In my four years at Yale, I have been involved in policymaking both within Yale, through the Yale College Council, and in New Haven, through the Roosevelt Institution. As such, I have been interested in how the Ward 1 aldermanic candidates propose to use their position as Yale students to effect positive change in the city.
At times, the opponents of Mike Jones ’11 have suggested that Mike is paying insufficient attention to larger city issues while focusing too much on Yale issues and Yale student involvement. This criticism is accurate on one front: Mike does want to use his position on the board to improve the safety of the streets within and near the Yale campus.
In each of my four years here, a Yale student has been killed or seriously injured by a car. If the Ward 1 alderman does not seek to make our streets more pedestrian- and bike-friendly to reduce these tragic occurrences, it is unlikely that anyone in city government will.
But the argument that Mike is ignoring important issues facing the city at large is flawed. I have read all of the candidates’ platforms, and I would assert that Mike’s proposals on virtually every citywide issue are the most comprehensive. Perhaps more importantly, Mike’s emphasis on Yale student involvement will make him more, not less, likely to turn these proposals into realities.
Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez and Ward 3 Alderwoman Jacqueline James wrote in a column in the News last week, “We fail to see how … an Office of Civic Engagement and a Legislative Aide program … will be of any real benefit to our constituents” (“Harrison supports crucial development,” April 10). Perhaps they do not fully understand these proposals.
Noah Kazis ’10, in a March 25 column supporting Katie Harrison ’11 (“The Yale seat, for the city”), wrote, “The other 29 aldermen must fight for scarce resources and needed services for their constituents,” while the Ward 1 alderman can focus on the issues facing the city. It is precisely this problem that Mike’s Legislative Aide program seeks to address.
Right now, the Board of Aldermen is significantly understaffed. With volunteer constituent service assistance provided by Yale students, all members of the Board can focus more of their time on big issues, including fighting crime, improving education and promoting economic development. What’s more, unlike the coordinator positions suggested by other candidates, this program would be free, leaving taxpayer dollars to address chronic issues such as homelessness.
As for the Office of Civic Engagement, it will yield citywide benefits if it is organized effectively. It will help nonprofits work together to better serve our communities in these tough economic times. It will take advantage of new media technologies to help citizens stay informed about what is happening at City Hall and make them aware of volunteer opportunities. It will let local residents know how to run for office and will conduct voter registration drives. With Yale student involvement, and only with Yale student involvement, these goals can be accomplished within the current budget realities.
All of the candidates will focus their attention on big issues facing the city, but they will do so in different ways. As last Friday’s endorsement by Aldermen Perez and James indicates, Katie Harrison will ally herself with the anti-DeStefano faction on the Board, which has historically been hostile to economic development, including the 360 State Street project. New Haven has a strong-mayor government, and it will be impossible to accomplish anything without a working relationship with the mayor, especially in one two-year term. Harrison does not seem interested in building this relationship. Additionally, she will fail to take advantage of Ward 1’s greatest asset, Yale students.
Mike Jones will join the board as an independent voice with a unique capacity to improve the lives of all New Haven residents, including Yale students, for the better. He recognizes that the Ward 1 alderman’s best assets are Yale students, and he will take full advantage of this asset for the benefit of the city.
Zach Marks is a senior in Saybrook College.