If you’ve been under a rock for the last few years, you might’ve missed the bad news: Apparently, Connecticut is a post-apocalyptic wasteland from which there is no escape from taxes, regulations, and unfunded pension liabilities.
- Young people are moving from the suburbs to vibrant cities (does Bridgeport not count?!) or warm, cheap suburbs like South Carolina and Texas
- Decades of unfunded pension liabilities are now becoming a serious budget liability
- Tax revenues tied to capital gains have dropped dramatically
- Hyper-local municipalities mean towns like West Hartford and Stratford can keep the benefits of being essentially “in” a city without paying for city schools/services
In The Atlantic, the problem is summed up rather succinctly:
In the biggest picture, Connecticut is a victim of two huge trends—first, the revitalization of America’s great rich cities and second, the long-term rise of hot, cheap suburbs. But Connecticut’s cities are not rich or great; its weather is not hot year-round; and its cost-of-living is not low. The state once benefited from the migration of corporations and their employees from grim and dangerous nearby metros, but now that wave is receding. To get rich, Connecticut offered a leafy haven where America’s titans of finance could move. To stay rich, it will have to build cities where middle-class Americans actually want to stay.
Sure, climate change might eventually render Connecticut a nice alternative to South Carolina, but in the meantime, the second alternative is our only choice: building cities where middle-class Americans actually want to stay.
And no offense to Hartford (go Yard Goats!) or Bridgeport (go Bluefish!), but New Haven is, far and away, the most vibrant, young, and cultured city in Connecticut.
If someone’s going to save Connecticut, it’s going to be New Haven.
So how can we do it?
Not really. Sorry, New Haven, we can’t just ride our Apizza Glory to victory this time.
Build a Startup Culture
You know what a vibrant city needs? Jobs.
It’s all well and good to have awesome bars and restaurants and galleries and whatnot, but nobody can afford all those attractions without jobs. But beyond Yale, there aren’t a ton of great places to work in New Haven.
Heck, even the much-coveted Alexion is apparently now under investigation by the HHS.
One New Haven startup, however, has been doing pretty well: SeeClickFix. Their rapid expansion has been going pretty well and more and more cities across the US have been entering contracts to provide government services through SeeClickFix.
(At least those are the ones I know.)
Meanwhile, New Haven is one of four cities to be designated a Tech Incubator and is eligible to receive a ton of funding earmarked for startups.
Caroline Smith and Margaret Lee also started Collaboratory, a partnership between the startup community and Yale in order to help facilities possibilities for collaboration between the traditionally conflicting Town-Gown communities.
So what’re you waiting for? There’s never been a better time to start a company in New Haven.
Better Public Transit and Bike Lanes
You know who hates driving cars? Millennials. Also, people who want to live in cities like Boston and NYC.
Owners a car is expensive. You have to insure it, pay taxes, fill it with gas, destroy the environment.
But for many in New Haven, public transit remains an albatross. They take the Yale Shuttle, if anything, because they can easily follow the app and it’s free.
Meanwhile, CT Transit serves the Greater New Haven area very well, but who knows how to use it? Without advanced study of bus schedules, it’s hard to know where the buses are going, when they’ll arrive, etc.
Maybe we could join the rest of THE ENTIRE WORLD and get some electronic signage? You know the sort of thing that says:
- The B Whalley Ave bus will arrive in: 3 minutes
- Going to: Dwight, Edgewood, Westville via Whalley Ave
I will say I’m very excited about the bike infrastructure being build. The new Edgewood bike lane is going to be fantastic and will serve a ton of people in that area and provide a safer alternative for biking in New Haven.
Listen, I’m crazy enough to ride on Whalley Ave in the middle of rush hour. But that doesn’t mean it’s smart. Or that you should do it.
Make it Easy to Get Involved
Want to get involved in New Haven? Cool. Do you know how? Me either.
I guess you could like… show up to an Alder meeting? That sounds… boring. Or you can join the local Community Group in your neighborhood. Does it have a website? No? Oh.. okay.
A great example of this is Young Involved Philadelphia, which helps promote ways for young people to get involved in civic-minded activities.
New Haven has no central repository for this kind of information. If you google “civic opportunities in New Haven” you’re liable to get 100 different answers. A single gateway could go a long way.
Philadelphia also has a program for helping young people find internships/volunteer opportuniteis after finishing school, which has massively boosted their retention of post-graduation residents.
Are you listening, Toni Harp?
Build Your Own Scene
A city is, ultimately, made up of its people. And New Haven has some unbelievable people.
I am lucky to be involved in a surprisingly robust local comedy scene. I have met tremendous people who are doing their best to create a vibrant scene by hosting open mics and comedy shows. I’ve found people really enjoy the shows and it’s given people something to do on a Friday night, as well as explore local arts and culture.
There are constantly local shows at Artspace, Erector Square, and a ton of other galleries. I’m amazed how often people are building a local art scene here.
Matt Fantastic is helping build a game community at Elm City Games, which is doing extremely well and also building a little community over there, giving people a chance to share something fun outside of the typical bar/restaurant scene.
New Haven has a huge bike community as well. Whether it’s being a part of the rides organized by Devil’s Gear or by getting a membership and fixing up your bike or attending events at Bradley Street Bicycle Co-Op or just going to a New Haven Bike Party there are a ton of options out there.
Who knows what the future holds? Who knows what future community could be built?
But you can build it. All you need is a dream. And some friends.
Not sure where to start? Email me. I’ll help.
I don’t know what Connecticut’s future holds. But I know it relies on the people who build its communities. That’s you and me and everyone else. And New Haven is on the cutting edge of that, and I’m proud to be a part of that future.
I hope you are, too.
Also, be on the lookout for a brand-new Between Two Rocks Podcast! We’re recording today so it should be out… someday!