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Elicker, Carolina Back Term Limits

by Paul Bass | Aug 16, 2013 7:45 am

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

Posted to: West Hills, Campaign 2013

Two mayoral candidates urged seniors to vote for them—but not too many times.

The two candidates, Kermit Carolina and Justin Elicker, came out for mayoral term limits during a debate Thursday afternoon at the Park Ridge elderly housing complex on Austin Street in the West Hills neighborhood.

Their two opponents in the Sept. 10 Democratic mayoral primary, Toni Harp and Henry Fernandez, came out just as passionately against term limits during the debate.

Some 100 seniors crowded into the Park Ridge community room for the debate, which was organized by Audrey Tyson, co-chair of the Ward 29 Democratic Ward Committee.

Seniors submitted questions for the candidates. One of the questions concerned term limits.

Elicker (pictured schmoozing with Park Ridge’s Ruby Allen) told the crowd New Haven’s mayor should serve no longer than the president of the United States: eight years.

“If it’s good enough for the president of the United States, it should be good enough for New Haven,” Elicker declared. “Politicians that are in office for too long acquire incredible amounts of power, and that helps them get reelected and reelected. Politicians that have been in office too long have stale ideas, use the same old ideas to solve these problems that we desperately need new energy and new ideas.”

Carolina came out for limiting mayors to two terms. (He said later that he would like the terms to last four years, not two, in that case.)

“I don’t believe that any mayor should stay in office any longer than that,” Carolina said, “because at that point corruption begins to creep in, as we’ve seen in the last administration. We need to put a stop to that.”

The city’s Charter Revision Commission considered putting term limits in a ballot referendum this November, inspired in part by the fact that incumbent Mayor John DeStefano has stayed in office for ten two-year terms.

Then commission members learned that the city would first need state enabling legislation before it could institute term limits. They decided in the end to leave the matter off the ballot.

At Thursday’s debate, Harp (pictured greeting senior Dorothy Cooper) argued that New Haven already has term limits. They’re called elections.

“You can only be mayor in New Haven for two years. Every two years you have to go back to the people and reelect you, so that we do have term limits,” Harp argued.

“If you’re going to elect somebody for 20 years—that is a decision that is made two years at a term. It’s really up to the people to make that decision.”

“I actually believe, as Sen. Harp does,” Fernandez told the crowd, “the people of the city of New Haven get to choose their mayor and their alderman every two years. So if you decide you like one of us you can vote for us. And it’s quite possible you were wrong. You made a mistake. In two years you can vote us out of office. That’s a pretty darn good system. I’m willing to stick with that. I’m willing to trust the people of New Haven that we are smart enough to know who to elect and who to get rid of.”

Also at the debate:

• In response to a question about the difficulty of finding access to dental care, Harp vowed to work with the dean of Yale’s medical school to set up a dental school there—so that students working there could make more care available.

• All the candidates supported the idea of having more senior centers in town. Carolina and Elicker stressed that they couldn’t promise to open more, though, until they get a better look at the city’s tight finances. All the candidates suggested tapping senior volunteers and space at places like Bella Vista to cut the costs of opening more centers. The number of city senior centers has shrunk to three.

• One question focused on how most public-school students are black or Latino in New Haven while most of the teachers are white. How would you change that? the candidates were asked. Harp suggested recruiting more teachers from historically black colleges. Fernandez said the city already does that; he suggested focusing more on retaining teachers already in the system. Elicker suggested steering more city high school students to Southern Connecticut State University’s teacher preparation program. Carolina—who is the principal of Hillhouse High School—welcomed the idea of having more teachers of color but said the bigger priority is to focus on the quality of teachers, period. “Our children,” he said, “know where your heart is.”

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posted by: Threefifths on August 16, 2013  8:27am

At Thursday’s debate, Harp (pictured greeting senior Dorothy Cooper) argued that New Haven already has term limits. They’re called elections.

“I actually believe, as Sen. Harp does,” Fernandez told the crowd, “the people of the city of New Haven get to choose their mayor and their alderman every two years. So if you decide you like one of us you can vote for us. And it’s quite possible you were wrong. You made a mistake. In two years you can vote us out of office. That’s a pretty darn good system. I’m willing to stick with that. I’m willing to trust the people of New Haven that we are smart enough to know who to elect and who to get rid of.”

Give me a break.Term limits ensure that elected public officials cannot remain in power indefinitely. They do this by putting a restriction on the number of terms someone may be elected to a public office.Career politicians combat term limits,as they know term limits force them out.Career politicians are more concerned with special interests and lobbyists and there own gain than the interests of the people.Plus Incumbent politicians have too big of an advantage, with big money and name recognition.Look at Harp and Fernandez Money Gravy Train. They say vote? Then put term limits on the ballot and let the people vote on it.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on August 16, 2013  8:39am

Wow.  Senator Harp and Mr. Fernandez in agreement.  Maybe she’ll collect another endorsement soon.

posted by: AJF515 on August 16, 2013  8:42am

“the people of the city of New Haven get to choose their mayor and their alderman every two years. So if you decide you like one of us you can vote for us. And it’s quite possible you were wrong. You made a mistake. In two years you can vote us out of office. That’s a pretty darn good system. I’m willing to stick with that. I’m willing to trust the people of New Haven that we are smart enough to know who to elect and who to get rid of.”

That’s good in theory except that when you’re a voter in a largely Democratic town, Republicans are afraid to put up a challenger to a Democratic incumbent and any attempt at a primary or 3rd party challenger fails because of incumbency advantage. People didn’t like DeStefano, but they had no other choice. Putting in term limits in a city like New Haven, or anywhere for that matter, give people options every few years.

posted by: Noteworthy on August 16, 2013  8:46am

Arrogance and Term Limits Notes:

1. Those who have been in power for years and decades always say, with a certain amount of arrogance, that the people decide when to term limit an elected official. That’s total crap.

2. Once in office, a mayor in this case gains tremendous power - can dole out favors, patronage, no bid contracts, scandleously it is legal. When it comes to raising money to beat back a challenger, they do what DeStefano did - raise $760,000 from those people to beat back a $50,000 challenger. Look at Toni Harp - shaking the special interest and lobbyist tree in Hartford to fund her campaign here. It’s made possible by long terms and the power that comes with it.

3. Bottom Line: If you can’t get your agenda done in 8 years - your value to the people you serve isn’t worth spit. This is especially true in New Haven. This is a small city. Somebody who really wants to solve problems and make life better for residents could make a big difference in eight years.

posted by: HewNaven on August 16, 2013  8:50am

This is a hypocritical stance for the Yale union coalition backing Harp. In the last election, they claimed DeStefano was an example of entrenched executive power that could not be defeated, thus they chose not to endorse Kerekes (Destefano’s challenger). I asked union organizers that specific question and that was the official response. Now, with Harp they’re saying entrenched power is okay, with Harp giving a dishonest justification about facing the voters every 2 years. She must know that’s a lie. Machine-backed politicians like Harp and Destefano are floated into office on the backs of those whose jobs depend on it. Its old-school, quid pro quo politics. These folks have no idea what democracy really looks like. They’re literally reading a playbook from a different generation.

posted by: robn on August 16, 2013  9:01am

A two year term is a frequency allowing electoral correction (I agree with Harp under the current circumstances).

If we went to 4 year terms, a 2 term limit would be appropriate (plenty of time in 4+4 years to turn the Titanic’s wheel).

posted by: anonymous on August 16, 2013  9:03am

Although people whose “power base” is from decades past and who live in huge mansions may not realize it, New Haven changes dramatically every 10 years. New ideas are what keep the city competitive.

For example, we really could use a Mayor who speaks Spanish, like nearly half of our young school kids.

With DeStefano, New Haven is pretty much stuck in the 1990s. But with Harp, it would be stuck in the 1980s.

We either need term limits, or we need a way for government to be responsive to the public, not make all of its decisions behind DTC’s closed doors.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on August 16, 2013  9:03am

Clearly voters do not want lifetime office holders at any level of government and the cost of running for office is why so many wealthy people run and are elected (Linda McMahon being the exception).
Term limits are like mandatory sentencing guidelines - they both take power away from those best able to decide someone’s fate, a sometimes very nuanced decision.
Instead of restricting what is, how about expanding instead? Consider open primaries, instant runoff voting, public campaign financing.
Where are the big creative concepts from the candidates? Vision is needed, but I see only tinkering.

posted by: Brutus2011 on August 16, 2013  9:38am

Term limits exist precisely because “the people” are too easily fooled.

John DeStefano is your proof.

Four two year terms is enough service.

And, this notion of teachers of color?

Frankly, those in power don’t want us to be an example for our kids, especially our boys.

We are deemed too “threatening,” and thus more positions are available for whites who somehow always get the jobs.

And I can back up my last statement with evidence for those whose sensibilities I may have offended.

posted by: Razzie on August 16, 2013  10:41am

Term limits only serves to limit the amount of time 1 office holder can serve. It does not directly address any of the core issues that are complained about (transparency, imbalance of political power among rivals, corruption, sweet-heart contracts, etc). There is no evidence those political sins would be eliminated if we went to a 4 or 8 or 12 year limit on service. It is disingenuous to suggest that we need to limit terms of service statewide because the 2-party system is broken here in New Haven. Maybe New Haven voters need to get their act together and develop a viable two-party system to restore balance that is sorely lacking.

posted by: michaelnogelo on August 16, 2013  10:56am

anonymous writes: “we really could use a Mayor who speaks Spanish, like nearly half of our young school kids.”

This point is not central to this article, but I think accuracy is important.  What is your source for this fact?

According to State Department of Education data on NHPS for 2010-2011, “26.7% of this district’s students (excluding prekindergarten students) come from homes where English is not the primary language” and 13.3% of NHPS students “are not fluent in English”.  (http://sdeportal.ct.gov/Cedar/WEB/ResearchandReports/SSPReports.aspx)

posted by: Noteworthy on August 16, 2013  10:59am

One other note:

Is Toni Harp lining up all these endorsements because she is the best qualified? The most experienced? The most knowledgeable about city issues, the budget and how to pay for it? Or is she the DTC and union choice simply because she’s occupied the political arena the longest and all these people are ones she’s cultivated all these years without term limits.

Any normal candidate who has the baggage Toni Harp has with regard to the family business and hosing everybody who does business with it, would never get officialdom to endorse her. But longevity has its benefits for her and at the detriment of everybody else. She is the poster child for why there should be term limits in the mayor’s chair, the BOA and most definitely, for the dome dwellers.

posted by: anonymous on August 16, 2013  12:39pm

Michaelnogelo, I wrote young students not everyone up to 18, but thanks anyways. What if you look only at elementary school and preschoolers?  On a separate note, what precludes other students from speaking Spanish even if their parents don’t speak it at home? Language barriers are a big issue in much of New Haven given the amount of landlord-tenant exploitation that takes place (as evident this year) and the fact that a very large proportion of residents overall don’t speak English well. Luckily a few of our Aldermen speak Spanish, but we could do a lot better.

posted by: michaelnogelo on August 16, 2013  1:30pm

Anonymous: I noted that you wrote “young students” and agree with your larger point that language barriers are an issue in New Haven. I was mostly just wondering if you had data to back up your “nearly half” statement.  NHPS has language data by grade but I don’t believe it is publicly available so I used what I could find online.  I acknowledge that some students speak Spanish even though Spanish is not their primary home language, but I doubt that gets you from 26.7% to “nearly half”, especially when you consider that not all of the 26.7% of students living in homes where English is not the primary language speak Spanish (NHPS students speak 61 different languages at home).

posted by: Threefifths on August 16, 2013  4:06pm

posted by: Razzie on August 16, 2013 11:41am

Term limits only serves to limit the amount of time a office holder can serve. It does not directly address any of the core issues that are complained about (transparency, imbalance of political power among rivals, corruption, sweet-heart contracts, etc).

Term Limits are need Because voters are asleep at the wheel and continue to hire the same Career politicians.Also it’s the wired party primary system added to grossly gerrymanderd districts that limits our choice of candidates from the get go. Given what we are presented as election winners, in a rigged system, the only way to cut our losses is to have term limits and get them out before they get too settled in.Also we should Amendment the State Constitution and City charter to put in Recall elections.

posted by: Razzie on August 16, 2013  5:21pm

@ Noteworthy
“Is Toni Harp lining up all these endorsements because she is the best qualified? The most experienced? The most knowledgeable about city issues, the budget and how to pay for it? Or is she the DTC and union choice simply because she’s occupied the political arena the longest and all these people are ones she’s cultivated all these years without term limits.”

A very legitimate question. However, the best source for answers would be the precise words of those endorsers at the time they made the recommendation to New Haven voters. For each endorsement story relating to Sen Harp, the text or audio recordings are available. I have seen and/or heard a good many of the comments. They invariably speak to her level of experience with state and municipal affairs; her commitment to seniors, pre-school and school age children; strength and respect among her peers; ability to work with all groups under pressure; and of course length of service to New Haven and its people.

You are indeed correct. Not many of the endorsers have made mention of what her deceased husband did in his business affairs. As with her, I can only assume they acted on those qualities they believed were germane to their evaluation of her ability to govern this City. However, if you care to learn more about Wendell Harp’s standing in the community you can go to the following link.

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/lunch_with_wendell/

posted by: accountability on August 16, 2013  9:33pm

What a pathetic, cowardly display of meaningless political posturing.

Where were these bold partisans of term limits when it actually meant something?

Why didn’t Justin weigh in heavily on the issue while the Charter Revision Commission was still deliberating? Why didn’t he raise it when the report came before the Board of Aldermen—twice? Why didn’t he vote against the report in protest if this was such an important issue?

It’s. Too. Late.

So, Justinians, answer this for the rest of us who don’t know him so well: is Justin actually just incompetent and simply didn’t realize that Charter Revision was the forum in which to address the issue and that the deadline had passed? Or is this yet another example of the way in which Justin’s commitment to “good government” is a cynical, vote-getting pose?

Because there really isn’t a door number three here.

All he’s doing now is talking, talking, talking. The chance to do something effective about it has passed.

posted by: obi on August 17, 2013  8:48am

“You can only be mayor in New Haven for two years. Every two years you have to go back to the people and reelect you, so that we do have term limits,” Harp argued. Does she think the seniors are morons and don’t understand term limits????
Here we go again with an out of touch career politician. Term limits with a 8 yr. maximum is WTG.

posted by: HhE on August 17, 2013  9:38am

I do not think that two, two-year terms is a proper limit.  It takes about a year to learn a job, so such a program would have our mayor on the learning curve 25% of the time—best case.  I think 12 years is an approprite cap, and I think elections every four years is more sensable (cheeper too).

posted by: alex on August 17, 2013  12:49pm

Two year terms are bad because far fewer people vote in “off-year” elections—it’s too bad four year terms didn’t make it through Charter Revision.

Considering the City of New Haven’s relationship with Yale, term limits may not be a good idea. With term limits, Yale can treat any sitting mayor as a lame duck.

To those who point to DeStefano, note that he’s stepping down because he may well have lost this election. Twenty years is a long time but it isn’t forever.

posted by: accountability on August 17, 2013  1:11pm

Hhe:

Why are you droning on about this issue as if opinions on it matter?

For that matter, to Paul and the staff, why did you choose to highlight this issue from the debate? Is that the only issue discussed?

It’s settled for ten years. We’re not going to have term limits. I agree with the Charter Revision Commission’s decision—it was well reasoned legally and politically. But even if you don’t agree, it doesn’t matter, it’s settled.

the only question is why has this suddenly become an issue when there’s no more opportunity to make a difference?

That’s a question for the editorial staff of the NHI—why waste the column inches three weeks before the primary?

I would argue that it’s just another editorial decision by the NHI—whether conscious or not—that gives an advantage to Justin’s campaign. In this case, an opportunity to burnish his “good government” bonafides without taking any burden of leadership. A free electronic billboard for cynical, cost-free posturing.

posted by: downtown dweller on August 17, 2013  10:23pm

@accountability: It sounds that you also approve of term limits.  It’s good that Harp supporters acknowledge the strengths of Justin’s platform.

I’ll briefly respond to your torrent of adjectives.  Coming out in support of term limits now is not “cowardly” “pathetic” “meaningless” “political” “vote-getting” posturing (to pick just a few).  A candidate who has come out in support of term limits has pledged to the people of New Haven that he will not run for reelection for two decades, like DeStefano.  If Justin ran for more than 8 years, a voter could quote back at him his support for term limits.  So Justin’s effectively capping his tenure as mayor.  Harp, by contrast, refuses to do this, and so indicates that if she is elected, she may hope to be in office for life.

posted by: anonymous on August 18, 2013  1:03am

Downtown Dweller: Exactly. Accountability is simply trying to make excuses for the fact Harp is running on a “bad government” platform (no public finance, raised over 80% of her own campaign money this year from people who do not live in New Haven, including her son, voted to eliminate progressive finance reforms this year in Hartford, along with Malloy, did not pay her own taxes for four years, voted for Keno with no meaningful public discussion), as opposed to the clear “good government” platform of Justin.  It is a smoke screen.

posted by: robn on August 18, 2013  6:21am

ACCOUNTABILITY

Nice try at Justin bashing but its a non issue. He DID attend Charter Revision Committee meetings where the committee discovered that state law won’t allow term limits (if you actually read this article you would know that) The term limit question was asked by a citizen in an audience and is, at this point, simply a hypothetical.

posted by: robn on August 18, 2013  11:47am

ACCOUNTABILITY,

Wrong again on a another important point. New Haven’s Code of Ordinances, TITLE I, ARTICLE XXXIX, Sec. 216 requires a MANDATORY charter review every ten years but there’s nothing stopping the BOA from appointing another Charter Revision Commission any time they want, as long as its done with a 2/3 vote (allowed by CT General Statute Section 7-188.)

posted by: HhE on August 18, 2013  2:13pm

accountability, I droned on for three lines of text.  Your second post (apparently written in response to mine), runs nine lines and change.  Your first post, which I think was put up after I had written mine,  is on the order of twelve lines.

posted by: downtown dweller on August 18, 2013  2:24pm

@accountabilty:

I see that I was mistaken in thinking that you supported term limits.  When I posted, only your first comment had been published.  Your second comment, which was published after I wrote my comment, makes your view clear.

In any case, your second comment also merits a brief response.  In your two comments, you have attacked (i) Justin Elicker, for allegedly not doing anything to support term limits when he might have; (ii) Justin’s supporters, for “droning on” about a supposed non-issue; and (iii) the NHI, for publishing an article about this supposed non-issue.  Robn has rebutted (i) (comment at 7:21 a.m.).  As for (iii), I have explained why candidates’ stances on this issue do matter now: voters should know whether they are electing someone who plans to let in fresh blood after a certain time, or whether he or she plans to use the advantage of incumbency to remain in power indefinitely.  As for (ii), if an issue is clearly important, and if the NHI has identified it as such by publishing an article about it, it is obviously wrong to attack other posters for commenting on it.  The NHI provides the comment space as an electronic forum for exchanging ideas, not for one poster to try to shut down others he disagrees with.

On this question of term limits, it is no accident that there is a direct match between those candidates that do not support term limits and those that have refused to cap their campaign contributions under the Democracy Fund.  Running as an incumbent is cheaper and safer than running as one of many first-time candidates.  Moneyed donors with political interests would rather give to candidates that will stay in office as long as possible—because this is the most cost-effective way for them to influence city politics.  They have no incentive to support term limits.  The Democracy Fund candidates, on the other hand, will not alienate their supporters by favoring term limits.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on August 18, 2013  3:08pm

“[Harp] argued that New Haven already has term limits. They’re called elections.” This is the predictable, hackneyed, disingenuous response of a careerist politician. REALITY: Crony careerists like Harp and Fernandez know full well that after years of practice making backroom deals and lining up paybacks to donors that it is nearly impossible to get rid of a long-term incumbent. They’re not “elections”, Toni; they’re biennial purchases. Fernandez: “That’s a pretty darn good system.” Correct—for the crony, careerist. Given the limitations of our current electoral process, Razzie has proposed the best solution: “New Haven voters need to get their act together and develop a viable two-party system to restore balance that is sorely lacking.”

posted by: HhE on August 18, 2013  7:51pm

accountability, now that the kids are with their mom, and I have had my dinner of warmed up mac and cheese and peas, I have more time to drone on, and on answering your question.

The first and fore most reason for expressing my opinion is the joy of seeing my words and ideas in print. 

Another good reason is the social aspect.  David Streever and I became friends through posting on the NHI.  I have never met Curious or Brutus2011 (that I know of), I think I would enjoy such a meeting very much.  There are other people that I get to talk with face to face from time to time, but in the meantime, we have the NHI Comentariat. 

It is a rare day indeed that someone who has taken a position here ever changes their minds, but it does happen.  More likely, people who have not yet formed a view may be persuaded.  Little harm in trying. 

Some of us like a good debate, and one can find it here in this fur-ball—sometimes.  I also detest poor argumentation, and struggle to leave it be. 

I often find the comment section more interesting and informative than the articles proper.  This is why when the NHI suspended commenting, I went from reading a few times a day, to reading a few times a week. 

Well, there you go.  Opinions are generally free, and worth every penny.  Don’t care to read mine?  No worries, I am cool with that.

posted by: downtown dweller on August 18, 2013  9:37pm

There is one final point on this issue that is very relevant and appears to have been overlooked.  Harp’s claim that biennial elections act as a term limit is belied by her own campaign.  Harp says that she can run the city better than DeStefano, but refused to stand for mayor until DeStefano announced that he was not running again.  In other words, Harp realizes perfectly well that incumbency gives a candidate an enormous advantage, and that biennial elections are not sufficient to insure a fresh influx of ideas into city government. 

This is not the first dissonance between what the Harp campaign says and what the Harp campaign does.  Previously, Harp said that she would not use the Democracy Fund because she entered the campaign “late,” but her supporters then went on to point out that Harp was the quickest to get the signatures for the primary ballot.  If the Harp campaign could mobilize supporters so fast, was it really true that she was refusing to use the Democracy Fund simply because she entered the campaign after other candidates? 

I do agree with the Harp campaign on one point: the voters of New Haven are smart.  I hope they see the inconsistencies in the Harp campaign in the primary and the general.

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