Bitsie Clark Pivots To Harp

Allan Appel File Photo

In the quest for former Henry Fernandez supporters, Democratic mayoral candidate Toni Harp has snagged the voice of the Audubon Arts District: Frances “Bitsie” Clark.

Clark invited about 20 people she knows from her various spheres of influence (political, cultural, senior) to her Audubon Court condo Tuesday evening for an in-person taste of her homemade chicken-liver mousse (from Julia Child’s Mastering The Art Of French Cooking) and of her choice for mayor.

Clark helped oversee the development of the Audubon Arts district as the former head of the Arts Council. She then served on the Board of Aldermen. Now she runs HomeHaven, an innovative group that helps seniors stay in their homes through shared support and activities.

Clark originally supported Matthew Nemerson for mayor this year. When Nemerson dropped out of the race, Clark threw her support to Henry Fernandez. When Fernandez dropped out following the Democratic primary, Clark threw her support to Harp. Harp now faces independent candidate Justin Elicker in the Nov. 5 general election; both camps are wooing Fernandez supporters. (Click here to read about Elicker’s efforts.)

“Whether you voted for her or not, you might want to meet the next mayor of New Haven,” Clark stated in her invitations to Tuesday night’s event.

Clark said some of her guests had never met Harp before. Many brought skeptical questions, especially about Harp’s relationship to Yale’s unions, who back a majority of the Board of Aldermen.

Clark told the crowd how Harp’s answer to that same question—at an Aug. 14 candidates’ debate that Clark organized —helped convince her eventually to back Harp’s candidacy. Harp had told the crowd that day that she welcomes the unions’ successful efforts in engaging more people in politics and civic life. She praised the fact that their efforts prompted a group of people who oppose her and with the unions (“Take Back New Haven”) to field its own candidates. The more democracy, she argued, the better for New Haven.

“I was shocked,” Clark recalled. “I have never met a man in politics that ever says anything good about his opponent. I heard her being encouraging about people who oppose her. That was very very interesting to me.”

Clark said Harp emerged from the session as someone who can bring people in New Haven together in a way that hasn’t happened in a while. She said Harp left the crowd with the sense that she might be the message that she is “her own woman” and welcomes support from a wide range of perspectives.

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posted by: Razzie on October 11, 2013  4:10pm

I know this is one endorsement that the East Rock Elites wanted very badly. I think its time for Justin and his folks to begin the healing process and start moving New Haven Forward. Post election, we all have a huge job to do to fix the problems we jointly face. Let’s work together Justin.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 11, 2013  5:57pm

More dinosaur politics.

posted by: Noteworthy on October 11, 2013  6:24pm

I’m not sure there is much to celebrate for Toni Harp. Given a choice, Clark went with Nemerson; given another choice, Clark went with Fernandez. Finally, given her lifelong devotion to nothing but official Democratocrity, she ends with Toni Harp as the last Demo standing. Maybe Toni will get a contribution too - she surely needs it given that she’s running a campaign on financial fumes.

posted by: downtown dweller on October 11, 2013  7:12pm

My head spins at Razzie’s internal contradictions.  At the same time as saying you want to work with someone, you derisively term him a member of an elite?

posted by: Sarah.Miller on October 11, 2013  7:53pm

Both of the candidates Ms. Clark previously endorsed are out of the race. Harp will soon join that club.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 11, 2013  8:35pm

Of course she did. 
Bitsie is a Good Soldier.

posted by: HewNaven on October 11, 2013  9:29pm

In other news, an old politician was endorsed by an even older politician, and the young people of New Haven still don’t have a voice.

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on October 11, 2013  9:30pm

WOW! an ex-alder’s third choice nomination.

posted by: DownTownNewHaven on October 11, 2013  9:33pm

Bitsie is a local treasure, and she was a wonderful Alder. I think the fact that she worked on the board with Justin speaks volumes for this endorsement.

posted by: citoyen on October 11, 2013  10:32pm

Ms. Clark “welcomes the unions’ successful efforts in engaging more people in politics and civic life.”  One needs to be very much on guard about the kind of language being used these days by the union-backed political movement.  This business about “involving more people in politics and civic life” is really about marshaling ground troops, many of whom do not even live in the city, to pull votes to the polls by brute pressure.

Likewise, the talk about a gender-neutral name for the board of aldermen, part of a proposal for charter reform that we will vote on in November, is a smokescreen for allowing union-backed members of the board to gain control, now and in the future, over whom the Mayor appoints as his or her executive staff.

It is disappointing, but not unexpected to see Ms. Clark turn to supporting Harp.  She (Clark) is tied to the establishment power base that has governed the city for decades, and that’s what she feels comfortable with.  She’s done admirable service for the city over the years, and what New Haven needs now is a turn toward looking to the future, to new ways of thinking, and to the development of 21st-century policies.

posted by: getyourfactstraight on October 12, 2013  1:30pm

Bitsie seemed to be a decent alderwoman while on the board most of the time…...but as far as this third choice endorsement…..OH BIG DEAL!!!!

posted by: Nashstreeter on October 13, 2013  12:23am

I see a lot of gray heads in that photo. That warms my heart. Bitsie would be one too, if she would let it all hang out.
I know the 30-40 Somethings think that the election is just a geezer grab—folks who want to keep the influence they have built up over the years and (can you believe it?) want to continue to build on it to do more. What the heck is wrong with that? They have experience and skills and connections, and they can get things done.

I wonder if the 30-somethings will be able to match that in the short term. We’ll have to wait till they are geezers themselves to find out. And then, of course, they will present themselves as “tested” and “experienced” and “able to get things done.”

An argument could be made that Bitsie had a dominant role in bringing fearful suburbanites back to New Haven. Over the 10 years I taught a course at the Creative Arts Workshop, I heard my adult students go from fear of crossing The Bridge into our city to feeling comfortable with exploring it. That kind of change doesn’t happen overnight and takes a lot of pushing and shoving and, yes, connections and experience to make it happen.

A lot of people of any age can come up with a vision for our city, but knowing how to build the networks and collaborations to make that vision happen is the real art.

posted by: Citizen X on October 13, 2013  9:53am

For those trying to drag this endorser down, remember that your Repub hero has been endorsed by a Maryland dad doing a favor for his Yalie son and a failed high school principal.

Elicker’s endorsements make Danny Glover look good.

posted by: HhE on October 13, 2013  10:55am

Razzie, I hardly qualify as an East Rock Elite, after all, I live just inside Newhallville.  However, I am indifferent to Ms. Clark’s endorsement.  I was happy to stand behind Justin Elicker when he received an endorsement recently, but that endorsement did not have value to me either.  I recognize that for some people, and I take that to include you, endorsements are very important.  I guess some people look to others to tell them how to think, or need some authority’s approval of a choice they have already made.  New Haven is a small city, and I have sufficient time to study the issues and players to make my own choice, and with confidence.

I put it to you, we ought to consider why someone makes an endorsement as more important that who is endorsed, and who is doing the endorsement.  Ms. Clark first endorsed Mr. Nemerison, who picked someone too corrupt for the DeStefino administration as his chief moneyman.  Then she opted for Mr. Fernandez, who was trying to place himself as John Jr.; pay to play, real estate and building trades base.  Now Sen. Harp, skipping not only Justin Elicker, but also the other two Democracy Fund candidates:  Mr. Holder-Winfield and Mr. Carolina.  This is someone clinging to the Old Guard.

For myself, I found Ms. Clark to be problematic.  Her commitment to “compromise” on Rt. 34 was so strong, as to become a dogma.

posted by: NewHa on October 14, 2013  10:47am

If it were up to Bitsie, the City would now be paying interest on a loan against parking revenues, and our local taxes would be even higher than they are.  Justin Elicker and residents stopped that from happening.  It’s one event, but one event that could have bankrupted the City.  Stopping bad ideas pushed by people who will make money off of them is a very important qualification in politics.

posted by: anonymous on October 14, 2013  10:38pm

Bitsie is a local treasure, but the day that she stepped down from politics (after Justin had worked with the rest of the Board to run circles around her on several issues) was a great day for New Haven in many ways.

For example:

Aldermen vote 8-2 to send [parking meter monetization] to the full board with an “unfavorable” recommendation.

Voting against the unfavorable recommendation: Shah, Bitsie Clark.

Voting for the unfavorable recommendation: Perez, Goldfield, Jackson-Brooks, Castro, Elicker, Stephanie Bauer, Dildine, and O’Sullivan-Best.