Charges Won't Derail Progress — Or Commitments That Must Be Kept
EDDIE A. PEREZ
September 06, 2009
Every day I work hard for the people whose names you never hear and faces you wouldn't recognize — the people who open the doors of their businesses every day, send their children to school here, the people who make up Hartford's 17 neighborhoods. The job that they elected me to do is not complete.
Every day, I work to make people's lives better through education, jobs, housing and, of course, newfound hope. Since my arrest in January on unfounded charges of bribery and with my subsequent arrest Wednesday on allegations of extortion, my critics have taken the opportunity to question my ability to continue as mayor.
Some have asked me to step aside. I am eager to have the full truth surrounding these allegations revealed in court and am confident that I will be exonerated. I asked to go to trial and get this ordeal over with in January. The state did not honor that request. I have not, and will not, let the court proceedings impede the progress we have made in Hartford. This administration has 2 1/2 more years to continue to make a difference. I made a commitment to the people of Hartford and I will not walk away from that promise.
The people who raised me in this community have always said that if you work hard, good things happen. I came to Hartford as a boy and lived and worked in virtually every neighborhood, where people provided me with gifts of hope and opportunity. One person at a time, the people of this city have given me the drive to carry on their dreams. They have lifted me up and expect me not to give up. Because of their passion, I started public service at 14 years old and I'm not finished giving back as a man or as a mayor.
To be mayor, you need to be passionate, persistent and patient — all in the name of progress. When nobody believed in Hartford, I believed and Hartford has believed in me. Together, we are doing great things and great things can still be accomplished. As long as we are passionate about people, persistent in putting a long-term vision in place and patient when progress doesn't happen fast enough, we will continue to turn the corner.
The residents of Hartford made history in 2001. Three elections later, I am still humbled that people see in me the essential qualities to lead Hartford to new heights with a broader and bolder outlook that goes far beyond our city borders. We must be competitive globally and that commitment starts — and ends — with the CEO of Hartford.
Education of our youngest residents is the cornerstone of my administration. What started with developing the Learning Corridor has blossomed into new schools, new curriculums and new uniforms, with a new attitude toward learning.
As a member of the board of education, with more than three years as its chairman, I have been in the forefront of raising the standards of academic excellence and expectations. We cannot jeopardize the reform we have started together. Young people graduating from college, achieving world-class employment and reinvesting skills in our neighborhoods are all crucial elements for our future. That is why I am so persistent with my vision for job training.
Our residents need jobs. Our school construction projects have not only yielded buildings with award-winning architecture and positive learning environments, they have given employment and skills for life to thousands of Hartford residents.
On another front, homeownership, which stabilizes and revitalizes our neighborhoods, continues to be a key to our city's growth and potential. This is the toughest economy in 80 years, however, so we must demonstrate patience and be persistent in finding ways to keep people in their homes and provide opportunities for new homeowners.
This patience must also be extended to our business community. Small business owners are the backbone of our economy. Without them, Hartford would lose the traction it has gained in economic development along with some of the city's quaintness, uniqueness and diversity.
That diversity is on display every day in our shops and restaurants and is highlighted through our history, culture, architecture and arts. It is why my administration is such a strong supporter of our arts community — to grow jobs and to put more feet on the street.
The increased vibrancy on our streets also comes with a major decrease in crime. Hartford is the safest it has been in decades, thanks to neighborhood policing and strong community partnerships. However, there is still a perception of crime and perceptions must be overcome with the facts. In the end, the truth prevails.
Which leads us back to the original question: Why am I mayor and why do I want to continue to be mayor?
The answer is simple. I was raised never to give up. If one person does, it is a domino effect. I will not be responsible for setting the ripples of defeat into motion. We have accomplished so much, but the progress is not yet complete. There's a vision for the future and sometimes you don't realize how far you've come until you look back to see where you have been.
With that, I invite people to come see for themselves and rediscover Hartford — its faith and its future — as well as the man who wanted to be, is, and will continue to be mayor.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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