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Hartford Council Conflicted Over Segarra's Successor

Jenna Carlesso

June 30, 2010

Although the city council ended its Monday meeting without designating a new council president, some members said they're in no hurry to name a successor to Pedro Segarra, who was sworn in Friday as mayor.

"It's not surprising that we haven't replaced Pedro. We will come to some sort of agreement, but it may not happen overnight," Councilman Matthew Ritter said Tuesday.

Ritter said it's "not a major problem" that the council doesn't have a president at this point. The council president presides over meetings, but the vacancy hasn't prevented work from being done, he said. Council Majority Leader rJo Winch will serve as interim president until a new one is chosen, as set forth in the city charter.

"We're going to wait. There's no rush," Councilman Calixto Torres said. It's unclear whether the panel will reach a consensus by its next meeting July 12.

Council members said Tuesday that support is divided between Councilman Jim Boucher and Winch who have both expressed interest in being council president.

Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said he will back Boucher because of an agreement that was reached among the council's Democratic caucus early this year.

When then-president Torres' term was up, caucus members agreed that Boucher would be next in line for the position, he said. Some members later changed their minds, and ultimately voted in favor of Segarra.

"I'm voting for Boucher to honor the commitment I made then," Kennedy said.

Others said they haven't made a decision on which candidate they would support.

"I'm withholding support from any candidate at this point. I think there needs to be more firm and specific commitment to certain changes in city government," said Councilman Larry Deutsch. Such changes include a push for more job growth in Hartford, he said.

Boucher said his strong working relationship with Segarra would be an asset if he took over as president. If elected, he said he hopes to limit taxes while maintaining city services.

Winch said her goal would be to enhance communication between the council president and council members, and get the body back to working on the needs of city residents.

Perhaps more pressing than the election of a new president, however, is filling a vacancy on the council, Ritter said. The council was left with eight members after Segarra became mayor.

"We're in a position where we need to stabilize the city council," Ritter said.

And if the council hasn't elected a president by the time the new member arrives, that person could have an influential vote in who gets the position, observers said.

"If the council has to wait for that ninth person, the ninth person most likely will be the deciding vote for the next president," Councilman Luis Cotto said.

The panel has 60 days to vote in a ninth member, according to the city charter.

Sources said Tuesday that several people may have an interest in the seat, including Alexander Aponte, a former corporation counsel; Julio Concepcion of the MetroHartford Alliance; Angel Arce, a resident whose father, Angel Arce Torres, was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Park Street two years ago; and Victor Luna, a member of the Hartford Democratic Town Committee. Attempts to reach them Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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.
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