Q&A with Mayor Scott Jackson

Katie O'Brien

Mayor of Hamden, Scott Jackson, was elected for the third consecutive year on Nov. 5, taking 7,799 votes compared to republican opponent Bob Anthony who took 3,665 votes, according to the New Haven Register. The Chronicle met with Jackson two weeks before the election, where he opened up with his views on Quinnipiac University and Hamden residents.

[media-credit name=”Courtesy of Josephine O’Neil” align=”alignright” width=”300″]scottjackson[/media-credit]

Q: Both you and your opposing candidate Bob Anthony agreed that Quinnipiac is a great asset to the town of Hamden, but you also said we need to keep students on campus as opposed to off-campus housing. Why?

A: From experience. When I was in college, I went to Cornell, and there was a section of town called “Collegetown.” And that’s where students lived off campus and there hadn’t been a family there for 100 years. There’s a way around it, which is to actually act like neighbors. As a homeowner, when you see new people moving in next door, you go and knock on the door. Or as a student, you move in and go knock on the neighbor’s door and say, “Hey this is how to get in touch with me, if you need anything out of me, give me a call,” and it works both ways. It doesn’t necessarily have to be different than any other neighborhood. But we’ve had a lot of friction since probably since around 2004-2005 and have actually really reduced, starting some years ago where the introduction of the QU Hotline and things like that. But this year, it’s the biggest student class in the university’s history and it got off to a pretty rocky start.

Q: Not all students fall into the category you’re describing. So, what would you say to those students?

A: I would say continue to be responsible. You moved off campus because you thought you were adult enough to do it. And being adult enough to do it means a couple of things. But it means not only acting in a certain way but being responsive if somebody comes up to you [with a concern]. And respond to that in a way that recognizes you’re part of a larger civic structure. That’s extremely helpful.

Q: You said we need to take measures to keep students on campus. What measures should be taken?

The university has done some extraordinary things on the Rocky Top campus. And I told this to President [John] Lahey, I think that what they’ve done to try to operate in a free market economy and entice upperclassmen back onto the York Hill campus is nothing short of extraordinary. Loosening of alcohol policy is something that most universities would not even engage in and they have. If they are sought to undercut the market on price, and they are sought to continue to build dorm space even though they have existing vacancies, I think those are all extraordinary moves. And I thank them and encourage them to do that.

Q: But then a problem arises because not all seniors can fit into Eastview, there’s not enough space.

So build another Eastview, which is what they intend to do.

Q: There’s a stereotype in the Hamden area of the Quinnipiac student that stems from behaviors within off-campus housing. What kind of measure do you thinks students can take to break that?

A: I think the only demerit to having Quinnipiac University in Hamden, well actually I’ll give it a one and a one prime. Their off-campus housing, this year, what do you think the average per person rent is? I hear depending on the wears it’s between $800 and  $1,100 a month. Four to a unit, that makes a buying power of $3,200 per four-person dwelling in the town of Hamden. Where the housing stock that Quinnipiac students are occupying in the town of Hamden the working class folks who would otherwise live there can’t afford a mortgage payment of $3,200 a month. Which means that those buyers are now priced out of the market. It’s unclear now how they are being absorbed and if they’re being absorbed here in Hamden. That’s the one prime issue. The one issue is just this “I had a party next door and I had to call the police four times and Quinnipiac and the police were out four times and son of a gun I want these guys out.” Well, it doesn’t work that way. That’s the number one issue. The secondary issue is that the sort of the back look of the local housing market but aside from that. And I guess I’ll give a distant too, in terms of problems to the notions, and it is a notion, not a bounding fact that the university has unlimited resources and therefore intends to buy up every property between the Mount Carmel connector and the campus and all these places that we as locals are used to shopping and be thrown out on their ear and we’re going to have a section of the road that we can’t even drive through much less stop and do some shopping. The university has tremendous design standards, trying to seed the right kind of development but I don’t foresee a time where this stretch of road is no longer available to town residents. But generally I think it goes back to the mistrust of the university based upon issue number one which I think is the student thing.

Q: You talked about how Quinnipiac has positives and negatives. You spoke about the negatives, can you explain some of the positives?

A: The number one asset of Quinnipiac University in a global sense is that it’s made Hamden a known entity. Hamden is where Quinnipiac University is. Its direct ties to the financial market of New York in terms of this happens to be a university where a lot of the sons and daughters of folks who work on Wall Street live, helps us in telling our story. Yes, on paper we look like this, but ‘I was there a year ago looking at Quinnipiac and it looked like that. So I’m gonna give those guys the benefit of the doubt.’ That benefit of the doubt saves taxpayers million of dollars a year. That’s an asset that really can’t be captured.

When my classmate Jeremy Schaap is on the national news talking about the hockey championship and he’s talking about Quinnipiac University, that’s an asset. When we talk about regionals, regionally we have a number of assets that match up to everyone in the country one is quality of life. Here you can go to Broadway on Saturday and skiing in Vermont on Sunday. Another thing that we have is a workforce that is credentialed; university credentialed workforce. Which helps us in our recruiting efforts recruiting and retention efforts, Quinnipiac University is a major contributor to that. So when you look at the links between Quinnipiac, Yale, UNH, Albertus [Magnus] and Southern [Connecticut State], it gives us another story we can tell for academic development So those are some ways in which the university is an asset. I mean a lot of people only want to talk cash, but cash only buys things. Cash is not the story; it’s never been the story and it’s never the end of the story. What are you buying and why you’re buying it is the story. We’re trying to buy those things that allow our kids to have a better life. The university is a positive part of that because if we’re bringing in the right types of industry we bring in those corporate and academic partnerships that yield to an economic development engine that exceeds the rest of the region, that’s what we’re trying to do. Sure if we could tax Quinnipiac we’d get a lot more money a year, but it doesn’t necessarily yield results.

Q: Do you think the students are an asset to Quinnipiac?

A: I think they can be but I don’t think they necessarily think in that direction. And I get it.

Q: Why do you think they don’t think that way?

A: Because I was 20. And when I wanted to give back I necessarily gave back to those folks who I thought needed it the most. And since you can go eight miles down the highway and be in central city New Haven for an event like the Big Day Out, why wouldn’t you? That’s where they need it the most. We’re perceived as the suburbs. It’s all right here. If we’re really going to help we’re going to help there. And so, to the extent that we can start to encourage university organizations, the Greek system, etc., to identify some local areas in which they can make positive benefits I think that might be the thing that starts to turn the tide a little bit. But right now I see the students being active in a civic sense but I just don’t see them being active here in the corporate confines in the town of Hamden.