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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Malloy, DeStefano debate

The New Haven Independent has a full run-down of last night's debate between Mayors John DeStefano and Dan Malloy.
Discussing a bill that would legalize millions of undocumented immigrant workers, the two candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination told a Latino audience at a debate Wednesday night that they are on the immigrants' side. "The federal government discriminates against these folks after allowing them to arrive," said New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. (pictured) as he faced off against Dannel Malloy. A new difference emerged between the candidates: their stances on the No Child Left Behind Act and standardized testing.

The debate, hosted by the Progreso Latino Fund at the North Haven Holiday Inn, offered an unprecedented chance for a crowd of 200 Latino leaders to grill gubernatorial candidates on their vision for Latinos.

"We've created a class of victims," said DeStefano of the country's 11 million undocumented workers. "I think that governors have the responsibility to lobby for a sane immigration system."

"Sane" means a "reasonable and appropriate number immigrating to the U.S.," he later elaborated.

DeStefano and Malloy both stood behind the Kennedy/McCain bill in the U.S. Senate that would offer illegal immigrants legal status on a few conditions: if they first pay a fine of $2,000, back taxes, undergo a background check, learn English and work for six years before being granted permanent residency. That bill is at odds with a far stricter version passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, which has led to huge pro-immigrant demonstrations in cities across the country.


The two did show a clear difference on two issues -- health care, and a law much bemoaned by liberals and educators: President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumental is leading a suit against the federal government charging the NCLB, which requires schools to meet testing standards and close achievement gaps, is an unfunded mandate — a demand not backed up with sufficient cash to carry out the task. Liberals, educators, and 117 Connecticut towns who joined the suit, agree.

So does DeStefano. "I've got concerns about No Child Left Behind that requires this, this much testing. There is not a teacher that I talk to that doesn't tell you they are overwhelmed" by all the testing. "I think the lawsuit is nice, you know, but I don't think it does it." DeStefano said he would "invest in our kids" by supporting pre-K, full-day Kindergardten and low class sizes in grades 1, 2 and 3.

Malloy took a more centrist stance: "I think the testing is a non-funded mandate but I break with my colleagues here... I think that testing is appropriate." He said the rigorous testing requirements "empowered" minorities. "It's important for the parents of every black, Latino and Caucasian kid to know where their child fits in in the school system."


The two ended by answering a question about how they differ from each other on Latino issues. DeStefano said he'd successfully hired 500 Latinos into the city of New Haven workforce. He mentioned the recent success procuring community benefits for the Hill neighborhood, which has a sizeable Latino population, in the tumultous Yale-New Haven cancer center project. He said he has "shared values" with Latinos in fair pay, education and medical benefits.

Malloy chose to tout popularity over issues. He boasted his support from a statewide Latino group, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, and Alderman Jorge Perez, who endorsed Malloy after DeStefano shunned his reelection to New Haven Board of Alderman presidency. "The most important thing is, I can win," said Malloy. He made brief mention of a few policies, including a new housing policy released Wednesday.