Our campaign to alert the new C.R.D.A. Board and other officials to opportunities for improving the “town/gown” relationship between the big state investments and the city seems to be getting some attention.
For years, the city has been treated like a colony by the state and suburbs. “Oh, aren't you lucky we load you up with all these great things,” seems to be part of the conversation right out of the box. Wait, just a second.
Let's look closer, let's look at the land tied up, the traffic congestion, the unfilled promises ... a balance now needs to be struck once we realize that – forever – the land under the busway, for example, will never bring in any tax revenue, or jobs. We all love the Convention Center (but hate that garage), but what if that land paid full property taxes with a private development? Mistakes in the past with these “gifts” continue to plague us. The big theatre in the North Meadows (is it the Comcast theatre now?) never has brought in nearly the business expected - note the many management and name changes - and the traffic is terrible every time Dave Matthews comes to town. The biggest beneficaries of those mob scenes are our police - overtime, extra duty, much of it goes toward pensions that will be paid out for generations.
So, now that we are in a new situation, let's hope the Mayor, the Council, our Development Departmnet, C.R.D.A... all look carefully at all aspects of the coming RFPs: city employment opportunities, marketing to city residents and employees, better use of the physical assets (open up the ice!), business opportunities for Hartford and Connecticut firms, better traffic management (on that note, a complete review of access to the convention center is overdue).
And, most of all, a tilt toward those who have paid the bills in many ways for all this progress. To quote a long time observer, “these fixtures have never been community friendly.”
Now is the time to change all that dramatically. The responses to the RFP for the XL Center is the best place to start. Which organization cares the most about the impacts on the citizens and businesses in the city of Hartford? Of all the factors involved, the answer to that question should be number one.