Setting the stage for a contentious mayoral race, Democratic state Sen. Martin Looney laid out a complete economic plan for the first time in his campaign Tuesday night, peppering his ideas with jabs at Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Looney’s opponent in the September primary.
Looney’s proposals for jumpstarting New Haven’s economy included downtown parking relief, a new stadium, more cooperation in the greater New Haven region and further assistance for small business, which Looney called “the engines for economic growth.”
The Yale Entrepreneurial Society and the Yale College Student Union invited Looney on campus to present his ideas to an audience of students and New Haven residents. Looney spoke in Linsley Chittenden Hall at 7:30 p.m. last night.
“We must be willing to serve all the people and make sure all the people prosper,” Looney said. “I believe we have to start by recognizing that there are no quick fixes for New Haven.”
Looney wants to lure more tourists to downtown New Haven by first offering free parking for at least an hour and eliminating some meters.
“We will no longer have people scurrying for quarters in their cars,” Looney said.
Looney proposed a new downtown stadium that would host soccer, lacrosse and minor league baseball games, along with concerts. He added that the city should open an office of cultural affairs to create an arts district.
“Mayor DeStefano has not made arts a priority in New Haven, despite lip service,” Looney said.
Looney also pushed for more cooperation within the greater New Haven region, saying the region currently has too much “jealous protection on their own turf.” He proposed a system in which any taxes received from new economic growth would go into a pool from which the entire region could benefit.
“They’ve have had their chance — it’s time for someone new,” Looney said of DeStefano and his administration.
Rob Smuts ’01 distributed pamphlets supporting DeStefano’s campaign as people filed into Looney’s talk.
“[DeStefano]’s done tremendous work. We can’t go back to ’93,” Smuts said in response to Looney’s allegation that DeStefano has not done enough as mayor.
Members of the audience came eager to learn more details about Looney’s platform, but expressed a distaste for the senator’s criticisms of DeStefano.
“I heard a lot of things about why DeStefano would be a bad mayor — not much about why Looney would be a good mayor,” said Michael Montano ’03, who unsuccessfully sought the endorsement of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee to represent that ward in the Board of Aldermen.
Montano said he was concerned about Looney’s proposal to convene community summits since similar structures already exist. Montano said he is currently leaning toward voting for the mayor.
“He gave us a bunch of of vague possibilities,” New Haven resident David Watts said. “For him to take a jab at what’s already out there is kind of negative.”
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