Haven’t you already served in public office long enough? What makes you think you can run a city if you can’t run a school? What did you ever do in City Hall for African-Americans and Latinos? Are you just going leave a city you’ve barely lived in if you don’t become mayor?
New Haven’s five remaining mayoral candidates fielded those shots Tuesday night—not from each other, but from questions posed by a moderator at their latest debate.
The debate, at King Robinson Magnet School in Newhallville, proved the most pointed to date, challenging the candidates on what their skeptics view as their major vulnerabilities.
The Register’s Shahid Abdul-Karim moderated the debate, which was sponsored by the local NAACP, the Association of Hispanic Evangelical Ministries of New Haven, the Clergy Ambassador Program and the Greater New Haven Business and Professional Association. Five still-standing Democratic mayoral candidates participated: state Sen. Toni Harp, former city economic development chief Henry Fernandez, Alderman Justin Elicker, Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina, and plumber Sundiata Keitazulu.
State rep. Gary Holder-Winfield did not participate. Instead, he dropped out of the race.
After a series of general questions for all the candidates to answer, moderator Abdul-Karim read queries the sponsors tailored to each mayoral hopeful—queries that got right to the point about their perceived liabilities.
“Mike Tyson has nothing on this dude,” Carolina said of Abdul-Karim, before responding to the question: “How can you manage a city if you can’t run a high school?”
Carolina recited statistics showing academic improvement and increased parental involvement at Hillhouse under his direction. Fernandez described efforts as a City Hall administrator to make blacks and Latinos got city-funded construction jobs; and to bring Gateway Community College downtown. Harp said she learned that a mayor has more control than a state senator over how state dollars get spent in New Haven.
Elicker grew up in New Canaan. He has lived in New Haven for six years. He was asked about that.
“None of us here can control where we grew up or our backgrounds. What we can control, and what we should be judged on, are our actions. How we can improve the world,” he replied. Then he spoke about starting a youth program in his neighborhood, bringing an independent voice to the Board of Aldermen, and working so hard at constituent services that voters joke that he can be counted on to come change their light bulbs.
During closing statements at the debate’s end, Carolina lobbed a bomb: He suggested that Harp actually lives in Bethany, not New Haven. Harp denied it. She said after the debate that her husband used to own a property on Judd Hill Road in Bethany, but that the family never lived there. She said her late husband, a developer, built the house “for a doctor that was coming into town. They were not happy,” so the family never moved in. That was around six years ago, she said. The house has “stayed relatively empty” since then, Harp said. “Occasionally we would have parties there. That’s all there is to the story.” She said she lives in her family’s Conrad Drive home in upper Westville.
A limited-liability partnership, 35 Judd Hill LLC, owns the Bethany property. State records list Harp’s late husband and her son as principals of the partnership. It lists the Conrad Drive property as their home address.
Following is a blow-by-blow live-blog account of the debate, including details on the candidates’ answers to the questions about their suitability for office.
7:08 p.m. Debate’s starting late. Most of the candidates have yet to take the stage.
7:11 p.m. Emcee James Rawlings from the NAACP welcomes people. African-American and Latino ministers worked together on organizing this event.
7:17 p.m. The Rev. Boise Kimber is delivering a “statement of purpose” as Toni Harp arrives to join the other candidates onstage.
7:22 Rawlings denounces today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Civil Rights Act, noting how the section of the law struck down was used by civil-rights activists to combat voter suppression efforts aimed at African-Americans in the last presidential election. Biggest applause for Harp and Carolina as Rawlings introduces the candidates.
7:26 Looks like about 200 people here in the crowd. Carolina’s opening statement: His number-one campaign issue is “breaking the cycle of poverty” and “help pregnant mothers educate their children.”
7:27 Elicker: “This election is about equity. ... How we treat the least among us. No longer is it acceptable for us as a city to fix a sidewalk” or approve a spot for a child in a school based on personal or political connections.
7:28 Fernandez: “Thanks to y’all for coming out ... I grew up in serious poverty.” His mom had only a high-school degree; she did a great job along raising three kids, all of whom went to college. He was proud to run the LEAP program for seven years and to fight for immigrant rights alongside his wife, Kica Matos. Last year he worked nationally with the NAACP to register 450,000 people to vote.
7:30 Harp: “I’ve lived in New Haven for 40 years, and I’ve served most of you in the General Assembly for the past 21 years. I think what marks my public life is my belief in the people I serve. ... I will be your champion.”
7:31 Keitazulu: “For too long we have heard empty promises year after year after year. No jobs in our community. Poverty running wild. Violence running wild. Yale-New Haven Hospital getting everything they wanted. For too long our children have been bred for prison.” He promises “real change.”
7:32 First question from Hispanic Clergy Association. Latinos feel downtown has gotten developed while “little” has been done with neighborhoods. What specific plans do you propose to engage the power of our Hispanic communities?
7:33 Keitazulu speaks of building new vo-tech schools. Harp promises to create jobs, support small business, and promote bilingual education—for everyone.
7:36 Fernandez: “I led the city’s effort to bring Gateway Community College downtown ... It sent a clear message:” Downtown isn’t just for Yale, which “serves people from all over the world,” but also for Gateway, which serves people from all over New Haven. Wants to help Latinos and African-Americans start businesses and make sure government-funded construction jobs “go to New Haven residents.” Elicker, the campaign’s only Spanish speaker, starts off en Español, then segues to English, to say government should “communicate with everyone in our city.” Agrees with Keitazulu’s call for more vo-tech education.
7:38 Carolina: If we don’t provide more “mom and pop” businesses in neighborhoods, local people, especially ex-felons, won’t get jobs. He wants government breaks directed toward businesses with under 10 employees.
7:40 Question from black clergy: What plan and resources will you direct to improve third-grade test mastery? Early-childhood education is the new rage in education policy debates; Elicker has focused on it the past week, while the governor today named a New Haven expert on the subject to an agency he formed by bypassing the legislature. Streamline enrollment processes for the “neediest” to have a fair chance at getting into early-ed programs at magnet schools; “capture” some of the big money President Obama and Gov. Malloy are committing to early-childhood ed; and despite the focus on testing, reserve the first couple of years in school for “love and play,” not letters and numbers. Fernandez says to hold him accountable for how the schools do and to offer “transparent” data on school performance. (Click here for a story about an event at which he said not to reelect him if the schools fail to improve.)
7:44 Harp: She chaired an achievement gap task force in the legislature; she says the gap begins before school starts, so she wants universal pre-K for people who want it.
7:47 Audience question for Keitazulu: Why should we take your candidacy seriously if you can’t qualify for the Democracy Fund? “My voice has not been heard,” he responds. But he has a good plan for vo-tech schools and job-training, full bilingual ed and “city jobs for city people.” “This is a job about leadership. This is not about who’s the most popular.” “I’m the first candidate to be down in the dirt ... I will rise to the top.” (Read about his personal story here.)
7:50 Audience question for Harp: “If 20 years is enough for John DeStefano, why is it not enough for you?” And what would you accomplish that you haven’t accomplished as senator? “I passed a lot of bills that I thought were going to help.” Has passed bills that sent lots of money for New Haven, for LEAP and school “wraparound programs.” She learned: “Often when you send the money down, you don’t know how it’s going to be spent.” Example: Pre-school education money. She thought it would all be spent on kids from New Haven. She discovered lots of the dollars go to suburban kids; one third of all pre-school slots. “I decided I’m going to run so I know the money we get from Hartford is spent right.”
7:53 Audience question for Fernandez: “You describe yourself as for civil rights. How do you reconcile that with your performance as economic development administrator? What did you do to support minority businesses in the inner city?” Fernandez says he’s “absolutely proud of my record” both in City Hall, and in national civil-rights campaigns. He speaks of how in City Hall he discovered that “people were being bused in from New York State to fill jobs on New Haven school construction projects.” He dispatched inspectors, then “I shut those jobs down. That had never been done before. For big developers, big construction companies, I said, ‘That will never happen again.’” Then, he says, he succeeded in getting goals met for hiring African-Americans, women and Latinos. (Read more about that here.) Mentions Gateway’s downtown move again. “That wasn’t universally popular. But I know that putting a college downtown ... serves all of our people, all of our neighborhoods.”
7:57 For Elicker: You’ve lived in New Haven only six years! “What makes you think” you can serve as mayor? If you lose, will you just pick up and leave? Elicker: “None of us here can control where we grew up or our backgrounds. What we can control, and what we should be judged on, are our actions. How we can improve the world. Yes I have been in New Haven six years. But I hit the ground running.” He started a youth program in East Rock Park; has been one of the “most independent voices” on the Board of Aldermen; pushed for making the system fairer for getting into schools. Urges people to “walk around East Rock and Cedar Hill” and ask about how hard he has worked for constituents. “There’s no way I’m leaving this town ... I thrive on diversity. ... This city makes me successful. I’m not going anywhere, whether i get elected or not.”
8 p.m. Tough questions! Now for Carolina: What about those poor test scores at Hillhouse? “How can you manage a city if you can’t run a high school?”
“Mike Tyson has nothing on this dude,” Carolina begins.
He talks about how “education saved my life.” He took on the long odds facing Hillhouse; 63 percent of the mid-year transfers from charters and magnet schools, “we show success.” He says “they” won’t “show you” the positive statistics about Hillhouse “because I’m a bad guy now because of my fight with John DeStefano.” Here are those stats, he says: Drop-out rate has decreased 33 percent in three years. Graduation rate has increased 25 percent. AP scores have tripled. “Parent participation has tripled.” One of Carolina’s opponents last week attacked him for school “climate” surveys showing discontent at Hillhouse.
Carolina’s fired up. “If you want change, you elect me.” The others “bring old faces to new problems.” “I didn’t want money from big business.” By participating in the Democracy Fund, he gets small donations from people with less money. “That’s the people I want” informing his decisions, he says.
8:17 p.m. During closing statements, Carolina lobs a bomb: Since the media has used “kid gloves” on “so-called frontrunner” Harp, he wants to ask her: Do you spend your time “on Judd Hill Road” in Bethany, or do you truly live in Westville? “I’ve never lived on Judd Hill Road,” Harp responds, sitting behind him. (After the debate, she gave a fuller answer. See the top of this story.)
posted by: cedarhillresident! on June 25, 2013 8:49pm
You want to know about justin…Cedar Hill Block watch is the first thus. of the month at 6:00 1415 State St Cedar Hill recovery center. We are small in the summer months but there are always folks there that can give you a first hand opinion about what Justin is about and what he has done for our community and our kids!
posted by: cedarhillresident! on June 25, 2013 8:59pm
I do want to add that Keitazulu is the talk of the town. He needs to know that he is a hero to people! TY for being the voice of so many. And Kerm! Bravo to you!!
posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on June 25, 2013 9:07pm
Could the editor of this paper please do the community a favor and fact-check statements made by all of the candidates at this debate? There were certain statements and statistics made that warrant closer scrutiny and verification. The voters have a right to know the facts so that they can make intelligent decisions based on facts and not emotions.
posted by: P Christopher Ozyck on June 25, 2013 9:21pm
The independent could ask the neighbors on Conrad drive in new haven. Then on Judd hill. I think that would be illuminating.
posted by: anonymous on June 25, 2013 9:48pm
Beyond the political insider establishment, Harp and Fernandez are known primarily for widening highways (making neighborhoods uninhabitable), and for standing by as the Big Money contractors who donated to their campaigns demolished entire neighborhoods to build schools. They are also known for doing nothing about massive cuts to funding to parks and transit since 2000, two of the city’s most important elements.
Elicker, meanwhile, is known for successfully fighting highway widening projects to try to make neighborhoods viable again, and for fighting day and night for local parents so that they could fairly get their children into their local schools without being the victims of a corrupt lottery/admissions system. He is also known for his work completely rebuilding parks, and improving the transit system which is crumbling thanks to State and City neglect.
Carolina sounds like an amazing educator and principal, but is less known for his work on citywide issues of importance. I’d like to hear more of his ideas.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 25, 2013 10:39pm
Some one ask me to drive them to this debate.I would say it was more like Thrilla in Manila with Carolina and Harp.
posted by: Noteworthy on June 25, 2013 10:53pm
I’m sick of Toni Harp’s airy dismissal of yet another corporation owning another piece of property. Funny how she knows why it’s in her husband’s estate, is not occupied, rarely is and how it is used for parties. And yet, Toni Harp knows nothing about her dead husband’s business, or his tax woes or hers either.
None of it makes sense. Wendell Harp not only stiffed Connecticut taxpayers - he stiffed the federal government too; and New Haven too.
My question for Harp would be two fold: How can you expect your neighbors and others in New Haven to pay its taxes on time when your family does not? Do you think its normal to have all your assets in corporate shells? How can you stiff Connecticut taxpayers and do nothing about it after you and your children benefited from the tax scofflaw in chief?
posted by: Curious on June 26, 2013 6:43am
@ Cedarhillresident, I think Keitazulu brings something unique and important t this race and these debates.
Justin is my choice, but Keitazulu’s is an important voice.
What do you think about us doing a fundraiser to help Keitazulu qualify for the Democracy Fund and stay in this race a while longer? There’s plenty of money in the fund, and it’s not like Harp or Fernandez tapped it.
Harp: “Occasionally we would have parties” [at her Bethany home]. ”. It’s long been customary for the ruling elite to have a place to get away from the “stress” of governance. Why should the Harp royal family be any different? “Carolina’s opening statement: His number-one campaign issue is ‘breaking the cycle of poverty’ and ‘help pregnant mothers educate their children.’” Reality: breaking the cycle of poverty means not having teenage mothers. Fernandez: “I led the city’s effort to bring Gateway Community College downtown ... It sent a clear message”. That message being that he saw no drawbacks in handing over 2 blocks of prime real-estate to a tax-exempt non-profit. Elicker: “reserve the first couple of years in school for ‘love and play’, not letters and numbers.” Translation: turn public schools into parent-substitutes. “Audience question for Keitazulu: Why should we take your candidacy seriously if you can’t qualify for the Democracy Fund?” Remember, folks: politics is REALLY all about self-serving politicians getting lots of campaign money from special-interest groups, who in turn get special favors from the politicians. Poor Sundiata: he actually thinks a mayor is supposed to be a public servant for ALL the people. How can you possibly take somewhat like THAT seriously? “Audience question for Harp: ‘If 20 years is enough for John DeStefano, why is it not enough for you?’” Remember, folks: for a crony, life-time, careerist politician there are NEVER enough years to get what you want from the system.
posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on June 26, 2013 7:46am
How does a story about a debate among FIVE out of the 6 candidates get relegated to a sidebar while a story about ONE candidate gets Top Billing?
The NHI continues to make some “interesting” editorial decisions with regard to your coverage of this race.
[Editor: Here is the conspiracy, explained. When a story is unfolding, and we’re updating it live, we often (if there’s still a lot to come, and another story has just recently gone up top in the Top Stories column) put it at the top of Extra Extra so folks know it’s there and can follow it before it’s done. In the morning we move it to the Top Stories column when it’s ready in full, and to make room for a fresh “Extra Extra” while having given readers time to see the previously posted Top Story. Another reason: Sometimes we turn off the computer and get some sleep! That explains the second conspiracy—why sometimes comments don’t get posted right away, especially on weekends.]
posted by: Dwightstreeter on June 26, 2013 7:50am
It’s time to bring the public in on the questions. At Varick Memorial the question cards were in the basement and had to be filled out in advance. It would be nice to have more of a give and take with the public, which means more times for answers that go beyond the standard promises of jobs and better schools. It’s time for specifics.
posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on June 26, 2013 8:05am
WOW, another slick move by the NHI.
Do you guys read submissions by commentors, hold the comments, correct according to the criticism, and then print the comments as if they have no bases in reality?
Good move. I guess, moving the Debate story to the top of the one candidate special interest piece though.
posted by: Anderson Scooper on June 26, 2013 8:27am
Judd Hill Road is under foreclosure, so I hope Senator Harp does not live there!
Someone would have to do more research, but Zillow lists no activity between September of 2005 and February of 2012, when the home was listed. Who lived there for those six and a half years? It’s not as if you simply hold onto an empty single family house as an investment, and Wendell Harp was always a great businessman.
Obviously it seems as if there is more to this story than Team Harp is sharing with us. Are we being dealt with straight?
posted by: cedarhillresident! on June 26, 2013 8:55am
@ Dwightstreeter Elicker is getting more specific. With his “75 in 75” Here http://www.elicker2013.com/75-solutions. Or schedule a talk with him…he is really great about that. I had a neighbor that had an issue at 3 in the morning..called this man and he respond!! he is a very unique candidate (actually he is what all politions should be like but sadly they are now a big money product with broken promises).
posted by: cedarhillresident! on June 26, 2013 9:02am
I acutally think we should do that let me talk to a few folks tomorrow night and see if we can get this going for him.
posted by: anonymous on June 26, 2013 9:06am
Given that Harp now represents Bob Proto and other Big Money city interests that are entirely controlled by suburban residents, it would be appropriate if she spent most of her time in Bethany (although being at the bleeding edge of the city, across from the Yale golf course, is symbolic enough.)
posted by: FacChec on June 26, 2013 9:23am
“Carolina lobbed a bomb: He suggested that Harp actually lives in Bethany, not New Haven. Harp denied it. She said after the debate that her husband used to own a property on Judd Hill Road in Bethany, but that the family never lived there”.
I’m not sure whether Carolina lobbed a bomb, or his negative comment bombed instead.
Apparently,the late Wendel Harp owned the house, and it is for sale now, but there is no evidence that Toni Harp lives there now or has lived there at any time in the past. This address is out side of the 10 Senatorial District.
@ FacChec “but there is no evidence that Toni Harp lives there now or has lived there at any time in the past”.
What exactly do you have for “evidence” of that statement? I can imagine numerous types of evidence to prove or rebut Kermit’s question but you haven’t offered any (for example- mail, eye witnesses, neighbors, listing realtors,..)
posted by: FacChec on June 26, 2013 11:20am
West- Vill- man,
Thanks for your probing analysis, However, the central question regarding residency as you stated here…...
“I can imagine numerous types of evidence to prove or rebut Kermit’s question but you haven’t offered any (for example- mail, eye witnesses, neighbors, listing realtors,..)”
...Is really Kermit’s burden of prof, the article quotes Kermit as saying:
Carolina lobbed a bomb: He suggested that “Harp actually lives in Bethany, not New Haven”. Harp denied it. She said after the debate that her husband used to own a property on Judd Hill Road in Bethany, but that the family never lived there.
“Never lived there” is a definitive answer which commits the burden of prof back to the accuser.
I did not say Harp lives there or does not, I said kermit provided no prof.
One would reasonably assume that if Harp lived there since 2002,and repeatedly ran in the 10th Senatorial district, then the State of Ct. elections commission would have had some idea of that fact. In addition, the Harp family would have filed a 2010 Census form noting that address. I doubt that was so.
posted by: Hieronymous on June 26, 2013 11:42am
Westville Man, generally the person leveling an accusation is the one who’s supposed to come up with evidence in support of it. It’s a little backwards to ask FacChec to produce evidence of a lack of evidence. All we know is her husband owned a house in Bethany. He also owned dozens in New Haven. That was his business. It would not surprise me if one of hte other candidates owns a house or condo or time share somewhere outside of New Haven. Doesn’t mean he *lives* there.
I’m no Harp enthusiast, but I have to agree that this charge seems pretty weak. If Kerm or anyone else has evidence that Harp doesn’t *live* in New Haven, that would be pretty interesting. But we haven’t seen it and, again, the burden of proof generally rests with the accuser, not the accused.
posted by: HhE on June 26, 2013 12:24pm
That much capital tied up in a house that was left largely empty for years, in which an occasional party was held? I thought I had no business sense.
posted by: westville man on June 26, 2013 12:52pm
facchec. Ok, now i see what you meant- your re-stated position is that kermit offered no proof- i agree with that statement. He raised the issue- let’s see where it goes. And nice play on my “handle” - maybe i’ll use that one!
How is it that Wendell Harp owned a house that he only ever used to hold parties in, didn’t actually LIVE in, but still was in so much debt?
Are these assets being taken by the state to help absorb the cost of absolving Michael Harp of his $1,000,000 tax forgiveness? Or does he get off the hook for not paying taxes and get to keep all his property? Including the party house?
This is a 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath house on 1.5 acres in Bethany, and it’s worth $530,000. Who owns a home like this and just used it to hold the occasional party in every now and then?
posted by: rightwrong57 on June 26, 2013 2:33pm
No mention of why Gary Holder-Winfield dropped out of race.
posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on June 26, 2013 2:47pm
So here is “The Editors’ snarky response to my legitimate question(ing):
Editor: Here is the conspiracy, explained. When a story is unfolding, and we’re updating it live, we often (if there’s still a lot to come, and another story has just recently gone up top in the Top Stories column) put it at the top of Extra Extra so folks know it’s there and can follow it before it’s done. In the morning we move it to the Top Stories column when it’s ready in full, and to make room for a fresh “Extra Extra” while having given readers time to see the previously posted Top Story. Another reason: Sometimes we turn off the computer and get some sleep! That explains the second conspiracy—why sometimes comments don’t get posted right away, especially on weekends.]
And MY response to their’s: Why not just publish stories in an appropriate place only AFTER the story is done being a story. i know these “debates” can SEEM as if they last forever, but they DO end at some point. Stop trying to be FIRST and just try to be accurate and appropriate in your reporting and in where you are placing stories on your site.
To the second “issue” and your disingenuous response: ANYONE who read what I wrote should be able to understand that the criticism is NOT merely about withholding comments until you awake from your sleep the next morning. It’s about CHANGING the “on-going” story which you admittedly(?) ran prematurely, accepting comments based on the PREMATURELY published story, and then publishing those comments under a story that has been changed, in some cases SIGNIFICANTLY. THAT practice, my friends, is not fair to the commentator or worthy of a reputable publication.
I hope, as it seems, that I touched a nerve here. Maybe your seeming sensitive to the criticism will lead you to take a second (or third?) look at the practice.
N.B. Perceived bias leads to heightened suspicion.
I did not say Harp lives there or does not, I said kermit provided no prof.
And if the proof comes out that she did live there.What would you say.
posted by: FacChec on June 26, 2013 7:16pm
I would’t do or say anything if it were shown she (Harp) lived there(past tense), Kermit said she lives there now(present tense), so the question remains what would kermit do??
Frankly, I don’t think the accusation has any fact, for certain it has no political legs.
Let it go….. This is the last you will hear from me on this subject.
Oh 3/5’s thank you for correcting my spelling on the word proof..I did spell it prof.
posted by: Wildwest on June 26, 2013 8:04pm
Should not we all feel better knowing that Harp ONLY uses her second house in the ‘burbs as a place to entertain? I mean GOSH, you cant have a decent party in Westville, who knows, someone could have their car broken into or worse yet, not even show up!
Welcome to the USA. I wonder why the unions all support her.
posted by: Stylo on June 26, 2013 9:00pm
Am I nuts, or is it ridiculously obvious that Justin is the only candidate that has both shown effectiveness and caring as an elected official AND will be a true positive change from the current administration?
He should be the front runner, but clearly Harp has the machine behind her. Hope he can persevere.
posted by: HhE on June 26, 2013 9:47pm
Stylo, you are not nuts, and to your other questions, “Yes” across the board.
posted by: Mike Slattery on June 26, 2013 11:00pm
All I’m saying right now is that picture of 3/5ths needs to become a meme.
posted by: cedarhillresident! on June 27, 2013 9:45am
OMG Mike I did not even notice that! It is a keeper!
posted by: Stephen Harris on June 29, 2013 8:01am
7:36 Fernandez: “I led the city’s effort to bring Gateway Community College downtown…”.
Yes, he lead the effort to put a non profit use on two super blocks of prime downtown land that could have been used for a large, taxable, mixed-use project.
Bad idea. If he’s elected we’ll get more of the same.
posted by: Curious on June 29, 2013 10:32pm
Stephen Harris has an excellent point.
We may be getting a Jordan’s furniture at the old Register site in Long Wharf, which is great.
Imagine if we had been able to put it downtown instead.