Within Our Reach, From Blight to Boon

In January 2022, Governor Lamont awarded approximately $17.9 million in state grants to remediate 40 blighted parcels in 13 towns, including Bridgeport, Hebron, Meriden, New Britain, Ansonia and New Haven. Through the Department of Economic and Community Development's Brownfield Remediation Program, the goal of this allotment was to reinvigorate public and private spaces, add to existing housing, mixed use and retail stock as well as increase the overall quality of life of residents in communities throughout Connecticut. Seven months into this program, the actual percentage of Governor Lamont's allotment that would definitively lead to a significant increase in affordable housing for the most needy of Connecticut residents has yet to - at the time of this writing - be determined.

What is blight? Blight refers to the status of vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and dilapidated housing units as well as the assumed or actual presence of environmental contamination, such as brownfields. Blight remediation involves the acquisition, rehabilitation, and/or destruction of said properties. No concrete data exists that outlines approximately what percentage of blighted properties exist in Connecticut to date.

Blight is a direct result of both economic divestment from fleeing businesses and population loss. Over 200,000 people have moved out of Connecticut since 2010 due to current cost of living demands. Per Pew Trusts: "From 2010 to 2020, Connecticut’s population increased the equivalent of 0.09% a year—the slowest growth rate of the decade." To add insult to injury, Connecticut is at present the eighth most expensive state to live in the United States. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, thirty percent of Connecticut residents are renters, spending over fifty percent of their receivable wages on housing costs alone. The remaining 66.1 percent spend an average of $2076 per month in housing costs, with just under $900 for routine bill payments.

According to Branas et al, addressing blight is directly correlated with a significant decrease in firearm and illicit drug activity. Blight mediation is positively correlated with increase in tax revenues, attracting new residents and businesses to neighborhoods and increasing property values of formerly neglected parcel. Future efforts to redress blight should prioritize the creation of apartment units for fixed income seniors on social security and social security disability payments as well as very low wage earners making at or less than $39,027.14 per year at the sixty percent of state area median income. For a household of 2.55 - the average household size in Connecticut - $75,052.20. All efforts by current and future administrations should tailor proposals to design and implement effective public-lead revitalization strategies to identified community needs as explored in detail with neighborhood-based stake holders. Municipal-wide consensus on the definition of blighted properties or premises is critical to exploring concrete opportunities for 1) remediation incentives for current property owners of identified blighted properties and premises; 2) additional assessments; 3) hardship waivers and 4) documented efforts to contact property owners in writing by local officials in jurisdiction in which the properties or premises reside. In conjunction with enshrining into law what is considered blighted, there is also a need for municipality-wide consensus of the definition of abandoned parcels and buildings, with the intention of permitting - via the process of receivership - the acquisition of foreclosures and other properties by community groups, non-stock corporations and/or specific jurisdictions as well as groups who have a verifiable claim of squatters' rights. In respect to the acquisition process itself, land banking - as an alternative to property auctions - also serves as a time-tested mechanism to secure access to blighted properties at cost, with an emphasis on title transfer of places and spaces to community-run entities in the state. Levying a land value tax on vacant and underutilized parcels would bolster local tax reserves, discourage speculation, reduce land prices, increase housing affordability and potentially encourage owners to put properties into productive use.

Lastly, it is important to recognize how beautification projects (e.g. murals, community greening efforts, lot clean-ups) as facilitated by Knox Foundation and others can anchor neighborhood revitalization projects as well as promote community buy-in for generations to come.

Connecticut residents deserve to feel safe and secure. No one should have to live, work and play surrounded by the specter of dilapidated buildings, abandoned tracts and lots strewn with litter and refuse. Despite our many differences, we have tools at hand to make Connecticut not just a place to be but to thrive. Blight remediation is just one of many strategies to push this ideal forward. Housing stability for all, especially the neediest of these, IS within our reach. Let's make a lasting investment in Connecticut families through the choices we make today, together.

Full statement with referesces

 

On the Overturning of Roe v. Wade

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in  Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, a groundbreaking case that found - by the authority of United States Constitution - that pregnant women  are permitted to have an abortion  without state or federal government interference.  Less than a generation later, the spirit and application  of this law is being challenged yet a, as was revealed when a draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked to the press  on Monday, May 2, 2022.

We, the Green Party of Connecticut, believe in every person’s right to body autonomy, including children, youth and adults. We believe that decisions on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health - of which abortion is a part - are best made in consultation with the licensed medical professional of a person's choice.  Overturning Roe v. Wade would undermine the right to individual liberty and family and medical privacy that the Supreme Court has long held are implied in the Bill of Rights and would permit  further restrictions on reproductive services that would threaten the health and welfare of more than 73 million people of reproductive age across the country. According to Planned Parenthood, limiting access to safe abortion disproportionately affects the rural poor, migrants and non- White enthic groups -  specifically, 5.7 million Latino/Hispanic women, 5.3 million Black women, 1.1 million Asian American women and approximately 340,000 First Nation/American women, respectively. As has been found by Advancing New Studies in Reproductive Health's Turnaway Study, the socioeconomic impacts of being denied an abortion lead to financial hardship that may last four or more years.

Criminizing abortion will not end abortion, but will lead to unsafe, unregulated efforts to terminate pregnancies in working class and poor communities across the United States. We believe that legal protection for the full range of reproductive choices, the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, and securing universal health care including comprehensive reproductive health care for persons across the gender spectrum would solidify a more equitable approach to dismantling systemic health inequities from the ground up.

 

Tweed Airport Expansion is bad for people and the environment and must be stopped

The recent expansion of Tweed Airport, near New Haven, reflects on a small scale the planning mistakes that are driving the destruction of our environment globally. It is no surprise when private developers ignore the environment in favor of short-term profits, but it is shameful when politicians support development that unnecessarily contributes to rapid climate change, is harmful to wetlands and biological diversity, and endangers the health and well-being of the people who live near it.

In 2019, Sean Scanlon, a Democratic state representative from one of the districts adjoining Tweed, was appointed as the airport’s Executive Director. Scanlon negotiated a $100 million dollar expansion deal giving a Goldman-Sachs affiliated company management control of the airport for the next forty years. Expansion began in 2021, including lengthening runways, building a new terminal, and bringing in a new carrier. As a result, the estimate for total passengers in 2022 is three times greater than it has been in past years.

The airport expansion unnecessarily duplicates existing air traffic resources. Metro North cheaply and easily transports travelers to two major international airports in New York City, while Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks moves between 2.5 and 3.5 million passengers a year. At a time when the development and expansion of real mass transit should be a high priority, Connecticut politicians got on board with a project that proposes to make significant profits for a few but harms the environment and the people.

The communities affected by the Tweed Airport expansion are loud and clear in their opposition. They know that jet fuel plays a substantial role in rapid climate change, the extended runways and increased traffic are harmful to the surrounding wetlands and wildlife, and the increased number of flights expose neighborhoods closest to the airport to loud jet noise and noxious jet fuel odor at all hours of the day and night.

The Tweed Airport expansion is bad for people and the environment and must be stopped. If elected Governor, I would immediately instruct Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection to scrutinize Tweed’s impact on wetlands, wildlife, and people; take prompt action for all violations of environmental standards; and impose any available penalties. I would also begin legal steps to oversee the down-sizing of Tweed Airport. That would include, if necessary, declaring an environmental emergency under the Connecticut Constitution and issuing executive orders to restrict the number and type of jet flights coming in and out of Tweed Airport.