Christine Stuart photo

In Hartford for a speaking engagement at the United Church of Christ conference Monday, U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., stopped by a breakfast fundraiser for state Rep. Art Feltman, who is vying for the Democratic nomination in Hartford’s mayoral race.

Prior to his remarks at the small breakfast gathering, Frank said he was not endorsing Feltman for mayor, but was just sharing his “high opinion” of him with other people. Frank said the two have been friends for a long time and he admires Feltman’s work as a state legislator.

Frank was introduced by Congressman John B. Larson, D-1st , (who also said he was not going to get involved by endorsing any candidate in the hotly contested Hartford mayoral race).

Frank used his time at the podium to talk about the financial services and insurance industries. A handful of those who attended the breakfast were from Travelers and The Hartford.

Feltman, who followed Frank, described himself as a liberal-turned-moderate leader. During his 11-year tenure as a state legislator Feltman said he discovered that tax policy is the single most important issue when it comes to creating change in Hartford.

Former Hartford Councilman John O’Connell, who spoke after Feltman, said, “If you want to move forward in Hartford you have to address the tax issue and Art is the best person to move forward on this.”

Feltman said that as mayor he will bring down taxes through prudent spending.

He also said parking should be offered as “an amenity at cost,” and should not be used as a revenue stream for the city. Tying parking back to the financial services industry, Feltman said ING Financial Services would not have left Hartford for Windsor if the city had used its bond rating to borrow the $40 million ING needed to build a parking garage and stay in Hartford.

He also criticized Mayor Eddie Perez’s handling of the union fiasco between the city and the new Adriean’s Landing Convention Center. He said that as mayor he would not call for a boycott of his own city.

Months ago, the United Church of Christ cancelled its plans to hold its 5-day, 50th anniversary synod (gathering) at the Convention Center when tensions heated up between the Waterford Group’s management team and the unions trying to organize workers at the center.

Feltman said he would be a “peacemaker, not a partisan during labor disputes.”

Then his speech, to a room of mostly Caucasian supporters, took a strange turn.

“I’ve always said people are less prejudiced than others think they are,” Feltman said. He said Hartford has reached a more “tolerant era,” one in which the local government is run by “people of every color and creed.”

“What the people of Hartford want and what the region needs is a mayor who will lead and produce … it’s time to turn the page and get started,” he said.

Feltman’s breakfast with Frank was initially supposed to be a $125-per-person fundraiser at the Rockledge Country Club, but because of a scheduling conflict the pricey West Hartford fundraiser was cancelled. There was only a small suggested donation for Monday’s breakfast.

Feltman said he recently opened up his campaign headquarters at 580 Farmington Avenue near the corner of Tremont Street. For more information about Feltman visit his campaign web site: Feltman 07.