“Grassroots Agenda” Starts With Jobs

Thomas MacMillan PhotoPicture this: A new “jobs pipeline” funnels cash from big development projects into community centers that train young people for jobs created by the new projects. Employment goes up; crime goes down; everyone wins.

That’s one vision of tackling several big New Haven problems at once. Over 300 people applauded the plan in the cafeteria at Conte-West Hills School in Wooster Square, where it was pitched at a “Citywide Community Leaders Meeting.”

The event was put on by Connecticut Center for a New Economy (CCNE), a 10-year-old grassroots group of union, clergy, and neighborhood leaders, affiliated with Yale’s unions. According to leaders, the organization has an annual budget of $300,000. Half of that money comes from unions, the other half from grants from progressive foundations. Organizers affiliated with the group (acting in other organizational capacities) played a crucial role in helping to elect a new incoming majority on New Haven’s Board of Aldermen—a majority in search of an agenda.

At Saturday morning’s three-hour event, people from various city neighborhoods—including a significant number of local and state lawmakers—talked about the problems they’d like to see addressed in New Haven.

They then got a sneak peek at CCNE’s “Grassroots Community Agenda,” a report that the group has been working on for several years, which will be officially released on Thursday.

The document seeks to distill public opinion—expressed in door-to-door research and in many small community meetings—on what New Haven’s priorities should be. At the top of the list: jobs and public safety.

Among several “very, very general” solutions, organizer Mandi Jackson explained to applause what a “jobs pipeline” might look like. She used a well-received PowerPoint slide of new community centers springing up on a map of New Haven. After more discussion, attendees filled out yellow “commitment cards” pledging to keep the conversation going in their neighborhoods.

Gwen Mills, a union organizer and a leader in CCNE, said the next step is to analyze the results of the morning’s discussions and continue the work of clarifying the group’s vision.

Union leaders characterized the slew of newly elected pro-labor aldermen this year as simply an organic emergence of neighborhood leaders. The historic sweep of aldermanic seats came without an articulation of a clear, unified legislative agenda by the union-backed slate.

Is the Grassroots Community Agenda—put out by a union-affiliated organization—the new union-affiliated aldermanic legislative agenda that bystanders have been expecting? 

“That’s not what it’s about,” said Brian Wingate, alderman-elect for Beaver Hills. His only agenda comes from his constituents, he said. There will be overlap between what his constituents tell him and what the report says, but that’s only because CCNE has been out talking to the community, he said.

“Their interest is people. As alderman, my interest is people.”

Scenes Of Discontent

At 10 a.m. Saturday, the Conte-West Hills School cafeteria was a veritable who’s who of local politics and community activism. Past, current, and future members of the Board of Aldermen spread out at cafeteria tables with members of community management teams, ward Democratic committee members, and activist neighbors. A handful of local state legislators dotted the crowd, along with a couple of recent mayoral candidates and several members of Occupy New Haven.

People at each table, guided by a facilitator, discussed the top issues confronting New Haven. The conversations ranged from the systemic to the personal.

The table where Newhallville’s Dennis Grimes sat kept erupting into applause. People clapped after he decried cops at road construction sites who talk on their cell phones while earning big bucks. He said he’d be happy to direct traffic for minimum wage.

At another table, 19-year-old LaToya Agnew complained about the disparities between schools in New Haven. Some have more resources than others, she said.

At the same table, Westville’s Jennifer Klein said, “The way the city operates is secretive.” She said her local ward Democratic committee is anything but.

Across the room, a group arranged on kid-sized chairs was discussing a more personal theme, led by facilitator Renae Reese, CCNE’s executive director: What makes you feel empowered?

Livable City Initiative staffer Zephaniah Ben-Elohim (pictured) spoke about being raised by his “elders” including his great-grandparents. As the eldest child, he had leadership thrust upon him, he said.

At a table by the cafeteria’s large windows, Newhallville’s Edwina Brown said all New Haven’s problems can be tied in some way to racial discrimination.

On Brown’s left, Renae Haywood said if you’re mugged anywhere near Yale downtown, 50 cops are going to show up. Anywhere else you won’t be able to find a cop, she said.

On Brown’s right, Fair Haven’s Pat Bissel said she just wants a new fence put up on Front Street.

Meet The Pipeline

Shortly after 10:30 Mills called for the room’s attention and began the segue into the presentation of the new Grassroots Community Agenda, which will be officially released on Thursday.

Through years of home visits and community meetings, CCNE has found that the top issues facing New Haven are jobs and economic development, and crime, violence, and public safety, she said. Following closely behind are education and schools, and youth issues like jobs for teens and building new community centers.

Mills said the new report is “not some overall solution.” It’s an analysis of what the community thinks and some ideas of where to go, she said, before handing the mic off to Jackson, the report’s author.

Jackson ran through some PowerPoint slides showing the growth of income inequality in the country since the mid ‘70s and the drop in the incomes that came with a transition in New Haven from manufacturing to service sector jobs.

She spoke about racial disparities between Newhallville—where 27 percent of families are living below the poverty level—and neighboring East Rock, where 27 percent are earning more than $100,000 a year.

She contrasted the visions presented on the economic development websites of New Haven—where a stated goal is to become a “destination city”—and that of Los Angeles, which talks about “building a thriving middle class” and “creating more and higher quality jobs.”

New Haven is seeing development in several forms, Jackson said, mentioning Downtown Crossing, Higher One’s transformation of the old Winchester factory, planned train station improvements, and new Yale residential colleges. “The most expensive college dormitories in the history of the world,” Jackson said.

“New development means new jobs,” Jackson said. The questions are what kind of jobs they will be and—shouted by the room—“Who’s going to get them?”

Jackson then laid out the Grassroots Community Agenda’s three possible solutions:

• First, require developers to make “Community Impact Reports” before they come in to start projects in New Haven.

• Second, create Community Benefits Agreements that define what the developers will do for local communities to guarantee community support.

• Third, create a “jobs pipeline program,” a “comprehensive coordinated program” supported by the city.

Moving beyond the scope of the report, Jackson began to talk about what such a pipeline could look like.

“Say a major employer comes to town,” Jackson said. “They get major tax dollars to do that.” What if a portion of that money went toward creating a community center with youth and apprenticeship programs and job training? What if the center became a “hiring hall” where the new employer is required to find its new workers?

“Imagine if we did this all over the city,” Jackson said. Her next slide showed community centers bouncing onto a map of New Haven. It was followed by slides of new developments—like Downtown Crossing, Higher One—popping up and sending funding to and hiring from the centers.

Dream Or Nightmare?

As the meeting moved on to its next phase, Dixwell’s Sadie Cooper (pictured) was already sold on the vision. “We’ve got to make it happen,” said the 49-year-old hospital radiologist.

She said the pipeline would decrease crime, help young people, and create jobs. After someone handed her a yellow “commitment card,” she immediately promised to talk to five people about what she was taking away from the meeting.

Elsewhere, people weren’t so optimistic. Back at Grimes’ table, he was saying that developers rarely follow through with their promises to hire locals, even after requiring workers like him to obtain multiple OSHA certifications and being trained in things like lead abatement.

Westville’s Tony Butler said forcefully that there needs to be a mechanism to force developers to stick to their promises, maybe by withholding public financing until they’re kept. “The money has to stop!”

A couple of tables over, Westville’s Arthur Lindley (pictured) said the rules and requirements have already made New Haven an “incredibly expensive city for developers.”

“I run construction projects,” he said. “I did this school” when it was renovated years ago, he said.

Ideas like “living wage” requirements may backfire, pushing builders “to the point where no one will be hired,” he suggested.

Lindley cautioned against local-hiring requirements. “From a business point of view it’s a nightmare. Businesses will not come here.”

Jim Berger, sitting nearby, argued otherwise. “New Haven is a large market,” he said. “We have enough leverage.”

That may be true for the biggest developers, Lindley said. But, “a lot of medium-size contractors won’t touch New Haven.”

“I say too bad for them,” Berger replied.

Despite his reservations, Lindley checked all three boxes on his commitment card, pledging to talk to five people, knock on doors, and even hold a meeting at his house.

Impossibly Possible

After closing announcements, as the meeting broke up, Brown wasn’t feeling optimistic.

“How is this going to be effective?” she asked.

It’s fine and good that all these people came together from different neighborhoods to have a talk about what’s wrong with the city, but New Haven is still too segregated to allow for real citywide cooperation, she said.

“We’re all too different,” she said. “I see everybody’s pumped up. It means nothing to me.”

“I think a lot of people feel hopeless,” Mills said moments later, as she tucked into the chicken, ziti, and salad lunch provided to meeting participants.

“We’re trying to have people break out of what Edwina [Brown] is saying,” Mills said.

People have seen a lot of initiatives “launch with gusto” only to “peter out,” Mills said.

Real change will seem like it can’t happen until it starts happening, she said. “It’s going be impossible until suddenly it’s possible.”


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posted by: Curious on December 5, 2011  12:19pm

This is ridiculous, and missing the real point.

This pipeline already exists, and it is called the New Haven Public School system.

The schools should already be preparing people for these jobs.  if they are not, then you shouldn’t be forcing private companies to build a different school system to train people.  You should fix the school system we have.

What these people are talking about, in essence, is a tax on incoming businesses to train workers.  Just tax them for the first three years, and use that money to spend on education…but NO ONE should pay more into these schools until they are fixed.

The real problem is a broken education system in New Haven, and a mayor who would rather build schools than teach children.

posted by: The Professor on December 5, 2011  1:29pm

Funny that these econ whizzes would look at the income disparities in New Haven and not even at least consider the role taxes might have to play there.  I don’t mean to say that taxes by any means caused the problems we have, but it’s important to remember that people don’t move into New Haven from a vacuum, they move in from other places.  So right now, if I’m a middle-class guy living in a city with a lower tax rate, better schools and fewer bums lying around and I can drive into downtown New Haven for all the benefits of a small to medium-sized city (theaters, restaurants) whenever I like, why would I go to New Haven and drop my standard of living in exchange for nothing but a shorter drive to downtown?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I obviously think that there’s a lot to like about living in New Haven, which is why I don’t live in one of those suburbs—but the fact of the matter is that things like schools, taxes, crime, services all matter.

And therein lies the problem with Mills’s Minions—they live in some fantasy world where strongarming developers and shaking down Yale will solve all of those problems.  You want to have a city that cares for the disadvantaged?  So do I.  But we need to pay for it.  And having 25% of the city’s budget wrapped up in pensions and healthcare for union employees who seem more interested in watching basketball than doing their jobs (remember this: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/custodian_negotiations_war_is_on/) doesn’t exactly help us do that.

If Mills’s Minions are serious about building a city full of shared prosperity, they’ll stop complaining that the city aims to be a “destination city” (by the way, when you’re a “destination city,” you become a “destination” for tax dollars that get funneled into local development efforts) and start figuring out how to get the middle class back to New Haven and grow the tax base.  And part of that, frankly, has to involve doing something about healthcare, pensions, and deals that fleece taxpayers and lead to wasteful spending regardless of whether they’re with developers, unions (ahem, custodians), contractors, or any other entity.

posted by: inequity? on December 5, 2011  1:34pm

Unless these folks want to perpetuate the most drastic inequities (between New Haven and Greenwich, not East Rock and Newhallville), they will have to apply their “solutions” at the state, not local level.  Otherwise you are simply perpetuating the worst inequities rather than actually building up the 99%.  If these “solutions” apply in New Haven, but not in Jackson’s own hometown of Hamden, where do you think the real estate developers, corporate headquarters, etc. are going to build?

posted by: brutus2011 on December 5, 2011  1:44pm

I agree with “Curious.”

Saddling the private sector with another “tax” is counter-productive.

The public sector (BOE and NHPS) is already funded by our tax dollars to educate and train.

Several questions come to mind:

1. How did we get to this place?

2. Why do we allow this to continue?

3. Who does it serve for this to be so?

4. How do we fix our broken school system?

5. Can real change occur with those in power?

posted by: Sohu on December 5, 2011  1:52pm

Is this seriously what East Rock voted for when it elected Jessica Holmes a couple months ago?

posted by: anon on December 5, 2011  2:02pm

The organizers have a critical piece of information wrong. Most of the jobs in New Haven, or any other city for that matter, are not at universities or hospitals.  They are at small businesses.

Create the opportunities for small businesses to thrive - things like well-maintained streets, good transportation, places that are good for families to bike and walk - and small businesses will thrive and grow here. 

It isn’t about creating more “union jobs” so that we can then export more of their salaries to the suburbs. It’s about doing things like laying off 10 high-paid police officers so that you can use that money to hire 100 local residents to clean, beautify, and patrol the trash-strewn streets.  When you set up a beautification district like this, crime plummets by 40 to 80 percent.

This is what Yale does - it doesn’t hire more police officers, it instead hires parasecurity professionals (who are not police officers) to patrol the areas, and then also funds the Town Green to hire ambassadors and cleaning staff.  As a result the area around Yale and Downtown is extremely safe, pleasant and walkable with hundreds of thriving businesses. 

Much of the rest of the city is in the dumps because the Unions won’t let local groups hire the patrols or cleaning staff that would actually make a difference, create jobs, and set neighborhoods on a path to prosperity.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on December 5, 2011  2:34pm

It’s not often I am left with nothing to say on the topic of schools and job preparation.  But “Curious” said it all perfectly.

posted by: Curious on December 5, 2011  3:04pm

Anon, do you actually LIVE in New Haven?

I live right by the med school, and work at Yale.  We get emails from Yale’s Chief of Police whenever someone gets attacked near the university.  People get mugged downtown ALL THE TIME. 

I’m not talking about Dixwell at two in the morning, either - I am talking about people getting mugged on Howe Street, a block from Miya’s, in broad daylight.  Mind you, this is right across the street from Yale security.  The same thing happened about a month later, at about 6pm, and then again the same night, an hour later, and one block away.

If you want to promote more jobs for people in New Haven that a lower-educated workforce can perform, that’s great - but not at the expense of police officers, and don’t try to pass off the area around campus like some kind of utopia.

posted by: anon on December 5, 2011  3:40pm

Curious, do you live in New Haven? The crime rates in low income areas are many times higher than areas near Yale, particularly if you consider the tens of thousands of people who are in Downtown New Haven at any given point in time, 24/7/365.  A purse snatching on Howe Street, or someone from the suburbs getting punched at a nightclub, is a minor nuisance when compared to the shootings and other types of crime seen on a regular basis in the Newhallville, Hill and West River areas.

Are you saying that, if a community wanted to lay off 10 police officers in patrol cars in order to hire 100 local residents for walking beats and cleaning staff (when the latter strategy would actually reduce or even eliminate crime), you would stand in the way of their progress?

posted by: Julio Gonzalez Altamirano on December 5, 2011  5:07pm

The commenter ‘anon’ is incorrect.

‘Small business’ is not where ‘most’ of the jobs are located. In the private sector, roughly 70% of the jobs are in firms with over 100 employees:


If we add public sector entities, then the share of overall employment existing at small businesses would be even lower.

New Haven is likely to be even more ‘large firm’ heavy due to the high concentration of large education and medical employers, as well as significant presence of national chains in retail and hospitality.

If the goal is to increase the number of available jobs within the municipal boundaries of New Haven, then the best short-term hope is in focusing on the expansion of existing mid- and large employers, especially those that can not easily depart the municipal boundaries.

The specific policy needed depends on the employer - some might need favorable land use (i.e. a new residential college.) Others might need the human capital pipeline to produce more local hires (i.e. nurses). I’m all for additional improvements to the local workforce strategy (e.g. career centers): however, they should be targeted at moving people into employers with staying power. A small-time construction or developer firm is probably not the optimal area of focus.

If the goal is to reduce economic inequality, local policy action is more constrained.  The obvious first step is to do no harm: hence, local public services should be funded in the most progressive way possible and allocate the maximum feasible service portion to basic needs. However - and perhaps most importantly - outside of municipal public policy, local civic and political actors can support the unionization of service industries, especially those that can not leave the municipal boundaries such as hospitals. Healthcare, because of its abysmal productivity improvements, is likely to remain a large and potentially growing employer in the region. Focusing human capital reform and unionization efforts into this industry are likely to be a high impact on both employment and inequality fronts.

I really enjoy reading the NHI all the way from Texas, but I’ve found that the forums have tipped into a lot of gratuitous nastiness and a lack of nuance. I am not sure if the dominant commenters recognize how they are ‘poisoning the well’ with their bile.

The work CCNE, 34/35, and their labor and community allies are trying to do is hard.

I don’t agree with everything they might want to do (was defeating Carl Goldfield the solution to any real problem?) and I certainly wish their parent unions would have spent some of that aldermanic race money on new union organizing in places like - oh, I don’t know, Texas blue metros perhaps. But let’s give them credit for doing very hard organizing work and trying to build a concrete policy layer. CCNE has a track record of achievement (medical debt, NHSB). So they deserve a bit more patience and constructive engagement from skeptics.

Perhaps if this forum wasn’t so filled with the above mentioned well-poisoning histrionics, they might even come here and participate, explain their plans, and give an opportunity for feedback.  I hope some of the more mean-spirited commenters will recognize the tragedy of the forum commons their tone is inflicting upon the rest of the readership and themselves.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 5, 2011  5:08pm

@Curious.Here is a good book you may want to read.

Class Dismissed
Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way Out of Inequality

by John Marsh

In Class Dismissed, John Marsh debunks a myth cherished by journalists, politicians, and economists: that growing poverty and inequality in the United States can be solved through education. Using sophisticated analysis combined with personal experience in the classroom, Marsh not only shows that education has little impact on poverty and inequality, but that our mistaken beliefs actively shape the way we structure our schools and what we teach in them.

Rather than focus attention on the hierarchy of jobs and power—where most jobs require relatively little education, and the poor enjoy very little political power—money is funneled into educational endeavors that ultimately do nothing to challenge established social structures, and in fact reinforce them. And when educational programs prove ineffective at reducing inequality, the ones whom these programs were intended to help end up blaming themselves. Marsh’s struggle to grasp the connection between education, poverty, and inequality is both powerful and poignant.


posted by: Curious on December 5, 2011  5:56pm

Anon, where are you getting your facts from?

Yale police are police.  Yale security is security.  Police ride in cars.  Security work in buildings.  Check the job postings.

Security job - http://tinypic.com/r/21mfcp1/5
Police job - http://tinypic.com/r/zo9en5/5

Note that even the security job pays at least $34k to start.  Add on benefits, and that’s at least $50k.  How many “parasecurity professionals” are you going to hire for every cop that you fire?  Maybe 1.75 or 1.5?  You’re not going to get ten for one.


Yes, I would rather keep trained, professional police on staff, rather than hire citizens to patrol the streets.  It’s a wonderfully progressive idea to think that you could take everyday folks with a high school education and train them to make New Haven safer, but the reality if it is that by the time you trained and equipped them to be able to deal effectively with the kind of crime that you are talking about…they would be police officers.

You stated that downtown is “extremely safe”, which is not true.  If it was extremely safe, people would not be getting mugged in broad daylight.  If you mean “extremely safe compared to the worst neighborhoods”, then say that in the first place, don’t qualify your argument later.

Lastly, I highly doubt that Yale and YNHH are not where most of the jobs in New Haven are.  I would love to see facts supporting your claim.

posted by: anon on December 5, 2011  6:23pm

If you think that police officers can reduce crime, then you are being taken for a ride.

posted by: Henryct on December 5, 2011  7:41pm

There will be no “all New Haven” solutions. Dealing with crime, under-education, people without jobs, families thrown out of homes requires action at all levels of society. There are lots of places to start, as long as folks are prepared to do something. 

New Haven is not alone in our country with horrendous problems. The incomes and wealth of the 1% have exploded since 1970 while middle and low income families have seen theirs drop. The wealth of the society is tied up in the interests of a few. Nationally they overwhelmingly influence who gets elected and what elected officials do in office. Locally they control the agenda. The corporations, the military industries have a bigger vote than individuals. There is no natural law that demands that wealth and income flow from the 99% to a handful of people. 

Saturday’s effort at Conte School underscores how imperative it is that people not leave the difficult work of fixing what’s broken to elected or unelected officials, but get involved.

posted by: WhatsOurAgendaForHamden on December 5, 2011  8:47pm

The author of the report is the first lady of Hamden; the president of Local 35 lives in East Haven; and only 2 out 11 CCNE board of directors live in New Haven. All of which is fine, and makes the point: economics is regional, so solutions should be too. A New Haven strategy must include Hamden, and I hope the mayor’s wife plans to propose community benefits there, first.

posted by: Noteworthy on December 5, 2011  10:15pm

If you want a job, you have to be prepared for one and have a skill set worth hiring.

Simply pillaging businesses for money to fund more useless programs with no accountability, and failing to hold political leadership accountable for the hundreds of millions of dollars they already siphon from our economy with damn little tangible, concrete results is a continuing recipe for economic failure.

In a weekend filled with holiday celebrations and fundraisers for some of my favorite charities, I had two conversations with successful businessmen operating in New Haven.

One noted that in order to get building permits in New Haven, he had to promise to hire so many New Haven residents. While some were qualified, most who showed up at his office simply demanded a job and said “he had to hire them,” had no skill set except clean up and haul materials.

The other was forced by the city to spend over $500K on almost completely worthless police services to stand around his construction site.

The very thought that the answer to economic prosperity or even stable employment, is impact studies, more fees and taxes and development demands on business is feeble as I’ve noted above. The reality is far too many of our neighbors, friends and children are unqualified, under-educated, unskilled and as a result unmotivated to hold a job, just about any job.

This city graduates 51% of its high school students and less than 20% of those who go to college. I don’t think it stretches credulity to suggest this creates job insecurity and chronic, long term problems. we need to disabuse ourselves that we have a funding problem or that businesses and property taxpayers are not paying enough.

What we lack are people willing to do the hard work to prepare themselves for the workforce, and a political leadership that is willing to quit selling hope like snake oil and get down to the business to which they’ve been tasked. No more excuses.

posted by: anon on December 5, 2011  10:23pm

“Lastly, I highly doubt that Yale and YNHH are not where most of the jobs in New Haven are.  I would love to see facts supporting your claim.”

Sorry to burst your Yale bubble but there are 80,000 jobs located in New Haven and another 200,000+ in immediate surrounding areas.  Yale and YNHH employ about 20,000, perhaps slightly more depending on who you count. That’s one quarter of the total.  And contrary to above assertions, Yale is not the top growth industry. Read the literature on business starts and you’ll quickly see why. Julio underestimates the impact that small and medium sized businesses (Yale and YNHH are very large) have on our economic base and the things we can do to foster the growth of those. I won’t even start getting into the issues of where employees live once they start making more than $20/hr.

posted by: anon on December 5, 2011  11:52pm

Curious… . First off, security patrols like the Ambassadors or the people driving around East Rock in “Yale Security” vehicles don’t deal with crime. Talk to the Yale Police Chief. They serve as the “eyes and ears.” That’s what we need in the neighborhoods - and hired from the neighborhoods. 

Second, the inconvenient truth to the Unions is that we don’t need more people sitting in police cruisers and responding to calls, no matter how well-trained they are.  Countless studies prove that neighborhoods are only as safe as the number of public safety staff who live in them, not the number who patrol them. 

Much more importantly than hiring another cop, we need to hire people who actually live in the neighborhoods and invest in things like clean sidewalks.  For the price of a single officer and their long term pension costs, much of which gets spent on construction sites, we could hire 5-10 patrols and street maintenance staff from amongst the 18-30 year olds in the neighborhoods who currently face a 50% unemployment rate.

Talk to our new Chief. Even he will admit that after 10 years of having locals out on outreach patrol in certain areas of Providence, the cops would finally admit what really caused the crime to decline there. 

If the Unions won’t even take a lesson from him, I suppose they are resigning themselves to continued, growing levels of violence areas like Fair Haven (where so few Union staff, and zero Union heads,  live anyways that I can see why they would not give a darn).

posted by: anon on December 6, 2011  12:52am

Agree with 3/5.  Most American children are now born into impoverished families—while families over age 65 have now accumulated, on average, a record 50 TIMES the average net worth of a family under age 35 (note that this wealth divide was only 10 TIMES in the 1980s).

We can’t ever teach our way out of this, particularly when the definition of “teaching” is limited to ages 4 and up. 

Creating a more sensible distribution of resources, through legislation, is the only way to fix this problem—as was done over the past 3 decades in numerous other Western nations, once wealthy people stopped deluding themselves into thinking that education has any impact on inequality.

posted by: Julio Gonzalez Altamirano on December 6, 2011  6:54am

I think anon has moved the goal posts on me a little bit.

First, it is unclear if anon is still holding on to the idea that ‘most’ existing New Haven jobs are located at small businesses (which I defined as under 100). My point was not about Yale - it’s about firm size. If we add all of the eds, meds, government, national chains, and local medium-sized companies, it is unlikely that they are not most of the employment in New Haven per the BLS data pattern.

Second, anon indicated that small business is most of the jobs in ‘any other’ town.  The BLS data absolutely refutes this categorical statement. I’d be willing to change my mind if presented with alternative data.

Third, the ‘literature’ anon indicated I should familiarize myself with is decidedly skeptical of small business contributions to job growth. Perhaps the most influential paper at the moment is this one:


It has really demolished the ‘small business jobs’ myth and refocused attention on nourishing young companies explicitly interested in growth. A small business policy focus all too often becomes a subsidy for old, unproductive firms that have no interest in growing jobs (the local diner, the local barber shop, the neighborhood hardware store).

We might want to support/subsidize those businesses for other reasons, but accelerating job creation is not the reason.

Fourth, anon now includes medium-sized businesses as being ‘important’, whereas originally it was just ‘small’. A policy focus on supporting mom and pops through clean, walkable streets is very different than say, the workforce coordination and cultural amenities needed to support niche software and life science firms with 100 to 250 employees staying within the municipal boundaries. Anon does not address this shift or its implications on anon’s original walkable, clean streets policy approach.

Finally, anon does not actually engage my alternative policy focus, which explicitly is about the short-term AND jobs within the municipal boundaries (as opposed to the region) AND what municipal government might be good at doing. 

Municipal government is unlikely to excel at picking which young companies are going to be the job growth providers and deserve subsidization.  Even professional, private investors struggle with this. An early seed role is probably a bad place for municipal government. 

Supporting young companies that have hit the middle-sized mark in coordination with the private sector is probably more promising, but depending on the industry those companies might flee to other locales precisely because they are not large and entrenched. It’s a case by case decision but worthy of some local public resources.

This leaves large firms that can not leave the municipal boundaries, which in New Haven are in education and healthcare.  I never argued that this is where long-term new job growth will necessarily be. Though indirectly it could because of Yale’s importance in young-growth firm generation.

Instead, I argued that ed/med jobs are staying within the boundaries and hence supporting the growth of these established employers is the least risky short-term strategy to add to the local job base, especially since doing that is more ‘do no harm and stay out of the way’ type policy (e.g. allow a new residential college, new private medical space) as opposed to say, picking winners from the new venture pool.

One last point…‘jobs’ conversations tend to be disjointed because there is a crossing of two separate concerns: growing the pie and taking ‘our’ slice of it.

I applaud anon because anon gets that in the long-term, we need to grow the pie - I just am unsure that the clean, walkable streets agenda is the best path. 

In the long-term, improving human capital quality in New Haven is a smart (pun!) strategy, but it seems to me that the folks at the CCNE event have their human capital level pretty set. And their focus is on taking a share of the existing jobs pie for local residents through CBAs.

This makes sense from a perspective of getting New Haven people working, but it doesn’t necessarily grow the jobs pie - depending on the specifics of the CBA, there might be a New Havener with a job or a bit more training, but now there is West Havener or East Havenener without a job. If you are parochial you might rejoice, but I’m not that excited about shifting pain from one working class worker to another.

Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which is what the local CCNE is based on, actually has had a pie growing agenda that focuses on the inequality side - protecting and growing wages - to grow the pie through additional working class consumption, instead of pie re-cutting.  You can see some of these policies here:


Hopefully, some of these pie-growing ideas will make it into the upcoming CCNE framework. A jobs agenda should be about more NET jobs, not just beating out suburban 99%ers for existing jobs.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 6, 2011  8:31am

What all of you are over looking,When it comes to jobs,American Companies should bring back call center jobs to the United States.This move would put a dent in unemployment.

posted by: John Padilla on December 6, 2011  10:26am

What CCNE is proposing is not outlandish and it does not have to be done in an adversarial manner.  Quite the opposite, it is reasonable to expect—no demand—that local residents and taxpayers have access to employment opportunities that are caused or facilitated by public financing (i.e. our tax dollars, city tax giveaways, abatements, etc.)  I am sure CCNE has done its homework, so it knows that there are hundreds of examples across the country where these community benefits agreements have been done in a way that creates employment, and helps those who need employment find their way into a career, etc.  You will also find that the developers and contractors are not coerced, extorted or whatever into supporting such arrangements. The contractors want only one thing: reliable employees who show up every day and do quality work.  So to the extent that such workforce pipelines are able to deliver those folks to the contractor, this works for everyone.  So I agree 110% that if we did something like that in New Haven that accountability for performance and results has to be first and foremost. That’s where we tend to fall short—we are not good at holding ourselves or our organizations accountable, so we settle for a level of mediocrity that serves no one, and in the end hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars are wasted. Implementing these workforce pipelines are challenging—but New Haven desperately needs something like this.  Last comment: we can debate the fault of the school system in properly educating a significant number of youth, but the reality is that it is a moot point—it is what it is.  The people we are talking about are all beyond the K-12 system, so now that they are under-educated, what are we going to do to properly prepare them for meaningful employment?  School reform is not going to deal with this issue and until we resolve this, we will continue to see many New Haven residents who simply do not have the educational foundation needed to get a decent-paying job.  That—I believe—is the trajedy of a school system that fails its students.

I believe we have had a tremdnous opportunity over the past

posted by: streever on December 6, 2011  12:16pm

I’m a bit amazed at some of the comments.

How is this a bad thing? How are they asking for handouts?

They are saying—if a company comes here on a tax incentive provided by New Haven, New Haven should be able to mandate some investment BACK in the city that provided the tax incentive.

We already do this. They are just questioning where & how we do it and suggesting alternatives.

This is really a scary suggestion? That we work to invest in our children & promote job growth for them when they graduate?

I can see some of the detailed disagreement, and think the plan (as stated) is very broad and could use a lot of refinement and nuance. Sure—but the general gist and goal are worthy, and should be widely embraced.

I think the plan doesn’t even go far enough, personally. I would like to see a multi-year community investment program—with defined success metrics and evaluations—proposed.

What about a “5 year block revitalization” program, funded through grants & with Yale assistance, which literally targets block by block improvement in the city, bringing financial investment in small businesses, community spaces, and residential? Create mixed-use streets where blight reigns supreme—take a 4 block stretch and outline a 5 year improvement plan, involving re-building of the street/sidewalk to be safe & accommodating to all users, re-zone it to allow for a variety of mixed-uses (res/com that work in tandem), and then provide grants & loans for entrepreneurs to open businesses there. Tie it into the Habitat program and the Yale homeowner program—both tend to attract people who make great neighbors, and at different ends of the income spectrum.

Tie it into the healthy corner store initiative, community policing initiatives, URI’s tree planting & job training program, and the neighborhood block watch programs. Open a small daycare center in tandem with All our Kin. Get Solar Youth to have an after-school program in this small “sub-neighborhood”.

Why not? We have incredible social programs in this city. We have a lot of funding for non-profits and social causes, and a huge pool of volunteers. I really think the problem is how little cross communication there is.

I see an event like this and wonder why none of the groups I’m involved with (job training for re-entry populations, transportation safety and equality, citizen access to government) were notified.

There isn’t a lot of cross-talk nor is there a lot of collaboration. Imagine what would happen if we got 10 different groups in the same room to focus on one 4 block area, for a 5 year investment? and then expanded out to the next 4 blocks? and the next?

People like to complain that New Haven has a poor tax base, but they aren’t thinking creatively when they fall back on the tired canard of “tax yale”. Let’s invest in our neighborhoods, on a block-by-block basis, and invest in all of our citizens. We need to build up our neighborhoods and get to a point where we can all have productive and stable lives.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on December 6, 2011  2:00pm

I think that a combination of two approaches can be taken to help the unemployment problem in New Haven and the issues that result from that.

1. Attract the qualified workforce for our growing industries to live in New Haven. These people typically live in the suburbs, or are planning to move to the suburbs when they start a family. Homebuyer’s programs, free bus passes, and infrastructure improvements along the lines of Streever’s excellent “block-by-block” suggestion would be initiatives that would help attract and keep skilled workers in New Haven. Most of New Haven’s neighborhoods are underpopulated currently and can accommodate much larger populations. Large employment centers like Science Park, YNHH, St. Raphael’s etc. could do a lot more to keep and attract workers into nearby neighborhoods by investing in the surrounding housing stock. A larger population of middle and upper income families would create a large demand for commercial retail space, which would add to the demand for smaller commercial office space that is attracted by the larger employment centers. Those retail and office places are where underskilled existing residents would find employment and it doesn’t require training programs.

2. The education system is broken, but not because of the schools or really even the leadership - it is broken because middle class parents would rather send their children to suburban schools than urban ones. The result is that the parents who raise the children who are most likely to succeed send their kids to suburban or private schools, and the people who have no choice send their kids to the urban ones. If you switched the student population of Roberto Clemente with Worthington Hooker, the academic performance would follow the students, not the schools.
The key to educational reform is to restore the neighborhood dynamic of employed and empowered two-parent households with teachers and police officers living in the community. The grown-ups in these “failing” neighborhoods need to be able to provide their kids with the basics for an education before they even send them into a school, which will happen when the parents are employed, active in civic matters and live around other educated and employed people. One way that people will be able to find employment is through the supportive retail, service and office jobs that will grow up around New Haven’s large employment centers, and imported/retained middle class families. A training program for parents and other role model figures also needs to be part of the equation so that some of these high-skill jobs available in New Haven can be filled by existing residents.

It would also be nice if we could begin to diversify our economy to more than just “ed’s & med’s”, which isn’t really a solid base for an economy, but I’m not really sure how we go about doing that. Like we saw with our dependence on manufacturing, we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket and build an entire network of small businesses and neighborhoods around the assumption of permanent “ed’s & meds” job growth. That is probably a State and Federal problem though that needs to be corrected so that it is economically feasible and advatageous to make things in the US again.

posted by: you didn' tanswer the question on December 6, 2011  5:41pm

Anon, you still didn’t answer the question. Do you live in new haven?