I care about my community. I identify with it. I’m proud of it, and I want it to succeed. This blog is about my community and its future. Welcome!
What’s my community? Well, actually I have two. One is Hartford, Connecticut. The other is Buffalo, New York, where I was born and raised. There’s a part of me that is forever attached to Buffalo, even though it’s been nearly 50 years since I resided there. This blog is about Hartford, but I’m sure I’ll talk about Buffalo from time to time, because some of my perceptions of community derive from my experiences in Buffalo.
To be clear, the community I care about is greater Hartford. It’s the City of Hartford and some group of perhaps 10 to 20 of the surrounding towns. My wife and I have made our home in greater Hartford for more than 40 years, and we’ve been more or less indifferent to the town in which we lived. We’ve resided at various times in Hartford, West Hartford, Glastonbury and now Wethersfield.
All the while, my principal attachment has been to greater Hartford. I’ve developed some attachment to and affection for each of the towns in which we’ve resided, but wherever we may sleep at night, we shop at Westfarms and Buckland, we go to church in Windsor, we go to restaurants all over the area. We go to the Dunk and to the XL Center and to Gampel. We go to the Wadsworth Atheneum and the New Britain Museum of American Art. We go to movies in Hartford and Berlin, Manchester and Bloomfield. Our friends live in Simsbury and Avon and Manchester and Farmington and Hartford and Berlin and New Britain and Glastonbury. Greater Hartford is my community.
I care about the success of my community, today and tomorrow. I want it to grow and thrive. I want it to be a place where people want to live, raise families and grow old.
I worry about the future of greater Hartford. I worry because Hartford isn’t growing. Although in general, small metropolitan areas in the U.S. continue to grow, not ALL small metropolitan areas are growing. According the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 16 metropolitan statistical areas with population between between one million and two million, only two experienced a decline in population from 2010 to 2017: Rochester, New York and Hartford. While growth doesn’t necessarily correlate with desirability, it’s likely to be a reasonably good indicator of the general health of the community.
What metropolitan areas are growing in that population range? Places like Indianapolis, Nashville, Providence, Jacksonville, Memphis, Raleigh, Richmond, Louisville, Birmingham.
And, although it may surprise you, even Buffalo is growing. Yes, Buffalo is in that population range, and Buffalo is growing. Go, Bills!
These are isolated data points, but they seem to confirm our subjective understanding: our community is not moving forward like other communities our size. We understand, without knowing all the data, that there’s very little job growth in the area, that there’s little construction, that Hartford isn’t on many lists of most desirable small cities. There’s change here and there, to be sure, but no one calls Hartford a city on the move.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Greater Hartford can change its trajectory. What do I think should change? Well, as I’ll say repeatedly as I write, I don’t have all the answers. I may not have any of the answers. But I do know one thing: it’s time that we all admit and actually do something about our hopelessly antiquated municipal governance structure. Ten towns where other similarly sized metropolitan areas have one city is, in a word, stupid. It’s time that we stop being stupid about how we govern ourselves.
I care about my community, and I think we should do something to change the trends. If you care about our community, I hope you will read my blog.