As the new year and the new term come into focus, the City Council is set to play a major role in the decision-making process above and beyond just budget deliberations, that was the word from its chairman, Ron Quagliani (D-at-large) this week. Taking on his second term as the council’s chairman, Qagliani said he’s hoping the new members and the returning ones can set new sights in 2020-2021.
“I am excited to begin a new term. I believe the mix of new council members and our returning members will bring in a variety of perspectives and ideas which will benefit our community,” he said. “Our members are excited to begin and committed to working together on behalf of our residents.”
One of the major issues facing the new council is picking up where the former one left off regarding charter revision. The work of the Charter Revision Commission ended in July and the legislative panel worked on the details up to the end of the session. It now is the job of the new council to pick it up.
“One of the first items to finalize is Charter Revision. We have set up a council committee to focus on finishing the process. The committee is tasked with recommending to the entire council the question(s) that will be on the ballot and selecting a date for these recommended changes to be voted on by the public,” the chairman said. “I anticipate it will be sometime in the spring as any approved changes will need time to plan for and implement.”
But the work of getting the residents informed is a separate, but related, matter, the chairman said.
“The council has also created a Charter Revision Outreach & Education Committee made up of residents that are tasked with conducting educational sessions at various locations throughout the city to educate the public on the recommended charter changes. The committee will conduct this outreach and educational process over the next few months and will publish meeting times and locations,” he said.
Of course, the new year means the budget-making process begins anew with the usual May deadline for implementation.
“The major item that the council will need to focus on is the budget. As I have stated in the past, our residents cannot keep absorbing tax increases,” he said. “We are headed in the right direction fiscally and the MARB (Municipal Accountability Review Board) has been of great assistance but to ask us to correct decades of financial decisions in five years is not realistic and will cause additional hardships for our residents.”
He said besides the usual mill rate and spending portions of the budget the council will be looking to find other resources for revenue.
“I am hopeful the mayor and the council will explore new areas that will increase non-tax revenue and reduce expenses in order to stabilize, and over time, reduce the tax burden on our community,” he said. “Financial stability only comes with a vibrant community. A vibrant community only comes to fruition when the cost to live in that community is affordable.”
But getting back to the budget, Quagliani thinks this year might be especially difficult and has let that be known.
“The City Council will have difficult decisions to make this term especially as it pertains to the budget. I can promise that the City Council will not take these decisions lightly and will conduct our due diligence and work together on behalf of the citizens of West Haven,” he said..
In the recent past, councils have left economic development strategies up to the executive branch. Quagliani is hopeful this term will see a more active role for the legislative body in matters concerning economic development.
“The Council needs to take a more active role in our economic development strategy by partnering and supporting the existing strategic development plans and assist with new ones for the many areas of our city that need economic revitalization such as our Downtown, Sawmill corridor, old Armstrong building, Beach Street corridor, Route 1 corridor, and others,” he said. “The council will be inviting the Economic Development Commissioner and other city officials to a future meeting to brief us on their efforts for these areas and others and to offer our thoughts, ideas, and partnership in these efforts.”
Finally, he said that residents should take more than a passive role in how the city is run.
“I encourage our residents and business owners to be partners with us by attending a meeting and letting your voice be heard or watching a meeting on-line to be informed. Our agendas and minutes are available on the City Council web page on the City of West Haven website,” he said.
Our community members are always welcome to contact me or any Council Member with their thoughts, ideas, questions, and concerns. We have been elected to serve as representatives for our residents. As such, the community’s participation is vital to our success.