Ward 1 Aldermanic candidate Rebecca Livengood ’07 hosted an open discussion Wednesday to encourage interested Yale students to talk about issues in New Haven, ranging from urban development to the relationship between the University and the city.

The meeting was held at the Afro-American Cultural Center, where nearly 30 students sat in an informal group circle as they offered their opinions on potential challenges that Livengood could face if elected to represent seven residential colleges and Old Campus. Livengood has emerged as the leading aldermanic candidate after winning the Ward 1 Democratic Committee’s endorsement last Wednesday over Dan Weeks ’06.

In addressing on- campus topics, Livengood criticized what she called the problem of “the racial issues of Yale Police targeting students.”

She also discussed the lighter punishments Yale students receive for committing the same infractions as New Haven residents.

“There is … a disparity in the way Yale students can behave compared to the way New Haven residents can behave,” she said.

Among other community issues, Livengood said one of her main goals is to improve the relationship between Yale students and the greater community, devoting a substantial portion of discussion to the relationship between the University and other local colleges. Students at the meeting proposed solutions such as sharing resources between universities and organizing lobbying trips with students from other colleges in the area.

Livengood also discussed ways to improve citizens’ understanding of the city budget, which she said is usually an “imposing document” and the product of private agreements. The New Haven city government is currently in the process of reviewing possible budget cuts or tax increases to address a record budget deficit this year.

The group discussed possible solutions to what they pereived as the isolation of Yale’s campus from the city, ranging from campus tours hosted by the alderman to better publicity in the Yale community for New Haven events.

Addressing recent criticisms of the endorsement process, Livengood said she has great respect for the Ward 1 Democratic Committee, whose members, she said, understand the issues facing New Haven.

Some critics have argued the endorsement process eliminates a true campaign, which would force candidates to address major issues, because historically the endorsed candidate has had a virtual guarantee of victory in the fall election.

But Livengood said she is not against facing an opponent in the fall.

“I would certainly welcome a primary,” she said.

Suzanne Kahn ’07 said the Ward 1 Committee endorsement is useful because the election takes place early in the fall, before much campaigning could take place.

“[The endorsement process] makes sense in Ward 1 because of the timing of the election,” she said. “When the election takes place next fall, one-quarter of the potential voters will only have been on campus for two weeks. Turnout in alderman races, especially primaries, is low anyway, and the committee endorsement makes sense because it helps get interested voters more directly involved in the process.”