John DeStefano, Jr. set a record Thursday just by walking into his office, which he has now held for 18 years and 279 days.
That number marks one larger than that of any other mayor in the city’s history, surpassing Elizur Goodrich, who served as mayor of New Haven for 18 years and 277 days, retiring on June 4, 1822.
DeStefano celebrated his milestone by tackling some paperwork in the morning and a scheduled meeting on the Fire Department — in other words, completing his every-day job.
“I don’t need a cake,” DeStefano told Isadora DiMartino, a six-year-old reporter from Cold Spring School in New Haven during an interview about his job as mayor.
During his tenure, DeStefano has cut crime in New Haven by a third and welcomed several new businesses to the downtown district. He has tackled contentious issues including union negotiations and the budget.
And, in recent years, the Elm City has been cited as a leader in new crime intervention strategies and education reform.
“It’s not about looking backward,” he told the New Haven Independent. “It really isn’t. It’s just so cool to be doing all these things now.”
I caught the second half of the presidential debate last night. But even then, after a long day of classes, I caught myself unable to focus on anything but Romney’s hair.
Generally, I’m a more political creature, but last night, maybe because of its statistics-heavy topic — the economy — my mind wandered away from the debate to more timeless questions like, “Will breakfast be better tomorrow?”
So, out of my obligations to be an informed citizen, and my obligation to impress upon my political philosophy professor that I actually am an informed citizen, I emailed a group of campus political leaders to get their opinions of the debate. Their responses, in full, are below:
Zak Newman ’13, president of the Yale College Democrats
It was heartening to see both candidates go into some depth on policy issues. However, Romney seemed to stick to the same baseless attacks on Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank bill and on the President’s economic policy that we’ve been hearing for some time even after the President’s disassembly of each piece by piece.
Judging from tonight, Romney wants us to believe that we can all have our cake and eat it too if we vote for him: budget cuts that will be painless and have no impact on services for people that need them, no tax cuts ever that will add to the deficit, spontaneous economic growth with lower taxes. But where’s the beef?
Elizabeth Henry ’14, chair of the Yale College Republicans
Romney definitely won tonight’s debate hands down. I was watching it with a group of Pi Phis — a mix of Republicans and Democrats — and everybody agreed that Romney was on fire tonight. All I can say is his debate prep team did an amazing time. This is a fiery yet calm Romney that we didn’t see in the primary debates – and I like it! It’s just what he needed. To me, Obama just seemed like the fight had gone out of him.
Alex Isper ’14, chair of the Federalist Party of the Yale Political Union
From the onset of the debate it felt like President Obama was off his game and Governor Romney was able to capitalize in a major way. While some will criticize Romney for constantly steamrolling the moderator, it was a tactic that stopped President Obama from being able to pick up any momentum. Romney kept Obama on the ropes throughout the debate, balancing confident responses to questions with well-timed zingers. Romney’s performance was one that all Republicans can be proud of and one that will add new life to a campaign that looks to revive the hopes and dreams of a generation. Tonight, Governor Romney showed that he is willing and able to be the leader of the greatest country in the history of the world – something that cannot be said about the performance of his counterpart.
Eric Stern ’15, communications director for the Yale College Democrats
The President clearly laid out his plan for protecting students, minorities and the middle class, as well as ensuring that the progress we’ve made in the last four years continues. Governor Romney, on the other hand, was polished and aggressive, to be sure, but his performance was more notable for its stunning lack of specifics, mischaracterizations and outright falsehoods …
All night, Romney tiptoed around the far-right policies he has endorsed while the President clearly explained his common-sense plans and vision for a stronger, more stable America. In the few short minutes since the debate ended, Romney’s assertions about taxes, the deficit, healthcare and education have been challenged by experts across the political spectrum. More than anything else, this debate clarified for many students the need to get excited about supporting President Obama, get involved in the campaign and, most of all, get out the vote!
Elaina Plott ’15, chief whip of the Tory Party of the Yale Political Union
I thought Governor Romney tonight gave the performance Republicans had been waiting for. He was vibrant, articulate, and tackled each question with confidence. Obama, on the other hand, appeared ill-prepared and generally unenthused to be there. Put simply, Romney looked more presidential than the President. But in the end, what this debate did was showcase two incredibly different visions for America, and Romney was unafraid to point out that Obama’s just doesn’t stack up.
Ella Wood ’15, vice chairman of the Independent Party of the Yale Political Union
I’m no fan of Mitt Romney, but I thought he had a strong showing at the debate tonight. Two versions of Romney have dominated the public perception: the bland Romneybot and the unreliable, policy-free flip-flopper. To varying degrees, he effectively combatted both images. He projected much more charisma than he has thus far in the campaign, through both his demeanor and the greatly touted “zingers.” He also communicated his policy proposals more clearly than before, particularly those pertaining to the tax code and the deficit, and hammered home a narrative of Obama’s presidency that may be convincing to voters.
Gavin Schiffres ’15, chief whip of the Conservative Party of the Yale Political Union
I think Romney won the debate tonight (though I am not saying he should have — I want to fact-check a number of claims on both sides before I advocate that). Through a number of nuanced responses, Romney came off as eminently reasonable, like that rarest of creatures in politics: a responsible adult. He avoided common Republican pitfalls by distinguishing different markets when discussing regulation, acknowledging the free market needed some oversight, and promising only tax and spending cuts we could afford. Romney stood behind a record of working with Democrats in Massachusetts, as well as his time in the private sector. Above all, he insisted on breaking his vision of the future down step by step (often dragging the audience through point after point along the way). It was here, I thought, that Romney shined in contrast to President Obama. Whereas Romney appeared to respect the intellectual faculties of the American people (again, haven’t checked his facts yet), Obama often appeared to try and pander to their emotions. The “moving” stories of Obama’s working-class grandmother, or that hard-working woman he met in that place that one time, just don’t move us as much anymore. His inspiration is so hackneyed that it now feels like a diversion, and diversions show weakness. Obama had a solid night, but he was average, trite, in short, a politician. While Romney’s bickering over “the final word” detracted from his performance, I still came away from the debate feeling that tonight, Romney displayed more maturity— the kind I would expect from a president.
Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum will speak in Woolsey Hall this Tuesday at the first Yale Political Union debate of the year.
A former senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum is well-known for his socially conservative views on issues such as abortion and homosexuality. His visit to Yale is part of the Wendy P. McCaw Lecture Series, an initiative announced by Young America’s Foundation this year to bring conservatives to college campuses.
It is strange that Santorum has chosen to speak at an Ivy League school, though he did speak to the YPU in 2008, according to the group’s website. When he was seeking the Republican nomination, Santorum criticized higher education’s ties to liberalism, according to the Huffington Post. He mocked Harvard’s motto, “Veritas,” in particular, claiming truth has not been found at the school in a century.
“Let’s look at colleges and universities,” Santorum said at an address in Mason City, Iowa. “They’ve become indoctrination centers for the left. Should we be subsidizing that?”
So will Santorum find Lux et Veritas, or will his visit be dark, dank and full of liberal distortions? Will hellfire engulf Woolsey Hall on Tuesday? Unclear, but Camille Paglia is slated to visit the YPU a week later, so we can all breathe easy knowing the impending catastrophe will likely be reversed.
A new poll reveals U.S. Rep Chris Murphy to be a strong favorite to win the November election to fill the Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67.
The poll, released this week by Public Policy Polling, shows Murphy leading former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 in the Democratic primary race by 49 percent to 32 percent.
The poll also gave wrestling magnate and former Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon a lead of 68 percent to 20 percent over former U.S. Rep Chris Shays in the race for the the GOP nod.
In the poll’s general election matchups, meanwhile, Murphy leads McMahon 50 percent to 42 percent, a gap that widened by a point since PPP’s last Connecticut poll 10 months ago.
Murphy may face trouble with the state’s independent voters, who favor McMahon to Murphy by a margin of 53 to 36 percent, according to the poll. But with 48 percent of voters holding an unfavorable opinion of McMahon and 19 percent of Republicans supporting Murphy, McMahon lacks strong support within her party.
Should Bysiewicz emerge from the Democratic primary race victorious, an outcome that appears unlikely, poll results suggest she would lead McMahon, but only by a margin of three percentage points.
A Connecticut judge ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the constitutional right to equal protection, the latest in a string of setbacks against the 1996 law.
In a suit against the federal government, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant issued a 104-page decision Tuesday that found the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, unconstitutional. In the decision, Bryant found that the plaintiffs, which included six same-sex couples and a widower, were unfairly denied federal benefits as a result of the act, also known as DOMA.
Bryant wrote that she found “no conceivable rational basis” for the provision denying benefits to gay couples and that the provision “violates the equal protection principles” in the Constitution.
“Judge Bryant’s ruling is very clear: married people are married and should be treated as such by the federal government,” said Mary Bonauto, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders’ civil rights project director, in a statement. “There is no legitimate basis for DOMA’s broad disrespect of the marriages of same-sex couples.”
So far, one federal appellate court, five federal district courts and one bankruptcy court have ruled the law unconstitutional. Four DOMA cases are currently awaiting responses for review by the Supreme Court.
New Haven’s Democratic Party coalesced around U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy with a nearly unanimous endorsement Monday.
The city’s entire state delegation, Mayor John DeStefano Jr., 27 of New Haven’s 30 aldermen and the entire Democratic Town Committee announced their endorsement of Murphy over Susan Bysiewicz ’83, his rival in the race for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, according to the New Haven Independent. In his speech accepting the endorsement, Murphy, who led former Secretary of the State Bysiewicz by 30 percentage points in a June Quinnipiac University poll, focused on November’s general election, where he is expected to face Republican front-runner wrestling magnate Linda McMahon.
At the announcement of the endorsements on the New Haven Green, both Murphy, who represents the state’s fifth district in Congress, and his supporters hailed New Haven as a political bellwether for Connecticut.
“You don’t go to Washington or to the statehouse if you don’t win New Haven,” DeStefano said, according to the Independent.
In 2010, New Haven played a major role in electing Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, giving him a margin of victory of 18,613 votes, three times the vote margin of 5,637 by which he won the state. Murphy may well come to rely on New Haven voters to propel him to victory in November, as the June Quinnipiac poll found him leading McMahon by only three percentage points, down from a the 15-point lead he held in March.
The election, for which the presidential contest is expected to generate high turnout, will take place on Nov. 6.
Ward 1 will remain the Yale ward for the next decade, following the conclusion of the Board of Aldermen’s redistricting process.
In a vote by the full Board earlier this week, aldermen approved a final ward map for New Haven that balances the population within each of the city’s 30 wards. Yale’s Ward 1 will expand to the south and east, but will largely maintain its status as the Yale student district in the Elm City.
Early in the redistricting process, a warning from a former alderman to avoid crossing General Assembly district lines in the redistricting process seemed to threaten the makeup of Ward 1, which currently straddles three state legislative districts. But aldermen largely ignored that advice — they received a rebuke from Republican Registrar of Voters Rae Tramontano at a public meeting for doing so before the full Board meeting, according to the New Haven Independent.
The new Ward 1, represented by current alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12, adds three extra blocks to make up for a relative population decrease over the past 10 years, expanding south to Crown Street between York and College Streets and east to Orange Street between Wall and Elm Streets. While the additions will add over 300 non-Yale voters to Ward 1, the ward still consists of students living on Old Campus and in Berkeley, Calhoun, Trumbull, Pierson, Jonathan Edwards, Branford, Pierson and Davenport Colleges, as well as many who live off campus.
Aldermen are also set to vote on the city budget at a special Board meeting May 29. The $486.4 million budget, which represented a compromise between Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s administration and a labor-backed majority of aldermen on the Board, was passed last week by the Board’s finance committee.
The budget modified several parts of the budget proposal that DeStefano sent to the Board in March, including cutiting a new police communications position, parking fees at Lighthouse Point Park and a property revaluation in two years. But it approved other items much sought after by both DeStefano and the Board, including construction and renovation at Helene Grant School and the New Haven Academy and a schools study championed by Board President Jorge Perez.
The budget, once passed, will come into effect on July 1.
Lawmakers in Hartford marked the end of a productive legislative session Wednesday.
In his address to the General Assembly at midnight Wednesday night, Gov. Dannel Malloy praised the hard work of legislators in passing bills to legalize medical marijuana, allow Sunday liquor sales, repeal the death penalty and permit Election Day voter registration. He also highlighted the 11th-hour passage of education reform legislation, which Malloy said was his top priority for the session in his State of the State address in February.
“Over the course of the last 16 months we have pushed more change through these two chambers than has occurred in Connecticut in a long, long time,” Malloy said in his address. “Now, thanks to votes you made over the past few days, we’re changing our public schools.”
The $100 million education reform bill — the product of a last-minute Monday deal between legislators — is somewhat tamer than the one Malloy had originally proposed, leaving the current teacher tenure system essentially intact. But it is packed with other reforms, including increased funding to charter schools and low-performing districts, as well as a teacher evaluation system.
Malloy’s plan called for requiring teachers to re-earn their tenure every five years based on evaluations tied to student achievement, with new teachers earning tenure after several years of “proficient” or “exemplary” evaluations. Under the bill passed Tuesday night, however, this system will not take effect for at least three years to allow for fine-tuning of evaluations, a move that drew cautious praise from the state’s teacher’s unions.
The bill also funds the creation of 1,000 seats for early childhood education and a pilot program to “enhance literacy” for young students, Malloy said.
“At a time when our state — and states across the country — continues to face financial challenges, I believe this agreement also speaks to our commitment to improving public education,” Malloy said after the agreement was announced. “By allocating nearly $100 million additional dollars to reform our public schools, we are saying that every child can and must receive an education that allows them to compete in the 21st century economy.”
The legislative session — only the second under a Democratic governor in the past 20 years — saw the passage of several landmark bills checked off Democrats’ wish list, including medical marijuana legalization and death penalty repeal. But other bills, including one to raise the minimum wage over the next two years, were not brought to a vote due to a combination of Republican opposition and lack of time in the three-month session.
The General Assembly plans to hold a special session in order to implement certain aspects of the budget that could not be completed before the Wednesday midnight deadline. In the special session, party leaders also hope to bring up a bipartisan jobs bill that failed to clear the House in the regular session’s final days.
The 2012 legislative session began on Feb. 8, 2012.
Two landmark pieces of legislation passed Connecticut’s Senate on Saturday, sending the legalization of medical marijuana and a package to reform the state’s voting system to the desk of Gov. Dannel Malloy.
After 10 hours of debate, the Senate passed by a 21-13 margin a bill allowing patients with certain chronic illnesses to obtain small amounts of marijuana. Later, the Senate also voted 19-16 for a voting reform package that provides for voter registration online and on Election Day.
Malloy has pledged to sign both of the bills once they reach his desk. While he acknowledged that legalizing medical marijuana has posed problems for states in the past, he stressed in a statement following the bill’s passage that provisions built into Connecticut’s legislation will protect the state from the federal government.
“This legislation is about accomplishing one objective: providing relief to those with severe medical illnesses,” Malloy said in the statement. “Under this proposal, the Department of Consumer Protection will be able to carefully regulate and monitor the medicinal use of this drug in order to avoid the problems encountered in some other states.”
The bill, written by the Judiciary Committee, is more restrictive than similar legislation in other states, requiring a doctor to recommend marijuana to a patient and a pharmacist to sell it. While opponents read a letter from U.S. Attorney David Fein that called the bill a violation of federal law, and argued that the bill’s passage would lead to crimes like the 2007 Cheshire home invasion, none of the 48 amendments filed against the bill were passed.
Both Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman — who introduced the elections reform bill on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year — hailed its passage as a victory for voter access.
“These reforms allow more people to have their voices to be heard in a places where it truly matters — the voting,” Wyman said in a statement. “More of our residents will have the power to decide who they want to represent them in government, how they want their tax dollars spent, what kind of health care system they want and how they want their children to be educated.”
Supports of the bill have pointed to evidence that these measures, particularly Election Day voter registration, have boosted turnout in other states. The top four states for voter turnout in the last two presidential elections offer Election Day voter registration.
Opponents argue that looser voter registration rules will make it easier to commit voter fraud and create chaos at the ballot box. But supporters pointed out that registration requirements are no different than they are for earlier registration, and all names will be checked against a statewide voter database.
The General Assembly adjourns for the year on May 9.
The field of contenders for Joseph Lieberman’s ’64 LAW ’67 U.S. Senate seat just got a little less crowded.
U.S. Rep. William Tong announced on Tuesday that he will withdraw from contention for the Democratic nomination for this fall’s Senate race, leaving U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 still in the running.
“This was my first statewide campaign,” Tong said at the press conference. “I do not expect it will be my last.”
At the conference, Tong joined Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman announcing their endorsement of Murphy.
A March poll by Quinnipiac University found Tong trailing far behind both Murphy and Bysiewicz, receiving only four percent of respondents’ support and losing in a hypothetical matchup against Republican challengers Linda McMahon and Chris Shays. Murphy, meanwhile, is the only candidate who would defeat every challenger from both parties, and posted the race’s highest fundraising total.
A bill to allow Sunday liquor sales passed the Connecticut Senate Tuesday afternoon.
In addition to allowing Sunday liquor sales, the bill increases the number of stores a package store owner can own and creates a task force to study further changes to liquor laws. It passed the Senate Tuesday afternoon with a bipartisan 28-6 vote. The bill will now head to Governor Dannel Malloy, who has pledged to sign it into law.
“It’s a measure that’s long past due and a good first step to making our state’s package stores more consumer friendly,” Malloy said in a statement after the vote. “Our current laws have cost Connecticut businesses millions of dollars as consumers have flocked over our borders in search of more convenient hours and lower prices.”
Democrats estimate that the legislation will also bring in an extra $5.3 million in state revenue, which they say will alleviate the state’s deficit. Opponents, meanwhile, argue that the bill will hurt small independent liquor store owners, who will benefit less from the legislation then larger package store owners.
Once Malloy signs the bill into law, Indiana will be the only state that bans Sunday liquor sales.