Helen Ubiñas: Eddie, Don't Leave Hartford In Limbo, Too
September 03, 2009
El Jefe may well be a criminal, but at least he's consistent.
In good times and in bad, one thing has remained the same when it comes to Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez.
Eddie is always about Eddie.
It was on full display Wednesday after his second arrest in just over seven months.
Right after his perp walk, Perez gathered the usual group of supporters-for-hire for another surreal city hall pep rally.
"I committed no crime," Perez told the chanting crowd.
"I will be vindicated."
"I want my day in court."
And that's how it's been since the guy took office.
In the beginning there was Eddie, the new mayor, hoarding and consolidating power.
There was Eddie, appointing himself to the school board and then getting himself elected chairman.
Eddie, in charge of the massive project to remake the city's schools.
Eddie, the big boss man — El Jefe.
And the thing is that for a while you could argue it needed to be done.
For years, Harford had been crippled by its lame duck leadership, its lack of vision, its inferiority complex.
Hartford needed someone in charge, and El Jefe wanted nothing more than to be the man on top.
But look what we got.
Now, the very thing the city needed to move forward is dragging both Perez and Hartford down. Perez, who was arrested in January on bribery charges, was rearrested Wednesday morning, this time charged with attempted extortion.
But that didn't stop supporters from lining up to credit the man who not so coincidentally funds their programs and signs their paychecks for remaking Hartford.
Fine. Just for the sake of argument, let's entertain the idea that Perez's leadership is responsible for improving the city.
Let's also consider the possibility, for a moment, that the corruption charges won't stick — that Perez prevails the way he insists he will.
We're still talking months, if not years, before this whole fiasco ends.
And in the meantime, the city is in limbo — just as the recession is showing signs of ebbing, housing prices in the area are stabilizing and hopefully jobs will follow.
In the meantime, El Jefe is one big distraction, another unnecessary obstacle to an already ailing city that can't afford one more misstep or missed opportunity.
Think about it. Politics is 99 percent perception. And there's a perception out there right now that this city is being run by an arrogant crook and his equally unethical cronies. In addition to Perez, former state Rep. Abe Giles, businessman Carlos Lopez and council member Veronica Airey-Wilson were arrested Wednesday.
Who's going to want to do business in a city under a cloud, with a mayor who may not be around to see the job through, and maybe worse — with a serious lack of quality leadership ready to fill the void?
"To the people of this great city, I want to make it very clear that I will remain as your mayor," Perez told the cheering crowd.
Nice sound bite — but if El Jefe really cared about Hartford, like those cloying sycophants who spoke Wednesday claimed, he'd get out of the way and let Hartford move forward.
He can still have his day in court; he just doesn't have to drag the city in there with him.
If it was really about Hartford, that is.
And not, like it is and always has been, just about Eddie.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at