The Board of Alders kicked off a new legislative season Monday night, as the aldermanic leadership announced the creation of an online survey to help determine the board’s legislative agenda for the next two years.
Since the newest cohort of alders took office in 2012, the board has developed a series of agendas to govern the board’s focus. In previous years, those agendas have been based on thousands of conversations with residents conducted by the board’s 30 members. This year, though, residents will just have to turn to the nearest laptop to connect with their government.
Board President and West River Alder Tyisha Walker, one of the alders who came on to the board in 2012, said the newest iteration of the board’s legislative agenda is meant to be an update on the previous two.
“[Those] agendas came from people all over the city, and all the neighborhoods, and they told us what our priorities should be,” Walker said. “We want to do that again. We want to update our priorities in January, and we want to hear from residents. We’ll have a legislative agenda that everyone in the city will be proud of.”
Annex Alder Al Paolillo Jr. said the two previous legislative agendas, as well as the coming one, demonstrate that the current board is a “proactive” body.
He described the survey as a “citywide” effort, encouraging every type of civic organization — from block watches to community-management teams — to have their members take the survey. The board passed a resolution authorizing the survey’s creation two weeks ago, Paolillo said, but work will continue for the next two to three months.
After Walker’s and Paolillo’s remarks, two officials — Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 and Ward 24 Co-Chair Gary Stewart, both instrumental in the creation of the online survey — went to a computer set up for the occasion and guided attendees through the process. Meanwhile, Director of Legislative Services Al Lucas went around the room handing out physical copies of the survey.
Stewart first entered his name and address into the survey, and then progressed to a page on which he dragged boxes representing various city issues — fiscal responsibility, community policing and jobs placement, among others — into his order of priorities. An aggregation of thousands of people’s concerns, the alders hope, will be able to provide a clear direction for the alders’ work in the coming two years.
“Anyone who knows how to play solitaire can do this,” said Hill Alder Dolores Colon ’91, prompting laughs from around the room.
Eidelson said the survey’s purpose is to ensure the people’s representatives are staying up to date, and that their priorities reflect the concerns of the constituents they represent.
The board’s previous slate of legislative priorities — especially revolving around employment opportunities in New Haven — have been determined to a large extent by conversations with constituents, Eidelson said.
A new round of conversations, coupled with a citywide survey, will allow the alders to keep their finger on the pulse of the community, she said, acknowledging that many people’s priorities might not have changed since the creation of the last legislative agenda in 2014.
“I think because our agenda is based on the conversations we had last time, what people have said they want to see in the city, I doubt that everyone has completely changed their mind,” Eidelson said. “But I do think that — especially with neighborhood-based concerns — things can shift … that the work we’re doing is fully reflective of the will of the people.”