LIVE BLOG: The first Ward 1 debate

As the April 17 Ward 1 Democratic Endorsement Vote draws near, all three Ward 1 aldermanic candidates — Mike Jones ’11, Katie Harrison ’11 and Minh Tran ’09 — will speak together publicly for the first time tonight in a debate sponsored by the Yale College Democrats. The candidates will be answering unscripted questions from students and local residents in the audience. Dems President Sarah Turbow ’10 will moderate the debate, set to begin in the Jonathan Edwards College theater at 7:30 p.m.

Martine Powers, the City Hall reporter for the News, will be live blogging from the JE theater during the course of the debate.

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9:03 p.m. | The debate is over. Sarah Turbow makes the requisite “thank-yous” to the audience, the Dems and the Ward 1 Democratic Committee. Her dress — turquoise, yellow and orange — seems to have ballot boxes printed all over it. Cute.

9:01 p.m. | The closing statements. Tran urges the audience members to be “good citizens” by becoming involved in the New Haven community. Jones harps on the deteriorating economic situation in New Haven, and like Tran, says that he hopes that other Yalies will help him tackle the financial problems facing the city. Harrison says she hopes audience members will “continue the conversation” after the debate is over, and become involved with the aldermanic campaign.

8:58 p.m. | The last question is asked. If each candidate had five minutes alone with the mayor, what would he say? Harrison said she would want to raise her concerns about the city budget, while Tran said he would want to speak specifically on education. Jones playfully pokes fun at the mayor, who he has met before — “When you talk with the mayor, he usually does most of the talking” — but continues on to say that he would also choose to speak with the mayor about New Haven Public Schools.

8:52 p.m. | An interesting question: what do you like about Mayor DeStefano’s proposed budget, and what would you change? Jones said he approves of DeStefano’s decision not to raise taxes, while Harrison asserts that DeStefano’s desire to postpone mill-rate adjustments is a bad idea. Tran dodges the question by saying that he is glad DeStefano is maintaining open lines of communication with the community about the budget. In her rebuttal, Harrison reminds the other candidates that aldermen have a responsibility to make the concerns of their residents known to the mayor.

8:44 p.m. | A loaded topic: the Elm City ID Card. Harrison and Jones reiterate the important role the ID Card program plays in keeping the city’s undocumented immigrant population safe. Tran puts forth an interesting idea: make it a priority to encourage other Connecticut cities to start their own ID programs.

8:37 p.m. | The three candidates are eager to answer a question about homelessness in New Haven; they all exhibit an intimate understanding of the problems that face homeless residents in the city. Jones and Harrison both speak about their past experiences fundraising for YHHAP or working with homeless residents. There seems to be a consensus that the primary method of targeting homelessness is prison re-entry.

8:35 p.m. | The stage and audience plunge into darkness; the auto-timer in the theater has gone off. Lighting problems have served as the primary comic relief during this debate.

8:31 p.m. | The candidates really seem to take Voigt’s questions to heart; they all recognize the great potential for Yale to influence the New Haven Public Schools. Harrison says it most explicitly: “The contrast between what Yale students have and what New Haven public schools students have is, well, painful.”

8:28 p.m. | Voigt speaks: What ideas do the candidates have to use Yale University resources to bring about improvement in New Haven schools?

8:19 p.m. | Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Suzie Voigt makes a late entrance into the audience, sitting in the second row.

8:15 p.m. | Discussing the differences between himself and the other candidates, Tran pulls out the “senior” card; he has spent two more years in New Haven than the other candidates. “It’s not that I think more time in New Haven would make you better candidates,” Tran said… was there a hidden insult in there?

8:11 p.m. | The debate is fraught with name-dropping; Jones casually mentions that he had lunch with Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts ’01 today, while Tran alludes to conversations he’s had with Aldermanic President Carl Goldfield, Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances Clark and Vice-President of New Haven and State Affairs, Bruce Alexander.

8:08 p.m. | The JE theater is completely packed, with a crowd of students standing in the back, as well as the aisle. It seems that Ward 1 politics is finally cool again.

8:03 p.m. | While Tran and Harrison dismiss the notion that they must choose between representing Yale and representing New Haven, Jones makes it clear that though he hopes to work on city-wide problems, he will ultimately be responsible to the people who elected him — Yale students in Ward 1.

8:01 p.m. | The question on everyone’s minds come up: is the primary responsibility of the Ward 1 alderman to serve Yale students or the greater New Haven community?

7:59 p.m. | All the candidates said they know Plattus personally, and commended her work on the Board of Alderman. While Harrison discussed Rachel’s work with Shelter Now, Tran is the only candidate who directly raises issue with Plattus, saying that he will have a greater presence on campus than she has had so far.

7:54 p.m. | The first question is a confrontational one: “Did Rachel Plattus do enough as alderperson?” Though Plattus has not officially endorsed a candidate, it is widely believed that Plattus is supporting Harrison.

7:53 p.m. |While Tran is wearing a traditional business suit, Mike is sporting boat shoes, and has gone sans tie. Harrison’s outfit is a trendy riff on the traditional pantsuit.

7:52 p.m. | Tran, Jones and Harrison all deliver opening statements that largely repeat the promises they made during their campaign kick-off speeches. Tran recounts his long history working in the city; Jones said he hopes to encourage Yalies to become more involved in politics; Harrison discusses the economic problems facing New Haven. But much of the coming debate will likely center on their differing views on the correct role of the Ward 1 alderman, and whether the Ward 1 alderman should have primary allegiances to Yale or New Haven.

7:41 p.m. | Turbow begins by explaining the format of the debate; questions are written by the audience and turned into members of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee, who approve them. Questions are chosen for both neutrality and diversity of topic. Each candidate will have one minute to answer each question, as well as 30 seconds for a rebuttal.

7:31 p.m. | Moments before the first Ward 1 aldermanic debate of the year is set to begin, the JE theater is almost filled to capacity — mostly with student politicos and members of the candidate’s campaign teams. The debate will be town-hall style, and all candidates have promised that they and their campaign teams have not planted questions. The debate will begin momentarily.

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