This year’s race for Ward 1 Alderman is now wide open after Michael Jones ’11 announced he would not run for a second term on the Board of Aldermen.
In an announcement to the News Wednesday, Jones, a senior in Saybrook, said he would not seek reelection primarily because he has yet to find a post-graduation job in New Haven at which he would want to stay for several years. While Jones could have waited until August to file as a candidate, he said postponing his decision until then would have unfairly compromised the ability of other candidates to run for his seat in November.
“It’s time for someone else to come through and make their mark,” Jones said in an interview Wednesday night.
Rather than build the infrastructure for a reelection campaign, Jones said he decided it best to focus on his job search. If he had committed now to running for another two-year term as alderman, he would have had to take “a job just to have a job,” he said.
There are currently no declared candidates in the race.
Jones said he is confident that a good successor could be found for his seat on the 30-member Board of Aldermen.
“There are many talented people at Yale who have made it their mission to give back to New Haven — I’m sure someone will step up,” Jones said.
THE ROLE OF THE ‘YALE ALDERMAN’
The Ward 1 Alderman’s role is a source of constant debate both on and off campus.
With Yale providing for most of its students’ needs, residents of the ward — which includes Old Campus and eight residential colleges — do not have the same concerns as in the city’s other 29 wards. This allows the Ward 1 alderman to champion citywide progressive causes that are more difficult politically for aldermen with constituents that have day-to-day needs from the city, said Ben Stango ’11, former president of the Yale College Democrats.
Jones has done exactly that with his advocacy for LGBTQ rights and an expanded living wage law, Stango said.
One of Jones’ major initiatives during his term has been an effort to increase the minimum wage the city can pay its employees and workers on city-funded projects. The legislation, which would also expand the coverage of the living wage ordinance, has met stiff resistance from Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and several aldermen, who have said it is not fiscally sound.
Recently, Jones introduced legislation with Ward 9 Alderman Matt Smith ’98 and Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 to make “gender identity or expression” a protected class in the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances.
But not all agree that promoting progressive causes should be the role of the Ward 1 Alderman.
Rather than being a “progressive do-gooder,” Nathaniel Zelinsky ’13 said, the Ward 1 Alderman should focus on addressing Yale students’ local day-to-day concerns.
“Especially in light of recent events like the Elevate raid and muggings on Park Street, we need the Ward 1 Alderman to represent Yale students,” Zelinsky said.
‘NOT READY TO REFLECT BACK’
Aldermen interviewed Wednesday night said they understand his reasons for departing.
“He’s a bright guy, and as a graduate of Yale he’ll have opportunities all over the country,” Ward 29 Alderman and Board President Carl Goldfield said. “No one would fault him if he decided staying wasn’t in his best interest.”
Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said while she will be sad to see Jones go, she understands that as a graduating senior looking for a job, running for reelection may not be the right choice for him.
Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson said he would have been ecstatic if Jones had decided to run.
Goldson said he was hoping to work with Jones if he stayed on for a second term on several legislative initiatives, especially concerning affordable housing in New Haven, he said. Jones has been a “very positive influence” on the Board of Aldermen, he added.
“When we’re at odds, I know I can be frank with him,” Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson said. “He’s a smart guy who listens to all sides and makes decisions based on facts, not political friendships.”
THE ROAD TO NOVEMBER
Jones said he has already learned a “tremendous amount” from his time as an alderman, and recommended the position as a way to “give back to the community.”
“The Board of Aldermen has been as informative as a classroom as any of those on campus,” Jones said.
Jones said he intends to continue his work on the issues he has worked on as alderman in “some other capacity” after his term ends in December. But before then, he said, he intends to see his living wage and gender expression protection proposals become law.
“I still have a third of my term left,” Jones said. “I’m not ready to reflect back yet.”
Because the Ward 1 Democratic Committee decided in January to not endorse a candidate, the bulk of this year’s campaigning will likely begin when the class of 2015 arrives on campus.
In contrast, Jones effectively won his seat in the spring of 2009, after defeating Minh Tran ’09 and Katie Harrison ’11 in an endorsement vote open to all Ward 1 Democrats. Jones, Tran and Harrison informally agreed to let the April vote determine who would run as a Democrat in the November general election.
Current Yale Democrats president Marina Keegan ’12 said she is pleased that incoming freshmen will have an opportunity to experience the political excitement of an aldermanic race in the fall. Every aldermanic election is a “huge educational opportunity for issues in New Haven,” she said, adding that freshmen will be more engaged with an alderman they help elect.
The filing deadline for candidates for Ward 1 Alderman is Aug. 10.