East Rock Slams Proposed Tax Hike

Mike Stratton didn’t get to say as much as he wanted during a hearing Thursday night on the proposed new city budget, but he held forth at length afterward, sharing the details of a plan he claims would save taxpayers $105 million.

Stratton, a freshman Prospect Hill/Newhallville alder, shared the details of that proposal Thursday evening in an auditorium in the Hooker School on Whitney Avenue. He was piggy-backing on the the first public hearing on Mayor Toni Harp’s proposed $510 million city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Board of Alders Finance Committee met at 7 p.m. at the Hooker School on Whitney Avenue to take public testimony on the mayor’s plan, which would raise property taxes by 3.8 percent. (You can explore the proposed budget in an interactive website here.)

The hearing took place in East Rock, where homeowners in general pay the city’s highest taxes.

Neighbor after neighbor slammed the proposed tax hike Thursday night. A number of people said they would have to move out of town, driven out by skyrocketing property taxes.

Before the meeting, Alder Stratton and other members of the breakaway group of city lawmakers known as the People’s Caucus released a plan they claim would avoid a tax hike—and even lead to a tax decrease.

Hill Alder Andrea Jackson-Brooks (pictured), the committee’s chair, declined to allow Stratton to speak about his proposals at the outset of the meeting, which led to a testy exchange later in the evening. Click the video at the top of the story to watch it.

“This is disrespectful,” Jackson-Brooks told him. “Please do not do this again.”

“Don’t say ‘sir’ to me and I can’t respond!” Stratton responded.

The People’s Caucus, a dissenting group formed as an alternative to the Board of Alders majority, released its own 10-point budget plan Thursday afternoon.

Among the proposals in the plan: Cut several city departments by 10 percent, consolidate departments, offer lump-sum incentives to convince city workers to switch to pension and health plans that are less costly to the city, charge out-of-town-property owners higher taxes, and stop supporting the New Haven Open tennis tournament.

The People’s Caucus members—Alders Stratton, Claudette Robinson-Thorpe, Richard Spears, Carlton Staggers, Anna Festa, and Brenda Foskey-Cyrus—claimed that their 10-point plan could save the city between $38 million and $105 million.

The list drew immediate scorn from Mayor Harp. She called it “irresponsible” and said it should be rejected immediately.

“The proposals suggested by the Peoples Caucus of the Board of Alders should be dismissed outright because they move our city in the wrong direction in terms of resource allocation and basic economic strategy,” Harp said in an emailed statement. “My proposed budget is a responsible, initial approach to long-term sustainability – it creates a Rainy Day Fund, makes progress to reduce the city’s pension liability, and provides for new classes of police officers and firefighters – all with a proposed budget increase of just 2.68 percent.”

In interviews, Board of Alders President Jorge Perez and budget chief Joe Clerkin both raised questions about the practicality of many of the People’s Caucus proposals. City Controller Daryl Jones Thursday night called the plan nonsensical.

In the 10-point plan’s preamble, the People’s Caucus alders acknowledge that not all their proposed ideas are necessarily practical.

“The alternatives we propose are not ready for a vote. They are ideas that come from laypeople. No team of experts has signed off on the viability or legality of any of these proposals,” it reads. “So forgive us if we have proposed something which is determined to be legally impossible or factually wrong or not beneficial for our city.”

Stratton (pictured) predicted that at least one item on the 10-point plan could make the difference in the upcoming governor’s race. Gov. Dannel Malloy will have “hell to pay” trying to rack up a huge majority again in New Haven in this year’s reelection campaign if the state doesn’t send the city all the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to which it’s legally entitled, Stratton said. New Haven was the key to Malloy’s success in his 2010 election; he won the city by 18,613 votes, and has been courting the city’s vote-influencers assiduously in the run-up to the 2014 election. That was more than three times his statewide 5,637-vote margin of victory.


One after another, neighbors stepped up to decry the proposed tax hike Thursday evening. Many said they or people they know planto leave town because the property taxes have become intolerable. Few offered specific plans for avoiding the tax hike, but several slammed the mayor’s proposal to increase the number of staff in her office and the city clerk’s request for more workers.

Budget watchdog Christine Bishop (pictured) said that the mayor’s budget does not even outline what a proposed new office of development and policy in the mayor’s office would do. For $246,000 in salary costs, the “budget should mention what your lofty goals are,” she said. (The office would pursue grants.)

One of the most emotional pleas for not raising taxes came from Gerald Kahn of St. Ronan Street. He said he has lived there for 35 years and sent his kids to New Haven public schools. “I love this city,” he said. “But I can’t live here anymore.”

“Please don’t go along,” Kahn (pictured) urged alders. “Don’t just say, ‘Gee, it’s a problem but the mayor is working on it.’”

“New Haven is a depressed and dying city,” said Adrienne Lewis. “It breaks my heart. I feel as though it’s a sin. We’re living in sin.”

“New Haven is poised, as the mayor said. It is poised to fall further into destruction,” said June Sachs. “Please have the courage to send this budget back for revision.”

Real estate agent Anne Marseille (pictured) said she is a lifelong resident of New Haven and East Rock. In the last year, she sold two houses for people who couldn’t afford their taxes, she said. Her own taxes might go up to $18,000, the sum her parents paid for her house in 1952, she said. “Nobody’s going to be left in East Rock. Italians are a dying breed there. East Rock is just going to be all of Yale.”

After nearly two hours, the budget hearing wrapped up, and a second, informal meeting commenced. Alder Stratton pulled a chair to the edge of the stage and spoke at length about the financial history of New Haven and his plans to set the city on better fiscal footing. Over 40 people stayed to hear what he had to say.

10 Points

Stratton outlined the People’s Caucus budget plan, The document includes some specific proposals and some statements of principle, and concludes with an outline of ways to spend the surplus the plan is intended to create.

Stratton said the plan would lead to layoffs in some areas, but create jobs in others, like public works and police.

The points are as follows:

1. No Tax Hike: A tax hike would kill jobs, devalue homes, and cut core services. “We should not consider a property tax hike this year even as a last resort.”

2. “Pay Up The PILOT, Governor”: The state should pay the city all the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to which the city is legally entitled. “This one issue would add 50 million to our budget.”

3. Department Cuts: The budget should include 10 percent cuts to the mayor’s office, the Board of Alders, the city clerk, and the chief administrative office. The police, fire, and public works departments should not be cut.

4. More Cuts: The finance department should be cut severely. Payroll, information technology and workers compensation duties should be outsourced. The economic development department should be eliminated, and replaced by two or three people working out of the mayor’s office. “Raising taxes to pay for economic development makes no sense. Economic development will happen when our taxes and services are stable and attractive.”

5. Consolidation: All code enforcement should be done by the Livable City Initiative. The engineering department should be absorbed by public works. The registrar’s office should use the clerk’s office staff. All social services should be combined. “Now elderly, youth, community services, equal opportunity, fair rent, disability, health all have directors and most [have] staffs and they are mainly grant pass throughs. They aren’t providing the services. This can all be done more efficiently for big savings with better more coordinated services.”

6. “Smart Pension”: The city should pay workers incentives to move from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans. “The present value of every employee pension plan can be actuarially determined. The city should implement a lump sum offer program of 35-50 cents on the dollar to buy out these pensions.”

The city should take a similar approach to workers’ health benefits plans. Employees would receive one-time bonuses for switching to lower coverage plans.

7. Education Cuts: “We estimate that the city has been paying dramatically more to the BOE [Board of Ed] (85 million more) than has been reported on the BOE budget, to labor negotiators, to alders, and to ECS [Education Cost Sharing] funders. ... We propose at the very least taking back the 28m in this year’s budget, and going forward continue to trim.”

8. No To Tennis; Yes To Music: The city should not support the New Haven Open tennis tournament or the Shubert Theater. “In their place, we should plan music festivals around the city.” (The city gives $100,000 to the New Haven Open each year.)

“There should be no further debt acquisition until we get to a smaller payment schedule. The exceptions are projects already approved like [LiveWorkLearnPlay—the coliseum development] and the [Route] 34 corridor. Another exception would be a severe emergency causing damage or an extraordinary opportunity which is self sustaining with little risk.”

9. A Tax On Outsiders: People who own property but don’t live in New Haven should pay higher taxes than people who live and own property in the city. Taxes for out-of-town landowners could go up four mills. Taxes for New Haven residents could go down two mills.

10. What To Buy With The Surplus: Implementing Items 1 through 9 would result in savings of “at least” $38 million and maybe as much as $105 million. That money should be spent as follows:

• $12 million in “fixed costs,” to avoid a tax increase.
• $6 million to reduce property taxes.
• $6 million for a year-round jobs program for youth. “We could afford to pay 1,000 kids $5,000 a year, $100 a week. A WPA [Works Progress Administration] for our kids.”
• $3 million in incentives for city workers to live in New Haven. “This would include a $5,000 tax rebate annually for up to 500 city workers who move here and buy a home. In addition it would include $500,000 in tax rebates for retired city fire and police who agree to be youth officers and assist with community policing 10 hours a week.”
• $3 million to “give 6 wards annually ($500k each) the right to decide and build their own project in their own ward overseen by a new participatory democracy commission made up of volunteers.”
• $3 million for three new beat cops in five new neighborhoods.
• $5 million to “build a comprehensive youth sports and arts program so every kid has access to easily accessible healthy after-school and summer programming.”

Not So Fast

Jones, the city controller, said Thursday evening that the People’s Caucus plan doesn’t hold water.

“It’s not good budgeting,” he said. “I’ve glanced at what [Stratton] has done. I really don’t understand it. … It’s very difficult to understand because it’s really not fleshed out.”

Jones contrasted the People’s Caucus plan—a few pages long, put together in a few days—to the mayor’s proposed budget: hundreds of pages long and developed over a period of months. “It’s backed up by facts. It’s not something we just put together.”

“Just because someone’s saying it would save millions of dollars doesn’t make it true,” Alder Perez, president of the board said, said earlier Thursday. He said he hadn’t had time to look at the People’s Caucus plan in depth. “If people think there’s a savings in there, it should be looked at.”

Asked specifically about a couple of the proposals, Perez said that while he’s not a lawyer, they seem problematic.

The pension buy-out idea, for instance, doesn’t seem feasible, he argued. “I would think that’s something that could not be done unilaterally. I would think that because it’s a contractual obligation, both sides would have to agree to it.”

Perez said he doesn’t see anyone leaping to accept an offer of 35 cents on the dollar for a pension.

The plan to charge out-of-town property owners more in taxes would also likely be impossible, without permission from the state, said Perez.

Budget Director Joe Clerkin also raised concerns when asked about some of the People’s Caucus proposals.

Consolidating departments wouldn’t save money by itself, unless it meant personnel reductions, Clerkin said. He said he’d have to see some kind of analysis of the “walkover” of expenses from one department to another.

Also, Clerkin warned, it may be impossible to eliminate some departments if they are enshrined in the city charter or state statutes.

“Wow,” Clerkin said on the pension buy-back proposal. “It gets into our basic structure of the collective bargaining process that we have. ... It would be a legal question to see if the city could even offer that outside of a collective bargaining process.”

The next hurdle would be all the actuarial computations needed to understand the ramifications of city workers all making individual deals with the city, Clerkin said.

On the proposed tax hike for out-of-towners, Clerkin said, “These are some challenging ideas.”

“I’m not sure, in terms of the law, how you would do that. And how you would check that,” Clerkin said. The proposal poses a host of questions about enforcement and fairness, he said.

Asked after the meeting about people’s testimony against the proposed tax hike, Alder Perez said, “I didn’t expect them to say, ‘Tax me.’”

“It’s a tough situation,” he said. “We’re going to have to look real hard to see what we can do.”


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posted by: alex on March 6, 2014  7:26pm

Good for the People’s Caucus to raise some issues and some possibilities for the future. But I don’t think anyone will be fooled into thinking this is a serious proposal…

posted by: darnell on March 6, 2014  8:39pm

I had high hopes for the People’s Caucus, even though their initial reasons for banding together seemed a little self serving and sour grapes, but now I am just outright disappointed.

When I was on the BOA and preparing for the budget hearings, I combed through each and every line of that budget, spoke to insiders and outsiders, union leaders, economists, etc to develop and alternative with a rationale. I made sure not include those pipe dram items, since they would be used to shoot down the entire proposal. All by myself.

It looks to me that these alders spent an hour over dinner and drinks putting this together, with a lawyer in the group, without even considering the feasibility or legality of items in their proposal. This is not a budget, it is a wish list you give to the genie ho pops out of the bottle. It’s an embarrassment to all of us folks that have fought these budget battles. And honestly it p****ses me off that these guys would put this out there. It makes a joke of the BOA budget process, and further erodes the people’s confidence in their government.

It seems as though they are not serious about effecting change. I promised myself that I would keep my mouth shut this year, but this is just too much. Come on guys, if you are going to e the loyal opposition and be the voice of the people, stop this nonsense and get serious. Why in the heck should we pay city workers to live in town, when we already give hem very good salaries, or pay retired firefighters and policemen to be good citizens in their community, when they are collecting the best pensions at an earlier age. Five hundred thousand for ward committees to kill themselves over, not thanks. I guess Claudette go her $5 million in there for her Armory, good for her…lol…The only worthwhile suggestion was the $6 million for youth employment, they should have stopped there, maybe then someone would take them seriously.

I’ve now had my temper tantrum for 2014, I will now commence to shutting up.

posted by: 14yearsinNHandgone on March 6, 2014  9:01pm

I can save New Haven $20k right now.

I’ll say again, I like Doug Hausladen, but how does he rate $90,000 in salary?

Jim Travers was deputy director of transportation for 2.5 years and then acting director for 7 months, when HE got $90k in his first year in 2011.

What experience does Hausladen, who as it was reported on the campaign trail, was working multiple part-time jobs before this, actually have to validate the same salary as Travers?

It’s unreasonable not to lower that starting salary based on how little actual, on-th-job experience that Hausladen has in this kind of role.
They could have brought him in at $70k and said he’d get $5k a year raises until he hit the $90k as long as he was running the department well.  But they didn’t.

To do otherwise smacks of patronage.  I’m disappointed in both the City of New Haven and Doug on this one.  Very disappointed.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on March 6, 2014  9:07pm

That’s a great start!  I’m really happy to hear some of our Alders have set their minds to task in the right direction.  I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that our new Mayor dismissed their ideas out of hand.

posted by: getyourfactstraight on March 6, 2014  9:14pm

Some of these proposals I can see would be impossible to implement. Other ideas should be discussed and explored.
The bottom line! At least these 6 people are thinking outside of the box. More than I can say for the Harp administration. Maybe the BOA will start getting into the grey areas and help out the taxpayers. No to a tax hike and yes to cutting any new hires.
And Madame Mayor, the only thing irresponsible is you raising taxes.

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on March 6, 2014  9:36pm


I am not sure why you are patting yourself on the back so much. I remember you, ‘all by yourself’ suggesting a budget cut and you received zero support from your fellow alders. At least this is a group of 6.
Will all this be adopted? No, of course not. I said the same for your proposal, but appreciated the effort just the same. Surprised at your response.

posted by: citoyen on March 6, 2014  11:15pm

Darnell is right that a lot of these proposals really do not seem serious, but I wonder if, for now, that really is the point.

The point is that *someone* (someones) kicked off a budget discussion by first considering what sorts of budget savings might be realized and what sorts of tax savings might be achieved.

It boggles my mind that Mayor Harp seems not even to have *tried* to find savings in the city budget, did not even try to avoid a tax hike, did not even try to be *seen* trying to avoid a tax hike even if one ultimately gets passed.  Like buying herself a new city car, agreeing to divert policemen to become her drivers, and proposing to increase the funding for her own office by almost 50%, and now with her basically nonchalant announcement of a tax hike, she seems to have a complete blind spot when it comes to how her activities come across to ordinary people.  I simply cannot understand how *she* (and the people around her) cannot understand how all this looks.

And then she just completely rejects out-of-hand a proposal on limits and savings, rather than show any willingness at all to have a discussion.

She has been showing us that, regardless of a change in administrations, it is business as usual in New Haven city government.  Only when enough *voters* decide they want to try something different, will there be anything different.

posted by: Bobbe Bellamy on March 6, 2014  11:42pm

Did anyone on the People Caucus do their homework to know that work of building code and enforcement inspectors cannot be done by any staff at LCI???  I’m with you Darnell - reads more like a wish list that can’t happen.  Back to the drawing board.

posted by: robn on March 6, 2014  11:47pm

How’s this for a “wow”. Wow! If we don’t switch to a defined contribution pension plan, the city will go bankrupt and there will be NO pensions for retires.

posted by: TaxBreak on March 7, 2014  1:11am

This Stratton group is just going for press stunts at this point.  It takes time and dedication to work through the city budget responsibly.  Perez knows that.  So does Goldson (thanks for commenting).  I heard Stratton hasn’t even bothered to show up for nearly half the Board meetings so far.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 7, 2014  3:38am

I love the coalition of naysayers…..

“Irresponsible”, sez Harp, when there is some real meat and legiitimate concerns in the proposal.

“Just because someone’s saying it would save millions of dollars doesn’t make it true,” sez Alder Perez, knowingly winking…

Bring it to the table People’s Caucus.  More music, less tennis!

posted by: Noteworthy on March 7, 2014  7:04am

These are budget discussions, correct? Ideas should be put on the table. All of them. Any of them. This is not a budget dictate. Toni Harp has always “solved” financial problems at the state with every new and expanded and higher tax anybody proposed. She is doing the same thing now and it will hurt every family in New Haven. It should not be taken lightly nor any ideas dismissed as she and her entourage is doing. It’s insulting and disrespectful.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 7, 2014  7:59am

posted by: robn on March 6, 2014 10:47pm

How’s this for a “wow”. Wow! If we don’t switch to a defined contribution pension plan, the city will go bankrupt and there will be NO pensions for retires.

If cities would not raid pension funds,You would not have a problem paying them out.

America’s Retirement Crisis Grows as Cities Raid Pension and Health Plans
Detroit and Illinois aren’t the only ones stealing earned benefits.


Looting the Pension Funds

All across America, Wall Street is grabbing money meant for public workers


posted by: darnell on March 7, 2014  8:11am

@New Haven Taxpayer,

Sorry, but you remember WRONG. Your attempt to revise history falls flat. First, it would be impossible for my budget proposal to have “zero” support, since I would at the very least need at least one more person to second my proposal so we could even debate them. Second, if you bothered to check the record (which you obviously did not) you would have seen that my proposals ALWAYS had at least as much support as this People’s Caucus did, at one point we even stopped the budget in it’s tracks (http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/live_from_city_hall_final_budget_vote_expected/).

But that’s not really the point. The point is that this “budget” proposal made by this group is a non starter because it is not remotely a serious attempt, it is amateurish. And quite honestly, that is sad. To start off with a strong coalition of six Alders, all they would need was another 5 to stop the tax increase, and therefore the budget. But what other alders would sign onto this proposal, with this pie in the sky prediction that it could save up to $105 million. Come on.

And their idea that you can take out a hacksaw and butcher education, well, they know as well as I do that every local dollar cut will result in a corresponding state dollar cut. Even the most ardent education spending critic won’t support this nonsense. You don’t butcher education spending, you redesign it so it works for the children. They should instead focus their energies on getting those current robots off the board of education and implementing the charter reform so that real change can happen there.

They are putting on a show, and it’s not even a very good one. Two thumbs down.

Ouch, I promised to shut up, another politician’s promise out the window.

posted by: robn on March 7, 2014  8:11am

During the Great Recession many Americans lost their jobs, many others took deep pay cuts to avoid job cuts at their workplace and most had wages frozen for years. Why is it so crazy to question why NH city government stayed the same size throughout? Why is it crazy to suggest a reduction? Taxes are clearly too high in New Haven and stifling investment here. In the very best of times prior to the recession our population stayed relatively stable while other areas on the country expanded. Schools are one reason (but increased funding historically hasn’t made a difference) and taxes are the other.

posted by: darnell on March 7, 2014  8:34am

Let’s take each point.

1. No Tax Hike: Yes, so how about propose a REAL proposal (with targeted cuts) where this occurs.

2. “Pay Up The PILOT, Governor”: Yes, but locally we do not have control, so attach a item to vote on signed by all state legislative members, it is an election year.

3. Department Cuts: Can can not achieve real saving without cutting police and fire. Hell, just cutting their overtime in half would achieve real savings, but this group is afraid to touch that subject, it might make them unpopular.

4. More Cuts: If you are invested in this strategy, then do it. Present a budget that shows the changes, that cuts people. They rather leave that dirty work to someone else.

5. Consolidation: Same as above.

6. “Smart Pension”: “lump sum offer program of 35-50 cents on the dollar to buy out these pensions.” Where the hell did this come from? Sure, I’ll sell you my pension for pennies on the dollar, oh, and do you have a bridge in NYC you want to sell me also.

7. Education Cuts: “We estimate that the city has been paying dramatically more to the BOE [Board of Ed] (85 million more) than has been reported”, ok, show us the money!

8. No To Tennis; Yes To Music: The city should not support the New Haven Open tennis tournament or the Shubert Theater. So, we take their money and hire more staff to do what they do. Very smart indeed. Why would we want to go into the concert business?

9. A Tax On Outsiders: So we don’t want outsiders to invest in New Haven. Smart Growth. Before anyone suggest that I proposed this also, I did not. I suggested that highly paid city workers paid with New Haven taxpayer dollars should move back or give back, completely different than this proposal.

Well, there it is, an honest critique of this press release, oops, I meant budget proposal.

posted by: Brutus2011 on March 7, 2014  9:21am

The BOE budget cuts make sense to me. Or at least until BOE spending is made transparent.

The way it stands now, education spending here in New Haven is not really even known to the BOA and the tax payers.

Am I the only one who thinks this is straight out of the “Twilight Zone?”

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 7, 2014  9:55am

People stop Crying and Belly Aching.The major of you voted them in.You get what you vote for.This is why you must have TERM LIMITS,IRV and Proportional Representation.The people with The People’s Caucus they are still part of the Democratic Party.The only hope you have now is to find a suck to buy your house and move on.

posted by: robn on March 7, 2014  10:09am

It is worth mentioning that along with democrat majority in the state legislature failing to fully fund pilot for a decade, the democrat majority in our congressional delegation has failed to get us a reasonable share of federal funding (for the state). Refer to this diagram which sums it up.

posted by: jim1 on March 7, 2014  10:44am

Well last night I took my 3 min. to talk.  I called for a show of hands of those people that want there taxes to go up. I looked and not a hand was up.. Every year the mill rate goes up!!  Those years that it does not, the town reappraises your house and you pay more taxes.  What will landlords do?  They have to raise rents.  If you have a lease for say 2 years on the next lease ou will see a large increase.  Why. The landlord has to make up for this year, next year, and if he {or she} was smart for what might come down the road.

Every year it’s the same thing we all talk and the taxes go up….
In the next election for mayor, I will vote for anyone who is running against the “Dem” machine….  Green Independent, or who ever.
Thank you for your time.

posted by: webblog on March 7, 2014  11:08am

The focus of this discussion should be 100% on the Mayors estimated budget,and NOT ideas offered by Stratton and others. None of stratton’s ideas/proposals were in the form of budget amendments to any specific appropriation ordinance. The purpose of Stratton’s offerings were information and informative. Until such time as there is an official offer on the table forget it, Darnell, you should know this well.

Stratton needs to work on his behavior and learn to honor BOA protocol. His outburst and following arguments with the chair in full view of the public is out of bounds. He may be censured by the board if this childdest approach continues.

The Mayor’s new budget proposes a 13.5M increase in spending to the general fund and another 44M increase in bonding to the capital bond fund. Much of the 13.5 increase to the GF is attributable to personal cost/benefits, with the highest % increase (48%) going to the mayor’s office, which duplicates many of the task already assigned to the mayor’s staff. Coupled with this is the addition of six new positions, five of whom would duplicate positions found in other departments where the task of grant writing has been successful for years. To accomplish this creation the budget seeks to eliminate 6 vacant positions not approved in any budget, including this, the proposed budget, transfer unapproved vacant positions to the mayor’s office and pay those positions above the last BOA approved grade for executive management employees. Both steps need BOA approval before the other can take authority. To add insult,the budget proposes to increase all executive management pay based on the 3% Increase negotiated with local 3144.

The proposal also seeks to create a new position in the town clerk office as asst. clerk @60K,in order to supplant Deputy town clerk Sally Brown @93,897K, who is civil service and not leaving. Duplication of services and effort at taxpayers expense.

....Too be continued….

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on March 7, 2014  11:15am

3/5 seems to believe that Proportional Representation and Term Limits are some magical panacea to the deeps ills facing this city. News Flash: They aren’t. Cities and states that have these measures STILL face the types of economic woes as New Haven. Research shows that term limits don’t actually encourage politicians to be efficient. Instead it often exacerbates fiscal challenges because of the steeping learning curve that newly elected officials face.

That said, I would appreciate the “people’s caucus” plan if it felt genuine. This instead feels like Stratton setting himself up to be a maverick politician who will make a play for City Hall in a few years.

New Haven doesn’t need another set of lofty pie in the sky goals that do little more than raise expectations of action that will never occur. What this city needs (and deserves) are elected officials willing to REALISTICALLY assess where cuts can be made within the boundaries of existing legal requirements. This list reads as little more than an 8th Grade campaign speech that promises 4 hours of recess and a vending machine in every classroom. We deserve better from City Hall and the Board of Alders.

posted by: Indigo on March 7, 2014  11:23am

Hurrah for the People’s Caucus. Whether or not all of these ideas are feasible, they are creative ideas aimed at avoiding the higher taxes that will hurt our city deeply. I’ve heard no such proposal from the Mayor’s office, so these ideas deserve serious consideration. It is no surprise that they are less fleshed out than a full budget prepared by the Mayor’s office staff. The fact that the People’s Caucus has many fewer resources shouldn’t mean that their ideas are ignored.

The NHR endorsed Toni Harp, despite numerous “reservations,” based on her “relationships,” particularly with the state: “Harp has the opportunity to drastically improve the city’s relationship with the governor’s office…there’s little doubt that New Haven will benefit from having a mayor with close ties to Hartford.” http://www.nhregister.com/opinion/20131026/editorial-toni-harp-for-mayor-of-new-haven

Two of the People’s Caucus proposals would be within reach if this so-called strong relationship with the state actually materialized.

The first is to demand 100% PILOT funding, adding $50 million to our budget. Anything less must be unacceptable. Have we heard from Mayor Harp on this?

The second is to raise the mill rate for out-of-town landowners by four mills. Jorge Perez says that would be “impossible, without permission from the state.” Great! Doesn’t our Mayor have the requisite “relationships” and experience at the state capital to make that happen?

Mayor Harp: time to deliver on what you promised.

posted by: Westville voter on March 7, 2014  11:47am

While many of these proposals are unrealistic, at least the People’s Caucus is attempting to begin a real discussion about spending in New Haven, a discussion that the mayor and her UNITE BOA desperately want to avoid. New Haven spends wildly, employs too many people, and yet provides its taxpaying residents with mediocre, sometimes deplorable, services. We have failing schools (despite the reform charade), inadequate public safety, horrible snow removal, etc. yet the budget grows and the mayor gets a chauffeur. Thank you to the People’s Caucus for forcing a discussion of these issues. The status quo BOA will call you names, accuse you of being tea-party types, etc. That is simply an indication that they cannot respond with any substance. Hold them accountable!

I would also propose an 11th point: A complete, transparent, external audit of every city department. We need to know where our money is really being spent and hold those wasting it accountable.

posted by: robn on March 7, 2014  12:35pm

New Haven has enough history of activist government to know for sure that its impossible to cure our woes by expanding government services through constantly increased taxation; this has led to stagnation and inequity, not to growth and opportunity.

Its arrogant and shortsighted of Harp to insist that we can’t shrink the government, cut the budget, and reduce taxes to stimulate growth, BECAUSE NEW HAVEN HAS NEVER TRIED IT.

<i> When you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, HOWEVER IMPROBABLE, must be the truth.”
Arthur Conan Doyle

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on March 7, 2014  12:47pm

From your link:
“Goldson’s amendment would have cut about $10 million from the budget, but he couldn’t find support for it. His proposals failed even when he broke his big amendment down for voting in smaller chunks, line by line.”
I was there I remember. I still appreciate your effort as I do the people’s caucus.

posted by: Pantagruel on March 7, 2014  1:14pm

The point is that it’s unsettling for the new administration to come in and reflexively look to raise regressive property taxes. It doesn’t help that they’re also planning to expand the bureaucracy. This doesn’t look visionary. Merits of the the People’s specific proposals aside, a tax hike could be more acceptable if they excruciatingly demonstrated they had exhausted all alternatives. It doesn’t help that they appear to be dismissing alternatives out of hand and limiting discussion.

Compare and contrast NYC’s visionary new mayor. He is also asking for new taxes—on incomes over $500,000. But for that there would be the added value of universal preschool. That benefits the participants directly. And society benefits long term.

What demonstrable value are we getting from the New Haven tax hike? Will it do anything to reduce school dropouts and increase college preparedness—as would universal pre-k?

That modest tax rise aside, consider the property tax bite in NYC. Because there is a progressive income tax, a residence with a $500,000 market value would pay at most around $5,000 a year. Seniors on fixed incomes would pay even less.

It makes it attractive for me to sell my New Haven residence and move back to my childhood home. Certainly when I reach retirement age. Paradoxically, the cost of living could be significantly less. My family would no longer need a car—or too.

I love New Haven, but love is not always enough.

posted by: wendy1 on March 7, 2014  1:30pm

Poor showing at the budget hearing—-empty seats everywhere—-mostly elderly and silent.

No one interested in 1985 Revenue Commission findings.  I am working with B. Sharkey myself.only hope.

Get ready for tax increase in July—-done deal.  BOA gutless and useless.

posted by: DRAD on March 7, 2014  2:08pm

In reflecting on this veritable carnival of newly elected amateurs - I came to this surprising thought - “anyone miss John DeStefano yet?”  You might not have liked him - you might not have voted for him or wanted to - he may have overstayed his welcome - but he wasn’t ever this clueless.  Just sayin’

posted by: liznewhaven on March 7, 2014  2:28pm

New Haven’s ability to affect change in it’s taxation level lies with our voting power.  As a city, we played a very big role in getting Malloy elected.  It is time to play hardball.  He needs to understand that not fully funding PILOT means a no vote for Governor. Call or email his office and someone start an online petition. Of course, New Haveners need to break old habits and stop voting solely on party lines.  What the heck, it cant get any worse.
We also need to vote out ANY alders that approve this budget. The power is in our hands, and we squander it year after year.

posted by: Shaggybob on March 7, 2014  3:42pm

The list drew immediate scorn from Mayor Harp. She called it “irresponsible” and said it should be rejected immediately.

Did she even bother to look at it? Dismissing it in its entirety is just closed minded- oh wait, this is the Harp Administration- that’s how they roll. It’s not like the Mayor pays taxes.
Some of those ideas are either out of our control (PILOT) or just plain mud on the wall. A few ideas actually have some good points(Grant funneling & eliminating economic development).

Would be nice if the Administration was “open to negotiation” but appears her, I mean their, mind is made up already.

More empty house and blight just like the 80’s. History does repeat itself.

posted by: Don in New Haven on March 7, 2014  3:44pm

Although there have been many questions and comments from concerned taxpayers, I cannot understand why the Mayor wants us to fly to Florida from Tweed. Is she helping us find new homes to escape her punishing taxes?
I often see comments about spending more money on Tweed but I have never seen anything boasting about how much money NH receives from Tweed. Why is this?
I looked through the Budget and saw no concrete description of Tweed money NH would receive/contribute.
In my opinion we should give/sell Tweed to the State and stop supporting a property that only eats cash. Tweed lacks facilities and land to handle more than its present air traffic. Can anybody clarify this situation?

posted by: canadachris on March 7, 2014  5:06pm

It appears that Mr. Stratton wants to become the new best White hope now that Mr. Elicker lost the election to Mayor Harp. The demands of the People’s Caucus has a Tea Party whiff to it. It is hard to feel sympathetic for people in East Rock. They are used to getting preferential treatment. Case in point - they have their own private school paid for with tax payer dollars - Hooker School. This issue is just the beginning of the neighborhood’s demands. Elections have consequences as they say. In this case it means equitable treatment of all neighborhoods, not just the people in East Rock and Westville.

posted by: NHRedemption on March 7, 2014  6:19pm

Mayor Harp is being way to kind and gracious to the DeStefano administration.  If you want someone to blame people it’s DeStefano’s administration that left the City high and dry.  Why No Rainy Day Fund?...JD…Why Structural deficits…JD etc etc.  And the People’s Caucus??? Laughable..they make the Republican Party look good.  A reinvigorated group of R’s is a much better prescription for New Haven’s future then this fake caucus and fake plan with absolutely zero homework done to justify it.  Whoever heard of starting out a preamble to a budget plan by saying we don’t know if we can do half the things we are proposing…REALLY?  And, to start slashing education funding after we have just begun to turn the corner and maybe, maybe want to actually start educating our kids.  Let’s give Harp a chance.  I m still hopeful.

posted by: robn on March 7, 2014  6:24pm


Sorry….gotta call BS on your comment.

East Rock is a great neighborhood because neighbors work hard to make it so. The Hooker School is a good school because parents work hard to make it so.

East Rockers may be more vocal because they pay more taxes than most, but everyone in the city should complain because everyone at every economic level is affected by burdensome taxes; especially the high proportion of renters who (I’ll say it again) pay taxes through their rent.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 7, 2014  6:25pm

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on March 7, 2014 10:15am

3/5 seems to believe that Proportional Representation and Term Limits are some magical panacea to the deeps ills facing this city.

Moving to proportional representation would give minority parties and independent candidates a better chance of ending the hegemony of the two party system.In the case of New haven and West Haven the one party system.Proportional Representation would introduce more voices to the political system.The current system is unrepresentative it gives all the power to one party.There would be a higher turnout at the polls under PR, as the electorate would come to realise that their votes really counted.Proportional representation is used by the majority of the world’s leading democracies. Only a few countries, including the UK, the US, India, Canada and France, still have elections that are decided by plurality voting systems.In fact look at how the Village of Port Chester, N.Y adopted cumulative voting a form of proportional representation.


Term Limits.Studies show the major of the American people want Term Limits.It also shows that the longer an individual stays in office, the more likely they are to stop serving the public and begin serving their own interests.Also Term Limts stops career politicians from serving over and over again.In fact it was the career politicians who you keep puting in office that got us in this mess.John Adams said, “Without [term limits] every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey”. Last you say Cities and states that have these measures STILL face the types of economic woes as New Haven.Show me these states.

How & Why Other Countries have Ended the 2-Party System


posted by: Serf of New Haven on March 7, 2014  6:42pm

The sampling of citizenry response on this thread is more depressing then the 3.8% tax hike.

To think we have become so diminished and beaten down as citizens that everyone would exclaim none of these proposals are possible?

1. tax hikes stopped 3. department cuts 4. more cuts 5. consolidation 7. education cuts 8. No to tennis 9. a tax on outsiders

All proposals that can be implemented with the stoke of a pen and BOA approval. The doubters on this board are either misinformed on how democracy works or have skin in the expand-until-bankruptcy government game.

Are all the doubters on this page serious?
And to be criticizing the Peoples Caucus for proposing sound alternatives to the One-Party-Rule that has been driving this city into the ditch.

I’m not sure why people take such pleasure in honest hard working people having to pay $18,000 for property taxes, so much that they are forced to move. This town can’t afford to lose another generation of homeowners from any income class. The end result is a city run by big money landlords.

Neighborhoods without homeowners? Is that what we want this city to be?

I believe in democracy, unlike many on this board.
Harp needs to slow down. And this is the only group that has solid alternatives to the current fiscal train wreck and also have elected power to back them up.

Don’t believe the naysayers and the chicken littles. They’re here to tell us we’re nothing but sheep. That it’s just too complicated for us to understand. They are wrong. Time to take back our city from dereliction, mismanagement and cronyism. The negligent fiduciaries of our New Haven Purse must learn to live like the rest of us. Within our means.

posted by: Wooster Squared on March 7, 2014  6:55pm

I’ve got a better headline for this article:

“Mayor Harp to East Rock: ‘Shut up, you’re just a piggy bank’”

posted by: duncan on March 7, 2014  7:02pm

As already alluded to by many, Toni Harp MUST pay attention to what any more tax increases will do to some of the most important residents of the city.  Everyone is important in their own way, but if taxes go up again, on the back of so many tax past increases, the City is at grave risk of losing precisely the kinds of people it needs, and will be at risk of not attracting the kinds of people it needs to be workable.  My property taxes went up enormously last year.  If I were not in a good place financially, I would have to move out.  I have not gone through the budget, and I don’t know the particulars, but there will have to be novel ways of creating a budget that do not include tax increases.  I would like to know what kinds of sacrifices, and new ways of doing business, the Mayor is willing to commit to.

posted by: darnell on March 7, 2014  7:30pm

First off, I want to take back my comments about the People’s Caucus, they may not have spent a lot of time on their proposal,  but at least they proposed something I guess. I’ve been wrong plenty of times, and have no problem correcting myself when so.

I think I will focus on the Youth Employment piece. I LOVE it, and hope that they cut all the other stuff out and look at trying to convince the BOA to take this issue seriously. The current Jobs Pipeline is MIA, and the CEO training program is a shell game.

@New Haven Taxpayer:

From the cited article. “In a last-ditch effort to stop the budget from passing without further cuts, Goldson led a campaign at the end of the evening to tie up the process by voting down the tax revenue plan for next year. At that point, the spending side of the budget had already passed. But aldermen have to approve a budget in two parts: the spending side and the revenue side.

Goldson and his allies hoped to block the revenue side, in an effort to gain leverage for further negotiations.  Nine other aldermen voted with Goldson to not approves the tax plan, successfully blocking its passage, because a two-thirds vote of the 30-member board is needed. (One alderwoman was absent for health reasons.)”

If you were there, you also know that each of my proposals received from 6 to 9 votes, if you weren’t there, check the record.

posted by: Serf of New Haven on March 7, 2014  8:22pm

I would like to add, in addition to my last comment, some more budget proposals-

A progressive property tax, that would be in direct proportion to your yearly income validated with a tax return. Will cap it at 7% of your income for an example. You would cap it on the high end also to an adjustable mill rate. The property owner can choose the lower number.

Say your family earns the median household income of $50,000. Your property tax bill would be $3,500. If your house assessed has a higher property tax value you would pay the lower.
Lets’ say your the elite in New Haven making @200,000 your property tax bill would be $14,000. If your house was assessed at a lower tax you also can pay the lower.
For those that want to punish the elite, I would say the St Ronan professor/doctor family might make $400,000. They would have a very high bill of $38,000, but they too could choose the lower. If they live in a nice house on St. Ronan the property tax bill would be similar, and in many cases higher. So either way they pay.
For out of town landlords, they would pay the adjustable mill rate.

To make up for lost revenue -

We need to tax commuters for there use of city services, it could be 1%. But we should try something here.
I would look into taxing commuter cars and require them to register with the city.
Joe Commuter works at NHPD and lives in Branford. He must register his license plate with city hall for $200 annually if he wants to drive to work or his car will be towed.

posted by: HewNaven on March 7, 2014  8:50pm

A typical 3BR unit in East Rock will cost a renter about $1400/month. That’s $16,800/year for renting out just one unit!

Stop crying poor East Rockers. There’s money in them houses.

posted by: ConcernedWestvillecitizen on March 7, 2014  11:30pm

I was there and then alderman rodriguez was a strong supporter.  If it was not for one alder person who backed out they would have stopped the budget.

posted by: wendy1 on March 7, 2014  11:35pm

@ Duncan—-you can have my copy of the last published budget.

I will try to go to Stratton’s next meeting on March 15 @ cityhall.  There is some hope here for new cityhall behavior and fresh ideas.  And a NO to gouging tax increase.

posted by: robn on March 8, 2014  8:33am

Not exactly sure what happened prior to the exchange btwn Jackson Brooks and Stratton but if JB made any editorial comment about his proposal mentioning him personally, parliamentary rules allow him to respond with Point of Personal Privilege. The party machine has been so used to having their way for so long that they’ve forgotten there’s actually a set of rules governing their behavior during meetings.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 8, 2014  9:26am

I love the neighborhood that I live in, but unfortunately sometimes East Rock is blind to its own privilege. The tax situation is not the mayor’s doing, and most of the so-called “solutions” being put forth here are short-sighted fixes designed to alleviate the tax burden of the city’s wealthiest, most privileged residents at the expense of slashing services for most of the rest of the city.

Even PILOT is not a real solution, given that this is public money that enables the biggest tax dodgers in the state to continue to avoid paying their fair share.

New Haven will not get out of its budget problems until it is willing to fight to recategorize Yale’s endowment and patent profits as taxable commercial activity. East Rock residents should be joining with residents all over the city to demand that these two multi-billion dollar functions of Yale be taxed. This is especially true in East Rock, where the property taxes are a hidden subsidy for tax-exempt things like Yale’s shuttle system and Yale’s expansion & construction projects.

When you have an institution using hundreds of millions of dollars in non-profit profits to drive up property values through tax-exempt development, the money for the difference has to fall somewhere. This is where it falls.

posted by: Don in New Haven on March 8, 2014  8:51pm

I have carefully read all of the comments and am sad. The taxed are attacking each other and there is no solution to our problems with this approach.
What each of us should be doing is trying to find waste in the City Government activities. We need to find as much waste as possible and look for the means to eliminate or substitute other approaches to reduce the loss of money.
Complaining about a $1400/month rent for an apartment in East Rock is no solution. After all, the new rent will increase by 4%, at least. Instead of the new rent being $1456/month, the new rent will be $1500/month, a round number. The tenant will then gulp and try to find the additional money or move. 
Soon the City will begin evening entertainment on the Green. How much does this cost? Is everyone able to attend? I can’t get there because I don’t live in the inner city. Does this entertainment bring any revenue to the City? If not, why should it continue?
There are many other City activities that are only available to those who live close to the Green…like those at Yale, for example.
Every tax payer should spend some effort finding ways for the City to save money and not seek to criticize each other. Be a good citizen and do your best to find waste that can rationally be cut and present our ideas to the BOA. That way we can all comfortably survive.

posted by: beyonddiscussion on March 9, 2014  12:08am

Comment of the Day in NHI from a few weeks back:
MStratton: “My biggest surprise when I began closely examining the city budget was that there is much less waste and mismanagement than one would assume.”
And then we get this hot mess of a budget proposal… We all agree taxes must not go up. We all agree we can’t survive by continuing to subsidize the non-profits. But this is an embarrassment.

posted by: robn on March 9, 2014  8:57am


Your use of the term “privilege” to describe East Rock suggests you haven’t been around here very long. A couple of decades ago there was crack dealing down in Goatville, three decades ago there were houses boarded up on Orange Street. East Rock isn’t a product of privilege, it’s a product of hard work and committed neighbors.  They don’t deserve to be treated like piggy banks to allow Marxist Yalies to run wealth redistribution experiments (a term I loathe but which is unfortunately the norm in NH…we’re the poster child enabling idiots in the national Republican Party to diminish the value of balanced government intervention)

posted by: getyourfactstraight on March 9, 2014  10:14am

If anything the LCI department should be absorbed into the Building department. At that point the building official should be the soul director. Eliminate LCI director, keep one deputy, Rafael Ramos to help oversee the neighborhood specialists and housing code inspectors. Keep the other deputy that is already in the building department. Economic development should absorb the women working on development of housing in LCI. No deputy needed for this. Besides, Economic Development has enough staff and a deputy to oversee. Building department is much too important to be slid into LCI, vise versa makes sense if you are going to consolidate. Lots of money to be saved doing this. Why should LCI have 3 deputies anyway? Just a waste and silly. Hopefully the board of alders will look at this. Mayor Harp needs all the help she can get to save money instead of raising taxes which no one can afford at this point.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 9, 2014  12:16pm

robn: I’m sorry you’re unwilling to think about what “privilege” means, and the fact that I absolutely implicate myself in my statement. I know people work very hard here, which is wonderful, but the notion that the widening radical disparities in the city are because people in East Rock work harder is naive and dangerous. The examples you give about changes in the neighborhood over the past couple of decades present great evidence that more capital coming into a city does not mean that everyone benefits—uneven development tends to concentrate wealth and the privileges that come with it (i.e., Worthington-Hooker school) in specific neighborhoods. I would also point out that the candidate you supported for mayor has not lived in the neighborhood much longer than I have.

Don, I agree with you that it is sad to see the taxed turn on each other, but I’m sorry that you then contradict yourself by suggesting that we find further waste in the budget as a solution. The simple fact of the matter is that we have one of the largest corporations in the world right in our downtown, not paying any taxes on its financialized revenues from its endowment and patent profits. The taxed in the city need to come together to demand that the neoliberal elite pay their fair share and quit freeriding on the rest of us who do pay our taxes.

In the end, every neighborhood in the city pays a high price for Yale’s tax-dodging. Some have higher property taxes on higher property values (in the areas served by Yale’s shuttles), others have disproportionately high homicide rates: http://www.ctdatahaven.org/blog/2013/01/new-haven-infographic-homicides/

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 9, 2014  12:20pm

robn, This is not simply a matter of “hard work”:

“The gap in earnings between the top fifth of Greater New Haven households and those at the bottom fifth of the income ladder increased by 20 percent from 2006 to 2012, according to DataHaven. The chasm between the region’s rich and poor expanded at a rate three times faster than the national average and much faster than statewide growth in income disparity”
“At the same time, New Haven experienced an explosion in six-figure incomes, which outpaced the state’s growth in top-end wages. Largely cashing in on the region’s strongest job sectors — education, science and research — the number of New Haven households reporting income in excess of $100,000 increased 137 percent since 2000; the number of households reporting more than $200,000 in income was up 130 percent, with those gains concentrated in affluent neighborhoods: Westville, Prospect Hill and East Rock.”


posted by: FacChec on March 9, 2014  12:21pm

Citizen taxpayers are in no position, have no intimate knowledge on how to find and eliminate waste in this or any previous budget. For that matter neither does the BOA, their approach as always been to accept the leadership’s behind closed door deal with the Mayor, then sell it to the full board and the taxpayers as their tax saving grace. Who can forget the exercise last year?


Mayor Harps proposed budget, a continuation of the DeStefano theme, is not a balanced approach normally requiring cuts, waste reduction, redundancy reduction, and controlling the growth of government in future budgets. Rather you see additional attempts to spend our way out of our $753M and increasing debt.

Stratton is to be congratulated for leading an attempt to get the BOA to be creative and focus on solutions. The problem to twofold:
1. The BOA does not possess the ability to challenge the multi-faceted budget, nor do they want to, their proven path is to meet with the mayor for an 11th hour deal.

2. Stratton’s ideas are not proposals, they are DOA. His ideas follow no legal sustainable path, at this point they represent Stratton spitting off East Rock into a brisk wind, and using a paint gun to spray graffiti onto Wilbur Cross high school to see what sticks.

In order to obtain a reasonable one year approach towards meaning reductions, the BOA would have to hire professional budget analyst now, to advise them.

posted by: canadachris on March 9, 2014  1:46pm

I agree the Yale endowment and patent revenue should be taxed. I disagree with the responder who wants to cut the entertainment on the Green, among other things, because the entertainment favors residents of the “inner city”. In other words he/she doesn’t want to sit on the grass near Black and Latino folks. I suspect he/she has not noticed the great food spreads on tables, some with candelabras, set up by many people at concerts on the Green. I know many of these people come from the surrounding towns and, thus, do not pay taxes or contribute to retail sales and restaurants on their trips to the city. Its simply in and out. They, like some East Rockers, may “fear” inner city residents. Lets admit there is a heavy tinge of racism to this whole discussion about lowering taxes and finding services to eliminate in the city budget. Stop it.

posted by: MESSYNH on March 9, 2014  1:47pm

Remember November 2013 and the mayoral debates?  Toni Harp said that she will not raise property taxes…  The site below in you tube. 


See minute 34 where there was a question about taxes.  How quickly we forget.

posted by: robn on March 9, 2014  3:38pm


“Privilege” is a special exception or rank granted to some and not to others. Using that term about ER demeans all of the hard work that has been put into making ER a better place. You are, frankly, condescending and insulting.

posted by: Don in New Haven on March 9, 2014  6:19pm

“Tinge of racism?” Why is it so important to bring race into every discussion?
I lived on Tilton Street for 10 years before moving to the East Shore. I am not now nor have I ever been a racist.
From what I have read and heard, race is used to club someone who disagrees with you. I agree with you. You should stop injecting race into every discussion. You said it yourself so follow your guidance.
When I lived on Tilton Street, I frequently walked to the Green to listen to the performances. It was convenient for me to walk.
There is no rational way now for me to travel to the Green and back to see any performance.
NH spends a lot on police overtime at these events and that is expensive. I’m sure there are other costs but this one is obvious.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on March 10, 2014  4:47am

What is MOST disturbing about what I’m reading and seeing (in the video) here is a carry-over from the high handed bullying tactic of the previous administration.

The tendency of those in the power majority to cut off peremptorily the objections of any dissenters to their plans or ideas is simply undemocratic.

It is highly disturbing that elected officials, like the committee chair and the chief executive of the city, don’t respect their opponents right to speak or refuse to give a respectful consideration of their ideas before summarily dismissing both the speaker and/or the ideas.

It has been observed elsewhere that UNITE does not have education anywhere on its legislative agenda this term.  But, it is clear that its hand-picked and slavishly controlled BOA needs to be educated on at least one simple and foundational principle of democracy: The rights of the minority shall not be violated by the rule of the majority.

Even if the ideas of the People Caucus are thought to be wrong, bad, or even impractical, its members should be given the respect of the office they hold, which, by extension, is respect for the constituents they serve.

For those commenters here more concerned with the BOA’s “protocol” than you are with the simple principles of Democracy, you should know that YOU are apart of the problem as to why this city is run more like a third rate banana republic than a democratic republic in a country whose constitution guarantees its citizens and its elected officials the right to dissent when either disagrees with the majority.

Is there any real difference between what happened here than what happened in the US House of Representative last week when the hegemonically minded (and acting) GOP Committee Chairman Rep. Issa cut off the mic of his dissenter and fellow House member from the minority party?

posted by: canadachris on March 10, 2014  1:30pm

Don - What’s the Shakespeare line about protesting too much? The Harp-Elicker election results exposed the race divide in this city. You cannot ignore it. Self-styled liberals move to white enclaves in the city, take measures to lower taxes and increase city services for themselves then express compassion for those “unfortunate” people who live in the rest of the city. Stratton is simply expressing this attitude in his attempts to give his neighborhood a tax break. The next mayoral election should be a doozy.

posted by: robn on March 10, 2014  2:04pm


Last time I checked, ER was the only neighborhood in the city contemplated for REDUCTION in fire service. When exactly during the cry for lowered taxes were East Rockers asking for an increase in city services?

So to clarify your analysis of the election, it’s racist for East Rockers to vote for their alderman but NOT sexist or racist for neighborhoods with primarily female and black voters to vote for a black female candidate?

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 10, 2014  2:12pm


I actually believe “Marxist Yalies” (which I’m sure you did not meant to be “condescending and insulting”) and East Rock homeowners can be—and should be—allies. Yale paying taxes on its Wall Street and Big Pharma profits would generate plenty of money for the city and state to significantly reduce property taxes for ALL residents AND increase services to areas of the city that desperately need them.

As it stands, the city is divided in much the way canadachris describes. Yale’s neoliberal governance of our “meds and eds” city is dependent on the Elicker-Harp split we saw in the last mayoral campaign. I believe the “two New Havens” can—and should—unite behind our shared stakes as city residents, but this is dependent in part on the “Elicker” part of New Haven taking seriously the role of *our* privilege (google it—it’s a widely used and significant concept) in the city’s uneven development (i.e., that “crack dealing down in Goatville” and those “houses boarded up on Orange Street” didn’t disappear, they just shifted neighborhoods).

posted by: canadachris on March 10, 2014  3:01pm

Robn - You cannot dispute the racial split produced by the mayoral election. The needs in communities other than East Rock, Westville and Eastern Shore are substantial. Reducing taxes in East Rock or Westville or Eastern Shore will harm the entire city because we need ALL of our neighborhoods to be strong in order to make the city vibrant. To make this happen the city needs a reliable revenue stream.  If ER says “we don’t want to pay our fair share” then the ability to bring all the neighborhoods up fails. The ER position is a small example of the refusal of the “1%” nationally to pay higher taxes in order to provide better programs to the hungry, homeless, even the middle class.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 10, 2014  3:22pm

Reasonable expectations for neighborhoods:

1) Provide for the wellbeing of a proportional cross-section of the region’s population through access to jobs, affordable housing, and a variety of goods and services.

2) Pay for the cost of servicing the neighborhood with a bit extra to contribute towards savings, investments, etc.

Unreasonable expectations for neighborhoods:

1) Service a disproportionate cross-section of a region’s populations.

2) Pay a disproportionate share of taxes.

11% of the population of Greater New Haven lives below poverty.
13% lives near poverty.
14% has a moderate income.
62% is considered middle class or higher.

12% of New Haven’s Higher Income Areas (Westville, Prospect Hill, East Rock and East Shore) residents live in poverty.
11% live near poverty.
13% are moderate income.
64% are middle class or higher.

The average resident of Greater New Haven has a mill rate of about 30.

East Rock residents are about to pay 42.36 mills.

East Rock, which already has some of the highest property values in the area, saw significant increases in value during the last revaluation - between 35-55% increases, massively shifting the tax burden onto them.

In conclusion, East Rock provides for the wellbeing of a proportional cross-section of the region’s population, while disproportionately paying to service other parts of the city - effectively subsidizing New Haven’s wealthy suburbs, which do not provide for the wellbeing of a proportional cross-section of the region’s population.

posted by: robn on March 10, 2014  4:00pm


I don’t dispute the racial divide in the last election. I simply point out that you’re using the racial divide specifically to label white neighborhoods as racist. If you want to go there, that’s word cuts both ways.


I thought I was being pretty clear that I, along with 99% of the worlds population (and 99.9999999% of the US population), hold Marxism in contempt. Your and other’s insistence on regarding middle class ER people as the “1%” (households have an income of over $388,000) is naive an misleading

No hidden force fixed up old houses in ER and expelled crack dealers. What did is people who go to work every day, pay their mortgages, and refuse to accept a degraded environment. They enjoy the results of hard work, not privilege.

posted by: Westville voter on March 10, 2014  7:21pm

canadachris: I think that you mischaracterize taxpayers in East Rock, Westville, and elsewhere when you suggest that “we don’t want to pay our fair share.” Many of us could easily move to the suburbs, enjoy a crime-free life in bigger houses with better schools and lower taxes. Instead we are in New Haven because we believe in cities. If I had any confidence that paying higher taxes would make New Haven better, I would gladly pay more. Instead, we know from experience that our high taxes will be wasted on graft, patronage and ineptitude. Demanding that the city use its resources effectively and honestly is not racism, elitism, or selfishness. It is simply being responsible. Mayor Harp and the UNITE BOA need to convince us that they will be responsible stewards of our tax dollars and stop expecting a blank check. They have not made the slightest effort to do so.

posted by: TheMadcap on March 10, 2014  8:17pm


People living East Rock generally aren’t the 1%. You can actually view all kinds of data for each census track here
The upper ER track has a median household income of $60,391, the lower one about $42,000. Obviously it’s much higher than say Newhallville which is at $30,000, and a section of The Hill at $22,500, but compare it some of the suburbs. Stony Creek is over $80,000, Guilford’s tracks are between 80-100k with Madison being over it. North Brandford and Northford are respectively at $70,000 and $98,000. Hamden even has 2 tracks over 100k and a 3rd just below it. East Shore is actually the highest in New Haven at $76,000.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 10, 2014  10:48pm


At no point in time have I ever called East Rockers “the 1%.” East Rockers are far, far, FAR from the 1%. How could we possibly have any kind of exchange when you say that I am being “naive and misleading” by “insisting” on something I never said? You play by rules that you would be outraged by if someone applied them to you, and I find it purposely disingenuous. Still, I’m working on it: http://everydayfeminism.com/2012/12/how-to-talk-to-someone-about-privilege/.

I strongly agree with Westville voter’s view that people in East Rock and other wealthier areas of the city do want to pay our fair share, and actually pay much MORE than our fair share. I also agree with Jonathan Hopkins’ assessment that the suburbs are more problematic *economically* than East Rock.

The problem is that *politically* these areas of the city are unwilling to see themselves as aligned with the areas of the city that are truly shouldering the burden of our city’s underfunding. High property taxes are rough (as I know personally!!!), but are nothing compared to the unemployment, poverty, violence, drug problems, and blight that plague other areas of the city. Notice that NO East Rock resident speaks of being “forced” to move to Fairhaven, Newhallville, or the Hill due to high property taxes; it’s always “the suburbs.” That should be a strong signal to us ER & Westville residents that we are making troubling (privileged?) assumptions about where we belong, what we are entitled to, and what communities we feel we are a part of.

“The 1%” is alive and well in New Haven. This is clear, for instance, by the Yale Corporation’s yearly presence in Davos, Switzerland. It is up to all of New Haven, including East Rock, to unite and demand “the 1%” pay THEIR fair share. The people who want to use East Rock as a “piggy bank” are financiers at Yale, and it is useful for them to have East Rockers turn their *justified* frustration against the city and other, poorer residents. This can change.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 11, 2014  8:53am

FYI, robn, I’m not thinking of income for “the 1%,” but net worth:

“The Times had estimated the threshold for being in the top 1 percent in household income at about $380,000, 7.5 times median household income, using census data from 2008 through 2010. But for net worth, the 1 percent threshold for net worth in the Fed data was nearly $8.4 million, or 69 times the median household’s net holdings of $121,000.”

posted by: robn on March 11, 2014  9:10am

PS and FWIW,

The highest census income tract in the city 50% higher than East Rock, contains the home of Mayor Toni Harp.

posted by: Scot on March 11, 2014  12:53pm

@HewNaven - “Stop crying poor East Rockers. There’s money in them houses.” 

Using your example of 16,800.. Lets say it’s a 3-family house.  Property taxes will run about 12,000/year.  Insurance about 5,000/year.  The rent in your example barely covers the taxes and insurance! If they bought the house in the past 10 years they probably paid about 400-500,000, and even then the house wouldn’t be in great condition.  Most of the houses are over 100 yrs old and many have lead paint, asbestos, oil tanks buried in their yards, falling down plaster, outdated windows, plumbing, and electrical wires.  So when you calculate the monthly payment on the mortgage, the taxes, HO insurance, repairs and maintenance involved, there aint that much money left in them houses.

If it’s a 2-family house the picture is worse, and God help people with single family homes in ER, who’s taxes have gone from 5k per year 12 years ago to 12k or 15k or more per year now. Similar in westville and Wooster.

Its true that people in ER may on average be doing better than people in other neighborhoods, but that’s because there’s a lot of poverty in New Haven - not because people in ER are making out so well.  So do you think the city should try to bleed every last drop out of them?  until people with middle incomes (say 40k - 100k) can’t live in ER (or Westville or Wooster) and only Yale doctors and professors can afford to.  Is that what you want?

10 years ago the taxes on such a house would have been 5-6,000.  So yes, they cranked up the rents to cover the taxes.  Now it’s 1400-1800 for a 2 BR in East Rock. So now there’s a high cost of living.  This deters people from moving to New Haven, and it deters businesses (jobs) from wanting to move here as well. Many people that like NH and would like to stay get squeezed out. It prevents New Haven from becoming the great small city that it can be.

posted by: Scot on March 11, 2014  1:05pm

Grad students and young professionals, teachers, firefighters, etc can afford (barely) to live in ER (New Haven in general) while they’re finishing their programs or while they’re single. When they’re done and ready to make a permanent move, many say, yeah New Haven was ok. But I paid 1500/month to live in an outdated apartment, didn’t even have my street plowed, and the schools aren’t that good.  So they choose to go to NY or Boston or North Haven or Guilford instead when they land their permanent job.

NH is left as a city that perpetually “has potential”.  Have you heard this description before: “It’s got nice restaurants, and Yale, but it’s expensive, has high taxes, mediocre schools, and high crime”. We struggle to break that description.  Raising taxes every year and squeezing out the middle class is NOT the way to do it. Improving schools, lowering the cost of living, attracting new development, and making New Haven a more vibrant, pedestrian friendly city is the way to go. Getting more money from the state and Yale/tax exempt entities would be a huge help.  In lieu of that we need to control our spending, encourage development, and be creative in how we improve schools without simply throwing more money at them.

posted by: 14yearsinNHandgone on March 11, 2014  8:04pm

If people stopped thinking of this in terms of black and white and thought of it in terms of economics, it would make more sense.

There are no “white enclaves” in New Haven, as one commenter claimed…there are nice neighborhoods where people who can afford to live go and live.  It’s not like you can’t live there if you’re black or latino, you just have to be able to afford it.

Likewise, you don’t see affluent members of the black community living in the Hill or Newhallville.  Like ‘robn’ states above, it’s not like Toni Harp or Karen DuBois Walton live down on Sherman Avenue, and Gary Holder Winfield and Drew Days don’t hang out at a barber shop on Whalley Avenue after dark.

People live in as nice an area as they can afford. Period. 

(The NHI chose not to publish my earlier comment, so I have tried rephrasing)

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 12, 2014  12:35am

FWIW Gary lives at the corner of Winchester Avenue and Division Street.

posted by: steve on March 15, 2014  7:15pm

To Don in New Haven. Quote:

I often see comments about spending more money on Tweed but I have never seen anything boasting about how much money NH receives from Tweed. Why is this?
I looked through the Budget and saw no concrete description of Tweed money NH would receive/contribute.
In my opinion we should give/sell Tweed to the State and stop supporting a property that only eats cash. Tweed lacks facilities and land to handle more than its present air traffic. Can anybody clarify this situation?

I would be glad to clarify the situation. For decades Tweed has been denied help from local politicians going back as far as mayor Ben Delieto and Many East Haven Mayors. When Eastern airlines flew into Tweed, the flights to Washington were limited to 60 seats out of about 130. When United flew from Tweed to Chicago, the flights many times were weight restricted and the same went for Delta on flights to Cincinnati and they had to depart with empty seats.
Tweed needs all or part of the runway overruns paved to allow airliners to depart with most or all seats filled. Today’s airlines need load factors of at least 85% to be profitable.
While many types of airliners can fly into Tweed, they cannot do so with full loads. At present, the beginning of runway 20 is marked off allowing for only 5250 useable feet and not the 5600 feet being the total length of the runway. The market for air travel is great in the metro New Haven area but if aircraft cannot land and especially depart with full passenger loads, the airlines will not commit to new flights that are destined to lose money. 
Its only been in the past few years that Tweed has gotten some support and it appears East haven mayor Maturo and some in Washington are pushing to correct this glaring deficiency that has plagued Tweed for many years.
Don’t blame airport management, they can only work with what they have. Paving the overruns will allow Tweed to become an airport that will meet the needs of area travelers.

posted by: Don in New Haven on March 16, 2014  11:33am

Tweed and John Wayne Airport, Orange, CA are physically very similar. Runway lengths are approximately the same.

It is not rational to attempt to extend the Runway Safety Areas of Tweed with a hill on one end and a swamp on the other end.

One major difference between the runways is the load bearing characteristics are very different and Tweed cannot support large heavily loaded aircraft.

Operational data are totally different. John Wayne has 720 aircraft operations/day and 8 million passengers per year.

Also, John Wayne belongs to Orange County and Tweed belongs to a City. Tweed should be given to the State of CT.

For comparison of physical characteristics, explore the two airports at this link:

posted by: Noteworthy on March 16, 2014  12:18pm

It is a total crock that all that stands in the way of Tweed is political support and a longer runway. Taxpayers in New Haven have bailed out Tweed for years. It is the adult child that never moves out. We have given or allowed Tweed to borrow in our name tens of millions of dollars and the result is ziltch. Nothing but excuses and more lame promises tied to giving it more money,  more runway more this more that. KMA.

posted by: Don in New Haven on March 16, 2014  3:32pm

Noteworthy, you are on the right track.

What remains unexplained are the paths taken by money flowing into Tweed from the State and Federal governments. Nobody ever seems to follow the money. This mystery may be the key reason for politicians worshiping Tweed and fawning over its short runway.

The latest FEMA Flood Zone map shows the Airport and its runway are in the dangerous flood zone. My earlier research revealed the fact that the runway has been 18 inches under water in some storms. This is why the flood gates were constructed, but will that solve any problems?

Although the money coming to Tweed is parceled out to political friends who get the contracts, we are constantly told we need to extend a runway which lies in a basin carved by the creek that still flows through.

As you can see in the runway data shown in the http://www.airnav.com/airports/ link I mentioned earlier, Tweed cannot support the weight of heavy planes as well as John Wayne Airport does. The soil under the Tweed runway may not be able to support heavy airplanes.

In your studies of Tweed, think about an Inaugural Ball soon to be held in Robinson Hanger and only accessible from the East Haven side of Tweed. Why there? At what cost?