Story By Ken Krayeske • 9:25 AM EST
Can we get some pudding pops? How about another piece of chocolate cake?
If it's winter, it means one thing: Mayor Eddie's hot air is warming up my mailbox. Yep. The new Fall/Winter 2008 edition of the Mayor's Update, that despicable piece of taxpayer financed propaganda, arrived in the post this week (2009).
The Update reflects the pains of the recession/downturn, yet Mayor Perez fails to understand that in this terrible city budget climate, he should not even be indulging in such narcissistic political porn.
Where the Mayor used to spend $12,000 per eight-page issue of the Mayor's Update, the new Mayor's Update, probably cost $10,000, because it is only six pages.
The budget cut is stressing the Mayor's image-shaping abilities. Where he used to hold an 87 percent appearance rate in color action photos in the Mayor's Update - 16-for-19, August 2006 and 19-for-21, March 2008- the slimmer tri-fold design cuts his appearances down to 70 percent (10-for-14). Although, he probably deserves quality points for the celebrity photo-op with Bill Cosby.
We oughtn't be so generous in such tough times. The Mayor says we all have to do more with less. To be true to his word, the Mayor should have appeared in 13 of 14 photos. He is not meeting his maximum publicity for the taxpayers' buck. Is that old grifter is slipping? Has he lost his touch?
Shoot, I'd be really scared if Eddie Perez ever went populist and started producing something like The Hightower Lowdown - the four page, black and blue subscription newsletter produced by Jim Hightower, twice elected as Texas' commissioner of agriculture.
The text-heavy Lowdown this month features stories about bailouts helping fatcats and stiffing workers and unions, problems at the Chicago Tribune company, and a piece calling to ban cluster bombs as weapons of war. And not one single photo of Jim Hightower, America's self-styled Number One Populist.
The 11" x 17" Lowdown, folded once, uses roughly the same size paper as the fall/winter 2008 Mayor's Update. And sure, both guys are a bit crazy, peddling their agendas, but Hightower's seems information seems to have more practical value, and it seems to ask us to be more engaged as citizens. He wants us to think critically.
Hightower appeals to his audience to "Do Something!" - like pass legislation. This edition he wants his readers to support the Employee Free Choice Act, a pro-union federal bill seeking passage by the 111th Congress. He points readers to an AFL-CIO website, but the implied message is contact your Congresscritter.
Perez asks his constituents to log onto Hartford.gov, click on a box, and take a survey, "so that we can achieve the results together." Huh? The lack of a concrete goal betrays the true purpose of the Mayor's Update: to communicate a need for admiration and followers.
Hightower has such confidence in his information, he wraps several thousand 9-point type words around one cartoon. It is dense and ugly, yet vibrant in tone. Eddie employs flash - big type and lots of white space and colors - so it looks pretty, pretty useless.
Perez asks his audience only to invest all our eggs in his basket, and buy into his rhetoric. The Mayor's Update features the hagiography we have come to expect from the empty suits inhabiting the second floor of City Hall. The front-page lie is headlined "Straight Budget Talk."
"As we look ahead to a new season and a new year, we must take to heart the phrase that so eloquently defines the city seal of our government - 'After the Clouds, the Sun,'" the Mayor's Update said. "There is hope in these difficult times."
While I never knew that the Latin "Post Nubila Phoebus" meant on the city seal, I guarantee Eddie didn't write that. Do I undersestimate his intellectual curiosity? Hell, I didn't ever have the gumption to look the Latin up.
Yet I have trouble imagining Eddie sitting in front of a laptop, peering off into space, looking for just the right set of words to comfort those 132 people he laid off. The Update's front page picture of him - pressed white shirt, purple striped tie - working the phones, pen in hand, doesn't show me an Eddie who is a sensitive introspective leader, pained that he had to slash jobs.
It's a wheeler-dealer image of the Mayor that says - how many cops can I get in City Hall when I have to cut these jobs, to make sure there is no problem. Remember folks, this is the guy who put a security system in the Mayor's Office, something Mayor Mike (RIP) hated.
More likely, Sarah Barr, or a survivor in her post-layoffs pr machine scribbled Eddie's explanation of cuts to city services. "This is a national financial crisis that call for tough decisions, creative solutions, bold leadership and clear vision," sayeth Eddie's ghostwriter.
The vision Eddie offers us is to look to Congress. Nevermind the best line of Hartford's Twain: "Suppose you had a congressman and an idiot, but I repeat myself." Perez says a $2.8 million grant from Washington, D.C. is the start of a solution. Hello. The city's budget is $450 million or so.
$2.8 million is to "have the best possible impact and reduce foreclosures and the negative effects of this financial crisis." How? asked my astute friend. How?
Eddie is showing us how to tighten our belts. His Update editors may a tough decision: three stories were not translated between Spanish and English. Bill Cosby and the tidbit about Sims Metal Management Aerospace, an industrial recycling company, moving into the North Meadows stayed English-only, while the story about new parking meters did not leave Spanish.
Fret not, though, because pictures need no language. Eddie shaking hands with cops, Cal Torres and horses conveys 1,000 phony words. The eyes need no idioms to comprehend the paucity of ideas conveyed by staged photos.
One day, Eddie Perez will understand that his holding the powerful executive office of Mayor of Hartford is not about him, his ego or his future political prospects. It is about helping people, and shaping the city into a healthier, more humane place to live.
The Hightower Lowdown understands that clear vision, and uses the printed page to educate people about what they need to know to get there.
The Mayor's Update has always been an abuse of executive discretion. Even though the Mayor's Update is slimmed down to reflect the budget pressures destroying government services everywhere, Perez's henchmen set a new high water mark in bad judgment, which should be censured.
It is unjustifiable to print such self-congratulatory schlock after cutting 132 jobs. Mayor Perez should be ashamed. But he's too full of hot air.