Monday, August 21, 2006

Special Services (Business Improvement) District Coming To Downtown Hartford?

Today’s Hartford Courant included an editorial proposing the next steps to be taken in Hartford’s continuing revitalization. What is that next step? The need to designate downtown Hartford as a business improvement district (also referred to as a special services district).

Pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 7-339m (2006), “Any municipality may establish by ordinance of its legislative body as provided in this chapter, within its confines, a special services district or special services districts to promote the economic and general welfare of its citizens and property owners through the preservation, enhancement, protection and development of the economic health of such municipality.” Generally, the formation of a special services district results in the implementation of a levy upon the taxable interests in real property within the special services district, the revenues from which may be used in carrying out any of the powers of such district.

The Hartford City Council is scheduled (next month) to entertain a proposal developed by the MetroHartford Alliance (for those of you unfamiliar with the work of the MetroHartford Alliance, I urge you to visit their website here and see the wonderful work this organization performs related to economic development) which seeks the creation of a special services district for downtown Hartford, as well as parts of Asylum Hill and Farmington Avenue to the city line on Prospect Avenue. As the editorial points out,

“If approved by property owners within the district in a special election, it would represent an enormous commitment on the part of the business community to downtown's long-term viability. Property owners would be voluntarily paying an additional tax each year to pay for improved safety, cleanliness, marketing, landscaping, holiday lighting, parking, special events and other services that supplement what city government provides.”

As a disclaimer, I have not read the proposal and, therefore, I do not have full understanding of the purpose and need for the formation of the special services district. According to the editorial, special services districts have been successful in other parts of the State (is there one in West Hartford?). Some questions that should be considered include: (1) if approved by the City Council, does the proposal have the overall support of the property owners within the proposed district (can the property owners handle an additional tax?); (2) does the proposed need for this district signify that the City has failed or become stagnant in its revitalization efforts, or does it reflect a greater desire by the property owners to expand on the City’s revitalization project; and (3) can Hartford transform itself into a 24-hour town, or is this just wishful thinking? All opinions are welcome on this subject (especially, if you have experience in such a district or are a Hartford property owner who could be affected by this proposal).

August 21, 2006, Hartford Courant (editorial), Downtown's Missing Link

MetroHartford Alliance (website, last visited August 21, 2006),

Connecticut General Statutes §§ 7-339m to 7-339t (2006)


bobeedee said...

Gee - this is easy. A Special Services District means that the municipality has failed to do its job. Really, if the town, city, or borough cannot pick up the trash, empty the trash bins, fix and repair the sidewalks, then what can they do?

This is a clear example of desk jockey thinking: "Hey let's have a meeting and fix up our city."

The fat cats in the Metro Hartford Alliance need to grab a broom and get busy. Yeah, Mr. Oz G., I'm talking to you, you golfing goofoff."

Anonymous said...

Bridgeport has a downtown special service district and it's run by State Rep. Bob Keely. Just another scam.

Hey, maybe the Hartford district could hire Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan, he needs a new job.

Anonymous said...

How about just cleaning the sidewalks? It's simple and it would make Hartford alot nicer--keep the streets clean, that's all. Take a walk down Main St past City Hall, The Athenaeum, towards Travellers..litter is everywhere. Clean the place up Mr Mayor!!!

BringBackMayorMike said...

Beyond that it also means that downtown businesses, as well as the downtown residents that Hartford so sorely needs, are going to be forced to pay higher taxes for services the city should already be providing.

And special services districts may "guarantee" increased attention by city departments, but it doesn't mean the departments themselves are expanding. So is the Mayor going to pull cops out of the drug busts, murder investigations, and prevention techniques in the North End to make sure no one is littering on Pratt Street? If he is, then he has sealed the tragic fate of that community, and if he's not, then he's simply bilking the downtown businesses for more $$ for the same or fewer services.

If the recent crime, lack of affordable middle class housing, and outflow of jobs has illustrated anything it's that Eddie/Jodi/Johnny R have put the wagon before the horse. You have to make Hartford a safe, civil, and monetarily feasible place to live before you can throw on all the little bells and whistles and call it a rising star. Every major component to Hartford's "renaissance" has included tax abatements to businesses, convention centers, retail, and restaurants. While they're nice to have-they won't make Hartford more economically viable. The poor and middle class of hartford (in addition to the taxpayers of CT) still will bear the greatest burden in financing the city's budget. Hartford's been New England's "Rising Star" for years now--at what point do we reach our apex? Are we really rising? Has there been any real progress? Am I the only one that thinks this is strikingly similar to "The Emperor's New Clothes?"

bluecoat said...

Greibel is, or was, head of the Transportation Strategy Board too.

Anonymous said...

This year's hurricane season already deemed below average today by NOAA. it because Rove switched off Bush's Hurricane Machine?

Where's Al Gore been?

TrueBlueCT said...

Why are Republicans so knee-jerk, and ignorant?

Google New Haven's Town Green Special Service District, doing a little reading and learning, then come back and we'll talk.


bluecoat said...

Court guards want to change bosses By:Alex Wood, Journal Inquirer 8/18/2006

The True Gentleman said...

TrueBlueCT, you have just confirmed to me that you are no longer worthy of responses to your comments. Get a clue, buddy.

bluecoat said...

TG: in an attempt to mediate here, I beleive that TBCT was referring to the Republicans who had commented to serve their own interests rather than yourself who was looking for dialogue on the pros and cons.

Anonymous said...

TrueBlueCT - You have become as predictable, and as nausiating, as the guy who screams "Orchulli!"

Anonymous said...

bluecoat said: "I beleive that TBCT was referring to the Republicans who had commented to serve their own interests"

Perhaps you are right, bluecoat; however, TG was the only known R to have posted. If TBCT was not commenting on TG's post, then he was making assumptions regarding the party affiliations of the unknown posters, and you know what happens when people make assumptions!

TrueBlueCT said...

Yeah, TG, knee-jerk.

Having lived in New Haven and seen our downtown flourish via the work of a Special Service District, I'm happy to have an enlighted conversation about their merits, and drawbacks.

But when you get the CLP cadre of anonymous Republicans, chiming in with their stereotypical, (and backwards-ass), thinking... Well, it's kind of like, why bother?

And none of this has anything to do with you, btw.

P.S. Have I remarked lately about how thin-skinned the Republicans are around here?

The True Gentleman said...

Bluecoat, as you can see by TBCT's most recent post below, he has no intention of actually making any worthwhile comments. Your efforts to mediate are appreciated.

TBCT, why don't you tell us all why you are so bothered by my post -- which calls for actual debate on important issues rather than just partisan spin. Obviously, you have a problem with anything a Republican posts on this site, whether it is call for actual dialogue or just that person's opinion. That is ashame.

TrueBlueCT said...

At least I'm not an anonymouse.

Really, having failed at your own blogs, you Republicans are now dreaming about taking over CT Local Politics.

It ain't gonna happen.

TrueBlueCT said...

Heavens to Mergatroid TG!

Why must it be about you?

Can't I make fun of some of your dim-witted Republican brethren without you taking it so terribly to heart?

Your diaries are great. Well-written, informative, and with a healthy tone. Honestly, chin up. You add a great deal to the site. I'm glad you are here.

But someday you will have to share with why a kind, intelligent person like yourself is still a Republican...

Anonymous said...

TBCT - You are constantly criticizing anonymous Republican posters, yet you yourself are anonymous aren't you? You have a handle, but so what? There are a few posters here like BR, chris mc, for example, who have chosen to reveal who they are. The rest of us, including myself, choose to remain anonymous each for our own reason. Bluecoat is a regular poster, but he remains anonymous, (and there is nothing wrong with that position) but contributes much to the discussion. Until you reveal your identity, please stop carping at others who remain as anonymous as you!

Anonymous said...

TrueBlueCT said: "At least I'm not an anonymouse."


Having a handle, but remaining anonymous means you are anonymous!

You remind me of George from Seinfeld when he gets set up on a date by Elaine with a bald woman. Elaine asks him how the date went and George replies, "She's bald", as if he could never date such a woman. Elaine replies to George, "you're bald! That pretty much sums you up in a nutshell TrueBlueCT.

TrueBlueCT said...

No guys. I post under a consistent handle.

There is a big difference between that and the anonymous sniping you all do.

When I throw a punch at least people know who to attribute it to.

Anyway, we've gone through this before, and all I can say is that the blog was a lot more civil when registration was required. (and the comment moderation is a buzz-killer.)

disgruntled_republican said...

TrueBlueCT -

First, I realize you are making a generalized statement but keep in mind that some of us were invited to CTLP. Moreover, if you read the mission statement it clearly says that those of ALL opinions, R, D or U are welcome here.

Now you and I have had some good debate on things in the past so I know you realize this.

Furthermore, I have never had my own blog, nor do I want one. I enjoy writing here and the dialogue here with those who share my opinion and with those who are willing to discuss differing opinion...note, I said discuss, not discount...perhaps engaging in the discussion rather than berating those in it will get you the saying goes, you gety more flys with honey than you do with vinegar.

Just some food for thought!

The True Gentleman said...

TrueBlueCT, perhaps I overreacted to your initial comment, but at the time I responded I thought that your post was directed at me (and since you consistently badgered me the other on another thread I figured you were still at it).

As for me being a Republican, what is it about my stance on the issues has you confused?

disgruntled_republican said...

And for whoever made the comment about comment moderation...yes, their really are that many that get rejected. Mainly nasty attacks at other bloggers...

Anonymous said...

Hey, TBCT, I always post under the same handle too: Anonymous. Now, you know as much about me as I know about you! LOL

Anonymous said...

BringBackMayorMike said...

So is the Mayor going to pull cops out of the drug busts, murder investigations, and prevention techniques in the North End to make sure no one is littering on Pratt Street? If he is, then he has sealed the tragic fate of that community, and if he's not, then he's simply bilking the downtown businesses for more $$ for the same or fewer services.

I believe that the idea behind charging additional fees to businesses within the district is that the city would use the additional funds to provide additional services. Officers wouldn't be removed from their real police duties to patrol littering. Either new officers would be hired, or existing officers would be given additional hours within the district. Essentially the district would allow the businesses to purchase additional services from the city above the baseline that is provided to all areas of the city. The businesses within the proposed district would have to decide if the additional expense would actually be beneficial in terms of drawing an increase in customers.

BringBackMayorMike said...


Since it seems to me that I've been the only one who invested any thought regarding this proposed SSD in Hartford, I can only assume that you're talking to me. If so, a couple of things:
1) not a republican
2) don't think i'm ignorant, but then again it's not the type of thing folks tell you.
3) totally knee-jerk

The success of SSD's are all in how they are managed fiscally, and maintained physically. New Haven is a different animal than Hartford. Look at the SSD in the South End for Park Street corridor--while Park Street itself is a bit better than what it was five or ten years ago, it still doesn't draw from outside the hispanic/latino community. Crime is still up in the South End, and no one would argue that it has become a desireable place to live. It all revolves around how and who is managing it, and at this point, Hartford's leadership (both state and city) has not demonstrated a winning track record in this department.

meteskyjr said...

Getting back to what I think is the topic at hand: It may be hard to think of Hartford as the canary in the coal mine, but the failure of its basic services (education, streets, parks, etc.) is what happens when municipal government is no longer focused on those who live in the city but rather on those who work for the government. This shift reached its tipping point in, I'd guess, the 1980s and its bitter result is showing up first in the places least able to defend themselves (Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury) but will move on to other places and also to Connecticut itself, for the same thing is going on state government. The phenomenon is manifested by a steady erosion of municipal services and elimination of programs even as government employees continue to receive unchallenged raises and benefits far exceeding those found in the private sector. New tax schemes such as the one mentioned for Hartford are not the answer--unless they are accompanied by strong leadership unafraid to interrupt the status quo.

BringBackMayorMike said...

Anon 2:51:

First, hiring new officers is not like grabbing bodies from a temp agency. I think there are still unfilled openings in the HPD. Beyond that, you have to find and train new recruits. Right now there aren't enough spaces at the academies to fill the existing need from police forces across the state. Point being--easier said than done.

Second, as a business why am I going to pay overtime rates to a cop/garbageman for a service he/she should be providing me anyways?

My point is that Hartford needs to start having some success with their existing level of service (read: get crime down, get litter and filth down, get job training up) before they go offering expanded services that will invariably have a negative impact on the rest of the neighborhoods.

bluecoat said...

anonymous: I don't assume anything, the guy that posted this is a Republican or at least a Republican sympathizer:Bridgeport has a downtown special service district and it's run by State Rep. Bob Keely. Just another scam.

Hey, maybe the Hartford district could hire Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan, he needs a new job.

bluecoat said...

Stamford Downtown Special Services District

Bill Lee-Enfield said...

I haven't had the time yet to read the entire discussion here today but as soon as I saw the "grab a broom" comment it's made me want to share an unfortunate observation about a recent experience in Hartford...

My family accompanied me into the city on a recent summer evening. I had a meeting at the LOB. My kids and wife would spend an hour or so in Bushnell Park.

To me Bushnell Park is supposed to be the crowned jewl of anyone's experience in our capital city. It is a beautiful space. It is steeped in history. It is a cultual hub. It is nature, and leisure, and family-centric, and all the stuff we all proclaim are important to sustain our vitalized communities...

But to have my five year-old exclaim when she got back to the parking garage that "Hartford is gross, Dad", was horribly unfortnate-- and all the city's own doing.

With all the Rising Star hoo-ha we've been hearing I couldn't imagine what the kids were saying was gross could possibly be as bad as they claimed so I went back to the park the next week hoping the issues they referred were an anomoly. They weren't.

The carousel itself in Bushnell Park is a very well maintained structure. The elaborate playground around it however is a mess and a shame. On the hot Saturday afternoon I was there I encountered litter throughout the play area. And the barrels in the immediate vicinity full or overflowing onto the ground. Broken glass. Beer cans galore. Sand, rocks and natural debris in abundance.

The playground is a very unique design that has waterways and cool looking splash or squirt features. Nothing was working, and it looks as if nothing has worked for years. Subsequently the rubberized non-skid surface that should be below water is drying out and has gaping holes in more than one critical area as children cross over a small bridge-way to the playscape. It's clearly an unsafe situaction getting worse by the week, I suspect. Grafitti is scrawled on numerous pieces of equipment, and several items were broken or simply didn't work. Deep ruts and holes seem have gone unfilled or unnoticed. Sidewalks around the carousel are crubmling.

It does seem that this core attraction in Hartford, perhaps more than most because its where children either learn to love or dislike visiting the city, should be gleaming, and functional, and staffed with whomever is neccessary in the summer to ensure impressions and experiences had there are happy and lasting.

Anonymous said...

bc said: "anonymous: I don't assume anything, the guy that posted this is a Republican or at least a Republican sympathizer"

bc - i thought that you liked the truth. well everything in that post is true. fyi, i am an unaffiliated voter & have voted for both rep & dem candidates in the past and will do so again this election.

bluecoat said...

you're a Republican sympathizer on this; I got it right!!