With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Councilman Luis Cotto Chats With Sad City

We were very pleased when Councilman Luis Cotto was quoted in Jenna Carlesso's article on Sad City saying that he was planning on proposing an ordinance banning the sale of lactose powder in Hartford gas stations. Needless to say we were intrigued and decided to contact Councilman Cotto for an interview. Mr. Cotto was receptive and answered all of Sad City's questions without hesitation and with good humor. Check out the interview after the jump.

1) What parts of Hartford have you lived in and how has Hartford changed both for the better and the worse since you were growing up in the city?

My family grew up mostly in the north-end (Kenyon Court, East Street, Garden Street) with a bunch of that time on Vine Street (Corner of Vine & Mather).  As I got older I ventured to the south (Benton Street) and a good chunk of time on Hamilton Street.  Right now I live on Park Terrace where I've lived since about 2004.  Hartford has definitely changed for the better.  I grew up in a time when Hartford was riddled with gang violence.  The extinction of the post-war style housing projects alone has gone a long way in making City's better places.  That being said, some things have not changed.  The slice of the city immediately sandwiched by Main Street and Albany Avenue still houses the poorest, most oppressed neighborhoods and I haven't seen anything put forth by any elected official (including myself) or wannabees to help change that.

2) What are your thoughts on the skating rink? What will make a successful rink for you?

Love the skating rink idea.  I remember taking my daughter to the temporary one when the City built it by the Corning Fountain in Bushnell's west side.  Tons of fun and I think the new location will make it that much more kick @$$.  I'll consider it a success if/when I see more Hartford folk there.  It's ok to invite a regional audience to our backyard to come play, but let's not forget we have 120,000+ people to draw from here.  How many Hartford folk you think were at the lighting of the park?

3) Give us a couple of Hartford hidden gems that you like to frequent to have a drink and/or get something to eat.

•  Kenny's/Red Rock on Capitol Ave - Best neighborhood bar in town (yes I have a bias) but seriously, if we hearken back to Seinfeld's theory of world's colliding, ("Worlds are colliding!! George is getting very upset!) there is no bar in this City where people from so many different "worlds" go to enjoy a pint.
•  Comerio Restaurant on Park for Sunday after church food, Estrella Bakery on Park for Sunday morning coffee and sammich and Sol de Borinquen Bakery on Park anytime for good bread and pastries.
•  Gumbo at Black Eyed Sallys - $5.95...what!?  Combine that with 2 Guinness' (Guinni?) on their regular Monday Nite Jazz Jam and its the cheapest good time you'll ever have in Downtown.
•  Finally...Welcome Package Store on Capitol (close to the city line) Only place where one will go for a six pack and stay for thirty minutes debating the national debt crisis with the owners.

4) Do you think it will be possible to create a law that cracks down on the sale of products like lactose powder and other drug manufacturing products? If so when do you plan to introduce such a bill? Will you credit Sad City in the record?

Back Story:  We recently had Councilmen Boucher and Torres sponsor an ordinance calling for a ban on lighters that appeal to kids.  I was floored because I was under the impression that we couldn't, at a municipal level, tell anyone what they can or can not sell.  Turns out I was wrong and at that time I had my aide-de-camp, Brendan Mahoney, work on putting together something that will prevent stores from selling drug paraphernalia products.  My own experience are gas stations that sell bongs, pipes, etc... with the obvious rolling papers and the all too common blunt (Cherry flavored?!  Really?!)  Brendan made me aware of your post on Sad City which spoke to an even more disturbing product with the lactose powder.  We have submitted language into Corporation Counsel and hope to get a draft from them to propose for January.  We commonly refer to the ordinance as the Sad City Ordinance, but that's as far as I think it'll go for any "on the record" credit :-)

5) Is it possible to hold the gas station owners accountable for selling drug related products?

No idea, I guess we'll find out.  It's a sad reality of capitalism where otherwise good people see no problem in profiting off an underground economy that is so destructive to the community as a whole.

6) Can you tell us something that might be upcoming in Hartford's future that would surprise us?

•  Elected Official will take steps toward making an investment in our youth by helping create the Heaven in Hartford skatepark over I84.
•  Immaculate Conception Church, now a homeless shelter, will evolve into the next phase of existence as a cultural center.
•  Hartford Court of Common Council proclaims June 12, 2011 as Sad City Day in the City of Hartford to celebrate Sad City's 1 year anniversary  (ok...that might go more into the "might" column than the others)

7) How do you think the new mayor has done in his first few months?

An honest assessment of Mayor Segarra would be imprudent of me at this point as I have some serious issues with the way some things have been handled, or not handled.  But the base of all my issues stem from the lack of proper transition, which was not his fault...hence, I'm willing to work with his office to iron out any of my issues.  That being said, I think Mayor Segarra has gone a long way to restore public trust in the office of the Mayor.  His best quality is that he does not, and has never belonged, to Hartford's political class.  His immediacy in dealing with the Butt ugly building and the Capitol West bldg has gone a long way into showing our business community that he means business.

8) When did you first become aware of Sad City Hartford and what was your first reaction upon seeing the site?

No crazy first reaction or anything.  I'm well acquainted with the circle of Hartford based, Hartford area blogs and was psyched to have another group in the mix.  That being said, I thought the payphone study was cool as was covering the peace vigil in the northend with Rev. Brown.  Am a huge fan of the "guides" as it gives some of our local treasure that much more exposure to a population that otherwise they probably would never reach. 

9) What do you think is the best course of action for I-84 and when do you think we will have an announcement of what the plan is for the highway?

Personally, I would re-route it starting at Waterbury and have it connect to I91 further south of Hartford.  But of the options set forth by the consultant group, I gravitate more towards the one which creates a mini tunnel under the City over by ArtSpace.  Council just voted on a resolution supporting the recommendations and the next step is another City Commission before it goes to the DOT.  It'll be a while, but I'm kinda optimistic that something will actually happen this time.

10) Your name has been mentioned as a possible candidate to run against Mayor Segarra in the 2011 election. Would you like to announce your candidacy here? Will any Sad City writers be considered for political posts?

I would bet that any mention you heard most likely came from someone who had a bit too much to drink.  I will most likely not look to run again for Council let alone Mayor.  That being said, who wouldn't want a guy named Loob in the office...

Sad City would like to again thank Councilman Cotto for his time. We hope that he is able to pass the Bill banning the sale of lactose powder in local gas stations and we look forward to following his efforts in that and future endeavors. We also support the creation of Sad City Day. Any summer holiday is good by us.

1 comment:

  1. That being said, is the councilman related to Miss Rita Cotto ? Just kidding....