It was a happening start to a race with only one candidate.
A Tuesday night event scheduled by Rachel Plattus’s ’09 aldermanic campaign brought more than 50 students to the Jonathan Edwards Common Room for one hour to share ideas for improving New Haven’s public education system. Plattus, who so far has no declared competitors and who enjoys the support of many prominent campus activists, also unveiled plans to build a center in New Haven for troubled teenage girls and families.
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As the attendees — many of whom were members of campus organizations such as Roosevelt Institution and the Yale Democrats — filed in, they found boxes of pizza as well as a number of conversations about city government taking place between Plattus volunteers and other students. Once Plattus quieted the crowd, she launched what she said she hopes will become an ongoing conversation continuing through and beyond Election Day 2007.
“It’s sort of rare that we get to have a conversation across different groups and bring together our different perspectives,” she said, before briefly discussing her experiences volunteering in New Haven, which, she said, qualify her to replace current Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05 on the Board of Aldermen.
Shalek has not yet said whether he will run again this year, though an announcement is expected soon since the Feb. 16 filing date is less than two weeks away.
Plattus focused on plans to acquire funding and volunteers to establish an Elm City Family Center, which would serve as an informational resource to city families and a shelter for adolescent girls between the ages of 12 and 18. Plattus has also said she would like to see universal pre-kindergarten for all New Haven children.
“Yale students can be involved in every part of the process,” Plattus said.
In the discussion that ensued, several students said they were concerned about Yale imposing on local schools, while others suggested that students should take a more active role in concocting creative after-school programs and tutoring services. But most audience members agreed that streamlined coordination of campus activism is needed to avoid wasting students’ efforts.
Mimi Lewis ’09 said she fears Yale organizations ask too much of too few students, while another student asked Plattus, a lifelong New Haven resident, about Yale’s image.
“I guess what I want to know is, does New Haven like us?” Rachel Hansen ’09 said during the discussion.
For most students, the resounding answer was yes — contingent on certain factors, such as a liaison to the Board of Aldermen and creative contributions to the New Haven school district. Yale Democrats President Eric Kafka ’08 told a story about his roommate, who realized that he could, with just a little brainstorming, devise a workable after-school program for New Haven students.
“We, as students, can always provide two things — bodies and creativity,” Kafka said. “So go out there and design the sickest and nastiest after-school program. That’s my advice.”
Afterwards, Brian Edwards ’08 said it was too early to decide whom he will support in the election, but he said he was impressed by Plattus and got a “warm feeling” from her.
Shalek did not attend the event, which Plattus’ campaign manager Noah Kazis ’09 said may indicate something about his priorities.
“I can’t tell what he’s been doing right or wrong, because I don’t know what he’s been doing,” Kazis said.
But in an interview, Shalek said education was his priority.
“I think education is the most important issue in the city, and one I’ve spent a lot of time working with people in the city on,” he said. “I’m glad Rachel and other students are spending time working on it.”