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Harp: Guys Can’t All Have Their Own Trucks
by Melissa Bailey | Oct 24, 2013 7:10 am
Posted to: Campaign 2013
The two mayoral candidates came out Thursday in favor of shared fire services for the East Shore and East Haven, but they had the trucks running in opposite directions.
Toni Harp and Justin Elicker made the remarks in back-to-back appearances before a mostly male, button-down crowd at the Quinnipiack Club on Church Street Thursday morning.
Both called for sharing fire services with nearby towns in order to be more efficient and save money.
Harp called for a more “rational system” for putting out fires.
“It’s a guy thing, I think, honestly, around fire trucks,” she said. “Everyone wants to have their own in their own colors.”
Harp, a state senator, was speaking to about 20 members of the Regional Leadership Council, a group of top executives from the largest employers in greater New Haven. Democrat Harp faces petitioning candidate Elicker at the polls on Nov. 5.
Elicker spoke to the group shortly after Harp left. He called for East Haven to help cover fires in the Morris Cove neighborhood. Harp made the opposite proposal: That New Haven should cover fires in East Haven, then send East Haven the tab.
The issue of fire coverage first emerged right before the primary, when Harp claimed Elicker had threatened to close down a fire engine in Morris Cove, an accusation that most Independent readers concluded was a “lying campaign smear.”
A second big concern Thursday was Tweed-New Haven Airport. Both candidates called for running more flights out of Tweed. Continuing a theme she pushed during Tuesday’s mayoral debate, in which she stressed her inside knowledge and relationships at the Capitol, Harp gave a political analysis of what it would take to get Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on board with expanding Tweed’s runway.
A live blog follows:
8:08 a.m. Harp sits down at a long table covered with white linen.
She skips introductions. She already knows everyone in the room.
The crowd includes top executives from New Haven and beyond: Dorsey Kendrick, president of Gateway Community College; Christopher M. O’Connor, chief operating officer of the Yale-New Haven Health System; Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Anthony Rescigno; Anne Worcester of the city’s recently rescued tennis tournament and Market New Haven; and Realtor Barbara Pearce.
First question: How to fix the city’s budget problems?
Harp: People “beating the drum” on pension crises are exaggerating the problem. There have been cuts, but there need to be “efficiencies.” Some departments—such as police—have been cut, but they’re more costly to run, because of overtime costs. Suburban towns are poaching our cops: We pay $60,000 to train cops, and they pay $3,000 to take them away.
Question: If we’re just going to take our pension plan and kick it up to the state, that’s not resolving it.
Toni: Police and fire pensions are the most costly. But people aren’t talking about the progress the city has made in recent negotiations. Police and fire just made major concessions in their recent contract agreements (a tentative deal, in the fire department’s case). “The city is making progress,” but “the word isn’t out.”
8:19 Question from Derek Phelps of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy P.C.: How could the city take the lead on coordinating shared services among regional governments?
Harp: We need to have a more “rational system” for covering fires. “It’s a guy thing, I think, honestly, around fire trucks. Everyone wants to have their own in their own colors.” We need to have a conversation about “how to come together” and come up with a “rational system” for covering fires in nearby towns. The West River goes through Woodbridge and Bethany: There are problems that start upstream. There are environmental issues that should be resolved together, too.
Len Matteo, chair of the board of director of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, asks the next question: Tweed airport. How do we help it grow?
“Can we annex East Haven?” jokes Harp.
“Be careful what you wish for,” replies a member of the crowd.
Joking aside, Harp says, we should bring in flights to Chicago. Tweed currently runs commercial flights only to Philadelphia and back.
Matteo: It would help the business, the schools and the city.
Harp: I agree. But we’ve got to do it in a way so that people who live in that part of town don’t feel “pushed out.”
8:25 Question from lawyer Hugh Manke: Tweed again. We don’t have a problem in East Haven, politically. We need the state to support Tweed’s application for an extension of the runway.
(Tweed has been a major focus of the RLC over the years. The organization has raised money for it and lobbied for its growth.)
Harp: If the governor understood that we really don’t have a problem with East Haven, then the governor would be supportive. But, understand, the governor really wants Bradley Airport to work. He doesn’t want Tweed to be a competitor to Bradley.
Harp: The state is “really waiting for a mayor they can work with.” It’s connected to the garage at Union Station. If we connect the two, we can move them forward.
8:30 Harp has to run up to Hartford. She spoke for only 20 minutes, while Elicker is scheduled for 45. On the way out, she clarifies her remarks on the fire department. She suggests sharing resources with towns like Woodbridge, towns that have volunteer fire departments. New Haven should explore “joint purchasing and those kind of things.”
Harp was asked how her perspective differs from that of Elicker. Before the primary, she blasted Elicker calling for New Haven to share fire resources with East Haven.
Elicker called for East Haven to cover Morris Cove, Harp replied. She believes the opposite: “New Haven should do it [cover East Haven], and East Haven should pay us.”
8:46 Elicker gets a round of introductions.
First question, from Matteo: How can the city better partner with businesses?
Elicker gives two unusual answers: Public financing, and character education.
Public campaign financing. I cap my maximum contributions. A lot of the conversation about public financing is about big business trying to influence city government. But it’s the opposite: Developers don’t want the mayor shaking them down for donations. Every year, the mayor’s birthday comes around. Developers face pressure to “pay to play.” That’s bad.
Elicker says he recently asked a developer why he doesn’t move a factory to New Haven. The developer said he has trouble getting reliable workers in New Haven, who show up on time and don’t quit. Elicker calls for “character education” about grit, perseverance, and anger management, which are more predictive of success than SAT scores. “We’re not teaching those things in our schools.”
Also, taxes. “In the short term, I don’t think there’s a lot of good news about taxes.” But we need to address it in the long term. High taxes scare businesses away.
9:00 Question: What about the police and fire department budgets?
Elicker: We cannot afford the level of benefits that we’re providing in this city. Taxpayers can’t afford it. Higher-paid employees should move from defined-benefit to defined-contribution plans. With lower-paid employees, there needs to be more “shared risk.”
Also: we’re not Detroit, but we could be Detroit if we don’t make the right decisions. If we go bankrupt, our employees won’t get their pensions anyway. It’s not fair to make a promise we can’t keep.
9:05 Same question from Phelps: Would you show forceful leadership on regionalization?
Elicker: Suburbs have a “myopic vision”: Cities like New Haven support homeless services and crime. Suburbs fear that if they regionalize, they will have to start sharing the brunt of those problems. But, he says, suburbs should realize that the state is already paying for 43 percent of New Haven’s budget.
The solution, says Elicker: Have a more “respectful, collaborative relationship” with suburban towns, which he says Mayor John DeStefano didn’t have. The city should explore consolidating 911 call centers with nearby towns, for example.
Elicker now addresses the East Shore and the East Haven fire department. Morris Cove is isolated geographically from New Haven, but not from East Haven. He says East Haven could respond to calls in that neighborhood.
9:06: Gateway President Kendrick: I live in Morris Cove, and I feel safe there. But others don’t, and they don’t feel there are opportunities to make a good living in New Haven. How would you help people have access to the American dream?
Elicker gives three solutions: “character education,” early childhood education, and vo-tech education.
9:12: Pearce, who’s working with Harp’s campaign: Your long-term goals are hard to disagree with. But what would you do right away as mayor?
Elicker: Cap debt. In our school building initiative, we chose the “Taj Mahal” instead of more practical designs. We need to be more frugal on capital projects.
Pearce: I’m not restricting you to the budget. It’s January 2nd. What would you do?
Elicker: Participatory budgeting. Let citizens weigh in on how to spend taxpayer money. Also, look at 3-year budget cycles instead of annual budgets. Another short-term action: It’s expensive to expand pre-K, but we can make it easier to apply for pre-school. He calls for a “no wrong door” policy, where families can show up at any school and begin to enroll their kids. Also, open schools for more “youth programming” after school.
Elicker would create “CityStat,” similar to CompStat, the weekly police statistics meeting. Get all departments together weekly to talk about the city, in a meeting that’s open to the press. He would also reappoint schools Superintendent Garth Harries, which Harp has not committed to doing.
9:20: Question from Rescigno: You’ve got a lot of great ideas, but you’re young. How do you combat Harp’s experience?
Elicker: I’m 38. One year older than John DeStefano when he took office. It’s “absurd” to think that being in the same seat in the legislature for 20 years, as Harp has, qualifies you to be mayor. Watch the debates—well, all the debates except the last one, he says, which wasn’t focused on “substance.” He says in the previous debates, he gave concrete solutions, while Harp could not answer specific questions on municipal policy.
“Writing checks from Hartford” is not the same as working closely with city government, Elicker says.
In response to another question, Elicker addresses alleged low morale among city workers.
Elicker: We don’t have any initiatives that inspire municipal employees. No “employee of the month” program. The mayor doesn’t regularly gather and address employees. So workers “don’t feel as appreciated” and part of a team.
Worcester nods her head. “Showing gratitude is a gigantic step in the right direction.”
Elicker: Mayor should “inspire” employees.
9:23 Roger Joyce, executive vice president of Bilco Co. in West Haven, and chair of the RLC: What about Tweed? This group has been instrumental in getting Tweed off the ground. (Joyce was the first chair of Tweed-New Haven Airport.)
Elicker: “We need to find ways to keep Tweed alive, because it’s in the economic interest of everyone in the city.” It benefits not just rich people. We need to expand more flights, as well as “be respectful” of neighborhood.
Joyce: How would you feel about state ownership of Tweed?
Elicker: I would feel fine about it.
Final Question: Any thoughts on the Union Station Garage, which has been in limbo for ever?
(The state has long been planning to build a new parking garage at Union Station, surrounded by commercial development. The project stalled in part because the city and state still have to agree on what the project would look like.)
Elicker: It’s an example of the tense relationship between the mayor and the governor. I have never disparaged the governor (as former candidates Henry Fernandez and Kermit Carolina did). Elicker forgets where he was going with this train of thought…
Elicker: “Oh yeah” (Laughter.) “We need a garage!” It’s critical to our economic development.
9:30: That’s a wrap.
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If Toni Harp were to make “Regionalization” the top priority of her platform, I would actually vote for her. She finally sounds like she might know what she’s talking about. Then again, all those pesky urban issues would still be ignored. If only there was a way for her to stay involved at the state level and continue to contribute to this regionalization dialogue…
“We need to have a conversation about “how to come together” and come up with a “rational system” for covering fires in nearby towns” Toni Harp
This was EXACTLY the Justin Elicker proposal that Harp twisted into a primary attack on the East Shore; lying about it being closure of a fire station.
Pretty two-faced flip-flop.
Too bad nobody asked Harp how much federal, state and local taxes would increase so she could spend $750,000,000 on a new Metro North rail bed in order to cut a 1:40 train trip down to a 1:00 trip.
To continue “harping” on the Fantasy Express: Why does no one discuss the Empire State’s necessary role in all this? The major bottleneck and monumental expense to fix is the segment from GCT to New Rochelle. And there’s an easy way to make the trains run a lot faster—just bypass New Haven and the shoreline as Amtrak proposes.
1. Police and Fire Pension Under-Funding: There’s progress. It’s just that people don’t know about it. So the chronic, repetitive and now hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to the promises made to city employees is not a funding problem - it’s a communications problem. I feel better already.
2. Shared fire service for East Shore: Toni Harp was against it before she was for it. uh, ok. So now it’s a good thing to cooperate with Easthaven FD and that whole thing about “men and their trucks…” Geez.
3. Regionalism - Fire equipment is all she can come up with? This is why there is so little regionalism in the state. Leaders like Toni Harp give lip service only to it. Does she really understand what regionalism means?
4. Tweed’s salvation will be to get flights from Chicago. Harp believes in magic - Magic Buses will solve congestion to Hartford; Magic Trains will be an economic boom to New Haven and Magic Planes will solve Tweed’s poor management, long history of broken and half delivered promises of being viable and getting off the New Haven public teat.
5. Harp had to leave to go to Hartford. She might be coming back with Magic Donations too.
Forget about Chicago nobody wanted to go there years ago on Air Wisconson unless they were going to see “Da Bears”. Here’s an idea for Tweed one flight in and out per day to Myrtle Beach between April 1st and October 1st and all the money their spending to rehab the parking lots would be worth it. People would be lined up Fort Hale Road for the service
I think I’m going to have to stop being happy to be in New Haven if Harp wins this election. She sounds uninformed, flippant, and unwilling to engage in serious conversation about the issues. And the unions own her lock, stock, and barrel. So dont be looking for any changes in work rules that will create efficiency or better serve our residents.
“It’s a guy thing, I think, honestly, around fire trucks,” she said. “Everyone wants to have their own in their own colors.”
Yeah, fire gear selection is like Barbie for men. Except if you don’t get the right metaphorical ‘dream house’ you burn alive and, oddly, only the people that use it for a living know what works best. Its kind of like the mayor or chief of police being allowed to build their own team. Or a railroad engineer telling you an hour to Grand Central will never recoup the costs. Another “guy thing” is voting for leadership that refrains from aiming unhewn gender stereotypes at emergency personnel.
If Harp had said that preserving teacher spots or school nurses was a “girl thing,” because that workforce is largely female, would people be offended?
This isn’t as bad as Harp’s off-putting comments earlier this summer about people with gambling addiction disabilities (justifying Keno by attacking the people who will suffer), but she should refrain from vacuous, sexist statements.
Excellent presentations by both candidates. This back-to-back format allows for better discussion without either candidate and their supporters trying to disrupt the message. The non-stop berating, belittling, snide comments about appearances and houses are hopefully behind us. Everyone who is interested enough and intelligent enough to read this, is certainly capable of forming their own conclusions without the candidates’ attack dogs weighing in.
Good Night Justin!
So the Harps went and paid the $20,000 plus that they owe in building fees to the City of New Haven, (for the construction of their 10,000sf mansion)? And they’re starting to pay down their million dollar debt to the State of CT, now that ten years have passed since the Supreme Court’s final ruling?
What very good news! And isn’t it great when we all decide to do the right thing!
Well I am not going to beat up Justin Elicker’s opponent…...it is just so clear that Justin has a much better handle on this city and frankly I am very concerned if his opponent were to be elected. She just doesn’t seem to understand and grasp what it will take to lead this city. Really, she should just stay in Hartford it would be better for her and better for New Haven.
@ Elaine Braffman
Ha, ha, ha. Let me get this straight. So now you guys (and ladies) are saying Sen Harp has done a GREAT JOB in Hartford???!!! And its best for New Haven if she stays there???!! That seems to me to be an inherent contradiction in message from your “clueless” campaign. Oh well, it’s only 2 more weeks left.
Can you imagine the response if Elicker made a gender-specific comment like Harp’s?
No Razzie I didn’t say she has done a good job in Hartford. What I was saying is I would rather see her stay there than her have any chance at all of being elected mayor and set this city back further.
@Razzie…..ha ha ha, right back at you!
Tweed airport has been maligned over the years as not being able to support new service and airlines are not interested in Tweed. All not true.Twice Northwest airlines wanted to offer tweed to Detroit service and when the operation numbers were totaled,it was found that at times only 60 seats out of a 95 seat plane could be filled and United operated at Tweed for almost 5 years but the constant weight restrictions on departing flights made the Chicago service unprofitable and was dropped.
The Delta Cincinnati service suffered the same fate.
The 5600 foot runway is just too short, not by a large amount,to support dependable service.What is needed is to pave the already existing overruns and that will not involve the taking of any houses or realigning streets and since the overruns would not be used for landing aircraft to touchdown on, the flight paths would not change.What the paving of the overruns would do is give aircraft departing Tweed a longer takeoff roll thus eliminating weight restrictions that cost airlines lost seats and lost revenue.
What some area residents fear is the return of conditions that existed when Eastern airlines flew from Tweed.Those old whisper jets are long gone the new generation of jet aircraft are much quieter and have a smaller ground noise footprint.
Also Tweeds size and market would dictate the amount of service. It would nowhere come close to bradley,Providence, or White Plains airports. With service to 3 or 4 hub airports,Tweed could finally become the airport of choice for area travelers and be helpful in attracting new companies to the New Haven area and adding new jobs.
Tweed for years has been stymied by opposition from East Haven but it appears that the rift has been settled and the progress at Tweed over the last 3 years has been more than was done than over the past 40 years.
If one looks into Tweeds history it becomes evident that its not the market that failed,but the limited runway length all along.