Mayor Toni Harp dropped by a Monday meeting of the Yale College Democrats to ask students to do her a favor: Vote for Governor Dannel Malloy on Nov. 4.
Less than two months before Malloy, the Democratic incumbent, squares off against Republican challenger Tom Foley, Harp said New Haven’s future depends on keeping a Democrat in the governor’s office. She asked that students be part of that effort, registering to vote so they have the chance to influence statewide politics.
“We need you to help us win,” Harp told the group, which was seated in a circle in the Branford Common Room. “Many of the policies that we’ve been able to pass are likely to be rolled back if we don’t have a Democratic governor.”
She said Foley, a Greenwich businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, will cut resources provided to the state’s municipalities. More than half of New Haven’s budget currently comes from the state, Harp said, both in the form of education payments under Education Cost Sharing and reimbursements for nontaxable land under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program. Both depend on the goodwill of the governor’s office, Harp said.
She called the voluntary payments Yale makes to the city in recognition of the extent of its nontaxable land a “drop in the bucket” compared to what the University would pay in property taxes.
A partnership with Malloy has been critical for projects she has advanced during her first nine months in office, Harp said, including the redevelopment of the Dixwell “Q” House, a long-shuttered community center on Dixwell Avenue. Malloy helped secure $1 million for initial planning for what will ultimately be a $14-million project.
“It can only happen with Malloy,” she said. Malloy himself visited the Dems last week, delivering a similar pitch.
Harp, who graduated from the Yale School of Architecture in 1978, has made few politically oriented stops at Yale. On Election Day last fall, when Harp bested former alder Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, the Yale-dominated Ward 1 was one of the few districts she skipped on her tour of the city. Elicker won nearly three times as many votes as Harp in Ward 1.
Becca Ellison ’15, president of the Dems, said the meeting provided an opportunity to familiarize students with the leader of their city, and vice versa.
“It’s important that students get involved in New Haven regardless of who you voted for last year,” she said following the meeting.
In response to a question from Ellison about the relationship between Yale and New Haven, Harp told the crowd both the University and the city are stronger when they are working together, and not at odds.
“The city of New Haven isn’t going anywhere,” Harp said bluntly. “For many years the relationship was acrimonious, and I don’t think that really got us anywhere. We aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye, but we certainly have common interests.”
Town and gown both have an interest in marketing New Haven as a place to live and visit, she added: “We both want people to come to our restaurants and buy things in our stores.”
She also saluted students’ efforts to engage with the city, particularly through service. College students are closer in age to at-risk youth, she said, making them ideal mentors.
Chris Rice ’18 was all smiles after the meeting, giddy at the prospect of volunteering in the city or interning in the mayor’s office. In Houston, his hometown, he worked on the campaign of a city council member and then interned in City Hall after his candidate won, he said.
“City politics is my thing,” he said.
Harp was a longtime state senator before she became mayor Jan. 1.