For Ward 22 aldermanic hopefuls Lisa Hopkins and incumbent Greg Morehead, last night’s candidate forum proved a last-ditch effort to communicate coherent platforms.
And they both centered on similar aims: public safety and economic development. About 30 people, both Yale students and local Ward 22 residents, assembled in the Timothy Dwight College common room for the forum, held by nonpartisan community activist group New Haven Action. The event was divided into two half-hour question-and-answer sessions for each candidate, during which both Morehead and Hopkins outlined their visions for Dixwell and Yale.
Cordelia Thorpe, the third candidate running in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, did not attend the candidate forum. She told the New Haven Independent for a Sept. 8 article that Yale students “didn’t try to get to know me. They were just programmed to vote a certain way, and they did.” But Daniel Hornung ’12, the director of the New Haven Action Fund, said the group contacted Thorpe by telephone and invited her to the forum. Thorpe did not return a voicemail message Thursday.
Questions from the audience during the course of the candidate forum focused primarily on how the candidates would reduce crime, increase traffic safety, manage the expansion of Yale into the Dixwell area and support the creation of new jobs for New Haven residents.
Specifically, Hopkins promised that if elected, she would organize more neighborhood block watches, help families avoid foreclosure on their homes and use Yale’s resources to provide job training to residents. Morehead discussed his plans to continue supporting the Safe Streets traffic safety initiative, as well as to take steps to reduce the neighborhood’s crime rate and maintain communication with the University about the two new residential colleges and Science Park.
The most pointed question during the debate came from former Ward 1 aldermanic candidate Katie Harrison ’11, who lost to Mike Jones ’11 in her campaign win the ward’s Democratic endorsement vote in April. During Morehead’s segment of the forum, Harrison raised her hand to ask about Morehead’s less-than-stellar attendance record in committee meetings. Morehead answered that the committees upon which he serves — public safety, youth services and human services — often meet Wednesday nights, at the same time as his Bible study meetings. Morehead said that while he cannot always attend committee meetings, he always stays updated about the proceedings. After the candidates forum, Morehead added to his answer, saying that he is sure to attend all the committee meetings that directly affect his constituency.
“I still remain engaged with what goes on in the meetings, even though I can’t always be there,” Morehead said.
According to the records kept by the Office of Legislative Services, Morehead attended 60 percent of Public Safety Committee meetings in months of 2007 after his April election and 63 percent in 2008. As for the general meetings of the Board of Aldermen, Morehead attended 93 percent between May and December of 2007, 82 percent in 2008 and 100 percent between January and May of 2009. Hopkins has in the past criticized Morehead’s attendance record, using it as an example of his alleged lack of dedication.
Near the end of Morehead’s 30-minute segment, an audience member asked him what he thought was the greatest difference between his and Hopkins’ platforms. He answered that he can work with a wide variety of people to achieve a common goal. When asked the same question, Hopkins said it was her commitment to high attendance and accountability as an elected official.
The Ward 22 Democratic primary will take place Tuesday at Wexler/Grant Community School. Polls will open at 6 a.m., and the Yale College Democrats will operate shuttles between the polls and Silliman, Timothy Dwight and Ezra Stiles Colleges, as well as Swing Space.