Despite our differences, Yale and Dixwell go to the polls together today to cast our ballots for Ward 22 alderman.
Ward 22, composed of Dixwell and four of Yale’s residential colleges, saw a fierce race to replace former alderman Rev. Drew King, who resigned after allegations of assault. The campaign between Lisa Hopkins, Greg Morehead, Reggie Lytle and Cordelia Thorpe proved dramatic. Thorpe, co-chair of the ward Democratic committee, contested the validity of Morehead’s receiving the Demoratic endorsement. All the candidates but Morehead had trouble canvassing students, as only those with a Yale student escort can canvass door to door, and only Morehead, endorsed by the Yale College Democrats, received an invitation. And with rain forecasted, voter turnout is expected to be low.
There is no true standout among the four. Thorpe is a polarizing figure, and Lytle’s platform is limited in its scope, although as a mentor and football coach, he is a positive influence on his neighborhood.
The News also finds much about Morehead’s candidacy to be problematic. He received the Democratic nomination on March 8, a week after King resigned and before Hopkins and Lytle declared their candidacies. By contrast, Ward 1 changed its nomination procedure last year to prevent just such a lopsided race and the appearance of a candidate’s having been hand-selected. Morehead’s platform, too, is questionable. Having lived in New Haven since only 2000, he focuses on building unity between Dixwell and Yale, but the News would argue that, though Yale students can contribute to the well-being of the commuity, the Dixwell alderman should not be the one focused on reconciling the significant economic and social differences between Yale students and Dixwell residents. Morehead’s focus on youth issues is commendable but unoriginal, and we do not know how he would fund the 24-hour youth center he proposes.
Hopkins, in contrast, was a much less effective campaigner, but the News is impressed with her track record as a community organizer and housing advocate and with the creativity of parts of her platform. Instead of building a new youth center, Hopkins proposes improving the youth programming at the already heavily used Stetson Library. As president of her block association, she has mobilized her neighbors against a developer doing shoddy work on their street. While the true depth of her support in Dixwell is questionable, her tenure as block presidency suggests she can bring people together in support of a goal. And while one can also question how she could function on a board where she would have at first few allies, her opponents are all equally untried, and an equally valid question can be asked as to whether Morehead, a relative newcomer to New Haven and supported so strongly by the city’s Democratic Party, has had the opportunity to develop his own reasoned perspective on his ward’s needs.
In short, neither Hopkins nor Morehead is an ideal candidate, but the News leans, if not entirely without reservation, toward Hopkins’ candidacy. Though a completely new face on the board, she could be a principled advocate for Ward 22’s particular interests, provided she is effective in collaborating with her peer aldermen.