Toni Harp

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Toni Harp


Toni Nathaniel Harp is mayor of New Haven Connecticut.

For five years Toni Harp served as the Alderwoman for the Second Ward in New Haven. During her term, she served as President Pro Tempore, Vice Chairwoman of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, Chairwoman of the Select Committee on Homelessness, a member of the Human Resources Subcommittee on Discrimination and Harmony, and the Public Service and Substance Abuse Committee. On behalf of the Board of Alderman, she also served on the Affirmative Action Commission. She is a member of Links, Inc., the New Haven Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated, a public service sorority, and The Coalition of 100 Black Women.

Senator Harp has lived in New Haven for more than 25 years and is currently employed as the Homeless Service Director at the Hill Health Center. She was married to the late Wendell Harp and is the mother of three children, Djana, Jamil, and Matthew.[1]

Political career

In 2012, Toni Harp was serving her tenth consecutive term representing the 10th Senatorial District and its residents. Her district includes western New Haven and northern West Haven. She was reappointed to lead the budget-writing Appropriations Committee for a fifth consecutive term; she also serves on the Education Committee, the influential Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee and the Legislative Management Committee.

Senator Harp is a Deputy President Pro Tempore of the Senate, underscoring her leadership role.

She is the former chairperson of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ standing committee on Health where she had the responsibility of reviewing policy, coordinating lobbying strategies, and presiding over programs throughout the United States. In 2006 Senator Harp spoke at an international forum in Brussels on public policy challenges prompted by the fast-growing population of senior citizens.[2]

Recognition

Harp's standing has been recognized by numerous groups, associations, and organizations: the American Lung Association of Connecticut presented her with a Breath of Life Award; it had previously named her Legislator of the Year for her leadership in the areas of public health and lung health. End Hunger Connecticut! commended her for efforts to redistribute food and get it onto the plates of those who struggle to afford it, and she also received a Legislative Award from the Connecticut Psychological Association for her leading role in maintaining access to mental/behavioral health services for state residents.

Senator Harp was a recipient of the 2007 Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service in the category Outstanding State Senator. This award was established by the American Medical Association and is one of the most prestigious forms of recognition for outstanding public service in the advancement of public health.

She received an annual Legislative Award from Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc. for her ‘unfailing’ support and assistance on behalf of legislation to help sexual assault victims, survivors, and their families. She has also been active in efforts to reform Connecticut’s corrections system and has spoken many times before corrections and probation officers.

In 2000, Senator Harp received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Connecticut Psychiatrists Society. She was also selected by the New Haven County Silver Shields to receive the Dedicated Service Award. The Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics presented her with its annual award. She has been named the Woman of the Year Award from the African-American Affairs Commission. She was also named 2000 Family Legislator of the Year by the Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies for her extraordinary efforts to strengthen families in our state. She received the Clarence Daniel Advocacy Award from the Connecticut AIDS Residents Coalition. Senator Harp received the Women’s Advocacy Award from the Connecticut Women’s Consortium. And, she was honored by Children in Placement—CT/CASA (CIP) for her contribution to a better life for Connecticut's abused and neglected children.

In 1999, the Connecticut Chapter of the NAACP selected Senator Harp to receive its Clarence Mitchell Political Action Award. She was cited for her outstanding leadership in a number of issues, including managed care reform, the increase in the minimum wage, economic development for cities and making insurance coverage available to uninsured children, among others. Also in 1999, Senator Harp received the Phoebe Bennett Award from the Connecticut Association of Mental Health Clinics for Children.

In 1998, she was selected by the Council of State Governments for its prestigious Toll Fellowship Program. In 1997, Senator Harp was named Legislator of the Year by the Connecticut Psychological Association for her work on managed care legislation. In 1996, many groups honored her, including her peers in the Connecticut State Senate in a bi-annual recognition ceremony at the Old State House when she was named “the conscience of the Senate.”She was also honored by the U.S. Congress as the 1996 Woman of the Year from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District for “her achievements and contributions in public service and the advancement of women’s issues.”

Senator Harp has twice been honored by the Connecticut State Medical Society, first for her “advocacy on behalf of patients,” and most recently with their Legislative Service Award for her record of preserving and enhancing quality medical care.

In 1995, she was awarded citations by the National Association of Social Workers, the Connecticut Association for Human Services, the New Haven Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the New Haven Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Incorporated. She was also honored as one of New Haven Business’ 20 Noteworthy Women. Senator Harp received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois, and a Master of Environmental Design from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.[3]

Activism

Harp led the fight against Big Tobacco as an outspoken proponent of the state law to mitigate second-hand smoke through a ban on indoor smoking in places of public accommodation. She also helped start Connecticut’s Asthma Action Plan, through which health officials began to track asthma in Connecticut’s public schools beginning in 2003. She was also recognized by the Connecticut Local Administrators of Social Services (CLASS) for her contributions in that area.[4]

Supported Progressive Health Care Reform

In late 2009, Toni Harp was one of more than 1,000 state legislators to sign a letter entitled "State Legislators for Progressive Health Care Reform". The letter was a project of the Progressive States Network and was developed in consultation with national health care reform advocates, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Community Catalyst, Families USA, Herndon Alliance, National Women's Law Center, Northeast Action, SEIU, and Universal Health Care Action Network. The letter reads in part,[5]

"Failure to pass national comprehensive health reform now will further jeopardize state and local budgets, undermining public services like education, public safety, and transportation infrastructure... We, the undersigned, call on President Obama and the Congress to enact bold and comprehensive health care reform this year – based on these principles and a strong federal-state collaboration – and pledge our support as state legislators and allies in pursuit of guaranteed, high quality, affordable health care for all."

"Fulfilling the Promise of Human Rights"

"Fulfilling the Promise of Human Rights: the Universal Declaration at 60 the Universal Declaration at 60" was a Connecticut conference marking the 60th anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Quinnipiac University Hamden, CT Dec. 6, 2008.

Keynote Address by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan with introduction by Alfred Marder, Greater New Haven Peace Council and Connecticut State Sen. Toni Harp.[6]

Alfred L. Marder 90th Birthday Celebration

New Haven People's Center blog

The March 2012 Host Committee, in honor of Connecticut Communist Party USA member Alfred Marder's 90th Birthday Celebration, held at the New Haven People's Center consisted of;

Hon. Rosa DeLauro, Sen. Toni Harp, Sen. Martin Looney, Rep. Juan Candelaria, Rep. Patricia Dillon, Rep. Toni Edmonds Walker, Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, Rep. Roland Lemar, Ald. Jorge Perez, President, New Haven Board of Aldermen, Ambassador Sylvester Rowe, Mohammed Barrie, Vinie Burrows, Mary Compton, Joelle Fishman, Craig Gauthier, Emanuel Gomez, Hilda Kilpatrick, Henry Lowendorf, Kenneth Marder, Rev. Scott Marks, William Morico, John Olsen, Quentin Snediker, Jarvis Tyner, Andrea van den Heever, Susan Yolen

A statement issued on the committee's behalf read;[7]

Dear Friends and Family of Al Marder,
We are excited to invite you to celebrate the 90th birthday of Al Marder and to recognize his many contributions, international and local, toward world peace, justice and equality.
Please join us in this joyous occasion on Sunday, March 18, at 3:00 pm at the New Haven Peoples Center, 37 Howe Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511.
The afternoon will include remarks, greetings, cultural expressions, and refreshments.
Among Al's many projects, there is one he selected for support on this occasion. The New Haven Peoples Center is a site on the African American Freedom Trail in Connecticut. It provides social, cultural and educational opportunities for the community. From his youth, Al has taken part in the activities of the Peoples Center, where today he serves as president.

2012 People's World Amistad Awards

Art Perry presents Peoples World Amistad Award to Sen. Toni Harp, as co-recipients Fatima Rojas of Unite HERE and Kurt Wesby of Local 32 BJ look on

"Solidarity, determination, and celebration were the watchwords at this year's post-election People's World Amistad Awards held at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven", December 2012. Three grassroots leaders for progressive social change, Sen. Toni Harp, Kurt Westby, and Fatima Rojas, were honored around the theme, "Connecticut Rising - We are all the 47 percent!"

Filling the auditorium were striking 1199 members from Healthbridge nursing homes nearing a full year on the picket lines; a large delegation of custodial workers, members of Local 32 BJ who came to help honor their director Kurt Westby, and many Unite Here union members including several who serve on the New Haven Board of Aldermen..

Sen. Toni Harp who represents the 10th District in New Haven and West Haven and serves as chair of the appropriations committee, moved the audience when she said that she was dedicating the award to Al Marder with whom she works on the Connecticut Freedom Trail, and to her late husband Wendell Harp who first encouraged her to run for office.

"This election shows that the 47 percent are the most important part of the electorate," she exclaimed.

Harp was repeatedly applauded for refusing to back down in her support of the New Haven People's Center when the "Right Wing used red baiting to pressure Governor Dannel Malloy to withdraw bonding funds requested by Harp to re-point the 150 year old brick structure."[8]

Support for People's Center

In 2012, Sen. Toni Harp was thanked for her unwavering stand in defense of the funding for the New Haven People's Center. [9]

Guns to butter

The Greater New Haven Peace Council (a chapter of the U.S. Peace Council) and the City of New Haven Peace Commission achieved a victory when their initiative to institute economic conversion of Connecticut’s military industries was passed by the State Senate. The office of Sen. Toni Harp released the following statement announcing the achievement:

State Senator Toni N. Harp (D-New Haven) was joined today [May 1] by Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) to secure an overwhelming vote for her initiative to establish a Futures Commission to help Connecticut prepare for and adapt to changing global economic conditions. Senators Harp and Looney said Connecticut must be prepared to compete in an economy that is likely to include fewer and fewer federal defense contracts over time.[10]

At a symposium on conversion at the University of Connecticut in 2009, the idea arose for a state commission to study and make recommendations on economic conversion. In spring of 2012, the City of New Haven Peace Commission and the Greater New Haven Peace Council jointly urged the Board of Alders (city council) to place a non-binding referendum on the ballot calling for reducing the military budget and using the savings to fund human needs. The referendum received 23,400 yes votes and passed by a 6 to 1 margin. Over 60% of voters who cast ballots for President also voted on the referendum. Based on the success of this referendum, peace and labor leaders jointly drafted a proposal to the state legislature to create a state commission to study transitioning Connecticut's economy.

The draft urged the necessity to stop wars waged to gain control over people, land, fossil fuels and minerals by constricting the armaments industry. It called to reduce the over $1.2 trillion dollar annual spending on warmaking that is bankrupting our country and reverse the unemployment crisis in Connecticut. It urged redirecting Connecticut's declining manufacturing base toward unmet human needs with green, civilian products.

State Senator Toni Harp turned the draft into a proper bill co-sponsored by the entire New Haven delegation. The bill was assigned to the Commerce Committee, which held a single public hearing. Representatives of the Peace Commission, Peace Council, State Council of Machinists and Connecticut AFL-CIO testified in favor. There was some support and some opposition. Testimony by the IAM converted the skeptics. The Commission, including 3 representatives from labor, 1 from peace and 1 from environment, passed the Senate and House overwhelmingly and was signed into law by the governor. The Commission began meeting October 1, 2013, and must finish its work by the end of 2014. [11]

Mayor of New Haven

A huge multiracial crowd jammed inside and outside of Kelly's restaurant on election night here to celebrate the victory of Toni Harp as the first woman African American mayor, and cheered also for the mayors elected in New York and Boston. In all three cities, the labor movement joined with community forces to elect a candidate running on a program prioritizing people's needs.

right, communist Lisa Bergmann campaigns for Harp

Led here by New Haven Rising, unions of Yale University workers and community groups, hundreds of volunteers knocked on doors across the city this summer and fall to discuss issues and organize a large voter turnout. Labor-backed Harp won the primary and then went on to win the general election. In addition, the 20-member super-majority of union members and allies on the Board of Alders elected in 2011 was retained.

Also, charter revision to give residents a larger voice in government passed overwhelmingly. Two elected members were added to the mayor-appointed Board of Education, a civilian review board was established, 10 points were added for city residents who pass civil service exams, and mayoral appointments will be approved by the Board of Alders.

These victories and fulfilling the aldermanic priorities for jobs, youth services and an end to violence have not come easy.

Opposition candidates organized as "Take Back New Haven" claimed the alders were controlled by a "union machine" from the suburbs. In fact, the alders who are union members were elected as a result of unprecedented outreach door to door in each ward, exactly the opposite of a back-room machine. They have brought into the community the skills they learned representing co-workers on the job as service, maintenance, clerical and technical workers at Yale and as members of AFSCME and 1199. They are neighbors with as much stake in the future of the city as anyone else. Most are African American, many are women.

Harp, a former AFSCME Local 3144 member, said during the campaign, "ASFCME and I share a vision for a new New Haven. We share a vision of a New Haven that pays all workers fairly, that provides social services to the less fortunate, and guarantees all employees a secure retirement."

A longtime state senator with a strong progressive voting record, Harp came under attack for tax problems around her late husband's business. After she won the five-way Democratic primary, these attacks escalated in an apparent attempt to keep down the vote.

Harp's years of community service and her endorsements by legislators and the governor ensured her victory over Alder Justin Elicker who switched and ran independent after coming in second in the primary. His votes came primarily from wards with large white homeowner professional populations who liked his balanced budget program.

While Harp won with 54 percent of the vote, a campaign of education and discussion about race and the role of unions will be important post-election to move the city forward.

A major accomplishment of the union/community alders during their first term was the establishment of New Haven Works, which to date has helped over 100 residents get jobs at Yale, with a goal of 1,000 jobs in the next two years. Efforts are being made to get comparable commitments from other employers.

New Haven Rising activists are preparing for a new push to create jobs with livable wages and the right to a union. Activists who became involved during door knocks for the election plan to bring their message to Harp and the alders that to restore hope and opportunity more initiatives are needed to bring an end to the massive unemployment facing youth and adults, especially in largely African American and Latino wards. Young people themselves were a major part of the door knocking all year long leading up to November's general election.[12]

Craig Gauthier day

When New Haven Mayor Toni Harp declared Feb. 23, 2014 as "Craig Gauthier day in the City of New Haven," the overflow crowd at the Peoples Center burst into cheers.

Mayor Toni Harp and Craig Gauthier before the annual Peoples World African American History Month event honoring Gauthier

This 40th annual African American History Month event, also held in Hartford the night before, made history.

After leading a youth march to end violence and for jobs with Gauthier, the Mayor read her proclamation to this "courageous union and community leader in our State," noting his journey from Louisiana to New Haven, leading his union and in "the Communist Party USA, where he has campaigned for peace, to end police brutality, meet the needs of youth, to create living wag jobs in the community and for union rights."

Culminating two and a half years of youth organizing, the New Elm City Dream and the Young Communist League led the march with police escort. Over one hundred youth and elected officials, union and community leaders marched from Elm and Kensington streets where Tyrell Trimble was shot to death in July, 2012, to the Peoples Center to hear Gauthier's story.

Thanking the youth for marching and accepting the petitions for jobs they presented to her, Harp exclaimed, "If the demand is not placed there will be no action." The youth carried large banners created with local artists including likenesses of historical African American leaders, New Haven youth who lost their lives, and Gauthier.

Chanting "Jobs for Youth - Jobs for All," the marchers filed into the Peoples Center to the sounds of drumming by Brian Jarawa Gray and joined the crowd already assembled. As the room filled to capacity, people gathered outside the front and back doors, straining to hear the program.

Prize winners of the high school arts and writing competition presented their poems, essays and artwork on the theme, "If you were mayor of New Haven how would you work with young people to plan for the future of the city? As a high school student, what would you say to Mayor Toni Harp?"

Harp, the city's first woman and second African American mayor, promised to place the book with all the submissions into the New Haven Public Library "for posterity."

Before presenting his life story, Gauthier received additional citations from Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, elected two days later to fill the state senate seat vacated by Harp; Ald. Dolores Colon, chair of the Black and Hispanic Caucus of the Board of Alders, John Harrity, president of District 26, State Council of Machinists, Jarvis Tyner, executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA, and a poem by Baub Bidon.

"As Communists we strive for a better life for workers and their families, those who produce the wealth of this great nation," said Gauthier. "I urge the youth today to step out of the crowd and become community leaders, become leaders on the job. Don't let other people who know us define us. Learn your family history. Learn the real history of our nation. You cannot change anything unless your first find out how it works and what role you can play to make this democracy in these United States work for all people."

Ben McManus, chair of the People's World committee that planned the event, thankedd Gauthier and recalled his own first introduction to the Communist Party newspaper as a child in Newark, New Jersey. Before enjoying a home made meal, those present reached into their wallets to make a contribution to the fund drive.[13]

2017 year of Resistance

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Re-election?

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp announced her bid for a second term at a campaign kickoff event on a Saturday in early May 2016..

The kickoff, held at Edgewood Park, was attended by community members as well as representatives of New Haven at the state and federal levels. Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, Sen. Chris Murphy, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and state senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney each endorsed Harp, underscoring her commitment to bolstering youth services in the city. In her remarks, Harp spoke of the city’s progress in reducing crime, bettering public schools and creating new jobs as strengths of her administration. The campaign’s office will open on June 6 at 940 Whalley Ave.

“I’m excited. I’m joyful. And I’m proud to announce that I’m running for a second term for mayor,” Harp said.

Several city officials, including Hill alder Dolores Colon ’91, have noted that Harp is the leading candidate in the race, but Murphy said city residents should still vote on Nov. 3.

“This is as important as it gets,” he said. “It’s up to everyone here … to take nothing for granted in this election.”[14]

Sanctuary City

Marco Antonio Reyes Alvarez took sanctuary at the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven August 2017 instead of deporting back to Ecuador where his life would be endangered and where he would be separated from his wife and children for at least ten years.

His case has placed national immigration policy under sharp attack.

To cheers at a press conference and large rally outside the church, Mayor Toni Harp exclaimed, “Just to be clear: New Haven will remain a sanctuary city. New Haven will be a welcoming city no matter where you used to live or where you came from.”

The mayor proclaimed, “Even if leaders in Washington do not do a good job of upholding the values that our nation is founded on, we will make sure that we uphold those values here and in cities across the country. We will assist Marco Reyes any way we can. We are not going to engage in helping deport law-abiding residents. We build bridges, not walls.”

Speaking from inside the gated church steps, Reyes thankedd everyone and explained that he made the difficult decision to seek sanctuary as the last option to prevent permanent separation from his family.

“This morning I was supposed to be in the airport at 7:45. After speaking with my wife and children I made a different decision to seek help and stay here in this holy place,” he said. “I came to this country with a lot of dreams. Here I am. Here is my family. Here is my community. Here are all of us who want to live in a better world.”

The Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA) and Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA), as well as the sanctuary movement of faith leaders, had been working closely with Reyes and his family for several weeks. They were prepared to help.

Standing with Reyes, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D.-Conn, said that Reyes never got the fair hearing he deserves. Blumenthal said his career in law enforcement taught him that “enforcement requires a sense of fairness, justice, and humanity. It requires discretion.”

“Our country is better than the policies pursued these past seven months which will tear apart families and rip apart communities,” said Blumenthal.

The Reyes family has lived in Meriden since 1997 with two children protected by DACA, and one a U.S. citizen.

After accidentally crossing the border into Canada during vacation in 2016, Reyes has reported regularly to ICE as required and has been granted stays of removal. This June, he was suddenly denied and ordered to leave the country by August 8.

When his new lawyer was not able to get a stay of deportation from ICE, Reyes and his family had a big decision to make. First and Summerfield Pastor Juhye Hahn was awakened by a call early that morning.

“When I got a call at 2:30 am saying that sanctuary was needed in four hours, we didn’t ask the legal situation. We didn’t ask where he was from. We simply responded. The Bible teaches us to welcome strangers and provide hospitality to all in need,” said Hahn.

The church is also home to the offices of the UNITE-HERE unions that represent workers at Yale University. Speaking on behalf of UNITE-HERE, Rev. Scott Marks led the crowd in a chant, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

“We stand together with brother Marco Reyes.” said Marks. “One thing the [Trump] administration would like is for us to be divided and separated. UNITE-HERE and New Haven Rising calls on Black people, calls on brown people, calls on all people to stand together. If we stand together we will win.”

Also addressing national immigration policy, Meriden Councilman Miguel Castro warned that “our humanitarian values and democracy are under attack… Marco Reyes and his family are victims of a national policy tearing families apart and threatening the core of our country’s fabric.” He called for everyone to stand together as a coalition in order to change those policies.

“Today, Connecticut has become an example for the country,” said Reyes’ pastor, Omar Herrera. I believe that we have awakened.”

“Marco’s case breaks our heart,” said Jesus Morales Santiago, on behalf of ULA. “Thousands of families in the nation are going through a similar situation. Our community is tired of being strangers in our own land. Many of us are descendants of Native Americans. Our ancestors stepped on these lands. We have the right to live here peacefully toward a better future.”

Representing CIRA, Alok Bhatt told the rally for Reyes that the courage he and his family are demonstrating “challenges us to be better advocates, to build a movement and stand up for everybody and change the policy. Justice is the justice we create.”[15]

La Luz connection

Pearldsa.JPG

Jose La Luz, Toni Harp, Maribel La Luz, 2015.

References

  1. http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Harp.php, official State Senate bio, accessed Dec. 7, 2012]
  2. http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Harp.php, official State Senate bio, accessed Dec. 7, 2012]
  3. http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Harp.php, official State Senate bio, accessed Dec. 7, 2012]
  4. http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Harp.php, official State Senate bio, accessed Dec. 7, 2012]
  5. Progressive States Network: State Legislators for Progressive Health Care Reform (accessed on Dec. 23, 2010)
  6. Fulfilling the Promise of Human Rights: the Universal Declaration at 60
  7. New haven People's center blog, Tuesday, March 6, 2012, Alfred L. Marder 90th Birthday Celebration
  8. Peoples World, People's World Amistad Awards inspire action, by: Special to PeoplesWorld.org, December 6 2012
  9. [New Haven Peoples Center blog, Tuesday, June 5, 2012. Progressive Education and Research Associates, Inc.]
  10. USPC website, CONNECTICUT SENS. HARP, LOONEY EARN SENATE APPROVAL FOR BILL TO MAP ‘ECONOMIC CONVERSION’ THROUGH FUTURES COMMISSION
  11. CPUSA Convention Discussion: Swords into ploughsharesby: DAVID WELDEN May 22 2014
  12. PW, Election mandate calls for unity and jobs by: JOELLE FISHMAN november 19 2013
  13. http://peoplesworld.org/youth-march-and-celebration-inspires-struggle-for-equality/ Youth march and celebration inspires struggle for equality, by: JOELLE FISHMAN]
  14. Yale Daily News, Harp kicks off re-election campaign By Erica Pandey Staff Reporter Saturday, May 16, 2015
  15. PW Connecticut mayor: We won’t help deport law-abiding citizens August 11, 2017 11:25 AM CDT BY JOELLE FISHMAN