Ward 1, round two

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.


  • Anonymous

    "what is your favorite color?" SERIOUSLY?

  • It's About Time

    Yayyyyy Minh for calling out Mike!!!!

    Also….I do not understand why Mike Jones wasted an opportunity for a valuable question on asking "what's your favorite color"….seems pretty flippant when he's running for an office that will affect a lot of people.

  • impressed

    This article doesn't really mention the closing statements, which were a really important part of the debate, I thought. In my eyes Mike was on the defensive from the start, trying to convince us that his campaign is "about more than sidewalks." (Sorry, I don't remember the exact quote.) And Katie, who wanted to talk about how "excited" she was to be alderwoman, gave a speech that was rather pedestrian, so to speak, as well. Only Minh seemed to understand the importance of the moment, and of the ward 1 seat: he made the distinctions between the candidates clear (EXPERIENCE), and he gave a rousing description of how he LOVES this "progressive" city and had already chosen to live here next year, after graduation, long before choosing to run for alderman. I was impressed.

  • yalliiiieee

    I agree with #1 -- that is pretty insulting that that is the question he asked. And this guy claims that he will be easy to work with on the Board?

  • Anonymous

    Who is with me in finding all this talk about the ward 1 alderman having to be a current yale student not only ridiculous but also kinda offensive? The post is open to any resident, and any candidate deserves to be evaluated on their merits.

    Last time I checked, being a mature adult and having applicable experience was EXACTLY what I want in my elected officials.

  • Anonymous

    you had to be there to understand.

  • Brown'10

    "every year since I've been here, at least one student has died"

    WTF? When is Yale going to step up and fix this situation?

  • Anonymous

    The guy who just mislead the entire campus about his whereabouts next year is criticizing Mike's leadership skills? This guy is a jerk. And he and Katie seem so angry…

  • Anonymous

    In response to comment 4: Mike was insulting? What I think was much more insulting was that Minh waited until his closing statement, which was the last of the three, to personally attack Mike.

  • wow

    this board is clearly filled with partisans. anyone who attended last night's debate knows that one candidate was clearly far superior than the other two. if the ydn ever posts the video of the debate, everyone will able to see.

  • Surprised

    I am totally surprised with Minh. I really like him but it seems after he got caught lying, he has gotten desperate, hostile and angry. For Minh to say that to Mike is offensive and Mike answered it well. .And frankly, I don't blame Mike for trying to tone down the debate .If I were him, though, I would have asked Minh how he possibly plans to be a good teacher and alderman, given the long hours that go into TFA and the fact that he will likely be commuting. I'd like to know which one he is going to do a bad job with because frankly, I
    don't know which is worse: letting done your students and their
    families or your constituents. With Minh, one of these things will
    inevitably happen. Minh needs to realize this and reconsider
    whether he really think this whole thing is worth it to him. A lot ofpeople are really surprised and dissapointed in him.

  • yale '10

    I honestly think all of the candidates are great people in their own way, but the bottom line is the issues----and Minh Tran was the candidate who solidly answered all the questions with specific ideas. He also has talked to a lot of important and experience people in the city already, which is valuable. It's about the issues, and he knows what he's doing.

  • Irritated

    Minh has personally told people that he's going to be working at Hooker next year. That was a lie. Anyone who does TFA can tell you that it's a massive commitment of time and energy, and TFA trainers say that you should try to have no other commitments in your life during the years you're doing TFA. Being Alderman in a city you don't even work in anymore is certainly not "no other commitments." I'm just irritated that Mike was too much of a gentleman to call Minh out on this.

  • @#10 wow

    who would you say it was?

  • wow

    i'm not getting caught up in that game…especially with the anonymity of a comment board like this. it was pretty clear who won. i think that katie and mike were both better than minh. i don't know if you listened closely, but he started asking labor unions for concessions before the contract negotiations have even started! he might have some experience working with kids, but he's way out of his league here. he can't say that he's the candidate of experience and then do stuff like that.

  • Wow

    Let's take things one at a time.

    I love how everyone is attacking Jones on his question as if that alone makes him a bad candidate. You can't find anything substantive so you latch onto the smallest of issues.

    All while ignoring the glaring problems with Minh. You thought Mike was defensive? Who was the one who, at every given opportunity, talked about how he will "remain visible" and talked former aldermen who were not Yale students who did a "great job." Who was the one who endlessly felt the need to remind everyone how much he loved Yale dining halls. Minh was defensive during the entire debate.

    For some reason he portrayed his greatest strength of "visibility" as also being the greatest weakness of the other two candidates who, unlike him, will still be Yale students. They will be on campus, eating at the dining halls he loves so much and without a huge time commitment like TFA.

    Additionally, Minh is the only candidate who consistently attacked the other candidates in a personal matter. I shook my head in disappointment after hearing his closing speech.

    Minh lost any voters who were on the fence after this debate. It's obvious the only choice is between Katie and Mike.

  • @14

    I was there with some friends, and we all thought Mike came out on top. He was clearly knowledgeable about the issues and knows what the BOA can do and what it can't. He responded well to Minh's question on his experience.

    As for the color question, I agree with comment 11. It was sort of weird, but you can definitely see why he did it.

  • after this debate, I'm going with Katie

    I'm surprised at all the people praising Minh, who I think was the clear loser of the debate, and who doesn't really seem to know much of anything about policy or New Haven. (Even in the areas where he claims expertise, such as schools: is firing teachers really the best solution? A lot of education experts would say that the first step is to get more resources into public schools so that teachers have something to work with.)

    And also, about Mike, though he does indeed seem like a nice guy, his favorite color question troubled me not so much because it was a weird use of time, but because it strayed so far from the issues - and it seems like so much of his campaign has so little to do with the issues, and a lot more to do with what a gregarious guy he can be. Which is great, but where does that leave us in terms of an alder?

    I was most impressed by Katie; she was consistently issue-focused and, though she did challenges her opponents on policy grounds, she never resorted to ad hominem attacks. Further, I thought she made an interesting point about involving Yalies in the city by connecting active student groups to issues the city is facing (rather than giving students titles, as Jones is arguing, or simply eating meals with students, as would Tran). It seems like this suggestion might come from her own background in the city, which has combined service work with more organized activist efforts; she knows the power of student groups because she has been a part of them, whereas Mike and Minh have engaged with the city primarily as individual tutors and teachers - incredibly valuable work no doubt, but not necessarily work that equips you to harness the power of already-organized-and-active groups of people.

  • Anonymous

    I bet $10 that everyone in this thread so far is a staffer for one of the three campaigns.

  • Anonymous

    i'll raise you five more.

  • outrageously outraged

    Minh lost the debate by a mile. I am not on any campaign and that was more obvious than Paul Bass's annoyance by him (minh) going over time. Minh is desperate. He's not even going to be here. I'm so over this kid.

  • Anonymous

    #19 AND #20, I'll raise you $10 more. Loser has to listen to move to Bridgeport and commute to Yale for meals.

  • alum

    Well, I'm not a paid staffer, or even a voter! Just an alum.

    To me, from reading these posts, Katie sounds like the best candidate. I think Minh's post-graduate plan is pretty unrealistic, and Mike just doesn't seem serious. Katie seems to be making an effort to know her stuff. Just my two cents. I realize my view REALLY doesn't matter.

    Anyway, be glad you have an actual contested election! Usually it doesn't happen.

  • Anonymous

    #23 don't base your judgment off of this story. it is far from comprehensive.

  • alum

    As an alum who was very involved in New Haven issues as an undergrad, I'm very, very worried about Katie's platform. She does not seem to have a comprehensive view of economic development in the city, and pretty much has blindly adopted the standard GESO platform. She touts the Teach Our Children campaign as her main connection to education in New Haven??? I'd like to know if she's actually been IN a New Haven public school, or if she's too busy writing policy briefs to do that. To make change happen in the city's public schools, you need to work with Mayo AND the charters, NOT Teach Our Children.

  • Anonymous

    @ 25, I agree. Katie seems nice, but her platform is weak. Especially if you're going to base your entire platform on a huge issue like economic development, you ought to know your stuff. She's incredibly vague and uninsightful, which is disappointing. She also said "I'm not an expert on this but maybe…" three or more times during the debate, which is disconcerting at best. If your platform is econ, then know what to do.

  • ES'09

    @ #26 -- Lets face it -- none of the candidates in this election are "experts." But, I think it is really honorable that Katie is honest about this, unlike the other candidates who feign knowledge on their subjects.

    I don't live in Ward 1, I can't vote. But this criticism of Katie is unfounded. I don't know her, I don't know if she is nice, but Katie certainly has the best grasp on the reality of our city. She has laid out specifically how she would like to encourage responsible economic development multiple times throughout this campaign. She also has a lot of experience in dealing with the issue developement in New Haven, especially in advocating for the community voice to be heard at every stage throughout the process. (Aramark for example). Neither Minh nor Mike have that kind of experience (Minh has experience in NHPS, which is important, but changing the school system is not under the power of the BoA).

    To say that Katie's platform is "weak" is essentially an uniformed comment. Furthermore, look at what Mike and Minh are saying on the subject. Mike has said very little of substance about development in New Haven. Development is not the center of his campaign, and fair enough. He focuses more on other things. But development is one of the things that the BoA REALLY has control over and the fact that Katie is the only one that seems to recognize this makes me even more skeptical of the other candidates.

    Minh has an unrealistic plan to "encourage entrepreneurship and small business development." He has not given any concrete answers to how he will do this, nor does he seem to recognize that the vast majority of small businesses fail within the first year, especially in this economic climate. This is neither a realistic nor responsible vision for development in our city.

    Go look at Katie's website, go to Minh and Mike's websites too. Go to their events, listen to what they are saying at the debates. So much criticism of the candidates is based upon very peripheral (and frankly partisan) knowledge of what the candidates are actually proposing. This is a problem. People should cast their votes for alderman by focusing on the ISSUES we have in New Haven. As far as I can see, and I wish I could vote, Katie has the best grasp of what the BoA can actually do with their powers and has made very realistic and honest suggestions for how to use this power to include the community voice in the decision making process.

  • Ellen Grasso

    Gee, if these are the choices we have and if "None of the Above" were a choice, "None of the Above" would win handily.