Oh, let's knock off with the "We coulda been a contenda" stuff already.
We were a contender for the Patriots.We lost. It's a shame, but that's the way it goes. Rocky (I) lost the fight to Apollo Creed, but still took away from the fight a moral victory. Hartford can do the same. Yo Adrian. Yo Adriaen's Landing.
To the fans, football is about emotion and loyalty. But there is no getting around that the tremendous revenues and prestige generated by the NFL makes it a very big business.
Robert Kraft is a businessman. He was completely within his rights to pull the plug on the Connecticut deal. We don't have to like it, but he's entitled to do what he wants with his team.
If we had a similar arrangement with Toyota to build a plant in Hartford and then they got a better deal from California, they would take it. That's how the moneyed interests work. Welcome to the nineties.
We didn't "lose" the Patriots. You can't lose what you never had. It's just that we're not getting what we asked Santa for. Fine. It doesn't mean we have to go track down Jerry Lewis to do a telethon for poor Hartford.
Buck up. No more weenie, hand-wringing, "Mommy, I fell down and scraped my knee" cry-babying. Also, please, PLEASE let's not hear an argument for anything which begins with: "Well, if they had the money for the Patriots, surely the state can afford _______." The chance to get the NFL in town was a special situation.
Downtown development is important to Hartford and the impetus created by the Patriots must continue. Still, Hartford's main problem is that very few people who can afford to live elsewhere choose to reside in the city. So its neighborhoods continue to get more economically and racially segregated. And the schools follow the neighborhoods.
So here's three things that can be tried: First, lobby Congress to make residents of the ten poorest cities in America (Hartford is one of these) free from federal income tax. Or at least the first $100,000 of income tax-free. Money talks. This idea has been proposed for the District of Columbia, but hasn't been legislated. Can you name five things that any of Hartford's Congressmen have done for it? Can you name one? This would be a good start.
Second, if the Governor really wants to give Hartford a showpiece, the state can condemn a square mile or so and build a new neighborhood. From scratch.
Seaside, Florida is a model on how livable communities are being built for the future. A central hub with the necessary amenities is surrounded by a grid pattern of streets and sidewalks designed for walking. Houses are mandated to have garages in the back and porches in the front. Lot sizes are small and folks get to know one another. They walk. They talk.
Blue Hills, with Mt. Sinai Hospital, the Oak Hill School for the Blind and an active Catholic parish would be a great area for this. So would Frog Hollow, with Trinity College, Hartford Hospital and the Institute for Living.
Third, encourage and/or mandate the major Hartford employers to set up a program where 250 families would get financial incentives to live in two specific, targeted neighborhoods in the city.
Give them free tuition to private schools for their kids if need be. You can't expect people to send their kids to Hartford schools if they don't have to, but there are more folks willing to commit to urban improvement than you might think. As the neighborhoods improve, so will the schools.
But it can't happen without a comprehensive plan: No mother and father in the suburbs wake up and say, "Let's move to Hartford." Start somewhere. Two specific neighborhoods.
Bold moves like this would need to have taken place even if the Pats were coming to town. The stadium wouldn't have saved the rest of the city. It would have been great, but it wasn't the whole nine yards.
A couple of years ago, I had five of the winning numbers on a Lotto ticket, just one short of the big $12 million bonanza. My ticket paid me about $1500. At first I was bummed out, being that close to Easy Street and all. But then I realized that I still had a few windfall bucks with which to do some things I wanted to do.
And I was happy. I had been a contender.
May 6, 1999