Vinay Nayak ’14 is running to be Yale’s representative to the city on a platform that “what’s good for New Haven is good for Yale,” he said at his campaign’s inaugural event Thursday.
Nayak, the first to declare his candidacy in the Ward 1 aldermanic race, held a meet-and-greet in Blue State Café on Wall Street which around 30 people attended. He said at the event that his three main issues in the upcoming election will be public safety, education and community development, adding that the issues are interconnected. The audience included members of the leadership of Dwight Hall and Students for a New American Politics, among other campus groups, as well as five former and current members of Yale College Democrats Board, and attendees were generally positive about Nayak’s candidacy and his desire to “uplift” New Haven.
“The problems that we face are a permanent fixture in the lives of the students and residents of New Haven,” Nayak said.
New Haven and Yale both have crime problems, Nayak said, citing the gunshots fired at the corner of Howe and Elm on April 9 and the murder of 17-year-old Vashun Lewis on April 16 in Dixwell. Safety is just one of the issues which affects both permanent city residents and Yalies, Nayak said. By focusing on city issues, he said he hopes to improve life for all New Haven residents.
Economic development is another way in which Yale could help itself by helping the community, Nayak said. He also linked poverty and crime, saying that training unskilled 19-year-old high school graduates for jobs could reduce crime. Nayak worked on the New Haven Board of Aldermen Community Development Committee as a policy assistant this year, which he said taught him how to effectively make change through the Board of Aldermen.
“Based on his speech, I’m in favor of him,” attendee Matthew Eveleth ’14 said, adding that he liked the way Nayak compared New Haven and Yale.
Nelson Madubuonwu ’13 said he appreciated Nayak’s eloquence, and the way he “laid out his vision concisely.”
Although the Yale Dems have not made an endorsement in the race, a number of members of the Yale Dems were present at the event and supportive of Nayak’s candidacy.
“The Yale Dems definitely don’t endorse in primary elections, and because there are probably going to be multiple progres- sive candiates running we’re not going to take a stance for any particular candidate,” Dems President Marina Keegan ’12 said in a phone interview after the event. She added that she thought Nayak was a great candi- date and that individual members of the Dems board were free to join campaigns.
Nayak said he welcomes the prospect of a contested race for the seat as a way to increase the amount of conversation on city issues.
“I look forward to [a rival],” Nayak said.
Despite the lack of a explicit Dems endorsement, Nayak is receiving direct support from one of their members: Zak Newman ’13, the Dems’ campus and community coordinator, is Nayak’s campaign manager.
Current Dems board member Josh Rubin ’14 and former member Rachel Ruskin ’12, both present at Blue State, declined to comment on the event in general.
Newman said that most of his efforts so far had been recruiting volunteers for Nayak, and that the campaign would soon begin fundraising. Newman said individuals on the campaign were currently providing funds for events such as the meet-and-greet, but taht they would eventually be reimbursed when the campaign began raising money.
Nayak said the point of the event was to hear what issues people cared about. He said he thought he knew what issues were most important, but that he wanted to make sure the community could weigh in.
“It’s time to see what kind of issues you care about, see what kind of alderman you want,” Nayak said. “I’m ready for this conversation to begin.”
The Ward 1 Democratic Committee has asked all candidates to run as Independents, not Democrats, because the Democratic primary will take place on Sept. 13, leaving only two weeks at the beginning of the school year for the campaign. Assuming that no one runs in the Democratic primary, all Democrats will face off in the general election on Nov. 8, 2011. Keegan said there will be no “official” Democratic candidate.
Twenty-three people signed up for Nayak’s email list at the event.