Mayor John DeStefano closed his address to the Yale College Democrats on Monday with a firm answer to the age-old question: Sally’s or Pepe’s?
Sally’s took home the prize, but the real topic of the evening was the ways in which Yale students can become more involved in the various political challenges facing the city. DeStefano cited the municipal ID program, public campaign financing, public safety and education as key issues that will make up the public agenda for New Haven in the coming years.
“You can spend your time being sheep or you can spend your time doing something,” he said. “Local government is a great opportunity to make change and see its effects.”
The controversial municipal ID program provides one of the greatest opportunities for Yale students to get involved in New Haven public policy, DeStefano said. Yalies will have the chance to express their support for the ground-breaking legislation — which provides documented and undocumented residents with a legal identification card — in mid-November, when a city official will come on campus to register students for the program.
Many students present at DeStefano’s talk expressed their intention to register for a municipal ID. In the months since the program’s inception on June 4 — and the subsequent immigration raids conducted by the Department of Homeland Security — city officials have encouraged students to sign up for the cards, which can be used to set up bank accounts and also function as picture IDs, a New Haven Public Library card, a debit card and a parking meter pass.
“I really appreciated Mayor DeStefano’s explanation of the municipal ID card system,” Viviana Puchi ’10 said. “I believe in the message the ID cards represent, and I plan on getting one for myself.”
DeStefano also touched on the issue of campaign finance reform, which he has previously cited as a great personal concern. New Haven will be the first city in the state to introduce public financing of campaigns for the 2007 mayoral elections, he said. The use of public funds not only reduces the influence of interest groups but also increases campaigns’ reliance on print materials and grassroots work, both of which offer excellent opportunities for student involvement, he said.
DeStefano identified public safety and education as additional challenges facing New Haven, the former being an emerging issue and the latter a persistent trouble. Acknowledging the increase in gun violence in the city, he urged Yalies to participate in activities that benefit New Haven youth and to tackle the need for improvement in the education system by strengthening students’ academic foundations.
His words inspired some audience members, who afterwards expressed an interest in helping his campaign. Andrew Pearlmutter ’11 said his interest in working on DeStefano’s campaign is motivated by his desire to understand New Haven politics and to work closely with such an experienced New Haven politician.
DeStefano said he hopes to continue the strong relationship that has been fostered between the Yale College Democrats and the Democratic Party in New Haven and urged the young Dems to remember that this is a city operating on the idea that “we’re better together.”
Rachel Plattus ’09, the only candidate currently running for the Ward 1 aldermanic position, said the mayor’s appearance at the Yale College Democrats meeting was proof of his dedication to bettering the town-gown relationship.
Though DeStefano — who has already served seven terms as mayor — faces no opponent in the Democratic Party primary election, he will face Green Party candidate Ralph Ferruci and Republican H. Richter Elser ’81 in the November general election.