One year ago, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp took the oath of office for the Elm City’s top spot.
It wasn’t long before she found out that New Haven had its share of problems, which she saw firsthand by attending a number of funerals during her first few months in office.
“I really didn’t realize that being mayor would mean I would have to attend so many services, where we really lost our young people to the streets, and so it was really my thought that we have to do everything we can to make sure we raise our children as a successful community, raise our children to adults,” said Harp.
That became one of Harp's major efforts during her first year in office. She helped to implement programs and citywide canvasses targeting young people most at risk for violence.
“Youth Stat is another thing we’ve worked on around disengaged youth, and going out into the community and trying to really engage our young people, really making sure that young people have positive and productive things to do with their time,” she explained.
The effort started paying off in 2014. The programs, paired with community policing efforts by the New Haven Police Department, led to a decrease in homicides and overall shots fired in the city.
“I’m proud of the fact that in every level of crime, crime has gone down in New Haven, that we’re a much safer city,” said Harp.
She knows there is still work to be done.
“I think the biggest challenge for the city of New Haven is to keep our taxes low, but yet, have the programs that we need for our population, many of whom are on the edge and need support from government,” Harp explained.
Another key area where she’ll be focusing efforts is improving New Haven’s schools.
“I really think we’re going to take a hard look at education this year and our persistently under-performing schools and really look at what we can do to improve performance,” said Harp.
She also wants to see how to improve employment opportunities. She said that creating jobs and reducing unemployment has been a challenge that’s taken longer than she anticipated.
“We’re going to continue to look at employment, work with our regional workforce development board to see if we can get more of our people gainfully employed, reduce our unemployment numbers,” said Harp.
Harp added that she wants to make sure people in New Haven have a way to get to and from work.
“We really want to take a look at transportation in our town from the railroad point of view, from Tweed-New Haven point of view, and really from the average person who needs to find jobs. Most of the people who have to work in New Haven, live in New Haven, actually need transportation,” said Harp.
The mayor said she will be pushing for state and federal transportation funding to improve transportation for New Haven.