There were few surprises in the mayor’s State of the City address, from the nod to deceased firefighter Kevin Bell to the praise for the baseball stadium.
In his speech, Segarra claimed that the $700,000 spent renovating the previously neglected Goodwin Park Golf Course “drives local tourism.” This claim was unsubstantiated with evidence. Noting money spent to improve Keney Park, Segarra said that $4M of CIP funds would go toward club house improvements.
He said there would be 80 new units at Nelton Court “after many delays,” but did not indicate the cause of those delays. Work on that was supposed to have been completed in April 2013, putting this over 2.5 years behind schedule if these complete by the new deadline in October. (Spoiler: Hartford Housing Authority blamed the developer; the developer blamed the City of Hartford for its long permitting process)
Saying he would be asking the State to expedite funds for the $14M streetscape improvements along Albany Avenue “that we’ve been talking about for years,” Segarra again did not say what has stalled these changes which would increase safety for pedestrians, motorists, and other street and sidewalk users.
Segarra did announce that a $48M budget gap would need to be closed. Though the mayor said this is gap has primarily been caused by a “significant reduction in revenues, increasing debt service and collective bargaining agreements,” he did not elaborate on why those conditions are what they are. It is as if these problems just emerged from the sky, fully formed.
Instead, he skirted the issue, assigning self-praise for not having “slashed spending indiscriminately.”
No attention was given to the stalling of various CIP-funded items, like work on various parks, last summer, nor was there any mention of how despite spending $859,142 on snow removal in 2013-2014, the mayor only budgeted $400,000 for snow removal in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
At the same time, the mayor’s update ignored the fact that Saundra Kee-Borges, former Corp Counsel, is now hired on at a rate of $250 per hour, costing Hartford $17,000 for one month of services related to Downtown North and the baseball stadium.
The mayor says that he is proposing the creation of a “Community Benefits Policy” for all major public construction projects, yet failed to recognize Councilperson Deutsch for his work in pressing for exactly this during the months of debate over the baseball stadium. Instead, Councilperson Jennings, who supported the stadium, was given props for it.
The self-congratulatory tone continued with talk of upgrades to various schools, dodging the recently controversy of how Moylan Montessori had been voted out of Hartford, to find its permanent home in West Hartford. No site in the city had apparently been found for this school, though one had been sought, at least on paper, for several years.
After getting some heat for poor math in his campaign literature regarding Hartford graduation rates, Segarra took another trip down that road. The data has not been substantiated, and as Hartford Board of Education member Robert Cotto, Jr. points out, these numbers may be inaccurate due to lack of information regarding transfer rates and other reasons.
Here is the speech, in full:
To see what is in store for the CIP budget, take a look at the following documents: