I have followed with interest the News’ coverage of the race for the next Ward 1 alderman, and I am impressed by the obvious energy, enthusiasm and commitment of each of the three candidates.
While I am in no position to endorse anyone, I would like to offer my perspective — as a former Ward 1 alderman — on what voters should look for when they cast their ballots tomorrow. In a nutshell, I believe the critical question is this: Which candidate thinks most like an organizer? Sixteen, not one, is the magic number on the Board of Aldermen, and any bright idea a candidate has is only as good as his or her ability to build the relationships necessary to make it happen.
When we failed to pass a domestic partnership ordinance in 2003 by one vote, it was because social conservatives, deeply organized through their churches, out-maneuvered our hastily assembled progressive coalition. But when we stripped the Yale-New Haven Hospital police of their arrest powers for anti-union abuses of those powers — a tremendously controversial move — it was because we had built the alliances, both on the board and in New Haven civil society, necessary to win. Or when we passed a landlord-licensing ordinance designed to improve New Haven’s rental housing stock with a bare majority — one of my last major fights — it was because we had spent months building a coalition that saw that specific policy fight as part of a larger effort to create a more proactive and positive culture on the board.
So I encourage Ward 1 voters to ask themselves: Which of the candidates has most demonstrated a commitment to organizing? Who has worked most successfully with diverse constituencies, and who is it that best understands how an activist approach, grounded in meaningful relationships, can make change happen?
That, I believe, is the candidate who deserves your vote.
The writer is a 2004 graduate of Branford College. He served as Ward 1 alderman from 2001 to 2005 and currently serves as staff director to the Committee on Climate Change in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.