The juxtaposition of Yale and New Haven poses troubling contrasts. Often just a few blocks separate immense wealth from destitute poverty, boundless opportunity from institutionalized plight, the American dream from the dark shadows that still plague our nation. Yalies ought to be sincerely moved by this, and almost all of us are.
Nevertheless, un-tempered and ill-channeled empathy can be as dangerous as outright apathy — if not more so. New Haven is a tragic story of good intentions gone awry. And now, after nearly over a half decade of unchecked Democratic rule, the city is broke ($57 million budget deficit), unemployed (10 percent) and frighteningly unsafe (27 homicides to date this year).
Vinay Nayak ’14 and Sarah Eidelson ’12 have put themselves forth to grapple with these tremendous problems. Compassion, though, is not a sufficient qualification for good governance. Simply put, the calamity that is New Haven’s fiscal state necessitates that any elected official.
If our aldermanic candidates are actually serious about making these tough decisions, both must renounce their pledges to support the Ban the Box initiative as well as any measure directed towards supporting convicted felons until New Haven’s larger fiscal health is restored.
Ban the Box would prohibit businesses — both public and private — from asking on application forms whether a potential employee has been convicted of a felony.
A business should be able to ask whatever it wants of applicants. If I want to hire only Cubs fans or Republicans, I am more than within my right to do so. The same applies for someone who only wants law-abiding employees. If this is bad business because the employer might be passing over better overall candidates, let the marketplace kick in.
But, more importantly, this isn’t as trivial as a staff of Cubs fans. It is clear, just by business’ cumulative decisions to include this question, that criminal history is a relevant variable in judging a candidate’s character, reliability and trustworthiness. If they didn’t want to ask this question, there wouldn’t be an issue.
Particularly in today’s job market, applications far outnumber openings. Businesses need criteria with which to narrow down possible employees. We should not require businesses to devote unnecessary time and resources to interview a surplus of candidates they would reject once learning their criminal history. It should also be noted that forcing an employer to discuss a candidate’s potential criminal past puts him in an unnecessarily uncomfortable situation.
Whether or not many Yale students approve of the current procedure, the business community actively does. New Haven is in no position to further burden its relationship with job creators.
Through “allocating greater resources” or “community-centered economic development” (whatever that means), both candidates agree that we need to devote more governmental support to ex-offenders. They argue that assisting criminals betters the entire economic climate. However, this just ignores the policies’ collateral ramifications.
We have no money to spend. What about higher deficits? Spending money we don’t have will just push more jobs out of the city. Higher taxes? Connecticut’s business climate (39th in the nation) is already hostile enough. Should we just go after Connecticut’s 1 percent? Something tells me that they’ll enjoy their homes in New Jersey or Rhode Island soon enough.
New Haven government cannot be all things to all people. Be it irresponsible fiscal policy or cultural prescriptions, both candidates tacitly reject the notion that actions have consequences.
To minimalize crime as the logical product of a lack of opportunity not only absolves criminals of moral rebuke — to everyone’s detriment — but also cheapens the trials of law-abiding citizens. There is no doubt that a devastating strain exists upon those living in the level of poverty that grips much of New Haven. But for how long do we intend to prop up those who turn to crime in the face of these challenges at the expense of those who fight through it?
This is not to say that one shouldn’t feel genuine torment at the widespread suffering in our city. But our political history of paralysis and cowardice in the face of needed prioritization and cuts is the most inhumane of all. This is not a desirable state of affairs. But these candidates are the ones we are forced to deal with. We can no longer afford the fiscal or moral cost of prioritizing the interests of those who have subverted the very institutions that they now ask to support them.
If Yale wants an alderman truly acting on the moral onus that comes with our education, we need one who has the courage to make this stand.
Harry Graver is a sophomore in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.