It’s a unique right of Yale students living in Ward 1 to elect a peer to represent them on the city’s legislative body, the New Haven Board of Alders. This fall, we hope Ward 1 residents have a full slate of candidates from whom to choose, including Fish Stark ’17.
Last week, Stark formed an exploratory committee to consider a run. We urge him to follow through with a full-fledged candidacy — and to craft a platform that displays not only a compelling vision for the city but a plan to involve students in that vision.
Stark should run whether or not the incumbent, fellow Democrat Sarah Eidelson ’12, seeks re-election. If Eidelson does throw her hat in the ring for a third time, she needs a serious Democratic opponent, and a current student, who will test her contention that an alumnus can remain engaged with a district comprised mainly of undergraduates. (Three-fourths of the residential colleges lie in Ward 1.)
If Eidelson chooses not to run, all the more reason a strong Democratic candidate should come forward. Eidelson has refused to be forthcoming about her intentions. Two years ago, she waited until May to announce her candidacy for re-election.
Other Ward 1 hopefuls should not be delayed by Eidelson’s equivocations, her non-statement that she is not in “campaign mode,” as she said in a text message to a reporter last week. It’s time for campaign mode. The candidacy of Paul Chandler ’14 in 2013 — and his ability to stir up considerable support for a Republican at deep blue Yale — was aided by his early start.
In urging Stark to run, we do not endorse his would-be candidacy. It would be impossible to do so before we know whom he’d be facing, or which issues would top his platform. But we are encouraged by his interest in the role and his demonstrated involvement on campus and in New Haven. We encourage other candidates, similarly qualified, to come forward.
Stark is a political science major in Jonathan Edwards College. He comes from a town near Annapolis, Maryland, and his father, Fortney “Pete” Stark Jr., served for many years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Should he run, Stark would need to prove to voters that his interest in serving on the Board is genuine — and represents a commitment to improving the city, above and beyond a chance to make a political debut.
Stark’s focus seems well-placed. He came to Yale in the flurry of the 2013 mayoral contest and volunteered for Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, who fell to Toni Harp ARC ’78 in the race for the city’s highest office. This does mean, however, that if Stark runs, he will be campaigning to join a body that overwhelmingly supported Harp. Stark would need to articulate where his thinking and that of his would-be colleagues diverged, and how this affects his ability to work with them.
After his freshman year, Stark spent the summer here in the city, teaching classes as a President’s Public Service Fellow at Squash Haven, a youth development program. He currently serves as a commissioner on the New Haven Peace Commission.
Perhaps most of all, we are cheered by Stark’s connections on campus. He was membership coordinator for the Yale College Democrats last semester, during the gubernatorial race. It was his job to make freshmen excited about politics, which is perhaps the single most important responsibility of the Ward 1 alder: providing opportunities for Yale students, otherwise cloistered in dining halls and libraries, to engage in a meaningful way with the world beyond the University’s gates.
This can be the legacy of the Ward 1 alder. Opportunities to pass ordinances are fleeting. A greater achievement would be to leverage the energy and intelligence of constituents to serve the city’s needs. To do so would be to prove that public service and town-gown collaboration, so often touted at Yale, are not empty promises.