Hartford’s century-long descent from a prosperous hub of industry and finance to a repository of poverty can be measured in several ways, but an especially telling one was publicized the other day as the City Council decided to hire a consultant to consider having city government operate a supermarket in the city, for profit or even at a loss.
Hartford is said to have become a “food desert,” a place whose residents have to travel far to obtain fresh and nutritious food for preparation at home and so have to rely on less healthy items from neighborhood convenience stores. According to the Hartford Courant’s report on the supermarket initiative, in 1968 the city had 13 chain supermarkets and has only one today.
The idea of city government supermarkets is also being pursued in Chicago, where crime is exploding and destroying the city.
Like other businesses, supermarkets won’t operate where they can’t make money safely. They won’t operate where people don’t want or can’t afford fresh and nutritious food and where crime is common.
If, as the City Council’s initiative suggests, Hartford is, like Chicago, now so desperate that government must provide food directly to its residents, the problem goes far beyond a “food desert.” The problem is demographic collapse under the pressure of poverty, welfare policy, family dysfunction, and poor education — and government in Connecticut does not seriously examine those things.
Hartford’s government can’t be blamed much here. Cities are the product of their demographics, and their demographics are largely the product of state and federal government policy, which long has been content to concentrate poverty in the cities, to minimize its impact on the middle and upper classes, rather than eliminate it. Indeed, Hartford may be doing all it can just by facilitating construction of middle-class housing downtown, since eventually a middle-class population with enough density might attract not only supermarkets but also other businesses basic to middle-class life.
But this will be a struggle even with a proper housing policy as long as the city’s schools serve mostly disadvantaged students and remain unattractive to people who want to avoid or escape the culture of poverty.
Would Hartford operate a supermarket professionally, or would such a supermarket become another mechanism of political patronage and graft? The less profit such a supermarket would have to make, the less professional it would be.
Middle-class places don’t need government supermarkets. Middle-class places can pretty much take care of themselves. So where is state government’s plan to make Connecticut’s cities middle-class again instead of just sustaining poverty there?
No one needs to be a feminist to deplore the University of Connecticut’s new association with the late professional basketball star Kobe Bryant. But it would be nice if a few feminists at least took notice.
Sports apparel manufacturer Nike announced the other day that it is renewing its “Kobe” brand of basketball shoes and other items, perhaps eventually including college basketball jerseys, and that six college basketball programs will promote the brand, UConn’s among them.
A statement from UConn’s athletic department, with which university President Radenka Maric concurred, said: “We are proud partners with Nike, whose support benefits hundreds of student-athletes at UConn every day. Kobe and Gigi Bryant” — the star’s daughter, who was killed with him in a helicopter crash in 2020 — “were tremendous fans of UConn basketball, and we’re pleased to join Nike in honoring their memory in this way.”
The problem is that in 2003 Bryant was charged with raping a young woman employee of a hotel in Colorado after luring her to his room. While he insisted that their encounter was consensual, the details he admitted about it were violent and disturbing. Eventually the woman declined to testify, so the charge against Bryant was dropped, whereupon she sued him and he apologized and settled the case for what was estimated at $2.5 million.
Money apparently excuses everything, even rape and even at UConn, which ordinarily prides itself on political correctness.
Chris Powell has written about Connecticut government and politics for many years. (CPowell@cox.net)