Constitution Cafe: The Role of Government During Pandemic, June 3

Join Mayor Justin Elicker, facilitator Eric Rey, your neighbors, and local experts in a community dialogue about the role of the government in a pandemic. This project creates rigorous constitutional discussions outside of the lecture hall and allows us to explore how this document impacts our daily lives. Each Constitution Cafe will bring together guests with academic expertise on the constitution and lived expertise on New Haven, as well as create space for you to bring your expertise to the conversation.

Bring your ideas, questions, and curiosity and join in this online iteration of artist Linda Pollack’s project, My Daily Constitution.

Linda Pollack

Artist and Moderator

Linda Pollack studied economics at Penn State University, and art at the Vrije Akademie in The Hague and the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, the Netherlands. She spent a decade in the lowlands, eventually combining her art practice with cultural policy development while working for the European Cultural Foundation in Amsterdam. At the ECF she set up APEXchanges, a groundbreaking arts mobility fund that addressed post-cold war Europe's east / west cultural and economic divide. She also developed initiatives that promoted reconciliation and civil society in war-torn Yugoslavia, with Haris Pasovic and his Sarajevo Festival Ensemble, and Macedonian rock stars "Leb i Sol", among others. In 1996, Linda returned to the United States to pursue her MFA in New Genres at UCLA, and received her MFA from the visual arts department of UCSD. On the evening of 9/11/2001, as the Director of the Freedom to Write Committee of PEN USA, Linda was set to produce the world premier of the English translation of "Tesri Dastak" ("The Third Knock"), the debut play of renowned Pakistani playwright Shahid Nadeem, of the Ajoka Theatre in Lahore Pakistan. Nadeem, living in Los Angeles as a visiting Feuchtvanger Fellow, had written this first work about poverty and the cycle of violence which followed the 1945 partition of India and Pakistan. Faced with the horror of that day, the first impulse of the cast and the production team was to cancel the event. In the days that followed, after much deliberation and soul searching, the cast (which included acclaimed actors Shashir Kurup, Bernard White, Kal Penn, and Lina Patel, among others) made the decision to go forward with the play. A week later, an unforgettable evening of theater and discussion took place at 18th Street's Highways Performance Space. The evening reinforced Linda's conviction in exchange, art and dialogue as an antidote to fear, a way to come to terms with the complexity of the tragedy, a way to give articulation to the ineffable. In 2002, Linda created My Daily Constitution, a public work that creates new, fluid spaces where communities can come together to discuss the challenges and possibilities of our shared civic life. With MDC, Pollack proposes to go beyond the visible symbols of patriotism, beyond flags flapping on cars, and invites people to explore the less visible— yet no less important— world of civic ideals and community engagement. She has held MDC in Los Angeles, NYC, Seattle, Cincinnati, and most recently, in Indianapolis. Pollack has been awarded numerous grants, including a residency at Schloss Solitude of Stuttgart Germany, the the 18th Street Arts Center of Santa Monica California. She has exhibited and presented her work in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Justin Elicker

Mayor of New Haven

Justin grew up in Connecticut. He attended public school, graduated with a BA from Middlebury College in Vermont, and earned both a Master’s in Business Administration from the Yale School of Management and a Masters in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry. Justin speaks Spanish and Chinese. He has been an elementary and high school teacher (for at-risk youth) and served for three years as an adjunct professor of education policy at Southern Connecticut State University.

Justin has a wealth of experience in government. He served for four years on the New Haven Board of Alders where he was a champion for residents across the city who felt unheard, underserved, and unsupported by the City of New Haven. He advocated for renters who lived in sub-standard apartments under absentee landlords, and fought against predatory landlords.

With his constituents’ support and at their requests, he promoted fostering more positive, community-police interaction in an underserved neighborhood in order to help mitigate neighbors’ feelings of mistrust and suspicion of police. He successfully implemented neighborhood and economic development improvements in the Cedar Hill neighborhood to promote more business activity and improve quality of life.

He promoted protections for gender identity. On the Board of Alders, Justin was also one of the strongest voices for long-term fiscal responsibility, government transparency, and smart governance. He had both one of the best attendance records on the Board, and the best response rates for constituent service requests. In 2013, Justin ran for Mayor in one of the most exciting and close elections in decades. Justin came in second with 45.3% of the vote.

Justin’s government experience started long before his involvement at the Board of Alders. Justin worked for five years as a Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. State Department. He was posted to Washington, D.C., Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Justin had a substantive focus on U.S. economic and environmental policy.

While working for the U.S. government abroad was rewarding and challenging, Justin decided to leave the State Department to come to New Haven because he wanted to live near his family, put down roots, and get involved in a local community that he believed in. Justin lives in East Rock with his wife, Natalie, and daughters Molly and April.

Justin is now the 51st Mayor of New Haven, and will work hard so that every resident has the opportunity to thrive, no matter where they live.

Eric Rey

Facilitator