Ward 1 candidate short on specifics

At Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s State of the City address Monday night, Mike Jones ’11 was in the front row of the pews, flanked by his campaign manager, Matt Ellison ’10, and former Yale College Democrats President Ben Shaffer ’09. Sitting in the front row of the pews, Jones greeted the few aldermen he knew and shook hands with a few he did not; mostly, though, he just listened.

Four weeks have passed since Jones first announced his candidacy for the Ward 1 alderman seat.

MikeJones ’11 hopes to establish a teen pregnancy prevention program and alleviate homelessness in New Haven.
Snigdha Sur
MikeJones ’11 hopes to establish a teen pregnancy prevention program and alleviate homelessness in New Haven.

Since then, Jones has outlined a broad platform of issues he would like to tackle as alderman, though he has consciously avoided outlining a path toward achieving many of those goals. By all accounts, Jones has the leadership skills to push a platform — whatever it may be — but those skills may be rendered useless, local politicians said, if the Saybrook College sophomore steps onto the Board without specifically tailored initiatives.

In an interview with the News, Jones said the needs of the student body will inform and direct his campaign platform — the issues that are most important to Yalies may become the issues most important to him, he explained. Jones admitted that his political views about the Elm City are not static; upon becoming more familiar with the city and its problems, Jones said, he will have a better idea of the policies he needs to further.

PLATFORM EVOLUTION

In July 2007, Jones wrote a post on his blog, “Sporadic Slants,” criticizing the Elm City Resident ID Card, which provides identification to undocumented immigrants, among other benefits. Jones said the program circumvented state and federal laws and avoided solving the problem of illegal immigration.

“I just don’t understand how you can support a policy like New Haven’s, where the city is, in essence, granting legalization within their municipality without any attempt to deter future illegal immigration,” he wrote. “Folks, this is ILLEGAL.”

Jones continued: “What New Haven is doing is stupid.”

Jones now characterizes his initial response to the ID Card as “visceral,” saying that he believes the city was rightfully taking action while the federal government was “dragging its feet” on immigration reform.

But Jones has caught flak from local politicos for having nothing critical to say about DeStefano’s administration. In a recent interview with the New Haven Independent, when he was asked his opinion of the DeStefano administration, Jones said: “I think they’re doing a great job. I have difficulty identifying many shortfalls.”

Jones expressed regret Tuesday that community members misinterpreted the quote. Still, he maintained that he cannot find fault with an administration with which he has never worked.

“I’m not coming into this position with any intent to criticize people with the sole intent of criticizing people,” Jones said. “I’m not going to be critical of any of these people until I have a reason to be, and right now I don’t have a reason to be.”

‘A GENUINE DESIRE’

Jones has always been ambitious, his friends at Yale said. It was amid the loud music of a freshman dorm party that Jones outlined his future plan to run for president of the United States, Sarah Mich ’11 said.

“When he announced he was running for alderman, it did not seem at all like a surprise,” Mich said. “But I think it really stems from a genuine desire to effect social change through the political process.”

Jones denied he has considered running for president.

“There aren’t any plans to run for the White House anytime soon,” Jones said with a laugh. “But my mom would like that.”

Still, Jones’ experience as student government president of his high school, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, may aid his efforts to mobilize the Yale community.

Former NCSSM student government secretary Katherine Demby said the biggest problem that Jones faced as an incoming student president was tackling the belief among students that the high school’s student government was ineffective and unable to effect change. Demby said Jones combated that notion by calling for the high school to become incorporated into the University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments, an organization of college councils that work together to find solutions to common problems.

At first, Demby said, the association of college councils was reluctant to recognize NCSSM as an equal member of the organization, even though NCSSM was an academy overseen by the University of North Carolina. But Jones eventually convinced members of the organization to treat the NCSSM student government representatives as equal members.

“Michael, he has a way of talking to people an communicating with people to have them see his way,” former NCSSM student government Treasurer Mike Pham said. “He knows how to get people to work for the bigger picture.”

‘THE SMART THING TO DO’

Since announcing his candidacy, Jones has described a three-part platform: establishing a teen pregnancy prevention program, alleviating homelessness and getting Yale students more involved in the city’s political processes.

One of his specific goals — to establish a citywide sex-education program — was impeded by Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s state budget recommendations, which were released last week. Rell has proposed cutting all funding to teen pregnancy prevention initiatives.

Jones maintained that he would explore “creative” solutions to the funding problem, though he admitted that he was not certain yet of what shape those solutions would take. He suggested that a sex education program could be incorporated into the existing public school curriculum, or that teachers could volunteer time in order to teach the students.

And when it came to his plans to increase the average Eli’s involvement with city politics and activism, he said he hoped to shift the role of alderman into that of a “liaison” between the city and the University. He said he plans to do this by hiring Yale students as legislative aides to the Board of Aldermen.

Another solution, Jones explained, would be to allow Yale students to intern at City Hall. (A similar program already exists.)

Jones said he has spoken with DeStefano and Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Susie Voigt in the month since he announced his candidacy, along with several other members of the Board of Aldermen, including Aldermanic President Carl Goldfield, Ward 14 Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark and Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead.

Three aldermen interviewed said it is often best when a freshman alderman focuses on a few key initiatives, rather than attempting to tackle all of the problems of the city simultaneously.

“As a new alderperson, you could become overwhelmed,” Goldfield said. “As far as other issues and initiatives you might want to take on, some people will end up doing nothing. But some people will pick one issue they want to focus on, and that’s the smart thing to do.”

When presented with this criticism of broad agendas, Jones responded by saying that he was starting his campaign with a “realistic” platform, and any other initiatives he pursues will be in response to needs expressed to him by the Yale community.

“If it has to be narrow to be pragmatic, then so be it,” Jones said. “We have to have specific things on the table to get it done. We have to assess what things are reasonable and what things are unreasonable.”

As it stands, Jones is running unopposed for the Ward 1 aldermanic seat. The registration deadline to seek the Ward 1 Democratic endorsement is Feb. 27.

Comments

  • Blog post?

    Where is Mike's July 2007 blog post on the Elm City Resident Card now? I've searched his blog (http://michaelbjones.blogspot.com) but it seems that he has taken it down.

    Also, how recent was Mike's change of heart on this issue? Given how important the issue has been to Ward 1 voters, we deserve to hear in greater depth how and why his thinking evolved.

  • Can anyone tell me…

    why Mr. Jones is running for this office? He doesn't seem to have any real motivation aside from personal ambition. In fact, the only time he seems to have shown any enthusiasm about a local New Haven issue was in his knee-jerk opposition to the Elm City Resident Card, a position he has since reversed for no apparent reason. His lack of specific ideas, his inability to find a single fault with the DeStefano administration, and his naive proposal of programs that are already in place all betray a lack of knowledge about or even interest in the issues he would deal with as alderman.

    I hope Mr. Jones will take the time to delve into these issues and become a better candidate, but in the meantime I really hope someone else files to run. Ward 1 aldermen are usually only in office for two years - they don't have time to take a "wait and see" attitude toward major issues. If they don't come in with at least one solid proposal they'd like to focus on, they'll never make an impact on the board. I have yet to hear one reason why Mr. Jones would make a good alderman; it looks like his team is just hoping he doesn't draw any opposition so that they never have to give one. Ward 1 deserves better.

  • Re: Blog post?
  • Same person who posted cache

    As someone who strongly supports the Elm City Resident Card, I found it disturbing, upon reading this profile, that Mike Jones had such a strong visceral reaction to the Elm City Resident Card.

    However, I posted the cache web page because the context actually ameliorates many of my concerns, and gives a very different picture than the YDN article.

    For example, here is some of Mike's more nuanced argument: "We will eventually have to legalize everyone in this country who immigrated illegally, but if we grant that legalization before we find some way to curb illegal immigration, we're only exacerbating the problem by allowing it to perpetuate."

    Of course, it was perhaps inappropriate of Mike to jump to such strong claims without knowing more information, but welcome to the blogosphere.

    If people are going to criticize Mike for this, they ought to at least see it in full.

    Other quotes from the above link:

    "Yes, we need to change our immigration policies to make it easier for people to immigrate"

    "We absolutely need to give those who immigrated here illegally citizenship (it's the only way to know who is here), but only in conjunction with a comprehensive change in border security."

    And, re: Blog post?,

    I, for one, believe that Mike's change of heart — regardless of how recent — is genuine, because it seems the real thing missing from the blog post was any clue as to the empirics of the situation — which he obviously now has.

  • Anonymous

    Will someone please run against Mike Jones???

  • Anonymous

    seconded.

  • Hmmm

    I'm a tad concerned at how unbalanced and slanted this article is. The YDN is always better when it seeks to be neutral in its motives and clear in its research - muted opinion pieces are always of a low quality and questionable value. This young man probably deserves a second look as #3 mentioned.

  • Please no!

    Having been around New haven politics for a few years as an undergrad and now as a post-grad, I can say with certainty that Mike Jones is the LAST person we should be supporting in Ward 1.

    Instead of modeling the Alders he has reached out to, he should instead be modeling yale grads Ben Healey and Roland Lemar - people who push the City with all the efforts, while maintaining their strong support. This is the role that we Yalies can really play.

  • New Haven resident

    How can you judge this young man by only considering who he has reached out to? He is not responsible for the conduct of these other Aldermen who you may not like. Let him present his vision for his term, and judge him on that.

    Instead of judging him on one story written by an amateur journalist, you should give him a chance. Listen to what he has to say.