Archive for October, 2007

Capital City Mayoral Debate
October 26, 2007

On Sunday, Oct. 28, WFSB will air a special one-hour edition of Face the State. It will be a forum of all six candidates running for mayor of Hartford in an election that not only impacts residents of the city, but people in all corners of the state and beyond — even as far away as Amsterdam.

Donations to the campaigns are coming from beyond the city line. They are coming from people who live in suburbia and beyond, who own businesses in the city, companies and corporations who employee thousands of people, many of whom don’t live in Hartford.

The next mayor will have to recruit developers to build on the acres of vacant lots that have become eyesores. These lots used to be filled with buildings that were torn down in the 80s and 90s for developments that never happened. Speaking of eyesores, the next mayor will have to take action to get rid of the Clarion/Summit/Sonesta hotel that has been vacant since the mid 90s, the butt-ugly building, and the hideous mess that overlooks I-84 on Spring Street.

The next mayor will have to put pressure on landlords who have let their properties decay.

The next mayor will have to work with the folks at Northland and state officials to restore a major league sports team in Connecticut.

The next mayor will have to take advantage of the new non-stop flights to Amsterdam from Bradley to encourage investment from the Netherlands in your Capital City.

This is the most important mayoral election in Hartford in decades, and we would like to hear your comments.

(Please write your hometown when you post your comments on this blog.)

I hope the Red Sox lose …. sort of.
October 24, 2007

The Red Sox are in their second World Series this century and they are favored to beat the Colorado Rockies. I grew up less than 14 miles from Fenway Park, and consider myself a lifelong Sox fan. As a child, I vividly remember the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds featuring Fred Lynn, Louis Tiant, Jim Rice, and of course Carl Yastrzemski. Nevertheless, I’m hoping the Rockies get their way with the Sox — at least twice, but only twice.

You see, my brother, Chris, asked me to go with him to game 1 of the series at Fenway, and I had to say “no!” Unfortunately, this is a week I just cannot take off from work. Al is on vacation and he and I cover each other’s newscasts when the other is away. I’m also moderating the exclusive WFSB mayoral forum on Wednesday. I can’t take a vacation day, and even calling in sick is not an option.

My brother offiered me plan B: If the series leaves Denver and comes back to Boston, and there is a game 6, I can go. That would be next week and I can take a day off. A Red Sox sweep would ruin my plans. Even winning the series 4 games to 1 would not be acceptable. The Sox must lose two of the next five games to satisfy my selfish needs.

If the baseball gods play along, this will be my third World Series. I covered the dreaded Yankees beating the Atlanta Braves in 1996. As a journalist, it was an unbelievable experience in the Bronx. I was reporting live from near the first baseline as Wade Boggs trotted within inches of me on an NYPD horse.

I also went to game 1 in 2004, also with my brother and a host of guys from our hometown. Boston’s own Aerosmith performed the national anthem. The feeling at Fenway that night was electric.

So join me in holding your nose and rooting for the Rockies — just don’t get carried away. If you see Al covering the 6 p.m. news next week, look for me in the first row in right field.

If you’re not open, you can’t complain
October 15, 2007

It was a beautiful autumn day for the Hartford Marathon. Crystal-clear blue skies and a warm sun helped welcome thousands of runners and even more spectators from all over the world to our Capital City. However, I couldn’t help but notice the chilly reception these visitors got from some downtown merchants.

It’s interesting because business owners will often complain that there aren’t enough people on the streets downtown. They’re waiting for more housing to bring more residents. It’s been coming gradually, and more hotel rooms, apartments and condominiums continue to open, but what about the people already here?

The visitors complain, too. “Nothing is open on a Sunday.” It’s not entirely true, but you do have to look around to find a place to eat.

Many planners, from both the city and the suburbs do a fairly good job at bringing people to downtown Hartford. The marathon was a case in point, but there are also festivals, parades, concerts, games, etc. These events bring thousands of people perhaps looking for something to eat and drink.

Yet on marathon day, I was stunned that the only restaurant in Bushnell Park was closed during the marathon. The park was the epicenter of the race: The starting line and the finish line were there along with a throng of spectators. This restaurant was surrounded by people. Imagine the smell of food grilling or the sight of others dining and enjoying the October outdoors? I can’t understand why this restaurant was closed.

One of my favorite eateries, which happens to be the closest to the finish line, was also closed. As my family and I walked around downtown, we noticed there were others who chose to shut their doors, even as runners, their families and fans walked by, seemingly perplexed. These restaurants hurt the ones that were open, because after people walk from the race and see three restaurants closed, they might call it a day and drive to the mall.

I worked in several restaurants when I was younger, from everything to a busboy, to a bartender to a host. I remember having to work Saturday and Sunday afternoons at some of these places, even in the middle of the summer, when we only had a handful of customers. The restaurant was mostly empty. I asked why we had to be open and was told, “If we are open all the time, overall you will be very busy, because customers will know we will always be open for them.”

A few restaurants practice this and it has brought them success. John Vaughan who owns Vaughan’s Publick House on Pratt Street is a great example. They are always open, and while they might not be busy every moment, they are a destination downtown for diners. JoJo’s coffee is another example. The Starbucks around the corner keeps banker’s hours yet the mom-and-pop JoJo’s is open 7 days a week — this Saturday and Sunday it was packed. I’ll never forget seeing Starbucks closed one day as a parade passed by with spectators peering into the windows looking longingly for a barista past the stools stacked on the darkened counters.

You can’t feel badly for businesses that choose not to serve the customers.

I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment using the link below!

It’s Marathon Time!
October 9, 2007

This Saturday, we’ll be at one of my favorite local events: The Greater Hartford Marathon, a New England Fall classic. Hundreds of runners from all over the world will be in your Capital City for the 26-mile race. It’s great fun to cheer on the runners, scores of whom are your neighbors from Connecticut. If you count both sides of the route, there are 52 miles of space for spectators to gather.

“Tell ‘em Dennis and Kara sent you.”

This year, the route has changed a bit, much to the chagrin of people in West Hartford and the West End, who won’t have the runners go by their houses this year. The runners now get to chug along the Connecticut River.

Bushnell Park will be decked out with tents and attractions, and downtown restaurants will be rolling out the red carpets.

  • Looking for a quick sandwich? Tell Bob at Max Bibo’s on Trumbull you want the Dennis House special.
  • Grab a coffee at JoJo’s on Pratt.
  • Crave pizza? Ask for Ahmed at Alladin on Allyn.
  • If you are in the mood to sit down and eat, there are plenty of other awesome eateries within yards of the race.

See you at the marathon!

For more info:

Another Cab Complaint
October 9, 2007

The House family attended a wedding in Florida this weekend, and upon our return to Hartford, we hailed a cab to take us home from Bradley.

First of all, you have to request a real cab — not one of those Honda Civics, which are fine cars, but not appropriate taxis. It is a compact car and the backseats and trunks are small for luggage. I have never seen such a small car used as a cab in New York or Chicago, and I don’t know why they are used here. Taxi travel should be about the comfort of the passenger and room for bags.

Anyway, our cab was a Lincoln Town Car, and there were four of us: Kara, the baby, and my mother in the backseat, and then there was me. I started to climb into the front passenger seat, but the seat was taken … by a television … that was on! The cabbie had been driving while watching TV!

He then said: “Can’t you just hold the baby” and squeeze in back there?

I explained to him that she needs to be in a car seat and buckled in.

If we want our Capital City to be a big convention center we need to offer better cab service.

October 1, 2007

Hey, Den, here’s a state welcome sign from the western part of the state.

(Addendum to your Sept. 13 “Welcome to Connecticut?” entry.)

- Editors


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