The 40-Year Plan:
'cause it ain't gonna happen overnight...
by Ken Krayeske
If it's fairy tales you want, Hartford is the place.
Unfortunately, these fictional narratives are not woven by the Brothers Grimm, they're just plain grim.
The only happy endings are in the minds of the storytellers, like Mayor Eddie Perez, who seeks to fashion himself in the garb of storybook heroes. He's like St. Paul, the warrior sinner who redeemed himself to lead people to salvation. He's like the woodsman who saved Little Red Riding Hood.
This past week, though, Mayor Perez styled himself as Jack of Beanstalk fame. Jack's poor old mother, Hartford, has bare cupboards, lots of children with needs and a single cow.
Mayor Jack wants to trade that cow for magic beans: a pro sports franchise. Salesmen like Mayor Anthony Williams in Washington, D.C. tell of these magic beans that will knock down the poor neighborhoods like Anacostia and up will sprout a publicly financed sports palace.
On the front page of the August 31 Hartford Not-So-Courant, Perez puffed his chest out about Hartford finding its own way and taking a leadership role in building a publicly-financed $400 or so million hockey arena.
Perez will hire a consultant for an unknown sum of money to help him determine if Hartford can support an NHL team. The state legislature, not content to subsidize the stalled economic engine of the convention center, will look into financing the arena, too.
A very expensive bag of magic beans whose price will only go up, paid for with the credibility of the Hartford Mayor's office and the coffers of the city.
This is where the residents of Hartford, people like me, call Perez and his playmates fools and spill the beans on the floor.
If the beans grow into a giant beanstalk and Jack finds gold in the giant's kingdom, then I'll eat this newspaper. But my guess is that this is another silver bullet theory, but it won't kill the werewolves of poverty, the bogeymen of crime nor exterminate the termites of a crumbling educational infrastructure.
Speaking of which, the next morning, on Sept. 1, the Not-So-Courant's education reporter H.G. Wells, er, Rachel Gottlieb, wrote a lengthy story about the Invisible Man and the construction delays that have set back the reopening of Hartford Public High School.
Gottlieb quoted, in order of appearance: Cathy Carpino, the teachers' union president; Andrea Comer, who sits on the Board of Education and the school building committee; Zandralyn Gordon, the principal at HPHS; and Chris Doyle, the teachers' union rep from HPHS.
Construction the HPHS facelift is behind schedule and millions over budget. The renovation's first price tag was $70 million. Now it is more than $105 million, according to Gottlieb.
As I read the news, I thought something - a voice, a perspective - was missing. Where does the buck stop in this nightmare for 1,200 high school students?
It doesn't. Same city, same moment in time, but Mayor Jack is now the Invisible Man.
Perez first appointed himself to be chair of the Hartford School Building Committee, then he crowned himself Chair of the Board of Education.
He put himself in charge of the schools, promising to fix the mess. He should be held responsible for bungling the management of the renovation of HPHS, but he has disappeared. And the Courant enabled this by not even posing the question.
Wasn't there an education editor who asked "Where is Perez?" Such are the perils of cost-cutting in the newsroom, sending experienced editors packing (for profit of stockholders) and trading institutional memory and good judgment for overworked staff who can't catch those mistakes and force more reporting on that story.
Or maybe Perez heard about Gottlieb's story and he was trying to be the Wizard of Oz here, hiding behind the curtain of the professional sports so people don't see how grossly inadequate his leadership in the school system has been.
Perez can't handle a $105 million school project, and he wants four times that amount so some rich white people can pay to see more rich white people beat each other up and chase a puck across a frozen sheet of water all for the glory of it?
Even though a Calder Cup from the Wolfpack didn't lower our teen pregnancy, asthma or recidivism rates, Perez is betting that a Stanley Cup will solve Hartford's low rates of homeownership, literacy, and high school graduation.
I don't see the logic, and I won't swallow these beans, Jack, because they just give me gas.
The bungled rebuild of Hartford Public High School is yet another reason for the Mayor resign for the Board of Education, as the 40-Year Plan called for him to do in March.