Hartford is a City that has more than its share of issues to be dealt with. Increasingly I am surprised by what the priorities for our community are. We seem to be plagued by incompetence and poor leadership, if there is any leadership at all.
The recent Kennard Ray uproar just seems to highlight our problems. I will say upfront, I am not a supporter of Mr. Ray and I don't believe the issue is being framed properly .It starts with the "ban the box" ordinance. This is nothing more than a feel good law that essentially has no real protections for anyone. OK, so you don't ask if the applicant has any felony convictions . Once they get hired and you find out they do, you terminate them. A total waste of time for everyone involved, not to mention demoralizing for the applicant.
Anyone that has to renew a trade license in Connecticut , electricians, plumbers, barbers, and many others have to check off a box that you have not been convicted of a felony in the past 12 months. It is a reality of life. we are thinking adults and need to accept responsibility for our actions as adults, and felony convictions typically do not open doors for anyone ( except maybe John Rowland)
And what employer shouldn't be allowed to know who they are hiring. I would think some convictions may be very pertinent to the position that a convicted felon might actually be getting hired for. Financial crimes or embezzlement might not be the best thing for someone looking for a banking job. Is an employer supposed to be prevented from knowing about that?
What would seem more important is finding an employer, or a Mayor, with a backbone that is willing to stand behind their choice to give a felon a second chance. Or in Mr. Ray's case a 5th , 6th or 7th chance. I think Mayor Segarra was caught off guard by the backlash in the Ray hiring because he never did his homework in the first place.
But when the matter started to erupt, Segarra , if he thought Ray was the right choice, should have sttod up and taken a stand on the matter. But the fact of the matter was that Ray most likely wasn't the best choice for the job, but may have been the best "political" choice for the job. I don't think any one is discounting Mr. Ray's ties to the Working Families Party weighing heavily on Segarra's choice.
If it was about "second chances" Segarra should be one of the first people to acknowledge that and stand up for his choice. We have probably all made choices in our past that might not have been the most stellar, and Pedro Segarra is no exception. Ask him about the Cuban connection and see what kind of response you get.
And the community support for Mr. Ray surprises me when no one seems to be mentioning the name of Thomas Clark. Mr. Clark was an employee in the Mayor's Office until recently when he was for all intents and purposes driven out.
Thomas Clark is a young African American male , well educated( he holds an MBA), hard working professional and a person of faith. From what sources have told me , Thomas was driven out of the Mayor's Office because he was perceived as not being a "team Player" . God forbid someone in the Mayor's Office actually speaks his mind.
Maybe if more people in Segarra's inner sanctum actually did speak up, many of the missteps by Segarra could be avoided. But Clark was out in the community and projected an image for a young black man that should set him up as a role model for Hartford's Youth before they need to fight the battle for a job because they have the title convicted felon attached to them. Clark's salary was also close to a third of the salary of most people in the Mayor's Office, how is that fair?
Rather than everyone rallying behind a man that has had numerous felony convictions, why don't we actually begin the conversations on trying to end the pipeline from adolescence to prison that draws in the majority of Hartford's young men. Now there is a battle worth fighting. for.
What we really need to do is hold our elected officials accountable for their election year rhetoric. We always hear about "re-entry" programs for felons returning back from prison from candidates and how important they are. But then once the campaign is over, the talk goes away until the next election cycle.
Let's talk about jobs for Hartford people before they get into trouble. Let's talk about jobs for Hartford's young men before they turn to crime to put money in their pocket and get wrapped up in criminal cases and get the felony record.
A Mayor with vision would be sitting down with every Hartford employer and asking them to allocate maybe 10% of their annual hiring to be set aside for Hartford residents. That would make a dent in Hartford's joblessness, and probably crime stats also. A Mayor with vision would be working with the MDC to leverage jobs from a huge project that is disrupting just about every neighborhood in the City to create jobs for those same residents that are being affected.
Vision requires thinking "outside the box" and then standing for what you believe in, sometimes even when that stand is uncomfortable. Right now the only job creation seems to be on the Mayor's Staff. But in the meantime, lets look for those that can serve a dual purpose as City employees and also role models for Hartford youth, I think Thomas Clark would have served that purpose. There may be a place for Kennard Ray in Hartford government, but I am not sure it is a high profile position in the Mayor's Office.