One candidate promised to value constituent input and to promote government transparency and accessibility. The other vowed to fight for jobs, school funding, and lower taxes.
Kim Edwards and Sarah Ofosu made those pitches Tuesday night at an unofficial scrimmage before their main event: an expected Sept. 12 Democratic primary election for the soon-to-be-vacant Ward 19 alder seat, which covers portions of the starkly different neighborhoods of Newhallville and Prospect Hill.
The pitches took place at a ward committee meeting at which members then voted 29-2 to back Edwards. The ward committee’s chairs now cast votes in a more official party convention later this month at which the Democrats make a formal endorsement, to be followed by the expected primary. (read more about the candidates and the race here.)
The Ward 19 Committee also voted to endorse the reelections of incumbent Mayor Toni Harp and City/Town Clerk Michael Smart.
Edwards’ mother, Alder Alfreda Edwards, has held the Ward 19 alder seat since 1999 (with one six-month break). She’s now retiring.
Edwards, an Albertus Magnus College alumna who attended Lincoln Bassett, Jackie Robinson, and Wilbur Cross public schools, has lived her entire life in the ward. She currently serves as a union steward for Communications Workers of America Local 1298 and a customer service representative for Frontier Communications. Though Edwards was approached about running years ago, she only recently decided to run after constituents and family told her she “was already doing the work,” she said. (Read more about her campaign here). She has already received endorsements from Mayor Toni Harp, State Rep. Robyn Porter, and her mother.
“I am New Haven. I am Ward 19,” Edwards told the ward committee Tuesday night.
Edwards has made employment a major priority for her campaign and promised to push local companies to hire from within the ward. She cited Frontier, for which she works, a model for community businesses that has hired young people from the area.
Her campaign also advocates the construction of more affordable housing and homeownership. Edwards observed that large property-management companies have snapped up so much real estate and aren’t picky about to whom they rent apartments, overwhelming the area with “transient residents.” A more stable community “beautifies your neighborhood,” Edwards argued.
She said that concerns about taxes, traffic, and safety unify the diverse ward. Ward 19 encompasses both million-dollar mansions and modest low- income housing. But because of the area’s diversity, oftentimes needs of residents vary. ‘What happens in one area can spill itself into another,” so all neighborhood priorities are important to the whole ward, argued Edwards, who grew up on the Newhallville side.
Ofosu, Edward’s opponent, resides on Prospect Street, the dividing line between the two communities. She said she was inspired to run after watching how Lisa Siedlarz, a leader of East Rock’s SoHu neighborhood association and block watch, was able to motivate members of her community. Ofosu has also helped run a block watch and participated in the East Rock Community Management Team.
For greater unity, she advocates a joint management team for both East Rock and Newhallville, which now have two separate groups. (They are both part of the same policing district, though city officials plan to change that soon.)
Ofosu, a Ghanian immigrant, has four years under her belt in the Elm City. She came to the U.S. at age 13 and later moved from Maryland to New Haven to become a coach for educators in low-income communities in Connecticut. Ofosu said seeks to offer a fresh perspective to the neighborhood and local government.
Ofosu promised a newsletter and Facebook page to promote government transparency. She said hopes more residents will get involved in planning for local projects that impact them, such as a bike share program that is in the works. Ofosu also hopes to bring light to programs like one run by government’s Livable City Initiative, in which neighbors decide each year how to spend a $10,000 community improvement grant.