At Thursday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, aldermen spent as much time eating cake as they did discussing plans to revamp a “dismal” city recycling program and seek public input on a proposed universal information telephone system.
The Board passed a resolution calling for a public hearing about a consolidated “311” hot line for all City Hall services. In an effort to achieve a greener New Haven, the board also voted to look into a more “innovative” city recycling program.
Several Yale environmentalists said that although the proposed recycling incentives might help the city, they would not have much effect on campus recycling efforts.
Under the recycling program, city officials would distribute to every household recycling bins with bar codes, which sanitation workers would scan when emptying the bin. Based on these data, the city would pay homeowners a yet-to-be-determined amount of money for their recyclables.
Several aldermen said they expect this cash incentive would promote recycling and the local economy by incentivizing recycling and encouraging New Haven residents to reinvest their money in city businesses.
But Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez said at the meeting that before the proposal is launched, the city should look at the effectiveness of current sanitation schedules, to which he said city workers do not always adhere.
Currently, there is a weekly pickup schedule for curbside recycling, according to which garbage trucks collect recyclables from blue bins supplied by the city. The trucks carry the materials to the city recycling center located on Middletown Avenue.
Many aldermen said the schedule is unreliable, however, and trucks often arrive late or simply never come.
“The one thing we can do in this city is to pick up the recycling,” Perez said.
Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar said that the “lax” pickup system contributes to the overall “dismal” city recycling system now in place. He said he hopes the city can become “innovative” with its policies and push incentives for innovation.
Several aldermen said they hope to install a “Recycling Coordinator” in the Department of Public Works, which currently handles recycling.
Still, Ward 20 Alderman Charles Blango said the coordinator position may not be enough to ensure “accountability” for the city government. He said he plans to look at the proposal more closely before making a decision.
Some Yale environmental student leaders said the initiative is good gesture for the city — but not for the college.
Valerie Gordon ’09 — co-chair of the Yale Student Environmental Coalition — said she thinks the incentive-based program will encourage those who currently do not recycle consistently to be more environmentally conscious. But for Yale, any money would likely be given to Yale as an institution, so student recycling would not change as a result of the new program, she said.
The proposal for an information telephone system, introduced by half of the aldermen, is similar to “311” phone systems in several major cities across the country.
If the system is adopted, residents will be able to call one phone number for information about non-emergency issues like recycling pickup, said Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark, who has advocated for the program for the last month and a half.
Clark said residents often hesitate to call the city’s numerous governmental departments to get answers to questions. Instead, she said, residents call their aldermen, who are not necessarily able to tell them what department or phone number to call.
The single number will be more convenient and easier for residents to navigate, she said.
After the meeting, some aldermen said the program may be too expensive to implement.
But the process of approval is now in its last phases, Clark said. The Board of Aldermen has been discussing the program for over a month. The board also voted to hold public hearings to gauge opinions on the program.
“The hearing[s] will let us know if the people want it,” she said. “I think they do.”
Before the meeting began, Board President and Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield presented Angela Carter, a reporter for the New Haven Register, with a thank-you citation for her coverage of Board of Aldermen meetings since 1998.