New Haven Deserves Real Transparency
By Tom Goldenberg, Democratic Candidate for Mayor of New Haven
Since 2013, Justin Elicker has branded himself as the “clean” candidate. He argued for more transparency in government, has supposedly sworn off big donors, and has attacked challengers on what he has seen as going back to “backroom deal” politics.
A significant measure of transparency is the government’s ability to respond to freedom of information (FOI) requests. CT Insider recently lambasted Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim for a high share of the state’s FOI complaints. But what about New Haven? The CT Insider report shows that New Haven actually has more FOI complaints per capita than Bridgeport. These complaints are a symptom of a broader lack of communication and transparency from our current Mayor.
What are these FOI complaints? Well, one is due to the lack of response to our campaign’s requests about the City’s communication with APT Foundation and plans for safe-injection sites, places where drug users can inject without penalty. These requests could take 15 minutes to resolve, but we have waited well over two months without a response. Others we have spoken to have been frustrated by the lack of response on body cam footage requests, city finance requests, and FOI requests on many other topics.
But the lack of transparency doesn’t stop at FOI requests. There has been a disturbing trend from this administration of withholding information from the public. The Mayor’s office knew about the APT Foundation’s plan to purchase an old school in the majority-Black residential neighborhood of Newhallville to open a methadone clinic. But the Mayor did nothing to inform that community – the Ward 20 Alder found out through the reporting of the New Haven Independent!
Mayor Elicker also claims that the city has been transparent about its plans for safe injection sites. In the East Shore CMT Mayoral Debate, Elicker said “We have been very clear as a community. Dr Delal testified in support of the state hearing that would allow safe use consumption sites. We’ve been very open about that.”
However, these claims are downright false. I first brought attention to the City’s plans for safe-use injection sites in an op-ed published in the New Haven Register on March 22nd. The first word about safe injection sites from the City was Dr. Delal’s testimony in Hartford on March 22nd, two weeks later. And it is hard to tell for how long the City has been having discussions about this topic because our FOI request has not been answered, though it is certainly before Dr. Delal’s testimony.
So we see false claims given to counter a lack of transparency. This is the opposite of what New Haven voters chose in 2019 when they voted for Justin Elicker. As Mayor, I will commit to improving our response to FOI requests. I will treat Newhallville, the Hill, and Fair Haven with the same respect as our more affluent neighborhoods. And I will include the public in decisions that affect their communities – not make decisions for them.