By Ken Krayeske • Hartford • 1:00 PM EST
Understanding that political differences exist between Gov. M. Jodi Rell and myself, yet considering that we breathe the same air, share the same roads and enjoy the same sights in Hartford, there comes a time when previous disagreements must be set aside and bridges built, and coalitions made.
It is in this tradition of compromise, and this search for common ground that I say "Thank you" to Gov. Rell for expressing what many of us here in Hartford think about Mayor Eddie Perez's lust for his high school by the highway: It is a bad idea.
In a letter to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, published in today's Courant story "Hartford Defiance Could be Costly," Gov. Rell wrote:
"Without question, the proposal stretches well beyond the definition of that restriction [for economic development] and I am adamantly opposed to the use of the site for a school. While I have always been very supportive of efforts to expand magnet school opportunities in Hartford and our other cities, I believe this site poses significant and troubling safety and traffic concerns and is not at all an appropriate location for a school.
In fact, its potential risk to students, teachers and staff alike and its potential to aggravate already overburdened traffic patterns make it wholly unsuitable for an institution of learning."
I can't agree with her more. Back in June, I noted that this was insane. Perez must be stopped from committing public funds to this blunder of building the Pathways to Technology magnet school on the triangle of Broad Street, Asylum Avenue and Farmington Avenue.
This is a decision that will affect hundreds of thousands of people, and it should not be taken lightly, and clearly, Gov. Rell, she gets this. For that, if you're reading this Gov., you deserve congratulations.
Building a high school in the middle of one of the most highly trafficed intersections in the city is crazy in the first place. We're looking at a traffic fatality every other year. We agree it is just not right to subject children to those hazards.
Then add in the concept that the school sits directly next to a highway, and factor in the city's already deplorable child asthma rate, and what we have is bad public policy.
The state needs to act to protect its property, and the interests of Hartford youth when the man in charge of the school board, the school building committee and the city itself has gone off the deep end.
Perhaps Perez styles himself a pioneer here, figuring that so many people are against him, it must be a good idea and no one else sees the genius. Maybe he styles himself a Galileo in City Hall.
The city cannot afford to be on the hook for the $2 million in design fees he has already wasted on this edifice, there is no way this poor municipality could cover the price of $36 million in construction costs without seriously harming equally vital pursuits, like constitutional law enforcement and basic road maintenance.
So, I appeal to you, Gov. Rell, take your defense of state property a step further. Compared to you here, I and the many people who agree with me cannot act as quickly or decisively as you can in this matter.
You have already demonstrated that you represent us here, so please, reach out to the Mayor and try to talk some sense into him here. His cavalier approach to school construction harms the city, the state and our collective future.
If he fails to listen to reason, pursue more aggressive means. Obtain an injunction against the city, have the court stop all construction activity on the property until Attorney General Blumenthal decides on the constitutionality of Perez's actions.
That alleviates any concern about separation of powers for me, and it makes me feel okay about state intervention in city actions. Perez has overstepped his bounds, and you can help us quickest and most effectively by taking a proactive approach here.
Thank you in advance for your time and commitment to just, equitable education and intelligent public policy making in this situation. I needn't remind you that if we allow schools to be classified as economic development activity, we set a dangerous precedent in how we categorize the education of young people.
I am glad that we agree on this, and hopefully, we can use this common ground to move forward and build bridges in other areas we disagree on.