Although Ward 22 Alderman Drew King was first arrested for assault nearly a month ago, city residents and politicians have reached no consensus as to whether King should resign his elected office.
As King continues his rehabilitation program following his arrest, Dixwell leaders have called for a meeting next week to encourage Ward 22 dwellers, including the more than 500 Yale students who are registered in the district, to voice their concerns and ideas for moving forward. City residents and New Haven political figures, meanwhile, are split as to whether King should resign now or wait for the legal system to sort out fact from fiction.
Since the initial King arrest on Dec. 22 for allegedly assaulting a woman who described herself to police as his girlfriend, government leaders have preferred to keep a low profile on the matter, though some, like Mayor John DeStefano Jr., have become particularly adamant in recent days that King cut his two-year term short. King, the mayor now says flatly, has some major questions to answer.
The turn to a more unforgiving tone by the mayor comes primarily as a reaction to the most recent revelations about the extent of King’s apparent legal turmoil: unpaid taxes, ownership of a house known for harboring drug dealers, and accounts of his drunkenness even as he makes claims to the contrary.
It is also in part a reaction to increasing public pressure, magnified by attention from online newspapers and blogs across the nation, that casts New Haven in a negative light. A Free Republic reader, for example, suggested New Haven might be in competition for a “Most Corrupt Politician Award.”
“We want to figure out how to accentuate the positive aspects of our ward,” said Ward 22 co-chair Cordelia Thorpe. “We realize [King] has had some difficulty, but we want to counteract that and go forward.”
Residents will gather on Tuesday, Jan. 23, at 87 Webster St. at 6 p.m. to craft a game plan, but first they will have to figure out whether it is even possible to move forward. King has taken an indefinite leave from the Board of Alderman, leaving Ward 22 residents without a representative. He said in an interview Monday that he hopes to return next month, though he did not specify an exact date.
Despite the widespread criticism of King, some neighbors of the Edgewood Avenue house where the incident occurred argue that King may still be cleared of the three original misdemeanor charges. Drug dealers, they say, are the problem — not King.
William Bixby, who lives next door to the house, said King may simply have been trying to evict certain residents of the property, who had repeatedly refused to leave.
“In my view, Drew was doing the best he could,” Bixby said, citing King’s frequent attempts to rid the home of drug dealers. In one incident, he recalled King working with him to break up a fight that had started between several of the house’s tenants. “Drew doesn’t seem like the type of guy to assault someone.”
King did not actually live at the house in question. He purchased it for more than $250,000 last August and has since attempted to turn it into a sober house.
But some residents say that King should simply step down — no questions asked — and retire from the unwanted spotlight that has been directed at his family and his city. The result, they say, will be better for all parties involved.
Jo Jones, who lives one block from the house at which King was arrested, said she is convinced that “he has to resign.”
“We need more of a role model, especially in New Haven,” Jones said. “Violence has really plagued our young people, and displaying behavior like that just validates the behavior that kids are doing.”
Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield has not called for King’s resignation, and former Board of Alderman president Tomas Reyes said he would also leave the question of whether an alderman should resign to the “individual, not the body.” But he offered some advice for King, provided the allegations are true.
“All of us who are elected at some point are servants of the public, and so beyond a moral responsibility, we have a legal and political responsibility to behave [by] a kind of code of behavior,” he said.
Susie Voigt, the chairman of the Democratic Town Committee, said she is “glad to know” King is in a rehabilitation center. She did not say she would like him to resign, but she said he should sit down with her and others when he returns to “examine his ability to do his job at the highest ethical, political and moral levels.” But there is another issue on her mind that she says is more pressing at the moment.
“Right now my biggest concern is really to make sure that the residents of Dixwell and Yale University are getting attention and services that they need,” Voigt said.
Whether or not King resigns, his seat will be contested in the 2007 election if he chooses to run again. Thorpe, who was defeated by King in November 2005, said she plans to run for the seat whose ward spans the Dixwell neighborhood and some Yale colleges. Yalies make up about one-third of the approximately 1,700 registered Ward 22 voters.