Tastie Fish conducted a telephone interview with New Haven Mayor Toni Harp this morning from our offices in downtown New Haven.
Harp was a Connecticut State Senator for 20 years before assuming her current post as the 50th mayor of New Haven.
Harp is the second African American to serve as mayor, and the first woman in history.
An advocate for social progress, and civil rights, Harp has dedicated her life to the advancement of others, and has made gains over a career that spans 3 decades.
Mayor Harp is facing a multitude of challenges in this explosive political climate, including the fact that she currently administrates a sanctuary city at a time in which the White House has threatened to cut off federal funding from cites with the sanctuary designation
Mayor Harp addressed some of these challenges and more during our wide ranging discussion.
This is a Tastie Fish exclusive
TF: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump have implied through press conferences and statements that they are intent on cutting federal funding to sanctuary cities that refuse to shed the designation.
Legally what options does New Haven have in the event that the White House executed an executive order that does in fact cut off funding from sanctuary cities?
Toni Harp: Well the Federal government has the authority to do that, and we have the ability to contest it.
Sanctuary cities are validated by Congress, it was the government that gave us this designation, and many of the immigrants in New Haven pay federal taxes, so I am not sure how cutting off federal funding would stack up in court.
There is questions right now about the legal basis of such a move, I have been spent time looking into it, discussing it with my staff, and we are prepared to take this fight to highest courts in the land if the situation calls for it.
I will do what I have to do to protect our city, and all of the people in it.
TF: I was walking into work earlier today, and I ran into a man that was collecting money from parking meters around the city. He told me that the traffic division of New Haven was not being paid in full, and that they have been working without a contract for 2 years now.
Are you aware of this? Is this something that is being addressed?
Toni Harp: Yes, I am quite aware of this, and I can tell you that several contracts are in the process of being negotiated.
I am in constant contact with the unions, this is being addressed.
It’s a negotiation right now, one that I believe will have a favorable conclusion.
TF: We wanted to ask about Homelessness in New Haven. It’s a very serious concern among the citizens. We have found that many citizens who are in poverty have trouble staying at homeless shelters because they would rather be on the street to abuse substances, and other shelters cost too much money.
It’s a tricky balance, do you believe there is an inbetween?
Toni Harp: Well I found that many people who are somewhat stuck are dealing with behavioral health issues as oppose to substance abuse issues, and I believe that is something that the city can address.
New Haven is one of the few cities that pays for homeless shelters in Connecticut, and we have several plans of action in place to address this problem.
In some cases, it’s just needing to know where the services are, and what is available, so it comes down to creating awareness for those that are in need.
We have even jumpstarted a program where we literally will approach panhandlers, and people living in poverty about the prospect of a job.
If they are interested in working, if they are receptive to improving their life, we will find them employment.
This program is actually in motion as we speak.
TF: As Mayor, what is a top priority to you in terms of the citizens, and the general direction of the city?
Toni Harp: Economic development. Blessed that we live in a city that is such a fertile ground for growth and development. I am so proud of the atmosphere being cultivated in New Haven, small business growing, and entrepreneurs succeeding.
It is very important to me that New Haven be a place where business and creative people can flourish, and be successful.
We have many programs in motion to augment this effort, grants, funding, etc.
We even have initiatives at Gateway Community College, Southern Connecticut State University, and others that are encouraging students preparing to join the workforce.
My economic development team has worked hard to bring some of our ideas to fruition, and they will continue too do under my watch.
Christian James is the Senior Political Correspondent for Tastie Fish