As the Democratic Ward 1 candidates vie for freshman support in the build-up to the primary next Wednesday, Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison is elevating her social media presence in hopes of encouraging her constituency to be more involved in all sections of the city before the November general election.
Students in Morse, Ezra Stiles, Silliman and Timothy Dwight Colleges — along with residents of Swing Space — are zoned into Ward 22, nestled just north of Ward 1 and containing 4,300 people. Though they will not partake in the heated Ward 1 election this fall, hundreds of Yale students may vote for Jeanette Morrison, who, despite running unopposed, has helped bring Yalies closer to the low-income Dixwell community. Engaging with students will become an even more important part of the alder’s responsibilities with the opening of the two new residential colleges, which will ultimately add 800 students into the ward.
“I want to let students know about valuable opportunities to serve on our ward’s Democratic Committee and other public bodies in New Haven,” Morrison wrote in an Aug. 29 email to students of Ward 22.
Since Morrison took office in 2011, students in Ward 22 have joined the Democratic Ward Committee and been more involved than ever before in canvassing. Morrison said engaging with the local community helps supplement the Yale education.
For two years now, a Yale student has occupied one of the two Ward 22 co-chair positions. When John Goodman ’14 of Morse College graduated, Maxwell Ulin ’17, a Timothy Dwight resident, was chosen to fill his position.
At Ulin’s suggestion, John Kauffman ’18 and Gabrielle Diaz ’18, both involved with the Yale College Democrats, joined the Ward 22 Democratic Committee last year. They canvassed for Gov. Dannel Malloy in Dixwell and attended meetings with Morrison.
“I found it very valuable to get to know another part of my city beyond campus,” Kauffman said, adding that he appreciated meeting his New Haven neighbors. “Ward 1 is kind of missing that,” he said.
But Diaz, who is contributing to the Sarah Eidelson ’12 campaign in the Ward 1 aldermanic race, said Yalies in the Ward 22 colleges are no different than the rest of the student body in their political involvement with the city. For Diaz, engagement in Ward 22 is a matter of personal choice, not geographical location.
“I feel like I’m in [downtown] New Haven a little bit more because [my college] is closer, but that’s not the norm for all students,” she said. “I think [my college] Timothy Dwight gives a good opportunity to get out of the Yale bubble, but I don’t think everyone takes advantage of that.”
Diaz added that students who live outside Ward 1 can feel excluded from the more competitive, high-profile election. According to Ulin, this is why he and some other students are putting just as much effort into Ward 22 as others have in Ward 1.
“Yale’s campus is such a little bubble,” Ulin said. “It was a refreshing experience to be involved in what was actually a real community.”
Through his work with the Dems, Ulin found his way to the Ward 22 co-chair position. With Morrison’s help, Ulin collected emails, registered voters and signed up residents of Dixwell and The Hill — areas with high populations of uninsured people — for government-sponsored healthcare.
Morrison’s last competitive election was in 2011, and her popularity within the ward has solidified her position for future elections.
The Ward 1 alder traditionally connects the town and gown portions of New Haven, said Ulin. But, in Ward 22, the split between Yale and the city is more pronounced. Of the 4,300 people in the ward, over 1,000 are Yale students. There are also five senior centers in Ward 22, and a new multi-million dollar community center called the Q House is opening in 2017, the same year as the new colleges.
“My ward is a microcosm of a little city,” Morrison said. “Some of the richest people in the state live in my ward and some of the poorest people. You name it, you can find it in Ward 22.”
But the ward’s shape and composition may change. Since each of the 30 wards in New Haven must contain between 4,100 and 4,300 people, Morrison said she expects a redistricting to take place in 2022 after the census shows the spike in population caused by Yale’s two new residential colleges.
This bump in students will likely enhance Morrison’s already-strong record in pushing students to become more involved in the Elm City.
Morrison has close ties to college masters and to Yale administrators like Vice President for the Office of New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander ’65. On the Board of Alders, Morrison has often voted in favor of Yale students. For instance, when Yale asked to buy the portion of Wall Street between York and College Streets, Morrison received a petition from hundreds of Yale students in Ward 22 that recommended she vote yes — and she did.
Morrison was elected the president pro tempore of the Board of Alders in May.