Build two new vo-tech schools. Bring back Petisia Adger as police chief. Install Jorge Perez as superintendent of schools.
Those were a few ideas Sundiata Keitazulu floated Monday as the lesser-known mayoral candidate unveiled his vision for New Haven.
Keitazulu, a Newhallville plumber, is one of three people who have filed as official candidates in the race to replace outgoing Mayor John DeStefano in January; state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield and Alderman Justin Elicker have filed as well and begun amassing money and campaign organizations.
Keitazulu shared his vision in an interview with the Independent Monday afternoon at Dixwell’s Stetson Library branch, just a couple of hours before DeStefano’s annual State of the City speech. (He had announced a campaign event at the library; no other reporters showed.)
The 56-year-old candidate said he would focus on helping the inner city, not just downtown. His plans include:
• Create two new vocational-technical schools serving a total of 1,000 students by day and 1,000 adults by night with job-training programs. The schools would teach New Haveners plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, nursing, computers, how to drive a tractor trailer, accounting, and construction. “If we produce a mass skilled workforce, we can come out of poverty,” Keitazulu said. He said the city needs to launch a broader effort than the vo-tech school planned for Gateway Community College’s abandoned Long Wharf campus.
• Hire Petisia Adger, a former assistant police chief who retired when Chief Dean Esserman came into town, as the city’s police chief. Adger is well-respected in the inner city, Keitazulu said.
• Hire a new schools superintendent after Reginald Mayo retires. Asked if he has a candidate in mind, Keitazulu named Jorge Perez, a banker who currently serves as president of the Board of Aldermen. “You don’t have to have an educational background” to be a successful superintendent, Keitazulu said. Reached later, Perez declined the offer. “I appreciate the vote of confidence,” Perez said, “but I don’t foresee superintendent of schools being in my future.” (Perez is weighing whether to run for mayor himself.)
• Require that half of city government jobs go to New Haven residents.
• Bring back the Dixwell Community “Q” House and create five new teen centers in the city with a focus on education. Hire teenagers in a “teen safety patrol” to help police after school.
• Hire kids and adults trained at city vo-tech schools to build new houses on vacant city property, then sell those properties to homeowners to put them on the tax rolls.
• Lower taxes. Accomplish this with the revenue created by the vacant lot conversion.
Keitazulu was the first person to announce his candidacy this election season. Click on the play arrow to watch a previous interview. He said his sister, Carlet Garvin, will serve as his campaign manager. His daughter, Johnisha Keitazulu, is also helping out. Keitazulu said he plans to seek public financing. So far, fundraising “is not going really good,” he said. Before donating, he said, “people want to know if you are really running.”
Keitazulu said he is really running. And he aims to put poverty at the center of the discussion during what is sure to be a busy campaign season.
“The poverty issue has not been addressed,” he said. “Nobody’s talking about it.”