By Josh LaBella
City Councilman Aaron Charney has always been interested in government. He said he came to back to West have because he’s sees potential in the city.
Charney, a Democrat from the Third District, said his family was living in West Haven when he was born but he lived in Milford for most of his life. He came back five years ago. He said the main issues he wanted to address once in office were transparency and efficiency.
“Governance is best done in the sunlight,” said Charney, an attorney with his own practice who graduated from Vermont Law School. “So I’ve always been big on transparency. I think I’m still the only councilperson with a Facebook page.”
In reference to efficiency, Charney said he does not like waste and, as someone with a vested interest in the West Haven, he thinks the city needs to be efficient.
“It’s very easy just to raise taxes,” said Charney. “It’s much more difficult to sit down, talk to people, look at spreadsheets, see where you can cut, before you just jump to that. It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort. I’m willing to put that time in.”
Charney said his education has given him experience in how to be efficient and, for that reason, he decided to step up for the tax payers of West Haven. According to him, there has always been a tug against transparency in city government.
“I’m a millennial,” said Charney. “The way we get our information is completely different than the generation before us. That’s why, the moment I got in, I set up a Facebook page. Send me messages. I’ll keep you up to date on council meetings and stuff like that.”
Charney said the city does do that to a point but there can always be improvement. He said when the government has to make hard decisions it is easier to try and be a little less transparent.
“We are facing some very big issues in this town,” said Charney. “I believe the public has to be involved and they have to have input. The best way to have input is they have to have information.”
He said an example of the lack of transparency is the process the city has been going through with the Municipal Accountability Review Board. He said it has very little public input.
“You have to Hartford to have a public session,” said Charney, “and even then they cut you off. They really don’t care about the taxpayers in the City of West Haven.”
He also said he is frustrated with the Haven project, which is in his district. He said the developer does not come to speak to the council and, other than a site plan review last year, there have been no updates on their progress.
“We have to drive through it every day,” said Charney. “I have constituents that live [next to the Haven] that have to deal with the crime across the road. The least they could do is come here and give us some information. That’s not on the administration. That’s on the developer. But the city has to try and lean on them.”
Charney said getting Third Ave. paved was one of the most rewarding things he had helped do, as well as something which highlighted the value of public input. He said he knocked doors on the street found a resident who collected signatures for a petition.
“Then public works paved the road,” said Charney. “It shows you how effective public input can be. Finally getting that fixed after all those years. It made me proud that we actually did that. It’s one of those ‘government actually works’ type things. It’s so easy to get jaded. It’s [events] like that – where leaders actually do something you want – its rewarding.”
Charney said he is unsure if he will run for reelection. He said it is a family decision given how big the obligation is. In terms of his goals for the future, he said he does not “see that far down the way on this type of stuff.”
“I’ve always wanted to be up in Hartford,” said Charney. “I’m only 33 so I have to put my time in.”