Five Yale students have joined the core administrative team of Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19, a common way for Yalies to become more involved in Elm City affairs during their college tenure.
Catalbasoglu said the aim of his administration has been to get as many people as possible involved in New Haven politics. During his uncontested campaign for alder, he had a team of approximately 35 Yalies who helped him draft possible policy initiatives, obtain endorsements and urge students to vote in a ward that often considered to be disengaged from city politics.
When he became alder, he said, he handpicked about five people to work closely with him during his two-year term. Those students are Ben Dormus ’21, Sarah Strober ’20, Christopher Moeckel ’20, Raj Ramnani ’21 and Sammy Landino ’21.
Besides working closely with Catalbasoglu to draft policy initiatives and pinpoint issues to focus on, each of the team members attends aldermanic committee meetings — a way to keep Catalbasoglu posted on what happens in all the committees, not just the two he serves on — Education and Aldermanic Affairs.
“Assembling a committed group of students that cares about this city and school has been a primary focus during these past several weeks,” Catalbasoglu told the News. “I am fortunate to have quickly assembled a group, and with that team we have begun pinpointing and delving into a variety of innovative and unique ideas to improve our city.”
Five is a relatively large number of administrative assistants for New Haven alders.
Ward 7 Alder Abigail Roth ’90 LAW ’94 said she does not have an official team but looks for opportunities to work with other alders and partner with organizations such as the Yale College Democrats or the Downtown Wooster Square Community Management Team.
Roth said she enjoys drafting legislation on her own, especially because she spent over 10 years as a lawyer in the federal government. But she also noted that there are three legislative aides designated to the alders for help in drafting legislation.
In addition to City Hall assistants, each ward includes two Democratic committee co-chairs — elected positions that represent the ward in the Democratic Town Committee. According to the outgoing Ward 22 Democratic co-chair Gabrielle Diaz ’18, who will be succeeded by Lorna Chitty ’20 in March, the position entails helping with voter registration and voter turnout, contributing to Democratic Party endorsement decisions and selecting poll workers. Diaz also noted that many co-chairs work closely with their ward alder.
“[Ward 22 Alder Jeanette] Morrison has been with me through every aspect of my position to offer guidance as well as to provide me with tasks through which to help the community,” Diaz said. “Because our ward consists of many Yale students in addition to permanent New Haven residents, I help Alder Morrison connect with Yale students by writing newsletters, organizing meet and greets and helping schedule tours of Dixwell to interested classes and organizations.”
Catalbasoglu said he plans to collaborate with his new Ward 1 co-chairs, Michelle Peng ’19 and Julia Salseda ’19, but that they are not part of his immediate circle.
Wards 1 and 22 are not the only wards with significant Yalie involvement. In Ward 26, Alder Darryl Brackeen has put together a team featuring Yalies, including Neil Goodman ’20, who was previously a member of Catalbasoglu’s aldermanic campaign.
Goodman said his work in city government has “completely changed” his view on the Yale–New Haven relationship.
“All Yalies should use their bright college years to expand their horizons and learn to become a positive part of society,” he said. “Working outside of Yale’s social conventions and presuppositions is a refreshing and meaningful way to do so.”
Ashna Gupta | email@example.com