Harrison: Alderman should aim high

I am a realist with a big vision. Since the beginning of my campaign, I have talked about responsible development because it’s a central aspect of the day-to-day workings of the Board of Aldermen. I will continue to make it a priority on the board.

I am not afraid to address New Haven’s fundamental economic problems. Yes, they’re intimidating; the economy is going to get worse before it gets better, and solutions aren’t straightforward. But refusing to take a position on economic development because it’s too complicated is irresponsible, given the authority of the board on this issue. As unemployment increases and job cuts continue to happen at Yale and across the city, we cannot shy away from this issue just because it is hard.

Yesterday’s News’ View admitted that the ideas Mike Jones ’11 has proposed are small and realistic, but the News also admits there’s no guarantee of completion or success for his projects during the one term he has already limited himself to. What’s the point in aiming low when we could target larger issues affecting the entire city, issues aldermen are already working on?

Throughout this race, Mike has repeatedly declined the opportunity to expand his scope and make meaningful proposals that address the entire city. Instead, he has focused on highly specific “pet projects” surrounding Yale’s campus.

I have had hundreds of conversations with classmates about what issues they want to see addressed in this election. Almost uniformly, people have articulated that this election means more than a chance to extract stop signs from City Hall. Our energy can be mobilized toward fighting for real solutions to problems, like crime and unemployment. With more partners in City Hall, students will increasingly experience an expansion in both the scope and reach of their initiatives.

My objection to Mike’s Legislative Aide program is not that it’s wrong, but that it’s narrow. This program misses the opportunity to engage students on bigger issues. The fact that this is Mike’s priority shows he does not understand how much an alderman can accomplish on the board.

Moreover, there are already dozens of pre-existing channels between Yale and New Haven by which students are working to effect meaningful change in our city — through National Student Partnerships, Shelter Now, YSEC, Elmseed, MEChA and many other groups. I want students to be critically engaged on issues they care about, like homelessness, education, and, yes, safe streets, and I will work with these groups to expand their reach.

Our past Ward 1 aldermen have had great success fighting hard battles that affect people across our city — tackling issues that go beyond sidewalks and stop signs. Ben Healey ’04, for example, fought for domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, and Josh Civin ’96 introduced New Haven’s living wage ordinance. Our current alderwoman, Rachel Plattus ’09, has worked hard on the New Haven Promise scholarship program for the city’s high school graduates. None of these aldermen limited themselves to Yale-centric initiatives — they took on issues that were hard to win, but that were worth it because of their potential to improve the quality of life for residents across New Haven, including (not exclusive to) Yale students.

I firmly believe that it is our duty to fight what the News calls “uphill battles.” The most important battles are the large and complicated ones with complex and layered solutions.

I was disconcerted by the segment of the News’ View yesterday that suggested that receiving an endorsement from two long-serving aldermen meant I had joined a faction. I have not signed onto any opposition bloc nine months before I would even take office. I have continually and genuinely praised the work Mayor DeStefano has done for New Haven, on issues from economic development to education to prison re-entry. I’m looking forward to working with him, and with everyone on the board committed to finding real solutions for the city. The issues I want to tackle require coalitions and good relationships in the mayor’s office, on the board and in the community.

As the News said yesterday: “Harrison deserves the votes of those who think the Ward 1 alderwoman should focus on the development of the type she has proposed.” If you want the Ward 1 alderwoman to be doing her job — ensuring that development in the city is for the city, and organizing students around issues that affect the entire city — please join me at the polls tomorrow.

Katie Harrison is a sophomore in Berkeley College and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Ward 1 alderwoman.


  • Anonymous

    somebody seems bitter…

  • Anonymous

    I'm really excited about these proposals, Katie. I think it would be impractical to ask any of the three candidates to list many specifics before even getting the Democratic nomination… Frankly, I don't expect any alderman to get everything he wants done, no matter how specific he is about his policies going into the job.

    I know from talking to you that you think critically and logically about issues presented to you--I'm sure that's not a problem with either of the candidates, considering you're all Yale students--but I know that your genuine enthusiasm will carry over into your position as alderwoman. I appreciate your discourse that isn't, as some people think, only limited to general "economic development."

    Either way this election goes, I hope the candidates share their ideas and keep in mind some of the interesting topics they've brought up in the aldermanic debates, etc.

  • yalie

    This is obviously going to be a stomping-ground for trolls, so i'll confess, while mostly undecided, I was already starting to lean towards supporting harrison,

    but wow. well-written. well-argued. i really do believe you have what it takes to be an amazing alderwoman.

  • saybrook'09

    how are sidewalks or bike lanes a "pet project" on the yale campus? if new haven residents can't walk or bike to work, this city is royally screwed. most residents of our city do not drive a car to get to work every day.

    the city should immediately invest 5% of its citywide budget on creating a comprehensive network of improved sidewalks , bike lanes and bus across teh entire city within 2 years. in return, money would come pouring into city coffers as people recognize that you dont have to own a car to live here.

    currently, all of new haven's money gets sucked out to the suburbs because the city's policies when it comes to urban development are totally backwards.

    we need people first, not cars.

    rebuilding infrastructure around the downtown is much more important than some lofty goal of teaching a few kids to read. if kids felt like they could walk around their city, they would go to the library more often.

  • oops

    Katie fails to mention that 2 out of the 3 examples she gives of aldermen thinking big, Healey's domestic partnership proposal and the New Haven's Promise that Plattus has worked on, were not successful. This sort of undercuts her argument that the Ward 1 alderman can move mountains in two years, don't you think?

  • Christopher P

    @ oops

    I think we should be striving for follow-up on these big issues. As you probably know, the Mayor recently came out in favor of New Haven Promise as a goal in his State of the City address.


    I think it's fantastic that Katie wants to follow up on Rachel's work, and bring new ideas as well. As for the domestic partnerships, it only failed by one vote at the time, and we are no longer pursuing it because Connecticut's government *already* instituted it on the state level.

    We should fight the uphill battles--so long as we don't forget the old ones before they're accomplished.

    -Chris P.
    BK '12

  • A little off

    Katie - Healey failed with domestic partnerships because of the two alders you had the UOC/CCNE write an endorsement letter from. Nice example. And the New Haven Promise thing was Shalek's working with Yale students and Alderman Lamar. In fact, when you talk to people in New Haven about it, they all talk about it as Lamar and Shalek first talking to them a few years ago. It was then picked up and further developed by DeStefano's team and then Rachel jumped on and has worked hard to help make it a reality. again, poor example.

  • roflcopter

    Katie Harrison is the worst choice for this position

    /full disclosure: i couldn't care less about the race and am not voting.

  • joey

    Aim high Shoot low

  • Anonymous

    I don't think she's trying to say that an alderman can necessarily move mountains in two years. That's the thing -- she wants overarching goals that won't get tied preemptively in specifics. It's important to have small "pet projects," but the whole campaign shouldn't be about those limited ideas.

    Also, the fact that Plattus failed previously shouldn't reflect negatively on Harrison's current campaign. Maybe those programs need more work, or maybe Harrison will realize--if she's elected--that those aren't the best strategies. I think Harrison is creative enough to come up with new ideas and support whatever good plans she has to vote on.