The results of an aldermanic survey asking for resident input on city issues reveal that citizens of New Haven are most concerned about securing good jobs in the city and strengthening youth and educational services.
Of the 5,054 residents who responded to the survey, 71 percent ranked employment among the five most important issues within their neighborhood, and 67 percent ranked youth and educational services in this category. Residents ranked public safety and affordable housing as the next most important issues, with 61 percent and 49 percent of respondents ranking them among the top five most important issues in their neighborhoods.
Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12, who oversaw the creation of the survey and its distribution to residents, said the results confirm that the current group of alders is focused on the issues that matter most to residents.
“Some of the initiatives most important to the board are community policing, the New Haven jobs pipeline and the free summer meals program,” Eidelson said. “These results show that residents seem to agree that those initiatives should be prioritized.”
Residents were also given space to write in greater detail their thoughts on how city government should approach the issues explored in the survey. Eidelson said she is still sorting through these responses along with other alders and that they will use the information from these long answers when discussing future policies and initiatives.
Alders and residents distributed the surveys last fall and began compiling responses early this year, she said. The survey was available online, and print copies were available in many public places, including outside voting stations on election day last November.
Eidelson added that she was very happy with the level of resident engagement and that residents from every ward in New Haven filled out the survey.
City Youth Services Director Jason Bartlett said his department has pushed several initiatives forward that will provide new opportunities for young people in the Elm City. Bartlett said The Escape, a new community center in the Dixwell neighborhood, will make its grand opening sometime in the next few months, although he could not provide an exact date.
Bartlett said The Escape will likely host a community theater, boy scout troops and a debate camp run by Yale’s Urban Debate League, as well as academic tutoring sessions. The Escape will also include a homeless shelter component with 15 beds reserved for young, homeless New Haven residents, according to Bartlett.
He added he has been talking with undergraduate groups at Yale over the past few weeks about other programs that could be hosted at the community center.
Bartlett’s department has put together many other programs for young people over the past few years, including a vocational training program at Hillhouse High School and a citywide youth basketball tournament. He said his department is also working on reopening the Q House, another community center in Dixwell, which closed in 2003 due to lack of funds.
The city has also made headway on the issue of public safety, one of the issues residents ranked as most important in their neighborhoods. Since 2011, the city’s homicide rate has decreased by more than half, and rates of other forms of violent crime are down as well.
Mayor Toni Harp has attributed this success to city government’s commitment to community policing. Residents ranked community policing as the second most important city government initiative on the survey, behind the New Haven jobs pipeline.
Fair Haven resident Bennie Ellis said creating and improving youth centers was the most pressing issue in his neighborhood.
The city’s community policing effort began under former New Haven mayor John DeStefano.