NEWS’ VIEW: Sarah Eidelson ’12 for Ward 1

Of the two Ward 1 aldermanic candidates, one is an ambitious Yale man, a slick politician. The other is a perhaps less flashy but equally motivated statesman — or stateswoman, as she might correct us — who has devoted the last three years of her life to making New Haven her home. Because of the relationships she has built in New Haven, we believe the latter, Sarah Eidelson ’12, will be far more able to serve her constituents and her city effectively and more likely to accomplish the policy goals she champions. We confidently endorse her for Ward 1 alderman.

According to a survey conducted last Tuesday, Eidelson and Vinay Nayak ’14 are in a statistical dead heat among registered voters, and the two campaigns report having registered roughly equal numbers of voters. Both have been active on campus for the past two months, outlined clear policy initiatives and galvanized student involvement in New Haven politics.

But Eidelson is the best candidate to sustain that student energy, as well as the energy of the New Havenites who have volunteered on her campaign. Instead of pushing her policy platform aggressively, she has focused on her relationships in and knowledge of New Haven. And those relationships are no mere talking points.

Eidelson has spent two summers in New Haven, one with the Community Voter Project and the other as campaign manager for Ward 18 aldermanic candidate Sarah Saiano. No matter that the campaign ultimately failed; Eidelson spent her summer trekking around a part of the city quite a distance from Yale, getting to know residents. She made her decision to run based on three years of passionate involvement in the city, and her future colleagues recognize that devotion.

Eidelson has already been endorsed by each of the future aldermen from the wards surrounding her own. These would-be colleagues trust and want to work with her. Eidelson has already started building a foundation of respect.

In her policies, too, Eidelson demonstrates a sharp ear for New Haven’s voice. Instead of dreaming up new policy to propose to the board, she is throwing her voice behind current initiatives she will be able to advocate beginning on her first day in office. Community policing is an issue already on the Board’s docket, and she has adopted it as one of her central planks. She wants to expand on work already done to develop Route 34. With her Complete Streets proposal, she has assured us that she cares about the way Yale students get around New Haven on a daily basis. She is already thinking realistically.

Eidelson knows it takes 16 of the Board’s 30 votes to accomplish anything. She has already built the relationships that will enable her to do just that. Regardless of recent experience, any Yale student will enter the New Haven political scene as somewhat of an outsider. But Eidelson already has much of the support and respect of her colleagues that she will need before she thinks about embarking on ambitious policy initiatives. That respect comes from union-backed candidates but also more independent Democrats like Doug Hausladen ’04 in Ward 7.

We need a representative who can connect Yalies to New Haven, not one who imposes new ideas from the ivory tower. We appreciate Nayak’s policy proposals, but a rookie student alderman cannot waltz into City Hall and lead the pack. Eidelson knows that, and her ideas are rooted in a sense of reality and a keen feel for what the city really needs.

Eidelson listens. Nayak talks—and he talks well. Eidelson lacks his suave oratory, but aldermen don’t give speeches. The mark of a good alderman is a good conversation. Eidelson has been having those conversations in every corner of New Haven for three years.

After declaring his candidacy last spring, Nayak — just a freshman at the time — returned to his Chicago suburb for the summer. His campaign has raised more money than Eidelson’s, but his donations come mostly from outside New Haven.

We admire the work Nayak’s campaign has done detailing new policies. He has shown genuine interest in a city he does not quite yet know. He has energized Yale students who never cared about local politics. Such dedication and ambition is refreshing.

Nayak has an agenda, but he does not seem to recognize the place of that agenda within the framework of the Board of Aldermen. He has earned little support from New Haven legislators, and, despite his work as a Policy Assistant, he doesn’t yet understand the structure of New Haven politics.

Much of our concern about Nayak lies in what we have learned from the term of Mike Jones ’11 on the Board. Jones ran on a platform of three particular policies; he accomplished none of them. He will be remembered for raising the city’s living wage, an issue he tackled only during the second year of his term as alderman. Nayak may be exceptionally good at playing policy, but the Board is not a laboratory. He will be frustrated by its realities.

We have our concerns about Eidelson’s candidacy too. She has received much support from unions during this campaign, but we hope and expect they will not be the only voices speaking in her ear after her inauguration.

Eidelson must ensure that the voices she hears most are those of Yale students, even though she will not be a student for the majority of her term. Simply living on High Street is not enough to connect her to the student body. She has already shown that she can energize Yalies about local politics; she will have to make a concerted effort to remain in touch with her constituents.

Unlike so many Ward 1 residents, Eidelson cares about this city and considers it her own. She should use this position to show other Yalies that they can, as she has, move outside their suites and classrooms and engage as citizens of New Haven.

As students, we do not have a great reputation outside our campus. To many, we’re entitled and arrogant symbols of the type of privilege that is denied to many of our fellow residents of the city. It takes a special kind of alderman to overcome those stereotypes and convince the Board that she has something valuable to contribute to the city. Sarah Eidelson can be that alderman.

She has shown her ability to build honest relationships, to listen as well as to talk and to inspire New Havenites from outside Ward 1 to campaign on her behalf. If other aldermen are willing to fight for her, they will be pleased to work with her on the Board. That kind of cooperation, not sterile policy, is what we need if we expect the Ward 1 alderman to accomplish what we care about. Sarah Eidelson’s experience and genuine passion for the city make her the best choice for Ward 1 alderman — or, we concede to her again — alderwoman.

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