It should be noted that I sat down recently for an extensive interview with Stark, but was unable to get a response in time from Eidelson (her unresponsiveness, already a theme of the campaign, extends to journalists as well). Their similarities on policy are worth noting for folks who have not been watching closely and want to know whom they’d be voting for this Wednesday.
Policing: Stark supports building relationships between neighborhoods and officers, and promotes “de-escalation” tactics so that police turn situations that might end in arrests into peaceful ones. Eidelson agrees, endorsing a strong community review board and body cameras.
Youth Issues: Eidelson has championed a $1 million grant initiative to prevent youth violence. Stark supports free preschool and fewer suspensions. He also supports keeping schools open 12 hours per day. This is potentially controversial; the current teachers contract provides for a work day of under seven hours for salaried teachers, though the mayor supports a longer day. Would Eidelson buck the teachers’ unions to keep schools open longer for poor kids?
Jobs: Eidelson says she wants to bring together workers and employers to create jobs (whatever that means), while Stark says he’ll build student “power” will create more local jobs (I also don’t know what that means).
Once you leave the realm of policy, the fighting starts, but it’s mostly about either party loyalty or issues of competence, approach and presence. To start with, Stark says outright that he’ll endorse Eidelson if she wins. “More important than my desire to be alder,” Stark says, “is the need to have a progressive serving on this board.” Eidelson thinks she should not have to face voters before the general election, claiming that asking freshmen to make up their minds now is “disrespectful.” On this matter, as with others, Eidelson’s arguments against Stark seem petty, while Stark cites surveys and conversations indicating that his opponent has been an absent alder. “Where have you been the past four years?” he asks Eidelson rhetorically, recalling when he was on the board of the Yale College Democrats and had difficulty getting a response from her.
Still, Eidelson says in the debate: There’s a “pretty substantial difference of approach.” She does not make clear what the “substantial difference of approach is,” though it is worth noting that Stark opposes the Ward 1 alder sitting on leadership of the board. Stark also faults Eidelson for not reaching out to constituents before writing a letter in support of a development project in the ward, a charge Eidelson denied in the debate.
At any rate, Stark is more straightforward about the comparison: “I don’t think there’s any kind of substantive policy difference,” he said at the debate. In our interview, he spoke additionally about how the alder can serve as a “visible tangible personal presence” in the city. He likes the idea of “being a person that people feel like they can come to” for information about where talent and work is most needed in the city. Eidelson, Stark says, has simply not been around to render the sorts of services and provide the sorts of connections Yalies deserve.
Perhaps the strangest thing about this race is the urgency (the jobs “crisis,” as Stark calls it, and Eidelson speaks of the “fighting” left to do) with which the candidates, both progressive Democrats, spoke of the need to enact their policies. But New Haven is a city run by progressive Democrats going back decades. Any failures in city governance are theirs alone. Do either Stark or Eidelson advocate a change? A full-throated endorsement of school choice a la Michael Bloomberg? The “broken windows” policing that has brought down New York annual murders from 2000 to 400 in 20 years? Forget it.
Democrats’ choice boils down to this: the less arrogant, much fresher, more energetic Stark, who will work after hours to make sure Yalies are as close to their city as possible or the seasoned but sulky Eidelson, who will hammer through progressive policies even if her party’s reps at Yale can’t get her to return an email.
On the more aesthetic issues, there’s a world of difference, mostly in Stark’s favor. But if each were dictator of New Haven for a year, you probably couldn’t tell when one handed over power to the other.
Cole Aronson is a sophomore in Calhoun College. His column runs on Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .