Left - Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer and Right - courtesy of Liam Brennan

Incumbent mayor Justin Elicker and challenger Liam Brennan came together Thursday evening in Yale’s Sterling Law Building to discuss the expansion of Yale New Haven Hospital and its impacts on New Haven.

The conversation, which was hosted by the Yale Law School Democrats and co-sponsored by the Yale College Democrats, was moderated by Thomas Breen, the managing editor of the New Haven Independent, political science professor Jacob Hacker and law professor Anika Singh Lemar.

“The Yale Law Democrats are so pleased and grateful to have been able to host this event at the Law School,” Yale Law Democrats President Sage Mason LAW ’24 wrote to the News. “We were proud to see so many people from across the Law School, the University, and New Haven engaging with local issues, participating in the democratic process, and holding our leaders accountable.”

In an effort to focus the conversation around Yale-New Haven relations, the three moderators asked questions related to different aspects of the city that are affected by the University, using Yale New Haven Health to tie these issues together.

The Yale New Haven Health System is a conglomerate of five hospitals across Southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. It is the fifth-largest hospital system in the country and the largest in Connecticut. 

Last year, the system signed a deal to acquire three more hospitals in Connecticut, which will soon raise its hospital count to eight.

As the system has expanded, residents have voiced concerns that the consolidation may raise medical prices and lower wages in affected areas. 

When Hacker asked the candidates whether they support these acquisitions and how they intend to handle accompanying challenges that could arise, one candidate — Brennan — was notably less optimistic about the consolidation’s likely impact on New Haven.

Brennan: “These properties are nontaxable.”

Liam Brennan’s biggest concern with the system’s expansion is what it will mean for tax revenue in New Haven and the cities and towns where YNHH has acquired hospitals. Since the health system is covered by Yale’s academic tax exemption, YNHH properties are nontaxable. As YNHH acquires more hospitals, Brennan explained, this nontaxability will spread to surrounding towns, making it more difficult for them to raise property tax revenue.

“I think it’s something to really be concerned about,” Brennan said. “We need to make clear to the University that it’s in everyone’s best interest that towns and cities like New Haven and others have other ways to raise revenue than just property taxes.”

Elicker: “This is a strategic advantage for the city.”

Elicker, on the other hand, described an upside to the hospital system’s expansion, particularly the benefits it may bring to the regional economy. The hospital’s expansion, Elicker said, will bring more work opportunities to New Haven-based health professionals, cementing the city as one of the best in the country for bioscience and life-science research. A larger hospital conglomerate can allow for more collaboration with the School of Medicine, providing more opportunities for medical students and residents.

“New Haven has become a hub,” Elicker said. “We have to make sure that with this growth, it’s done with the populations that historically haven’t had access to these resources. We need to lean into this to make sure that our residents, especially our most vulnerable, have access to jobs. That’s not just PhD jobs in the sector, there’s a lot of jobs that are driven by lab technicians and health technicians.”

In order to provide the necessary incentives for training, hiring and job creation, Elicker said that his administration is working directly on programs to prepare workers for these positions and with high schools to optimize their curricula for bioscience professions. 

In response to Elicker’s optimism about the YNHH expansion, Brennan said that hospital consolidation “presents a real challenge to everyday residents.” Meanwhile, Brennan claimed, the city’s economy does not benefit from hospital acquisitions in other parts of the state.

As per Yale Law Democrats policy, neither candidate was endorsed.

“Each one has something to offer the City and wants what’s best for the people living in it, including members of the Yale community,” Mason wrote to the News.

The primary election will occur Sept. 12.

Update, Oct. 4: This article has been updated to reflect that the Yale College Democrats co-hosted the event alongside the Yale Law Democrats.

Mia Cortés Castro covers City Hall and State Politics, and previously covered Cops and Courts. Originally from Dorado, Puerto Rico, she is a sophomore in Branford College studying English.
Adam Walker is the University Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered Yale Law School for the University desk. Originally from Long Island, New York, he is a rising junior in Branford College double majoring in Economics and American Studies.