By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
HARTFORD – The Hartford City Council opened its Monday meeting like most: calmly and with a prayer. Moments later in chamber, one council member erupted.
The outburst came from Working Family Party Councilman Larry Deutsch shortly after Majority Leader James Boucher began checking off agenda items like rapid-fire. Boucher also referred to committee the last item on the agenda, a resolution to “immediately” fund the Salvation Army Marshall House Family Center at 225 South Marshall Street. The shelter, which offers temporary housing and “help families earn skills to move to permanent housing,” is scheduled to close April 15.
Then “all hell broke lose,” in the City Hall Chamber as one observer noted:
Known for his many acts of civil disobedience, Deutsch bolted up from his seat and an unusual dialogue occurred, he said, because Agenda Item # 31 regarding the homeless shelter was “not recognized.”
“The items should be considered if it’s urgent,” he announced to his colleagues as he held up a mint green 8 x 11 inch-paper that read: “Hartford City Council: Don’t allow the Women and Family overflow shelter to close.”
A conversation followed.
Councilman Larry Deutsch: This item was not recognized.
Council President rjo Winch: …It was referred to committee.
Deutsch: …at least the council should consider if it is urgent.
Corporation Counsel: There is no such exception to Robert Rules of Order.
Deutsch: Well, I take exception to the Robert Rules…
Winch: …Abide by the rules. …We’re on to the next item.
Deutsch: I’m afraid not.
Winch: Councilman Deutsch you are out of order.
The council recessed for about three minutes. And for the rest of the one-hour meeting, Deutsch stood in silence with his protest sign in hand.
Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, who chairs the budget committee, said Deutsch made a power play after he refused half the requested amount, $26, 000. Kennedy said Deutsch has been requesting money for the shelter every six months for the last six years.
Power play or not, the shelter impending closing was set for April 15. One woman, Elizabeth, had the largest sign in the audience, a show of solidarity with Deutsch and the other women who held up signs in the audience (see featured photo). She said she has been in the shelter for two weeks and has no place to go if they do close.
Another woman chimed in as she walked out of city hall chambers.
“They care more about a tree than women and children,” said Carla Williams, 50, president of Women of Voices of Color.
In other matters, the city council voted 7-2 to repeal an ordinance that will allow city council members to receive an 80 percent raise in January 2012. Voters will decide in November 2011 whether council salary should increase from $15,000 to $26,650.