Since I entered the race for Ward 1 Alderman, many have expressed support for my candidacy because they desire an alderman with a firm understanding of the challenges and opportunities in this city and deep connections to Yale and to New Haven.
A few others, however, have expressed concerns about my status as a senior. Last Friday’s issue of the Herald quoted Mike Jones ’11 as saying it is “totally irresponsible” for an outgoing senior to run for the Ward 1 alderman seat. I strongly disagree with this statement and believe this moment in my life is the most appropriate and responsible time to run.
When the seat opened in 2007, I was a sophomore like Mike and Katie are today, but I did not feel two years of experience at Yale and in New Haven had made me ready to serve well on the Board of Alderman. Now, however, the situation is different: I have worked at seven different schools across New Haven, and I have spent two full summers and part of a third here in New Haven, each of them doing close work with the greater New Haven community. These opportunities have helped me forge deep connections with the community, and helped me build a base of experiences and knowledge that simply cannot be built in two years at Yale.
When Mike said it is “totally irresponsible” for a graduating senior to seek this office, he was referring to his belief that a recent alum would lose touch with undergraduates. He is mistaken. Not only will I be in touch with undergraduates, but I aspire to be the most visible alderman Ward 1 has ever seen.
In my time at Yale, I have been deeply involved in many areas of extracurricular life at Yale, including student government, dance, Dwight Hall, the Interreligious Leadership Council and freshman counselorship. The relationships I have built through these organizations will not disappear once I graduate. The Yalies I have come to know in the classes of 2010, 2011 and 2012 will not stop knowing me once I graduate.
The class of 2013 will get to know me because I will work hard to connect with them: I will remain a seam in the undergraduate fabric by attending athletic games, shows, and different organizations’ events.
In a move unprecedented by other Ward 1 alders, I will host a weekly dinner with 10 constituents in a Yale dining hall to hear their concerns and dreams for Yale and New Haven. In addition, I will actively invite all my constituents to receive a weekly newsletter that will describe what I worked on each week, discuss the issues on the floor of the Board and in my committees, and highlight my goals for the next week. And I will have a weekly gathering with my constituents that would serve the function of office hours, but which would include a community service component. Finally, I will create an advisory board of Yale students who are deeply involved with local issues or who are experts in areas such as sustainability and economic development. This advisory board and any interested Yalie may join me in writing legislation and amendments for the Board of Alderman.
I have thought carefully about what this position would entail, and I understand the gravity of this position, especially the impact it can have on people’s lives. Experience is not just a question of the years one has spent in a place; it also reflects the seriousness of one’s engagement with and investment in a community. The range and rigor of my activities, along with my four full years to experience the full range of undergraduate life, means I am prepared for this job.
My community experience in New Haven was affirmed by an award in May 2007 from New Haven Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo for “tremendous commitment to children and to the school system.” My contributions to Yale were also affirmed by the John C. Schroeder award, given by the Council of Masters, presented to three out of 1,300 Yale juniors, in recognition of “contributions to residential college life.”
Thus, I see this moment in my life as a particularly appropriate time to run for Ward 1 alderman. I will be living in Ward 1 and teaching in the public schools next year, continuing my deep connection with the Yale and New Haven communities. And this is a time when I know I have the experience and the understanding to take on the responsibilities of the Ward 1 seat, including such crucial items as approving the annual budget, passing city ordinances and overseeing key municipal services.
At the last Board of Aldermen Joint Community Development/Human Services Committee meeting, I saw the aldermen choose how to allocate Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) monies among different applicant organizations. These decisions illustrate the ways an alderman can affect the livelihoods of many people and organizations far beyond Yale’s doors.
Therefore, I urge my fellow Yalies to look hard at the experience and community understanding of the three different Ward 1 candidates, because we must not forget that this election, as important as it is for Yale, is also a municipal government election that can, and will, shape the lives of those who call New Haven home.
Minh Tran is a senior in Morse College and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Ward 1 Alderman.