Throughout this election period, Ward 1 residents have been divided on what they want from their next alder, and if they even want Ward 1 to exist at all. We saw this in the Democratic primary, and we are seeing it now. With these questions in mind, Yale students will head to the polls Tuesday to choose between two very different candidates for Ward 1 alder: Democrat Sarah Eidelson ’12 and Republican Ugonna Eze ’16.
Eidelson, the incumbent of four years, has received much criticism over the course of this election and the past two terms for her disconnect with the Yale community. This is a problem some fear will only get worse as her time away from the Yale student body grows by two more years. But, while Eidelson’s disengagement is concerning, her successful tenure on the Board and her passion about local issues make her our choice for the position of Ward 1 alder.
Over the past four years, Eidelson has been a champion for city youth. As chair of the Board of Alders’ Youth Services Committee, she brought federal funding to youth violence prevention organizations in New Haven. She also organized the election of the first student representatives to ever serve on the city’s Board of Education. With her unanimous election as the Board of Alders’ minority leader, Eidelson demonstrated that she has earned the respect of her colleagues, a product of her ability to work productively with the existing board. These accomplishments attest to Eidelson’s strong record as a public servant of the city and should not be dismissed as inconsequential.
But the degree of support that Eidelson has garnered on the board has not been reflected in the student body. For this reason, our decision was not an easy one.
Both candidates have their strengths, but neither one is perfectly suited to solve the problems currently facing Ward 1. Eidelson’s challenger brings a fresh perspective to the table. Eze has detailed ideas to bridge the town-gown divide, and his idealistic vision for New Haven is admirable. But change does not necessitate a new face in office, and Eze’s unfamiliarity with the workings of city government — essential for implementing change of any kind — are understandable, but concerning nonetheless.
Therefore, instead of endorsing a new candidate, we challenge Eidelson to look at the strengths of her opponent as a means to improve her service of the ward. We do not endorse her because we are wholly satisfied with what she has done so far. We endorse her because we believe she can do better.
When Eidelson entered her first term, many believed that she would be able to sustain the student energy she had rallied during the election process. This has not been the case. On Tuesday, Eidelson will challenge an opponent who has demonstrated the ability to engage student groups, and has provided concrete examples of how he would promote student involvement in the city.
Eidelson, though, is in the best position to ensure those connections are secured. She can continue implementing effective policy proposals because of her strong relationships with the rest of the board, but can better integrate students and organizations into that process. While Eze may have a stronger drive to do this, Eidelson has the capacity to make sure that it happens. It is concerning that Eze has not received any endorsements from the people with whom he would be working, or enjoyed much demonstrated support outside of the Yale community. So, while we have concerns about Eidelson’s engagement with students, we believe that, with the right attitude, it is a problem that can be fixed.
Criticisms of an absent alder clearly show a desire within the student body to be more engaged. Both Eze and Eidelson’s challenger in the primary, Fish Stark ’17, have demonstrated in their campaigns that student groups are interested in becoming more involved with the city, and in being better represented in local government. Even though Eidelson brought enough supporters to secure the primary, she will fail to succeed in the next two years if her engagement with students ends on Tuesday. If Eidelson could capitalize on the current drive to action within the student body, her third term as alder could be more successful than her past two combined. Eidelson calls New Haven her home, and her devotion is evidenced by her decision to run for a third term, even though most Ward 1 alders vacate the seat within four years.
There is no doubt that Eidelson is a force for good in New Haven. We ask that, should she be successful on Tuesday, she spends the next two years working to engage with Yale students the same way she has engaged with this city.