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Street-wise Politics The Abe Giles Way

Inappropriate Honor Hartford council considers naming street corner after wheeler-dealer

Hartford Courant Editorial

March 30, 2012

Long-time North End political boss Abraham L. Giles, who died a year ago, is making news and stirring up controversy once again.

Hartford city councilwoman Cynthia Jennings has proposed that the city honor him by designating the corner of Main and Windsor streets as "Abraham Giles Way." A public hearing will be held April 16 at city hall.

Ms. Jennings said of the eight-term state representative and master manipulator of Democratic Town Committee politics: "He's always been involved with doing things for the residents, and the people he represented loved him."

She's at least partially correct. He was loved by some. But he was reviled by others. Considering his checkered career, it would be unseemly for the city to honor Mr. Giles by naming a hunk of public real estate after him. That good-hearted rascal would get the last laugh, and people might wonder what Hartford could possibly be thinking.

Yes, Mr. Giles bought food, provided shelter, found jobs and lent an address for voting purposes to hundreds, maybe thousands, of down-and-outers over the years. He was rewarded with their loyalty and political support at election time.

But as he helped others, so he helped himself.

As The Courant noted in an editorial eulogy, "Mr. Giles got city contracts, often on very friendly terms, to run parking lots, move and store the belongings of evicted tenants, even to deliver voting machines to polling places on Election Day."

But, Ms. Jennings argues on his behalf, "It's not like [Mr. Giles] was a felon."

Technically she's right.

Charged in 2010 with two felony extortion counts in the Mayor Eddie Perez corruption scandal for demanding that a developer pay him $100,000 to abandon a parking lot, Mr. Giles ended up pleading guilty to charges that were knocked down to misdemeanors. He said he "didn't want to die a felon."

Mr. Giles' generosity and commitment to his constituents should be fondly recalled. But it would be bizarre and inappropriate to name a public street corner after him.

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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