The Hartford Democratic Town Committee will meet July 27 to endorse a candidate for mayor. Those candidates who do not receive the endorsement of the committee can run as petitioning candidates in the Sept. 16 primary.
Currently, there are three Democratic candidates seeking the party’s endorsement for mayor: incumbent Mayor Pedro Segarra, Luke Bronin and Bob Killian. A fourth candidate, John Gale, recently dropped out of the race.
Segarra, 56, who is seeking his second full-term as mayor, is a Puerto Rican born attorney. He has served as city council president and became mayor in June 2010 after the resignation of Mayor Eddie Perez and was elected to a full term in 2011. He lives in the West End with his husband Charlie Ortiz.
Killian, 68, is a third-generation Hartford resident. An attorney for 43 years, he served as the city’s probate judge for 30 years, resigning in April. He and his wife Candace live on Bloomfield Avenue and have two daughters.
Bronin, 36, is a Rhodes Scholar and law school graduate who grew up in Rye, N.Y. and Greenwich. He is a former general counsel to Governor Dannel Malloy and also has served with the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Navy. He and his wife Sara live in a downtown Hartford brownstone with their two daughters and a son.
With the town committee meeting days away, CTLatinoNews.com offered the Democratic candidates an opportunity to address four questions related to their campaigns and issues facing Hartford. Their answers are posted below in the order received.
1. Will you seek the Democratic mayoral nomination via a primary if you do not receive the Democratic Town Committee endorsement?
Segarra: Yes! I am running for Mayor for the people and not the politics.
Bronin: Yes, because Hartford needs a change in City Hall. The support for my campaign comes from all parts of Hartford. We have built a strong team of community leaders, volunteers, and elected officials who are committed to increased accountability and more effective leadership. I was proud to receive endorsements from state Representative Angel Arce and neighborhood activist, civil rights leader Luis Cabán, an d many other Latino leaders who have stood beside me at key moments in the campaign. To learn more about my ideas for the City, please call my campaign at 860-598-LUKE or follow me on Facebook in English (Luke Bronin for Mayor) or Spanish (Luke Bronin Para Alcalde), and on Twitter at @BroninforMayor.
2. How do you plan to the needs of the city’s neighborhoods vs. the concerns of the downtown/business community?
Segarra: Economic Development that leads to middle-class jobs is a top priority. There have been hundreds of millions of dollars invested in economic development initiatives that in most cases require local economic benefits, local jobs, and fair wages so it benefits all people in our city. I want to make sure that investments in our city always include tangible benefits for our residents and not just wealthy investors. During my tenure, Coltsville was awarded National Park status, and we have seen redevelopment at both Front Street and the Swift Factory. An additional 1,200 housing units have been created downtown, along with many more affordable housing units added throughout the city. I want to see these projects to fruition, particularly in the North Hartford, which is now a Federal Promise Zone designation, and continue with new projects that create local, middle-class jobs for our diverse community.
Killian: Our political leaders believe there is a disparity between the needs of the neighborhoods and the downtown business community. They are in error. Both suffer under a cruel tax burden, inadequate city services and falling property values. Hartford is broke, faces bankruptcy and until it chooses leaders who will return us to financial sanity, struggle to deal with rampant crime and aggressively address quality of life issues throughout the city none of our neighborhoods will flourish. Downtown has received its shot in the arm. Now it’s our neighborhoods’ turn.
Bronin: The next mayor needs to govern the whole city — not just certain neighborhoods. The State has made significant investments in downtown . But we need to make sure we’re improving the quality of life in every neighborhood, because when neighborhoods thrive, the entire city will thrive. Unfortunately, from North Hartford to the South End, City Hall has ignored blight and neglected to follow through on promises. Just take a look at Franklin Avenue, Maple Avenue, and Albany Avenue — vital corridors that are marked by too many blighted and abandoned lots. More seriously, as recent news reports have revealed, this administration has let police staffing levels drop, even as crime is up dramatically. It’s unacceptable. As mayor, I’ll make public safety a priority, something that will benefit our entire city.
3. What is your plan to improve employment opportunities for Hartford residents?
Segarra: As mayor of Hartford, I have already demonstrated leadership in this area by working to make sure major economic development projects have responsible contractor language, project labor agreements, and requirements for local hires, like in making sure a significant percentage of our City and Board of Education contracts have gone to small business and minority owned businesses so that economic development in our city benefits everyone. I helped to bring UConn to Hartford, as well as having instigated infrastructure improvements, school construction and reconstruction across the city as well. The federal government has designated the North End of Hartford as a promise zone. The most recent major economic development, the Downtown North project, a $350 million dollar project, has the contractual clauses to hire local residents to fill job vacancies.
Killian: Governments have not been terribly successful in creating jobs. All too often we read of major investments in companies with promises of new jobs only to discover the promises were illusory and, too often, the businesses disappear. We have to lower taxes on both businesses and residences, demonstrate a commitment to public safety, and improve our efforts in job training and insuring proper utilization of residents for publicly financed projects. We should require the MDC to require similar hiring goals for its public works projects in our city.
Bronin: When I knock on doors and talk to business owners, people tell me there’s a real lack of engagement by City Hall. On the current mayor’s watch, United Technologies left Hartford, and another city is working hard to get Aetna’s jobs. Small businesses from Franklin Avenue and North Main tell the same story — about the way City Hall just doesn’t return calls or act like a partner. As mayor, I will be out there every day talking, working with businesses big and small — to keep and attract jobs. I’ve also called for the creation of a Youth Service Corps. This partnership between City Hall and the private sector would put hundreds of young people to work in Hartford and provide a real pipeline to employment in the city.
Finally, we have to become a true second chance society. Too many in our community are unable to find employment opportunities because of mistakes made in their past. I was proud to work as part of the governor’s administration on new laws that will help hundreds in our city find opportunity where little used to exist.
4. Should charter schools play a significant role in Hartford education?
Segarra: I support a moratorium on charter schools. While I recognize the educational and social value many of these schools have brought to our community, I believe investing in public schools is the best decision for our city. Public school equity across the city is a goal of mine, because where one lives in our city should not determine the quality of education he or she receives.
Killian: No. Our neighborhood city schools educate the majority of our kids but receive less per student funding than other educational options. That’s wrong. We need to concentrate on our neighborhood schools so a child’s ability to get a good education is not based on the results of a lottery. Charter schools are all too quick to force out kids with unique educational needs or are not as likely to score well on “the test.”
Bronin: Our priority must be improving our neighborhood schools. Hartford faces some tremendous challenges when it comes to public education. We can’t thrive as a city if parents have to win a lottery in order to have their children attend a good school. The structure of our present system places too great a burden on neighborhood schools, which teach the vast majority of English Language Learners and special needs students. We have to get serious about making sure that every student from every background and every neighborhood can get a quality education no matter where they live and no matter how they fare in the lottery.
I’ve put some of my thoughts on education up on my website, www.lukebronin.com. I encourage you to visit the site and contact the campaign to continue this very important discussion.
For more information on the candidates, visit their websites: www.segarraformayor.com, www.killianformayor.com, and www.lukebronin.com.