Shah Stepping Down

Paul Bass PhotoIn another sign of a changing political landscape in town, West River Alderman Yusuf Shah announced Wednesday that he’s retiring at year’s end.

Shah (pictured), who has represented Ward 23 for 10 years, made the announcement a day after a challenger for his seat, Tyisha Walker, won the Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement over the incumbent. Walker is one of a slew of Yale union-affiliated and union-backed candidates running for seats on the Board of Aldermen this year independent of the DeStefano administration and the Democratic Party establishment.

Shah had begun to run for re-election but will now discontinue his campaign, effective immediately.

“The ward really wanted a change in leadership,” Shah, who’s 50 and the only Muslim on the Board of Aldermen, acknowledged during a mini-press conference at Hill Health Center, where he works as a medical case manager for people with AIDS and HIV. “Their definition of what an alderman should be had changed. I no longer fit that definition.”

Over his five terms on the board, Shah rose to the influential position of Finance Committee chair, overseeing stormy, extensive budget hearings. He also emerged as a key supporter of Mayor John DeStefano.

Former neighborhood supporters who ditched him this year complained he wasn’t visible enough in the ward, he acknowledged. “A good alderman is an alderman who sweeps the pavement and does street clean-ups [according to some of his detractors]. I’ve only basically heard, ‘Where’s Yusuf?’ Well, Yusuf was downtown taking care of business” and dealing with citywide issues as well as those more narrowly affecting West River.

Democratic Town Chairwoman Susie Voigt said Wednesday afternoon that she doesn’t know of any other candidates planning to join the race. The DeStefano forces have two weeks to find someone to collect signatures in order to qualify for the Sept. 13 Democratic Party ballot.

“I have not even met Tyisha yet,” Voigt said when asked if she’ll back Walker.

Shah, too, demurred when asked if he’ll back Walker.

“I don’t think she can fill my shoes in one term,” he said. “I honestly don’t believe she’s going to create jobs in West River,” Shah said. He added that he hasn’t “heard” any “real” plans for reducing crime.

On the other hand, he said, “I respect her. If she asks for my support, I will consider it.”

Asked what he’s proudest of accomplishing over his decade in office, Shah cited his stewardship of the Finance Committee as well as his successful efforts to rename streets after people like the late Rev. Dr. Curtis Cofield and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. (The event marking the latter naming is pictured below.)

Thomas MacMillan File Photo


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posted by: Look at that on July 27, 2011  2:04pm

WOW. Just this morning I wondered when this was coming. Looks like this is the moment!

Tyisha will be a great alderwoman. She has the energy and commitment to serve her neighborhood for a long time and look at real solutions for crime and jobs. It won’t happen overnight but she will be part of the solution.

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 27, 2011  2:16pm

Finally, a politician who could read the the tea, leaves….....

I look forward to the new leadership in my poorly represented ward.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on July 27, 2011  2:18pm

Unions: 1
Team JDS: 0

I wonder if Ms. Walker would take a pledge not to raise property taxes in her initial term…. Somehow I doubt it.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 27, 2011  2:29pm

This you tube says it all.

May the rest of them follow.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on July 27, 2011  2:53pm

Here is an Alderman that served his Mayor well.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing about his ward.

Good riddance!

posted by: Jon Doe on July 27, 2011  2:57pm

GREAT another Yale union-affiliated and union-backed person running the City for Yale. Great Idea let’s just hand the keys over to Yale NOW, they have the money to get us out of this mess Johnny got us into.

posted by: streever on July 27, 2011  3:12pm

I’ve disagreed with Mr. Shah on many things in the past, but I appreciate his willingness to step down if he believes that his ward no longer supports him.

I don’t think the endorsement matters at all—but if he has been hearing from a lot of neighbors that they are disappointed with him, that does matter.

Ed Mattison had a similar moment (former Ward 10 alderman)—he had been very effective and active as a legislator, and especially in city-wide issues like homelessness, but his ward wasn’t as aware of the good work he was doing downtown.

Being an alderman is a difficult and demanding job—I think it is commendable that Shah gave so much of his time, and he is now honoring what he believes is the will of his constituents. Bravo for a classy act.

Voigt, on the other hand, is elected by the Ward Committee to work with us. If Walker was endorsed, why isn’t Voigt supporting her? Walker has to present herself to Voigt, like some sort of supplicant? Please. I expect my town chair to reach out to strong democratic candidates.

posted by: finally on July 27, 2011  3:30pm

Congrats Tyisha.  A fresh face is just what the community - and the New Haven political scene - needs.

And to Alderman Shah: maybe you could join forces and lend your experience to help Tyisha with violence and jobs. It might be hard to create jobs in West River, but to connect West River residents to all the new jobs that will come with the 34 redevelopment seems possible.

posted by: East Rocker on July 27, 2011  3:51pm

So when are the unions going to put up a candidate for mayor?  If they do well this year in the aldermanic races, maybe they’ll make a run for it in 2013.  They just need a candidate…

posted by: robn on July 27, 2011  4:34pm

Does this mean we won’t get our statue of a big gun?

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 27, 2011  4:49pm


Or the man to polish it…...

posted by: Kid Gloves on July 27, 2011  6:33pm

WOW.  Didn’t NHI forget to mention a few run in with NHPD? 

The finance committee?  Aren’t we broke? The debt increase over the past 6 years was out of control, and the committee did nothing. 

Kudos for stepping down, but, in your opinion, is the other candidate truly going to carry on your efforts? Will you offer to assist and educate her in the BoA process?  Why, either way?

posted by: Mil Rate 2,000 on July 27, 2011  6:56pm

The 2nd photo says it all. Shah making a speech, and Johnny Boy and Lemar paying no attention by having their own little chat. Any politico seeing this knows its time to go when his boss snubs him so impolitely in public. All I can say, Alderman Shah, is you have more, much more, sensitivity and social grace than your boss, you know, the guy who is masquerading as mayor, and seems incapable of taking hints.

Another issue. You are correct, Alderman Shah, that an alder should not be running around keeping the streets clean. Unfortunately, this is what New Haven has come to. An alder at $2,000 a year is a much cheaper option than a full time worker at public works getting a fair wage and benefits. In fact alders doing this work for this pay should have no worry about re-election. They are even cheaper than third world workers. DeStefano is a genius getting his alders to do this.

posted by: unions ≠ yale on July 27, 2011  9:40pm

Jon Doe, .... The unions hate Yale, and Yale hates the unions. Each will work to prevent the other from getting what it wants….

posted by: SaveOurCity on July 28, 2011  7:25am


Top two accomplishments;

Finance Committee (left the city awash in red ink)

Renaming Streets (So, a city that’s broke is paying for legislators to propose and vote on this, then paying for new signage, and then paying union labor rates to remove old signs and put up new ones)....hmmmm….

Let’s keep pushing for FEWER alderman.  Imaging - if we had only 5 district, the job would be big enough that we could make it a real paying position and attract a better stock of candidates.  Also, 5 people would get the work of the city done faster….AND, by definition, each alderman would be more powerful and maybe better able to stand up to the mayor’s office

posted by: Cedarhillresident on July 28, 2011  12:33pm

I have had my moments with Yusuf, especially at BOF meetings and hearings :) But he did change the way the meetings are ran and now lets the public speak first at those meetings…a good change. I do not live in his ward so I can not speak about that. But as a person he is a good kind man. And I thank him for the years of his life he has given to the city.

posted by: Ora on July 28, 2011  4:52pm

Another one doesn’t bite the dust and gets out! Perhaps if you weren’t such a stamp for the mayor this challenge wouldn’t have happened. Even though, one has to thank you for serving all those years. Let this political season serve as a message to this BOA that the people of New Haven are pretty fed up. Start thinking independently and understand the separation of the administration and the legislative branch. Honestly, they are very different with very different roles. Not saying you can’t get along, but you certainly do not work for them and do not owe them anything. Well most of you don’t work for them, some of you (literally) do. Not good for you and your health. Great for them! Time for all the aldermen to start evaluating why they are on the board and who gets them elected. News flash it is the people not the mayor. Keep that in mind next time you cast your vote on the board.

posted by: Ora on July 28, 2011  6:00pm

Cedarhill you must not have been at the meeting he chaired when he attacked Mr.Books and his family members while attempting to give testimony to the committee. In fact he was so rude that two of the members got up and left the table,one being part of the Brooks family he was slamming. You must not have been at the meeting where he started chastising some of the public when they were testifying against the budget. You must not have been at the meeting when he allowed the other aldermen to grill the residents that spoke. That is not the role of the finance committee to grill residents, they are there to listen and take in testimony. I didn’t find him all that kind as you did.
I think he deserves recognition for serving all those years, but not much further. I am sorry Alderman Shah, but you weren’t being very nice because of some of the things you did as chair.
And I guess you were mostly what is called a downtown alderman and not a neighborhood alderman. That caught up with you. Perhaps others will learn from that.

posted by: A. F. on July 28, 2011  9:55pm

Black leaders (misleaders) naming streets and not living by the principles of the individuals who the street is named after is insanity; Historical Black leaders are turning in their graves, naming streets is not a pantheon that can replace injustice nor is it a penacea for the abnormalities that exist in the Black community. How can you create jobs for those who are recruitment’s in the jobless army when you support policies like the “Project Labor Agreement”, and the “Municipal I. D. Card” that are detrimental to the historically disadvantage and politically disenfranchised community. The Black community had a better opportunity during the “Post Antebellum”, and the “Reconstruction Period” than we have today in the City of New Haven with these modern day “Scalawags and Carpetbaggers”.

(3) Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

(8) I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

(18) I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

The Book of Revelation Chapter 1

posted by: cedarhillresident on July 30, 2011  9:21pm

I have seen him do it to people, he has done it to me on several occasions. In my comment I did vaguely state we have had our “moments” :) I have talked to him at non political gatherings and found him to be a genuinely nice person. Which should not be interpreted as a good politician.  But every person weather I agree or disagree with them in the political arena feels that their view is the right one. He felt he stood on the side of the righteous..even if I did not see it that way. We both agreed to disagree.
And I am one to give credit where credit is due. This last budget season, the people of had asked him if instead of the public waiting till 10pm to speak at hearings if he would change it to the start of the meetings…and he did make that happen. This is the one good parting thing he has done.
So although I personally did not agree with the choices he made in his BOF seat, and I am not versed in his performance in his community I know the amount of time an Alderman has to give and I could never do that. So I think it is only right to thank him for that time. It is the right thing to do.
I look forward to getting to know the next alder of this community. And I hope you get the voice you guys deserve.