Dark Days Or Salad Days? Both

Staff Photos(Analysis) Officials break ground at another big upscale downtown building site. They cut the ribbon on a spanking new public-housing development. A deep-pocket out-of-state builder buys land for an apartment-retail complex in Wooster Square.

Meanwhile, New Haven edges closer to a potential state bailout. The mayor and alders go to war again, this time over a potential $10 tax rebate to city homeowners, while a $30 million long-term structural deficit remains unaddressed. Meadow Street yet again confuses 700 workers about whether they have jobs; emails reveal school board members already at war with a new school superintendent they just brought to New Haven.

That all happened just this week in New Haven. And this week looked like a lot of recent weeks.

Call it New Haven’s new Era of Cognitive Dissonance, one that now challenges us to consider seemingly opposite ideas at one time and find a way to tackle a communal challenge without clawing at each other.

We have reason to see this as the best of times in New Haven. From the organized cycling community bringing together 1,000-plus citizens for annual charitable fundraising bike rides and leading government to create new protected bike lanes; to neighborhood groups uniting citywide for the first time in generations to keep families having fun this summer; to performers and artists fueling the state’s most exciting arts and cultural life; to a red-hot market-rate residential rental real estate market that has developers beating down City Hall’s door for permission to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into new apartments and retail spaces without tax breaks or other government bribes; to a tech start-up scene that has filled Science Park and 300 George Street and spurred the creation of a new tech campus in Fair Haven   ... phew!  The city hasn’t thrived like this for at least 40 years.

We also have reason to see this as, if not the worst of times, a painful, broken civic moment in New Haven, reminiscent of the fractious years of the late 1980s-early 1990s recession.

City leaders are struggling to find ways to patch a $15 million general operating deficit left over from the last fiscal year and come up with long-range fixes to a structural deficit that already has the new fiscal year’s budget $30 million in the red, according to one independent estimate.

Alders and the Harp administration have fought each other, perhaps now for the second time in court, over who gets to make decisions rather than making some of those big decisions. Past-due borrowing and pension bills combined with cutbacks from a state government that breaks its own promise to reimburse most of the tax money it won’t let New Haven collect on 54 percent of its property.

A school board that spent years stymied by bitter political infighting finally united to hire a new leader to get the district’s struggling schools and tanking finances into shape; then, the minute she started taking action, she and her former patrons on the school board became mired in new, crippling power-wrestling. They have begun taking a needed serious look at matters like contracting, and at least chipping away at the school system’s own $19.4 million deficit. The future of bilingual education? Racial segregation? College readiness? Not so much. At least not yet.

The Week That Was

Markeshia Ricks PhotoConsider the pendulum that has kept swinging from “success!’ to “holy crap” over just the past five days:

• Mayor Toni Harp announced that she won’t abide by a bill the alders are preparing to pass to strip $483,172 from city departments to reduce the 11 percent property tax increase that took effect July 1. Alders picked that number to coincide with two years of raises Harp gave top aides and other non-union employees, some of whom hadn’t gotten pay increases for up to five years. She said the alders lack the charter authority to transfer money once they’ve passed the budget; the alders say they do. The mayor said she may take the alders to court over it (the way alders took her to court over who gets to name school board appointees at a time when school board politics had become toxic).

The alders acted in response to citizens outraged over the tax increase. If they pass this proposed transfer, the average taxpayer will save ...  $10.

• Two New York City development firms, Epimoni and Adam America, finalized a $10 million purchase of a 50,000-plus square-foot Union Street property and are ready to begin building a 299-unit, market-rate apartment complex with over 6,000 square feet of retail space there. A similar (court-delayed) project is planned right next to it.

• The mayor announced that her administration is preparing to refinance debt to plug the $15 million operating budget deficit left over from the last fiscal year.

Borrowing to cover deficits is always tricky, and frowned upon by rating agencies, because it usually leaves the city with bigger debts years down the road to plug an immediate hole. It was revealed that the state budget director Ben Barnes, concerned about city finances, met with the Harp administration’s finance team to discuss a possible bailout; the Harp team turned down a voluntary bailout (which comes with surrendering sovereignty over some major budget decisions), vowing to fix the problems itself. The borrowing is the kind of action that potentially could trigger an involuntary state takeover of city finances.

The Harp administration has yet to detail the borrowing proposal but claims it can do so in a way that saves the city money overall. Observers are skeptical since this is the second time in recent years that the city will have borrowed to close operating deficits.

• New York (and New Haven-born) developer Joseph Cohen detailed plans to build 60 “mid”-scale apartments on a parking lot at State and Chapel Streets. It is at least the eighth major apartment (or mixed apartment-retail) development either built or proposed for vacant property or surface lots in recent years.

A ribbon-cutting on Grand Avenue revealed how Farnam Courts, once a symbol of rundown unlivable public housing, has been reborn as a beautiful complex called Mill River Crossing. It has somewhat of a mix of incomes and a design and (hopefully) better management that has been seen across town in similar rebuilt complexes like Monterey Place, Brookside Estates, and Quinnipiac Terrace. With the help of federal programs like Hope VI, New haven has revolutionized public housing. For the better. Without the local scandals that plagued its housing authority throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early aughts.

• Dozens of people attended a walk-through of a former club at the foot of the Crown Street Garage to prepare to bid on building downtown’s next performance venue.

• The Board of Education ordered Superintendent Carol Birks to rescind layoff notices sent to 1,100 current or former part-time employees. So a new letter went out — but those same employees may still hear in coming weeks that they’ll be laid off after all. But the Board of Ed decided it, not Birks, will make that decision. Meanwhile, emails emerged that showed board members, who just months ago pushed hard to hire Birks, amid public controversy overruling a suspension she authorized of a student and continuing to criticize her performance (which they did publicly at a highly unusual press conference weeks earlier).  And a $19.4 million budget deficit remains largely untouched.

• A ceremonial groundbreaking took place on an Audubon Street “super-block” for a construction project already underway: A mini-city, called Audubon Square, of (eventually) around 500 apartments and townhouses plus new storefronts. The project extends an arts district that will have low-income, middle-income and high-income housing, stores, a popular Koffee? shop, and arts performance and exhibition spaces co-existing on two long blocks. The builder, Clay Fowler of South Norwalk-based Spinnaker Real Estate, estimates that his company is investing a quarter-billion dollars developing four separate properties in town.

• On Friday, a years-long citizen-driven quest to shut down a loud night-and-day open-air police shooting range and open a quiet indoor one culminated with a ribbon-cutting in West Rock.

How We Got Here

Thomas Breen PhotoTo some extent, our own actions have gotten us here. We underfunded pensions for years, along with our rainy day fund. We changed to a partially elected Board of Education which, along with some advances (an added student voice; greater public representation), has brought us a fully political mud-wrestling and backstabbing spectacle. We have developed the state’s premier arts and cultural district, a magnet for creative people and empty nesters and young singles wanting to live in an urban downtown. We improved how we police the city, and crime has dropped.

Since the early 1990s, separate from the broader argument over taxation and aside from occasional reversions to old form, Yale became on balance an active participant in solving problems rather than creating them. Citizen activists demanded a bike-friendly, “safe streets” approach from government; now community management teams across town have decided to work together to unify the city. Our city welcomed immigrants, who in turn have strengthened our city.

But New Haven is not alone. Small university cities across the country are becoming funkier, funner, smarter, safer, with new development for the future. And cities, in general, are wrestling with fiscal crises and struggling schools.

New Haven is not the only local or state government that underfunded pensions so politicians could get reelected in the short run. And it’s part of a country with an aging population — people living longer to collect pensions and fewer young people to support them.

New Haven is not the only urban center dependent on a suburban-dominated state legislature that’s happy to use hospitals and universities and cultural amenities while destroying cities’ ability to pay for services by breaking its promise to reimburse them for state-tax-exempt properties or allowing them to raise money in other ways.

New Haven is not the only community in America where people are demonizing each other and arguing over side issues (symbolic $10 tax rebates) rather than making difficult choices to solve big problems.

And New Haven is not the only place where health care costs keep soaring. That’s a national disaster that we all feel, and that local governments can’t solve (though the Board of Alders this year made a good start).

Matthew Nemerson has been observing these trends develop up close over 50 years, in the private sector and now as city government’s development administrator. He’s hearing from developers eager to build here. And he’s watching the fights over who will benefit and how to keep government in business.

He believes New Haven’s best-of-times is running up against an historic confluence on national trends.

“It’s like a cold front and a warm front coming together to cause tornadoes,” he said in an interview. Two existential American policy issues coming together: how to include everybody in the benefits of growth, and how to cope with a changing economy.

More than ever, shut-out groups — African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, working-class whites — demand access. Meanwhile, inequality is growing, not abating, in the modern gig economy.

“When the economy was expanding in the 1990s, it looked like everybody could click on,” Nemerson observed. “With [Presidents] Clinton and Obama, maybe you would have new rules that would regulate people grabbing onto the economy, and you would overcome systemic issues of inclusion by growth of the economy and by government action. You had affirmative action. In New Haven, you had Hope VI. Not that everything was perfect, but we were trying to think through those policy issues.

“Now that you have this new economy, which is not rising all boats, but only rising a few yachts, the other boats — it’s unclear where they are. There’s a great desire by progressive leaders to figure out how to compete with Boston in that winner-take-all New England a-couple-of-cities-are-going-to-make it [environment], and at the same time think about distribution and fairness and access within the city itself.”

So the challenge for New Haven moving forward: Embracing cognitive dissonance, celebrating this best of time, acknowledging that we’re also facing an urgent once-in-a-generation challenge to reinvent government so it can carry out its functions in a modern age while paying for itself. (Click here for a story suggesting one way to participate in doing that.)

New Haven has conquered challenges before. We have ingenuity, talent, smarts, and a sense of shared community and destiny in New Haven. We’ve conquered challenges before. We can do it again.

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posted by: Jeff Klaus on July 20, 2018  2:57pm

Good analogy by Matthew Nemerson with the boats and yachts etc. 

But if you reallly want “fairness”, then make NHPS a world class, choice based education system.  New Orleans has improved dramatically since Katrina and is now a 95% charter school district with academic results that are far better then they were prior to 2005.

Allow parents the right - and the funding to choose what is best for their kids.  Affluent families have that right today but New Havens low income families are trapped in a disfunctional, monopolistic government school system.  Change the way that the education system works and you begin to bring about “fairness” and oppportunity for all to succeed.  Nothing else will work in the long run.

posted by: beentheredonethat on July 20, 2018  5:45pm


I appreciate your desire to make education better, and it is clear that a lot of work to be done. However, as one of the few people who has worked as a teacher in New Orleans and New Haven, I must tell you that a magnet based school choice system is way closer to a “world class, choice based education system” than the NOLA charter system.

New Orleans has seen growth in a meaningful way post Katrina, but really has stagnated in the last 5 years. Much of the initial growth is due to a large portion of the most improvised citizens being unable to return and influx of funds. What I saw at the RENEW charter network in New Orleans was a room that they would lock when state agency would come by. That room was painted all black and students who were “problems” would be left in that room for weeks at a time. That same network forged special education documents, miss spent funds and expanded to more schools.  https://thelensnola.org/charter-organization/renew-schools

Firstline charter was much better, but by my fourth year teaching, I had been at the middle school longer than all but 2 teachers. We kept having to fight for the same gains as the lack of unions created a system where teachers felt powerless to advocate, so they just left. Charter schools can definitely play a role, and there are some with truly great characteristics, but the New Orleans model is not one ready for replication. 

Working in NHPS I have seen a level of professionalism in the teacher’s that was lacking in New Orleans. These are people who are dedicated to being teachers and are fully committed to the job. I have also seen the bureaucracy both help and hinder, and see why people believe in charters, but if NOLA is the goal they risk to much. 

I appreciate that as the regional head of Webster bank you are civic minded and looking to do good. Advocate for more funding, for less students per teacher, more tutors, and more principal autonomy.


posted by: Jeff Klaus on July 20, 2018  9:30pm

The results in New Orleans are undeniable.  We could do the same thing and get far better outcomes at less cost to the taxpayer.  Win,


posted by: JDoe on July 21, 2018  5:15am

“low income families are trapped in a disfunctional, monopolistic government school system”. Classic charter shill rhetoric. What a gross insult to hard working educators who try every day in every way to work for their students’ success. Notice how corporate non-educators avoid talking about the wealth gap that their policies exacerbate? Are families low income because of crappy teachers or because corporate pigs suck up all the public’s money with ALEC sponsored “legislation”? This divisive rhetoric is well suited for Trumplandia - emotional and vapid. There aren’t teachers sitting on corporate boards telling the bourgeoise how to operate, why would we care what an oilman or banker thinks about education? Thankfully this latest scheme to capture public wealth is on the decline. https://dianeravitch.net/2018/07/20/mercedes-schneider-charter-school-growth-is-declining/

posted by: yes we can on July 21, 2018  7:07am

Very interesting to see how quickly Jeff is able to comment and return to his trashing of Public Schools as the sole comment and voice prior to the Friday sundown comment shutdown.

As the dawn rises on Sunday perhaps the haze will begin to clear and more logical voices will be heard in support of Public Education funding.  Bankers and corporate big wigs should focus more on supporting the many successful elements within or Public Schools and to scale and replicate success vs. ripping down sound education and support in favor of corporate driven tricks presented by non-educators and data mining of student information.

LA. has been a documented failure.  They did not “fix the schools” they have squandered millions on a losing bet.  Sadly the kids do not get a do-over as your corporate experimentation and profiteering chugs along.  Yes there are successes for Charters with their selected group of students but let me give you a little insight, those same demographic of students already and still achieve within Public Schools. The issue for all of us it to educate ALL students.  To do that Public Schools need fiscal support, support of their innovations and yes accountability.

The return to the commenting page leads me to believe that it is the Charters and perhaps the Banks who fund them who may be desperate for money and a candidate to defend and expand their fiscal interests as they know deep down that their model is not sustainable and only can succeed by taking down Public Education.






posted by: robn on July 21, 2018  8:38am

Although NHV does have a revenue problem (54% of our property is non taxable) that fact isn’t a permission slip for the BOA and Mayor to spend more than we have and/or is sensible. Our financial crisis is as simple as that; city leaders have made politically driven choices that are bad for taxpayers.

On the spending side :
Stop rubber stamping the Education budget, bluntly lower their allowance by 10s of millions and insist on purging the top heavy central office.
Stop new construction projects of schools, libraries and community centers that we can’t afford.
Stop building new non-taxable public housing.
Phase out multi-year tax abatements to developers and let the market take over.
Modernize the city’s payment and data collection and phase out anachronistic clerical jobs through attrition.
Stop creating jobs like the mayors driver, and multiple layers of assistants.
Scrutinize pension agreements for irrational, political gift pension inflation and negotiate these away, then regularly and without fail meet our commitments.
Recreate LCI, allowing it to bullishly force absentee landlords to improve their properties and improve our grand list.

On the revenue side :
Its time to sue the state for 100% PILOT. The Legislature created the non-profit exemption and the Legislature must pay for it to uphold the Equal Protection clause of our state and national Constitution.
Its also time to sue the state to allow to the city more latitude in the way we impose property taxes. The current system rewards absentee landlords who run their properties into the ground. The current system also affords no protection for radical hydraulic shifts of taxation from one neighborhood to another (yes I’m talking about a property tax increase cap which Democratic politicians hate, but Democratic taxpayers should want.)

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on July 21, 2018  10:56am

beentheredonethat, did you mean that New Orleans’ most impoverished citizens, rather than its most improvised citizens, were unable to return the immediate aftermath of Katrina, and this accounts for the initial improvement in the school system’s performance? In any case, I think all New Orleans residents did a lot of improvising after the hurricane..

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on July 21, 2018  12:34pm

Jeff’s comment is a perfect example of the problem with relying on simplistic metrics for “performance” instead of actual knowledge of the full situation.

posted by: 1644 on July 21, 2018  1:26pm

been there:  So, how do the Firstline schools compare with NHPS as far as student outcomes? While the standard line is that teachers gain effectiveness over their first five years,  TFA claims that its teachers, with far less experience, are more effective than career-track teachers, even experienced ones.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on July 22, 2018  6:18am

New Haven is, to a large extent, two cities. It is a great place to live if you have a decent income, particularly if you are affiliated with Yale or the hospital. If you are struggling to pay your rent, it’s a different story. The developments Paul describes are exacerbating this split.

The keynote speaker at the last annual meeting of the NH Community Foundation addressed the need for inclusive growth, affecting education and economic development policy. I suspect most if not all community leaders agree that the city needs to work for all of its residents. But I don’t see a coherent framework for moving towards this goal.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on July 22, 2018  8:29am

Jeff wrote: “The results in New Orleans are undeniable.”

They are so easily denied.  Did you even read the article you posted?  It’s from an organization funded by the Walton family and Betsy DeVos’s foundation, and yet still, after one paragraph citing a selection of improved metrics, it goes into detail about racial isolation, lack of public oversight, and cooked numbers:

“achievement reached a plateau systemwide and in 2017 declined. . . .  a curve the state had used to grade schools as standards rose will be eliminated.”

“Special education services were notoriously sparse, and with no central office to stop them, some schools refused to admit students with challenges, or expelled them.”

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on July 22, 2018  8:37am

1644, by effective, they mean naive and willing to jump through the teach-to-the-test, carrot-and-stick hoops to get better scores.  As opposed to experienced (read, “expensive”) teachers deeply familiar with the actual learning needs of children, creative in motivating their interest and guiding them to discovery of nuance and personal relevance in the topics of study.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on July 22, 2018  9:45am

The results in NOLA are clear.  Low income families and children now have a far better chance to succeed in K-12 and go on to college.

But beyond the comparative academic results, the more important principle is “choice”.  And that principle can be applied here as well.  Every single affluent family in greater New Haven gets to make a choice about where to live - and therefor where their kids go to school.  Yet for reasons based on economics and historic discrimination, low income families don’t have many choices about where to live.  So de facto they also have little choice in schools.

There are hundreds of struggling families in New Haven who sign up each year for charters in the school lottery.  It is only fair to allow them to have the same options for schooling as all of the affluent families in our region.

posted by: 1644 on July 22, 2018  10:04am

Jill:  In independent schools,  teachers often lack the formal qualification needed for public schools.  Yet, they do achieve all that you aspire to, and if they don’t parents, who are paying $30K tuition, complain to the headmaster and the teacher is gone.  In many ways, this is the world that charters aspire to, one driven by parent choice.  Such a world, requires involved parents, often lacking in public districts where schooling is free and mandatory. (The residential, independent school I attended was very much the TFA model,  with about half the faculty only staying for about three years, mostly due to the intense demands placed on the young masters.)
  But absent involved parents, how do we compare outcomes between facilities unless we use standardized tests? How does one objectively compare Hooker to Foote?  To Ross? To Celentano?

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on July 22, 2018  1:53pm

“So de facto they also have little choice in schools.”

A local neighborhood school, 30 magnet schools, 14 open-choice towns, and a couple of charter and technical schools seems quite sufficient.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on July 22, 2018  2:47pm

“How does one objectively compare Hooker to Foote?”

Why do we need to compare them against one another?  If all of our schools were reasonably good, there’d be no reason to chase after slightly better.  Our priority should be getting all of our existing schools to a well-functioning level, rather than enabling a system of winners and losers.

posted by: yes we can on July 22, 2018  3:11pm

Jeff’s comments are once again lacking in facts and logic.  It seems he only seeks to support his conclusion of Charters or bust and work his way back.  Is there no positive with Public Schools?

The fact of the matter is that LA. has been a failure.  Academically, fiscally and even from the “choice” perspective there is virtually no study other than those paid for by the Charter backers that demonstrate that this experiment should be continued.  Even Jeff’s link fails.

The rush to fill the void left by the natural disaster by corporate opportunists is not something that should be replicated.  If anything we have learned that it is not the solution.

With regard to New Haven there are many areas of improvement that are needed surely.  Beyond education there are issues of jobs, health care, housing and technical assistance against other corporate vampires be they landlords, utility companies, fast food pushers, tobacco industry, lottery dreams, crime, etc.

New Haven Public Education offers a variety of choices and the assumption that only some percentage of rich people can choose their home and thus their school is simply wrong.  Thousands of people have chosen their home and their school.  Some have made the choice linked to the other while others have not but yet still come out with a school result that they have embraced. 

Many others have willingly crossed town for an arts infused education, a STEM or STEAM theme, dual language, pre-K and a variety of interesting High School themes. 

Speaking of High School virtually every school is producing top notch grads you are attending top colleges of their choice based on the quality of the students and the applications.  Students from many schools have won national awards in science, the arts, athletics and other disciplines.
More work to be done to help all students reach their potential for sure but the assumption that only one or a few public schools are engaged in quality education is both wrong and insulting.

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 22, 2018  11:35pm

Caesar Salad!

posted by: 1644 on July 23, 2018  3:40am

Jill:  First, life is winning and losing, survival of the fittest.  Education is important, and costly.  We need to know that our funds are being spent efficiently and effectively.  What does Foote get for the 50% increase in per pupil spending over NHPS?  What does West Haven lack for spending 20-25% less per student than NHPS? We also need an objective way to evaluate teachers, such that we retain and reward the good ones, and cull the bad ones.  Right now, we have rubber rooms and lengthy processes like that here: https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/branford/entry/inside_denise_farinas_classroom/
As a taxpayer,  I don’t have any ideological attachment to either the charter or traditional public school model, but I don’t want to fund failure.  If charter schools are worse than district run schools, they should be defunded.  If they are better, than defund the district and move funding to charters.  New Haven also has the reality of more schools than it can afford, so the less effective ones need to be closed.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on July 23, 2018  6:14am

Jill - Almost all of the schools you point to are managed by the same government agency.  That is not choice. 

Where do the majority of New Haven teachers live and send their own children to school?  If they wouldn’t send their own children to NHPS, how can they deny a low income parent the right to make their own choice in schools?

posted by: robn on July 23, 2018  7:08am

Et Tu BS?

posted by: s093thead on July 23, 2018  8:08am

After having a conversation with a coworker it is strongly believed that the city is actually looking for a state take over because then they can always say we tried not too have that happen to the city. In which leads right back to the THREE CARD MONTE OR THE SHELL GAME all over again. You have all this build going on wheres the revenue we should be seeing something by now if there are no deals. Please stop playing with the future of our CHILDREN and our CITY.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 23, 2018  9:04am

posted by: 1644 on July 23, 2018 4:40am

Right now, we have rubber rooms and lengthy processes like that here: https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/branford/entry/inside_denise_farinas_classroom/
As a taxpayer,  I don’t have any ideological attachment to either the charter or traditional public school model, but I don’t want to fund failure

We also have this.

State Targets Charters’ Suspension Rates


Mass Walkout At Amistad High

Administrators overseeing the Achievement First Amistad charter high school promised to “do better” Tuesday after hundreds of black and Latino students walked out in protest to air longstanding complaints about racial insensitivity.


You said as a As a taxpayer, but I don’t want to fund failure.

I agree.And That is why I who is a taxpayer, Are still trying to find out Why did slick Dan Malloy Cover up the Jumoke Academy Charter Scandal?

Unquestionably, the scandal has sent ripples from Hartford, the home base of Jumoke, to New Haven and Bridgeport.Jumoke was widely considered as an urban success story, and Sharpe’s fall stunned politicians active in education policy.


Charter School Probe Turns To Missed Rent Payments, Commissioner’s Emails

Federal investigators pressed Tuesday to obtain the state education commissioner’s emails, the Jumoke Academy charter school group acknowledged that the former executive at the center of a growing education scandal regularly missed rent payments while living in one of its buildings.


And this school is still open.

Part one

An alarming study links fraud in the Enron scandal to similar practices at charter schools

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 23, 2018  9:23am

Part two.

School Choice Is a Scam.Look what happen in Arizonan.

School choice a sham, profits on the taxpayers’ dime
By: Guest Opinion April 6, 2017


Tell you what.My peeps from the Caribbean.We all went to public schools.You want these students grades to pick up.Put them in a Caribbean home and let them bring in a failing Mark.The first thing they will here is stop the ray ray!!!! and any one from the Caribbean knows what I am talking about.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 23, 2018  9:33am

The Empress Has No Clothes as Dark Clouds Gather Notes:

1. Yale University, Yale New Haven Hospital - all the new apartments and buildings, the tech start ups etc.; all the photo ops posing with this project or another, are frosting on a giant pile of dung,  in the shape of a celebratory cake, the stench of which wafts out shockingly strong when cut.

2. City Hall is rife with naked incompetence, politics, power and greed.

3. New Haven is on the verge of bankruptcy or state take over. It has earned that spot with a budget deficit of an actual $30 million - it would be higher if the bond refunding account hadn’t been tapped already - and now only mitigated to $15 million.

4. Mayor Harp refuses to acknowledge her out of control spending, her demand for more staff, more debt, more personnel, more schools while ignoring the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis she helped to architect has the city lurching toward fiscal insolvency and ever darkening clouds of problems.

5. City Hall operated all year with a deficit and fumbled any mitigation so badly an amazing array of departments were operating in revenue or spending deficits. What’s shocking is the arrogance of those department heads and their laissez-faire attitude.

6. Fire Chief Alston - finished the year millions over on his salary line, more staff than he needs to operate the department and more millions in deficits through his generous, out of control overtime.

7. NHPD Chief Campbell is almost as bad - and over at the NHPS - a board that Harp sits on - didn’t give a tinker’s damn about forking over taxpayers for another $7 million.

8. None of this accounts for massive lawsuits & mounting legal fees for irrationally firing employees, defaming them and forwarding them for unjustified potential prosecution.

9. The famous 36 department heads who hid their massive pay raises & didn’t blink an eye; who took 10 to 37% raises while knowing the tax hike will cost people their homes.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on July 23, 2018  10:03am

“First, life is winning and losing, survival of the fittest.”

We are at an impasse because we disagree on fundamental principles. 

for Jeff:
A careful and thorough explanation of how the charter industry cooks the numbers in New Orleans—https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/how-to-make-new-orleans-market-ed-reform-a-success-hide-rsd-failure-inside-an-opsb-rsd-data-blend/

posted by: 1644 on July 23, 2018  11:39am

New Haven should be under the control of the MARB.  State law says that if a town borrows to cover a deficit,  it must be under the MARB.  The municipal fiscal year is over, and the New Haven has a deficit.  The mayor’s proposal for covering the deficit is to borrow.  As Barnes says,  the money to cover the deficit will not be generated by interest rate savings, which, in case case, couldn’t be applied to the past FY as the past FY is ended.  She intends to generate a bond premium by issuing bonds with an above market rate premium, and then, rather than amortizing the premium over the life of the bond,  applying it all to the past FY.  For all practical purposes,  her proposal is borrowing to cover the deficit.  The MARB, particularly one controlled by suburban Republicans, as may happen after November,  will not look kindly on much of New Haven’s spending, particularly using police to drive the mayor.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on July 23, 2018  11:55am

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

Jill - Why all the nervous responses to one guy pitching school choice?  Is it because school choice represents an existential threat to a system which coukd never sustain a public referendum?

For every opinion piece you can dredge up on the “evils” of charter schools, I can point you to several data based reports on the benefits that charters bring urban districts and the families that are trapped in them.

You and I would agree on one thing:  The people who know best what is good for students are the teachers.  And the fact is that the teachers in New Haven overwhelmingly send their own children to suburban, parochial, and private schools. 

How many NHPS teachers place their children in NHPS schools?  How many place them in the 10 lowest performing schools?  How does the union justify denying low income parents the same choice that their own members have to find a good school for their kids?

Why don’t you eat your own cooking?

posted by: 1644 on July 23, 2018  11:55am

3/5’s:  And yet, Amistad’s student body is nearly entirely black,  all there by choice.  No school is going to be perfect in every way,  nor will any one school perfectly fit the needs of every student.  So, New Haven, unlike, say West Haven or North Haven, has a plethora of schools to choose from, both district and charter.  Moreover, just because some charters or district schools are corrupt or otherwise bad, doesn’t mean that they all are.  Edgemont, in NY,  is on par with the most selective schools in the country.  As for “profiteering”, lots of people make money in education.  Look at Birks’s contract, or any school superintendent’s contract.  Achievement First is a non-profit, just as NHPS is.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on July 23, 2018  12:34pm


I send my own children to NHPS, and it’s been a good experience.  Despite a few rocky patches, I would put the quality of their education up against anyone’s. 

I don’t have reliable numbers on where teachers send their children, and based on your posts so far, I’m not inclined to take you at your word.  We have several teachers in our school with their own children in the building.  Do you have anything but anecdote?

posted by: win win on July 23, 2018  2:16pm

What’s all this Dark Days? We are getting bike lanes ! Bike Lanes Matter So what more do we need to do?

posted by: robn on July 23, 2018  3:23pm

I would love for the MARB to take over the city’s finances and completely agree with 1644’s assessment. The mayor really can’t legally prevent it at this point.

posted by: cunningham on July 23, 2018  4:21pm

Why is “choice” a desirable goal in and of itself in regards to public education? What inherent good does “choice” provide that wouldn’t also be provided by ensuring quality education at every public school?

posted by: Jeff Klaus on July 23, 2018  5:16pm

Cunningham I used to ask the same question 30 years ago.  Then over time and with years of volunteering, raising money for schools, and working with school administrators, I came to the sad realization that it’s not possible to get there under the current structure.  The system simply does not provide the appropriate incentives to provide the service necessary to close the achievement gap.

But it is possible.  I’ve seen it.  It’s all around us.  You can find it in privates, parochials, and yes, some charters.

The reasons that we can’t get there with a government school model is complex and it would be a big distraction to get into it here. 

But we’ve been waiting for decades and the improvements have simply not come.  The gap continues to be wide and at great cost to people - mainly people of color in our community.

If you asked affluent parents if they would give up choice for their kids schools, what do you think they would say?  So why would we deny choice to parents who just don’t have the money?

posted by: TheMadcap on July 23, 2018  5:39pm

“What inherent good does “choice” provide”

Give this man a cigar, he wins. All “school choice” does is provide those who win the education lottery a leg up while sapping even more resources from struggling students in schools thay need them the most

posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on July 23, 2018  5:51pm


Dear Jeff:

Always a treat to spend some time with your one-track, DeVos-loving mind. As a NHPS parent, with daughters in two of its schools (neither a charter), I agree there is a role for charters in our system. What’s so troubling is your fundamentalism. You seem to think there should be only charters. Also, I wonder if you have ever thought deeply about how some countries with highly centralized, highly unionized public school systems outperform the US (including our charters). In fact, every country that outperforms us does it with non-charter systems, and generally with more robust teachers’ unions. One thing they have in common is that teaching is high-status in those countries: politicians would never run against the teachers, or their unions, in the crude DeVos-ian, Palin-esque way that gets you so enjoy.


posted by: 1644 on July 23, 2018  6:57pm

Cunningham:  The point of choice is to give a menu of options, so that a student may be enrolled in a school that best fits him.  Different styles of teaching may matter even at the elementary level.  Certainly at the secondary level,  some may want a focus on the arts, others the limited menu of college prep at Amistad,  some may thrive in a small school, others in a bigger, comprehensive school with greater offerings.  As Mr. Klaus touches on, the wealthy shop for elementary and prep schools the way others shop for colleges.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on July 23, 2018  10:03pm

Mark, when I get strafed by the big guns I must be over the target!

First, while your children are in NHPS, I’d be willing to wager they are not in one of New Havens chronic failing public schools.

But if your kids were assigned to a school that had been failing for years, would you leave them there?  Or would you try everything you could to get them into a better school? Or even a better district?  No doubt you’re a great dad so I assume you would do whatever it took.  But what I can’t grasp is why you would deny that opportunity to another parent, one who doesn’t have your education or resources.  Help me understand why you don’t want to give them the same choice of quality schools that your family has.

And I don’t love DaVos.  But I do love the idea that every child regardless of their background has the opportunity to fulfill their potential.  If she agrees with that, then I guess we do have at least one idea in common.

And believe it or not, I actually have thought about education and the differences in school systems across the globe.  There is a book you might be interested in reading called “The Smartest Kids in the World” by Amanda Ripley.  In it, she describes the differences in cultures and educational investments in four countries that have historically outperformed the US in academic outcomes.

In Finland, while teachers belong to a union, the Finnish teacher union is more like a professional guild - one that promotes high quality practices in a profession that attracts the best and the brightest in the country.  There are many differences between our culture/society and others that explain the differences in educational attainment.  Perhaps that can be the subject of an upcoming book you’ll write.

But fundamentally, I am tired of waiting for the mythical improvements to the public school system that we are told to wait for.  As long as the system is set up for adults, kids will always get the short end of the stick.  Time for real change.

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 24, 2018  3:52pm


I will tell you about the greatness of ‘school choice’ in New Haven…..

School Choice is a great ‘stalking horse’ for developing a needlessly complex bureaucracy around ‘the trappings of ‘childhood need’ ‘....which spins off into other bloated and complex BOE contracts, like bussing!

School Choice also neutralizes the voices of neighbors in the vicinity of ‘former neighborhood schools’, by giving them a chance to put their kids ‘elsewhere’..... in fact, I might proffer that parents sometimes spend so much time trying to get their wait-listed kids into a ‘preferred’ school, that the bigger picture falls away…... when parents are forced to ‘micro-manage’ basic school ‘access’, there is less time to focus on other things like real change.

Only the Bloated BOE Bureaucracy gets a real paycheck at the end of this ‘public struggle’....
Everybody else, get in line…..

posted by: HewNaven on July 25, 2018  12:32pm

I think many bigger things beyond our local grasp make these especially dark days for working people. For young people especially, average income is right where it was in the late seventies ~30k. Meanwhile the cost of EVERYTHING has risen. It’s really simple arithmetic. No head-scratching required.

posted by: robn on July 25, 2018  1:19pm


I am scratching my head because what you wrote is incorrect. The bottom quintile of household income has stayed about the same since the 1970s adjusted for inflation; meaning same purchasing power.

2nd chart down

posted by: HewNaven on July 25, 2018  2:40pm


If you look at minimum wage earners then and now, you might get the picture. Check out this blog post, if you have some time:

In other words, for every dollar increase in the minimum wage since 1970, the price of an average item has gone up $1.36. Even adjusting for inflation, a dollar today buys less than it once did for low income earners….

In other words, in 1970, you could work a part time job as a cashier or something to that effect and easily pay for college, enabling you to work and attend college without going into debt. In 2010, you have to work a full time job to pay for college, meaning you essentially have to choose between debt and an education or some other difficult plan….


Minimum wage jobs are basically all we have to offer young, or unskilled people in the present job market (see Wendy’s, Family Dollar). Those wages don’t go as far as they once did. And, yet you expect them to succeed.

posted by: 1644 on July 25, 2018  4:21pm

In real dollars, today’s minus wage is about what is was in 1955, or mid-range of its historic average.  It hit its high in 1968, and was just off that peak in 1970.  At that time, of course, Japan and Europe was just starting to compete with us,  a lot of Americans were out of the labor force due to gender roles and the draft (which removed many permanently.). Second World countries were economically cut off from us and did not compete.  Immigration was very limited, as the chain migration from the family reunification aspects of the 1965 act had not yet gathered steam.

The problem for many young people today is that our educational system is not giving them a marketable skill.  We would do well to emulate Germany’s apprenticeship program.

posted by: robn on July 25, 2018  4:32pm


The blog posting you linked makes a comparison between minimum wage and inflation and hysterically implies that the sky is falling ...yes, minimum wage hasn’t kept up with inflation but no, not everyone earns minimum wage. In fact only 2.7% of workers earn minimum wage (down from 13.4% in 1979).

If you take the time to examine the Advisor Perspectives article I linked to, you’ll see in their charts (based upon Census and BLS data) that even for the bottom quintile of households (the lowest 20% of earners) inflation adjusted income (meaning purchasing power) has stayed steady.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t aspire to something better (a flatlined purchasing power for low earners isn’t aspirational and this data also indicates growing inequality), but the premise that the sky is falling is down and out wrong.

posted by: robn on July 25, 2018  4:46pm


PS I do find disturbing the large amounts of education debt being carried by young college graduates, but income is not the cause of that. Income compounds the pain but the fact is that young people have always generally been in lower income tiers because they have little experience.

posted by: HewNaven on July 26, 2018  1:38pm

Today I walked past the soon-to-be Taco Bell at 956 Chapel.

They’re inviting jobless people to come in at the end of the month and “Taco Bout Your Career”

That is what a “career” looks like in 2018: minimum wage, no opportunity for promotion, and no benefits.


posted by: 1644 on July 26, 2018  2:48pm

Hew:  No, Taco Bell jobs should not be considered a career.  For a career, one needs to be disciplined and focused in preparation.  As Jill says, graduates from every NHPS secondary school are getting into good colleges.  Alternatively, one could go to one of the state technical schools.  Every plumber I know makes a good living, as does every electrician.  The nurses in my neighborhood also seem quite comfortable, and one can be an RN with only a two year degree.  With more education, other opportunities beckon.  My nephew got an mechanical engineering degree from UConn and is earning a good living making war machines at Electric Boat. My niece will soon graduate from UConn’s Pharmacy school, and has great job prospects.  The New Haven Promise will pay the tuition for all these schools, or one could join the National Guard.  Personally, I got my law degree with a veteran’s tuition waiver.

posted by: HewNaven on July 26, 2018  3:36pm

In most developed countries one does not have to serve the military or have perfect attendance or be 1644’s nephew in exchange for higher education or vocational training. Everyone gets a chance. In fact this is such an embarassing issue for the U.S. that I’ll bet the next Dem. candidate for president offers up a plan to make higher ed free for all.  At least one state (NY) already does this:


posted by: robn on July 26, 2018  3:58pm


Please stop exaggerating. The CIA World Factbook has for many years listed the same 31 countries as “developed”. Of those, about a dozen offer free tuition to state universities.

posted by: 1644 on July 26, 2018  4:53pm

Hew:  Most developed countries have far more restrictive university admissions policies that the US does.  University education is for the elite: others are tracked, often at a young age, away from university.  England, Wales and Canada both have substantial tuition charges.  Student debt is a major concern in England. (Scottish students attending Scottish universities can go for free.). As far as military service, most European countries had conscription until recently.  Sweden recently reintroduced it, and Denmark has had it since the Viking Age.  Military service has always been one of the basic obligations of citizenship.  If you did not know it, every man from 18-45 is a member of the Connecticut militia, and can be called into service (drafted) by the Governor in time of war or emergency.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on July 26, 2018  7:25pm

1644, your statement about university attendance in other countries was true decades ago, but not today. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (U.S. Department of Education), 37% of Americans aged 25 - 34 in 2016 had a bachelors degree or higher. According to NCES,  for the OECD countries (Europe, Canada, Japan, and about a half dozen other countries), the average was also 37%. Among the countries that had a higher proportion of university graduates than the U.S. in the cohort were the U.K., Ireland, the Netherlands, and Greece.

posted by: 1644 on July 27, 2018  3:28am

Kevin:  Neither Europe nor the United Kingdom are countries.  They both have component countries with different laws and educational systems.  Higher education has long been nearly free in France, Italy, and Greece,  but all suffer from graduates studying in fields like philosophy and PoliSci in which there are no jobs.  Greece may have the most open system, but I hardly think its model is a success.  Japan, and to a lesser extent, Korea,  have make or break entrance exams which require expensive private tutoring for, blocking the poor from access.  Entrance to a good English university is dependent on “A” levels, and connections.  May’s attempt to create more state grammar schools for better university preparation has been blocked by Labor, so “public” school boys and girls continue to have an inside track on admissions to the elite schools.  (Public schools being Eton, Harrow, Rugby, etc. where children are education in public vice private home tutoring.)

posted by: HewNaven on July 27, 2018  10:33am


Check out this map. Most of the world does not enforce conscription (including U.S.). Also, if you don’t enlist nothing will happen. The last prosecution here was in 1986.


Military service is often marketed to the poor as the only way to afford college. Why not, make college free for anyone qualified, without having to serve. The military already gets a major share of the federal budget and they seem to have no trouble convincing citizens to join (carrots like free education don’t hurt).

I also sense that the ‘shape’ of U.S. education is what makes it so unaffordable to most. We emphasize liberal arts and we often provide ‘basic’ courses that European kids would have already received prior to college. We also usually don’t force them to pick a major until 2nd or 3rd year, so there’s more meandering through studies and less focus. Some argue this is a benefit, but it’s costly. Finally, we are really big into college sports (highest paid state employee is usually a football coach) and other extra-curricular activities and emphasize the college ‘experience’ which all inflate the cost of higher ed. At Yale, acapella and theatre are hugely popular with undergrads, and they only want the best food and most comfortable spaces. All that stuff adds up. At least here we offer scholarships to needy kids. U.K. doesn’t really do that, as you pointed out.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on July 27, 2018  1:40pm

1644, you did not read my last post carefully, which is not like you. I said that the average university graduation rate for OECD countries was 37%, the same as the U.S.  (While most OECD countries are European, the group also includes countries as diverse as Mexico, South Korea, and New Zealand.) Several OECD countries, including Ireland and the Netherlands, have higher graduation rates. And the U.K. is a country. It has a single head of state, head of government, and passport. A prospective student submits a UCAS application, whether applying to Oxford or the University of Edinburgh.

University graduates in several European counties indeed face very difficult employment situations. But that is not what addressed earlier. You said “most developed countries have far more restrictive university admissions policies than the U.S. does. University education is for the elite…” This is simply inaccurate.