After the mayor sharply criticized the state and federal governments for fiscal policies that reduced aid to New Haven, the Board of Aldermen turned to the task of picking up the slack.
And with the state legislature in Hartford reportedly poised to vote on the much-anticipated budget Tuesday afternoon — which will precipitate more layoffs in the city sooner rather than later — that task is becoming ever tougher.
In an effort to raise additional revenue and decrease the reliance on contributions from outside government sources, the Board of Aldermen approved Monday night a resolution establishing a Port Authority for the city’s harbor.
Since the founding of New Haven in 1638, the deep-water port has been crucial to commercial activity. But before the establishment of this legal entity — the Port Authority — private shipping firms operated independently.
Now, supporters of this resolution said that instead of standing idly by while private entrepreneurs milk the resource, the city itself could potentially reap profits by overseeing activity where land meets sea.
“New Haven is the largest deep-water port in Connecticut and the third-largest commercial port in New England,” said Ward 26 Alderwoman Lindy Gold, chairwoman of the board’s Legislation Committee. “A Port Authority is an efficient way for the city and surrounding towns to benefit from specialized administration of harbor interests.”
The Port Authority, not yet invested with staff or funds, is charged with establishing by-laws for New Haven’s harbor, developing certain land within the port district, and coordinating private and public interests contained within the harbor.
In addition to performing this administrative duty, there is hope that the new body will be able to turn a profit for the city.
The establishment of this body also increases the legitimacy of the harbor when looking to attract imports and future state aid, Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said.
Ward 27 Alderman Philip Voigt, chairman of the Finance Committee — which jointly reviewed the resolution along with Legislation Committee before it arrived at the full board — thinks the authority will be a boon to the city’s economic fortunes.
“I do think it’s good for New Haven,” he said. “I think it has the potential to bring revenue to the city.”
Ward 9 Alderman John Halle, a Yale music professor, recognized the prospective financial gain for New Haven, but also pointed to the attendant environmental concern of increased truck and barge traffic in the sensitive waterfront ecosystem.
“[The administration] thinks this can be a leading economic engine that will lead the economy of the city. That’s the hope,” said Halle, at the same time warning of diesel emissions and other hazardous effects brought on by a busier port district. “These are the tradeoffs that a city like New Haven has to make.”
In another resolution passed on Monday, the aldermen called for state government to restore $900,000 in funding for local summer enrichment programs for children — such as the Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership program — that Gov. John G. Rowland has proposed to be slashed from the budget.
This action seems to be a preliminary response to the mayor’s directive in his State of the City address for the Board of Aldermen to somehow find summer opportunities for New Haven’s youth given cuts in state aid for such projects.
Aldermen seemed surprised by the mayor’s request to work with local businesses to find summer jobs for New Haven teens.
“It’s an idealistic goal, but also very unrealistic,” Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen ’01 said.
“The challenge is out there,” Voigt said. “It’s time to take some responsibility.”