bob Landino, a principal with DoNo. He added that a groundbreaking will likely happen by February 11 or sooner. "We're pretty much on schedule." 

MGM is planning a spring groundbreaking for the $800 million resort casino the Las Vegas-based entertainment giant is building in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. Several important steps in the complex project will happen over the next few weeks.

Although construction cranes won’t appear in the sky for several months, workers and visitors in downtown Springfield will shortly notice changes as MGM prepares the 14.5 acre site for the project that promises to transform Springfield, economically and culturally, for decades to come.

Oregon DOT / Creative Commons

Governor Dannel Malloy's Office of Policy and Management has released new crime statistics for Connecticut, and the news is good, especially for Connecticut's urban areas.

According to the report, the index crime rate in Connecticut hasn't been this low since the 1960s.

Index crimes dropped by 18.2 percent from 2008 to 2013 -- listed by the FBI as willful homicide, forcible rape, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, larceny over $50, motor vehicle theft, and arson. 

Chion Wolf WNPR

Alcoholism and sexual assaults on college campuses continue to make headlines across the country, but for one college president, part of the solution could involve simply increasing diversity among the student body.

Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president of Trinity College in Hartford, told WNPR’s Where We Live that by actively creating an environment that reflects the diversity of the state’s capital, students would be exposed to different values that might alleviate some of the social and cultural pressures that lead to alcohol and drug abuse, as well as sexual misconduct.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The college scene in Hartford is really starting to bustle with institutions relocating campuses to the city, but the steady presence is Trinity College. Last year, Joanne Berger-Sweeney was sworn in as the 22nd President and addressed the changes that have happened in Hartford since the institution got its start nearly 200 years ago. "Trinity College has had to maintain a learning network in the varied and changing Hartford environment," said Berger-Sweeney in her inaugural address.

On Where We Live, we spend an hour with President Berger-Sweeney to talk about her school’s role in revitalizing the capital city, while educating students from all over the country. We explore higher education during the hour and take your questions.

Kari Njiiri / NEPR

The head of the Springfield Catholic Diocese says a plan addressing the future of the tornado-damaged Cathedral High School has been worked out. But Bishop Mitchell Rozanski is refusing to say what that is…for now.

Rozanski says a workshop this past weekend involving parents, alumni, and faculty produced a plan he calls both optimistic and realistic. But the bishop says he now needs do his homework and due diligence, and won’t announce his decision until mid-February.

NASA/NOAA

With meteorologists predicting the latest storm would bring 15 to 30 inches of snow across Connecticut, cities and towns prepared for the worst. But the latest storm brought a mixed bag.

Eastern Connecticut was clobbered, while western parts of the state were not hit nearly as hard as expected.

Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, Mayor Mark Boughton said the forecasters who predicted two feet of snow in Danbury got it wrong, and that means that people may not believe him when the next storm heads our way.

Ricky Aponte / Creative Commons

More young people are moving to the heart of cities, according to a report from think tank City Observatory. This includes cities that we usually think of as “economically troubled,” like Buffalo, Cleveland, and, yes, even Hartford. Some of these cities have been losing their overall population, but gaining in their numbers of college graduates in their 20s and 30s.

Cliff / Creative Commons

Connecticut’s urban areas remain among of the most economically productive areas in the world, even while they struggle to recover from the great recession. In fact a new study from the Brookings Institution pegs Hartford as having the second highest economic output in the country, and the fourth highest in the world.

The Global Metro Monitor takes the economic temperature of 300 major cities around the world. Greater Hartford lies fourth in the world in terms of gross domestic product per capita, a measure of how much economic value is produced compared to the size of a metro area, including corporate profits as well as personal incomes. Only Zurich, Oslo and San Jose rank higher. Bridgeport, whose metro area include Fairfield County, lies eighth.

But another story is told by the most recent data on recovery from 2014. 

Vox Efx / Creative Commons

As Hartford's City Council is seeking to remove all three of its registrars because of a disastrous Election Day 2014, at least one of them -- Democrat Olga Vazquez -- is planning a strong defense.

"She does not disagree with the fact that there were some serious snafus," said Leon Rosenblatt, Vazquez's attorney. "But the registrars weren't the cause of it. And the report that was written is very one-sided and incomplete." 

Asthma affects children regardless of where they live and whether they are rich or poor. But scientists have long thought that living in poor urban neighborhoods adds an extra risk for this troublesome lung inflammation. A new study suggests that's not necessarily the case.

Asthma is often triggered by something in the environment, so in the 1960s, scientists started looking for places where asthma was especially bad.

Americans increasingly see decently fast Internet as more like a functioning sewer line than a luxury.

And a number of cities are trying to get into the Internet provider business, but laws in 19 states hamper those efforts. President Obama announced this week that he wants to lift those restrictions, and supporters of what is known as municipal broadband can't wait.

Standing on Boston’s Long Wharf, John Barros, the city’s chief of economic development, recalled what the site looked like in January 2014, when a nor’easter brought record high tides.

“We’re at ground zero here,” said Barros, who was part of a steering committee that spent the past year working on a plan to prepare for storms like that one, as well as the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.

“When we think about what 2-to-5 feet means, which is some of the conservative estimates of sea rise, 2 feet, this place would probably be underwater every day,” he said.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

An investigation into election day failures in Hartford shows that the city turned people way from the polls, lost track of 70 absentee ballots, and failed to agree on an accurate vote tally.  Now that the problem has been identified, leaders on the city council say they're working on a fix.  

Election day last November began badly in Hartford. Some residents couldn't cast their ballots because the polls weren't open, and the polls weren't open because the voter lists weren't in place. 

A report drafted by lawyers working for the city council say a bunch of factors caused the mess: the city's registrars failed to give the state important voter lists in time, failed to open polling places in time, and failed to resolve discrepancies in vote tallies after the fact.

The New York Police Department is known for pioneering the use of computer statistics to identify crime trends, but it can't seem to identify its own officers causing problems on its streets.

Darvell Elliott was arrested in August 2010 because he matched the description of a robbery suspect. He says he was already in handcuffs when the world went black.

When he came to, he was "in a hospital, Brookdale Hospital, face stuck to the sheet like Velcro," Elliott says.

The mayor of Springfield is calling on the administration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to end a practice by the past administration of placing homeless families in congregate housing.

An angry Mayor Domenic Sarno said de-facto group homes for homeless families have been created in apartment buildings concentrated in a handful of city neighborhoods since last fall with city inspectors finding in some cases 3-4 families living in a single apartment.

" This is absolute BS," said Sarno at a city hall news conference.

Updated at 4:48 p.m. ET

President Obama is expected to lay out plans today intended to make it easier for cities, towns and rural communities to offer their citizens fast and cheap broadband Internet.

Luke Bronin

Luke Bronin, former legal counsel to Governor Dannel Malloy, is officially entering the race for mayor of the city of Hartford

Bronin said he's planning to file his paperwork with the city on Wednesday.

In a letter to residents posted on his website, Bronin said the city has its strengths: cultural diversity and creativity, the support of the governor, and new state-supported development projects. 

The Springfield, Massachusetts city council is considering an ordinance that would put restrictions on public officials obtaining jobs at the new MGM casino being built in the city.

Under a proposed municipal ethics ordinance, the city’s elected officials—the mayor and 11 city councilors – would be barred for at least five years from obtaining a job at the MGM casino after leaving the city’s employment.  Non-elected officials who are considered “major policymakers” would face a two-year ban.

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The Springfield, Massachusetts city council will discuss a proposal on Monday night that would restrict the city’s mayor or councilors from working for MGM for at least five years after leaving city employment. Non-elected officials considered “major policymakers” would face a two-year ban.

Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology / Creative Commons

The reform is the first of its kind in the nation, and it works like this: every time police fire a Taser, they'll have to file a "use of force report."

"It's a very thorough report," said David McGuire with the ACLU of Connecticut. "It goes through the person's race, their age, their height, their weight; how the Taser was used; what mode it was used in; how many times it was fired; whether the person had an injury; whether medical assistance was provided."

An announcement about the long-term fate of the historic Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts is now expected by mid-February.  Advocates of rebuilding the school that was wrecked in the 2011 tornado are encouraged by word the school will operate for one more year, at least, at its temporary campus. 

       Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski will begin a series of meetings on January 24th in what will amount to the final due diligence on whether to rebuild the Catholic high school with a 130-year- history in Springfield. 

The city of Boston’s new chief of arts and culture has been making the rounds during her first full week on the job. Her name is Julie Burros and she hails from Chicago, a city famous for embracing and supporting the arts (like “Cloud Gate” in the above photo).

Burros quickly earned the nickname “arts czar” after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh fulfilled his campaign promise by appointing her to the newly created cabinet-level position this past September.

Now that MGM has won Massachusetts regulatory and voter approval to build a resort casino in downtown Springfield the Las Vegas-based entertainment giant has employment and local purchasing commitments to keep. 

Chion Wolf

The population of English Language Learners in Connecticut has increased by nearly 50 percent in the past ten years. Unfortunately, support for these students hasn’t kept up. Despite this steady increase in a learning population, the number of certified, bilingual teachers has been in a steady decline.

New property tax rates have been set in Springfield, Massachusetts.  For the first time in many years, the rates for both homeowners and business property owners have been reduced, as property values continue to recover from the Great Recession

A new financing plan was announced today to accelerate the redevelopment of Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts

       City officials said a proposed addition of $3.2 million in local funds along with a previously announced $4.2 million grant from the state will allow the transit-focused elements of the project to be completed simultaneously with tenant-ready commercial space and additional parking.

     "It is a big achievement having all the money that is now needed to get this project done," said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

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