NEWS’ VIEW: For Mayor, Justin Elicker

Tomorrow, for the first time in 20 years, New Haven residents will go to the polls to select our city’s new mayor. We would do well to elect a candidate capable of building a more accessible, innovative and transparent government. Justin Elicker, the face of a new brand of politics, is our choice to steer this city.

New Haven needs swift and strategic initiative from its next mayor: the budget is hemorrhaging, poverty rates remain stubbornly high and nascent school reform proposals demand enduring solutions.

The alderman of low-income Cedar Hill and affluent East Rock, Elicker has shown, through his plan and record, the ability to provide long-term, creative solutions to these challenges. On various issues, his platform is noticeably more comprehensive than his opponent’s plan. On fiscal responsibility, Toni Harp has been markedly lacking clarity, while Elicker has offered a multistep plan to balance the city’s budget. He has, for example, publicly declared that the city’s pension plan is in need of reform — a necessary but politically unpopular move. On education, he has been similarly impressive, especially his intention to extend Boost!, a program which partners nonprofits with inner-city schools.

The candidates’ decisions regarding campaign finances have been a much discussed aspect of the election. And for good reason: Elicker’s decision to participate in the Democracy Fund and his refusal to accept funding from special interests demonstrate his refreshing honesty and independence. As mayor, we believe he will be willing to take controversial stances and oppose blocs of power when necessary. Indeed, he has already proven himself capable of criticizing powerful city entities in his condemnation of the University’s purchase of High Street.

Elicker’s independence comes at a cost: he lacks Harp’s close ties with aldermen, unions and state leaders in Hartford. Indeed, he may at first face difficulty implementing his agenda or soliciting state aid. We are, however, confident in his ability to build powerful networks and connections once in office. His track record as alderman has shown that he is able to create coalitions with other leaders, as he did in opposing parking meter monetization.

New Haven remains plagued by collusion and patronage — and the result is the decay of trust in Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s administration. Elicker, whose telephone number is advertised on campaign literature, has placed open government at the forefront of his agenda and proposed office hours for his constituents. He offers the city’s best hope of fighting fraud in City Hall.

On engagement with the University, Elicker, unlike Harp, has outlined a substantive vision for Yale-New Haven relations, with promising plans that include a collaboration to develop entrepreneurial opportunities. His decision to attend Salovey’s inauguration — at which Harp was noticeably absent — is hopefully indicative of the attention that Mayor Elicker will give the University.

We have immense respect for Harp: her record of statewide accomplishments is impressive, particularly her six terms of devoted leadership on the legislature’s Appropriations Committee. There is no question that she has more political experience than her opponent, with his two terms on the Board of Aldermen. And despite her wealth, many New Haven residents feel she is more representative of the average citizen than Elicker.

But we are confident that his combination of initiative and principle will allow him to overcome these initial deficits. While he will pursue a strong town-gown relationship, his vision will more importantly benefit the entire population of New Haven.

Elicker is not ahead in the polls. But by voting we can improve our chances of having the better option for New Haven: Justin Elicker.

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