Weeks’ exposure to state, city politics stems from work for clean elections

In his time at Yale, Ward 1 democratic aldermanic candidate Dan Weeks ’06 has focused primarily on one issue, campaign finance reform. But Weeks maintains that he is committed to a wide array of liberal issues and has experience beyond the clean elections campaign.

Weeks presents a four-part platform of progressive ideas and brings three years of experience with city and state politics through his activism for public campaign financing. During his time at Yale, Weeks, who comes from Temple, N.H., founded Students for Clean Elections and the DemocracyFund PAC, lobbying at the local and state levels to push for the New Haven Democracy Fund ordinance, which would provide public funding to qualified candidates for mayor. The candidates would have to agree to spending limits, thereby reducing the total amount of money spent in elections, Weeks said.

Some members of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee, which will vote to endorse a candidate March 23, have questioned whether Weeks is too narrowly focused on campaign finance reform. But Weeks said he believes his work for clean elections has given him experience with the political process and important contacts in the mayor’s office and on the Board of Aldermen.

“While I recognize the limitations to a first-term [alderman], I nonetheless would come in with strong working relations with several members of the board,” he said. “I have at least a foundation to start.”

At the same time, Weeks said he does not want to be defined solely by his work on clean elections. He said the clean elections campaign is nearly complete and would not require much further work if he were elected.

In a written campaign platform, he outlined four main areas he would like to focus on as alderman: town-gown relations, socio-economic justice, environmental stewardship and “good government” reform. His specific proposals include codifying an increase in Yale’s financial contribution to city government, backing unionization at Yale-New Haven Hospital as well as a community benefits package for the new cancer center, and ensuring the city’s affordable housing needs are met, in particular when new developments arise.

In addition, he said he hopes to engage students in city politics.

“You go to groups and cultural houses and provide very concrete ways in which people can get involved,” Weeks said. “This is something I’ve spent much of my three years here doing in my work with campaign finance reform.”

Weeks’ platform does not differ substantively from the stated positions of his opponent, Rebecca Livengood ’07. Both have said they would likely vote the same on nearly all issues.

But Livengood said she has extensive experience in two key areas on Weeks’ platform, environmental issues and Yale-New Haven relations, that Weeks lacks.

“There hasn’t been evidence from Dan’s work at Yale that he would push for those things,” Livengood said.

Weeks is quick to point to political experiences apart from clean elections — he worked as a policy analyst for Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s gubernatorial campaign, preparing a proposal for healthcare reform. He was co-organizer of a Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project program delivering excess dining hall food to local homeless shelters, and he is currently working with aldermen on a living wage ordinance.

In addition, Weeks said he thinks he has had diverse experiences at Yale — ranging from membership in the Baker’s Dozen a cappella group and the Yale College Council to participation in intramural sports — that give him an “across-the-board” familiarity with Ward 1 voters.

“My experience at Yale has been very much in the mainstream,” he said.

But several members of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee have raised concerns over Weeks’ focus on clean elections, suggesting he may not be equally committed to other issues that are important to Ward 1 Democrats.

“[Weeks] came across as being reasonably knowledgeable, but I think Rebecca is more knowledgeable,” committee member Yonah Freemark ’08 said.

But committee member Jesse Pizarro ’06, who said he has not yet decided which candidate he will vote for, said when he met with Weeks in person he was convinced he was interested in a wide array of issues.

“I was more impressed with him than I thought I would be,” Pizarro said. “He seemed to have a grasp on other issues. He also seemed very interested in hearing what I thought.”

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Ed Stein
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