Mayor Toni Harp joined uncontested, independent Ward 1 candidate Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 on Sunday for a rally in William L. Harkness Hall, days after endorsing him in a statement. But that evening, the Yale College Democrats issued a critical statement about Catalbasoglu’s candidacy that stopped short of explicitly withholding an endorsement.
In the statement, the Dems expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of “concrete, actionable ideas” in Catalbasoglu’s campaign, calling on him to be more “proactive” in making his policies available to Yale students. The statement also criticized Catalbasoglu’s “limited involvement” in city activism, service or politics before his campaign. Still, despite those concerns, Dems President Josh Hochman ’18 told the News that the Dems are excited to work closely with Catalbasoglu and believe he can be a “fantastic alder” if he heeds the advice in the statement.
“We would like to work extremely closely with Haci,” Hochman said. “We are excited by his passion that he brings to the position.”
In response to the statement, Catalbasoglu defended his contributions to the city, referencing his work with the Livable City Initiative, his efforts canvassing for Harp’s mayoral campaign and his battle fighting the “corporate behemoth” Marriott Hotels with the Dwight community management team.
“Change in New Haven can be made in places other than the Ivy-covered walls of Yale’s campus,” Catalbasoglu said. “I will be in New Haven long after the Dems board has graduated and left and will during my time as alder, and for as long as I can, fight for my people in whatever capacity it may be.”
Over the past month, Catalbasoglu has received endorsements from both parties: the Connecticut Young Democrats, the Yale College Republicans and most recently, Mayor Toni Harp, have all lauded his potential to bridge the gap between Yale and New Haven. Catalbasoglu is a registered Democrat in the state of Connecticut.
During the rally, Harp spoke about the strong relationship she has with Catalbasoglu, as well as his potential to bridge the town-gown divide. Harp urged everyone to come out and vote, asserting that other alders would look at the turnout as a symbol of Yale students’ support for city politics.
“More than just getting [Catalbasoglu to the Board of Alders] is getting him there with a big plurality of the vote,” Harp said.
In an interview with the News, Harp said her work with Catalbasoglu once he becomes alder will focus on safety, homelessness and job creation.
According to Catalbasoglu, both he and the mayor advocate a New Haven civilian review board, which would monitor allegations of police misconduct. On the issue of homelessness, Catalbasoglu wants to focus on altering the Give Change to Make Change and Section 8 housing programs.
Give Change to Make Change is an educational campaign to tackle homelessness in New Haven by encouraging pedestrians to donate to established services via brightly colored parking meters rather than giving change to panhandlers.
“The marketing surrounding [the program] dehumanizes homeless people,” Catalbasoglu told the News. “The intent is admirable; however, the way they have gone about it is not ideal.”
Catalbasoglu and Harp have known each other for many years. If all other 29 ward elections go blue — a likely outcome — Catalbasoglu will be named minority leader on the Board of Alders come January.
As a result, Catalbasoglu said that he will have the opportunity to attend weekly meetings with the mayor, which will allow him to work with Harp one-on-one.
“I have known Haci for maybe four to five years,” Harp told the News. “When he was a high school student, he was very active and had a lot of ideas. I have every confidence that he will be a great representative of the school.”
The mayor has been to Catalbasoglu’s house many times, including a recent dinner for Eid — an Islamic holiday. Goodman added that the duo is “committed to working together.”
Audience members at the rally said they were excited about Catalbasoglu’s ideas and look forward to seeing how he can bridge the gap between Yale and New Haven.
“I genuinely believe in being able to see him work and talk about the city he cares so much about,” Daniel Onuoha ’21 said. “He’s able to push residents of New Haven to get the resources that they need to do the great things he knows they can do.”
Another attendee, Kevin Li ’21, said he believed in Catalbasoglu’s local community message, in particular citing Catalbasoglu’s attention to issues like bike paths and homelessness.
The Nov. 7 Election Day polls at 133 Elm St. are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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