News’ View: Mike Jones ’11 for the Democratic nomination for Ward 1 alderman

On Feb. 18, nine days before the Ward 1 Democratic Endorsement Vote candidate filing deadline, the News published an editorial headlined, “A contested election in Ward 1 is best for the city.” At the time, Mike Jones ’11 was the only candidate in the race, and we wanted to make sure that as the election approached, Ward 1 voters got to see a vibrant debate about the future of New Haven and the responsibilities of their alderman. Thankfully the call was answered, and that debate materialized.

As we near the end of this exciting two-month campaign, the News confidently endorses the candidate who once ran unopposed, challenged as he was by two fine opponents to articulate his positions and develop his plans for action as alderman. We encourage Democratic Ward 1 voters to choose Jones when they go to vote on Friday.

Over two months, and most recently in interviews with each of the candidates, we have seen three very different conceptions of the Ward 1 alderman’s role, and three different visions for New Haven. We have seen three smart, energetic candidates present themselves to voters, and so our endorsement of Jones comes with great respect and gratitude for Katie Harrison ’11 and Minh Tran ’09, both of whom, we believe, would serve capably on the Board of Aldermen if elected.

Nonetheless, it is Jones who appears most ready to take on the responsibilities of the job, most able to serve his constituents and his city effectively and most likely to accomplish some of what he now promises, even though we hope he reaches higher should he take office.

***

At the beginning of the campaign, Jones did not lay out a substantive platform, and he remained surprisingly reticent on important issues. A News article, “Ward 1 candidate short on specifics” (Feb. 11), pointed out that Jones had not explained how he hoped to achieve any of his stated objectives.

The next week, Harrison joined the campaign. From the beginning, her campaign has stressed the need for “collaborative, sustainable development,” as she promises on her Web site and which she defined in her interview as environmentally friendly projects with job training. Her campaign has benefited from the work of members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, the worker-friendly activist group of which Harrison herself is an active member.

On development and other issues, Harrison’s platform has focused on citywide problems, and she has advanced the argument that the Ward 1 alderwoman should think as much about the city as about her ward. And Harrison has claimed repeatedly that the interests of Yale students and other New Haven residents are aligned.

“Yale students benefit, along with other New Haven residents, when the city is a safe, exciting and vibrant place to live, and suffer when it isn’t,” she wrote in a March 27 column for the News.

Since Tran entered the race at the end of February, he has sought to distinguish himself from his opponents on both policy and personal experience. He has pointed to his time living and working in New Haven — he has spent four academic years and parts of three summers in New Haven, and he has worked in seven local schools — as sources of knowledge about the city into which his opponents, both sophomores, have not been able to tap.

He has run on a platform of encouraging small businesses and entrepreneurship, improving public education and making New Haven streets safer. But, as much as anything else, he has run on a platform of experience and understanding.

In the months since his opponents entered the race, Jones has developed his proposals, making them not more grand, but more specific. His ideas for safer streets now involve crosswalks at specific locations, he plans to increase student political involvement through an aldermanic internship program, and his plan to combat homelessness involves work with and for specific student and local organizations.

They are not bold plans, but they are mostly realistic. And he has shown the astuteness to stop campaigning on issues, like health education, upon which an alderman can have little impact.

As positively as we have received each candidate’s platform, we are nonetheless skeptical that any will be as effective as he or she promises in making his or her proposals reality.

The education reform each has praised is well beyond the reach of the Board of Aldermen, let alone a freshman representative. (The Board of Education is a distinctly separate body and is famously controlled by the mayor.) The economic development plans that Harrison and Tran have made central to their campaigns involve forces far larger than the Board of Aldermen can control, and plans too large for one member to develop and shepherd through legislation. Jones’ proposals for widening sidewalks and creating new crosswalks will face too many legislative and practical obstacles to possibly be completed in a single term.

Yet the candidates — notably Harrison and Jones — displayed deep enough understanding of the position they hope to fill that we trust, even if their platforms go somewhat unrealized, they will work productively for Ward 1 and New Haven, and that they will represent their constituents passionately and effectively.

And Jones stands above the others because of his potential to mobilize legislators and citizens, build coalitions and work on projects for which he can make a clear difference in his time on the board.

***

Harrison and Tran each expressed, during the campaign and in their interviews, the belief that they have much more in common philosophically with each other than with Jones. So it is perhaps surprising that our choice was ultimately between Harrison and Jones.

Between ideological cousins Harrison and Tran, we saw in Harrison more promise, more thoughtfulness and deeper understanding of the relevant political levers the Ward 1 alderman can (and cannot) manipulate. Tran, a new entrant to the political sphere, does not have Harrison’s organizing experience, and Harrison conveys better understanding of the most effective mechanisms for urban economic development.

We must also note our deep reservation about endorsing someone who will, as he explained it to us, be at work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., potentially outside New Haven. Tran’s promise to be “the most visible alderman Ward 1 has ever seen,” as he wrote in his March 3 column, would likely be made false given the demands of his impending position with Teach for America. Above all else, it is clear his job will prevent him from being nearly as visible as Harrison or Jones would be if they gave the job a genuine effort next year, when both will still be students.

Harrison deserves the votes of those who think the Ward 1 alderwoman should focus on the development of the type she has proposed. And she deserves the votes of those who think it is most important that the Ward 1 alderwoman stand up to Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and work with the Board of Aldermen’s opposition faction (whose leader, Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez, endorsed her on this page last week). But the fact that she will likely join the board’s minority opposition is one reason we have chosen to endorse Jones.

Given the current mayor and Board of Aldermen, we fear Harrison may be rendered ineffective on the board. The aldermen with whom she would work most closely and most often will likely fight a lot of losing battles over the next two years.

As a freshman in that group, Harrison could easily be given the freeze by the mayor and find herself allowed to contribute nothing. And as an active member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, she will find her work often opposed by both City Hall and Woodbridge Hall — an uncomfortable position from which to accomplish much. Her proposals will be uphill battles and, as strongly as voters may support them, should be seen as such.

Jones, meanwhile, would enter office without enemies at City Hall. More important, he would enter with deep connections and extensive experience communicating politically at Yale, in New Haven and nationally.

Jones has been politically active since arriving at Yale. He has served on the board of the Yale College Democrats, and he has campaigned for local and national political candidates. He has built relationships with student leaders across activities and would find easy partners in them, as well as in local leaders.

Though his opponents joked about his warm smile, Jones’ inviting demeanor would be a real asset in the Ward 1 alderman. We trust Jones to be a visible alderman and to effect results for his constituents and for the city.

We hope he looks beyond crosswalks and internships, and we trust he will. But most of all, we trust he will do what he can. His dedication and preparation lead us to believe he would be the most effective alderman of the three candidates in the race.

Comments

  • y09

    well said ydn

  • Anonymous

    what a narrow-minded endorsement with such a limited view of the position

  • Anonymous

    I am glad the YDN wrote a much more professional article this time around. The YCC endorsements were incredibly pretentious and flat out mean.

    I am also glad they pointed out that Katie's endorsement by those two aldermen is a bad sign if she gets elected. Those are the two least effective, and most unpopular aldermen on the board.

    But I have to disagree with their endorsement. I believe Minh Tran is the best candidate. I will admit I am a supporter, but I just don't get how you can be an alderman of city and be so young. Mike is the one candidate out of the three who has not really spent any time at all in New Haven. The board doesn't really deal with issues with Yale--New Haven doesn't have a 15 billion dollar endowment.

  • y10

    wow so if you want to vote for someone who acts on what she believes, stands up for values, for issues, and for the entire city; you should vote for harrison. but if you want to vote for the guy with the smile and "practical" plans for ward 1 (i.e. what pork can he bring back for yale students, who really need so much from new haven at this point - even though said pork is not actually practical or necessary given the current budget crisis); you should vote for mike?

  • lol

    Definitely not well said. On the one hand the YDN decides here to promote Jones' narrow and "realistic" goals but then trusts that he will look beyond crosswalks and internships. How? The YDN also says that such goals as creating crosswalks and widening streets are realistic goals but goes on to say it will be challenging and may not happen in one term…If it probably will not happen then how is it realistic?

    The YDN also makes the assumption that Harrison will somehow automatically have enemies due to her endorsements. While I know politics can be ridiculous at times it would be a bit too childish for city hall to treat her as an enemy from day 1 because of these endorsements. The YDN also seems to be endorsing the process of thinking small. I don't think any of us got to Yale by limiting our thoughts and ideas and our goals. However, now we expect a candidate to limit their goals to what seems to be realistic? I agree you need a balance in your policy but I am not too sure I am comfortable with a candidate that is playing it so safe he doesn't even want to develop policies that on their face seem less realistic than others. I support Katie Harrison because she is not looking to limit herself. And who knows maybe her endorsements by the "opposition" (whatever that means) and her experience as an organizer will allow her to bring factions together on at least some issues.

    This news' view piece really disappoints not because of its endorsement but because of its reasons.

  • Anonymous

    As expected, the staffs of the other two campaigns flock to the comment board to express their displeasure at having not received the endorsement.

  • Y'11

    I agree with many of the points above. It sounds like the YDN is endorsing mediocrity in this job with its choice of Mike. He has asserted multiple times that he is only going to do this for one term, but the YDN itself says in this article that the goal of creating crosswalks and widening streets is probably not going to happen in one term.

    So not only are his proposals small and mediocre, but they probably won't even happen?

    Plus the experience he has engaging with New Haven in substantive, meaningful ways, couldn't even fill Katie's (or Minh's) little finger.

    YDN- what?

  • Anonymous

    @#5

    Yes, we do (or at least, we should) expect candidates to limit their goals to realistic achievements. We should absolutely not discourage setting the bar high, but goals have to be firmly grounded in reality to be useful--a point Katie's campaign seems to overlook. What good is advocating "economic development" if you have no practical ways of implementing it? The success of Mike's proposals is by no means assured, but his ideas are concrete and pragmatic.

    As to your thinking that it would be "too childish" for Mayor DeStefano to treat her as an enemy, I tend to agree with you. However, for better or worse, that is the way City Hall has operated in the past, and there is no reason to suspect it would be any different now. For aldermen to be effective, they must play the mayor's game--otherwise, they risk being sidelined.

    Both of these issues represent the main reason why I couldn't vote for Katie--general naivete on her campaign's behalf. Though Mike's campaign is hardly perfect, his goals are the most realistically achievable, and therefore the most likely to benefit both Yale and New Haven.

  • Finally YDN!

    Katie's camp is out of control. Can you all go campaign for your candidate and stop posting negative comments.

    Finally, a well thought article from the YDN. After the YCC endorsements, I was scared. Mike is the only practical candidate. I saw this a while ago and its about time the rest of New Haven see it too. Well done YDN. You highlighted all of their weaknesses and strengths. Kudos.

  • y12

    how exactly will the new crosswalks happen? drivers are suicidal here and the city doesnt stop anyone for running lights or speeding thru campus.

  • @8

    But as a voter, what I want is my alderman fighting for those that get run over by DeStefano's machine.

    Look, let's be real: I don't need services from New Haven. Yale is loaded can provide for itself. Katie will be a good vote for the more progressive elements in New Haven.

  • Anonymous

    So the YDN thinks that Mike's experience with the Yale Dems and his experience working on political campaigns is substantial enough to stand up to Katie and Minh's experience working on actual issues in New Haven? How is his experience on campaigns going to help him once his campaign is over? And what is Mike's familiarity with student leaders going to do when he's working in City Hall?

  • Y'11

    Congratulations Jon! A well-deserved win.

  • Y'12

    Fair-minded endorsement, YDN. I happen to have a little more faith that Katie will be able to make progress on the worthwhile small-scale issues that matter to Mike as well.

    Also, if the YDN and Commenter 8 get the impression the mayor would sideline a one-term alderwoman when her ideas are valid because she may sometimes stand in opposition to him, that would certainly be an interesting commentary about the Yale Democrats' consistent support for the mayor as well. (Honestly though, I think the extent to which it will infuse politics with a one-term student representative is limited.)

  • Anonymous

    Contrary to popular belief, this is a political position.

  • Thanks, YDN

    What a wonderful endorsement.

    To summarize the editorial, I think it went something like this:

    1. Tran won't be in New Haven.

    2. Harrison supports working on important issues facing New Haven.

    3. But Jones has concrete proposals.

    4. That probably won't even happen, anyway, in only one term.

    5. But he wants to involve Yale students.

    6. (In shuffling papers at City Hall.)

    7. And Harrison's "economic development" is hard!

    8. So vote for Jones.

    If I were Mike, I'd be more than a little upset with the YDN right now.

  • Anonymous

    Can commenters please stop assuming that any support for Katie Harrison comes from her campaign? I know the poll the YDN did a couple of weeks back was horribly unscientific, but you have to admit that it indicated that some people support Katie. Maybe enough to post on the YDN site about it.

    I know people who are working for Katie (as I do on the other two campaigns), I support her, and her logo is my Facebook profile picture. But I am not a staffer for the campaign. And I think poster #4's summary of the editorial is spot on. So there.

  • ha ha

    So the joke candidate won the YCC Presidency… if Adamo wins, the E-Board we be, at the very least, cohesive.

  • Anonymous

    1) Dara, you're awesome.
    2) I'm in the same situation.

  • Anonymous

    Minh will be in New Haven, and he is by far the best candidate. Just visit his website and read about what he's done.

  • Yale '11

    Right on, Dara and #17. Me too. YDN, while this is much less petty than your YCC editorials, I feel like this is some of the worst analysis, political or otherwise, that I have seen in quite some time. I feel like anyone who actually reads through the editorial will definitely come out in support of Katie, because your reasons for supporting Mike make no sense. (I thought #15's post was particularly apt in this regard.) My only sadness is that people will not read through this editorial, will only see the headline, and will do what you say because they think you're more informed. And seriously, guys? You might have done a lot of reporting, but I feel like you're missing a bigger picture.

  • yes!

    Yes Dara L. while I do not know you I am so happy you made that statement. Apparently you can't express your opinion without being from her campaign. It actually drives me crazy that is the response that comes up any time you challenge a piece written by the YDN in support of or against a candidate.