Choosing Sally’s over Pepe’s was not the only thing Mayor of New Haven John DeStefano told Jerry Dunklee’s Political Reporting class last week. He described what his duties are as mayor, in three points.
“I do things, I regulate things and I help the community think about what they want to be like in the future,” said DeStefano, who has been the mayor of New Haven for 16 years.
After two years of convincing Yale, New Haven’s largest tax payer, to become involved in the New Haven Promise, it was announced last week that the promise is ready to begin.
According to DeStefano, there are 20,000 public school students in New Haven and 2,000 charter school students. The New Haven Promise has been designed to help 211 students go to college when they graduate high school.
“There are so many kids who are growing up without expectations (to graduate),” DeStefano said, adding that there is a 38 percent dropout rate in New Haven schools. “This will hopefully give kids aspirations. As long as they get good grades and maintain the required grade point average, they are eligible.”
He did say that students who have been attending New Haven schools for four years of high school are eligible.
Yale has made a commitment of $4 million a year for the next four years.
DeStefano also explained to the class the difference between electioneering and politicing.
“Electioneering is when an individual decides whether they want ‘this choice or that choice,’” he said. “Politicing is getting people to talk about what is important to them; giving them something to be for or something to be against. Good politics is respecting one another.”
DeStefano ran against Governor M. Jodi Rell for governor in 2006 and lost. He said the good thing about running for offices is that “one day you are the opponent and the next day you are a good ally.”
“Politics is no different than life, always be open to opportunities.”
DeStefano said he maintains balance in his life. He said he tries to go to the gym for an hour and a half every day and also tries to take his wife out to dinner every Friday night.
“I focus on things that need to get done today, and things that need to get done three to four years from now.”
DeStefano also addressed the issues that arise in downtown New Haven every Thursday night. He said that downtown is so important to New Haven because there are a lot of jobs downtown; most of the money for the budget comes from downtown and 12,000 people live downtown.
“We are having a problem right now,” he said. “There are a lot of different people in New Haven who come
together. A lot of different crowds. It is not the people we are having problems with, it is the behaviors.”
He said the city is spending a lot of money on overtime for cops to patrol downtown.
“We need to distinguish what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.”
Students in the class addressed how they are sometimes detered from going downtown because of fears or not knowing what is going to happen.
DeStefano said since the Cheshire home invasion in July 2007, there have been 60 homicides and 500 shootings in the city of New Haven.
In addition to describing his job and the various projects he is working on to better the city of New Haven, DeStefano said he got involved in politics because he likes to get to know people and connect with them. He said he worked for the city for 10 years and said public service is the best way to connect with people.
“I am interested in people. I am curious about them.”