Segarra Vows To Curtail Spending In 'State Of The City' Address
By Jenna Carlesso
March 13, 2012
In his second "State of the City" speech, Mayor Pedro Segarra said he wanted to address many of Hartford's "truths" -- its accomplishments and its challenges.
"Actually it was Mark Twain who said, 'Truth is the most valuable thing we have,' " Segarra told a crowded room at city hall Monday. "If we are going to move forward as a city we must adhere to that premise, and embrace our truths ? not only what we have to celebrate, but also the challenges that lie before us."
But in addressing the city's challenges, Segarra kept to generalities.
The city is grappling with unemployment, Segarra said, but he didn't offer figures. City officials have said unemployment in Hartford hovers around 14.9 percent.
It is also facing a revenue shortage brought on by a decline in market values -- the result of a state-mandated revaluation -- and the elimination of a surcharge on commercial properties, Segarra said. But he didn't mention that the city is facing a $56.2 million deficit for the next fiscal year.
Segarra did, however, vow to curtail spending, to work with businesses and the government to create jobs and to explore ways to partner with the police, courts and correction department to increase opportunities for prison inmates who are finishing their terms and preparing to re-enter society.
He also pledged his commitment to early-childhood education efforts, saying city officials must seek out resources to help expand early learning centers.
"I am confident that I can count on every member of council and every department head to creatively and proactively respond to this with the urgency that it demands," he said. "I have also asked our nonprofit neighbors to assist us during this trying economic time and more adequately support our payment in lieu of taxes."
Segarra also noted several accomplishments, including a Winterfest celebration at Bushnell Park that attracted about 50,000 people with its free skating, the appointments of five new board of education members and an interim police chief and the success of the city's shooting task force in making more than 100 felony arrests.
He pointed out that a $3.8 million shortfall for the current fiscal year has been resolved. David Panagore, the city's chief operating officer, said Monday that the deficit was offset by delaying the hiring of several city employees and the lower-than-expected costs of health insurance claims.
City Councilman Larry Deutsch, the panel's minority leader and a member of the Working Families Party, said he was surprised that Segarra didn't directly address the budget deficit for 2012-13.
"I like a little more specificity in the problems that face us," he said after the speech Monday. "I would have said something more about trimming the budget in a way that preserves resources for the people who need them, such as the homeless. I think we could have more constructive proposals."
State Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, praised the mayor for making crime, education and the tax structure priorities, but said the city could do more to improve quality of life issues like blight, noise and speeding.
"Quality of life issues are critical, and we need to give him the tools and resources to be able to [address] that," Fonfara said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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