March 12, 2007
Story and Photos by Ken Krayeske • Hartford • 11:00 PM EST
Mayor Eddie Perez will announce his official bid for re-election at some point in the future, he said Monday night after delivering his State of the City address to an overflow crowd in Hartford City Hall Monday evening.
"I haven't made a definite decision as to how we are going to do it," he said, but made clear it will happen. "Today is about the state of the city."
And the state of the city is fantastic, where not a mistake was made or a bad thing happened, according to his speech, which – minus the minor-league oration - sounded like a re-election stemwinder.
But Council President John Bazzano argued that the speech wasn't about presentation.
"We don't worry about delivery, it's content," Bazzano said. "It was all things important to the city: housing, police, education, quality of life issues."
The ever-loyal Bazzano gave Perez an A.
And for past mistakes, those are for Perez to admit, said Council member Jim Boucher. "It was a positive, strong speech," Boucher said.
"Together, we proved the doubters wrong," Perez said in the first three sentences. Then he co-opted union organizing language "Together we can say 'Si se puede!' That means 'Yes we can!' And Hartford, together, yes we will!"
From a podium in the center of Council Chambers, Perez juxtaposed achievements with future goals. Reading the text (which was provided to the press beforehand), Perez repeated sentences, jumbled words and stumbled through lines.
But he knew when to pause for applause.
He highlighted the creation of the Office of Youth Services, then said he would throw another $2 million at it for after school programs.
He discussed the efforts of police to curb crime, then unveiled an ordinance to allow Hartford's Corporation Counsel to sue gun owners who who fail to report a lost or stolen weapon that is used to commit a felony in Hartford.
He talked about the creation of more than 2,100 housing units in Hartford, and the transition of 1,350 renters to home owners. Then he promised $50 million in capital funds to provide middle-income rental housing.
He bragged about spending $360 million on building schools, and committed another $232 million towards school construction in the future.
The speech was a C-plus, according to Council member Elizabeth Horton Sheff, because she had several questions about Perez's numbers.
"I'm not sure what's real and what's Memorex," Horton-Sheff said. "How much of that $360 million is money from the Sheff settlement? He talked about 5,000 new jobs. How many of those are already filled? Out of the apartments, how many are luxury and how many were created by the Hartford Housing Authority?"
Council member Bob Painter said most of the speech was exciting, but for Perez's pitch for a new arena.
"I can't stand the idea," Painter said. "To think a stadium is significant for economic development, it hasn't been borne out in other cities."
Right after the rink line, at the end of his presentation, Perez offered that his government would start a citizens' task force to review the impact of charter changes and determine whether or not a new charter revision should occur.
"The government works best when it listens," Perez said. "Good government is by the people, for the people."
The speech was energetic, Republican mayoral contender J. Stan McCauley said.
"I think the mayor now realizes that he needs to listen to people," McCauley said. "But he's pulling an old Joe Lieberman. 'I hear you. I hear you.' It was almost too late for Lieberman. Let's see if it works for Perez."
More pointedly, McCauley wondered why only one member of Hartford's delegation to state legislature was present.
"Notably absent was Hartford's delegation," McCauley said. "The absence speaks to the gulf between the city and the delegation."
State Rep. Kelvin Roldán, the recent beneficiary of city largess, is a proud acolyte of Mayor Perez.
"I'm here because I support the Mayor 100 percent," Roldán said. He refused to speculate on the absence of his colleagues. "That is for you to infer, not for me."
No one else in the mayor's camp would hazard a guess as to why the other seven members of the delegation were missing.
"The main discussion was about key issues that affect the city and state," Councilor Boucher said, but pled ignorance as to the absence.
As did Council President John Bazzano and mayoral press aide Sarah Barr.
After the speech was over, while audience members nibbled on crudité platters, chocolate chip cookies and sliced fruit trays from the $1,500 Myles Catering buffet paid for by taxpayers, Perez did a few short interviews.
Barr made clear that the evening was not for the p-word after Hartford Courant reporter Dan Goren asked Perez about his critics.
"No politics, just celebrate," Barr interjected.
But when some of the crowd gave Perez a standing ovation and chanted "Four more years," it was hard to ignore that neighborhood activists Bernadine Silvers and Hyacinth Yennie remained seated.
And former Mayor Thirman Milner, part of the standing room only crowd, remained motionless with his arms folded while the throngs clapped loudly.
"It's campaign time," said Milner, who is considering a mayoral bid. "It is no less than I expected. My concern is about what hasn't happened. He addressed some things, but there is more to be done."