Hartford needs a Rowland or a Mayor Mike to head development
April 10, 2008
As popular as Mayor Eddie is (he won big), as competent as most of the department heads are considered by the administration (and the council), nobody has been recognized as charismatic.
John Rowland spoke at a WDRC luncheon in East Windsor this last Monday and, if he hadnít fallen into the good life trap, one can see he would have had a great political future. He handled his topic, Connecticut cities, with wit, solid sense and great aplomb.
He talked about the cycles of cities and how 25 or 30 years ago, Providence was a laughing stock and, back in the early 80ís, how both Hartford and Waterbury had a lot going for them. Today the tables are somewhat turned, with both Connecticut cities striving (with some early success) to catch the gold ring Ė obvious in Providence Ė of public investment prodding private capital into downtown ventures.
We are reminded of Mayor Mike, taking over from the ruinous Perry years with Go Hartford! Peters had a simple agenda: ask for the business, make people happy to be associated with the city and fan every smoldering spark. Our current mayor has made education his main mantra, maybe it will work, but nobody ever considered him a Pied Piper for anything.
Now Hartford is searching for a Development Services Department Head. Whoever is chosen has a tough job, selling a product that is overpriced (taxes), unavailable (landlocked) with a reputation sullied nightly by shootings. The fact that the city has more responsibilities than resources is a fact, and any smart business person will ask themselves if the city is a good bet in the long run.
So, we come to the nub. A typical bureaucrat with great bookkeeping skills and a long governmental (with a couple of business breaks) resume is probably what we will get. A take charge individual who will tout success in some Southern or Western city. Sorry, Mr. Mayor, thatís not what we need. We need a Ronald Reagan, not a Jimmy Carter. We need a cheerleader who can send them home from the Rotary meeting believing the unbelievable.
Mayor Eddie has told this reporter that this is his last term, so he should not mind being overshadowed by a powerful advocate for business in Hartford. A smooth talking salesman who can dismiss concerns and allure with a turn of phrase might steal the thunder and save a legacy. Search committee: find us a born-again Rowland or a now slimmed down Mayor Mike.