Local politicians urge student involvement

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. addressed students in the Branford Common Room Monday night, urging them to get involved in New Haven politics.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. addressed students in the Branford Common Room Monday night, urging them to get involved in New Haven politics. Photo by Benjamin Ackerman.

The Yale College Democrats invited local politicians to campus on Monday evening for their first official meeting of the year.

In a packed Branford common room, Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12, Ward 22 Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison and Mayor John DeStefano Jr. addressed prospective and returning Dems. Eidelson and Morrison emphasized the importance of youth services in New Haven, while DeStefano focused on the city’s efforts to improve its accessibility to new immigrants and the need to politically engage all segments of the city’s population. The majority of attendees were freshmen looking to learn more about the Dems, and members of the Dems board said they have been pleased by Yalies’ involvement in campus-wide events and local politics in the opening weeks of school.

“Students are going to have a huge impact this year, especially in terms of registering new voters,” said Dems Elections Coordinator Nicole Hobbs ’14. “It’s very exciting that we’ve been so visible on campus.”

DeStefano, the event’s final speaker, encouraged students to get involved in local politics, calling Yale “the heart of the downtown district,” in contrast to most Ivy League universities.
“It is so imperative for young people to get involved in New Haven politics,” DeStefano said. “The city is currently focusing on many youth-oriented issues, all of which affect Yale students.”

The mayor addressed immigration policy, describing his success in championing the Elm City Resident Card program in 2007. He said the program, which issues identification cards to both documented and undocumented residents and allows them to open bank accounts and borrow library books, among other things, is intended to welcome all types of people to New Haven. He added that his office works closely with both faith-based and community-based organizations in helping undocumented high school students get to college.

DeStefano, who was born and raised in the city’s East Shore neighborhood, also emphasized New Haven’s cultural and ethnic diversity and said that he always welcomes new populations to the city.

“We need to focus on voter registration,” DeStefano said. “Historically, we have had turnout issues, but we have such a rich, diverse environment in this city and we need to engage more folks.”

Eidelson and Morrison echoed DeStefano’s sentiments and encouraged students to attend meetings of their ward committees and get involved in local advocacy, especially in preparation for the upcoming local and national elections.

In her speech, Morrison focused on the relationship between Yale and New Haven. Growing up in New Haven, she said, she was not encouraged to interact with Yale students, but later realized the importance of town-gown cooperation in bettering the city.

“Yale has an extremely important role in New Haven politics,” Morrison said. “Ward meetings make it so easy for students and residents to speak up and give public testimony.”

Eidelson, who as Ward 1 alderwoman represents most Yale undergraduates on the Board of Aldermen, encouraged the Dems to explore both politics and New Haven community activities, explaining that she missed out on learning about the city during her first two years at Yale.

In an interview with the News, Dems president Zak Newman ’13 said the Dems have been working especially hard to make sure that all eligible New Haven voters have the opportunity to vote in the upcoming election.

“We have worked hard to make a difference, especially in regards to voter identification laws,” Newman said.

DeStefano, who won a record 10th term as mayor last fall, will run for another term in fall 2013.

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