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Bill Would Help Ex-Cons Start Food Carts

by Thomas MacMillan | Jan 13, 2012 4:34 pm

(15) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall

Thomas MacMillan Photo In a new bill to be introduced Tuesday, the mayor aims to help people like Jimmy Nigretti have an easier time getting into the hot dog business.

Mayor John DeStefano announced the news at a Friday afternoon press conference in City Hall, as he continued a quest to give ex-felons a fair shake as they try to build a life for themselves after prison.

The bill concerns the rules for getting some six to 10 permits issued by the city, said prison re-entry coordinator Amy Meek. That includes permissions to run billiards halls and sell antiques, but most significantly, it includes street vendors and food carts.

In the past year, the city denied one out of seven food cart or street vendor applicants on the basis of his or her criminal record, Meek said. The new ordinance aims to reduce that number.

The mayor proposes amending the city ordinances to clearly state that city has a policy to “encourage the employment of” people with criminal records. The bill directs the police chief to consider a range of factors—including how rehabilitated someone is—when considering an application from an ex-offender for a license or permit.

The proposal will appear on the agenda of the Jan. 17 meeting of the Board of Aldermen.

Selling hot dogs on the sidewalk or balloons at a parade are often jobs that are “within reach” of someone just emerging from prison, Meek said. Not only are the start-up costs low, but the job can be a good match, for someone like a convicted drug dealer who knows how to sell things on the street. “It’s the same set of skills essentially.”

The latest bill aims to build on the efforts begun with the “Ban The Box” legislation passed nearly three years ago.

That law banned the box on city job application that asked whether or not an applicant has a criminal history.

As individuals, people need to accept responsibility for their past actions, said DeStefano. As a community, the city should work on re-integrating people who have served their debt, he said. When that is not done well, it can lead to violence and further crime, he said.

Under the current ordinance on the issuance of permits, the chief of police can disqualify an applicant on the basis of his or her criminal record.

The current wording articulates a standard that is “rather strict,” DeStefano said. The proposed amendment would still require the city to take criminal record into consideration. But it would also require the chief to look at several specific factors, including: the nature of the offense, the age of the applicant at the time, the time elapsed since release, the “degree of rehabilitation” of the applicant, information produced by the applicant on his or her “good conduct,” and “the public policy of this city ... to encourage the employment of persons previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses.”

Codifying these standards as part of the ordinance would make the process more transparent for applicants and help re-entering ex-prisoners to see more clearly what factors go into permitting decisions, Meek said.

As part of that same effort towards clarity and transparency, the ordinance amendment would require the city to compile and publish online all municipal laws regarding criminal convictions and employment, contracts, permits, licenses, and other benefits, Meek said.

Outside City Hall after the press conference, Nigretti, whom the mayor had mentioned in his remarks, held an impromptu press conference of his own.

He said he supports the proposed ordinance amendment as a way to help out people who have turned their lives around. “People change, you know?”

It is important to look into the backgrounds of aspiring vendors, because they’ll be “dealing with people and money,” Nigretti said.

Nigretti, who’s 49 and grew up in the Hill, said he’s been slinging dogs for nine years. Asked about his criminal history, he said, “When I was younger, I used to act up.”

He said he was in jail for 30 days once, and on probation for five years. That record did create obstacles when he was getting his vendor permit, he said. “A few times I’ve gotten denied. It took a little longer.”

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posted by: davecoon on January 13, 2012  4:54pm

In many ways Jimmy is the hardest working guy in New Haven.  I watch this guy push his cart from Humphrey to the Green every morning, doesn’t matter the weather.

posted by: Threefifths on January 13, 2012  6:19pm

How would you stop this.

Street-food vendors sleeping in their carts overnight.

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/slumber_cart_LNOCTLyLB4HuSl0PFXvxhN



Also will the city pass a bill like this.

Peralta wants letter grades for food carts

Street vendors would post results.


http://www.qchron.com/news/western/peralta-wants-letter-grades-for-food-carts/article_0ebc9d6d-711d-5606-9c08-bbb293951450.html

posted by: the1king on January 13, 2012  6:27pm

I don’t have a big problem with it but I wouldn’t want a sex offender selling balloons at a parade.  As long as the watch who they are giving the permits to I think they should have a chance to better themselves.  But since they did make a mistake they need to be watched.    Just a side note   Jimmy’s a great guy have it his way and a coke with a smile.

posted by: HhE on January 13, 2012  9:23pm

Sometimes I agree with the Mayor.  This is one of those times.

I also agree with the1king.

posted by: Edward_H on January 13, 2012  11:09pm

“In the past year, the city denied one out of seven food cart or street vendor applicants on the basis of his or her criminal record, Meek said. The new ordinance aims to reduce that number.”

Is there one shred of evidence showing that any applicants were denied improperly? Does the mayor have a desired number he wishes to achieve? Does he only want to see 1 out of 20 applicants denied rather than 1 of 7? Is there any evidence to show his new legislation would have resulted in more applicants being approved? If these new rules go into place and applicants are still denied at the same rate does the Mayor have a plan to address this? Will pressure be placed on the police to approve more applicants?

“but the job can be a good match, for someone like a convicted drug dealer who knows how to sell things on the street. “It’s the same set of skills essentially.””

What a disgusting slap in the face to every hard working street vendor who works hard at complying with the law, treating customers respectfully, taking care of the surrounding environment, marketing the product carefully and taking criticism gracefully. Only someone who has never had any real world business or sales experience would say such a flippant thing. 

I have little sympathy for felons ,those who decide to prey on other citizens deserve whatever life long hardships they endure due to the consequences of their actions. The emotional and physical scars many crime victims suffer never go away.


Threefifths

RE: vendors sleeping in their carts.

Is this something you see happening now in New Haven or do you think it will happen once the Mayors new rules go into effect? Just wondering because I don’t see a connection.

posted by: Threefifths on January 14, 2012  7:24pm

Edward_H on January 13, 2012 10:09pm

Threefifths

RE: vendors sleeping in their carts.

Is this something you see happening now in New Haven or do you think it will happen once the Mayors new rules go into effect? Just wondering because I don’t see a connection

When I was reading this articule,I came across this.Food vendors looking to guard their spots and avoid pricey storage fees have taken to sleeping inside their carts, with workers snoring where grilled lamb is later cooked for unsuspecting patrons. So who is to say the vendors here will not do this to guard their spots and avoid pricey storage fees.

posted by: streever on January 15, 2012  10:50am

3/5ths
I don’t understand the relevance. Do any food vendors currently sleep in their carts? I have never seen a food vendor cart in downtown New Haven at night.

I actually agree with Edward_H’s questions—and Hhe’s opinion. I like the sentiment and spirit of this law.

What is the new target number?
What is the goal of this policy? “Reduction” is a nebulous term.

Speaking of setting goals for our policies, do we have follow-up data on how many individuals were able to open bank accounts with the Resident ID card?

What would be the success metric for this new policy?

What about the “Ban the Box” legislation?

As I pointed out at the time, black men are denied employment most often based not on their criminal record, but on a baseline assumption that they have one.

http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/08/09/study-black-man-and-white-felon-same-chances-for-hire/

White felons are as likely to be hired as black non-felons, probably because of discrimination and racial bias. Ban the box may not be wonderful, because it may have unintended consequences which could lead to racial discrimination.

Do we have any metrics on the Ban the Box program? How many felons have been employed as a result of the implementation?

While I love the spirit and intent behind these policies and laws, I am dismayed at the total lack of reporting on their outcome.

posted by: nhteaparty on January 15, 2012  2:30pm

“probably because of discrimination and racial bias”.  “Wow”, is all I can say.  That’s a pretty offensive statement; it is a caricature of “liberal”.  You do nobody service by making such ill-thought-out statements as this.

Somewhere on the order 50% of criminals reoffend (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/reentry/recidivism.cfm) .  This would help to incentivize criminals moving to NH.  More criminals = more crime.  I know these people may have earned a second chance, in the eyes of some, but JD can’t handle the crime we have now.

An increased ex-con population will increase their interactions and increase the likelihood that they will reoffend.  Here is the mayor himself blaming ex-cons for much of our crime (http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2011/09/07/news/new_haven/doc4e6830632f26a481481372.txt)

Maybe JD is just priming the system so he will have more job opportunities when he gets out (see: FBI probe of city hall).

posted by: streever on January 15, 2012  3:53pm

nhteaparty
Huh?
Why do white felons stand such a high chance of being hired versus black non-criminals?

That is an actual fact—...

Do you think it is ok that men are paid better than women are? This bothers me. Is that just more evidence that I apparently have no original thoughts and can be automatically dismissed?

Equality is important to me—and to a lot of other people. When you dismiss me—as a person—because I am concerned with equality, it makes me question why you don’t instead propose solutions, ideas, and factual points.

posted by: Curious on January 15, 2012  4:08pm

... - “for someone like a convicted drug dealer who knows how to sell things on the street. “It’s the same set of skills essentially.””

So does that mean that all hot dog vendors would make excellent drug dealers? 

I guess this means that all bus drivers would make great police, because they drive around all day, and that all blacksmiths would make great carpenters, because they know how to swing hammers.

I guess the mayor would see no problem going to a dentist for haircut or a barber to get a root canal, since they both have you sit in chairs.

...

posted by: nhteaparty on January 15, 2012  7:05pm

It’s not a fact.  It’s a suggestion that one sociologist made in a single paper.  He even cites papers which suggest that race really isn’t much of a factor anymore when it comes to hiring, contrary to his suggestion.  Those other studies, he cites, directly compared blacks to whites; his study isn’t even designed to make the comparison (the whites and blacks didn’t apply to the same jobs).

There are a lot of racists who take one set of data and then use that as justification for their blanket prejudgement of a group of people, just like you took one set of data and used it as a justification for your blanket prejudgement of a group of people (employers, all… not even just those in Milwaukee and NYC which were the two cities out of thousands in the USA used in that single study).

posted by: Threefifths on January 15, 2012  7:48pm

posted by: streever on January 15, 2012 9:50am
3/5ths
I don’t understand the relevance. Do any food vendors currently sleep in their carts? I have never seen a food vendor cart in downtown New Haven at night.

My point is Rules will have to be set up.Was not there a fight at Long Wharf with two food truck vendors.What would happen if more vendors start selling in front of city hall.How about is vendors set up shop in front of Local Restaurants.Even if they don’t sleep in there carts.How do you know this will not happen.

Turf War at the Hot Dog Cart.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/01/dining/01truck.html?pagewanted=all


Six Arrested on Permit-Fraud Charges.


http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/01/dining/01permit.html


So are there rules in place now?

posted by: brutus2011 on January 15, 2012  9:13pm

I agree with the mayor on this issue.

I wish he would close the NHPS pipeline that exits behaviorally challenged students out of the system into the streets and many times into jail.

I have actually taught at-risk kids (here and elsewhere) and I know first hand that many of them could have their social trajectories altered if we adults perhaps were a little smarter or maybe cared a little more.

Former inmates who were once the kids that no one seems to care about don’t have to end up pushing hot dog carts under the mayor’s new program. (I am not demeaning street-selling hot dogs)

posted by: Lynda Faye Wilson on January 18, 2012  1:21am

I’ve read this story very careful. It actually says a lot of nothing. The relevance to ex-felons released to be gainfully employed to make an honest living and operating a hot dog stand is off the chain. There can be only so many felons set-up with these referred stands. Do the re-entry initiative really feel proud of the accomplishments they’ve expressed in this article. Are you implying that once a felon conviction has been completed, this is what they are to scramble to do for their livelyhood?
It’s obvious Mr. Nigretti loves what he does. And it takes a special person to do what he do, but lets’ face it. It is not for everybody or even a lot of people. So what provisions have been put in place for these MEN & WOMEN? This population is parallel to the youth in this city. ABSOLUTELY NO WHERE TO GO. AT LEAST NO WHERE THAT THE CITY ADMINISTRATION HAS BOTHERED TO SET-UP OR PUT IN PLACE. THIS IS SOME MORE TYPICAL MADNESS. BETTER YET,“PROPAGANDA” OR SMOKE SCREEN. LIKE THE DRUG DEALERS SELLING SKILLS, SO SHOULD THE MAYOR UTILIZE HIS SELLING SKILLS WITH SOME OF THE CITY’S AND SURROUNDING AREAS MAJOR EMPLOYERS. HE SOLD A BILL OF GOODS TO BE RE-ELECTED AS THE THE CITY’S TOP ADMINISTRATOR.  YOU CAN’T SELL NO BETTER THAN THAT. AT LEAST IN MY EYE-SIGHT. WHAT DOES OTHER RESIDENTS THINK ABOUT IT?

posted by: DRE on January 22, 2012  8:29pm

I AM ONE OF THOSE EX -FELONS DENIED THE VENDORS LICENSE..NOT ONLY IS THIS LAW OR RULE UNJUST,ITS DEGRADING FOR SOMEONE WANTING TO HAVE A BETTER FUTURE ,NOT ONLY FOR HIMSELF BUT FOR HIS FAMILY AND TO BE ABLE TO TEACH THEM BETTER VALUES AND AT THE VERY LEAST AN OPPURTUNITY TO KNOW A DIFFRENT ROUTE. THANX

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