Thursday, January 2, 2014

Toni Harp's Inaugural Address

This is a partial version of her speech, with remarks by Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in addition to Toni Harp's swearing in ceremony and inaugural address. You can read the entire speech, as well:

NEW HAVEN, CT  06515

Good afternoon, everybody. Happy New Year.

Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, Representative DeLauro, Governor Malloy, Lieutenant Governor Wyman, other Constitutional officers, members of the New Haven Legislative delegation, other members of the General Assembly, Members of the Board of Aldermen, other distinguished New Haven residents, honored guests, friends, neighbors, and to be sure: Djana, Jamil, and Matthew.

Thank you for joining me here today for a time-honored ceremony that is a New Haven tradition. This event brings to a close a truly remarkable year in our city. Far too often we take for granted the extraordinary, months-long process leading up to this moment: the scheduled, thoughtful, and non-violent manner in which our government transfers authority – and responsibility – to a new administration for stewardship of the city going forward.

On a more personal note, thank you for joining me here today at the Hill Regional Career High School – a beautiful building by any standard, if no one minds me saying so. This school has special meaning for our family. The building was designed by my late husband, Wendell Harp, and I chose this location for today’s event in his memory.

I would also like to acknowledge the women who did such an extraordinary job organizing today’s ceremony: Karen Dubois Walton, Barbara Segaloff, and Patty Lawlor – and each of their committee members. Their efforts prove once again that working collaboratively yields results greater than the sum of their parts.

The electoral process here in New Haven prompted the participation of thousands of residents – many for the first time – with robust ideas and great passion for our city. I am grateful for the enthusiastic involvement of so many residents and welcome their continuing engagement – it is my intention to consider ideas and harvest passion for our city from all corners of our community in the term ahead.

Before we move forward, however, I want to first acknowledge the many accomplishments of the previous administration, and I think it is entirely appropriate to pay tribute to our mayor for the past 20 years, John DeStefano, Jr.

Any new administration at every level of government stands on the shoulders of the previous administration and works to build on its accomplishments. With that in mind I want to personally extend my thanks for your commitment, steadfast dedication, and achievements over the past ten terms.

In similar fashion, now looking ahead, I want to acknowledge all members of the new Board of Alders and our city clerk. I congratulate you and salute your willingness to help move New Haven forward in that capacity. There can be no weak link in the chain of responsibility extending to each and every city resident; each of you Alders is that link to residents in your ward. I am glad to have fallen in step with you for this next term; I look forward to working with you to the benefit of our city and its people.

I am struck, as many others seem to be, by the manner in which circumstance presents itself at this crossroads in our city’s history. Yes, we now have our first new mayor in 20 years; yes, last year Yale inaugurated its first new president in 20 years, and yes, there’s a new superintendent at New Haven Public Schools for the first time in 20 years.

And yes, last year the city celebrated 375 years since its founding, and I now happen to be our city’s 50th mayor. With all credit to the voters in our city for their selection, I also happen to be the first woman in New Haven elected to serve in this position.

And while we’re citing statistics, I also happen to be just the second African-American mayor of New Haven. In that regard, we all stand on the shoulders of John Daniels, the first person of color to serve in this office, now a generation ago.

But I will tell you today, with all due respect for New Haven’s extraordinary history, and with a nod to our city’s notable place in American history, I am more excited about New Haven and its prospects for the next two years. This term ahead represents New Haven’s unwritten history – none of us has ever been here before and our collective potential is positively inspiring.

You know that admonition to campers and pioneers that they should leave only footprints after they blaze new trails? Well I don’t necessarily buy it for us in New Haven. We are going to make an impression in the very near future. We are going to make an impression on city residents, on those in surrounding communities, we’re going to get their attention in Hartford and across Connecticut, and we’re going to make an impression far beyond that.

That’s why I’m excited to see you here today and that’s why I’m glad we’re together for this historic event.

With that in mind, I would also like to characterize this afternoon’s proceedings as something of a dedication ceremony. As your new mayor, I am dedicated to the best and brightest future for New Haven – as mayor, I am dedicated to achieving that in policy areas that are distinct, yet inseparably related.


It’s no secret that the best and brightest future for New Haven rests on its economy, the ability of residents to find jobs and the availability of conscientious employees for employers. New Haven’s prospects are positively dazzling – I won’t rest in my efforts to broadcast the compelling story of our city’s economic resurgence. New Haven boasts extraordinary projects already complete and others underway. These invite still more ideas, innovation, and investment as we move New Haven forward.

Foremost on a long list of impressive facts about our city, consider this: within 500 miles of New Haven – in other words, accessible in a day or two – businesses have at their fingertips fully one-third of the U.S. economy and two-thirds of the Canadian economy. Proximity to that accumulation of capital readily translates into bright prospects for economic prosperity. Other export markets are also readily obtainable by air and through our city’s enviable, deep-water port.

Complementing New Haven’s strategic and marketable location is its talented workforce. Local colleges and universities continuously yield a first-in-the-nation average level of educational attainment and per capita income. To an ever-greater extent, these colleges and universities are working with private sector interests and entrepreneurs to compete globally with breakthroughs in manufacturing, new applications for technology, and advances almost daily in the emerging bioscience and healthcare fields.

Every single one of these attributes describes New Haven in terms of its talent pool, prospects for innovation, proximity to markets, and ability to impact the world – literally – with our unique combination of these things.

In many respects New Haven is also the hub of Connecticut, with an extraordinary state stretched out to the west, north, and south. If it were a sovereign nation, Connecticut would rank sixth most productive in terms of Gross Domestic Product per capita. Again, this has everything to do with the high quality of the state’s workforce, with the third most adults holding advanced degrees and the sixth highest number of scientists and engineers.

Our state boasts the presence of top-tier employers: 14 Fortune 500 companies are Connecticut- based and it ranks first and second as a research and development hub and insurance and financial services center, respectively. Beyond a prestigious corporate culture, Connecticut and New Haven each remain committed to small businesses; the state has top-ten rankings in venture capital closings and patents granted.

All these rosy numbers add up to an upbeat economic forecast for New Haven and our state – there is ample evidence to support such optimism. Our physical location gives employers ready access to an enviable pool for the raw materials, other supplies, technical support, and markets necessary for success.

My administration is dedicated to keeping employers here in New Haven and helping them thrive; likewise, I am dedicated to encouraging new, home-grown businesses to grow and prosper in our city, and I will bring new businesses into our city with jobs for city residents.


In order for us to keep business in New Haven and attract new employers, we must promote a safe, enjoyable, livable city in which to live and work. To this end 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.

Each of us enthusiastically embraces the concept of community policing, in which cops on the beat gets 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.

Today there is good news in the promising results of community policing, that it can deter criminal behavior, and that it can help with rehabilitation and redemption afterward should it occur. With a great deal of support, there can be a bright future for those who at one time might have seen limited options ahead of them.

We want to intervene and help those who are beginning to despair so they choose a more sustainable path – and reach a destination on the right side of the law. We intend to provide activities for young people: I want to rebuild the Dixwell Q House and we will find a way to breathe new life into the Latino Youth Development program.

We will provide opportunities for adult residents so they are engaged and productive, and in terms of crime prevention and law enforcement, we intend to have feet on the street to know who’s availing themselves of these opportunities and who is not.

Please know, however, none of this should be construed as anything like a ‘soft-on-crime’ strategy. In fact, just the opposite is true. Community policing does not and will not compromise community safety. Those who turn their backs on more constructive alternatives will have more deliberately and consciously chosen criminal behavior – and will be treated accordingly.


Another effective means of attracting jobs to New Haven and providing a responsible workforce for employers will be the good physical health of city residents. In healthcare the goal is prevention of illness or injury, or restoration of a patient to better health in either case; it is our intention to help city residents realize that goal and enjoy the rewarding results.

As of today, with all credit to President Obama and a courageous Congress a few years ago, a new federal law is in effect – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Its laudable objectives are to provide Americans with health insurance – patient protection – so preventative care, early detection, and early treatment lead to lower healthcare costs – affordable care.

Today I dedicate myself to these objectives for New Haven residents. In my mind there is no excuse – it is in fact an egregious moral failure – for city residents to go without or be denied adequate healthcare while living figuratively across the street from one of the world’s foremost medical centers. We will move New Haven forward in this direction.

A re-dedication to good physical health among city residents is incomplete without a candid conversation about food supplies in our city. Hunger continues to haunt an intolerable number of community members. Just as inadequate healthcare cannot stand in the shadows of world class hospitals, hunger must not be allowed a place at the table of plenty that is Connecticut.

Tens of thousands of New Haven residents are in need of regular food subsidies and assistance. Paradoxically, obesity in New Haven, particularly among children, is also a major concern. Each of these is an unsustainable condition, and each is a direct byproduct of so-called food deserts in parts of our city.

These are not unique to New Haven – residents of many urban centers live in neighborhoods without ready access to fresh, affordable groceries and produce. As your new mayor, my administration is dedicated to finding solutions to food shortages and malnutrition, and the ill health that results.


One important teaching opportunity with regard to diet and exercise, and how nutrition figures into good health and illness prevention is provided through our public schools. But to be sure,
the role of public schools has expanded in recent years to include not only meal programs and nutrition guidelines, but preschool, child care, both before and after school, and school-based health centers.

All this is in addition to the awesome responsibility of educating children, encouraging them to become lifelong learners, and then upon completion of their studies, graduating to become engaged, productive citizens.

In New Haven’s public schools we will continue to build upon the supplemental roles our public schools now embrace. I envision a seamless preschool-through-12th grade public education system; new technology allows remarkable tracking capabilities through which routinely entered data and student progress can be monitored to help each child follow his or her individual learning pathway throughout his or her public education ‘career.’

Alongside the additional responsibilities schools now have, today’s public school students have more options available to them: magnet and charter schools appeal to certain segments of the school-aged population – vocational and technical schools also provide a viable means to successful careers.

Along this lines we are also dedicated to the concept of Community Schools in New Haven, in which educators take into account not only academics, but a child’s health and social well-being. These schools access readily available, local resources to help students learn, and in doing so a wholesale revitalization of the community results, with engagement of students, families, businesses, and service providers. Likewise, I envision a renewed emphasis on cultural sensitivity and foreign languages, given an undeniable need to function in a global marketplace going forward.

Beyond this, I am dedicated to secondary school curriculum reform, to include greater emphasis on STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math – to help students prepare for and succeed in the technology-dependent 21st century. We are keenly aware that in order for New Haven students to succeed, they require the computer skills and familiarity to be conversant and conduct business using cutting edge technology. To that end I will engage our public library system in an effort to increase accessibility to that technology.

I cannot understate the importance of public education going forward. We must shape and inspire students today who will comprise tomorrow’s workforce, because that will have a direct bearing on New Haven’s ability to attract investment, innovation, and employers, and all that will have a direct bearing on our local economy for the long term.


To highlight policy initiatives in public safety, public health and public education is to underscore how they provide the foundation for economic growth and a robust New Haven economy. But please don’t think for a minute our economic development strategy is limited to these matters.

Our city’s post-secondary education landscape is rich in opportunities for continuing education, research, breakthroughs, and discovery, all of which contribute to a climate consistent with an economic boom. This climate attracts additional scholars, researchers, and investment, all of which will add to New Haven’s legacy in this regard.

New Haven is similarly gifted with a vibrant arts, history, culture, and tourism sector in which the talent, energy, and creativity on perpetual display in our city builds on itself to generate and attract new and more talented, energetic, and creative people, extending the city’s legendary reputation once again. There are untold employment opportunities in this sector – these are to be explored and realized.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the bricks and mortar foundation upon which each of us depends. Public works projects and infrastructure improvements help keep everyone and everything in our city circulating, and they generate jobs besides. As just one example, one of my priorities is to rebuild the city’s seawall so residents on the east shore can rest assured their homes are safe and secure.

There is a great deal of work ahead of us – to get it all done we must put aside our differences, work together, and use our boundless, collective energy to move New Haven forward.

It is one thing to be in a remarkable place physically, with an extraordinary assembly of human potential, at an exhilarating time ripe with both need and opportunity. It is something entirely different, and exponentially greater, to be in New Haven, Connecticut, with all of you and so many others, willing to seize this moment and build a New Haven that is both responsible to everyone who lives here, and accountable to all those yet to come.

I accept responsibility for New Haven as its new mayor and I acknowledge the challenges we face in our community. Far more importantly, I embrace our collective potential to meet those challenges and I cherish the opportunity we have – starting today – to build a New Haven with its best and brightest days ahead. Thank you very much for this opportunity.

Thank you very much indeed.

-Toni Harp, Inaugural Address