• The Hartford Courant would begin hiring reporters like the Orange County Register did this year. The OC Register bucked the trend, and instead of laying off, the OC Register brought in reporters, who began digging up news. People started buying the paper. Go figure.
• The City of Hartford would begin a massive campaign to increase its population to 240,000 people. Why can’t Hartford double its size? The global movement towards urbanization seems to have missed Hartford, which has lost people for the past 40 years.
Most other cities are growing. Hartford, not so much. Why? It’s everything from a lack of jobs to a lack of a place to get a pizza and a beer after 9:30 on a Thursday night. But let’s imagine all the things we need to do to bring people back – rebuild housing infrastructure, rebuild mass transit infrastructure, and create jobs.
Ken, you’re saying to me, if it were so easy, people would have done it already. No, it hasn’t been done because we haven’t set the goal. No political leader in the past two decades has had the vision to set such a dream. We need to try something different.
Like the OC Register, sometimes you have to be counterintuitive and say, ok, let’s set a goal that no one thinks will work right now. Visionary leadership creates longitudinal ripples we cannot imagine the effects of now. Setting a goal like this changes how we think about our city.
• We pass public campaign financing reform in Hartford on November 5, 2013. Vote yes for charter reform!
• Jobs in Hartford! We start with food production jobs: chicken coops and pig farming and urban tomato hothouses to detach ourselves from the corporate food chain and create our own culture of local food. Locally made Italian sauce! No more corporate tomato sauce!
• French fries from fresh local spuds that don’t destroy Minnesota’s water table.
• That suburban white people would overcome their racist conditioning and stop fearing Hartford and move here because the suburbs are not green. Once the suburbs clear out, lawns become grazing land for livestock and butcher shops spring up.
This helps to stop the draining of the Oglala aquifer for industrial meat farms in the midwest, and the runoff into the Mississippi stops, and the Gulf of Mexico heals that massive dead zone.
We can feed ourselves locally for the same money that corporate food titans feed us for, and we keep the money in our local economy, instead of shipping it to feudal food lords in Georgia or Arkansas or China.
• Hartford gets a new Public Works Director whose sole task is to daylight the Park River. Opening up waterfront will bring people into Hartford. Tom Deller has already helped daylight a river in Providence. The experience is here. The time is now.
• We create houseboat zones on the mighty Connecticut and on the daylighted Park River. The Army Corps of Engineers to help us build some sort of a breakwater down where the Park River pours into the mighty Connecticut, and people live on the water.
• My favorite idea (hat tip to John Holt) is a barge with a container or two on top of it, converted into housing, with a front lawn. A global surfeit of shipping containers has made it inexpensive to transform these strong steel boxes into housing. Hartford needs in on this.
• Container houses on empty lots! Container houses for student housing! Container houses to end homelessness! A container dormitory/apartment building on the corner of Park and Main! A container apartment building on the parking lot next to Burger King in the West End!
• East Hartford should try to create a village of people living in the flood plain, that is no longer a flood plain since the levee is there.
There is ample space for a Blue Back Square-styled mixed-use development next to the levees. Make an entrance to the waterfront more grand and pedestrian welcoming and friendly, kind of like capital steps with art.
• A pedestrian/bicycle ferry between East Hartford and Hartford at Riverfront Recapture, where the Lady Katherine docks.
• Little tourist boats on the mighty Connecticut to take people on rides for the fun of it when there are . On the Euphrates River in Syria, dozens of these little boats, with cute Christmas-style lights, take people out on Friday nights for joy rides on the water. Hartford can regain this simple pleasure.
• An end to the civil war in Syria so people can go back onto the Euphrates on Friday nights.
• While we’re re-imagining the Connecticut River water front, let’s let graffiti artists go wild – like at Heaven – on parts of the levee. The Army Corps can use xrays to find cracks in the levee.
• Murals everywhere in the City. The City needs to give Real Art Ways a grant, to hook up with art classes at St. Joseph’s, the University of Hartford, Trinity College, The Arts Academy and Capital Community College to paint wild and fantastic art on every blank wall you see. Tax breaks to land owners for donating walls to art.
• A waterfront restaurant on columns or in an old boat that can float during flood season on both the Hartford and East Hartford side.
• A once-weekly ferry that will take you from Hartford to New York City overnight.
• Reinvigorate transportation on the mighty Connecticut by opening a small port on the Hartford side to utilize river capacity. Let’s get small container ships to bring cargo up the river can help reduce truck traffic on I-91.
• Develop the walking path along the North Branch of the Park River. West Enders who know enjoy the dirt path already there, but with the massive MDC renovations happening, there won’t be raw sewage in North Branch anymore, and we can turn that path into a something more, while retaining its character.
I know I have written about this before, but I’m putting wishes out there, and this is an old one, and I want it to come true!
• A waterfront restaurant on the North Branch of the Park River, behind the Connecticut Historical Society. I plan on delving into this more in the future. But imagine that we clear a little of the brush behind the CHS, and CHS gets a stream of income leasing its property to an entrepreneur.
During the day, UConn Law students and hospital and state workers go there for coffee and lunch and snacks and to hang out and study by the water.
At night, its a barbecue pit or some sort of outdoor dining. It would be the only al fresco dining in a park setting in the City. Put in playground next to it so it is family friendly. Moms could hang out while their children play. It’s a winner.
Sure, the Pond House at Elizabeth Park is in nature, but it doesn’t have enough al fresco dining, and it isn’t tucked away in a hidden corner of the City. Nor is it very affordable.
• Dreams come true!