SHAPIRO & WASSERMAN: Our ward, our responsibility

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Photo by annelisa .

On Jan. 1, as the nation rang in the new year, New Haven welcomed a new mayor and six new alders, joining Yale’s new president who had been inaugurated three months prior. There may not have been fireworks, but this transition is certainly monumental. With new leadership, New Haven and Yale are poised to evolve our 300-year-old partnership into something more collaborative and equitable than ever. But all who live here should play a part in promoting that progress.

For many Yale students, New Haven feels like home. But as transitory residents, we often question our role in this city. Do we deserve to engage in the political process? Conversely, do we have a responsibility to imagine and act on the future of this city? It’s our belief that the latter is true — that we, as Yalies and New Haven residents, can and should participate in the democratic process.

New Haven’s political structure uniquely facilitates our participation in city affairs. Because the political districts, or wards, are small, each voter has a considerable voice. The 4,000 or so registered voters in each ward are represented by one alder. This hyper-local political system fosters a lively dialogue among residents and helps make New Haven the progressive city it is. Because we believe that students have great potential to make a difference in our city, we are excited to announce our candidacy as co-chairs for the Ward 1 Democratic Committee.

The role of ward co-chair offers an opportunity to ground the democratic process in conversations with individual ward residents. This position invites creativity over a range of responsibilities. The duties of the ward co-chairs include voting to endorse mayoral and alder candidates and meeting regularly with a committee of registered Democrats in the ward. In Ward 1, that committee is comprised of students. In other words, Ward 1’s co-chairs don’t just represent constituents; they directly engage students in the important decisions of our local democracy.

In running for this position, we hope to build on the work done by outgoing co-chairs Ben Crosby ’14 and Nia Holston ’14. We aim to encourage progressive groups on campus to coalesce around the issues that matter to all of us as residents of New Haven. The agenda that we set for the two years of our term will be based on what voters care about.

In campaigning for Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 this fall, we had the opportunity to identify the issues that resonate with Ward 1 residents: forging a healthier town-gown relationship, reopening the Q House and preventing youth violence, among others. As co-chairs, we are committed to engaging Yalies in these ongoing processes. We want to unite diverse voices at Yale and create a space for politically minded groups to interact and collaborate in realizing our shared goals for the city. And we also want to draw in students new to politics in the hopes that they discover their potential to play a positive role in shaping this community. Most of all, we want to encourage all Yale students — whether or not they can vote in New Haven — to consider this place their home.

As co-chairs, we will use our experience with community building and political organizing, experience that will be essential as we work to build a strong and unified ward committee. Both of us were active in Sarah Eidelson’s re-election campaign this fall, which necessitated coalition building on campus. Ariana is an organizer with Students Unite Now, where she is working on a campaign for justice in financial aid. Jacob serves as legislative coordinator of the Yale College Democrats, leading advocacy efforts for progressive change at the state and local levels.

We look forward to seeing where we can take the co-chair position. Fortunately, this role requires constant communication and collaboration with students. We hope you’ll join us in our mission to connect Yale students to New Haven politics. It’s our responsibility and privilege to play a part in the development of this dynamic city that we call home.

Ariana Shapiro is a sophomore in Branford College. Jacob Wasserman is a sophomore in Saybrook College. They are candidates for Ward 1 co-chairs.

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