New Haven is at a crossroads. Today the Democrats of New Haven will nominate for mayor someone who is not John DeStefano Jr. for the first time in 20 years. This means less to us Yalies, as many of us were registered in other states until recently, and few of us will remain in New Haven for more than four years. But Yale will always be in New Haven. What is good for New Haven is good for Yale — and today, what is good for New Haven is a victory by Toni Harp ARC ’78.
She is the only candidate who has the experience, the relationships and the ability to build the coalitions that will move New Haven forward.
There are four candidates still in the race. Kermit Carolina’s claim to fame — running Hillhouse High School — is tarnished by the grade-tampering scandal under his administration. Henry Fernandez LAW ’94 is New Haven’s former economic development czar, who like the czars of the Romanov dynasty, managed to alienate everyone except his closest cronies. Fernandez’s record is a trail of pay-to-play developments and broken relationships.
That leaves Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 and Harp. Elicker has good ideas. But we need more than ideas. What moves New Haven forward are relationships and trust, not sterile policy imposed from above. An Elicker administration would soon find its ideas dashed on the rocks of reality, as he discovers that the same aldermen with whom he failed miserably to build relationships during his first two terms are now his negotiating partners. Without a substantial record as an alderman, and a campaign that has failed to connect with New Haven voters outside of the affluent East Rock and Westville neighborhoods (with zero donors from Dixwell or the Hill in his latest filing), Elicker is the wrong choice for this city.
Vote for Elicker if you think that all a mayor needs to be good is a few good ideas. Vote for Harp if you know that a good mayor needs a lot more than that.
Harp is not just about ideas and talk. She’s about results. For the past 20 years, she has been fighting for the people of New Haven, and she has a track record by which voters can judge her.
Among her top priorities is public safety — making our streets safe for everyone who lives in New Haven. As an alderman, Harp introduced community-based policing back in 1989. Unless you’ve taken a few years off, or you’re on the hockey team, or you’re an Eli Whitney student, you probably weren’t even born when Harp pioneered community policy. Now she proposes re-emphasizing its original “community-based” element and holding everyone, from the mayor, to the police chief, to the newest police officer, to ordinary neighborhood residents, accountable for helping to implement it.
Public safety is only one prong of Harp’s plan to make our city stronger. The other two are education and economic development. Obviously, the three are linked. A high-quality education is a prerequisite for a job in our modern “knowledge-based economy,” and an employed person is much less likely to resort to crime. Harp has already has successes on both fronts — bringing Alexion Pharmaceuticals to New Haven, for example, and preserving after-school programs. Her proposals for the future are even more exciting. She will turn the currently wasted New Haven waterfront into a major mixed-use development. She will ensure early childhood education for all students, combating the achievement gap. She will support minority and female-owned businesses, and bring “mobile city halls” to underserved neighborhoods.
The key difference between Harp and the other candidates is not just the quality of her ideas — though her ideas are better and more New Haven-relevant — but the fact that she’ll be able to implement her ideas. Toni will take office this January with 25 years with of strong relationships with figures at every level, from the community activist on the street to Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, including figures at the local, regional and state levels as well. Remember the promise of Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, and the eventual disappointment as so many of his policies have languished in Congress? That will not be Harp’s fate.
If you care about the future of Yale or the future of New Haven (hint: they’re the same thing), you should vote for Toni Harp today.
Josef Goodman is a senior in Morse College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.