Blatteau ’97 provides Guilty alternative

Leslie Blatteau ’97, the Guilty Party candidate in the upcoming New Haven mayoral election, said she thinks the trolleys that run downtown are just one example of how the New Haven mayor’s office has misjudged the needs of the Elm City community.

The trolleys, which are intended as a convenience for downtown shoppers, are ineffective at alleviating downtown traffic, Blatteau said. It is mayoral decisions like this, she said, that fail to recognize or help the city’s working class foundation, that have compelled her to run for mayor in next week’s election.

Blatteau is running as a write-in candidate on the Guilty Party ticket. In 2003, the party’s candidate, Ralph Ferrucci, received approximately 15 percent of the vote, earning official “minor party” status. The 2001 Guilty candidate, Bill Saunders, crashed a mayoral debate in full-on drag as “Lil’ Miss Mess-up.”

Blatteau said her campaign has been critical of Mayor John DeStefano Jr. for alleged inattentiveness to the needs of New Haven residents, particularly those with lower incomes.

Blatteau’s platform centers upon improving the quality of life for working class citizens through improved housing and public schools. She said these views are rooted in her work as an outreach worker for teenage mothers at Wilbur Cross High School’s Celotto Center and as a labor activist involved in the 1996 strike at Yale.

“People need to remember that New Haven is a city where workers live,” Blatteau said. “People are really excited to hear when I talk about affordable housing, because a lot of people … are on the waiting lists for housing.”

But DeStefano said a significant increase in the number of city-subsidized units is unfeasible.

“We provide more low-income housing than any community in Connecticut,” he said. “Serving the low-income population comes at a cost that may be beyond, in terms of livability and financial well-being, what the city can afford.”

While more than 30 percent of New Haven’s housing stock is subsidized by the government, according to numbers calculated by the state Department of Economic and Community Development, extensive waiting lists remain for certain programs, such as Section 8 housing vouchers. Regina Winters, interim director of the New Haven Housing Authority, said more than 1,000 individuals are currently on the wait list.

Blatteau, a rock musician in local bands and director of the theater troupe Red Conception Theater, said she chose to stay in the city after her graduation from Yale because of the vibrancy of the art scene. Blatteau said she would also support the local arts scene if she were elected mayor.

Some New Haven residents who attended a “Meet the Candidates” event last week at a Westville art gallery said they were excited that Blatteau was trying to spark a dialogue about the political situation in the almost exclusively Democratic city — even if many of them also said they liked what DeStefano had done for the city.

“You need people coming out with new ideas and challenging the status quo,” Kate Bradley, a nurse at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said. “I think Mayor DeStefano has done an incredible job … but I don’t think anybody is perfect or above being challenged.”

Rosalina Ortiz, a co-worker of Blatteau’s at the Celotto Center and single mother of four children, said that DeStefano’s tenure has benefited her family, though she pleased Blatteau is running a campaign as well.

“He’s there for people that really need him, like low-income families,” Ortiz said. “Still, it’s nice that [Blatteau's] out there speaking for us. I wish there were more people like her. She’s not afraid to speak her mind.”

Blatteau said she would also work on improving the quality of public education. DeStefano has spent millions on new school construction without giving equal resources to instruction and after-school programs, Blatteau said.

“I’ve gotten to know the city well because of my job [at Celotto Center],” she said. “Right now, we’re not really benefiting from these [school] buildings that are so beautiful.”

But DeStefano said he has recently begun working with the Board of Aldermen to allocate more money towards youth programs.

Guilty Party founders Bill Saunders and Nancy Shea said they organized the party in 2001 to express their dissatisfaction with DeStefano’s 12-year tenure as mayor. Although they said DeStefano has been successful in increasing quality of life, they think his work in New Haven has lots its focus as he prepares for a gubernatorial race.

“[From] the casual observer’s standpoint, it looks like that turn has been in the last couple of years, when he had his sights set on Hartford,” Shea said.

Although Shea and Saunders both said they have been less effective than they would have liked in getting out news of Blatteau’s race, they attributed the enthusiastic response to her candidacy to general dissatisfaction with the current policies in City Hall. Saunders said that discontent was a major factor in the votes for Ferrucci two years ago.

“The social parody with that particular race was that people could actually walk into the voting booth and there were two choices for mayor: Democrat or Guilty,” Saunders said.

The mayoral election will be held on November 8.

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