You probably don’t hear this very often, but thank you for choosing to come to New Haven for your college years. Yale students contribute in such a vital way to our city’s economy, keeping thousands of New Haveners employed. I hope that your years in our city are equally rewarding.
While my appreciation is sincere, there is something fundamentally wrong with the fact that a majority of Yale students do not consider settling in New Haven. Sure, there are always a handful who stay to teach or do valuable work with non-profit organizations, and an even larger group enrolls in one of Yale’s world class graduate programs, but each year, there is an exodus of young and talented professionals from New Haven to places like New York, San Francisco and Washington. An informal poll of your closest friends will likely confirm this — New Haven lacks the jobs to keep its young college graduates. (This is true not just at Yale but also at Southern Connecticut State University, University of New Haven, Quinnipiac University, Albertus Magnus College, and Gateway Community College alike).
The lack of opportunity for young professionals in the city is a failure of the current administration. New Haven should do more to reach out to its student bodies, creating internship programs and work-study jobs to foster a real sense of community both of place and purpose. The city must do more to create jobs for the new economy and reward innovation and entrepreneurship.
However, in order to create the infrastructure necessary for growth and change in the city, New Haven needs to drastically decrease its taxes. The first step is to make large cuts in the mayor’s budget.
Allocations for the city’s human resources department increased 115 percent from the 2006 budget to the current one; the mayor’s office is spending 24 percent more; the town clerk’s budget went up 23 percent. All the while, the budget allocation for development subsidies decreased 34 percent.
Perhaps worse than the reckless spending of late is the city’s reckless borrowing: over the same five-year period debt service increased 35 percent to $62 million in the current budget.
While many of the mayor’s progressive initiatives can be commended, the bottom line is that they should be effective, and they must be affordable. The mayor’s school reform plan is robust, but who is going to pay for it? Anonymous donors and philanthropists do not reassure an overtaxed public. The mayor should know that the city cannot qualify for federal innovation funds for school reforms, because the mayor has presided over a failing school district over the last 16 years. The funding will have to come from your pockets. Your neighbors’ pockets. Your University’s pockets.
The mayor recently said that he wants to be held accountable for school reform. But why only now? Why hasn’t he been held accountable for the hardships of a generation of New Haven Public School students? According to statistics from the state Department of Education, New Haven’s dropout rate during the 2006-2007 school year was 5.6 percent, a nominal decrease from six years prior, but still the fourth highest in the state. They deserved better. Our children deserve better. Our city deserves better.
If you elect me as mayor, I can promise you real change. The cronyism and patronage that has saturated New Haven politics for the last decade will disappear. The city will make a real effort to improve the lives of school children, surrounding them with better, more accountable teachers and cultivating parent involvement in the school community. I will reinvest in the community substations and revive community and senior centers throughout the city, giving kids a safe place to play and learn after school while giving adults and the elderly a safe public place to empower themselves. I will work to responsibly balance the budget and reduce the tax burden on the city’s already recession-starved tax base. The city will put police back on the walking beat, making it a priority to integrate its officers into the community. The city government will listen to all its citizens, reaching out to its constituents to bolster democracy and conducting its business transparently.
It is time for a change. It is time to take back New Haven.
Angela Watley is a dispatcher for the New Haven Police Department and a candidate for mayor of New Haven .