News’ View: Great expectations, unfulfilled

Shortly after Rachel Plattus ’09 announced her candidacy to represent Ward 1 on the Board of Aldermen, she held a meeting in Jonathan Edwards College for those interested in discussing ideas to improve the city’s public schools. At the event, which was attended by more than 50 students, Plattus said she hoped New Haven could offer pre-kindergarten schooling to all its children and said she would work to create an Elm City Family Center, a kind of shelter for adolescent girls and a resource for families in need.

These were both good ideas that would have made New Haven a better city for all its residents. At the same time, though, we — and probably Plattus as well — always knew it would be nearly impossible for a single person to get that much accomplished. As Plattus has rightly pointed out, it is very difficult to be an alderman in this city and effect real change. The Board is large and its members receive little support. The issues facing New Haven are tremendously complicated and difficult to address in just one two-year term, especially when the economy is as bad as it has been during Plattus’s years on the Board.

But Plattus could have tried harder. She could have at least launched a Web site — which she promised to do within her first month in office — so her constituents could stay informed about the city and so she could share more of her ideas. Plattus, who grew up in New Haven and knows it as well or better than any other Yale student or graduate, had a special obligation to raise awareness of the issues about which she cares most.

Instead, Plattus was unable even to raise awareness of herself and her job. If you ask Yale students in Ward 1 today who represents them on the Board of Aldermen, you will be lucky if they know what the Board is, let alone who Plattus is. This is not entirely her fault — the News reported last month that only three in 10 Yalies know who Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is — but it is disappointing even still. We wish Plattus had given us a reason to remember her.

While other Yale aldermen have pushed bold agendas — the living wage ordinance was introduced by Josh Civin ’96, and Nick Shalek ’05 led the charge for the city’s divestment from Sudan — Plattus has largely stayed quiet in her two years of service.

The top priority for Ward 1’s delegate to the city should be to engage his or her constituents with New Haven and its issues. Yalies do not have traditional reasons to interact with the Board; we let the University worry about sidewalk cracks and potholes and broken streetlights. But with leadership from our representative on the Board, we can take ownership of issues facing the whole city. Plattus, after all, had big ideas that students were ready to rally behind. Even if she had failed, her efforts alone would have made us think about what we, as Yale students, can contribute to this city.

Like Plattus, Mike Jones ’11 won his seat in an unopposed November election. We hope he will, nevertheless, remain active in his two years on the Board and show all of us how we can improve New Haven together.


  • A Negroponte Revolution in New Haven


    Give every kid in the ghetto Wards a $100 Negroponte computer FREE and teach them how to use it. (One a year. If you lose it or sell it, you’re out of the loop for a year.)

  • Ouch

    Rachel. Not as bad as this makes you sound. This seems like it’s more about scaring Mike than anything about you.

    Also, 3 in 10 recognize the Mayor? Yeeeesh.


    I say this out of pure curiosity – is there any particular reason that Yalies would care about their Alderman or the New Haven mayor? Is there anyone who cares about New Haven politics besides the 30-40 most annoying Yalies on campus?

  • Hatchet Job

    This YDN Editorial is a complete hatchet job on Plattus. Let’s get some things out in the air.

    First, your main complaints about her as an Alderwoman are the following:
    1.) She didn’t set up a website
    2.) She didn’t effect massive changes in the city
    3.) She didn’t focus the majority of her attention on talking to students

    These complaints are petty and ridiculous! Are you saying that during a period of record budget deficits, one Alderwoman in New Haven should have been able to get all her ideas through? You also seem to claim that previous aldermen have gotten “bold agendas” passed. Is divestment from Sudan that bold? That is a narrow issue that will do nothing to affect anyone in New Haven. A good idea, but definitely not relevant to New Haven citizens’ lives. And living wages may or may not be a good idea. Living wages can increase unemployment by making it more costly to higher new employees, thus disproportionately affecting young workers and high school students. Who knows whether that “bold idea” which is completely unoriginal even worked?

    My biggest complaint with this article of all, however, is that Paul Needham seems to believe that the primary job of the Ward 1 Alderman or Alderwoman is to interact with Yale students. You clearly do not understand governance or what the position is about! It’s a LEGISLATIVE job, and as an elected official, your role is to represent the people’s interests in the city government. Yale students, many of whom are not even New Haven voters and couldn’t care less about the city government, are not the only people at stake in these decisions and one should certainly not be judged based on one’s visibility. You are using impossible standards and completely misunderstanding what makes an elected official great. You write “The top priority for Ward 1’s delegate to the city should be to engage his or her constituents with New Haven and its issues.” That’s BS and we all know it – the top priority is to represent the Ward’s interests in the city!

    Horrendous editorial all around, and I agree with #2 that this is way too harsh and almost certainly supposed to scare Mike and do nothing more. If you want to attack Mike, go after him, not Plattus.

  • @#3

    You are tedious.

  • JT

    Rachel should have picked one issue from the beginning and tried to get something done on it. THat’s how you can be an effective alderwoman.

  • @4

    You are also tedious.

  • YDN alum

    This is some seriously tendentious BS. Does some editor have a personal grudge against Rachel Plattus? The person who wrote this editorial clearly decided that he was going to attack her no matter what, and then searched for lame excuse to do that.

    I mean, as #4 says, there’s basically no substance to this hatchet job. And are you really going to cite Nick Shalek as an ideal alderman? I mean, it’s great that he’s opposed to genocide and all (though it’s not clear how this affects New Haven), but at least Rachel Plattus hasn’t been arrested.

    Feel free to be petty and vindictive twits, but please confine your personal grudges to your personal lives. Shame on you for printing this crap in the YDN.

  • Yale 08

    Judging from the extent of the rant, the size of the rant, the language in the rant, and the fact that the rant refers to “alderwoman” rather than “alderman” or even simply “alder,” it nearly seems like Post #4 is from Ms. Plattus herself. Hopefully the real Rachel Plattus has enough honesty to truthfully admit whether or not she has just anonymously self-critiqued an editorial about her New Haven Board of Aldermen service.

  • #4

    Seeing as I am a man and not a woman, no, I am not Rachel. I am a peeved Yalie who has seen the YDN editorials grow progressively worse over the last three years. The previous editor-in-chief’s editorials were mediocre, but this is truly awful. And #8, hope you didn’t having a problem with me referring to a woman as an Alderwoman. Mike is an Alderman.

  • hieronymous

    I don’t think this is a hatchet job at all. They’re saying that Plattus didn’t do anything…which seems just about true.

  • @ #9

    Your recommendation to call Alderman Plattus a tree seems slightly worse to me than referring to her legal title.

  • language lesson

    Alderman is the appropriate term for alders of either sex.

    “man” is from the German and means “all humans”. It’s a linguistic failing of English that we also use man to represent “mann”, meaning males. The two words are distinct & different in their original tongue.

    When man is used to refer to a position such as alderman, the usage and etymology of it is “all humanity”.

  • @roflcopter

    “Is there anyone who cares about New Haven politics besides the 30-40 most annoying Yalies on campus?”

    Well, Jesus, with sentiments like that, no wonder Yalies are so uninvolved. Can we please chill with the disdain? People can do whatever they want with their own time, and if that means getting involved in their community, then rude comments are REALLY not called for.


    Yes, with my apathetic sentiment towards New Haven politics, it’s no wonder Yalies are so uninvolved in New Haven politics.

    As for the rudeness, I would like to assure you that while being involved in New Haven politics does not make one annoying, it just so happens that New Haven politics seem to be the precise venue to which the most annoying Yalies on campus are attracted.

  • By @#4

    It’s fine to defend Plattus or to take issue with comparisons to the previous alderman (what a joke). But at the end of the day, if it is difficult to define or even offer some solid examples of what she did do for her constituents (i.e. Yalies) or for New Haven on behalf of her constituents…then that is a sign that she may have led a lackluster term.

    Also, the News has every right to call her on specific, concrete promises she made but did not fulfill.

  • Thomas Robinson

    Good articles spark hatred. If there were no good points people wouldn’t be so engaged. The problem with the YDN isn’t the editors, its the awful material they have to work with.