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For Good Work, Nine Selected To Hang

Java: MaryEllen Fillo

July 21, 2008

A most unlikely group of art connoisseurs gathered at former Hartford Mayor Mike Peters' restaurant Tuesday evening, eyes affixed on the dining-room wall as they waited for the annual unveiling of "Mayor Mike's Nine."

The list included former School Superintendent Hernan LaFontaine, Charter Oak Cultural Center director Donna Berman and community activist Hyacinth Yennie, who were among the selected few whose portraits, by photographer Carla Ten Eyck, will hang in the downtown restaurant for the next year.

"I've been hung, but never like this," said Hartford Housing Director Alan E. Green as his portrait was unveiled above one of the restaurant booths. "Of course, there was that one time my photo was displayed in the post office..."

While the event was designed to spotlight the fifth set of portraits to be hung on the wall, much of the discussion drifted to changes at Hartford's hometown newspaper, The Courant, and what the pending layoffs and buyouts will mean to news about the Insurance City.

"We are losing a lot of good reporters," said Peters, who seemed to forget the days when his own political feet were held to the fire by Courant writers of the past. "I'm just hoping they are going to be able to continue to cover the news the way they should and do the best they can for Connecticut. I think the whole thing is sad."

"I'm not sure the new owners understand what The Courant is and what the importance is in Connecticut," added attorney Joseph Lynch, who was also honored with a portrait for his work as a longtime partner at Halloran & Sage. "But they better find out."

Public-relations firm owner Pat Ryan had plenty to say about the changes at the paper, concerned that the quality is going to slip to that of a "mediocre tabloid" and complaining that less news space and fewer reporters puts him and other PR people in a bind when trying to pitch their clients.

But Ryan is no fool. He knew he had Java's ear, so he did what he does best pitched a client.

It's actually a building ... well it's actually a ride ... a water slide ... a big indoor one that is scheduled to open in October at the renovated Waterbury Holiday Inn.

"It's called Coco Key at the Holiday Inn," said Ryan about the ride, which will be open to the public for birthday parties and events, as well as to hotel guests. "We've already got some front-page coverage in other publications. It's one of a kind in Connecticut."

Other Hartford notables whose portraits were unveiled at Tuesday's event were the Rev. Gary Miller, pastor at Asylum Hill Congregational Church; Weaver High School administrator Paul Stringer; retired insurance executive Sandra Stern; and community volunteer Marjorie Morrissey.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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