Following former Mayor Eddie Perez's sentencing yesterday, Steve Goode went out in the community to get people's thoughts on Perez's legacy, his downfall and the judge's decision to impose a 3-year prison term.
For people who remembered the excitement and hope that accompanied Eddie Perez's ascension to mayor and then strong mayor, Tuesday was a sad day.
Mayor Pedro Segarra said Perez, as a result of that hope and excitement, brought with him a belief that he could accomplish great things and the did in the areas of affordable housing and educational reforms.
"I think that legacy is not one that anyone can deny," he said. "That legacy will continue. I just hope that all the responsibility for what happened is not placed solely on one individual."
City resident Geraldine Sullivan was among the first to encourage Perez to run for mayor. Sullivan, sister of the late Mayor Mike Peters, said she did so because other projects she had worked on with him were successes.
The relationship between the two became strained however about a year into Perez's first term as strong mayor because of what Sullivan called the administration's heavy-handedness."
"I told him, you have got to change this. Everybody can't be treated as the enemy if they disagree," she said. "It isolated him."
Sullivan would eventually withdraw her support for Perez politically, but personally she was hurt by his downfall.
"I felt really sad. It's a tremendous blow for Hartford," she said.
Former Hartford teacher and unsuccessful political candidate Ed Vargas remembered meeting Perez as a young man in a youth group at the Sacred Heart Church.
"He was a very smart kid," Vargas said, adding that people were proud of the work he did in the creation of the Learning Corridor at Trinity College before his run for mayor.
"Eddie projected a can-do attitude,"said Vargas, who volunteered for Perez's first campaign. "There was a lot of hype and in fact, Eddie did do a lot of good for this city. It's sad."
On the streets and in the shops of the city, reaction to his conviction and his sentencing was mixed.
At the Colt complex resident Alexandra George said she thought Perez wasn't a bad mayor but added that she "liked Segarra better."
At the McKinney Homeless Shelter a man who identified himself as R.W. praised Perez for the Park Street project that would prove to be his downfall.
"I wish him well, he's still my friend," he said.
Standing in the doorway of Paulino's Grocery on Franklin Avenue, Jerry Cabrera said that he was friends with Perez's daughter Cierra and that he felt bad for the family.
"But if you do something wrong you have to pay," Cabrera said.
A few doors down, resident Ada Fuentes had stronger feelings.
"It's a shame that he's Puerto Rican, he's bringing us down," she said. "He's a disgrace to Puerto Ricans.
At the Brother's Barber Shop on Park Street, Kenny Johnson said the good Perez did far outweighed the bad and that prison time was too harsh a punishment.
"Don't lock the dude up, that's not right," he said.
Up the street at the Los Cubanotos Market, owner Henry DePena expressed similar feelings and pointed to the work Perez did on Park Street and in reforming the city's long-failing school system.
"He did so many good things for this city," DePena said. "I don't think he deserves jail. I think he got enough by being embarrassed and thrown out."
As he walked up Park Street, resident Shane Segundo said the only difference between Perez and other politician was that he got caught and that he expected little to change.
"Hartford still looks the same," Segundo said.
But Segundo and friend Joel Harrell did take issue with the length of the sentence.
"Look at Rowland," Harrell said. "He got treated differently and now he's out making a hundred grand."