Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 may have just celebrated his 22nd birthday, but on the New Haven Board of Aldermen this year, he can count himself an experienced veteran.
With 13 freshmen members inaugurated onto the Board last month, Healey’s tenure of two and a half years leaves him as one of the longer-serving aldermen, and he was rewarded last week with the chairmanship of the Legislation Committee. Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez announced Healey’s assignment for the next two years last week, along with the chairs and members of the Board’s other 11 committees.
In addition, Healey, a Democrat who represents an area that includes eight Yale colleges and Old Campus, kept his seat on the influential Finance Committee, which will again be chaired by Ward 27 Alderman Philip Voigt. Perez made the final decision concerning all appointments on the Board, although he listened to input from individual members before announcing the assignments.
Healey said he thought his experience on the Board had prepared him well for his roles on both the Legislation and Finance Committee.
“I think that it’s important that we have a core group of experienced folks on finance as we go through tough fiscal times, and I’m happy to contribute my small bit of experience and wisdom to help getting our budget balanced,” Healey said.
The city ran a deficit of $3.7 million last year, and city leaders have said in recent weeks that they do not expect state aid — which comprises over half of New Haven’s revenues — to increase significantly this year after falling in 2003.
While the new term places Healey in the role of committee chair for the first time, another young Yalie on the Board, Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen ’01, a member of the Green Party, is facing a different challenge — a seat on six different committees.
With every committee required to include minority party representation, Chen — along with the only other non-Democrat on the 30-person Board, Republican Ward 18 Alderwoman Arlene DePino — was assigned to half of the 12 panels. Since some committees typically meet at the same time, Chen said she thought she would occasionally have to make difficult decisions about which meetings to attend.
“It’s unrealistic to expect either of us to attend all of the committee meetings,” Chen said. “So what my party and I are planning on doing is that if I can’t go, we’re going to send people to at least obtain information.”
DePino, who was appointed to the Finance Committee, said she was also concerned about the workload that six committee assignments — along with a position on the Airport Advisory Committee — would entail.
“Am I worried about it? Yeah. I’m not going to have much of a life,” DePino said. “It’s going to be hard, but I’m committed to it.”
While assignments to the Board’s 12 committees were split between Chen and DePino, the two alderwomen have not yet agreed upon a procedure to select the minority leader. DePino has introduced legislation that would give the party with the greater number of registered voters — the Republicans, according to the most recent figures — the leadership position. Chen has advocated a plan under which both she and DePino each serve a year as minority leader.