While both candidates in the Ward 1 aldermanic race said they hold similar views regarding economic development in the city, development became a central flashpoint in the debate between Democratic incumbent Rebecca Livengood ’07 and Independent challenger Nick Shalek ’05 Tuesday night.
The debate, which was sponsored by the Yale Economic Review and attended by approximately 50 students, focused on ways to encourage local entrepreneurs, alleviate poverty and homelessness, and illuminate the importance of biotechnology and service industries, among other economic concerns.
Advanced Alloy Media was one specific point of contention between the candidates. The company, which was reportedly planning to move to New Haven this summer and had offered roughly 100 new jobs, ultimately decided against the move.
Shalek said Advanced Alloy was discouraged from moving to New Haven by excessive demands from Community Organized for Responsible Development that came after the Board of Aldermen had already met with the company. Livengood said she agreed that CORD’s involvement was inappropriate, but she said the company was not the kind of corporation New Haven should seek out, since its executives had expressed resistance to the city’s environmental protection laws, she said.
Still, Shalek said Advanced Alloy had been addressing those issues directly with the Board of Aldermen prior to CORD’s intervention.
“In the case of Advanced Alloy, the Board of Aldermen did address environmental concerns and other developmental issues … [but] then CORD interceded at the last second inappropriately,” Shalek said. “It was a socially responsible business that would have provided 100 jobs and over a million dollars in tax revenues for the city.”
Livengood said that while Shalek claims to be pro-environment, his positions on projects such as Advanced Alloy Media and the Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center demonstrate a lack of concern for environmental protection.
“Any time there has been a decision where difficult environmental choices needed to be made, Nick has said those people who are on the side of environmental choices have been too restrictive or too harsh,” Livengood said prior to the debate. “You’re not an environmentalist unless you’re willing to stand up for environmental choices.”
Livengood said Shalek’s insistence that the cancer center’s construction plans move forward immediately shows that Shalek underestimates the severity of the potential environmental problems the center may create.
But Shalek said Livengood’s attitude towards environmental protection is overzealous and that those issues have already been adequately addressed by the hospital. He said the only issue that has not yet been resolved is the construction of the Center’s parking lot, an issue that is not important enough to merit a delay in the construction.
Livengood said some of Shalek’s supporters have alleged that she will not allow the construction of the Cancer Center to go forward until workers are forced to unionize. She said the assertions were false and Yale-New Haven’s workers must be allowed to choose whether or not they want to unionize in a secret ballot, without being intimidated by outside forces. To facilitate the process, she said, a neutrality agreement should be reached between the hospital and union leaders, and a cooling-off period of six months to a year should be allowed prior to the unionization vote.
“His campaign maintains a description of our position that is untrue,” Livengood said prior to the debate. “I am in favor of a secret ballot vote. I think it’s important that the hospital and the union discuss and commit to ways of not intimidating workers.”
Once a neutrality agreement is reached and environmental concerns are addressed, construction should be allowed to proceed, Livengood said. Ultimately, she said, whether or not hospital workers ultimately choose to unionize or not is not important but ensuring that they have the option to do so is crucial.
Tuesday night’s debate was the final formal meeting between Livengood and Shalek slated prior to next week’s election.