Improved Community Policing
We need the New Haven police to return to relationship-based community policing. Many of our neighbors believe that community policing is no longer a reality. We need to see more cops walking the beat and getting to know our neighborhoods. Continued focus on hiring New Haven residents should be a priority. We need to have a public dialogue about how community policing works in the 21st century and how police connect with the community. Building relationships with the community could a variety of forms but it must be real and sustained:
- Chief Reyes has suggested additional bike cops and a hybrid walking-drive beat model, where officers would not just drive through communities but would make time between calls to connect with residents. Given the recent exodus of officers, instituting this model may help as the department rebuilds its ranks.
- District Managers play a large role in community outreach but are often shifted between districts. Some maintain regular public safety email communications to residents; others do not. Could the NHPD commit maintaining District Managers in their districts? Could all District Managers be required to maintain district-specific communications to inform residents?
- Ensuring that officers are as visible as possible when on duty – circulating through their districts and maintaining their presence as much as possible in publicly-visible locations.
- In an era of video cameras and smart doorbells, how can NHPD deploy technology to solve more crimes, integrate video systems with businesses’, and reinvent the blockwatch program?
The City must follow through with organizing the newly-created Civilian Review Board and hiring staff for the Board. This board is essential for reviewing complaints of police misconduct, building trust between the police and City residents, and fostering accountability. I am committed to working with colleagues on the Board of Alders to vet nominees and staff for the Review Board to ensure that the Review Board has the confidence of the public and can get its important work done.
The legislation passed to create the Review Board gave it significant powers, including the power to launch independent investigations. The law also acknowledged that the Review Board is a work in progress and requires the Board of Alders to revisit the law and make changes to improve the operations of the Review Board – the Board of Alder must through with updates to make sure that the Review Board has the powers and resources needed to do its work and instill public confidence.
The City must increase enforcement to limit the impact dirt bikes and quads have on our quality of life. Other cities have adopted ordinances to fine gas stations that sell to dirt bikers and to require dirt bike dealers to visibly post copies of dirt bike legislation. These are small changes but along with increased enforcement can help show residents – and dirt bikers – that the City is serious about addressing this issue. The City should also explore how new technologies can help track dirt bikers who the police may not be able to safely pursue.
Safe Streets and Improved Transit for All Neighborhoods
The City needs to revisit its Complete Streets process, which allows residents to petition for traffic-calming improvements like bike lanes, speed bumps and bumpouts. The ordinance requires that improvements must be integrated into the City’s street repairs but in many cases the City fails to do this. For instance, many streets are milled, repaved, and re-striped without adding new bike lanes. Bringing community representatives and newly-available crash data into the Complete Streets process will make it more transparent, data-driven, and effective. The City should prioritize durable physical improvements that drivers cannot ignore, like speed bumps and protected bike lanes (Cambridge, MA recently required all new bike lanes to be protected bike lanes).
The City should explore all possible avenues (get it, avenues!?) for improving bus service. The City should engage Yale University in a serious dialogue about adopting CT Transit’s U-Pass system, which allows for students to take all CT Transit buses and trains, including the newly opened Hartford line. Merging the Yale shuttle system with local bus service would help provide meaningful access to adequate public transit for all residents. If the state does not follow through on its years-long Move New Haven bus study, the City should explore how it can form its own regional transportation district, like Bridgeport has. This would allow the City to reconfigure its bus routes and to make sure that basic services, like accurate GPS tracking, actually work.
Opportunities for Youth, Jobs, and Economic Development
Even with the City’s serious fiscal challenges, investing in our young people must remain a top priority. In every corner of our ward, citizens are calling for more opportunities for our youth to stay engaged and learn new skills, and explore new interests. The new Q House will help once it is completed, the City should make use of existing infrastructure by working with local nonprofits to provide programming for our youth at schools after the school day ends.
In hiring new police officers and fire fighters, the City should consider increasing the advantage it gives to New Haven residents or should consider a residency requirement for applicants. This would provide jobs and keep tax dollars in New Haven. As the University is one of the area’s largest employers, the City should encourage it to meet its hiring goals, provide a platform for tracking progress against those goals, and work in partnership through New Haven Works to direct residents to employment opportunities and newly-established training programs.
Efforts to foster small businesses and worker-owned cooperative can help build our local economy from the ground up. The City should work with community partners to realize the vision of creating worker-owned laundry in Newhallville serving the regional hospital system. A similar model has been successful in Cleveland and may provide a template for starting other worker-owned businesses.
New Revenue Options to Advance Public Policy Goals
Whether it is an elderly homeowner seeking to age in place or a young renter whose rent continues to climb, unchecked increases to the mill rate make it difficult for many to afford to remain in New Haven. It is vital for New Haven’s future that the City increase options for generating revenue outside of property taxes. These alternative sources of revenue can also help our City achieve critical public policy goals, like reducing air pollution acting on climate change, and addressing the rising cost of housing.
Many cities across the country have succeeded in raising revenues from fees related to the digital economy – Portland, Oregon, for example, has raised millions of dollars from a 50 cent fee on ride hailing services like Uber. New Haven suffers the worst asthma rates in Connecticut and faces increasing flood and storm related damages from climate change. A fee like Portland’s could provide resources to the City to adopt strategies to address these critical issues.
Many other municipalities have imposed fees and regulations on AirBnB, raising revenue, addressing negative impacts, and taking some pressure off the rental market. As New Haven needs to do all it can to address housing affordability, this approach should be implemented here as well. Similarly, other municipalities have instituted storm water fees to improve watershed health – a thoughtfully designed storm water policy could bring in additional revenue from large nonprofits, like Yale and Yale New Haven, who have expansive environmental footprints.
While these policies would not require changes in state law but others – like beverage, entertainment, hotel and hospital bed taxes – would. These new sources of revenue can help take the pressure of balancing the budget off of City residents. The City should do all in its power to coordinate with other municipalities to win the right to generate these revenues from the state.
Increased Transparency in City Business and Budgeting
How many neighborhood meetings does one find out about at the last minute or the next day? The City must to do more to make sure that the time, place, and contents of City-related meetings are communicated to the public. This can begin with the Board of Alders by ensuring that all Aldermanic meetings are posted on the City website calendar and by linking to the most up-to-date materials being considered. It can extend to neighborhood-level meetings (about say, rezoning decisions or traffic-calming improvements) – if residents can opt into notifications about street sweeping, they should also be able to opt into notifications about neighborhood-related meetings.
On the budget, each year residents interested in scrutinizing the budget must run their own calculations as the City only release a paper/PDF version of the budget March 1st. The City should be required to release an electronic version of the budget at the same time as the paper version to save everyone interested in exploring the budget from duplicating efforts and wasting time. Throughout the year, the City should regularly publish a check register so that any resident can explore where every penny of every City dollar is spent.
Affordable, Quality Housing and Neighborhood Development
The City should adopt an inclusionary zoning ordinance to ensure that some percentage of each development’s units are affordable. The City should update its zoning and land use policies to encourage residents to participate in development. For example, removing restrictions on minimum lot sizes and providing a clear path for property owners to build accessory dwelling units (“mother-in-law apartments” or small detached structures) can open up small-scale development opportunities and increase housing stock. The City should redouble efforts to ensure that existing housing stock is of decent quality and to make sure that inspections result not only in City-issued orders but in work orders from property owners and managers that resolve tenants’ issues. For properties of a certain size, the City might consider requiring some level of access to property managements’ work order systems. The City could also consider a property management company licensing program to ensure that standards are being met.