As the blog is quickly approaching its 1 millionth hit, and as I said yesterday it is an engine for change in Hartford, it can also serve as a valuable asset to serve as a spot for solutions. With over 5,000 page visits on some days, I know people are reading. Many of those readers are City employees and government professionals. Many are business people and educators. Many are Police Officers and firefighters and many politicians, even a few Judges have confided in me that hey are regular readers.
I know the media follows because many of them grab their stories from here, Some are good and acknowledge where they got it, others don't, but it is still flattering even if they don't.
With all those eyes on the blog, all of those eyes are also attached to functioning brains. Probably different degrees of functionality coming from those brains , but I'll stay away from that for now.
Bottom line is that there is a lot wrong with Hartford right now. But the fact that keeps me here , is that there is far more that is right with Hartford. The solution is here, if Mayor Segarra and others just take the time to listen.
It is easy to point out the wrong. Unfortunately it just seems to get easier and easier everyday with the poor judgment and crazy decision making by the Mayor and his people. At least a few times a day, callers to me start the conversation by saying "you can't make this stuff up". No you can't.
I am going to post a few of my thoughts and I guess pet peeves here, like I usually do. But I am asking my readers to put some thoughts into their comments and post ideas that will make Hartford a better place. Feel free to offer guidance to Mayor Segarra, whether he will admit it or not, him and his staff are faithful readers.
I am asking that you keep the comments civil and actually provide ways and suggestions that you think might work.
1.) First on my list is to let the Hartford City Council know why they were actually elected. They are the policy body and the budgetary of Hartford City Government. The Mayor is the Chief Executive Officer, he runs the day to day operation. The Council is not supposed to micro manage any City Department. They are not advisers to the White House, they are not meant to try to set or influence immigration Policy in Arizona through their resolutions. Quite frankly they should be focusing on anything that involves the people who put them in Office. Taxes, spending, fiscal matters, that's why they are there.
They are not there to question whether a police car has a corvette engine or does it a PPV or a passenger car. (PPV is a Police Pursuit Vehicle package that police cars come with, usually beefed up suspension, brakes, engine, transmission, everything to make sure the vehicles stay safe as they are used 24/7 usually under harsh conditions).
They shouldn't be questioning compensatory time or overtime The Council approves budgets. how those budgets are used is the reason we hire department heads and hold them responsible for their budgets. Furthermore, it is the Mayor's responsibility through his COO to make sure that works. Now I will give the Council a little bit of a pass here. If the Mayor has abdicated his responsibility and the COO is asleep at the switch, then hearings need to be held and the failings brought out in the open. The Council can not just step in and assume the Mayor's role and take over.
It is called checks and balances not divide and conquer.
2.) An immediate review of all non-union salaries both at the Board of Education and City hall needs to take place. I say non-union because most other salaries are set by collective bargaining agreements and aren't touchable until the next round of contract negotiations. Any regular reader knows my feelings already about the $120,000 plus salary being paid to the spokesperson for the Board of Education. I feel the same way for the Mayor's spokesperson ( although I think right now and for the immediate future she will be earning every penny of it)
It is just inconceivable to me that the Mayor's spokesperson makes almost double what many media professionals in this market, some with over 25 years experience. These salaries need to be brought in line with something close to those being paid in the private sector. It is called public service for a reason and was never meant as a way to get rich
3.) Analyze and make sure that every revenue stream available to the City is being pursued to the maximum. It boggles my mind that rent payments from the use of the Pond House Building in Elizabeth Park are being paid to the Friends of Elizabeth Park, rather than the City of Hartford. Numerous politicos and nonprofits such as the Spanish American Merchants Association, a condo building on Woodland Street, home to a few politicians and at least the address for one Department head ( notice I didn't say home, because it is just a sham address for him to say he has a Hartford address)
But anyways over 15 of these locations have been getting totally free trash pickup from the City of Hartford for years. While most others have to contract with a private hauler, these addresses have been living on easy street when it comes to trash. Not only do they get the service for free, the City also has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in tipping fees for the weight of the trash picked up.
Between the Pond House rent and the trash fees, not to mention the $500,000 they gave away on the SAMA land deal, the Police Department would not be worrying about budget cuts, the money would be there to fund them fully.
4.) We have a suite full of lawyers in the Office of the Corporation Counsel yet we still contract out a major portion of the legal work to outside lawyers. Why? Some of the work contracted out is for work that a lawyer fresh out of law school should be able to do blindfolded. Real estate closings and FOI hearings just being a few examples
Reports are that several hundred thousand dollars of hardwood trees, large red oak and others were cut down and sold by the vendor entrusted with managing Hartford's two golf courses, At the same time the vendor, MDM Golf, is in default of their lease agreement, not paying their rent, not carrying the required insurance, but yet being allowed to still collect the green's fees every days as most golfers are telling me the courses are in deplorable condition.
I am unable to find any lawsuits that have been filed against MDM by the City to protect from or collect these losses. Isn't that what lawyers should be doing to protect the City's interests?
5.) City cars. No ,I do not support vehicles for ERT. City cars have been abused for years. I have seen the trunks of City vehicles used for hauling mulch from Home Depot like a delivery truck and City cars used to haul the family around for dinner out in replacement of the family having a car. It is time to change and revamp the policy.
One of the most egregious examples was a former Assistant Police Chief who commuted to Stamford everyday in a City car, fueled by the taxpayers gas pumps. And not to mention his occasional romps into Manhattan on weekends for dinner when he would run the tolls on the way back and the toll booth cameras would click his license plate and send the tickets to City Hall to be paid by the taxpayers of Hartford.
The occasional accidents and towing fees back to Hartford for repairs were just an added benefit of his car use.
The first step will be the creation of an inventory system for the vehicles and accurate tracking, because as we saw with the Kupiec joy ride, no one even knows who has the cars.
6.) The internal Audit department's recent reports regarding the poor cash handling procedures and the use of City credit cards is just clearly mismanagement and screams out for a change in leadership in the Finance Department
Receipts stored in a shoebox on a shelf and almost a half a million dollars in bounced checks sitting around without any collection efforts. Give those checks to HPD and tell them whatever they collect will be put back in their budget. That number will be cleaned up real quick.
7.) And finally for tonight, Councilman Kennedy's Special Events ordinance needs to be rescinded. A few years ago, the Council capped all of the fees for special events at a maximum of $10,000. This means that any group who has a parade or an event will only be billed up to a maximum of $10,000, no matter what the cost to the City/ Some Hartford parades run up a tab of $70,000 to $80,000 per event and they are billed $10.000. The taxpayers, or more specifically the HPD Special Events Budget eats the rest of those costs. And in many cases the initial $10,000 is never paid either.
This was done not out of any fiscal responsibility for the City, but purely to keep groups with political clout happy and not making them raise the funds to conduct their events. It needs to end.
I am sure there are many readers that have their own special insight or ideas to help Pedro and the City Council out and maybe help him see something they aren't t seeing. Only time will tell if they are listening, but then again, that is what elections are for.
Please keep your comments civil, constructive and on point. Thanks