was sworn in as the 49th Mayor of New Haven on January 1, 1994. He is serving his 10th term in office. Mayor DeStefano has worked tirelessly and successfully to strengthen the academic achievement of public school students, to build a vibrant mixed use city center, a competitive economic base, strong neighborhoods and a robust community culture of traditional values and social tolerance.
During Mayor DeStefano’s tenure virtually every public school has been rebuilt under the $1.5 billion Citywide School Construction Program. New Haven’s schools—which were once antiquated, crumbling and leaking structures— are now modern and safe and provide an environment that is conducive to learning. With the understanding that what occurs in these school buildings is equally important; Mayor DeStefano launched the ambitious School Change Initiative in 2009. The goals of School Change are to raise test scores to at least the state average, eliminate the achievement gap; cut the high school dropout rate in half; and ensure that every student is academically prepared and financially able to attend, succeed in and graduate from college.
While School Change is in its early stages (only entering its 4th year in 2013), results are already being seen and are very promising. The graduation rate has increased for four consecutive years and now stands at 70.5%; the drop out rate has fallen for four consecutive years and will be cut in half by 2015; New Haven student achievement on the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) is increasing at a rate that is twice that of the state average; a five-year cohort study, that began prior to School Change and concluded in year three of School Change, shows that among three groups of students, reading scores increased an average of 35.9%; and in September 2012, the New Haven Public Schools were awarded a highly competitive $53 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in support of School Change. New Haven’s School Change has received national acclaim and has been noted by President Barack Obama and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan as a model program. School Change seeks to build on its early success with the goal of making New Haven the best urban school district in America.
Mayor DeStefano’s economic policies have focused on two core areas: pursuing mixed-use development and growing New Haven as an economic hub for the bio-technology, pharmaceutical, research and life-science industries. In both areas, the City has been successful.
The successful pursuit of mixed-use development has grown New Haven’s Downtown into the most densely populated downtown in New England – and among the top five in the Northeast. New Haven is also among the top 100 cities nationwide for having the lowest commercial vacancy rates.
And of Connecticut’s 50 biotech start-ups, 39 are in the Greater New Haven area and 20 are in the City of New Haven itself. This development will continue with the Downtown Crossing project, which will remove a 1960’s era limited express highway and reconnect city streets to create a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly environment that will set the stage for further economic development. As a result of Downtown Crossing, Alexion Pharmaceuticals will build its world headquarters at 100 College Street, adding approximately 800 new, permanent jobs to the City in addition to 2,000 temporary construction jobs that will be required to build the project.
New Haven boasts an incredibly vibrant culture of economic and social entrepreneurship. Neighborhoods have been strengthened with the City’s pursuit of mixed-income housing developments and the promotion of commercial corridors within the neighborhoods. Additionally, as result of the development of a pedestrian and bicyclist friendly “street smart” infrastructure, New Haven has the most bike lanes of any town or city in Connecticut and the second highest percentage of residents who walk and/or bike to work in New England.
The success of New Haven’s economic policies are evidenced by the fact that by 2011, New Haven had recovered all jobs – plus an additional 446 – that were lost in the 2008 economic collapse. New Haven was the only city the region to accomplish this.
Reducing violence is, and will remain, New Haven’s number one public safety goal. Under Mayor DeStefano’s leadership, the City has developed a comprehensive approach to reducing violence that includes targeting violent criminals, a strong focus on Community Policing (all new police officers are on walking beats for the first two years of their service) and reducing recidivism through the Mayor’s Re-Entry Initiative. In 2012, there were 50% fewer homicides and 30% fewer non-fatal shootings than there were in 2011. This trend has continued, in the first quarter of 2013, there were 50% fewer shootings than for the same period of 2012.
New Haven’s civic culture has resulted in a welcoming and inclusive community. At Mayor DeStefano’s direction, New Haven became the first city in the United States to issue municipal identification cards, the Elm City Resident Card. In addition to providing access to public services for all residents of New Haven, the Elm City Resident card has provided numerous residents the identification necessary to open a bank account. As a result, public safety has increased as criminals are no longer able to target immigrants whom they know are likely to be carrying cash.
Under the Mayor John Destefano’s leadership, the City has sponsored the organization and capitalization of a community bank whose mission supports the unbanked and promotes financial literacy. Start Bank is the only bank to have received a charter in Connecticut since 2009; and one of only a handful to receive a charter in the United States for the same time period.
Deeply committed to the city of New Haven, Mayor John DeStefano is a lifelong resident of New Haven and the son of a New Haven police officer. John and his wife, Kathy DeStefano, met at the University of Connecticut as undergraduates, where he also earned a Masters in Public Administration. Kathy is a first grade teacher and they are the parents of two sons..