Apathy abounds in Ward 1. While the aldermanic election has raised a number of important issues, many Yale students simply aren’t interested.
The simple truth is that the machine politics of New Haven have disillusioned and disengaged many from the political process. While government should turn to the people for guidance, all too often it looks to special interests that claim to represent them.
This election is symptomatic of these two approaches. We have a choice between a candidate who believes in politics as usual and another who believes New Haven can refrain from the politics of the few. I personally have decided to vote for Nick Shalek on Nov. 8 because he believes, as I do, that minority organizations, no matter how noble in cause, do not speak for the people.
One does not have to look too far to see this difference. Livengood was nominated in the spring through the same committee that has effectively denied Ward 1 a competitive election for years. This 41-person committee, made up mostly of unrepresentative political activists, spoke for the entirety of Ward 1 and chose a candidate well out of the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Since mounting a primary challenge in early September is near impossible with students barely returned from summer vacation, this undemocratic process has a near monopoly on choosing our aldermanic representative.
Livengood, having been chosen by 41 friends, was then appointed to the position of alderwoman. Appointment is no way to choose a representative: It is both unfair and hypocritical for anybody who believes in grassroots democracy.
Nick Shalek is offering students a choice for the first time in a long while. It is an uphill battle for him because he is challenging the legitimacy of this well-organized political machine.
Nick is not running just to provide a choice. He is running to provide a better choice. If you are wondering why this election matters, simply look at the Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center. The same union that has failed to organize the hospital’s workers for the better part of a decade is usurping the voice of the unbuilt cancer center’s future workers and deciding on its own that it best represents their interests. With the backing of local government and interest groups, they have used procedural red tape to effectively put the center’s construction on hold.
In the spring Livengood testified to her devotion to this national union, stating that unionization was non-negotiable. She is willing to delay cancer center construction — and the 1,000 jobs it will create — until workers are unionized. All the while, the voice of the people who will actually service the hospital is left outside the loop.
Why not let workers have a secret ballot — a fair, legal and democratic process — to decide what’s in their best interest? Livengood and the Service Employees International Union know that their process, “card-check neutrality,” allows for the same intimidation and harassing tactics that GESO organizers have employed in the past.
Nick Shalek is not anti-union. He is far from it. A registered Democrat, he believes in common-sense liberalism. As former president of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, he has worked with private sector companies to help them find socially and environmentally sound solutions to problems. He does not simply picket and demand change in a belligerent manner. This only leads to polarization and prevents middle-ground compromise. Although this kind of activism is well-intentioned, it is impractical and ineffective. Blind obedience to national unions is not wise policy.
Nick Shalek has said he will support New Haven’s Clean Air Initiative and the city’s goal of using 20 percent renewable energy by 2010. He will also work with New Haven businesses to create partnerships with the EPA’s Green New Haven and Performance Track initiatives.
Livengood has criticized Shalek because he works for the Yale Investments Office. I fail to see the problem. Plenty of aldermen have worked for Yale: Joyce Chen, Joe Jolly, Andrea Jackson-Brooks and the late Phil Voigt. Yale is, after all, the largest employer in New Haven. What’s so troubling about this criticism is that students aligned with GESO and the UOC have fostered an incredibly antagonistic relationship with Yale. Picketing and shouting may get attention, but it’s no way to get things done.
Nick believes in a cooperative relationship with Yale, and he isn’t afraid to demand change when it’s needed. In the past week he collected 500 signatures on a letter to President Levin urging a more permanent police presence in the Lynwood, Edgewood and Howe areas. He also believes Yale needs to improve on its investment to New Haven public schools.
Nick Shalek may have sacrificed union support, but he is free to judge their demands without bias. While a registered Democrat, he is independent of the undemocratic nominating process. He has also not made deals with the mayor regarding Jorge Perez’s or Carl Goldfield’s candidacies for president of the Board of Aldermen. Livengood cannot say the same.
Let’s elect an alderman who represents the mainstream of the Yale student body, someone who will listen to both sides in a political dispute, and one who is, above all, independent.
Jorge Solis is a senior in Pierson College. He volunteers as a communications staffer for Shalek’s campaign.