With election day rapidly approaching, most of the space in these pages has been dedicated to Yale undergraduates who live (and perhaps even vote) in Ward 1. But Yale students have weight to throw around all over the city. In Ward 9, Green Party candidate Vic Edgerton and Democratic candidate Elizabeth Addonizio are locked in a tight race between a viable third-party candidate and New Haven’s Democratic machine (I call it “Democrator”).
While it may seem to some like Ward 9 is far, far away in a land that time forgot, approximately half of the ward is comprised of Yale graduate students. Yalies’ votes will likely determine the outcome of the Ward 9 elections. I don’t know Addonizio personally, but I do know Edgerton, and I’ve been telling everyone I know to vote (and pray) for him. Here are a few reasons why: As a graduate of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Edgerton will be able not only to support environmental initiatives but provide much-needed expertise on the Board. He worked with the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice to stop Yale from burning the dirtiest possible fuel oil for energy production; he worked with the Newhall community to help assess its health risks due to living on an industrial landfill; and he provided testimony to the Board of Aldermen on the Cross Sound Cable plan.
As someone who’s lived in New Haven for a number of years, Edgerton understands the minutiae that can sway quality of life and has some creative solutions, such as adding more bike lanes, altering street parking configurations so as to “calm” and slow traffic, and improving communication between the construction companies tearing up the streets and the residents who live on them.
As a Yale student, Edgerton is more than aware of Yale’s actual and potential role in New Haven affairs. He supports the Naclerio Amendment, which asks Yale to make a “fair share” contribution to the city to make up for the taxes New Haven loses due to Yale’s non-profit status, as well as long-term regional tax-sharing to alleviate the burden on the city center.
As anyone who has studied her literature can attest, Addonizio shares many of Edgerton’s concerns. But a chief difference is how these proposals will be implemented.
In this past term, the Board of Aldermen was comprised of 26 Democrats, 2 Republicans, and 2 Greens. One of the Greens was John Halle of Ward 9, who has decided not to run again. New Haven’s political system already functions largely as a one-party system, with all the problems that entails — backroom deals, patronage and lack of competition on ideas. Democratic candidates attempt to distance themselves from DeStefano when it’s convenient, but it’s increasingly clear that Democrats need DeStefano’s human and material resources in order to win elections. Democrator expects payback once its candidates are elected. Now these problems are about to get worse — with a vengeance.
In the Democratic primary, DeStefano’s democratic machine successfully eliminated most of the Mayor’s critics within the party, and the party is now pouring tremendous resources into knocking out the Republicans and the Greens in the general election.
From my many conversations with Edgerton, it’s clear that his whole way of approaching problems is opposed to the kind of back-scratching that makes patronage politics function. From his experience as an activist, his first thought is not what deals he can make but how problems can be solved from the bottom up at the grass-roots level. For example, he has convinced a team of citizens to spend time pouring over the city’s normally opaque general plan, with an eye toward creating a people-driven process to draw up a New Haven sustainability plan that provides a blueprint for environmental and economic improvement.
John Halle’s successes on the Board last term bear out this pattern. Rather than simply test the Board’s support for making the city more bike-friendly, he worked with other Greens and local bikers to create a new movement for a more bikeable city that has swayed the Democratic Party and resulted in real change. Halle’s grass-roots approach has changed people’s expectations of representation, so that now residents expect their alderman to come calling before elections.
It goes without saying that one shouldn’t vote for a third party just for the sake of having a diversity of voices on the Board of Aldermen. Edgerton is one of the most earnest and incorruptible people I’ve ever met. He’s been in and around New Haven politics enough to know how to get things done. He has specific goals for his ward and actually knows how to make them bear fruit. And he brings a dissenting and positive voice to a Board that sorely needs it.
Matthew Schneider-Mayerson is a senior in Davenport College.