Car Insurance, Jobs, Pollution - Hot Topics at HART
by Kara Hood
Participants in the 23rd Annual Congress of Hartford Areas
Rally Together (HART) named reducing car insurance rates for
city residents as the organization's top priority for the upcoming
year - although a late night visit to the home of a lobbyist
for the insurance industry to protest the high rates was called
off by HART organizers at the last minute.
The Congress, which was held at Burns School, drew approximately
600 people as well as several federal, state and city officials.
HART organizers had planned to send several busloads of city
residents to the lobbyist's home in South Windsor immediately
following the Congress. HART President Marilyn Rossetti had referred
to the planned bus trip, the destination of which had been veiled
in secrecy, several times during the evening. She also characterized
the lobbyist as someone who "stands in the way of lowered
car insurance... and who lives outside the city and therefore
pays significantly less for insurance on their car."
Ultimately, however, the bus trip was called off after Mayor
Mike Peters and others expressed disapproval of the idea of targeting
a person's home and family. He asked that HART hold off on the
protest until figures from a statistical report commissioned
by the City (see The Hartford News, October 14-21, 1998, pg.
1) were reviewed and a proposal could be drawn up. Jim Boucher,
Executive Director of HART, said a meeting between Peters, Attorney
General Richard Blumenthal, Attorney John Gale, HART representatives
and others has been scheduled for Monday, November 2, to discuss
the city's next step in the car insurance battle.
Rossetti said negotiations with Peters had been going on throughout
the night at the Congress and, having received a stronger pledge
from him to act on the issue, HART officials decided to cancel
However, she warned, "The official will remain a target
and we plan to go to his office."
Currently, HART claims, Hartford residents are paying nearly
double for their car insurance than residents of surrounding
areas. State Senator John Fonfara and State Rep. Art Feltman
who have taken the lead in the car insurance battle both spoke
about the issue.
Feltman said the new statistical report that was issued last
week could be used to prove that Hartford residents are paying
Apparently referring to the bus trip that was scheduled to follow,
he declared, "The [car insurance] bill comes to our house,
if we don't like it, let's go to theirs."
Blumenthal said the high rates in Hartford were driving people
out of the city and discouraging new residents from moving in.
With the support of the crowd, he proclaimed, "Let's win
While car insurance was the night's top issue, there was also
a great deal of discussion about topics such as drug abuse, environmental
pollution, providing jobs for city residents and youth activities.
James McDonough, Director of Strategies for the Office of National
Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), spoke on the need to educate youth
on the harmful effects of drugs, treat users and bring down drug-selling
rings. He asked the residents to help achieve their goal of cutting
drug use in the U.S. by half in the next seven to eight years.
Mary Diaz and June O`Neil spoke on another key HART issue: the
environment. They spoke of the trash-burning plant in south Hartford
and the allegedly unhealthy effects it has on the air. The Connecticut
Resource Recovery Act (CRRA) runs the landfill and incinerators
in Hartford and HART wants the City to reopen the contract it
has with the company.
After their presentation, Diaz and O'Neil called on Peters to
answer yes or no to their proposal to reexamine the contract.
Although Peters said he disapproved of not being able to expand
on his yes or no answer, he agreed to the pledge.
Other issues presented included jobs, especially in terms of
making sure that planned construction projects in downtown Hartford
employ as many city residents as possible. To emphasize the unemployment
problem in Hartford's neighborhoods, those people in the audience
in need of a job or a better job were asked to stand. At this
time some 50 or so people stood up waving their pink job registration
forms they were asked to fill out at the entrance. Employment
was voted HART's second most important issue after car insurance.
16-year-old Zul Yanis Alonso's presentation on education and
youth displayed some of the theatrics that has been a hallmark
of HART gatherings. As local kids skated and roller bladed on
the stage behind her, Alonso called on the public officials to
provide the youth with their own roller rink. She received a
a pledge to look into funding for a rink.
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