Organizing in Hard Times: Labor and Neighborhoods In Hartford

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Before LTC, when library staff engaged the community, they started with a discussion of issues and problems like poverty or health disparities, Poland said. Through LTC, the team learned the importance of focusing first on shared aspirations for the community. This allowed the library to better uncover opportunities to work with the community on areas where there was common ground.

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In the North End, the team members anticipated they would be hearing a lot of concerns about public safety, and they were correct, Poland said. Community Conversations were held throughout the North End in branch libraries, churches and community centers.


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Poland said the team successfully committed to not starting the open houses with discussions about problems but about the kind of community people wanted to live in. Ultimately, the Hartford LTC team decided to focus on public safety and improving the relationship between police officers and community members. They turned to the superintendent of schools, the police chief and city hall to share what they had learned and see if it resonated with those in positions of power.

Is this something unusual? Is this maybe too small to worry about? What do you think when you hear these things coming from the North End? There was lots of validation about what people felt were the issues. For Frieder, sharing the community feedback with those in positions of power was something he was initially hesitant about as it was contrary to the traditional way he worked. That was not the case, he said, and being a deliberate steward of this new public knowledge worked out well. Public librarians inherently are trusted by the people we serve. Police lieutenants were assigned to be part of the conversations, and the larger group ultimately broke into three smaller groups focused on specific themes that emerged in the conversations.

To do these particular conversations, the team used engagement tools provided by Everyday Democracy, which they felt were a natural follow-up to initial conversations based on the Harwood model. The groups, comprising about ten residents and four or five police officers, met weekly for three weeks to talk about their feelings about the neighborhood, concerns about their relationship between the community and police, and ideas for improving community life. Some of the concepts and ideas from LTC were also adopted by the library to help engage employees.

Feedback from the North End Community Conversations was shared with the staff to help them understand community ideals beyond what they see in their day-to-day jobs. They met in a specific room designed to enhance open and creative brainstorming. That has worked out really, really well. The Church reported being open to conversation on this particular issue. They noted that the food pantry generates much less traffic than events at Elizabeth Park, and is held in the middle of the day, which avoids rush hours.

She encouraged WECA and the Church to work together in public, as neighbors, and across racial lines, to figure out a way to support the pantry despite any zoning hurdles that may arise. She emphasized the importance of communication, and said she would be open to approaching the City to try to secure police resources to monitor the traffic, if that would be helpful. Church members spoke in support of the food pantry and the effort they go through to run a positive and successful operation while fulfilling their primary mission of helping the less fortunate.

One attendee suggested that the Church invite WECA to come volunteer at the food pantry so that WECA membership can learn more about the operation and experience it first-hand. At that point the meeting wound down. A network news camera was present, so there will likely be video of the meeting available in the near future. The two main action items were for the City.

Thank you to Ms. McAdam and Mr. McGregor for providing additional information. To highlight what they wrote, Ms. McAdam reported that FoodShare is not responsible for securing the food pantry license because they are providing food and technical assistance, and not actually operating the food pantry.


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And Mr. McGregor reported that the Church has secured a license from the Health Department to operate as a food pantry. Both shared additional thoughts as well, which can be seen in their entirety below. Thanks for sharing this info, especially the bits about how long this has been in operation and that the entity being discussed was not even notified about the meeting.

I am also not really clear where there would be a better location, within the West End neighborhood, to hold this pantry. I have walked past while the pantry is distributing food and aside from a good sized crowd I noted no issues of concern. To my knowledge there is no history of difficult relations between the church and its neighbors. A big fat ditto to what Josh wrote.

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Amazed that WECA did not approach the church to discuss and concerns and work together to make sure the food pantry could continue without causing serious disruption in the neighborhood. If traffic is a concern on Prospect, where is there a better place?

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This leaves the impression that those initiating the meeting did not want to work with the church to address concerns, but just want to shut this down. I agree wholeheartedly that WECA should have dealt first directly with the church, but their email makes it sound like they were not the initiators. Who exactly had the initial complaint that prompted the meeting? Thanks for this excellent article. What bothers me is the question if a food pantry is a part of a church. I would have to say yes feeding the hungry is very much part of a churches duty. I do hope that the zoning rep. This makes me very sad.

Someone from inside City Hall told me that the West End pushed for it. As usual the West End pushed it. Early June, BOT claims that summer sessions are not covered by collective bargaining. Late June July 2 and July 29, July 8, Mismanagement of system less known. They are destructive to the Community Colleges. We must begin to publicly document this mismanagement by 75 managers for professionals. July They are one and the same to BOT. If you are wondering why negotiations are taking so long and no proposals are coming forth on promotions, summer wage scales, and tenure ask Ed Bograd.

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If you can find him. July 27, October 6, Economic offer today is as insulting and as deficient as the set of professional rights counter proposals we received last May. We need to significantly raise the level of awareness, activity, and involvement of peers. October 15 plan mass turnout at BOT meeting.

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Each of you bring others. October 15, Total membership meeting outside BOT. Endorse action program including informational picketing at each college. Authorization for negotiating committee to call a series of job actions up to and including a strike.

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