Why the Eddie Perez case matters

Colin McEnroe on the corruption trial of Hartford CT Mayor Eddie Perez, speaking about how low expectations for Hartford from surrounding areas clouding the issue. (Some history. Hartford is desperately poor, many of the suburbs surrounding it are quite wealthy.)

I want you to picture the town where you live and then picture the chief elected official there. I want you to imagine the reaction in town to the following fact pattern.

1. Your top official accepted $40,000 in free home improvements from a contractor.

2. The contractor was in the middle of a $5.3 million public works project in your town.

3. The project was so screwed up that the department of public works wanted to pull the contract.

4. Some guy who worked directly for your top official overruled public works and countermanded that order.

I want you to ask yourself how long you think the top official in your town would stay in office after all that came out. A week?

Some of it is Hartford’s own fault. The city knew of Perez’s behavior in 2007 and elected him anyway. In a city of 124,000 people, fewer than 14,000 voted in that election. Perez became mayor of a U.S. capital city with fewer than 6,500 votes.

There’s a lot of trial to go, but I do not consider facts 1 through 4 to be in dispute. You wouldn’t put up with it where you live, so don’t say it’s OK for low-expectations Hartford. It’s our state capital. It has to be better than this.

Perez is a genuine progressive too. We lived near Hartford in 2007 and Perez joined a march in support of the Jena 6 without making a big deal about it. He was there as a progressive, not as mayor. But Perez has been arrested twice on corruption charges yet refuses to step down as mayor. Hartford needs and deserves better than that.

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