As we reflect on the meaning of this historic week in our nation’s history, we may look forward to another swearing-in ceremony, one year from now, for municipal officials in the city of New Haven. During this time of enormous change at the federal level, it is also important to consider the work that must be done in our own backyards.
As residents and voters in Ward 1, the city ward that encompasses eight of Yale’s residential colleges (all but Ezra Stiles, Morse, Silliman and Timothy Dwight) and Old Campus, we must think about whom we will send to City Hall one year from now. Our next alderman will represent the voters of Ward 1 on New Haven’s 30-person Board of Aldermen and has the opportunity to implement important changes in our city.
As the Endorsement Vote Board for Ward 1 (comprising the Democratic co-chairs and three members from the Ward 1 Democratic Committee), we are pleased to announce that the members of the Democratic Committee have approved the process by which the committee will endorse a Democratic nominee for Ward 1 alderman. On April 17, there will be a pre-primary endorsement vote open to all registered Democrats in Ward 1, and the candidate who wins this primary will receive the endorsement of the Ward 1 committee.
This is a departure from the method by which most Ward committees determine their aldermanic endorsement. In most wards, the September Democratic primary election allows others to challenge the candidate who receives the Democratic Party’s endorsement. Since the September primary takes place soon after students have returned to campus after the summer break, very little time remains for candidates in Ward 1 to mount a real campaign. As a result, the candidate who receives the Party’s endorsement very often becomes alderman.
But there is no way for the Ward Committee to accurately represent the diverse opinions of the entire Ward 1 voting body. This closed process leaves out the voices of many Ward 1 voters.
Because of these concerns, two years ago the Democratic co-chairs proposed an alternative: holding a pre-primary election open to all registered Democrats in Ward 1. The Ward 1 co-chairs pledged that they would base their endorsement on the election results. But, since there was only one candidate for the position two years ago, the system was never used. We may have the opportunity to use it now.
The pre-primary endorsement vote that will take place on April 17 will determine the Ward Committee’s endorsement. Though this vote does not replace the September Democratic primary, the endorsement vote gives candidates a chance to make their case to all of the voters of Ward 1. It also gives voters the opportunity to more actively choose their representative in City Hall.
The rules approved by the Committee state that any registered Democrat in Ward 1 can file to the run for the position of Ward 1 alderman between Jan. 21 and Feb. 27. The only requirement for becoming a candidate is gaining the signatures of 40 Democratic voters from Ward 1. Anyone who files his candidacy for the endorsement vote must pledge to comply with the results of this election and not participate in the September primary. These rules also include financial and other procedural regulations.
In last fall’s election, increased participation in the democratic process empowered people across the country to take action to improve their lives and their communities. On our own campus, we saw an extraordinary commitment to politics on the federal level through organizations like Yale for Change. And through the remarkable efforts of student groups like Shelter Now, Yale students pursue community activism on a local level.
This election affords us the opportunity to combine involvement in politics and involvement in community service in a way that can have a positive impact on the city in which we live. We hope the new process for endorsing an aldermanic candidate will further student engagement in the issues affecting New Haven. We encourage everyone to become more involved in the endorsement process and New Haven politics more generally, from registering to vote to joining the Ward Committee to running as an aldermanic candidate. And we look forward to continuing this process through April 17 and beyond.
Rhiannon Bronstein and Adzua Agyapon are sophomores in Pierson College and are the Ward 1 Democratic Co-Chairs. Christopher Chen is a sophomore in Branford College, Anna Robinson-Sweet is a sophomore in Davenport College and Benjamin Shaffer is a senior in Berkeley College, and they are members of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee Endorsement Vote Board.