A large crowd packed council chambers at Hartford City Hall Monday night to hear Mayor Pedro Segarra’s annual State of the City address. But the mayor’s report contain few big surprises to shock the crowd.
Segarra wasted little time before getting into the projected $70 million budget deficit currently hanging over Hartford.
“We can’t ignore deficits, but we can’t obsess about them either,” Segarra said. “My first year it was $30MM, last year it was $50MM and this year our projections show a deficit as high as $70MM.” But he then pointed out that, “We have closed each and every gap since I have been Mayor and we will do the same again next year and in future years. My past record clearly demonstrates that we are ready to accept this – and future – challenges.”?Segarra, however, did not specifically detail how he would overcome the current budget deficit projection, except to say, “ So again, I repeat, it's not going to be easy, it's not going to be without sacrifice and no one is going to get everything that they desire.”
Despite the financial difficulties, Segarra said he will use the funding that is available to make the most positive impact possible for city residents. “I want to reassure you of some of my administration’s unwavering priorities- things that will not shift regardless of our financial challenges. I will submit a budget that is respectful to the needs of our community but in tune with our economic reality,” he said. These priorities include: education reform; nurturing entrepreneurs, youth employment and job training; improvements to the city’s infrastructure and restoration of its park system; and promoting a business-friendly atmosphere.
The mayor then went over a list of recent Hartford successes, including the progress at Front Street (Spotlight Cinema open, Capital Grille and Infinity Hall on the way), the retention of the CT?Whale AHL?hockey team at the XL?Center, strong attendance at WinterFest and EnvisionFest, the planned move of the University of Connecticut’s branch campus in West Hartford to Downtown Hartford, upcoming streetscape improvements for Albany Avenue, Wethersfield Avenue and Farmington Avenue and major new housing projects both downtown and at the old Westbrook Village and Bowles Park public housing complexes.
“These capital improvement projects impact our City in two critical ways,” Segarra said. “First, they improve our infrastructure and, second, they create jobs in our city. I have charged my administration, including DPW and Procurement, to include training programs for Hartford residents in any new infrastructure contract. I want to hire from within as much as possible.
One of the more specific developments the mayor mentioned was the city’s new plan to build two new 150,000 square foot athletic fields in partnership with the Cal Ripkin, Sr. Foundation.
But, the biggest applause of the night came when Segarra pointed out that so far, Hartford has not had one murder this year. All eyes turned to Police Chief James Rovella, who seemed to be a bit embarrassed by the standing ovation he received.
Turning to a far less serious – but far more widespread – crime, Segarra said, “And it is time we launch a Citywide, City-driven anti-litter program. We’ll collaborate with community stakeholders, businesses and residents to rid our city of trash and litter once and for all.”
As he was reaching the end of his speech, Segarra returned to his original theme of not being obsessed by financial difficulties. “Simply because things get difficult doesn’t mean we abandon our principles,” he said.