Search This Blog

Monday, May 17, 2010


Colin McEnroe had a recent entry on his blog asking the question " Why the Eddie Perez case matters".

The last paragraph of his posting was :

"There's a lot of trial to go, but I do not consider facts 1 through 4 to be in dispute. You wouldn't put up with it where you live, so don't say it's OK for low-expectations Hartford. It's our state capital. It has to be better than this.

To read his full posting click here

Some of the points he makes are points that readers of this blog have read probably since the beginning of my posts. Why do we settle and accept poor leadership in Hartford? It's not only the Mayor that is responsible for the mess that Hartford has become. There is more than enough blame to go around for everyone. Those that inhabit Hartford City Hall, our so called leaders on the State and Federal level, the media and most importantly Hartford's residents.

As Colin points out, Perez was elected with a margin of less than 6,500 votes. Council people in West Hartford had more votes for their winning margins. And yes, you read that right, 6,500 votes in a city of roughly 125,000 residents, and if you believe the numbers, close to 54,000 registered voters.

Apathy is a major factor, but like I said, there is plenty of blame to be spread around. Does anyone recall the Courant's editorial endorsing Perez for re-election? An editorial most likely written by Perez's buddy, David Medina who at the time was on the Courant's editorial board. Shortly after Perez's re-election Medina landed a job with the City of Hartford's Board of Education with a salary in the $120,000 price range. More of good old Hartford "quid-pro-quo"?

Just to be safe, Perez bought, I mean hired, a couple of others from the Courant to continue pushing the "Gospel of Perez". Most notably is Stan Simpson, who prior to leaving the Courant was a respected columnist addressing issues in Hartford. Simpson has also landed at the Board of Education in another one of those $100,000 plus a year jobs.

In the previous post about Jeff Cohen and his "ethical" considerations, it seems like night and day between Cohen's previous employer and his current employer WNPR radio.Where as WNPR quoted ethical considerations as to why Cohen was stepping aside, the Courant and its "sister" operation FOX 61 TV seem to interpret the rules quite differently.

I was somewhat surprised last Sunday when I watched the Sunday morning political shows, Stan Simpson at 10:00am, Laurie Perez "the Real Story" at 10:30am, and Dennis House 's "Face the State" at 11:00am. I know, I lead a boring life but they are better than Budget Hearings on Public Access.

So back to last Sunday. Stan Simpson was going to discuss the Perez trial. I wanted to see how that was handled, and right off the bat I had a problem with it. I would think that a journalist discussing such an issue would right off the bat make some sort of comment like "in the interest of full disclosure, I want to say that upfront in addition to being the host of this program I am also an employee of the Hartford Board of Education and Eddie Perez is technically my boss".

Then it got worse, I think. Stan's guest who was supposed to add "perspective" to the segment also should have made some sort of disclosure. The guest, attorney Andrew Crumbie, laid out that the Prosecution had an "uphill" battle to convict Perez. That may very well be true, but did he arrive at that conclusion before or after the City of Hartford has paid him over $100,000 in the last year or so as an "outside" attorney working for Corporation Counsel John Rose. (some of his payments are listed on the City's check registers posted on the blog to the right).

It just seems that if Jeff Cohen understands ethics and they apply to him, they should apply to anyone who wishes to maintain their credibility. But then again this is Hartford. I would fully expect someone like Dennis House to disclose before an interview that the guest was a relative or maybe someone he had a former business relationship with before he would begin if that was the case. But then again, if he was like Jeff Cohen, he probably wouldn't put himself in that position in the first place.

I still want to write my recap of today's court activity, so let me end with a posting of the Courant's 2007 editorial endorsing Eddie A. Perez for Mayor:

Mr. Perez For Mayor

Editorial By Courant

October 28, 2007

Despite a close-to-the-vest management style and a sometimes self-destructive stubbornness, Eddie A. Perez has been a good mayor of Hartford. He has appointed top people to key city posts, engaged the major issues of crime, education and economic development, and kindled momentum in the capital city.

He would be The Hartford Courant's unequivocal choice for another term if not for his recent ethical lapses. A criminal investigation into renovations done on his home by a city contractor is clouding his administration. Nevertheless, he has owned up to mistakes, and we trust he will make no more.

The chastened mayor is still the strongest candidate in the field. His leadership has put Hartford on a more promising path than it's followed in decades. He should be re-elected.

His Accomplishments

Mr. Perez, 50, is the city's first strong mayor in decades. Under the old council-manager system, it was often difficult to tell who was in charge. That's no longer the case: Mr. Perez is the boss.

And he has not been shy about flexing his new muscle. For example, he took control of the city's schools by putting himself on the Board of Education (another first), getting himself elected chairman and heading the school building committee - a comfortable spot for the man who led the construction of Trinity's Learning Corridor in the late 1990s.

His eye for talent drew in the visionary Superintendent of Schools Steven J. Adamowski and the popular Police Chief Daryl Roberts, among others who are transforming and re-energizing their departments. New schools are going up; crime in many categories is going down. Though there are still a few weak areas, city government is working better than it has in decades. Mr. Perez's constant interest in the city's children is laudable.

Though he can't claim credit for all the new development around town, he demanded a seat at the table when the state was dispensing hundreds of millions of dollars in Six Pillars investments. He's resurfaced many streets, removing once-ubiquitous potholes, though he needs to pay more attention to other quality-of-life complaints - the noise, litter and speeding that drive city residents out.

Mr. Perez is to be commended for resisting pressure for more homeless shelters in Hartford. The region must share the burden rather than making Hartford a dumping ground for the needy.

He also deserves credit for setting up a wireless network to get neighborhoods onto the information highway. Some question such projects when so many other needs go begging, but 21st-century technology is critical in cities.

Mr. Perez inspires fierce loyalty in his many fans - but he also has a considerable foe club because of his insular, autocratic, occasionally antagonistic governing style. He needs to broaden his inner circle to include more department heads and state leaders.

His Obstacles

The same pugnacity Mr. Perez puts to good use fighting for his city can also alienate allies. He must master the art of diplomacy for the city's sake and stop public displays of political bravado.

His antics may play well to his base, but they earn him no capital at the Capitol or in corporate boardrooms.

He provoked the governor and legislature, for example, by breaking ground for a magnet school on Asylum Hill without clear title to the land. He had to abandon the site, at considerable cost to the city.

He didn't endear himself to the business community when he lectured MetLife on how many workers it should employ and criticized ING for moving out. MetLife didn't return his phone calls a few years later when it decided to leave Hartford. Why ING couldn't be kept in the city is still unclear.

Mr. Perez has been more incendiary than helpful in labor disputes, needlessly stirring up one at the Marriott Downtown that cost the neighboring convention center some major conferences.

But Aetna, Prudential, The Hartford and Travelers, bless them, are among Hartford's committed - and growing - companies. And business leaders say Mr. Perez's behavior is improving.

Most serious was his Rowland moment, when he hired a city contractor for $20,000 worth of work on his kitchen and bathroom and didn't pay him for two years until the state came investigating. This is so wrong on so many levels that it calls his character into question. So does a no-bid city parking lot deal and other troubling arrangements with North End power broker Abraham L. Giles, whose help Mr. Perez doesn't need.

These transgressions are not as minor as state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and other high-ranking Democratic backers make them out to be. But Mr. Perez's accomplishments outweigh his errors, worrying as they are.

He has proved he can lead the city to greater things. His integrity, however, is still on trial.

The Other Candidates

Mr. Perez's most serious rival, petitioning candidate I. Charles Matthews, 63, is a former deputy mayor and retired corporate executive who works as a consultant on human resources. He was a tough politician in his time and is a worthy challenger to the strong-headed mayor. His message is trustworthiness, but his chief appeal to many is that he is not Mr. Perez.

State Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, 57, also a petitioning candidate, provides a good check on Mr. Perez's worst instincts - such as her proposal for taking ethics commission appointments away from the mayor and giving the panel the power to impose penalties. But her call to open the old YMCA to the homeless is not a formula for urban success.

Republican James Stan McCauley, 47, is a pastor and CEO and executive director of Hartford Public Access Television. This mellifluous speaker would make a good city council candidate with his fresh ideas, but he is too new to electoral politics to oust a solid incumbent.

Thirman L. Milner, a petitioning candidate who will turn 74 on Monday, set his own record when he became the first popularly elected black mayor of a Northeastern city in 1981. His campaign, however, has been perfunctory.

Newcomer Raul DeJesus, 20, a police cadet and petitioning candidate, is a fresh face who also needs seasoning in elective politics. But it's reassuring to get this bright glimpse of Hartford's political future.

No comments: