If Ward 28 Alderman Brian Jenkins gets his way, Yale’s actions in New Haven may soon be an issue of debate for the Board of Aldermen’s Black and Hispanic Caucus.
Jenkins and Ward 3 Alderman Juan Candelaria were elected chair and vice-chair of the caucus this month in an election virtually free of opposition. Jenkins was the only candidate for chair, and Candelaria’s opponent, Dolores Colon, removed herself from candidacy prior to the election date.
“We sat down and talked and we basically had the same vision, so she backed down,” said Candelaria.
Jenkins and Candelaria will serve one year as chair and vice-chair of the caucus, respectively. While Candelaria declined to list any specific issues he hopes the caucus will address, Jenkins said he would focus on increasing economic opportunities for members of New Haven’s black and Hispanic communities — something he believes Yale should play a greater role in doing.
Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez said he hopes that the caucus will work on providing equal educational opportunities for children throughout the city and will attempt to unite different ethnic groups behind the same agenda.
It is still unclear whether or not this year’s agenda will specifically address Yale’s role, but Jenkins was critical of the University’s relationship to the New Haven economy.
“You can’t put a number on the resources Yale has and doesn’t use,” Jenkins said. “I would like Yale to create some training programs and teach these young people [in New Haven] to acquire a trade — in the medical fields, in the health fields, in the maintenance and biotech areas.”
Jenkins also questioned Yale’s effect on the distribution of property within the city.
“[Yale has] been doing some things in terms of buying up this city that is harmful to the black and Hispanic community,” he said.
But Michael Morand, associate vice-president of the Yale Office of New Haven and State Affairs, said the University has been very involved in the Elm City.
“Despite what politicians sometimes feel compelled to say, Yale University contributes extensively to New Haven,” Morand said in an e-mail.
Morand pointed to the Yale Homebuyer Program, which he said has helped over 200 African-American and Latino families purchase their own homes in New Haven. He added that Yale’s investments in the city create jobs and generate tax dollars that help the city’s general populace.
“I think that Yale has been very proactive in working with the black and Hispanic communities,” Candelaria said.
Perez said Yale is an easy target for many people.
“I don’t think Yale is an evil institution, but I believe it is an 800-pound gorilla that is difficult to deal with,” he said.
Despite their differences in opinion regarding Yale, Candelaria and Jenkins said they were confident that they would be able to work together efficiently.
“We talk with one voice,” Candelaria said.
Over half the members of the caucus are new this year. Both Candelaria and Jenkins were complimentary of fellow caucus members, doubting that the divisions that have plagued the caucus in the past would be a problem this year.
“I think we are going to let every member of the caucus express themselves,” Candelaria said. “It is going to be a collaborative agenda.”
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said he was supportive of the caucus’ new leadership.
“I think that Brian and Juan are two bright, hard-working alderpeople, and I think they’ll add value wherever they go,” DeStefano said.