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Toni Harp Sworn In As New Haven’s 50th Mayor

by Paul Bass | Jan 1, 2014 5:34 pm

(10) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Black History, City Hall

History was made, not studied, at Career High School Wednesday as New Haven’s first female, and first female African-American, mayor took the oath of office.

Toni Harp took that oath toward the end of a two-hour, 20-minute ceremony in the auditorium at Career High, a school her late husband, architect Wendell Harp, designed.

New Haveners from all walks of life filled the hall’s 700-plus seats and lined up against all available wall space for the event, New Haven’s first transfer of mayoral power in two decades.

Harp placed her hand on a bible held by her three children, Matthew, Jamil, and Djana. “I, Toni Nathaniel Harp, solemnly swear that I will faithfully and impartially perform the duties of the office of mayor to the best of my ability and according to law, and that I will at all times strive to use the power entrusted to me as such officer for the best interest of the City of New Haven, so help me God,” she declared. Retired state Supreme Court Justice Lubbie Harper, Jr., an old hand at swearing in New Haven mayors at Career High School, administered the oath.

She thus became the city’s 50th mayor.

Paul Bass Photo In subsequent remarks, Harp promised to seek to retain and lure new companies to New Haven to hire local people, rebuild the Dixwell “Q” House and defunct Latino Youth Development agency, bring healthful food to New Haven’s “food deserts.” part of her speech took the form of an economic development pitch, focusing on New Haven’s strategic location and academic strengths as a lure to employers.

She also made a point of singling out Chief Dean Esserman and her support for community policing, a policy she helped bring to New Haven as an alderwoman in the early 1990s

“I am delighted to report my administration will feature continuity at the highest levels of our police department. This is important because the chief and I share an ideology that puts crime prevention on equal footing with law enforcement,” Harp said. “Each of us enthusiastically embraces the concept of community policing, in which cops on the beat get to know neighborhoods and families on a personal basis, develop an ability to help residents as needed, and improve their outlook and prospects if necessary.

“I have an idea about those who wind up on the wrong side of the law that, ‘there, but for the grace of a loving parent, inspiring teacher, caring member of the clergy, or someone else who got involved, could be virtually any one of us. No first grade student, when asked what he or she wants to be when grown-up, answers ‘embezzler,’ ‘drug dealer,’ or ‘murderer.’ I’m confident that the vast majority of those who commit crimes do so from desperation, not as a career destination. Each of these people has a story; no matter how heinous or deplorable a crime might be, it’s the behavior that’s reprehensible – even abhorrent – and rarely the perpetrator.”

Click here to read Harp’s full remarks, which included praise for her two predecessors, John DeStefano and John Daniels.

The bulk of the ceremony Wednesday consisted of extended prayers by representatives of New Haven’s four major religious faiths; musical performances by groups ranging from the Unity Boys Choir to Music Haven to Lisa Fluker (pictured) ...

... the swearing in of a new Board of Aldermen, as well as City/Town Clerk Michael Smart ...

... and remarks by a stream of top Connecticut elected officials. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who begins a tough reelection year, made a campaign pitch to the crowd without technically mentioning the campaign. New Haven Democrats provided his margin of victory in the last election; he has already begun actively courting them for his reelection drive. Wednesday he spoke of how “Democratic leadership”—i.e., including him and Toni Harp, a powerful state senator for the past 21 years and New Haven state Sen. Martin Looney—delivered a 45- cent-per-hour minimum wage hike that took effect Wednesday and an expanded earned income tax credit for the working poor. “What we’ve accomplished together in this state is quite remarkable,” he said. He spoke of continuing to work together to “bring New Haven to the next level” by supporting development plans for the old Coliseum site and the train station, as well as school reform and crime reduction.

“Toni Harp didn’t need to make this run [for mayor] ... but she knew her city needed her,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a former state legislator who credited her as his teacher when she served as “the conscience of the Senate.”

“You can hear that glass ceiling crashing down!” declared U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

Clerical speakers included Pastor James Newman, Imam Abdul Hannan, Father James Manship, and Rev. Abraham Hernandez, who addressed the crowd twice from the lectern. Pastor Todd Foster invoked the Book of Esther. “Not unlike” that biblical queen, Toni Harp found the “right time” to enter “the palace” in order to “achieve her purpose,” Foster said. Rabbi Joshua Ratner invoked a different biblical leader, Deborah, the Israelites’ first female leader. She “led her people from a time of deep unrest and uncertainty to prosperity,” Ratner said—suggesting Harp could do the same.

First, though, Harp may already have a sizable snow storm to address on her second day of office.

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posted by: anonymous on January 1, 2014  5:46pm

Thank you to Mayor Harp for talking about the need for local jobs.  In the debates, she indicated that she would have stood up to the Board of Alders’s shortsighted, job-killing policies, including throwing away free State & Federal money, scrapping development projects on State until the number of parking spaces were doubled, and selling off critical downtown public spaces to Yale for eternity. Hopefully Harp will keep her word and will be able to keep the Alders in check.

How many of Harp’s new hires actually live in New Haven, though?  That will be a key metric of exactly how committed Harp is to finding jobs for local residents.

Congrats to all those inaugurated, and for the great ceremony.

posted by: Threefifths on January 1, 2014  6:00pm

Let Tammany hall begain.

Pastor Todd Foster invoked the Book Esther. “Not unlike” that biblical Queen, Toni Harp found the “right time” to enter “the palace” in order to “achieve her purpose,” Foster said. Rabbi Joshua Ratner invoked a different biblical Queen, Deborah, the Israelites’ first female leader. She “led her people from a time of deep unrest and uncertainty to prosperity,” Ratner said—suggesting Harp could do the same.

Christ to went into the temple with a lash and a krout and whipped the oppressors of the poor, routed them out of the doors He told the robbed and misruled and exploited and driven people to disobey their plunderers, he denounced the profiteers.The palace will be city hall load it with profiteers and oppressors.Nothing will change.

posted by: robn on January 2, 2014  9:44am

Whatever. If Mayor H lowers our taxes, at the next inauguration I’ll do a duet of Aretha Franklins “Respect” with the ghost of Mother Theresa.

posted by: Ozzie on January 2, 2014  10:09am

Esserman to Malloy so Dan is that state Police job still open ?

posted by: wendy1 on January 2, 2014  10:27am

Lucky for this bunch I wasn’t there.

I would have yelled at Pete Salovey and asked Rick Blumenthal what he planned to do with his personal 86 million dollars.  We need some of it here.

If the new regime raises our taxes again, we should revolt.  Let’s see what happens and judge them mightily.

posted by: InformedOpinion123 on January 2, 2014  10:34am

Sad day for New Haven…. People are so busy talking about history being made that they remain completely blind to the fact that Harp is already paying back favors - Keitazulu got a job, Bartlett gets a job, even Jackie James gets a job. Everybody gets a job!!! (as long as you helped with her campaign.) And it seems that the tax issue continues to be swept under the rug. Ugh!

posted by: Captain Harlock on January 2, 2014  11:11am

Does anyone really expect anything to change? As The Who once said; Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on January 2, 2014  12:27pm

One would think that starting a new year with a new mayor would engender some degree of optimism among New Haveners. However this is not the case with certain NHI commenters who are so prone to be negative towards Toni Harp.
I attended the mayoral inauguration. It represented the diversity and potential unity of New Haven. Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Muslims, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and Asians, young people, senior citizens, middle-aged, middle class, upper class, working class all joined together to wish well the new chief executive of the city of New Haven.
Most of us in New Haven have high hopes and expectations for and from the Toni Harp administration.
From some of the comments made about some of Mayor Harp’s political appointments one would think that she invented the spoils system of American political appointments.
“To the victor belongs the spoils” is a centuries old American political tradition. Politicians appoint to government positions people they know, trust,and respect. People with whom they have worked and in whom they have confidence to do the job well. And yes,people who have supported them politically. Most presidents, governors and mayors have done this. Mayor Harp is no different in this regard.
A few, like Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama, may assemble a team of rivals to help run the government. To a degree Mayor Harp has done this. But this has not been common practice.
Let the mayor assemble her team and judge her administration by the results accomplished or not accomplished. But give her a chance, a fair chance, before you begin to judge. Political prognosticators of gloom and doom should allow Mayor Harp the opportunity to lead before they follow the example of cynical Republican haters-of-Obama who have unpatriotically sung their tune: “I hope he fails.”
We don’t have time for such nonsense in New Haven!
This New Havener hopes that Toni Harp succeeds well. Her success as mayor is our success as a community. Never forget that!

posted by: Razzie on January 2, 2014  1:35pm

Congratulations to Mayor Harp, and to all those who supported and believed in her. It is clear to me that she will follow a path of inclusion which she made a centerpiece of her campaign. Everyone with something to contribute will be welcomed at her administration. Those who wish to continue their hate-filled dialogues are of course free to do so. But the work of governing and moving New Haven forward will go on without pause or distraction. Peace and Joy in the coming New Year!

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on January 2, 2014  3:53pm

It was a beautiful ceremony that was very inclusive. I am particularly impressed by the involvement of young people during the festivities.

As for the naysayers, what political planet do you live on? Did you expect Harp to appoint someone from Carolinas camp as her Community Services Deputy or perhaps Elicker as the economic development admin? Every politician chooses from among those who have shown loyalty and expertise.  Please let’s not offer some naive view that Fernandez, Elicker, or any other contender wouldn’t have done the same. It’s OK to denounce the process but save the fake outrage

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