The last question of Monday night’s Ward 1 aldermanic debate was a particularly contentious one.
“Pose a question to one of your opponents,” instructed debate moderator Paul Bass ’82, the editor of the New Haven Independent.
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Minh Tran ’09, who has repeatedly referenced his work as a Dwight Hall public school intern, turned to Mike Jones ’11 and asked him to describe his experiences working in the New Haven community and how those experiences would influence his potential tenure as an alderman.
Jones laughed. “Do I get to answer the question?” he asked Bass.
“Yup, you can answer the question,” Bass responded.
Jones turned to Tran. “Thank you so much for asking that question,” the sophomore said. “I’m glad you just asked me instead of implying the question as you’ve done over the past few months.”
Monday night’s Ward 1 aldermanic debate, the second of the campaign season, featured similarly pointed comments and backhanded insults from Jones, Tran and Katie Harrison ’11, each of whom at some point during the 90-minute forum let on that the campaign had gotten personal. In front of approximately 150 audience members in the Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona auditorium, the three candidates pinned down their diverging opinions on the topics of economic development, town-gown relations and personal leadership qualities.
Co-sponsored by the News, the Yale Political Union, the Yale College Democrats, Dwight Hall and the Yale College Council, the debate came only four days after the first aldermanic debate, held by the Yale College Democrats. At that forum, held in the Jonathan Edwards Theater, the candidates trod cautiously over potentially contentious issues such as education reform, often agreeing with one another’s platforms.
During the course of Monday’s debate, however, not only highlighted their own ideas, but also delineated the sharp contrasts between their policy objectives.
Harrison attacked Jones’ plan to institute an expansion of Yale internships in City Hall, asserting that enough nominal positions already exist for Yalies who aim to become involved in the city.
Harrison, whose platform hinges on sustainable economic development, accused her competitors of not having plans to combat the financial crisis in the city, at which point Tran explained how he would encourage small business development.
Jones and Tran both asserted their plans to continue fighting for the Safe Streets program, though Harrison held that work on legislation for crosswalks and traffic safety is already underway. Jones responded to Harrison emphatically, defending that the importance of Safe Streets never ceased as an aldermanic responsibility: “People aren’t just getting hit by cars and bikes because they don’t know how to cross the street,” he said.
Later on, as Tran gestured to the two sophomores to his left, he said because he is a senior, his hands-on experience stands alone.
“What Mike is lacking is leadership skills and leadership experience,” Tran declared.
Jones shifted in his seat, turning to face Tran and resting his face on his hand, a smirk on his face. Jones responded by saying that only a current undergraduate can be an adequately visible Ward 1 alderman; Tran will have graduated by the time the Ward 1 seat turns over in January.
The city of New Haven’s legislative liaison, Adam Joseph, was in attendance, as was Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s Chief of Staff, Sean Matteson, who said DeStefano may or may not endorse a Ward 1 aldermanic candidate before the Democratic primary. Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead sat halfway back in the auditorium, and Bass called on him to ask a question. Morehead asked the candidates about their plans to build relationships with other members of the Board of the Aldermen.
The front rows of the audience were filled with candidates’ multi-person campaign teams, who typed notes during the progression of the debate and e-mailed and text messaged one another about their responses to questions or issues brought up during the discussion.