Below appears Council President Shawn T. Wooden’s response to an open letter from Mike McGarry that appeared in last week’s The Hartford News.
Dear Mr. McGarry,
I read with interest your open letter to me published in last week’s edition of The Hartford News. First, I’d like to thank you for attending the March 11th meeting of the Court of Common Council and for sharing your thoughts on the proposed ordinance to modify the staffing of the Council office.
As I did at that meeting, I would like to clarify some of the points you made in your open letter.
Discussion after your remarks would have certainly left the public with the false perception that the proposed ordinance would increase the Council payroll. I then clarified that the opposite is, in fact, true – the proposed ordinance will decrease the council staff from a total of nine to seven and reduce the cost to taxpayers. That is not my opinion; it is an irrefutable and objective fact. I mentioned this only to keep our public discourse grounded in accuracy. We all have a right to our own opinions, but we do not have a right to make up our own facts.
Your statement that such a clarification violated the Council Rules is also inaccurate. This was not a public hearing governed by the rules that you referenced in your letter. It was a committee meeting, where open discussion is permitted. A review of the Council Rules would confirm this reality.
Additionally, I'd like to address the content of your remarks at the meeting. Along with Councilman Kyle Anderson and Councilman David MacDonald, I have introduced an ordinance to restructure the City Council staff. We want to do more with less by specializing the staff so that we can better serve the public while reducing the amount we spend on staffing resources. It is difficult to see your opposition to this proposal as anything but continued hypocrisy from the Republican Party, purporting to stand for fiscal responsibility but succumbing to the pressures of partisan politics and the defense of the status quo.
This year, the City of Hartford is once again facing a significant budget deficit, projected to be as much as $70 Million. And, if we are being honest, most would agree that city government (including the City Council) is still not as effective or efficient as the people deserve. We can't be afraid to make changes that save taxpayer money and improve our ability to serve the people we represent.
The current staffing model of one executive assistant for each Councilperson is an expensive and inefficient model that wastes taxpayers' dollars. To use a sports metaphor, it's like having a football team with all running backs - no quarterback, no linebacker, no wide receiver, etc. By improving specialization of the responsibilities of the staff, we can significantly improve the efficiency of how the City Council operates and what we can get done for the people of Hartford.
While I disagree strongly with your opinion of the proposed ordinance, I respect your right to express it and encourage others to do so as well. As we move forward, I look forward to the public's input on this ordinance and the many other significant issues that confront our city. Lastly, I will continue to do my best to make sure that the public receives accurate information from the City Council – this is critically important to ensure a productive and thoughtful civic discourse.
Thank you for sharing your concerns with the City Council.