What are your top three favorite things (events, places, people, etc) about Hartford?
“I believe the people of the city of Hartford are a great diversity. We have a great vibrant arts and entertainment scene,” he said. Vargas said that he enjoys Real Art Ways, along with the Bushnell, Hartford Stage, and Cinestudio. The arts, he said, is “one of the bright things” in Hartford. He added, “I also like the fact that we have the potential to be a green city.”
What are three specific and measurable actions you would take to boost the city?
All of Vargas’ responses came back to youth.
He said that we need to “engage our young adults.” While we must “continue working and improving the schools” he said, we can “not forget the young adults,” who range from 20-40 years old, who “are not in the schools anymore but are not in the workplace.”
Another item he said he’d address was that of “jobs and economic development.” Vargas said that “economic development is going to happen when we engage our young people” and noted that “we’re a little over 16% unemployment” in Hartford.
Vargas brought the conversation back to youth. He said, that while some of Adamowski’s reforms seem to be working, “we have to continue improving the schools” and “address the issue of kids loitering out on the streets.” What he’s referring to is not the long-standing tradition of teens occasionally skipping a day of school now and then, but the problem of ongoing truancy. He spoke to the need for “moral leadership”
The small business community is something the candidate says can be expanded by “reducing tax burden.” He expressed concern about the high mill rate and how this impacts small businesses.
Again, he spoke to the need to attend to the city’s youth: “Some of them we have to get into community colleges. Some we need to convince that the armed forces” are a good option.” It “creates an environment for investment” when kids are off the street, Vargas said.
How do you plan to deal with absentee landlords who neglect their properties?
“We need a mayor for us,” Vargas said, “that will go out there and work with the renters.”
He said, “I agree with the whole anti-blight initiative.”
Vargas went on to say, “we have to clamp down on absentee landlords.”
He was not the first to assert that, “the ordinances are on the books. We have to have a leader that enforces them.” He said that something complicating this matter is that there is no standardized definition of blight; everyone has varying ideas of what constitutes a blighted property.
How are you qualified for this job position?
“I have a lot of degrees in terms of education,” he said, and “I also happen to have an advanced degree in administration.” Besides being a planning and zoning commissioner, he said that he has “been a coalition builder all [his] life.”
Though he has lived in the South End for quite some time, he said he has also lived in other parts of the city, including South Green and Behind the Rocks. He said, “I know the city well [...] I’ve been involved in labor issues. I’ve been involved in civic issues. [...] I’m a problem-solver [...] I’ve served on non-profit organization boards”
How do you keep your finger on Hartford’s pulse, and if elected, how will you make yourself available to your constituents?
“I’ve been out on the streets knocking on doors, talking to people, for the last five years,” which he said includes about 60% of the city geographically. Before this interview, I actually had spoken to Vargas on several occasions, simply by running into him at various arts events.
Vargas said, “I always spend my money in the local businesses.”
As for keeping in touch with constituents, he said he’d have weekly office meetings and would find a way to “bring it to the neighborhoods.” Though he’s been told that youth are the least likely to vote, he says that he spends a lot of time talking with “kids on Blue Hills and Homestead,” and that he sees “hope in their eyes” when he talks to them.
Anything else you’d like to add?
A few times during the interview, and in other interviews, I heard Vargas say “we need a mayor for us.” He said “that is not a slogan; it’s a mission statement.”
Finally, he added, “the people of Hartford are fundamentally good people”
Note: I received a thank you email from Vargas’ campaign manager after the interview.
To learn more about Edwin Vargas, 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”
2 August 2010: “Deciphering Democrats’ Propaganda”
13 July 2010: “Pick Your (Political) Poison“
5 February 2009: “‘Not Going to Cut Down the At Large’“
19 December 2008: “Public Hearing (for real this time)“
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/.