Debate Theme: Who Has Cleaner Hands

She surrounds herself with unsavory characters and has family members who owe taxes. He takes “bundles” of donations just like everyone else and poses sexist questions.

“She” is Toni Harp, the Democratic candidate for mayor—as depicted by Justin Elicker.

“He” is Justin Elicker, as depicted by Toni Harp.

Elicker and Harp offered those depictions Sunday morning in a lively campaign debate televised live on WTNH. Harp, a Democrat, and Elicker, a petitioning candidate, square off Tuesday in a mayoral election to decide the successor to retiring 20-year-incumbent John DeStefano.

At times the debate came down to the question: Who has cleaner hands?

WTNH politics reporter Mark Davis moderated Sunday morning’s free-form debate. Click on the above video to watch it.

The final match-up between the two—and at least the 17th debate of this year’s mayoral campaign (people have lost count)—repeatedly returned to the issue of clean government. Elicker pressed Harp on two matters that have arisen in the campaign’s closing weeks: Allegations of improper handling of absentee ballots by the campaign of Harp’s city/town clerk running mate; and Harp’s embrace of two controversial figures from the heyday of 1990s City Hall corruption scandals, zoning lawyer and former state Sen. Anthony Avallone and ex-development chief Sal Brancati. Elicker mentioned the latter pair’s names twice in the debate’s first 20 minutes.

“Toni has surrounded herself with people .. with a history of corruption in this city,” Elicker said. “Her running mate is now involved in [an absentee ballot] scandal.”

Referring to Harp’s argument that she has far more experience for the job—serving as a state senator for 21 years and an alderwoman for 5 years before that, compared to Elicker’s total of four years as an alderman—Elicker remarked, “Richard Nixon had a lot of experience. You see where that got us.”

Paul Bass PhotoPrompted by a question posed by Davis, Elicker also hamemered at Harp for failing to file federal income tax returns a decade ago; and for a contested $1.1 million (with interest) state tax debt her husband left behind in his real-estate business when he died. And Elicker continued to criticize Harp for declining to participate in the city’s voluntary public-financing program, instead accepting tens of thousands of dollars from political action committees as well as $1,000 contributions from out-of-town contractors.

“As a homeowner in New Haven, I find it hard to believe anyone can run for mayor with the tax background [state] Sen. Harp has,” Elicker declared.

“A mayor cannot ask people to pay taxes if they don’t take responsibility for their own taxes.”

Harp responded that her personal tax problems are more than a decade old; that her husband’s business was separate from her; and that her son, who inherited the business, is negotiating a tax settlement with the state.

She also noted that Elicker’s wife Natalie, not Elicker himself, is the legal named owner of the couple’s house.

“I’m the first woman who runs for mayor who has to stand for her spouse’s business practices,” said Harp, who notes that she has been an influential elected official for 26 years while also working with the homeless as a staffer at the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center. “As a woman, he’s asking me questions that as a man have never been asked of him.”

“He’s just digging through all the garbage he can to run the kind of negative campaign he said he would never run,” Harp added.

She said her campaign workers are trained to follow the law in helping people apply for absentee ballots. She noted that absentee ballot fraud allegations against her running mate, clerk candidate Michael Smart, come from his opponent in the election, incumbent Clerk Ron Smith.

“These are all allegations,” Harp said. Rather than “jump to conclusions,” people should wait for allegations to be investigated, she argued. “If there’s wrongdoing, they should be prosecuted.”

“People know who I am. I’ve been around for 26 years,” Harp said. “They don’t have to guess what I’m going to do. ... I have a history of being independent.”

Then she addressed Elicker’s criticism of her failure to participate in the public-financing system (aka The Democracy Fund), in which candidates swear off committee contributions and individual contributions over $370 in exchange for matching public dollars. Harp said that Elicker has accepted “bundles” of contributions from associated groups of people.

“Numbers of attorneys bundled for you, Justin. I don’t think that you come to this conversation frankly with clean hands,” Harp said.

“... If you bundle money, you bundle money, whether it’s $370 [per contribution] or more.”

Stop & Frisk

The candidates also differed somewhat when asked about “stop-and-frisk” police tactics.

Moderator Davis asked if New Haven should follow New York City in instructing cops to stop people they consider suspiciously on a more regular basis and frisk them. (A federal judge ordered New York to stop the process; an appeals court stopped the order.)

Harp responded that the tactic leads to racial profiling, so the city shouldn’t use it. She said the police department already has the “tools” it needs to zero in on troublemakers. She noted that Police Chief Dean Esserman told her the department, through intelligence work, has identified the compact group of people—around 50—who cause the most violent trouble in town. The cops can therefore focus on the right targets, she said.

“We know who these children are,” Harp said. “We know who their families are.” A combination of community policing, social services, and more youth programs can address the trouble they cause, Harp argued.

“We do not have the tools we need,” Elicker responded. He criticized Harp for not helping the city get a state law passed to create an entertainment district in which the city could charge nightclubs an fee to pay for extra police coverage.

Harp responded that the city could already do that through existing special services districts, which have taxing power. She said she has recommended passing the city-suggested law this coming session, but isn’t sure it’s necessary. Rather, she said, the mayor should take leadership to bring club owners and the cops together to ensure adequate security.

Booker vs. Myrick

The candidates also offered different answers when asked whom they consider the country’s best mayor.

Harp suggested Newark’s Cory Booker (pictured), whom she described as “an intellectual” who “got rid of a lot of corruption” and just got rewarded by becoming the state’s new U.S. senator.

Elicker suggested the mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., 26-year-old Cornell grad Svante Myrick (pictured), one of the country’s youngest-ever African-American mayors. He spoke of Myrick’s energy and his success in enlisting Cornell to help spark a new business district. Click here to read more about the Ithaca parallel, as advanced by Elicker supporter Jack Hitt.


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posted by: citoyen on November 3, 2013  11:51am

The first overwhelming impression from this debate is that Toni Harp has improved her debating skills markedly since her first attempts at the beginning of this campaign season (except for when she became embarrassingly flustered this morning over the question of her own taxes and her family’s taxes).  The second, and takeaway impression, for this voter, is that Justin Elicker remains the candidate who New Haven can expect will run a forthright, responsive, scandal-free, idea-driven administration.

But of course those of us who have made up our minds, on either side, are not going to be swayed by viewing one hour of television.  We are all going to find points to justify our already determined positions.

At this point, it is up to undecided voters to decide 1) whether to vote at all, and 2) whom to vote for.  I urge them to think carefully about how New Haven this year really does have an actual choice, for a change—that there is a real opportunity here to break away from rule by an entrenched power structure, which this year created and is pushing the candidacy of Toni Harp, and to select instead a candidate who, if elected, will derive his power from the people who elected him, rather than from monied special interests who are used to getting their own way around here, and want to continue to do so.

And as a concluding thought, I think that on the basis of today’s debate, anyone wondering whether Justin Elicker is tough enough to be able to stand up to old pols who are used to running the city, and who might want to try to make mincemeat out of him, got a clear answer from his performance—he can be as tough as they come, when he needs to be.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on November 3, 2013  11:53am

I stepped away from the debate and didnt know this topic came up. What was Elicker’s take on Stop & Frisk? Interesting that both candidates oppose localized voting rights for noncitizens. Particularly since grad students from area colleges often live here and contribute to the tax base for many years with virtually no say so in how they are governed.

posted by: NHV Greenie on November 3, 2013  12:04pm

Harp playing the sexism card here is ridiculous.  Give it a rest. If it were Harp vs Karen Dubois-Walton, Harp would have to respond to the same allegations with substance, which she is clearly unable to do.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on November 3, 2013  12:13pm

After being very frustrated with WTNH not advertising the debate anywhere on their site its refreshing to have the Independent at our backs.

Feeling especially good about my monthly donation to the Independent after this story.

Here’s the link to donate to NHIndy incase you’re looking for it:

posted by: obi on November 3, 2013  12:19pm

This ‘Girl is on Fire’, NO.  Sound more like ‘At Last’ by the late Etta James.  At Last, today, New Haven had the FIRST mayoral debate. Many thanks to Mark Davis Ch 8 and others.  With all her “consensus and coalition building abilities” she never used within her family.  Nor in her campaign with heckling at Gateway, back taxes, occupancy permit, donations from the New Haven Orthopedic Group, unions,  and more recently AB’s with ?Smart.  She is unrelenting in refusing to be accountable yet she has benefited from all these activities.  Re: occupancy permit she stated, “the permit was lost for ten years.”  Her husband was the builder, why didn’t he obtain another one? As the builder he was responsible for permit before occupying.  It could have been an ally that made this happen.  PLUS it was under edtimated to reduce costs.

“At Last” we have a candidate in Justin Elicker who can move New Haven forward in a positive manner free of quid pro quo…........AT LAST!!

posted by: oliveandchapel on November 3, 2013  12:22pm

I thought Harp came across as a superior, compelling and likeable candidate in this exchange.  He seemed like a bit of a skunk and was not presenting enough of a positive message to win over new voters.  She rightly pointed out that Elicker hasn’t cultivated very good relationships with his fellow Aldermen, and questioned how that would bear out in the Mayor’s office. Her explanation of her late husband’s tax disputes actually made me feel sympathy for her.  It’s a political headache that she has to continue to deal with after dealing with his death.  Elicker, rather than doing the politically astute thing and expressing sympathy for Harp’s loss, simply launched into another attack.  He did not come across as mature or compassionate in this debate. He threw mud and spent much more time trying to make Harp guilty by association than he did articulating his own agenda.  It’s clear to me after this debate that the CT Democratic establishment is lining up behind Harp because she is simply the better choice.  Toni Harp’s one opposition research-based attack—that Elicker’s wife is technically the owner of their East Rock home—was a solid point that highlighted the media’s laziness and (gender driven?) double standard in investigating the candidate’s finances.  He is alleging that she is a tax scofflaw, and yet the media doesn’t highlight such an easily attained piece of information? Her record, for better or worse, is out there.  Voting for Harp on Tuesday.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 3, 2013  12:23pm

Hey NHI, what about Toni Harp’s current tax debt to the City of New Haven?

Justin quizzed her directly about the $10,000 plus owed in building fees on the family mansion, (I estimate it at $20,000, plus interest), and Harp attempted shrug it off with her “I just live in the house, I don’t own it” attitude.

Can anyone tell me when has a candidate has been elected Mayor of a city this size while they, or their immediate family, owed ten thousand plus to the City? Is it really too much to ask the Harps to square up in advance of the coming vote?

In terms of the million dollars plus owed to the State, I was again disturbed to watch as Toni worked to muddy timelines by pretending the debt has only lingered because of Mr. Harp’s cancer. For the record, the CT Supreme Court issued its final ruling in 2003.

posted by: Greer, Eliezer on November 3, 2013  12:44pm

One of Justin Elicker’s most admirable traits is his unyielding tenacity and determination.  This goes a long way toward running a City. He was the first candidate who chose to run for Mayor and, truthfully, he’s the ONLY candidate who has New Haven voters and our City’s best interests at heart.
Let’s step back and really look at the bottom line. 
After months of campaigning, with candidates jumping in and out, primaries, debates, hundreds of news articles, interviews, dozens of exaggerated campaign fliers, and phone push-polls, here’s the nuts and bolts the clear compelling questions we need to think about before going to the polls.
Does New Haven need a leader with real experience working at City Hall or someone who has spent a lot of time up at the Capitol?
Does New Haven need a leader who owns a home in this City and pays City of New Haven property taxes or someone who now, today, forgetting the past, forgetting internal family unawareness, STILL does NOT own a clod of earth or even a square foot in town and therefore does NOT pay a red cent of New Haven property taxes, and if given the chance will have the audacity to take your hard earned money out of your pocket when it’s time to collect City Taxes?
Does New Haven need a leader who is fiscally responsible and will hold and possibly reduce taxes for homeowners and landlords or a person who has raised state taxes more than a dozen times?
Does New Haven need a leader who has 75 homegrown, thoughtful and detailed solutions to the critical issues facing our City or does New Haven need someone who requires prompts and photo get-togethers to grapple with what’s going on in our “traumatic” City?
Does New Haven need a leader who has repeatedly demonstrated inclusiveness or someone who, from the start of her desire to run for this office has demonstrated exclusiveness?
Does New Haven need a leader who’s running with clean money and fresh ideas or someone whose machine runs on well-oiled money with the same old stale i

posted by: FacChec on November 3, 2013  12:55pm

The question is “who has clearer hands.
From the live debate:

Justin says that Harp takes outside money from those wishing to buy influence.

Harp responds that the Justin collects more bundles of $370 each and calls that democracy when a majority of his donors are Yale affiliated and attempting to buy the same level of influence.

Justin says that Harp surrounds herself with the likes of corruption agents such as Bradcatti and Avalone, but neither has been charged or convicted with corruption.

Harp says that Justin sought special tax dispensation for East Rock property owners.

When actually, the Mayor proposed the special act to the state legislature during the 2012 budget after the newly imposed property assessment of 2011, and then withdrew the proposal before the board acted on it.

Justin says that Harp and her family owed millions of $ in taxes, Harp says that occurred more than 10 years ago, her personal taxes are paid and she has had no problem since.

Harp says that Justin pays no taxes; his wife is the sole owner of all property in the family name in which taxes are based.
Harp says the only thing Justin owns is a bike, of which he pays no taxes.

Harp says no one has ever attacked Justin’s family. 

Cleaner hands..No winner.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on November 3, 2013  1:53pm

Find it funny that she would support Booker because he fought corruption?? It seems to me that Booker was fighting the same fight Justin is fighting. Just saying….watch before you vote

posted by: anonymous on November 3, 2013  2:05pm

Citoy: As in past debates, Elicker crushed Harp here. The fact that Elicker has “grit” is apparent to anyone who has watched him stand up to terrible local policies advanced by state officials, ConnDOT, or by Mayor DeStefano. Elicker has been more effective at advocating for New Haven residents than anyone in the state delegation, including Roland Lemar.

The election will be close, especially with outside groups dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the city - but if Elicker loses it will only be because not enough citizens are aware of how effective he has been on standing up for residents in meetings around issues such as public safety, New Haven school enrollment, sustainability, and blight.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 3, 2013  2:16pm

Sexist and Shallow Notes:

1. Harp says she’s the first woman who runs for mayor who has to stand for her husband’s business practices. Isn’t Harp the first woman to run for mayor? If she thinks she’s the first political candidate with a crooked spouse, she’s wrong again. Ever hear of Geraldine Ferraro?

2.  “As a woman, he’s asking me questions that as a man have never been asked of him.” Right. What questions is Harp talking about? Failing to file and pay income taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes, labor taxes or failure to pay mortgages to taxpayer backed agencies? Or was she referring to the corrupt people around her? Does Elicker get advice from anyone who is corrupt?

3. The charge of sexism should actually be leveled at Harp. How many times have we been told to vote for Harp because she’s black and a woman? It’s an historic vote.

4. Experience and consensus building is overrated. How difficult is it to build consensus with a bunch of yes people?

posted by: William Kurtz on November 3, 2013  2:28pm

““I’m the first woman who runs for mayor who has to stand for her spouse’s business practices,” said Harp, who notes that she has been an influential elected official for 26 years while also working with the homeless as a staffer at the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center. “As a woman, he’s asking me questions that as a man have never been asked of him.””

He’s not being asked those questions because Mrs. Elicker is basically beyond reproach. She’s genuinely one of the most sincere people I’ve ever met.

Find convincing evidence of skeletons in her closet and I will eat these words, printed in 72 point type, on the New Haven Green.

The senator can attribute every question asked, every criticism raised, to sexism or racism but that doesn’t make it so.

posted by: NewHaven06511 on November 3, 2013  3:21pm

Anyone else find reply from embattled candidate that she’s just a wife and mother without a clue about her family’s business to be um, well, maybe, just a little…sexist.

posted by: Greer, Eliezer on November 3, 2013  3:46pm

Does New Haven need a leader who’s going to maintain safety standards for our huge tenant population in this City by keeping LCI enforcement active or someone who will “look at whether or not we need LCI.”  In other words closing LCI, thereby allowing children in this City to sleep with NO smoke detectors and seniors with NO carbon monoxide detectors and force tenants to cope with no checks and balances on slumlords?
Does New Haven need a leader who cherishes New Haven residents and supports policies in their interests or someone who seeks approval from suburban policies and groups?
Does New Haven need a leader who seeks local support or someone who bows to the typical heavy handed out-of-town and out-of-touch politicos?
Does New Haven need a leader who has Pre-K education as a foremost focus for our kids or someone who must first get oriented with who’s-who in the education system?
Does New Haven need a leader who understands the importance of continuing on the course of Community Policing and beefing up neighborhood patrols or someone whose lip service continues to enslave and condemn the poorer neighborhoods of our City?
Does New Haven need an honest, positive, man-up to the truth Mayor, or someone who continuously skews the facts, distorts people’s hard-earned record and obfuscates the reality?
Finally does New Haven need a Mayor whose going to run the City or someone who will be run by the City?
We have a choice on Tuesday November 5.  Progress or regress.
This race has been, and always will be, about New Haveners – not the politicians, machine hacks or a union marionette.  The race is nearing the finish line, and the choice is clearer than ever before.  Contact 5 family members or friends and convince them to go and vote row three, 1C, for Justin Elicker.
Lawn signs and T-shirts don’t VOTE, family, friends and coworkers do!! 


posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 3, 2013  4:35pm

The reason why Harp said Corey Booker is both of them have the same thing in common.Both are back by the Money machine which is run by the corporate plutocracy.They both got there money from the corporate plutocracy.

Cory Booker’s Moneyed Win.

posted by: alex on November 3, 2013  4:49pm

Toni has a point. It’s interesting that the first major female candidate for Mayor is the first candidate judged by her spouse. The Hartford Courant’s coverage of the NHI debate a few weeks ago, for example, focused entirely on the Renaissance Management issue and not at all on substantive issues facing the city.

Elicker seems like a model citizen and, like Toni, has an incredible knowledge of the issues. But he’s chosen to focus on personal attacks and not his disagreements on policy. The personal attacks may or may not be fair - the voters will decide - but he did promise to run a positive, issues-based campaign. Even if he pulls off a major upset in this campaign, it’s an inauspicious start to a political career.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on November 3, 2013  5:16pm

I have followed this campaign very closely. I attended several debates. I considered the views and positions of the candidates on the major issues.
I thought that Senator Harp performed well in this debate. I was satisfied with her answers, especially those dealing with back taxes, the Harp house certificate of occupancy, and the Harp business tax obligation. I feel she has the experience and qualifications to be an outstanding mayor.
I resented Mr. Elicker going negative on those tax and house issues. I resented his untruthful and misleading campaign ads on television about those same issues.
It appears to be a desperate attempt on the part of Elicker to gain some votes by smearing Harp. I don’t like such negative tactics and neither do a host of other New Haveners.  I think these futile attempts will all backfire.
Mr. Elicker has gained no traction in the Black and Hispanic communities, despite his endorsements by Principal Kermit Carolina and City Clerk Ron Smith, so I guess he feels it necessary to attempt to assassinate Harp’s character.

posted by: Eddie on November 3, 2013  5:28pm

Once again Justin performed extremely well for his base.  He appeared aggressive, interrupting Harp and elbowing in additional attacks, while being relentless on Toni’s house and taxes. I’m not surprised that the zealots conclude Elicker “crushed” Harp.  The problem is that to those who will decide this election, Elicker came off as an entitled bully. 

In contrast, Harp provided the best explanation of her family’s taxes, and once again showed how she would leverage her relationships with Hartford to help the city.  She did a great job of drawing a sharp contrast between her and Justin’s abilities to build coalitions and consensus.  Justin’s inability on this front is one of his greatest weaknesses. 

Perhaps the worst moment in the debate for Justin was when he insisted that he would have relationships with Hartford because the governor needs New Haven to get reelected.  Instead of building a relationship with the governor he is already suggesting that New Haven will win resources through antagonistic bargaining, in which New Haven simply threatens the governor’s reelection.  This follows him implying that the governor only endorsed Toni because he is entirely beholden to the unions in New Haven.  I’m not an expert in these types of negotiations but taking such a hardline right at the outset doesn’t strike me as an effective plan.  It just seems that problems can be solved more effectively if people engage cooperatively and respectfully.  From alienating the BOA to losing Lemar’s support to suggesting that he will initiate his relationship with Hartford through hard-nosed bargaining, Justin still lacks in statecraft.  Unfortunately, his supporters view this as a virtue, and Justin uses it to vindicate his independence.  Yet, from traffic calming funding in Westville to support for youth programs, New Haven needs good relationships with Hartford.

Still it has been a great campaign.  Whoever wins next week deserves the office.

posted by: TheMadcap on November 3, 2013  8:17pm

I remember when Biden was called a bully in his debate with Paul Ryan because he wouldn’t sit there calmly and let Ryan spew BS.

posted by: J Artis on November 3, 2013  9:36pm

I am not surprised that Tony Harp is getting gored by this newspaper.

When I ran a New haven Mayoral Primary campaign Twenty years ago, rather than mentioning that made it through life without getting caught up in the drug, crime or corrections game, that I was a loving husband and father. that I was a Yale Medical School graduate or that I loved Immanuel Baptist Missionary and Christian Tabernacle Baptist Churches, Paul Bass painted me as a mindless puppet in the hands of Toni’s Harps deceased husband.

During that campaign, Paul Bass highlighted my overdue property tax bill of $1,200.00, not mentioning that my wife and I struggled to get her college degree that same year and that we were attempting to off her college student loans.

Let’s see if we can set the record straight on Toni Harp, As a mother, a wife and an elected official, Toni juggled three careers and made a success of each one.

As an empathetic and phenomenal woman, Toni has conducted herself with honor and dignity throughout her public career. She completed college and helped a very successful architect build a great career as a young woman.

When her deceased husband intellectually defeated the political and financial “Bigs” of the city of New Haven, Toni was castigated by the media.

Toni’s intellect and grace excels any person who has sat in the mayor’s chair throughout the history of the city.

So, Paul my friend. I won’t ask you for any concessions on your relentless support of those who would block this woman from the course of history. I’ll just say to you that the people of New Haven aren’t buying the smears and brutality of the editorial sword this time.

Tony Harp will prevail and lead New Haven back to the status of being a “World Class City!”

By the way Paul Bass, I respect you.

posted by: robn on November 3, 2013  10:07pm

Harps record as a state senator isn’t so spectacular given that CT has the highest per capita debt in the nation.
Criticism of Harp for her family’s tax evasion is fair given that she still reaps its benefits living for free in a mansion.
Harps outside funding and overwhelming support from suburban unions should give voters pause.
NOT criticizing these things would be racist and sexist because it would hold Harp to a lower standard.

posted by: alex on November 3, 2013  10:38pm

Comparing Connecticut’s state-held debt to other states is misleading, because Connecticut has abolished county governments that share the debt burden in other states. That’s also why comparing the size of the state government to other states is also misleading.

Toni Harp’s record in the state legislature has been nothing but exemplary and completely to the benefit of New Haven. She’s fought over and over again to restore funding that otherwise would have been cut.

People on this site portray this election as urban vs. suburban interests, but the real Connecticut political struggle between urban and suburban interests is the one that Toni Harp has been fighting for more than 20 years. And she’s been unquestionably on the side of New Haven residents in that fight.

posted by: chapinfan on November 4, 2013  2:43am

I won’t reiterate all that has been said before, but I think its ironic that Harp picked Corey Booker as the best Mayor.  When Corey ran for office in 2002, his only political experience was 4 years as a city councilman in Newark. Using Toni’s logic about Justin’s inexperience Corey Booker would obviously never be a good Mayor.

posted by: robn on November 4, 2013  9:59am


How then do you explain that 80% of Harps funding comes from suburbanites who seek to profit off if the city?

How do you explain NHs exceedingly high property taxes, or it unemployment rate?

Was Harp great except when one points out these halting discrepancies?

Was she powerful or was she powerless to affect change in NH as a state senator heading the finance committee?

Do these questions make you uncomfortable?

posted by: alex on November 4, 2013  11:33am


You don’t make me uncomfortable at all.

Harp has donations from all over the state for two main reasons. First, she’s the frontrunner. There’s nothing Toni could do to discourage people from donating to the frontrunner, which happens in every race. Many of those same contributors would be donating to Elicker if they thought he would win.

Second, she has relationships from all over the state. New Haven cannot succeed economically without working with the entire region. Toni knows that New Haven’s success can and will lift up neighboring towns and people in those towns support her. If all people who own or run a business in New Haven are trying to “profit off” the city and automatically don’t have the city’s interests at heart we’ll never improve our economy.

I also just don’t buy that because you live a mile away, across an arbitrary municipal boundary, you couldn’t possibly care about New Haven. What divisive nonsense.

New Haven’s property taxes and unemployment are so high for the same reason the state’s debt burden is so high. The lack of county or other regional governance places an exceedingly high debt burden on CT’s 169 municipalities and the state government. The lack of regional taxation authority—and lack of revenue sharing—makes municipalities entirely reliant on property taxes for revenue.

The mismatch between revenue-raising capacity and the need for municipal services is a major cause of NH’s high tax rates, its debt, and its problems with unemployment.

Toni has been great over the last 26 years in the face of the real urban vs suburban conflict in Connecticut, the fight to fix the imbalance between municipal needs and municipal capacity to meet those needs.

She was powerful on Appropriations, but that doesn’t mean she was omnipotent. After all, the majority of her time there was during Republican Governors. But she fought hard to preserve programs and funding and without her we’d be a lot worse off. Are you uncomfortable with that?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 4, 2013  12:20pm

Let me get this straight.

So if Elicker received a monthly check of $10,000 or so from a company that owed the State over $1M in unpaid taxes, it wouldn’t be a relevant issue for Toni Harp to talk about? Really? What if the company were owned by his spouse? What if Elicker claimed he had no part in running the business? Why would he continue to receive and accept a check from that business then? C’mon, Harp wouldn’t bring that up as an example of his character - really?

What if Elicker built an addition onto his house and didn’t pay the city permit fees, would Toni Harp not bring that up either? Stiffing the city for 10s of thousands of dollars isn’t a big deal? Yeah, let’s stick to the relevant issues. 1) Educating children is good 2) Crime is bad 3) Everybody likes jobs 4) The city budget issues can be brushed under a rug for a few more years

What if Elicker failed to pay income taxes for a few years, would nobody say anything about that? It’s off-limits to discuss?

posted by: grounded on November 4, 2013  12:32pm

“Anyone else find reply from embattled candidate that she’s just a wife and mother without a clue about her family’s business to be um, well, maybe, just a little…sexist.”

She hasn’t just said she’s “just a wife and mother.”  She has said that she had her own career and her husband had his.  So, no, I find you sexist for hearing something she hasn’t said. 

“Elicker has been more effective at advocating for New Haven residents than anyone in the state delegation”

There are many of us who agree with a lot of Elicker’s positions and are uncomfortable with Toni’s silence thus far on exactly who she will empower but still can’t support Elicker because he’s been anything but effective.  No friends on the Board of Aldermen, no friends in City Hall, no legislative victories to his name.  Elickerites want to argue that his failure to get anything done over the last two years is attributable to the union majority on the BOA but then why wasn’t he able to work inside City Hall on getting things done? 

You have to be friends with someone.  You can’t tell everyone that they’re terrible and corrupt and expect anything to get done. 

The BOA is awful and corrupt and dominated by a suburban union cabal!  The Mayor’s office is awful and corrupt!  The state delegation (the most effective delegation in the state) is awful and corrupt and a bunch of followers, not leaders!  Same goes for Congresswoman DeLauro!  And both our Senators!  And our governor! 

My goodness, listen to yourselves.  Every significant political leader in Connecticut is awful and corrupt and not a leader, just a follower, because they are supporting a Yale-educated, long serving legislator for Mayor rather than a two-term alderman without a legislative victory to his name (raised in the evil, god-forsaken suburbs, btw, anonymous!) who came in distant second in a primary and is about to lose a mayoral election 65/35. 

It’s not them, it’s you. 

John DeStefano 2013

posted by: alex on November 4, 2013  12:34pm

I don’t understand what there is to discuss. Toni was never a decisionmaker at her husband’s companies. She was wrong to dismiss it entirely as a question earlier in the campaign, but she has made clear now, on several occasions, that she trusts her son will work out a resolution with the state over its tax problem.

No one’s saying it’s off-limits to discuss. Toni herself has discussed these issues at length. Are you saying she can’t be the mayor because of who her husband was? That’s the problem people have with these questions.

If we are going to talk about it, I’d like to hear one example of how this “issue” has affected her judgment during her 26 years of public service for New Haven. The lack of any such concrete disagreements from the venomous Elicker camp is particularly disappointing.

Mr. Hopkins, it was Elicker who promised to run a “positive” and “issue-driven” campaign. Instead, he’s run a campaign of personal attacks and smears.

He promised to be a politician who doesn’t make empty promises. Instead, his campaign platform is literally a list of 75 promises he can’t possibly keep—he didn’t even know how he’d get them passed in Hartford.

He promised to be a clean politician. Instead, his own campaign has people dressed up by pirates, paid for anonymously by his campaign’s contributors, standing outside of the debate to mock his opponent.

And he has the audacity to suggest it’s New Haven schoolchildren who need character education. He should take a class himself.

Mr. Hopkins, If there are really no differences in policy between him and Harp on education/crime/jobs/finances, Elicker shouldn’t be running. The fact that he’s focusing on personal attacks instead of policy differences is damning to his campaign. And if Toni Harp were focusing her campaign on similar things I’d have the same problem with it.

posted by: robn on November 4, 2013  12:45pm


I’m uncomfortable with historic revisionism.

A state senator might work with her colleagues to re-regionalize New Haven County costs but a mayor cannot do so and the suburbs have no desire to do so,,, so basically she missed her chance over the lady 26 years to achieve that goal .

What a mayor CAN do is shovel out lucrative contracts to suburban campaign donors and drag her feet with restructuring unfounded pension obligations at the behest of suburban union bosses (also suburban campaign donors)

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 4, 2013  2:18pm


Harp receives a check every month for around $10,000 from a company that owes the State over $1 Million in unpaid taxes. Why does she continue to accept this money? Why did she accept campaign contributions from many of the owners, managers and contractors/lawyers that work for this company? Wouldn’t that money be more properly spent on the massive tax debt owed to the State? There’s plenty of money to contribute to political campaigns but not for paying taxes?

Frankly (to use Harp’s favorite word from this debate), at this point its irrelevant that the company was owned by her husband and now her son is in charge. I don’t really believe that Toni has no influence whatsoever in the business, but she says she doesn’t so whatever. That still doesn’t excuse why she accepts a monthly check from this tax scofflaw of a business (it could be any business, it just so happens that its her son’s). Would no one object to her accepting a monthly check from an auto business that resold stolen cars? No, then why is it fine to except money from the largest tax delinquent in the state?

Harp doesn’t show much concern for the dire financial condition of the city as evidenced by her admitted lack of knowledge of the city budget, dismissive attitude towards ballooning pension costs, and her avoidance to pay tens of thousands of dollars to the city for permit fees on the house she currently lives in. Harp is convinced she can get more money from the State to fund New Haven’s budget, yet she hasn’t contributed her share to the city. I guess she figures other people can pay for the things she wants and she doesn’t have to contribute.

Maybe Harp should forgo her monthly payments for a little while and decline campaign contributions from employees of Renaissance Management so that they can afford to pay their tax bill to the State, which is in dire need for revenue. It would also help the city out to collect the tens of thousands of dollars owed in permit fees for Harp’s house.

posted by: alex on November 4, 2013  3:01pm

Hopkins, your exaggeration and hyperbole don’t do your points any favors. Wendell Harp’s company wasn’t a car theft company and it didn’t “steal” tax money from the state either. It was engaged in a complicated dispute over tax law, on which Wendell Harp relied on his accountants and lawyers, and by the time it was resolved the tax bill became too high to pay back. Years later, he died; and now his son is doing his best to deal with the problem.

The efforts by people on this website to get Toni Harp to disown her dead husband are quite frankly disgusting. Just because you live with someone, you receive a pension because that someone was your loved one, doesn’t mean that you ran that person’s companies.

No one here is going to hold Justin Elicker responsible for the decisions made by the corporate lawyers at Wiggin and Dana, for instance, where his wife works. It’s a double standard.

Hopkins, do you actually care about the issues, or just about lobbing grenades at Toni Harp? I still haven’t heard any instances where any of this nonsense has affected any decisions she actually made while she was a state legislator. It’s stunning that you have such a lack of substance behind your candidate.

posted by: alex on November 4, 2013  3:03pm


A mayor can’t do anything about reorganizing New Haven County’s costs? I guess that means that Elicker’s Solution #s 42-44 are just empty promises! He has literally promised to do that. But oops, I forgot—wasn’t he the politician who doesn’t make empty promises?

Of course a Mayor can make a difference. In fact, that’s why Toni Harp is running for Mayor—because she knows that the main impediment to actually reorganizing regional and county costs in Connecticut is the lack of sophistication and efficiency in our local governments. She wants to change how the money is actually spent so that she can bring New Haven the added aid it needs from Hartford.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 4, 2013  3:41pm


Its relevant that Toni, the chair of the State Appropriations Committee and a candidate for Mayor running on her integrity, receives a check from a company that owes the State of Connecticut over $1 Million and has taken campaign contributions from this companies key managers and employees. It is irrelevant who owns the company.

Go ahead and run for Mayor of a city that you owe tens of thousands of dollars in permit fees to, but don’t try to also run on a platform of integrity, because people with integrity don’t do what Toni does. I don’t think she’s a bad person, but in order to differentiate yourself from the apathy and complacency and defines most people, you need to go above and beyond to do what is right, especially if that is the platform upon which you run. Most people wouldn’t pay a bill that’s owed if the city messed up, but that’s also why most people shouldn’t run for public office. When a person with integrity walks out of a corner store having accidentally not paid for something, they go back and pay for it. The average person keeps on walking. Toni would keep on walking. In fact she did keep on walking when the city messed up and didn’t follow up on the permit fees for her house. Where’s the integrity in that?

But its also true that I am being hyperbolic. I think Toni’s Mayoralty would be a mixed bag - she has enormous capacity to get things done through her connects and relationships and some of those things will likely be great, others probably not so much. I have lots of reservations about Justin but many of his ideas are great and if he works hard enough he can implement them. This last debate highlighted many of the subtle policy differences between the candidates. The largest difference, however, is in how they would govern the city.

Also, let’s be clear. Toni is running because John Destefano retired and the DTC and other interest groups didn’t like the field of candidates that had emerged and so they convinced her to run.

posted by: alex on November 4, 2013  7:02pm

Even Justin Elicker, the paragon of nastiness in this campaign, hasn’t asked Toni to give back the income she receives as a result of her husband’s death. You’ve really reached quite the low, Mr. Hopkins. I know this isn’t exactly the Comment Policy, but think about whether you’d make that same request to Senator Harp’s face instead of from behind a keyboard.

As I said before, the dispute with Wendell Harp’s company says nothing about Toni Harp except that she’s been unfairly demeaned and attacked in this campaign. Her late husband’s company—of which she was not a decisionmaker—was involved in a complicated tax law dispute that ended in the Connecticut Supreme Court. Even if his company was in the wrong, Wendell Harp relied on the advice of his lawyers and accountants, none of whom have been suggested to have done anything fraudulent in the matter.

As for “paying the bill,” by the time the matter was resolved, the bill was too high for the company to pay except over time or with a settlement. And, years after the dispute ended, Wendell Harp died. Now Elicker’s supporters apparently demand that Toni disown her own late husband or else she’s unqualified to be mayor of this city. In reality, even if she did they wouldn’t care. They’re disqualifying her because of her spouse which troubles me.

Undeterred, you want to attack her for the house her late husband built before he died and for failing to pay a tax bill fifteen years ago. Give me a break! Are you really seriously more concerned about that than whether she’ll get things done for the city?

You admit you’re being hyperbolic. You admit that she has an enormous capacity to get things done to which I will add is DESPITE being one of the few true urban Democrats in the Connecticut legislature who has consistently advocated for progressive causes. If all you can say about your disagreements with her is that they are “subtle,” maybe you should be discussing that instead of making these cheap personal attacks. smh

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 4, 2013  8:02pm


You act as if I’m posting anonymously.

Also, why do you keep bringing up Wendell Harp - he’s not running for Mayor. Toni receives income and campaign contributions from the largest tax delinquent business in the State - I don’t care who owns or manages the business, that’s irrelevant since Toni says she plays no part in the business. I’d get on Elicker’s case too if his income were derived from a similar source.

Toni lives in the house that owes tens of thousands of dollars in permit fees to the city, how is that anyone else’s responsibility but hers? I don’t care who built the house, she lives there. That’s what is relevant.

I think this is a reflection of what she’ll do in office. She’ll continue to brush New Haven’s dire financial situation under the rug as she’s done with her house and the State budget and as Destefano has done for 20 years with city’s budget. She will likely give sweetheart contracts to public union employees as Destefano did during his run for Governor in 2006 in exchange for political support.

Her idea about neighborhood grocery co-ops is superb and I hope whoever becomes the next mayor implements that and expands on the idea to other small, neighborhood retailers.

However, she is an entrenched politician with a lot of establishment support and I’m worried that systemic problems like finances and cronyism won’t be adequately addressed with her as Mayor.

I wouldn’t really call myself an Elicker supporter - I’m skeptical of him and haven’t donated any money or time to his campaign, but I like his 75 ideas, his approach to governance and am interested in giving him a chance for 2 years to see if he can possibly enact the type of change that he is proposing. He also supports the downtown two-way road switch, which Toni is on the fence about, and he’s talked about zoning reform, which is an important issue for me personally. He also seems to have a better grasp on the city budget than Toni.

posted by: anonymous on November 4, 2013  9:20pm

Alex: Harp is not a progressive on issues. You can’t make that determination from reading her websites or voting record along with other Democrats - you need to live here and actually understand the work she has (or hasn’t) done in her time here over the past ten years.

For instance, Harp takes credit for co-authoring a paper on community policing with Yale faculty 25 years ago, but did little to intervene when community policing disappeared. There was a deafening silence recently from Harp’s office when it came to many progressive issues that people like Lemar, Dillon, and Elicker were passionate about, like the widening of Whalley Avenue through a low income neighborhood.

Also, in her votes with other Democrats, she has sided with them on many measures like Keno and EITC cuts that are incredibly regressive and damaging to our city. We need progressives, not party politicians who don’t stand up for the people who live here.