As he blamed federal and state governments for throwing obstacles in the way of city growth, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in his State of the City address Monday night that New Haven is strong but still has work to do.
An audience of approximately 150 New Haven residents, Yale students and local political activists attended DeStefano’s 10th annual address at City Hall. DeStefano highlighted several main areas in which the city is making progress, including the development of strong neighborhoods, effective schools and a competitive downtown economy. He said the city government will remain focused on advancing these goals while working to unite and involve the community in spite of financial hardships created by what he called recent “irresponsible actions” in the federal and state legislatures.
“The truth is that the city is doing well,” DeStefano said, citing the arrival of businesses like Pfizer and IKEA, new housing, and the Gateway development as evidence of recent economic progress. He also said crime rates and school dropout numbers have decreased significantly from previous years.
While he said the city government is dedicated to continuing progress, DeStefano also said, as he has many times in the past several years, that current federal and state actions present serious problems. Faulting both Republican and Democratic leaders, the mayor said recent and upcoming tax cuts — mainly for the wealthy — will have immediate repercussions in New Haven.
DeStefano said city programs and funding for police, housing and education will lose as the state cuts taxes further and transfers some of the burden of its budget deficit to New Haven. He said layoffs are an inevitable result of state actions.
“The state of Connecticut is shifting its excessive tax cuts and its failure to innovate to us,” he said. He predicted 250 layoffs in New Haven as a result of this week’s government actions.
In response to the new legislation, DeStefano encouraged citizens to become active in politics and make themselves heard in Hartford. He said the new challenges to the city present a need for unity among residents and a continuing focus on the city’s goals.
“All of us are going to have to give more of ourselves to each other so that none of us get left behind,” he said.
DeStefano mentioned the need to address the issues surrounding New Haven labor unions in particular. Describing the tension surrounding GESO and Yale-New Haven Hospital workers, he said workers have a right to form a union and called for an end to the “continuing culture of conflict” in workplaces.
New Haven’s working families, particularly single-parent households, can benefit from outside funding for the city, DeStefano said.
“We need to do more for these working families, who are being pushed more by state and federal policy, as we speak, off a cliff,” he said. “We do need Yale to step up at this time for working families. They can make a difference in the lives of these folks.”
Audience members responded to DeStefano’s words with a standing ovation. Many said they were satisfied with the breadth of topics the mayor addressed and with his job performance in general.
“I think the mayor’s trying to do the best he can under tough circumstances,” Dave Watts DIV ’03 said.