A year ago, I wrote an op-ed after the trial and conviction of then Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, a dear friend. Despite the gloom and sad times, I had high hopes for the emergence of new, strong leadership in Hartford. Today, I am saddened and disappointed.
I can always take the easy way and move to the suburbs, but I have decided instead to hold our city government responsible for the taxes I pay. I will look out for alternatives and fight on.
During the past year, I have seen an administrative structure under Mayor Pedro Segarra that is indifferent and inefficient. A walk into city hall is a perilous trek into a dark labyrinth of lack of care, disdain and the same old intrigues. There are not enough resources for adequate programs for children and young adults. How many times do I need to call 911 to stop young people from racing their cars on my street past midnight? How many drug dealers will I have to tolerate selling on Farmington Avenue?
To Pedro I say, in the last year you have surrounded yourself with people who are going to keep perpetuating the status quo. There have not been any significant changes in the staff, and the taxpayers face more of the same. You have failed to articulate a systematic vision for change. You have overlooked significant structural challenges, such as the rising homicide rate and the economy. Who is going to speak for us?
As a Hartford resident, I cannot afford to leave my condo after 6 o'clock; too dangerous. Drug dealers are on many corners. Sellers of pirated movies are in commercial parking lots. I cannot stomach the fact that so many children and young adults are being killed in the city. The parks are unsafe, the sidewalks just treacherous. A little child running in a park was run over by hoodlums who allegedly admitted that they were just looking to smoke some marijuana.
Pedro, once upon a time you were a social worker at Hartford Hospital. Have you forgotten or become immune to our pain? Your family was the victim of gun violence. Take a walk into the halls of St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center or Hartford Hospital and be ready to experience pain, devastation and the end of dreams. Gunshot victims lie there shot and sometimes paralyzed for life.
Families are torn apart by gun violence, but city government fails to properly acknowledge that there is a gang problem. The police are at times both indifferent and confrontational. Sometimes, they are plainly understaffed and without proper resources. They are frustrated public servants. We face a tax structure that hinders the ability of small businesses to grow and thrive. City government seems to be paralyzed.
We got rid of the "butt ugly" building. Sadly, though, the city has become desolate with empty buildings, vacant commercial properties and unfulfilled promises for commercial growth. We are now a butt ugly city, and a few flower pots in the parks are not going to change that. We do have a high-end supermarket downtown, which is great. At the same time, owners of restaurants and small shops cannot keep up with the taxes and regulations being levied on them. Even more frustrating, you cannot walk to their establishments without the fear of being attacked.
When I see your modus operandi, I cannot help but think about the metaphor of Peter Pan. Hartford has become a darker version of Neverland.
As a mayor, you have a position that allows you to enact change. Sadly, like Peter Pan, and almost a year into your mandate, you are not growing up to your full potential. The problems of the city require a mayor who can combat crime, reduce unemployment, control taxation, fight against the status quo and tackle the structural problems that keep us from becoming the city we should be.
Pedro, I remember you being a lot bigger than what you seem to be now. What has become of you? You have three months to grow up. If you don't, sadly but willingly, I'll be ready to give a chance to another candidate.
Serafin Mendez is a Hartford resident, a community leader and a professor in the Department of Communications at Central Connecticut State University.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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