Thud! Goes A Clean-Elections Dismissal

Thomas MacMillan PhotoIn the season’s first mayoral debate, one candidate tried to convince college-age Democrats that how he raises money “doesn’t really matter”—and received groans of disapproval in response.

Those groans came from a crowd of about 100 people at a Saturday afternoon debate sponsored by the Yale College Democrats at Linsley-Chittenden Hall on High Street. Yale College Democrats President Nicole Hobbs served as moderator.

All five announced candidates so far for the Democratic mayoral nomination participated: former city development chief Henry Fernandez, former Chamber of Commerce president Matthew Nemerson, Alderman Justin Elicker, state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, and plumber Sundiata Keitazulu.

Thomas MacMillan PhotoThe newest candidate, Matt Nemerson, sought to defend his choice not to run under the city public campaign financing program, under which candidates agree to limit individual contributions to $370 (rather than $1,000) in return for matching government dollars.

“It really doesn’t matter how we collect money,” Nemerson (pictured) said. That’s what got people groaning.

Campaign financing is emerging as a defining issue in the crowded race to succeed incumbent Mayor John DeStefano, who is retiring after 20 years in office. The issue has already prompted fierce debates online.

Three of the candidates are participating in the fund: Holder-Winfield, Elicker, and KeitazuluFernandez has elected not to participate. Nemerson said he won’t participate if Fernandez doesn’t.

A sixth potential candidate, Hillhouse principal Kermit Carolina, attended Saturday’s debate as a spectator only.

Although the debate had few fireworks, the question of campaign financing created some heat. Elicker asked for rebuttal time from the moderator, in order to pounce on Nemerson’s position.

“I agree that money should be out of government,” Nemerson said. But there’s a big difference between money in government at the federal or state level and at the city level, he said. At the city level, there is less danger of corruption, he claimed.

“I’ve decided that if everyone is not going to agree to participate [in the Democracy Fund], then I’m not,” Nemerson said. He originally offered a different reason earlier in the week for not participating in the public-financing system, saying he needed more money to establish his campaign’s “credibility.”

In Saturday’s debate, he repeated an announcement he’d made in a Friday Independent interview: that he will have a “financial ombudsmen” for his campaign to review all donations and disclose all donations online within 48 hours.

“I’m not using taxpayer dollars to pay for my campaign,” said Fernandez. “I’m able to raise funds without doing so.” He said he worked hard to “root out corruption” when he served as city development chief under Mayor John DeStefano.

With moderator permission, Elicker (pictured) seized on Nemerson’s comments. “The idea that money doesn’t influence municipal politics — has any one watched DeStefano administration for the last 20 years?” Contractors get work in the city by donating to the mayor’s race, Elicker said.

“The reality is, we’re all really honorable people,” Nemerson said. “There really is nothing to buy here folks.”

After the debate, Nemerson acknowledged that his stance hadn’t gone over well with the Yale students: “This crowd clearly didn’t go along with that.”

“This generation believes money should be taken out” of politics entirely, Nemerson said. He said he has to pay attention to the effect his rejection of the Democracy Fund will have on younger voters.

“I have to think about it,” he said. “Credibility is the currency.”

But Nemerson said he won’t join the Democracy Fund unless Fernandez does.

Fernandez said he doesn’t think that public financing is the most important issue on the race, despite the attention paid to it in the debate. People he talks to are much more concerned about jobs, crime, and education, he said.

Elicker disagreed, pointing to the fact that people had reacted so strongly to Nemerson’s comment about money-collecting. “People care about it!” Elicker said.

Bag It

The one curveball question of the debate came from the audience, asking the candidates if they would support a ban on plastic bags in the city, for environmental reasons.

Fernandez, Holder-Winfield, and Elicker said yes. Elicker said he’s already working on crafting such a measure.

Keitazulu was more circumspect, saying he would have to see if it made sense for New Haven businesses, since jobs have to come first. Nemerson said plastic bag bans are “a little annoying.” He said the bigger issue is to attract people to move into the city, where people live more efficiently and consume less resources.

The Independent reported on the debate live from a front-row seat in the hall. Read on for a blow-by-blow account of the event.

Live Blog

3:42 p.m.: Quiet here in the hall so far. Gary Holder-Winfield has arrived. Sundiata Keitazulu wandered in not long ago. Justin Elicker just arrived, is shaking hands with Holder-Winfield. 

3:57:Room is filling up. All candidates have arrived.

4:02:The candidates are seated. About 100 people are here to watch. Moderator Nicole Hobbs begins by thanking the debate’s co-sponsors, who submitted most of the questions that will be asked. The rules: No applause. 30-second rebuttals may be granted at candidate request.

Opening statements: Elicker is first and leaps out of his seat. He paces in front of the candidate’s table as he speaks, a practice that others follow.

Elicker’s opening statement starts with a history lesson on the founding of New Haven by religious refugees. Modern challenges: de-industrialization, drugs and debt. “A haven is a place of peace, safety and opportunity. New Haven is not just a name but a promise.” Elicker promises to work to fulfill the promise.

Nemerson starts with a story from 1968. His father drove him through the Winchester neighborhood and Nemerson saw empty “hulking” buildings. His dad predicted more riots if something wasn’t done. Fifteen years later, Nemerson had the opportunity to start Science Park ... “to figure out how we could actually fix New Haven.” New Haven needs someone with experience, who’s been in the city.

Keitazulu says: Jobs are the number one priority. “In the inner city we’re living in a crisis each and every day: High poverty, crime, unemployment, murder rate. My plan calls for vocational education. “I’m tried of seeing our city blow up.”

Fernandez offers a personal history, starting with an apology for having attended Harvard. He came to New Haven 23 years ago for law school, started the LEAP youth mentoring program. Later he was in city development, bringing Ikea to town, among other accomplishments. Since then, he’s been working on “social justice” movements nationwide. Has an 8-year-old son.

Holder-Winfield (pictured): The major issues in the race are crime, economics, and education. He became an activist after coming to New Haven as an engineer. Then he continued his social justice work as a state representative.

Kermit Carolina, who’s expected to officially enter the race soon, just arrived. He’s not participating in the debate.

4:!5: The first question is from the Ward 22 Democratic Committee: What are your plans for the Hill, Dixwell, Newhallvile and other neighborhoods dealing with high unemployment?

Nemerson: 10,000 jobs over 10 years. We’re well positioned because of transportation infrastructure. We have lost our manufacturing advantage. We should be the center of manufacturing. We have the immigrants and the training programs.

Keitazulu: My plan is to train people. There are a lot of jobs, people don’t have the skills. I would open 20 voc-ed schools. And city jobs should go to city residents. All companies that sign contracts with this city will hire our residents. I would hire Mayor DeStefano to work with me to get people hired.

Fernandez: I was economic development administrator for 5.5 years. We were able to create new jobs and new businesses. The nature of work is changing. Having Gateway downtown is essential, to retrain workers. I live in Fair Haven. I’m committed to small business as well as large. I created the River Street re-development area.

Holder-Winfield: I live in Newhallville. There are a lot of people looking for jobs. Many people can’t get construction jobs, they can’t get the big contracts. Those big jobs can be broken down. New Haven is poised to expand because of rail, harbor, and airport. We can bring development here because we have those things.

Elicker: “I plan on bringing 10,000 and one jobs to New Haven.” DeStefano has been effective developing downtown but that hasn’t been felt around the city. Economic development needs to help businesses develop along neighborhood economic corridors. Jobs: Biotech/life sciences. We need to connect the unemployed to training to employment. And: Minority business enterprise programs. People with criminal backgrounds have a hard time getting jobs.

4:24: Next question is from Students Unite Now: How would you support the current aldermanic agenda of public safety, youth programs, and jobs?

Keitazulu (pictured): I would hire young kids. We need voc-ed schools. I’d open up teen centers. I have four kids in school right now.

Fernandez: The aldermanic agenda is the right one. I was a director of one of the city’s largest youth agencies. We do need more youth centers. The shift to community policing is good. We need jobs. Good jobs, with benefits and health care.

Holder-Winfield: This is the correct agenda. I’m happy about the move back to community policing. But it needs to work better. The cop in my neighborhood doesn’t know me, but the one in Westville does. The cops need to be more a part of the community. This agenda is served by support from the state. The mayor needs to be in conversation with the state. [Holder-Winfield is playing up his connection to and experience with state government, as he did at his campaign kick-off at the Greek Olive.]

Elicker: These are the issues I hear in every neighborhood. Good jobs, safe neighborhoods, good schools, youth programs. The level of crime is highest between the end of school and nighttime. How do you pay for more youth centers? We have beautiful schools. We need to partner with organizations and open our schools. There’s no reason every child shouldn’t have a tutor, with so many universities.

Nemerson: We don’t create jobs. We compete for jobs. Investment capital is looking for cities that are working together. We need to have a different compact between power. We have an opportunity with a big university, an active union, a big board of alderman, a mayor. It’s a unique opportunity, maybe unique in the Western World.

4:31: Next, Yale Law School Democrats’ question is about New Haven’s relationship with Yale. What’s working and what needs improvement?

Fernandez: The university is an important ally in the growth of the city. That has changed dramatically over the years. We work best together when we’re honest about the strengths and interests of the university and the city, when we look for our shared interest. That said, when we need to stand up to the university, we need to do it. I’ve done it in the past.

Holder-Winfield: Honesty is critical. It’s better now, but people still see Yale as a problem. It’s a partner. A good partner. It’s part of the reason that this city doesn’t look like Bridgeport. That said, the mayor has to stand up and say what’s real. They are a partner. If there are issues, they are because the mayor hasn’t figured out what to do with the parts of the city that Yale doesn’t own.

Elicker: We have a lot to learn from Yale, particularly in the area of hockey. [Elicker tends to start his responses with a joke, which sometimes works and sometimes falls flat.] We get more with a carrot than with a stick. Standing up to Yale is the wrong language. Several areas to work with Yale: Tutors, transportation (Yale shuttle should be combined with CT Transit busing), business incubation.

Nemerson: There are many Yales. It’s a complex institution. We have to look for opportunity. Yale is one of the great brands in the world. Together we can be one of the great communities in the world.

Keitazulu: Yale is the number one employer. Yale is doing a good job. I used to come on the Yale campus all the time as a kid. Today you can’t come on the campus because of crime and violence. People don’t feel welcome down here.

4:40: Next question, from the Yale Daily News: How would you approach the Democracy Fund as mayor?

Holder-Winfield: I’ve been an advocate of clean elections for a while. A person with $10 needs to have a say in the election, and that’s what public financing makes possible.

Elicker: Americans are tired of money ruling politics and New Haven is the same. People are tired of special interests and rich people running our government. Money doesn’t need to run politics. Look at Obama vs. Romney, and Murphy vs. McMahon. Participating in the Democracy Fund forces us to engage with more people. We’ve had over 600 contributions.

Nemerson: I agree that money should be out of government. But there’s a big difference between federal and state and city governments. I’ve decided that if everyone’s not going to agree to participate, then I’m not. We’re going to have a financial ombudsmen and publish donations every 48 hours. You’ll have transparency. This election should be about the future of New Haven. I don’t think campaign money is going to influence how to deal with the critical problems the city faces.

Keitazulu: The Democracy Fund gives everyone a voice. I’m finding it’s hard to get money for my campaign. I’m strapped.

Fernandez: I support the fund. I’m not using it. I’m not using taxpayer dollars to pay for my campaign. I’m able to raise funds without doing so. Obama opted out of public financing. No one thinks he’s controlled by big financial interests. That is, compared to the person he ran against. I’m the one candidate who came into city government and worked hard to root out corruption.

Elicker asks for time for a rebuttal: The idea that money doesn’t influence municipal politics—has any one watched DeStefano administration for the last 20 years? Contractors win work in the city through campaign contributions. Nemerson’s 48-hour reporting pledge it’s like saying, as a smoker, I’m going to tell you how many cigarettes I’m smoking every two days, instead of once a month. You’re still smoking. If you support the Democracy Fund you participate in the Democracy Fund. 

Nemerson: The reality is we’re all really honorable people. It really doesn’t matter how we collect money. [Groans from the audience] There really is nothing to buy here folks.

Holder-Winfield: The Democracy Fund allows people to get into the race who otherwise can’t. Without public financing I wouldn’t be a state rep.

Keitazulu: The Democracy Fund has given me a voice in this race.

4:50: The next question is about immigrant rights in New Haven.

Elicker: I’m an ethical person and a practical person. If the federal government can’t fix the immigration system, then we need to address the problems. [Elicker is prepared for this question. Pulls out his Elm City ID Card.] I’m the only candidate who can speak Spanish.

Fernandez: Matt, if you answer in Spanish right now, it’ll be a home run. Si Se puede, Matt.

Nemerson: [In English:] The city has always been about immigrants. We need to have the opportunity for them to have jobs and businesses. New Haven needs to have jobs, so that they have opportunity. Otherwise, it doesn’t mater how fair and just we are.

Keitazulu: I habla espanol. Poquito. My granddaughter is espanol. I know a few words. I wish I knew more. I know “cuanto cuesta?” “How much?” More people should know Spanish. 

Fernandez: This has been my life’s work for the last 10 years. Fighting for immigrant rights. I’m a board member at Junta. I’ve led rallies here and in D.C. New Haven’s role as a beacon for immigrants is essential to maintain. The push for drivers licenses is essential. We have a lot to be proud of. My wife only speaks to our son in Spanish and I only speak to him in English.

Holder-Winfield: I’m the lead sponsor on a bill to deal with secure communities. I grew up, like other African-Americans, afraid of the police. When I go to take out the trash, I make sure I have ID on me. Immigrants are afraid of the police, just like people were where I grew up.

4:57:  Question from the audience, on education reform: What are the missing pieces?

Nemerson: We need to be able to say that our high school graduates are able to compete for any job in North America. We can’t say that now. We should have a lab school that people can test into, the best school in the state.

Keitazulu: I’d turn Hillhouse and Strong School into voc-ed schools. Our schools don’t prepare students for the real world.

Fenandez: I have an 8-year-old in the public schools. I want to be held accountable as mayor, to dramatically improve the schools. The New Haven union contract is groundbreaking. But we need to have more transparent evaluations of schools. It should be much simpler: A, B, C, D. And why.

Holder-Winfield: We need to go to the foundation of problems. People with less economic means come to school with fewer words. That gap in words becomes the achievement gap. We need to deal with the trauma people come to school with: Complex PTSD. I grew up in a community where getting an education was a fight. It shouldn’t be a fight.

Elicker: Four things: 1: early childhood education, Engage children at birth = better education outcomes. 2. Character education: conflict resolution, persistence, anger management. These are proven to lead to success. 3. Mental health support is desperately needed. 4. More transparency. A hybrid Board of Ed. The school board needs more accountability.

Nemerson asks for 30 seconds more: Not everyone has to go to college. Keitazulu has it right.

5:06: Would you support a plastic bag ban? What about the environment?

Keitazulu: I’d have to talk to business to see what the cost would be. If business doesn’t want it and it’s not cost-efficient, we won’t do it. Jobs have to come first.

Fernandez: I support not having plastic bags. It’s smart policy. When I was in city government, one of the key issues was the possibility of restarting English Station. I worked hard to make sure it would not be re-fired, with the high asthma rates in the neighborhood. We need environmental education in the schools. We need better, more efficient transit. We need to clean up brownfields.

Holder-Winfield: I would support the effort. The mayor needs to focus on environmental justice. There is such a movement in the city. New Haven’s high asthma rates are a badge of dishonor.

Elicker: [Lifting plastic water bottle:] I championed and passed a ban on bottled water purchases. Plastic bag ban: I’m already working on it. I’m working with a UConn student. It’s complicated because of the cost. We’re working on a sustainability plan for the city. We need a sustainability director. We can afford it by cost savings through environmental programs. That’s what I do as an environmental consultant.

Nemerson: My wife is one of the world’s foremost recycling experts. Plastic bag bans are “a little annoying.” More importantly, people need to move here from the suburbs. That will save more resources. If we fail to do that, if we all become Bridgeport, the environment is done. We need to make the city so attractive that people will come here.

5:12 p.m.: Final question, from the Black Student Alliance: Because so much land in the city is non-taxable, New Haven will never have robust tax base. How do we get enough money for programs we need?

Fernandez: We need to grow the number of tax-paying properties in the city. We’re going to do that between downtown and the medical center. And we need to deal with revaluation spikes. We need to keep property values up in poorer neighborhoods by reducing crime and strengthening those communities.

Holder-Winfield: We need to grow the city, to bring more businesses to the city. We can make it easier for businesses to come to the city. We need to deal with crime.

Elicker: Our city is facing a crisis and the budget problems will only get worse. Our taxes are so high that we’re driving people out or not attracting them. I support participatory budgeting. We can identify more efficiencies: The windows at Wilbur Cross were open all year long. Ultimately, the city needs to grow. We can do that because of all the things we offer. A kinder gentler New York or Boston.

Nemerson: Our taxes aren’t that much higher. Our property values are way too low. We have to support formulas for PILOT from the state. The state is going to have to fully fund PILOT. The future of New Haven needs to be secure enough to that people will pay more to move in here.

Keitazulu: We need more job growth. That will reduce crime, increase home ownership.

5:20 p.m.: closing statements:

Holder-Winfield: It’s important to look at the work people have been doing before they have a title. The job of the mayor is to look at pockets that are often overlooked. That’s what I’ve been doing.

Elicker: I talked about a new day for New Haven. We need a new mayor who will work. Ask my constituents. Ask Betty Thompson, who I helped get a new playground. [Speaks in Spanish about helping a Fair Haven woman.] “I can show you the dirt under my fingernails from clean-ups in Fair Haven.” I will be the hardest working mayor New Haven has ever seen. That’s a fact. The roots of the Elm City are strong. The branches (neighborhood corridors like State Street, Dixwell Avenue) need to be too.

Nemerson: I’ve been here for 35 years. Whom are you going to trust with this very, very, valuable piece of property? It’s about having the strength to share. This is an amazing panel of people. It’s going to be about my skills at sharing power. I understand how you make things happen by bringing people together. The next mayor doesn’t have to have the ego to always be in front.

Keitazulu: I’m ready to lead this city in a new direction. We can’t have one part of the city living in poverty and another in glory. I’m going to ask for help from you, you, you, and you. It’s time to bring about real change. I need all the help I can get.

Fernandez: You are going to be essential in this campaign and in the future of this city. I hope most of you choose to stay. You can make a huge difference here. We have a theme in our campaign; thanks Gary for saying it. It’s one city. What helps one neighborhood builds up all neighborhoods. For too long we’ve been divided.  We need to work together. We need to create jobs, careers for the residents of this city.


Tags: , , , , ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: ELMCITYPROF on April 20, 2013  4:29pm

Fernandez is very well-trained. Skilled at personalizing his answer to each question to emphasize his prior work for the city. I do wonder, however,whether voters will tire of that “me too” approach.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on April 20, 2013  5:14pm

The responses to the question about immigration are borderline offensive. Is speaking Spanish an indication of your commitment to immigrants’ rights? How about a quick statement of how you define immigrants’ rights? And just to state the obvious, undocumented immigrants come from non-Spanish speaking countries as well (e.g. Ireland). Stop pandering and address the substantive reality of a very complex yet very important policy area

posted by: Seth Poole on April 20, 2013  6:14pm

A job well done by all of the candidates.  Only after several forums, such as this one, will we find people taking sides and showing support for individuals.  It is more important that people get behind an agenda.  We all want to know what the new mayor will do to make our own personal/neighborhood issues disappear.  With so many issues and such short terms, we want to know what will be handled in what order.

posted by: DingDong on April 20, 2013  8:29pm

Thank you for this live blog.  I hope you will cover (maybe with video/audio?) future debates!

posted by: DingDong on April 20, 2013  8:41pm

I hope at the next debate, some questions are asked about some current issues in town on which people have strong opinions: (1) Star Supply—was this a good result?  (2) Downtown Crossing—is it adequately pedestrian and bike friendly? (3) do you support the Board of Alderman’s decision not to accept federal money to build a streetcar?

I’d like to see the candidates take stances on issues that are actually controversial. It’s easy to be for jobs, reduced crime, opportunity for youth and a higher tax base.  Who isn’t?

posted by: GoodNatured on April 20, 2013  8:58pm

I would like to know what work Fernandez and Nemerson have done in concrete terms about the city’s concrete problems—people hit with high property taxes, constituents fearful about street crime, illegal dumping leaving huge piles of trash in public places, little kids who can’t get into school near home and have to be bussed across town to a school they don’t know ...

Everything they’ve said can be boiled down to “Years ago I worked on policy for this city….” and “I like to be the CEO and sit behind the desk giving orders.”

How much have they dealt with the problems of real people in real time?  Where were they last year, last month, last week when we needed help?

posted by: Claudia Herrera on April 20, 2013  11:19pm

Did anyone recorded a video?
I think this events needs to be set up into a latter time, many people that works during the weekends no way they are going to get out of work at 4:pm after 5 o 6 will be more accessible to almost everyone.

posted by: Burbel on April 21, 2013  12:43am

Both Nemerson and Fernandez were quite specific about their recent efforts. Fernandez on the board of Junta, Nemerson working with the state. Holder-Winfield and Elicker are also actively engaged. All four are engaged and informed. The one most prepared was Elicker, from the looks of the live blog (thanks for it btw), making up for his relative lack of experience.

As someone else said, video would be nice for those of us who couldn’t attend.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on April 21, 2013  7:53am

Nemerson is about to grant Sal Brancati a re-entry into New Haven politics, and he says “nothing to buy here”?

That is terrifying to this voter. Can a man be so naive? Or is it a new level of lying cynicism being displayed?

posted by: Wooster Squared on April 21, 2013  8:58am

Judging from the transcript, Justin was definitely the most prepared candidate, and the one offering the clearest vision. It seems like Nemerson has a some good ideas, but doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going on the campaign financing issue. As for Henry, the more of him I see, the less impressed I am, though he is very slick and quick on his feet. He doesn’t seem to be offering any vision beyond the DeStefano administration. I think his campaign slogan should be “one city: business as usual”.  Gary had some good answers, but overall, Justin carried the debate this time. Looking forward to more debates.

posted by: FrontStreet on April 21, 2013  9:10am

wow. Wondering what para-universe Fernandez and Nemerson are living on.  Pay-to-play politics has been a hallmark of New Haven City Hall politics for decades now.  Sal Brancati, one of Nemerson’s supporters, was a master of the black art.  Fernandez (aka Destefano 2.0) must have been dangerously oblivious during his time on Destefano’s team to have not noticed the corrosive effects of pay-to-play on city budgeting and planning of economic development.

posted by: jayfairhaven on April 21, 2013  9:16am

“Fernandez offers a personal history, starting with an apology for having attended Harvard. “

classic humblebrag!

i have to defend the plastic bag. they’re amazingly lightweight, strong, inexpensive and have many uses after they’ve brought my groceries home. they become a lunch box, tackle box, bathroom trash liner, dog poop scoop, diaper pail liner and so on. they can even be recycled into building materials. they fulfill all 3 tenants of conservation. banning them would leave a hole that would have to be filled by new products.

reusable bags have to be cleaned after every use or the risk of food borne illness skyrockets. do we think that the same people who throw garbage on the street will be getting their reusable bags cleaned? see san francisco after their ban in 2007 and their significant increase in bacteria related ER visits and deaths.

the plastic bag ban is in no way a smart idea. it’s a great litmus test for the thoughtfulness of politicians, though. the town should try banning littering instead.

posted by: anonymous on April 21, 2013  11:00am

Fernandez and Nemerson’s pro-Big Money positions are completely untenable. Knowing the history of the city, no voter in their right mind would consider voting for either of them.

posted by: OneCityManyDreams on April 21, 2013  11:02am

Fernandez was smart, gregarious and kind in his remarks. He also has the “X” factor. The been there done that approach. He could start the job on Day 1. That is what the City needs. The others have little of no experience in running large organizations. Not a time to trust New Haven’s future to a ‘maybe he can’ candidate. Time for some experience and someone who actually knows the job well.

posted by: lawrence st on April 21, 2013  11:56am

I’m sad I had to miss the debate, but I’m glad that it happened and that more will occur.

As for DingDong’s comment, while I think all of those are important issues, crime and education are by far bigger issues (and this coming from someone who has strong opinions about the issues you raised). At the end of the day, I care more about what my future mayor is going to do to lower crime rates and improve New Haven’s schools than his (sadly no her’s) opinion on the issues you raised. Especially since two of them are much more East Rock focused, which is not where the majority of the city lives.

posted by: Brutus2011 on April 21, 2013  2:16pm

I see three DeStefano 2.0 candidates—Fernandez, Keitazulu, and Nemerson. Keitazulu because he actually said he would hire DeStefano and the other two would obviously,to me anyway, continue government information asymmetry, or stealth, as the past 20 years.

That leaves, so far, Gary and Justin as the most credible candidates.

And so far I like what I see from both.

posted by: Downtown Gary on April 21, 2013  2:33pm

Eliker is simply wrong here about public campaign finance. No one, outside of the city-hall watchdogs, care this stongly about it. I think everyone can agree its important and a nice thing to have. But if canidates like Nemerson and Fernandez aren’t participaing, what does that say about the Fund? Seems like way too much red tape than its worth. I would rather see a candidate I support be able to raise enough money they need to run a substaintial campaign and reach all the voters they need to reach- than not be able to becuase they get to a month before the election and are broke, strapped for cash because they had to spend it all early on. Just doesn’t make much sense to me.

posted by: anonymous on April 21, 2013  3:30pm

“As for DingDong’s comment, while I think all of those are important issues, crime and education are by far bigger issues.”

I disagree. This city is going nowhere until people realize that these issues are very closely connected to one another.  Crime and education can not be addressed without addressing the principal structural issues in the city as a whole, the most important of which are housing, land use, and transportation. I’m glad that several of the candidates seem to get this, even though many of the city’s lesser politicians clearly do not.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on April 21, 2013  5:06pm

Last comment on this (I promise), this wasn’t really a debate as the candidates never engaged one another. I guess this would be more appropriately considered a townhall style meeting where a moderator posed questions and each gave their response. I’m looking forward to a debate with greater engagement across the candidates. Nice first effort by the Yale Dems

posted by: alexey on April 21, 2013  5:13pm

If we’re making our decision on the next mayor based on whether he or she participates in public financing and his/her position on plastic bags in grocery scores, we are in big trouble.  I don’t have a problem with “privately financed” campaigns, as long as there is some transparency.  If everyone were to participate in the DF, that would be an interesting model. And, plastic bags can be recycled (maybe not the best option, but they are sometimes useful for folks).

posted by: SamanthaRuns on April 21, 2013  5:36pm

I think people, like Mr. Eliker, have the wrong impression of those not participating in the Democracy Fund. To win elections you have to get in front of people and the only sure way to do that is with money. Believe it or not, not everyone keeps close tabs on local politics and reads the transcripts of mayoral debates. As a new candidate in a crowded field, you have to take advantage of opportunities where they’re available.

posted by: Xavier on April 22, 2013  12:07am

OneCityManyDreams makes a good point - One City Henry will be able to hit the ground running when elected, no learning curve. And a point that is not loss on members of the democrat town committee- many who would benefit from a status quo kind of guy, as I suspect One City Henry will be.

Though I am not entirely convinced that the electorate (those outside of the democrat town committee) will think that entrusting the city to a “maybe can do” candidate will be as disastrous as some would like to suggest. 

The real issue right now is who really wants to WIN the election versus run a campaign?

One commenter used “Gregarious” in reference to One City Henry - wow that is one adjective I would never have associated with him. It just goes to show us that a leopard has to change its spots, to WIN.

As far as the Democracy Fund - come on people we can not live in a world that does not exist, no matter how much we stamp our feet. Money and elections go hand in hand. (Mitt and McMahon are exceptions because they were so disconnected from reality.)Nemerson and One City Henry have got the potential to raise big money.

My money is on One City Henry he has the ego, the b@**s to run the city and to get real stuff done - and the money to WIN.

Take the campaign financing thing off the table lest it distract us further - if the other candidates do not have the money, then the other candidates will have to really work the streets and turn out the votes. 

This is going to be a really interesting campaign season- and it will end with the democrat primary.

posted by: beyonddiscussion on April 22, 2013  2:02am

Nemerson saying there is nothing to buy in town and using Sal Brancati as a primary advisor and fund raiser is a deal breaker. But on the other hand, Elicker saying you should elect him because he’s in the Democracy Fund, speaks Spanish and banned water coolers in City Hall is equally absurd. Fixing the budget isn’t about closing the windows at Wilbur Cross or “participatory budgeting” whatever that is. Give me a break.

posted by: David S Baker on April 22, 2013  8:24am

The next mayor should be selected not by total number of votes, but by whom in the top two ‘vote getters’ spent the least per vote.

posted by: LeGregante on April 22, 2013  9:23am

We’re talking about a difference of $630. Is that really going to make a huge impact?

posted by: GoodNatured on April 22, 2013  9:56am

“how he raises money “doesn’t really matter”—and received groans of disapproval in response.”

Yea - Yale students are not so stupid.

posted by: GoodNatured on April 22, 2013  10:04am

Sez one commentor: ” I don’t have a problem with “privately financed” campaigns”

I don’t have any problem with it either—provided there is a rule that

(a) any such contributor to such a campaign must be a registered voter and resident of New Haven and

(b) any such contributor to a campaign [and all members of his/her household and business] are then barred from receiving money or funds from city government through contracts.

Otherwise, it’s just business as usual - I’ll happily give $2000 to your campaign if I get a renewal for my contract to do X for the city at inflated rates. It’s easy then to write off the $2000 as a necessary business expense.

posted by: DingDong on April 22, 2013  10:37am

It’s not really a difference of just $630.  First of all, a $1000 donation is almost three times as big as the maximum one under the Democracy Fund.  Second, every contractor has his (usually “his”, not “her”) business partners, wife, kids, parents, etc. make donations.  So that’s a difference of $630 per donation.  And then there’s also PAC money, which (though I could be wrong) Democracy Fund participants are required to forgo.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on April 22, 2013  11:45am


How can you run as a democrat or even support someone if they are willing to take PAC and Big Corporation money?? How can you support a Pay and Play candidate? Really. Next time you complain about the Republicans or say Corporations are not people…remember you have all gone to the dark side and lost that right!

I am tired of New Haveners being used as piggy banks by these “JD administration” people (HENRY AND MATT included remember they are part of team destefano). I actually find it all to be quit a disgusting.

posted by: HhE on April 23, 2013  12:39am

It seams to me that each article or every other one has a new shill—or just a new name for the same party.  First there was ForHenry, then OneCity, and now OneCityManyDreams.

I could easily take Xavier’s comment, “One City Henry will be able to hit the ground running when elected, no learning curve. ” and use it in support of Justin.  Try “With Justin’s key role in the BoA, and community work, he will be able to hit the ground running when elected, no learning curve.” 

At least Xavier addressed my previous critique with “Mitt and McMahon are exceptions because they were so disconnected from reality.”  However, he rather reminds me of the pundit who is always right in his or her predictions and convictions—save for the judgement for history.  Justin has committed to running as an independent, so unless he wins the nomination, this non party member thinks it will not be over until November.