Esta página no está disponible en español.
The Hartford Courant
Perez Raises The Bar In Campaign Kickoff
By MARK PAZNIOKAS, Courant Staff Writer
June 10, 2003
Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez announced his re-election campaign Monday by raising expectations for himself and his city, promising safer streets and greater housing and educational opportunity in a time of shrinking resources.
With Perez virtually guaranteed next month to win the endorsement of the dominant Democratic Party, the mayor delivered a 20-minute speech that sounded more like an inaugural than a campaign kickoff. He promised to reclaim for the city a leadership role in regional issues.
"We can no longer sit on the sidelines," Perez said.
Perez, 45, elected in 2001 as the city's first Puerto Rican mayor, is unopposed so far in his bid to be elected as Hartford's first strong mayor under a new charter that would give him a four-year term and broad powers to reshape city hall and influence the city's schools.
His assertion of a regional leadership role generated raucous applause. In the past decade, the city ceded control of its schools and leadership of a sweeping downtown redevelopment to the state. The schools are now back under local control, and Perez promises a greater voice on development issues.
"It's time to raise the bar," Perez said after his speech.
Increasing home ownership will continue to be his top priority, he said, but Perez also promised a new focus on encouraging black and Latino children to attend college. He said fewer than one in 10 Latinos and one in seven African Americans in Hartford hold college degrees.
"For too many of our Latino and African American students, the expectations have been set too low and the support for pursuing a four-year degree is not there - in the school system or in the community," said Perez, who received his college degree as an adult.
Perez pledged a public-private partnership that would increase by 25 percent over the next four years the number of Hartford students attending four-year colleges.
"This effort will not only provide tremendous opportunity for our young people, but will guarantee the long-term economic health of our city and region," he said.
He also pledged support for community policing and a strong voice for Hartford in regional transportation issues. Hartford, he said, is the largest metropolitan area without a "unified mass transit system."
His audience was diverse, ranging from long-term supporters who enthusiastically anticipate him becoming the city's chief executive to those who grudgingly accept it.
Most elements of Hartford's geographically and racially balkanized political world were represented.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal introduced Perez to the packed house at the Community Boathouse in Riverside Park by saying, "He is bringing Hartford together."
But only last week, a group of community leaders in the North End urged Thirman L. Milner, 69, the city's first black mayor, to oppose Perez. Milner declined, though he is considering a run for city council.
Perez personally urged Milner to attend the announcement Monday. Milner, who called himself a friend of Perez, said he was happy to oblige.
But he added that the black community has a weak relationship with city hall, with the council bearing as much responsibility as the mayor.
"We don't have that connection in north Hartford," Milner said.
Still, the North End political establishment reached out Monday to the man whom everyone assumes will be their mayor for the next four years.
Ella Cromwell, a Democratic State Central Committee member and an influential North End political voice for decades, embraced Perez. She was still wearing a Perez re-election sticker as she attended a North End community meeting hours later.
The mayor has shown little interest in political stagecraft in his first term, but his re-election announcement was closely choreographed for the half-dozen television news crews in attendance.
As Blumenthal finished his introduction, Perez made his entrance to the accompaniment of a Jennifer Lopez pop tune, "Let's Get Loud."
Let's get loud, let's get loud / Turn the music up, let's do it / C'mon people let's get loud / Let's get loud.
The crowd obliged, clapping with the music as Perez slowly made his way to the stage, where his mother, Felicia, his wife, Maria, and their two children, Eddie Jr. and Cierra, waited with Blumenthal and Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and Comptroller Nancy Wyman.
As the music faded, the crowd chanted, "Ed-die! Ed-die!"