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In Hartford, Mayor and Unions Step Back From the Brink


HARTFORD — Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and the city’s labor unions, its council and its legislative delegation took steps Thursday toward defusing a fight that threatened to politically isolate the new mayor as he tries to keep Connecticut’s capital city out of bankruptcy.

In a press conference at the State Capitol, union leaders stood with legislators and council leaders to say they could deliver between $8 million and $12 million in concessions, an olive branch to a mayor they decisively stopped from obtaining sweeping new authority to impose taxes and remake labor contracts.

“I want to thank the unions for that firm commitment. Today is a good day, but a tough day,” said Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford. “I want to thank the mayor for bringing forth into light some of the difficult decisions he has to make.”

Bronin responded with his own upbeat news conference at City Hall, ignoring the awkward optics of state legislators and council leaders standing with union leaders, publicly urging the mayor to take a more conciliatory approach.

“I take that as a good-faith first step,” Bronin said. “We’re going to have some very tough decisions and some very tough negotiations still ahead, but I take our labor leaders at their word that they are willing and ready to make real, substantial concessions as a part of an overall effort to get the city of Hartford on the path to recovery.”

With deficits that are projected to hit $48.5 million in 2017, $69 million in 2018 and $88 million in 2019, Bronin says he will need to obtain more than $12 million in concessions and will still have to shrink the workforce through layoffs.

The city has a budget of $533 million, including $284 million for schools. Its authorized non-education workforce for 2016 is 1,429 full-time positions, including 452 police officers and 356 firefighters.

“Even the deepest cuts, and even very substantial concessions, don’t get us over the deficits we face in the years ahead,” Bronin said.

None of the union leaders at the press conference said concessions were reliant on a no-layoff pledge. The presidents of the police and fire unions, Rich Holton and Vince Fusco, said no one was challenging the existence of a fiscal crisis.

“We did not create the problems afflicting our great city, but we fully intend to be part of the solution,” said Shellye Davis, a school paraprofessional and president of the Greater Hartford Labor Council.

Bronin, 36, a Rhodes Scholar and former legal adviser to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, took over as mayor of Hartford, an impoverished city that serves as capital of the richest state in the U.S., on New Year’s Day. He defeated Pedro Segarra, the incumbent, in a Democratic primary.

In his first weeks in office, Bronin said that previous administrations has obscured a structural financial crisis by refinancing the city’s debt and using one-time revenues, such as the sale of a city garage, to balance the budget.

Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, speaks at a press conference with union leaders, council members and legislators.

Mark Pazniokas / CtMirror.org

Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, speaks at a press conference with union leaders, council members and legislators.

His solution was to ask the General Assembly for unprecedented powers: Under the auspices of a new Hartford Financial Sustainability Commission, he could renegotiate labor deals and impose taxes on tax-exempt institutions.

Hartford Hospital, Trinity College, the University of Hartford and major non-profits objected to the new taxing authority, while labor leaders complained that Bronin was acting precipitously in seeking to free the city of its labor commitments.

“In less than the 90 days in office, Mayor Bronin has decided to use his time pushing this legislation instead of bringing everyone to the table where they could figure this out together,” Lori Pelletier, the head of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said in testimony submitted to the legislature. “Mr. Bronin’s strategy provides an interesting insight to his views on workers and their representatives, and that is it’s his way or the highway.”

The only applause came from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which saw the proposal as a wedge that could help other struggling cities narrow the long list of property exempt from the only tax municipalities can impose: the property tax.

But Bronin soon found himself alone, potentially eroding his influence at the outset of what is likely to be a difficult four-year term. The city’s delegation to the General Assembly refused to push the mayor’s bill, and the City Council voted 8-1 on Monday to reject a resolution supporting it.

On Thursday, the measure died from inaction in the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee when the panel declined to take it up at the last meeting before its deadline for reporting out legislation.

Bronin declined to say the legislation was a mistake.

“Look, I think the legislation helped shine a light on the crisis that we face, and I think it created some conversations that might not otherwise have been had,” Bronin said.

He left little doubt he would be back at the General Assembly next year looking to define the state’s financial relationship with its cities, particularly its capital city, where half the property is tax exempt. With a high tax rate, a stagnant tax base, the nation’s second smallest percentage of home ownership and the state’s highest poverty rate, Hartford cannot afford to raise taxes, he said.

“Our mill rate right now is 74. In New Haven and in Bridgeport, it’s down in the low 40s. I don’t believe we can do an across-the-board mill rate increase without killing the city,” Bronin said. “It might happen quickly. It might happen slowly. But if we continue to raise the burden on our small businesses and our mid-sized employers, we’re going to see more and more of them shut down, shutter their doors and leave town. And we cannot afford to do that to the city of Hartford.”

Photo courtesy of ctmirror.org.

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Hilary Clinton Visits Hartford, Talks About Gun Violence


By Ann-Marie Adams | @annmarieadams

HARTFORD — Coming off her primary victory in New York, Presidential Candidate Hilary Clinton on Thursday met with families of Connecticut victims touched by gun violence.

 
The gathering of about 250 invited guests and supporters inside the Y conveyed the level of intimacy Clinton wanted to have on her campaign trail in Hartford, supporters said. The issue of gun violence, which affect about 30,000 Americans each year was discussed to aid Clinton’s push for stricter gun laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

 

 

Clinton spent about 90 minutes at the Wilson-Gray YMCA taking questions after discussing mass shooting in Newtown and gun violence prevention.

 

 

“I’m not here to make promises I can’t keep. I wa m here to tell you I will use every single minute of every day looking for ways we can save lives that we can change the gun culture,” she said. “It is too easy for people to reach for a gun to settle their problems. It makes no sense.”

 
The panelists included Erica Smegielski, the daughter of Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

 
“Hilary Rodham Clinton has been a champion for gun violence prevention for her entire career,” Smegielski said. “I know she is the only person in this race that can deliver real results.”

 
Clinton’s visit to Hartford’s North End followed Chelsea Clinton’s visit to the North End at Dunn’s River. Her visit follows that of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Other presidential candidates to visit include John Kasich, who will be in Glastonbury on Friday. Trump will be in Waterbury on Saturday. And Democratic Challenger Bernie Sanders will be at the Convention Center in Downtown Hartford.

 
Other panelists at the event on Thursday included Nelba Marquez-Greene, the mother of 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace also killed in the school shootings. The New Haven Chapter President of Mothers Demand Action Kim Washington and MDA member Deborah Davis were also in attendance.

 
Hartford resident Iran Nazario, founder of Compass Peace Builders, was also a panelist. He said that at the age of 12, he lost his brother to gun violence. He said there are young men who are still struggling because of grief from the loss of friends and family.

 
“There are kids out there whose souls are trapped,” he said. “And they need us.”
Clinton, in her brief remarks during the 90-minute session, reminded her supporters that the National Rifle Association has blocked many efforts to change gun laws. She praised the mothers in attendance for sharing their stories who have withstood harassment because of their campaign against gun violence.

 
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said Clinton’s visit has helped to shine a spotlight on gun violence in the city. So far, there have been five homicides in 2016. For of those five victims, he said, are because of gun violence.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Hartford Elects New Mayor Luke Bronin


By ctmirror.org

HARTFORD — Hartford voters Tuesday, in an election that was largely a formality, selected Luke A. Bronin as their next mayor.

Bronin, a lawyer who grew up downstate, raised considerable campaign cash and unseated incumbent Mayor Pedro Segarra in a Democratic primary, becoming the party’s candidate in a city whose residents overwhelmingly vote blue.

Bronin used his victory speech at Real Art Ways in Hartford to thank his supporters and lay out the problems he plans to tackle during his four-year term.

“It’s time to get Hartford working again,” said Bronin. “When a city faces the challenges that we face, there are no easy answers…The challenges are big but so is Hartford’s promise.”

The task of putting the state’s capital city on the path to economic prosperity is huge, given what Bronin described during his victory speech as a “budget crisis” facing the city.

Hartford — a city of 125,000 residents — has by far the state’s highest mill rate and a taxable grand list nearly identical to that of towns, such as Farmington and Guilford, that are a fraction of its size.

The city also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Luke Bronin celebrates his victory with his supporters

Bronin, 36, who moved to the city nine years ago, also campaigned on improving neighborhood schools, boosting state and federal funding to the city, and increasing community policing as homicide rates spiked over the summer.

The neighborhood schools in Hartford are among the worst performing and segregated in the state, and Bronin has said a child shouldn’t have to win the school choice lottery to get a desk in a good school. The Bronin family’s decision to send their children to a private school in West Hartford became an issue in the campaign. They made it after Bronin’s daughter failed to win a seat at the Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet while his son, who is younger, did.

During his victory speech he characterized the neighborhood schools as “under-enrolled and overburdened.”

In a city where 84 percent of the residents are minorities, Bronin becomes the city’s first white mayor in 15 years. Bronin moved to Hartford in 2006, but he was absent from the city while serving in Afghanistan with the U.S. Navy and then working during President Obama’s first term as a lawyer assigned to tracking terrorist financing. Bronin has never held elected office, and this was his first election bid.

Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez smiles for a photo at the Bronin victory party election night.

About 10,000 Hartford residents voted, and a Bronin campaign official said shortly before 9 p.m. tha, with 54 percent of the vote tallied, Bronin was winning about 75 percent of the votes.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who held off endorsing a candidate in the Democratic primary, joined the victory party Tuesady night. Bronin was the governor’s general counsel for two years before entering the race in January.

“We knew Luke was going to win after he won the primary. I think he is going to be a great mayor. I am looking forward to working with him,” the Democratic governor said shortly after the polls closed Tuesday.

Addressing a roomful of supporters, Malloy said he has given Bronin some advice.

“I’ve given him the advice that I’ve always tried to take, but it’s a lot easier for me to do than it will be for him. My rule is to always hire people who are brighter than you. That’s how I ended up with Luke Bronin working for me,” Malloy told a cheering crowd. “Hartford, you could not have a better mayor.”

Other guests at Bronin’s victory party included former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, Attorney General George Jepsen, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and several members of the Hartford General Assembly delegation.

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Hartford Democratic Voters Ask for Change


Democratic voters overwhelmingly picked first-time candidate Luke Bronin to win the Democratic Mayoral Primary over incumbent mayor: Pedro Ernesto Segarra.

After a long day on Wednesday, Segarra opted to get rest to think about why—for perhaps the first time in history—an incumbent mayor lost the Democratic endorsement and the primary. Hartford is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Of the more than 46,000 registered voters, 35,745 are Democratic voters. About 9,500 — or 26 percent–voters turned out on Wednesday.

They wanted change.

editorialbannerthumbThat’s because Segarra is seemingly a “good person” led astray. His staff and his political team were not the best, some political insiders said. And Segarra and his staff brought on a lot of “additional problems” to the city, according to Hartford City Councilman Raul DeJesus.

Indeed. Segarra has been hampered by what is perceived to be an incompetent staff, several of whom he has had to demote or fire in the last two years.

Segarra replaced the former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez in 2010 after Perez was convicted of corruption. Before he was sworn in as the 66th mayor, Segarra pledged to change how city government runs.

About two years into his tenure, turmoil ensued. First, Segarra and a few staffers were caught dining on caviar at Max Downtown on the city’s credit card. Not long after, Segarra accepted the resignation of his first chief of staff: Jared Kupiec. Kupiec was arrested by the Hartford Police Department and accused of driving a city vehicle more than 1,000 miles after work hours.

Most recently, Segarra accepted the resignation of his Corporation Counsel Saudra Kee Borgues and demoted the lead counsel Catherine Freeman. The corporation counsel and her staff failed to realize that inaction toward legal matters—that can be avoided– only serve to deplete the city’s coffers.

David Medina, the Hartford Board of Education communications director, retired from his duties. Before retiring, Medina had failed to realize that all of Hartford residents need to be informed.

The city needs a strong mayor, who is competent enough to surround himself with a strong team. Perhaps Bronin, 36, got lucky despite his thin political resume because of Segarra’s “unfortunate string of misfortunes” since 2010.

After the mayor rests up, he will have to consider whether he as an unaffiliated candidate can win the general election in 2016 by garnering those voters he and his staff mostly ignored : small business owners, marginalized Hartford residents and Independent voters—the kind of voters Bronin worked to secure for a victory over what was a formidable incumbent.

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Endorsed Democratic Candidate Luke Bronin Talks Education, Crime with Residents


By Ann-Marie Mesquita, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Two days after the  Hartford Democratic Town Committee endorsed Luke Bronin for mayor, he made a stop at his Albany Avenue campaign office to discuss crime, education and jobs with city residents.

“Hartford wants a Mayor who’s working every single day to make our neighborhoods stronger and safer, who’s fighting for jobs and for economic opportunity for Hartford residents, and who gets back to the basics of delivering city services on every street,” Bronin said in a release to the press. “We need a mayor who’s hands-on and who does the hard things, so that Hartford can become the great city we all know it can be.”

Bronin received 49 votes from the committee after incumbent Pedro Segarra walked out of the nominating convention before the vote Monday night, saying he “will not lend himself to a process” that selected him when he ran for mayor in 2012.

“There comes a moment in one’s life when you must stand up for what is right and walk away from what is wrong. Tonight was one of those moments,” Segarra said in a statement to the press. “I chose not to accept the nomination of the Democratic Town Committee because I am in this race for the people of Hartford and not the politics.”

Bronin and Segarra faced off at Bulkeley High School auditorium but left before the vote. And his supporters abstained from voting–shouting “four more years” for the incumbent mayor.

Segarra said he has been a resident of Hartford for 41 years.  He replaced former Mayor Eddie Perez in 2010 and was elected to a full term in 2012. Segarra said he will gather petition signatures to qualify for the Sept. 16 primary.

Bronin is a Yale Law School graduate and former legal adviser to Gov. Dannel Malloy.

A relatively new comer to the city, Bronin said he was honored to receive the nomination.

Photo courtesy of www. inagist.com.

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