Mayor Luke Bronin says America's cities are focused on post-pandemic comeback. And Hartford is, too.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin attended his final winter gathering at the U.S. Conference of Mayors last week. The Democrat recently announced that when his second term ends this year, he will not run for reelection.
Several challengers are already vying for the chance to become Hartford's next mayor. But the person who wins the role will face challenges — some unique to Hartford and some that are being felt by mayors across the nation.
One national issue for cities, Bronin said, is the revival of downtowns post-pandemic. Bronin said cities across America have seen the "hollowing out" of downtowns as workers have gone remote and businesses have shrunk their footprint.
"Cities all across the country are looking for creative ways to deal with that challenge," Bronin said. "In Hartford, we're dealing with that by trying to double, and triple down on residential developments. So we've got that energy and activity and feet on the street coming from people living in the downtown core in the absence of the office workers."
Bronin said mayors at the conference talked about everything from climate change to how best to spend federal pandemic relief dollars. But one topic that Bronin said is largely unique to Connecticut cities is the issue of untaxable land in cities.
Hartford has several properties that are exempt from real estate taxes, which Bronin and other municipal leaders have said presents many challenges to the city's budget.
"Most cities around the country are not so reliant on the property tax as the only source of local revenue," Bronin said.
"When I talk to mayors around the country and I ask them, 'What are your sources of revenue?' I usually hear that they have property tax," he said. "But that they also generate a share of their revenue from the sales tax. Or from hotel or restaurant receipts. Taxes that, in Connecticut, all go to the state. In many other states, go partly to the cities."
The U.S. Conference of Mayors' winter meeting took place Jan. 17-20 in Washington, D.C.
Listen to Connecticut Public Radio's interview with Luke Bronin by clicking on the audio above.