Shortly after the ball dropped to herald the beginning of 2006, the New Haven Board of Aldermen also began a new era. Last Tuesday, Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield edged out incumbent aldermanic President Jorge Perez 16-14, who had held the position since 2000. If Mayor John DeStefano Jr. wins the Connecticut gubernatorial race this November, Goldfield will take his place. Goldfield, who had DeStefano’s backing, has promised a more proactive agenda and a commitment to more progressive politics than his predecessor. To date, he has voiced his support for a provision requiring inspection of absentee-owned rental units, worked to establish publicly-funded mayoral elections in New Haven and supported the city’s registry for gay and lesbian couples.
As the guard changes, we are excited by the opportunities Goldfield seems to offer New Haven. Though he is hardly an Elm City political outsider, Goldfield has demonstrated the willingness and the ability to bring a refreshing perspective and important issues to the board’s attention, and under his stewardship, the board has a chance to reconsider its priorities and refocus its energies.
Most prominently, this change in perspective can be an asset in the ongoing debate regarding the proposed Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center. The issue has too often become a frustrating stalemate, and we believe Perez — who resides in Ward 5 and answers to the potential neighbors of the proposed cancer center — is at least partly to blame. Goldfield’s relative distance from the issue, geographically and otherwise, leaves him no excuse to delay the debate any further, and provides him with a greater chance to push the board toward a consensus.
While many Perez supporters championed their candidate’s own ethnicity as a valuable asset in maintaining the diversity of a city that is more than 20 percent black and Hispanic, we believe Goldfield’s diverse constituent base — including Yusuf Shah, the Ward 23 alderman and president of the board’s Black and Hispanic Caucus — speaks to the new president’s broader leadership.
And while newly-elected Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05 refrained from offering his support to either candidate during much of the campaign, he ultimately voted for Goldfield. It is our hope that Shalek’s support for the new aldermanic president does not end at the ballot box, and that he redoubles his efforts to foster a constructive relationship between town and gown.
Goldfield’s election offers a useful opportunity for the Board of Aldermen to evaluate its priorities and focus its energies towards finding solutions to the problems that have dogged the city in recent months. We have confidence that Goldfield will approach these issues with his characteristic equanimity, and that his roles as both insider and outsider can help the Board of Alderman to accomplish real change in this city.