A Message from Toni Harp

toni harpWith the inauguration of a new president and mayor, Yale and New Haven are poised to embark on an exciting chapter.  To capitalize on this opportunity, each must see the value in expanding their partnership.

When I came to New Haven to study urban planning and architecture years ago, I was struck by how interwoven Yale was into the city’s fabric.  Not only does Yale serve as the city’s single largest taxpayer and employer, but it is also its economic magnet, drawing visitors from around the world to enjoy its cultural heritage, recreational amenities, lively multiethnic neighborhoods, and tremendous quality of life.

Over the course of my time in this city, Yale and New Haven have had a productive and mutually beneficial relationship, and each mayor and president has figured out how to work together to accomplish shared goals.  For example, in the 1990s, Yale and New Haven worked together to increase homeownership; in the 2000s, they collaborated to improve downtown.

As we move further into the 2010s, however, we need to build a broader vision of how the two institutions can cooperate.  Over the past few years, we’ve allowed specific debates – such as our recent dialogue about selling certain streets to Yale – to obscure our need to work together more closely.  While these have been necessary and worthwhile discussions, they should represent only part of the vibrant, comprehensive relationship that we need.

During this year’s mayoral campaign, I’ve articulated numerous ways that we can work together. President Peter Salovey and I share a passion for improving educational outcomes for children and ensuring that the mental health needs of our students are cared for. In the realm of adults, to help the many city residents who are struggling to obtain much-needed job training, I look forward to collaborating with Yale to redesign how we deliver adult education.  Given our commitment to meeting our residents’ social-service needs, I’ve also talked about soliciting Yale’s help to develop fresh outreach approaches to increase enrollment in various state and federal assistance programs.   Yale can even help us with simple things, such as providing local youth with internships to augment their education with actual work experience.

Besides these objectives, I’ve also expressed interest in engaging Yale on the subject of jobs and economic development, another goal President Salovey and I share.  In his inauguration speech, for example, President Salovey questioned how a one-hour train to New York would “change the intellectual and educational biosphere” of New Haven. As mayor of the city, I will partner with him and Metro-North to cause that transformation. And while we both see the value in expanding New Haven Works to connect more city residents with local jobs, I believe that New Haven’s high level of unemployment demands that we go beyond this initiative by leveraging our complementary strengths to promote transformative entrepreneurial activity.

The Economic Development Corporation of New Haven, a Yale-directed organization, ably recruits larger businesses to the city, but I believe that it should embrace a wider vision of its mission by reaching out and working directly with small businesses and entrepreneurs.  Several years ago, the city of Providence successfully took this approach when it worked with Brown University, the state of Rhode Island, and local businesses to spur entrepreneurial outreach and assistance. If we commit ourselves to this effort, between our productive workforce, research capabilities, and intellectual infrastructure, we ought to be able to incubate resident-, student-, and faculty-run companies, in areas from smartphone apps to biomedical sciences, to rival places like San Francisco and Boston.

Given all of these opportunities, I welcome President Salovey’s inauguration to his new role.  He and I have similar life experiences: we are both Yale graduates who have spent the past several decades coming to understand this city, its people, and its challenges.  Having invested ourselves in learning how to work with different people, he and I appreciate the virtues of a collaborative, consensus-oriented leadership style, and know that accomplishing shared goals requires time, patience, and a willingness to listen and nurture relationships.

State Senator Toni Harp (ARC ’78) is the Democratic candidate for Mayor of New Haven.


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