July 12, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • 10:45 PM GMT
The race for City Hall remains wide open. Can Art Feltman or I. Charles break it open?
State representative Art Feltman and I sat down for lunch at Timothy's Restaurant back in December 2006, and he asked me to support his run for Mayor. I demurred, as I wasn't sure who I liked. I still am unsure.
I have friends calling me, telling me that I. Charles Matthews is the guy for Hartford. No one phones me in support of Frank Barrows, and that is enough reason for me to not consider him, no matter how good of a Senator he was.
Long ago I eliminated Eddie Perez from contention in my mind. So I think the race is between I. Charles and Art, both of whom showed up to the Free Kenny Legal Defense Fund Fundraiser back in January.
Feltman spoke out clearly against the police state abuse I suffered. Yet I. Charles has been more circumspect in his critiques of Chief Daryl Roberts, and I tend to suspect that I. Charles doesn't want to upset the African-American apple cart by attacking a black police chief, no matter how wrong-headed Roberts has been, on any number of issues.
In Art's favor, he is a progressive with the courage of his convictions (mostly). He was an early supporter of Lieberman challenger Ned Lamont, and on Election Day, Art was out in the South End poll standing, handing out Lamont literature.
Feltman embraces new ideas and reaches across ideological walls that seem to separate so much of the rest of our country and community. Back in the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, when tons of legislators and other political movers and shakers in private told me they supported Cliff Thornton's candidacy and our attempts to break the two-party monopoly, Art acted.
He helped me reserve rooms in the state Legislative Office Building for Green Party press conferences. Ralph Nader addressed the state from a building Ralph once called a whorehouse. Former New Paltz, NY mayor Jason West and Cliff Thornton discussed the need for civil marriage and equal rights for all, regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender.
Art is a good community organizer, and aside from building bridges to the Greens, he has Republicans like former city council member John O'Connell in his corner.
His ability to connect with people might help him bridge the divide between the religious community in Hartford that might shun him for his homosexuality. That may be one of the biggest obstacles to his winning the mayoralty.
But I'm not sure his leadership style blends ideas with charisma in a way that can unite the city, enough to make real progress.
One other major weakness stands out, and that is his resignation as chair of the state legislature's health committee a few years back because of a mental health issues.
He is not ashamed to discuss it, and he approaches the topic with fortitude. For that he deserves credit. And it is unfair to discriminate against him because of an acknowledged mental illness. But he has yet to address how he would deal with the eventuality if it occurred while he served as Chief Executive of Hartford.
Additionally, I need to see Art – and all other candidates – come out strongly against the war on drugs. It is one of the fundamental issues destroying our city. A recent fundraising letter Art sent out said “It will be a safe city when we cut demand for illegal drugs with treatment on demand.”
I need you to go a step further Art. Look to New Jersey, where Newark Mayor Cory Booker is awakening to the reality that the misguided policies of prohibition are the root of the violent upheaval in his community.
He is openly considering a civil disobedience movement in Trenton, New Jersey's capital - to protest the injustice, and he is in nearing an outright call for legalization. Art's letter indicates that Baltimore is a model for Hartford's redevelopment.
One hopes it is a curtained reference to the drug-legalization zones that the Baltimore Police Department created, and were featured in the HBO series the Wire, as as successful measures for reducing urban violence.
Will Art or I. Charles or Frank Barrows be willing to take such a stand, and call for an end to the lunacy of prohibition? That is what is going to be required to breath new life into Hartford, and halt the murder rate and make the streets safe and rebuild families.
I don't know that any of those gentlemen will go to the barricades on that issue. Although one can still hope. A look at I. Charles' tenure as deputy mayor may give me more insight as to his stance here.
After all, he was deputy mayor under Carrie Saxon-Perry, who called for legalization. Hopefully more research will lead me to a decision on who I will vote for.