(203) 500-2969

One candidate got props from his rivals. Another went after his rivals. And a third gave out his phone number.

Those were three highlights from a live televised mayoral debate Wednesday night at Long Wharf Theatre. The four Democratic mayoral candidates met onstage less than two weeks before the Sept. 10 Democratic primary. Click the video above to watch the full debate.

Hundreds of people packed the theater for the hour-long debate, which NBC Connecticut broadcast live on Channel 30. The TV network sponsored the debate along with the New Haven Independent, La Voz Hispana, the Democracy Fund, and the New Haven Register.

At the first televised debate, the highest-profile match-up before the election, the candidates—Kermit Carolina, Justin Elicker, Henry Fernandez, and Toni Harp—offered a number of policy ideas they’ve mentioned before, and some new positions.

And Elicker gave out his phone number to TV viewers across Connecticut to demonstrate that he’d be accessible.

Elicker and Carolina—who are both participating in the Democracy Fund, the city’s public campaign-financing program—announced that they will not take special interest money or $1,000. Both candidates, along with Fernandez, have earned independent ballot slots to run in the general election as well as the primary. After the Sept. 10 election, Elicker and Carolina would no longer be bound by the donation restrictions of the Democracy Fund, but they said they will abide by them nonetheless.

Harp contradicted the Board of Aldermen’s view of mayoral power by saying she thinks the mayor should be able to appoint her own staffers. The Board of Aldermen has approved a ballot question for this November’s election that calls for requiring that the board approve top mayoral appointees.

A question to candidates about which of their opponents’ ideas they would adopt led to some plaudits for Carolina, the principal of Hillhouse High School. Both Elicker and Fernandez said they would take his ideas. Elicker would borrow his plan to create incentives for city employees to live in the city. Fernandez applauded the way he’s broken Hillhouse into small “learning communities.”

Fernandez was the first candidate to call out his rivals by name. He went after Alderman Elicker for voting to approve city budgets that raise taxes, and state Sen. Harp for allegedly saying that she hasn’t read the budget.

Elicker responded that he has a strong record of working to amend city budgets with spending cuts, and voted for the amended budgets to avoid the higher taxes in the mayor’s unamended budgets.

Harp said she was “irritated” that Fernandez would have “the nerve” to criticize her when so much of the city’s capital comes from the state Capitol, where she’s worked for years and Fernandez has never shown his face.

In closing statements, Elicker said people keep telling him they want a mayor who listens. Seeking to prove he would be that mayor, Elicker read out the digits of his phone number and asked people to contact him directly. He promised to return their calls.

The Independent covered the debate live from the theater. Read on for a live blog of the action.

6:54 p.m.: Time for a rehearsal of the live intro. Moderator Gerry Brooks make introductions. He’s asked the audience to engage only in “polite applause.”

7: Show time. We’re live. Brooks introduces the candidates again. Whoops and whistles abound. Brooks introduces the panelists: Paul Bass of the Independent, Mary O’Leary of the Register, and Cynthia Calderon of La Voz.

The format: No opening statements. 60-seconds to respond to questions. 30-second rebuttals, if desired. 60-second closing statements. Questions will come from panelists and as prerecorded videos of New Haven neighbors.

7:02: First question: Bass asks Harp what she’d do if three feet of snow fall on the snow suddenly.

Harp: We’d get payloaders in here to get snow removed. Elderly people need to be able to get to hospitals. We need a plan to get them out. Even before I become mayor, we need to make plans for safety if we have 100 year storms like we’ve had for the past three years.

Fernandez: We had a very serious storm just recently. The city wasn’t ready. We need serious planning before there’s a storm. With climate change well have more storms. We need payloaders distributed across the city, not just in one area. Clear hospitals and bus stops.

Elicker: What you’re describing isn’t imaginary. It happened with storm Nemo. The point is: Plan, plan, plan. We don’t as a city plan as much as we should, whether it’s the budget or snow. I’ll work as soon as I’m elected to plan for every scenario. The public didn’t know where to park, where to go in the last storm. We can communicate better.

Carolina (pictured): Acknowledging the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. A good leader always prepares for the worst and hopes for the best. I’d make sure a plan is in place. Protect homeless and the vulnerable, the elderly.

[All four candidates offer the same answer: Make a plan.]

7:07: Next question: Pensions. The pension funds are underfunded. Are you willing to change contracts? What else would you do?

Fernandez: This is a ticking time bomb. We have to fix the pension system. This is a very serious problem. I’ve laid out a comprehensive plan to bring together the city, the state, and city workers. [This is the plan Fernandez rolled out earlier this week, calling for $20 million more from the state. Harp called it unrealistic.] Fernandez also says city workers (ie. cops) shouldn’t be able to retire as early as they do.

Elicker: We are the Detroit of 10 years ago. We’re expecting too much from our investments. Two things to do: Renegotiate contracts. I was the only one who said I’d be willing to do that during the police union debate. [Not really a risky move since he wasn’t likely to win the police union endorsement anyway.] Second, we need to grow as a city to expand tax base.

Carolina: Let’s be honest, we’ve been fiscally irresponsible. We’ve allowed our unions to inflate their pensions.

Harp talks about defined contributions versus defined benefits, a way to free the city from the vicissitudes of the market—ie, the possibility of switchin city workers from conventional guaranteed pensions to 401k style market investments. She says she would avoid switching to the market because of the risk, because families so their life savings destroyed in the recent market crash. Police officers take great physical risks so it makes sense they can retire early, and we need to make sure they have stabilized pensions.

7:12: Next question: How will you help mainstream Latino students in New Haven public schools?

Elicker (pictured): By changing our education system to invest more where our dollars count: Early childhood education. Studies show it produces better students. … A hybrid Board of Ed means transparency and an end to favoritism. A “No Wrong Door” policy. [Elicker doesn’t address Latino students specifically, but offers several policy ideas.]

Kermit thanks Calderon for the “softball” since he’s a principal. He says: We partner with agencies like Junta to provide support to Latino families so they’re successful in school.

Harp: We have to have a strong education system. I went to Nathan Hale and East Rock schools today. They had parents coming to school. We need strong bilingual education. Parents need to feel welcome.

Fernandez: Today was the first day of school, and I was so proud to bring “little Henry” to the first day of school with my wife. We’re raising him bilingually. Unfortunately, we as a city are not investing enough in bilingual education. We’re not doing enough to bring in parents who don’t speak English in the home.

7:16: Next question, from a citizen on video: Taxes are killing us. What can we do? Can we cut car tax? I’ve owned my car for 13 years. I’m tired of paying for it.

Carolina: We need to maximize and maintain revenue in the city. We need to have more employees live in the city, so the money doesn’t leave. And we need to look at regionalization, to merge services with those of suburban communities.

Harp: We have to grow our economy in this town. I met with a business looking to expand. They couldn’t get their proposal before the Board of Aldermen. We need to streamline government to make it easier to do business.

Fernandez (pictured): My wife and I own our home in Fair Haven, and pay taxes. [Is this a veiled dig at Harp, who was delinquent on her taxes years ago?] I spoke with a senior citizen in the East Shore; she said she’s lived here her whole life and is worried taxes will force her out. We need to grow tax base and hold the line on spending. Unfortunately I need to point out that Elicker has voted to raise taxes and Harp admitted she hasn’t read the budget. [The evening’s first attack!]

Elicker: We have to have a bit of a lesson on how the budget works.. The mayor submits a budget and we either amend it or the mayor’s budget passes. I’ve always voted for the amended budget, to avoid the higher taxes in the mayor’s budget. I’ve proposed $100 million of cuts to the budget. I’ve been the strongest vocal advocate on reining in spending.

Harp: What I do know about the budget is that over half of it comes from the state. I’m really irritated that someone who has never come to the state Capitol has the nerve to say that to me.

Brooks gently reminds the audience not to whoop.

7:22: Questions: Can you name a position that you’re willing to take that some of your supporters won’t agree with?

Harp slowly repeats the question, then says: I believe the mayor should be able to hire the mayor’s staff. [A proposed revision to the city charter would have the Board of Aldermen approve the mayor’s top staffers.]

Fernandez: I’ve been a strong advocate for immigrants rights. Not everyone agrees with this. [This is a very safe answer in immigrant-friendly New Haven, especially given the expressed views of the people who have publicly supported him] We need to continue to welcome immigrants.

Elicker: I’ve already taken the most important position that’s against what people want. I’m willing to say I won’t cut taxes in the short term.

Carolina: I’ve made it clear that I refuse to be beholden to anyone but the people of this city. No special interest money. I’m one of two candidates involved in the democracy fund.

7:26: Question: Education. We’re not closing the achievement gap very well. How would you help the superintendent?

Fernandez: We need to support the superintendent and hold him accountable. The schools have a $3.5 million budget hole. I have a significant background in education. Every child needs to get a great education. The public schools do not exist to employ adults.

Elicker: I’ve been a strong supporter of Garth Harries, the superintendent. He looks at evidence. I talked about early childhood education. We need to improve life-skills education in schools: conflict resolution, perseverance. We need to cut the top-level administrators in the school.

Carolina: I’m proud to lead by example. I’m raising two boys who are in public schools. I’m the principal of Hillhouse High. We’ve increased graduation rates. I would do three things: End school patronage. Recruit the best talent. Hold everyone accountable. And a fourth one: Reduce administrators. We’re down to five administrators from eight at Hillhouse.

Harp: For many years we blamed the students, the families, the teachers. Now the Board of Ed is taking responsibility. We need evidence-based curricula. We need materials in the classroom. We’ve got to make sure kids are reading at level by 3rd grade.

7:31: Question: What are your plans for stopping murder on the streets?

Elicker: Two things. In the short term. Rebuild the police department. We’re hiring more cops and doing community policing. But we need to address the roots of crime. We need more youth programming after school. And we need jobs. I’ll help New Haveners capture those jobs.

Carolina: Chief Esserman is doing a great job. The population causing the most trouble are the people re-entering the city after prison. We’re not giving them second chances. It makes it hard to draw tourists to the city. We need a gang injunction. We know who the problem people are. We need to go get them.

Harp: In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I brought the concept of community policing to New Haven. It works. We’ve stepped it up with Project Longevity, which identifies likely shooters.

Fernandez: We need to deepen community policing and have more cops on the beat. We need services for people coming out of prison. And we need youth programs and summer jobs for youth.

7:36: Another question prerecorded on video: Craig Gauthier says he’s been in New Haven since 1976 and worked at Winchester. How do we prepare our youth for today’s jobs?

Carolina: We’ve broken our high school into smaller “learning communities.” Young people need the option to get certifications early. We now have Gateway technical institute in our building.

Harp: We need to make sure that our children are prepared to work out of high school. I commend the Firebirds for starting the Public Safety Academy. Those certification programs should be in all of our high schools. And there should be more opportunity to get college credit in high school.

Fernandez: I co-founded LEAP. I led efforts to bring Gateway Community College downtown. Both were aimed at helping young people get jobs that are growing in New Haven, around the bio-tech and medical industries. We need to have the best schools in America.

Elicker: We have the Promise program for kids going to college. But we need more for kids who aren’t going to college. We need vo-tech education that leads to a certificate. And we need job skills training: How to tie a tie, how to dress sharp. I could use that training too. [A joke.]

7:41: Question: Tell us one good idea you’ve heard from your opponents.

Harp: That’s an interesting question. We’re often repeating the same things. Universal Pre-K, for instance. That would reduce the achievement gap.

Fernandez: I think the idea Carolina has brought to Hillhouse—making smaller learning communities—has been proven to work, so that kids aren’t just another number.

Elicker: This election is an incredible opportunity for this city. Lot of ideas out there. One I heard tonight from Carolina: Employee incentive programs to encourage people to move into the city.

Carolina: I’d like to see PILOT fully funded and put that money into the rainy day fund. [Is that Fernandez’s idea? It’s not quite Fernandez’s pension plan.] From Elicker: We need to do a forensic audit. [This is an Elicker idea? Carolina has been talking about this since the beginning of his campaign.]

7:46: Question about lowering taxes.

Fernandez: Economic growth comes through taking advantage of growth stemming from the hospital, the medical sector. Businesses will follow. We need to build office buildings to create new jobs and pay taxes. We can bring taxes down.

Elicker: Around the country, people are moving back to the city. People are looking for transit-oriented development. We need that and an improved waterfront. We need to improve the zoning code. We need to eliminate pay to play. I’m participating in public financing.

Carolina: I’m proud of being involved in clean elections. Our economic engine is our middle class and small businesses. We’re giving too much money to large contractors who take cash outside the city.

Harp: We need to improve our permitting process. It’s a byzantine process. We have the biotechnology cluster. We need to be business-friendly to small business and growth areas.

7:51: Time for closing arguments.

Carolina: I am committed 100 percent to New Haven. I am a New Haven resident. We need a homegrown mayor. Someone who’s not beholden to unions big donors, and political insiders. New Haven needs a mayor with proven record of creating a team of administrators. I’m asking all of you to believe in the potential that our campaign represents.

Harp: How fitting it is that we’re here on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. My opponents say we are Detroit and our glass is half empty. I believe our glass is half full. We can make the city safer, schools stronger. It requires working together. It requires the connections I have in New Haven. Together we can move this city forward.

Elicker: I’ve been knocking on thousands of doors. People want the next mayor to listen. I will listen. 203 500 2969 is my cell phone number. Call me and I’ll return your call. People want a mayor with practical solutions and how to pay for them. Elicker2013 is my website, look at my 75 solutions that are specific and broad about how we’re going to improve our city.

Fernandez: This is the most important election in a generation. Change is going to come to the mayor’s office. You will write the history of our beloved city. I’m the one candidate with the experience to run the city on day one. I ran a large part of the city government as development director. I started LEAP. Now I’m the head of a company. The best days of New Haven are ahead of us.

7:56: Gerry Brooks: I was listening to Obama speak today. Given the diversity or our candidates and our audience, I’d like to think Dr. King would be proud of all of us. Thank you for watching. Good night.

That’s a wrap. What did you think? Leave a comment below.

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posted by: TheMadcap on August 28, 2013  7:13pm

Ugh, again, Harp gave the most glorious non answer to the question of the pension funds. Also Carolina really dislikes unions.

posted by: NewHavenerToo on August 28, 2013  8:09pm

Harp, as usual,  taking credit when not due.  Did she really say she brought the concept of community policing to New Haven?  How arrogant of her to think that she did it all on her own.  Another reason why I could never vote for her.  She reminds me of DeStefano.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on August 28, 2013  8:43pm

god I thought it was just me! Harp seemed totally clueless! It was like babbling!
Justin rocked.
But have to give a hand to Kerm he stepped up!
Henry threw a few digs in, I was not expecting that kind of behavior at this style debate. But that aside he did well to.

posted by: CreatingUrgency on August 28, 2013  8:55pm

Harp is pro-charter schools. This is not a good sign at all.

posted by: Claudia Herrera on August 28, 2013  9:06pm

VERY good closing Ms. Harp. Ready for September 10!!! Go, Ms. Harp GO!

posted by: anonymous on August 28, 2013  9:15pm

Like all the other debates Harp’s performance here was very poor - lots of vague answers and party establishment lines.  Harp seems nice personally, but the performance level comes as a shock to those who know her from other contexts.

I know she is a bit soft spoken in meetings, which is fine, but does she have the energy to be Mayor?

posted by: poetbum on August 28, 2013  9:21pm

I just want to say that the New Haven/Detroit comparisons are ridiculous and unhelpful.  Bear in mind that New Haven’s annual budget is ~$500 million and its debt around ~$500 million.  Occupying the heart of the city is a university that sits on a $20 billion hoard.  Even in the most apocalyptic financial scenario imaginable, that school, which doesn’t want to see its town turn into a howling wasteland, would serve as a backstop.  Is this a reason to be complacent?  No.  Are New Haven’s finances way out of whack?  Yes.  But to compare the city to Detroit is just ridiculous; they have nothing in common.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 28, 2013  9:32pm

My notes as an attendee:

Harp does not come across as either smart or competent.  Her nervous, wavering voice spent half of the response time slowly reiterating the question, before defaulting to some tangential program she was a part of, or ‘I will ask my connected friends for answers and help’.  She also showed that she is not going to negotiate with the Police Union.

Fernandez’ sounded great, but that is a matter of ‘seminars’ and ‘leadership training’.  Many dramatic pauses and well chosen buzz-words, but He trotted out his family too much as a human shield, to cover for the bad relationships he developed in the community during his notorious stint at city hall.

Kermit had strong presentation. spoke from direct experience and the heart.  Let’s keep him at Hillhouse. He is a strong voice and his own man.  Loved it when asked about other candidates ideas, he cited two ideas, from both Elicker and Fernandez.  No candidate pickdc an idea of Harp’s, probably because they were noticeably absent.

Justin comes across a little too socialistic at times, but he is crackerjack smart and a great listener.  His presentation and ideas were strong.  Loved it when he gave out his phone number.  An experiment in politics with Justin at the helm is worth a real shot.

posted by: New Haven Nuisance on August 28, 2013  10:09pm

Justin Elicker showed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, why he is the best choice to serve as our next Mayor.

posted by: NHV Greenie on August 28, 2013  10:11pm

This was the most telling answer of all:

7:22: Questions: Can you name a position that you’re willing to take that some of your supporters won’t agree with.

Harp slowly repeats the question, then says: I believe the mayor should be able to hire the mayor’s staff. [A proposed revision to the city charter would have the Board of Aldermen approve the mayor’s top staffers.]

Toni’s followers really need to dig deep on her answers, her substance in NHV not Hartford, and what she says she will actually *do* in City Hall.  Ask her the tough questions now instead of after she’s Mayor.

posted by: Lifer on August 28, 2013  10:40pm

I am no longer a New Haven property owner ( thank goodness ) but I watched the debates and thought Fernandez was the most impressive.  Wish I could vote for him.

posted by: Elizabethaiken on August 28, 2013  10:42pm

Henry Fernandez did not start LEAP. He was the first director. Roslyn and Jerry Meyer and Anne Calabrese founded LEAP.

posted by: beyonddiscussion on August 28, 2013  10:45pm

“We are the Detroit of 10 years ago,” said Elicker. “Ticking time bomb” says Fernandez. Rip up recently settled union contracts that gave big concessions?It’s all scary and wrong. We are nothing like Detroit and I don’t want someone in charge with that image of New Haven. Harp,not necessarily known for soaring rhetoric, pumped it up in her closing statement. I want someone who is realistic but bullish on our great city.

posted by: OneCityManyDreams on August 28, 2013  10:46pm

In my humble opinion. Very sweet night for Henry Fernandez. Smooth, Mayoral and classy.

posted by: just my view on August 28, 2013  11:11pm

SMH… Wasn’t the actual Carolina quote: “Let’s be honest. We have been fiscally irresponsible, We’ve allowed our unions to inflate their pensions. … They sit on beaches, while we sit here and struggle in the city.’’

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 28, 2013  11:33pm

My first question was answered quite quickly.
“Who is going to first invoke the MLK anniversary?” 

Rightfully, Kerm seized the day at his first opportunity, and with eloquent honesty recognized the occasion.  I must say, Mr. Carolina seems like quite an authentic human. 

When Harp finally made mention at the close of the evening, it seemed like nothing more than a politically necessary afterthought.

posted by: Scot on August 28, 2013  11:54pm

Fernandez’s comment that Elicker voted for tax raises indicates he either didn’t pay attention to anything the BOA did the past couple years, or he was deliberately trying to twist the facts to put down his opponent. Anyone that followed the BOA recently knows Elicker is one of the most fiscally responsible members on it.  Remember he was making youtube videos warning about budget problems long before anyone was running for mayor.

posted by: Hieronymous on August 29, 2013  12:14am

Harp’s answer re: appointing her own staff was revealing. Though i tend to agree with her, I don’t think most normal people, residents of New Haven, have any views one way or another on that issue. So to say that this is an issue with which her “supporters” would disagree really suggests that she regards her base as the labor-backed Board and not the everyday people of New Haven.

I’m still waiting for a moderator or interviewer to probe her on what (or who) convinced her to run for mayor over a weekend after she’d said she had no interest in the position and endorsed another candidate. That’s an important question and the answer may tell a lot, not only about Harp and her fitness and aptitude for the job, but also about the regard that the Democratic Party in this city/state has for our ability to choose our own leaders.

Calling Harp a Democratic Sarah Palin (as someone did recently around these parts) seems a bit harsh, but I understand the sentiment. Caroline Kennedy may be the more apt comparison: a nice person, doing just fine in her current role, who is conscripted for a political office that she has demonstrated little aptitude or even enthusiasm for.

I could see the value of a Harp mayoralty in different circumstances, if we were truly a divided city and she could bring us all together, or whatever. But we seem actually to be pretty united in what we want right now and the question is really who had the vision, energy, and integrity to lead us in the right direction. It just doesn’t seem to be the opportune time for a mayor who has few ideas, none of which are innovative, and who can’t seem to get excited about the prospects if this city.

posted by: WoosterStreetNeighbor on August 29, 2013  12:22am

Am I the only was who was really put off and annoyed that Toni Harp kept calling New Haven “this town,” almost derisively? First of all, New Haven is a city. And second of all, you can actually say the words, Toni: NEW HAVEN. It won’t give you cooties.

posted by: Scot on August 29, 2013  12:34am

I can’t figure out what Harp supporters see in her. She doesn’t seem to articulate any specific solutions to anything. It’s like if she’s asked how to fix the schools, she replies by saying the schools really need to improve and we’ll work on that.  She admittedly hasn’t even looked at the budget. She said tonight we need to expand the tax base but didn’t offer any proposals how to do that.

If you look at her record, what’s impressive about it?  20 years as a state senator. Is the state better off now than it was 20 years ago? Despite the fact CT has long been one of the wealthiest states, our state budget is in terrible shape and there’s been widespread corruption during those years.  Sure, as a state senator it’s not necessarily her fault, and I’m not saying she was involved in any of the corruption, but her role at the state capital is nothing to brag about either. Throw on top of that the tax issues with her family business which she won’t speak publicly about. It just surprises me people think she’d make a good mayor.

posted by: OES on August 29, 2013  7:20am

Fact check please.  In his opening statement Fernandez stated that he walked his child to school on the first day of school.  From his literature, Fernandez states that his son attends Edgewood School.  Fernandez has repeatedly told us that he lives in Fair Haven so if that is true, Fernandez and his wife walked their child 4 miles to school?  This might sound petty but one has to question why Fernandez would fabricate walking his son to school.  I presume it is to set an idealistic image and portray him in some light?  If he is not going to tell the truth about this, one has to question his integrity on other things.  I find Henry stretching the truth in many of his statements and that is very troubling.

posted by: Greg-Morehead on August 29, 2013  7:58am

It kills me.
Even with all of the comments about Harp not being this and that at these debates and people see whats really going on, people are still going to go out and vote for her. I don’t understand it. Some people have all of the information in front of them to make the “right” choice, and they still choose to make the wrong one after looking at the facts. 
How will people’s mindsets ever change in New Haven?
It reminds me, I was talking to a lady in the Dixwell area a few days ago about the whole Mayoral race.  She told me that she is going with Harp because(picture this), “we need to give a female a chance”. I coughed after she said it and gagged.  Not that I am anti-female, never that, but why can’t we vote for someone on their track record and what they can do, and NOT on giving them a chance?  Our mindset is warped.
After speaking with her and opening her eyes, her stance shifted and she was illuminated.  Less than 2 weeks away and people have to wake up!

posted by: cedarhillresident! on August 29, 2013  9:07am

@dmarie ...and Bethany is a town New Haven is a city!

posted by: westville man on August 29, 2013  9:24am

Greg   It’s simple, really- alot of people have their “bread buttered” by electing her. For some, it means job security, the mayor’s “ear” and favors. So you do know why. It’s the same reason it took 20 years to get King John out- too many were beholden to him.

posted by: anonymous on August 29, 2013  9:42am

Most of the comments above are accurate. As the Register editorial board points out today, Harp has the support of party insiders, but is completely flawed as a candidate.  The Register says Fernandez and Elicker are the two candidates they want to stay involved in city politics, but they forget to note that Fernandez has been missing for years while Elicker is already very involved in (and effective at) pretty much everything related to schools, parent engagement, quality of life, government transparency, and development issues.

I take issue with Poetbum on the idea that Yale is sitting on a “hoard” of cash.  That money is allocated to specific uses - while Yale could scrape up a bigger donation to New Haven each year if they wanted to, or be forced to pay various stormwater and/or land use taxes if the city got creative about taxing institutions, whatever that would amount to would be by no means large enough to serve as a “backstop” to pension costs that we are unable to pay because of rising life expectancy and the fact that the vast majority of city employees live out of town. Connecticut might be better than Michigan as a partner, but there’s not a guarantee of that either, given that much of Connecticut’s economy is structurally unsound.

posted by: JuliaCS on August 29, 2013  9:44am

I just want to mention that Justin giving out his phone number wasn’t a gimmick for the debate. It’s on every piece of literature the campaign hands out. It’s left on voicemails across the city. Justin genuinely wants to be available for anyone to contact. Its pretty amazing.

posted by: FacChec on August 29, 2013  9:47am

A FacCHEC view of the debate:

I thought Justin Elicker won the debate in live time, until, I went back over the questions and answers provided by NHI which demonstrates Justin contradicted himself more than once on the question of taxes and took credit for recommending $100M in tax cuts. He also falsely took credit for killing the Monettization plan, which he did not.

read it here:


Tax contradictions:

7:22: Questions: Can you name a position that you’re willing to take that some of your supporters won’t agree with?

Elicker: I’ve already taken the most important position that’s against what people want. I’m willing to say I won’t cut taxes in the short term.

7:16: Next question, from a citizen on video: Taxes are killing us. What can we do? Can we cut car tax? I’ve owned my car for 13 years. I’m tired of paying for it.

Elicker: I’ve proposed $100 million of cuts to the budget. I’ve been the strongest vocal advocate on reining in spending.

7:46: Question about lowering taxes.

Elicker: Around the country, people are moving back to the city. People are looking for transit-oriented development. We need that and an improved waterfront. We need to improve the zoning code. We need to eliminate pay to play. I’m participating in public financing.

And one very good Elicker response:

7:31: Question: What are your plans for stopping murder on the streets?

Elicker: Two things. In the short term. Rebuild the police department. We’re hiring more cops and doing community policing. But we need to address the roots of crime. We need more youth programming after school. And we need jobs. I’ll help New Haveners capture those jobs.

posted by: ramonesfan on August 29, 2013  9:48am

I can’t figure out why Malloy, Murphy, Looney and others have endorsed Harp, except that she’s collecting IOUs after serving in Hartford for 20 years.  With some guts or imagination, they could easily give their support to one of the three gentlemen in the race.  It’s the right thing to do, and it would make the race more competitive and interesting.  After so many years of DeStefano, the last thing I want to see is another clubhouse politician occupying the mayor’s office.  Greg Morehead’s comment is telling: many poor people are going to vote for Harp simply because she’s got the backing of the establishment.

posted by: anonymous on August 29, 2013  10:00am

Ramonesfan: New Haven is not unique in this regard. In NYC for example, among Democrats, non-party establishment candidates are currently polling at a combined 60%. Quinn and Thompson started out strong, and like Harp picked up every endorsement, but their support has eroded to about 20% each.  Add in independents and it looks almost certain that a non-establishment candidate will win there.

posted by: westville man on August 29, 2013  10:06am


NHI policy apparently will not allow me to answer your question re Harp. But there is an nswer…....

posted by: David S Baker on August 29, 2013  10:23am

Elicker clearly dominated.  Being positive and looking at the glass as “half full” is only helpful if you know what the glass contains and have a plan for filling it.  He obviously is the most competent, genuine, energetic, and constituent focused of our choices.  The other three only seem focused on touting accomplishments which they are only indirectly associated, pandering, and character assassinations.

Great questions Paul!  Thanks for sponsoring!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 29, 2013  10:35am

posted by: ramonesfan on August 29, 2013 9:48am

Greg Morehead’s comment is telling: many poor people are going to vote for Harp simply because she’s got the backing of the establishment.

And when Greg Morehead ran for office and won his seat.Those same people voted for him.So what is your point.

posted by: A Contrarian on August 29, 2013  10:38am

Many seem to believe that because New Haven is not exactly like Detroit, then nothing similar can happen.  It will be most interesting to see which projects actually move ahead should the expected Harp coronation take place.

I don’t think the Caroline Kennedy comparison is apt given that in this case, the “candidate”  was not involved in politics for 20 years.

posted by: Hieronymous on August 29, 2013  10:46am

Westville Man, we’ll see if it lets me, because I’ve irresponsibly speculated as to the answer on these pages before: (1)DeStefano announces he’s not running, and Marty Looney et al are excited; (2) But neither Looney nor Harp is interested in running; (3) Looney et al not happy with field of candidates that does emerge: Elicker and Fernandez are not sufficiently susceptible to influence and Fernandez too tied to JD, Nemerson is not sufficiently labor-friendly and stands no chance, and Holder-Winfield is just not gaining any traction for some reason; (4) Carolina enters the race and establishment is terrified that he will monopolize black vote and squeek through given fractured vote among Fernandez/Nemerson/Elicker; (5) Harp considered best candidate because she’s popular, apparently competent, and will likely be effective in seizing black vote from Carolina, while also keeping labor vote.

Am I close?

One way or another, I don’t like coronations.

posted by: Dee Rien on August 29, 2013  10:48am

FacChec, I’m completely befuddled by your comment. You say that Elicker “falsely took credit for killing the Monettization plan, which he did not.” but then link to a story that makes it very clear the Elicker WAS, in fact, the driving force behind killing that plan.

Then you say “Justin contradicted himself more than once on the question of taxes,” and give three examples from the debate that in NO WAY are contradictory. First, he says he won’t CUT taxes. Then he talked of his cuts to the budget that made the last tax *increase* smaller (no mention of a plan to cut taxes). And then, when specifically asked about lowering taxes, he listed a bunch of things this city NEEDS to do, most of which can’t be accomplished while cutting taxes.

Nowhere did he indicate a plan to cut taxes after saying he wouldn’t cut taxes. Ergo, he was not at all contradictory. What the heck?

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on August 29, 2013  11:01am

Part 1 of 2

Aside from commenting on the nonsensical statement that political criticism of Toni Harp is disrespectful of “womanhood”, I have largely kept quiet about this election, finding most of the comments on this site both engaging and insightful without my input.  In fact, were it not for the comment section of this publication, I would be loath to even read the NHI, as I find most of the actual reporting slanted and bias, including, but not limited to, its reporting on this Mayoral Campaign.  It is clear, to me at least, that this publication is “independent” in name only.  To be sure, the NH Register is no better.  Both publications have certainly proven the “old” adage: “The power of the press belongs to those who OWN it.”

That said, having attended a few and read about many, many (too many?) more debates during this campaign, I am forced to conclude that even more than the superficial and simplistic responses from some of the leading candidates thus far to serious questions about the direction of this city going forward, it is the media, this publication included, that have failed us, the voting public, the most.

The media is supposed to exist in this country to do what the average citizen has neither the time nor the access to do, and that is to ask probing questions and demand, as much as possible, serious responses from political candidates and public officials. Candidates and office holders can, of course, continue to give their facile answers to hard and persistent questioning, but the media should AT LEAST ask the necessary, and necessarily, deep questions and allow the candidates to reveal themselves as either having no significant response or as persons who simply refuse to engage the reading (watching) public in a serious way. The media have failed us during this campaign in this regard.  Debate after debate, in which the media have been involved, they have allowed candidates to voice the thinnest of responses without much (if ANY) follow-up or

posted by: mlpavela on August 29, 2013  11:03am

Toni Harp on Pensions –

“I think this is a really important question and it’s really one of the fund questions that we have to ask ourselves about our society.

When you look at defined contribution as opposed to defined benefit and defined contribution is based upon the market and how the market functions and we’ve seen people lose their investment as well as their employer’s investment through defined contribution.  I believe that we have to be responsible with the people who through hazardous duty, our police officers, they retire early.  But they often times have been harmed and have really high blood pressure and have other problems that need to be addressed.

We’ve really gotta make sure that they have stabilized pensions.”

There you have it.  Toni’s “pension fix.”

This is the Toni Harp I’ve seen rattle off talking points on CTN for years now.  I don’t know how someone can infer from her response that she has any idea what she is talking about here.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on August 29, 2013  11:03am

Part 2 of 2

necessary analysis that points out the fact that the candidate/official has not responded in meaningful ways to questions for which they should be held accountable.  Again and again, the media covering this city’s politics have given a pass to candidates, officials, and those receiving government funds a pass on their responsibility to engage the public in a serious way. 

Many here have commented on how the leading candidates in this race have not been forthcoming with specific plans and thought-out (not to mention thoughtful) ideas as to how they will run this city if/when elected.  The common and sensible expectation of the media by the voting public is that the higher a candidate climbs in the polls, the more they are endorsed, or the more concrete evidence there is that they are leading the race, the more scrutiny they will receive, as said candidate(s) are more likely to actually hold office and will be entrusted with the role of actually governing based on the ideas they purport throughout their campaign.  Clearly, that expectation has not been met in this Mayoral campaign and it should disappoint us all.  It should disappoint those of us who publicly support and endorse candidates and those of us who do not. 

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

posted by: westville man on August 29, 2013  11:07am

Heironymous- yes, you are warm. One link missed is that the panic set in when Jack Keyes passed on entering.
The actual specifics on HOW it transpired are not within NHI’s guidleines for me to say and I understand why.

posted by: FacChec on August 29, 2013  11:43am

Dee Rien on August 29, 2013 10:48am

You should not be befuddled by my comments, those were Justin’s responses, he owns them.
A candidate cannot run on a platform of tax cutting background, and then say during a televised debate that he will not cut taxes.

If you read the letter linked to the monetization proposal it list 17 alders signing the proposal to the board president Goldfield. The monetization was worth $50M not $100M and the later of proposal to the board was not accepted because it was late.

Read his resolution here.

In the finality the Mayor removed the plan from budget consideration before the proposal could be acted upon.

In this year budget, 2014, Justin proposed a 3M cut to the board of education but only garnered 3 votes, he withdrew the proposal and did not present it to the full board.

However, @7:12: Next question: How will you help mainstream Latino students in New Haven public schools?

Justin said “By changing our education system to invest more where our dollars count: Early childhood education. Studies show it produces better students. … A hybrid Board of Ed means.

He just cannot have it both ways, saying on the one hand I’m a tax cutter..While on the other in a city-wide debate proclaim I won’t cut taxes.


posted by: Noteworthy on August 29, 2013  11:45am

Observations and Pinocchio Notes:

1. My dislike of Toni Harp as a mayoral candidate is well known. I will not harp on it again except to say, everything I’ve posted was reinforced in this debate - err, monologue.

2. I was hoping for real debate of which there was not much beyond a couple of punch lines.

3. There was too little discussion of the budget which allowed those who don’t know it and have not studied its detail, to escape public scrutiny - which is all of them except for Elicker. Talk of limiting taxes and spending is fine but the only way to do that is by cutting the budget. Certain drivers will push the budget higher if all you do is maintain current employment.

4. The Pinocchio Award though goes to Mini-me Fernandez. In claiming to be the only one with experience in city government, Mini-me said, “I ran a large part of city government…” Development and even adding in LCI, does not a “large part of city government” make. It’s a very, very small part in terms of people, results, and budget.

5. Add in the walking little Henry to school which he certainly doesn’t do with his kid at Edgewood in Westville while living in Fair Haven - another falsehood. He also claims to have “built” 300 homes of which he has actually built not one. As LCI or even development chief, one cannot claim to have built anything. And in yet another resume published on the liberal think tank Center for American Progress back in 2007, Henry claimed credit for over a billion dollars iin development in New Haven which at best was a book number, and most certainly wasn’t real.

6. This is troubling because it shows a lack of honesty and more importantly, reinforces his DeStefano traits - a man who routinely fudged the truth from Bill White to the budgets, to the city payroll to taxes, the budget and the intersection of campaign shakedowns and subsequent city contracts. Do we need more?

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on August 29, 2013  11:46am

The New Haven Register’s endorsement of Henry Fernandes is a joke.  I have often said, and I maintain the same position today.  The New Haven Register is the best paper in the State of Connecticut for cleaning or wrapping up fish.

My paper, is The New Haven Independent.

Nevertheless, this endorsement does afford the Fernandes campaign oxygen for one more day.

Henry was correct in pointing out that Justin Elicker voted to raise taxes on the poor and middle class.

It’s long overdue that we begin to look closer at this recent visitor to New Haven who wishes to obtain an unearned position as mayor. 

As a good friend and I discussed last night after the debate, New Haven is a city in which relationships are paramount in order govern.  Elicker is going to need more than just a former alderman in Greg Moorehead to get a budget passed. 

Of the 29 alderman who served with Justin on the board, how is it that only one endorsed him for mayor?  He can bloviate on his website and spew out his phone number in public settings, but that still won’t quench the thirst of the majority of the voters in this city. 

Elicker’s campaign is an experiment.  The history of this city along with the many social ills, can ilford to allow an experiment to be crowned mayor. 

@ Moorehead,
It’s hard for you to understand the depth of Toni’s popularity because you’re new to the understanding of politics in this city.  As I said earlier, politics is based on relationships.  Toni over the years has built tremendous relationships with all demographics citywide. 

Perhaps if you my friend, had not voted 99% for everything that John DeStefano wanted when you were an alderman, ( the 1% was when you were absent) you would not have lossed to the hard working, brilliant Alderwoman in that of Jannette Morrison. 

Anyone can come up with an idea.  Just because Elicker fancies himself with a good vocabulary doesn’t make him the “Definite Article.”  Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

posted by: TheMadcap on August 29, 2013  12:14pm

I think both Carolina and Elicker probably in general did the best. Hernandez did decent, but, when he tried to attack Harp and Elicker in one of his responses, I think that backfired pretty tremendously. Both Harp and Elicker had a pretty darn good rebuttal.

posted by: westville man on August 29, 2013  12:41pm

Tell the “truth”

You can’t just spew falsehoods and get away with it!  Mike Jefferson took a 1 week vacation- not a retirement-to the Vineyard. Kermit was talking about the numerous, 40 something yr olds who are already retired and collecting pensions. I know many of them.
A hamburger and fish sandwich place, come as you are, “dining next to the Obamas”?  Please! And if the snide remark about the “little guy from Hamden” is about who i think it was about- he wasnt there. He hasn’t been to the Vineyard.  You’re just making stuff up.
At least change your handle. You’re the clueless one….

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 29, 2013  12:50pm


Why are you conflating budget cutting with tax cutting? Elicker has shown the resolve to cut spending in the budget, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that taxes can be cut, so there is no contradiction there. Any savings from budget cutting would more likely go towards debt deduction, shoring up the rainy day fund, and towards more cost effective programs and policies, rather than tax cuts, at least initially. It would be an enormous feat to solve the structural deficit problem of this fiscal year and next, let alone actually reduce the size of the budget enough to cut taxes in the next two years. It would be a ridiculous promise to make, which is why Elicker hasn’t made that promise. Perhaps in a few years taxes could be lowered, but spending will need to be slowed, held at bay and then reduced and the grandlist needs to be increased before that can happen, which will take longer than a 2-year term.

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on August 29, 2013  1:04pm

People do not want real debate.  What they want is their candidate of choice to say what they want to hear eloquently, quickly and with confidence. Soundbites.

Real debate requires preparation and time.  Not just for the candidates but for those who are investing in the candidates… the voters.  We as voters have a responsibility too… we ought to have more than a passing understanding of government affairs and how our City/Country works. Most people aren’t versed in City government budgets.  Nor are they willing to go and sit for hours at budget meetings. 

People want candidates to do the heavy lifting.. while all the critics wax poetic about their ineffectiveness and personal shortcomings in this forum and other forums all under anonymity.  It is easy to hide behind a blog forum rather than show up with proper names and the courage to be a part of the solutions.  Hey, I get why people talk shit behind avatars and pseudonyms…some of the stuff said would raise eyebrows and call into question character in everyday real life….but I digress…

We treat elections like pageants. We take our cues from pop culture and expect an “American Idol” outcome because we like a candidate.

If we want real debate, then ask for real debate.  Accept nothing less than real debate. Otherwise, we will continue to make choices about legislative leadership that mocks what America has said to the world is freedom.

posted by: robn on August 29, 2013  1:11pm

City pensions must be shifted from defined benefits to defined contributions but I find it laughable that Sen.Harp would pretend to support this….its antithetical to her union sponsors.

posted by: robn on August 29, 2013  1:14pm

The incoming mayor should compare the last 20 years of employee compensation and benefit increases against the actual rate of inflation. I suspect we would see above inflation increases correlated with Mayor DeStefano’s mayoral and gubernatorial runs. If so, a clawback would be reasonable and fair.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 29, 2013  2:25pm

I will say it again.The reason why you have a problem with the Pension system is the elites have looted the pension coffins .This is happing acroos this country.No one disputes that there’s a pension crisis, but the crisis was no demographic accident.When pension plans, by and large, were well funded, thanks in large part to rules enacted in the 1970s that required employers to fund the plans adequately and laws adopted in the 1980s that made it tougher to raid the plans or use the assets for their own benefit.Thanks to these rules, and to the long-running bull market that pumped up assets, by the end of the 1990s pension plans had such massive surpluses that could fully pay their current and future retirees pensions, even if all of them lived to be 99 never contributed another dime.Now Today, pension plans are collectively underfunded, hundreds are frozen, and retiree health benefits are a endangered species thanks to employers who turned retiree benefits plans into cookie jars of potential earnings enhancements and provided employers with the means to convert the trillion dollars in pensions and retiree benefits into an immediate, dollar-for-dollar benefit for there own use.How many of you remember The City of Bell scandal.


My bad Did housing authority just vote them self a raise.

posted by: FacChec on August 29, 2013  2:26pm

@ posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 29, 2013 12:50pm

I am not conflating?(Conflation occurs when the identities of two or more individuals, concepts, or places, sharing some characteristics of one another, seem to be a single identity) ... budget cutting with tax cutting, Justin is the candidate who say’s he will not cut taxes, if you do not cut the mill rate/ taxes, you are fueling increased spending.

If there is conflation, I refer you back to my comments referencing Justin @posted by: FacChec on August 29, 2013 9:47am

Again, Justin proclaims a history of tax cutting, over a $100M worth(cannot be verified) but in debate, he will not cut taxes.
You canot project yourself both ways to the voters.

This is the last I will say on this thread.


posted by: Dee Rien on August 29, 2013  2:47pm

FacCheck, I have to ask. Are are you being purposefully obtuse and misleading in the belief that the readers of these comments are stupid? We’re not, you know.

BUDGET cutting is not the same as TAX cutting, yet you act as if they are. As Mr. Elicker so plainly explained at the debate, the way the charter is set up, if the Board of Aldermen doesn’t pass a budget, then the mayor’s budget goes into effect. DeStefano proposed a budget with a much higher mill rate increase than in the budget the aldermen eventually passed. Elicker was involved in getting CUTS to the mayor’s budget into the aldermen’s budget. The result was a SMALLER TAX INCREASE than would have happened under DeStefano. He voted for it because if he hadn’t, and the Aldermen’s budget failed, DeStefano’s budget would have gone into effect, and taxes would have been EVEN HIGHER. Taxes were going up no matter what he did. Or are you suggesting that Elicker should be one of those politicians who vote “no” just so he can say, come campaign time, that he didn’t vote to raise taxes? EVEN THOUGH that “no” vote could actually have raised taxes MORE than a “yes” vote? Talk about irresponsible. And thank God Elicker isn’t that kind of self-serving pol.

As for the meter monetization scheme, yes, 17 alderman signed the resolution opposing it. A resolution that was WRITTEN BY JUSTIN ELICKER (as clearly stated in the story you linked to!). DeStefano pulled the proposal once he realized that it wouldn’t pass the Board of Alderman—it wouldn’t pass because a majority opposed, and that majority was pulled together by Justin Elicker. It’s not that hard to understand.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 29, 2013  2:52pm


Conflating, equating, who cares, it doesn’t matter, you know what I meant.

“I’ve proposed $100 million of cuts to the budget.”

Budget cuts, not tax cuts.

“In his four years as an alderman, ‘I’ve introduced amendments to cut the budget by $100 million. About $69 million have passed, all in the area of borrowing and debt service,” Elicker said.’”

He is saying he has proposed budget cuts (true, $100M worth? I can’t verify that, but sounds plausible if you look at the FRAC Report, Parking Meter Monetization, etc.), nothing about cutting taxes. We could cut the budget this year by several million dollars and we’d still be running a deficit, so one could cut the budget yet still have to raise taxes - they are two separate, but linked issues.

posted by: robn on August 29, 2013  2:54pm


I suspect we’re both right; both politically expedient promises and underfunding led us to now. What doesn’t square with me is the idea that union leadership was unaware of the underfunding. Every pension fund has a board (like a board of directors) and that board almost always includes beneficiaries. Its impossible that union leadership was unaware that…
a) the city wasn’t contributing enough to the fund and…
b) the fund managers projection of 8% annual profits was far, far too optimistic.

More likely, they made sweetheart deals when politicians were vulnerable and then played dumb when it all fell apart.

I don’t want current and former city employees to be screwed, but I do think that there should be a forensic analysis to determine of the promises were less realistic and more political. The there should be some shared reckoning because there NO WAY that union leadership was unaware if the emerging problem.

posted by: A Contrarian on August 29, 2013  2:57pm

Brian Jenkins:

Your “recent visitor” remark makes me wonder what you would say about the Senate races of Hillary Clinton, Robert F. Kennedy, and many others.  Is there some divine knowledge that comes from the accident of being born within the borders of New Haven?  Growing up in Connecticut doesn’t count?  For how long is one a Carpetbagger?  Or is that label only used to describe somebody one doesn’t agree with?  Who are the “real” NH residents?  Only people whose grandfathers came to work for Winchester way back when and now are seemingly stuck here?  Only the grandchildren of immigrants who settled into Wooster Square?

My view is that New Haven could use more “visitors”  or, shall we say, “recent arrivals”  from New Canaan and Westport—from Cambridge, Mass. and Cambridge, England—from Soho and SoMa—as well as Yalie “visitors” from all over the planet who want to start businesses, creative organizations, and generally want to make New Haven a greater and more dynamic place.

posted by: Razzie on August 29, 2013  3:06pm

@ Morehead—“It kills me. Even with all of the comments about Harp not being this and that at these debates and people see whats really going on, people are still going to go out and vote for her. I don’t understand it.”

In a nutshell, Greg, this self-revelation explains why you sit on the sidelines rather than on the BoA. Like other Elicker East Rockers, you try to discredit the needs of others who are different from yourself. You tell us that you only recently lectured a female voter about how incomprehensible it was to you that she would consider voting for a female for Mayor. To you as a male ex-politician, I am certain you see no value in electing females to public office (having lost to one yourself). However, it makes perfect sense to the legions of female voters who you encounter every day you pass laws that enable and restrict the things they can do. The same arguments that held true during the civil rights movement regarding racial representation, are equally true today. It is simply no mystery why a female voter may value having a female Mayor to represent her interests going forward. Perhaps you are the one that is clueless, not Sen Harp, and certainly not the female voter you accosted on the street. Ward 22 is well represented by the female who currently holds the seat you once held.

posted by: Webblog1 on August 29, 2013  3:16pm

While Justin fumbled out of the gate by overstating his record of tax cutting accomplishments,
I am more disappointed with the performance of Sen. Toni Harp. Sen. Harp with her wealth of experience on budget and planning matters did not use that experience well in this debate format.
She obviously is not a good debater when she allows a novice like Carolina to steal her inherited idea about development on the Long Wharf. She inheritated this idea from Nemesson. She made no attempt to respond.

In another question about budgets and education she allowed Fernandez to control the question by saying she knew nothing about the budget. She responded that question like this irritate me, she did not take the opportunity to call out her long list of funding to New Haven, especially this year, where the governor proposed to cut funding to New Haven, she not only restored the funds but increased them by over $6.6M to New Haven and over $4.1 M more for education.

She had another chance to expose her virtues during closing remarks, but did not, instead she said…Harp:
“How fitting it is that we’re here on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. My opponents say we are Detroit and our glass is half empty. I believe our glass is half full. We can make the city safer, schools stronger. It requires working together. It requires the connections I have in New Haven. Together we can move this city forward”.
She even failed to ask for your votes. Henry did.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 29, 2013  3:45pm


I am sure there is a small un-popped kernel of truth in Henry’s School Crossing Guard anecdote.  My best guess is that Henry and Kiko drove the kid from Fairhaven to Westville, and walked him from the car to the school.

This is the kind of storytelling that O’Henry is famous for.

posted by: Razzie on August 29, 2013  3:56pm

@ ramonesfan—“Greg Morehead’s comment is telling: many poor people are going to vote for Harp simply because she’s got the backing of the establishment.”

My rebuttal to Morehead’s comment about female supporters of Harp is noted here. But I can expand those comments to include your disparagement of “poor people”. Again, Elicker supporters like yourself and Morehead continue to have trouble grasping the electoral needs of significant parts of the electorate. You need to move beyond the affluence of East Rock. It is that disconnect that ensures a second place finish for Elicker, much like Mitt Romney failed to empathize and connect with huge parts of the national electorate. Toni Harp does connect. Despite the Elicker blog commenters’ disparaging descriptions of her and their subjective descriptions of her debate performance. It’s not just the “Establishment” that gets it (whatever that term means to you). Voters get it too. And that may or may not include the voters who live in East Rock.

posted by: Mike Slattery on August 29, 2013  4:21pm


“The history of this city along with the many social ills, can ilford to allow an experiment to be crowned mayor.”

Sincere apologies to you if this Brian L Jenkins is not the same BLJ commenting in this thread:


Regardless, Elicker is looking to earn the seat with very hard work.  Crowning isn’t what his campaign or expectations look like.  You might not like his vocabulary or the fact that he publishes actionable items for voters to respond to.  I’m at a loss to understand why your response involves assigning imaginary wishes to another person.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 29, 2013  4:44pm


You are contradicting yourself. Greg Morehead described an encounter he has with a voter who said that she would vote for Harp because “we need to give a female a chance”. This person is deciding who to vote for based on the sex of the candidate. Do you think that a candidate’s sex is a legitimate determining factor for voting for said candidate? If not, then you agree with Greg; if yes, then you disagree with yourself. Oops.

Also, I hate to break it to you but both of the addresses that Toni Harp has lived on since being in New Haven are more posh, elitist, and exclusive then Elicker’s address. Harp lived on Lynwood Place in a house owned and managed by her husband, in the heart of the Yale Campus when she was an alderwoman. Conrad Drive is about as far from the inner city as you can be without being in another town - her house is also a stone’s throw from the Yale Golf Course. Not exactly relatable to most New Haveners, as opposed to Elicker who lives in on a small lot in a multi-unit house in a dense neighborhood.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 29, 2013  5:57pm

posted by: robn on August 29, 2013 2:54pm


I suspect we’re both right; both politically expedient promises and underfunding led us to now. What doesn’t square with me is the idea that union leadership was unaware of the underfunding. Every pension fund has a board (like a board of directors) and that board almost always includes beneficiaries. Its impossible that union leadership was unaware that…

Not true.Most public sectors do not have a pension board.Take New york public sector. They have a city and state Comptroller who are managing trustee of New York Pension. Also
the other problem is management does not bargain in good faith. look at what happen to the workers at Enron and Hostess were the betrayal of workers through spending pensions, the greed at the top.Also the problem is what is the pension fund being Invest in.Case and point New York State invest some of there pension funds into companies like best Buy and Bed and Bath.

As of March 22, 2013, the Fund owned 770,945 shares of Best Buy valued at $17.6 million and 703,193 shares of Bed Bath & Beyond valued at $45.4 million.

Read the rest.


This Public Pension System Works.


The question you should ask is why betrayal of workers through spending there pensions, the greed at the top and how do these bastards who carry this out sleep at night.

My bad I forgot The Keating Five


Which we all are still paying for this not matter if you work Public Or Private Sector.

posted by: Razzie on August 29, 2013  6:08pm

@ Jonathan Hopkins

I have seen Lynwood Place and its scores of drunken, rowdy students and frats. It’s a part of Dwight neighborhood, hardly as iconic as Elicker’s Orange street address, that is only a stone’s throw from the exclusive New Haven Lawn Club. Elicker owns a multi-family rental unit there. And since you wish to compare the candidates’ seeming affluence, for whatever reason, Justin doesn’t need to work a job to maintain his lifestyle while campaigning.

Regarding the current house in Westville, that house was designed and built by Sen Harp’s late husband (an architect/investor by trade and profession. He was a very accomplished architectural designer, so I am not surprised that he designed and built a very impressive residence. The fact that it sits near the Yale Golf Course is more a product of that being the only undeveloped lot in Westville at that time. Again, by trade and profession, he was fortunate to secure that location.

PS: I find it extremely presumptuous, at best, that any man would seek to lecture a woman about why she should not support another female.

posted by: FrontStreet on August 29, 2013  6:29pm

Harp’s performance reminded me of her demeanor during staff meetings I sat through as a provider for the homeless health division at Hill Health:  amiable, diplomatic, but not particularly engaged or well-informed.  She was as hands off as a manager can be, which is nice for those under her supervision (no demanding boss stressing people out).  But we basically did what we wanted with little oversight from Toni.  And when we did call or stop by with a question, the response of her secretary Janice was usually “Toni’s in Hartford”. 

Is this the kind of mayor we want?  Amiable, inaccessible and uninformed?

posted by: HewNaven on August 29, 2013  7:32pm

Elicker giving out his phone number sums it up nicely. He represents a new type of politician that actually responds to citizens’ concerns and ideas.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on August 29, 2013  10:35pm

A friend told me tonight that he his registering to vote for the first time in his life because of the performance of one of the candidates in this debate.

That’s a testament to the candidates as well as the power of local politics to engage citizens that would otherwise be apathetic on election day.

Woot Woot NHV!

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 30, 2013  2:29am

This might be an unpopular post, but it boosts Moorehead’s experience.

At the debate I was seated behind a nest of Harp supporters.  There was clearly an older male that was ‘in charge’ of his ‘committee’, which seemed to be family.

When it got to the practice applause part of the pre-show, this male castigated what I assume to his daughter, about her level of enthusiasm and applause.

Believe me, it didn’t catch me eye or ear as being out of line in any way.

“Act Professional”, he scolded her.

Now we are at the heart of the problem—acting.

Why do I feel that Kermit Carolina is the authentic version of Toni Harp, and Justin Elicker is the authentic version of Herny Fernandez.

Maybe because politics exists is some weird multi-verse…..

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 30, 2013  2:51am

One last comment for tonight before I delve into a painting for the political season which I was reticent about taking the time to work on.

No one has mentioned crowd response at last night’s debate. 

From what I noticed, the majority of Elicker supporters were sitting behind the candidate, symbollically having his back.

The obvious Harp supporters were seated facing the candidates, with a large bastion of Pro-Henry in the front rows.

I thought the applause for all of the candidates was pretty uniform, but the only candidate who consistently and surprisingly went above the applause meter was Kermit Carolina.  His supporters were everywhere in the crowd and they dug what he had to say.

Keep doing what your doing Kerm.  You have legitimate resonance in your community and beyond.

In fact, I was so inspired by distaste last night, that I must force myself to paint a couple of unseemly people, which Is something I try to avoid.  It is bad for the spirit, unless you can put it in appropriate context. Thank god I am good at caricature.

I wish New Haven great Luck. 
There are real positive possibilities before us.

posted by: True that on August 30, 2013  5:05am

@hieronymous and @westvilleman,

The two of you could not be more accurate, except to add the role of the Unions.  Granted, Unite Here can now be considered part of the democratic party establishment, but they deserve to be singled out because it’s suburban leadership is very concerned about a Mayor getting in office who will look to meaningfully reevaluate union pensions and contracts that are simply unsustainable.  Unite Here and the democratic party ( henceforth referred to in this post as the evil twins),  needed to find either a white candidate that Black people might support (I.e. Jack Keyes) or a Black candidate that Black people would automatically support (Toni Harp)..  Since it was clear that Carolina could not possibly be bought, the evil twins had to find a middle of the road, non-threatening candidate who would do as instructed by the suburban leaders ( who also control Jackie James and the democratic party).  Initially, they thought they may have this candidate with Holder-Winfield, who fit the criteria.  However, Holder-Winfield failed to gain traction precisely because he fit the criteria.  The only logical choice then was Senator, “I wouldn’t run unless struck by lightening” Harp.  The odd thing here is that Harp’s political trajectory is backwards.  Shouldnt she want to become governor or a congressperson after serving in the state senate?  Why would she want to leave there and govern on a local level?  But I digress.  The saddest part about all of this is that Unite Here’s suburban leadership has any influence at all.  This who do not live here, like Robert Proto, should have no influence over our elections.  Toni Harp never wanted to be Mayor; you can see as much in her body language during the debates (and it must be said that she is consistently poor performing in these debates).  We don’t need someone who wants to be Mayor so that it can be checked off the bucket list.

posted by: New Haven Nuisance on August 30, 2013  7:00am

BenBerkowitz, are you suggesting that we all try to guess which candidate engendered such a positive response through presenting a clear vision for this city and unparalleled openness from a public figure as to lead an individual to register to vote for the very first time in their life? Sounds like fun.

posted by: anonymous on August 30, 2013  8:54am

“Amiable, inaccessible and uninformed” is a perfect description of this candidate.  If people are expecting a Mayor who has any remote clue what they are doing then the past 11 debates should indicate clearly which candidates to rule out.

posted by: FacChec on August 30, 2013  9:30am

Fumble at the goal line.

I have to seriously reconsider Justin’s creditability based on his debate read my lips statement “NO NEW TAX CUTS”.

Elicker: I’ve already taken the most important position that’s against what people want. I’m willing to say I won’t cut taxes in the short term. This unexpected political position fly’s in the face of a number of his solutions, 75 solutions in 75 days.

Solution #43
Budgetary reform to get us on the road to lower taxes—another fresh solution from Justin Elicker.

Justin you may have made a grievous error with your new 11th hour tax pledge. If you won’t reduce taxes, then clearly you will increase taxes.

posted by: robn on August 30, 2013  9:32am


You must have a great throwing arm because Elicker lives a mile away from the New Haven Lawn Club. In fact, everyone in Newhallville between Mansfield, Winchester, Sachem and Munson are closer than Elicker to the New Haven Lawn Club so they must fit into your definition of elitist.

posted by: HenryCT on August 30, 2013  10:35am

Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid for sale.

The current Board of Alders, the majority of whom overthrew the Democratic establishment 2 years ago, overwhelmingly endorsed Toni Harp for mayor. They ran campaigns supported with a coalition of organized labor and allies. The anti-establishment winners took over the Democratic Town Committee, which endorses Democratic party candidates. It is natural that they do not disparage unions and indeed want for themselves, their families and neighbors what unions have done for their members.

The three primary goals the Board set for itself at the beginning of 2012 - a jobs pipeline, safer community and focus on youth programs - they have begun to accomplish. It won’t be easy as long as the financial crisis continues. 

New Haven, like nearly all cities across the country, is suffering from limited resources, despite the U.S. being the richest nation on earth. All the mayoral and aldermanic candidates ought to be demanding that our representatives in Washington stop the budget-gutting wars, cut the military budget and tax the rich as part of their platforms.

The three mayoral candidates and their supporters who prefer to sweep away unions are sipping the Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Kool-Aid. They want us to forget that unions brought good wages and benefits to New Haven and Connecticut. Those good wages and benefits allow families to improve their quality of life, keep our businesses alive, send their kids to college and obtain health care.

It is wiser by far to insist that everyone has good wages and benefits than to condemn those who lifted themselves up by unionizing their workplaces. It is far smarter to join those who have been successful in improving the incomes of the 99% than to condemn them and drag down all wages.

posted by: anonymous on August 30, 2013  10:36am

FacChek, anyone who thinks they can cut taxes as soon as they get into office, or who thinks they will be able to raise them without significant protests, doesn’t really understand the fiscal issues faced by the city or who controls them.

Fixing this requires a big-picture approach that uses significant reforms to a variety of policies, ranging from zoning to pensions to tax policy to education reform. It won’t happen in the first 100 days.

posted by: robn on August 30, 2013  11:06am


The modern day union promise is a Ponzi scheme. If all wages go up for everybody, so do costs and that nullifies the wages.

The New Haven union community isn’t filled with coal miners being exploited below minimum wage and dying of silicosis. They’re blue and pink collar workers doing modest skilled jobs and receiving significant wages and benefits that (in the case of the city payroll) can’t be supported by the existing tax base (and won’t attract new middle class homeowners who will maintain neighborhoods.)

posted by: cedarhillresident! on August 30, 2013  11:08am


Drinking the Kool aid…your comment shows that some body most definitely drank some kool in the past day!

NO one is anti union. I for one am not! Raised in a union family. But like any thing you can get a group that gets out of control. we have one group that I think has. Remember when you ask someone to pay for this and that…the people that have to pay or the ones with union jobs and the ones with out. This group has not thought of those who are not and are putting them in the poor house!

Also I have yet to see any numbers on the pipeline??? I know they hire one white women from East Rock to run it…but that is the only job I have really seen come from that. And youth programs Which ones are those?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 30, 2013  12:01pm

posted by: robn on August 30, 2013 11:06am


The modern day union promise is a Ponzi scheme. If all wages go up for everybody, so do costs and that nullifies the wages.

And so is more of the political elite stealing as much as they can from the taxpayers.How do you explain this.

Keating Five.


Enron scandal


City of Bell scandal


Retirement Gamble


posted by: Noteworthy on August 30, 2013  12:03pm

The Razzie Award Notes:

1.  It’s appropriate that you are the premier defender of the Toni Harp candidacy. The real Razzies (http://www.razzies.com) is a celebration of the worst of everything in movie-land.  The direct inference is too delicious to deny – the endless drama, the maligned heroin, greed, deception and manipulation.

2.  It is silly and shallow to support a candidate simply because she’s a woman. Would you do business with somebody, the sole basis of which is that it is owned by a woman?  Competence doesn’t matter? Do you advocate gender based hiring? How about skin color too?

3.  If Toni Harp had studied the budget, could detail how state money was incorrectly spent, had demanded that DeStefano change his spending habits/priorities or if she had walked down her own street or anybody else’s in the last 20 years, AND was running as an empathetic woman, you’d have a case. Sadly, her debate performances have been extremely poor and have showcased just how little she knows about New Haven and when she did walk, she was traumatized.

4. Your defense of the mansion is interesting – as is the word “accomplished” given that Career has had nothing but design and maintenance problems,  he was fired from the second school project and the country estate was rejected by the intended buyer. 

5. The reality is Toni Harp is a very flawed mayoral candidate.  She doesn’t exhibit the intellect, the curiosity, the grasp of budget, debt or pension details that come from studying and doing homework for the job she seeks.  She has lived a charmed life because of the largess of the family business – one built on large amounts of layered debt, thumbing its nose at taxes and mortgage responsibilities and using political connections to avoid responsibility for any of it it while enriching the family.

6. Toni has floated to reelection because her personal and family drama has not been revealed/vetted.  If it was, she wouldn’t be nearly as popular. Ask her campaign manager.

posted by: TheMadcap on August 30, 2013  12:46pm

The modern day union promise is a Ponzi scheme. If all wages go up for everybody, so do costs and that nullifies the wages.

This is a falsehood continually propped up to support low wages. It could only be true in some alternate universe where employee costs made up 90 or something of a businesses operating costs, they don’t. ABC news ran a story last night breaking down the costs of McDonalds and what would happen if they actually double their wages like those strikers were asking. A dollar hamburger would rise to…........$1.25. Meanwhile UC Berkley did a study on what would happen if Wal-Mart and other big box retailers raised their wages to $12/hr and passed all costs associated with it onto consumers
Page 3 is the summary. The end result? The average shopping trip to Wal-Mart would cost a staggering 50 cents more.

posted by: HewNaven on August 30, 2013  1:01pm


I’ve seen those same statistics and it boggles the mind the level of greed in this country. Thank you for sharing.

This is what concerns me about the labor leadership who have jumped headfirst into New Haven politics. They don’t even care about these fights. Why aren’t they organizing New Haven’s fast food workers? Why were they silent on the Gourmet Heaven wage-theft case? Is it because they care more about maintaining the lifestyle of the suburban membership (75% of local 34) than they care about the plight of New Haven’s working poor. What does Harp think about all this? She is the pro-labor candidate isn’t she? Is she waiting for prepared remarks to be written?

posted by: robn on August 30, 2013  1:10pm

3/5 and THEMADCAP,

Except that your examples aren’t examples.

Yale local 34 earns, “above the 90th percentile of comparable jobs.”

posted by: anonymous on August 30, 2013  1:22pm

Madcap, you are correct of course, but at a local level, it is not a black or white issue. Salaries and benefits paid through property taxes are really a large part of our “business” expenses though the business is all of us, rather than a huge corporation.  Also, the breadth of salaries must be considered, in terms of how many residents have jobs, not just the depth or amount of money that a small and increasingly elite workforce makes.

Locally, there should be a focus on growing revenues to the point where higher salaries and benefits, and more jobs, can be supported. To do this, financial sustainability and efficiency must be a focus. Financial sustainability includes issues such as energy and transportation costs, land use metrics (such as housing construction cost), the efficiency of government itself, and the degree to which local investments actually stay within the city. A city might bring in amazing jobs where people are earning a million dollars per year, like Alexion, but if 100% of those jobs are held by people who live out of town, that does impact long-term sustainability. If people are getting good jobs but leaving after a couple years, that is also an issue.

If city government attempts to focus on easy-to-grandstand-about social issues such as “safety” and “youth” that are actually incredibly complex and can not be addressed within a vacuum (like the current DTC leadership and Aldermen are doing), while failing to focus on sustainability, then we really do risk ending up like Detroit.

posted by: Simple explanation on August 30, 2013  1:43pm

There is nothing inconsistent with Elicker’s tax and budget positions.

If the city has a deficit, you can address it from the spending or income side, or both.  From the spending side, you need to spend less.  Thus Elicker has cut the budget.  From the income side you need to raise taxes.  Elicker is not proposing that, but he is at least saying we have to keep them where they are.  He is not proposing a cut, which would work against us if we are trying to cut the deficit.

As for the long term solution, Elicker may believe in lower taxes.  But first you have to put out the fire.  So for now, no tax cuts.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 30, 2013  2:28pm

This debate format is extremely unhelpful. More of an open discussion with some structure and guiding questions would be more informative and effective. The public needs to understand each candidate’s philosophy - what do they think is the role of government? What is their short and long term vision for the city? We then need to understand how each candidate would go about implementing their vision - what programs and policies, how are they funded, who is responsible for oversight, how is it passed legislatively, etc. Perhaps each candidate prepares a presentation for each question, then the points are debated amongst all the candidates.

Having 40 minutes of “we need to improve the schools”, “we need to grow the tax base”, and “crime is bad” is useless. The amount of substance in this “debate” was across-the-board very thin. While this was true for some candidates more than others, and some questions more than others, overall this debate was not very informative.

posted by: TheMadcap on August 30, 2013  2:40pm


Yes, they do earn more, because they’re unionized. Perhaps the problem is everyone else isn’t making enough after 30+ years of stagnant wages. Oddly enough the stagnation in wages oddly matches the decline in the rate of unionization in the private workforce.(6.6% today, 11.3% of workers if you include public employees, less than 1/2 of what it was in 1983 and a 1/3 of what it was in the 50’s and 60’s) Weird.

posted by: FacChec on August 30, 2013  2:56pm

Simple explanation on August 30, 2013 1:43pm

I really don’t get your economic logic, I wish Justin would answer the issue himself, I don’t think he would explain spending and tax increases quite that way.

Justin’s solution #43 (from his web site) under detailed budget reform” writes like this:

1.  Maximize budgetary efficiency;

The single most obvious solution to high taxes is, of course, decreased spending, and the least painful way to reduce spending is to increase efficiency. In light of the structural disadvantages I outlined in yesterday’s post, it’s not enough for New Haven to have a reasonably efficient government. We need a government that sets the bar for municipal efficiency nationwide.

That would have been a good response to the question raised @ 7:22: Question:

Can you name a position that you’re willing to take that some of your supporters won’t agree with?

Elicker: I’ve already taken the most important position that’s against what people want. I’m willing to say I won’t cut taxes in the short term.

Justin was the third candidate to answer this question, so he had enough time to think about the answer, one clue would have been how Harp and Fernandez avoided a direct answer. (See @ 7:22 above)Justin did not thing of his solution answer, instead he dug this tax whole answer up for grabs.

Your response @ 1:43 PM today seems to indicate you are one of those supporters that would not agree, and thus your disjointed answer in Justin’s behalf, as follows:

If the city has a deficit, you can address it from the spending or income side, or both.  From the spending side, you need to spend less.  Thus Elicker has cut the budget.  From the income side you need to raise taxes.  Elicker is not proposing that, but he is at least saying we have to keep them.

Sorry, I find that unacceptable. NO NEW TAX CUTS is more direct and one the lay person understands.

This is the last word I will have on this subject.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 30, 2013  3:56pm

posted by: robn on August 30, 2013 1:10pm

3/5 and THEMADCAP,

Except that your examples aren’t examples.

Yale local 34 earns, “above the 90th percentile of comparable jobs.”

Show me were I can find the figures.Also I am talking about New Haven public sector workers.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 30, 2013  10:17pm

@ TheMadcap
Yes, they do earn more, because they’re unionized

You hit it out of the park.

Why Screwing Unions Screws the Entire Middle Class


posted by: HhE on August 31, 2013  5:49am

“This is the last word I will have on this subject.” is this a promise, or just a passing thought?  There is a fundemental difference between No tax cuts not matter what, and I will not promise to cut taxes. 

History teaches the George Bush their Elder probably ought not have said, “Read my lips, no new taxes.” and probably ought to have said, keeping taxes low is a top priority for me. 

If one wishes honest government, one probably ought not take issue with people running for office telling the truth, and in their own words.

posted by: HewNaven on August 31, 2013  8:49am

After speaking with her and opening her eyes, her stance shifted and she was illuminated.  Less than 2 weeks away and people have to wake up!

Good work, Greg. These are the conversations we all need to be having with our friends and neighbors. We can’t let Harp just slip into office based on her last name and her pioneer status as a woman mayor. We need to open these Harp supporter’s eyes.

posted by: robn on September 1, 2013  1:28pm


reductio ad absurdum

As long as you and others foolishly argue that Yale and City unions are treated the same as Walmart and MacDonalds employees, we’ll not solve the extremely bad financial problems of New Haven.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 1, 2013  8:19pm

posted by: robn on September 1, 2013 1:28pm


reductio ad absurdum

As long as you and others foolishly argue that Yale and City unions are treated the same as Walmart and MacDonalds employees, we’ll not solve the extremely bad financial problems of New Haven.

And as long as you and other union haters keep blaming unions,When proof shows it is the elites who have looted the pension coffins and make them underfunded,You will have this problem not just in new haven,but across this country.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 1, 2013  9:15pm