New Haven is a great city, and this November we have an opportunity to take big steps to make it better. I envision a New Haven where no one is left behind, where providing equal opportunities will create a stronger community and where Yale students work within broad-based coalitions to realize the vision we share for our city. I am running to be your alderman for the next two years because I believe that New Haven residents and Yale students can work together to create a better, safer, and more vibrant New Haven.
When I arrived in New Haven last fall, I was eager to get involved with the community. Through the New Haven Policy Assistant program, I worked with the Board of Aldermen to cut the bureaucratic red tape that currently impedes entrepreneurial start-ups in the city and prevents job creation. I saw firsthand the problems New Havenites faced and I helped aldermen respond to these problems through legislation. Working with the Board of Aldermen gave me an understanding of how city government can best work for its constituents. Moreover, it showed me how students, residents and community groups can work together to improve our city.
Since announcing my candidacy for alderman last spring, I have been in conversation with campus leaders and community activists, discussing how I can work with the Board of Aldermen to solve problems. Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been talking to students to understand their concerns about New Haven and what constructive changes they would like to see. It is clear to me that Yalies expect an alderman who will deliver results.
In talking with students about how we can best deliver on our vision for a greater city, I’ve proposed three priorities that need our work. First, New Haven should be a safe haven. Violent crime is all too common. One of the most effective ways to combat violent crime is to find solutions to prevent prison recidivism. In 2009, 54 percent of New Haven residents placed on probation were rearrested within two years. Creating a Transitional Employment Program that cycles the formerly incarcerated through already existing public sector jobs will provide them with the job experience needed to successfully reintegrate. Furthermore, we can incentivize fair-hiring for the formerly incarcerated by allocating greater resources to the New Haven Prisoner Reentry Initiative and restructuring New Haven’s licensing protocols and grant distribution.
As a second step, we should take on the inefficiencies that hamper our community’s economy. Like the rest of the country, New Haven was hit hard by the recession. It is critical that New Haven citizens know that their government is working to attract employers and promote growth. The Board of Aldermen needs to be sensitive to the needs of businesses and their employees and enact policies that will facilitate start-ups in New Haven.
Taking policy to the streets, the Board of Aldermen can begin to restructure downtown transit in order to make New Haven more pedestrian and bike friendly. For example, extending bike lanes, coordinating traffic signal timing and creating raised crosswalks would create an urban environment far better for both Yale student pedestrians and New Haven drivers.
Finally, our city government must be more accountable in order to give residents the opportunity to make their voices heard and enact real change. I will work to increase the transparency of city government by making live streams of public meetings and audio of committee meetings available on New Haven’s city website. Furthermore, I’ll work towards a more efficient Civilian Review Board, so that law enforcement officials will always be held accountable.
Together, students, community groups and elected representatives can deliver results for the people of New Haven. We can take on the issues of crime, economic development and government accountability. We can create a better New Haven where no one is left behind. But we can only do that together. That’s why I am running to be your representative on the Board of Alderman and why I am asking for your support. I look forward to a spirited campaign and to continuing our dialogue about your vision for a greater New Haven.
Vinay Nayak is a sophomore in Davenport College and a candidate for Ward 1 alderman.