Trumbull College cook Frank Douglass Jr. will run for Ward 2 alderman for a third time this year.
In an e-mail to Ward 2 residents Wednesday, Douglass announced his candidacy in the Ward 2 election, which he lost by only 28 votes overall to current Ward 2 alderwoman Gina Calder ’03 EPH ’08 in 2007. The self-proclaimed “King of Omelets” in the Trumbull dining hall, Douglass said he plans to work hard to gain support from the many students living off-campus in the Dwight neighborhood. Douglass, a lifelong resident of New Haven and 17-year veteran of the Trumbull kitchen said he did not want his campaign to focus on his opposition to Calder, but said he is motivated to run to replace her because she has been “a little too busy with what she’s doing” to be an effective advocate for the ward’s residents. Calder is currently an executive at Bridgeport Hospital, which is located in the city of Bridgeport, Conn., about 20 miles from New Haven.
“I feel the Dwight community currently does not have representation on the Board of Aldermen,” said Douglass, who co-chairs the Ward 2 Democratic Committee.
Calder, who did not respond to multiple calls Wednesday, has not formally declared her intention to seek re-election for the Ward 2 seat.
The Trumbull dining hall is where Douglass earned the nickname “Omelet King,” for his role in a trend that brought omelet stations to several Yale dining halls. When Douglass realized students would love to have an omelet station in 1998, he worked to bring one to Trumbull, he said.
Robin Smith, a cook’s helper who has worked alongside Douglass in Trumbull for five years, said Douglass works hard to keep up morale among dining hall staff. During the January snowstorms that made many city streets impassable for weeks, Douglass gave rides to coworkers in his van, she said.
In some ways, Douglass already functions as his neighbors’ alderman: when someone is unsure how to secure a handicapped sign for a vehicle, he gets a call.
“People already call me all the time thinking I’m alderman, so why not run?” said Douglass, who is 58 and has lived in Ward 2 for the past 15 years. “I have the time to do it, and this is my community — I’m not just passing through.”
In Feb. 2009, Douglass announced a second run against Calder, only to withdraw weeks later to run for co-chair of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee.
Douglass said he expects to receive the support of labor unions as he did in his 2007 campaign.
Since 2007, the city’s tensions with its unionized employees have intensified as its fiscal outlook worsened, and Douglass said he wants to take a pro-union stand. The city’s decision to lay off mostly low-paid employees in February to close a $5.5 million budget gap was misguided and unfair, he said.
“I don’t think we should be trying to balance the budget on the backs of custodians and cafeteria workers,” he said. “Most of these people are working part-time and making very little, and now you want to cut their healthcare? I don’t think so.”
More savings should have been taken from the top of the ladder in the form of layoffs and salary cuts for top-paid employees, he said. Singling out New Haven Schools superintendent Reggie Mayo’s $226,921 salary — which has not decreased in the past year — as “outrageous,” Douglass said the city unfairly targeted its most vulnerable employees in the layoffs announced Feb. 17.
To improve its fiscal health, the city should aim to invest more in job creation to lift more residents out of poverty, Douglass said. Yale, which makes voluntary contributions to the city budget every year, should be asked to pay more, he added.
Off-campus Yale students, who make up nearly 20 percent of Ward 2 residents in his campaign, will be a key part of Douglass’ campaign, he said.
“Yale students should be deeply involved with the communities they live in,” Frank said, adding that he hopes to help eliminate the “wall between the university and bordering communities.”
Ward 2 resident and Democratic Committee member Abby Lawlor ’11 said Douglass has been very welcoming to Yale students who wish to serve on the committee. Douglass conceives of the Dwight neighborhood as one that “very much includes Yale students,” said Lawlor, adding that she will be supporting Douglass.
Since the Democratic primary takes place Sept. 13, just two weeks after most students return to the ward after a summer of being away from New Haven, Douglass said he wants to begin talking to students before they pack their bags.
To that end, Douglass will hold a meet-and-greet for students at Pizza House, at 89 Howe Street, at 4 p.m. today.
Correction: April 30, 2011
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the distance between New Haven and Bridgeport. It is approximately 20 miles, not 55.