Democratic nominee for mayor Justin Elicker FES ‘10 SOM ‘10 joined the Yale Political Union on Tuesday evening for a debate about the role of Yale students in New Haven.
Two weeks ago, Elicker beat incumbent Mayor Toni Harp in the Democratic primary contest for the city’s top office. The former East Rock Alder won 88 out of the 106 ballots cast by residents of Ward 1, which houses eight of the University’s fourteen residential colleges and Old Campus. On Tuesday, he spoke to a crowd of around sixty students about their relationship with the Elm City and the importance of engaging with the community outside of Yale’s walls.
“You should have time to good in your life,” Elicker said on Tuesday. “You should do good locally, because you’re here, and you shouldn’t take more than you give.”
Elicker discussed the contentious town and gown relationship that has persisted throughout Yale’s history. He told attendees that engagement with the city is important because Yale students’ usage of city resources — from infrastructure to police and fire services — outweigh their contributions.
This argument, he said, applies to the University as well. As a non-profit, Yale is constitutionally tax exempt — rendering around 55 percent of New Haven property ineligible for taxation. While the University currently makes an annual voluntary payment of around $11.5 million to the city, Yale would owe New Haven $125 million every year if it were taxable, Elicker explained.
But former chairman of the YPU’s Conservative Party Tommy Schacht ’21 argued that Yale’s non-profit status comes with a clear mission: educating its students and producing future global leaders.
“We are a university. We are not a soup kitchen,” Schacht said.
Elicker responded by saying that giving back does not hinder Yale’s ability to educate its students and added that the University’s spending practices are inappropriate.
“You have an all-you-can-eat dining hall … and three blocks away people can’t put food on the table,” Elicker said.
The former alder also commended Yalies for volunteering in New Haven while encouraging them to do more. He specifically called on students to confront the University administration on issues on which they have more leverage than New Haven residents.
Chairman of the Tory Party Bobby Badiey ’21 said that some of these issues would take students to Hartford rather than to City Hall. He noted that tax exemption, a constitutional provision, and Connecticut’s lack of county government — which prevents cities from revenue sharing — are decisions of the state legislature.
In his speech, Elicker also emphasized that students can have a meaningful impact on the city during their four years at Yale.
“Four years is a long time. Think about how old you are — four years is a fifth of your life,” he said. “So are you never going to get involved in anywhere you go because you always have this excuse?”
Between now and November’s general election, Elicker will continue campaigning throughout New Haven and sharing his progressive vision for the city’s future.
The Yale Political Union was founded in 1934.
Mackenzie Hawkins | firstname.lastname@example.org