Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 and challenger Daniel Kruger ’04 traded barbs about each other’s records and platforms Tuesday night in the candidates’ final debate before the November general election.
During the debate, which was sponsored by the Yale Political Union, the two candidates laid out different visions of Yale’s relationship to New Haven. While the candidates expressed similar positions on many major issues, the two seniors said they would pursue different strategies for representing Ward 1, which includes eight residential colleges and Old Campus.
Kruger opened the debate — which about 100 people attended — by criticizing Healey for failing to consult students on issues before the Board, especially issues concerning Yale’s labor relations. Healey responded by touting his record of working together with his constituents for a “more progressive Board of Aldermen” and emphasizing his experience on the city’s legislative body.
Although a three-week strike by members of locals 34 and 35 ended over a month ago, the two candidates frequently mentioned their differing views on the relationship between Yale and its unions. Kruger said his willingness to challenge the unions during the strike — as well as the administration and City Hall — demonstrated that he would serve as an “independent voice” for Yale students.
In addition to criticizing Healey’s support of the strike, Kruger said Healey’s support for measures removing constables at Yale-New Haven Hospital and encouraging Yale to pay the city more in return for property tax exemptions were not in the best interest of his constituents.
“It has the effect of forming a division between town and gown that is not productive,” Kruger said.
But while Healey said he agreed that the Yale administration would prefer that he did not serve on the Board, he said his connections to the unions were no different from the support Kruger enjoys from three residential college masters.
“You know who our friends are, and you know who we’ll be working with,” Healey said.
Throughout the debate, Kruger repeated one of the central themes of his campaign — that Healey had not done enough to tell Yale students about how city politics affect the University.
“Over the past two and a half years, we have witnessed what I would call absent consultation,” said Kruger, who is running as an independent. To illustrate his point, Kruger said Healey had not contacted voters in Timothy Dwight and Silliman colleges when they were redistricted out of Ward 1 last year.
But Healey said Kruger’s focus on creating better contact through e-mail and town hall meetings would be a poor substitute for his experience on the Board of Aldermen.
“Change doesn’t happen over e-mail,” Healey said. “It happens when we work together for a better life for all of us.”
One of the most contentious points in the debate, however, occurred when Kruger criticized Healey for a 37 percent absence rate at committee meetings during the current term of the Board. Healey responded by saying Kruger was being “dishonest” by failing to note Healey’s perfect attendance at meetings of the full board or committee sessions where important items were up for discussion.
While the candidates agreed on the need for better transportation, improved environmental standards and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, they differed on who would be better positioned to enact new measures. But even though the two agreed on many key issues, they argued over who would be better at affecting change, with Healey citing his experience and Kruger emphasizing his willingness to engage Yale students.
The audience at the debate, which was the second between the two candidates, included a large contingent of Healey supporters in green T-shirts, as well as several members of each of the YPU’s parties. YPU President Steven Christoforou ’04, who moderated the debate, said the event was unconventional for the group, which typically does not get involved in city politics.
“I was pretty pleased with it,” Christoforou said. “It was an experiment we are trying to do this term.”
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