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Another Look at the LSNI Assessment

By Kerri Provost

September 08, 2012

The Livable & Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative (LSNI) has been troubled since its inception due to poor hiring decisions compounded by an absence of management. Why take time and money to provide training for LSNI employees when more qualified individuals could have filled these positions from the start?

That is just one of the questions that emerges after reading the recently leaked assessment of the six-month-old program.

Despite its critique of various employees, pieces of the assessment continue to show how the program is being handled too delicately. It begins:

Given the amount of visibly blighted properties remaining and how later in the report it is noted that there have been few responses to preliminary notices, one questions how low the bar is set to measure success.To be exact, there has been a 32% response rate to the preliminary notices and a 27% response rate to ABO violation notices citywide since the beginning of the program. Of those properties described as having ABO violations, about 22% have been abated of all anti-blight ordinance violations since the beginning of LSNI.

In the assessment, much of the blame is shifted to the Housing Division for complicating the work of LSNI District Captains, yet the purpose of LSNI is to “manage the enforcement of the anti-blight ordinance” and “engender a new level of accountability within the administrative departments of the City.”

Regardless of poor interpersonal communication skills — which have been similarly plaguing administrators in some of the Hartford’s public schools — there is not much in the way of quantifiable data that shows LSNI has promise of recovering from this early implosion:

Already, one can see contradictions within this assessment. Either constituent concerns are being responded to, or, they aren’t.

The contradictions do not end there. Nobody has been able to supply a detailed job description for the LSNI captains, which would go far in the way of making accountable those who are supposed to “engender a new level of accountability within the administrative departments of the City.” So, it should come as no surprise that when it came time for invoices to be generated for work done by the “LSNI clean city crews,” nobody in City Hall considered this to be their responsibility. Not Licenses and Inspections. Not the Department of Public Works. Certainly not anyone in LSNI. The problems surrounding these invoices were said to go back to at least March 2012, according to the assessment, but a review was not initiated until July.

Because of discrepancies in the thirteen invoices which were eventually created by L&I — the tone of the assessment implies that this only happened after pressure from the media — none of the 37 properties cleaned up by the LSNI Clean City Crews will be billed.

With the shortcomings of the program well-documented, one would expect the alleged successes to receive equal treatment, but no such examples were provided showing evidence that most residents and NRZs have warmly received the LSNI — as the assessment asserts — nor that it has accomplished much.

The City has released an update showing what LSNI has done during the time when the review was being conducted. During this time, one LSNI district captain ceased her employment, another gave notice, and according to sources in City Hall, a third gave a dramatic quitting speech, though it is unclear whether or not he has vacated his position.

Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford. To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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