Don’t look for Mayor John DeStefano Jr. or Gov. M. Jodi Rell at today’s high-profile visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to New Haven — Hu might have brought a spotlight with him, but local leaders have no plans to meet with Hu, and community leaders said the president’s visit has sparked little conversation among New Haven residents.
Yale President Richard Levin said Wednesday that he extended DeStefano an invitation to hear Hu’s speech in Sprague Hall, but DeStefano’s spokesman said he could not clear his schedule for Hu’s appearance. Neither could Rell, according to her spokesman, so she deputized the commission of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development to greet the president ceremonially. Meanwhile, New Haven’s often-vocal unions are sitting tomorrow out and have no official plans to join the protesters who will be flocking to the Green and Old Campus.
“[DeStefano’s] schedule is booked all day, as he has various obligations and he just wasn’t able to clear them,” said Derek Slap, the spokesman for DeStefano’s gubernatorial campaign.
As for the governor — who greeted President George W. Bush ’68 briefly when he flew into New Haven’s Tweed Airport earlier this month — her spokesman said the state is sending Commissioner James Abromaitis to shake hands with Hu.
“She has a pretty full schedule up at the capitol, and any role that she might have played at Yale would have been purely ceremonial,” Rell spokesman Judd Everhart said. “The governor’s focus has consistently been on jobs and economic development, and she thought it was appropriate that Commissioner Abromaitis be there.”
New Haven’s two largest unions — UNITE HERE Locals 34 and 35 — have not organized official union protests either, though China’s inexpensive exports have drawn criticism from manufacturing unions elsewhere in the country.
“Their treatment of prisoners and some of their policies are not close to being progressive at all, and I’m sure that a lot of people in our organization feel that they can change for the better in regards to the treatment of their own citizens,” said Bob Proto, president of Local 35 and a member of UNITE HERE’s executive board. “Folks can participate in any demonstration they have a strong belief in, but we have not organized our structure for anything for tomorrow.”
Ward 19 Alderwoman Alfreda Edwards said she thinks most of the protestors will be from out of town, as she has heard few remarks from her constituents about Hu’s visit. She said a few people had been gossiping about the permission Yale recently received to invest in China’s restricted domestic markets, but she has not heard of any plans to join in protests.
“I haven’t heard a thing,” she said. “They are just worried about what’s going on in the United States and the price of gas.”
Ward 22 Alderman Drew King, who represents the Dixwell neighborhood, said the concerns of most New Haven citizens are closer to home.
“No one’s said anything to me about it,” he said. “I guess they probably don’t care.”