By Ken Krayeske • Hartford • 11:00 AM EST
A stench of desperation now emanates from the second hall executive offices in City Hall.
I entered the hallowed halls at 555 Main Monday to pay taxes (a few days late – sorry, January was a topsy-turvy month – but I covered the interest), and the odor was unmistakable: fear.
Desperate people in positions of power do bizarre things to hold onto their fiefdoms. Mayor Eddie Perez has shown the all-too human tendency to overexert himself, and this past week demonstrated exactly how troubled the Mayor really is.
First, he ripped up thousands of dollars worth of trees and volunteer labor at the site on the corner of Farmington and Broad to lay the groundwork for his Pathways to Technology magnet high school. He made his lunatic point that he could build his school where he wants; Jack Hale and the Green Team at Knox Parks be damned.
(Aside to Jack: since the Mayor has no class here, please, on behalf of all of us who helped plant those trees, and who loved those trees, accept our apology for being bad citizens and allowing our democracy to cast this indignity upon your hard work. Some of us value your effort, even if our municipality's chief elected representative doesn't.)
After Mayor Perez bulldozed the site, the Governor and the Attorney General told him not so fast. So he grabbed some props, like kids and PTO loyalist Sam Saylor, and held a press conference.
In front of cameras and reporters, the Mayor invoked the ghost of Sheff v. O’Neill and demanded a different site (as far as I know, the Sheffs are still alive and well, and one of them is on City Council – go figure).
After hearing the Mayor ask for advice on where to build the school, my first thought was parcel 12B on North Main Street, the spot that Councilman Bob Painter long ago suggested should host a learning campus.
Alas, Perez beat us to the punch on that one back in November by gifting to Abe Giles, the North End political boss, a no-bid, below-market contract on that chunk of land to be used as parking lot.
Just what Hartford needs – another place to store suburban cars for eight hours a day. May I modestly propose that we just set up voting booths right smack in the middle of parcel 12B? At least then we could cast some daylight on the shenanigans that Perez and Giles are up to.
Why else would this dangerous duo partner other than to secure re-election in November? The headline Friday morning about the $1,000 a month, no-bid contract to Giles said it all: "Perez Makes Parking Deal." As any first year law student knows that a deal, a contract, requires an exchange of promises. So what did Giles promise Mayor Perez in return? Votes?
Because I don't like City Hall smelling like rotten eggs any more than you do, let's help ease the Mayor burden here. Rather than offer sites Perez has already considered for the high school, like the Windsor Street railroad tracks behind the Meadows or the undeveloped land on top of Mount Trashmore, let’s brainstorm some new ideas.
I think that the Hawthorne Street site would make a good school. While it is awfully close to a highway and train tracks, it is also within throwing distance of Hartford Public High School’s playing fields, and walking distance of Aetna (if training kids for corporate serfdom is what our educational, er, economic development system is all about).
Or what about, say, any number of parking lots downtown? I understand they lack playing fields, but it would be nice to build a public gym downtown and fill up some empty lots with a purposeful edifice that creates vibrance and energy downtown. Maybe build it across from where Sports Sciences used to be. Keep kids downtown.
Or what about the lots down behind Colt Park, near Dillon Stadium, where the new Sports Sciences building is going up? There is plenty of empty land there that is close to downtown, close to the Park, and close to housing.
Or what about over on Capitol Avenue and Hudson Street, where the state parking lots now exist? How nice would a school building and additional green space like playing fields look there? It would be centrally located in the business district as well, and if we were really nice, Gov. Rell might even build a parking garage nearby.
If we put our minds to it, we could find any number of vacant parcels available for prime educational use. If you have an idea for a site for the Pathways to Technology magnet school, please email me at email@example.com. I will be sure to publish them next week.