Intensifying her fourth campaign for the city’s top office, Mayor Toni Harp has hosted a number of events in the past week — affiliated with both her campaign and her administration.
Harp, who announced on Feb. 14 that she would seek a fourth consecutive term in City Hall, did not begin actively fundraising until relatively recently, lagging behind challenger Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 in raising money. But with the primary election less than six months away, she has ramped up campaigning efforts. Over the weekend, Harp hosted a campaign event in Fair Haven that attracted approximately 300 supporters. But her administration’s “office hours” on Tuesday, despite mail notices sent out a week before, had low turnout.
“A lot [of] times people have concerns and they often don’t know who to reach out to,” Harp told the News on Tuesday. “[The Celentano event is] one way to get a concern in their neighborhood addressed … we’re going to do things a little bit differently next time [to increase participation].”
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., Harp and her team set up at round tables at the Celentano Biotech, Health and Medical Magnet School. Placards with various department names were placed at each table, and residents could move around the stations and talk to various officials. Harp told the News that she intends to make events like the one on Tuesday regularly scheduled opportunities for city residents to directly speak to city administrators and service providers.
Harp stressed that the event — unlike some other political forums in the Elm City — was not so much about specific, overarching political issues but rather about “local services” and the day to day.
“It allows you to speak to all departments in the same room, and also to get information you might not be aware of,” Shawn Brown, an executive administrative assistant in the Department of Public Works, told the News.
Susan York, an East Rock resident, was one of the attendees at the event on Tuesday. She admitted that she was not particularly in tune with city politics but nonetheless expressed her disappointment at the event’s low attendance, especially given the meeting’s focus on the administration’s various departments that provide city services. Brown said she and her colleague in public works spoke to “maybe three” individuals.
Over the weekend, Harp officially kicked off her bid for mayor with hundreds of supporters — including a handful of Alders and other elected leaders — at a restaurant in Fair Haven. Harp, who has previously served in the state legislature and on the Board of Alders, won her first term as mayor in 2013, taking the reins from former Mayor John DeStefano, who served two decades at the post.
At the campaign event on Saturday, Harp emphasized economic progress and growth in the city. In recent years, New Haven has seen a building boom — many new real estate have popped up around the Elm City. Harp asked supporters to allow her to continue to push the city along its current trajectory.
Elicker, a relative political newcomer who lost to Harp by 1,800 votes in the 2013 general election, has instead claimed that the city is ready for change. In her time in office, Harp has had to face many financial challenges — the city lacks revenue sources, and budgets have been tight year after year.
Elicker is participating in the Democracy Fund, the Elm City’s public financing initiative. Just as in her previous mayoral campaigns, Harp has elected not to participate.
Harp is New Haven’s 50th mayor and the first woman to hold the position.
Angela Xiao | email@example.com