Ward 1 race opens up

As the race for Ward 1 becomes more political in light of new contenders, the Ward 1 Democratic Committee is working to make it more transparent.

They key to this transparency, committee Co-Chairs Adzua Agyapon ’11 and Rhiannon Bronstein ’11 said, is the new Ward 1 Web site — http://sites.google.com/site/ward1democrats — which features the candidate filings of everyone who has signed up to be placed on the ballot for the April 17 Democratic Endorsement Vote. Additionally, the existence of the Endorsement Vote, which will occur for the first time this April, will make Ward 1 endorsement proceedings significantly more forthright than in recent years.

“That’s definitely what we’re trying to do,” Bronstein said. “We’re trying to make the process as open as possible.”

Currently, the Ward 1 Democratic Committee Web site features an outline of the rules and procedures of the Endorsement Vote, as well as requisite forms for potential candidates and the submitted candidate filings for candidates who have already announced their plans to run for the aldermanic seat.

Ward 1 is the only ward in the city to have a Web site for their Democratic Ward Committee. New Haven Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Susie Voigt said the Web site is mostly a consequence of the fact that Ward 1 residents — mostly Yale students — are certainly more technologically dexterous than most other residents of the city.

“Do you know how to make a Web site?” Voigt asked. “I don’t.”

Ward 22 Democratic Committee Co-Chair Cordelia Thorpe said her ward, and most others throughout the city, simply do not have the funds or the technological know-how to create a Web site. In her ward, Thorpe said, committee members must revert to the “back-to-basics” methods of informing constituents of committee meetings: knocking on doors, calling residents and posting flyers.

“I’m sure that every ward would like to have a Web site, but right now, most of us can’t furnish it,” Thorpe said. “Eventually, as we grow, we hope to have a Web site, and we hope to live up to the standard Ward 1 has set, or even surpass it.”

But even without Web sites, Voigt said, ward committees around the city have taken steps to hold themselves and their Democratic endorsements more accountable to their constituents. Voigt said that, 20 years ago, ward Democratic committees would make their endorsement votes behind closed doors, often in the living room of the committee co-chair. Now, she said, endorsement votes occur in libraries or other public spaces, open for residents to watch the proceedings.

But Ward 1 is still the only ward where residents can vote to decide whom the committee will endorse. This special process is only necessary in Ward 1, Bronstein said, because the Democratic primary typically occurs just a few weeks after students return to New Haven from their summer break, and candidates do not usually have adequate time to educate voters on their platform. The endorsement vote, she added, essentially pushes the primary forward several months so Ward 1 residents can vote before the end of Yale’s spring semester.

“The extra primary, doesn’t make sense for people who live here permanently,” Voigt said. “But the addition of a pre-primary process in Ward 1 made a lot of sense, because it’s much more suited to the academic calendar.”

As for the candidate filings currently loaded onto the Ward 1 Web site, small details can speak volumes: According to the submitted forms, Jones has received $118.59 in contributions, and current Ward 1 Alderwoman Rachel Plattus ’09 signed his petition form. On the one form submitted so far by Harrison, she erroneously listed her residential college as “Bereley.”

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