January 24-31, 2007
By ANDY HART, The Hartford News Staff Writer
Ten years ago, Art Feltman left his job as councilman at Hartford City Hall to take up his new job as state representative at the State Capitol. Now Feltman wants to leave the Capitol and return to Hartford City Hall, this time as mayor.
Feltman announced his candidacy last Wednesday night at Joe Black’s Restaurant in Downtown Hartford.
While Feltman’s announcement was expected, some of those who turn out to support him were a bit of a surprise, such as long-time Hartford politicians Eugenio Caro and John O’Connell. Both men served with Feltman on Hartford City Council. State Senators Eric Coleman and John Fonfara were also among the nearly 200 people who attended Feltman’s announcement.
Feltman joins former Deputy Mayor I. Charles Matthews and former State Senator Frank Barrows in the race for the mayor’s seat. Mayor Eddie Perez has not officially announced whether he is seeking re-election to a third term.
In a lengthy speech, Feltman criticized the Mayor’s current style of government, saying, “We must bring the curtain down on the solo act long playing at 550 Main [City Hall]. It is time, no, it is past time, for seismic, but practical change.”
Feltman came to Hartford as a student at the University of Connecticut Law School and first began to get involved in city politics as a neighborhood organizer in the Frog Hollow, South End, Blue Hills and Sheldon/Charter Oak neighborhoods.
“As an organizer, I brought the people to City Hall,” said Feltman. “As Mayor, I’ll bring City Hall to the people.”
A few months ago, at a meeting of the Maple Avenue Revitalization Group (MARG), Feltman spoke about the problem of the large number of prisoners who are released into Hartford after they have served their time in jail. At the meeting, several residents spoke about the fact that released prisoners have difficulty finding legitimate jobs and often return to the criminal ways that landed them in jail in the first place.
He returned to that theme last Wednesday night, saying, “We have $1.6 billion in MDC [Metropolitan District Commission] construction on the way. As mayor, I’ll make sure that ex-offenders get a set number of those well-paying construction jobs. Hartford residents should get Hartford jobs.”
Feltman also brought up another issue that has been frequently discussed at MARG’s monthly meetings, the City’s curfew law. “Did you know there’s a curfew on the books for minors? Does it surprise you it’s not enforced? Innocents must be shielded from the line of fire,” he said.
Last year, Feltman wrote a law (which the legislature passed) designed to ease the burden of property taxes on Hartford residents following the recent revaluation. As mayor, he said he would work to, “clamp down the lid on taxes. In the last three years, the city budget has bloated by $75 million, and we have the tax bills to prove it.”
Feltman stated that, since the last city election, the budget of the mayor’s office has grown at twice the rate of inflation. “Someone had better start minding the books at city hall. I will,” he said.
It should be noted that the last election was the first to be held under the revised charter which allocated new powers and responsibilities to the mayor’s office.
The Hartford News will profile mayoral candidate Frank Barrows in an upcoming edition. I. Charles Matthews was covered in our January 10th, 2007, edition.