News analysis: Tran’s visibility faces hurdles

At Thursday’s Ward 1 aldermanic debate, candidate Minh Tran ’09 aired his major grievance against current Ward 1 Alderwoman Rachel Plattus ’09.

“The only thing I would do differently is to be more of a presence on campus, and to be more visible than she was,” Tran said.

Minh Tran ’09 kicks off his campaign Sunday afternoon in Linsly-Chittenden Hall.
Erica Cooper
Minh Tran ’09 kicks off his campaign Sunday afternoon in Linsly-Chittenden Hall.

But Tran’s pledged “presence” is simultaneously a campaign talking point and a source of uncertainty about his candidacy. If elected, Tran will not be a Yale student by the time he is sworn into office. And Tran, who has said he wants to join Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that assigns college graduates to teach at low-income public schools, may not — though he maintains it is likely he will — be assigned to a school in New Haven.

Widely recognized for his enthusiasm for the Ward 1 spot — since announcing his candidacy in a kickoff event Feb. 22, he said he has been “running on pure adrenaline” — Tran has maintained throughout his campaign that he will be the most visible Ward 1 alderman Yale students have ever had.

And though Tran’s interest in teaching demonstrates a major point on his platform, accepting a full-time position in a yet-undetermined Connecticut city throws a logistical hurdle at the senior’s campaign. The Connecticut chapter of Teach for America assigns its teachers to schools in New Haven, Stamford, Bridgeport and Hartford. And though Tran has expressed a strong personal preference to work at an elementary school in New Haven, there is no guarantee that Teach for America will be able to find him an appropriate match in the city.

“Commuting to Bridgeport or farther is not going to be a problem,” Tran said in an interview. “It will just mean a little bit of extra time commuting.”

On Friday, Feb. 20 — two days before he officially announced his aldermanic candidacy — Tran told the News there was a strong likelihood that he would placed in the same school where he currently works as a Dwight Hall public school intern, the Worthington Hooker School. On Sunday, Tran maintained that there is still a good chance he will work at the Hooker School, saying that he, Teach for America and administrators from the school are currently “in negotiations” to have him placed in the school.

But Edna Novak SOM ’08, the executive director of Connecticut’s chapter of Teach for America, said it is highly unlikely that Tran will ultimately work at the Hooker School. She said the school, located on 180 Canner St., is more affluent than other schools in the city and does not meet Teach for America’s criteria for placement.

In reference to his stance on public school education, Tran said he hopes to implement an inner-city social service program modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone Project, which focuses on establishing charter schools and teen employment preparation programs, among other strategies. At a debate last Thursday, Tran said he understands the challenges facing local school children and would specifically work to allocate more funds for New Haven scholarship programs during his tenure as alderman.

Despite Tran’s expressed enthusiasm for New Haven schools and his “strong personal preference” to be placed in the city, Novak said, the final decision regarding Teach for America placement is not up to him. That Tran is running for Ward 1 will not sway the organization’s decision any more than other applicants’ preferences, she added.

Tran will not find out his city assignment until mid-May, a month after the April 17 Ward 1 Democratic endorsement vote.

But even if Tran were to decide to defer his employment at Teach for America for one year, he would still spend 18 months of his first term as alderman working for Teach for America.

Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 told the News last month that Ward 1 aldermen are able to make up for their short tenure on the Board of Aldermen — they usually only stay for one or two terms — by the fact that they do not have 9-to-5 jobs. Although Morand was not speaking specifically about Tran, he asserted that a student aldermen is usually effective because academic schedules are relatively flexible.

Plattus reiterated the point in a February interview with the News: “The hard thing about being in a student ward is that students have often felt — and legitimately felt — that it should be a student representing it.”

Tran, who will surrender his suite in Durfee at the end of May — and as of Sunday night had no concrete plans for housing in Ward 1 — has said he has outlined specific avenues to stay connected with the Yale student body. For example, he said, he will continue dancing with his African dance troupe, Konjo, and will attend Yale athletics events. He said he will also continue to pay for a Yale meal plan so that he can meet with students over dinner to discuss matters facing the ward.

“I love the dining halls,” Tran said. “And I can’t cook.”


  • deeply troubled

    What? How can he even be allowed to run then? He seems like a nice guy, but this seems entirely dishonest on his part.

  • y '11

    This election is unprecedented. We can't let our first opportunity to nominate a democratic candidate through a competitive election end in that candidate dropping out and another being appointed. I really don't understand why he thought running was a good idea.

  • Anonymous

    this guy isn't even sure that he's going to be in New Haven…?

    why is he running, again?

  • CC'12

    Seriously Minh?

  • ???

    The idea that one could serve as a TFA teacher in Bridgeport and an Alderman in a time of economic crisis is hubris. To dismiss the time difference as "a little bit of extra time commuting" shows a lack of understanding for the fullness of either a TFA job, the Alderman job or even worse, both.

  • jeezlouise

    man -- this is embarrassing.

  • Anonymous

    From Minh's platform, released at his launch event:

    "I’ve had four years at Yale and am looking forward to years to come living in New Haven. I’ll be a teacher in the public schools next year, but with your vote, I’ll be more, too: Ward 1 Alderman."

    Seems like he made a statement that was clearly dishonest if he didn't actually know where he was going to be placed - surprised nobody who was also doing TFA caught this sooner.

  • Gross

    I know that we're supposed to be shocked that Minh doesn't even know if he'll be working in New Haven - and that is a HUGE scandal - but I can't get over the fact that he wants to pay for a meal plan.

  • yalliiie

    eeeek. thats disturbing.

  • Anonymous

    If it's true that Minh is going to stay on the meal plan after graduation, he clearly doesn't have the judgment to be alderman.

  • outraged

    We can not take such a risk on him. I'm sorry, but we can't vote for an alderman who will be removed. This is such an exciting race and it would be tragic to see someone win it and then have to give it up…on a side note, Mike Jones is the likely winner so this discussion seems pointless. He blew the other candidates out of the water at the last debate. He's very practical and seems to know New Haven politics. I was unsure at first, but he's definitely got mine- and the rest of ward 1's support.

  • Anonymous

    are you even allowed to be on a meal plan after graduation?

  • ??

    the worst part is he doesn't seem to see how this is intensely problematic--how can he expect to devote himself to students in bridgeport and effectively represent constituents in New Haven at the same time? it already seemed dubious that he'd have enough time for the job to begin with--and now his time may be spent in another community/commuting back and forth?

  • Anonymous

    So is he even going to be allowed to run? Is the democratic committee going to step in?

  • BR'12

    This guy has no credibility now. Man.

  • Anonymous

    I'll admit I'm a Minh Supporter, but lets be honest--Minh is GOING TO BE LIVING IN WARD 1.

    Minh's genuine investment in this city is clear. He's the only one of the 3 candidates who doesn't give me a sense that there is a underlying personal motive for running. I'm sorry, but I question why someone who's only been here for a year and half and done relatively little in the city is running for alderman.

    Yes, Minh will be teaching somewhere in CT next year. And he will pay rent , and taxes, and have an income. But he will be a much better representative because of these things, not in spite of them. He is the only candidate who can actually relate to the vast majority of people in this city.

  • Foodie

    Haha the meal plan part is hilarious…as a student I'm pissed that they overcharge us for crappy food, and he wants to spend his meager TFA salary on it?

  • Anonymous

    Mike absolutely did not "blow the other candidates out of the water." He's a great speaker, but he didn't actually say anything. His skill as an orator is blinding everyone to the fact that he doesn't have the background needed for the job, nor is he presenting really substantive policies. He just seems to have no idea how to effect real change in New Haven.

  • Anonymous

    The YDN is selling itself short by calling this an analysis piece. There's a ton of news in here, and pretty shocking news at that. Minh doesn't know if he'll be placed in New Haven, probably won't be placed in the school he's been talking about, and has made no plans for living in the ward after graduation? That's pretty stunning. The idea that he could commute back and forth to Bridgeport/Hartford/wherever, work for TFA (which is not a 9-5 job, it's more like 50-60 hours per week), serve on the board, and still have time to be "the most visible alderman Ward One has ever had" is completely absurd. The level of naivete it takes to think he could do all that while still serving both his students and his constituents well is staggering. Frankly this whole aldermanic adventure of his seems increasingly immature, and he has been misleading at best about this whole situation.

    I'm indifferent between the other two candidates right now, but as far as I'm concerned this just became a two-person race. And unless Minh has a damn good response to all this, he hasn't just lost my vote, he's lost my respect.

  • Yale 2010

    Before everyone goes off on Minh, I think is important to first see how the other candidates feel about post-graduate meal plans.

  • Not A Scandal

    I really don't understand why this article is viewed as a "scandal." First of all, it's not as if Minh hasn't been upfront with this---the article even shows that he's talked to people about his TFA job from the start of his campaign. The guy is clearly honest about his circumstances, but isn't going to let a few uncertainties (and, quite frankly, minor ones) prevent him from serving his city. Why would we want an alderman who needs everything to be 100% sure before he approaches a challenge?

    Also, the argument that a real world job (with or without a commute) takes up so much more time than a Yale student's studies is not accurate. Let's face it--as much as Yalies would like to believe that their college is like other universities where people are relaxed have plenty of free time to, in this case, serve their city as alderman, that's really not the case. Between academics and extracurriculars alone, Yalies not only spend as many hours working as people with full time jobs (if not more---I'm sure there are plenty of people at Yale who work more than the typical adult 8-10 hour workday), but these hours are also scattered and irregularly scheduled making it maybe even more difficult to manage than an normal adult work schedule.

    Just something to think about. I think the previous reactions have been a pretty irrational.

  • absurd

    I will admit that I am not a Minh supporter, but I always liked him. He has done some impressive stuff (but so have the other candidates).

    Now I am struggling to even respect him. This is just irresponsible. How could his campaign have misrepresented him so much?? They did a really stunning job at lying to everyone.

  • @16

    In a word, Minh's decision to run is selfish. Not only will be be an ineffective alder, but also a lousy teacher as a result of having to split his time. And how can Minh relate to people in this city if he is never here?

    Both serving on the Board and doing TFA are amazing opportunities envied by a lot of students. I can't figure out why Minh would compromise either by trying to do both except that he is in this race for very misguided reasons.

  • hm

    As impressed as I am by Minh's experience, passion, and commitment, I think he's doing this for the wrong reasons. Frankly, I don't believe a teacher should be splitting his time between students at a Connecticut school and the Yale-New Haven community. I'm sure he's the type of guy who lives up to his words -- he'll be visible on campus. He'll MAKE time to do everything. But teaching isn't a side job. It's a profession.

    Minh doesn't need to hog all channels for change in New Haven. He will already have a huge impact on students through TFA. Let someone else effect change in New Haven through 100% commitment to the role of alderman.

  • This is CRAZY

    Teaching in troubled areas with Teach for America is one of the most demanding and rewarding things you could do after graduation. That said, I thought it was preposterous that Minh would be able to give enough attention to the Aldermanic position while teaching in a school in New Haven, and now I find out that he might not even BE in New Haven?!

  • Anonymous

    I think it's important to hear a response from Minh on this one. This is clearly something he has thought a lot about, and it doesn't look like Martine ever actually asked him about the main point of her piece.

  • Anonymous

    But he hasn't been upfront with us! He has told people -- including the YDN -- that not only is he going to be placed in New Haven, but he's said that he's going to be placed at a school that does not accept TFA teachers. Not only has he mislead us, but he's lied!

    If he can't tell us the truth, it's not even worth thinking about him on anything else.

  • 12

    In response to #21, my sister did TFA two years ago and she went to a school where the work load was just as overwhelming as Yale's and she said she has never been more overworked and crunched for time than she was during her time at TFA. That's not to say it's a bad program, she said it was an amazing experience. But to suggest that somehow it is a smaller time commitment than being a Yale student is ridiculous. As a Yale student, you have serious responsibilities to get your work in on time and to serve in clubs, teams etc. but when you work for TFA, you have responsibilities to a class of kids and their families in an underperforming school. Those two aren't even comparable and Minh should think more about that.

  • Compelte distraction

    So the first time I read through this I was a shocked. But, when I actually broke down what's in the piece I realized:

    1: Minh will still be living in Ward 1 next year.
    2: He may be have a job in another city in CT working in the public schools.

    Thus, the entire piece basically reports on the fact that Minh may have a longer commute to his day job before coming home to New Haven. He was already up front about having a day job, and honestly I'm pretty impressed by the commitment it shows to the community.

    I don't see what the problem is at all… leave it to the YDN to cloak sensationalism as News. Jeeze. This race matters to the city and to be focusing on one candidates commuting habits is just silly.

  • ES2012

    i think that Martine probably did ask him about the main point of her piece--we have him saying that Bridgeport would just mean a little extra commuting.

  • concensus

    It seems that there is a pretty strong consensus here that Minh really messed up. I don't know if he could, or even should, bounce back from this.

  • Thaddeaus Shaffer

    Interesting ..They tell that the Unions in the surrounding Municipalities are just as bad as the ones here -Especially the Bd.Of Ed. - yet no problem for outsiders (students)
    A Bd. Of Ed employ in a Bar here in New Haven was a little tipsy and telling it as such :"blood in and blood out in the Schools", he continued,"you have to be ready to commit violence
    A relative of one of your gate people i may add…Involved in the ole Patronage dump system huh ?
    Well anyways ,looks like Minh has it wrapped up
    He will be visible but pretend to not understand
    We just had a White girl Alder..
    A Black guy resembles the other candidate in the Ward next door..
    I don't think we ever had an Asian Alder in 1, maybe up the road in 2 (Chen)

  • Recent Alum

    What a non-issue. I knew people at Yale who had far busier and demanding schedules than teaching from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and doing whatever it is Aldermen do (e.g., EIC of the YDN who takes 6 classes; playing on a varsity team while also doing other ECs and taking classes, etc.) Minh seems like a pretty smart guy so I don't see any reason to believe he couldn't do the equivalent of what many other Yalies have done. And Bridgeport, CT really isn't THAT far.

  • @#29

    3. He has a FULL TIME JOB working with kids. How is he going to eat in the dining halls? 9-5? Plus commute? That is breakfast, lunch, and dinner essentially out of the question.

    How will he have this campus presence then that he assures us he will?

    Past alumni alders have been living in new haven and are still involved in the community as they are working in yale insitutions like the Yale Investments Office…. That is not Minh.

    There is a flaw in your logic.

  • Minh Tran

    I recognize and appreciate the concerns voiced in these comments and those outside of this YDN page. I will respond to this analysis piece in Wednesday's YDN Opinion page. I hope that you'll withhold personal judgments of me until then because nothing hurts more than to be unfairly called dishonest.

  • Disrespectful

    What really bothers me is that he is trying to work the TFA system to his advantage by teaching at a school that doesn't qualify, just so he can be alderman.. the article says the school of his choice is more affluent than what TFA works with --- if he doesn't want to work at a school that actually NEEDS him (one that has a hard time keeping teachers), why do TFA??

    There is a lot of hypocrisy and hubris present here, and indicates Minh's lack of respect for both TFA and the alder position. In my mind this is really now a two-person race, though in general I think its hard to be completely behind any of the three.

  • alum '00

    I hate to pile on… I have no stake in this race at all -- I have not lived in Ward One since I was a student many years ago. But I was on the Dem Ward Committee at that time, and at that time, there were VERY few private homes or apartments of any kind (i.e. domiciles other than Yale dorms) inside the Ward One boundaries.

    Does this person realize how tricky it is going to be to find a private residence inside the boundaries of Ward One?

    Here's a link to a current map of Ward One:
    Basically, there are some non-institutional buildings in Ward One on two blocks of Crown St., from College to York (East side of the st. only) and then there's one block of High St. (Crown to Chapel). I think that's about it. The Green is in Ward One, but none of the big apartment buildings on the other side of the green from Yale are in the ward.

    If he wins, I hope he manages to find somewhere to live that is actually in his ward. :)

  • Concerned Yalie

    Dishonest indeed, no.1 I wouldn't trust'im as far as I could throw him. Nice detective work.

  • Anonymous

    This guy doesn't make any sense. So, your gonna commute to Bridgeport, work 8 hour days (exlcuding teacher prep, meetings and parent conferences), come back to new haven, eat a long ass lunch (to make up for that missed lunch), and do aldermanic stuff in the same day. I think Minh knew about this all along and let personal aspirations clout his decision making. He calls out Mike Jones and the other girl running as sophomores, but he fails to mention in debates or to anyone that he will not be in New Haven next year. This guy is desperate. It's sad.

  • @#35


    Maybe you haven't been "dishonest" per se, but you have certainly evaded the truth. You never outright lied about the problems facing you next year, but you glazed over some of your HUGE shortcomings -- shortcomings that will certainly affect your ability to be alderman, should you be elected.

  • beyond that

    Beyond anything here… if you heard what he was saying yesterday at the debates, you would be unimpressed.

    I didn't have my heart set on anyone before, but now I am pretty sure that this is a race between 2 candidates.

  • Anonymous

    In response to 41--I completely disagree. At the debate, Mike and Katie repeatedly evaded questions and said "I'm not really sure/I'm not really informed on this issue".

    Minh was the only candidate with solid opinions and insights on policy.

    I'm shocked at the Yale student population represented on this comment. People ought to be ashamed for their over-the-top hostility against Minh Tran (which, as previous posts imply, may be indicative of the fact that these hostile posts are Mikes Jones or Katie Harrison campaign workers trying to pass as general populus).

    It's amazing that Yale students, who are supposed to be intelligent, rational people, are overlooking two things:

    (a) This article clearly states that Tran told the News on Feb. 20th that he wasn't sure where he would be placed yet. That's pretty upfront, and just because he hasn't been highlighting this point doesn't mean he was dishonest at all.

    (b) The timing of the article---very late in the campaign---works to Tran's disadvantage, and was not under his control. The fact that the News delayed the report on his uncertain school placement (from Feb 20th to March 30th) may give people the feeling like they were misled, but really he told the press about his circumstances far back, and it's not Tran's fault that the News delayed the information's release. If the article of criticism about Mike Jones' rash Elm City ID card statement had been aired now, people would be mad that Jones wasn't upfront about his past views about the card, but he was fortunately given better timing of information release.

    Also, the accusation that one cannot hold a full time job and be an effective alderperson is insulting to the adult population. The hostility and irrationality in these attacks against Tran not only reflect a lack of insight into political circumstances, but also demonstrate arrogance against full-time working adults (as if full-time working adults are completely incompetent in anything else but their job! Should all full-time working people be banned from any other community involvement? Should they not be allowed to have kids because there's simply "no way they can handle it"?). It is infuriating to hear these accusations put forth. As far as I'm concerned, much of the Yale student body has just lost a lot of respect.

    Maybe these comments say something about the intellect and disposition of people for Jones and Harrison?

  • Give me a break

    Oh please. All of you work for one campaign or another.

  • politico

    I've just read Minh's bio. He is certainly an accomplished young man, if a little naive. From what I understand, a recipient of the Rockefeller Fellowship must attend grad. school immediately following undergrad. How is he going to serve his constituents, his pupils and attend grad school? It might be possible to do all three, but to do them well is another question