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.

Comments

  • concerned yalie

    Jones wants to serve on high-profile committees, but doesn’t go to information sessions about them or have any experience related to them? That doesn’t sound good at all..

  • ght

    New Haven doesn’t need another Yale carpetbagger using the city to pad thier political resume.

  • anti-anti-yale

    Heaven forbid someone run for public office and then want to serve in their actual elected capacity, and not just want to learn for the fun of it.

    Is the finance committee only for MBAs? I doubt it.

  • unconcerned yalie

    I fail to see how this is a big deal. This article basically establishes:

    1) Jones, in an attempt to have the biggest impact in his one term on the Board of Aldermen, wants to be on the two committees with the biggest impact on city policy. Scandal!

    2) Not all aldermen get placed on all the committees they want to be on. Stop the presses!

    3) Jones might be at a disadvantage because instead of blindly supporting Goldfield before he knew whether someone else would run, he waited to see what all potential candidates had to offer (before eventually supporting Goldfield). How dare he! Goldfield should exile him to oblivion for such disloyalty!

    4) In addition to working on things he talked about during the campaign (like safe streets and a legislative aides program, two of his highest priorities which he has already made progress toward achieving), he is also working on other policy issues so he can accomplish as much as possible.

    Next thing we know he’ll be hiking the Appalachian Trail.

  • BR ’12

    I don’t really know Mike but doesn’t this whole thing seem like the YDN searching for a story when there really isn’t one? Clearly, any legislator wants to be on the best committees possible so that he can do his job for the people who elected him. So what?

  • concerned

    come on Mike, you couldn’t go to the info session? at least show some respect for the process and don’t be so arrogant. you could have postponed your zoning meeting with a grad student! you may know more than most but you must respect the process or you will be perceived in a negative light and judged unfairly. pay your dues, son!

  • hmm

    i think it’s great to hear that mike is expanding from the fairly student-centric issues he (semi-cynically?) used to get elected, to issues that affect the whole city, like affordable housing.

    on the other hand, kind of a goof about that info session.