New issue emerges on aldermen’s agenda: U.S. at war

In its first meeting since last week’s terrorist attacks, the Board of Aldermen took up the mundane business of the city Tuesday night, but reminders of the national tragedy were everywhere.

After passing several technical and financial measures, the board unanimously passed a resolution condemning the attacks and committing New Haven’s resources to the rescue efforts in New York, as aldermen discussed possible U.S. military responses and other consequences of the attacks.

“We’ve heard the word justice thrown about,” said Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04, predicting a theme of President George W. Bush’s speech later in the night. “But justice is not war.”

Ward 20 Alderman Ron Smith sounded a different note, declaring his support for the military, Congress and President Bush while promising that “we shall overcome.”

Ward 16 Alderman Raul Avila urged city residents to remain tolerant.

“We have Arab Americans in our community who were equally disturbed by these attacks,” he said, adding that he was disappointed in racist signs that had appeared in his ward.

Carl Goldfield, Ward 29 alderman, stressed the need for New Haven to be ready for future terrorism, including biological and chemical warfare, and urged his colleagues to implement a study of the city’s preparations.

Symbols of patriotism and mourning filled the City Hall chamber at the beginning of the meeting. Ward 10 Alderman Robert Schmalz led the body in prayer after a moment of silence. Aldermen then sang “God Bless America” in a sign of unity.

The meeting was also the first since last Tuesday’s Democratic primary, in which several aldermen faced challenges. The election became merely a side note after the same day’s attacks, but four incumbents did not receive their party’s nomination. None of those four attended last night’s meeting.

The board marked the last meeting of Schmalz, who is retiring after a long aldermanic career. They also raised their voices in song for the second time of the evening to commemorate the 80th birthday of Ward 11 Alderman Edward Clifford, who eloquently spoke about all the historical events he has experienced.

None of the measures considered by the board were met with much controversy. The lone contentious moment came when Ward 25 Alderman Nancy Ahern, one of only two Republicans on the board, tried to amend a welfare lien release measure but was defeated. Ahern took the loss in stride, however, and began knitting.

The board also passed measures establishing a Livable City Initiative tax deferral program, approving a contract with a daycare workers’ union and approving the relocation of the Dixwell Senior Center to the Bethel A.M.E. Church. Ward 22 Alderman Grace Gibbs, a long-time champion of the center who lost to Mae Ola Riddick in the primary, was not at the meeting.

Aldermen also gave the go-ahead to the city’s application for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to pay for firefighter personal protection equipment, a move Ward 27 Alderman Philip Voigt said was particularly important given the losses sustained by the New York Fire Department last week.

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