Newly elected aldermen, including Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12, continued to settle into their roles at the Board of Aldermen’s second meeting of the year Tuesday night.
The Board unanimously elected 19 of its members to city commissions Tuesday night. Eidelson, whose ward consists of eight of Yale’s residential colleges and Old Campus, was elected to the city’s Development Commission, which is responsible for New Haven economic development initiatives.
During last November’s election season, Eidelson made the redevelopment of Route 34 — part of the federally funded project known as Downtown Crossing — one of the centerpieces of her campaign. She said she wanted to use the development of the nearby corridor to stimulate local job creation and provide students with better downtown amenities.
Eidelson said she wanted to be on the Development Commission because the issue is important to student life in New Haven, but added that at the same time many students remain unaware of its impact.
“I decided the Development Commission was the one where I could have the greatest impact on the [issues] that are most important to my constituents and me,” Eidelson said. According to Kelly Murphy, the city’s economic development administrator, Route 34 development will bring nearly 3,000 jobs and $100 million in additional economic activity to New Haven, and city officials have said the project will stitch together the main university and medical school campus.
Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez, who was elected Board president earlier this month, said aldermen express interest in each of the commission positions, adding that when more than one alderman seeks a position they are asked to resolve the difference between themselves. Eidelson said she only sought a position on the Development Commission.
Perez is also responsible for assigning aldermen to Board committees, where the details of legislative proposals are typically discussed before they are brought to the full Board for a vote. Aldermen rank their preferences for committee assignments, and usually end up serving on two or more committees.
While New Haven’s city charter technically gives the Board president alone the power to decide committee assignments, Eidelson said Perez has instead committed to share the responsibility for the remainder of the Board leadership to ensure a more transparent process. Although committee assignments are due to be released sometime this week, Eidelson declined to say to which committees she hopes to be assigned.
At Tuesday’s meeting, several significant ordinances were communicated, including one from Ward 8 Alderman Michael Smart to provide a process for the Board’s selection of legal counsel — an issue that emerged as the Board debated its approach to Yale’s restrictive use of High and Wall streets. Prisoner Reentry Initiative coordinator Amy Meek LAW ’09 introduced an ordinance amendment that would make it easier for people with criminal convictions to apply for jobs or permits in the city. These proposals, Eidelson said, will be taken up in committees once they are formed.
After the meeting, which only lasted 10 minutes, the aldermen reconvened in a meeting room for two hours to receive training with city-issued Kindles, which Eidelson said were introduced in an effort to reduce paper waste given the lengthy bills and budgets the Board handles.
The current Board was elected last fall, with elections characterized by an overwhelming union presence. Fourteen of the 19 freshmen on the Board were elected with financial support from labor unions, bringing the number of labor-backed aldermen to 20, enough to overturn a mayoral veto.