Aldermen question Jones’s committee ambitions

Ward 1 alderman-elect Mike Jones '11 at Mayor John DeStefano's victory party Tuesday night.
Ward 1 alderman-elect Mike Jones '11 at Mayor John DeStefano's victory party Tuesday night. Photo by Esther Zuckerman.

Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones ’11 has his sights set on two of the most high-profile committee appointments on the Board of Aldermen. But, his colleagues say, he might not get his way.

As Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield starts to consider his picks for the 11 aldermanic committees, which handle anything from public safety to environmental policy, he said he hopes to announce his decisions within two weeks. In an interview Tuesday, Jones said he wants to be on the legislation and finance committees, which oversee zoning and the city’s budget.

Six other aldermen interviewed said they applaud Jones’s excitement toward his new job. But some also doubted his chances of serving on those committees. Finance Committee Chair Yusuf Shah of Ward 23 said Jones does not have any experience in municipal finance, which is a must on that committee.

“I would not be welcoming anybody, not just him, who didn’t have some semblance of what municipal finance is really all about,” Shah said. “I think if he does get on, he should come with the attitude that he’s coming to learn about municipal finance, and just leave it at that because he has no real background in any financial stuff.”

For instance, Shah said, Jones should have attended an optional Board of Aldermen training session Thursday night about reading the budget. Jones said he was meeting with a graduate student about zoning at the time.

Jones said there is no prerequisite to serve on the finance committee and he feels “confident about my ability to read a budget.” He added that if he needs any help, his colleagues would help him.

Although other top aldermanic officials, including President Pro Tempore Charles Blango, will be advising Goldfield on appointments, the aldermanic president has the final say.

Goldfield said there is preference given to seniority. He added that during their freshmen terms, former Ward 1 Alderwoman Rachel Plattus ’09 was selected for the legislation committee and former Ward 28 Alderman Mordechai Sandman was selected for both the legislation and finance committees.

But Goldfield said he might also give preference to those 15 aldermen who initially supported him in his bid for the presidency. Jones did not support Goldfield until later in the process.

“People that told me they were going to support me early on expect loyalty back,” Goldfield said. “It could affect committee assignments.”

Jones said that Goldfield has also tried to be “inclusive” and he’s not concerned with the possibility that Goldfield might return a political favor to those who supported him earlier on.

The two committees work on long-term, large-scale projects in the city. For instance, the legislation committee will hear the proposal for the new School of Management campus, and the finance committee heard the teachers’ union contract.

Jones said he looks at the finance committee as a learning experience: “That’s pretty much the best committee for you to learn how city government works.”

Still, some of the issues he hopes to tackle on these two committees mark a stark contrast to those he presented during his campaign for the Ward 1 Democratic Endorsement Vote. He now said his goals include passing legislation that would require developers either to provide housing space to low-income families or to pay for a reduced number of housing units. The money would go into a trust for affordable housing.

During his campaign, Jones focused on issues such as youth programs, safe streets and homelessness. Jones said he is not going to disregard his earlier plans but will also work on new ideas he conceived after the endorsement vote. Jones said he is also interested in working with the New Haven Democracy Fund to possibly apply their mayoral election regulations — such as restrictions to campaign finance — to aldermanic campaigns.

Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson, another freshman alderman, said aldermen do not need to be on a specific committee to get their work accomplished.

The next Board of Aldermen meeting will be Tuesday because of Martin Luther King Day.

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