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Chion Wolf

The big story of 2011 was the weather: epic snowstorms, dangerous ice storms, a deadly tornado, a tropical storm...

And that was all before a freakish October Nor’Easter that snapped leaf-laden trees, downing power lines and - for a week - took us back to a kind of pre-Colonial Connecticut. Today, where we live, meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan helps us take a look back at an unpredictable year - and we’ll find out if climate change foretells an “apocalyptic” 2012.

Flickr Creative Commons, kkirugi

Today's show was sort of a political grab bag. We drilled down -- that might be the first time I've ever used that expression -- on the subject of political endorsements, which are flying around fast and furious right now.  We'll also alighted briefly on the issue of reapportionment, which is winging its way to the State Supreme Court.

Taxing Inequality

Dec 22, 2011

Income inequality stands to be the biggest issue - not just of the next election cycle - but of the next decade. Why? Well, the rich just keep getting richer - a new study released by Connecticut Voices for Children shows that over a four year period, the highest wage earners in the state have seen their income sharply increase - even through a recession - while middle-class workers struggle by, making about the same.

The Connecticut Economy is a quarterly review put out by the University of Connecticut that analyzes - well - the state’s economy. The latest edition was recently released and includes an analysis of Connecticut’s quality of life.

One major factor in any economic study is the unemployment rate and yesterday, the Connecticut Department of Labor released new statistics showing a slight drop to 8.4% in what the department calls a plateauing of the unemployment rate.

Hartford officials say they will likely miss their February deadline for picking a new person to run the police department.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the current police chief's tenure ends December 31st. Daryl Roberts is leaving after 30 years on the force and more than five years as the city's chief. He announced his retirement in September -- just before Mayor Pedro Segarra released the results of an outside investigation that said the police department had serious management issues.

A few years ago, an Orthodox Jewish group opened  a religious center for students at the nearby University of Hartford.   But the city told them to stop.  Now, as WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, a state court judge says the city was wrong. There are lots of big houses along Bloomfield Avenue.  One of them used to be owned and operated by a Baptist church organization before it was bought for use as a Chabad house -- a place for Jewish university students to pray, celebrate and learn.

It's been a good year for Connecticut's Working Families Party.  In Hartford, the party won all three of the city council's minority seats and sidelined Republicans.  And at the state capitol, it won a major victory with the passage of paid sick leave. But  the party is now looking to the future. The Working Families Party tries to match its name -- and advocate for issues that matter to the state's working families.  One of those issues was paid sick leave for service workers.  Last session, with Democratic support and over the objection of state Republicans, it won that battle.  Now... "There have been people in the state legislature who've are coming to us now and are saying, well, that was cool, what do we do next? "

Jeff Cohen/WNPR

Governor Dannel Malloy has announced a new chief of staff.  Mark Ojakian will start the job in January. Ojakian will take the place of Tim Bannon, who Malloy says is leaving as planned after a year on the job.  Ojakian was the governor's point person in labor negotiations. "His work negotiating with the state employees union was critical to our plans to reinvent Connecticut state government and even more critical to our budget plans. And while it was a bruising and often frustrating endeavor, in the end, we got what we needed. And in large part we got what we needed because of his superior skills." Malloy says one of those skills proved especially useful.  "Well, he's got a lot more patience than I do -- probably is the best way to put it."

As the U-S Supreme Court prepares to test the constitutionality of President Obama's signature health care reform law, state officials across the country are trying to figure out the best ways to implement it -- even if they don't think it's the best option out there.  Victoria Veltri is Connecticut's health care advocate.  As the state gears up for the introduction of its private health insurance exchange, where those without insurance can buy it, Veltri told WNPR's Where We Live that she'd like to see something totally different.  A public health insurance plan.

Chion Wolf

Connecticut’s new healthcare advocate, Victoria Veltri is tasked with helping residents through the maze of health care laws, regulations and roadblocks.

Veltri’s involved in disputes between insurance carriers and health care providers; disputes about the state’s Medicaid program for low-income adults; and about the implementation of state health exchanges.

The city of Hartford is building a new, $77 million public safety complex to help protect its residents.  But, the complex could use some protection itself.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, thieves have stripped it copper at least five times since May. When it opens in 2012, the public safety complex will be the new home of Hartford's police, fire, and emergency communications divisions. But so far, it's been an open invitation for thieves. David Panagore is the city's chief operating officer.

Getting On The List

Dec 12, 2011
J Holt

Municipal contracts can be an important source of income for small businesses. But it’s not always easy to find a way through the maze of red tape to get the work. Hartford has been trying particularly to help small contractors, and women and minority-owned businesses to benefit from city contracts. WNPR’s J Holt brings us the story.

Rosemond Frett has been in business in Hartford for fourteen years, but she’s never had a contract with the city itself. She says when she first registered her company with the state in 1997, she did seek out opportunities.

In Hartford, the goal of city Democrats was to have a new council president by Thanksgiving.  But that time has come and gone and there still is no consensus on who will lead. Most of the time, it doesn't really matter who the president of the Hartford city council is.  Except, of course, when it does -- like last year, when Pedro Segarra went from council president to mayor.  He was filling the seat left vacant by convicted former Mayor Eddie Perez.

A day after a leading national Democrat endorsed her opponent, Susan Bysiewicz says she's happy to play the role of the Washington outsider in her run for U-S Senate.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, Bysiewicz held a conference call to talk about her policy priorities and some political strategy.

citizenswaine

In Hartford, Mayor Pedro Segarra ordered an end to the Occupy Hartford encampment just off I-84.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports. Segarra says that reports of violence and drug abuse made the site a threat to public safety.

Flickr Creative Commons, makelessnoise

Have you noticed that nothing is ever quite funny enough?

Last night I was reading a story in the New Yorker and glancing at the cartoons and kind of gasping at how not funny they were. Hey, this is the New Yorker! It's not like there's some place else for all the better cartoons to go.

Governor Dannel Malloy is investigating whether scores of people, including some state employees, defrauded the state when they received emergency aid after Tropical Storm Irene. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, Malloy says state workers could be fired or arrested should the allegations prove true.

In Hartford, it's been over a year since former Mayor Eddie Perez was convicted on public corruption charges.  He was sentenced to three years in jail but is free pending his lengthy appeal.  Meanwhile, as WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the disgraced mayor has just won a payout from the city. Perez had argued through his attorneys that he was owed money for back sick and vacation time.  He also made the case that he was officially working as mayor while he defended himself in court.  

Chion Wolf

The Wadsworth Atheneum is the nation’s oldest public art museum. It has amassed an impressive permanent collection, and features large, popular exhibitions. But that long history can sometimes be a bit of a curse - as it fights for attention with dozens of art museums and other online entertainment options.

On Wednesday, lawmakers redrew the district lines for the state house and senate. That means some change for the city of Hartford. House Speaker Chris Donovan said Wednesday that, for the first time in 30 years, Windsor will have a house district in which its residents are the majority. That was the good news. The bad news for Hartford, though, is this. The same number of people will be representing the capital city -- but, in all likelihood, one of those representatives won't be from Hartford anymore. Matt Ritter represents the city's West End. He said the census is to blame.

State lawmakers are meeting this hour to try and finalize boundaries for state legislative districts and federal congressional elections. But as WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, there's a midnight deadline, and the question of how to draw the lines for the US House of Representatives is still unresolved. New district lines for state representatives and senators have apparently been agreed upon.  But according to Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Mirror, it now appears that the bi-partisan redistricting commission will ask the state Supreme Court for more time to figure out how to draw the state's five congressional districts.

Courtesy of Joe Cahn

I was in the parking area next to Yale Bowl two Saturdays ago as word spread around the clumps of tailgaters that there had been a fatality in one of the lots. Details were sketchy, but everyone seemed to know that people had been hit by a motor vehicle. And for a lot of us, the shadow of that tragedy hung over the whole day. My son was with me, and he has a knack for summing things up. "Imagine dying because you decided to go to a football game," he said sadly.

hythe eye, creative commons

The state’s school superintendents have cooked up the latest in a series of high-profile plans to reform education in the state.

Their plan is ambitious and far reaching, including changes to testing, teaching and teacher tenure.  Most importantly, perhaps are goals to offer more flexibility for both school districts and individual student learning plans.  

Among the other recommendations? Universal Preschool and development of new relationships between superintendents and school boards.

Photo: ctwhale.com

Last week, Howard Baldwin made a splash when he proposed putting more than $100 million into the XL Center with the goal of bringing an NHL hockey team back to Hartford.  But as WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, a report commissioned by the state in 2006 says that no amount of renovations could retrofit the arena to the standards of the NHL. Baldwin is the chairman and CEO Whaler Sports & Entertainment.  He says that a refurbished XL Center would create 1,500 new jobs a year and boost economic activity in downtown Hartford.  Baldwin wants to update the arena's seating, concessions areas, mechanical systems, and surrounding streetscapes.  And a video promoting his vision says the upgrade... "...provides the economic foundation to enable NESE to pursue a National Hockey League franchise in Hartford."

Flickr Creative Commons, PhotoDu.de

When I was a kid, my parents fell into the practice of dropping me off at churches they themselves had no intention of attending.

So for a while, in the 1960's, I joined the Universalist Church on Fern Street in West Hartford. I went to services and Sunday school and, somewhere around sixth grade, I joined a Youth Fellowship there.

kevin dooley

Every year, more than 75,000 eyewitnesses identify criminal suspects in the U.S., and studies suggest that as many as a third of them are wrong.

Nearly 300 people nationally have been exonerated thanks to DNA evidence, and that number is expected to rise.  Meanwhile, many guilty people have been let to live free.

Today, where we live, Connecticut’s new task force to look at eyewitness testimony and its reliability.

Federal transportation officials have officially committed $275 million for a busway from New Britain to Hartford.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, state officials say construction will begin this Spring. The state says that when the busway opens in 2014, it will be a bus-only stretch of road with 11 stops and service every three to five minutes, carrying an estimated 16,000 passengers a day.  The half-billion dollar project has drawn criticism from those who say it's too costly to those who say it's the wrong transportation plan to begin with.  At a press conference, Governor Dannel Malloy defended the busway as he celebrated it.

Chion Wolf

We’ve been hearing for years that Connecticut has an aging electricity infrastructure - along with some of the highest electric rates in the country.

So, there’s a problem - how to upgrade without sending costs through the roof? It’s a problem that the state has been able to kick down the road for years - but now consecutive, massive storms have brought these questions into the fore.

First Tropical Storm Irene knocked out power to around three-quarters of a million customers...then a few months later, a freakish October snowstorm did even more damage.

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