June 13, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • 1:45 PM GMT
Right before I left for the UK and Dublin for my summer law school study abroad program, I received a phone message from Mayor Perez.
Silly me, I got all excited that he was calling to apologize for the Hartford Police Department.
No, it seems as if Mayor Robocall, ripping a page from the Sen. Lieberman playbook, wanted to make sure I received his latest campaign propaganda.
"It's important to know what issues are important to you," Mayor Robocall said. "Your ideas and thoughts are important to me. Si Se Puede."
He wants my feedback. How nice! Sure enough, I shuffled through my stack of mail, and I found the "Moving Hartford Forward... Together" flyer, which looks suspiciously like the oft-abused franking privileges known as the Mayor's Update.
It utilizes the royal blue, yellow and white lettering introduced to city residents by the Mayor's Update. While it lacks the city logo, as it should, the page size, color photo layout, glossy card stock and the tri-fold structure invoke the Mayor's Update, as well.
Pardon the fact that sitting in this internet cafe in Dublin, I lack a scanner to demonstrate the seemingly dishonest graphic theivery. But I have internet access here (it's $10 for 8 hours).
While we should rejoice that the Mayor's staff has put together a far more professional mailer than the last one I wrote about, this one seems to rely too heavily on the Mayor's city-financed brand-imagery.
In fact, because I opened it face first, and looked at the address page last, it took me a minute to figure out that this wasn't a city-made piece, but campaign literature. I want to know if the photos, like the one of the Mayor posing with a shopping cart and a supermarket work crew, most likely from the ceremonial grand opening of a new grocery store, were paid for by the city but used by the campaign? How did the campaign obtain that photo?
The double-truck spread that is revealed when we open the flyer features a a short, three-paragraph letter (both in Spanish and English), signed, "Eddie." Nowhere inside does it say it is a campaign piece, and it since it bears the graphic imprimatur of previous Mayor's Updates, I was somewhat confused, until I looked at the address page and saw the campaiugn disclaimer.
"We are all partners in the future of Hartford and your opinion is important to me," the Mayor's topic sentence in the first paragraph reads.
Next paragraph topic sentence: "Over the years, your input has helped shape our city." Why Mayor, I'm so tickled you think so highly of my comments. So when will you be removing the police chief?
But before I get too sarcastic, Jack "the Lorax" Hale of Knox Parks recently reported to me that the city has paid Knox to plant 47 new trees at the corner of Broad and Farmington, where Boss Thneed wreaked some havoc not too far back. So maybe the Mayor is listening.
But then I contrasted the last line of the Mayor's letter "I look forward to hearing your ideas" with the perforated, multiple-choice input card included with the Mayor's mailer.
Taking another cue from his center-right Democratic Leadership Committee mentors like Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean, Mayor DLC cleverly cloaks an opinion-research piece as a policy pushing tool.
The first question asks citizens to pick three priorities for the city out of a possible eight. Who wouldn't want government to provide what he proposes, like more money for schools, opening libraries seven days a week, cutting taxes on small business, putting more police on the streets, cleaning "unsightly" bus stops, creating good paying jobs with health care and increasing homeownership.
Question two invites voters to choose two issues that need the most attention in their neighborhoods: parks, libraries and open space; street and sidewalk repairs; quicker police response; more affordable housing; and (for the second question in a row) jobs and recreation for youth.
Jeez, after two small questions, a pattern develops. The Mayor has a series of issues he wants to us to remember him for. Anything unpleasant regarding his tenure is not included, but, after watching the spectacle that is Lou DeLuca, expecting honest, unflailing self-criticism from a politician is pure fancy.
The design doesn't even give space for specifics to be addressed, like prostitution in Asylum Hill, drug dealing in Frog Hollow or speeding in the South End.
While he gives us three lines at the end of the survey to write our opinions, the focus remains on the Mayor's campaign providing readers with the framework in which to judge the progress of the city.
Looking at question three, the pattern is clear, even though the subject matter shifts to identifying the two most important issues in the school system: expanding the school uniform program, safety, better facilities, more after-school programs, smaller class sizes, or more school choice.
The structure of the answers doesn't allow respondents to explain which school they are in, or have children in. Nor does it talk about the Mayor's biggest educational gaffe to date - the closing of summer school for certain grades.
The flyer doesn't give room for a wide-ranging debate, and the mayor doesn't ever intend to do that. This is a p.r. gimmick, and the fourth question seals that impression for me.
The final interrogatory seeks voters to select the city services most vital to them (choose two): better schools, more cops, libraries, parks and open space, basic city services (road repairs).
What about approaching climate change as a way to improve city services. It is a proven fact that green business practices save money and make for more effective, streamlined operations.
Also, I am left to wonder what is the obsession with park space, as the city already has more parks than it can effectively care for. When I talk with people in the city about issues, more parks rarely comes up, unless we're talking to the Catholic Worker on Clark Street, lamenting the park space the Mayor allowed destroyed for grandparents' housing.
Mayor Perez, you wanted to hear from me, so here it is. Thanks for listening. I appreciate it. But I suspect you are only putting on a ploy, and what we say goes in one ear and out the other.