This interview with Shawn Wooden was conducted via email.
What are your top three favorite things (events, places, people, etc) about Hartford?
I am endlessly inspired by the people of Hartford, who are resilient and diverse. I love the range of restaurants that reflect where our people are from and the foods we eat. And I love watching my kids, and all the others, play basketball at the Wilson-Gray YMCA.
What are three specific and measurable actions you would take to boost the city?
I believe that the most important ways we can boost the city are to improve the quality of life for the residents of Hartford. Three specific actions that I will take include the following:
•Aggressively enforce quality of life issues such as blight, vandalism, noise and pedestrian safety. In part, this will be done by putting more officers on the streets and off of desk jobs.
•Develop an economic development plan that puts an emphasis on creating jobs for city residents and growing our tax base to relieve the heavy tax burden on residents. This is critical to reducing the city’s high unemployment rate.
•Create a youth safety net by investing in after school programs, recreation centers, mentoring programs and a fatherhood initiative. Along these lines, I will aggressively explore funding for wraparound services to our schools, similar to the work of Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City. The work of Harlem Children’s Zone follows youth throughout their lives and helps to provide needed services to ensure that students stay on track through college and go on to the job market. These services can include parenting classes, after-school programs, and extensive tutoring to ensure that students and families stay on track.
How do you plan to deal with absentee landlords who neglect their properties?
First, I will publish an online map of properties owned by absentee landlords with housing violations to encourage public reporting and spur landlords to clean up their properties.
Beyond dealing with absentee landlords directly, we need a proactive strategy to reduce blight and Hartford’s soaring commercial vacancy rates. I will explore options for taxing property in the city to incentivize landlords to develop blighted and neglected properties. I will build and leverage relationships across the city, state and country to bring in businesses and fill empty storefronts, and promote innovative strategies to allow entrepreneurial businesses, start-ups, and businesses with unique investment in Hartford to obtain office space. Hartford is ripe for a ‘start-up incubator’ that can build on existing industries in the city such as hospitals and education, and I will provide tax incentives to bring in these kinds of businesses that can drive innovation in our city.
How are you qualified for this job position?
I was born and raised in Hartford. Over the past twenty-five years, I have witnessed the entrenched problems facing our city and I am passionate about changing the course of the city. My prior experiences as a civic leader, aide to a Mayor, assistant to a Commissioner of Social Services for the state, AFL-CIO official, and Partner in a large corporate law firm allow me to bring a broad range of skills and relationships to assist our city. I know how to bring together different interests to move forward toward common goals. I also bring tremendous energy and vision toward the work of improving the city where I grew up and now choose to raise my family. I have built strong relationships across the city, state and country that will help me amplify the voices and power of Hartford community leaders and bring in resources and proven policies from outside the city.
How do you keep your finger on Hartford’s pulse, and if elected, how will you make yourself available to your constituents?
I keep my finger on Hartford’s pulse now in the same way I always have – through connecting with my neighbors, family, and fellow community members across the city. I will make myself available to constituents by meeting them where they are at, whether that is at senior centers, schools, or online. I will use the internet as a tool to connect with constituents and host online and telephone town halls for residents who can’t come to meetings in person to ensure that their voices can still be heard.
Finally, beyond just ensuring that elected officials hear the voices of constituents, we must empower community members to lead the city. I am very interested in a Philadelphia pilot program called Philly Rising, which is a citizen-led approach to improving public safety and quality of life in Philadelphia’s distressed neighborhoods. This program targets neighborhoods plagued by chronic crime and quality of life problems and trains community leaders to identify issues and promote solutions that require a coordinated, multi-agency and community response. Hartford has a tremendous number of engaged residents with innovative ideas, and they need to be brought into leadership roles to transform our city, neighborhood by neighborhood.
To learn more about Shawn Wooden, visit his website, check out his Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter. You can also check out Real Hartford’s record of coverage on this candidate:
9 June 2011 - Mayoral Candidate Forum Spotlights Pressing Issues like Robocars and Raspberries
8 June 2011 - Mayoral Candidates: The Polished Version
UPDATE (30 June 2011 / 4:30pm): Less than 48 hours after Wooden responded to these questions, the news is reporting that Wooden has decided to drop out of the mayoral race.
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/.