Four years ago, the Hartford city council was figuring out its role in a new strong-mayor form of government. Then came the tumult surrounding the criminal conviction and resignation of Mayor Eddie Perez. Despite the upheaval, the council established itself as the policy arm and a full partner in city government.
Now it needs some ideas.
The Capital City has the state's highest rate of unemployment, among other negative metrics, along with high business taxes that discourage employers and job creation. The city must control spending and find ways to increase its economic base. The next council needs to move the city toward prosperity.
With that as the guidepost, The Courant endorses the following six candidates for city council, in alphabetical order:
•Kevin R. Brookman, 52, petitioning candidate. Mr. Brookman, a small business owner, may be the city's first cyber-candidate. He started a blog a few years ago called We The People, which attacked many of the excesses of the Perez administration. Via the blog, Mr. Brookman established himself as a tough, honest commentator, with common sense and some innovative ideas.
But Mr. Brookman must realize that if he is elected, he can no longer immerse himself in personnel or labor disputes, as he sometimes does. That's the price of going from the shop floor to the board of directors.
•Luis E. Cotto, 44, Working Families Party. Mr. Cotto first ran for office four years ago pledging to champion the arts and the parks. He has done both, finding funds for arts organizations and partnering with Mayor Pedro Segarra and others to focus more attention on the city's priceless park system. Mr. Cotto now needs to broaden his engagement, study other aspects of government, learn how business interacts with the city and how to help, not combat, employers. He is a font of ideas, some better than others, and an energetic, buoyant presence on the council.
•Michael J. Fryar, 43, Republican. Mr. Fryar has a remarkably varied background: He has been a lawyer, teacher, social worker and business consultant. He hopes to attack the poverty and lack of opportunity in the city by rebuilding the small business structure in the city. One approach is to partner with businesses to fill downtown storefronts. He is upset that there is no bookstore in Hartford. So are we.
•Kenneth H. Kennedy Jr., 46, Democrat. Mr. Kennedy opposed former Mayor Eddie Perez so often that some thought of him as the anti-Eddie councilman. But history proved Mr. Kennedy right more often than not. So voters know what Mr. Kennedy was against. In this term, we urge him to establish what he is for. An assistant state attorney general, Mr. Kennedy understands the need to control spending and is not shy about digging into the complex issues of pensions, health care and taxes.
•David MacDonald, 49, Democrat. Mr. MacDonald, the outgoing chairman of the Hartford Board of Education, is a passionate advocate for the city's children, and was not afraid to stand up to the mayor or anyone else on the kids' behalf. On his watch, under Superintendent Steven Adamowski, the schools began a major turnaround. The importance of this cannot be overstated, and Mr. MacDonald's interest and expertise argue for his endorsement.
•Shawn T. Wooden, 42, Democrat. Mr. Wooden is a bright and dynamic candidate who, if he masters the art of coalition-building, can emerge as a leader on the council. He is impatient to get the city moving, as everyone in city hall should be. A lawyer, Mr. Wooden hopes to focus on getting the city's fiscal house in order and creating jobs to make Hartford, as he put it, a "city of opportunity."
Voters should also consider: Alexander Aponte, Democrat, a lawyer who knows how city government works; Kyle Anderson, Democrat, who has a remarkable level of community involvement; and Sweets Wilson, Republican, who has emerged in the campaign as a hard worker with a good message about jobs, education and public safety.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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