Years ago a columnist called Hartford a “city with two left feet.” I think it was Tom Condon of the Courant, but I’m not 100% on that. Anyway, September 8th was the day the disfunctional city wiggled those left feet in front of the nation, in sandals, no less.
The “to-do” list in Hartford is long. There are prime parcels of real estate that have been vacant for decades, empty buildings, empty storefronts, crime ravaged neighborhoods, an extremely high teen pregnancy rate, shrinking population, unfriendly traffic patterns and the list goes on and on. Yet Hartford made national headlines because two of the most powerful people in city hall felt the most important issue was their desire to have Muslim prayers before city council meetings.
A news conference was held to deal with the reaction to the prayer announcement, which was sent to media outlets just a few hours before Connecticut’s 9/11 memorial service attended by the families of the 149 state residents killed by Islamic extremists on September 11, 2001.
The mayor was not at the news conference, neither were most city council members. The only ones there were the two council members who proposed the prayers. There were no citizens demanding those prayers to combat “Islamiphobia.” The news conference was covered by all the television stations and as a result, clips were sent across the country. After all, the Hartford Muslim story was a prominent headline on the Drudge Report, a site read by what, a million people every day?
“Who is the guy in the T-shirt?” That’s an e-mail I got from an out of state friend who saw a clip of today’s news conference at Hartford City Hall.
That guy is Luis Cotto, the minority leader of the city council of Connecticut’s capital city. I, like others, was stunned to see him holding court talking to reporters in a revered chamber in an historic building wearing shorts, a t-shirt with writing on it, and sandals. What an image the country saw today, just a week after reading that we’re a “dead city.” I wonder what a potential investor sitting in Manhattan thought of Hartford as he watched the city’s “leadership” on CNN.
Mr. Cotto’s appearance takes away from his message and conveys the impression he lacks a sense of purpose. In a city struggling with an image problem, it is disheartening to see an elected official dressed like he’s hitting the bars at Misquamicut Beach. He should at least dress better than the students in the city, who are wearing crisp uniforms. His attire wouldn’t meet the standards of “casual Friday” in most companies.
Cotto’s appearance was in stark contrast to that of council president RJo Winch, who always dresses impeccably as do the other council members. I’ve seen Cotto dress for the part of elected official (see picture below) before, so I don’t know why he chose the Dave Matthews concertwear for such a high profile event.
Listen, I like the guy and I commend Councilman Cotto on wanting to make Muslims feel more welcome in the city and be inclusive, and so forth, but the timing was insensitive. He clearly cares about the city, but he needs to get more involved in issues that will make a real difference, not just ones that will grab headlines.
You’ll remember earlier this year Cotto called for a resolution condemning Arizona’s immigration law. Very noble, yet keep in mind that “to-do” list. Worrying about immigration in one state on the other side of the country and prayers at City Hall means items on the list fall by the wayside.
The fallout from the prayer announcement is just beginning. Businessman Art Langlais wrote this to the city council: ” I regularly patronize Hartford stores and hotels. I probably spend around $10,000 annually. I will no longer be spending any money in Hartford and I will express that loudly and clearly to all my personal and business associates in Connecticut. Your actions are inflammatory and deliberately provocative.”
Let’s all pray the next item on Cotto’s agenda is to take Mr. Langlais out to lunch and explain to him how important he is to the city. How many customers, residents, businesses, corporations, and visitors will the city chase out before it wakes up?
I’d like to hear which issues you feel Councilman Cotto should be addressing.