Nineteen immigrants to Connecticut from 16 countries were honored by the Connecticut Immigrant & Refugee Coalition (CIRC) on Immigrant Day at the State Capitol.Read More
A public hearing this month on a proposal to “eliminate the restriction on the length of Runway 2-20 at Tweed-New Haven Airport, was, in some ways, deju vu all over again, as advocates for ramping up flights in and out of Tweed came to the State Capitol to urge action. A decade ago, in 2009, supporters of the regional airport came to the Capitol seeking state funds to fuel growth. This year, the focus is on runway expansion to do the same. The common thread: economic development.
“To realize the region’s full potential as a destination, the airport must improve its infrastructure to support an expanded schedule of flights to additional destinations,” said Ginny Kozlowsi, then president and CEO of the Greater New Haven Convention & visitors Bureau, in 2009.
This month, she was back at the Capitol, as executive director of REX Development: “The retention and recruitment of businesses are essential for the economic success of Connecticut. With the limited flights currently available at Tweed new Haven Regional Airport, it is difficult for companies in Southern Connecticut to access current clients, attract talent and secure more business.”
In testimony this month, Garrett Sheehan, the president and CEO of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that “The ability to bring people to New Haven and efficiently travel to other locations would greatly improve if Tweed New Haven Airport had additional flights and destinations. It is our expectation that expanding the runway from 5600 feet to 6600 feet, within the airport’s existing footprint, will open the door for new commercial service at Tweed.”
Sheehan noted that today “business is conducted on a global scale. The New Haven region is home to thriving manufacturers, biotech companies, tech startups, and other important businesses. These companies have employees that travel regularly and customers and suppliers who need to visit.”
He named the local organizations and businesses supporting what he described as “a better Tweed”: Avangrid, Alexion, Arts Council of Greater New Haven, Arvinas, ASSA ABLOY, Biorez, CA White, CT Bio, CT Tourism Coalition, DISTRICT New Haven, Ferguson & McGuire Insurance, Fitstyle by Shana, Marcum, My Language Link, New Haven Manufacturing Association, Prometheus Research, Radiall USA, Inc., Regional Water Authority, Technolutions, The Outtrim Group, Ulbrich Stainless Steels and Special Metals, and Yale New Haven Health.
One of them, ASSA ABLOY, testified ten years ago, when vice president Jack Dwyer stated: “A clear function of business travel efficiency is proximity to an airport…and having Tweed as a viable alternative is viewed by our management team and owners as being a factor in our ongoing and future success.”
In its testimony this month, Yale New Haven Health senior vice president Vin Petrini, chief policy and communications officer, pointed out that “Yale New Haven Health is currently the largest private employer in Connecticut with more than 25,000 employees located in nearly every town, city and legislative district in the State. We also have the distinction of being the State’s largest taxpayer having paid more than $300 million in provider taxes last year alone.”
Petrini said “Tweed represents the second most underserved region in the nation,” stating that action on the legislation would unleash a “key linchpin in the economic future of the region and the state of Connecticut.”
Ryan Duques, chairman of Madison’s Economic Development Commission, a tech startup managing partner and the former publisher of 15 Connecticut newspapers, and told lawmakers that “Tweed is vital to the economic sustainability of south-central Connecticut,” adding that “it is our expectation that this change will open the door for new commercial service at Tweed with additional destinations and flights.”
The words of former Southern Connecticut State University president Cheryl Norton a decade ago could easily have been said this month: “a robust regional airport would provide another travel option to our crowded roadways and trains.”
John Hickenlooper, a former two-term Governor of Colorado, Mayor of Denver and 1974 graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, is the latest Democrat to announce he will be seeking the party’s presidential nomination in the 2020 election cycle. Hickenlooper, 67, is expected to point to his eight years governing Colorado, a modern-day political swing state with an electorate nearly evenly divided among registered Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters, the Denver Post reported this week.
In addition to leading the state during an explosive economic expansion following the Great Recession, Hickenlooper nudged the state to the left, the Post reported. By the time his second term ended in January, he had expanded the state’s Medicaid program, signed comprehensive gun-control legislation and helped establish civil unions for same-sex couples prior to the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing marriage equality.
“I’m running for president because we’re facing a crisis that threatens everything we stand for,” Hickenlooper says in a taped announcement, promising to “repair the damage done to our country and be stronger than ever.” He will kick-off his campaign at a rally Thursday in Denver.
Hickenlooper graduated from Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in geology. He began his career as a geologist and later opened a series of restaurants and brewpubs across the country, including the Wynkoop Brewing Co. in downtown Denver, which helped spark the revitalization of the city’s now-thriving Lower Downtown (“LoDo”) district. He served as the mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011.
Hickenlooper delivered the commencement address at Wesleyan in 2010, where he said “Frankness impels me to say that my Wesleyan undergraduate career was notable, which is not to say distinguished. I came to Wesleyan as a slightly dyslexic extrovert with attention deficit disorders. And don’t you think that’s a particularly cruel irony – that the slowest readers could also have the short attention spans?”
On a more serious note, he explained that “in spite of the fact that my degrees are in English and geology – what I learned at Wesleyan was how to be an entrepreneur. The essence of entrepreneurship is not just the economic bottom-line so much as it is an exploration of innovation and creativity.
It’s the creative spark that has always interested me most, because there is such joy and satisfaction in the process of creating something that works, that fills a need, building something where nothing existed before, adding value to people’s lives so that their creative energies can also flourish.”
Reflecting on his time as Mayor, he said “I like to refer to myself, because the word ‘politician’ is still somewhat tainted despite our efforts, as an entrepreneur on loan to Public Service.”
Hickenlooper described a start-up as “the single best learning process in American enterprise. When you build something from scratch, you acquire a depth of understanding that no ‘professional,’ no management expert can match. There are few better ways to learn about yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses, than in beginning and building something, an enterprise. It is a wonderful mirror.”
“Entrepreneurship,’ he added, “is all about innovation, re-invention, adaptation and perseverance.”
A past chair of the National Governor’s Association, he was guest on the weekly podcast hosted by the leaders of Middletown-based Community Health Center a year ago, discussing how expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act has improved access to health care in his state, how embedding behavioral health in primary care is improving outcomes, lessons learned from the state’s marijuana legalization, and how the opioid crisis was being combated in Colorado.
His Wesleyan commencement address at the start of this decade included this description of his years as Mayor: “We challenged the status quo that government can’t work. We were transparent and accountable. We sought talent, without regard to politics, whether someone was Republican or Democrat. We weren’t bi-partisan, we were non-partisan. Every good restaurateur learns early that there’s no margin, there’s no profit in having enemies. You need everyone. We were always about solving problems, and you can’t solve problems with only half the people.”
Historic preservation and solar panel would seem like oil and water, but increasingly in Connecticut, the advantages are seen to outweigh the disadvantages. The acceptance of solar comes as technology helps to make systems less obtrusive, and also as more historic preservationists recognize the urgency to address climate change, according to a report in Energy Network News.
About one-tenth of Connecticut’s 3,000 historic preservation cases last year involved solar installations. That’s a significant increase from five years ago, Todd Levine, an architectural historical for the state’s preservation office, told Energy Network News. Of those 300 solar cases, however, only 10 were concluded to have adverse effects, but even in those cases the state office was able to work with stakeholders and ultimately approve them all.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Department of the Interior recommend installing solar panels on the area least visible to the public or on any new addition on the property, like a garage. Typically, historic commissions don’t want panels on the principle facade of the building facing the public right-of-ways. Lower public visibility is preferred, but increasingly, that is not ruling out solar panel installation at historic properties.
At the state level, the historic preservation office has partnered with the quasi-public clean energy agency, the Connecticut Green Bank, to mitigate any adverse effects installs could have on historic properties. Energy Network News reports that they are currently collaborating on a publication they plan to distribute in the coming months outlining best practices on the intersection of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and historic preservation.
Also last year, Connecticut upped the ante on renewables across the board.
A new law approved in 2018 requires that by 2030, 40 percent of the power provided by electricity suppliers in the state flow from renewable sources, double the target for 2020. Another law approved by the 2018 legislature established a stringent interim greenhouse-gas-reduction goal of 45 percent below 2001 levels by 2030. The state’s 2008 Connecticut Global Warming Solutions Act mandates an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
The state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection explains that the term renewable energy generally refers to electricity supplied from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower, and various forms of biomass. These energy sources are considered renewable sources because they are continuously replenished on Earth.
Currently, Hawaii has the most aggressive clean-energy mandate in the nation: 100 percent by 2045; followed by Vermont: 75 percent by 2032; and California, New York, and New Jersey, which each have a goal of 50 percent by 2030, according to the Council of State Governments.
California set a 100-percent-by-2045 zero-carbon electricity goal in September last year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the state set a 100-percent-by-2040 zero-carbon electricity goal in January. Newly elected governors in Colorado and Connecticut are pushing for 100-percent renewable energy mandates, as well, as are their counterparts in Illinois, Minnesota and Nevada, according to Solar Magazine. Connecticut’s legislature is also considering additional steps to encourage renewable energy in the state, the New London Day recently reported.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the community foundation for 29 communities in Greater Hartford, awarded more than $38 million in grants to the region’s nonprofit agencies and educational institutions in 2018. “At a time when our state and many of our communities face significant fiscal challenges, the Hartford Foundation was able to award a record breaking number of grants this past year,” said Hartford Foundation president Jay Williams. “We continue to look for ways to work together with our donors, nonprofits, and community partners to ensure Greater Hartford residents have access to opportunities that enrich their lives and secure a better future for our region.”
According to the latest estimated, unaudited numbers, the Foundation ended 2018 with total assets of $933 million in 1,230 funds. The Foundation received gifts totaling $13.1 million and opened 22 new funds.
“Greater Hartford is fortunate to have so many generous residents who truly want to make a lasting difference in their community,” Williams said. “The historic amount of resources we have been able to provide to hardworking and dedicated nonprofit organizations is a testament to our donors’ level of commitment to the region and the work the Hartford Foundation supports.”
Officials noted that the Foundation’s 2018 grantmaking - with a total of 2,708 individual grants made - was based on the recognition that "a vibrant and strong Greater Hartford region requires that all residents, especially those with the greatest need, have equitable access to opportunities to achieve and flourish." The largest percentage of grants were in education (33%), followed by family & social services (25%), communication and economic development (13%), and arts & culture (11%).
Among the grants, in each program area:
- Hartford Student Internship Program - The Foundation awarded a $200,000 grant to Capital Workforce Partners to provide 150 Hartford rising high school juniors and seniors with internships and other work-based learning opportunities. The Foundation’s support extends opportunities to students with a variety of backgrounds, including students who have become disconnected from school.
- Summer Learning Programs - In an effort to enhance summer learning and youth development, the Foundation provided $805,300 to support 34 campership, nine tutorial, nine Counselor-in-Training and five enrichment summer programs. Foundation funding supported free and reduced-cost access to summer programming, as well as targeted support for literacy, parent engagement and other enhancements for nearly 11,000 youth from across the region.
- Early Development Instrument - The Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to East Hartford Public Schools to support projects based upon the findings of the 2018 Early Development Instrument (EDI), a population-based measurement tool that assessed the school readiness of East Hartford kindergarten students. Foundation funds will pay for the Transition to Kindergarten Campaign; an EDI Olympics for 8 elementary schools; capacity building of community and home day care providers; and project materials.
Family and Social Services
- Community Safety Coalition - With a $160,000 grant from the Foundation, five local nonprofit agencies have created the Hartford Community Safety Coalition (CSC) as an organic response to the rising incidence of violent crime in Hartford. The coalition’s mission is to create healthy communities by collaborating on strategies to reduce urban violence and trauma in Hartford.
- Center for Children’s Advocacy - With the support of a three-year $260,000 grant, the Center for Children’s Advocacy is expanding its services to adolescents and young adults from Greater Hartford transitioning out of justice-system confinement or Department of Children and Families involvement. Foundation funds support a portion of the salaries for two project attorneys and a case manager. A portion of the grant can be used to support the Center’s administrative advocacy work with state agencies including the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Education and the justice system.
Community and Economic Development
- Get Out the Vote - This past August, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving awarded thirteen grants totaling $116,565 to area nonprofits dedicated to informing and engaging underrepresented voters in Greater Hartford. This nonpartisan effort focused primarily on young adults, Latinos and Black residents and people living in high poverty neighborhoods. Over a three-month period, these organizations reached out to several thousand Greater Hartford residents, registering over 1,000 new voters and receiving 1,500 pledges to participate in the November 6 elections.
- LISC Hartford - The Building for Health Project is focused on coordinating housing quality improvements (including lead remediation, energy efficiency, asthma triggers and others), providing technical assistance and grants to affordable housing builders/managers to help implement healthy practices in the buildings they manage. The Foundation provided a three-year, $313,000 grant to support Building for Health, which is a collaborative effort that came out of one of the Foundation’s 2017 innovation planning grants. The project involves a partnership between utilities, hospitals, community development corporations and nonprofit lenders to build the connections between health and housing.
Arts and Culture
- TheaterWorks - TheaterWorks strives to bring in a more diverse audience, one that is more representative of the community at large and more inclusive of Hartford residents. TheaterWorks commissioned a market study in 2017 that found gaps in the arts programming available in the Hartford area, specifically in the areas of music, dance, film and spoken word. To support its ongoing strategic planning process, TheaterWorks was awarded a planning grant to develop, test and evaluate new pilot programs that would help diversify its audience while also filling these gaps.
- Hartford Stage Company - The Hartford Stage Company’s Breakdancing Shakespeare program provides students between the ages of 14 and 18 with the opportunity to be part of a unique program that combines the text of a classic Shakespearean play with the language of hip-hop, rap and breakdancing. With the support of a $15,000 grant from the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund at the Hartford Foundation, students participated in a six-week rehearsal process, taking master classes with guest artists, developing skills related to the program’s first-ever production of Twelfth Night.
- Connecticut Historical Society - The Cheney Family Fund at the Hartford Foundation provided a $3,000 grant to the Connecticut Historical Society to support “Facing War: Connecticut in World War I.” The exhibit displays hundreds of photographs from 1917-1919, many displayed for the first time and many in life-size, as well as letters, diaries, propaganda posters, clothing, uniforms and equipment. The exhibit focuses on the personal stories of 12 Connecticut individuals, including George W. Cheney, who served on the front lines in France for nine months.
- Newton C. and Elsie B. Brainard Fund - For more than 50 years, families have been able to avoid financial ruin caused by medical bills with support from the Newton C. and Elsie B. Brainard Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The Brainard Fund benefits residents of Greater Hartford who have assets to preserve, but who face medical and health care costs that would otherwise have devastating financial consequences. In 2018, 21 families’ medical cases were supported by grants totaling nearly $224,328.
- Hockanum Valley Community Council - In response to a growing demand for substance abuse treatment, the Foundation awarded a three-year, $127,752 grant to the Hockanum Valley Community Council (HVCC). HVCC established a Medication Assisted Treatment program (MAT) in 2013 for residents of Vernon and nearby towns with opioid addiction. As one of the few providers offering this service regardless of a patients’ ability to pay, HVCC’s program has reached full capacity, growing from 32 to 52 clients in the past year alone. This grant is being used to support the hiring of an advanced practice clinician, which will allow HVCC to increase the number of clients served while increasing the quality of care and improving patient outcomes.
Nonprofit Capacity Building
- The Nonprofit Support Program (NSP) - The Foundation’s Nonprofit Support Program helps strengthen nonprofit organizations in our region by providing tools and knowledge for agencies to build strong boards, plan for their futures, evaluate programs, improve finances and update technology. In 2018, 49 staff and board teams participated in the Social Enterprise Accelerator, 15 agency teams took part in the Fundraising Training Program, 13 teams completed the Financial Management Training Program, 23 nonprofit teams received strategic technology training, 17 agency teams completed the Building Evaluation Capacity Program, and 39 executive directors and staff leaders participated in leadership development programs. In addition, 73 grants totaling $2 million were awarded to support technical assistance (such as strategic planning and board development), strategic technology, financial management, and evaluation within our local nonprofits. Eight nonprofits successfully transitioned to new leaders with support from the Executive Transition Program. In total, NSP provided services to over 1,000 individuals representing over 450 nonprofits during the year.
- Small Agency Grant Program - In 2018, the Foundation expanded grants to small and minority-led organizations through its Small Agency Grant Program. Eleven organizations successfully completed the Building on Success program that helps smaller nonprofit organizations grow to their next strategic level. Through the Small Agency Community Partners component, the Foundation has worked with 14 other nonprofit support organizations to increase the number and access to resources available to help strengthen small organizations. Highlights include a new “Board Member Bootcamp” with Leadership Greater Hartford and Hartford Public Library, and a “QuickBooks Basics for Nonprofits” with the Small Business Administration and Hartford Public Library.
Since its founding in 1925, the Foundation has awarded more than $758 million in grants.
Little known by most people - regardless of race - until recently, the Green Book has recently exploded into the public consciousness. Described as "the essential travel guide for a segregated America," within just the past two days a popular movie by that name won the Academy Award for best picture, and a documentary relating the story of real people and places that inspired the popular motion picture debuted on the Smithsonian Channel.
The documentary, "The Green Book: Guide to Freedom," was shown at a special preview at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, in a showing coordinated by the Amistad Center for Art and Culture, Comcast, and the Smithsonian Channel. It marked the third year that Comcast has joined with the Amistad Center and Smithsonian Channel to bring a special presentation to Hartford during Black History month.
Nearly 100 people were on hand for the local premiere of the documentary, which was followed by a panel discussion including Kelli Herod, Vice President of Post Production at Smithsonian Channel, and Stacey Close, Associate Vice President for Equity and Diversity at Eastern Connecticut State University, moderated by Kara Sundlun of WFSB. Amistad Center Executive Director & Curator at Large Wm. Frank Mitchell, Brad Palazzo, Comcast Director of Community Impact and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin also spoke briefly, with Bronin saluting the "resiliance, ingenuity and determination" of those who traveled through dangerous times.
The documentary was produced by award-winning filmmaker Yoruba Richen. It premieres this week on Smithsonian Channel, telling the story of the Green Book, launched in the 1930's by Victor Green, a black postal carrier from Harlem who created a volume that was "part travel guide and part survival guide." It helped African-Americans navigate safe passage across a dangerously segregated nation, identifying towns, hotels, restaurants and businesses that would be hospitable to African-Americans, sometimes few and far between.
The challenges were not only in the South. In fact, a page in the 1948 Green Book, lists locations in Connecticut - and the list does not fill the page. The locations were in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, New London, Stamford, Waterbury and West Haven. Included are restaurants, hotels, tourist homes, beauty parlors, barber shops, and night clubs. The 1967 edition also includes five Hartford locations, including one - the former Bond Hotel - that is still standing to this day.
"We are proud to tell the true story behind this remarkable guide and to shine new light on this disturbing yet important period in Amerian history," said David Royle, Smithsonian Channel's Chief Programming officer.
The documentary tells the story of the rise of the African American middle class in Detroit, and the iconic A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama - a pivotal location in the civil rights movement. It also recalls that during its 1950s heyday, the Idlewild Resort in Michigan was a magnet for black culture and entertainment, with a booming nightlife featuring famous performers like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington. In the Q&A in Hartford following the advance showing, one audience member recalled her family owning property at the Idlewild - a local connection that the panel did not expect, but was clearly pleased to learn.
"At Comcast NBC Universal diversity and inclusion is a fundamental part of our company culture and are crucial components to all of our efforts to create and deliver the best and boldest technology and entertainment for our customers," noted Palazzo. "The Green Book: Guide to Freedom screening is another way for us to bring diverse entertainment and story-telling locally to Hartford-area residents." Comcast, with Connecticut offices in Berlin, has partnered with the Amistad on a number of initiatives over the years and "are proud to play a small role in helping them to tell their cultural story."
The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, located in the Wadsworth Atheneum, celebrates art and culture influenced by people of African descent through education, scholarship and social experiences.
Victor Green looked forward to the day people wouldn't need the Green Book. In the 1949 edition he wrote,
There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year.
The year the Civil Rights Act passed, in 1964, was the Green Book’s last. As the panelists in Hartford noted, more than 50 years later, the struggle for equality continues.
Between 2007 and 2017, the poverty rate increased more in Connecticut than any of the New England states. According to data analyzed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Connecticut’s poverty rate increased from 7.9 percent to 9.6 percent, and increase of 1.7 percentage points, or about a 20 percent increase. Four of the six New England states saw increases: New Hampshire (.6%), Massachusetts (.6%), Vermont (1.2%) and Connecticut. The other two New England states, Maine and Rhode Island, saw decreases, of .9 and .4 percent respectively.
The analysis found “a regional economic picture with some surprises and plenty of complexity,” the Boston Fed website points out.
It found that across New England, compared with 2007, fewer New Englanders are unemployed but the unemployed are more likely to be poor than in 2007, and those still out of work face diverse barriers to employment. New England’s unemployed are disproportionately young, non-white, and less educated, according to the data.
Among the other findings:
- Long-term unemployment, defined as 27 weeks or longer, is down nationally since 2010, but less so in New England.
- Among 25-54 year olds, the male employment rate is down since 2007, while the female employment rate has gone up.
- Two industries accounted for more than half of job gains in the region between 2016 and 2018: Professional & Business Services and Education & Health Services. Among the other categories, Construction, Leisure & Hospitality and Manufacturing saw the largest gains.
Although poverty rates declined in all New England states between 2014 and 2017, as of 2017 four out of the six states exhibit higher poverty rates than they did in 2007. Among the region’s unemployed workers, the poverty rate as of 2017 is higher than it was in 2007, and it’s also higher than it was in 2010, after the recession had officially ended, the Boston Fed points out.
Mary Burke, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, views the delayed and incomplete recovery in poverty rates as both surprising and troubling, as it could indicate an erosion of the safety net.
The latest Connecticut community to go down the re-branding road is Waterbury. The Prospect-based marketing firm WORX Group presented its marketing concepts this week to the city’s Board of Aldermen, according to reports in the Waterbury Republican-American. In December, the firm proposed two logos and sought public input, including at a series of focus groups last spring. The underwhelming choices: The proposals were either a stylized “W” or a version of the city’s “brass horse.” The horse is modeled after the statute atop the Carrie Welton Fountain by the city’s downtown Green. The proposed logo adds two leaves as wings, symbolizing the city’s rebirth. The “W” has an upward-tracking center, representing the city’s rising trajectory.
The lack of enthusiasm – and some outright criticism – for the initial options prompted a new approach, which led to the latest proposal, a stylized multi-colored W with the city’s name underneath, unveiled this week for the city leadership’s approval.
In recent years, Stamford, Norwalk and New Britain are among the Connecticut communities that have undertaken re-branding efforts, including rolling out new logos for the municipalities. New Britain took steps to redesign the city’s Main Street bridge over Route 72 with architectural features promoting a beehive theme, as highlighted in the logo launched in 2017, and New Britain began to use the new logo and tagline on signs, letterhead, brochures and its website.
In Waterbury, the local marketing firm has been paid to $81,500 to develop marketing concepts and is proposing a $180,000, one-year, contract that would include a new website, social media, email marketing and other related initiatives. The website and social media campaign would include job openings, available properties, recreation opportunities, local eateries, upcoming events, health care resources, stories on city infrastructure projects and features stories on key city figures and business success stories, the newspaper reported.
The U.K.-based creative agency Canny, which chronicled city rebranding efforts around the world, has pointed out that “Creating a single brand for a city helps highlight its offerings and interactions, allowing it to appeal to both tourists and residents alike.” The site also notes that “good city branding can make a place seem desirable, but bad city branding can have the opposite effect.”
It seemed like a good idea at the time. More than a decade ago, in 2005, a committee of legislators successfully urged the state legislature to establish the Connecticut Hall of Fame, to be featured in the Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Hartford. In announcing the proposal, they explained “the hall of fame is designed to recognize those individuals from Connecticut who have distinguished themselves in their professions, nationally or internationally. It will also have an education function because of the great number of students who visit the Capitol and LOB annually.” It was even specified that the lettering of the names of inductees “will be in brass.”
The first class of inductees, in February 2007, were Mark Twain, Igor Sikorsky and Katharine Hepburn, their names affixed to the wall of the second floor atrium in the LOB. It marked a successful launch, after being “in the planning stages for four years,” according to an announcement at the time.
The legislators driving the initiative were then-Senators Joseph Crisco (D-Woodbridge) and John McKinney (R-Fairfield) and then-Representatives Elizabeth “Betty” Boukus (D-Plainville), and Michael Caron (R-Danielson). Today, all no longer hold legislative seats. When it began, it was said that “Funding for the Connecticut Hall of Fame is expected to come from corporate contributions, grants, and contributions from individuals, foundations and, potentially, appropriate state agencies.”
The Hall has slowly fallen from the legislative radar screen. A brochure about the Hall of Fame indicates that “Each year the committee reviews the applications of many nominees and refers their selection to the Legislative Leaders for approval. An awards ceremony, ‘Connecticut Hall of Fame Day,’ is held to honor those inducted.” Not lately.
Induction ceremonies were held in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, but only in three years since – 2013, 2014 and 2016. In 2008, the committee reviewed the applications of 30 nominees. No ceremonies have been held, however, in three of the past four years, and none appear to be on the immediate horizon. Officials indicate that the “committee” currently is without leaders.
In 2009, the committee included Rep. Themis Klarides, now the House Republican leader. In a news release that year, she saluted one of the inductees: “Paul Newman’s story is a truly American story and Connecticut can be proud he called our state home,” said Representative Klarides. “Mr. Newman is known widely for his distinguished film and Broadway career, but his service to our nation in WWII and his life-long philanthropic dedication further make him uniquely worthy of addition to the Connecticut Hall of Fame.”
Most recently, in 2017, the co-chairs were then-Sen. Anthony Guglielmo and Rep. Terrie Wood, along with then-Rep. Matt Lesser, now a State Senator.
Among the inductees are UConn’s Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun, along with historic figures Noah Webster, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Roger Sherman, Nathan Hale, Henry Burbeck, Helen Keller, Horace Wells, Marian Anderson, Harry Gray, Jackie Robinson and Ralph Sturges, longtime leader of the Mohegan Tribe.
The inductees also Judge Constance Baker Motley; composer and musician David Brubeck; architect Frederick Law Olmsted; aviation pioneer Frederick Rentschler; composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim; actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, and actress Meryl Streep. Also having their names added to the roster of inductees on a second-floor wall of the Legislative Office Building are Judge John T. Downey; American inventor and businessman Alfred Carlton Gilbert; artist Deane Keller and undersea explorer Robert Ballard.
Whether the Connecticut Hall of Fame will see additional inductees this year, or in future years, remains uncertain. Information on the Hall can be seen at https://www.cga.ct.gov/hof/