Candidates discuss Yale’s involvement in city

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With the aldermanic and mayoral elections exactly a week away, candidates are expressing their views on a new era of Yale-New Haven relations.

Yale recently inaugurated a new president with fresh ideas on reinvigorating Yale-New Haven relations, and, for the first time in 20 years, the city will be led by a new mayor and a new president. Both mayoral candidates — Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 and Toni Harp ARC ’78 — agree that current town-gown relations are more positive than in years past, in part because of Mayor John DeStefano Jr’s efforts. But the two candidates have different ideas on how they will build on the mayor’s legacy to further the city’s interactions with the University.

The last major shift in city leadership was in 1993, when DeStefano was elected mayor of New Haven and Richard Levin took office as Yale’s 22nd president. Levin and DeStefano piloted a campaign that transformed a once-strained relationship into one characterized by cooperation and collaboration. Under their leadership, interactions between City Hall and Woodbridge Hall increased through initiatives like the New Haven Promise and the Homebuyers Program.

Echoing University President Peter Salovey’s inaugural speech — which emphasized the importance of Yale alumni entrepreneurs opening their businesses in New Haven — Elicker highlighted entrepreneurship as a potential point of interaction between the University and the city. For this to happen, he said, Yale must encourage students to interact with the city as soon as they matriculate.

“Yale sets the tone in orientation by presenting the city as a dangerous place and by not encouraging students to explore the city,” he said.

While Yale should encourage students to interact with New Haven, the city must also do its part by working to make New Haven a more attractive place to live, he said. He also suggested that the Grove — a New Haven community of innovators and entrepreneurs — should collaborate with Yale’s Entrepreneurial Institute to create a network of innovators.

Yale has invested in New Haven by establishing Yale University Properties in 1996, which helped revitalize Broadway and Chapel Street retail in downtown. Harp said Yale could simultaneously enrich its own community and New Haven by investing in New Haven’s transportation systems. Harp said that people affiliated with the University would like to see a second garage at Union Station and more direct flights from Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport, something that she said she would work to fund.

Both candidates also said they want to see more interactions between Yale and New Haven in the domain of education. Harp said that Salovey’s work on emotional intelligence is critical and that his curriculum could be implemented in New Haven public schools to serve as a model for the nation.

Elicker also pointed to education, saying that the first thing he would ask Yale to invest in, if elected, is early childhood education.

“A lot of the data is showing that early education has an incredible impact on kids and their future, so investing more in our kids, particularly the neediest, will likely give us positive results,” he said.

In addition to the mayoral race, the results of the Ward 1 Alderman race could influence Yale-New Haven relations. Sarah Eidelson ’12 is running against Paul Chandler ’14 to represent Ward 1, which consists primarily of Yalies.

In Monday night’s debate between Eidelson and Chandler, the two candidates said they will ensure Yale students’ voices are heard in government and that the issues most pertinent to Yalies will be addressed by the city.

“I decided to run to represent you,” Eidelson said to a room full of Yale undergraduates. “We have an integral role to play in shaping New Haven, and I hope you will join me in building a New Haven where we want to live.” She said that in her two years as an alderman, she has never found a policy initiative that pitted Yale students’ interests against New Haven’s interests.

In his responses, Chandler also talked about making New Haven a more attractive place to live.

“The Yale bubble should not be the first words you hear as a freshman at your first froco meeting,” he said. “People need to come to New Haven for New Haven, not in spite of New Haven.”

Yesterday’s debate was the only public debate between the Ward 1 candidates. The mayoral candidates are scheduled to engage in a final debate on Sunday.

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