Last night’s debate reaffirmed our conviction that Mike Jones ’11 is the correct choice for Ward 1 alderman. New Haven Action, a political action committee founded in 2004, has lain dormant for years, but we aspire to revive it, with a focus on local politics and a commitment to social service. Our board, comprised of students representing diverse progressive interests across campus, voted to endorse Mike Jones in the aldermanic race following substantive interviews with the three candidates.
The decision was not an easy one, but as an organization whose mission is to involve more Yale students with politics, policy and service in the City of New Haven, Jones was by far the best choice.
In our conversations with the candidates, we were impressed by the passion Katie Harrison ’11 shows for progressive issues and with the enthusiasm of Minh Tran ’09. We are concerned that Tran will not be a Yale student next year, because we believe the Ward 1 alderman must have daily contact with the student body. Although Tran’s plans for weekly dinners and meetings are admirable, it seems unlikely that current students who are not engaged with local issues would have dinner with an alumnus to discuss these issues. Jones and Harrison will be having these dinners every day with their peers. In the end, however, this was not the deciding factor, and it does not explain why we support Jones over Harrison. We are most impressed with Jones’ ambitious, yet pragmatic, vision for the unique position of Ward 1 alderman.
When we met with Jones, we were encouraged by his knowledge of city issues and impressed by the contact he has already had with city officials. More than the other candidates, Jones and his team have crafted and begun work on key policy initiatives. These range from issues as basic as adding crosswalks on and around campus to proposals as bold as the development of a New Haven Office of Civic Engagement, a suggestion already met with enthusiasm from other elected officials.
Jones is committed to bridging the gap between Yale and New Haven. He has proposed a program to bring more Yale students into City Hall, working as legislative aides for the Board of Aldermen. This would afford Yale students an opportunity to learn from and contribute to city government, while offering aldermen needed assistance. In addition, because more Yale students would understand the complexities of city government, there will be even more qualified candidates for Ward 1 alderman in the future, benefiting Yale and New Haven while fostering healthy democratic competition.
Some have asserted that Jones’ focus on Yale will prevent him from working on citywide issues, but we believe it is precisely this emphasis on student involvement that will enable him to effectively address the crucial issues facing our city. In fact, Jones’ legislative aide program strives to help the Board become more efficient and effective. Aides will assist aldermen in bringing their ideas to fruition, decreasing the time before completed proposals are presented to the Board. The legislative aide program will help the Board pass progressive policy that benefits all New Haven residents, not just Yale students.
Jones has impressive policy ideas on many of these issues. On homelessness, Jones is in favor of creating more supportive housing and will work with the Board to push for a regional answer, the only feasible solution to this complex problem. He hopes to work with the Board to accomplish this by “aggressively pursuing community-based partnerships to shore up the resources necessary to keep shelters open and evaluating the efficiency of current programs and resources,” according to his campaign’s Web site.
On the Elm City ID Card, he will work with the Board to improve access to bank accounts through the new community bank. Finally, on education, Jones hopes to work within the constraints of the board to promote a bold public health program for New Haven Public Schools. By involving more Yale students in the process through the legislative aide program, Jones will actually accomplish this agenda for the people of New Haven.
When we asked Jones about criticisms that have been leveled against him, he offered clear and honest answers. He has been clear in his support for the Elm City ID Card in his two years at Yale. In addition, we do not believe Yale students will judge him on everything he posted on an uninformed blog in high school. Finally, when we asked him about rumored higher ambitions, he answered, with a laugh, that he is running for Ward 1 alderman and nothing else. In fact, we are convinced that he is in the race for all the right reasons: to bring about change in New Haven and involve more Yale students in that process.
Jacob Doctoroff is a sophomore in Saybrook College and Daniel Hornung is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College. They are co-presidents of New Haven Action.