The State has done good work bringing restaurants to Front Street and building residential buildings downtown. But City Hall needs to pay much more attention to the other neighborhoods that make Hartford great. There are many areas where leadership from the Mayor’s office could make a significant difference. Here are just a few:
Focus on our Main Streets and Avenues: Each of our major avenues and streets — from Albany to Franklin, North Main to Farmington, Blue Hills to Wethersfield — has a rich history as a center of commerce and community. And those avenues are arteries that connect us to the region. As Mayor, I would prioritize and expedite streetscape improvements and facade grants, and I would work with the State and with our legislative delegation to bring bonding dollars to those main avenues.
Treat the Small Stuff like Big Stuff: “Quality of life” issues like snow-plowing, roads, noise pollution and litter aren’t small issues — they’re big issues. As Mayor, I will demand that City departments enforce the rules fairly and effectively. And Quality of Life isn’t just about potholes and plowing — it’s also about getting rid of blight. The city’s anti-blight program, the Livable and Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative, uses all the right language. Unfortunately, the anti-blight ordinance isn’t enforced and the city is too slow to respond to neighborhood stakeholders. That needs to change.
Support and Respond to Small Businesses: Small businesses are vital to the health of our neighborhoods. But right now, the city’s small businesses are struggling to deal with crushing tax burdens, unresponsive City departments, and poor public planning. I would make it a priority for all city departments to provide the support our small businesses need to grow and thrive. That includes helping them apply for assistance from State programs like the Small Business Express Program.
Involve the Community in Key Development Decisions: The best real estate development projects result from collaboration with and support from key neighborhood stakeholders. But today, many of the biggest decisions made about real estate development projects are made behind City Hall’s closed doors. As Mayor, I would work with neighborhoods to develop an approach to both small-scale projects to “fill in the gaps” as well as large-scale projects like Westbrook-Bowles, which is one of the most important projects on the horizon in Hartford.
Make the Most of our Parks: Finally, I believe that taking care of our city’s beautiful and historic parks is an important part of revitalizing our neighborhoods. These aren’t just grass and fields. Our parks are the places where “community” is born, where neighbors become friends, and where children play. It’s time for Hartford to reunify Parks and Recreation as part of one City department and put a much greater emphasis on caring for and promoting our green spaces.