The Board of Alders on Monday authorized a grant application for a gun violence prevention program, approved a federal grant partially reimbursing the city for personnel costs at Tweed-New Haven Airport and urged New Haven’s federal delegation to oppose war with Iran.
The three actions — all of which passed unanimously — addressed issues of local and national importance. With an increase in gun violence in New Haven, Tweed Airport’s long-awaited and long-litigated runway expansion and escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran after the U.S. military killed top Iranian official Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the Board of Alders passed several resolutions targeting the issues from fiscal and symbolic angles.
“[There is a] very concerning increase in gun violence in New Haven,” Ward 7 Alder Abigail Roth ’90 LAW ’94 said on Monday. “I appreciate this is a complex issue, but it’s one we must focus on understanding more if we want to change the current trend.”
That trend is characterized by a 50 percent increase in shots fired in the Elm City from 2018 to 2019, according to the police department’s annual CompStat report. Murders in New Haven increased slightly — from 10 to 12 — with two occurring in Roth’s ward.
Before becoming an alder, Roth spent a decade as an attorney for the federal Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. She was also the public safety chair of the Downtown Wooster Square Management Team, which gave her an extensive background in gun violence and its prevention.
On Monday, Roth urged her colleagues to authorize Mayor Justin Elicker to apply for a $25,000 grant that would cover overtime expenses for two months. With the grant, the police department can conduct a gun violence prevention and crime suppression program.
While Roth emphasized that this grant alone is not enough to counteract the effects of gun violence on the New Haven community, she underscored the grant as an important step in the right direction. Roth also commended Ward 10 Alder Anna M. Festa for requesting a public hearing on increased gun violence in the Elm City.
The second grant discussion of the night concerned Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport, which in July won a federal lawsuit against the State of Connecticut. The ruling allowed the airport to expand its runway and therefore increase its services. At a press conference at the time of the decision, then-Mayor Toni Harp expressed her hope that the ruling “signals the first step on a path toward improved air service to the estimated one million airline passengers in its market.”
According to Ward 12 Alder Gerald M. Antunes, passenger traffic at Tweed has increased by one third in recent weeks, but flight offerings have not increased accordingly. Just five days ago, American Airlines — the only carrier offering commercial flights out of Tweed — decreased its New Haven–Philadelphia flights from three daily to just one or two. This increase in passengers and decrease in flights, Antunes noted, adds urgency to the existing challenges.
One of those challenges is that New Haven, as per federal regulation, is required to supply security personnel at the airport, putting a strain on the city’s already-tight finances. To offset these costs, the Board of Alders on Monday authorized the New Haven Police Department to accept a $65,000 payment from the federal Transportation Security Administration. This sum, Antunes emphasized, is only a partial reimbursement — the city’s total expenses on airport personnel are unclear as of now. Other cost-reducing measures include a recent $1 per hour increase in parking rates and a potential contribution from car rental agencies operating at the airport.
Monday’s meeting also featured the first speech from newly-inaugurated Ward 1 Alder Eli Sabin ’22, who argued in support of a resolution urging New Haven’s federal delegation to support Sen. Kaine’s war powers resolution to prevent war with Iran. Sabin, one of the resolution’s original co-sponsors, said that New Haveners will directly and acutely feel the effects of a potential war.
“Our resolution today will not end American militarism or bring money wasted on bombs and bullets back to our communities where it belongs,” Sabin said on Monday. “But it is a strong statement by this body that the people of New Haven do not want to go to war anymore.”
In response to Trump’s drone strike that killed Soleimani, an Iranian lawmaker offered a $3 million cash payment to “anyone who kills” the U.S. president.
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