MAYOR DESTEFANO: This is the tenth time that I have come to this podium. And, over this decade much has changed, and much has remained the same. I have learned much and seen so much more.
Honoring Dick Lee
Forty-nine years ago -- on February 1st, 1954 -- a young man came to this podium for the first time. Dick lee was 37 years old. He had beaten Mayor Celentano on his third try -- winning 39,526 votes to Celentano's 35,944.
That's 75,470 votes cast out of a total of 87,862 registered voters -- an 86% turn out!
Back then I-95 and the Q-Bridge had just opened. There was no I-91, no Route 34. No Knights of Columbus Headquarters, or Coliseum. No Chapel Square Mall, no Temple Street Garage. No Long Wharf. No university or Madison Towers.
Hillhouse and Cross high schools were on Broadway. The city's first public housing project -- Elm Haven -- had just opened a decade earlier.
No one had heard the words urban renewal, or slum clearance, or dreamed of slum-less cities. No one had heard of the panthers, of riots. There was no HUD, no CCM. America was becoming a suburban nation crisscrossed by highways, and her northern cities were receiving and becoming home to the great exodus of African Americans from the south.
Eight terms and sixteen years later, he left office.
Some years later, in June of 1980, Dick Lee was honored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. His words that day in Seattle:
"On balance...my generation of mayors....all felt that the game was worth the candle and that for every failure we recorded, we had more than our share of successes, and by God, I am proud of that era. We would dream, and we did, we would try, and we did. When we failed, we failed magnificently and when we succeeded, we succeeded sometimes beyond our fondest expectations, and after all, what's wrong with a record like that?"
Dick, there is nothing wrong with a record like that.
Dick Lee served as our city's 44th mayor from 1954 to 1970. He was mayor before I was born, and mayor still when I entered high school.
He tried, and his failures could be magnificent.
He tried, and his successes were sometimes beyond anyone's fondest expectations.
But try he did. I won't ask for a moment of silence for him. Rather would you all stand, and give a standing ovation for Mayor Dick Lee!
But now, this is our time of trying. Our time of successes beyond expectations, and our share of daring magnificent failure. And we should never be afraid, or shrink back, from failure borne of hard work and honest intent. There is no dishonor there. For failure borne of hard work is not failure -- it's a learning experience.
Rather, failure is to not try. To be ordinary, to rest untested in these times -- now that is to know shame and failure.
This is now our time, our moment, our test. Our chance to change the world. And our greatest failure can only be to avoid saying what we all know to be true.
And the truth?
The truth is that the city is doing well.
The truth is also that the state and federal government -- each hamstrung by deliberate policies of tax cutting that they couldn't afford and tough spending decisions that they wouldn't make -- now seek to balance their deficits on the budgets of families in New Haven and cities like us.
And, if regular working families and the most vulnerable in the nation are hurt in the process, well, they're told that they'll just have to "share the pain."
I reject that vision. New Haven rejects that vision. We have not come so far in our city, only to be turned back by the misbegotten policies of a state government -- Republican and some Democrat leadership alike -- that would turn the clock back. Turn families out. And have our kids' opportunities put down.
I don't know about you, but that's not why I got into politics - and that's not why I'm a democrat.
The fact is, that over the last 10 years we in New Haven have followed a different path.
For 10 years we have sustained each other. We have -- the people of our city -- journeyed together. Never far from one another, each other's possibilities and opportunities. Each other's joys and sorrows. We have climbed far, mostly on our own and mostly together. And we have far yet to go. But a magnificent journey it has been.
And, our journey has been guided by principals -- by values that shape, guide, and inform our work. That set the course for our decisions, our budgets and our politics. I do not expect perfection toward achieving our goals, but we can expect fidelity, and honesty, and self-awareness in our dedication to our principals.
Our path has been -- and is -- clear:
1. Strong neighborhoods:
- Safe and clean;
- With good housing; and
- Sustained public services - parks, libraries, and good neighbors.
2. Schools that work:
- The best buildings for our kids;
- Choice in curriculum & school; and, most importantly
- Academic accomplishment.
3. A great downtown at the center of a competitive, New Haven based, regional economy:
- Downtown as a great destination-of things to do and see and be at; and
- As the center of a knowledge based economy that can compete with any community, anywhere.
4. City government that gets things done:
- That is open and honest; and
- Government that's smart and always finding new ways to do things better - and cheaper.
5. A city of hope and opportunity:
- A place that people want to be;
- A place that welcomes all; and
- A place where collective action and responsibility of the whole community, ensures the personal best for each of us.
In 2002 - and the last several years - we have traveled far.
1. Strong neighborhoods:
- Slide #1 - Part I Crimes, 50% drop;
- Slide #2 - homicides - a 42 year low, Eisenhower; and
- Slide #3 - 947 housing units built and rehabilitated over the last 6 years, 230 new homeownership and 123 rental units planned by December 2004.
2. Schools that work:
- Great school buildings:
- Slide #4 - the Field House, Wilbur Cross, Wexler School - and in two weeks Aquaculture High School opened in the last twelve months;
- Slide #5 and #6 - work underway at other schools.
- Join us this Saturday at noon as we break ground on the new Jackie Robinson K-8;
- Slide #7 - a drop-out rate that has dropped down 40% in the last 4 years;
- Slide #8 - CMT's - improvements at every grade, in every subject;
- Slide #8a - out of district enrollment, 23 communities;
- Slide #9 - a district of champions.
3. Great downtown at center of a competitive new economy:
- We are building:
- Slide #10 - at Pfizer, Strauss - Adler, arts in the 9th square;
- Slide # 11 - Ikea at Long Wharf;
- We are dreaming:
- Slide #12 - new gateway development - hotel, 300 housing units, the community college, the Long Wharf Theater and parking:
- We are creating jobs:
- Slide #13 - we are creating jobs; and
- Slide #14 - we are sharing them with the region - New Haven is home to 25% of the region's jobs.
- Slide #15 - unemployment continues to drop - and where we were once higher than the national average - now we are below it;
4. City government that gets things done
- Slide #16 - tax collection rate;
- Slide #17 - fund balance; and
- Slide #18 - 2.1% city budget growth, v. CPI @ 2.4%, v. State @ 4.5%; - we are stingy!
5. Hope and opportunity:
- Slide #19 - lots of new business starts;
- Slide #20 - impression improved to point where we are perceived to be as good or better than the region, and recognized great gains versus Boston, NYC and Providence;
- A place for everyone:
- Slide #21 - 1/3 of city housing stock affordable, v. less than 6% for rest of region - New Haven has 10% of the state's affordable housing;
- Slide #22 - reflected in our income levels;
- Slide #23 - reflected in the New Americans -- added nearly 8,400 foreign-born over the last decade;
- Slide #24 - changing population.
For all this, we face a change. A change in Hartford - and - a change in Washington. And that change is not good.
That change says "you are on your own." That we are not a nation bound up together in each other's possibilities and opportunities.
1. The federal government is cutting taxes - a lot:
- Slide #25 - 30% of the cut for the richest 1% and look at the benefit
- Slide #26 - and the consequences - in two years we have gone from a projected 10 year $5.6 trillion surplus, t0 a $1.6 trillion deficit; and
- Slide #27 - and the cost - programs that support American families. Programs like cops, the local law enforcement block grant, TEA 21, HUD funds for maintaining public housing, funding for "no child left behind" and no funding for homeland security.
2. And state government?
- Slide #28 - we are the most reliant on the most regressive tax possible to fund public education;
- Slide #29 - plain and simple - State of Connecticut is shifting the cost of it's failure to innovate, it's excessive tax cuts, it's lack of vision to us;
- Slide #30 - seen results: 8.4% of the city workforce - 338 positions eliminated so far, 122 by layoff. Not just governor - democratic leadership. Tomorrow will act in Hartford.
The federal government and the State of Connecticut have lost sight that our well-being as a nation, and as a state, has been built upon a partnership. A partnership and a vision that America is a nation of hometowns. A nation of cities, towns and villages, and of neighborhoods. That our strength trickles up -- not down.
And so the truth? If they do less -- we must do more.
Returning to the past is not an option. We will not compromise our vision, our hard work, our families or our children's future. We will continue to move forward.
And how shall we do this?
First, we will stay focused with our sight set firmly on our goals:
- Strong neighborhoods;
- Schools that work;
- A great downtown at the center of a competitive regional economy;
- City government that gets things done; and
- A city whose name is not just New Haven, but hope, and opportunity.
How shall we do this?
Over the next several years and because of the thoughtless policies of state and federal government, we will have to accomplish success using different rules. There's going to be less money to spend. Our families face uncertain times -- and so all of us are going to have to give more of ourselves. More of ourselves to each other, so that none of us gets left behind.
Success is going to have to take a different approach. So while we pursue and sustain all the initiatives and all the programs that got us this far, so far, we will need to do some things differently -- if we are to continue moving forward.
1. Workforce savings
First, the state is about to cut an additional $4 to $5 million from our current year's budget. We all need to do more.
I have taken a 5% pay cut, effective this past January 1. City department heads will receive no increase in compensation this year. But this won't be enough to offset the damage being done by the state.
Let me translate that for you -- 250 more layoffs -- and that will include teachers, police and fire this time. And a property tax increase.
The state is acting irresponsibly and the cost of their action will be unfairly felt by our families, and on our workforce.
There is only one alternative. We need all of the city's labor unions to work with us, and to agree to a cost savings package for fiscal years '03 and '04.
Second, residents will need to do more as well. We are not in a position to raise all the property tax dollars we need, to replace the loss of state funds. The people of New Haven will need to sacrifice as well.
We need more of your time. In our block watches and in our community gardens and our management teams. We need more citizens registered to vote -- and voting. Hartford needs to hear our voices in organized forms of political action. And, Hartford must feel our muscle at the polls.
All of us must take the time to re-examine and recommit ourselves to our city -- and to the values we hold dear.
3. Community policing
Third, there is no gain, no more important accomplishment of the last several years that we are least able to afford to lose, than the safety of our streets.
The police command staff, the management teams and city residents must move forward with our next phase of community policing:
- Our racial profiling initiative -- working with police departments throughout the region to prevent abuse;
- Partnering with the NAACP on their "stop the violence" campaign. Working with partners throughout the city to stop the violence; and
- Our focus on quality of life issues. Working with neighborhoods to problem solve and provide smarter policing.
Fourth, the teacher's contract just adopted will increase starting pay by a third. This is an incredible opportunity to shape the teaching workforce of New Haven for several generations.
The city -- in a period of real financial constraint -- has made a commitment to get the best teachers for our kids -- because it's the most important thing that we do. In New Haven, everyone talks about public education and how it should be run. The business community, the university, the unions, the media -- everyone wants to do Dr. Mayo's job.
Well, here's the chance. Let's make New Haven the most exciting, the best place, for a new generation of well-paid teachers.
5. Right to form a union
Fifth. People have the right to form a union. The issue of GESO at Yale and the service workers at Yale New Haven Hospital should not be about the tactical manipulation of the National Labor Relations Act.
Management at the university and at the hospital needs to bring leadership and a conclusion to this continuing culture of conflict.
The pattern of labor relations is destructive to the entire community. So, be it through:
- A supervised election;
- A neutrality agreement; or
- By card count -
People must be given a fair way to choose -- free of intimidation by any side, as soon as possible. For there is only one side here -- and that is the fundamental right to freely and fairly choose.
6. Summer jobs
Sixth, this is a tough job market. Especially if you're a teenager with no work experience. And the federal government has eliminated virtually all funding for summer jobs.
I'm asking the Board of Alderman to take up a challenge. A challenge of seeing to it that every kid who wants a job this summer can get a chance to work. I look to the board to work with the business community over the next several months of winter, to create a summer of work, pay and self-respect for our city's kids.
7. Working families
Seventh. New Haven is blessed with a large number of working families -- often single female head of households -- who live on an edge. A cliff where on one side is hope and possibility, and on the other side the day-to-day struggle to make ends meet -- with little thought or time left for tomorrow.
We as a community need to do more for the many working families at the edge -- who if left to the mercy of the marketplace, or to the policies of the state and the federal governments, would be pushed over the cliff -- into poverty and hopelessness.
Later this year the city will announce a wealth creation initiative modeled on our Earned Income Tax Credit program. Families can have a better choice.
You know, a dozen years ago in the midst of another recession, Yale University collaborated to pump millions of dollars into the city's finances to balance our budget.
Well, this time we at City Hall will get the budget balanced on our own. We do need Yale to step up -- but this time for our working families. You see we are in this together.
Eighth -- politics. Many of us in this room have worked hard to open up the politics of the city. To be more inclusive, more dynamic. The results are apparent in our political discourse, which is louder and has lots of new faces.
This is good -- not always easy, but good.
It's time to continue the campaign to open up politics, by passing true campaign finance law reform here in New Haven, and at the state capital. If you doubt for one minute the corrosive effect of money in politics, go to the State Capitol tomorrow.
Ninth, let's not just clean up the politics -- but our water and air too.
Over the last 5 years we have accomplished an incredible reduction in dirty air emissions from city vehicles and buildings. As a city we have taken aggressive stands against the irresponsible behavior of power companies and polluters.
Our buildings are being designed to the highest environmentally friendly standards -- and shortly our roads will offer commuters a choice -- for bike as well as auto.
Whether it's energy policy, transportation policy, or public access to our harbor and rivers, we must work to build New Haven as a cleaner community and a place of choice.
10. Place of choice
Finally, let's not forget what got us here.
These are tough budget times. But if better policing encouraged people to move back to the city, so too did the arts and the concerts on the green.
Just as making public housing a place of choice again has been the right thing to do, we can't continue to provide all the affordable housing for the region. We must build up the middle, by offering choices in home ownership and in our schools.
And if our discourse and ideas are often at odds, we must never lose sight of the fact that we share much more in common with one another, than anything that divides us.
In the final analysis, we only have one another -- and no one else.
And you know what -- that's pretty good company -- and that's company we can all count on.
You see, the state of our city is strong, because the character and quality of our people is blessed.
And may God bless each of you, and the City of New Haven.