Isaac Yu, Contributing Photographer

The Aldermanic Affairs Committee of the New Haven Board of Alders met Monday night to approve five community members to three city commissions, including three for the city’s Affordable Housing Commission.

The committee, chaired by Ward 13 Alder Rosa Ferraro-Santana, oversees all appointments to city boards and commissions. It approved the nominations of Rebecca Corbett, Claudette Kidd and Ebony McClease to the Affordable Housing Commission. It also appointed local attorney Judith Rothschild to the Lead Advisory Commission and reappointed financial advisor Norman Forrester to the Parking Authority.

The newly appointed officials will serve on boards that play an active role in shaping the city’s response to lead testing, affordable housing shortages and homelessness among LGBTQ youth. The alders approved all five nominees unanimously.

“I feel that the members that have come before us for the [commissions] were really positive candidates,” said Ward 24 Alder and Committee Vice Chair Evette Hamilton. “Everybody had a story to tell, which made them an asset to the commissions.”

Each first-time nominee was given an opportunity to advocate for their appointment. Alders then asked candidates to expand on their backgrounds. Forrester, the only reappointment of the evening, was not required to appear before the committee.

Rothschild was the first nominee to provide a statement to alders and field questions. She will join the Lead Advisory Commission for a three-year term.

The LAC, which was created earlier this year, monitors the city’s aging building stock for possible sources of lead poisoning. Rothschild has spent significant portions of her career prosecuting landlords over housing and safety code violations, many of which address problems of poisonous lead paint in city residences. She told the board that she plans to use the committee’s budget for more proactive lead inspections of older residential buildings.

“We should stop using children as canaries in a coal mine,” Rothschild said. “We are certainly in need of improvement because we still have poisonings.”

Rothschild recently moved from her New Haven residence of 30 years to Hartford and will perform her duties, which include making policy recommendations to the Board of Alders, virtually. According to a report authored this year by the state’s Department of Public Health, in 2017, New Haven children had the highest average elevated blood lead levels among all Connecticut cities. Several class-action lawsuits against the Elm City over the past decade have argued that the city has been negligent in its enforcement of lead paint protection laws. In his 2019 campaign, Mayor Justin Elicker promised to address the longstanding issue.

Alders also heard testimony from the three nominees for the Affordable Housing Commission. The AHC was created in 2019 as a permanent body to replace the temporary Affordable Housing Task Force. It is expected to continue the work of the task force, which authored several reports on the maintenance and development of the city’s housing infrastructure. Corbett, an employee at the Yale School of Medicine, and Kidd, an advocate of local Christian grassroots group Mothers (and Others) for Justice, both shared with the commission their past experiences with homelessness and housing insecurity. Hamilton applauded their testimony, citing the two as having valuable experience.

“You have lived … both sides of the coin, coming from homelessness, to renting, to now being a property owner.” Hamilton said to the nominees. “I know you will be a great asset to this commission,”

McClease, a special education teacher at Wilbur Cross High School, highlighted her experience working with local low-income and LGBTQ youth in her address to the committee. McClease said she will work to ensure that the needs of these groups are not overlooked in discussions on housing. She added that housing is particularly important for these groups, as they are vulnerable to exploitation when they are without crucial resources like housing.

All three of Monday’s appointees to the Affordable Housing Commission will serve two-year terms.

Isaac Yu | isaac.yu@yale.edu