The Segarra Agenda: Finances, Jobs, Transportation
New Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra needs to govern like a one-termer
The Hartford Courant
June 27, 2010
Few envy Pedro Segarra his new job.
Mr. Segarra, the president of the city council, will replace disgraced Mayor Eddie Perez, who resigned Friday. The city charter says the interim mayor serves until the next municipal election, in this case 2011, though city Republicans, citing state law, say they will push for a special election this fall.
However it plays out, coming elections should be the last thing on Mr. Segarra's mind. He faces a grave fiscal situation and other serious problems, and can only solve them by eschewing the political deals that cost his predecessor so dearly.
As Mr. Segarra well knows, city finances must be brought under control. The slow recovery and the empty office space downtown bode ill for grand list growth. The phase-out of the business surcharge on property taxes means a sharp increase in residential taxes in two years, unless spending is reduced.
After getting his staff in place — a strong, competent chief of staff would be key — Mr. Segarra should sunset every unnecessary job on the city's payroll. If it isn't essential, Hartford can't afford it. That will mean reducing the size of the mayor's staff. It means taking on sacred cows such as the police and fire departments. Can Hartford afford 800 police officers and firefighters? The city ought to do a fire staffing study. It must look at regional sharing of services — there are Hartford and West Hartford fire stations that are six blocks apart. Mr. Segarra should push for regional police lockups and property rooms instead of using officers who could be on the streets.
Making such changes will mean re-establishing strong ties with the governor and legislature — whom Mr. Perez needlessly antagonized — and with suburban officials, with whom relations were sometimes dicey. Better communication might encourage state officials to move state jobs back to Hartford from suburbs like Rocky Hill. This city has the highest unemployment rate in the state, 15 percent, a figure that goes to 25 percent if the underemployed and those who stopped trying are added in. The result is a lot of people who aren't working, which leads to a host of other problems.
Mr. Segarra must also court the business community, and with business leaders look for ways to put more city residents to work. Be imaginative. Open a small-business incubator building. Build a factory that makes bicycles, railroad ties, wooden replacement windows — something. Try to lure medical-related business around the two hospitals.
Transportation will be a key to the city's revival: The new mayor should push the state Department of Transportation to complete the rail and busway projects quickly, and make other improvements. He should continue the school reforms begun under Mr. Perez.
Mr. Segarra should be the face of a new Hartford, working to unite the neighborhoods, bringing energy and enthusiasm back, making people feel good about their city again after months under a cloud.
The conviction of Mr. Perez on corruption charges was a black eye for the city, but it presents an opportunity, if Mr. Segarra is willing to do what must be done. Whether or not he runs in 2011, he should govern now as if this is his only term.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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