Newcomers become committee chairs

This week’s aldermanic committee assignments have sketched out the spheres of influence that the 19 newly elected aldermen will assume.

The committee assignments, which were determined by Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez of Ward 5 and other board leadership, were released earlier this week. Five of the 10 aldermanic committees will be chaired by aldermen who are serving their first term, including Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12.In addition to serving on the human services and legislation committees, Eidelson will chair the board’s youth services committee.

“My interest in leading the youth committee has grown out of the fact that I feel very strongly that young people growing up in New Haven should have access to the types of resources that I have had access to,” said Eidelson, who hails from Bala Cynwyd, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. “It’s clear that’s not the case right now — on the committee I want to work to change that.”

As chair of the committee, Eidelson will call and preside over all its meetings, hearings and workshops, as well as lead the committee in taking “proactive action” on relevant city issues. While Eidelson said she does not yet have any concrete policy proposals for the committee to consider, she said her committee will look at issues like reopening the Dixwell Community Q House, which served as a youth center before shutting its doors nearly a decade ago.

Two freshman labor-backed aldermen will serve as chair and vice chair of the powerful legislation committee: East Rock’s Ward 9 Alderwoman Jessica Holmes and Dixwell’s Ward 22 Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison, whose ward includes part of Yale’s campus, respectively. As a member of the legislation committee, Eidelson will hear zoning and ordinances matters, which she said typically corresponds to matters of city development. The committee assignment was a natural fit for Eidelson, she said, given her recent election to the city’s development commission, which handles similar matters.

For the human services committee, Eidelson will be working to obtain Community Development Block Grants, awarded by the federal government for the purpose of funding development activities such as infrastructure growth and affordable housing. New Haven annually receives a large amount of money from these grants — in 2011, they amounted to more than $3.3 million — and the human services committee determines how much money community organizations receive based on applications.

Eidelson also said she is committed to ensuring that the aldermanic resolution resisting the federal Secure Communities program passes. Set to become mandatory in 2013, Secure Communities would institute a system in which all local police records would be run through the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement database to check the immigration status of all residents in local law enforcement systems, obligating local police to detain individuals for up to three days until a deportation official arrives if they are found to be undocumented.

Last month, city officials rallied against the program, claiming that it would damage the police department’s community policing efforts in immigrant neighborhoods. The Board of Aldermen currently has a resolution pending that would call on Gov. Dannel Malloy to fight the program’s implementation.

Eidelson said she thought it was “unusual” for so many first-term aldermen to serve as committee chairs — between chairs and vice chairs, eight of the board’s freshmen are serving in a committee leadership capacity. But she added that there was another element to the leadership selection: since 19 of the board’s 30 aldermen are newcomers, it was very likely for several of them to have to serve as chairs.

Morrison also called the situation “unusual,” but echoed Eidelson in adding that it made sense given the sheer number of new aldermen.

“I was a little taken aback, for leadership to say ‘You know Jeanette, I think you’ll be a good vice chair,’” Morrison said.

In addition to leading the legislation committee, Morrison will also sit on the city services and environmental policy committee and the finance committee, which oversees the city’s annual budgeting process.

Committee meetings started this week with a finance committee Wednesday night.

Comments