Since August, much of the debate in the Ward 1 aldermanic race has focused on a single issue: development of the Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center. Nick Shalek has made progress on the project the dominant focus of his campaign, while Rebecca Livengood has advised a more measured approach emphasizing responsible development.
This is certainly an important issue for the Yale community, but the Ward 1 aldermanic race must be about more than the cancer center. The ward needs an alderman with progressive ideas and a demonstrated commitment to the other issues facing his or her constituents. In this race, we believe that the candidate with an accurate vision of the position’s duties and opportunities is Rebecca Livengood.
Shalek’s practical grasp of economic development should not be discounted, and neither should his larger contribution to the race. While both campaigns have often been disappointingly negative, Shalek has opened a valuable dialogue regarding New Haven’s economic needs, engaging a large body of students who have traditionally demonstrated little interest in city affairs.
But while Shalek has proved a dynamic candidate, his plans do not seem to extend far beyond a narrow economic focus. He has demonstrated a lack of familiarity with leading figures on key issues, including crime and affordable housing. We do not doubt that he could bridge this knowledge gap quickly if elected to the board, but the degree to which he has not yet done so leads us to question his priorities.
Livengood has taken the time to become a more astute candidate. While she was criticized in this space last March for a similar lack of knowledge on key issues and an often excessive idealism, she has now clearly demonstrated an understanding of City Hall’s practical realities.
More importantly, Livengood has proposed real ideas for New Haven. While Shalek has said he has the same views as Livengood on social issues, only Livengood has made substantive public proposals regarding affordable housing, gay rights, renewable energy, responsible development and homelessness. She has demonstrated a commitment to these issues and an effort to find viable solutions, and seems more likely to make progress on the issues a reality.
The candidates’ proposals to improve safety in the ward serve as the most telling distinction between them. Shalek took an early stand, petitioning the city to establish a new police substation. But Livengood used a more compelling strategy. She met with city officials, furthered her knowledge of the issue, and concluded that a police substation was not the most efficient or effective solution. Her argument that increased police patrols, additional lighting and block watches are more worthwhile than a substation reflects a more subtle and, ultimately, more convincing approach.
Ward 1 does not turn entirely on the question of when cancer center construction should begin. We feel more secure with Livengood’s approach to crime, and we are generally more inclined to trust her commitment to research and careful decision making than Shalek’s desire to move quickly. We trust Livengood to effect meaningful change in our city by bringing a set of well thought-out, realistic goals to the Board of Aldermen.