Tran: Committed to Ward 1

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

In light of Monday’s News article about my campaign (“Tran’s visibility faces hurdles,” March 29), I would like to set the record straight on a few things.

First, I will be living in Ward 1 this fall and next year. If I did not plan on living in Ward 1, I would not be running for alderman.

Second, as I have made clear from the beginning of my campaign, I will teach with the Teach for America program for the next two years. While mine will be a full-time job, a vast majority of the current aldermen, like many before them, have proven that it is possible to work full-time and to serve successfully on the board. In fact, since Ward 1 was drawn into the “Yale Ward” in 1982, a majority of aldermen representing the ward have not been Yale undergraduates, but recent alums, including Nick Shalek ’07 (on the board from 2005-’07) who worked 70 hours a week in the Yale Investment Office while serving as alderman.

I recognize that teaching is going to be demanding of my time and energy, just as serving as alderman would be. But I believe I can fulfill both positions successfully. I am a currently a student, freshman counselor, master’s aide, Connecticut Academic Decathlon state director, researcher, dancer, Riverview Psychiatric hospital student intern and intramurals captain. I have always led a busy life, and I do it by being extremely organized and energetic.

I hope to use this energy to serve my future students, my constituents in Ward 1 and my fellow citizens of New Haven. I would not be running if I had any thought that I would compromise my students’ well being and academic progress by being an alderman. I had considered this from the very beginning, and I am confident that I can handle both jobs.

Third, I do not know where I will teach in Connecticut, and I could be assigned to New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford or Hartford. I have never said I will definitely teach in New Haven. Furthermore, whether or not I work in New Haven specifically will not significantly affect my performance as alderman.

It is not uncommon for aldermen to work outside of New Haven. According to Al Lucas, director of legislative services in City Hall, 13 of the 30 aldermen on the today’s board work outside of the city, including the widely respected Democratic leader Alderwoman Andrea Jackson-Brooks, who works in Hartford for the State Comptroller’s Office. Lucas also pointed out to me that one strength of the board lies in its diversity of perspectives and the experiences of aldermen working all over the state — but all reside in New Haven.

With regards to Worthington Hooker School, I expressed an interest in teaching there because I thought it would be a constructive way to continue the relationships I have built there. The teachers and parents also voiced their desire to have me become a full-time teacher. It is worth mentioning that Hooker has had Teach for America corps members there before, but if Teach for America no longer wishes to place corps members there, then I am happy and willing to serve at any other school.

To conclude, I would like to address questions of my integrity. I was hurt by personal attacks on my character in comments on the News’ Web site, because they were unfounded and misguided. Commenters accused me of not having been straightforward about where I will be working. From my first interview with the News before the announcement of my candidacy, all the way to today, I have always said to people that I do not know where I will be placed. Before officially declaring my candidacy, I said the exact same thing to my freshmen in Durfee, my friends, and my master and dean. I have been up front in my campaign as well: My Web site clearly states, “After Yale, Minh will join Teach for America in Connecticut and — with your vote — the New Haven Board of Aldermen.”

If there is one thing I am confident about, it is my character and my moral compass. Regardless of the outcome of this election, I trust the community will see that I am an upstanding citizen of our community. If elected, I am eager to put that integrity to work as your alderman next year, and eager to give Ward 1 an alderman who, from having extensive experience, understands both life at Yale College and life in New Haven.

Minh Tran is a senior in Morse College and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Ward 1 alderman.


  • ES'10

    Eh, Weak.

    Your website might have said that you weren't for sure working in NH (when broken down), but you have certainly not emphasized that point at your events or at any point during your campaign.

    You have presented yourself as the "candidate with experience" who has forged bonds with public schools in New Haven that you will continue to use with TFA, that will help your job on the Board, which will consequently make you a better alder because you understand the education system so well. If you aren't working in a New Haven school, then that is misrepresenting yourself.

    Sorry Minh, but it sounds like you are struggling to justify yourself with the semantics used on your website….

  • End of Tran

    If Nick Shalek worked as an alderman from 2005-2007, and worked in the investments office after he graduated in 2007, how does this support your argument at all. At most, there was a 6-month overlap in his duties, and likely none at all based on the schedule of elections this year (elections at end of school year, so he would finish as alderman around time he began working with Swensen.) I was going to vote for you, even after hearing that you may not be working in New Haven. After reading this letter, which was a waste of my time and you tried to act like I didn't understand how years work, there is no way I would ever vote for you. You simply aren't alderman material. I predict this letter, and not the job you will be doing next year, as the reason you lose this race. I will make sure everyone I know hears how you lied to us in this letter, and hope none of them even consider you.

  • Y'10

    Just to clarify, Shalek was TD'05, not '07, so actually he did work full time while on the Board. That's not really my grievance, nor is the possibility that Tran won't be working in New Haven.
    I think that the bigger issue is that this seems to be something of an on-the-fly, "wouldn't it be cool if I got elected Alderman," campaign.
    Notably absent in this response was any response to the Monday article's point that Tran doesn't have secured housing in Ward 1 for this coming fall. It's understandable that he may not have final word on where he will work, but considering that he is running to represent a specific district, it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect that he would have already committed to living here. Any argument that he's been "too busy working on the campaign to lock down housing" just won't fly, as it basically contains a tacit admission that Tran had no concrete plans to remain in Ward 1 until he decided to run. I'd be interested to see if he actually decides to stay in Ward 1 should he lose this election.
    I don't doubt that Tran is an incredibly capable individual, nor do I mean to in any way devalue his remarkable accomplishments and record of public service. But he's not running for Volunteer Teacher of the Year. He's running for Ward 1 Alderman, and this open letter has failed to assuage legitimate concerns about his commitment to Ward 1.

  • give him a break!

    Integrity? I've known Minh for 4 years, and he is as upstanding an individual as I know. This isn't an example of the candidate doing anything untruthful - he's just empahsizing his strengths, if you look on the website, he's clearly just trying to focus on where he'll be LIVING (Ward 1) and to downplay the question of where he'll be working during the day (nearby - PROBABLY in New Haven - but maybe a drive away). Give him a break - we're still a lot better with a candidate who knows what he's doing in and around this city, rather than someone who decided to run for this office after having only been in New Haven for…14 MONTHS of school?!?! (Mike and Katie…)

  • Yale '11

    This criticism of Minh is kinda ridiculous, and while I know this can't be helped, I think this is all a result of people not knowing him well enough. If you're just going by articles in the YDN, well yeah, you'd be questioning his character, but if you knew him personally, there'd be no question whatsoever.

    I do know Minh personally, and the two accusations that (a) he won't have enough time and (b) he's dishonest are literally ludicrous.

    In an local aldermanic election like this one, there are a lot of opportunities to get to know candidates personally…so do it! Minh is seriously the most tireless person I've ever known--so judging him on normal standards (saying he won't be able to handle both duties of TFA and alderman is a shaky criticism). Most importantly, Minh is really a great guy, and it's so sad to see people twisting his words and intentions for political purposes.

    On the note of not emphasizing whether or not he'd be working in New Haven or a neighboring town, I think that's a dumb criticism too. Not only are there benefits of working in another town (bringing a diverse experience to the alderman position), but Mike and Katie are also just as guilty of not emphasizing their weaknesses. Mike especially acts like he has amazing background and experience to bring to the aldermanic position when he really doesn't. Should we call him dishonest for not telling everyone outright "I don't have that much community experience"? No--he's not being dishonest, he's just highlighting his strengths.

    At worst, that was what Minh was doing--highlighting his strengths and deemphasizing weaknesses…but that is completely different from being dishonest!!!!

  • Recent Alum

    This does a great job of refuting the ridiculous criticisms from the other side.

    For the record, I don't support any of the candidates because I could not in good conscience support anyone who is in favor of the (illegal) New Haven ID card.

  • Anonymous

    I don't know how you can give this guy any credit for committing to living in Ward 1. Even though he has yet to actually secure housing in the ward (and it's more difficult than he probably realizes), doing so is a basic requirement for the job. Of course he's going to try to live here, if he didn't do that, he wouldn't even be eligible to run in November. The problem isn't his eligibility to run (yet), it's his conduct in this campaign and what that tells us about his character.

    Now I don't know him personally, but I have witnessed his conduct in this aldermanic race, and it is completely reprehensible. He has been intentionally misleading people, and nothing that he has said has refuted that. He has been telling people that he is "in negotiations" to be placed at Hooker, when we now know that such a placement is impossible. And it's not like Hartford or Stamford are neighboring towns. They're both about 50 miles away!

    If Minh wanted to run in this race, he should have waited until November when he knew where he would be placed. I do think that it would be difficult for him to represent us and do TFA, but I'm sure that we would be alright. It's not like we're directly affected by what City Hall does anyway. I'm more concerned about his professional obligations.

    If he gets assigned to Hartford, Bridgeport, or Stamford, he will be teaching in a community that he knows nothing about. It would be completely irresponsible for him to leave that community at the end of the school day because of obligations back in New Haven.
    If he wants to be a good teacher in a community in which he has never lived, then he needs to be just as invested in that community as the children whom he will teach and their own families. He can't do that if he has to leave immediately after the end of the school day and make a 50 mile trip back to New Haven to eat with us in the dining hall -- assuming that he could make it back before 7!

    I don't know if he means well. At best, he intentionally mislead us to hide this fact, and at worst, he lied to us for political gain. I don't know him personally, but from watching his campaign, I have serious, serious reservations about his character and his judgment. This isn't just a weakness, it's a major impediment that would prevent him from being an effective alderman.

    And unlike #4, I'm not willing to give him a break because of his "experience." Tutoring in schools does not give one legislative experience. In fact, none of these candidates has any legislative experience. Tutoring in the schools or living at Yale for four years instead of two does not teach one how to navigate the political culture of this city, or how to get things done as a legislator. It's nice that he's been here for four years. It's too bad that we don't know if he'll be here for the next two.

  • @5

    This is not about Minh's character but about his competence to do the job. Hartford and Stamford are not neighboring towns; with rush hour traffic, they can be up to an hour's drive each way. The point here is that Minh will not have the time to be an effective alderman and to really involve himself in Yale student life, which I think is a crucial responsibility of the Ward 1 alderman.

    And this really isn't a personal criticism of Minh. No one would realistically be about to do this, no matter how "tireless." Minh is a good guy, but we can do better for an alderman.

  • At "Yale '11"

    #5, I think you've completely missed the point of the criticism that's being leveled at Minh by the News and others. It's not that Minh has been trying to downplay certain things - it's that his entire campaign pitch is based on a promise it is very unlikely he will be able to keep. Mike may not have a lot of community experience, but he's not running on the strength of his community experience - Minh is running on the strength of his ability to be visible when that ability is very much in question. As a result, he's tended to be pretty misleading about this - i.e. saying TFA was "in negotiations" for him to work for a school nearby, when that was clearly not the case.

    I'd also like to say that I also know Minh personally, though I admit I don't know him well. He's always struck me as a very earnest and hard-working guy, and I have no question that his intentions are good. But I think he rushed into this campaign without fully considering what he was getting into. In the process of overextending himself (as so many of us do), he has found himself also having to convince people that he won't be overextended. And while I do think Minh is a person of integrity, I think he has allowed that integrity to be compromised as a result of this pressure. It's an understandable error and I'm not condemning him, but in light of this recent news I don't think he should be alderman.

  • not helping his case

    somehow this op-ed (and the bizarre redirects posted by minh's campaign) have just made me more frustrated about the situation and less sympathetic to minh as a person. WHY IS HE RUNNING???

  • Y'10

    I'd just like to note that neither of the people who posted after me addressed the problem raised by the uncertainty of his housing situation. To reiterate, it really seems like he had no idea that he wanted to live in Ward 1 next year until he was sitting around talking to his friends one day and thought, "Wow, wouldn't it be cool if I got elected Alderman?"
    Again, I'd like to see Tran pledge to live in Ward 1 in the fall regardless of whether he wins the election. I mean, if he cares about New Haven and Ward 1 so much…
    I don't doubt that he's a dedicated and bright person. I just don't think that he fully understands that this is an Aldermanic election, not a middle school student council one.

  • rising junior

    As someone who is living off campus next year, I think that Minh has underestimated the difficulty he will face in finding off-campus housing in Ward 1 next semester. I started looking for off campus housing in October and had to sign my lease months ago to secure a place. It strikes me that if he hasn't already secured housing in Ward 1 for next semester, he is going to have a lot of difficulty in doing so. What, his options are the Oxford, Cambridge and the SAE house. And as far as I hear, those places are pretty full.

  • Yalie

    I originally was a Minh supporter, but I agree wholeheartedly with the point Y'10 brings up. Housing in Ward I will not be easy to find. All of these recent events have made it appear that he is running because it would be cool to have the position, not because he is committed to Ward 1.

    At this point, the only way I could ever take him seriously as a candidate again is if he actually commits to living in Ward I for the next two years, regardless if he wins the election or not. @Minh, I want to believe in you, but if you can't look at me and make this promise, I'm left having to decide between the other two candidates.

  • Anonymous

    People typically give notice to their landlords 1 - 2 months before they move out…though Ward 1 housing is always limited, there will be stuff to move into in the fall starting in May and all through the summer.

  • another yalie

    Minh seems to have not given his candidacy much thought. If he is assigned to another CT city for his teaching commitment, he will need to put in time and effort to get to know that community well and become a part of it. This is not something that can be done while living at least an hour away in New Haven. As a teacher, it will be something that he must do, however, and so I question his potential efficacy as a long-distance alderman for our community.

    Beyond this, every piece of information I have read about his campaign has sounded alarms in my mind about his character. His snide remarks, and overall tone of superiority towards the other candidates have made the contest uncivil. He seems unable to stick to the merits behind the differences between the candidates. His remarks before the YDN broke the story about his living arrangements for the coming year make me think that he intentionally tried to hide this fact before the election. He also claims to have had TFA go into "negotiations" for his school placement, but those familiar with the TFA program know that no such negotiations are possible for accepted students (this is for many reasons, but perhaps especially in important in this case, is the fact that his school in New Haven is so well funded compared to typical TFA placement schools).

    I call on Minh to take a hard look at his campaign and why he is running. The seriousness of the situation seems to have escaped him.

  • Anonymous

    People who comment on articles are stupid. No one cares about your opinions. Go study or hang out with your friends. (I realize irony)

  • Anonymous

    Number 13, are you going to ask Mike Jones and Katie Harrison to look you in the eye and promise to stay in New Haven after they graduate to back up the claim they care about this city so much?

    Kudos to Minh Tran for staying in New Haven after he graduates when he could have used TFA as a ticket to anywhere in the country. That's actual dedication.

  • sympathy vote

    I'm voting for Minh merely because I feel the YDN has given him an unfair shake in the entire process. I couldn't actually care less about the alderman process.

  • Anonymous

    #17 and 18, go do some work on Minh's campaign (because your obviously on his team). No one in their right mind would say that. This kid needs to bow out gracefully. If the debates are any indicator of his performance as alderman, then it's clear that he will not do a good job. He's a nice guy, but at the same time, he's been snarky, arrogant, and annoying during debates. His treatment of the the other candidates (MJ in particular) is disgusting. Jones completely owned at that debate. I watched the last debate totally unsure about this election because knew nothing. I walked out questioning Minh and supporting Jones, who actually does have a nice smile.

  • Anonymous

    At 19 I think you are being snarky. Mike Jones was snarky in the debate. I think 17 and 18 make valid points. I bet you, 19, work on the Mike Jones campaign.

  • roflcopter

    I'm sure Mike Jones having a nice smile is relevant to his aldermanic experience.

  • morse 09

    there is no doubt that minh can do TFA, live in ward 1 and be an alderman next year. as he has pointed out, other aldermen have full time jobs too. and as no one seems to have pointed out, the ward 1 alderman really doesn't do that much.

    however, there is every doubt that minh can be fully committed to his bridgeport/stamford/hartford public school kids, while living up to his campaign promise of "visibility". something has gotta give.

    i've known minh for almost 4 years, and i can vouch for his legendary and heroic tirelessness, though i may not describe it in those terms.

    however, what this kid needs is a reality check. you're gonna pay 2 grand to be on the meal plan? will yale let you do that? and will people who aren't involved in your campaign even going to care about your meals? get real.

    i may have been inclined to vote you in for fcc when you sat in the morse dining hall with your laptop and shamelessly asked everyone who walked in to log on and vote for you. a harmless favor for some resume padding (or maybe you really get kicks out of organizing freshman screw - i don't know). but i hope for your own sake that someone (maybe the ward 1 residents in this election) wakes you up from the idea that just because you smile, try to be nice, and think everything's gonna work out (like your "negotiations" with the hooker school), that it'll all be ok.