With a week left before the Nov. 6 election, mayoral challenger I. Charles Mathews has ratcheted up his rhetoric against Mayor Eddie A. Perez, attacking on two fronts.
For the third time in the campaign, Mathews on Monday lashed out at a Perez campaign ad, alleging that the latest mailer again misrepresented his record as deputy mayor.
And Mathews alleged that Perez acted arrogantly in refusing for the second time to sit for a deposition, this time in a suit against the Hartford Housing Authority.
In its most recent mailer, the Perez campaign accused Mathews of failing to provide the city's children with the "resources they needed" when Mathews was on the city council. It also said he was "in charge" when school buildings crumbled from years of neglect.
The ad quoted from a December 1993 New York Times that stated: "In the past two or three years, the deficiencies of the Hartford school system have been exacerbated by budget cutbacks. In the 1992-93 school year, over 100 staff positions were cut, including 40 teachers, and a wide range of support positions."
The phrase "in the 1992-93 school year" was edited out of the ad. Mathews left office in 1991.
"I was out of office by then," Mathews said Monday. "It is clear Eddie Perez will do anything to win. He will lie, misrepresent, and distort the facts. And you can't say this is just politics. These statements are outright lies, and Mr. Perez and his cronies know better."
"It appears he does not have an ethical bone in his body," Mathews said.
In 1991, Mathews and the city council increased the school budget by $9 million, albeit less than the $13 million that the board of education requested.
Mathews added that under the city's former council-manager form of government, the city council had no authority over school building maintenance.
The Perez campaign ad mirrored two earlier ones that raised Mathews' ire. One that was published in two papers in the city's North End purported to compare Perez's record with that of Mathews, but had numerous factual inaccuracies; the second attacked Mathews' record on crime, but omitted relevant statistics showing that crime dropped under Mathews' watch.
Perez's campaign manager, Kenny Curran, said the latest ad was intended to describe a time in the early 1990s when the schools were not getting the resources they needed.
"We feel Mr. Mathews had an opportunity to make progress and be part of the solution, and he didn't," Curran said.
Mathews also said Monday that Perez's refusal to submit to depositions in two civil cases is evidence of a "growing pattern of arrogance and isolationism" at city hall. One of the cases involves a controversy surrounding efforts to unionize workers at the downtown Marriott Hotel; the other involves the turmoil at the Hartford Housing Authority, where Lancelot Gordon Jr., formerly the authority's executive director, was fired in 2006. Gordon then filed suit in U.S. District Court, alleging that deep-rooted corruption plagued the authority.
Perez said through the city's attorney that the courts should protect him from "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or undue burden."
But as the chief operating officer of Hartford, Mathews said, Perez should be accountable to the people who elected him and eager to get "the truth" on the record. Instead, Perez makes decisions in a "vacuum with a few of his cronies, and when he is called upon to explain, he ducks, hides and complains about the process," Mathews said.
But Curran said the criticism of being arrogant and making decisions behind closed doors was once leveled at Mathews, when he was deputy mayor.
"It is like Mr. Mathews is doing Hartford's version of the Running Man, running very far and fast from his own record," Curran said. "Some of the things he is accusing the mayor off, he has been accused of himself."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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