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Killing Hartford's Democracy

By Mike McGarry

March 21, 2013

The law of unintended consequences always seems to plague Hartford. The 15% surcharge on businesses was supposed to increase homeownership, in retrospect that idea chased businesses away and made homeownership harder - with fewer good jobs in the city.

The same might be said with the recent change in legislation that protected homeowners and eliminated the 15% surcharge - the effects of disinvestment in apartments may breed a new crisis in housing throughout the city. More to come on this subject in future columns.

Now we look at politics and the effects of the universally popular (at the time) four year mayoral and council terms. Sadly, this move seems to have sucked the vitality right out of politics in Hartford. With four years between elections, many people who might get involved politically just move on with their lives. When Council members make bonehead moves (see below) the lack of any consequences let's them off - who can even think of 2015?

Today we see two futher attempts to stifle democracy in this the capitol of the cradle of the constitiution.

First, in a raw grab for power, using supposed savings as an excuse (it's really "revenue neutral" according to Councilman Kennedy), Shawn Wooden wants to take away confidential Council Assistants from individual Council persons. Today, citizens can quietly take a Council Assistant aside, describe a problem with a neighbor, a city employee, or a lawbreaking business and expect that message to go directly to the Council person. Can that be expected of a "staff" person who will now owe his or her job and compensation to a “chief of staff?” No. The change will also elevate the Council President to a co-mayor position (perhaps to facilitate a run for congress in the future?).

Indivdual council persons and citizens lose power and the ability to change things. Hiding the diminishing of democracy under the "mantle of efficiency" is scary-1930's talk and action.

The other looney idea now floated is eliminating the political status of the Registrar of Voters office. Again, taking away citizens rights and further destroying the political structure in the name of "efficiency"

At Monday nights public hearing, many speakers urged caution before making these two undemocratic moves. Our advice, ditch them both, and consider going back to two year terms, giving citizens the ability to punish individuals who advance such dangerous ideas.

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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