Ward 8 Alderman Vincent Mauro Jr. wants New Haven’s Board of Aldermen to have the power to approve mayoral appointments to several city boards and commissions.
Adding his name to the growing list of city officials wanting to take advantage of this year’s Charter revision process, Mauro has asked the Charter review committee to re-examine the way the city appoints members of the police commission, the fire commission and the Board of Education.
Under the current Charter, the members of all three bodies — like almost half of New Haven’s boards and commissions — are appointed by the mayor without any approval from the city legislature.
Mauro said his proposal, if approved by the Charter review committee and New Haven voters, would give the 30-member Board of Aldermen slightly more power in a system where almost all important decisions are made the mayor.
“I feel that it is essential that mayoral selections for at least these three vital panels, which have such a significant impact on the lives of New Haven residents, be required to come before the Aldermanic Affairs Committee,” Mauro wrote in a Feb. 19 letter to the board.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. could not be reached for comment last night.
The Board of Aldermen plans to name a five-to-15-member Charter review committee by mid-March. Under a provision inserted into the governing document the last time it was revised in the early 1990s, the city must review the charter at least once every 10 years.
In some other American cities, including nearby Hartford, almost all executive power is vested in a city council, which appoints a professional city manager to carry out day-to-day operations.
Recently elected Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez is pushing the committee reviewing his city’s charter to transfer almost all executive power from the city council to the mayor’s office.
During New Haven’s last Charter revision, voters agreed to scrap the Board of Finance, a committee appointed by the mayor to draw up the city’s budget. The board’s elimination gave the Board of Aldermen some oversight of the city’s finances.
Under the old system, the mayor had almost exclusive control over the city’s budget process.
Mauro said giving the Board of Aldermen oversight of mayoral appointments would result in boards and commissions that better represented the interests of the city’s residents.
“If the appointments came before the Board of Aldermen, we’d be able to do our part to make sure that these very important committees are as diverse as the city itself,” Mauro said yesterday. “I think that when one person has complete autonomy to select members of the most important commissions in cities, there is not enough oversight.”
But at least one member of the 1990 Charter revision committee said this year’s commission should be wary of shifting too much power from the mayor’s office to the Board of Aldermen.
Joel Schiavone ’58, who ran against DeStefano this fall as a Republican mayoral candidate, said he now believes eliminating the Board of Finance was a mistake.
“You don’t really change the things that need to be changed,” Schiavone said of the Charter revision process. “You end up focusing on the stuff that doesn’t generate controversy.”