Hartford Primary City Democrats should support incumbent Pedro Segarra
Hartford Courant Editorial
September 10, 2011
It speaks volumes about the changing demographics in Hartford, as well as the political maturation of the Latino community, that both candidates in Tuesday's Democratic mayoral primary, incumbent Mayor Pedro Segarra and challenger Edwin Vargas, are Puerto Rican.
The two share other characteristics as well: Both are bright and engaging, have lived in Hartford for decades and served the city in many ways.
Both envision a safer, healthier city with more jobs and businesses and an ethical, productive city government. With due respect to Mr. Vargas, a serious candidate, we think Mr. Segarra is more likely to achieve these goals.
Many of the city's ills come back to this: Hartford has the highest rate of unemployment in the state, a staggering 16.9 percent in July, a rate well above that of the state's other large cities. The main challenge for the next mayor will be improving the business climate so that more residents can find work. However, Hartford has the highest business tax rate in the region, in large part because of the staggering cost of running its government. If the city is to recover, it's got to run more efficiently and economically.
Mr. Vargas is a public-sector union man. A retired teacher, he is a former president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, which recently endorsed him, and the Greater Hartford Labor Council AFL-CIO. Could he reduce the workforce or cut some of the unsustainable benefits now enjoyed by some city workers? He says he could and that he is the pro-business candidate in the race.
Mr. Segarra is a little further down this road. Though a key member of the city council in years when the budget was increased, Mr. Segarra and the council in the past year have reduced the workforce, applied restraints to the pension plan for non-union employees and slightly cut taxes. It's a start in the right direction.
Mr. Vargas has studied cities such as San Antonio and Providence as models for Hartford's revival. Those cities used entertainment, water features and other quality-of-life improvements to spur development. Mr. Segarra is on this one as well, with a focus on parks, an ice rink and support for the iQuilt plan to connect downtown arts and cultural centers. "Let's make Hartford a real capital city, let's create excitement," he said. That's a vision worth supporting.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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