Saturday, August 01, 2015

Connecticut Cities: Politics In The Ruins And The War On Young Boys

Hartford, Connecticut’s capital city, has been a one-horse town since 1971, when the last Republican Mayor, Ann Uccello, was recruited by then President Richard Nixon to serve in the U.S. Department of Transportation. Since that time, more than 44 years, Hartford has languished in the grip of the Democratic Party hegemon.

Hegemony always has and always will produce aberrant and corrupt government, largely because in one-party systems there are no political checks and balances, the administrative state is captive to an easily manipulable single party, and there are fewer eyes looking through the windows.

Former New Haven Mayor Joe Ganim, convicted and sent to prison on numerous corruption counts, once again is running for mayor in his old bailiwick; and three years after former Hartford Mayor Edie Perez had been convicted of corruption, an appellate court has overturned his hastily arrived at  conviction. The Perez case now lies before Connecticut’s Supreme Court, three of whose justices have been appointed by Governor Dannel Malloy, the nominal head of Connecticut’s Democratic Party. In addition, Mr. Malloy has appointed three justices to Appellate courts and thirty-nine judges to Superior Courts. The wheels of justice in Connecticut grind exceedingly slow, and so there is little chance that Mr. Perez will any time soon follow in the footsteps of Mr. Ganim and announce his candidacy for his old mayoralty seat.

More than four decades is a long time for any hegemon. It seems proper at this late date – better late than never – to ask what progress, or regress, Hartford has made during these years of one-party rule?

Although Mr. Malloy and his crime czar, Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Mike Lawlor, lately have attempted to take credit for a national drop in crime rates, Connecticut cities need much improvement.  Based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report statistics released in September 2013, three Connecticut cities were listed among the top ten most dangerous cities in the United States with populations fewer than 200,000: New Haven was second, Hartford fourth and Bridgeport sixth. Among the Top 101 cities with the highest percentage of single-parent households in a population of 50,000 plus, Hartford ranked number two, and we know from reliable studies that single parent households in urban areas link with disruptive social pathologies such as teenage pregnancies and the incarceration of young males. Researcher Sara McLanahan at Princeton University suggests that boys are much more likely to end up in jail or prison by the time they turn thirty if they are raised by single mothers. Her study shows that even after controlling for differences in parental income, education, race, and ethnicity, boys raised in single parent households are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated than boys raised within a traditional intact two parent household.

Hartford is now the murder capital of New England. As July gave way to August, Everett Scott, 47, was brought to Hartford Hospital will a hole in his chest, apparently another drug-related murder. He did not survive. The usual meeting was held, attended by the usual politicians, who promised to do something. In 2014, there were 19 homicides in Hartford, yet in the first seven months of the 2015, the death toll was 19. From the back of the room, Pastor Sam Saylor called out, “We stand at the number 19... In 2012, on Oct. 20, a 20-year-old boy, my son, died. Here we are now at the end of July facing number 20." For the benefit of the politicians seated at a table at the front of the room, Mr. Saylor asked his audience, “How many of you have lost a loved one to gun violence?" Twenty five hands were raised.

The politicians -- among them U.S. Reps. John B. Larson, and Elizabeth Esty -- no doubt well intended, nodded empathetically. Fewer illicit guns among drug dealers might be helpful; the General Assembly already had promulgated to little purpose new gun laws regulating sales among the sort of people in Connecticut who do not join drug gangs, and such regulations obviously had not diminished the death tally in Hartford. More cops might help. Call in the National Guard?  

For obvious political reasons, one is not likely to find among Democratic or Republican Party campaign planks measures that will redress this problem; the war on young blacks in cities is a hard political nut to crack, because it would require a measure of courage and honestly politicians find it difficult to muster. It would require, among other things, an acknowledgement that all the palliatives we have over the years thrown at the problem have worsened the lot of young black and Hispanic boys. The black protagonist of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” published in 1952, was a specter because people refused to see him. The plight of young boys at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries is likewise invisible.

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