Shafiq Abussadar and Tom Goldenberg to challenge Elicker in Democratic Mayoral Primary
With the new year, mayoral candidates have begun to clash over education and housing policy in New Haven.
Jessie Cheung, Staff Photographer
The Elm city will see at least a three-person fight for the mayoral seat this year after former Beaver Hills Alder Shafiq Abussabur and former McKinsey executive Tom Goldenberg declared their candidacies.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker filed his papers in December to be reelected to a third two-year term in the upcoming November election. He was followed by Abussabur and Goldenberg who declared their candidacies in January and December respectively. All three candidates have filed as Democrats and will face off against each other in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.
Abdussabur and Goldenberg have both highlighted an affordable housing crisis, absenteeism in New Haven Public Schools and racial equality as central campaign issues.
“I see short term decisions being made without long term vision including 15-year tax abatement plans where our kids won’t be able to afford living in New Haven,” Abussabar said when launching his campaign. “We are seeing epidemic levels of truancy and absenteeism and we need change.”
From police sergeant to Alder, Abdussabar sets his sights on Mayor’s Office
Abdussabur is a retired Police Sergeant who served in the New Haven Police Department for 21 years and as Beaver Hills alder for one year. He argues that his experience in the city as a police officer and alder makes him well-suited to take on the role as the city’s leader and move the needle for residents.
During his two decades at NHPD, Abdussabur worked to create the city’s street outreach program and helped negotiate a truce among warring gangs. He also ran a community anti-violence program called CTribat.
He also served on the Board of Alders for one year in 2021 before having to step down this summer due to a conflict with his cleaning business: Abdussabur’s company held the Board of Education cleaning contract, but in 2022 the regulations around the BOE contract changed to explicitly prohibit Alders from holding the contract.
“The current administration continues the pattern of failing to prioritize the very people that make the city run,” Abussabur said at his campaign launch. “We deserve a better government and a New Haven that prioritizes people over politics and doing the right things over doing it right now.”
Abussabur has pointed to chronic absenteeism in New Haven Public Schools as a point of major concern. In the summer, NHPS released test data that showed drastic drops in reading and math literacy that city officials attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s no secret that New Haven’s educational system is in shambles,” Abdussabur said. “But, we’re spit-gluing together solutions with after-school programs without any concrete plan to address the below-grade reading levels.”
Elicker told the News that his administration, the BOE and Board of Alders have allocated roughly $3 million to increase after-school and summer literacy programs.
Elicker told the News that it was unfair to the BOE and district administrators to criticize them without acknowledging their work to increase teacher salaries and retention as well as the expanded literacy programs, all of which Elicker believes will help lower absenteeism.
Elicker also said that NHPS has more than doubled its number of dropout prevention workers who work with students at risk of dropping out. The dropout prevention workers, according to Elicker, are also working to change data collection to get a more accurate understanding of absenteeism.
“We should be working together,” Elicker told the News. “Rather than criticizing one another on this important challenge in public schools.”
On Tuesday, Abdussabar called on the BOE to return to in-person meetings to allow for more dialogue between BOE members and community members on how to approach the issue.
Elicker told the News that he believes BOE meetings should continue to be remote since remote meetings have led to an increase in community attendance.
Abussabar have also criticized tax abatement measures for new developments in the city under the Inclusionary Zoning law passed in January 2022.
Longtime West Haven resident and McKinsey executive Tom Goldenberg plans on freezing property tax increases to fight affordable housing crisis
Before running for mayor, Goldenberg worked as a bartender at Pacifico and an engagement manager at McKinsey, where he worked with local governments.
“I believe the experience I’ve had working with other cities and regions has given me the perspective to see the potential that New Haven has to achieve inclusive growth,” Goldenberg told the News. “I want to put all of my skills to bear to help us achieve that.”
Goldenberg is calling for a freeze in property tax increases after property tax revaluations have led to a 20 percent bump in property taxes in Newhallville, Dixwell and Fair Haven.
According to Elicker, his administration called for a five-year phase in of the property tax increases while the Board of Alders approved a two-year phase in.
“The rate increases have pushed homeowners and renters out of their homes,” Goldenberg told the News “So as mayor, I’m going to freeze the property tax increases. And I’m also going to fight for rent stabilization.”
Goldenberg also believes that the city has lagged behind in empowering Black-owned businesses and plans on creating a commercial corridor in Dixwell for Black and Hispanic-owned businesses.
The position of New Haven Mayor is a two-year term.
Correction Jan. 18: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Tom Goldenberg declared his candidacy in January and Shafiq Abussabur in December. Goldenberg declared his candidacy in December and Abdussabur in January.
Correction Jan. 21: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Tom Goldenberg and Shafiq Abdussabur both opposed tax abatement–only Abdussabur opposes tax abatement.