One of my favorite things about elections, and especially local elections, is that they are an opportunity for people to think seriously about the issues confronting their communities and to choose the best person to address those issues. New Haven’s Ward 1 elections in particular serve a very important function by bringing a campaign about issues confronting the city to students at Yale. In other words, the Ward 1 election presents an opportunity to get outside the Yale “bubble,” especially for freshmen experiencing New Haven for the first time.
I care very strongly about the need for Yale students to engage with the city. Because of this, I’m writing today to enthusiastically voice my support of Rebecca Livengood ’07 for Ward 1 alderwoman.
Some of you may find my support for her curious, considering that I ran her opponent’s campaign this past spring. But, after spending a summer watching Rebecca work in New Haven, I have come to emphatically support her. Before I get into my reasons for this change, however, let me recap a few details about the campaign to date.
This past spring, the Ward 1 Democratic Committee began deliberations over whom to endorse. Two candidates, Rebecca and Dan Weeks ’06, sought the nomination. After an initial deliberation period of about a month, the committee (which consists of about 40 Yale undergraduates and a few adults) met, heard statements from the candidates and ultimately voted to nominate Rebecca.
After the nominating process, the question arose as to whether Dan would challenge Rebecca in a Democratic primary, which would have taken place in early September. For a number of reasons, Dan eventually decided not to proceed with a primary challenge. He and Rebecca did, however, agree to work to change the rules for choosing the nominee; specifically, to create a more open and inclusive process that would take place sometime in the spring.
I still fully encourage the former candidates, the committee chairs, and the Democratic Town Committee of New Haven to establish a nominating process that gives all of the 800-plus registered Democrats in Ward 1 a say — not just 40 of the ward’s most politically active citizens.
This summer, the Ward 1 alderman of four years, Ben Healey ’04, resigned and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. appointed Rebecca to replace him. She is not facing a primary challenge, and therefore is the official Democratic nominee this November.
Now that school has started, the campaign for Ward 1 alderman begins in earnest. Every one registered in Ward 1 — well over 1,000 students — is eligible to vote, and hopefully that number will increase as the campaigns of both Livengood and her opponent, Nick Shalek ’05, make efforts to register new voters.
I am supporting Rebecca Livengood for a number of reasons. I have known her since we both came to Yale two years ago, and from day one she has actively devoted her time to strengthening our community. She has worked on a wide variety of issues, including civil rights, the environment, economic development, economic justice and financial aid reform. Through this work, she has built strong and lasting ties at Yale and in New Haven, ties that will serve her very well on the Board of Aldermen. She also has a lifelong commitment to social justice, which I deeply respect and admire. Her experience and her beliefs give her exceptional qualification for the job, and give me full confidence that she will be extraordinarily effective on the Board.
Rebecca is also an active member of the Yale community. Though I greatly admire the achievements of her predecessor, my one complaint about his tenure would be that he did not talk with and listen to a broad enough group of Yale students. The past several months have made it clear to me that Rebecca will not make the same mistake; I see her at social settings at least as much as political ones and constantly see her interacting with different and diverse groups of people, always listening to what they have to say, and always encouraging them to pay attention to the many serious issues which we have right here in New Haven — issues which urgently require the efforts of many more Yale students than are currently involved. And to her credit, in my own relationship with Rebecca, she has consistently seen areas of disagreement as opportunities for us to learn rather than as obstacles to mutual trust.
The most significant reason, then, that I am supporting Rebecca Livengood for Ward 1 alderwoman is this: I believe she is capable of mobilizing a diverse army of Yale students to get involved with New Haven, its issues and its politics. Too often, all of us forget that we don’t just go to Yale; we live in New Haven. Rebecca is a fantastic person to remind us of that fact.
I am looking forward to an energetic campaign from both sides. I hope that we have a serious debate about serious issues in our community, and I hope we succeed in drawing the attention of Yale students to those issues. I also hope that in November we have a clear winner, and that it is Rebecca Livengood.
Ted Fertik is a sophomore in Trumbull College.