MAYOR’S INAURGURATION MESSAGE CALLS FOR CONTINUED, VIGOROUS GOVERNANCE & INCREASED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
(1/1/2008) Prison Re-entry, Solutions to Sub Prime Mortgage Crisis & Education on Forefront of 2008 Agenda
NEW HAVEN- In his 8th consecutive inaugural message, Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. addressed community leaders, residents and local as well as state elected officials with a message of optimism, continued development of the City and the creation of new, positive opportunities for residents. “Today, let us pledge to reject half measures and to practice a politics and governance of progressive optimism and activism,” said DeStefano. “Let us go forth to the struggle, to be the light to the world. The city set on a mountain that cannot be hidden, a city of compassion and shared sacrifice, that, through the justness or our purpose and the goodness of our works, gives light to all in the house. Because, it is time to improve New Haven – Again!”
“Improving New Haven. Again.” the theme of the inaugural event, was featured in large bright letters in a banner hanging over the stage at Beecher School as the Mayor spoke of community concerns, challenges and struggles to overcome.
“This is, of course, not my first time at this podium. And over the years since that first time, there is much that we as a community can acknowledge with real satisfaction:
•Reductions in crime;
•Cuts in the high school drop out rate;
•Rising test scores and increasing numbers of our kids in pre-kindergarten programs – and - going on to earn a college degree;
•New schools. So far 24 new 21st century schools, just like beecher, providing the very best environment for learning for our children;
•A resurgent downtown and job base;
•A dramatic drop in vacant buildings;
•A property tax freeze for our seniors;
•And, a truly welcoming community for all our residents.
All that said, here at the beginning of a new year, there are a number of concerns that we must take into account:
•First, the national sub-prime mortgage mess is here. Owner occupied residential foreclosure filings in New Haven are rising. An 80% increase in 2007, over 2006;
•Second, while both total and violent crime is down and to its lowest levels in decades, shootings were up in 2007 – and - the incredibly casual use of guns are devastating too many families.
At the same time, we have some real problems in the police department;
•And, finally, property tax increases are causing real anxiety and struggle for the city’s very fragile homeowner base.
For so long, so many things have been getting better here in New Haven. Yet when we consider some of the challenges we will be facing in 2008, it’s enough to question whether it isn’t time to slow down: To act more prudently and less aggressively as a city, and as a government.”
DeStefano went on to discuss what New Haven was like 40 years ago when another Mayor was taking his oath for the 8th time as well. DeStefano spoke of a City paralyzed by Civil Rights riots and a community fearful of moving too fast, afraid of change. DeStefano suggested that instead of hold back, as the City did 40 years ago when times were tense, the City should, in 2008, take advantage of built-up momentum and move forward to achieve more, to reject keeping to the status quo.
“And the message delivered on that New Year’s Day in 1968 no longer spoke to the accomplishments of the preceding years or the possibilities of the future. Rather it spoke to the anxieties and fears of the time. And because the prevailing attitude had turned from one of progressive politics and optimism, from what is possible and that embraced the future:
•To the fears of the moment,
•To the comfort of not risking change,
•To a politics of conservatism and a governance of caution, of the status quo,
What followed was stagnation and discouragement. The city stopped investing, rejected innovation and New Haven became less than it could have been.
That was not a good choice for new haven in 1968. And it cannot be our choice in 2008.
In fact, it is with full awareness of the challenges that we face, that I tell you categorically that it is time to do more – not less— and to not settle for the status quo.
It is especially because of the concerns about the economy and property taxes that:
•Our initiatives must be as sweeping as our city’s $1.5 billion school reconstruction program;
•As methodical and determined as our rebuilding of housing and the downtown one building, one unit, at a time;
•And, as inclusive as our Elm City Resident Card Program.
To choose half measures, to hesitate, or to lower our expectations is to give in and to settle for less.”
The Board of Aldermen and City Clerk Ron Smith were also sworn-in at today’s inauguration.
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