Feb. 10, 2007 • From the 40YP Archives 2-11-04
By Ken Krayeske • Hartford • 10:00 AM EST
A successful businessman told me if elected mayor of Hartford, he would immediately commence inventorying assets and people. Before he could reasonably recommend a course of action, he said he needed to see what available resources, strengths and weaknesses existed around which to create a plan.
It is also worth asking the actual value of the entire city, and I’m not just talking the grand list, which represents only taxable personal and business property like houses and vehicles. In places like Rome, they count statues and trees.
Former City Councilman John O’Connell said he once wanted to determine how many trucks the city Department of Public Works had by lining them all up end to end and counting. It never happened. If the astute O’Connell was unable execute this, we appreciate how daunting such an inventory can be.
First, let’s ask how many people in Hartford need jobs? The Connecticut Department of Labor webpage says as of December 2003, Hartford’s labor force contains 54,169 workers, of whom 49,100 are employed. The state says only 5,069 people in the city are looking for jobs, which equals a 9.4 percent unemployment rate (CT’s highest, a full point above Bridgeport.) The numbers seem low. We could argue the politicization of statistics that don’t account for those who stopped looking for jobs, and underemployment and non-living wage jobs.
By taking a human skills inventory, we can figure out whatpeople with what expertise live here. What are they willing to do? How much money do they require? What talent pools are overlooked? What redundancies can be altered?
Where the inventory reveals a weakness, it offers a chance to promote this deficiency as an opportunity to those with the needed talents looking to make a mark in their fields. Additionally, an inventory provides impetus for local leaders to better pair people and organizations — the way Hartford Youth Network organizes more than 70 youth service agencies to meet and devise a wholistic approach to problem-solving.
Once we track and categorize human resources, where do we find the capital to pay the workers? Can we take out loans against city assets? What potential wealth should an inventory count? Bluestone sidewalks? Tons of recoverable steel in the junkyards? Riverfront acreage? Abandoned homes? Architectural features? Empty lots?
Problems like potholes, hunger, homelessness, air pollution and litter should be subtracted from the assets. Charting this annually would generate a different picture for quality of life than the Consumer Confidence Index, and it would measure progress in solving the most pressing problems.
Who would do this? Businesses and community members should partner. Some infrastructure already exists. Hartford Preservation Alliance president Matt Blood (ed. note - he has since moved to Brooklyn. Lynn Ferrarri is now HPA president) has books that picture practically every house. City Scan works with youth to record things like grafitti and fire hydrants.
Who would pay for it? A city-levied commuter tax? A corporate tax? My successful businessman? I don’t know. But establishing a dialogue is a first step.
And to those who emailed me last week, thanks. Keep the thoughts coming.