Something was missing from Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez's annual state of the city speech Monday.
The mayor was generally positive. And why not look on the sunny side? The prolonged economic downturn has delivered enough bad news.
Mr. Perez pointed to progress wherever he could find it - in the schools, in crime-fighting, in the city's commitment to the arts.
He announced his intention to create a "Green Ribbon Task Force" to save the city's public park system - because of city hall's seeming inability to do the job.
Mr. Perez's interest in the parks is commendable, so long as the focus is on restoring city government's primary role in maintaining what has been a historic and lovely public treasure.
The mayor also thanked the city council for getting a head start on putting together a budget in what he called "the most difficult budget season we have seen in a quarter-century."
One reason it's difficult is the recession - the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The other major reason that city hall is in crisis is the mayor himself.
He didn't acknowledge in his speech - and didn't need to - that his trial on corruption charges starts with jury selection in April. He'll be next to useless in putting together a budget once the trial on charges relating to bribery and attempted extortion gets underway.
Mr. Perez ought to step aside at least temporarily until the trial is over. He views his prosecution as just another step in "the American experience." That's a self-indulgent way to look at it.
Hartford, with all its troubles, needs a chief executive working overtime to prevent more flight, to create jobs, to fight crime, and to make a budget that keeps taxes down if that's possible, but one that provides good basic services for the city's residents. A man fighting for his reputation and his freedom in a courtroom is not likely to be that executive.
A man accused of corruption should not be this struggling city's public face. It just isn't fair.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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