January 6, 2006
By OSHRAT CARMIEL, Courant Staff Writer
City council majority leader John V. Bazzano is expected to become city council president Monday, replacing Hernan LaFontaine, a close ally of the mayor's, according to several council members.
The move would put Bazzano, who was chief of staff to former Mayor Michael P. Peters, in a prominent leadership role that some believe could be a stepping stone to a run for mayor.
It also would give the developers of the Colt Gateway project, where Bazzano works full-time, an even more prominent ally in city hall, though Bazzano has consistently abstained from votes involving his employer.
"Nothing's going to change there," Bazzano said. "I'm going to recuse myself whenever I have to."
The leadership change, which is expected to be unanimously approved by council, would also promote councilwoman rJo Winch to majority leader, and councilman Calixto Torres to assistant majority leader.
The leadership change in the council's Democratic majority was expected, LaFontaine and others said. Under the new city charter, which took effect last year, the council must hold a leadership election at the midpoint of its four-year term.
When the council elected LaFontaine as president in 2004, council members agreed to let others have a chance at holding the post come 2006.
"We agreed at the end of two years we would kind of rotate," LaFontaine said.
Bazzano said he has been interested in the job since 2004.
As president of the council, Bazzano, 47, would have control over the council's agenda and preside over the council meetings. He would also become the prime liaison between the council and the office of Mayor Eddie A. Perez.
Saying that he would bring his own management sensibilities to the council, Bazzano pledged to promote more discourse among council members.
"I think I might like to open it up a little more for conversation and debate," he said.
Under LaFontaine, the council meetings were marked by efficiency and speed - and sometimes criticized for limited public discussion.
"I hope that my management style is one where I'm open and informative," Bazzano said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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