A week from today, residents of Ward 1 will head to the polls to elect their new alderman, and the stage is set for a showdown. This year’s race between Democrat incumbent Ben Healey ’04 and independent challenger Dan Kruger ’04 seems particularly contentious, with both candidates raising substantial sums in campaign contributions, running extensive voter registration drives, and knocking on the doors of many of their constituents.
Both candidates have impressed us with their commitment to work for a better New Haven, but our choice for Ward 1 alderman is Ben Healey. While Kruger has some admirable abstract ideals, Healey has concrete platforms and substantive policies, and the experience and understanding to effectively implement them.
For many of the months leading up to next week’s election, the race was polarized by the candidates’ positions on Yale unions and the strike. Healey’s staunch support of the unions drew fire as critics claimed he was not representing undergraduate students’ interests. Kruger, who openly criticized the unions and has received the official support of several residential college masters, was accused of putting the interests of the University ahead of those of New Haven.
But with labor now largely a non-issue in this race, the candidates’ plans for post-strike New Haven are revealing. Healey has a platform based on six key issues: affordable housing, domestic partnership, clean elections, homelessness, the living wage and environmental justice. Kruger’s campaign is based on increasing “active participation” in the political process by Ward 1 residents; his plans include improving communication with constituents through a Ward 1 Web site and an e-mail newsletter. While we found Kruger’s approach compelling, his platforms lack the depth that make Healey’s issues-based campaign so strong.
Healey has a concrete agenda that he formed over the past two years and will continue to build over the next two. We believe that Healey’s philosophy — what is good for New Haven is good for Yale students — is on target. Healey’s proposal for grassroots financing of mayoral elections and his commitment to press Hartford for adequate funding for city homelessness programs, for example, show clear insight into local politics and reflect issues we think are fundamentally important to students. Healey has shown a commitment to many of these issues during his first term and seems to have a clear vision for how to legislate even more effectively — including how to pass the failed domestic partnership amendment he sponsored last year — if he is elected to another term.
But there are lessons Healey can learn from Kruger, who has many positive attributes of his own. Kruger’s enthusiasm and energy have impressed us, and his commitment to communication and partnership-building are important goals. His dedication to making the work of Board of Aldermen relevant to Yale students is a welcome attitude from a candidate in a ward with a history of low voter turnout. Kruger’s critique of Healey’s failure to communicate regularly with his constituents is a fair one. Perhaps the Web site Kruger proposes is not the solution to Ward 1 nonparticipation, but we do hope Healey considers new ways to keep his constituents involved and informed.
We are confident that Healey can use what he has learned during his last term and this campaign to continue working for Ward 1 and the city. We believe that Healey is fighting for the right causes and that in a second term he will be able to affect change that benefits us in our dual roles of Yale students and residents of the city of New Haven.