Carolina Passes On Police Union Debate

Thomas MacMillan PhotoThe Democrats running for mayor plan to show up at police union headquarters Monday night asking for support—all except for Kermit Carolina, who called the police “part of the solution” but also “part of the problem” in New Haven.

The occasion is a first-ever mayoral debate sponsored by New Haven Police Union 530. The debate starts at 6 p.m. (doors open at 5:30) at the Marchegian Club at 226 Cedar St. in the Hill.

The 422-member local said in a release that it’s holding the debate to decide which candidate to support with “on the ground” helpers as well as political action committee money. (Read the full release here.) 

Democratic mayoral candidates Justin Elicker, Henry Fernandez, Toni Harp, and Sundiata Keitazulu have all agreed to participate.

Candidate Carolina opted out. He said Sunday he doesn’t wish to “be beholden to any one group,” including the police union.

“The police are part of the solution and to some degree part of the problem in this city,” Carolina said in an interview Sunday.

“They’re doing a great job of reducing violence in city neighborhoods thus far. My hat goes off to Chief [Dean] Esserman in that area,” Carolina said. But, he said, the department also runs up too much overtime. And too many cops—over two-thirds of the force—live outside New Haven “and don’t contribute revenue. ... Everyone should have skin in the game.” He said he would conduct forensic audits of all departments, including education, in order to provide tax relief to the public. “Decisions I make will be in the best interests of residents to relieve pressure on taxpayers.”

Carolina renewed his call for a commuter tax for local government workers as part of a larger effort to hire New Haven people for New Haven jobs. (Read a full story on that here.)

Carolina said the public will already have a chance to hear the candidates discuss public-safety issues at a July 16 debate at Metropolitan Business Academy. He plans to attend that one. (More on that debate here.)

Based on Carolina’s remarks, police union President Lou Cavaliere Jr. said Sunday, “I’m not confident” he will become the next mayor.

Cavaliere argued that it doesn’t matter where police officers live. He called the idea of a commuter tax “an insult.”

“Our payment is our life. I don’t think a person should be penalized for living outside the city. We’re cops 24 hours a day. It’s a shame that we’re going to have people who represent the city who feel that way about police,” Cavaliere said.

He also said that in the short term the city needs to pay overtime to keep enough cops patrolling neighborhoods because the force is about 100 officers short from full strength. A series of police academy classes ar ein the works to fill those ranks. In the meantime, especially during the hot weather, “we need to respond to calls,” Cavaliere said. “How do we put a price on safety? If he wants to make cuts, he [should] do it elsewhere.”

Earlier in this fiscal year, the city was projecting a $1 million overrun in police overtime. Officials have since taken steps to reduce that

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posted by: Burbel on July 7, 2013  5:22pm

This decision disqualifies Carolina from serving as Mayor.

posted by: oldtimer on July 7, 2013  5:38pm

Well that has to be one of the most truthful,refreshing and ballsy comments anyone has made in a mayoral campaign in many many years,,, my hat is off to you Mr. Carolina
And for the others that plan to show up God help you it has all the makings of a political ambush that will haunt some throughout the campaign.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 7, 2013  6:02pm

Arrest Me Notes:

This endorsement will likely be as cooked as the other unions, but it is worth attending. What cop is going to work for a candidate who tells them the truth? That their paychecks are fat and bloated with overtime we don’t need, that their benefits are confiscatory and work against taxpayers?

That said - Cavaliere is a mirror image of his father - whiney, bombastic and has no problem with his cops enjoying lower costs of living as long as they can keep gigging taxpayers here. “There is no price on safety.” Yes there is and it’s the second biggest piece of budget pie in the city with more than 20% of it allocated to endless overtime.

1. We are only 100 cops short of the full strength budgeted department. That full strength number is bloated. We don’t need that many cops. We are budgeting 30% more cops than the national average. We’re that more violent? Our cop force on a per thousand basis, rival crime ridden Baltimore and not far from Detroit.

2. Cops who live in the burbs are not cops 24 hours a day. They would be if they lived here. They don’t. To say it’s all the same as Cavaliere does, is all mouth and no brain.

3. While opposed to a commuter tax, there should be special benefits if a cop lives in the city - choice of shifts, first choice of overtime and other benefits in the hiring process.

posted by: anonymous on July 7, 2013  6:08pm

“They’re doing a great job of reducing violence in city neighborhoods.”

How so? We had 10 murders in the last six months.

If you filter out the media spin, filter the noise and selective manipulation of figures (for example, only looking at one year at a time), that number of ten murders per six months is what the city has averaged consistently since about 2007. Prior to that, it was a bit lower, unless you go back to the late 90s where it also averaged about 10 every six months.

New Haven is in a violence crisis, and we are seeing zero progress. Instead of drinking the cool aid, how about one of the candidates acknowledges the truth here.

posted by: Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil on July 7, 2013  6:41pm

Kermit says,...“They’re doing a great job of reducing violence in city neighborhoods. My hat goes off to Chief [Dean] Esserman in that,” Carolina said. But, he said, the department also runs up too much overtime. And too many cops—over two-thirds of the force—live outside new Haven “and don’t contribute revenue. ... Everyone should have skin in the game.”
Why do you keep saying “skin in the game.”?  Who says that?  It sounds like street slang!
Anyone who puts on a Bullet-proof vest everyday and goes to work keeping New Haven City streets safe, can basically live where ever they want.  Police living in the city will not curb the violence we are having.

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on July 7, 2013  9:47pm

Carolina is right to avoid the debate. The first question we ought to be asking is, Why on earth is the police union sponsoring a debate? The police work for the taxpayers of the city of New Haven, not the other way around. This is all about the police union getting candidates to commit to overtime, benefits, and pensions. This has nothing to do with the well-being of the citizens or taxpayers of New Haven. 3 of the 5 top bullet points have nothing to do with public safety.

Look at the first bullet in the brochure: Police officers pensions changes.

posted by: David S Baker on July 8, 2013  8:13am

Carolina’s continued harsh vocal critiques of major players in the New Haven political scene is great press and occasionally enlightening within the context of his temperament.  Sadly, this reeks of a sacrifice play in his future and I sincerely hope he is aligned with the right people should he continue to practice kamikaze campaigning.

A bold thing to say, but not sure Democracy fund candidates would be backed by a union anyway.  (ironic because Elicker praises efforts by Esserman and the NHPD like a mantra)  Kerm will likely only take scrutiny from law and order advocates who disagree on his poor accounting/finance stance.  He never truly called NHPD competence into question even while effectively torching this bridge.

All that said, if a Democracy fund candidate gets the nod the NHI is invited to my home to film me eating my shoe.  Dead serious.

posted by: ProUnion on July 8, 2013  9:59am

Kermit Carolina cheats and lies:
I agree with the comment made regarding wearing a bullet proof vest. Police officers put their lives on the line EVERY day. Carolina couldn’t run a high school without being deceitful and yet he thinks he can run an entire city.
I think it’s time to move out of the city if this dude gets elected!

posted by: ELMCITYDOC on July 8, 2013  10:01am

We are 62 days away from what will be a critical election in this city and we have been inundated with debates yet left with little substance. Aside from personal anecdotes and snide attacks what do we really know about how carolina or any other candidate will lead this city? When do we stop bringing up dead husbands, defunct deals, and questionable personnel practices and start dealing with the very real problems facing our city? Beyond the critiques of the current administration, what have these candidates offered to let us know how they will balance the budget, improve our schools, bring jobs and development to the city, improve our infrastructure, etc? How will they work with diverse and often competing constituencies to get these things done? The time has long past for candidates to simply “float ideas.”  We need concrete solutions not chest puffing demonstrations that in the final analysis do very little to advance this city. Until these things are addressed this mayoral race will remain little more than a high school popularity contest.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 8, 2013  10:15am

David you may have to. Last election (Kerekes vs JD) the PD did the unthinkable. They did not back JD! It was an ohh and ahh thing. So ya never know.

But with that said I have spoken to sevearl offices since last night (New Haven resident ones) Not one knew about this debate! Not sure why…but :) I did tell them and they will hopfully tell others!

posted by: FacChec on July 8, 2013  1:22pm

I agree “withNewHavenTaxTooHigh” when he/she says:

“This is all about the police union getting candidates to commit to overtime, benefits, and pensions”.

The candidates are under no obligation, nor do they have a right to state a position on a five year contract already agreed to by police union President Lou Cavaliere Jr. and the union.

I do not agree that Carolina should skip the debate for the reason(s) he states in the article. Nevertheless he does so at his own political peril.

Carolina makes strange decisions for a candidate who is running from the rear.

posted by: HewNaven on July 8, 2013  1:38pm

I love how the Police Union holds us all hostage in New Haven. What do those listed “Questions” on the flier have to do with any of us? Those are contract issues. They’re important to taxpayers, but we can’t hold a debate for every labor group in the city. There’s simply not enough time. And, regardless, you won’t get an honest answer from a candidate when they are standing in front of the union membership. What’s next, the candidates “debate” elderly services at Bella Vista? This is a complete waste of time.

I suppose, if a candidate were to give the wrong answer and then win the election, the cops would roll on city hall like a few years ago and threaten residents that they might not be able to respond to calls so better to arm themselves. Who else remembers that? I hope the son is not the same as the father in that regard.

Policing is important, but not so much that cops can shake down candidates and taxpayers. Extortion is illegal!

(I was hoping Carolina would attend so that at least one candidate would stand up to the Police Union and speak the truth).

posted by: westville man on July 8, 2013  3:13pm

Tell the Truth - “Skin in the game” is often used by investors when considering risks/percentages/etc of those putting the money in.  It’s far from “street slang”.  The fact that you have never heard it before simply means you are ignorant of its use.  But to admit that would get in the way of your constant kermit bashing.
@ ProUnion.  You can play as fast and loose with the facts as much as you want- i cant stop you. He didnt cheat or lie.  Those interested can find his response in the NHI. But I know - you dont really care about that.

posted by: Razzie on July 8, 2013  4:50pm

So Kermit Carolina wants to tax our neighbors who live in Hamden, West Haven and North Haven if they work in New Haven??!! That is a bold move on his part—foolish, but bold. Why should a teacher who lives in Hamden pay a special tax for the privilege of coming into New Haven to help teach our children how to read? Especially since our schools like Hillhouse high school don’t seem to be able to get the job done.

posted by: Jones Gore on July 9, 2013  12:41am

Well ..I think the majority of New Haven Police are not residents and thus don’t vote in the mayoral elections not the they really matter?

What weight does the union hold when it comes to mayoral elections? Seems to me Kermit has a keen understanding of the real players.

posted by: Curious on July 9, 2013  11:18am

Whether NHPD officers can vote in town or not doesn’t matter as much as whether the union can spend officer dues on a PAC to donate money to their preferred candidate.

So Local 530 might not be able to turn out their own members to vote, but they can give Harp or whoever thousands of dollars to spend on mailers, yard signs, money to pay people to canvass neighborhoods and knock on doors, and so on.

Follow the money, people.

It’s ALWAYS about the money.

posted by: Curious on July 9, 2013  3:11pm

@ Jones Gore, I agree.  I think Carolina probably knew he wasn’t going to get the endorsement anyway, and blowing off the police union leadership scores him points with the people he knows he can win.

posted by: HhE on July 9, 2013  11:00pm

Burbel, may I ask your take on Sen. Harp as she skipped two debates?