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.
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“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.