I recently renewed my subscription to The Concord Review, a 20-year-old national journal of high-school history students’ essays.
This journal is part of
a larger effort to promote "varsity academics," with academic pursuits and ambition – including the writing of serious high-school term papers – intended to
achieve equal status with athletics in U.S. high schools.
Related projects include the National History Club and the National Writing Board.
The originator of these
ideas is Will Fitzhugh, who wrote this May 25 article.
For a provocative math- and science-oriented take on U.S.
education in global context – especially how high-school students spend their time in different countries – see
the documentary "Two Million Minutes."
I attended much of the June 2 event at which Ward 10 aldermanic candidates Allan Brison and Justin
Elicker spoke and answered neighbors’ questions.
As a Ward 10 resident, I am supporting Justin Elicker for alderman.
It’s nothing personal. Along with David Streever and
other neighbors, I urge partisans of one side or the other to keep the tone of this debate as civil and respectful as possible.
Allan Brison has real virtues,
and we should appreciate his service on the Board of Aldermen. He demonstrates civic spirit, a refreshingly
modest ego, and a propensity to ask questions. He cares and has helped bring disparate blocks of the ward
Why, then, support Justin
instead? Here are a few specific reasons – some in response to concerns raised by others in posts
on the New Haven Independent website:
I take Justin at his word that he is not merely passing through New Haven but rather intends to make it his home.
Aside from the admirable number of New Haveners who actually were born here, many of us were once new to town.
Imposing an extra-legal, arbitrary residential litmus test (one year? two? five? twenty-five?) for civic participation
– especially within the narrow confines of each small ward – would deny us the involvement of many neighbors.
*Second, his being a renter rather than a homeowner
is in itself irrelevant. One could well argue that many New Haven renters have as much at stake as, and
less cushion than, homeowners in our community. (Disclosure: I rented in East Rock until six years ago,
when I purchased a condo apartment and – once married and a parent – eventually a house. So
paying rent was my concern before property taxes were.) Surely many renters are more financially vulnerable
than most homeowners. Granted, the most vulnerable are not necessarily grad students in East Rock, some of whom enjoy family
financial support. And homeowners looking to sell at this sluggish moment in the real-estate cycle may
feel trapped, with property-tax bills at odds with their ability to pay or to escape the burden through profitable sale of
the property. Still, census-tract data (as in the ROOF analysis described here) would reveal the facts about the ability of renters versus owners, in one neighborhood or another, on average to withstand
economic turbulence. Of course, some portion of landlords’ tax bills are in effect passed on to their
*Third, Justin has impressed
with his leadership – along with Betty Thompson – of the Friends of East Rock Park (FERP). The
group’s revival would not have been possible without Betty’s and Justin’s vision and action.
Their good-humored prodding, hard work, and example have boosted FERP and the neighborhood’s already strong sense
of community, as well as its connection to larger happenings across the city (biking, clean-ups, etc.). This
bodes well, both Justin’s role in the progress and Betty’s endorsement of his candidacy.
*Fourth, Justin’s concern for promoting economic development – one
of New Haven’s greatest needs – helps to distinguish him. His studies at the School of Management,
as well as at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, are no coincidence. He recognizes the importance
of cultivating private-sector growth, including in the area of green jobs, and promises to work with other New Haveners in
this regard, as part of a broader effort to strengthen the City’s tax and job base.
*Fifth, while single-party rule has serious limitations – with groupthink
and stasis real risks – there is room for creative thought within a caucus. Justin can be one of
these creative thinkers, with both specific plans and a resourcefully cooperative disposition for getting things done in areas
including public safety, transportation, and other municipal services. He is of course still learning, as anyone with
a curious mind should be.
voting isn’t primarily about making a statement of protest; it’s about translating intentions into practice.
I comment as a former door-to-door environmental campaign canvasser (summers 1986 through 1990) for Connecticut PIRG,
a Nader-inspired organization. Like both Justin and Allan, I view the environment as a significant priority.
Some Democrats (and certain Republicans, for that matter) can be as environmentally oriented as Green Partisans.
Emerson said, “Not insulation of place,
but independence of spirit is essential.” Justin would be less likely than Allan to be isolated or
insulated within the Board of Aldermen. Justin would also be independent enough to introduce alternative,
effective ideas as he works vigorously to accomplish the work of the ward and of the city.