On Tuesday, Eli Sabin ’22 will run uncontested in the Democratic primary to succeed Hacibey Catabasoglu ’19 as alder of New Haven’s Ward 1.
Sabin grew up in the East Rock neighborhood of Ward 10 and attended the Hopkins School, a private day school in New Haven. Now a constituent of the University-majority Ward 1 — which encompasses eight of Yale’s residential colleges and Old Campus — Sabin is running on a platform of reducing poverty, building more affordable housing and creating richer economic opportunities in the state’s second most-populated municipal area.
“I feel very strongly that all of us have a responsibility to serve others,” Sabin told the News this summer. “New Haven has a really proud and longstanding tradition of progressive community activism. I want to be a part of that tradition and bring the things that I’ve learned … If I’m elected to the Board of Alders, I want to spend my two years working on progressive change in the city.”
The Board of Alders in New Haven serves as the city’s legislative arm, and alders are elected for two-year terms. New Haven’s population is roughly 130,000, so each alder represents about 4,000 people. If elected, Sabin would be the fifth Yale-affiliate to represent Ward 1 since 2007 — following in the footsteps of Catalbasoglu ’19, Sarah Eidelson ’12, Michael Jones ’11 and Rachel Plattus ’09.
Sabin will face Republican Chris Marcisz in the general election. Marcisz, who is not affiliated with Yale, told the New Haven Independent that his main goal as alder would be to “clean the Green” — referencing an incident last summer where hundreds of people using the drug K2 overdosed in downtown New Haven. Marcisz also said he would avoid raising taxes, address “aggressive panhandling” and attempt to make a safer New Haven through community policing and police recruitment.
When reflecting on his reasons for seeking election, Sabin often points to his deep-seated love for the city he was raised in and his history of involvement in state politics.
The nineteen-year-old boasts a strong political record. This past winter and spring, Sabin served as co-director of the Connecticut General Assembly Progressive Caucus. In this position, he collaborated with progressive Democrats in the Connecticut House of Representatives to write the Caucus platform which focused on economic and social justice, public school investment, expanding voting rights and promoting criminal justice reform. During this session, the left-leaning Congress successfully passed several progressive measuress, including a $15 an hour minimum wage, paid family and medical leave and debt-free community college.
“I believe that everything I’ve learned working as a progressive policy advocate over the last few years has prepared me to be an effective alder on Day 1,” Sabin stated in a Facebook post announcing his candidacy in June.
Sabin also served as Ward 1 co-chair for the New Haven Democratic Town Committee, focusing on increasing voter turnout in the 2018 midterms and writing a set of political accountability measures for the party. Catalbasoglu told the News that he would not endorse a specific candidate for alder this election cycle. However, he said he believed his successor should also be a Yale undergraduate working to facilitate better town and gown relations. Sabin’s campaign echoes this sentiment, promising stronger policy efforts to foster mutual investment, respect and accountability between Yale and New Haven.
“Yale just needs to do more, and pay more to the city, and help make sure that New Haven thrives,” Sabin told the News. “Not just downtown and the part of the city where students and prospective parents come visit, but the whole city, because this is Yale’s home.”
In April, the Board of Alders approved Sabin’s nomination to the city’s Homeless Advisory Board, where he has been addressing another key component of his campaign — affordable housing.
Last January, the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force determined that 25,062 households are rent-burdened — meaning that residents spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. This is a part of a larger problem New Haven is facing: a poverty rate over 20 percent, which Sabin has called “unacceptable.” His schemes for tackling these problems include lowering barriers to affordable housing development and expanding rental assistance programs.
Voter turnout in Ward 1 has historically been low. Although the Ward has more than 3,600 eligible voters, just 46 ballots were cast in the Democratic primary in 2017. Catalbasoglu was elected the Yale alder in November 2017 with 244 votes — fewer than the population of one of Yale’s residential colleges.
Makayla Haussler ’19, the former chairwoman and treasurer for Catalbasoglu’s campaign, told the News in January that she attributed this to “a lack of student engagement” in politics at the city level and widespread student annoyance by the efforts of Ward 1 campaigns.
Polls for voting in the New Haven primary are open today from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Meera Shoaib | email@example.com