Last month, a man in Dixwell was arrested for assault. He had allegedly fought with a woman who described herself as his girlfriend, and he later violated a protective order by trying to approach her. A city housing official, reading media accounts about the incidents, realized that the houses the man owned were not properly licensed as rooming houses, though the man was operating them as such.
As far as New Haven or Dixwell crime statistics go, these incidents are not major. Last year saw 24 homicides and 111 non-fatal shootings, with 13 of the victims under 15 years old. Alleged domestic violence is hardly trivial, but compared to other recent incidents in Dixwell, these recent crimes could hardly be expected to make headlines day after day.
Except they have, because the man accused of these crimes was Drew King, Ward 22 alderman and a generally well-respected community leader.
Since King’s first arrest, the Ward 22 community and New Haven political leaders have been debated whether King, who is still being investigated, should keep or resign his seat. This fall, former alderwoman Babz Rawls-Ivy had resigned her seat, but only after pleading guilty to having embezzled nearly $50,000 in federal money. So far, those calling for his resignation are predominantly individuals who have previously been his political opponents, such as Cordelia Thorpe, co-chair of Ward 22’s ward committee, whom King defeated in the 2005 aldermanic elections and who had lost the 2004 race for ward co-chair to an ally of King’s. Other city politicians, including Mayor John DeStefano Jr., have not yet spoken out publicly against King’s remaining on board.
It’s unfortunate, as it always is, that personal agendas have come into this situation, not just because they obscure the truth of what happened, but also because they obscure the importance of King’s transgressions. These crimes are not important because of their magnitude but because King, as an alderman, needs to be a leader for his community. King had previously been praised for working with youth in Dixwell as part of the city’s recent focus on engaging teenagers to keep them away from crime. But after-school programs are no substitute for meaningful adult role models, and King, as alderman, is exactly the type of role model teenagers should able to look to.
Politicians, even today’s politicians, are civic leaders. They set the tone of discourse for their state, and politicians who transgress in front of their constituents fail both because they set a bad example and because they pass up opportunities to be leaders. Teenagers are, it’s said, cynical, an attitude certainly exacerbated when their leaders are hypocritical adults who tell them to behave one day and get arrested for assault the next.
That said, we are not yet sure what exactly happened to King, and certainly the actions of his opponents force us to wonder whether these recent developments are faults of his or political maneuvering of others. Either way, though, New Haven’s adults should not wonder why New Haven’s young people have such a hard time staying out of trouble themselves.