New Haven

Chris Powell: Prosecute kids for wearing blackface? Perpetual poverty in New Haven

Promotional poster for Spike Lee’s 2000 film   Bamboozled ,  about a disgruntled black television executive who reintroduces the old blackface style in a    series concept    to try to get himself fired, and is instead horrified by its success.

Promotional poster for Spike Lee’s 2000 film Bamboozled, about a disgruntled black television executive who reintroduces the old blackface style in a series concept to try to get himself fired, and is instead horrified by its success.

Kids can be horrible -- stupid, cruel, hateful, sadistic, reckless, and worse. But in spite of the indignation lately contrived by the Connecticut chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wearing blackface is not high on the scale of youthful offenses.

The other week, at a press conference outside a middle school in Shelton, Conn., one of whose white students recently posted on the Internet a photo of herself wearing blackface, the NAACP suggested that kids deserve to be shot for that kind of thing or at least criminally prosecuted for a "hate crime."

On top of that, according to the Valley Independent Sentinel, the NAACP demanded that Shelton authorities account to the organization for the progress of the "investigation" of the incident and include the organization in a mandatory discussion with students and school staff about racial diversity.

Make wearing blackface a "hate crime"? That's fascism. For no matter how offensive the blackface-wearing student was, and no matter what she meant, if anything, she did it on her own time to her own looks in her own life. A school can disapprove of certain things that rise to public attention, and of course a school always should be teaching decent behavior, but First Amendment freedom of expression in one's personal life is and must remain inviolate. The government has no authority to punish it.

In peacefully protesting racial oppression in the segregationist South, the civil rights advocates of a half century ago struggled and even died for freedom of expression. The NAACP was part of that struggle. Now the organization wants 12-year-olds prosecuted for putting on makeup and making faces.

But it's even more ironic. Lately the NAACP has supported Connecticut's new laws increasing leniency for juveniles who commit crimes like car theft. So now in Connecticut juveniles can get caught stealing cars twice before a court can impose any punishment on them. Many of those juveniles are black. But the NAACP thinks wearing blackface is worse than car theft.

Most kids grow up. The premier of Canada wore blackface when he was young. So did the governor of Virginia. They lately were caught through old photos and repented. Blackface is not who they are now. Most of the kids in Connecticut who lately have advertised themselves wearing blackface have been reprimanded and likely will grow up too. With luck many of Connecticut's young and coddled car thieves will not only grow up but stay out of prison.

The NAACP should grow up as well. There are far more serious things to be indignant about.

* * *

WHY THE PERPETUAL POVERTY? Fresh from his victory in New Haven's Democratic primary for mayor, Justin Elicker has urged Yale University students to devote some time to civic life in the city. According to the Yale Daily News, one student snarked back, "We're a university, not a soup kitchen."

Elicker replied that some city residents "can't put food on the table" while Yalies enjoy an all-you-can-eat dining hall.

But despite that snarky student, Yale is not quite the bastion of privilege it once was. Now about half Yale's students receive the university's own scholarships under "need-blind" admissions policy so that even kids who grew up dining at soup kitchens and don't have much money can get into the university.

Also the other week CTNewsJunkie reported that Connecticut is the only state in which poverty recently increased. So Yale students and Elicker himself might perform a great civic service if they could ever determine why poverty and urban policies are failing so badly.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: 'Nonprofit' Yale, with its vast endowment, is overwhelming New Haven

Yale’s Old Campus at dusk

Yale’s Old Campus at dusk

Without Yale University, there might not be much left to New Haven beyond the daily shootings, drug overdoses, indignant demands for nullification of federal immigration law, and good pizza. Even so, Yale may be getting too big not just for New Haven but for Connecticut as well. Indeed, the university seems to be slowly taking over the city, which might be an improvement if it wasn't so undemocratic.

The New Haven Register reported the other day that the university this year converted six buildings from commercial to educational or medical use, thereby rendering them exempt from city property taxes and costing the city $3 million a year. Five months ago the university said it will build a neuroscience research center on the part of the Yale New Haven Hospital campus formerly owned by St. Raphael's Hospital, thereby keeping that prime property off the city tax rolls as well.

Meanwhile Yale's endowment has just broken $30 billion even as the finances of city government and state government remain a mess.

Sometimes nonprofit organizations fall too much in love with the endowments they amass from the tax exemptions conferred by state and federal law. Yale may be an egregious example of this. The university could not acquire much more property for nonprofit use in New Haven without demolishing the city's already weak tax base, and Yale's $30 billion endowment already might cover free or heavily discounted tuition for all ]the university's students for decades.

Unless it plans to acquire the rest of New Haven or even the state, how much larger an endowment does Yale really need?

According to the Register, Yale pays the city $5.6 million a year in property taxes on its nonexempt property and about $12 million more in a voluntary payment and a fee for fire protection. That's nice but still a fraction of what the university might pay without its property tax exemption.

From time to time state legislators and others have proposed taxing university endowments rather than repealing the property tax exemption for all colleges and hospitals, since Yale's endowment is so big that it easily could be taxed without touching any other endowments. The second largest such endowment in the state is said to be that of Wesleyan University in Middletown, only $1 billion. The endowment tax proposals have not gotten anywhere in the General Assembly.

But as Yale slowly consumes New Haven and as nonprofits and government agencies encroach more on the property tax bases of Connecticut's other cities, the rationale for tax exemption for nonprofits weakens, especially as crushing student loan debt shows that higher education is greatly overrated.

Bernie Sanders is not president yet, so any big stash of money is not automatically a target for communistic confiscation. But as long as donations to colleges and universities are tax-exempt and diminish the income tax revenue that otherwise would be collected from the donors by the state and federal governments, huge endowments like Yale's are fairly questioned. It's no matter that such endowments may be growing more from profitable investment than from fresh donations, since they originate mainly in donations that were tax-exempt.

But any revenue from taxing Yale's endowment should flow to state government, not city government, since state government already reimburses half the city's budget and city government is even less competent than state government. The best use of any new revenue for state government might be just to cut state taxes, since “property tax relief” is just a euphemism for raising municipal spending.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


How to do urban renewal

Hartford’s Constitution Plaza, an urban-renewal project that drove out many residents in what had been a stable neighborhood

Hartford’s Constitution Plaza, an urban-renewal project that drove out many residents in what had been a stable neighborhood

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

Tom Condon wrote a nice piece for The Connecticut Mirror on how to do and not do “urban renewal’’ with a focus, of course, on the Nutmeg State. A few particularly important things: Don’t tear up and/or divide city neighborhoods with huge limited-access highways, and try to avoid replacing structurally sound and attractive old buildings with sterile glass and steel structures.

When I lived near New Haven in the early and mid ’60s I remember how arrogant “urban renewal’’ tore apart that city. Without the presence of very rich Yale University as a moderating force, the well-meaning renewers, especially then Mayor Richard Lee and city development director Edward Logue, would have done even more damage to downtown New Haven. The repair work has been underway now for a generation, and the place looks much better.

Mr. Condon’s cites a new book by former New York City planner and Yale Prof. Alexander Garvin called In The Heart of the City. As explanation for the turnaround in some cities in recent years, he cites crime reduction, the creation of Business Improvement Districts to clean and promote downtowns (Providence has one) and the rise of the Internet, which has let companies sharply reduce the space they need for storage of documents. This has freed up a lot of space in buildings – space that can be converted to housing, this increasing population density downtown, which has provided more customers for local businesses and reduced crime (more eyes on the street), in a kind of virtuous circle.

To read Mr. Condon’s article, please hit this link.

Chris Powell: New Haven's biggest problem

New Haven.

New Haven.

Anyone who fears for manufacturing in Connecticut should visit New Haven, where it seems that half the indignation in the country is produced.

The outrage of the moment is what may be a case of mistaken identity last week in which police officers from Hamden and Yale University shot at a car they stopped on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven because it fit the description of a car said to be involved in an attempted armed robbery a mile away in Hamden. A passenger in the car was wounded but no evidence linking the car or its occupants to the robbery has been found. The state's attorney's office and the state police have taken over the investigation.

Horrible as such a mistake by the police here would be, cases of mistaken identity in police work happen all the time and some have far worse results. Some are caused by the negligence of officers, others by devastating coincidence. This one may have been compounded by the officers' lack of judgment if not trigger-happiness.

But because the occupants of the stopped car are black, the protests in New Haven presume without evidence that the incident was part of a nationwide police scheme to murder black people. "No justice, no peace, no racist police," the protesters chant, though the Hamden officer in the incident is black himself and first worked as an officer in New Haven, where he was trained.

The protesters, many of them students at Yale, want the officers fired and prosecuted immediately, before any investigation. That reflects the university's political correctness. They also want the university police disarmed and suburban officers forbidden to pursue criminal suspects into New Haven.

So much for the mandatory regionalism advocated by New Haven Sen. Martin M. Looney. But the rest of the New Haven area might be glad to have less to do with the city if its miserable demographics were not producing so much of the region's crime. Over the weekend prior to the incident on Dixwell Avenue four people were injured in three shootings in New Haven, and even as protesters were chanting away at another rally last Thursday night, a riot broke out at a street party elsewhere in the city, one teenager getting shot and another injured by flying glass.

Of course there were no protests of that violence, since it was typical for New Haven, nor any expressions of sympathy for those assigned by government to protect society against the anarchy of city life. In this respect New Haven is not much worse than Hartford or Bridgeport.

Connecticut does not hold its police to account as well as it should but it has been improving. There are mechanisms for accountability and some recognition that officers in all towns represent the state as a whole. So if Connecticut is really to be a state, the pursuit of violent felons cannot stop at town lines.

So why, despite their worsening demographics, are Connecticut's cities not only largely walled off politically but, as the protests in New Haven show, trying to wall themselves off from due process of law and even law itself? For neither can Connecticut be a state if law in the cities is only a polite fiction.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Raising tobacco-purchase age would do little for city kids


Why do officials in politically correct cities like Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport put so much effort into posturing on issues over which they have no serious jurisdiction? Maybe it's to console themselves for their ineffectuality with important matters like the worsening poverty, ignorance, and demoralization of their constituents.

Last week Hartford was at it again as its City Council prepared an ordinance raising to 21 the age for purchasing tobacco products. A week earlier Bridgeport had adopted an ordinance purporting to outlaw homemade plastic guns.

Even as Hartford prepared the tobacco ordinance, several of its high school students got sick in school after consuming marijuana-laced brownies given to them by other students. Marijuana possession by minors is illegal but of course it has been decades since that prohibition deterred anyone, and now both Connecticut and the country are starting to figure that the prohibition might as well be repealed and marijuana sold legally and taxed.

So why does Hartford think that raising the age for tobacco purchases will accomplish anything? Why does Hartford think that minors won't continue to purchase tobacco through older friends, as they do with alcoholic beverages?

And what about the bigger question of the age of majority? How sensible is society when it proclaims 18-year-olds mature enough to vote, serve in the military, and make contracts but not mature enough just to smoke and drink?

Poor judgment will always be part of youth. But an ordinance purporting to protect kids against tobacco in a city where most kids have no father in their home and many have no real parent at all is worse than poor judgment. It's a sick joke by shameless adults.


VINDICATING THE FLAG: Another flag-salute case has arisen from a public school in Waterbury.

Twenty-five years ago the city's school system tried to punish a black high school student who, calling herself a Communist, refused to salute the flag at the start of the school day. She beat the school system in a lawsuit because school administrators somehow had overlooked or deliberately disregarded a renowned U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1943 forbidding schools from coercing students into making expressions of belief. That decision upheld freedom of conscience, which the country then was defending at profound cost in a world war.

In the new Waterbury case some nonwhite students allege that a teacher has been mocking and shaming them for refusing to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, which they say is their way of protesting racial discrimination.

A trial may be needed to determine exactly what has been happening but there should be no doubt about the long-established right not to salute the flag -- just as there should be no doubt that the right not to salute the flag is a powerful reason for saluting it.

Of course the country has not achieved perfect justice. But it never will. It can only keep improving. With its proclamation of "liberty and justice for all," the Pledge of Allegiance will always be largely aspirational. But the heroes of the civil rights revolution 50 years ago accepted this and always carried the flag into the struggle. They succeeded and changed the country and thereby vindicated the flag.

A good teacher would explain this to his students as he acknowledged their right not to salute the flag. If they still refused to salute, he would let them be undisturbed, since, after all, their liberty still would be pretty good advertising for the country.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Lamont's conflicting poses; New Haven a haven for expense-account excess

Pouring more of his personal wealth into his campaign for Connecticut governor, zillionaire Democrat Ned Lamont went on television the other day with a new commercial touting "change." In the ad Lamont says he'll cut property and small-business taxes, reduce medical costs, and demand equal pay for equal work for women.

The latter already has been the law for a long time but Democrats need to nurture resentments to rile up their tribal base. The other objectives proclaimed by Lamont's new commercial will be delusional until state government manages to close the $4 billion deficit projected for the next state budget, and Lamont offers no ideas about that.

Indeed, while Lamont's campaign distributes press releases every day, the projected budget deficit is so large that whoever is elected governor will be lucky just to keep the lights on at the state Capitol for his first few years in office. Any proposals that cost money will be mere posturing and pandering until the deficit is closed.

At the end of his new commercial Lamont declares, "Change starts now." But even as the commercial began airing, Lamont received the endorsement of another state employee union, that of the state police. The unions are not supporting Lamont in pursuit of change but rather in defense of their privileges under the political status quo. The unions are confident that, since they dominate the Democratic Party, which has controlled state government for eight years, as governor Lamont will go easier on them than any other candidate.

Meanwhile, Lamont keeps charging that the election of the Republican candidate, Bob Stefanowski, will destroy all public services, since the Republican's only idea is to eliminate the state income tax and thus forgo half of state government's revenue. In effect, Lamont is arguing that no state and municipal government operations can manage with less money -- that no employees, contractors and welfare recipients can be directed to do more with less. That is, Lamont is arguing that the government and welfare classes must not be disturbed and that change is actually impossible.

So Lamont is presenting himself as the candidate of both change and continuity. This is incoherent. But it may be more than Stefanowski offers.

For at least Lamont is making appearances around the state, issuing statements, and being accessible. As for Stefanowski, other than his ads attacking Lamont as a clone of the ever-unpopular Gov. Dannel Malloy, the Republican is hardly to be seen. The only advantage of this campaign strategy seems to be to prevent the candidate from displaying his unfamiliarity with state government and the state itself. After all, Stefanowski never before has been involved with public life and didn't even vote for the last 16 years.


A HAVEN FOR EXCESS: Next time New Haven Mayor Toni Harp shows up at the Connecticut Capitol to plead poverty and to clamor for more state money for her city, legislators might ask her about her administration's concealment of its travel expenses, as reported this week by the New Haven Independent.

Officials with city credit cards, the Independent found, have not disclosed to the Board of Alders their cross-country flights, hotel stays, and luxurious meals on city business. Trips to meetings of the U.S. Conference of Mayors have cost two or three times more than was reported.

Since state government reimburses half the city's budget, New Haven seems to figure that it's nobody's money.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

The world's first    phonebook    was made in New Haven in 1878.

The world's first phonebook was made in New Haven in 1878.

Chris Powell: New Haven's mayor has been very busy helping to erase America's borders

New Haven from the air.

New Haven from the air.

President Trump can be counted on to discredit even a legitimate issue, as he did last week at a White House meeting by joking about the absence of New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, whom he had summoned to praise, along with other mayors, for their work on transportation issues.

“Toni Harp. Where's Toni? Toni? Toni?," Trump said, adding, "Uh, can't be a sanctuary city person. That's not possible, is it?”

Of course, Harp is the mayor of the most brazen sanctuary city in the country and, having learned a few hours earlier of the Trump administration's new demand for immigration policy information from other such cities, she seems to have suspected, rightly, that, to score political points, the president might change the meeting's subject from transportation to immigration. So Harp skipped the meeting.

Whereupon the president blustered, "The mayors who chose to boycott this event have put the needs of criminal illegal immigrants over law-abiding America."

Of course the immigration issue is not that simple. Yes, some illegal immigrants are criminals but most are not. The real issue is whether immigration is ever to be controlled and, if so, how.

So it might have been helpful if Harp had attended the meeting and had replied to any demagoguery from the president.

But just as Trump demagogues the immigration issue by overstating its criminal aspects, Harp and other proponents of sanctuary cities and states -- like the mayor nearly all of them Democrats, including Connecticut Gov. Dannel  Malloy -- claim to find virtue in nullifying federal law as the old segregationists did. It is actually the position of the nullifiers that anyone who breaks into the United States and makes his way to New Haven should be exempt from immigration law.

The president's demagoguery has made it nearly impossible to have an intelligent and civilized debate on the immigration issue. But his opponents are fortunate about this, since they don't want such a debate. They would lose it. For the logic of their position is that the United States shouldn't even be a country.


Connecticut's latest sad deportation case is that of Joel Colindres, an illegal immigrant living in New Fairfield with a U.S. citizen wife and two young U.S. citizen children. He says he came to the United States from Guatemala in 2004 to escape violence and persecution, surrendered to immigration authorities in Texas, and got regular stays of deportation until recently. Now the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency may expel him in a few days.

Presumably Colindres enjoyed the infamous "catch and release" policy of previous administrations, whereby, rather than being sent back immediately, illegal immigrants were given years to stay in the country, marry and start families to use as hostages against deportation by future administrations if their overused claims of fleeing persecution were ever doubted. Indeed, most illegal immigrants from Latin America are really only economic refugees, not political ones.

While it may be hard to see the point of deporting an illegal immigrant who has a citizen wife and children, there is one. It is to frighten and deter other illegal immigrants and induce their Democratic supporters to accept the obvious political compromise -- another immigration amnesty like the Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986, which promised but never delivered border security, in exchange for another such promise, this time the president's border wall. But erasing the border remains more important to the Democrats than legalizing the illegals and preserving families.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

After some decades of steep decline, parts of New Haven have become much more prosperous, and, well, gentrified, in the past couple of decades, including this stretch of upper State Street.

After some decades of steep decline, parts of New Haven have become much more prosperous, and, well, gentrified, in the past couple of decades, including this stretch of upper State Street.

Chris Powell: The Devil in Weimar New Haven

The New Haven Green in happier times.

The New Haven Green in happier times.


While it is home to a renowned university, Yale, New Haven often seems as anti-intellectual as any place on the planet, on account of the city's street theater, which isn't so funny anymore as it evokes the political disintegration of Germany's Weimar Republic, when Nazis and Communists rioted until democracy gave way.

On July 8, there were rumors that "right-wing" groups would rally on New Haven's green. So hundreds of counter-protesters got there first. According to the New Haven Register, what was nearly a riot developed as the counter-protesters confronted the half-dozen or so supposed right-wingers who showed up. One of the supposed right-wingers, who said only that he was "anti-socialist," was told by the counter-protesters to leave the green and as obscenities were shouted at him he was shoved and kicked and his hat was grabbed from his head. Police made several arrests for disorderly conduct.

Afterward Mayor Toni Harp issued a statement: "We were in no way supportive of any assembly that intends to incite fear, hatred, and violence. New Haven is and remains an inclusive city and I personally take responsibility for ensuring that this is the case."

But how "inclusive" is a city that assaults and runs out of town anyone merely suspected of planning to disagree with the local mob? Of course this kind of thing is happening throughout the country, as left-wingers and right-wingers spoil for such fights and sacrifice the law for a chance to strike a blow.

The left started the trend years ago with political correctness. Donald Trump trumped it with the hatefulness and vulgarity of his presidential campaign. Now the left is trying to trump Trump with political violence, forgetting that when guns are outlawed, only Trump will have guns. Maybe this situation will give old-school liberals pause about the powerful executive style of government that they long have celebrated.

In any case the country will be lucky if the current chief executive continues to be too incoherent and incompetent to play Caesar. Indeed, the country will be lucky simply to maintain the rule of law through the next 3½ years as even people sworn to its impartial enforcement discard it quickly to smite their political adversaries, as Connecticut's secretary of the state, Denise Merrill, did last week by refusing the Trump administration's request for elections data that was public until the administration asked for it.

If Trump really is the Devil this would be a good time for television networks to broadcast the brilliant 1966 movie of Robert Bolt's play about the Catholic martyr Sir Thomas More, A Man for All Seasons.  Paul Scofield's More memorably reprimands his daughter's suitor, Roper, a fanatic not unlike those of today:

ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you -- where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast -- man's laws, not God's -- and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

 Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Shadow and sun

On the Yale campus.

On the Yale campus.

I experienced, first, very dark shadow, and then seven days later, bright, warm sunlight on the last two Saturdays. On the first I drove to a little suburb in Connecticut to attend a memorial service for a woman who  had taken  her own life a week and a half  before after several years of severe mental illnesses, which caused her, and her family, much agony. She was 26 and, just a few years earlier had seemed to have immense promise -- and the ambition to become a physician. She started to get very sick halfway through college.

The panorama of her  lost promise was vivid in the eulogies at the partly glass-walled church, which was closely surrounded by beautiful, if, given the season, austere woods. She had been a person of such  intelligence, energy and charm.

Her mental illnesses were of the type that tend to diminish in severity after age 30. If only she could have made it until then. God knows, her family and friends had spared no effort to try to help her.

But then, as a late neurologist friend of mine, Stanley Aronson, M.D., once observed to me: “We probably don’t know more than 5 percent of what we need to know about the human mind.’’

Then, on this past Saturday, I saw and heard a very different aspect of the human condition when my wife and I drove to New Haven to hear a harpsichord recital at the Yale School of Music. The recital, one of the requirements for obtaining a master’s degree on music at Yale, was by a young man, of the same age as the woman above, of great ability, confidence and stability, including in the face of occasional  serious outside challenges.

There he was, already seemingly headed for the broad sunlit uplands of  being a scholar and performer of an art of great beauty. As he performed amidst the Neo Gothic and Georgian brick  buildings of Yale that symbolize ambition and success (sometimes tinctured with pretension),  I ruminated on whether life should be called unfair or just arbitrary.

-- Robert Whitcomb


Chris Powell: Arrogant "undocumented immigrants'' out of the shadows; fictionalizing parking for the handicapped

As they blocked Main Street in downtown Hartford by unfurling a 50-foot banner protesting deportations and an unfavorable (to them) U.S. Supreme Court decision, "undocumented immigrants" -- the politically correct term for illegal aliens -- and their supporters declared last week that they were "coming out of the shadows."

"I'm undocumented, unafraid, and here to stay," one announced through a bullhorn.

Nine protesters were charged by police with disorderly conduct.

Their disappointment was understandable but their indignation was misplaced and their presumption of a right to inconvenience and bully everyone else was contemptible. 

After all, few illegal aliens are "living in the shadows" in Connecticut. Hartford and New Haven have declared themselves "sanctuary cities," formally committed to nullifying federal immigration law, as state government itself is committed more or less, now that it is providing driver's licenses and college-tuition discounts to illegals. All Connecticut's members of Congress favor amnesty for illegals. 

Besides, "living in the shadows" is what lawbreakers do, although it's not as if any immigration-law violator is in danger of being persecuted for innocent characteristics like ethnicity, homosexuality or left-handedness. Every nation has the right to immigration law -- indeed, controlling immigration is the definition of nationhood -- and illegals have violated the law just as much as anyone else has.

Yes, the country's failure to enforce immigration law, induced by pressure from unscrupulous employers and groups that don't want any immigration-law enforcement, has contributed to the extenuating circumstances of millions of young people whose illegality was the responsibility of their parents. Politics has been obstructing legislation that might give them a "path to citizenship" -- and not just the politics of legislators hostile to immigration but also the politics of legislators hostile to achieving border control before amnesty. But that's democracy for you. Building consensus can take time.

Breaking a perfectly legitimate law and then demanding that it be changed in one's favor while one bullies innocent people on the street is pretty arrogant. Who do the illegals think they are -- Citigroup or Tribune Publishing, which undertook illegal corporate acquisitions in Connecticut, confident that they were influential enough to get the laws and regulations repealed?

If their arrogance is going to extend to blocking traffic, the illegals should go back in the shadows.

* * *

Because of legislation signed last week by Gov. Dannel Malloy, Connecticut's official emblem for reserving parking spots for the handicapped has been what the governor calls "modernized." It's more like fictionalized.

The old emblem showed a stick figure sitting in a wheelchair. The new emblem has the stick figure leaning forward in a racing pose as if engaging in a game of wheelchair basketball. The idea is to dispel the supposedly retrograde idea that the handicapped are handicapped and instead suggest that people with disabilities can lead active lives -- as if anyone thought there was some law against it.

But of course if the handicapped were not disadvantaged in some way, they would hardly need preferential parking, and most of the people whose cars are equipped with handicapped parking permits are not athletes but old folks unsteady on their feet, carrying canes, or lugging oxygen canisters.

So the new emblem is just another symptom of the political correctness plaguing Connecticut under the Malloy administration. In this respect the collapse of state government's finances is fortunate, for nothing will be spent to replace the handicapped parking signs just to get rid of the old emblem. The signs with the old emblem will be replaced only as they wear out. For the time being the PC brigades may have to settle for taking the signs off bathroom doors.

Chris Powell is a Connecticut-based columnist on politics and society and managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Cowering in racial guilt at a New Haven high school

Amistad High School, in New Haven is, according to U.S. News & World Report, the third best high school in Connecticut on account of its success with a disadvantaged student population.

But last week those students let the world know how unhappy they are with the school. They walked out without first attempting to discuss their grievances with school administrators -- and rather than discipline them for their disruption and rudeness, school administrators nervously praised them for their "leadership," as if the school would welcome a student walkout every day.

The main complaint of the students, 98 percent of whom are black or Latino, involved the supposed lack of racial diversity of Amistad's staff. While the school says 27 percent of its staff are black, Latino, or multi-racial, up from 21 percent a year earlier, the students complain that few of these staffers are teachers -- and that this is crucial because black and Latino students can't relate to white teachers.

As one student told the New Haven Independent: "Growing up without a father figure, I always looked to find one inside the classroom. A Caucasian male would never be able to teach me how to live in a society that still looks down at skin of my color."

Of course the assertion that the races can't relate is the essence of racism. That such a claim is coming from Amistad High may have the old Southern segregationist governors who resisted Brown v. Board of Education laughing in Hell and exclaiming, "We told you so!"

Meanwhile, white teachers who, out of idealism, chose to work with disadvantaged kids in a poor city rather than well-to-do kids in a prosperous suburb may think: If people of different races can't relate and won't even try, why did we bother? Why does anyone?

Yes, to some extent racial diversity is a virtue, mostly a political one, but competence is a higher virtue, and given the country's history of slavery and racial discrimination it will be a while before the share of the black population that is qualified for professional employment equals the share of the white population that is qualified. Qualified blacks are in high demand for all sorts of professional positions throughout the country, and Amistad High is only one of thousands of institutions that wishes it could find more of them.

Indeed, school administrators might have told the protesting students that the school's very purpose is to qualify them to become what they and the school wish they had more of now.

The students had secondary grievances -- disciplinary incidents they considered unfair and various rumors that no one had bothered to verify or discredit. The administrators tried to rebut it all.

Parents of Amistad students had grievances, too. One told The New Haven Register that something must be wrong at the school because it rejected her for a teaching job. Her resentment indicated that Amistad's students are not alone in having come to recognize the school as an opportunity for racial patronage.

Despite the disruption and the loss of a day of study on the eve of final exams, Amistad administrators cowered in the racial guilt that the students had hurled at them.

The administrators glorified the walkout as a success for the school, assured the students that they had been heard, and promised to do better to diversify the staff.

The students probably learned from their walkout something that these days unfortunately may be of more practical value than English, math, history, and science -- that no matter how unfair, misleading, opportunistic, or stupid they are, racial grievances pay immediate dividends because so few people dare to talk back to them.

While Amistad High says it wants to create leaders, there are different kinds of leaders, and the school may have just given a start to the next Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson -- may have just helped create the next national race hustler.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Applying the Looney Principle to a deserving Yale University


Let no one accuse Connecticut's Democratic Party of not having any principles. The party seems to be operating on a principle of state Senate President Martin Looney. The Looney Principle is simply: What's yours is mine.

The Looney Principle is on display more than ever now with his legislation to tax large private college endowments, the threshold set so that only Yale University's endowment, nearly $26 billion, would be subject to taxation. Looney and other supporters of the legislation say it would prod Yale to invest more in ways beneficial to New Haven, as if Yale doesn't have a right to spend its own money in its own interests.

But the core constituencies of Connecticut's Democratic Party, the government and welfare classes, are growing anxious as their parasitism and mistaken policy premises keep driving the state down and tax revenue with it, and they see Yale's endowment as ripe for plunder. After Yale's endowment is taxed, maybe private endowments and savings will be next.

For Connecticut must not ever tell its government employees that they no longer can take Columbus Day off with pay, nor its welfare recipients that they should stop thrusting on state government the support of children they never were in a position to support themselves.

Despite the assertion that Yale should do more for New Haven, Yale already does a lot for the city, voluntarily paying the city millions of dollars each year out of guilt for being tax-exempt like other colleges and nonprofit civic organizations. Indeed, without Yale and its thousands of middle-class employees and its students bringing a lot of money into the city from all over the country and the world, New Haven, impoverished as much of it is, would be Bridgeport, whose miles of crumbling industrial hulks along the Northeast Corridor railroad tracks give rail passengers the impression that a nuclear war broke out shortly after they left New York.

Actually what broke out was the Looney Principle.

Yale officials have responded indignantly to it, but the endowment-tax legislation is just what the university deserves for long having subsidized the parasitism that is now turning on it. No college in the country has been more politically correct than Yale. From nullification of federal immigration law to nullification of free speech to the coddling of the fascist impulse of its students demanding "safe spaces" against disagreement, Yale has supported many of the movements that are wrecking the country.

So if the endowment tax gives Yale ideas like those recently entertained by General Electric as it considered Connecticut's future, saw ahead only decades of tax increases, and began packing up in Fairfield to depart for Boston, at least Connecticut would be rid of a bad influence and New Haven's government and welfare classes would have to turn their parasitism on each other.

As for the state's premier purportedly public institution of higher education, the University of Connecticut, it again has defeated demands for greater accountability for its own endowment, managed by the UConn Foundation, which has enjoyed exemption from state freedom-of-information law.

Instead of subjecting the UConn Foundation to that law as all other public agencies are subjected, state legislators have agreed to require only that the foundation submit an annual report summarizing its financial transactions. The foundation would remain free to conceal the identity of donors and thus free to keep selling them university favors, as it did several years ago when an especially arrogant donor purchased the dismissal of the university's athletic director.

Since UConn will remain in effect a private university, state government might as well tax away its endowment too.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester.

Don Pesci: Political monopoly and the plight of young men

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 Bridgeport 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 Gov.  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 longtime 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  tried 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 10 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 Universitysuggests that boys are much more likely to end up in jail or prison by the time they turn 30 if they are raised by single mother. 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 with 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; 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. Representatives 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 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 blacks 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 boys and young men in early 21st Century is likewise invisible.

Don Pesci ( is a Vernon, Conn.-based political writer.

Chris Powell: Conn.'s casino and ID nightmares

MANCHESTER, Conn. Alka-Seltzer commercials touting the product's supposedly soothing form of relief used to ask: Why trade a headache for an upset stomach?

That's the question that Connecticut faces with the legislation pending in the General Assembly to authorize a few more casinos near the state's borders to try to keep state residents from visiting new casinos in Massachusetts and New York. (The two Indian casinos in the southeast part of the state already have the Rhode Island border defended as well as it's going to be.)

Yes, revenue at the Indian casinos, shared with state government, has been declining and will continue to decline as Connecticut's neighbors keep more of their gamblers home. The racket that Connecticut and the Indian casinos have enjoyed for 20 years, drawing most gamblers from out of state, is nearly over and soon gambling won't be a winner for any state in the Northeast. Instead states will be plundering mainly their own people.

When its casinos were fleecing so many out-of-staters, Connecticut could rationalize the antisocial behavior engendered by casinos -- addiction, family destruction and theft -- and presume to recover its costs. No more. Casino gambling is becoming just another method of taxing the local population, the revenue drawn disproportionately from the poor and troubled, the very people government supposedly means to help.

Who wins in such a system? Only the casino operators and those employed by state and municipal government. The poor and needy might be helped as much just by getting rid of casinos entirely and imposing better priorities on state government, redirecting its resources more according to the needs of the population rather than those of elected officials and the special interests that control them.

But the legislation authorizing more casinos almost certainly will be enacted. Why? Because while it will mean more headaches and upset stomachs for ordinary people, none will be suffered by government's own employees. That's where most state tax revenue goes now and where most revenue from any new casinos will end up.


Hartford, a "sanctuary city" like New Haven -- a city that refuses assistance to federal immigration enforcement authorities -- soon may follow New Haven in issuing its own identification cards to city residents to facilitate illegal immigration. Only illegal immigrants need such cards, other forms of identification being easily obtainable by anyone who can demonstrate citizenship or legal residency.

According to the Hartford Courant, Mayor Pedro Segarra estimates that as many as 20,000 of Hartford's 125,000 residents are illegal immigrants -- a sixth of the population -- and advocates of the ID cards say those people are "living in fear in the shadows." But then anyone violating the law may have reason to live in fear. That someone lives in fear does not necessarily make him virtuous.

An official of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the city ID cards would "ensure that our friends and neighbors are embraced as equal citizens and residents." But most of those obtaining the cards would not be citizens at all; the cards would just allow them to pose as citizens so they might enjoy benefits meant to be reserved to citizens.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform notes that Hartford's ID cards, like New Haven's, probably would be used by many to create some false identifications, since the cities have little ability to verify whatever documents would be presented to obtain the cards and less interest in verifying them.

Indeed, the ID card project is meant only to nullify federal law, the sort of thing that was so contemptible when segregationist Southern governors did it to deny federally established civil rights a half century ago.

But these days liberal nullification has become respectable even though it aims to devalue not just citizenship but nationhood itself.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.




'The commons' and private property in New Haven


The ExcessNYC cargo bike hits the streets of Brooklyn in 2010 to deliver food from a landfill for people to heat or compost instead. Photo by BROOKE SINGER and RICHARD MIRANDO.


"Vagaries of the Commons,'' the current exhibition (through Sept. 13) at Artspace, in New Haven, "attempts to make sense of the increasingly complex but vital notion of 'the commons'. Legislation regulating 'the commons' has moved into the digital realm and increased privatization across America's major industries (health care, education and the arts) makes life-sustaining resources available to only a part of the population,'' says the gallery's over-the-top blurb.

It's hard to starve to death in America. Maybe ''life-enhancing'' is what they meant instead of "life-sustaining''?

Anyway,  '''..{T}he  featured artists remake private spaces into common spaces, reflect on private objects that temporarily dot New Haven's commons (the central New Haven Green, steps from Artspace, for example) and apply for the right to trespass on private domain.''


Chris Powell: Riding rails through Conn. ruins



 "Appalachia'' (gelatin silver print), by MILTON ROGOVIN, at the Thompson Gallery, Weston, Mass.




Reading the governor's press releases, Connecticut might think that preservation of farmland and prevention of "suburban sprawl" are compelling issues. Riding the train from Greenwich to Hartford gives a contrary impression.

Thanks to Amtrak, such a trip is still possible for those who can deal with the bumps, shuttered washrooms, and clogged toilets. The train windows remain clear enough to reveal a stunning and almost unbroken panorama of economic collapse -- ruined and abandoned factories and commercial properties occupying what might be considered prime locations, adjacent to the railroad and highways and served by all utilities.

If there was really any money in agriculture in Connecticut, hundreds of large farms could fit on the abandoned property that is already cleared as well as inside the abandoned buildings that remain structurally sound. Of course the abandoned properties could be redeveloped as housing as well.

The ruin may be most striking in Bridgeport. While the call letters of the city's radio station, WICC, were chosen for "Industrial Capital of Connecticut," today the "I" would have to stand for "impoverished." New Haven, Meriden, and Hartford, once industrial powerhouses themselves, now consider it a triumph just to tear down a ruined building. Even fairly prosperous towns along the railroad, like Milford and Wallingford, have such embarrassing eyesores.

In any case "farmland preservation" -- government's paying farmers for the "development rights" to their property -- doesn't make agriculture profitable or even sustainable. It only lets farmers withdraw their equity from the land without having to sell it for housing, and thus makes suburban and rural towns even more residentially exclusive, restricts the housing market, and supports prices for those who have housing while driving up costs for those who don't.

Most advocates of "farmland preservation" care far less about sustaining agriculture than about keeping new people out. And while Connecticut's industrial decline is no secret, riding the rails through the core of that decline explodes the premises behind "farmland preservation" and complaints of "suburban sprawl."

The ride shows that Connecticut's problem is not preserving farms or stopping "sprawl"; instead the problem is urban rot. Since the infrastructure remains -- including the railroad, which, while creaky, is still more convenient than cars and buses for getting to New York, Boston, and Philadelphia -- what has made Connecticut's cities so unattractive to people who can afford to live elsewhere and pay taxes in support of government?

For starters are the schools, the worst in the state. But schools are only reflections of a community's population, and city populations are of course overwhelmingly poor and fatherless.

So the big policy question has to be: A half century into the "War on Poverty," with government now providing the poor with food, rent, heat, medical insurance, social workers, ever-longer unemployment compensation, disability stipends, and lately even cellphones, what is making and keeping people poor if not government itself? If the ruined factories along the rail line hint that the answer involves the loss of low-skilled, entry-level industrial jobs, couldn't government find similarly basic work for people to learn with in lieu of unearned welfare benefits? Thousands might be employed perpetually just cleaning up the trash along the rail line and the streets in every town.

Couldn't government enforce standards in school so that people emerged with enough skills to make their own way? Skilled people still might find good employment in any number of endeavors -- like modernizing the whole Northeast rail network. After all, "work, not welfare" used to be a populist and liberal objective. Right now the only consolation of riding the rails through the ruin of Connecticut may be that at least we still have the world's best imperial wars and public employee pension systems.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

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