Aldermanic candidates Rebecca Livengood ’07 and Dan Weeks ’06 traded qualifications, proposals and names of prominent city leaders with whom they had worked as they sought to differentiate their positions despite similar platforms.
Yesterday’s “Meet the Candidates” forum, sponsored by the Yale College Democrats, was designed to introduce the two candidates vying for the Ward 1 Democratic Committee’s endorsement on Wednesday, College Democrats President Alissa Stollwerk ’06 said. The candidate who has gained the endorsement of the committee has traditionally been voted into office by the predominantly liberal Ward 1, which encompasses seven of Yale’s residential colleges and 900 registered voters. Last night’s forum offered additional information to undecided members of the 43-student committee.
Conflict over Yale-New Haven Hospital’s proposed $430 million cancer center provided insight into the candidates’ differing approaches. Both candidates saw the center as what Weeks called “a tremendous opportunity for New Haven” but shied away from supporting it until concerns about the hospital’s relationship with its workers and neighbors is resolved.
Livengood said that while some requests of the cancer center, such as planning open public space into its construction, were negotiable, others, including obtaining representation in the Service Employees’ International Union for hospital workers, were not. Weeks, on the other hand, said he supports unionization of the hospital’s 1,800 workers, a “black-and-white issue,” but would allow construction to go forward if the hospital agreed to socially responsible development.
Weeks’ stance epitomized what he called a key component of his candidacy — his intimate and pragmatic knowledge of the political process.
“Accepting incremental change isn’t always very satisfying, but it’s part of the political process,” he said.
Livengood focused on her activist background, experience organizing and involvement in numerous groups such as the Undergraduate Organizing Committee.
More specifically, Livengood presented her main platform issues — an end to the policy evicting homeless individuals from shelters after 90 days, a no-freeze program to prevent hypothermia-related deaths, and a focus on renewable energy, responsible development initiatives, and gay rights “as a question of civil rights” — as Democratic ideals.
“These issues have been my priorities and that is how you know they will continue to be a priority,” she said.
Weeks said the Ward 1 alderman must be able to work with his or her constituency, the New Haven community, and the political machine itself. As founder of Students for Clean Elections, a former YCC representative, a door-to-door advocate for a gay rights legislator, and the developer of an ordinance on campaign finance in alliance with city leaders, Weeks said he was positioned to undertake all these responsibilities.
Weeks said his four primary concerns were affordable housing, a living wage, renewable energy and “real” — socially conscious — economic development.
The candidates agreed on the need to incorporate more of their constituents in the political process. Weeks said he wanted to give organizations on campus concrete suggestions for getting involved in local politics, while Livengood she would use office hours and frequent e-mails to get her constituents to see they are “not Yale students and New Haven residents, but Yale students who are New Haven residents.”
Ben Healey ’04, the current Ward 1 alderman, said the candidates’ platforms reflect key issues they would face in office.
“Every alderman sets their own priorities,” he said. “But these are the issues that never go away.”
Healey said the Ward 1 alderman must prove “they are not just there for their resume.”
“The real qualities the alderman needs are a sincere desire to engage a diverse set of partners and a willingness to listen to other opinions, but the values to ground their own,” he said.
Though historically, candidates not endorsed by the Democratic Committee have conceded the race, both candidates said they would consider running in a primary this September for the Democratic nomination.
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