Alderman Jelani Lawson ’96 prefaced his Minority State of the City address on Monday by recalling his first days in New Haven in 1992.
“During my time, I have grown a lot, and the city has grown a lot,” said Lawson, the chairman of the Board of Aldermen’s Black and Hispanic Caucus. “The New Haven of 1992 is different from the New Haven of 2001.”
It was in this spirit that Lawson delivered this year’s address, a speech that provided an optimistic outlook for minorities in New Haven. Lawson also outlined several suggestions aimed at improving the quality of life for city minorities.
Lawson referred to New Haven as a city of change where citywide improvements such as downtown revitalization and improved community policing have helped the growth of minority groups.
“This change signifies better times for minority communities in New Haven,” Lawson said. “New Haven is more racially diverse than ever, and we will continue to welcome diversity and the growing immigrant population.”
The three-term alderman focused on New Haven’s school systems as a key place to foster improvement among city minorities and said New Haven still has room to improve.
“Not all kids are starting in the same place in their schooling,” Lawson said. “How much can schools be expected to reasonably compensate for this?”
Lawson added the city should take into consideration issues that might be affecting students and not use standardized test scores as the only measure of student performance.
Lawson acknowledged Yale’s contributions to New Haven but said that he would like to see the University do more to boost income for the working minority family.
“I encourage them to do more, especially provide good union jobs for New Haven residents,” Lawson said. “The median income for an African-American is 30 percent higher in a union and 55 percent higher for Latinos.”
Other proposals included a mandatory 30-day payment plan for small businesses that have done work for the city and encouraging more minority contractors to submit bids for city projects with values under $50,000.
The most emotional moment of the evening came when Lawson thanked many of his fellow aldermen for their support during his tenure in office. Lawson announced last Thursday that he would not seek a fourth term and would instead attend law school.