Justin Elicker, former New Haven alderman and former executive director of the New Haven Land Trust, is making his second bid for mayor of New Haven against incumbent Toni Harp, who beat him by 1,800 votes in 2013.
“I am running because I love New Haven and there are so many incredible things that make New Haven special. At the same time there is incredible inequity in the city,” Elicker said. “We must have leadership that is dedicated to addressing those inequities.”
Elicker, a 2010 graduate from the Yale School of Management, and a New Canaan native, said he has three key areas he wants to focus on if he becomes mayor: job training, education and fiscal health.
“The primary ways to address the inequalities in the city are through job programs that train people for jobs that exist today and connect them with future employers,” Elicker said. Elicker is focused on construction trades and positions in the health care sector which is one of the largest growing sectors in the state. These are jobs that don’t require a college degree, said Elicker, but can provide a salary that supports a middle-class lifestyle.
Elicker emphasized that keeping the middle class in New Haven has become one of the key concerns for the city, and to do that the schools need to start improving.
“People around the city in every neighborhood are very concerned about what’s going on in the New Haven Public School System,” Elicker said. “There is a serious management problem. Too often cuts are made removing the people on the front lines: teachers, librarians, guidance counselors.”
In New Haven, the majority of schools are magnet programs which accept students from anywhere in the city, and some from anywhere in Connecticut. Although these programs can give families more choice and can help prevent large disparities between schools, according to Elicker, the downside can be the loss of community around neighborhood schools. District-wide management can also limit creativity and the benefit of the individual expertise of teachers in the classroom.
As more public schools in towns across Connecticut have begun to consider adopting pre-kindergarten programs, Elicker stressed that New Haven’s families would also benefit from the addition of subsidized pre-k and daycare.
Pre-k and daycare “gives us an opportunity to foster social and emotional development but also allows working families to work. That allows people to be more successful,” Elicker said. Instead of relying on the school board budget to pay for such programs, Elicker said there is federal funding available that the city is not accessing.
“With New Haven public schools we can have a hybrid model,” where some families would pay and others who can’t afford it could send their child for free. “As a parent of an infant and a toddler I’ve experienced firsthand the lack of options for kids one to three in daycare. I would have paid to have my infant to have that kind of care.”
In terms of funding his ideas and plans, Elicker said that he will be looking into alternative sources of revenue other than just property taxes, which are already much higher in New Haven than many of the surrounding towns. Some of the funding streams he is considering are a hotel tax, beverage tax, an increased percentage for the city of speeding and red light tickets, and convincing Yale to increase its voluntary payments to the city. Currently, Yale contributes $11.5 million to the city on a yearly basis.
Elicker — like other mayoral candidates across the country — said he is focused on neighborhoods, not just on the downtown area.
“Neighborhoods should not get the short end of the stick anymore,” Elicker said.
This article has been corrected to reflect that Elicker is the former executive of the New Haven Land Trust. Elicker left that position a few months ago.