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Holder-Winfield Forming Exploratory Committee

by Paul Bass | Nov 11, 2012 12:37 pm

(17) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Campaign 2013, School Reform

Melissa Bailey File Photo Gary Holder-Winfield—who beat the City Hall machine to win a seat in the state legislature—plans to decide by the end of January whether to take on that diminished machine again by running for mayor.

If he does, the upcoming mayoral campaign will feature a debate on how the grassroots figure into school reform.

Holder-Winfield (pictured at the Capitol) said in an interview Sunday that he plans to create a formal exploratory committee within the next month to consider a 2013 run for mayor. Then, after consulting with lots of people, he plans to make a decision whether to run by the end of January.

“I’m seriously considering it,” said Holder-Winfield, who is 38 and represents Newhallville (where he lives), parts of East Rock, and Hamden in the state General Assembly. He chairs the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

City government, Holder-Winfield said, has become “disconnected” from the grass roots on issues like school reform and public safety.

“If I run, I won’t be one of those people saying the mayor hasn’t done anything. He’s done some good things,” Holder-Winfield said. “It’s hard for [the DeStefano administration] to hear people. They become more disconnected than they need to be.”

“That observation just doesn’t wash,” responded the man Holder-Winfield would seek to unseat, 10-term incumbent Mayor John DeStefano, who has already started running for reelection. DeStefano called New Haven’s school reform drive a national model for connecting teachers and parents into the process.

“That’s not to say some things can’t be better,” he said. “But demonstrate in Connecticut and the United States anywhere where it is better.”

Holder-Winfield has been actively consulting people in the community about a possible run, as the Register’s Shahid Abdul-Karim first reported on Saturday.

He won his first term in the legislature in 2008 by assembling a grassroots coalition to oppose a City Hall loyalist hand-picked by the mayor’s team. That year City Hall controlled the Democratic Party’s vote-pulling operation; that has changed, although the DeStefano administration retains a powerful fund-raising operation reliant on city contractors and employees.

In his first term as a state representative, Holder-Winfield convinced his colleagues in Hartford to pass a bill outlawing the death penalty. A Republican governor vetoed the bill. Then a Democrat became governor, whom Holder-Winfield supported early and prominently, and that governor signed the bill outlawing the penalty.

Holder-Winfield also cosponsored a school-reform law that established “governance councils” of teachers and parents with real power to help turn around failing schools, a law New Haven has resisted. A state review found the city in open defiance of the law, which would give parents and teachers more say than they have now in New Haven’s weaker advisory councils. Click here to read about that.

The state two months ago arrested Holder-Winfield’s 2008 campaign treasurer on charges of stealing $4,270 from the campaign. Holder-Winfield said he’d been unaware of the theft and he worked closely with the state to make the case.

The Change Argument

Holder-Winfield said Sunday that Mayor DeStefano, a fellow Democrat, “eventually got there” in embracing school reform and community policing after Holder-Winfield and other community activists demonstrated for years and City Hall resisted the ideas. He praised some of the policies DeStefano now has in place. His critique: People at the grassroots don’t “feel part of the process” and don’t believe their ideas are welcomed because of years of being shut out of local government. Change can’t happen without grassroots involvement, he argued.

“You can say all you want about David Kennedy and his” national violence-reduction program, which failed here some years back and which is now returning here, Holder-Winfield said. “But if you don’t have the community involved, that is the core.”

He said he wasn’t criticizing the new police chief, Dean Esserman, but rather the record of his predecessors and City Hall. Violent crime has dropped dramatically in New Haven after DeStefano reversed course on community policing and brought in Esserman in response to a public outcry during the 2011 municipal elections.

Similarly, on school reform, “I don’t think [the DeStefano administration has] exhibited that they are open to hearing things outside of what they already believe to to be the case. I think it’s a problem,” Holder-Winfield charged.

New Haven’s school reform drive has received national plaudits for its success in working with the teachers union, rather than against them. It has had less success so far in convincing some parents and teachers and students that their voices count. Even the drive’s chief architect, ten-term incumbent Mayor John DeStefano, has openly criticized his own top school appointees for failing to “relinquish power” in order to allow grassroots autonomy in order for new ideas to thrive.

“You may change things to get some of your results. But unless people feel they’re part of what’s going on, they’re not going to participate in the way they need to participate to get the right results,” Holder-Winfield said.

“I don’t have to agree with [everybody]. I have to be receptive to them. As a state representative, I don’t always agree with people. But I listen to them. Even when you disagree with people, they know you’ve considered what you’ve said.” At the state Capitol Holder-Winfield has a reputation as the most active user of social media to stay in touch with constituents.

The Success Argument

Thomas MacMillan Photo In response to Holder-Winfield’s criticisms, Mayor DeStefano touted his school reform drive as the very model of grassroots engagement.

“It’s always been about buy-in,” he said in a conversation Sunday.

“It started with buy-in with the New Haven Federation of Teachers, the most startling level of union cooperation which continues to this day in the operation of [High School in the Community] by the union. (Click here for links to 10 stories in a series about that experiment.)

“I think it has continued through very robust participation, everything form school-based climate surveys, where parents now grade their school and central office on school reform. I think it continued through New Haven Promise, where we’ve engaged families directly on the doors in terms of their kids’ futures. There was an extraordinary example of it last Saturday with Parent University, where hundreds and hundreds of parents came to Gateway Community College.

“We have here an outstanding initiative around school reform. I hate to see it being torn up because of people’s political ambitions. Its record speaks incredibly well for itself. It’s acknowledged as such nationally and in this state.”

Tactically, a big factor in a Holder-Winfield-DeStefano match-up would be the role of the the organized labor vote-pulling organization that helped elect a majority to the Board of Aldermen this term. That organization sat out the last mayor’s race. It has also maintained an independent distance from the mayor and debated whether to take him on in 2013. If they choose to support Holder-Winfield, that would increase his chances.

One of those labor-backed alderwomen, Jeanette Morrison, said it’s too early for her to say whom she’ll back next fall.

“I think everybody should run. It’s a democracy,” Morrison said. “I’m glad [Holder-Winfield] is taking that on. I want to see who else is going to take in on.”

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posted by: anonymous on November 11, 2012  12:52pm

All this talk about “buy in” has my head spinning.

Instead of talking about theories, how about looking at results? 

At least half of our neighborhoods are not safe, people outside of East Rock and Westville can’t find jobs, most schools are failing, and the city is nearly bankrupt. 

There’s no need for any other information here. 

We don’t need buy in, we need a radically different approach to governing.

posted by: Wooster Squared on November 11, 2012  3:41pm

This could make the mayoral race very interesting. Historically DeStefano has be able to fend off opponents due to very high levels of support in the African American Community. The last election was no exception, where the Mayor lost handily in East Rock and Wooster Square, but was able to make up for it in other parts of the City. With a very popular African American politician on the ballot, things could get a lot more difficult for DeStefano.

posted by: Threefifths on November 11, 2012  7:13pm

Give me a break.He is part of the crooked two party system.He is a sellout to corporate charter school interests. He is really the most dangerous type of politician, he comes off as extremely likable, He will say some great things once in a while, but he also pushes a corporate agenda that is extremely damaging. He is the type of politician that can make even smart people cheer when he screws them over and that is the most dangerous type of politician as they are able to get a lot of really bad things through without stirring up too much opposition.Ask the Teachers how he and Dan Malloy along with the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus sold them out.Second he has to get by the Black and latino Judas goat leaders and Prechers who are the gatekeepers for king john.Read this article by Bruce Dixon call How Ghetto Politics Has Outlived the Ghetto, and Still Holds All Of Us Back
Wed, 10/17/2012 It speaks the truth about Black and latino politicians.


http://blackagendareport.com/content/how-ghetto-politics-has-outlived-ghetto-and-holds-all-us-back Bruce A. Dixon

P.S.King Jihn will be back.The only way to get rid of King john is Term Limits and Mr. Holder-Winfield is not for Term Limts.

posted by: newhavenar on November 12, 2012  11:04am

Three-Fifths your words seem to ring hollow. What exactly did Holder-Winfield do to show you he is a corporate candidate? I wonder if you realize that he worked with the unions during the whole negotiation last year to blunt the impact on them.  Give us some facts.

posted by: Carl Goldfield on November 12, 2012  11:07am

For a self described independent, and presumably unbiased, news organization there is an unacceptable bias in your terminology. Please explain why it is always the City Hall “machine” and the organized labor “vote pulling operation”?

posted by: Threefifths on November 12, 2012  12:35pm

posted by: newhavenar on November 12, 2012 10:04am

Three-Fifths your words seem to ring hollow. What exactly did Holder-Winfield do to show you he is a corporate candidate? I wonder if you realize that he worked with the unions during the whole negotiation last year to blunt the impact on them.  Give us some facts.

His support of the Charter Schools.

http://wesleyanargus.com/2012/02/23/students-rally-for-education/

State representative Gary Holder-Winfield discussed the success of local charter schools when he addressed the crowd outside the capitol.

“In the state of Connecticut, charter schools are good schools,” he said. “There is a national conversation about charter schools, but the local conversation is a whole other story.”

The caucus does recommend allowing charter schools to be one of the models used to turnaround these 25 lowest performing schools. An analysis of the Democratic leadership’s most recent bill by the Office of Legislative Research seemed to have excluded charters from plans to turn around these schools.

“Let’s not exclude charter schools. In some communities charter schools have done a wonderful job,” Holder-Winfield said, mentioning the charter schools in New Haven

Support of Dan Malloy the teacher and stateworkers union hater.

Holder-Winfield has been a longtime supporter of Gov. Dan Malloy, supporting Malloy in his failed gubernatorial bid in 2006 and in the race for the Democratic nomination in 2010.

Check this out.Dacia Toll, CEO, Achievement First

Like all good CEOs, Toll donates more often.  In fact, more than 25 donations to state level candidates show up, including 2010 campaign contributions of $100 to Hartford State Representative and charter school advocate Doug McCrory, $100 to New Haven State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield and $100 to New Haven State Senator Toni Harp.  Toll also gave $1,750 to that State Treasurer candidate in Rhode Island and $250 to a losing auditor candidate in Ohio.  Others she has given to in the past include State Representative Andrew Fleischmann, losing gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano and winning gubernatorial candidate Jodi Rell.
Read the rest.

http://jonathanpelto.com/tag/campaign-donations/

Words ring lound.

posted by: Threefifths on November 12, 2012  12:40pm

@newhavenar

What unions.It was not the teachers union.In fact when state workers were under attack were was he at.

posted by: orangestreeter on November 12, 2012  12:48pm

don’t get me wrong, i’m as anxious as anyone for new leadership in city hall… but i agree with carl, this article comes off as really really *really* biased. NHI is still the only news worth reading in town, just balance the editorializing a little bit. thanks paul.

[Bass: Thanks. Carl had a good point!]

posted by: Teacher Odyssey on November 12, 2012  4:59pm

Education in our city is being closely watched for sure.  It is about time.

The “turn-around” schools of New Haven do seem to be making strides in reform efforts. But let’s be honest… the true change in students educational experience is due to the individual and collective work of teachers and administrators NOT DeStefano or Mayo doing any of the actual work. Though either one of them stepping into the shoes of a classroom teacher is a reality show I would watch!

DeStefano is a fool to use school reform as his focus of his re-election platform.  Since Mayo has been the superintendent for 20 years and DeStefano has been the mayor for 18 years… he doesn’t think the public will notice these schools were failing for a really long time under his watch before the State cracked down and made them do something to try to fix it? 

Furthermore, New Haven’s “turn-around” schools are each using a different approach to reform efforts (in-house, outsourced, union led, etc.). If and when there is consistent growth in these schools, how will they measure what the exact successful variable(s) are? That DeStefano was the mayor?

posted by: Burbel on November 12, 2012  6:41pm

Guess we’ll have to get used to wild accusations repeatedly pasted into the comments of every story involving Holder-Winfield and how he’s “sold-out” to his “corporate masters” or whatever. Only in New Haven can this extreme left wing point of view find any sympathy. We need someone who will take a practical approach to New Haven’s challenges. Holder-Winfield not only does that, but his leadership has contributed to the important changes in the school system and policing recently imposed upon the DeStefano regime.
If he goes through with this, it will be the most important political story of the spring if not the entire year.

posted by: Brutus2011 on November 12, 2012  6:52pm

I have so much to say but I will focus on the mayor’s success argument.

1. The mayor talks about the buy-in of the NHFT (local teacher’s union) and the unprecedented and nationally lauded cooperation between NHFT management and NHPS management as being a “startling” success. If this is a success, it comes at the expense of the teachers and their students. All players in this education game, from university professors to politicians to administrators to teachers, know that the home environment is the most important factor influencing student achievement. No politician or appointed administrator wants to speak this truth. Instead the managers have framed the debate about improving public education by blaming the low-hanging fruit or the teacher corps—this keeps their salaries and pensions. Now, where were, and are now, the teacher’s unions when this malarkey all started? Why didn’t the teacher’s unions counter this disingenuous tactic? The answer is clear—because the teacher’s union’s management have sold out. The union management are an integral part of the status quo and they only pretend change instead of standing up and really representing their constituents and by extension, the students. Therefore, the mayor really shows his political acumen here and not a success in education reform by any kind of meaningful “buy-in.”
2. The school based climate surveys are a joke. Period.
3. The claims for success of New Haven Promise are too early. I hope they are true. But given the mayor’s proclivity for manipulation of facts, I am not optimistic.
4. Parent University is a great idea and I hope it gathers momentum. I am not sure that the mayor can take credit for this development. It sounds more like the President Kendrick of Gateway than anyone in New Haven City Administration.
5. The mayor states, “We have an outstanding initiative around school reform.” I disagree. The mayor has constructed the PERCEPTION of an outstanding initiative around school reform.

I have said this before and I will say it again. This city’s officials, regardless of WHO, needs to invert current budget allocations and put the money in the classrooms and not in the layers above the classrooms.

Then the reality, and not only a perception, will be an outstanding initiative around school reform.

Word.

posted by: Threefifths on November 12, 2012  10:29pm

posted by: Burbel on November 12, 2012 5:41pm

Guess we’ll have to get used to wild accusations repeatedly pasted into the comments of every story involving Holder-Winfield and how he’s “sold-out” to his “corporate masters” or whatever

Look at who name is in there.

Check this out.Dacia Toll, CEO, Achievement First
Like all good CEOs, Toll donates more often.  In fact, more than 25 donations to state level candidates show up, including 2010 campaign contributions of $100 to Hartford State Representative and charter school advocate Doug McCrory, $100 to New Haven State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield and $100 to New Haven State Senator Toni Harp.  Toll also gave $1,750 to that State Treasurer candidate in Rhode Island and $250 to a losing auditor candidate in Ohio.  Others she has given to in the past include State Representative Andrew Fleischmann, losing gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano and winning gubernatorial candidate Jodi Rell.

Get used to it.That is waht the two party system is about.

posted by: Threefifths on November 12, 2012  10:47pm

My phone has been ringing off the hooker.Let me tell all of you something.I stand by what I say.I call it like I see it.And this is what I see.The question that must be asked is how much of a war chest he can raise.Second how do you get by the Black and latinos who are in the pocket of the mayor.Again the only way to get rid of any politicians is TERM LIMITS and Run OFF Voting.And remeber the more people who are in the race,Theincumbent comes out on top.Next phone call please.

posted by: Threefifths on November 12, 2012  11:30pm

My bad.I forgot,The unions control the town committee.I wonder who they will pick.

posted by: Burbel on November 13, 2012  12:27am

“Two party system!” “Term limits!” “Corporatist sell-outs!” “Union bashers!” “Run-off voting!”

Does anyone really pay attention to this?

New Haven can be a great American city again. It won’t be if the choice is between “King John” and revolutionary f(r)actions.

Let’s hope cooler heads prevail.

posted by: Threefifths on November 13, 2012  9:49am

posted by: Burbel on November 12, 2012 11:27pm

“Two party system!” “Term limits!” “Corporatist sell-outs!” “Union bashers!” “Run-off voting!”

Does anyone really pay attention to this?

New Haven can be a great American city again. It won’t be if the choice is between “King John” and revolutionary f(r)actions.

Let’s hope cooler heads prevail.

You forgot Proportional Representation. And what is wrong with TERM LIMTS and Run-off voting.

posted by: southwest on November 13, 2012  3:39pm

I am so tired of unqualified want to be politicians running for “Mayor” knowing they don’t have a chance in hell of winning. Lots of them throw their hats in the ring to see what they can get from the winner. Most of them are not properly vetted and if the closet door came open must of there skeletons would fall out. I’m tired of none serious candidates saying they are running for mayor. We have seen this for numerous years with some of our black candidates who are not sincere at all. It’s all about the pawning of the black community. Remember the stunt Tony Dawson pulled. My advice to all “you want a be’s” make yourself useful in a more positive way like try stopping these kids from killing one another. I’m tired of the same old game plan. Come up with something new “PLEASE”

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