New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. got on his hands and knees Tuesday afternoon. But he was not begging Yalies for votes — he was explaining his vision for “smart growth” of the city.
Placing a napkin in the center of a large, round cookie tray, DeStefano tried to emphasize the Elm City’s small size relative to others in the country. He placed tea cookies around the tray to resemble the city’s suburbs and said the city’s growth must be vertical, not horizontal, because the surrounding areas are already developed.
DeStefano’s comparison at Tuesday’s Master’s Tea in Ezra Stiles College was not the first time he used pastry analogies — he has consistently compared New Haven to the hole in the middle of a doughnut.
The mayor, a Democrat, also shared his frustration with the budgets drawn by state and federal governments, called for an expansion of government programs — especially for the city’s homeless population — and touched on the challenges of building a sense of community in New Haven.
DeStefano, who this month launched his campaign for a sixth consecutive two-year mayoral term, said following the tea that he is seriously considering a run for the state’s governorship in 2006. His comment comes a week after Gov. John Rowland’s surprise announcement that he might seek reelection for a fourth term.
“I think it’s going to be a viable option for a lot of us,” DeStefano said, referring to a handful of potential Democratic candidates that includes Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73. “I’m going to look at it hard.”
But DeStefano said he remains focused on his current job. The mayor said he is strongly opposed to U.S. President George W. Bush’s economic stimulus plan and called on the government to instead increase funding for the improvement of public schools, among other programs.
“I’m getting very frustrated with federal and state governments these days,” DeStefano said. “No one really believes that this tax cut will stimulate the economy.”
He called the 1940s and 50s the greatest generation because of the amount of government subsidies and support. DeStefano said it was an example of “government connecting to people.”
“I think to some extent we’re losing that right now,” he said.
DeStefano expressed concern with the current labor situation at Yale. He said the unions and the administration have a “very disfunctional relationship” that is “sort of like high school.”
DeStefano also discussed candidly the state of homeless issues in New Haven. He said people often do not believe homelessness is an issue that involves them and that “[much of] government doesn’t care about homeless folks.” But he has made expanded homeless facilities and services a top priority for the city.
“They’re always on the edge of instability — like they’re falling off the table,” DeStefano said. “I could fill every shelter bed we open.”
He said the Elm City needs to be open and welcoming to all potential residents. DeStefano characterized the recent Board of Alderman debate over civil unions as “one of the ugliest public hearings” he has seen in recent years. He said the city is working to attract science and technology-based companies.
“It’s important both substantively and symbolically,” DeStefano said. “Attracting people who can contribute to the economy is important right now.”
Maureen Miller ’06, one of about 15 students who attended the tea, said she was pleased with how frank DeStefano was in his talk.
“I was very impressed by the level of policy knowledge of the students,” Miller said. “You can tell a lot of them are very active in the community.”