At Monday’s debate sponsored by the News there was one question that I knew I would be asked: Why are you running as a Republican? My answer is simple. I believe in the principles of opportunity, of accountable and responsible government, and of community. My politics are very moderate and results-oriented — I ask you to look beyond the label. Besides, political parties do not reflect the true divide in City Hall.
In fact, the issues that cross the desk of an Alderman are very different from those that cross the desk of a state legislator or congressman. Designations of Republican or Democrat are more or less irrelevant at the municipal level; an Alderman typically works on projects that all members of the community can rally around. Safer streets and thriving communities are not partisan issues.
Here in New Haven, the race is certainly not between Republicans and Democrats. Instead, New Haven politics faces a different kind of political divide, one between the powerful union political machine and elected officials seeking to be independent voices for their constituents. We saw this in September when Democratic Ward 7 Alderman, Doug Hausladen ’04 took a stand against that political machine. The unions responded by moving a candidate into his ward to challenge him in the Democratic primary.
While many votes on the Board of Aldermen are unanimous, many others split between the union block supermajority and independent-minded Democrats. Even these split votes, however, are largely symbolic, as the union majority is still able to implement policy that is agreed upon behind closed doors — I would bring the debate into the public eye.
The inherent problem with any supermajority — union or otherwise — is that it can abuse the system and tends to disregard the concerns of constituents in favor of select special-interest groups. We saw this last year when the president of the Local 35 and UNITE HERE unions claimed that Yale settled early with high pay raises for unionized workers because UNITE HERE showed power in politics. The unions currently control 20 of the 30 seats on the Board of Aldermen.
I believe that we deserve better. We deserve an alderman who will be an independent voice for his or her constituents on the issues they care about. My desire to authentically represent Ward 1 residents and my policy platform shaped by your ideas are the reasons I draw support from across the political spectrum. I have tried to connect with every student and off-campus resident by knocking on doors, holding weekly lunches, holding discussions in people’s suites and meeting with student advocacy groups. I pledge to continue with these initiatives if you elect me. As your alderman, I will be an advocate for the issues that you believe are important: closing the achievement gap in our public schools; investing in sidewalks, bike lanes and our bus routes to improve life in New Haven; facing the reality of our city’s precarious financial situation and bringing our spiraling debt under control. If I am elected, I will likely be the sole Republican on the board and, by definition, I will be the minority leader. As the minority leader, I would be entitled to weekly meetings with the mayor, I would be free to sit on any committee and I would speak at every Board of Aldermen meeting. This platform means that I would have a much stronger voice on the Board than my opponent, which I would use to be an even stronger voice for you in New Haven. If you have an idea to bring to city government, I can sit on the relevant committee, I can vote on that issue and I can discuss it with the mayor during our weekly meetings.
I am running a grassroots campaign. I rely primarily on student donations. My policies have won me the support of teachers, local business owners and students of all political persuasions. I have also received support from New Haven Democrats, including Ward 19 Alderman-elect Michael Stratton. Stratton’s donation to my campaign marked the first time he had ever donated to a Republican. This reflects that the true political divide in our city is not one between Democrats and Republicans, but one between political machines and independent voices. The push to bring those voices to the Board of Aldermen has resonated across the city, with Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.
On Tuesday you have a chance to help build a better New Haven for all – town and gown alike. It’s time to actually push for the changes we want to see. I humbly ask for your vote so that I can be your voice in city government.
Paul Chandler is a senior in Pierson College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.