Jonathan Wharton believes that plotting New Haven’s future and sampling draft beers can go together.
He is testing that proposition Thursday night at the City Point Kitchen.
New Haven’s Republican Party — yes, there still is one — is hosting a happy hour fundraiser at the 98 S. Water St. spot from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wharton, who as the new town chairman is working to revive the party, said he hopes this will be the first in a quarterly series of events mixing good food and drink with discussions about New Haven’s future. Or, as he put it in an interview Wednesday on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven,” evenings filled with “lobster rolls, beer, and platform politics.”
Since he took over the party this spring, Wharton, a political science professor at Southern Connecticut State University, has reignited a platform committee. He called platform-building and fundraising the first steps to grooming and running candidates for office. The Republicans currently constitute about 5 percent of registered voters in New Haven; the city has no Republicans in contested elected positions, from mayor and state legislator down to alder. (The city Republicans are running one candidate so far in this fall’s state races, Doug Losty, against incumbent Democrat Toni Walker in the 93rd General Assembly District.)
Wharton has also been appointed to the City Plan Commission. In Wednesday’s WNHH interview, he spoke about some positions he’d like to promote there. A top priority is seeing Long Wharf developed further in conjunction with a nearly $1 million state planning grant. He said he’d like to see residential buildings on parking lots along Sargent Drive as well as possibly the former Gateway Community College campus there, as part of mixed-use development.
“There’s a lot of potential there,” he said.
Citing recent delays in approving approving development projects in town, Wharton observed, “The politics are too often in the way. ... You have to wonder how much the [Yale-union supported elected officials] politicize this as an issue.”
Speaking personally (not for the Republican Town Committee), Wharton also came out in favor of building more cycletracks (protected bike lanes) in the city, renewing a 20-year tax abatement for the private owner of the Monterey Homes public-housing development in Dixwell, expanding Wooster Square’s national historic district, proceeding with a joint city quest in concert with Northland Development Corp. (but with extra scrutiny of the company’s performance) for $30 million in federal money to rebuild Church Street South, and for adding a central bus depot to the design for a new Union Station parking garage. He supported the city’s decision not to reimburse a citizen who spent $400 to improve the horseshoe pits at Goffe Street Park.
As for the upcoming rank-and-file no-confidence vote on the police chief? “I won’t touch that one,” he said.
Wharton reaffirmed that he will not vote for Donald Trump for president. He held out some hope that his party might nominate a moderate or Libertarian candidate (he mentioned John Kasich) at the upcoming national convention in Cleveland.
Wharton does not plan to attend that convention. His focus is local, right here in New Haven. Click on or download the audio file at the top of the story to hear all he had to say about his plans on the “Dateline New Haven” episode.
This episode of “Dateline New Haven” was made possible in parts thanks to financial support from Yale-New Haven Hospital.