When Roland Lemar departs from the Board of Aldermen to start his new gig asstate representative,he will vacate his post as chairman of the legislation committee. His choice of successor: Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones ’11.
“If [Board of Aldermen President] Carl [Goldfield] chooses to appoint Mike Jones as chair of legislation, he will make a great decision,” Lemar said last week.
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The legislation committee chair is a big job for a freshman alderman (especially one still in college), but Lemar said he thinks Jonescan handle it.Jones, who is currently the committee’s vice chair, served as Lemar’s campaign manager.
Goldfield declined to comment on whether he would appoint Jones as chair, saying he would wait until Lemar resigns.
But Jones is currently in a tight spot, having recently faced opposition from city officials — including Mayor John DeStefano Jr. — for a proposal to increase the “living wage,” the minimum salary, based on economic indices, for an average household to meet everyday costs. City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the proposal would cost the city upwards of $15 million.
For instance, Ward 23 Alderman and aldermanic finance committee chair Yusuf Shah said last week that Jones mismanaged drafting the proposal, causing several different drafts to float through the board. Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson, a sponsor of the living wage proposal, said he could not support the most recent of these drafts because it could become a financial burden for the city. (See story, page3.)
“If he continues down that road, then, in my opinion, he would be an embarrassment to the University,” Shah said. “There is information and a [legislative] process that he can read about and learn about, but that he refuses to follow.”
In response, Jones said he is frustrated by “some of the tactics that have been employed.”
“At the end of the day, I am confident that we can come to the table with a solution that we all agree upon,” he said. “I’m certainly not deterred.”
In fact, he may be emboldened: Jones says he is now considering running for another term, a prospect he previously disavowed.
“I don’t think it’s something that I’ve ruled out at this point,” Jones said last week. “I know that kind of is a little contrary to some statements I’ve made in the past.”
There are some obstacles that stand in the way of Jones’ decision to run for a second term. His aldermanic career will not be Jones’ first priority after he graduates, Jones said. He will focus on finding a job. His mother will not be paying the rent for his post-college pad, he said, and rents are high in the few off-campus locations that lay within the boundaries of Ward 1.
Still, Lemar, who represents Ward 9, said he favors seeing Jones stay: “He’s positioned well to have a strong say in the government.”
Lemar added that although he is not required to resign as alderman, he plans on doing so before he is likely sworn in as state representative in January. He saidthat probably the “best option” is to resign in time for a special election to take place Nov. 2. (Still, a write-in candidate could still challenge Lemar for the state representative seat, but as of yet, there have been no challengers.)
Ward 1 Democratic Town Committee Co-Chair Amalia Skilton ’13 declined to comment on whether Jones should serve a second term, but she said she and her fellow co-chair, Rachel Payne ’12, have appreciated the role he has played on the board.
Goldson said any freshman alderman appointed as a chair of a committee will be scrutinized by more senior members.
Two other aldermen interviewed said they do not think Jones should assume the chairmanship because he is “inexperienced.”
Although Jones said he is working on other projects, including work on city composting initiatives,he is focusing on the living wage. A day after Jones participated in a public debate that lasted more than five hours on the proposal Tuesday night, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.held a press conference reaffirming his opposition to the legislation.
Ward 12 Alderman Gerald Antunes, a member of the legislation committee, said that Jones is a “young guy with a lot of ideas, some good and some not so good.” The living wage proposal, Antunes added, is one of the latter.
“I think he might have brought it forward a bit too early,” hesaid, adding that there is more research to be done.
Jones said he does not believe in “the type of politics that makes all the deals in the back room before the legislation is submitted.”
Goldfield said he does not think that the controversy over the living wage will hurt Jones’ standing on the board, even though he “bit off more than he could chew.”
“[But] I think people know that this is Mike’s first term and this is his first legislative effort,” Goldfield said.
Jones’ term lasts for two years.
Clarification: Sept. 6, 2010
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article implied that Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson was one of two aldermen who told the News that Mike Jones ’11 is too inexperienced to become chair of the legislation committee. In fact, Goldson was not one of those two aldermen and supports Jones.