Web Sites, Documents and Articles >> Hartford Courant News Articles >

Mayoral Campaign Should Start Now

January 25, 2006
Commnetary by Stan Simpson

Frank Barrows insists he's running for mayor of Hartford in 2007.

He says it's too early - and I couldn't disagree more - to start getting his campaign together. Barrows has an ambitious agenda to return his birthplace to its glory as a city of first-rate schools, plentiful jobs and a bustling downtown.

The affable former state senator, a Vietnam veteran who has worked as a correction officer for the past 12 years, is among the names churned out as potential challengers to incumbent Mayor Eddie Perez. Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, council President John Bazzano, former Councilman and retired fire Capt. Steven Harris, city Treasurer Kathleen Palm, state Rep. Kenneth Green and state Treasurer Denise Nappier, a former city treasurer, are others - all Democrats, like Barrows - who have popped up in conversations.

The prediction here is that Barrows will be all alone next year in taking on Perez. Too bad, because this diverse city needs meaningful debate, from a variety of voices, about its future and the strategies to get there. And that debate should be starting now.

Barrows turns 60 in March. He was born on Windsor Street and is well-known particularly in the North End, where Perez's base has been soft. He is the husband of former city Police Chief Deborah Barrows and has a grasp on the issues undermining Hartford. He could actually generate votes if he got serious. Then again, that seems to be a problem with Hartford politics. A lot of people talk a good game, but no one seems willing to do the hard work of taking on Perez, the incumbent Democrat, and the party machine.

When the current strong mayor government was implemented two years ago with a four-year term, $125,000 salary and unquestioned authority, conventional wisdom was that the job would intrigue a cadre of eager, erudite and well-equipped professionals in subsequent years.

Maybe it's too early to judge whether the '07 election will fulfill that expectation. For now, the lack of substantive engagement for a city on the brink of a resurgence - or a relapse - is disheartening.

"I'm really disturbed at how quiet it is," said Harris, the former councilman who sees his role as more of an adviser than a candidate. "These are critical times right now. There's talent out there. People are reluctant to step up because I think the luster of elected office to a lot of good people isn't appealing anymore."

Long hours, media scrutiny, ongoing FBI investigations of state politicians and the challenge of raising money and taking on a party machine have made one of Connecticut's more desirable elective positions not that inviting.

With a little organization, some cash and a lot of door-to-door campaigning, a guy like Barrows could make a competitive candidate. He was a student at Weaver High in the 1960s and recalls Hartford as a melting pot, heralded for many of the assets - good schools, jobs and safe streets - that it's criticized for being deficient in today.

"A lot of people don't know about Hartford the way it was," said Barrows, who plans to make a formal announcement after this year's gubernatorial elections. "A lot of people only know about the guns and violence. ... A friend of mine said you have to be out of your mind [to want to run]. I said there are a lot of problems, but problems can be resolved if we all develop the same mindset. We have to make people believe that this is their city. There's a lot of people who live in Hartford and feel bad about it. Once you make people feel good and positive, you can stabilize communities under distress because of drugs and crime."

To Barrows, the crime and violence on Hartford streets reflect the deep despair and lack of jobs for people in poor communities.

Despite Perez's moves to improve public safety and the public schools and to create jobs, Hartford is still one of the country's poorest cities, with a confounding spate of neighborhood shootings, schools that are still sliding and more big companies exiting than entering.

The mayor didn't cause the problems; he inherited them.

That doesn't mean he gets a pass on his leadership in solving them.

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
Powered by Hartford Public Library  

Includes option to search related Hartford sites.

Advanced Search
Search Tips

Can't Find It? Have a Question?