Elm City’s new mayor Justin Elicker’s first week was a busy one, featuring a packed inauguration ceremony, a no-frills celebration and the release of a 52-page transition team report outlining goals for his first 100 days, two years and the long term.
On Jan. 1, over 500 New Haveners packed into an auditorium at Hillhouse High School to ring in 2020 by inaugurating a group of new faces and longtime public officials: Elicker, City Clerk Michael Smart, Board of Education President Darnell Goldson and the 30 members of the Board of Alders. Four days later, Elicker set a new tone for 165 Church St. by welcoming a crowd of over 100 to a casual open house reception — as opposed to the traditional mayoral balls held by his predecessors.
“This is your home. This is your hour. This is your church. This is your community. You are always welcome here,” Elicker told attendees at his inaugural reception, standing behind a microphone clipped to a music stand in place of a podium. “This City Hall is going to be accessible to everyone.”
Elicker, who upset three-term incumbent Toni Harp last fall, stressed government accessibility on the trail. As a candidate, he freely gave out his personal phone number. According to the New Haven Independent, reception attendees noticed the continuity in openness. City staffer Pat Solomon said that the low-key event was “indicative of [Elicker’s] humble [and] observant” personality.
The Elicker administration has promised more change than just swapping tuxedos for khakis. Over the past two months, his 25-person transition team — headed by co-chairs State Rep. Robyn Porter, D-Hamden; Vera Institute Director of the Center on Immigration and Justice and former city Community Services Administrator Kica Matos; and New Haven Public Schools Advocates founder Sarah Miller — compiled a 52-page document that will serve as a report card for the new administration. The document details specific policy objectives and broader governmental goals to be achieved by April 12, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021 — the 100 day and two year-marks, respectively — as well as in the long term.
These recommendations emerged from conversations with hundreds of city residents in the form of two town halls — collectively boasting nearly 500 attendees, 112 email suggestions, 353 survey responses and 68 meetings with city officials and community leaders, according to the New Haven Independent.
“This report is a labor of love, and we are not only proud of the content, but also the process that we adopted,” the co-chairs said in a statement. “Working with a diverse, smart and dedicated transition team, we have produced a document that presents an exciting vision for the city that we all call home.”
The transition team’s vision involves a to-do list for April 12: abolish library late fees, create a Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force, appoint Lead Paint Advisory Committee members and support a Sanctuary City Ordinance and establish guidelines for Board of Education appointments, among other items. The report also suggests that the mayor publish an easily accessible city budget and establish a tracking system for resident requests of city officials by the end of his two-year term.
The report also directly answers concerns raised throughout the transition process. In response to resounding calls for education reform, it calls on the mayor to declare 2020 the Year of the Whole Child in New Haven — an effort to address racism and implicit bias, ground curricula in cultural affirmation and support students facing trauma and mental health challenges.
On the economic development front, the transition team heeded community concerns regarding income inequality and set goals in the short and long term to “close the revenue gap with Yale and Yale New Haven Hospital.” On jobs, the report requests that the Elicker administration hire locally for municipal positions and establish policies for economic growth and workforce development — for example, ensuring that construction contracts go to New Haven contractors.
Echoing a resident suggestion at the first transition team input meeting, the transition team encourages Elicker to use the Livable City Initiative to support property owners by consolidating code enforcement. With the city budget a continuing concern, the report prompts the new administration to seek additional sources of state and local funding: the latter potentially through new taxes on hospital beds, local sales and commuters.
“This report is a result of hundreds of hours of hard work from our Transition Team, who all volunteered this time because we all have a shared vision of New Haven where everyone can thrive,” Elicker said in a statement. “This report will be a guide for all City Departments to focus their important work in my first-term in office.”
Elicker will serve a two-year term ending in December 2021.
Mackenzie Hawkins | firstname.lastname@example.org