Candidates for mayor clashed Wednesday over how to revive economic development, combat blight and improve education.
In their first public forum, six mayoral contenders shared their vision for the city's future. But much of the presentation focused on campaign slogans, not solutions.
Speeches on reducing crime or attracting new businesses were peppered with statements of "I'm your guy," "I ask for your vote" and "I'm your candidate."
Some took shots at Mayor Pedro Segarra, the Democratic incumbent who is running for re-election and who attended the forum.
"If we are serious about turning this city around, we can't do it with the failed politicians of the past," said attorney Shawn Wooden, a Democratic candidate. "We need a fresh face."
"Hartford isn't mismanaged," added J. Stan McCauley, another Democratic contender. "It isn't managed at all."
McCauley, Wooden and Segarra were joined by the Rev. Patrice Smith, former teachers' union leader Edwin Vargas, both Democrats, and former city council member Michael McGarry, a Republican.
All agreed that the city needed to step up its efforts to fight crime, support small businesses and get rid of blighted structures. But they had different ideas for accomplishing their goals.
Wooden said the city needed to reduce crime before it could attract more business. McCauley said he would use his connections to draw business to the city.
McGarry suggested that the city board up more blighted structures and auction them off. McCauley proposed using the structures as part of a prisoner re-entry program, letting former prisoners rehabilitate the properties and then selling them.
Vargas stressed the importance of investing in the city's youth through job placement and job training programs.
"The key to turning the city around is how we deal with young adults and the disenfranchised," he said.
Segarra said he wouldn't make promises, but would let his record speak for itself. He pointed to his efforts in increasing youth employment, hiring additional police officers and targeting blighted buildings.
Smith said city leaders need to do a better job of supporting small businesses.
"What about helping the people we got here before bringing other businesses in?" she asked. "We need somebody who will support the businesses we already have here."
McCauley said residents need a leader who can relate to their challenges.
"I don't have a Ph.D. in rocket science. I'm not a lawyer," he said. "I'm an average citizen, and I think that's what [the] government is missing."
Wednesday's event was the first of several scheduled mayoral candidate forums. A forum on July 28 will focus on quality of life, another on Aug. 30 will focus on education and a forum on Sept. 7 will focus on economic development and finance.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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