Dialogue is still a focus of Ward 1 campaign

When I first decided to run for alderwoman, I told my friends that I wanted my candidacy to be about dialogue.

Win or lose, we would raise awareness of the vital concerns facing our city. Win or lose, we would work to engage students who have never considered New Haven their political community before. And win or lose, we would help to break down the barriers that too often divide our campus communities from each other, and our campus from our city.

Fast-forward one month, and true success — a robust dialogue — now appears more difficult than ever. Because the campaign will attract less attention without a horse race to follow, I share the opinion in the News’ View (“Ward 1 race won’t foster effective dialogue,” 2/16) that the challenge we face is formidable. Nevertheless, I absolutely believe that it is surmountable.

If I’ve learned anything over the past month, it’s that a campaign fosters dialogue not because of conversations about the candidates or among the candidates, but because of conversations about the issues and among all concerned students. After all, 50 students turned out for a discussion of education issues in New Haven earlier this month, and then as now, the campaign was uncontested. We can have a dialogue if we choose to.

I personally believe that we all have a stake in New Haven, but I also understand that not everyone is attracted to local politics. To be of any real substance, political participation has to be voluntary. So if I come knock on your door and you choose not to register to vote here in Connecticut, I promise to leave you in peace.

But if you’re intrigued by the notion of getting involved politically here in New Haven, I want to talk about how we can work together to make that happen. In particular, I’ll be going door to door personally to make sure that we have the chance to discuss the issues that are important to you — public safety, homelessness, the environment, workers’ rights, public education — and to offer you the chance to register to vote. This semester we have a chance to make your ideas the focal point of the race, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Watching two of your peers duke it out for your vote in November isn’t the only way to have productive discussion or debate. The Yale Political Union, for example, debates issues all the time. To be specific, one issue that I especially hope this campus can discuss in the coming weeks is the ongoing labor dispute at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

I strongly support workers’ rights to form a union and bargain collectively to ensure fair wages, working conditions and benefits. And as students at this time, in this place, labor issues pose much more than an academic question for our community.

In recent months, Yale-New Haven Hospital has systematically broken its promise not to intimidate workers who want to form a union. The jointly appointed independent arbitrator even cited hospital management for “severe violations of federal law.” As such, I agree with Mayor John DeStefano that management, regrettably, has “poisoned the water” and made its own favored unionization process impossible.

The right answer, moving forward, is a card-check neutrality agreement — a process that resolves unionization disputes smoothly, fairly and without worker intimidation. I hope we’ll be able to discuss this issue together — and take action to ensure justice for workers — over the coming weeks and months.

No doubt, it will be harder to bring attention to the vital issues facing us as Yale students and New Haven residents in an uncontested campaign. But don’t count us out yet.

The issues we face are both important and exciting. With or without a horse race, I don’t think Yalies will pass up the opportunity to get involved and make a difference.

Rachel Plattus is a sophomore in Saybrook College. She is the Democratic candidate for Ward 1 alderman.

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