The past several days have been interesting. Over the weekend I received several calls from people that had been big supporters of Mayor Luke Bronin. Most of them were questioning what they called my blind support of our new Mayor Bronin.
After taking the weekend to think about it and make some phone calls of my own to people I trust, I agree they were right.
If Pedro Segarra or even Eddie Perez were pulling the amateur stunts that Luke Bronin is pulling now, I would have been all over them. I think deep down I was probably hoping things would work out and Bronin was actually making bold, well thought out initiatives to get Hartford back on track. As I look back though, I should have seen more of the warning signs.
It is times like this when I really value my friendship and the "political" mentoring I received from John O'Connell. Like it or not, you always knew where you stood with John and he taught me much about Hartford's politics He was invaluable when it came to budget process and questions, but more importantly he was a student of politics. One of the best lessons he ever gave me is to learn how to count your votes.
If you had something that was important and wanted to move forward, you count your votes to gauge support. If you could persuade or lie up the votes, then move forward. If the votes weren't there and never were going to be there, regroup and build another plan. I thought Luke would know that, but apparently he never counted his votes on the City or the State level before pushing forward with what should have been an ill advised power grab.
And "Power Grab" is not my term, it was a term used by speaker after speaker last night to describe the "Financial Sustainability Bill". It was also disheartening to see all of Hartford's Unions made out to be such a big part of the financial problem at meeting after meeting conducted by Mayor Bronin. I would think that before going to the "nuclear" approach to solve Hartford's budget problems, the Unions would have all been called in to sit down and be part of the solution.
Last nights meeting and the Financial Sustainability Commission Bill was a major test for Bronin's Administration. It wasn't a test that Bronin passed, to be honest it was a resounding failure. It was kind of sad to watch Luke Bronin pushing the plunger to set off the blast for his first implosion. I would think it would have gone much further for Bronin to admit the idea was ill conceived and say that he was requesting to pull the resolution and go back to the drawing board to start over again with a better plan that would work
It was also very troubling to listen to the next speaker to the microphone after Bronin. Melissa McCaw, Bronin's Director of Management and Budget. McCaw's answer to many of the questions asked by the Council were the same " I am sorry, I have only been here a couple of months and I will have to defer on the answer to that". EXCUSE ME! You have a half a billion dollar budget due in less than two weeks and you are "deferring" on critical questions.
There were speakers from the public that came to the microphone that seemed more knowledgeable on Budget issues than Melissa McCaw, or at the very least much better prepared.
The Back Lives Matter protest seemed to really throw a curve to Bronin's rehearsed remarks and forced him off script. I am not sure why the BLM protest tried to ride the coattails of Hartford's Unions , the majority of whom are very supportive of the BLM movement, but it was the Unions night to air their concerns to the Council, Bot BLM. I doubt they garnered much support or sympathy for their cause through their actions
I and many others thought, or were led to believe that had already happened. According to testimony last night from Hartford's Union leaders, it did not happen and in fact the Unions had already put forward cost cutting suggestions, only to be pushed aside.
And what steps have been taken on the City level to attempt a fix of the budget problems, and whose decision was it to jump past any local solutions and go right to the State for help? I understand there are many moving parts here, including that legislative help from the State would need to take place during the Legislatures "short " session this year. The term "kick the can down the road" was used several times times during the night. Our days of can kicking really do need to end and we really do need to come up with sustainable solutions if we are ever going to see our grand list and Hartford's economy grow .
One of those was incumbent Councilwoman Cynthia Jennings asking why we couldn't continue to "Kick the can down the road". I guess that statement might explain why we are in the mess we are in now.
We are still operating in a Democracy though and those sustainable solutions need to come out of equal partnerships. A partnership with all stakeholders siting at the same table, having an honest and respectful dialogue and not through a "power grab" by a Financial Sustainability Commission, locking out the majority of Hartford's elected Council, its residents and its stakeholders.
The solution is within our reach, but we have to be willing to do the hard work to make it happen. And that includes making the difficult decisions, putting the political impact aside and doing what is best for Hartford.
It is what John O'Connell would have done.