by Fernando Torres
With the Ward 1 alder election approaching this Tuesday, incumbent Democrat Sarah Eidelson discusses her work with the New Haven community and the Ward 1 Alder’s role in the struggles of people of color on and off Yale’s campus.
The main purpose of the campaign, she said, is to motivate student involvement in the issues that affect the city as a whole–in her two terms, she highlighted unemployment and youth violence prevention.
“These elections create an opportunity to be part of a campus-wide conversation through which we learn about different views and visions,” Eidelson said.
Working with New Haven Rising and other labor-affiliated political groups, Eidelson said she sees the jobs crisis at the core of other prominent issues like violence and poverty. The unemployment rate of communities of color in New Haven is currently over 20 percent, and only a quarter of all jobs in the city are held by its residents.
Now entrenched in the Board of Alders, Eidelson said the citywide legislative agenda they set two years ago needs to stay on track in order for them to deal with issues like the jobs crisis.
“It takes consistency to get things done,” she said. “Two years later we can discuss the progress and why we should stay the course.”
New Haven Works began as a way to combat unemployment in neighborhoods of color and would serve as a job pipeline for city residents. At election time two years ago, the program had barely launched. Now, she said, New Haven Works has allowed over 600 people to find good jobs in the city, and thousands more are looking. She also got a quarter million dollars allocated for youth violence prevention programs in the city.
The division between the university and the city are caused by more than a busy campus and a short shuttle route.
During her time campaigning, she encountered many Yale students who wanted to get involved with the city but had difficulty doing so, which is something she said she needs to work on as Ward 1 alder.
“I can always come up with more creative ideas on how to get students to feel like they have access to the kinds of opportunities that they want to be part of in the city,” Eidelson said. “I found that a vast majority of students want to be connected to New Haven, but it can be hard to know where to start.”
Eidelson didn’t hesitate to criticize the administration on behalf of students of color, seeing herself as an advocate for students as they challenge racial inequalities on campus.
“The administration says that they’re serious about supporting students of color, having a diverse faculty, and making Yale accessible to everyone. I think they need to put their money where their mouth is on those issues,” Eidelson said. “As alder, I can fight alongside students for those kinds of changes on campus and I can push for policies that address racial inequality in the city,” she said.
The relationships she’s been able to cultivate in the city over her two terms are a great asset, she said.
As for concerns that she’ll leave: “New Haven is a really special place. I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” she said. “New Haven feels much more like home than anywhere else.”