I’ve always considered myself a resident of New Haven. At first, the reason was simple: I lived in New Haven for many years and called the city home. But now, as a Yalie, I still find it important to think about myself as a New Havener, and I think every Yale student should, too. But city leadership has not made New Haven feel welcoming. The city needs new leadership. It needs a mayor who is willing to thoughtfully engage with residents in every ward to not only help address their challenges but to promote exciting opportunities. That’s why I’ll be voting for Justin Elicker in today’s election.

In 2006, I moved from Italy to this vibrant city. Though coming from a vastly different country can be intimidating, the incredibly diverse community in New Haven and its strong public school system welcomed me with open arms. I found wonderful friends, some that I still go to school with, which made moving to a new country far more pleasant than difficult.

From the beautiful streets of downtown all the way up to the breathtaking view at the top of East Rock Park, I fell in love with New Haven. There is truly no other place that I would have wanted to spend my childhood.

But as I grew older, I learned to look beyond the flourishing neighborhoods downtown and in East Rock that I adored as a child. I quickly realized that New Haven faced significant challenges. Not every neighborhood looked like downtown and not every kid had the opportunity to attend the incredible public schools in East Rock. By the time that I became a Yalie, I was convinced that the city needed to move in a different direction, a direction that gave everyone the opportunity to thrive. I was also convinced that Yalies could play a pivotal role in turning this idea into a reality.

No matter how long you’ve been on campus, I understand that you might not feel like you’re a part of this city. Our current mayor doesn’t really engage Yalies: While there are plenty of great groups and nonprofit organizations that do incredible work in this city, it is rare to see the mayor’s office supporting or connecting with these groups and their students. 

What’s more, I’ve heard lots of my friends and classmates express frustration at the complicated nature of connecting with community service organizations in New Haven. They don’t know where the best restaurants are or where to take a walk on a nice day. Yale students are not entitled to attention, nor should they act like they rule New Haven, but they do deserve to feel welcomed by our city government.

Elicker’s campaign gives me hope for the future of this city. At the mayoral forum hosted two weeks ago in Sudler Recital Hall, he spoke about engaging the Yale community in a direct yet thoughtful way. As mayor, he will demand that Yale do more for the city it occupies.

His inclusion goes beyond coordinating with University administrators; Elicker wants to form meaningful relationships with its students as well. Whether it’s Yalies for Elicker or an endorsement from the Yale College Democrats, it’s obvious that students on campus aren’t feeling welcomed by the current administration and are asking for a change.

But his welcoming campaign goes beyond just my identity as a Yale student. Elicker speaks Spanish and Chinese, and at the last debate on Thursday, he was willing to take a risk and answer questions in Spanish to include everyone in this city.

He and his team have knocked on doors in every neighborhood, and their policy focuses on residents who have typically been ignored by city government. Sometimes that means Yale students, but most importantly, the Elicker campaign lifts up families, low-income residents and members of our community from every background. As Yalies, we understand that public policy needs to include those who need it the most: It’s time our city hall understands that, too.

New Haven is a city composed of many different identities: I immigrated here, I go to school here and I live here. It’s important that this city continues to welcome everyone and that city hall institutes policy that makes us all — from Chapel Street to Whalley Avenue — feel included. The mayor’s office fails to grasp not only how Yalies should be involved, but also how to form a coalition with residents of all backgrounds. It’s long past time for a change, and the only way New Haven will remain a welcoming city is if Yale students think of themselves as residents and vote for Justin Elicker.

Francesco Spirli is a sophomore in Benjamin Franklin College. Contact him at francesco.spirli@yale.edu .