Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra Defends His Record as Challengers Attack
The mayor said he thinks "the mood has been uplifted in the city."
The race to be the next Hartford mayor is underway. And with just over a month to go until the city's Democratic leaders endorse their candidate, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra defended his record at a debate Thursday night.
Segarra faced five challengers: two lawyers, a probate judge, a councilman, and an activist. They questioned his leadership, his choices, and his budgets. In response, Segarra did his best to say that it's easy to complain when you haven't held the office. And he gently reminded them that he first took the job because the guy who had it before him -- Eddie Perez -- was corrupt and under arrest.
"Five years ago, I came to the office of mayor, and there were very severe challenges," Segarra said. "The first was to restore trust and confidence in what was a very difficult time."
Segarra spoke of his efforts to raise the graduation rate, increase economic development, and lower crime.
"More importantly, I think that the mood has been uplifted in the city," the mayor said. "We still have challenges, and that's why I'm seeking another four years."
Questions from the audience gathered at Trinity College touched on taxes, schools, public safety, the baseball stadium, and opportunities for those coming out of prison.
Candidate Giselle Jacobs said she knows what the residents of the city go through.
"I know what it's like to be homeless. I know what it's like to be jobless," she said. "I know what it's like to be penniless and still have hope. And that's what I hope to bring to Hartford: hope."
Other candidates attacked Segarra's record. Bob Killian, a probate judge in the city for three decades, pointed to the city's finances.
"Hartford is broke," Killian said. "We have a fiscal disaster on our hands. And nothing good is going to happen in Hartford until we restore its fiscal stability, and that's what I want to do."
John Gale is a lawyer, and he lamented the relationship Segarra has with the state legislature.
"The city of Hartford has been very poor over the last several years at working with its delegation," Gale said.
That was a theme others picked up on, too.
Luke Bronin was general counsel to Governor Dannel Malloy.
"Can we make ourselves good stewards of taxpayer dollars," Bronin asked. "So that, when we go up to the state Capitol, arm in arm with our legislators, and we say, 'This city of Hartford -- that has half of its property non-taxable, that does so much for this region, that bears so many burdens and serves so many people, needs more help,' people will take us seriously, because they know that we're going to use the money well."
Everyone had an opinion on the new baseball stadium and related developments just north of downtown.
Councilman Joel Cruz of the Working Families Party said he was skeptical at first. But he's just happy to see something getting done. "I want to see our city developed," Cruz said. "I want to see our city thrive. I was born and raised in this city. And I've seen that piece of property, where we had a piece of property that was called actually the Butt Ugly building. And for me, it's at least exciting to know that there's going to be some development."
But Judge Killian hasn't liked the project since it was unveiled a year ago. "It was a stupid move then, and it's a stupid move now," he said. "And let me say this. I hope the baseball team flourishes. I hope whatever the hell they call it they have huge successes. But I'm going to tell you this, my friends. There will not be any other development there without massive infusion of public dollars and tax breaks and we can't afford it."
Throughout, Segarra defended himself and his record. And he pushed back.
"I want folks to listen very carefully to what you're hearing. Cut taxes. But employ more people. And don't build anything," the mayor said. "I've been at this job for five years. I think that any one of you that has seriously been watching what is going on in this city can tell that, under very difficult circumstances, we managed to continue to make things work."
This was but one of several debates. The Democratic convention is next month. Then will come the primary.