As 116 votes Tuesday officially secured her the seat of Ward 1 alderperson, uncontested candidate Rachel Plattus ’09 eschewed specific plans for her two-year term on the Board of Aldermen, instead espousing broad legislative priorities.
“It’s really going to be important to work on education,” she said after the results were tallied.
Much unlike the last round of municipal elections, Tuesday’s contests drew only 128 voters to the polls — the lowest turnout in recent Ward 1 history.
The numbers marked a dramatic change from 2005, when voter turnout in Ward 1 reached 44 percent. In 2003, 541 votes were cast in a contested race in which Ben Healey ’04 won reelection. When Healey first ran in an uncontested election in 2001, he garnered the votes of 291 residents of the ward. Two years ago, more than 800 Ward 1 residents cast votes in an election pitting independent challenger Nick Shalek ’05 against incumbent Democrat Rebececa Livengood ’07.
Plattus said she is above all pleased that she can now begin to focus on her aldermanic duties.
“It feels more real,” she said. “I’m really excited about working with my colleagues. I’m allowed to call them colleagues now.”
Noah Kazis ’09, Plattus’ campaign manager, said Plattus has a unique opportunity to look beyond the confines of her own ward in her new position.
“Ward 1 alder is a special position because they don’t have to deal with sidewalks and other problems,” he said. “Rachel can take a broader look at the city. … Other alders help their constituents with their children’s education, rather than education in general. She is very conscious of that.”
Without an opponent in the race, Plattus did not need to offer highly specific proposals for her tenure, though she did arrive at the post-election party proudly wearing the green, card-shaped button in support of the Elm City Resident Card. She has said previously that campaign promises often do not translate into workable goals once candidates make it into office and that she could spend her time more effectively by sitting down with current members of the Board of Aldermen to discuss city policies.
Jacob Koch ’10, who has worked with Plattus as a fellow member of the Roosevelt Institution, said Plattus will pay close attention to her constituents, even if she does not have to focus on small-scale problems like potholes and tree trimming. As Ward 1 alderwoman, she is expected to be the voice of most of Yale’s campus, he said, and for students who are interested in local politics, having a current student on the board is a tremendous asset.
While education may be one of her main issues, the issues for which Plattus ultimately advocates will depend of “the tide of the campus,” Koch said.
Eric Kafka ’08, president of the Yale College Democrats, said that not having had an opponent will not hinder Plattus in the long-run, and the Dems are excited to begin working with her in her official capacity.
“The focus should be on how we can work together and make some progressive changes in New Haven,” he said.
Yale Democrats Issues Coordinator Abby McCartney ’10 said she thinks the number of students who turned out — which she said was high for an uncontested race on a rainy day — is a clear indication of Plattus’ qualifications.
Plattus said she is glad that Democratic Ward 25 Alderwoman Ina Silverman ’80 managed to retain her seat against Republican challenger Tom Malone after one of the most vigorous aldermanic campaigns this election cycle. As someone who also places a high value on education, Silverman is “a potentially great colleague on the board,” Plattus said.
Ward 1 includes Old Campus and Branford, Saybrook, Trumbull, Calhoun, Berkeley, Davenport and Pierson colleges.
In Tuesday’s contest, 12 voters cast blank ballots for the Ward 1 seat.
-Lacey Gonzales contributed reporting.