“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
-John F Kennedy
Congratulations Mr. Brooks: City To Dedicate “Alton Brooks Way” On November 28th At Pinnacle Development Site
Mayor Tim O’Brien has announced the City of New Britain will hold an unveiling ceremony for Alton Brooks Way to honor DTC member and community leader Alton Brooks. The ceremony will be held Wednesday, November 28th, at 1 pm at the corner of Osgood Avenue and Slater Road near DiLoreto School. The new street stems from development of the Pinnacle Heights area where construction of businesses and a school is underway. A reception will immediately following the ceremony at City Hall, 27 West Main Street at the Mayor’s office. RSVPs are requested to 860-826-3303.
Brooks, a founding director of the city’s anti-poverty agency, city commissioner and youth basketball coach, was honored last May with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the CT African-American Affairs Commission (AAAC). Previously honored by the Democratic Town Committee with a Distinguished Service Award, Brooks came to New Britain in the 1940s from Arkansas and the Jim Crow South. He worked in the war-time factories and began his civic involvements. ”We started the Black Democratic Club, and just wanted to be involved in the community,” Brooks told the New Britain Herald in 2006. “There was a need in the community to address the issues about blacks. Blacks weren’t being hired, we weren’t welcomed certain places, and there was so much discrimination,” Brooks said. “And, so we began to look forward and think about what we could do for the community.”
Brooks, 90, is one of the most active DTC members and continues to be a tireless activist for civil rights,youth employment and economic justice. On Election Day November 6th– as is his routine — Mr. Brooks was checking in at headquarters, calling his own list of voters and friends throughout the day and giving rides to those who needed one.
DTC Meets Thursday, November 29th At New Britain City Hall
The Democratic Town Committee will meet Thursday, November 29th at New Britain City Hall’s Room 504. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. On the agenda: committee members will recognize our winning slate of candidates in the November 6th election and plan for a second inaugural party. All are welcome.
Police TRIAD, AOH Women Team Up For Holiday Drive
The New Britain TRIAD and the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians are teaming up this holiday season to help needy families and are accepting cash contributions for their Christmas toy and clothing drive. Families with small children and sponsored by a municipal social service agency can receive toys or other personal items.
The New Britain TRIAD led by Officer Carol Zesut is a non-profit organization linking police, senior citizens and community groups.All donation checks should be sent to the New Britain TRIAD in case of Officer Carol Zesut, New Britain Police Department, 125 Columbus Blvd., New Britain 06051. She can be reached at 860-826-3081.
Season of Giving: Support The Marines Serving In Harm’s Way
The annual holiday drive to support US Marines serving overseas led by Marjorie Hackett-Wallace is underway. “Operation Santa 2012” is accepting snacks and personal care items this Saturday, November 24th and through December 23rd. Find out how you can help bring the holiday spirit to those who won’t be home this holiday season; Call Marjorie 860-224-7635; E-mail Mhackett@snet.net
From the Chair: Absentee Landlord Licenses, Fees Exist and Work In Many Communities
Legitimate concerns about the city’s licensing of absentee landlords (all owner-occupied dwellings are excluded) have been drowned out by a phony anti-government coalition fueled by out-of-town interests and a failed GOP leadership seeking once again to use divisiveness for political gain. The well-publicized and well-financed campaign of distortion is now replete with paid protestors, intimidation of tenants and outrageous lies about the ordinance and who would be affected by it.
The absentee landlord lobby frets and whines that if this happens in New Britain, it will spread to other communities. What they don’t want you to know is licensing and fees for absentee owners and investment properties exist from the Redwood forests to the New York highlands as a means of maintaining housing stock and improving landlord and tenant relations. As the following post from NB Politicus noted in early October the absentee landlord law suit flies in the face of similar ordinances in Connecticut and around the country, including laws that go far beyond what has been proposed for New Britain.
On October 4th, New Britain’s Common Council adopted new fee ordinances on landlords owning non-owner occupied, multi-unit apartments — policies designed to raise an alternative source of revenue as well as to strengthen anti-blight enforcement in multi-unit housing. The $150 per unit flat fee represented a compromise over an earlier proposal that the Council’s Planning and Development committee left on the table. It will raise an estimated $1 million on rental properties with absentee owners.
A second ordinance known as a “hot-spot fee” would charge landlords $500 when emergency and public safety personnel are called to an apartment house five or more times in a year. It is expected to generate another $1 million.
The combined measures can avert some service cuts and improve the anti-blight efforts as Mayor O’Brien and the Council seek to fill a $4 million hole growing out of the structural deficits identified in the last fiscal year when O’Brien took office. Clearly, they are not a panacea for the budget woes that stem from nearly a decade of gimmickry and one-short revenues of prior administrations. The license fee is part of a strategy to avoid regressive taxation in tough fiscal times: raising the property tax always falls disproportionately on homeowners and those least able to afford it. The Common Council’s actions occurred amid a raucous and at times churlish crowd of opponents prominently led by the statewide landlord lobbying group which opposes the fees and previously opposed tougher anti-blight measures that the O’Brien Administration has adopted. According to press reports, Bob De Cosmo, president of the Waterbury-based Connecticut Property Owners, said his group will file a class-action lawsuit against the city. In an effort to bully and intimidate city councillors DeCosmo was quoted as saying “we will be looking into suing each individual council member that voted for this illegal tax.”
The hollow threat of a legal fight over the modest New Britain flat fee flies in the face of policies and fees that are found in many other communities throughout the country and that have been on the books for a good long time. In Connecticut, for example, Stamford has an annual fee structure on multi-family units tied to housing code enforcement: a $60 fee and $30 per additional unit for three to nine apartments; $75 and $40 per additional unit for 10 to 39 apartments, and; $200 fee and $60 per unit for 40 or more apartments. Sounds doubtful absentee landlords will dump their New Britain properties to buy dwellings downstate. Nor will they pull up stakes and go to places like Gainesville, FL, North Chicago IL, Burlington, NJ, Cedar Rapids IA, Salt Lake City UT, Minneapolis, MN (and many more). They’ll find landlord fees and licenses and charges for rental units in all of them.
One other thing municipalities here in Connecticut and elsewhere have as a sensible part of housing policy is a Certificate of Occupancy ordinance. That was lost to New Britain in the 1990s when Tom Bozek was the Council majority leader. It would be a feather in the cap to Mayor O’Brien and the Council to restore the CO ordinance, not just for fees but to fairly handle the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. It’s time to reinstitute the Certificate of Occupancy in New Britain.
The Mayor and Common Council have not deserved the insults and push back at the Council meeting from some of the attendees, particularly absentee landlords who need to learn a lesson in shared sacrifice without diminishing a return on their investments. They need to be responsible members of this community whether they live here or not.
originally posted October 6, 2012 at NBPoliticus
“We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag. To the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner. To the furniture worker’s child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president – that’s the future we hope for. That’s the vision we share. That’s where we need to go – forward. That’s where we need to go.”
President Obama, Election Night, November 6th
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