State Of The City = “Engaged”

Paul Bass PhotoMarkeshia Ricks PhotoIn an annual “State of the City” address, Mayor Toni Harp called New Haven “a city on the rise” where people work together—and will continue to.

“There is evidence in all corners of the city to support these assertions,” she said in the address, delivered at the beginning of Tuesday night’s Board of Alders meeting at City Hall. (The address was signed for the hearing-impaired, pictured.)

The evidence she pointed to included the city’s building on community-based policing to launch Youth Stat, a collaboration of the city’s Youth Services Department, New Haven Public Schools, and youth-focused community groups and state agencies to identify at-risk youth.

She also pointed to the city’s community canvassing initiative, which makes programs and services available door-to-door, as part of that evidence—evidence that recently received a shout out from President Obama.

“The truth is, our entire community rallied this year in what I call peaceful retaliation against urban violence, and the results are undeniably positive,” she said.

In the address, Harp also laid out new education and economic-development goals, including a 50 percent reading-proficiency target for public-school students.

Click here to read the full address.

Harp noted that reported crime dropped 14.5 percent in 2014. “These numbers continue a trend that began in 2011,” she said. “I believe much of this is attributable to being fully engaged as a community; all of us working together to create a better New Haven.”

“Engagement” was her theme.

The mayor said evidence of the city’s rising status could be found in its commitment to maintaining and preserving its infrastructure. From bridge projects such as those at East Rock Road and State Street nearing an end to drainage improvements along Morris Causeway and storm damage repairs at Lighthouse Point Park, the city is “fully engaged” in seeing crucial projects completed, she said.

She also said that the city showed its “engagement” through revamped and well executed emergency response capabilities, which have been battle tested in recent weeks’ snow storms.

Harp argued that the state and nation are watching New Haven because of the way it has “fully engaged” as a community to curb urban violence, to be at the forefront of initiatives such as pushing for broadband Internet access in the state and its stance on immigration reform.

Looking Ahead

Harp said her administration is not content to rest on its laurels.

On Schools and Literacy:

Harp announced plans to make New Haven “The City That Reads.” Her goal is for 50 percent of New Haven Public Schools students to read at or above grade level. “To read is to open up the world of learning and imagination and possibility,” she said. “I’m committed to doing that for New Haven’s young people.”

On Jobs and Economic Development:

To help the people who study in New Haven and want to stay and create jobs as entrepreneurs and small business operators, Harp touted the launch of a Web-based funding clearinghouse, to help people “match new ideas with the capital needed to bring them to life.” She said she is looking for help from local businesses to address the 22 percent of people in the city who report being under- or unemployed.

On Public Safety:

Harp said improvements to the city’s information-technology infrastructure, particularly for the fire department, are coming. “New software, expected to be operational by the end of February, will improve the timeliness of mandatory inspection reports and filings with the state,” she said. “You might recall the city had fallen behind in terms of that accountability. We are fully engaged in correcting that.”

View From Alders

Yale Alder Sarah Eidelson said she was glad to hear the mayor focus on what the city, the Board of Alders, is doing to reduce youth violence. Annex Alder Al Paolillo said Harp’s speech hit all the important points from economic development and education to public safety. “I think she did a good job of laying the case out where we are going,” he said.

Newhallville Alder Delphine Clyburn (at right in photo) said she too was happy to hear the mayor talk about the need to bring more jobs to the city, but she’d hoped to hear the mayor mention the Q House. “I would love to know the status of that,” she said.

Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison (at left in photo) had a similar question; she said she wanted to hear more about programs specifically aimed at young people. “We heard a lot about programs for the youth from the safety/criminal justice side, as opposed to the positive program side,” she said. “I love the police. However, we can’t always look at kids from a police standpoint.”

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posted by: robn on February 4, 2015  8:38am

Instead of drafting a love letter to the mayor, this reporter might have actually fact checked the contents of her speech; because that’s what journalists do.

posted by: Sean on February 4, 2015  9:05am

I am disappointed to not see anything more than pie-in-the-sky initiatives on jobs/economic development.

Really - the plan to address unemployment is “looking for help from local businesses to address the 22 percent of people in the city who report being under- or unemployed.”  We just need to ask businesses to employ more people? 

How about doing something so people with jobs and incomes aren’t incentivized to relocate to neighboring towns/suburbs? Or doing things so people with jobs who move here don’t end up choosing the Branfords and East Havens because of taxes and school system?

posted by: westville man on February 4, 2015  10:00am

Let’s face it- with Yale U, hospitals, religious groups and schools,  half of our grand list is tax exempt.  PILOT is a joke so the rest of us have make up for it.
To put it bluntly, we’re screwed. Some of us will cry ‘uncle’ soon and leave the city.

posted by: wendy1 on February 4, 2015  11:14am

Right on, Sean.

I am grateful for all improvements and benefits BUT we need to address the homeless problem here since New Haven is the state catch basin for homeless folk.  We do provide free food and clothing but our shelters are inadequate.

Last week I spoke publicly to the Community Services Committee at city hall and presented them with a list of viable and available buildings to provide SRO type housing for men and women currently stuck outdoors.  Is anyone listening??  NHI was not there.

Last year I approached the local uber-rich including Rosa DeLauro to help with the project.  All said NO.

posted by: ILivehere on February 4, 2015  11:40am

Sean and Westville man are correct but unless we can get a massive fix for pilot I don’t know what anyone could do. Our schools are awful and our taxes are double the burbs. Unless you have 40k a year for private school if you value your kids education you have to leave New Haven to have a family. Its sad but I don’t see a fix no matter who is running the show.

posted by: lookin in on February 4, 2015  12:12pm

No mention of Chief Esserman? And his buyyling ways? Seems to contradict Mayor Harps agenda! Get him out…

posted by: wendy1 on February 4, 2015  1:45pm

Yes we are screwed tax-wise while the rich get richer.  The city could force the issue with Yale and others but wont step on those toes helping to keep the current hacks and pols in office in better paying jobs than yours.

Read Hand To Mouth by Tirado and The Five Stages of Collapse by Orlov.  The entire country is in the middle of financial collapse and the rich are playing the violin.  Stock up on matches and water and consider homeschooling.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 4, 2015  4:07pm

Newhallville Alder Delphine Clyburn (at right in photo) said she too was happy to hear the mayor talk about the need to bring more jobs to the city, but she’d hoped to hear the mayor mention the Q House. “I would love to know the status of that,” she said.

Here is the answer.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on February 4, 2015  6:16pm

New Haven is so close. The main issue is violent crime. It has put a terrible curve into effective education, with kids having to fear for their lives almost every day they attend school. Learning was never meant to be done in an environment that has to deal with gun violence and murder as a factor in the emotional and educational development of any of the students. Those that do make it to school have a variety of behavioral problems, not their fault, not of their making, but effecting the environment of all their peers. Resources have to be used for educational tasks that would not exist, for not the chronic and unjustified violence in New Haven. Financial development would also improve without these statistics of murder and shootings. Those that have committed to New Haven in the past two decades would finally be rewarded by the increase in value of their real estate and business, if the violence could be stopped. The draw, which will never leave New Haven is Yale itself. The shame is that the Yale planners from the school of Business and Management see the up side of the violence. It causes a vast depreciation in properties that are adjacent to their campus and holdings at this time. It then allows for cheaper values, and easier purchase by Yale to expand their real estate holdings in New Haven. If it was not for this perversion of economics, and attitude that the lives of the poor, or non-Yale citizens, have less value, or no value, compared to that of a Yale student, Alumni, Staff, Managerial employee, or Directors, this violence would have been successfully eliminated decades ago. But Yale would have had to pay more for all their real estate purchases. Could they have afforded this? Yes, but their money has more value, than the lives and homes of regular residents of New Haven.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 4, 2015  7:55pm

Rock A Bye Baby Notes:

1. This was a carefully scripted speech of very little but baby pablum and lullabies. All is good.

2. The budget was mentioned twice, but neither time was there straight talk about financial challenges, the current multi-million deficit or a frank description of how last year’s deficit was paid for with borrowed money and hinky accounting standards. Nor did she mention another round of tax increases.

3. She trumpeted a lot more cops and firemen - two departments that are sucking taxpayers dry with their lawsuits, endless crying about hiring and management issues and mammoth amounts of overtime.

4. On education, Ms. Harp applauded higher graduation rates and fewer expulsions. Refusing to expel students who should be has turned classrooms into nightmares for the rest of the kids and made teachers more like babysitters just to keep expulsion rates down. What’s the quality of those graduation rates? Can those kids read and write? Has the demand for remedial assistance in college improved? If it hasn’t, those graduation rates mean nothing.

5. More importantly, Ms. Harp set a goal of having just 50% of our children reading at grade level or higher. 50%. By any standard, that’s an “F.” How can the mayor have a goal of “F?”

I’m sure the lyricist who crafted this endless stream of Kumbaya - I can almost hear the tune wafting from City Hall from my house - is fond of it. But it sure would have been nice to have a dose of reality too. At least if were going to get rolled, it’d be nice to know it’s coming.