Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez tailored his State of the City address last week to boost support for his policies and to hold out the promise of better things to come. No big surprise there.
Mr. Perez's yearly assessment takes on added significance only because he delivered it against the backdrop of an election year in which up to half a dozen challengers are gunning for his job. Among the mayor's plans are to expand the size of the police force to 500 by hiring 80 officers, require that lost or stolen guns be reported to police, spend $50 million to replace blighted buildings with housing, and earmark $1.8 million for after-school programs and jobs.
Those are good initiatives, aligned with the city's needs. It also would be hard to argue that Hartford hasn't improved some under Mr. Perez's leadership.
In the past year alone, Mr. Perez has named Daryl K. Roberts as Hartford's new police chief and, in his role as school board chairman, presided over the appointment of Steven J. Adamowski as schools superintendent. Both are viewed as strong, promising choices.
As chairman of the school building committee, the mayor has expedited the construction of new schools. Overall crime has dropped 5 percent. That said, the mayor can't escape the fact that incidents of violent crime are up - and that violence stigmatizes the city.
Where Mr. Perez has been found especially lacking is in his my-way-or-the-highway management style, which tends to alienate some of his constituents and other Hartford political figures. His stubbornness was no more apparent than when he tried to build a school on a tiny parcel of land at Farmington Avenue and Broad Street, over the objections of Gov. M. Jodi Rell and most of the Hartford legislative delegation.
And Mr. Perez's arrogance got the best of him when he concluded a no-bid sweetheart deal with North End political power-broker Abraham L. Giles to manage a city-owned parking lot at Main and Trumbull without running the arrangement by the city council or the Hartford Parking Authority.
Were Mr. Perez more inclusive in his decision-making, he might have avoided both embarrassing episodes. If he loses, he'd have no one to blame but himself.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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