By Marcel Przymusinski
Rebecca Livengood ’07 was sworn in as Ward 1 alderwoman yesterday and will now represent the residents of seven residential colleges and Old Campus on New Haven’s legislative body.
Yesterday’s ceremony at City Hall, presided over by Mayor John DeStefano Jr., enables Livengood to go into November’s aldermanic election as an incumbent. Livengood, a Democrat, will face independent challenger Nick Shalek ’05.
The Ward 1 alderman position became vacant several weeks ago, when Ben Healey ’04 stepped down in order to take a job in Boston. DeStefano selected Livengood to fill the position upon her nomination by the Ward 1 Democratic Committee, whose endorsement she won in March.
DeStefano aide Rob Smuts ’01 said Livengood’s appointment was largely a formality since the committee was strongly behind her.
“We have complete confidence in Rebecca,” Smuts said. “We think she’ll do a great job.”
Livengood said she plans to use her time on the board before the election to focus on two issues: Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Cancer Center expansion plan and bringing in a cooperative movie theater to replace York Square Cinema, which went out of business this summer. In addition, she said she plans to work on building relationships with her constituents.
“I think that the kinds of relationships that you have as an incumbent with students on campus are important and will be important in the election,” she said.
But Shalek discounted the importance of Livengood’s incumbency.
“In two months the Yale community will have a chance to make its own decision,” Shalek said.
Though he is running as an independent, Shalek portrays himself as a more moderate Democrat than Livengood, in particular suggesting that Livengood’s alignment with union causes and the Undergraduate Organizing Committee puts her outside the ward’s mainstream.
While Livengood and Shalek agree in principle on many issues, Shalek points to the cancer center project as their biggest point of contention. The project, which calls for a new 14-story building to house one of the most advanced cancer treatment facilities in the country, is pending approval by the Board of Aldermen. Amid controversy over zoning issues, community benefits, and unionization at the hospital, it is unclear whether the project will come to a vote before or after the election.
Shalek said that the board should be sensitive to community interests, but he thinks the issue of unionization at the hospital is unrelated and should not affect progress on the cancer center.
“Rebecca is willing to delay the cancer center project, and I think it’s too important a project to play politics with,” he said. “It’s important that the Board of Aldermen consider the implications for the community, but I’m not willing to jeopardize the future of the project, and I think she is.”
But Livengood said discussions about the project on the Board of Alderman consider the project from a more “nuanced” perspective. Though she supports unionization at the hospital, she said she does not see it as a black-and-white issue.
“I certainly think that part of responsible development is providing good, stable jobs that provide health-care coverage,” she said.
Livengood and Shalek have kicked off their campaigns with fund-raising and reach-out efforts, both in hopes of securing higher voter turnout for this year’s election than in years past. The two candidates have also embraced the Internet as a campaign tool: Details on their platforms are available at their campaign Web sites, VoteLivengood.com and VoteShalek.com.