By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer
HARTFORD — In his third state of the city address on Monday, Mayor Luke Bronin touted Hartford as a city on the path to fiscal health after having averted a financial crisis.
Bronin said the city was fiscally sound and was attracting new businesses such as Insurtech, Stanley Black & Decker, MakerspaceCT and ThinkSynergy. Thanks in part to the state’s five-year plan that averted the city from filing bankruptcy last year. The state agreed to pay off the city’s $550 million debt.
The city was indeed at a crossroads and the mayor said he and his team made a plan and stuck with it.
“It’s easy to forget just how dangerous that crisis was,” Bronin said to the city council and others in City Hall. “It was not clear then that there was any path other than bankruptcy that would allow our city to avoid a catastrophic collapse of services.”
Bronin, who is seeking a second term in office, said the city now has enough money set aside for capital investments and to build on the city’s reserves.
But there is much more work to do.
The mayor outlined the need to increase the number of black and Hispanic police officers and fire fighters in the city, tackle youth homelessness, chronic absenteeism in the school district and invest more in Hartford neighborhoods.
The city recently hired more than 100 police officers and about half of those hired are black and Hispanic. Additionally, about 125 firefighters were hired and two-thirds are black and Hispanic, officials said.
The city has also received a grant to help reduce youth homelessness. The city has partnered with several area organizations and has reduced chronic homelessness by 70 percent since 2015, Bronin said.
Almost 50 percent of Hartford students are considered chronically absent or on the brink of being labeled chronically absent. The city has partnered with a national organization to reengage students to lower the absenteeism rate.
“Issues like that can’t be solved inside the walls of our schools alone,” Bronin said.
There are also signs of development and other investments that dot the city’s landscape. Projects that were stalled are now on track again, such as the Albany Avenue Streetscapes, Westbrook Village and Weaver High School in the North End.
The Southend has a new library branch and Mutual Housing is turning blighted properties into an island of affordable housing.
Progress is evident, he said.
“Anyone who says that neighborhood economic development hasn’t been a priority just isn’t paying attention, or isn’t telling the truth,” Bronin said.
The first-term mayor ended his 30-minute speech by urging all residents and business owners to take ownership of the city and fight for its progress.
“We’re a city that fights when we’re down, and we fight for those who are down,” Bronin said. “We’re a city that stands together. We are the strong heart of our region, and the Capital of this great State.”