This first month of 2012 marks a particularly exciting time in both Ward 1 and New Haven politics. On campus, we just completed an aldermanic election with unprecedented voter turnout — a nearly semester-long process of thinking and talking about what it means to live out our dual identities as students at Yale University and residents of New Haven.
Beyond Ward 1, our city experienced its most exciting aldermanic election cycle in decades, culminating in the Inauguration Day swearing-in of 19 freshman aldermen determined to bring accountability and responsiveness to a Board of Aldermen all too often described as gridlocked and out of touch.
We are at a point — with a new Ward 1 alderwoman, fresh faces on the board and a commitment, affirmed by both the board and the Mayor’s Office, to inclusive prosperity — truly redolent with possibility for progressive politics.
Yet now is a time of challenge as well. No matter how exhausting the last few months may have been, our work as activists, as students and as New Havenites is far from over. For it is no hyperbole to say New Haven is in a state of crisis, afflicted with persistently high unemployment and poverty, grim rates of violent crime and a struggling educational system. No matter how hard they work, our new alderwoman and her board simply cannot make the hopes they articulated in the past few months a reality by themselves.
This is where we come in: not as know-it-all Yalies theorizing from our ivory tower, but rather simply as citizens. Engaging with our fellow citizens all across town, we must act to build the city we all want to see, a safe city with good jobs and opportunities for all. Because we hope to be part of fostering sustained student engagement with the city, we are excited to declare our candidacy as co-chairs for the Ward 1 Democratic Committee.
We intend to build a transparent, inclusive ward committee that serves as a vehicle for increased student involvement in Ward 1 and New Haven’s civic and political life. The ward committee must recognize the diversity of Yale progressivism. Given the plethora of student organizations involved in New Haven politics, we want to create an institution in which students can discuss their efforts in the city, forestall inefficient duplication of efforts, explore opportunities for collaboration and learn about each other’s work.
We applaud the previous ward committee co-chairs’ efforts to make the operations of the committee more transparent, particularly with regards to the aldermanic election. We approve strongly of our predecessors’ decision not to hold an endorsement vote in the 2011 aldermanic election. This precedent, which promotes competitive, campus-wide races like last semester’s aldermanic race, is one we intend to honor. It is important that registered Republicans and independents and first-semester freshmen, not just Democratic-registered upperclassmen, have a say in the 2013 aldermanic contest.
But the Ward 1 Democratic Committee can and should be concerned with far more than the decision to endorse — or not — in Ward 1 aldermanic races, or even providing a forum for Yale progressives. As co-chairs, we hope to connect students, whether on our ward committee or not, more deeply to the politics of our city as a whole. We plan to encourage voter registration through frequent registration drives and ensure that Ward 1 voters are informed voters through regular newsletters and events dealing with local issues. We further intend to closely support newly elected alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12, working with her and other campus political organizations to mobilize students around progressive values on pertinent city issues.
We both possess a strong working knowledge of New Haven and its politics, thanks to extensive involvement in local schools, religious and community organizations and each of the recent Ward 1 aldermanic campaigns. We also have experience engaging diverse communities around issues of justice; Nia is the Black Student Alliance’s political action chair, and Ben is a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee and served as social action coordinator for the Party of the Left and Luther House.
We are enthusiastic about what the next two years will bring in this ward and New Haven, and hope that you will join us in creating a ward committee that represents progressives across Yale and equips students to take action in city politics. We look forward to the conversations we will have about the organization and representation of our ward and our involvement in the city we are so privileged to call home.
Ben Crosby is a junior in Pierson College. Nia Holston is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. They are candidates for Ward 1 Democratic Committee co-chairs.