I read the Hartford Courant this morning and I feel compelled to compliment former Hartford City Council President Hernan LaFontaine for giving me the best laugh I have had in a while. His attempt at stating why Eddie Perez should remain in office was just hilarious. LaFontaine starts off by saying "Any objective assessment of his performance in office since he started will reveal an ongoing and quantifiable record of accomplishments benefiting the citizens of Hartford at all economic levels." Let's start by his most obvious financial accomplishments. Perez has singlehandedly driven Hartford to the brink of bankruptcy. He has increased city spending by almost $125,000,000 per year over what was being spent when he took office. This increase in spending while many, including the City Treasure, were telling Perez his revenue projections were unrealistic. This has resulted in Hartford's "rainy day" fund being tapped by Perez on a regular basis. The rainy day fund, which was roughly $54,000,000 when Perez claimed his throne, is now said to be at less than $16,000.000, and if the real books were opened up, probably far less than that number.
LaFontaine goes on to state that "the repeated delays in court proceedings are tantamount to extreme legal harassment that would likely not occur if he were an average citizen." Probably a very true statement, but again, the facts tell a different story. Most, if not all, of the delays have been caused by Perez and his attorneys. The truth is that although we keep hearing Perez and his attorneys state they want a "speedy trial" and "justice delayed is justice denied", in court documents uncovered this week, Perez and his attorneys actually asked the Connecticut Supreme Court to delay his trial until after his term as Mayor, until January of 2012 at the earliest.(these documents can be viewed in a previous post "Does Eddie Perez Really want a Speedy Trial").
In another surprising and somewhat comical statement, LaFontaine apparently equates Perez's troubles to a political witchhunt when he says "The cries for the mayor's resignation and the incessant rumors and allegations against him represent a level of political persecution that has not been seen in Hartford in 30 years." The last I knew, Superior Court Judges don't sign search warrants and arrest warrants based on "incessant rumors and allegations". If anything, I would say that any charges against Perez were given an extra level of scrutiny above and beyond what the average citizen might expect. The standard of probable cause was most likely raised even higher to "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" before any warrants were signed. LaFontaine further writes that "A rush to judgment in the public forum does not take into account the mayor's ability and continuing value to Hartford as demonstrated by the city's forward movement during his tenure in office." Although I am not one to give Perez much credit, there are those that do. But you have to ask, at what point are you willing to stop overlooking any positives, if there really are any, as opposed to the negatives and the damage they are doing to our City. If that was the case, Buddy Cianci would still be the Mayor of Providence Rhode Island. Most people knew he was corrupt, but he still turned Providence into a vibrant city with a beautiful downtown. Should his corrupt activities have been overlooked because positive things were happening? If we are to overlook corruption because the person may claim to be or is perceived as a good leader, John Rowland would still be Governor.
Another very comical claim, it has to be comical because Mr. LaFontaine is well aware of the timeline, is that Eddie Perez is responsible for "increased economic activity in the form of a convention center, and a new hotel and a world-class science center are some of the signs of substantial urban progress generated by the mayor's stable leadership and clear focus on success in municipal government." Need I remind Mr. LaFontaine that Eddie Perez had nothing to do with any of the planning or development of the Convention Center or the Science Museum, it began long before Perez under Mayor Mike and Governor John Rowland, who actually had some vision for the City of Hartford. And although Mr. LaFontaine mentions a "new hotel" he isn't specific. Is this the Hartford Marriott? Is this the same hotel Perez filed a lawsuit against and eventually walked away from the lawsuit after he realized it was a no-win situation? And is this hotel owned by the same people who do not wish to spend another dime in Hartford as long as Eddie Perez is Mayor and phase 2 of their project has not moved forward at all even though it is needed and viable?
LaFontaine goes on to mention Perez's "compassion and sensitivity", I have to say that almost made me choke I was laughing so hard, until I read the next line "He is without any doubt the people's mayor." It has to be comedy, nobody could write that and keep a straight face. Ask the hundreds of city and Board employees who have been laid off due to Perez's mismanagement if they find him compassionate or sensitive to their needs. Ask anyone who has lost their home or business due to Perez's excessive spending resulting in unbearable taxes if they fine Perez compassionate and sensitive.
Finally LaFontaine states "Those of us who have had the opportunity to witness Mayor Perez conducting his everyday work at the highest level of professionalism know that he will continue to withstand the pressure created by the irrational demands of his detractors." Is it irrational to demand that our elected officials not partake of corrupt and criminal activities? Is it irrational to demand that our public servants are truly that, servants that care more about the people they represent than they do about lining their own pockets?
Eddie Perez's legacy might have been much different than what it will potentially be if he had remembered where he came from and the struggles the City of Hartford faces rather than only taking care of himself and his cronies.
LaFontaines entire comedy piece can be read at Courant.com by clicking here