In the race for Ward 1 alder, our community is faced with two competing visions for the Yale-New Haven relationship. Over the past four years, we have secluded ourselves within the Yale bubble, often ignoring many of the grave issues that our neighbors face on a daily basis. This retreat within Yale’s walls comes at a time when a fifth of our city’s black and Latino residents are unemployed, a third of New Haven children live below the poverty line and hundreds of the city’s homeless live without roofs over their heads. In addition to these issues, our current alder has alienated herself from her own constituents, contacting us only in the few weeks preceding Election Day and often employing overly aggressive campaign tactics. I have a different vision: an alder who maintains a consistent presence in the ward and who is willing to tackle the tough issues with common sense policy solutions.
Over the course of the past few months, I have become concerned with some of the campaign tactics used in this race. Rather than engaging in organic conversations, many of my opponent’s canvassers have harassed and intimidated students, sometimes calling them multiple times a day despite requests to be left alone. In some cases, canvassers have even followed students into their bathrooms. Rather than drawing students into the life of our city, aggressive door-knocking has turned many people off. Some students have felt the need to post signs on their doors explicitly asking canvassers to leave them alone, or even to call the police on canvassers they did not recognize. This is unacceptable.
I take a different approach. I speak with anyone and everyone: affordable housing advocates and spoken word poets, New Haven Police officers and city developers, environmental activists and members of the Yale administration. My campaign team is diverse and bipartisan; we have Bernie Sanders supporters, libertarians and even former members of Fish Stark’s and Sarah Eidelson’s campaign teams. I embrace this inclusive, noninvasive approach. When going door to door, I canvass only with friends and supporters who are in the same colleges as the people I am visiting, which leads to more candid conversations. I speak with international students and people who have already voted in other parts of the country despite their ineligibility to vote in this election, because my vision for our engagement with the city does not stop at the ballot box.
We will only see the kinds of changes our community needs through consistent and open engagement on the part of our alder. This is why I am making the following commitments to you; if elected, I will:
1. Hold bimonthly town hall meetings at a central location on campus;
2. Send monthly communitywide emails updating all of you on what I have been doing as alder and on important events in the city;
3. Meet weekly with different student groups to find opportunities for collaboration between City Hall and the student body.
These steps will foster transparency and accountability and allow for meaningful progress on the major issues facing our city — homelessness, crime, under-performing schools, irresponsible spending and our city’s carbon footprint. Each of these areas relates to the others, so we need a holistic approach to tackle these problems. Any attempt to address unemployment in New Haven, for example, must include reforming New Haven schools and closing the achievement gap by supporting programs like Leap and reinvigorating New Haven Boost. With some of my other policy ideas, I know we can lower our carbon footprint. We can give city residents better access to jobs and after-school programs in different parts of the city by making our public bus routes more efficient. Throughout my campaign, I have released policy proposals online and discussed them at length at public events. I hope you will visit my website and Facebook page for further details.
The Ward 1 alder cannot lead from the sidelines. Governing effectively requires investing in personal relationships, transcending partisan lines and maintaining an active presence in the community. This Tuesday, we can either elect to endure another two years of the status quo, or we can finally step up and improve our relationship with New Haven through open and consistent engagement. If you elect me as your alder, you can expect real change.
Ugonna Eze is a senior in Pierson College. He is a candidate for Ward 1 alder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .