When the polls open on March 17 in the special election for Ward 7’s next alder, a whole portion of the ward’s population will be out of town: Yale students.
The election for the seat vacated in January by newly appointed Transit Chief Doug Hausladen ’04 will take place during Yale’s spring recess. But the difference in turnout may be negligible.
When students return to campus, they will have a new representative on the Board of Alders: either Abigail Roth ’90 LAW ’94, special assistant to Yale School of Management Dean Edward Snyder, or Paul Phillipino, membership development coordinator for the Catholic fraternal service organization Knights of Columbus.
Roth said it was Hausladen, a fellow democrat, who first asked her to run. She was endorsed by the ward’s Democratic committee last week.
Phillipino is a Republican, running in a ward where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 14 to one.
The ward comprises downtown as well as portions of Wooster Square, the Medical District, the Hill and Dwight neighborhoods. It is less closely tied with the University than Ward 1, which includes Old Campus and eight of the 12 residential colleges, or even Ward 22, which includes the other four.
Still, the sprawling Ward 7 is home to its fair share of students, primarily in the graduate and professional schools, as well as the College. The roughly 60 students living in Rosenfeld Hall, annex space for Timothy Dwight College, are Ward 7 residents, as are undergraduates living off-campus on the northwest side of High Street or in apartments downtown. Though few of these students are registered to vote in Connecticut, those interviewed said last fall’s election — which saw Yale junior Ella Wood ’15 unsuccessfully challenge Hausladen — put the ward on students’ radars.
Wood did not seek the endorsement of the ward committee for this spring’s special election. Ward 7 Co-Chair Alberta Witherspoon said Wood did not get back in touch with her after initially expressing an interest in mid-January in running a second time. Wood did not return multiple requests for comment.
Billy Crotty ’16 said interest in the election last fall increased because a student was involved. Still, he said, very few people actually voted. Even those who voted last fall, including Ben Ackerman ’16 and Maddie Klugman ’15, said they were not aware of the details of the upcoming special election.
“[Some students] feel uncomfortable about influencing the results of an election the consequences of which will affect others far more than it will affect them,” Ward 7 resident Nina Russell ’15 said in an email.
Klugman said she would feel more involved in municipal politics if she lived in Ward 1, which has traditionally been represented by a current student or recent alumnus. As one of only a handful of undergraduates in the ward, she said it is hard to see how the issues facing permanent residents affect her as well.
Ackerman said Hausladen’s Yale affiliation helped ease that divide. With an election last fall featuring two Yalies and another this spring with a Democratic favorite who holds two Yale degrees, a connection to the University is not hard to spot. Roth and Phillipino agreed. Both said safer streets and a more thriving downtown affect students and permanent residents alike.
“There’s definitely a Yale footprint there,” Ackerman said. “Even though I’m not represented per se by a student, it doesn’t mean I’m not represented.”
ROTH — NO LONGER BEHIND THE SCENES
Roth, a 45-year-old resident of Audubon Court, has lived in New Haven for the past seven years after a 13-year stint in Washington, D.C. as an attorney for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and then the Department of Homeland Security.
As the public safety chair of the Downtown Wooster Square Community Management Team, Roth has led efforts to improve lighting downtown and calm traffic on busy city streets. She helped spearhead the initiative that persuaded Yale to create a traffic safety subcommittee in 2011 and, in 2012. She also had a hand in organizing a traffic-calming initiative at an intersection by Yale-New Haven Hospital where a medical student was struck and killed in 2008.
She traced her decision to run for city office to the YaleWomen Conference last April, when U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro urged women to “come to the table,” Roth recalled. After conversations in January with Hausladen and his predecessor, Bitsie Clark, she was convinced to leave her traditional perch “behind the scenes.”
“I think of myself as very non-political,” said Roth, who served as Hausladen’s treasurer in 2011 and then again for part of his 2013 campaign. “I like being part of a community.”
Despite “lots of conversations … about factions” on the Board, Roth said, she has had trouble teasing out the ideological differences from the outside.
She said members of both the labor-backed majority and the People’s Caucus — the breakaway coalition — have approached her to ask about her sense of the two groups.
“When you get in there, maybe you realize [you have] to align,” Roth said. Otherwise, she hopes to approach each decision simply by studying the facts and listening, she said. “But right now I can’t see how if you just sort of study everything carefully and then be open to listen to everyone, you can’t be effective in that way,” she added.
Roth said safe streets, public safety, education and budgetary issues define her agenda — and that she hopes to pick up where Hausladen left off in advocating for traffic calming and overhauling the city’s accessibility to cyclists and pedestrians. Roth does not own a car.
She cited her experience drafting statute concerning firearms and gun control as a unique foundation for tackling urban violence.
“I get the structure of how gun laws work,” Roth said. “I’ve dealt with [police] agents for 11 years of my life.”
The best solution to gun violence, she added, is providing education and economic opportunities to young people. She said having the resources to do that depends on a fiscally responsible budget.
PHILLIPINO — A MINORITY VOICE
Phillipino, a 28-year-old resident of Olive Street, first came to New Haven six years ago to take his job at the Knights of Columbus. He is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
He said his interest in politics arises from a commitment to community service. He praised Hausladen’s tenure and said he would hope to continue his work on behalf of “safe streets and neighborhoods.” He added that he would strive to “raise the level of responsiveness with regard to quality of life issues.”
Economic development will also form a major part of his agenda, specifically measures that “make it easier for companies to invest,” he said, adding that he said he is ironing out the precise details of his platform, which will be released later this week.
Phillipino said he is not deterred by the city’s Democratic majority.
“This race is a wild card, being a special election for an open seat,” he said. “When you look at the issues locally, Republicans have a lot to offer for downtown residents and East Rock: safety and security, government accountability, fiscal responsibility.”
He added that being the single Republican lawmaker on a 30-member Board would come with its advantages, namely being allowed his first choice of committee assignments.
Phillipino, like Roth, supported former Ward 10 Alder Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 in his unsuccessful bid for the mayor’s office last year. Phillipino cited first-term Ward 19 Alder Mike Stratton as a model on issues of fiscal responsibility.
Clark, who held the seat for eight years before stepping down in 2011, said a Republican has no chance of winning.
“I just don’t think a Republican can win in New Haven — including Ward 7,” Clark said.
Andy Ross, who ran unsuccessfully as an Independent for Ward 8 alder, spoke highly of Roth but said he would like to see a Republican in the role — “to get our foot in the door.”
Roth and Phillipino have not met.