Marks: Jones proposes comprehensive reforms

In my four years at Yale, I have been involved in policymaking both within Yale, through the Yale College Council, and in New Haven, through the Roosevelt Institution. As such, I have been interested in how the Ward 1 aldermanic candidates propose to use their position as Yale students to effect positive change in the city.

At times, the opponents of Mike Jones ’11 have suggested that Mike is paying insufficient attention to larger city issues while focusing too much on Yale issues and Yale student involvement. This criticism is accurate on one front: Mike does want to use his position on the board to improve the safety of the streets within and near the Yale campus.

In each of my four years here, a Yale student has been killed or seriously injured by a car. If the Ward 1 alderman does not seek to make our streets more pedestrian- and bike-friendly to reduce these tragic occurrences, it is unlikely that anyone in city government will.

But the argument that Mike is ignoring important issues facing the city at large is flawed. I have read all of the candidates’ platforms, and I would assert that Mike’s proposals on virtually every citywide issue are the most comprehensive. Perhaps more importantly, Mike’s emphasis on Yale student involvement will make him more, not less, likely to turn these proposals into realities.

Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez and Ward 3 Alderwoman Jacqueline James wrote in a column in the News last week, “We fail to see how … an Office of Civic Engagement and a Legislative Aide program … will be of any real benefit to our constituents” (“Harrison supports crucial development,” April 10). Perhaps they do not fully understand these proposals.

Noah Kazis ’10, in a March 25 column supporting Katie Harrison ’11 (“The Yale seat, for the city”), wrote, “The other 29 aldermen must fight for scarce resources and needed services for their constituents,” while the Ward 1 alderman can focus on the issues facing the city. It is precisely this problem that Mike’s Legislative Aide program seeks to address.

Right now, the Board of Aldermen is significantly understaffed. With volunteer constituent service assistance provided by Yale students, all members of the Board can focus more of their time on big issues, including fighting crime, improving education and promoting economic development. What’s more, unlike the coordinator positions suggested by other candidates, this program would be free, leaving taxpayer dollars to address chronic issues such as homelessness.

As for the Office of Civic Engagement, it will yield citywide benefits if it is organized effectively. It will help nonprofits work together to better serve our communities in these tough economic times. It will take advantage of new media technologies to help citizens stay informed about what is happening at City Hall and make them aware of volunteer opportunities. It will let local residents know how to run for office and will conduct voter registration drives. With Yale student involvement, and only with Yale student involvement, these goals can be accomplished within the current budget realities.

All of the candidates will focus their attention on big issues facing the city, but they will do so in different ways. As last Friday’s endorsement by Aldermen Perez and James indicates, Katie Harrison will ally herself with the anti-DeStefano faction on the Board, which has historically been hostile to economic development, including the 360 State Street project. New Haven has a strong-mayor government, and it will be impossible to accomplish anything without a working relationship with the mayor, especially in one two-year term. Harrison does not seem interested in building this relationship. Additionally, she will fail to take advantage of Ward 1’s greatest asset, Yale students.

Mike Jones will join the board as an independent voice with a unique capacity to improve the lives of all New Haven residents, including Yale students, for the better. He recognizes that the Ward 1 alderman’s best assets are Yale students, and he will take full advantage of this asset for the benefit of the city.

Zach Marks is a senior in Saybrook College.


  • Yale student


    You suggest that Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez and Ward 3 Alderwoman Jacqueline James "do not fully understand these proposals" for a legislative aide program. I think that's an absurd and, frankly, insulting comment about two long-serving alderpersons. In fact, it's indicative of just the attitiude that is so unhelpful, but which spews from the legislative aide program, regardless of intention — "We're Yale students; you are busy city government folks; and you just don't understand what's good for New Haven."

    Yale students have a long history of being involved in the city, at both the community and city government level. That should continue to be encouraged, but no by professionalizing it, and turning it into one more checkbox. And while agreeing that aldermen have a lot on their plate, I fail to see how the lack of this program until now has seriously impeded their ability to work on "economic development" and "fighting crime." From the CBAs, to the Shartenberg project, to Lot E, to the redesign of the police department (whatever one might think of it), the Board does tackle the important issues, as well as the notorious potholes. Moreover, New Haven residents who wish to have their voice heard by the Board are unlikely to appreciate responses written by Yale students who have never set foot in their neighborhood.

    New Haven has many serious issues to confront now, and in the years ahead. But the distinction between resident concerns and "big issues" is a false one. If Yale students want to support the New Haven community, they should join it — not run it.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    This post is right on target! Harrison has already made dangerous allies on the board and will be ineffective if elected.

  • another Yale student

    Yale student #1,

    In an odd way, you're giving the Legislative Aide program too much credit. Yale students are not going to be taking over the city, they are just going to be helping aldermen out. As I understand it, no alderman will be forced to employ a Yale student as a staffer. But I do know that many aldermen will be eager to.

    I agree with you that Yale students should support the New Haven community by joining it, presumably by performing community service and advocacy. Many are already doing this, and that's great. But it's not the alderman's job to get students involved in community service; that's what Dwight Hall is for, and they do a much better job than any alderman could do. The Ward 1 alderman can get students involved in city hall for the benefit of the city. What's wrong with that?

  • ES' 09

    #1 you are spot on with your criticism.

    This op-ed is just ignorant fear-mongering, and incredibly insulting to two alder(wo)men who have proved their dedication to responsible development many times.

    Also, your accusation that Katie will join the anti-mayor faction is just plain wrong. Did you really read Minh and Katie's websites? Or even go to the debates?

    Here --

    There are so many problems and untruths in this Op-Ed it is shocking. Its just Mike Jones propaganda.

  • Yale student


    What do you know of aldermanic politics? There are legitimate disagreements and differences of opinion among many of the Board members — but it is ridiculous hyperbole to call anyone of the Board "dangerous." Ironically, all you seem to be calling for is a rubber-stamp Board that passes everything without discussion or debate. Even if some Board members are sometimes frustrated by Jorge, I highly doubt they find him "dangerous," and would be more likely to think that in the end, his skepticism is good for the Board and good for New Haven.

  • Anonymous

    #5 and #6,

    What is false in this op-ed? Most of it is just explanatory. As for the section about the Perez/James endorsement, I think it is very reasonable to assume that the fact that Katie was endorsed by two very prominent members of the "opposition," she will align herself with them. There may not be anything wrong with this, and reasonable people can disagree. But voters have a right to know this, and Friday's endorsement needed to be put into context.

    I would disagree with #3 that Jorge is dangerous, but he has been reluctant to support economic development at times. Look at the article today about additional funding for Tweed--Perez is skeptical. (At Katie's press conference a few weeks ago, she said she was not familiar enough with the Tweed issue to have a position.) Again, reasonable people can disagree, and maybe Perez's positions have merit, but to bring up these differences in an op-ed is perfectly legitimate, especially when the average voter does not have a lot of knowledge of the internal politics on the Board and how such an endorsement will affect Katie's role on the Board if she wins.

  • @ #5

    The point is that she shouldn't be publicly aligning herself with either faction of the Board this early on. This campaign had not been about the politics of the Board; it had been about the issues facing New Haven. That endorsement hurts her (as she will almost certainly be challenged in the fall if she wins on Friday), but it also hurts our community, because we're actually wasting time talking about Board politics instead of the issues facing the city.

  • @ #6

    By running that endorsement, she demonstrated her fundamental lack of understanding about Board politics. I don't think that anyone wants to see a rubber-stamp board, but any opposition should be principled -- not just blind skepticism born out of political retribution. Otherwise, it's a waste of everyone's time.

  • marks is not neutral

    i mean i know all of these pieces are probably written by the same staffer so the name on it is maybe irrelevant, but marks introduced mike jones at his opening way back whenever it was. he is not a recent convert and can be relied upon to say whatever the jones campaign wants him to. not exactly a source of independent criticism. notably this was not disclosed in his affiliations.

  • Yale student


    Sorry if you interpreted what I said as saying that the op-ed is "false." I just disagreed with the characterization of Perez and James as not understanding Mike's platform and vision (I, like them, understand, and think it is a bad idea.)

    Furthermore, the sentence — "With volunteer constituent service assistance provided by Yale students, all members of the Board can focus more of their time on big issues" — implies to student voters perhaps unfamiliar with Board politics that, currently, without these Yale students, the Board is somehow failing to address "big issues."

    But, in the end, the primary disagreements we obviously have are merely philosophical. I think Yale students who care about the city are already involved in a wide range of activities in the city; that should be encouraged. I think — and a New Haven resident who is not a Yale student is free to contradict me — that most residents would rather their quality-of-life concerns be directly addressed by someone who lives in their district, not an Yale student. You, and Mike, obviously differ in these regards.

    I live in Ward 22, so I'm actually not someone who you have to convince.

  • Yale '09

    The only people attempting to make this race about internal Board politics are Zach Marks and Mike Jones.

    Moreover, the condemnation of Perez and James, and the insulting tone Marks takes toward them, suggests that it is Jones, not Harrison, who will not be an independent voice and who finds it necessary to "choose sides" on the Board from the get-go. I don't know how Jones expects to work with Perez and James - the chair and vice chair of the Black and Hispanic Caucus, which is the largest caucus on the Board - given that he sees authorizing personal attacks on them and spreading lies about their record on responsible development as a pathway to the Democratic nomination. Way to alienate a huge chunk of the Board!

  • Anonymous


    Where are Perez and James personally attacked? And what in this op-ed is untrue? It just explains the fact that there are factions on the Board, which there are.

  • #3


    Actually, I'm guessing I know a lot more about aldermanic politics than you, unless you've lived in this city for more than 22 years. Anyhow, I suppose you weren't around in the late 80s before DeStefano took office when the city was in terrible shape. Opposition is not inherently a good thing, and in the case of Perez, it's just a waste of time.

  • Anonymous

    whoa Colin Adamo. i'm voting for him!

  • colin adamo

    colin is a joke candidate. he got the most votes. ridiculous.

  • Frank

    Yeah WUUUUU!!

  • wow

    wow…this op-ed piece is really unbelievable and I find it very interesting that the Jones campaign and supporters would turn to criticizing the endorsements of long-standing respected aldermen. It is just another example that the Jones campaign is all about flash, rhetoric, and attacks. From day 1 when jones couldn't even comment about the job DeStefano was doing or elaborate on his policies it was clear Jones was in this for all the wrong reasons, and he continues to be. His supporters continue to support him and defend him with the same ridiculous rhetoric and stance that the campaign has.

  • roboticon

    I'd think the robots were the ones who blindly accepted the YDN's endorsement of Ryan without bothering to investigate the candidates' platforms and experience for themselves.

  • Anonymous


    So a Ward 1 candidate does not have the right to voice disagreements with other aldermen?

    A lot of these anti-Jones comments are struggling to criticize the substance of the message, so they are resorting to criticizing the messenger.