A short power outage did little to interrupt the light-hearted spirit of Thursday’s debate between Ward 1 Alderwoman Rebecca Livengood ’07 and challenger Nick Shalek ’05.
Co-sponsored by the Yale Political Union and the Yale College Council, the debate consisted of the candidates responding to questions from an audience of approximately 150 students on topics ranging from the recent rise in crime to the place of gay rights in local politics. Livengood, a Democrat, was appointed to the alderwoman post by Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in late August following the departure of Alderman Ben Healey ’04. Shalek, a Democrat running as an Independent, will face Livengood in the Nov. 8 election.
“Debate is really good for addressing problems and seeking solutions,” Livengood said in her two minute opening statement.
She went on to introduce her three core issues: environmental responsibility, economic development and gay rights.
In response, Shalek chose to open by emphasizing his independent voice, objective perspective, and pragmatism. In a theme that resonated throughout the debate, he immediately attacked Livengood for having ties to local political institutions.
Livengood said she shares many values and valuable ties with the local unions, city government and Yale, and said that her opponent represents Yale’s interests, as an employee of the Yale Investment Office.
Shalek spent the debate focused on local issues while Livengood had a broader view, speaking in support of gay rights lobbying at the state level. Both candidates said they wanted to see public financing for political campaigns but Livengood said New Haven’s campaign finance reform would also be an example for the country.
While Livengood has the advantage of already serving on the New Haven Board of Aldermen, Shalek said his business experience will be an invaluable asset. He said Livengood’s proposal for a co-op cinema to replace York Square Cinema “completely lacked of thoughtfulness,” arguing that the move would not create jobs.
Shalek said the single most important issue in this election is economic development. The proposed Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center, he said, is a crucial economic development project that could not be delayed because of the medical care and employment it would offer. Livengood said she supports the center, but with the stipulation of sufficient health care for the workers and environmental compliance.
On the issue of security around campus, both candidates had several proposals, such as the installation of more blue phones and increased funding for youth programs. Shalek also proposed looking into the constitutionality of a gun-free zone.
But the two candidates diverged again on their support for the graduate student unionization.
“Grad students with families need to recognize their financial responsibility and that it’s really a life choice,” Shalek said. “[The Graduate Employees Student Organization] was making demands, not making solutions.”
Meanwhile, Livengood advocated the need to support GESO’s demands for workers’ rights.
“I am confident in sharing Yale’s values,” she said.
Shalek said Livengood’s position represents the opinion of a minority of Yale students.
“Leadership is not just based on principles, but pragramatism, and getting things done in New Haven,” he said.
Eric Purington ’09, who attended the debate, said the event represented an opportunity for Yale students to become involved.
“The debate really gave the Yale community a chance to learn the issues,” Purington said.
While Purington said he was undecided coming into the debate, he became attracted to Shalek’s theme of being an independent voice.
“The debate went very well and really brought out the differences between the candidates,” YPU President Jenny Rost ’06 said.
Rost said that compared to two years ago, the turnout was significantly higher, with more students genuinely interested in local politics.