Mayor Eddie Has Lost His Way - And Activists' Faith
By TOM SWAN
August 27, 2007
The Connecticut Citizen Action Group, like many others, was full of hope when longtime community activist Eddie Perez was first elected mayor of Hartford. His election provided promise for all of us who have worked to strengthen our democracy and toiled to transform Hartford into a capital city that will make Connecticut proud.
The news reports over the past few weeks have unfortunately led us to conclude that Mayor Perez must go. Given Eddie's grass-roots organizing credentials and his "boy makes good" story, our decision brings no satisfaction. CCAG has not and will not make an endorsement before the mayoral primary in Hartford.
The reason that we feel we must speak out is CCAG's belief that government has a vital role ensuring our common good. We believe that a "small d" democratic government is the only way we can really protect our environment, guarantee everyone access to quality health care, secure our communities, educate our residents and build a smart transportation system. People must have faith in our democratic institutions for government to fulfill these vital functions.
It is for this reason that we have been outspoken when public officials such as John Rowland and others betray the public trust. We will continue to speak out and challenge corrupt officials regardless of their party affiliation.
In addition to speaking out against corrupt officials, CCAG worked to limit the corrupting influence of money by successfully advocating for campaign finance reform, and we continue to push for passage of privatization standards and for greater municipal lobbyist disclosure at the state level.
Unfortunately, we must now speak out against Mayor Perez. The disclosures about renovations to his house have a disturbing similarity to those done to Rowland's infamous Bantam cottage, except Perez, not his wife, signed the check. In some ways his willingness to use a city contractor who is not licensed to do residential work and his not following Hartford's permitting laws may make his transgressions even more egregious.
Like Rowland, Perez's house renovation project is not the only example of his questionable ethical behavior. On another front, the Perez administration's tactics to keep state Rep. Minnie Gonzales and a challenge slate for city council off the September ballot are reminiscent of Karl Rove using the U.S. Department of Justice to suppress voter participation for political gain.
Who can really believe that the voters of Hartford benefit from a Perez-dominated Democratic Town Committee, with a large number of city officials having the only voice in selecting the next city council?
These maneuvers are about maintaining political power at any cost. It is clear that Perez is no stranger to shady power-broking. These recent actions build off an earlier scandal surrounding an indefensible and inadequately documented parking lot arrangement with a North End power broker who once had 17 other people registered as voters at his house.
Perez's emerging pattern of abuses of his office will result in a major loss of faith in city hall by the residents and businesses of Hartford. The city is also in danger of an erosion of support from the state at a time when Hartford remains desperate for assistance.
It is for the long-term health of Hartford that CCAG believes it is time for Eddie to take ultimate responsibility and step down. If he won't do that, the voters need to act.
Hartford deserves a clean slate that pledges to outlaw self-dealing, establish clear and transparent standards for city contractors and enact municipal public financing for elections. Hartford can become the city we all hope it to be, but only if real actions are taken to restore the public trust.
Tom Swan is executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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