Though uncontested, Plattus reaches out

Rachel Plattus ’09, the lone candidate in the upcoming Ward 1 aldermanic election, is in a unique position.

In the last Ward 1 race, September and October meant exhausting campaign resources and knocking on every door. But Plattus, a Saybrook junior who is running uncontested, is still largely unknown by virtue of her uncontested status. But what is she doing to remedy this? And, as she told the News she would in August, is she taking advantage of her unique position to get to know campus students despite lacking the campaign vehicle to do so?

Earlier this semester, Plattus said she would begin reaching out to students and holding forums executing her aldermanic responsibilities early on this year. While she said she has already delved into some aspects of her new job — such as meeting constituents and city leaders and moderating a political bazaar for freshmen — she is still working toward achieving others, such as organizing forums to discuss community issues.

Noah Kazis ’09, who served as Plattus’ campaign manager, said Plattus is paving the way for her candidacy, but waiting for the right moment to hold forums.

“She is still planning to [hold forums], but it is better to do it right than to do it early,” he said.

Plattus’ aldermanic platform involves addressing issues such as education and youth, economic and community development, safety and crime, the environment and homelessness in the city. Plattus will become the alderwoman for Ward 1 when she formally takes office in January.

Ward 1 contains two-thirds of the Yale undergraduate community — students in Silliman, Timothy Dwight, Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges vote in Ward 22 — and Plattus said the decisions the alderman makes directly affect the campus. A native of New Haven and an activist in city politics, Plattus said she is a candidate who can bridge the divide between Yale and the greater New Haven community.

“Growing up in New Haven and then coming to Yale gave me a unique view about the challenges the city faces and how the city and our University can work together and should work better together,” she said.

An active member of the Yale Democrats, Plattus was the organization’s registrar of voters last year and was responsible for achieving a record turnout for Ward 1 as she organized a campus-wide voter registration program that she carried into the New Haven public high schools. Her political involvement on campus also includes working at the Roosevelt Institution, managing the Connecticut Health Insurance Mandate Project and volunteering as a Dwight Hall public school intern at Conte/West Hills Magnet School.

Jacob Koch ’10 has worked with Plattus in the Roosevelt Institution where she is the co-chair of the public health sector. Koch said he is eagerly awaiting her arrival on the municipal board.

“What is exciting about having Plattus on the Board of Aldermen is that she will be a strong advocate and partner for Yale students who want to engage with local issues in the city,” Koch said. “She has been engaged in the community for a long time, and she has great working relationships with all the important players.”

The uncontested election for the Democratic primary in April 2007 did not allow for the general battles of partisan politics, which Plattus said has left her with a comparatively low profile.

“Most candidates who compete in an election generate energy as they debate over issues,” Plattus said. “However, as long as I stay engaged at Yale, I can maintain awareness on campus.”

Sarah Turbow ’10, a member of the board of the Yale College Democrats, said though having a contested race would have drawn attention to current issues, she thinks Plattus will still increase knowledge on campus.

“I think that the benefit of having a race would have to increase the level of public debate,” she said. “While an election would have brought issues to the forefront, she will bring awareness nevertheless.”

Incumbent Nick Shalek ’05 said much of her status remains in limbo as he carries out the end of his term, but that he has been in ongoing contact with Plattus over ideas of mutual interest. He said he looks forward to her continuing work in education.

“The quality of public education is the most consequential issue over which the city has control, and one that has grown dear to my heart in the last few years,” Shalek said. “Having worked as a public school intern, Plattus is definitely attuned to the need to strive for constant improvements in student achievement.”

In the next few months, while Shalek wraps up his unfinished business in the legislature, Plattus said she will continue to introduce herself and meet freshmen on campus.

“If it means knocking on doors,” she said, “That’s what I will do.”

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