Debate-Like Forum At Hartford Public Library Draws 22 Of The 23 Running For Seats
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
October 30, 2007
Hartford's city council candidates met in a forum Monday and offered their views on far-ranging topics - from trash to taxes, education to economic development and public safety to producing jobs.
The forum was held at the Hartford Public Library and co-sponsored by Hartford 2000 and the MetroHartford Alliance. The candidates - 22 of the 23 were in attendance - were grouped in threes and asked to stand to answer questions in a debate-like format.
Most of the night was cordial, minus one shouting match between Urania Petit of the Working Families Party and Calixto Torres, an incumbent Democrat. The two were asked what can be done to solve the city's unusually high asthma rate.
Torres said the city council had already worked to respond to the issue, saying they had started to retrofit the city's school buses so the engines would emit less pollution.
Petit waited patiently for Torres to finish before launching into him, saying the city had been sitting on the money and done nothing to fix a single bus.
"Your answer sounds so sweet, but what you need to tell the people of Hartford is that we have the money to retrofit those buses," Petit said. "The money is just sitting there just because of petty politics. We need to do more."
The two then shouted over one another for more than a minute, as Torres tried to say the state was holding the money and that the accusation was coming from someone with "a lot of rhetoric and misinformation who has not done her homework."
And while it was difficult for most of the candidates to stand out in such a large crowd, Matt Ritter, son of former House Speaker Thomas D. Ritter, repeatedly grabbed the crowd's attention with clear, forcefully stated ideas and a bit of wit.
When asked if the next city council could do anything new to improve its relationship with the state, Ritter said yes, and that job should begin immediately after the election results were in.
"On Nov. 7, I'll call a local florist and send a dozen roses to Gov. Rell," Ritter said. "In it would be a note, I hope we can work closely with you. You are that important to the city of Hartford."
"I've been fortunate to have spent some time around the capital growing up," Ritter said. "It is all about relationships up there."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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