After a closed-door caucus meeting and a public vote, the Board of Alders voted to appoint Ward 8 Alder Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18 — rather than newly inaugurated Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 — as the third officer, an alternative title for the minority leader position when the elected officer serves in the majority.
Greenberg was elected third officer after Catalbasoglu decided to caucus with the Democrats, despite basing much of his campaign on the promise that he would be able to better influence city affairs as an unaffiliated alder. Ward 21 Alder Steven Winter ’11 also decided to caucus with the Democrats. Both Winter and Catalbasoglu were unaffiliated candidates during their campaigns and both expressed interest in serving as minority leader.
There was no discussion or opposition regarding the minority leader position at the public Board meeting; however, the item was discussed at a previous closed-door caucus. All alders were present at the meeting, including Catalbasoglu and Winter.
“I’m excited to learn from the current board leadership and work with colleagues old and new to really make sure that we have a strong representation when we go to negotiate with the mayor’s administration,” Greenberg told the News.
The position of minority leader was a major part Catalbasoglu’s campaign. In interviews and campaign speeches, he said he was running unaffiliated, which would allow him to automatically become the minority leader and serve on any of the aldermanic committees. But that plan was thrown into doubt when Winter was elected alder as an independent in Ward 21 and voiced a desire to serve as minority leader.
Originally, it seemed that Winter and Catalbasoglu would come to an agreement on their own, as both had expressed interest in the minority leader position. But according to Catalbasoglu, in order to be minority leader, he would have had to re-register his party affiliation. And after talking to leadership and other colleagues over the winter break, he told the News on Tuesday night, he decided that the “benefits do not outweigh the drawbacks.”
“Doing my own thing would not be beneficial for me or my constituents,” Catalbasoglu said.
Winter reached his decision using similar logic, saying that developing “strong relationships” with other alders is the “most important thing.”
The board meeting also featured a vote on whether Mayor Toni Harp would receive a raise. Although the board’s finance committee discussed increasing the mayor’s salary by $10,000, the full board ultimately decided on a smaller raise.
During the Tuesday night meeting, the board voted to give Harp a raise of $3,013 to her annual salary until June 30, 2019. After the 2018 fiscal year ends, the mayor will receive an additional raise for the remainder of her two-year term. This increase corresponds to the 2.3 percent Consumer Price Index released in last December by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, a figure that serves to account for inflation. Harp will receive a $134,013 salary until June 30, 2019, while her salary for the remainder of her term will be decided based on the Consumer Price Index released this December.
The vote was not unanimous; Ward 7 Alder Abigail Roth ’90 LAW ’94 and Winter voted against the amended raise, citing the “tough financial challenges” New Haven faces today.
“In an atmosphere of tightening budgets and potential for more tax increases like the one we just saw, residents don’t feel like a salary increase is appropriate when they’re dealing with those issues at home,” Winter told the News. “I was representing the feelings of my constituency.”
The raise for the Office of the Mayor was originally proposed by New Haven’s Department of Human Resources Director Stephen Librandi in a Nov. 16 letter to Board of Alders President and Ward 23 Alder Tyisha Walker-Myers. According to mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer, it was Librandi, not Harp, who made the request. Grotheer told the News in December that the raise was warranted because the city has not adjusted the mayor’s salary in 10 years. In addition, he added, mayors in nearby cities like Bridgeport, Hartford and Stamford earn much more.
Ward 24 Alder Evette Hamilton proposed the amendment raising Harp’s $131,000 salary to $134,013, revising the initial figure of $141,000.
“We took the mayor out of the equation and looked at the position itself,” Ward 5 Alder Dave Reyes Jr. said at the meeting. “We made a conclusion for a 2.3 percent increase, which would be sufficient to cover the increased cost of living.”
Roth, however, openly expressed disagreement with the mayor’s raise. She had previously communicated this dissent during the public hearing held by the Board of Alders’ Finance Committee.
“The mayor expressed in her inauguration address that New Haven faces tough financial challenges, and leadership calls for financial sacrifice,” Roth said at the meeting. “Especially since we have no adequate funding from state.”
Winter also referenced Harp’s inauguration speech and her assertion that New Haven “faces storm clouds from the state.” Although he is “generally supportive for pay increases for hard working civil servants,” he said he could not support this amendment because of the financial troubles facing New Haven.
“We just raised car taxes to make up for a shortfall from the state and we are going to be faced with additional shortfalls from the state,” Winter said.
The next Board of Alders meeting will be held on Feb. 5.
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Correction, Jan. 17: This story incorrectly stated that the election of the third officer occurred “out of public view.” Though there were no discussion in the public eye, the election did occur at the open-door Board meeting.