A few weeks ago, a burglar stole my beloved special edition Vespa from my condominium in the Farmington Avenue area of Hartford — the second one that gets stolen from me. The kind and sweet policeman who took the report told me “just file an insurance claim. We will never find it.” It broke my heart.
The Vespa I may be able to replace if I were to move into the suburbs. But sadly, what I cannot replace is my trust in City Hall, because this crime is not an outlier. We have had more than 22 burglaries in the neighborhood.
Property crimes and violent crimes such as homicides alike are the direct outcome of systemic mismanagement that has plagued our city since Pedro Segarra has been Hartford’s mayor.
How has the mayor failed us so much? Let me count the ways.
He has ignored pleas from his own chief of police to fill police cadet classes. As a result, we are on the verge of a staffing crisis that will result in more crimes – like the ones I have experienced – going unaddressed.
He has lost the trust of taxpayers like myself by giving away our hard-earned money to out-of-town baseball stadium developers. He’s also freely given our taxpayer dollars to the incompetent political cronies who he regularly hires as high-priced “consultants.”
He has forced our public schools to lay off the counselors and support staff who provide a safety net for our youth – all while claiming that his budget did not result in any layoffs. At the same time, he has tried to slash funding for youth employment, which is one of the few programs that can meaningfully transform lives.
He has closed the gates of opportunity to Latino merchants who want to expand and settle into the downtown area. It appears they are not fashionable there.
The ineffectiveness of his team and mayor’s bad decisions have had real consequences in the lives of the very people he purports to serve. As you drive Farmington Avenue any Sunday , you see masses of young Hartford residents wandering aimlessly and trying to figure out where to go. They seemed lost. Where are our recreation programs? Where are the activities that once occupied our city and our youth? People are desperate.
Everyone should have access to the same level of comfort I worked hard to get. This is what we call opportunity in America. And it is something that is sorely lacking in Hartford.
As the election for Hartford’s next mayor looms, I hope that my fellow Hartford residents open their eyes. As Barbara Jordan once said, who will speak for the common good? I translate that to mean who will make sure that we are safe in our homes? Who will take seriously the serious job of managing city agencies so that trash is picked up, roads are plowed, and sidewalks are repaired? Who will fight to make sure that every last resident has the opportunity to achieve something better with their lives?
Above all, who will provide the leadership this city so desperately needs?
Once upon a time I had much political admiration for the mayor. One of my most cherished pictures is the one I have where I am sitting with Chita Rivera and the mayor in his living room. I still admire him for all of the adversities that he has overcome in life. He has represented me for legal work, and I have always considered him a good person.
Sadly, there is no correlation between being nice and having effective managerial skills.
But this year, I am not falling into the fallacy that I have to either keep silent or endorse him because we are both Puerto Ricans, and because we have been friends for decades. Thinking like that would mean upholding the status quo when what we need is real fundamental change. The sad fact is that he and he team has let many of us of us down, and he is the wrong man for the office he holds.
Maybe Chita can teach him Pedro a few steps so that he can dance gracefully off the stage and do what he does best — being an attorney — and his fulfill his passion for social work.
Serafin Mendez-Mendez is a Hartford resident, a professor of communication at Central Connecticut State University and a collaborator in the Sweetest Land, an upcoming documentary about violence in the city.