Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield and several other city officials unveiled their legislative agenda for the year at City Hall on Monday morning, with emphasis on what they called the “four E’s” — environment, education, economy and equity.
But he said the success of the proposed projects depends largely on cooperation from the Connecticut state government and the amount of money the state is willing to provide to the city. The mayor’s office is negotiating with state leaders to secure increased funding in all four areas, DeStefano said.
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“The purpose of the Legislative Agenda is really to outline where we need cooperation from the state,” City Hall Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said. “The majority of these programs and proposals need state funding.”
Among his goals for 2008, DeStefano said, are reducing teen pregnancy, providing affordable housing and creating more youth centers throughout the city. DeStefano also pointed to prison-reentry-prevention programs as an important priority for city legislators.
According to the 2008 Legislative Agenda pamphlet, approximately 100 inmates are released from prison into the New Haven community every month and often experience difficulty with reintegration into society. The agenda calls for a community-based initiative to help recently released offenders acclimate into civilian life, which would provide vocational training, job placement and housing assistance.
Mayorga said 90 percent of the subjects arrested in New Haven have a previous offense, making a transition program essential for decreasing the number of repeat offenders.
At their press conference, DeStefano and Goldfield devoted several minutes to talking about their proposal to cut taxes. The mayor proposed a 3-percent cap on property tax, which would require the state to make up the difference so that New Haven would have to rely on the state to provide the money. DeStefano said the state has yet to fund this initiative, but Goldstein indicated he would like to see the cap placed even lower.
“The state really needs to replace the full tax loss,” Goldfield said. “That is where we are going to get funding for schools and the other initiatives we hope to introduce this year.”
The reduction of property tax would also shift the burden to businesses and other classes of assets, rather than homeowners, the mayor said. DeStefano said he perceived a similar pattern in city-state relationships across the country.
“I was just at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and everyone has a similar situation,” he said. “We need the help of the state government to do what we want.”
According to the Legislative Agenda, there has been a 125-percent increase in foreclosures in New Haven since 2005. But DeStefano said at the press conference that he was unaware of a recent string of foreclosures by the Water Pollution Control Authority in New Haven. The agenda also proposes various initiatives to strengthen the city’s economy in hopes of alleviating poverty.