Ella Wood ’15 will challenge incumbent Doug Hausladen ’04 in the Democratic primary for the Ward 7 seat on the New Haven Board of Aldermen, Wood told the News Wednesday evening.
If she wins, she will become the first Yale undergraduate to represent that ward, which — unlike the Yale-dominated Ward 1 — is home to a diverse group of city residents, Yale graduate and professional school students and a small collection of undergraduates.
Wood said she lives near Humphrey and Orange streets in the far northeast corner of the ward, which comprises the downtown area as well as portions of Wooster Square, the Medical District and the Hill and Dwight neighborhoods.
Wood, the chairperson of the Independent Party of the Yale Political Union and a member of the activist group Students Unite Now, said she is running in hopes of renewing city residents’ trust in their elected officials.
“The biggest problem I see in New Haven — and the problem that compelled me to run for alderwoman in Ward 7 — is the sense of alienation people feel toward their government and their elected officials,” Wood told the News Wednesday evening. “That’s where many of ward’s problems begin: property taxes, cost of living.”
Wood has spent the summer working for Yale’s Unite Here unions and New Haven Rising, an umbrella activist organization that seeks to advance projects such as the jobs pipeline. She is a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Hausladen, who clinched the seat after an unopposed campaign in 2011, said he first learned of Wood’s intention to challenge his reelection on Tuesday. He said he is looking forward to a “youthful campaign” that “speaks to the future of New Haven.”
The two opponents have yet to meet in person, they both said.
“This campaign isn’t about Doug,” Wood said. “There are a lot of people in Ward 7 who don’t have a face to attach to their elected officials and don’t know who their alderman is. My campaign will be about building a relationship between people and their elected officials.”
Public safety, property taxes and “quality of life matters” — everything from dog parks to bike and pedestrian safety — are the primary concerns of his constituents, Hausladen said.
Though Ward 7 is not home to many Yale undergraduate students, Hausladen said there is a large graduate student population in the downtown and nearby SoHu — south of Humphrey Street — areas.
Fifty-seven percent of downtown residents are under 25, compared to 40 percent in the city as a whole, according to 2010 census data gathered in 2012 by DataHaven, a nonprofit public information group. Fifty-three percent of downtown residents are between 18 and 24.
The average household income in the downtown is $47,368 per year, compared to $55,158 in the city as a whole.
Hausladen said he is working on projects to bring LED lights to lower Chapel Street and to collaborate with the city’s Department of Public Works and Building Department to better streamline garbage collection and reduce late night and early morning noise pollution. Downtown Crossing, a Route 34 redevelopment project that will reconnect the downtown area with the Hill neighborhood, is also a central issue in his ward, he said.
“I want to make the downtown livable for every constituent, whether those are people from the University or the city,” he said.
Hausladen said he filed paperwork to seek reelection in January but began formally campaigning in June. He launched his reelection campaign in conjunction with a slate of six Democratic candidates who have identified themselves as part of a reform-minded coalition called “Take Back New Haven.” Despite the group’s professed aim of toppling the union-backed supermajority on the Board, Hausladen said Wednesday he does not see himself or his allies as hostile to union interests or the Board as a whole.
“Take Back New Haven is not an anti-union bloc,” he said. “It’s a pro-discussion, pro-debate group of candidates. One member of the group – Craig Smith – is supported by the police unions.”
Wood declined to say whether she would seek union backing. She said she looks up to a number of current members of the Board, including Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson ’12, who is running for reelection this fall against Republican challenger Paul Chandler ’14.
Eidelson, as well as Ward 22 Alderman Jeanette Morrison, who represents students living in Silliman, Timothy Dwight, Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges, won election in 2011 with the backing of Yale’s Unite Here unions. Students Unite Now, of which Wood is a member, formed in part out of its campaign work on behalf of Eidelson.
“I don’t know the extent to which people are looking to perceive me to be a union candidate,” Wood said. “I’m not running to further the interests of the unions. I’m running to further the interests of the people of New Haven.”
The Democratic primary will be held on Sept. 10.