Mid-conversation, Ben Shaiken of the United Way reminded the besuited audience and governor at the Lyceum in the Frog Hollow neighborhood that we already have a young population in cities– they just are not professionals. He urged people to think “about living symbiotically with people already here.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, one question was asked of Malloy by the audience about how to better serve the existing population in terms of stronger education — a question that the governor dismissed both times it was raised.
Instead, he turned the audience’s attention to development policy.
“Bad public policy can have a pretty rapid impact,” Malloy said, alluding to Hartford’s downturn following the construction of the Interstate and implementation of myriad other ill-advised plans.
On the other hand, good public policy takes time but has an effect. He noted how Bryant Park in Manhattan had been an arena for criminal activity until an intervention turned it around. Now, he said, the world’s second biggest fashion show in the world takes place there. Hartford, he said, could be a model in ten years.
Yet in Connecticut, Malloy says we have no policy or bad policy.
“We’ve got to get out of our own way,” he said.
But when several builders and developers expressed their struggles, Malloy turned the housing question away from policy.
Their business struggles, then, became the result of them pricing housing units too high or not providing some affordable, smaller units.
Malloy opened the conversation at the Lyceum by claiming “Hartford has tried things and not sustained efforts.” One of those things: Front Street. Originally, this was supposed to be a mixed use development, with housing and retail. When the economy began to decline, the housing plans were dropped. “If apartments had been built,” Malloy said, the retail spaces “wouldn’t have been vacant for two years.”
He said “we’ve got to build housing, drive crime down” and give people a reason to live here in Hartford. How to do this? Use West Hartford Center as a model for Hartford, Governor Malloy said.
Not everyone bought this solution. A member of HYPE countered: “You can put West Hartford in Hartford, but there’s a different demographic.”
Speaking of the reversal in trend to immediately move to the suburbs to raise a family, Malloy said, “people are finding satisfaction differently than they once did.”
He acknowledged that crime is a “systemic” and not isolated problem, but did not name education or a stronger safety net as a way to address it. Instead, building more housing “to get a critical mass” and having more police visible in downtown would be ways the governor would address crime. He looked specifically at turning vacant space above bars downtown into housing for students and those just starting out.
The evening wrapped up with Julie Daly Meehan of HYPE asking Governor Malloy how young people could be active participants.
Malloy told young people that they do not, as a whole, have an interest in politics. As such, he said, “part of your work is made harder because you’re rejecting” the political system as a means to an end.
The governor might not have known that most of this group was immediately heading to the Wood-n-Tap to view the presidential debates on Tuesday evening.
Malloy told the young professionals not to “underestimate the power of the larger corporations in the state” because they have pull. Basically, if you want to achieve something here, work through a corporation.
The audience was told that they are not adept at networking outside of their age group.
They were also told “don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”