Harp, Paca Portray 2 New Havens

Christopher Peak PhotosIn Mayor Toni Harp’s New Haven, violent crime has fallen nearly 75 percent in six years. In challenger Marcus Paca’s New Haven, bullets still fly in struggling neighborhoods, with victims shot “even in their own homes.”

Young people are flocking downtown for walkable living and a startup-friendly culture, in Harp’s city. In Paca’s, economic development hasn’t touched the Westville, Grand Avenue or the Dixwell main drags.

Harp’s New Haven hasn’t had a property tax increase for the last two years. Paca’s city is perilously close to one because of endangered state aid.

Those strikingly different takes on the Elm City’s current outlook were presented in tandem Thursday night at a Ward 25 Democratic Town Committee (DTC) meeting at Edgewood School. Candidates for mayor, school board member, city clerk, probate judge and alder all lined up to make their pitch to the residents in the Westville flats of Ward 25 — an area known for its high voter turnout, campaign volunteerism and open process for endorsing Democratic candidates.

Each of New Haven’s 30 wards gets two DTC co-chairs, elected to two-year terms, who help shape the city’s political landscape by selecting which candidates will run on the Democratic ticket at the party’s convention next month. The two leaders may vote for whichever candidate they personally support. In Ward 25, Co-Chairs Mike Slattery and Janis Underwood vowed to endorse whomever the ward’s entire committee favors in an extensive process—that in at least one past instance meant voting at the convention against a candidate they didn’t personally support.

“The city is the right size that if we can put enough people in a room, it’s worth their time,” Slattery said. “If any campaign has the expectation that they’ll get workers, people to knock doors for them, then they should show up and talk to us.”

Roughly 75 people packed into the Edgewood School library to listen to eight-minute speeches and chat with their representatives over fruit salad and brownies. The campaigns tried to put literature into as many hands as possible, while organizers reminded everyone to stay civil.

“This meeting is not a debate,” Underwood noted at the start.

The forum marked the first time this election season that Harp and Paca have pitched their candidacies at the same forum, offering an initial look at how they will cast their campaigns. Both are Democrats; Paca is looking to challenge Harp in a party primary.

Edgewood Alum’s Return

Paca spoke first, stripping off his jacket midway through the presentation of his résumé. He noted that he’d attended Edgewood School, where he was bullied for a speech impediment, until his mother complained and got him a speech pathologist.

“Now, I was fortunate. People came to me when they saw I was staring in the wrong direction and put me back on the right track. I had mentors and teachers,” he said. “New Haven had some good people working for it them and some very good people working for it now. As residents and citizens, it’s our duty to make sure we have the program, training and foundation to see that our children succeed in post-secondary opportunities.”

Paca turned to his own “quasi-governmental” work experience, discussing setting up national marketing campaigns for Verizon, heading a program to weatherize homes in Fairfield County and training workers for jobs in the healthcare industry. He breezed through his time as Harp’s city labor relations director; neither he nor she mentioned that she fired him.

“I have dedicated my life to helping New Haven,” Paca said. “What we need now is more energetic leadership.”

He criticized Mayor Harp for requesting a municipal budget increase given the state’s dire economic straits, for allowing wasteful spending at the Board of Education and public safety employees’ overtime, and for ignoring crime and the lack of job opportunities outside downtown.

“I’m up here because I care about New Haven, and I believe everyone deserves a fair shake in this town. I’m tired of grandparents telling me they’re traveling to Austin or Charlotte to see their grandkids, because there’s not a lot of opportunities here in New Haven,” he concluded. “What I want to ask each and every one of you is to consider a new, fresh vision for New Haven.”

Harp: Progress

Mayor Harp took a matter-of-fact tone in presenting her record, reading off a slew of statistics that demonstrated improvements in safety, education and employment during her administration. Without asking for reelection, Harp let her record speak for itself.

Since 2011, violent crime and homicides had both decreased by nearly three-quarters, and nonfatal shootings had been halved, she noted. “When you look at my public safety track record, we’ve made more progress than any administration has made probably in the last 20 years.” (Click here for a previous story about the two candidates’ different interpretation of city crime statistics.)

At schools, the Youth Stat program — in which cops, social workers, teachers, probation officers, and school administrators strategize to help students most at risk of dropping out and/or landing jail — and other initiatives have helped curb expulsions and chronic absenteeism, Harp said. Initiatives are pushing reading and arts citywide, and students are getting a leg up by taking classes at Gateway Community College or Southern Connecticut State University.

“At Hillhouse High School, I know you’ve heard about the awful stuff, but I also know there’s amazing stuff,” Harp said. “Last year, a student had graduated with 58 college credits. One mother said she saved $60,000 because of access to college credits we have in New Haven Public Schools.”

When it came to the Elm City’s workforce, Harp said she has fostered economic development, both through supports for small businesses and through transit-oriented development. She cited the recent deal struck with the state over future management and development of Union Station as an example of the tough negotiations she’s willing to have to protect living-wage jobs in the city. She also noted that her administration just succeeded in securing a $2 million state innovation grant, and opened a one-stop-shopping job-training and small-business assistance center on Dixwell Avenue.

Paca said after the event that he was impressed so many had shown up to inform themselves about the races. But he also noted that he was looking forward to an event with more debate and fewer canned lines.

“I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have an opportunity to engage directly with the folks here while we were giving our speech, because to me, that’s the true essence of democracy: a true back-and-forth, a dialogue, letting people ask questions about what a politician says, instead of just listening to me ramble on about me,” he said.

Despite that, did he think he picked up some votes? “Absolutely,” Paca answered. “In a town like New Haven, where folks love debate, I have to believe that New Haveners are looking at me as a viable candidate at this point.”

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posted by: westville man on June 16, 2017  8:22am

Sorry I missed this. At a graduation. Can you tell us who else was there and for what office?  Probate judgeship will be a huge election. Impossible to replace Jack Keyes.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on June 16, 2017  9:31am

I’d really like to see a focus on the issues. Obviously a challenger and an incumbent are going to share different visions of the city, but where do they differentiate on the actual issues? Does Paca have anything to differentiate himself besides saying, “Harp isn’t very good?”

Like, would Paca change the budget in significant ways? If so, how? What do they think about the Alders and Yale development changes? Or community policing?

I find it trickier on a local level to find this kind of information out.

posted by: Razzie on June 16, 2017  10:39am

Why wasn’t Ira Johnson included in this forum? He’s the other candidate who wants to be Mayor. He has interesting ideas that should be explored.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on June 16, 2017  11:01am

Interestingly the Mayor’s taxes on her Edgewood Way house went down by over 10%, from $9,864/yr to now just $8,869/yr.

(Harp paid $370,000 for her house on 11/13/14. The October 2016 re-assessment valued it at only $327,900.)

So in fairness, Mayor Harp’s take on things has got to be a good bit different from those of us seeing our tax bills go up!

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 16, 2017  1:04pm

Average Taxpayer,

Up in ‘Mayorsville’, the taxes on former King Destefano’s Castle went down by 9% as well…

We will see how the split-personality world’s of New Haven play out at the polls….
The truth behind this year’s re-val is bitter pill to swallow…(for some of us)

posted by: the1king on June 16, 2017  1:57pm

Thank so much Mayor Harp for not raising the mill rate.  Of course my value went up about 8000.  so I guess I’m paying more.  I wish I bought a house where you lived seeing your value went down 42,100.  But I guess you raised the property values for those who live in the hood.
thanks so much.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 16, 2017  6:24pm

posted by: Razzie on June 16, 2017 11:39am

Why wasn’t Ira Johnson included in this forum? He’s the other candidate who wants to be Mayor. He has interesting ideas that should be explored.

Ira Johnson said he is not running for mayor.He said he is running for City Clerk.

posted by: 1644 on June 16, 2017  6:29pm

What “economic development” does Paca want in Westville?  Its long been one of the best neighborhoods in New Haven, along with Prospect Hill/East Rock.  There are lots of large houses on large lots.  Sure, every once and a while a house will look a bit run down, but I have actually seen less of that in recent years as the general economy has rebounded.  Businesses in the village may come and go (or burn down), but the Lyric Theater’s restoration is surely a positive sign, as are the many proposals for new businesses.  It’s also a safe and friendly neighborhood, where homeowners will get hundreds of treat or treaters on Halloween.
  As for lower Whalley and Dixwell, they are certainly lower rent than Westville, but nonetheless less there is a great deal of new economic activity there.  As 3/5’s knows, gentrification is a slow process.  G Cafe failed there, but it was replaced by a barber shop and Science Park has signs of life for the first time in decades. What does he envision for fair Haven?  Replacing the lively storefronts that cater to immigrants with Bruce Alexander approved York Square-type chains catering to those with more money than brains? 
  As for crime, I understand he wants to de-emphasize law-enforcement and emphasize education.  Sure, better education, leading to better job-preparedness, will lower crime, but not for years or decades.  Community policing, and police over-time will reduce it now.  The mayor seems to understand we need an “all of the above” approach:  law-enforcement initiatives to reduce crime now, and education and economic opportunities to reduce crime long-term.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 17, 2017  1:42am

1644,

Somehow your impression doesn’t jive the the current re-val.

Was the Old Cape Codder the only thing holding your village together besides the continuing preferential press coverage of this strip gets on this on-line rag…..

My guess is, given the timbre of the neighborhood, that home-owners are less concerned with their tax decrease and more concerned with the nosedive in their property value…..

posted by: Mike Slattery on June 17, 2017  10:30am

@razzie:  Mr Johnson was included.  We used the contact info we found on the papers he filed with City Hall.

@westville man: Americo Carchia is running to serve the remainder of Judge Keyes’ term and he was there.  Mike Smart spoke for the City Clerk position.  Both candidates for B of E, Ed Joyner and Jamell Cotto, addressed the committee.  Adam Marchand spoke for his re-election as Alder. 

All candidates above deserve credit for coming to meet us, for respecting time limits, and for giving us their best messages. 

The ward committee deserves credit for a solid turnout and for the attention and engagement each candidate received.  A couple of candidates mentioned that this meeting was among their first attempts to pitch in public.  We are all pleased that the night went well.

This meeting was mainly to give the committee exposure to all the candidates.  I believe the DTC is planning to hold events with more capacity.  (That night Edgewood school had a musical performance in the gym and it sounded great!)

posted by: westville man on June 17, 2017  1:52pm

To Bill Saunders and other East rock homeowners who are complaining about their reval. 
I have one simple question – would you accept The appraised value of your home if the city bought it from you?  If the answer is “no” because that number is too low, you have nothing to complain about.  If the answer is “yes” because the number is inflated, then you have an argument. Appeal your assessment.

posted by: 1644 on June 17, 2017  3:34pm

Bill:  Two homes I am familiar with dropped about $10K in their appraisals, or about 5 and 3 per cent (228 to 217 and 304 to 293).  These differences are well within the margin of error for any appraisal, and are not cause for concern.  Besides,  home valuation only matters if one is selling.  Since the homeowner is not selling,  he is very happy that his taxes may go down.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 17, 2017  10:15pm

1644 and Westville Man,

The property tax ‘problem’ is systemic. 

How many bubbles have you survived in this town, and how many years have you spent not being able to ‘get out’ from under the wreckage…...

let’s compare notes….

Margin of error????—we will see how that plays out for you over time…. I look at it as a warning sign, and maybe you should too….

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 17, 2017  10:23pm

Don’t worry, though,  I bet Pike International will come to the rescue of any distressed homeowner is a pinch.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 17, 2017  10:32pm

posted by: Mike Slattery on June 17, 2017 11:30am

This meeting was mainly to give the committee exposure to all the candidates.  I believe the DTC is planning to hold events with more capacity.  (That night Edgewood school had a musical performance in the gym and it sounded great!)

Tammany Hall politricks.This is why we must get rid of these crooked town committees and have IRV voting

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 17, 2017  10:53pm

If you dig into the details of the re-val—it is the ‘LAND’ that is driving the tax increases….at one point the house may not even matter….

posted by: westville man on June 18, 2017  4:33am

Bill.  Answer my simple question 1st.  Then I’ll be happy to answer yours.

posted by: 1644 on June 18, 2017  7:27am

Bill: The answer to bubbles might be 2 or 3.  The key is to recognize that the market does have bubbles, and will go up and down, and not to flip out because prices have fallen.  If one’s finances are such that one may have to “get out” in a downturn, one should not buy. Buying a home is a long term investment in happiness.  Buy because a home because you want it to be your home, and you will be happy living there.Ownership means you cannot be evicted, and you can do whatever you want (within zoning and codes) to change your home as you want.  On the other hand, as with any other purchase, it may decline in value.  Don’t invest, or borrow, money you cannot afford to lose if you may want or need to sell.
  As for notes: house appraised at $292K bought for $141K in 1990’s downtown, has provided many years of pleasure living on a wonderful street with great neighbors;  house number two, tax appraisal $217K,  was bought for $250 in 2013 (sold for $320 in 2008), is a paper loss now but served its function as housing a caretaker.

posted by: westville man on June 18, 2017  9:42am

Thanks Mike.  Americo is a good man and attorney.  Didn’t realize he lived in New Haven.  He’d make a good probate judge.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 18, 2017  2:20pm

Westville Man,

What you are suggesting is the use of eminent domain to acquire my property. 
My answer to that is hell no, never…...

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 18, 2017  2:54pm

Westville Man,

Here is the puzzle I have been working on, just so you know where I am coming from….

Why did my entire block’s land value increase by 175%, while just up the block, in a ‘more desirable’ downtown location, the land values have decreased by 16%.......

Furthermore, If you look at the specific $/acre, there is no remote consistency in the land values. That’s weird.  That is a number that should be pretty constant within a neighborhood.

The reason for my block’s valuation increase is because of the my blocks’ adjacent proximity to the Rte 34 Development Corridor.  It is very easy to see….

So, back to my question— if Economic Development interests are going to have ‘spot effects’ on valuation, wouldn’t it be ‘fair’ to both recognize that problem and spread those effects more evenly over the ‘neighborhood’, rather than having one side of the street get a break, and the other side get broken—after all, we are all paying taxes here, I have hopes that as New Haven grows, that we all grow with it….  that reality has never really born out…

posted by: 1644 on June 18, 2017  5:02pm

Bill, the two houses I referenced are side-by-side.  The less valuable house’s lot is 65% the acreage of the more valuable lot,  yet there is less than $1K difference in the appraisa.  The proximity is because once a lot reaches the minimum for a building, extra space adds little market value until it reaches a sub-dividable size. In essence, a building lot has a certain inherent value, regardless of size.  Of course, real property values within Westville vary widely from block to block. Alston has a different character from McKinley which has a different character from Alden, all of which are very different form the duplex flats on Central.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 18, 2017  5:07pm

And remember Folks,

This discussion about progressive ‘taxation policy’, while needed, is, in the short-term, a distraction from that fact that Mayor Harp and the City of New Haven have a severe SPENDING PROBLEM….

Never, ever forget that…..

posted by: westville man on June 18, 2017  6:12pm

Ok Bill - one more try.  Would you sell your home for what the city appraised it assuming you were selling?  If the answer is no because it’s worth more, you have no argument.  If hell yes- higher than it’s worth, maybe an appeal is in order.  Which is it??

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 19, 2017  12:09am

WVM,

You are asking the wrong question, which I already answered…..
The ‘eminent domain’ angle might answer some outside questions and interests…..

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 19, 2017  12:12am

Ps Westville Man,

My angle isn’t that my house is overvalued, my angle is that houses that should be worth more in the immediate vicinity,  aren’t properly valued.

People who get a break don’t appeal.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 19, 2017  2:14am

You know, WVM, I have been giving your question some thought in an attempt to honestly answer it…..

This is what I can tell you…..it is a speculators market—- it has hard to tell if it is hot or not, while current property owners are trying to hang on to what they got….

Your question about ‘selling’ goes beyond the assessment, and into the personal…..  Anyone’s decision to sell is their own personal one—no one should be trapped by their real estate investment in a vibrant city, yet that has been the story of many, but frankly, that is none of your business.

There is no real data for home sales in my neighborhood— the new sales are investors and the prices are overblown, and the last batch of real homeowners are former Yale Seminary Students who bought property in the early/mid 2000’s, who are long gone, and are still hanging on waiting for the next wave ......

So, it looks like you are trying to pick a fight with me here, when I am trying to look at a bigger picture.  What do you really have to say????

It ain’t black and white…...

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 19, 2017  3:00am

1644,

Not only am I long-term, I am trying to both continue to be just that and have a discussion about our property tax structure, and the recent development boon in our fair town. 

Bubbles and Market Fluctuations are a broad effect that everybody feels… we ride the wave together—a lot of the time values don’t mean anything because nothing is selling.

Spot Fluctuations because of Economic Development Interests are a different overlay, and the maps used to spread ‘the love’ need to be looked at…. either that or these developers need to be taxed at a higher rate….  property management consortiums as well…. they are playing a different game.

you got any ideas—we all get a chance in the barrel in NH, it seems…

property taxes are always a great obfuscation because it is such a game of cups, but there is some real information to glean if you dig into the numbers, and see how easy they can be manipulated…

posted by: robn on June 19, 2017  7:10am

BS,

In some previous thread on this subject, I thought you suggested that new housing developments have received temporary tax abatements, but that their values are still being used to calculate comparables for the surrounding neighborhoods. Did you veriify this?
I understand the abatements as incentives, but it seems that it would be p[atently unfair for the city to give abatment (which is a taxpayer subsidy) and then double whammy taxpayers by including the values in their comparable calculations.

posted by: westville man on June 19, 2017  9:49am

Bill, I am sorry I’ve given you the impression that I am trying to pick a fight. I am not. I have had many homeowners who complain about their taxes and when I ask them if they would accept The cities appraised value if they sold, often times their answer is no - it’s too low.  That doesn’t make sense to me. However, it is not all that difficult to find out if one’s property is being assessed too high. And yes, in New Haven, property values can differ greatly from neighbor to neighbor. Things like garages,  fireplaces, bedrooms, baths and recent permits pulled for new kitchens, third-floor loft, all differentiate one house from another.  I have found the cities assessment relatively accurate -  sometimes a little high, sometimes a little low but generally OK.  To answer your question, when I move to New Haven over 20 years ago, I lost over $100K on my home in North Branford.  Bought high, sold low.  You win some, you lose some.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 19, 2017  11:53am

Robn,

I have not delved into that particular ‘circumstance’ yet…. give me some time….it’s a little more difficult than just culling the Vision Appraisal data….

Westville Man,

In this particular discussion, I have been looking at how the LAND VALUE is moving, not the BUILDING VALUE… (add the two for a full assessment)...

In my case, my LAND went up a lot, my BUILDING, a little….
In other cases, LAND VALUES are decreasing, while the BUILDING VALUES are increasing…

It’s a nice way to hide some ‘tax relief’, but wouldn’t you think that if your Building went up, the Land should have as well….

posted by: FacChec on June 19, 2017  12:06pm

@ Robn:

We are quite a bit off topic from the theme of the article, but here, your post is rather intriguing and mostly correct.

You said ...“I understand the abatements as incentives, but it seems that it would be p[atently unfair for the city to give abatment (which is a taxpayer subsidy) and then double whammy taxpayers by including the values in their comparable calculations. That is precisely what the city does; in the case of the new housing developments currently building up around the city, the tax assessor’s office and the economic development office negotiate deals providing up to seven (7) years tax abatement to these developers. The effect of these new developments is a greater vacancy rate in neighborhoods like East Rock. The Alders passed a new tax abatement resolution in 2014. In the absence of taxes on these structures, taxpayers pick up the cost which is covered by the unequal assessments you see around the city.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 19, 2017  1:25pm

FacChec for the Save!!!!!

Thanks for confirming my ‘theory’.....

posted by: robn on June 19, 2017  1:42pm

FAC,

To put a fine point on it though, prior to its taxes kicking in, a new development in place of nothing only creates a modest, incremental city cost (not all residents will be new to the city and not all will use schools which are our major cost burden.) Yes it might create downward pressure on rent as a burden on nearby landlords, but that’s competition they’d face no matter how everyones taxes are calculated. What I meant to ask before is, does the city calculate the value of the new construction as a real estate sale and affect the comparable values of houses around them, inflating their value and therefore their taxes?

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 19, 2017  1:42pm

You know FacChec,

You weren’t off topic with the theme of this article with your last post…

In fact, it fit’s quite well into the idea that there are 2 Different New Haven’s…. one for connected insiders, and one for everybody else….

posted by: FacChec on June 19, 2017  2:59pm

@ Robn:

There are two points to make here that were not perhaps clear.

1. New Developments in New Haven for the most part have replaced existing structures where assessments and taxes were already on the tax rolls.

2.“does the city calculate the value of the new construction as a real estate sale and affect the comparable values of houses around them, inflating their value and therefore their taxes?

Answer: Yes the sale of the property to the developer comes with a conveyance tax to the city.
No, with a seven year abatement there are either no taxes, or, taxes and assessments are phased in over a period of five to seven year, depending on the deal cut by EDC. New Property shall be assessed after a five year period.

3. according to the 2010 Census East Rock have 150 vacant units. Today, according to Craigslist East Rock has over 420 vacant units. https://newhaven.craigslist.org/search/apa?query=east+rock+new+haven+ct&availabilityMode=0

At the same time according to 2015 census estimates, New Haven population has remained stable @ 123K.

So where do you think former ER renters went…Correct..to the new developments.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 20, 2017  2:25am

FacChec,

I like your analysis, but I have a question…..

About the 450 Craigslist Vacancies in East Rock—are those vacancies ‘real’ or are we at the end of a renting cycle…..It is summer afterall….  any other info is greatly appreciated

posted by: Brutus2011 on June 20, 2017  9:27am

Despite that, did he think he picked up some votes?

“Absolutely,” Paca answered. “In a town like New Haven, where folks love debate, I have to believe that New Haveners are looking at me as a viable candidate at this point.”

After meeting Mr. Paca yesterday, I have to agree ... he certainly is a viable candidate ... and a refreshing one!

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 20, 2017  10:11am

Brutus,

It’s posts like yours that make me wish NHI had a ‘like’ button for comments….

I second your assessment wholeheartedly….  Paca is a refreshing candidate.

If you are interested in meeting the man, just reach out—he will make time to both listen and talk

(btw, Happy 40th, Marcus!!!)_