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  • The Narrative Project

CONECT Hosts Candidates Assembly with New Haven and Hamden Mayoral Candidates to talk public safety


September 3, 2021

CONTACT: Jerrod Ferrari 203.963.9224


HAMDEN, CT (September 3, 2021) — With over 70 masked in-person attendees and another 130 people on Zoom, Wednesday night’s Hamden and New Haven Mayoral candidate forum, coordinated by Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (CONECT), touched on a variety of issues ranging from asthma to safe streets. Representing New Haven was Mayor Justin Elicker and candidates from Hamden included Democratic Mayor Curt Leng, Democrat Peter Cyr, and Democrat Lauren Garrett. Rev. Philippe Andal, Community Baptist Church, in New Haven, and Rabbi Brian Immerman, Congregation Mishkan Israel, in Hamden gave the opening remarks stressing public safety and equity. “Over policing with under protection which is so often the reality in Black and Latinx communities is not public safety," said Immerman before taking 23 seconds in a moment of silence to honor the 23 people killed by gun violence in New Haven this year. “When we say public safety we mean that our elected officials must urgently and comprehensively address gun violence.” The event was held at the Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden and was the first in-person event held by CONECT in nearly 18-months. Veronica Douglas-Givan, of Mt. Aery Baptist Church and Tynicha Drummonds, of Waverly Townhouses & Unitarian Society of New Haven offered the first questions of the night focused on whether Elicker would commit $2 million of the American Rescue Plan funds to hire Community Health Workers to support New Haven Public School students struggling with asthma. “The short answer is I don’t know. We are going through a community process specific to the American rescue funds to determine the allocation,” said Elicker. “If you want a solid answer I would say no…. The problem with asthma is not just in our schools, but in making more walkable neighborhoods.” In speaking on public safety and infrastructure improvements, Elicker said the center of attention will be on neighborhoods that have historically been ignored. Elicker was asked if he would commit to working with the community to see that at least 75 percent of the 85 repairs and improvements organizers have identified are completed during his next term. “I am very open to engaging with people and very open to working with you,” said Elicker. The majority of the night was spent in debate amongst the three Hamden candidates in attendance. Chief among the issues was environmental justice, highlighted by the ongoing preservation efforts of the Olin Corporation site clean-up. Advocates have called for full remediation of the 102.5-acre forest and wetlands site. “I think Olin needs to be preserved,” said Cyr, who said he agrees with the Yale School of Forestry's two-step approach to the site, opening what can be done now and working to remediate the rest of the site when possible. “I would like to put an acquisition team together.” All three candidates agreed on the preservation of the site. Marissa Dionne Mead, of Spring Forward, and Phil Kent, of Congregation Mishkan Israel, raised the issue of affordable housing in Hamden, and the lack thereof. They asked the candidates if they would commit to increasing mixed-use and affordable housing in Hamden. “The answer is clearly yes,” said Leng. “Our updated zoning laws and updated plan of conservation and development talk about having more affordable housing but we need to do more on the zoning end... But if you do it only on the zoning then you have to hope someone comes in and builds. What we need to do in addition is to be more proactive in getting it built.” In addressing police reform, all three candidates felt strongly more needed to be done in their hometown. Candidates were specifically asked if they were willing to commit to creating a non-police crisis response team to include social workers and mental health professionals that reflect Hamden’s racial diversity to respond to relevant emergency calls. Garrett, who said she was in support of creating a non-police crisis team, also called for completely replacing the city’s police commission. “When I become mayor I will replace the current police commissioners with people from neighborhoods with people disproportionately impacted by policing,” said Garrett. “I will ensure that our police commission serves the public and holds our police accountable.” The program lasted for just over an hour and a half and can be viewed here.

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About CONECT (Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut): CONECT is a collective of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and civic organizations from New Haven and Fairfield Counties – representing more than 30,000 people from different races, faith backgrounds, and living in both cities and suburbs – that have joined together to take action on social and economic justice issues of common concern. CONECT has made an impact on issues as varied as gun violence, health insurance rates, police reform, immigrant rights, and more.

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