I've lived and worked in the Greater Hartford area for almost my entire life. For the past four years I've lived in Hartford, in the North End. My job is right outside the border, on Blue Hills Avenue in Bloomfield. I attend Trinity College in the South End. My son goes to day care at the Mount Olive Child Development Center off of Main Street. No matter where I am in the city, one thing remains constant: the people. They are helpful, hard working, they teach, open businesses, raise families. They put their energy and effort into the city because they live here.
So imagine my surprise and anger when a recent conversation about Mayor Eddie Perez's trial on WNPR's "The Colin McEnroe Show" morphed into a sweeping indictment of these very people. Mr. McEnroe and his guests, Rick Green (of The Courant) and Duby McDowell, began by decrying the lack of attention being paid to the trial by both the news media and the citizens of Hartford. Fair enough, although I'm not surprised that interest has waned in a three-year-old case with significant weaknesses.
From there, the conversation veered into well-trod territory. Mr. McEnroe declared that government in Hartford is broken (based on the difficulty in having Freedom of Information requests honored) and that nobody in Hartford cares about the city. This was followed by him waxing nostalgic about how when he first came to Hartford in the 1970s, things were different; presumably, the people who lived in Hartford cared then. Mr. Green and Ms. McDowell co-signed, repeating no one in Hartford cares.
I was livid. I reached for my cellphone to call the show, but changed my mind because I was at work. After a few hours, I found that my anger had receded and settled into a bitter disappointment. We've been down this road before, the "blame the victim" road. The message from the McEnroe show was clear: The people of Hartford have gotten the government they deserve.
There's nothing new in such implied statements. What angers me is the self-righteous myopia that blinds people like Mr. McEnroe and Mr. Green. Mr. Green doesn't live in Hartford, he lives in West Hartford. During the show, Mr. McEnroe presented the statistic that Mayor Perez was re-elected with 6,500 votes, while 9,000 votes were cast for Mayor Scott Slifka in West Hartford, a smaller town, to support his claim that no one in Hartford cares. Instead of simply quoting voter turnout, perhaps Mr. McEnroe and Mr. Green should have pointed out that there is a $50,000 difference between the median family income of Hartford and West Hartford. Perhaps a discussion about wealth and voting could have ensued, or a discussion of people who work in the city but take their paychecks back to the suburbs. However, Mr. McEnroe and Mr. Green were already engaged in telling Hartford residents what's wrong with them.
Mr. McEnroe, Mr. Green and other like-minded people represent the "save them from themselves" school of thought in regard to Hartford. It's the same mentality that looks to the suburbs to save city schools; it's the same mentality that encourages gentrification by dropping a luxury apartment tower into the heart of a city with a 30 percent poverty rate; it's the same mentality that justifies individuals in declaring that 120,000 people don't care about their own future.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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