The most critical sentence uttered by Pedro Segarra at the first mayoral debate of the 2015 season last week (May 13) at the Hartford Public Library was a Freudian slip.
Near the end, Segarra, in arguing he deserved more time at the helm of Hartford’s ship of state, noted “This curve has a job.”
He intended to say “This job has a curve”: being mayor takes some time to learn how things work. Okay. University is four years. Six years into a running a city is not the time to claim you still don’t have your chief elected official diploma.
“This curve has a job,” though, tells us more about Segarra’s term as mayor than any tripe his campaign will pump out about economic development, crimefighting and improved literacy rates.
Segarra is an accidental mayor. The road twisted, and all of sudden, he was Mayor! Segarra became mayor by circumstance (and possibly misrepresentation), and his governance has been a string of train wrecks.
After departing Hartford Corporation Counsel’s office 20 years ago, and then leaving Hartford itself, Segarra returned in the mid-2000s to find himself an appointed member of Court of Common Council.
Segarra replaced exiting council member Hernan LaFontaine in 2006, and in 2007, easily won re-election. Who on the Democratic Town Committee slate of council candidates ever loses? Um, no one.
Then, the fluke Segarra suddenly found himself on the threshold of his accidental mayoralty. On January 30, 2009, this column broke the story about Segarra finagling himself into dauphin.
Within days of the arrest of Eddie Perez, this column detailed how Council members sought to remove Council president Calixto Torres in favor of Segarra. From the 40 Year Plan archives:
“Segarra will not run for Mayor in any subsequent election. ‘I don’t have an interest in being mayor,’ Segarra said. ‘But I do have an interest in helping the city go through tough times.’
‘If Council Segarra became mayor, not only would he not run for election, he would make sure that there was a fair election to elect the next Mayor,’ [then-Council member Matt] Ritter said.”
Oh, what a joke that was. Segarra backtracked, and in 2011, ran unopposed and won. In an email obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Segarra revealed much to an acquaintance he and his husband Charlie Ortiz met in Aruba in 2011.
Here is the email, dated October 8, 2012, and I quote most of it:
“Missed you guys in Aruba this year. Too much has happened since our meeting in Aruba to detail in an email. I was re-elected with 81 percent of the vote in a four way race.
“I am busy as hec but loving it: today is my day off but I came to the office to answer many emails that should have been done a long time ago, SORRY. …
“Charlie spends most of his time with our dog Betsy as I am usually out of the house doing my Mayor thing.”
Mayor is a high stress job that merits vacation. The mayor, though, should not send dozens of vacation pictures through a city email server, as if he didn’t know how to download his pictures from his iPad, so he sent them to himself, one at a time.
Mr. Mayor thing, bragging to a fellow traveler, basks in the glow of a rigged system, not really believing he belongs there. Look at me. Can you believe this once nearly homeless kid is now mayor?
And 81 percent love me? How can I believe my luck? the Accidental Mayor wondered. This road I’m on, this curve, hey, it has a job with it! How’d I land here?
What tin pot dictator in private believes his own propaganda, like that 5,736 votes among 70,000 registered votes earns a boast? How could Segarra consider petitioning candidates J. Stan McCauley, Patrice Smith and Ed Vargas legitimate competition?
Again, when was the last time a non-endorsed Democratic Party candidate won the mayoralty? Um, 20 years ago. Pedro, you’re no Mike Peters.
Seeing someone through their own eyes is a huge gift. You see how they think when they think no one is watching. Reminder: someone is always watching email on city servers.
No one challenged Mayor Thing in 2011 because he ascended to the Mayoral office in June 2010, and six months later (when a challenger needed to announce), Mayor Caviar’s bad habits weren’t fully revealed. He hadn’t screwed up, so the power brokers gave him another four years.
And now he’s doing his “Mayor thing.” Generally, “doing your thang” means not giving a hoot about what other people think about what you do, but in this email, the phrase, to me, projects a false confidence that perhaps may not befit the dignity of the office.
I can’t hear Mike Bloomberg telling someone he does his “Mayor thing” in NYC. Is that why Pedro doesn’t do his Mayor thing well because he’s trying to convince himself he’s earned it, that he has the respect of the governed?
In Mayor Accident’s world, the number of candidates running against him this year is an accomplishment, not a direct result of him doffing his Mayor thing so badly the city can’t possibly bear another four years with him at the helm.
You govern how you run your campaign, and Segarra is on his third campaign manager, his chief of staff. (Which begs the question: is the city is falling apart now without Juan?) Segarra’s campaign has punted facts, and when Segarra stole one of my column’s lines at the debate last week, I cringed.
Segarra’s shrill and bombastic attack against Luke Bronin for enjoying Greenwich privilege sounded out of place, as if Segarra misses the central point that he, too, is now a man of privilege, who abuses that privilege.
If I delivered my column condemning wealth and power as horribly as Mayor Caviar did in chiding Bronin for winning the genetic lottery, then I owe Luke an apology.
Hearing Mayor Caviar sink on that line presents a challenge: how do we confront the corroding influence of money in our elections without sounding like jerks? I’ve tried to discuss wealth and power for years in this column, and Segarra made me think I have failed, and need to try again.
Maybe it was the messenger – Mayor Caviar – honing in on the very thing – privilege – that he has cozied up to while in power – that made the message so miserable.
I can’t hear him say it without thinking his government awarded without bid a $60 million gift of City money to a super-wealthy family for a baseball stadium. While children and mothers go hungry and illiterate and homeless.
There is a way to talk about the deleterious effects of wealth on democracy, but an ad hominem at the end of a debate isn’t one of them.
Mayor Thing’s ineptitude and inability to manage is legend, whether its ignoring crisis in the Registrars of Voters’ office, MHIS, or Department of Public Works (where sources say former DPW director Kevin Burnham is back as an independent contractor – what???).
And it would be just like the Accidental Mayor to win another four years not because he is good, but because of a crowded ballot in a broken winner-take-all Tweedist system. Do not underestimate the upshot of being a walking waterloo (God protects drunkards and fools, they say).
That’s the curveball to all of us who have worked so hard for accountability in this corrupt city and spent years uncovering the depths of lying, cheating, stealing, nepotism, incompetence and ineptitude Hartford has endured in the Segarra’s administration.
Mayor Thing could get on the ballot, and win with less than he did in 2011. The curve, then, would still have a job.