Campaign Notebook: Harp Files First; Carolina Pays Family Taxes; Fernandez Targets Slumlords
by Paul Bass & Thomas MacMillan | Jul 30, 2013 6:08 pm
Posted to: Housing, Politics, Newhallville, Campaign 2013
)Toni Harp turned last week’s mishap into a rousing “Tally Rally” as her campaign turned in over 4,800 signatures of voters—twice the number needed—to get her name on the Democratic mayoral ballot.
Harp, one of four Democrats running for mayor, turned in 397 petitions with those signatures to the Registrar of Voters Office Tuesday afternoon in order to secure her place on the Sept. 10 primary ballot.
She was supposed to get that place without petitioning because she won the Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement at a convention last week. But the DTC failed to file the necessary paperwork on time, so her campaign pressed over 300 New Haven volunteers into action collecting the signatures.
“We started last, but we ended first!” Harp told a triumphant rally on the steps of the 200 Orange St. municipal office building after she submitted the petitions. Three other Democrats—Henry Fernandez, Justin Elicker, and Kermit Carolina—are in the process of circulating their own petitions to make the ballot.
Harp’s haul occurred over just four and a half days, a signal of the depth of her campaign support, she said.
Campaign manager Jason Bartlett told the crowd to keep collecting signatures, as insurance. The registrar must verify the names of 2,406 voters to certify a candidate’s spot on the ballot.
“We’re not taking any chances,” Bartlett said. “I want as many signatures in that vault [at the registrar’s office] as possible.” He said that the campaign did not pay any of the people who circulated petitions for Harp. He said “98 percent” of the circulators live in New Haven.
Harp was joined at the rally by city clerk candidate Michael Smart, whose name also appeared on her petitions; and by leaders of the police and fire unions, who have endorsed her candidacy.
Carolina Pays Up
Candidate Carolina, meanwhile, stopped by City Hall two hours earlier on Tuesday afternoon to make a different deadline—and to make a point about Harp.
Carolina (at right in photo) stood in line on the penultimate day for people to pay taxes before facing a late fee. He brought a wad of Benjamins to pay the $770.71 due on his 2007 Lexus—as well as the $622.20 owed on his wife’s 2008 Volvo and the $133.82 due for his mother’s 2000 Honda Civic.
“I feel it’s important that I support and encourage my family to pay their taxes,” he said, drawing a contrast to the fact that Harp’s family’s real-estate business owes the state $1.1 million in back taxes and penalties stemming from a legal dispute.
“It should be a qualification to run for public office to set an example” by paying all taxes owed by one’s family, Carolina argued. “As mayor, I can’t make other people pay their taxes if I’m not paying mine.”
Fernandez Targets Slumlords
Standing outside a problematic senior housing project in Newhallville, mayoral candidate Fernandez Tuesday afternoon unveiled plans for improving housing code enforcement, including a closer scrutiny of the housing authority and “problem landlords.”
Fernandez (pictured) revealed his new policy proposals in front of the Constance Baker Motley building on Sherman Parkway in Newhallville. Tenants there have complained that the housing authority has ignored their reports of mold and water leaks, as the Independent reported Monday.
It’s clear that the city has problems with the enforcement of the housing code, Fernandez said. He said that when he was the head of the city’s anti-blight agency, the Livable City Initiative (LCI), and later economic development director, he made significant improvements to enforcement. This included new training for inspectors, computerizing operations, and increasing the total number of inspections.
Fernandez laid out a series of “principles” and “strategies” for improving code enforcement. (Click here for the full proposal.)
Among the principles:
• Landlords with a record of housing code violations would not be allowed to bid on city contracts.
• The city should pay particularly close attention to Section 8 housing, where taxpayer dollars are paying the rent.
• Principles are not to be ignored based on “political considerations, who someone may know, or who they may be related to.”
Among the eight strategies:
• All housing code violations would be available and searchable online so that potential renters can look up their potential landlords.
• “The city will create a new designation of ‘Problem Landlord’ which will be assigned to residential property owners who repeatedly maintain properties in such a fashion as to raise serious life safety or health issues for tenants or who maintain properties in such a fashion as to invite crime.” A list of problem landlords would be publicly available, and problem landlords’ properties would be subject to annual inspection, not just every three years.
• The city would work with the housing authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to prevent slumlords from getting public subsidies.
• The housing authority would be required to submit quarterly reports to the mayor and Board of Aldermen on maintenance, work orders completion, and outstanding problems.
• All bidders on city development projects would be required to obtain a statement from city housing code enforcement showing that they do not have any outstanding violations, or any history of being a slumlord.
Fernandez’s new code enforcement principles not only describe an approach to dealing with problem landlords, but are part of a campaign tactic aimed at rival Democratic mayoral candidate Toni Harp.
Harp’s son Matthew Harp’s company owns and manages a Section 8 building on Rosette Street, which was recently found to have a broken door, urine in the hallway, and drug paraphernalia in the basement. Those are “exactly the kind of issues we’re talking about,” Fernandez said. Based on news reports, Matthew Harp’s property certainly demonstrates “the kind of issues that would get someone designated as a problem landlord,” Fernandez said.
Asked last week about how city government would deal with complaints about her son’s company, Toni Harp said she would insist on “a high standard for everyone—including my son. If there are complaints filed, they will be looked into for whoever the landlord is, whether it’s Mandy [Management] or Pike or Renaissance.” She also vowed to have city government’s anti-blight agency, Livable City Initiative (LCI), raise its standards in enforcing code violations.
Paging Capt. Renault
Also on Tuesday, in a letter reminiscent of the police-raid scene in Casablanca the Harp campaign was shocked—shocked!—to learn that Henry Fernandez would say that you can find syringes and used condoms on the streets of the Fair Haven neighborhood, where he lives.
Fernandez made the statement in an interview with the Hartford Courant. In reference to his young son, he remarked “I have to shield him from drug dealing and prostitution. … I have to explain to him about syringes and drug paraphernalia and even used condoms on the street. That is immoral. That is wrong. That’s a city we have to change for my son and for all children, and that’s why I’m running.”
Fernandez’s statement may not come as a surprise to people who live in Fair Haven, or cops or LCI workers in Fair Haven. But according to a press release issued by Harp’s campaign, the statement outraged Fair Haven aldermen who back Harp’s campaign (who on other occasions lobby the police to do more to stop drug-dealing and prostitution and squatting in Fair Haven).
“Henry is putting down the Fair Haven community to try to validate his candidacy,” the release quotes Harp as saying.
Fernandez shot back with this retort: “I live in Fair Haven. Sen. Harp lives in a mansion with an elevator and an indoor swimming pool, next to a golf course. She has a separate mansion in Bethany she says she uses just for parties. She is out of touch and has no idea that there’s crime in our neighborhoods, or as parents we need to shield our children from that crime. How out of touch must you be if you don’t think there’s drug-dealing and prostitution in Fair Haven?”
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Ok I am an Elicker supporter and proud of it.
But I always give prop’s when they are due and Henry has been spot on with a lot of things.
Well, this housing complex is called ‘Motley’. There is some truth in advertising left in the world….
NHI left out the fact that Harp said that she would see no conflict of interest when dealing with her family’s companies, which says a lot about her “ethics”.
Will any of the candidates step up and submit the Housing Authority of New Haven to the City of New Haven Code of Ethics? Or are they all okay with it being it’s own “quasi-agency” that can do whatever it wants?
Many of Mr. Fernandez’s ideas are great. But it should raise the question, did he implement them while director of LCI or is this a new trend. Also, is there a public history of his having tackled “slumlords” any better during his tenure than Mr. Johnson has done during his? Essentially, I’m asking are there facts to substantiate his implied claim that he truly tackled problems better than the current administration? Obviously, he stopped being LCI director in 2000 (I believe) and was Economic Development Administrator from 2001 to 2005. So, we should have some record on how many “slumlords” he put out of business or drove from New Haven.
As for his ideas, it is nonsensical that “section 8” housing should be given a more stringent review than non-section 8 housing. Rather, every resident deserves good housing regardless of who pays. The City has approximately a 95% occupancy rate, I’m not certain that listing problem landlords will really protect low-income residents - but it’s worth a shot.
Lastly, I’d like to call for Mr. Fernandez to state that no person will be discriminated against because of their political affiliation just as they should not benefit from the same. Nor should any person or contractor who gave significant sums of money to his campaign be subject to less frequent or less stringent review.
Lastly, I seem to recall LCI stating it had a need for more inspectors. How does Mr. Fernandez plan to pay for that? Will he seek to remove public housing stock to the private sector? I laud his goals but would like to see them fleshed out more.
@ Atlas Shrugged: I worked with Henry Fernandez at LCI. Much of what housing code inspectors now do in New Haven is because of Henry.
When he arrived at LCI, the housing code inspectors did not have basic tools like cell phones and computers. He bucked the City Hall bureaucracy and introduced those tools, allowing for significant numbers of more inspections to occur and for managers to find an inspector instantly and assign them work from the field so they did not need to come back into city hall to get a new assignment.
He instituted training and got the inspectors certified to inspect for the housing authority and for Section 8. This allowed for thousands of more inspections to occur every year directly targeting many of the worst properties. It also generated new revenue streams so new inspectors could be hired.
From what I read, his plan now is to take significant new steps forward by using new technologies to create greater transparency—this really should not cost much since the systems are already computerized, just not accessible to the public.
He is also suggesting that the Health Department needs to publicly disclose where there are outstanding lead paint citations. Again, I don’t think that costs money.
And as he did when he was at LCI, he will work to remove any perception that who you know determines how you are treated. He was always very good at ensuring that there was a clear line between politics and the job, even instituting basic rules like elected officials could not benefit from city loan programs.
I can’t believe the Fair Haven alderman had the gall to be angry at Fernandez for speaking the truth. Do they actually live in Fair Haven? Or will the entire Harp campaign and administration just be ignoring problems that are unsightly.
We agree on the merits of some of Mr. Fernandez’s ideas. That was one of the first things I stated. The next questions I asked were, (1) was he more effective than Mr. Johnson is currently and (2) how many slumlords did he put out of business? Obviously, the first question is subjective and it truly depends on what one believes the role of LCI should be. The second question is relatively straight forward. If the answer is 0 or 10, it should be public record. Slumlords aren’t new to New Haven or any other major city.
My questions about the payment for and training of additional questions obviously should be answered by him. I agree that there need to be more inspectors and that every landlord should be held to the same standard. I think every candidate agrees on that point. With that said, this was likely a subtle dig at Senator Harp and her son, who amazingly according to the NHI had no LCI violations. Yet many other landlords do, despite being “politically connected” or big money donors. Indeed, Garfield Spencer who was infamous in housing circles was given control over 99 Edgewood for a song. I’m assuming some of Henry’s supporters who own property have violations as well.
As for the public health department disclosures, landlords are already required to make that available by law. Rather than that, he should be working with the health department to enroll landlords in the free lead-based paint remediation programs for those who are eligible. This is fixing a problem, not merely pointing it out.
I like his ideas. I can’t think that a single candidate, landlord, or tenant would argue against them. My real question is whether he lives in a glass house and is throwing stones. I’ll await an answer on how many slumlords he closed down in the mean time.
Congratulations to Senator Harp, this has been a big week. First, wrapping up the police officer’s endorsement and second, getting her petitions in.
I don’t honestly think that there is a candidate who would reject the police union’s endorsement despite the commentary of many people on NHI. Rather, it is tantamount to the jealousy displayed of a jilted lover. Further, this romanticized notion that there is a “machine” that we somehow need to rebel against is false and misplaced. Whomever wins will need to work with not just the unions, the board of alders, the constituents, but also business people and probably the opposing candidates. I was really pleased the other day to see Senator Harp and Mr. Elicker in a photo together. They may disagree on who’s best fit to run for mayor but at the very least they realize the need to be civil towards each other in private. I do wish that the same sense of civility would course through the discourse on the NHI a bit more often.
I hope I am not confusing the issues with the facts here, but I THINK we all need to take a closer look at the ‘good names’ of these candidates if we want to gain a deeper understanding.
I did just that, using the patented William S. Burroughs Cut-Up technique (aka anagrams), and LOOK at some of the subliminal messages I found at PLAY here .
HINT, A PRO
I ACT, NAIL REMARK
ZEN AND FRY HERE
U SUNK U, ALIT A DAZE
You are all encouraged to rescramble these messages and make new messages out of them. Isn’t that the mark of a great politician?
A FAVE HUN
Added note signatures do not equate votes. Everyone I know will sign all the candidates petitions if asked. All it is, is the ok to be on the ballot. But I know people that are getting signatures that are actually spending quality time with the people signing to educated them on New Haven politics. I also know that all the signatures need to be verified and you would be surprised at how many can not be.
Right now my new project is to see how many city workers are on the voting list and verify if they live here.
It’s accountability time now, boys and girls.
After the DTC screwed up and didn’t turn in the list of endorsed candidates, this site was filled with all sorts of phony “concerns” and a general cornucopia of mindless pseudopunditry.
And like their counterparts in the mainstream media, the commenters in the NHI often get away with making ridiculous predictions, because, really who ever checks? But now we have this thing called the intewebs or world wide nets, or whatever and the beauty of this gadget is that there’s a record of past predictions. So I reread all the comments from Thursday’s stories and culled all the awesome wrongness, paying special attention to those commenters who posture as experts on grassroots mobilization. So guess what? The free pundit ride is over. It’s accountability time.
This is going to take several comments, so we’ll just go one by one, and hand out some newly minted NHI commentariat awards along the way.
Next, it’s accountability time for….
....Burbel, whoever you are. A welcome addition to the anti-union pseudopundit chorus, no doubt. You wrote:
Harp is still favored, but this will absorb a lot of resources that would have been devoted to her and now will inevitably be diffused as alders have to make sure they aren’t overlooked, and voters who otherwise could have been relied on to vote Row A will now have to be instructed to split their ballot and to find Harp on line four or five.
Jackie James, and her board, should step down when this is over.”
“Game changer?” The only change to any game is the sudden, depressing realization among the supporters of the other candidates that Toni has a huge group of highly motivated volunteers behind her. Most of the endorsed alders had their signatures by the end of Friday, and Toni’s team rocked through their signatures with smiles on their faces and springs in their steps.
As for Jackie stepping down, I don’t think so. This is a very different, grassroots-driven Democratic Party than it was two years ago.
Admittedly, I’d rather have a party that’s both bureaucratically adept and has the ability to inspire hundreds of activists to work for the good of the city. But if I have to choose, I’ll take the latter every time.
“Everyone I know will sign all the candidates petitions if asked”
Not in my experience: as a petitioner for Justin Elicker, I’ve encountered many Harp supporters who refuse to sign another candidate’s petition. Several of them told me outright, “I don’t want anyone else on the ballot.” So much for the democratic process…
For the sake of fairness, it has to be accountability time for….
....accountability his own self.
On Thursday I wrote:
“But in the end, it’s a blip that won’t affect the outcome of the election. Toni and the alders supporting her have far more volunteers working for them than any other candidates. And since petition signing places a premium on volunteer face-to-face effort, they’ll all make the ballot easily.”
Nailed it. Absolutely, LeBron James at the buzzer killed it. In fact, that’s a bad sports metaphor. It’s more like Secretariat-by-31-lengths-at-the-Belmont killed it.
Let’s see now if there’s a shred of intellectual honesty among the union hating regular nabobs. Who will acknowledge that I read the situation correctly and that they were dead wrong? And who will acknowledge that the local party and the grassroots progressive movement driving change within in it are making New Haven a place where there’s a small bit of hope in the midst of the darkest hours of corporate ascendancy in our country? Don’t worry, I love life, so won’t be holding my breath.
An Elicker petitioner downtown today told me that she’d encountered a police officer who interrupted her while she was trying to get a signature, and actually TOLD the potential signer that they should only sign the petition for the candidate they support. I got back to my office, called up the NHI, and there was the story about the police union endorsing Harp. Hm.
I signed her petition. I had previously signed Harp’s and Carolina’s. If the Fernandez folks find me, I’ll sign his, too. Some people still believe in the democratic process. Proud to be one of them.
accountability, for someone who uses a pysdonim as you do, to write, “Next, it’s accountability time for….
....Burbel, whoever you are….” is rather a bit much.
HhE stands for Harold Ellis. If people chouse not to self identify, that is all well and good, but they ought not object to others who do not self identify. Glass houses and all that.
As a payer of multiple new haven taxes I am curious what taxes mrs Harp pays and for how long has she paid these.
Accountability, your idea that anyone who disagrees with you as a “union hating regular” is getting tiresome. Virtually everyone in New Haven, including most readers here, strongly supports the unions. States with higher unionization rates become much more prosperous over time, because once retirement is considered, the average worker is essentially pulling down a salary and benefit package that is equivalent to well over $100,000 per year in the private sector. This is all a good thing. But as has been pointed out before, there are serious disconnects between the regional impact and the impact at a local level, where union-backed groups stall housing and transportation developments, even though Connecticut’s population is aging and such developments are the only thing that will keep our economy (and, ironically, the future of union benefits) from going down the tubes. These same groups also push for wrecking working class neighborhoods (to widen highways or construct new schools that benefit their membership, for example) and permanently selling off streets that have been public spaces for hundreds of years (to get $3 million from Yale). They advocate for workers, which is great, but they do it without regard for their indirect impacts on the rest of the community where they work. While virtually all union members live in suburbs, and the top tier keeps getting higher compensation even as taxes and rents skyrocket on city families (largely immigrants and are not members of the union), the number of city jobs for entry-level workers such as parks maintenance, parolees, or youth at work gets trimmed by 70% or more. The only response has been a “job pipeline,” essentially a PR stunt that will have zero measurable impact. To make matters worse, when the governing process is controlled by one special interest, there is zero transparency. All of the decisions that impact our city are now made behind closed doors- some candidates would end that practice if elected Mayor.
Shocked and Traumatized Noted:
1. The Registrar’s Office had better put on some staff and go over the petitions big time. In a rush to be first and overwhelming, Harp’s petitions are likely to have many flaws.
2. If one needed more evidence that Harp is out of touch with those she rules and are the base of her support - one need only read the presser where she is now shocked to find condoms and needles on the streets of Fair Haven. Aside from her escort into Fair Haven the other day, when was the last time she went into that fair city, and actually walked or drove even, down one of the side streets?
3. Harp of course, was also traumatized to learn of the poverty, the harassment and the thugs who populate neighborhood stores looking to victimize and terrorize people during a visit to the ‘Ville.
4. This lack of awareness extends to the family business, its history of screwing mortgage holders and taxpayers. She only learned of these things in the newspaper. But of course, never discussed any of it with her husband.
5. It might be easier for the campaign to actually list the things and issues that Toni Harp is aware and knowledgeable of - it will be a short list.
Although I support Elicker, I like Fernandez. It’s going to be very interesting to see if we all choose the candidate that is right for the city, or not.
This kerfuffle between Henry and Toni over Fair Haven may warrant a separate entry. It’s astounding to me that Harp’s campaign could be so witless as to engage this discussion, when Henry clearly has the upper hand in talking about what Fair Haven’s like. She walked right into that barb about her mansion (which is really a grotesque cross between a barn and a castle). Can we see the actual press releases? It’s not hard for me to believe that Harp could be so out of touch, but it is hard for me to believe that her campaign would voluntarily expose her as such.
Why is Kermit paying taxes in New Haven on his mother’s car when she lives in Hamden?????
posted by: Christopher Schaefer on August 1, 2013 2:56pm
Is this issue related to Harp’s proposed Code of Ethics? http://seeclickfix.com/issues/664870
Apparently, Henry uses the same ethics code….
Some further observations, Mr. Schaefer,
Like Anthony Weiner, both Toni And Henry have problems with ‘The Public Strip”
Both campaign’s flagrant violation of State Election Law are quite visible from my property, but there are two important differences that characterize the candidates.
Henry’s Illegal Signs are placed in the ‘Public Strip” directly in front of private property, on one side of the street, and a non-profit on the other. Clearly Henry has no problem using ” the appearance” of being supported by non-profits and private citizens.
Toni’s Illegal Signs are directly in front of two Rennaissance Management Properties, which her son owns. The benefit analysis here is clear, but I am sure Ms. Harp is oblivious…..
Thanks for the heads up. My Elicker signs in front are fine, but there is no sidewalk on Mansfield. So I made sure my signs were on or behind the fence. I also noticed a fellow Elicker supporter had a sign in the wrong place, so I moved it. In the future, maybe an advisory in small print on the signs would help the well meaning.
Wow. Thanks for this effort. I meant it.
“....Burbel, whoever you are. A welcome addition to the anti-union pseudopundit chorus, no doubt. You wrote:”
You really get off on the wrong foot. I’m no enemy of the unions. But let’s not dwell on that.
Harp is still favored, but ... and voters who otherwise could have been relied on to vote Row A will now have to be instructed to split their ballot and to find Harp on line four or five.”
“Game changer?” The only change to any game is the sudden, depressing realization among the supporters of the other candidates ....”
Now that the top of the ballot is almost set, and we know how much effort was required to achieve the ballot that would have been achieved if the DTC hadn’t screwed the pooch, I agree. I blew it because I didn’t know that ballot order was not alphabetical - that was my real mistake (not opposing the unions and certainly not opposing Harp).
I also agree that the speed with which Harp’s team collected about twice the signatures required in less than a week was an impressive showing (from a cold start!), particularly since (I think) Fernandez and Elicker are still out there.
So, (although in almost the opposite sense to what I meant at the time) this has been a game changer. It has inadvertently buried the question about whether Harp has grass roots support and a ground game equal to the others. She obviously does (although that was never a question in my mind).
““Jackie James, and her board, should step down when this is over.”
As for Jackie stepping down, I don’t think so. This is a very different, grassroots-driven Democratic Party ...”“
It was lazy & incompetent. Just a fact. The statement that they should step aside was not a prediction. It’s what happens when people are held accountable. Of course, she won’t be. No harm, no foul, right?
Don’t kid yourself, there’s a new power structure in place. It got there by removing the old one at the polls. And it is solidly behind Toni Harp.
Re ” Fernandez’s plan
Would properties owned by the government also be subject to his proposal?
@Edward H: Yes, “the largest provider of low income housing in the city,” is the government and it is covered under the Fernandez plan:
“The City of New Haven will require that the Housing Authority report quarterly to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen on efforts to maintain its own properties, including the number of outstanding work orders for repairs, the time for completion of work orders, and a complete description of outstanding issues that need to be fixed. As the largest provider of housing to low income people in New Haven, the Housing Authority needs to be closely monitored to ensure that its properties are safe, clean, free of criminal activity and do not have any life safety issues like mold, lack of heat during the winter or lack of air conditioning in senior properties during the summer.”
Clear, substantive plans like this demonstrate why Henry has the experience and integrity to be our next Mayor. While other candidates may proclaim, “If I am elected, [slumlords] should expect to hear from me before I’m even sworn in” in their idea-a-day missives, Henry lays out concrete, achievable steps within the City of New Haven’s power to provide real fixes to the problems confronting us.