Amy Cheng

Marcus Paca announced his mayoral candidacy and launched his campaign website on Saturday, just over eight months before New Haven’s November mayoral election. Two-term incumbent Mayor Toni Harp still has not officially announced her bid for re-election, leaving Paca as the only declared mayoral candidate.

Paca, who served as the city’s labor relations director until last April, said he hopes to formulate his candidacy as a grass-roots campaign, which he defined as one that includes all members of the Elm City community and not just the “traditional Democratic Party.” He identified his top priorities as restoring fiscal responsibility, promoting governmental transparency and encouraging young adults to engage in local political discourse.

“As not being a career politician, I feel like I can bring a sense of reality that is vastly lacking in City Hall,” Paca told the News Monday. “[I can bring] a sense of connectedness, communication and efficiency that needs to be restored to city government.”

Though Harp submitted her candidate registration forms with the State Elections Enforcement Commission last September and has support from a political action committee, she has yet to formally throw her hat in the ring. City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer declined to comment further, citing city policies that prohibit his office from participating in political or campaigning activities.

Paca stressed the importance of reaffirming financial responsibilities, pointing out New Haven’s recent credit downgrading at Moody’s and high tax burdens on homeowners and business owners. He said he will reassess the efficiency of operations in every city department, a process that aims to eliminate duplicative services paid with taxpayer dollars, as well as outsource projects to local nonprofits if need be.

He explained that if values brought in by programs like the New Haven Food Policy Council, for example, are not reasonably proportional to their costs, the city should instead turn to local nonprofits dedicated to food policies.

He added that though he currently does not plan on downsizing City Hall staffing, “everything will be on the table” in the times of financial difficulty. He also plans on bringing the city youth to policy discussions, and wants to establish a “consortium” of college students that meets with his campaign — and perhaps even his administration — on a regular basis to better understand priorities among young residents.

“I don’t think it should be the 70- or 80-year-olds making the decision, if the 20-, 30- or 40-year-olds are going to be more affected by them,” Paca said. “You got to have a standing seat at the table, so [they] can bring fresh new ideas to the political scene.”

Before becoming a mayoral candidate, Paca served as the alder of Ward 24 from 2009 to 2011. He ran for re-election in 2011 but lost to union-backed candidate Evette Hamilton, the current alder. He went on to serve as the labor relations director in the Harp administration from 2014 until last April when he was terminated along with his wife Mendi Blue Paca, the city’s former director of development and policy.

Though the couple filed for separate wrongful discharge suits against the city government shortly after their termination, Paca said Harp’s decision to fire him and his wife was not the motivation behind his candidacy.

“I’m trying not to really focus on the termination because my candidacy has nothing to do with being fired,” Paca said. “What the mayor did was actually giving me an opportunity to really assess our values and our commitment to New Haven and that led us to considering running for mayor. So we can offer these alternatives to the residents and voters of New Haven.”

As another key issue highlighted on Paca’s website is education, President of the New Haven Federation of Teachers David Cicarella said he is anticipating a call from the mayoral candidate.

Cicarella added that regardless of the upcoming mayoral race results, the public-school teacher union sees proper funding and class management as its priorities. He said the city needs to develop appropriate wraparound services for students who are disruptive to classroom teaching, and cited flaws with the current system. Cicarella said teachers currently treat their students’ disruptive behaviors with temporary suspensions, which do not prevent further misbehaviors once these students return to class.

Mayoral and aldermanic elections take place every two years.