April 7, 2007
By Andy Hart • Courtesy of the Hartford News • 8:00 PM EST
Frank Barrows is often described as a "blue collar kind of guy" and he's proud of the label.
In fact, Barrows, who announced he is running for mayor of Hartford last December, feels Hartford would be better off if more of its youth were encouraged to attend trade schools and learn how to be carpenters, electricians and machinists.
Barrows himself worked as a machinist at Pratt & Whitney for 27 years after serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines.
"One of the things I feel is not emphasized enough is trade schools. Everything is college, college, college these days," said Barrows. "College is great for some people but not for all...whenever I talk to youngsters I tell them how much they could make as a plumber or as an electrician. And they're always surprised."
Barrows said increased technical training would lower the unemployment rate among city youths and thereby reduce crime.
In addition to Barrows, former Deputy Mayor I. Charles Matthews and State Representative Art Feltman have also formally announced that they are running for mayor. Mayor Eddie Perez has not officially stated whether he will seek re-election but it is widely believed that he will. In addition, Republican Stan McCauley has publicly announced he will be seeking his party's nomination for mayor.
Barrows, who served as State Senator (2nd District) from 1985 to 1993, said he first began to seriously consider running for mayor when the Democratic Town Committee on which he sits was challenged by a slate supported by Perez. "When we were challenged, that's when it [politics] bit me again," he said. Barrows slate won.
Barrows said that there was a lot of talk among Hartford's political insiders over the past year about who would oppose Perez in this year's election.
"Everyone was saying, ‘Who's going to take on Eddie? Who's going to take on Eddie?' I'm not taking on Eddie. I'm taking on the problems that are facing the city. I'm tired of being the third or fourth poorest city in the country. I'm tired of the crime," he said.
Since deciding to run for mayor, Barrows said he has been out talking to residents and business people all over the city.
"When you ask people at the Aetna and at the Travelers about what the city's three top problems are, they say, ‘crime, crime and crime.' When you talk to people in the community, they say, ‘crime, crime and no jobs,'" he said. "We have to make the city secure."
Although Barrows acknowledged that crime in the city may have decrease overall, homicides – especially among young people – continues to be a problem and people continue to feel unsafe.
This feeling, in turn, hurts the city's ability to attract new residents and businesses, Barrows said. He pointed to the example of New York City where a major reduction in crime led to renewed investment and lasting revitalization.
Barrows has a unique perspective on Hartford crime. For the past 13 years he has served as a guard at the Hartford Community Correctional Center on Jennings Road. In addition, his wife, Deborah, served with the Hartford Police Department for many years, retiring as Interim Chief of Police.
To combat crime, Barrows said police foot patrols must be beefed up and the same officers must walk the same beats so that, "they can get to know the community and who's doing what. And if someone is doing something shady, they can clean it out."
He also feels there should be more cooperation between Hartford Police and police in surrounding towns because many people come into Hartford from the suburbs to trade guns for narcotics – and these guns are often used on the streets of the city.
In addition to reducing crime, Barrows said that, if elected mayor, one of his top priorities would be to establish a better relationship between city government and businesses.
"Businesses here never seem to have a good contact with our elected officials. It seems like the government only approaches the business community when it wants money...we have to work together," he said.
As to his chances in the upcoming election, Barrows said he believes the primary race will "come down to the wire" but he will emerge victorious.
He said he will probably not be able to raise as much money as some of the other candidates and will therefore base his campaign tactics on "hard work, knocking on doors...money doesn't decide elections, people do."
Barrows said he learned an important lesson from the late Ella Cromwell early in his political career. "When I was first elected to the Town Committee, I had the lowest number of votes. Ella told me I had to get out and meet the people. I did and next election I had the highest number of votes," he smiled.