Mayor’s Advisory Commission hosts first town hall of 2023

The New Haven Mayor’s Advisory Commission is a partnership between West Haven and the University of New Haven founded in February 2015 by students, staff and faculty. Their mission is to better university relations and involvement within the West Haven community. The commission is advised by Associate Professor Chris Haynes, who teaches topics such as international affairs, national security and political science.
Haynes founded this program because, “It’s important for there to be dialogue between elected officials and the community.”
The town hall took place on Feb. 21 at West Haven City Hall and was the first town hall meeting of 2023. Mayor Nancy R. Rossi answered many questions regarding the new waste program, city finances and Mayor Rossi’s future in West Haven. Rossi, being the 12th mayor in the city’s history, has held the position since December 2017, and is the first female mayor West Haven has elected into office.
The town hall was moderated by Cameron Carre, a junior political science major. He said, “This town hall is meant to give West Haven residents a chance to hear from and engage with Mayor Rossi on current issues impacting the West Haven community.”
Rossi said in her opening remarks, “Town hall meetings have always been a great way to facilitate transparency between the West Haven community and my office. I am so grateful for the ongoing collaboration between UNH and the Mayor’s Advisory Commission and my office.”
Many of the night’s questions centered around West Haven’s Food to Clean Energy program that was established on Nov. 7. The pilot program is funded by a $1.3 million state grant from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The program asks residents of West Haven to use the bags they receive from the city to get rid of their trash. Orange bags are used for trash and green bags are to fill with food waste. West Haven’s normal trash service will bring the orange bags to their incinerator, while the food waste will go to Southington’s Quantum Biopower facility to be converted into clean energy.
A resident of West Haven asked Mayor Rossi “If this becomes a [permanent] program, how are you going [to] incentivize people to actually do it?”
In response, Rossi said “We are only part way through the actual pilot plan so that’s the whole purpose of the pilot plan. Then, we will take a look once we are completely through with it.”
This program’s advisor is Pam Roach and Rossi said to “please, please contact her because we do want this program to work and the best way to do it is if we all work together and try to get our questions answered.”
Another question asked anonymously was “what is your [Mayor Rossi’s] strategic plan to moving the city forward?”
“MARB [Municipal Accountability Review Board] did give us some money,” Mayor Rossi said. “But we did efficiencies and did things differently. In order to approve our fund balance and to keep the city very, very solvent.”
MARB provides technical, financial and other assistance related accountability for municipalities experiencing various levels of fiscal distress.
The City of West Haven was referred to MARB in December 2017 following the city’s issuance of approximately $17 million of deficit bonds.
In April 2022, West Haven was labeled as a Tier IV municipality, meaning Tier IV provides the MARB with additional oversight tools, most notably the ability to hire a financial manager. Tier IV oversight can help the city implement the cultural changes and financial infrastructure development that previous oversight boards have been unable to enforce.
“The city is partnering with MARB to make sure the city stays on good financial ground moving forward,” Mayor Rossi said. “I want to continue as a partnership not a stakeholder.”
When asked what her legacy will be as mayor, Rossi said “We had to create a five-year financial plan, something that in the history of West Haven to my understanding is something that has never been done…”
The town hall concluded with Mayor Rossi discussing her running for the mayor position again. She said, “I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t made that decision. I really have to sit down and talk to my family…and what they think…because as you know this is a 24/7 job.”

UNH’s Mayor’s Advisory Commission’s first town hall of 2023 helped answer some questions for the residents of West Haven. Town halls will be held every 2-3 months, so be sure to keep up to date with UNH Mayor’s Advisory Commission’s Instagram @unewhavenmac to learn more about upcoming meeting dates and locations.