News analysis: Harrison ’11 faces scrutiny

When Ward 1 aldermanic candidate Katie Harrison ’11 held her campaign kickoff event two Wednesdays ago, she outlined her plan to expand the Elm City Resident Card, to push through legislation mandating community benefits agreements and to work on the New Haven Safe Streets program.

Then, after the event, she backpedaled.

Katie Harrison ’11 is running as a Democrat for Ward 1 alderman, challenging Mike Jones ’11.
Snigdha Sur
Katie Harrison ’11 is running as a Democrat for Ward 1 alderman, challenging Mike Jones ’11.

“I mean, the way I want to work on these problems in the city is not by barging in on existing programs,” Harrison said. “I’m not going to do anything on my own.”

Although Harrison said she plans to partner with existing city organizations to further change within the community, a handful of city officials have said the candidate’s actions so far have demonstrated good intentions but lack the necessary deference to those with more experience.

A central component of Harrison’s campaign is to expand the Elm City ID to increase ownership beyond its current 7,000-resident mark. She said she plans to work closely with the office of Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in the future to spearhead University-targeted initiatives, such as a second installment of the New Haven Solidarity Week, which last year registered 550 students for the card.

“This program really could do more,” Harrison said at her campaign kickoff. “This form of ID needs to do more to represent the citizens of New Haven.”

When asked how she planned to expand the Elm City ID beyond its current capacity, she said other cities with municipal ID cards, such as San Francisco, should be used as models, although she was then unable to cite any specifics about San Francisco’s strategies to increase membership.

“Well that’s ironic, because San Francisco modeled their municipal ID program after our program,” said Kica Matos, head of the Community Services Administration, which oversees ID card operations. “The legislative staff in San Francisco asked us for information about our program. We helped them craft their model and gave them a lot of technical advice.”

Matos said she appreciates Harrison’s interest in the program but wishes the sophomore had done more research before making generic assertions.

There are currently several initiatives in the works to help expand the program to a larger number of residents, Matos said. Among these planned initiatives are strategies to create a virtual bank account with the card and to hold another New Haven Solidarity Week this spring. Matos said Harrison has scheduled a meeting with her for later this month — when, Matos said, she will inform Harrison about the more recent developments of the program.

At her campaign kickoff, Harrison also spoke about the success of Community Benefits Agreements, contracts signed by both community groups and local developers to express mutual goals. She then referred to the 2006 case of Yale-New Haven Hospital, when a contract was drawn up to outline specific goals for local employment, social services and environmental initiatives. She said she found it inspiring that the developer and the community could come together to find a compromise that would leave both entities satisfied, adding that she hopes to pass legislation that would encourage these kinds of processes to continue in the future.

“I think I would like to see the process standardized in some way,” she said Monday, “and I think that could take the form of legislation.”

Harrison was hesitant to reveal further details about her plan, deferring comment until a press conference scheduled for Wednesday.

But this legislation already exists, Aldermanic President Alderman Carl Goldfield said. The aldermanic board passed it during the process of establishing a CBA with the Yale-New Haven Hospital, he said, as well as the 360 State St. development. It only applies to situations when the city is selling land to a private developer, because, Goldfield explained, it would be illegal for the Board of Aldermen to withhold approval of a developer’s zoning plan until a CBA was signed, for example.

Goldfield said Harrison’s opinions are typical of people new to the city who may not yet know the ins-and-outs of the history and dynamics of the Board of Aldermen.

“People sometimes come in, and they can’t know everything,” Goldfield said about residents such as Harrison who are relatively new to the city. “They start to make suggestions without an understanding of what’s been going on. They’re looking at the tip of the iceberg, not seeing all the bulk below.”

Although Harrison has not yet contacted Goldfield, she said she has spoken with Yale architecture professor Alan Plattus and Laura Huizar from JUNTA for Progressive Action, a local nonproft for immigrants’ rights, to help flesh out her opinions on city issues.

Harrison has said safe streets initiatives in the city would be a focus for her campaign, but she has not yet contacted Ward 14 Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, one of the initiators and leaders of the Safe Streets program in New Haven.

But Sturgis-Pascale said she does not fault Harrison for not yet contacting her; after all, Sturgis-Pascale said, she is glad to have Harrison’s support on the project.


  • BK '12

    I am glad to see that the YDN can get interviews with all of these people in the one/two day span of this articles writing while Katie can't quite get any answers together.

    She's a great person, but maybe we need a more informed candidate.

  • Give her a break

    She is the typical Yale sophomore- she has been so special her whole life and everyone keeps telling her how smart and great she is, and then people convince her that she should run for Alderman, furthering her belief that she is superwoman. She assumes,that since she is superwoman, all her thoughts and intellect are vastly superior than everyone elses. "These New havenrs will be better off now that I here thinking" is what she likely tells herself… "once I'm on the Board of Alderman, they will be a great legislative body". Forget the fact that she has insulted the numerous Yale and other ivy-league grads currently working on the DeStefano team…. Nevermind the fact, that no matter how smart she is, she won't likely be smarter than Goldfield,Perez, Lemar, Silverman, Calder, Sturgis-Pascale … She's just too far ahead of herself, with time and perspective, she will be ok. for now, just the typical Yalie.

  • Yale alum & New Haven resident

    I'm all for Yalies getting involved in local politics and I think they have a lot to contribute. But with these kids (1) only committing to one term in office (you get ZERO done in the first term) and (2) doing an inadequate job of getting acquainted with local issues, it may be time to abolish the Yale-only Ward 1 seat and to integrate Ward 1 with Ward 7 or another adjacent ward.

  • DC 11

    Katie is definitely an informed candidate. These quotes do not express her true views. She believes the Elm City ID is a great program and only wants to help the program. I don't think she should be attacked for reaching out to community members for advice or realizing that she needs the advice of other Alders and community members to get the job done. She is not backing away from her ideas, which are actually much more expansive than the other candidates and deal with the real issue of economic development, but rather she understands that she cannot expect to accomplish everything on her own. This pragmatism should be commended, not attacked.

  • ES '09

    I'm glad to see at least that the candidate is reaching out to community members in an effort to launch the most progressive platform for New Haven. Though Katie hasn't gotten all her facts right, she is the only candidate I've seen who isn't making these loose abstractions about what they envision for the city (i.e. Mike Jones " De Stefano seems to be doing a pretty good job to me.") She clearly is taking her candidacy seriously, looking for the best solutions, reaching out to respected officials and advisers such as Professor Plattus to come up with the a plan that will work. Kudos to her, and her work is far from complete.

  • BR'10

    Can we just talk about, for one second, what benefits the New Haven ID card grants?

  • Re-elect Plattus?

    With the three declared democrats havig glaringly obvious shortcomings that are sure to embarrass us all, shouldn't Rachel change her mind a run for a 2nd term? I have a good relationship with current Ward 9 alder Lemar who has told me on numerous occassions that "there is nothing more useless to the Board than a one-term alderman"

  • y'11

    I'm disappointed to see city officials so quickly dismiss a candidate working on developing informed and relevant policy--far more than given credit in this article--and target their frustration with student candidates at Katie alone. Kudos to Alderwoman Sturgis-Pascale for refusing to take the YDN's bait and giving Katie a fair chance.

  • What Yale student knows more?

    It is true that Katie has more to learn about New Haven politics and policies, but what Yale student (including the other two candidates) doesn't?

    Katie Harrison is the only candidate admitting that there are things she doesn't know about what's best for New Haven, even though she has clearly demonstrated that she knows far more than either of the other candidates. She's the one who's most prepared to work with experts and put in the time to do what's best for New Haven.

    She has actually spent time in New Haven, outside of the Yale bubble and it's because she has the guts to talk about what Ward 1 Alder can do for New Haven and not just Yale that any of this is becoming an issue.

    The other candidates aren't even trying to engage the city.

  • Alice

    Why is this article so focused on attacking one candidate without so much as mentioning the other two? Clearly the complaints leveled by gov't officials apply to all candidate, as well as many Yale students who try to get involved in New Haven more generally, no matter how good their intentions. This article seems seriously biased to me.

  • 2010

    So what if Katie Harrison doesn't know the intricacies of New Haven politics right now.

    She's clearly principled, committed and willing to do the research.

  • Anonymous

    As this article states, Harrison never outlined "a plan to push through legislation mandating community benefits agreements." Yet the lead-in sentence claims just that when in fact she seems to say that legislation could be one way to achieve this among a range of things the board can do.

    I for one will be very interested to see what Harrison has to say at her press conference tomorrow.

  • Anonymous

    I was most concerned by the way this article was written. The author didn't give us any context on these quotes, not even who approached who. (This makes a big difference - did the YDN just approach these different people and say yo, what do you think about Katie Harrison? Because it seems to me that in that situation this article is actually creating scrutiny, not just observing it.) There needs to be agency in here - I feel like the author was going for an angle, which is okay (though certainly not ideal for a front page news story), but if so, it needs to begin "I wondered what officials would think of Katie Harrison's policies, and so I decided to ask them. Here are the questions I asked, and here were their responses." Since Katie is still in the process of meeting with these people, she has not had the chance to express herself to them, and it seems only fair to tell us how the News was portraying her in its interviews. Obviously, that doesn't make as snappy a story, but reporters are supposed to report events. Not potentially-out-of-context quotes.

  • Yale undergrad

    THIS IS NOT A NEWS ARTICLE, opinion is where this column belongs.
    Katie Harrison is seriously outshining the other two candidates by taking a bold stance on New Haven issues. The other candidates are still stuck in the Yale bubble. None of these accusations carry weight because there is no comparison to the other two candidates, who for all we know, have never even heard of Kica Matos.

  • GStresseman

    I completely agree #13 -- this article seems awfully incendiary which makes me questions the motives of the YDN. Katie has been a major advocate for the Elm City ID card since last year, and so obviously the reporter misinterpreted the quote about San Francisco.

    I don't really understand why this article would be considered News… maybe an OpEd? Maybe?

  • 2010

    I'm very disappointed with this article, it's unbalanced (should we assume Jones and Tran do not face any sort of scrutiny, from anyone?) and hardly counts as "analysis" by just cobbling together various opinions and then coming up with a very surface-level statement. When you strip the guise of "analysis" away, it looks like an attempt to indict Harrison for very small issues that, to some, might not even amount to "mistakes" this early in the race. If the YDN wants to focus on a particular candidate, they need to clearly indicate a candidate series, like the New York Times did with the Presidential election. Harrison has put her ideas out there in order to start the learning process and dialogue that goes on in a campaign between a candidate, other political leaders and constituents. She's obviously in the process of talking to other community leaders to get their input. I don't even think Matos would agree that she is "scrutinizing" Harrison, as much as she is waiting for the two of them to have an actual conversation together and to get Harrison on the same page. Who exactly is skeptical here? Matos or the YDN?

    And why are we assuming that any of these candidates are 1-term candidates? With a contested race, Yalies might have the option of choosing someone with a more vested interest in this town.

  • Get Real

    Katie Harrison cheerleaders should set aside their pom poms and start briefing their candidate on her platform issues. It is embarrassing for any candidate to make such horribly misinformed comments in public about issues she allegedly cares about. In addition to briefings, her cheerleaders should perhaps also run to City Hall (it's located at 165 Church Street, blocks away from campus)and get a hold of the city charter so that she can also be prepped on the actual roles and responsibilities of aldermen, because sadly, she also comes up short in that area. New Haven does not need a liberal version of a Sarah Palin.

  • Cheerleader

    I will proudly continue to wave my pom poms for Katie - I have personally seen her work in the social justice network and know that Katie not only is a caring, intelligent person, she is also innovative and extremely dedicated one. I think people should know better than to base their opinion of her and her campaign on one clearly slanted YDN article.