‘We Fought to Build Momentum and We've Got It:' Bronin on State of the City

Hartford's mayor said the city is working on tackling issues like blight, youth homelessness and violence, and other quality of life issues.

Since opening about a year and a half ago, Story and Soil Coffee has seen their customer base grow fast.

"People are starting to see, especially this neighborhood, as a destination," said Story and Soil Coffee employee Clara Logue.

They're one of several new businesses popping up on Capitol Avenue. For Aaron Gill and his wife, who own the building where Story and Soil Coffee reside, the progress is great to see.

"My wife and I have lived in Connecticut and Hartford for about ten years now, and for the last several years, it felt like we were the only one that knew of the secret of the gem that Hartford is and have really noticed over the last few years that the secret is starting to get out," said Gill.

It's economic development like that which Mayor Luke Bronin touted during his State of the City.

"If you look around Hartford today, you’ll see more neighborhood economic development than at any time in recent memory," said Bronin. "And there’s much more progress we need to make. We’re seeing more neighborhood investment than we have in a long time, but we have neighborhoods that have suffered from generations of disinvestment and neglect."

Bronin says the state of the city is the strongest it's been in decades.

"We made a plan, and we’ve stuck to that plan. And because of that, we’re on track to finish this year not only on budget, but able to set money aside to fund vital future capital investments and begin rebuilding our reserves," said Bronin.

But without the help from the state to cover some of the city's debt payments, the budget would not be balanced.

The mayor also discussed quality of life issues from the progress police have made cracking down on ATVs and dirt bikes on the streets to making multiple arrests for those illegally dumping in the city. The city is also hiring additional rodent inspectors to take care of the increasing rodent population.

"Like many cities, we’ve seen an increase in the number of rodents. There’s a lot of reasons for it, from climate to construction. But here we have to do more. This spring we’ll be launching a public awareness and action campaign. We’re hiring additional rodent inspectors now, so we can be ready when the weather gets warm," said Bronin.

Blight has also been an issue Hartford residents have complained about for several years.

"There should be not one building that's boarded up on our streets," said Hartford resident Hyacinth Yennie.

"We’ve made it a priority to tackle blight, and our blight remediation team has gotten us on pace to get one hundred properties fixed up every year – and we want to do more, faster now that our land bank is set to begin work this summer. In a few weeks, we will conduct the first tax deed sale of unoccupied properties in years — helping to get those properties into new, productive hands," said Bronin.

One of the quality of life issues the city will work on is littering. Bronin says they'll kick off an anti-litter campaign this summer.

Bronin spent quite a bit of time talking about youth homelessness, youth violence, and chronic absenteeism. He says they've worked hard to address those issues and are determined to do more.

He spoke of a continued effort to combat all homelessness but to strongly focus this year on combatting youth homelessness.

Regarding youth violence, the mayor says they've put a system in place to help.

"Our Rapid Response Protocol is coordinated, immediate, and it addresses the unmet needs of the victim, their family, and the community, to reduce the likelihood of future violence," said Bronin.

The mayor says nearly half of kids in the city are or are at risk of being chronically absent from school and that they're focused on initiatives to address and reduce it.

Bronin says while there's still a lot of work left to do, that they're on the path to a stronger capital city.

"Right now we are a city with the chance to cast off the malaise and the stagnation and the doubt that’s plagued Hartford for too damn long. We fought to build momentum and we've got it. We will not slow down, we will not stop, and we will not go back. Because we're just getting started," said Bronin.

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