The Yale Three will soon be a thing of the past.
Ward 9 Alderman Gerald Garcia ’94 SOM ’01 said Tuesday he will resign next month, joining colleagues Julio Gonzalez ’99 and Jelani Lawson ’96 on a growing list of departing alumni legislators.
Garcia is leaving to take a job at the brokerage firm Lehman Brothers in New York. He said he tried to stay in his native New Haven and plans to return, but was not able to find a similar job opportunity.
Ward 9 Democratic committee co-chair Nolan Smith said he understood Garcia’s decision.
“I don’t think he has any practical choice; he has bills to pay,” Smith said. “Student loans are going to get a lot of his attention.”
Garcia said his new job begins Aug. 3, but he will likely resign before June 1 to give his ward committee more influence in choosing a successor.
Under city law, if Garcia resigns after that date, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. will appoint an interim alderman to serve until being replaced in the normally scheduled fall election. But if the resignation occurs in May, a special election will be held to select a temporary replacement — with an advantage going to the candidate who gets the support of Smith’s committee.
“By New Haven’s charter, the process that allows 9th Ward residents the greatest voice in selecting aldermanic successors happens in accordance with my stepping down at this time,” Garcia said. “It would be inappropriate for me to inhibit in any way the people of the 9th Ward’s ability to openly and freely choose my successor.”
Garcia, who has not said whether he will support DeStefano or state Sen. Martin Looney in September’s Democratic mayoral primary, said his decision to resign before DeStefano can appoint a replacement is unrelated to the election.
“The presence of a mayor doesn’t enter into this kind of decision-making process,” Garcia said. “The two candidates have given different kinds of attention to the 9th Ward. Marty is pounding a lot of pavement and has always done so, and I know that my constituents appreciate that.”
Garcia said he and the ward committee are considering several potential successors for endorsement before a special election.
“We do want someone to represent the area,” Smith said. “It’s a very complicated ward.” He added that one potential scenario involves selecting a purely interim alderman to allow several candidates time to ready campaigns for the fall election.
Garcia said it was important to him that his successor have a commitment to organized labor, adding that he plans to work closely with local unions in the selection process.
Andrea Cole, a union organizer, said Garcia has been helpful to labor during his term, primarily in the leadership role he took in passing one of the nation’s first “livable wage” initiatives. She said she hoped his successor would carry on that tradition.
“I would hope that whoever steps in and is elected will have a real understanding of the issues that working families face in New Haven,” Cole said. “It is a very different environment than what it used to be.”
While Democratic candidates are still being sought out, one Republican has already thrown his hat into the ring. UPS supervisor Bill Lattanzi announced Monday he will seek the seat, promising increased bipartisanship if he wins.
The departure of Garcia, Gonzalez and Lawson ends a loose coalition of Yalies which began when the three joined the board over several months in 1996 and 1997.
The so-called “Yale Three” worked together on several projects, most notably 1998’s “Promise to New Haven,” a proposal to replace the 30 part-time aldermen with 15 full-time legislators and make other reforms. The initiative failed, but Garcia said the group brought a young, progressive voice to New Haven.
“I think we’ve generated discussion that would not have happened on a lot of topics,” Garcia said. “We three have worked on accountability, equity and service in ways that the city could more easily make happen.”
Garcia said he was hopeful that future aldermen will carry on the group’s legacy, but added that the mass departure, combined with high turnover in the last few elections, concerned him.
Former Ward 1 aldermanic candidate Lex Paulson ’02 said although the shoes of the three would be hard to fill, he and other young leaders would be able to maintain their progressive spirit.
Recently, the Yale Three have grown somewhat apart politically. While Gonzalez is DeStefano’s campaign manager, neither Garcia nor Lawson has given his support to either mayoral candidate.
“There’s been some divergence in terms of what kind of leadership we want to take,” Gonzalez said. “I realized I needed to play a constructive role, needed to play an organizing role. I also started getting frustrated with empty talk that was often heard in political circles about change.”
While the board’s youngest three Yalies are departing, it is also losing the three representatives of Yale’s campus: Gonzalez, Ward 7’s Esther Armmand and Grace Gibbs of Ward 22.
As Yale students observe the city’s political process this summer, they will see a large number of special elections or appointments. In addition Garcia, Lawson and Armmand will resign before the ends of their terms.