Last month, the members of the Yale College Democrats voted overwhelmingly to endorse Rebecca Livengood for Ward 1 alderwoman. After interviewing each of the candidates for the office and hosting a public debate about the issues most important to our members, it became apparent that only one candidate has the vision and experience to represent the Yale students who live in Ward 1. That person is Rebecca Livengood.
In a country where Democrats are on the defensive, New Haven presents a unique opportunity to realize our Democratic values. On issues ranging from sound economic development to clean elections, New Haven can be a model for how government can and should be run. To achieve this, we need innovative and principled progressives like Livengood fighting for our values.
The Yale College Democrats appreciate that Nick Shalek, her challenger, shares some of our values, and despite the fact that he is running as an independent, we felt it was important to hear from both him and Livengood before we endorsed. Throughout his campaign, however, Shalek has demonstrated that he is willing to manipulate and vilify the Democratic values he claims to share for political gain, and this has greatly disappointed us.
The most flagrant example of this rhetoric is in Shalek’s handling of the proposed Yale-New Haven Cancer Center. Livengood is right to agree with other local Democrats when she says that the cancer center is too important to New Haven not to be done right. As we fight for just health care reform and a higher minimum wage across the country, we believe that the people who work for a cancer center should have access to the care that they provide.
Shalek has spent this campaign suggesting that the next Ward 1 alderman will face a choice — between voting for the unions and voting for the cancer center. This is, without exaggeration, a lie — framing the issue this way presents Yale students with a false dichotomy that they should resent. Responsible development means that engaged leaders and citizens can meet difficult challenges head-on and come up with solutions that allow for economic development while protecting the surrounding community. Livengood fully supports the building of such a cancer center, and we believe that working together, the city and officials at Yale-New Haven Hospital will be able to achieve this.
The Yale College Democrats endorsed Livengood, however, not just because of her informed position on the cancer center but also because of the commitment she has demonstrated during her time at Yale to a host of core Democratic commitments. There is hardly a more Democratic issue than the environment. While the Bush administration guts landmark environmental regulations that have protected our air and water for 30 years and Republicans in Congress exploit the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pass yet another energy bill that is purely a give-away to Big Oil, it is more important than ever that we fight for environmental reform and protection in our local communities.
Livengood has been at the forefront of this fight in New Haven. As a member of the Climate Campaign, she was active in helping to pass Senate Bill 595, An Act Concerning Climate Change, which requires that Connecticut commit to purchasing 20 percent renewable energy by 2010. As a student in New Haven and most recently as a member of the Board of Aldermen, she has worked to make this commitment a reality in New Haven.
Livengood has also stood with the Yale College Democrats and another key progressive group, Students for Clean Elections, as we’ve brought the fight for true public financing of elections to Connecticut. When it comes to clean elections, candidates manifest their values not only in what they say, but in how they run their campaigns. While Livengood has refused to accept PAC money or other donations that might illicit concern, this newspaper has reported a number of violations on Shalek’s part. His blatant disregard for election law is troubling, especially in the face of Livengood’s commitment to real campaign finance reform.
As we continue to fight for Democratic values, we realize that our work begins not inside the beltway but in our own backyard. From the environment to economic development to campaign finance reform, only one candidate has spent the last three years fighting for the beliefs that we hold dear. The Yale College Democrats are proud to endorse Rebecca Livengood, and we look forward to watching as she continues to serve as our representative on the Board of Aldermen.
Alissa Stollwerk is a senior in Saybrook College. She is the president of the Yale College Democrats.