The polls open for the New Haven Aldermanic elections in another ten hours. As I’ve noted here before, Ward One, where I and the majority of Yale undergraduates live, is made up almost entirely of students and represented by one, which provides a unique opportunity to engage with local politics. The race tomorrow pits an incumbent who’s worked to use that seat to build strong coalitions of common interest and shared vision with people and movements throughout the city against a challenger who believes that seat should be the Yale Corporation’s bulwark against the frustration of the rest of the city. Ben Healey’s built a strong record of progressive struggle and real change over the past years, advancing clean elections, living wages, environmental justice, domestic partnership, and the right to organize. That’s why Mayor John DeStefano and a diverse group of student leaders came out to stand with an enthusiastic crowd in support of Ben. And that’s why students – LWB readers included – should and will turn out tomorrow to re-elect him.

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Earlier this week, William Sledge, from his perch as Master of Calhoun College – a spot that puts him in loco parentis for one twelth of Yale’s student body – having already donated $250 to Ward 1 Aldermanic candidate Dan Kruger, took to the pages of the YDN to vilify current Alderman Ben Healey for supporting the removal of arrest powers from the constables at Yale – New Haven Hospital, who are accountable not to the city but to the Hospital Board, in response to a pattern of that Board using the constables not to protect patients but to arrest leafletting staff. Sledge, who serves as Medical Director of YNHH’s Psychiatric Hospital (that he serves as Calhoun Master while otherwise employed not by the University but – since it was subcontracted last year – by the Hospital further disproves the argument that the two institutions are discrete), argued that Healey’s move to defend patients and workers from illegal, counterproductive, and unjust abuses of the constable power,

reflected a strong bias towards meeting the goals of the union and indicate that his activity as an alderman is driven by an ideology that is so strongly pro-labor that it overwhelms matters such as the security of those he represents. This bias gets in the way of clear thinking and inhibits the political and administrative imagination required to work out creative solutions.

Alek Felstiner, who witnessed the arrests last year, ably and resoundingly refutes the argument here.

Alyssa Rosenberg has a great piece in today’s YDN sharing her experience of the support she and her coalition, Project Orange, received from Ward One Alderman Ben Healey and her critique of his challenger, who’s running against him in the general election as an independant. Alyssa demonstrates what Ben attested to in last Tuesday’s debate: that Ben motivates and mobilizes students in our ward not through mass e-mail or newsletters – as Dan is saying he should – but by working with and empowering students on the grassroots level to fight for change in the city which is our home.

A few other moments which stood out from the debate:

Dan maintained, at various points, that
1. Ben imposes needs on students rather than finding out what they want, whereas Dan’s agenda is based on what’s really important to students.
2. Students need Tweed – New Haven Airport to get jet service.
3. If you asked most students “what Tweed – New Haven airport was, they wouldn’t have any idea.”
It seems to me only any two of these assertions, logically, can be true.

Dan tried to demonstrate his devotion to poor kids in New Haven by discussing his work as a gym teacher in one of their schools and joked that “They gave me a run for my money – literally and figuratively.” Many of Dan’s supporters in the room laughed. I guess those of us supporting Ben didn’t get it.

Dan said the New Havener he most looks forward to working with should he be elected is Yale’s own Vice President Bruce Alexander, and tried to smear Ben based on a derrogatory comment made by a supporter of Ben’s, who isn’t in his ward and doesn’t work on his campaign, on his website (not mine) criticizing Alexander. Ben sensibly replied that he doesn’t take responsibility for every comment on a website of someone who supports him, and challenged Dan to explain an e-mail sent to Dan’s supporters by his campaign manager which read, in part:

the incumbent guy is a tool of the unions, he gets a ton of money from them, and he consistently votes against yale on everything. he thinks that the workers should get whatever they want, and he is a HUGE supporter of the strike…

the problem is this: because he is a union supporter, we’re afraid he’s going to have a bunch of strikers at the debate tomorrow and that they will drown out Dan and generally be jerks…

i’m just trying to ensure that it doesn’t turn into a big picket inside. Second floor, Slifka, bring your friends/suitmates, go yale!

Besides the misunderstanding of the way Yale’s union work (the debate was held in a neutral, non-struck space) and classist assumptions behind them, and the unwarranted and nasty attack on Ben’s integrity, the e-mail includes a flat lie: that Ben’s received money from organized labor. When asked to respond, Kruger suggested that he had no responsibility for the words or actions of his Campaign Manager.

As has been noted, Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs didn’t do well on primary day. It has a lot invested, it would seem, in the November election, which pits an incumbent who’s a strong ally of the growing movement throughout this city for just partnership between Yale and New Haven against a challenger who argues that rather than paying taxes on its for-profit properties, Yale should simply make donations to support projects New Haven suggests to it that Yale approves of. Should be an interesting race.