The coronavirus is the topic du jour, and with good reason. The pandemic is affecting our lives in ways we hadn’t imagined just a few weeks ago. Meetings are being canceled, schools are being closed, teachers are struggling to find ways to work effectively through the curriculum online, and the presidential campaign is off the front page. Many workers are working from home, many others are being laid off. The Road to the Final Four is closed. Those who once felt secure in their financial plans suddenly are worried, and some of those who already were worried are near panic.

Unlike those of us who live in greater Hartford, the coronavirus will ignore our town boundaries. It will set up shop just as easily west of Prospect Street as east. It will close schools just as surely in Wethersfield as in South Windsor.

While it doesn’t matter to the coronavirus whether greater Hartford is one city and ten towns or one large city, when it comes to responding to the coronavirus, it matters to us a great deal. I’m no expert in the inner workings of all of our governance structures, but I think the answers to questions like these are self-evident:

A. Which would respond to a regional health crisis better, a greater Hartford Public Health Department, or the various separate town health departments we have now? By the way, honorable mention goes to West Hartford and Bloomfield for having a combined health district.

B. Which technology services department would best be able to transition faculty and all greater Hartford students to a full-fledged online instruction system, the departments of the separate school systems or one merged department? Before you get all high and mighty about your district’s system, recognize that a combined department likely would have at least five times the financial resources (which means better software and systems) and five times the staff that your district has.

C. When you tune into the prime-time, televised presentation from community leadership about the response to the health emergency, which would you rather see:

1. A panel discussion, moderated by a local television news anchor, among the Mayor of Hartford and each of ten town managers talking about how they’re planning to work together to coordinate all of their town departments, or

2. The Mayor of greater Hartford, flanked by their important department heads (health, education, police and others), explaining how each will deliver important services?

It seems obvious that in our current situation, we’d be better off with one government instead of ten.

That’s enough for this week. I’m sure it’s clear to all, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again: The best thing for our community right now is for each of us to recognize that soldiering through the inconvenience of canceled events and limited social contact and accepting the impact of the economic downturn will help keep us healthy. And please, support efforts to help those who need it most in these unusual times.


  1. Your point is well taken Mark. Centralized services during a pandemic is obviously the best way to use resources. Will the governor be able to require certain behaviors from townships during this time? Consolidations of police, emergency response allows for faster reaction times when hot spots occur. In Kirkland, WA- besides the outbreak- we also had 30 police, fire and EMTS put in quarantine. That’s a big hit on a small town.

  2. An excellent post, Mark. This crisis is perfect for exemplifying the broderless nature of at least one issue and the potential benefit of unifying resources. It gets around the issue of politics and selfish financial interests and addresses the humanity common to all.

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