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Let's Demand More Of Our Leaders

Helen Ubiñas

January 29, 2009

Of all the pathetic developments over the last few days — and there have been many — it was hard to pick the most offensive.

Was it Mayor Eddie Perez pleading with the public for two, OK, three months tops to defend himself against bribery charges?

Or was it the long, cold perp walk into Troop H of a man who once triumphantly pumped his fists in the air as Señor Alcalde? Followed swiftly by his later trotting out legions of sycophants and supporters at a weirdly festive press conference.

Like I said, hard to pick.

But then El Jefe's lawyer, who had already offered a myriad of defenses, swiped the bottom of the barrel of bull.

"If you're going to destroy an administration," Hubert Santos said, "particularly one run by one of the few minority mayors in the state of Connecticut, the least we could ask of the prosecutor's office is to allege a crime."

We have a winner. So this isn't about integrity or honesty or ethics: it's about The Man looking to bring a Latino mayor down. Huh — good to know.

As infuriating as that was, you really couldn't blame Perez or his pricey lawyer. It's what a politician does when confronted with evidence of wrongdoing — throw whatever lame excuses you've got against the wall and hope something sticks.

No, much more distressing was the roomful of supporters soaking up every word while wearing ridiculous green ribbons in support of the mayor and applauding a defense that seems to come up every time anyone criticizes him.

Look, I understand there's a serious lack of people of color in positions of power, but given what we know, there's no place here for that kind of misplaced racial solidarity.Of all the defenses Team Perez has mounted so far, being distracted by his wife's illness was perhaps the most plausible; definitely the most sympathetic. But before you buy it, consider that when investigators questioned him, Perez didn't say, you know what, I've been out of my mind dealing with my sick wife and just lost track of everything.

Nope, prosecutors say Perez looked those investigators straight in the eye and said he'd get them that canceled check for renovations for which he paid "market price." And then he huffed it to a credit union for a fast-track loan to pay for deeply discounted home renovations he never even bothered to get permits for.

Sounds pretty damning, doesn't it?

But you wouldn't know it by how quickly so many are ready to ignore it all to rally around the narrow-minded dogma of backing up Perez in his fight against The Man.

Believe me, I know calling El Jefe out is a big no-no; it's labeled me a self-hating race traitor. At least when I'm not being accused of being a puppet of The Man.

But no apologies here. No way will I ever subscribe to this kind of blind devotion or the insulting belief that going against one of your own is somehow a betrayal.

The only betrayal here is blindly giving someone a pass.

And people can scream all they want that there are forces unfairly trying to tear down the city's first Latino mayor, and keeping the community down.

But that's a cop-out. You want to know what's really hurting the community, it's convincing ourselves that we need to settle, that bad representation is better than no representation at all.

Here's the thing — the biggest danger here isn't some corrupt mayor, or even The Man.

It's lowering our expectations and standards and worse, sending out a message that somehow the community doesn't deserve more, that they're not worth it.

Well, we do and we are, and it's about time we start acting like it.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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