Nick Shalek ’05 will soon walk away from the Aldermanic Chambers, but he said he will not lose touch with local politics.
So while he will turn over the representation of Ward 1 to Rachel Plattus ’09 come Jan. 1, Shalek will remain involved, even if only on the periphery. For now, Shalek said he will continue to work at his day job in the Yale Investments Office, remaining attentive to issues ranging from economic development to communication with the student body, in which he both succeeded and fell short during his tenure.
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One way Shalek plans to stay engaged is to work with Plattus to design and launch a Web site to facilitate communication between the Ward 1 alderwoman and the student body.
The new online site, which will be linked to the city of New Haven’s Board of Aldermen site, should help Plattus stay connected to the student base in a way Shalek was not able to during his two years as alderman. Shalek said he had intended to create the Web site to facilitate communication during his term, but it took a back seat to the day-to-day work of the Board.
But even though it did not happen during his term, Shalek said he hopes the Web site will provide a forum for Yale students to express their opinions about local issues — and perhaps help further sculpt his legacy as an alderman.
Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar said that while Shalek was a “really influential” figure on the Board, he never sought out or developed a base of support among Yale students.
After winning as an independent against Democratic incumbent Rebecca Livengood ’07, Shalek often eschewed issues that generally appeal to student activists, including labor and social-justice issues, instead preferring the budget and city development, aldermen said.
Members of the Board said he directed his focus to the “nuts and bolts” of city government, encouraging his colleagues to address long-term fiscal needs. They pointed to an amendment Shalek helped author that spurred ongoing hearings this fall to discuss issues such as employee pensions and health benefits in advance of negotiations with local unions early next year.
Shalek said that during his time on the Board he has devoted much of his energy to trying to make economic development easier in the city. But he also said he has come to better appreciate what a direct role primary and secondary education play in the city economically.
“Human capital is important for anyone who wants to locate a business here,” Shalek said. “I definitely see education and economic development as more closely linked than when I first ran.”
Shalek said he expects Plattus — who has said education is her top priority going into her term — will do a good job reaching out to her fellow students. Still, he said figuring out the best way to engage the students most interested in New Haven politics is no easy task.
His advice to Plattus, he said, is to take the beginning of her term slowly — not to talk, but rather to listen to what fellow Board members have to say.
At this time, there is no need for specifics, Shalek said, and so far, Plattus appears to be taking this route. As a result of running and winning uncontested, Plattus has not yet had to offer any specific policy proposals.
“You want to find one really good idea,” Shalek said. “It takes an enormous amount of effort and time.”
After all of his own time and effort, Shalek said he hopes that proposals he supported come to fruition — from taking a hard look at pensions and health care to the 311 program, which will provide a centralized system to handle all residents’ complaints.
Aldermen said they expect Shalek, from the proximity of the Yale Investments Office, to remain available to other aldermen who wish to discuss some of the long-term issues he helped spur. Ward 13 Alderman Alex Rhodeen said that because of Shalek’s focus on financial and economic issues, he should be able to stay involved without interfering with Plattus’ prerogative as the new alderwoman.
“[Shalek] definitely has a real desire to remain involved in New Haven,” Rhodeen said. “I trust that, wherever he is, I’ll be able to pick up the phone and pick his brains.”
Plattus did not return multiple phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.