Despite defeat, Douglass backs Calder, plans future in politics

Even though Ward 2 residents may be disengaged from their uncontested aldermanic race, Democratic primary loser Frank Douglass, Jr., said the race has not dampened his civic ambitions — which he said may one day result in a bid for mayor.

After winning the Democratic primary by a margin of only 18 votes out of 526 total, Gina Calder ’03 EPH ’08 will bypass Tuesday’s election unopposed. Calder said she is happy to have gotten a “head start” on her first steps as an alderwoman. Meanwhile, her opponent Douglass said he has already moved on from his defeat and is looking on to bigger political ambitions.

While residents may have a few months to wait before they can see Calder’s plans materialize, she already has at least one backer: Douglass.

“She has my support,” he said.

In fact, Douglass — a Trumbull College dining hall chef who ran on a platform supporting Yale-New Haven Hospital unionization — may be back on the political scene in a year or two. In an interview with the News, Douglass said he may consider running for mayor of New Haven in the next election.

“I’ll see what this [next mayoral] administration will do,” he said. “If they slack, they’ll have a lot of people to answer to.”

He said there is no candidate obviously better than incumbent Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in this race. Still, he said, it is important that residents hold their elected officials accountable, something he plans to do himself.

If he has one regret about the race, Douglass said, it is that he entered the political scene so late in his 54 years.

But even as Douglass calls for more civic involvement on the part of voters, Ward 2 residents interviewed generally said they have not followed their aldermanic races closely, especially since Calder is now running unopposed in the general election.

But Calder said the uncontested race will allow her to hit the ground running as she enters her new position. While she won’t be sworn in for several weeks, she said she has already begun meeting with several of her future aldermanic colleagues.

Calder said she can now better focus on her key initiatives concerning safety.

“You would like to feel safe in your community,” she said. “You would like to be able to come and go as you please.”

This could all change soon. Calder said she is planning to create a more effective block watch system with better communication between residents and the police officers based in the neighborhood. She said police in the area have not been very responsive.

If her plan were to take effect, she said, block watches would be equipped with cameras to document the crimes they are seeing. This would help police to better investigate and identify patterns, she said.

Susanna Cantu, an eight-year resident of Ward 2, said she voted for Gina Calder in the Democratic primary, and that Calder’s tough stance on safety was at the front of her mind when she cast her ballot in September. For Cantu and most local residents, walking outside after dark can feel like a major risk, she said.

Calder also said economic issues will be a priority of her tenure.

One of the major concerns among her constituents, Calder said, is that jobs are not paying enough or are too difficult to find. To remedy this, she is looking at the “opportunities that are coming down the pike” in order to alleviate this strain.

Calder said she wants to help local residents gain first access to construction jobs and get better vocational training. She also sees the emerging biotechnology industry in New Haven as a major source of new jobs.

The operative question, Calder said, is straightforward: “How can we prepare our residents for these jobs?”

Her solution will be to provide better education not only to local youths, but also to working adults who seek better mobility in the job field.

Overly high taxes have placed a heavy burden on residents, said Martin Hallier, who owns both residential and business properties in Ward 2. For some residents, eviction is a daily — yet undeserved — threat, he said.

“Everywhere you go the little guy gets whacked,” he said.

Both Douglass and Hallier used the same word to describe local taxes: “Ridiculous.” Calder she recognizes the concerns of her constituents regarding taxation.

But in spite of Calder’s plans, some residents said they remain disconnected from the race.

Hallier said residents may be apathetic to the aldermanic election because they think campaign promises never materialize. Proposals often lead to nothing but the perpetuation of the status quo, he said.

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