One of the students responsible for engaging Ward 1 residents in the political process must resign after moving outside the ward, according to Democratic Town Committee bylaws.
Ariana Shapiro ’16, a Ward 1 co-chair, has moved from Branford College to an off-campus residence on Dwight Street, roughly three blocks outside the ward comprising mainly Yale undergraduates. She now lives in Ward 2.
Shapiro and fellow co-chair Jacob Wasserman ’16 ran unopposed in March for the positions, which also function as the ward’s two seats on the Democratic Town Committee. As the local arm of the Democratic Party, the DTC has considerable power in this deep-blue city; it votes on endorsements in local races and mobilizes voters in statewide elections, including the looming gubernatorial race between Democratic incumbent Dannel Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley.
Co-chairs also lead their neighborhood’s Democratic Ward Committee and assist their alder — Sarah Eidelson ’12 in Ward 1 — with constituent services and legislative work.
Reached Tuesday, Shapiro said she is in the process of resigning from the ward committee, aware that she is no longer eligible to serve from outside the district. Students are required to indicate whether they will live on or off-campus by the beginning of April.
Five months later, at the end of August, Democratic Town Committee Chairman Vincent Mauro Jr. said he had “heard rumors through the grapevine” that Shapiro had moved outside the ward. He said he has not received an official resignation or even communicated with Shapiro about her eligibility to lead the committee.
Mauro, who was elected committee chairman this spring, praised Shapiro’s ambition; she and Wasserman have already worked hard to energize the ward and assemble students for the ward committee, he said. Shapiro said she and Wasserman have gathered the names of 47 people, mainly students, interested in being on the committee.
Shapiro said she is disappointed she will no longer be allowed to serve in Ward 1, but that she could not find affordable housing within the ward’s parameters. The ward roughly resembles a square, enclosed by Church, Wall, Park and Crown Streets. Eight of Yale’s residential colleges lie in Ward 1, and the other four are in Ward 22.
Eidelson said in a text message that she believes Shapiro will continue to be involved in politics and the New Haven community. She did not comment specifically on Shapiro’s residency requirement for ward committee membership.
Three other alders interviewed said the Democratic Town Committee bylaws are straightforward in requiring co-chairs to live within the ward, a rule alders said ensures they are effectively clued in on residents’ needs.
“It’s the reason co-chair positions exist — to be there, to listen, to work with the ward,” Morris Cove Alder Sal DeCola said.
In Ward 1, where students fill elected positions typically held by permanent residents in other wards, there is a long history of these rules being bent, or at least of accusations that the rules are being bent.
Mike Jones ’11, Eidelson’s predecessor as Ward 1 alder, lived for several months on Howe Street in Ward 2 after graduating and before his term concluded. Though this was technically against the rules, Jones said it did not become an issue.
“As a practical matter, it’s difficult to expect someone to find housing for seven months as an alumnus,” he said, estimating that there are fewer than five off-campus residences in Ward 1.
During last fall’s race between Eidelson and her Republican challenger, Paul Chandler ’14, both candidates were accused of spending too much time outside the ward, Eidelson outside the city altogether and Chandler on Park Street in Ward 2.
The charge of non-residency reflects the complexity of students holding elected office in a city they inhabit for only four years, during which time they also spend several months away on vacation, said former Ward 1 Co-chair Amalia Skilton ’12. At the same time, she said, rules are rules; most electoral districts are divided along somewhat arbitrary lines.
“My opinion is that people should follow the law. She should resign,” Skilton said. “I wanted to move out of Ward 1 at the beginning of my senior year, and I didn’t. It’s an elected position. If you’ve chosen to run for office, you should remain in the district.”
Mauro said he needs to receive Shapiro’s resignation before he can appoint a replacement, who will serve out the rest of the term.
Wasserman said in an email he will miss Shapiro’s “energy and dedication” but would not answer specific questions about her resignation or the nature of the ward boundaries.
Elections for co-chair positions were held across the city on March 4.