With fewer than two weeks remaining before the Ward 22 special election, Greg Morehead, the candidate endorsed by the city’s Democratic Town Committee, spoke with students at a carefully orchestrated “Meet & Greet” sponsored by the Yale College Democrats.
Morehead briefly addressed the nearly 30 students gathered in the Swing Space common room, giving a prepared speech that emphasized the creation of a 24-hour youth center for the Dixwell neighborhood, small business growth and card-check neutrality for Yale-New Haven hospital workers. Students present at the meeting said that while Morehead was a definite newcomer to politics and lacked the experience of some of the other candidates, his enthusiasm and vision for New Haven would make him a quick learner and an excellent alderman.
Morehead first toned down the formality of the occasion for the benefit of the student audience by removing his jacket and tie — though he later asked a photographer if he should put it back on. He praised Yale students for their energy and community outreach efforts and explained that he wants their support both for the election and for a lasting partnership between Yale and the Dixwell neighborhood. He emphasized that while he has no political background, he is a small business owner and has an entrepreneurial mind-set.
“I am a motivator, a go-getter,” Morehead said. “And while we need economic growth downtown, we also need to create our own [in Dixwell].”
Morehead said that if elected, he would seek out partnerships with the Yale Entrepreneurial Society and Elmseed.
But his focus throughout the hour-long presentation was his idea for a youth center that would provide young people — who often have no place to hang out except street corners — with a “safe haven.” He said he envisioned that the center would offer civic lessons in addition to sports and social activities.
“I feel some more things can be done in education,” Morehead said.
Morehead was less clear about where the funds for the center would come from. He said in an interview after his presentation that given New Haven’s budget shortfalls, the money would probably have to come from state and federal grants. Yale Dems President Eric Kafka ’08, with whom Morehead was standing at the time, encouraged Morehead to mention the public-private investment partnerships he hopes to build.
After his speech, Morehead took questions from audience members, warning them that he might jot down their questions for future consideration. Asked about what he saw as the Board of Aldermen’s proper role in the unionization dispute at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Morehead said the aldermen need to continue to push for a union at the hospital.
“In order that this doesn’t continue to go on, we should come together to do whatever we have to do,” Morehead said.
This spirit of unity extended to other aspects of his platform. Morehead said police officers should do more community policing in order to regain residents’ trust and decrease crime. Kafka also said during the candidate’s presentation that Morehead was excited about bringing more residents into HUSKY B, a state program that provides health insurance to the working poor.
Nate Kilbert ’07, though not registered to vote in Connecticut, said he thinks Morehead is a young, dynamic candidate.
“Obviously, his policy proposals are not entirely fleshed out yet,” Kilbert said. “But that’s normal for someone with no experience, and I’m sure he’d be able to put together a more developed plan once in office.”
Other students echoed these sentiments. Both Jacob Koch ’10 and Jessica Bialecki ’08 said they appreciated Morehead’s focus on youth issues in the community, as well as his determination to involve Yale students in Dixwell affairs. Bialecki said it also helps that Mayor John DeStefano Jr. — whom she supports — has endorsed Morehead.
But Ward 22 co-chair Cordelia Thorpe, one of Morehead’s three opponents, said in an interview that Morehead was overly idealistic and lacked concrete policy proposals. Thorpe said Morehead’s vision of a 24-hour youth center was unrealistic, and she questioned not only where the budget would come from, but also what type of parent would want their child out at 4 a.m.
“Greg offers a pie in the sky,” she said. “Cordelia offers proven leadership and accountability.”
Last weekend, Morehead left a message on Thorpe’s answering machine threatening to sue her for slander. Thorpe has contested the allegations.
Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05 said Morehead had been the most proactive of the four candidates about reaching out to him and that Morehead has his strong support heading into the election. He said Morehead’s inexperience would not be a detriment.
“A lot of campaigning is having the heart in the right place, but then once in office, the political process involves coming to grips with the details,” Shalek said.
The special election to replace former Ward 22 Alderman Rev. Drew King will be held April 16.