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.

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