Tuesday, February 5, 2008
DeStefano lauds initiatives, awaits reform
By Elizabeth Benton
NEW HAVEN — Mayor John DeStefano Jr. delivered his 15th State of the City address Monday, praising successful city initiatives, while looking to Hartford for reform in the coming year. In a “human PowerPoint,”
DeStefano called on residents and employees who spoke of successes in Street Outreach Workers program, Youth at Work and the senior tax freeze.
Vito’s Delicatessen owner Vito Bonnano fought back tears to thank firefighters for saving his business from the Dec. 12 downtown blaze.
A city homeowner, Bonnano said, “I used to wonder if the high price was worth it. … When you see flames like that, you aren’t thinking, ‘Wow, this is why my taxes are the way they are.’ You’re just thinking, ‘God, please save me.’”
Four residents rose to show Elm City Resident cards as DeStefano blasted leafletting by anti-illegal immigration activists.
“They sell fear and divisiveness and they have the audacity of going to churches in our community where people come together to express love for one another, to hand out hate language such as this,” DeStefano said.
While DeStefano’s 2007 wrap-up focused mostly on city initiatives and departments, he is looking inside and beyond New Haven borders for major reform in 2008.
DeStefano called for full reimbursement of payment-in-lieu of taxes funds, claiming the city will lose $1.6 million this year due to partial reimbursement.
He also pushed the importance of growing the tax base through downtown development, highlighting in particular plans to repopulate the Route 34 connector.
“We need every elected official from New Haven and elected officials from around the state to feel the same sense of urgency about reform of the state’s tax structure that our homeowners feel,” he said.
DeStefano reiterated his call to the state to end “prison dumping,” claiming 25 state prisoners each week are left outside the Whalley Avenue jail or Columbus House without a pre-release plan, job, supervision or treatment for addictions.
He also called for a boost in senior police management, a new contract with the police union, and a “realistic salary range to recruit a new chief from outside the department.”
The department has active promotional lists in every rank, 45 new officers in the academy, and 29 new officers were hired last year, he said.
“We have come so far as a community and Police Department. Our results have been too impressive. And, we still have some road to travel. So let’s not drop the ball now,” he said.
Aldermanic President Carl Goldfield, D-29, said aldermen are committed to pushing state legislators on PILOT fund restoration.
“We’ve dedicated ourselves,” he said. “A huge portion of the city is tax-exempt, and it’s devastating for us.”
Alderman Jorge Perez, D-5, said he supported much of the mayor’s message, but did not believe money would solve the Police Department’s problems.
“Someone was not watching the store,” he said. “I don’t think the answer is more chiefs. The answer is better management, better accountability,” he said.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or email@example.com.
The following is the mayor's state of the city address, unedited by us and as provided by the city:
REMARKS OF JOHN DESTEFANO, JR.
STATE OF THE CITY
FEBRUARY 4, 2008
TO CITY CLERK RON SMITH. PRESIDENT CARL GOLDFIELD. TO THE MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF ALDERMEN, ESPECIALLY OUR 4 NEW ALDERS:
• RACHEL PLATTUS
• GINA CALDER
• ALLAN BRISON, AND
• JOE RODRIGUEZ
AND FRIENDS IN THE CHAMBER HERE TONIGHT – GOOD EVENING!
NOW THERE ARE NOT MANY TIMES THAT I WOULD SAY THAT I’D PREFER TO BE IN HARTFORD INSTEAD OF NEW HAVEN, BUT I KNOW THAT AT LEAST SOME OF US WOULD LIKE TO BE WITH SENATOR OBAMA TONIGHT AT THE LX CENTER.
BUT WHATEVER CANDIDATE YOU MIGHT SUPPORT, TOMORROW’S PRIMARY DAY IS AN EXCITING ONE THAT EVERY VOTER IN NEW HAVEN OUGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN. IT’S TIME FOR CHANGE IN WASHINGTON, AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ALL KNOW IT.
BUT TONIGHT IS ABOUT, OUR CITY. ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF NEW HAVEN. AND ABOUT WHAT WE, WORKING TOGETHER, CAN GET DONE. AND THAT’S SOMETHING TO GET EXCITED ABOUT TOO!
AND KEEP IN MIND THAT WHAT WE DO HERE IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST NEW HAVEN. IN FACT, THE CITY IS THE VITAL CENTER OF SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT:
• IT IS THE PLACE WHERE PEOPLE COME WHEN THEY ARE LOOKING FOR WORK; OR,
• SEEKING HEALTHCARE;
• IT’S WHERE THEY COME FOR LEARNING. AND NOT JUST AT YALE – BUT AT SOUTHERN, AT GATEWAY AND AT ALBERTUS;
• IT’S OUR NEW HAVEN GREEN, OUR THEATERS AND MUSEUMS, OUR CLUBS AND RESTAURANTS, THAT ARE IN DEMAND LIKE NO OTHER PLACE IN CONNECTICUT;
• IT’S OUR CITY, OUR NEW HAVEN, THAT THE STATE COMES TO FOR ALL THE BEST THINGS THAT RESULT FROM PEOPLE WORKING TOGETHER FOR THE BETTERMENT OF ALL.
NEW HAVEN TRULY IS ‘WHERE IT ALL HAPPENS’.
WHAT WE DO MATTERS
AND, THE THINGS THAT WE IN THIS ROOM CHOSE TO DO, DO MATTER.
AND THE THINGS THAT WE’LL TALK ABOUT TONIGHT, AND FOLLOW THROUGH ON DURING THE YEAR, DO COUNT.
LAST YEAR, WE CHOSE TO DO SOME THINGS:
• TO TAKE ON THE JOB OF MAKING LIFE BETTER FOR OUR KIDS;
• BETTER FOR OUR SENIORS; AND
• BETTER FOR EACH OTHER.
1. STREET OUTREACH WORKERS
LAST FEBRUARY WE TALKED ABOUT A NEW EFFORT TO REACH THOSE YOUNG PEOPLE MOST AT RISK OF HURTING THEMSELVES – AND EACH OTHER. AND ON JULY 9TH, STREET OUTREACH WORKERS HIT THE NEIGHBORHOODS.
THEY’RE LED BY TYRONE WESTON. TYRONE, TELL US WHAT YOU’VE BEEN DOING:
TYRONE WESTON SPEAKS
THAT WORK, THAT MAKING A DIFFERENCE, THAT EFFORT STARTED HERE, IN THIS ROOM, AND HAS MADE NEW HAVEN A SAFER PLACE.
2. YOUTH AT WORK, OPEN SCHOOLS AND YOUTH CAPACITY
WE ALSO TALKED LAST YEAR ABOUT GIVING OUR KIDS MORE TO DO. AND TOGETHER, WE AGGRESIVELY EXPANDED CHOICES FOR OUR KIDS IN 2007.
YOUTH AT WORK PROVIDED NEARLY A THIRTEEN HUNDRED SUMMER JOBS FOR OUR KIDS. OUR YOUTH CAPACITY GRANTS PROGRAM PUT MORE DOLLARS INTO THE ORGANIZATIONS ALREADY WORKING WITH OUR KIDS.
AND WE OPENED OUR SCHOOLS TO THOUSANDS OF KIDS. ONE OF THOSE SCHOOLS IS BEECHER SCHOOL. GREG BARNES IS A HILLHOUSE STUDENT AND ONE OF THE KIDS WHO ATTEND THE PROGRAM AT BEECHER.
GREG, TELL US WHAT HAPPENS THERE:
GREG BARNES SPEAKS
WHAT GETS SAID HERE, AND WHAT GETS DONE HERE, MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE FOR PEOPLE. AND NOT JUST FOR KIDS.
3. SENIOR TAX FREEZE
MARGARET WHATLEY IS IN HER LATE 70’s. SHE’S LIVED IN THE SAME HOUSE IN DIXWELL FOR THE PAST 51 YEARS. SHE CAN’T BE HERE TONIGHT, YOU SHE DOESN’T LIKE TO GO OUT AFTER DARK.
BUT THANKS TO THIS BOARD’S VOTE TO ADOPT A SENIOR TAX FREEZE FOR SOME OF THE MOST VULNERABLE MEMBERS OF OUR COMMUNITY, MARGARET SAVED OVER $1,000 LAST YEAR.
IN FACT, TOGETHER WE HELPED 549 SENIORS STAY IN THEIR HOME THROUGH THE PROGRAM – AND THIS YEAR WE WILL HELP EVEN MORE.
THANK YOU TO INA SILVERMAN AND ARLENE DEPINO FOR SPEARHEADING THIS PROGRAM AND TO THE BOARD FOR VOTING FOR IT. WHAT WE DO, MAKES A DIFFERENCE.
4. PUBLIC SAFETY - FIRE
AND SOME OF THE DECISIONS WE MAKE, WE DON’T EVEN REALIZE THEIR IMPORTANCE, UNTIL SOMETHING UNEXPECTED, OR SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS.
DECEMBER 12, 2007 WAS LESS THAN TWO MONTHS AGO – AND IS NOT A DATE THAT MANY OF US WILL FORGET ANYTIME SOON. THAT MORNING, 11 OF THE CITY’S 12 ENGINE COMPANIES BATTLED A THREE ALARM FIRE, THE WORST OF ITS KIND THAT WE’VE SEEN IN NEARLY 30 YEARS, DOWNTOWN.
IT WAS FOUGHT BY NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTERS, CITY EMPLOYEES WHO PUT THEIR LIVES AND THEIR FAMILIES ON THE LINE EVERY TIME THEY STRAP ON THEIR BUNKER GEAR AND BATTLE TO SAVE A LIFE, OR SAVE A STRUCTURE.
ASSISTANT CHIEF RALPH BLACK LED THE FIGHT ON CENTER STREET. CHIEF:
CHIEF BLACK SPEAKS
WHEN WE MAKE BUDGET DECISIONS ABOUT ALLOCATING RESOURCES TO THE FIRE DEPARTMENT, OR THE POLICE DEPARTMENT IT’S MORE THAN JUST NUMBERS ON A SPREADSHEET. IT’S DECISIONS THAT PROTECT THESE MEN AND WOMEN WHEN THEY GO OUT AND PUT THEMSELVES AT RISK FOR OUR FAMILIES.
WHEN WE DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO AUTHORIZE HIRING A NEW CLASS OF RECRUITS, OR TO HOLD PROMOTIONALS FOR THESE DEPARTMENTS, IT’S TOO LEND SUPPORT TO THESE INDIVIDUALS.
AND THEIR ABILITY TO DO THEIR JOB WELL CAN MEAN EVERYTHING TO THE COMMUNITY, TO OUR TAXPAYERS.
JUST ASK ONE OF THEM.
VITO BONNANO HAS OPERATED VITO’S DELICATESSEN ON CENTER STREET SINCE 1974. ASK MR. BONANNO WHAT HE THINKS ABOUT SUPPORTING THESE DEPARTMENTS:
VITO BONNANO SPEAKS
5. PUBLIC SAFETY - POLICE
AND I AM JUST AS PROUD OF, AND IN SUPPORT OF, THE WORK OF THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE NEW HAVEN POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND THEIR CHIEF - CISCO ORTIZ.
CRIME, INCLUDING VIOLENT CRIME, CONTINUES TO FALL IN THE CITY AND THE DEPARTMENT IS A STRONGER PLACE THAN IT WAS A YEAR AGO. THE BACKBONE OF THE DEPARTMENT ARE OUR COMMUNITY PATROL OFFICERS, WORKING IN THE 10 NEIGHBORHOOD DISTRICTS.
OUR LONGEST SERVING DISTRICT MANAGER, AT 12 YEARS, IS LT. RAY HASSETT MANAGER OF DISTRICT 4, DWIGHT-CHAPEL. LIEUTENANT, SAY A WORD:
LT. HASSETT SPEAKS
WHAT ALL OF THESE CITY EMPLOYEES DO, WHAT WE DO, WHAT WE SAY WE WILL DO – IT ALL MATTERS.
AND THAT’S WHY WE ARE HERE IN THIS ROOM TONIGHT.
TO ACT WITH PURPOSE AND DETERMINATION TO MAKE NEW HAVEN A BETTER PLACE.
AND AS NEW HAVEN CONTINUES TO GROW STRONGER, SO TOO WILL THE REGION, AND SO TOO WILL THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT.
LET ME TOUCH ON FOUR AREAS THAT WE OUGHT TO FOCUS ON THIS YEAR.
1. PUBLIC SAFETY - NHPD
FIRST IS PUBLIC SAFETY. THERE IS NO MORE BASIC JOB IN FRONT OF US. AND TODAY, WE ARE HARD AT WORK AT TURNING AN IMPROVING POLICE DEPARTMENT, INTO A GREAT ONE. WORKING TOGETHER WE HAVE:
• RESTORED THE CIVILIAN PERSONNEL CUTS THAT PUT TOO MANY OFFICERS BEHIND DESKS, INSTEAD OF ON THE STREETS;
• WE HIRED 29 NEW OFFICERS IN THE LAST YEAR, AND, WILL HAVE AN ADDITIONAL 45 IN THE ACADEMY IN JUST TWO MONTHS;
• FOR THE FIRST TIME IN DECADES WE HAVE ACTIVE PROMOTIONAL LISTS FOR EVERY RANK IN THE DEPARTMENT; AND
• WE HAVE A CLEAR BLUEPRINT FROM PERF, TO TAKE US, FROM GOOD TO GREAT.
CHIEF ORTIZ HAS GOT US WELL DOWN THAT ROAD. SO LET’S FINISH THE JOB. NOT A QUARTER OF THE JOB. NOT A HALF. ALL OF IT.
• THAT MEANS A SENIOR MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE OF 4 ASSISTANT CHIEFS THAT SUPPORT THE PERSONNEL INVESTMENTS WE HAVE MADE;
• THAT MEANS A REALISTIC SALARY RANGE TO RECRUIT A NEW CHIEF FROM OUTSIDE THE DEPARTMENT; AND
• IT MEANS A NEW CONTRACT WITH LOCAL 530 THAT IS FAIR TO OUR OFFICERS, AND, TO OUR TAXPAYERS.
WE HAVE COME SO FAR AS A COMMUNITY AND A POLICE DEPARTMENT. OUR RESULTS HAVE BEEN TOO IMPRESIVE. AND, WE STILL HAVE SOME ROAD TO TRAVEL – SO LET’S NOT DROP THE BALL NOW. LET’S USE 2008 TO FINISH THE JOB.
2. PRISON RE-ENTRY
AND TO KEEP OUR FAMILIES SAFE – WE NEED TO HAVE THE STATE ACT WITH THE SAME SENSE OF URGENCY ABOUT PRISONER DUMPING IN NEW HAVEN (AND IN HARTFORD AND IN BRIDGEPORT) – AS THEY DID WITH THE CHESHIRE TRAGEDY.
NOTHING SHOULD, OR CAN, DIMINISH THE HORROR OF THE PETIT MURDERS LAST YEAR. AND OUR HEARTS GO OUT TO THE 1,000’S WHO WERE TOUCHED BY THOSE AWFUL DEATHS. BUT WHO CAN UNDERSTAND THAT BETTER THAN OUR FAMILIES?
AND THAT’S BECAUSE THE FACT REMAINS THAT EVERY WEEK, WEEK AFTER WEEK LIKE CLOCKWORK, THE STATE DUMPS 25 PRISONERS ON TO WHALLEY AVENUE, OR AT COLUMBUS HOUSE. DUMPS THEM:
• WITHOUT A PRE-RELEASE PLAN;
• FOR THE MOST PART WITHOUT A JOB OR A PLACE TO LIVE;
• WITHOUT ADEQUATE JUDICIAL SUPERVISION; OR
• TREATMENT FOR THEIR ADDICTIONS.
THIS HAS BEEN, AND IS, A PRESCRIPTION FOR THE INEVITABLE CARNAGE WE WITNESS IN CONNECTICUT’S CITIES. OF THE 12 NON-FATAL AND 1 FATAL SHOOTING TO DATE THIS YEAR – 70% OF THE VICTIMS WERE FELONS.
IT IS LONG PAST TIME FOR THE STATE TO SMARTLY MANAGE THE RE-ENTRY OF PRISONERS INTO CONNECTICUTS NEIGHBORHOODS.
THERE IS NO MORE IMPORTANT JOB FOR US IN 2008 THAN TO WORK WITH OTHER CITIES AND TOWNS, THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND THE GOVERNOR TO DO THIS. THERE CAN BE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR REFORM OF PRISON RE-ENTRY IN THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT, STARTING RIGHT HERE IN NEW HAVEN.
3. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 2008
AND CONNECTICUT MUST CARE ABOUT PUBLIC SAFETY IN NEW HAVEN, BECAUSE WHAT WE DO IN NEW HAVEN EFFECTS THE REST OF CONNECTICUT IN SO MANY WAYS:
• ONE HALF OF THE JOBS IN THE CITY ARE HELD BY PEOPLE WHO LIVE OUTSIDE NEW HAVEN;
• TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE TRAVEL TO OUR CITY EVERY DAY TO EARN A LIVING;
• TO GET BETTER WHEN THEY ARE SICK;
• TO GO TO SCHOOL TO MAKE MORE OF THEMSELVES;
• THEY COME TO NEW HAVEN TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALL THE THINGS THAT A CIVIL SOCIETY HAS TO OFFER.
WE ARE NOT, ANYBODY’S DEPENDENT.
WE ARE THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH THE ECONOMY OF THE REGION, AND THE STATE, WILL RISE OR FALL.
AND THAT FOUNDATION – THE ECONOMIC BASE OF THE CITY – REMAINS STRONG:
• LAST YEAR TAX COLLECTIONS REACHED A HISTORIC HIGH OF 98.6%;
• WE ARE GROWING. I AM PLEASE TO ANNOUNCE TONIGHT THAT THE OCTOBER 2007 GRAND LIST SHOWED A SOLID GROWTH OF 1.7%, BEFORE PHASE IN OF THE LAST PROPERTY REVALUATION;
• COMMERCIAL AND RENTAL OCCUPANCIES IN THE CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT ARE LOW, AND RENTS ARE TRENDING UP; AND
• THE COMBINED CREDIT RATING SCORES OF THE CITY STAND AT THEIR HIGHEST POINT IN OVER A GENERATION.
BUT WE NEED TO DO MORE BECAUSE WE NEED TO GROW MORE. BECAUSE GROWTH EQUALS NEW TAXES.
WE MUST BE AGGRESSIVE ABOUT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN WAYS THAT WE HAVEN’T IN THE PAST.
AND, WE CAN’T MAKE THIS ABOUT DOWNTOWN GROWTH VERSUS NEIGHBORHOOD GROWTH, BECAUSE IN THE END MOST OF THE REVENUE FOR THE CITY BUDGET AND MOST OF THE JOBS FOR CITY RESIDENTS, ARE IN THE DOWNTOWN.
DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT DOES NOT COME AT THE EXPENSE OF THE NEIGHBORHOODS. FOR NEW HAVEN TO BE HEALTHY, WE NEED BOTH.
DOWNTOWN CROSSING AND THE EDCNH
IN THE 1950’S AND THE 1960’S THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WERE PARTNERS IN EFFORTS THAT DESTROYED MUCH OF THE CITY’S COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL BASE. THEY NOW NEED TO BE PARTNERS IN RECLAIMING THE LOST HOUSING AND BUSINESSES ON ROUTE 34, IN THE AREAS AROUND THE MED SCHOOL AND TRAIN STATION. AT LONG WHARF AND AROUND THE HARBOR.
STARTING LAST MONTH AND CONTINUING INTO MARCH, I WILL BE SPEAKING IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS ABOUT A PLAN TO DO JUST THAT.
DOWNTOWN CROSSING REPRESENTS A LAND USE STRATEGY THAT WILL SERVE NEW HAVEN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT WELL INTO THE NEXT DECADE. BUT TO DO THIS, TO GROW THE GRAND LIST AND GENERATE NEW TAXES AND NEW JOBS, WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER, AS NEW HAVEN’S LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS, TO GET THE STATE AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO HELP UNMAKE THE DAMAGE OF THE 1950’S AND 1960’S.
AND, WE WILL HAVE A NEW PARTNER IN THIS EFFORT. LAST WEEK WE ANNOUNCED THE FORMATION OF THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION OF NEW HAVEN. AN PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP THAT WILL FOCUS ON:
• BUSINESS RETENTION;
• A ONE STOP BUSINESS RECRUITMENT CENTER; AND
• MAIN STREET PROGRAMS FOR STREETS LIKE WHALLEY, KIMBERLY AND GRAND AVENUES.
4. BUDGET AND PROPERTY TAXES 2008
BUT, BUT, THE FACT IS THAT THE GRAND LIST AND PROPERTY TAXES, ONLY ACCOUNT FOR 42% OF GENERAL FUND REVENUE. NEARLY ONE HALF THE GRAND LIST IS EXEMPT FROM PROPERTY TAXES, AND STATUTORY AND VOLUNTARY PILOT PROGRAMS DO NOT BEGIN TO MAKE UP FOR THE EXEMPTIONS.
AND RIGHT NOW PILOT REIMBURSEMENT IS BUDGETED TO FALL ONCE AGAIN IN NEXT YEARS STATE BUDGET FROM CURRENT YEAR LEVELS:
• THE COLLEGE AND HOSPITAL PILOT TO 56%, FOR A LOSS OF $1.6 MILLION; AND
• THE STATE PROPERTY PILOT TO 37%, FOR A LOSS OF $200,000.
WE NEED EVERY ELECTED OFFICIAL FROM NEW HAVEN – AND ELECTED OFFICIALS FROM AROUND THE STATE - TO FEEL THE SAME SENSE OF URGENCY ABOUT REFORM OF THE STATE’S TAX STRUCTURE THAT OUR HOMEOWNERS FEEL.
NOW THERE IS NO VOTE THAT CAN BE TAKEN IN THIS ROOM THAT CAN DO THIS. AND NOTHING THAT CAN BE DONE, WILL BE DONE IN A YEAR.
BUT WHAT WE SAY HERE, MATTERS.
NEW HAVEN TAXPAYERS DESERVE JUSTICE IN RETURN FOR THEIR CENTRAL ROLE IN PROVIDING WEALTH, SERVICES AND OPPORTUNITY FOR THE ENTIRE STATE.
THAT CAN ONLY COME WITH:
• FULL FUNDING OF THE PILOTS;
• ADOPTION BY THE STATE OF A CAP, AND REIMBURSEMENT TO THE CITY, ON PROPERTY TAXES THAT ARE MORE THAN 6% OF INCOME; AND
• A SHARING OF SALES TAX RECEIPTS WITH CONNECTICUT’S CITIES AND TOWNS TO PROVIDE A BALANCED REVENUE STRUCTURE.
NOW WE CAN’T VOTE THOSE THINGS HERE – BUT WE CAN AGREE TO FIGHT FOR THOSE THINGS AS A TEAM WITH OTHER ELECTED OFFICIALS FROM AROUND THE STATE. OUR CITY NEEDS THIS BOARD TO TAKE ON THAT FIGHT.
TO DO FOR PEOPLE THE KINDS OF THINGS WE HEARD A FEW MINUTES AGO, THAT THE SENIOR TAX FREEZE, AND YOUTH PROGRAMS AND EXCELLENCE IN PUBLIC SAFETY DID FOR THEM.
WHAT WE SAY AND DO HERE DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. IN BIG AND SMALL WAYS WE SHAPE NOT ONLY THE CITY’S FUTURE, BUT THAT OF THE REGION AND THE STATE - AND I WOULD TELL YOU THAT OF THE NATION AS WELL.
AND NOWHERE WAS THAT BROUGHT HOME TO ME THAN ONE OTHER THING THAT WE DID LAST YEAR, AND IT CONCERNS HOW WE TALK ABOUT, AND WHAT WE THINK ABOUT, EACH OTHER.
I HAD A TRULY PROUD MOMENT IN NEW HAVEN LAST WEEK. I WAS SITTING IN A ROOM WITH RELIGIOUS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS AS THEY PLANNED HOW TO TEACH THEIR CONGREGATIONS ABOUT EACH OTHER. ABOUT ACCEPTANCE AND ABOUT RESPECT.
THERE WERE ABOUT TWO DOZEN PEOPLE THERE. ALL COLORS, ETHNICITIES, FAITHS. THEY ALL CAME TOGETHER IN ONE ROOM AROUND ONE STATEMENT OF VALUES: THAT NEW HAVEN WON’T TOLERATE HATE.
YUSEF WAS THERE, HE CAN TELL YOU.
THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE OUT THERE TRYING TO DIVIDE US. BUT WE ALL SHARE THIS SAME, SMALL CITY. THERE IS NO ROOM FOR DIVISION HERE.
WE NEED TO ORGANIZE AROUND HOW WE’RE THE SAME, INSTEAD OF HOW WE’RE DIFFERENT.
YOU SEE, IN 2007, NEW HAVEN ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING ELSE.
LAST SUMMER I’D WALK INTO CITY HALL AND HAVE TO MAKE MY WAY THROUGH A LINE OF PEOPLE WHO’D BEEN STANDING THERE FOR HOURS AT A TIME. NOW I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT DOZENS, OR EVEN HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE - BUT THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD WHO STOOD IN LINE IN THIS BUILDING, IN OUR CITY HALL ALL DAY, SIMPLY TO SAY THEIR NAMES.
4 INDIVIDUALS IN AUDIENCE WILL HOLD UP CARDS AND SAY THEIR NAMES
THE ELM CITY RESIDENT CARD WAS A SMART DECISION THAT YOU SUPPORTED, AND IT WAS THE RIGHT THING FOR THE FUTURE OF NEW HAVEN.
BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE. THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE TRYING TO INSTILL PREJUDICE IN US. THEY SELL FEAR AND DIVISIVENESS AND THEY HAVE THE AUDACITY OF GOING TO CHURCHES IN OUR COMMUNITY WHERE PEOPLE COME TOGETHER TO EXPRESS LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER, TO HAND OUT HATE LANGUAGE SUCH AS THIS:
HOLD UP LIT
THERE’S NO PLACE FOR THIS IN NEW HAVEN. WE ARE A TOLERANT, ACCEPTING COMMUNITY, BUT WE WILL NEVER TOLERATE GARBAGE SUCH AS THIS.
SO AS WE GO OUT AND FOLLOW OUR AGENDA, LET’S DO IT AS ONE COMMUNITY, WITH MORE SIMILARITIES THAN DIFFERENCES. LET’S STICK TO AN AGENDA THAT SERVES OUR NEEDS AND THAT REJECTS HATEMONGERS. REJECTS THEM YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER.
WE’VE GOT SOME CHALLENGES AND THEY’RE REAL IN TERMS OF:
• VIOLENCE THAT’S TOO HIGH;
• GROWING AN ECONOMIC BASE;
• CREATING POLITICAL RELATIONSHIPS IN HARTFORD; AND
• ACHIEVING RELIEF FOR HARD WORKING FAMILIES.
BUT FUNDAMENTALLY, NEW HAVEN IS STRONG BECAUSE IN THIS CITY WE SEE GREAT WORTH IN EACH OTHER AS WE ASPIRE TO FULFILL EVERY POSSIBILITY GOD HAS CREATED FOR US.
AND ANY CITY SUCH AS THAT – WELL SUCH A CITY IS:
‘THE SALT OF THE EARTH,
A LIGHT OF THE WORLD,
A CITY SET ON A MOUNTAIN THAT CANNOT BE HIDDEN,
IT IS SET ON A LAMP STAND, WHERE IT GIVES LIGHT TO ALL IN THE HOUSE
A LIGHT SHINING BEFORE ALL OTHERS , THAT THEY MAY SEE YOUR GOOD DEEDS.’
THAT IS OUR CITY. AND I REALLY WOULDN’T TRADE IT FOR ANY IN THE WORLD.
GOD BLESS YOU AND GOOD NIGHT.
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