On day one as Hartford's 66th mayor, my administration set four goals: ensure accountability; safeguard the health, cleanliness and safety of the city; create jobs and improve education; and pursue opportunities to accelerate and expand economic vitality.
So much has been accomplished in the past year despite a sluggish national economy: We resolved and balanced three years of budget deficits with no increase in taxes. Through fiscally prudent tactics, we lowered the tax rate without sacrificing essential services.
Yes, there is much progress and promise but there is still a lot of work to do, especially in public safety. This is our city, so it is our responsibility — together — to not just raise the bar, but to set a higher standard.
First, people need to feel safe, and be safe. Despite the headlines, serious crime is down 11 percent so far this year. But, let's be real — numbers don't matter when you are a crime victim. I understand that pain and in the coming weeks we will launch a comprehensive effort using federal, state and local resources to curb the recent rash of gun violence.
Domestic violence, which accounts for one-third of our city's violent crimes, also requires immediate attention. So, the Hartford Police Department is working with the Boston Police Department to share best practices to improve outcomes for our Domestic Violence Task Force. Lastly, the police chief and I are walking through neighborhoods to personally engage residents and business owners. We need to hear from people face to face what we're doing right and what needs improvement; and it's not just about the police.
Our improvement starts with jobs, and jobs start with strong neighborhoods where people want to live and invest. In the past few weeks, I determined that One City, One Plan, the 10-year collaborative roadmap for conservation and development, needed a vehicle to quickly move forward with many of the great projects it incorporates. This prompted the launch of my Livable and Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative earlier this week. This initiative will tackle blight head-on while focusing on community projects and small infrastructure jobs.
A blight strike force will pinpoint targets in vulnerable areas and complete designated projects within two years. If you subscribe to the broken windows theory, then you understand that a broken window quickly becomes blight, which attracts crime and leads to the downfall of a neighborhood. We need to start reversing that trend now and fix the windows, rebuild the infrastructure, reduce the crime and restore the hope.
Business development starts with strong neighborhoods. Making Hartford a more livable city will make it a more enjoyable city in which to do business. If we can encourage entrepreneurism and cultivate a sense of innovation, we will create jobs.
Another form of a broken window is a busted road. Although I have tripled the road paving projects for the summer of 2011, we will need to do more in the next year to erase too many years of neglect. Past failures to make hard choices have made it difficult to navigate our city streets. Partnerships and proper planning with entities such as the Metropolitan District Commission and Connecticut Light & Power mean construction and streetscapes will be done once as opposed to tearing up a road each time something new needs to be added. A case in point is the no longer stalled Albany Avenue streetscape.
Our most important challenge as the state's capital is creating more opportunities for income growth, education and job creation. That is why I launched Opportunities Hartford, which is similar to efforts pursued in Providence and New York City. It is designed to bring the many wonderful city, state, nonprofit and non-government organizations together to maximize service delivery, create economies of scale and increase efficiency and accountability by encouraging collaboration and communication. We have completed Phase I of the project and a small team, led by two members of my cabinet, is working vigorously on Phase II and, ultimately, the release of a comprehensive action plan this fall.
As mayor, I have focused — and will continue to focus — on quality of life issues. They unite neighborhoods and attract positive attention from surrounding areas that would prove beneficial for perception, business growth and, most important, to our families.
We must remember that this is our city. Only together will we turn Hartford into the capital that it can and should be.
Pedro E. Segarra is mayor of Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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