City Hall officials are “swamped,” and four aldermen are enlisting Yalies to help.
A new program led by Ward 1 Aldermen Mike Jones ’11, Ward 2 alderwoman Gina Calder ’05 EPH ’08, Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 and Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead will pay Yale students to work as legislative aides to aldermen and city committees. Three to four undergraduates will be awarded with paid positions to help with policy research, working on legislation and educating fellow Yale students on New Haven politics, said Daniel Hornung ’12, director of New Haven Action, the Dwight Hall group that is funding the initiative.
The idea is not new: A similar program was started in 2007 by Calder and Morehead. But Morehead only found one student, who he said quit because he was overburdened with schoolwork. Morehead said the lack of interest for the program was most likely because the position did not offer a stipend and because no one from the undergraduate community vouched for the program at the time.
Aides now will receive $200 for working five-hour weeks throughout March and April, excluding spring break, Hornung said. New Haven Action will pay Yalies using money it secured from a fundraising campaign between 2004 and 2007, program organizers said.
Jones, who mentioned the legislative aide program as part of his aldermanic campaign last year, has been working since his election last April alongside Calder and Morehead to iron out the program’s details, Hornung said. Although not all of the specifics have been finalized, aides will research policies used in other cities and meet with local constituents, Jones said.
“The policy research will be the major [job responsibility],” Morehead said, adding that he envisions his aide working on quarterly newsletters and updating his ward’s Web site.
These tasks come in the wake of what Morehead described as “swamped” conditions at City Hall. Hornung said there are only two full-time assistants to the 30-member Board of Aldermen. Morehead said that “in the past, when we needed something done, it’s been a bit overwhelming for those alders who are trying to bring about change in their community.”
Ward 11 Alderwoman Maureen O’Sullivan-Best declined to comment on the program because she said she had not heard about it. But Ward 20 Alderman Charles Blango, who is not officially involved in the program, said in a phone interview Wednesday that he understands how the program could be useful.
“Clearly … we’re understaffed,” he said. “If [the Yale students] would be doing research, it would make things run more smoothly, and I wouldn’t have any problem with that.”
Morehead said members of the Yale community are qualified to help City Hall because of the University’s central location in New Haven and Yale’s past involvement with community and political initiatives. Jones said he hopes to expand the program until there is at least one aide for every alderman.
The four aides, who would be selected by New Haven Action and the four aldermen, will not necessarily be assigned to the four aldermen involved in the program, Hornung said, adding that an aide might also be assigned to work for a specific City Hall committee or department.
Hornung and the aldermen presented the legislative aide program to more than 15 Yalies at an information session Wednesday. Two Yale students who attended the meeting said the program provides an exciting opportunity for Yale students to help New Haven and learn its politics.
“There is a lot of potential here [at Yale] with the student body,” Sahar Segal ’13 said.
The program is accepting applications until Feb. 21. The aldermen plan to announce a decision before spring break.