The News has been suffering from a distinct lack of discussion of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for Ward 1 alderman. Every day, I have found space on this page that has not been covered with text that addresses today’s exciting election, which will definitively determine the winner of the Ward 1 aldermanic race, barring Republicans or embittered Independents.
Why the radio silence? Perhaps potential voters are cynical about the power of aldermen in New Haven’s “strong-mayor” form of municipal government, in which the mayor has wide-ranging administrative power and can staff the major city departments with little input from the Board of Aldermen. But whoever wins the Ward 1 election will fill an important role as a freshman member of an august 30-person committee that makes a number of useful suggestions to the mayor, oversees zoning and puts its stamp on the budget each year.
The previous aldermen have, in fact, made a number of crucial contributions to the City of New Haven and to Yale. The incumbent Ward 1 alderwoman, Rachel Plattus ’09, has worked on a college scholarship program that was recently mentioned by the mayor in a speech. Nick Shalek ’05, her predecessor, sent out several newsletters and, according to Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar, “made this great spreadsheet extrapolating the last four years of the budget over the next five to 10 years.” The legendary Ben Healey ’04, who served from 2001 to 2005, was one of the major supporters of a same-sex domestic partnership ordinance that lost by only a single vote.
We’ve learned a lot about each aldermanic candidate over the course of the campaign. Minh Tran ’09, for instance, stresses his experience by way of flyers boasting that he has spent “Two Whole Summers in New Haven.” Moreover, he has occupied a laundry list of positions both in Yale student government and in the city. Yet some voters remain skeptical of Tran’s ability to balance the political position with the demands of his impending Teach for America placement, let alone his rumored second job as a short-order cook in nearby Hamden. Despite these concerns, Tran says he plans to be the most “visible” Ward 1 alderman of all time, a definite swipe at Plattus, who so values “transparency” that she can only be detected using special glasses.
Mike Jones ’11, an avowed pragmatist, has a plan for increasing Yale pedestrian safety by reducing speed limits from 25 to 20 miles per hour in the vicinity of the Yale campus. The resulting inconvenience to New Haven drivers could then be offset by raising the speed limit everywhere else in the city. In addition, he plans to institute a program in which Yale students assist various aldermen in exchange for “résumé credits” that they can apply toward earning various jobs of their choosing.
Katie Harrison ’11 is the most tantalizingly vague of all the candidates. One almost wants to vote for her just to see what she will end up doing. Will she work within the mainstream of New Haven aldermanic politics, or ally with the ragtag band of anti-DeStefano rebels hiding out in Edgewood Park? Only time will tell. What we know about her now is that she has a number of very large, sweeping plans, but we cannot be sure what any of them might be.
Ultimately, we should recognize that each candidate brings something unique to the table. Harrison is a visionary, Jones is a realist, and Tran is by all accounts a very honorable, knowledgeable, earnest sort of person. This is not to say that they lack common ground entirely. For instance, it seems that all of them agree that “a vibrant New Haven is a vibrant Yale.” Each has uttered that exact statement at least 12 times on their campaign Web sites or during debates. Indeed, their main quibbles are more methodological than ideological, centering on how best to transform New Haven into a scintillating utopia of peace, love and opportunity. Tran says visibility; Harrison says idealism; Jones says crosswalks.
But as voters, why should we automatically feel as though we have to choose between these three alluring options? After considerable deliberation, I have decided to break with the News’ Managing Board and endorse a combined ticket of Jones, Tran and Harrison for Ward 1 alderman.
I can’t imagine that any of the candidates would object to such a time-share. Jones, after all, is looking to engage more Yalies in city government, and what better way to accomplish this than to have three student aldermen? Harrison will be free to address the broad issues facing New Haven without having to deal with the annoying demands of the ward that she actually represents. And I imagine Tran will be grateful just to have extra people to hold down the fort while he logs 12-hour days at his actual job. Most importantly, each candidate will be able to experience the personal growth and prestige that comes with being the Ward 1 alderman of the City of New Haven.
So when you head out to the polls tomorrow, don’t let the divisiveness of the respective campaigns stop you from doing the right thing. Locate the “write in” section of your ballot and cast your vote for “Mike Jones, Katie Harrison and Minh Tran.” I’m sure they’ll all do a great job together, bless their hearts.