March 15, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Mayor Eddie A. Perez
spoke of two contrasting Hartfords in his State of the City
address Monday night - one city full of renewal and hope, and
another struggling to meet basic educational, safety and financial
Still, Perez declared the
state of the city strong and promised to strengthen it further
with a litany of new initiatives - from citywide wireless Internet
access, to 46 new police recruits on the streets by June, to
a "cabinet" on issues concerning
young children, and more. And as he stood before a packed house
at city hall, Perez also promised a healthy dose of fiscal realism.
"M-O-N-E-Y," the mayor said, spelling out what he
sees as the city's biggest challenge left at his desk thanks
to federal and state budgetary cutbacks. "That's right.
"No one wants to raise taxes," he said. "No
one wants to cut services ... but tough decisions will have
to be made here in this very room."
Perez began his talk with public safety. He stressed that the
city is getting safer, despite the recent violent deaths of two
city youths. The police force is growing.
On economic development, Perez said that high-paying jobs need
highly educated people and he challenged local leaders to increase
the number of city residents going to four-year colleges by 25
Perez touted a recent success for service workers, the reopening
of the Hartford Hilton with 120 workers returning to jobs, joined
by what he said were almost 100 more new employees.
"Some people doubted me when I said 'No' to the quick fix," he
said of original plans to renovate the Hilton that didn't include
labor guarantees. "Boy, isn't it great to show folks what
really can be achieved when you stand up for what's right - responsible
development that builds one Hartford, and puts our residents
And, as he has done for the past few months, Perez took issue
with state and federal budget cuts that will leave the city with
"The higher levels of government are trying to balance
their budgets on the backs of our residents," he said. "This
is not right and this is not fair."
The mayor saved a grand initiative
for last, saying that Hartford's children "must be on
the right side of the digital divide."
To that end, Perez announced plans for a citywide, free wireless
Internet service, a proposal to put reduced-price computers in
local homes, and an effort to make libraries and schools centers
for computer education.
"Hartford cannot be a tale of two cities," Perez said. "It
must be one; it must be whole."
In other news, several members of the public came before the
city council to decry a city effort to nullify a 1973 court order
outlining policies to prevent police abuse and discrimination
in hiring practices involving minority residents.
Although city attorneys have said they believe the order in
the 1973 case known as Cintron vs. Vaughn has outlived its usefulness,
several citizens in the room disagreed.
"The consent decree is not a document that is meant to
divide, it's a document that is meant to enhance," said
Russell Williams, speaking on behalf of the Connecticut State
Conference of NAACP Branches and the Greater Hartford Branch
of the NAACP.
He said that should those
who came to speak not "receive
justice...we intend to take it to another level."
Councilman Robert Painter
tried to reassure those in the audience of the council's intent. "I've not heard from one single
councilperson any desire to negate the underlying principles
of the Cintron action," Painter said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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