May 9, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • 1:00 AM EST
Mayor Eddie Perez deep in thought at the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Revitalization Zone meeting Monday, May 7, 2007 at the Asylum Hill Congregational Church.
I'm angry, and not going to apologize. I'm angry about how the Hartford Police Department violated my rights and falsely arrested me.
I'm angry about how HPD officers beat up Mayor Eddie Perez's nephew, Ruben Perez, in a holding cell. I'm angry about what HPD must do to people every day and we don't hear about it because the victims lack access to the media.
Mayor Perez, on the other hand, does not seem very upset about how the Constitution, our civil society and our rights disappear daily.
Sitting around a table surrounded by more than 40 concerned Hartford residents, Perez seemed like a fidgety 12-year-old, uncomfortable in the suit his mom made him wear to the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Revitalization Zone meeting Monday night May 7 at the Asylum Hill Congregational Church.
Perez offered rote answers to questions that the NRZ had given him in advance. I don't get to the NRZ meetings often because I have law school classes Monday nights, but after watching NRZ chair Bernie Michel fawn over Perez, and watching Perez tie his shoes, pull up his socks and scratch his calves throughout the meeting, I am glad I don't suffer through such political theatre regularly.
But with classes finished for the semester, and with Perez scheduled to speak before the NRZ, I saw a chance to question him publicly about the lack of accountability in HPD.
Before the script hit public safety, residents wanted to know about libraries, transportation, education and development. So Perez brought Enid Ray, the director of the Office of Youth Services, and his development team of Roger O'Brien and John Palmieri.
After explaining the going-nowhere plan for the Mark Twain Library Branch, Perez discussed the summer school debacle. My anger and outrage spread to his very sketchy plans for fourth through eighth graders who won't be in summer school this year.
How is it possible that after five and a half years in office - several of those in charge of the school system - the Mayor and his staff do not know precisely how many students will be affected by the decision to eliminate summer school for late elementary school and middle school grades?
"We're trying to get a handle on how many kids are served," Ray said. "There's no way to get good data on that."
Huh? Isn't that why we have centralized school records management?
"It's not 10,000 kids," Perez chirped. "It's less than 800."
If anyone didn't understand why the Hartford Public School system is troubled, look no further than the fact that six weeks before summer break, the people in charge can't tell us exactly how many fourth through eighth graders need remedial help.
Nor do they have any idea what kind of programs they will be offering those youth not in the summer school they cancelled.
"We will possibly be releasing an RFP for youth service providers," Ray said.
Granted, Ray has only been in the Office of Youth Services since October, and she talks a better game than Perez, but what is going on over there?
"We are going to have a program," Perez said. "We wish we knew who we were tailoring it for. We are going to run some kind of summer enrichment program."
Having run nationally-recognized youth development programs in the summer and all year-round in Hartford, I can assure the loyal reading audience that if there isn't an RFP out already, and the kids aren't signed up by now, the program will not help. It will only waste money and time.
This bumblefoolery inspires less confidence in Perez's leadership than anything going on at HPD, which with the consistent violations of constitutional rights on Jennings Road, I didn't think possible.
First, the good news, the Asylum Hill Police sub-station at the Hastings should be ready to go in 120 days, Perez said. Community policing is vital, and Asylum Hill's Community Service Officer Jeff Morrison needs more resources, and better leadership.
But I had been sitting too long thinking about my experience in the tank, my heart was pounding too hard to be congratulatory. Nor will I be sorry about getting upset with being thrown in the clink on trumped-up charges.
The Mayor's nephew Ruben was charged with third-degree assault and breach of peace in a dust-up with a tow-truck driver over a car being towed. His bail was set at $25,000. For interfering with an officer and breach of peace, my bail was set at $75,000.
In the Courant, Chief Roberts has promised justice regarding Officer Matt Secore's assault on Ruben, who himself stands accused of kicking a tow truck driver Slade Secore in the head (Slade and Matt are brothers).
I still haven't heard a peep about the investigation the Mayor promised regarding my arrest.
Mayor, I said, Police Chief Daryl Roberts got on statewide radio and television and said that there will be consequences for anyone who invokes their Miranda rights. I am sorry about what happened to your nephew, but I see a connection between what happened to me and what happened to your nephew.
We have a police chief who condones reckless behavior. With all due respect to the officers at the NRZ meeting, Mayor, how are you going to bring accountability into the Hartford Police Department?
"The Chief has my confidence," Perez said, and acknowledged that "We have work to do within the department."
"The Chief is a constitutional tortfeasor," I said.
"I stand by the Chief," Perez said. "I'm not going to discuss individual incidents."
And that is the problem. At what point will the Mayor confront the erosion of civil rights in this community? When will he understand that running the city isn't about being a boy king, handing out contracts to friends to preserve power?
As chief elected official, the Mayor's job is to protect and defend constitutional rights, like the right to not be falsely arrested, the right to not be attacked by police while in police custody, and the right to an education.
I'll forgive the lack of vision, the wooden tongue, and the fidgeting if I am confident the Mayor understands his role. But when the Mayor fails to demonstrate his ability to protect and defend the Constitution, or at least demonstrate the fortitude to do so, then I will not refrain from criticism.
This Mayor has had six years to prove himself, and after watching Perez's performance Monday night, I want someone new.