January 8, 2013
Our City and State have been through a lot recently. We’re still recovering and it will be a long time before we are better. But I have no doubt that we will be stronger for it.
Over the past several years I have made a few promises from this stage and I want to provide you with an update.
I’ve often quoted Mark Twain and I will quote him again when he said, “Truth is the most valuable thing we have.”
My remarks today will be filled with truth, challenges and hopefully a bit of inspiration. But first an update:
Recent highlights include the installation of 40 Big Belly solar powered trash compactors and several solar powered motion sensor cameras at problematic illegal dumping sites.
Finally, we’ve also added greater predictability, transparency and collaboration to the budget development process. In my two years as Mayor, we have:
Now let’s talk about this year. Recently, I modified the key goals of my administration.
They are now:
How I came to be in office is no secret. But when I ran and won election in November 2011, I was driven by one pure and simple goal: to create meaningful, lasting change in the community that I grew up in that shaped who I am today.
The theory of civic revitalization is based in the idea that one single leader, visibly doing the right thing, can influence a whole community’s behavior. And deep down in my heart, I truly believe that.
When it comes to City management, I have been vocal about my objectives since the beginning. I want to catalyze growth, breakdown traditional bureaucracy and red tape, be more responsive, efficient and effective in managing the City. Never have I been more fervent about these things than I am today.
Yet In these last two years, I have shifted my approach on how to restore and revitalize our Capital City.
As someone who represents government and was a psychiatric social worker, it demonstrates a shift in my thinking that is worthy of mentioning. It’s born of my experience being the Chief Executive Officer of Hartford, and knowing that we need to be able to stand on our own. We need to honestly evaluate our own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threat if we are going to move forward and become the renaissance city that is our rightful place.
We know that metropolitan areas represent the greatest economic value in the nation and we know we have resources to leverage. What has changed is how we approach policy development and planning. Every idea, concept, plan must be set up for long term systemic growth and not short term political gain.
That means when we are talking about housing rehabilitation, infrastructure projects or economic development initiatives we are approaching it the same way we would when writing a business plan. And so I mean, understanding what the vision is, the opportunities, what are our assets and challenges, what is the goal, the strategy, the implementation plan, the financial needs and what exactly are the measurable outcomes.
Simply put — a business approach to long-term growth that will allow us to reap the benefits of collaboration, of strategic thinking, of sharing industry knowledge, of economic analysis. Except that this process will be on going.
We need a specialized, regional, local-market, data driven approach to move our City forward. In other words, we need a business plan. We need to write Hartford’s business plan. We need to bring together all stakeholders – business (small and large), institutions, residents – to create multi-disciplinary teams to craft Hartford’s business plan.
The reality is we do have natural, specialized resources here in Hartford and we need to leverage them.
Greater Hartford has one of the highest GDP rates in the country. We are hard working, productive — the most productive city in the world according to Brookings — so how do we leverage that? Do we elevate our professional training? How do we leverage that to inspire entrepreneurs? We must look internally, assess what we really have, locally, create an operational plan and allocate the human capital necessary to achieve it. And with this approach, we reap the benefits of knowledge overlap, combined resources, lower transportation costs.
What is it that Hartford has? What is it that makes us competitive? What’s unique about our City that is a catalyst for future and lasting growth? You as the corporate/business community need to communicate what are your worker housing needs? What are the physical infrastructure needs you have around transportation? As we try to economize where should we partner up to bring efficiencies?
These are some of the data-driven questions my administration will focus on in 2013. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing that Hartford has nothing. That we are a burden on the rest of the state. That we are a depressed urban-area in need of handouts.
We are Connecticut’s Capital City.
We are a hub of innovation as recently observed by the Smithsonian Institute and the most productive City in the world according to the Brookings Institute. The residents of our neighboring towns, guess where a lot of them work? Right here in Hartford, the #3 City in country for working mothers. They work here and because of that they enjoy a quality of life they would not otherwise have. But often they forget that as they drive away on I-84 or I-91 and see the skyline disappear in their rearview mirrors. And I’m tired of it. And that is what we’re focused on changing.
When it comes to implementation, the most efficient way to get things done is by forming partnerships. There’s really no other way. Not simply out of necessity because we face well-documented economic challenges but also because there are other stakeholders invested in the success of Hartford. As they should be. Because our growth affects the State and the region.
Let me give you an example of a successful partnership that can still be improved.
In a few days, we’ll be launching our annual Summer Youth Program. We’ve invested at least $1.25 million each year for the last two years. Last year we provided 1,500 Hartford youth with meaningful work experience. This is an example of the accomplishments that public/private partnerships bring.
And the more partners we have the better this. But how do we take this a step further? Are there certain industries or companies that we should be targeting? How do we think about this as a long-term solution to unemployment? Are there certain skills these youth should be getting to better prepare them for a competitive 21st century job market?
I hope I've made the point that public/private partnerships are the best way to grow and move forward.
That doesn't mean that we always need economic resources — although we won't say no when offered. We need to build those cross-disciplinary teams I referred to.
As representatives of Hartford's business community I expect to hear ideas anchored in collaboration, I expect you to remind your colleagues and friends of all that Hartford has to offer, that it's smart business to invest here. I expect open dialogue grounded in the common goal of moving our city forward.
We won’t always agree, but I think we all agree that we can’t afford to go off any cliffs here. We have to support the growth of our city with ideas, resources, hard work and creativity.
That’s the only way to create a sustainable economy in our City for all families.
I started with a quote and I will end with one. This one a proverb. "If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
I want to go far.
Thank you and all the best for a happy, safe and successful 2013!
Pedro E. Segarra