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Mayoral Candidates: The Polished Version

By Kerri Provost

June 08, 2011

In every conversation I have had regarding him, people have had nothing but positive things to say. For a politician, that’s sort of rare. Usually the way it goes is that if you ask enough questions, someone will have some gripe. Not here.

What that tells me is that those running against him need to set themselves apart. Some have tried this through smear campaigns, since there is really nothing legitimate to complain about.

With, let’s say, former Mayor Perez, setting oneself apart as a candidate should not have been a difficult task. If there were no rumors of one’s involvement with the whole Perez fiasco, then one was already distinguished.

Tonight at the mayoral candidate forum, contestants candidates will have an opportunity to show how they would do better than Segarra. Before we look at how they respond in the moment, let’s look at how they appear in forums where they have absolute control over how they appear: their web presence(s)

Mayor Pedro Segarra: His campaign website is a model to follow, but as you will read below, other candidates would rather take the route of clichés and website chaos. Their loss. Segarra’s about page is a well-written narrative. It shows his background without misleading the reader into believing that his life is still one of struggle. Instead of boring constituents with promises, Segarra lists accomplishments during his time as mayor. They are specific and recognizable. While I am curious about what he would like to do next, I think showing these real successes speaks louder. It’s the difference between “am” and “will.” His campaign Twitter feed is professional; the campaign one does not have many followers, but his current, as mayor, account does and is frequently updated.

J.Stan McCauley: His website is kind of a nightmare. Without pressing “play,” videos instantly start up. If the user had control over this, the video endorsements could be a positive aspect. Then, there is the layout. All of the navigation is at the bottom of the page. The type goes all the way across the page, pretty much, which makes for difficult reading. Early on, though, we learn that this candidate lives on Enfield Street, which is in the North East neighborhood. If any of the candidates can make claims to having North End cred, right now, it’s McCauley. Before even getting to the actual issues, the candidate states on the front page — albeit in confused verb tense — “In short my 18 month plan aka “The Blueprint” will cut Hartford’s homicide rate by 50% and increase Downtown business activity. I do this by bringing 2,500 jobs in entertainment, media, and urban friendly “Green Industry” to one of the poorest sections of the city - The North-End of Hartford.” He names a bio-diesel production facility as one of his plans for economic development. In his past campaigns, McCauley has been equally creative in his thinking. While going through the website, I could not find this alleged “blueprint.” Is it a video? Does it not exist yet? His Twitter feed has exactly one tweet — from December. That’s the wrong way to use social media. As in the past, McCauley has great, interesting ideas, but as with the website, lacks focus and organization.

Edwin Vargas: His website states that he has five issues, but on these, he says very little. They are categorized as “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” “Business Development,” “A Clean, Green and Safe City,” “Education,” and “Ethics and Transparency.” For jobs, he says he would target the universities and hospitals — something more specific, at least, than just saying there is a need for everyone to work together. His ideas about education seem the most clear, though requiring that the mayor’s appointee’s to the Board of Education have (or have had) children in Hartford schools discriminates against those who can not reproduce, nevermind against those who choose not to have children for a variety of reasons (including those who do not wish to burden taxpayers by having children they are unable to afford). Not having progeny of one’s own does not preclude someone from having a vested interest in seeing city schools thrive. As for Ethics and Transparency, this seems hilarious after the whole Twitter debacle last week. When asked if Vargas, or a consultant, does the tweeting for @VargasForMayor there was absolutely no response. This is notable because “he” had a lot to say moments beforehand. The Twitter feed is largely unprofessional, joking about “Weinergate” and turning more than one accident involving children into political fodder. Having spoken with Vargas, at length, on several occasions, I question if he is actually running this Twitter account. If not, having some transparency and saying that a consultant is handling it would be welcome. He lives in the South End.

Shawn Wooden: His website lists his “issues” as education, job growth and economic development, and public safety. His statement on education is broad and open to all kinds of interpretation. It sounds as if he enjoys the Adamowski reforms, but that’s reading between the lines. He does not come right out and say he thinks developing a slew of academies is the right approach to reform, yet that seems like a reasonable guess. His statements on economic growth are equally vague. The most specific item he lists is within public safety, when he promises to “strengthen partnerships with federal law enforcement agencies to target those who unlawfully carry and sell firearms.” It’s very play-to-the-middle. Nothing innovative or revolutionary to see here. Working under Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry as her Executive Assistant sounds like relevant job experience, except that today we have a “strong mayor” system. His resume is not unimpressive, but the past and present are somewhat conflated, as he announces how he was “born and raised in the North End of Hartford” at the very beginning of his long “About Shawn” page; it’s not until the last sentence on the same page that we learn he currently lives in the West End– which is about as far removed as one can be from “the North End of Hartford.” We know that the West End is economically diverse, so just to clarify, he lives on one of the wealthiest streets in the city, according to the tax assessor website. Having wealth does not make him a bad candidate, necessarily, but it is dishonest to pretend like one is down and wholly one with the North End while maintaining a secure life on a street where the only people who ever linger outdoors are the hired landscapers. He does maintain a Twitter feed, which is professional but unremarkable.

Mike McGarry has said he would run, but he is doing so as a placeholder candidate so that if another Republican steps forward, that person can legally campaign.

None of the challenging candidates have shown themselves to be both focused and unique, which makes one wonder if any are in it for improving the city, or only in it for their own personal power trip. Let’s see if any perform better when under a little pressure at tonight’s forum.

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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