Late last night, Mayor Toni Harp directed a scathing letter to the New Haven Board of Alders.
The political commission has apparently encountered internal difficulty in attempting to determine a chain of command with police chief Anthony Campbell out of town.
The confusion is preventing the city from functioning at full capacity during the biggest travel weekend of the year.
Mayor Toni Harp has vetoed the amendments brought forward by the board of alders for a variety of reasons.
Here is the letter
“Consider this: I-95 is shut down one busy summer weekend, the chief of police is out of town, and officers can’t be mobilized to help thousands of cars and trucks through New Haven because the Board of Alders (BOA) won’t agree on a preferred chain-of-command in the chief’s absence.
Or this: unions representing Yale employees stage a massive rally and tie-up traffic, ordinarily calling for mass arrests, but the police department must simply ignore the disruption because it’ll take days – even weeks – before the next Board of Alders meeting when overtime costs might – or might not – be approved.
These nightmarish scenarios could come to pass if the deliberative branch of city government – the Board of Alders – assumes executive authority of city departments.
A recent series of BOA-approved policy alterations, disguised as budget amendments, erode thoughtful, time-honored Separation of Powers provisions built into the city Charter. Essentially, these elected officials granted themselves additional authority at the expense of effective, efficient, and professionally administered city government.
I vetoed the amendments because I feel they put the integrity of the city Charter at risk; in its exuberance, the BOA voted last week to override those vetoes.
The trouble is, even in the private sector a ‘separation of powers’ is relied upon to disengage a corporate board of directors or trustees from a chief executive or operating officer. Even in the private sector it is standard operating procedure for a deliberative board to consider ‘big picture’ issues, invite input from others, and take time for internal debate, while an executive management team administers day-to-day matters and others demanding immediate attention.
In New Haven, it’s simply a question of which government branch, in this case a 30-member board or the one featuring a clear, concise chain of responsibility and supervision, is best suited to debate longer-term topics like budgets and ordinances, or best suited to respond to shorter-term issues like managing snowstorms and filling potholes.
It is my strong opinion, after nearly 30 years in public office, that an executive branch of government must remain independent, nimble, and autonomous in matters specific to administrative functions. Scores of daily decisions cannot be subjected to – and effectively held hostage by – the debate, deliberation, and likely delay that characterize the BOA process.
Another potential pitfall in BOA control of administrative functions is its parochial nature. Its leaders yield considerable authority, yet remain accountable only to voters in their individual wards. A mayor is elected by an at-large, citywide vote, making the mayor accountable to the entire city and all its residents. Again I suggest an Executive Branch has the best perspective to balance all the city’s needs, consider all its options, and anticipate all possible results of its administrative decisions.
This recent disagreement between my administration and BOA leadership transcends any mayoral administration and any incarnation of the BOA. The very foundation of New Haven’s city government is being reconsidered at its peril. At risk is a responsive, responsible city government.
The balance of power built into the city Charter – just as it is built into the state and U.S. Constitution – is jeopardized by the self-appointed, additional authority recently granted to the Board of Alders by the Board of Alders.
I will continue to uphold the venerable history and tradition of the City of New Haven, its Charter, and its residents in the face of this threat.”
Mayor Harp is clearly upset about the endless and pointless debates takin place in session with the Board of Alders, and the fact that they have put the city in this position is not something Mayor Harp will allow to go unchecked.
Mayor Harp was also critical of some of the legislation that has passed, and she really went for the jugular by referring to these different “alterations” as “budget amendments in disguise”.
That’s not good folks, especially in an election year.
The Board of Alders serves an important function of City government, but the commission dropped the ball in regards to chain of command with the absence of the police chief.
That is ineffective governance, Mayor Harp had every right to read them the riot act.
The city was essentially brought to a standstill because elected officials valued personal opinion over citywide gain, that’s my opinion, there is no excuse for the board to not findcommon ground when matters of transportation and safety are at hand.
Public office requires effective decision making, and the Board of Alders failed in spectacular fashion.
But this goes beyond this situation, Harp is upset with the manner in which the board is functioning, and her allegations that policy alterations are not policy alterations, and actually an aspect of a hidden agenda is serious cause for concern, and investigation.
If we cannot rely on the current Board of Alders to make timely decisions, and pass legislation that is supremely beneficial to the citizens of New Haven, there is no reason for any of these people to be in office.