One month into his record-setting 10th term, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. used his annual State of the City address to lay out a plan for the city Monday evening.
Speaking before a Board of Aldermen meeting, DeStefano spoke to the aldermen and members of the public in a full aldermanic chamber about his priorities for the coming year, which included increasing public safety, boosting job creation and resolving budgetary problems that continue to plague the city. Having recently returned from an education summit in Seattle, DeStefano focused on continuing New Haven’s education reform efforts and argued that these efforts will promote the city’s long-term economic prospects.
“Long-term and near-term, our most pressing challenge and opportunity is public school change for our kids,” DeStefano said.
New Haven’s three “big initiatives” in school reform — tiering schools according to performance, evaluating teachers and instituting the Yale-funded scholarship program New Haven Promise — have begun to reap educational rewards, DeStefano said. It would be the “great failure of our time,” he added, if the city were to discontinue these efforts.
He also linked his other priorities to the city’s youth — from ensuring the safety of city teens through effective community policing to providing jobs for students by expanding job possibilities in the city.
The address came three days after the Board of Aldermen released a vision statement and legislative agenda in a press release, signed by all 30 members of the board. In it, the aldermen declared their commitment to address jobs, youth, fiscal responsibility and public safety — all themes DeStefano echoed in his speech.
There is a “mismatch,” DeStefano said, between city job growth and the education level and skills of New Haven students. During his speech, DeStefano endorsed the board’s idea of a jobs pipeline, which would attempt to prepare residents for jobs available in New Haven.
After the address, Board of Aldermen President and Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez said he agreed with much what DeStefano said in his speech.
“I’m very happy to hear the mayor say he’s eager to work with us on the jobs pipeline,” Perez said.
The board’s legislative agenda outlined two action items in particular: a resolution to increase the residency bonus on applications to city jobs from five to 10 points, and the creation of a 19-person jobs pipeline working group that represents various city interests. Both of these items were sponsored by all 30 members of the board and passed unanimously.
The unanimity served as a possible harbinger of the new dynamics on the Board of Aldermen, 19 members of which are now serving their first term after winning elections dominated by tensions over labor issues. Perez said the vision statement shows that members of the board broadly agrees on their legislative goals and are willing to work together to achieve them.
“There was concern, with the number of freshmen and labor-affiliated aldermen [on the board], over what the agenda was going to be,” Perez said. “It’s nice to see the board coming together.”
Ward 22 Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison and Ward 23 Alderwoman Tyisha Walker both said they agreed with the policy vision laid out in DeStefano’s address, but warned that divisions might emerge when the board irons out the details of future legislation.
Monday marked DeStefano’s 19th State of the City address.