HARTFORD - Hartford residents have now lived through their first four years in decades under a strong-mayor form of government. The city has moved further ahead under strong-mayor than it might have otherwise, particularly in service delivery. But the city council missed many an opportunity to serve as a check on the mayor's new powers.
In one instance, council members approved a four-year labor contract that was handed to them by the mayor's office moments before their regular meeting. The council also interviewed a department-head candidate a month after he was hired and took no part in the hiring of former Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett.
It is therefore no surprise that almost all of the candidates for the city council, including incumbents, are promising to apply restraints on the mayor this time around. Some candidates suggest charter changes to strengthen the council's hand, such as giving the council its own legal representative and budget analyst.
But, with or without new powers, the next council must refuse to serve as the mayor's doormat. A government that marches unquestioningly in lockstep is not a healthy one.
Nine at-large members will be elected, including three who will hold minority-party seats. Voters can choose only six.
The Courant recommends the following, in alphabetical order:
Veronica Airey-Wilson, 54, owner of an insurance agency. A six-term incumbent, Ms. Airey-Wilson, a Republican, has cultivated a faithful base of voters. Her secret is excellent constituent services and making the right alliances. She gets things done.
James M. Boucher, 50, an executive with the Capital Region Workforce Development Board. Mr. Boucher, a Democrat running for his second term, is a neighborhood activist who once ran Hartford Areas Rally Together. His primary focus is improving and redesigning Hartford's schools.
Luis E. Cotto, 40, co-owner of La Paloma Sabanera coffeehouse, who is running for his first term on the Working Families slate. Mr. Cotto believes the city's cultural affairs programs are under-funded and that the council should make parks and recreation a separate agency again.
Kenneth H. Kennedy Jr., 42, an assistant attorney general and a Democrat running for a third term. Mr. Kennedy sensibly advocates taxing vacant property at three and a half times the normal rate to stimulate development.
Matthew D. Ritter, 25, an attorney running as a Democrat for his first term. He would be a voice for the city's young professionals. He supports pre-kindergarten programs and quality-of-life improvements.
Pedro E. Segarra, 48, attorney and a Democrat who served three terms as Hartford's corporation counsel. Mr. Segarra is running for his first full term on the council, having filled the term of councilman Hernan LaFontaine, who left in 2006. Mr. Segarra's experience makes him a valuable councilor and adviser on tweaking the city charter to strengthen the council's authority.
The Courant also recommends an additional three candidates because nine will be elected:
Larry Deutsch, 62, a pediatrician and Working Families candidate running for the first time. Mr. Deutsch would be a public-health advocate in the model of Dr. Robert Painter, who is not seeking re-election. Dr. Deutsch would revive the city health department to address asthma and other problems left largely to state and federal agencies.
Calixto Torres, 56, retired executive director of the Connecticut Puerto Rican Forum and a Democrat running for his third term. A former city official, Mr. Torres agrees that the charter needs fine-tuning for better council oversight.
R.J. Winch, 53, processes payroll for United Technologies Corp. A Democrat running for her second term, Ms. Winch favors charter revision to allow for district elections.
Also on the ballot are Republicans Kevin B. Carroll, Michael T. McGarry, Gerry Pleasent, Michael J. Lupo and John P. Lupo Jr.; Green Party candidate David M. Ionno; Thom Page, who is running on the Charter Oak slate; Paolo Mozzicato, on the Mozzicato for Hartford slate; Reform Party candidates David G. Morin, Maria Diaz, Rupert Daniels and Beatriz C. Roman; Working Families candidate Urania Petit; and petitioning candidate Lillian Milly Arciniegas.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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