After five terms representing the students and other residents of Ward 7, Alderwoman Esther Armmand has announced she will not seek re-election to the city’s 30-member legislative body this fall. Armmand said she wanted to dedicate her time to other activities.
Although the November election is still months away, at least one resident said she is interested in running for the office.
Dolores Colon, a member of the Ward 7 Democratic Committee and a former Armmand campaign spokeswoman, said she “might be interested” in the committee’s nomination but would not say when she will make a final decision on her candidacy.
For almost 10 years, Armmand has answered to what is perhaps the most quirky constituency in Elm City politics, representing Ninth Square and Town Green district residents and businesses — in addition to students living in Davenport and Pierson colleges. The Mississippi-born mother of two has been party to both political success and political failure.
While colleagues said Armmand will be remembered for her leadership of the Aldermanic Affairs and Municipal Services committees, a voter-fraud scandal surrounding her opponent overshadowed her ultimately successful bid for re-election in 1999, and two separate problems plagued her leadership of the board’s Black and Hispanic Caucus.
Alderman Jelani Lawson ’96 said Armmand’s commitment to downtown redevelopment will be sorely missed.
“She cares very much for the residents of the city of New Haven and she’s done so much for downtown,” Lawson said. “She brought 10 years of solid experience to her committees and to the caucus, and we’ll notice her absence.”
Armmand will also be remembered in a positive light for her willingness to spearhead the investigation into the 1998 Livable City Initiative scandal. She presided over several investigative hearings after it was discovered that the city had issued a shady loan to a city employee.
The scandal resulted in the firing of three high-ranking city officials.
In the fall of 1999, the alderwoman lost a re-election bid to Yale student Asit Gosar ’00 by a razor-thin 29 votes, only to regain the Democratic nomination a few days later when a Yale Daily News investigation revealed that Gosar had registered and solicited votes from several students who did not actually live in the ward.
During her tenure, Armmand lead the Black and Hispanic Caucus through two separate struggles, one over media access rights and the other over the future of the caucus’ leadership.
The caucus, an informal group within the Board of Aldermen that now acts as a voice for the board’s 17 minority members, has gained more clout over the last decade, since the caucus’ members now constitute a voting majority within the body.
Armmand would not likely have faced a challenge from within Yale ranks had she chosen to run this year.
One Yale Law School student, Daniel Adamson ’98 LAW ’03, considered running against Armmand in the Democratic primary but announced last month that he would not seek the position, citing continuing bad blood between Yale and the city following Gosar’s controversial 1999 bid.
But according to some, Armmand decision not to run has opened the playing field considerably.
Although Ward 7 Democratic Committee co-chairman Nate Zeidenberg said he was not aware of any potential candidates, Shayna Strom ’02, who volunteers for Armmand within Ward 7, said she wouldn’t be surprised if a student stepped forward before the fall.
“Now that she’s not running, the seat is up for grabs again,” Strom said. “It wouldn’t be a Yale student challenger against an incumbent anymore.”
But she was quick to add: “I personally would definitely discourage a student from running unless there’s broad support in the city part of the ward.”