AMANDA HAUSMANN ’21
Recently elected Mayor Luke Bronin spoke on Hartford’s fiscal challenges, as well as budding opportunities, during common hour on Thursday, October 19. As a part of their tenth anniversary, Trinity’s Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS) hosted a half-day symposium, Hartford: Past, Present, Future, which was concluded by Mayor Bronin.
After the Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affair Tim Cresswell’s introduction, the Mayor began by reflecting on a pitch he gave to Amazon for Hartford to be the location for their new headquarters earlier that morning. With this, Mayor Bronin set the tone for the rest of his talk: the long term solutions to revitalize and unify Hartford.
Following the theme of the symposium, Mayor Bronin reflected on Hartford’s past, specifically its once-booming manufacturing industry and the changes that created its present fiscal challenges. Mayor Bronin referred to the city’s low property tax revenue as the “real underlying vulnerability of Hartford.” Additionally, Mayor Bronin called Hartford “a city based on the tax base of a suburb,” and that two major issues contributing to this challenge are Hartford’s low homeownership rates and underutilized properties. Mayor Bronin recognized the many non-tax paying entities in Hartford such as educational institutions like Trinity and social service agencies which contribute to Hartford’s rate of “40% less taxable properties than West Hartford.” When asked by a community member what is being done to address these issues, the Mayor cited the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) as the “single most effective economic development initiative that is presently working to revitalize blighted structures and empty lots around Hartford.” Additionally, the Mayor mentioned the five million dollars in funding that is now feeding a land bank which he hopes will help Hartford reach its goal of gaining homeowners for 100 new properties each year.
Moving into Hartford’s present, Mayor Bronin tackled the issue of bankruptcy, among other short term solutions, stating that “bankruptcy is a tool you can use to fix fiscal challenges in a city, but it is not the best, nor should it be the first.” Mayor Bronin expressed his faith in structural, long term solutions that will “fix Hartford’s structure and make it sustainable, because there isn’t one thing that’s going to turn it all around.”
When a Trinity Global Studies student asked the Mayor about the inefficiency of the fractionalization of Greater Hartford, Mayor Bronin acknowledged how this challenge is allowing Hartford to be “outcompeted” by other, more centralized cities. However, the Mayor expressed optimism, saying, “more and more people are agreeing that you can’t be a suburb of nowhere.” The Mayor also added that “we need folks in every community to recognize that we are connected, but that doesn’t mean you have to surrender your identity as a community. Additionally, Mayor Bronin joked, “is having your own 911 call-center so integral to your community’s identity?” Ultimately, Mayor Bronin concluded that consolidation is something we may very likely see in Hartford’s future; however, it is going to take “a strong psychological shift so that we can begin talking about ourselves [Greater Hartford] as one place.”
The challenge of regionalism aside, Mayor Bronin is hopeful that Hartford is on the rise. The Mayor made it clear that he is focusing on solidifying Hartford’s foundation by getting residents to take full advantage of what Hartford has to offer and “galvanizing support from the 38 communities shared by Hartford.” Finally, when asked by a Trinity student if Hartford is ready for something as big as the new Amazon headquarters, citing the Mayor’s own argument in favor of long term solutions, Mayor Bronin stated, “the key to our problems is the ground game, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t throw a pass once in awhile.”