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.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Edwin Vargas Chats with Sad City

Hartford Mayoral Candidate Edwin Vargas took some time and answered some of Sad City's questions.

1. You grew up in Brooklyn. Why and when did you come to Hartford. Where have you lived in Hartford?

I grew up in Brooklyn until I was eleven and then my family moved back to Puerto Rico.  I was recruited as a teacher by Hartford community leader Maria Sanchez back in 1972.  I have lived in the South Green neighborhood, Behind the Rocks, Parkville and since 1984 on Douglas Street which straddles Barry Square and the South End

2. Your candidacy will be a direct challenge to incumbent Mayor Pedro Segarra; give us your assessment on Mayor Segarra’s job performance since being thrust into the role after the resignation of Eddie Perez.

I am running for mayor because I believe that I am the best candidate.  I see Pedro as detached from the day to day concerns of our residents.  He strikes me more as a figurehead that allows the bureaucracy to govern rather than taking a dynamic, hands-on leadership role.

3. Tell us some of your favorite places around town to grab a drink or a bite to eat.

I love two modest Portuguese places.  One is the Nutshell CafĂ© on White Street and the other is a little hole-in-the wall bistro, Primavera’s on Newington Avenue.  I also like Sabores y Parrillas, Ficara’s, Piolin and when I want to splurge, O’Porto’s.   For drinks I enjoy Jessie’s, Azucar, Red Rock Tavern and the Moose Lodge.

4. In your time in Hartford how has the city changed? What is better about Hartford now? What is worse than when you first came here?

The massive influx of a great variety of nationalities, races, languages and cultures have made the city far more cosmopolitan than it was when I first arrived.  I count as a major plus that we have moved away from the more provincial and somewhat closed environment of the past.  Just within the Latino community alone there has been a great deal of diversification.  Unfortunately, Hartford seems to have a more transient population than it had when families stayed put for generations and developed long roots in the city.  I’m sure that crime, high property taxes, failing schools, a decrease in good jobs and the general deterioration of our quality of life has much to do with this trend.

5. Education has been a topic of, and more often than not a source of frustration in the city of Hartford for years now. You’ve spent much of your career in education. Why do you think it is that Hartford schools struggle so badly? If elected Mayor what changes would you implement to improve Hartford schools?

Hartford has attempted to find a one-size-fits-all solution to our students’ problems.  This is tragic because the sources of our students’ problems are many and vary widely from student to student.  We, as a community, have failed to meet the individual needs of our kids.  Model schools throughout the country have succeeded only when they have been able to provide the resources to address the deficits inherent when dealing with students from impoverished communities.  Despite the empiric evidence found in the research many continue to pin their hopes on a magic bullet approach.  As mayor I would work diligently to implement a system that identifies and removes any barriers that prevent any individual student from learning.  Solutions must be tailored individually as demonstrated by the above-mentioned models.

6. What is something about Edwin Vargas personally that would surprise and/or interest us

While many of you are aware of my teaching credentials some may not know that I have a master’s degree in public administration from the Barney School of Business at the U. of H.  I am also a chess champion and an avid guitar player.

7. Are you a Sad City Hartford reader? What have been some of your favorite stories?

Yes, I enjoy reading Sad City.  I generally like most of what I read but I truly appreciate your essays.  Your recent interview with Gerry Brooks is certainly one of my favorites.  He displayed a very good sense of humor in his responses.

8. Sad City has stated repeatedly that one thing that really hurts Hartford is the inability to retain young professionals after they graduate from the local schools. Do you also see this as a major concern and what changes would you implement to retain young professionals?

I believe that our municipal government needs to play a more central role in workforce development, including training and retraining and in identifying and matching our grads with employment opportunities.  We have allowed this area of public policy to drift into suburban dominated regional bodies to the detriment of our city’s young adults.

9. One of the things that has really bothered us in our travels throughout the city is gas stations openly selling drug cutting agents such as lactose powder that clearly have no other purpose except the drug trade. We grew up in suburbs and know this would not be tolerated in the suburbs at all. Councilman Cotto has tried to introduce a bill that would ban gas stations from selling these types of substances. Would you support this type of bill?

I would certainly support it very actively.

10. Would you like to take this chance to announce a major platform for your campaign? If elected will any Sad City writers be considered for posts?

I firmly believe that having made a multimillion dollar investment in our schools that these buildings should remain open in the evening as a resource to our communities and especially as a safe haven for our youth.  Some of these schools have basketball courts, computer labs, libraries, swimming pools and many other resources that could be used in the evenings by nonprofit organizations, parents, neighborhood groups and other civic entities.  Most importantly, they could provide our youth a safe center for sports, educational enrichment and extra curricular activities as an alternative to the streets.  Every qualified individual that has something to offer will be given fair consideration in my administration.

Sad City thanks Mr. Vargas for his time. 


  1. First, I want to say you are doing more to help Hartford than I have attempted, so my hat is off to you. I read with great interest this article, hopeful that I'd get to know this candidate's background and beliefs. But this was more like reading teen beat magazine's profile of a pop star. I did some research myself and found more in depth interview, so I'd at least like to thank you for introducing me to Mr. Vargas, and encourage you to give us a little more meat. Thanks BTW, if you'd like to see the article: http://www.hispanichartford.org/multimedia/interviews-with-latino-leaders-in-hartford/edwin-vargas-jr/

  2. Has anyone heard Sean Arena's on why is was against taking the Capital West wreck by imminent Domain?

    Not only does he not believe that getting rid of this slum lord wreck is important, but he suggests that The Hartford "Step up and purchase the building", you'll recall that already gave the city 2 Million to assist. This guy is the head of economic development.

    Only in Hartford could someone like this be the head of economic Redevelopment, sounds like another government working with no gage on reality. He should be happy that the Hartford still maintains a presence in our vacant city, let alone expect them to pay for this.

  3. Mr. Roberts, This is the 2nd time that you've commented on something that has absolutely nothing to do with the post that you're commenting on. What's the dilly yo? Start your own blog if you don't feel people aren't writing about what is newsworthy to you on any given day.