EIDELSON: Working for a better city

I want to live in a city where the government works for everyone; where the Board of Aldermen is independent, democratically accountable, and structurally empowered to better serve the people of New Haven. I am running to represent Ward 1 on the Board of Aldermen because I believe that city can exist — and I am committed to playing a role in building it. My decision to run for alderwoman has grown out of my most deeply held values: that all people are equally deserving of human dignity and access to the life they want; that we are all responsible for the well-being of one another; and that we must therefore work together to fight injustice.

When I moved here from outside of Philadelphia in the fall of 2008, I could not have been more excited to be at Yale. I never really considered going anywhere else, and I was anxious to immerse myself in everything that Yale and New Haven had to offer. I was interested in teaching and education, so I decided in the first weeks of my freshmen year to apply for Dwight Hall’s Early Childhood Education Fellowship. As a fellow that year, I worked at the Childcare Center Creating Kids — located barely two blocks past Blue State but worlds away from Old Campus. My experience at Creating Kids was enriching in many ways. I played with and taught a wonderful group of three-year-olds and learned a great deal about what models of early childhood education should look like.

Nevertheless, I felt unfulfilled in the work. I began to seek out ways to pursue my values in the world immediately around me and became involved in efforts to improve both the University and the City. As a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, I participated in direct action to improve financial aid at Yale, organizing students to speak out about the challenges confronting students on financial aid. Organizing does not always yield immediate results, but in my experience it has been one of the clearest ways to build power to translate shared values into real change.

During my freshman year I also helped start the Responsible Endowment Project at Yale, an endeavor to work collaboratively with University officials to update our ethical investment oversight process. That experience was formative in helping me to understand the complexities of institutional policy, and it strengthened my conviction that democratic participation in creating such policies is absolutely essential.

Through community service, organizing and policy, I have aimed to use the power I do have as a citizen and a student of this university to make New Haven a better place. With each semester I’ve spent here, the urgent need for change in our city has become more apparent to me. Two summers ago, I stayed in New Haven to develop and lead the Community Voter Project at the Connecticut Center for a New Economy. Through the CVP, I had hundreds of conversations with residents across the city about the New Haven we want to live in, and how we can build it together. Given the scale of the challenges we face, New Haven needs bold leadership from every neighborhood — including right here on campus, in Ward 1.

My experience has taught me that we must use all the tools at our disposal to create the change that our society needs, and that begins with a robust democracy at the local level. As students, we are lucky enough to live in a city where small wards mean that the Board of Aldermen can be an extremely grassroots, politically responsive body. Aldermanic elections are often won by a dozen votes, so your vote this November may matter more in this race than it ever has before. And few college towns offer students the chance to elect one of their own to city government. These reasons and more led me to register to vote in New Haven as a freshman, and my continued residence here during the school years and the summers has solidified my love for this city and my sense of belonging here.

I want to live in a New Haven where the government works alongside residents to create the city that we all deserve. I want to live in a city where students feel like a part of a vibrant, diverse community — rather than passers-by in an insulated bubble. I want to represent a ward in which students have an active voice in the direction of our neighborhood and our city. I want to lead a campaign that is part of a broader movement for justice, and I hope you will join me.

Sarah Eidelson is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College and a candidate for Ward 1 Alderman.

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