Gearing up for election season, the entire Board of Alders gathered in City Hall Wednesday night to submit reports from the aldermanic committees. The alders sat side-by-side with local college students to teach them about city politics.
Approximately 40 students from Gateway Community College and Southern Connecticut State University sat in on the meeting, where they saw tax and finance committees submit reports on tax abatement directed toward helping low-income households and reviewed recently acquired funding. Alders at the meeting also read proposals that they will vote on during their next meeting on Oct. 19, which cover topics including youth, education, safety and finance in the Elm City. Ward 17 Alder Alphonse Paolillo Jr., Public Safety Committee vice-chair and finance committee member, chaired the meeting.
“This [Board of Alders] meeting might look easy,” Paolillo said. “But much of the debate happens during committee meetings, and this final meeting is the finishing line of a long race.”
Following the meeting, students from GCC and SCSU posed questions about the Board of Alders’ Youth Services and Environmental subcommittees, as well as the status of ongoing transportation and construction issues in the city. GCC student Johnisha Lafrauer said Elm, Chapel and Orchard streets have not been repaired in months, making it difficult for residents to use them when traveling to and from school. She said that because city money gets directed toward repairs for roads in front of Yale-New Haven Hospital, fewer funds are available to fix other roads.
“The cause is that the hospital gets the dollars,” Lafrauer said. “So the only part of the road that’s fixed is the block in front of the hospital.”
Tax issues are major concerns for the Board of Alders, Paolillo said, adding that to address these issues, the board aims to develop a system targeted toward low-income individuals who have difficulties paying their taxes. He noted that the system will allow individuals to contact their alders with greater ease. The Communications Committee will oversee the system, Paolillo added.
Paolillo recalled a family who could not pay their taxes and college tuition for their children at the same time, noting that the family then contacted their alder, who helped them apply for permission to delay the payments without losing their home.
Youth education is another major concern for the Board of Alders, Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison said. She pointed to a major project in her ward, the Dixwell Q House, which is being turned into a community space after being closed down for more than a decade. Morrison said she is working with other alders to acquire funding to demolish the old 20,000-square-foot building and replace it with a new 54,000-square-foot version. The new building will be used as a city library and community center for senior citizens.
“This is a project that many members in the board [support],” Morrison said. “We gathered $1 million of funding in the past year, and hope to see the project get approved at the beginning of 2016.”
The Board of Alders meets on the first and third Monday of every month.