Perhaps the best quality Ben Healey can offer to his constituents is this: he knows what it is to be a good alderman. He has learned how to communicate with his constituents and how to represent their views effectively to the rest of the board.
Over the last two years, Healey has built a close relationship with the other members of the Board of Aldermen. He is a respected voice in a body where esteem and personal connections count. His opponent, Dan Kruger, confesses that he doesn’t know the board well. This is a strange confession for a candidate who says he strives to improve communications between Yale and the Board of Alderman. At his Master’s Tea last Thursday, Kruger promised to defer to Project Orange, the community group seeking to pass the Domestic Partnership Amendment, on strategy regarding that bill. While the carrot of power may appeal to me, as Project Orange’s political director, the prospect of an unprepared and uninformed alderman as the key sponsor of this legislation does not.
Ben Healey has proven himself a progressive, independent thinker and a political risk taker. When he learned of a bill to create a domestic partner registry that would extend hospital visitation rights, insurance benefits and other basic rights to same-sex couples, which had failed in the Board of Aldermen years before, he led an effort to pass a similar bill last year. When concerned allies advised him to pocket this Domestic Partnership Amendment, Healey was not discouraged. He saw an opportunity to pass a law that would extend basic rights to same sex couples. The Amendment offered him a chance to ensure that all citizens would be welcomed and protected by their city. Healey considered his sponsors, tallied his promised votes, and decided that he wouldn’t wait to fight for equality in New Haven.
Once he had introduced the Amendment, Healey worked tirelessly with his colleagues and community organizers to raise awareness and educate the city on the issue. Kruger has alleged that Healey did not effectively mobilize students to support the Amendment. These claims are ludicrous. Healey was instrumental in founding, advising and supporting Project Orange. By extension, every student who called an alderman, attended the rally at City Hall, or watched the final vote at Project Orange’s urging did so as a result of Healey’s efforts.
The final vote was a tense and emotional affair. Yet Healey led his fellow supporters in a display of civility and grace. Through his diligence and diplomacy, Healey rallied the Amendment’s proponents even in the face of the emerging reality of defeat. But the loss that night was a technicality, a fluke of aldermanic procedure. The substance of the evening was the victory of community. Fifteen members of the board supported the bill while only nine stood to oppose it. Healey has promised to overturn the defeat by February, and the sense of camaraderie, community and leadership he displayed that night last spring will help ensure his success.
This is only one of Healey’s accomplishments, the one to which I am most personally connected. But it is indicative of Healey the man and Healey the alderman. It reflects the qualities that he brings to the Ward 1 seat and the respect with which he treats it. His commitment to Project Orange brought the Domestic Partnership Amendment to the brink of success. His continuing support would be an invaluable resource in passing it this year. He is a strong leader dedicated to his constituents and to his city. He is an experienced and respected alderman whose rapport with the board gives him the influence to represent Yale students’ interests. He is a progressive and independent thinker who values the rights of the Yale community, both students and workers, even when they conflict with the wishes of the administration. His ability to make decisions independent from the wishes of a powerful institution intimately connected to his ward gives him valuable credibility with his fellow aldermen.
With Healey’s impressive record and political savvy, those voters evaluating Kruger need only consider one thing: how effective can an alderman with no connections to the board possibly be?
Kruger wants to diminish Healey’s considerable achievements with unfounded allegations. He wants to slander staunch support for citizens’ rights as blind ideology. He wants to label partnership with community organizations as negligence. He needs to be told that leadership cannot be measured in numbers of e-mails sent to students. True leadership is found in the partnerships it makes and the people it inspires. It is found in vision. Yale students need an alderman who will represent them on the board, not point a patronizing finger at it.
In short, they need Ben Healey.
Beth France is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. She is the political director of Project Orange.