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Pomp, Divisiveness, and New City Council President

By Kerri Provost

January 05, 2012

It was standing room only — and that room to stand was hard to find — for the audience of Tuesday evening’s inauguration. A true Hartford event, those in fur, suits, and velvet mingled with those in rhinestones, denim, t-shirts and cowboy hats.

The ceremony included an invocation and benediction split between four readers (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim), three songs performed live by students at Kinsella School, Martin Luther King School, Bulkeley High School, and High School, Inc., the Pledge of Allegiance led by Girl Scouts, presentation of a staff and gold key to Segarra, and some speeches.

From the first floor, one could embrace the fanfare, but from an aerial view, cynicism could come as easily as spotting comb-overs and which officials appeared to be playing with their phones during the ceremony.

The first resolution that the Court of Common Council voted on was who to appoint as Council President. Since Shawn Wooden settled for running for a position on the City Council, there had been constant speculation that he would receive the position of Council President in exchange for him dropping out of the mayoral campaign.

The Council President is not simply appointed by the Mayor; City Council votes on who fills this position.

Of those taking the oath on Tuesday, the only incumbent Democrats were Ken Kennedy and Alex Aponte, the latter having been appointed to City Council in August 2010 to fill the vacancy left when Pedro Segarra stepped into the role of mayor following the departure of Eddie Perez.

Newly elected Democrat Kyle Anderson would not step up to put in his name for the coveted position, sources say, despite some on City Council requesting he do so. David MacDonald and Raul DeJesus also appeared to be non-contenders in this.

During the past week and change, some individuals promoting Kennedy were said to have spread an unsubstantiated rumor that Wooden would be attempting to “oust” Segarra, a move that seems less than strategic for someone who clearly stepped aside from competing directly against the Mayor.

As for Wooden, he says that in two years time, he would “like to see a unified city, working together to tackle our toughest problems.”

He added that he would “like the people of Hartford to see the Council working hard to achieve meaningful and lasting progress.” He says he believes that “if we all commit ourselves to our shared goals of increasing opportunity and prosperity throughout this city, that there will be no holding us back.”

Wooden, who had a political career before moving into law, is diving back into local politics by taking on the added responsibility of Council President. When asked why he would do this, instead of easing into the job, he said that during his campaign, people expressed the need for new leadership.

“The people of Hartford need us to work with mayor Segarra to improve public safety, strengthen our schools and get people working again,” Wooden said. “I’m realistic about the challenges our city faces, but I’m excited to work with the Mayor, my colleagues on the council and with community members across this city to bring fresh ideas to the table, look for new and innovative ways to solve old problems and to continue the progress the Mayor has begun.”

Councilman Kennedy could not be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, after the ceremonial segment of the Organizational Meeting was over, the City Council finally voted — first on whether or not to have Kennedy and Wooden serve successive terms as Council President. This would have been a vote for both or neither, simultaneously.

After this was shot down, the Court of Common Council cast votes for which of those two would take this position immediately. The votes cast for Wooden were, in some cases, simply against Kennedy, who, to them, represented the old guard.

Presiding over meetings is the primary duty of the Council President, but if Mayor Segarra should vacate office before his term is up, Wooden would serve as mayor. Given how long it took for Perez to resign during his corruption case, an attempt to remove Segarra from office when he faces no such criminal charges, seems unlikely.

Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford. To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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