Former Mayor Frank Logue, a transitional figure in 20th century New Haven politics, died Friday morning at the age of 86.
Logue served two two-year terms as the city’s chief executive. He won the office in the 1975 election, defeating incumbent Democratic Mayor Bart Guida in a party primary. Logue ran as the standard bearer of liberal reformers looking to topple the party machine overseen by Guida’s patron, the late party Chairman Arthur Barbieri. It was a heady campaign; key workers included future Congresswoman, Rosa DeLauro; presidential adviser, Stan Greenberg; and state judge, Thayer Baldwin.
Once in office, Logue had the luck of presiding over the city during a period of national urban decline. Employers, retailers, and middle-class families finished a suburban exodus from New Haven that began during the heady “Model City” urban renewal period that saw a record amount of federal and foundation dollars pour into the city, only to leave it poorer. In the late 1970s, much of downtown was boarded up and a general malaise had settled over the city.
Logue was an early advocate of historic preservation, an antidote to the destruction of so much of the city’s landscape during urban renewal. Logue also believed the arts could help revitalize the city. He came up with the original idea of reviving the Shubert theater as part of a downtown arts renaissance, an idea his successor put into action along with an emphasis on preservation. Logue started the process of reviving downtown with the rehabilitation of the old Taft Hotel.
Logue also helped push the state to create the PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) program for cities.
His term—and his appointees to the city’s police commission—enabled some historical reckoning to take place. A previously hidden scandal came to light: a massive illegal wiretapping operation that violated the legal rights of thousands of New Haveners during the 1950s and 1960s. Logue’s commission held hearings into the matter; an ultimately successful class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the victims.
That episode also helped prove Logue’s political undoing. The scandal led to the resignation of the police chief, Biagio DiLieto. DiLieto’s supporters—including a base on the East Shore sympathetic to police for using surveillance against African-Americans and radical activists—helped DiLieto defeat Logue in a 1979 mayoral primary. (DiLieto was helped by the decision of a third prominent Democrat, Hank Parker, to run, too; Parker and Logue split the liberal and African-American vote.)
Logue remained an active civic presence in New Haven; his ex-mayoralty resembled the celebrated ex-presidency of another good-government Democrat driven from office by a supply-side conservative during the malaise of the ‘70s, Jimmy Carter. Logue volunteered long hours for the public library and other organizations. He remained a part of efforts he advocated as mayor, including the Shubert revival. He served on the boards of organizations like Elm Shakespeare Company. He continued contributing to the future development of cities as a consultant for national foundations, including Ford—where, before he became mayor, he directed a National Urban Fellows program to help women and minorities advance in government.
Logue originally came to New Haven to attend Yale and then Yale Law School.
In a statement Friday, current Mayor John DeStefano called Logue “ a true post-urban renewal mayor. While Frank was not born in New Haven, few cared and have done as much for this city as Frank has.”
“He loved the city of New Haven and felt blessed to be able to pursue his passions for justice, art, education, and civic well-being as a citizen as well as in his role as a leader. His idealism and commitment to public service inspired many, multiplying his contributions to city and country,” daughter Nancy Logue was quoted as saying in the same release.
“Frank Logue,” said New Haven State Rep. Pat Dillon, who got her start in local politics during the Logue era, “loved New Haven deeply, contributed much beyond his term as mayor, and mentored a new generation of leaders. He created the political space for many of us to participate in political life. Many of us have gone on to other positions, and our friendships were forged in those days. His legacy is varied and includes the PILOT program and the first outdoor Holocaust Memorial in the country.”
John C. Daniels is now the only surviving former New Haven mayor.
Logue’s funeral service will be private.