Tomorrow we face two candidates for Ward 1 alderman: a disengaged incumbent and a candidate we fear lacks deep understanding of city politics.
A successful Ward 1 alderman is a policymaker who can both champion the needs of Ward 1 residents and involve him or herself in larger citywide reforms — while engaging a broad segment of constituents in their work. At a point when both the University and the city’s leadership are changing, the Ward 1 alderman is uniquely positioned to bridge the town-gown divide.
We are disappointed with the options presented on tomorrow’s ballot. Neither Sarah Eidelson nor Paul Chandler possesses the combination of skill and vision necessary for their role. We do not, therefore, endorse either candidate for the office.
Eidelson’s work has been impressive and undoubtedly beneficial to city residents. In advocating for the revitalization of the Q House and securing the Youth Violence Prevention Grant, she has not only improved the lives of New Haven children, but has also powerfully demonstrated the Yale community’s capacity to invest in citywide issues. She has conveyed the message that Yale students care about the welfare of the city, strengthening town-gown relations through her service to youth.
But while advancing reforms for the city as a whole, she has neglected her own ward. Her two years on the Board of Aldermen have been frustratingly marked by a lack of engagement with a wide range of her constituents. In late 2012, only 20 percent of a hundred freshmen surveyed by the News could identify Eidelson as their representative. Her office hours are poorly publicized, and her outreach efforts through email newsletters are sporadic. Her lack of accessibility has driven away students who may have otherwise hoped to engage in the Ward’s political work.
If elected, her ties to constituents will likely only loosen as her term progresses; by the end of her second term, she will not have spent time as a student with any Yalie on campus. This seat has traditionally gone to a student, and for good reason.
Furthermore, we are troubled by her lack of independence. As a graphic designer for Local 34, Eidelson is able to use her union connections to advance some portions of her agenda. But her ties seem to have severely restricted her ability to critically analyze pressing issues, such as the High and Wall Street sale and the endorsement of a flawed union-backed Ward 7 candidate. No politician can duly execute her responsibilities to voters when bound to such a dominant political power in the city, no matter how beneficial the unions are to both town and gown.
Her Republican opponent, Chandler, has amassed significant support, even in Yale’s predominantly liberal community. This speaks to his approachability and passion for engaging students in political initiatives. He understands that an alderman should not navigate city politics alone; rather, he must reach a range of constituencies and involve them in executing his political vision. Since Chandler is enthusiastic and a current Yale student, we only wish he could have outlined more specific plans for recruiting Yale students and accomplishing his goals.
Unlike the well-connected Eidelson, Chandler lacks the relationships or experience necessary to realize his vision. He comes into city politics as a fresh face, not having even met most of the aldermen he will serve with. While Eidelson spent her undergraduate career immersed in city issues, he has no such experience in organizing and coalition-building.
We were glad to hear Chandler’s hopes of contributing to economic development and public school improvement in the city. But he does not seem to grasp the political realities behind his policy proposals regarding education reform and balancing the city budget. An alderman has little purview over New Haven Public Schools. And Chandler has not detailed the necessary steps it will take to implement his much-talked-about plan to build a crosswalk to the New Haven Green.
Tangible, specific initiatives that strengthen Dixwell and Newhallville, such as the ones Eidelson has championed, lift up the city as a whole. Spending political capital on community efforts such as the revitalization of the Q House does much more to benefit the city than do Chandler’s vague promises about balancing the city’s budget.
So we believe Yale deserves more from its aldermanic candidates. But since, by the end of the day tomorrow, we will have elected a Ward 1 alderman, we must acknowledge that they would have differing effects on the city. Chandler shows the promise of engaging a broader swath of the Yale student body in initiatives that directly benefit Ward 1, while Eidelson shows the promise of using existing aldermanic relationships to continue effecting critical changes for New Haven and thus improving University relations with the city. Eidelson’s more guaranteed results as an already-engaged incumbent, therefore, are less risky to vote for at the polls.
We wish we were presented with a candidate who merited endorsement. In the coming two years, we hope the winner takes legitimate critiques into account. And in the next election, we hope to see candidates who can adequately fulfill the multifaceted duties required of our alderman.