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Alderman Signs Up With DeStefano

by Thomas MacMillan | Dec 3, 2011 7:55 pm

(27) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, East Rock

Thomas MacMillan File Photo Matt Smith stepped down from his aldermanic seat on Friday to start a new job on Monday—as a mayoral staffer.

Smith is taking over the position of legislative aide and policy analyst for the mayor, acting as the administration’s liaison with the Board of Aldermen. It’s the post recently vacated by Elizabeth Benton, who moved on to be the mayor’s spokesperson after Adam Joseph took a job at the Capitol working for the state Senate Democrats.

Smith, who’s 37, has been self-employed as a freelance graphic designer. His new position will carry a salary of $53,000.

“I’m excited to continue to have the opportunity to serve the city I love, in a different capacity,” Smith said Saturday evening.

Smith, who recently lost a bid for re-election to Jessica Holmes, was less than a month away from closing out his freshman term.

“The political side of it didn’t work out for me,” he said. His new position will be an “opportunity to continue to use everything I’ve learned over the last two years,” Smith said.

He said he approached the administration when he learned of Benton’s job change, and let the chief of staff know he would be interested in the job.

Smith said he expects the mayor will appoint Holmes to serve out the rest of his term.

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posted by: Wooster Squared on December 3, 2011  8:22pm

Well, that would explain his gushing endorsement of John DeStefano two days before the election.

posted by: Threefifths on December 3, 2011  10:00pm

Like I said the crooked two party system.Where are all of the blame the union haters on this one.

posted by: havener on December 3, 2011  10:42pm

That’s not a big salary. What job did he leave for this?

posted by: SaveOurCity on December 3, 2011  10:54pm

Disgusting,

I actually thought that Matt had a future in thinking for himself and maybe helping the residents of this city.  It was shocking to see his endorsement of the current regime late in the process….and more we see that once again, patronage has won out over common sense.

I hope one of Matt’s early tasks will be to explain to his former constituents why their taxes are skyrocketing to cove the out of control spending in City Hall

posted by: Blame the Mayor on December 4, 2011  1:28am

“...to use everything I’ve learned over the last two years,”
What exactly is that?
You didn’t learn how to read your constituency’s true feelings. They overwhelmingly voted for Kerekes. “Self-employed as a freelance graphic designer” is enough qualification for ‘legislative aide and policy analyst’? Really?

I wish I was surprised but I knew this was inevitable. This is another reason I supported Kerekes, it’s in-your-face cronyism. Work my campaign and you’ll get a job, or you nephew will get a job, or maybe a contract.

DISGUSTING.

Dawson is next, what will he get?

posted by: Noteworthy on December 4, 2011  2:08am

One trades his soul for a city hall gig taxpayers don’t need, the other trades taxpayers’ hard earned money to feather his own political nest and buy an endorsement in a heated political campaign.

John DeStefano and Matt Smith are two peas in a pod and now we know just how small the pod is. The truth always finds a way of coming out.

posted by: Curious on December 4, 2011  8:05am

Wait, so what experience does he have that qualifies him for a salary of $53,000 a year?  How long has he been an alderman?  What are the specifics of the job posting?
...

posted by: James on December 4, 2011  10:55am

It’s just a two year position until someone mops the floor with Johnny in the next election. The clock is ticking, and everyone at city hall knows it.

posted by: Amy Meek on December 4, 2011  12:39pm

Matt’s a neighbor and a friend of mine, so I’m personally very excited to start working with him.
I am dismayed, though, to see the anonymous commenters here claim that cronyism & patronage, rather than Matt’s qualifications, were what got him the job.
Matt is a Yale graduate, a lifelong New Havener, and as a recent alderman, he knows the people & processes with the Board of Aldermen better than almost anyone.
Moreover, Matt is hardworking and passionate about making New Haven a better place.
I think Matt’s a great addition to the Mayor’s Office—welcome!

P.S. To Paul - isn’t your comments policy to avoid a “harsh, anonymous hate-fest”? Yeesh.

[Editor: Thanks for the comment Amy. Yes, these situations are tough calls in the censor-or-don’t-censor department. The story involves a public figure taking a public job, and doing so right after an election in which he endorsed the person who hired him. So we’d draw the line at name-calling or assertions of unconfirmable fact, or general mean-spiritedness. You may be right that we made the wrong call here; just wanted to explain how the line was drawn. I have a lot of respect for Matt personally; I feel as a public figure taking a public job, he understands he stands to be open to criticism.]

posted by: Allan Brison on December 4, 2011  2:35pm

For once I agree with the anonymous posters. I can’t find anything terribly out of line with any of the comments so far. The worse thing said was to characterize Matt’s promotion as “disgusting,” which doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable given the circumstances.

During his campaign last year, Matt had many East Rockers thinking that he would be a mayoral critic on the Board. Some have told me, however, that he actually functioned more as a rubber stamper than as a critic.

I think one has to expect a certain amount of disapointment over his eventual endorsement of DeStefano and even more now that he has joined the Mayor’s team, especially since given the timing.

posted by: Threefifths on December 4, 2011  3:17pm

posted by: Amy Meek on December 4, 2011 11:39am

Moreover, Matt is hardworking and passionate about making New Haven a better place.
I think Matt’s a great addition to the Mayor’s Office—welcome!

So was JUDAS

posted by: East Rock Independent on December 4, 2011  4:30pm

I wonder how this must make the many Smith/Kerekes supporters in Ward 9 feel.

posted by: Noteworthy on December 4, 2011  5:02pm

Amy:

Real names or ones that attempt to mask identity are not anonymous attacks. Behind most of them are real people with passion, a point of view and something to say. They have many reasons for masking who they are not the least of which is fear of retribution from DeStefano or his attack dogs, professional considerations or just the sorry state of politics today. Some of us just like it because our nicks are representative of our comments or personality.

While your support of Matt’s new taxpayer gig are rooted in your personal friendship and knowlege of Matt which is admirable, mine is not. As a taxpayer and voter, his move is ill timed and mercenary.

We don’t need a liaison to the BOA. It’s a worthless position that costs taxpayers at least $75K with benefits. This position is one of the many reasons why there is no significant debate over public policy and that public hearings are a formality and provide little real chance to influence the decision or the details of a policy with exceptions of course.

Bottom line is that Matt’s new gig was bought and paid for on the alter of democracy and it offends me as much over the waste of money as it does the lack of integrity that allowed such an agreement directly or indirectly to take place.

This is in stark contrast to the agreement key supporters of Jeffrey Kerekes agreed to and signed during the campaign. We were offered nothing, expected nothing and spent far more time, energy and money in support of principles than Matt.

His actions however, are in keeping with DeStefano’s over the top campaign of “tea partiers, birthers” and shaking down city contractors. Matt’s just the latest guy to be bought whether he is your friend or not.

posted by: Frank on December 4, 2011  9:19pm

How disappointing,first to read of his endorsement of DeStefano and now this.
I remember meeting Matt in my Wooster Square neighborhood a few years ago and being so impressed with his reform mindset and the need to bring fresh blood into the New Haven political process. What happened along the way? I don’t know.

posted by: Brian M. on December 4, 2011  11:20pm

How dare John DeStefano hire an ex-alderman for a job that most big cities with mayors and boards of alderman already have?

It’s an outrage. “The terrorists won,” say 9 out of 10 anonymous commenters.

posted by: havener on December 4, 2011  11:51pm

@Amy Meek,
Really NOT trying to be snarky here, but I clicked on your name and went to the page you linked to.

I am familiar with this work and applaud the city’s efforts.

However, I never realized it was called the Prison Reentry Initiative until I clicked on your link…really, really REALLY think you guys should consider a name change!

posted by: The Professor on December 5, 2011  1:27am

I, for one, see nothing wrong here.  Matt Smith endorsed John DeStefano because he thought that DeStefano would be the best man for the job.  The fact that his constituents didn’t support DeStefano shouldn’t particularly relevant—shouldn’t we admire it when politicians vote/speak their conscience instead of simply going with what polls (or informal neighborhood surveys) say?  Moreover, suppose Smith had represented a pro-DeStefano neighborhood, endorsed Kerekes, and suppose that Kerekes had won and Smith had lost.  Would all these anonymous commenters still be crying foul? 

Finally, as to the accusations that this is somehow improper, those frankly boggle my mind.  Smith endorsed DeStefano.  Had he been re-elected, he would have worked to advance an agenda that he felt was sufficiently shared between them as an Alderman.  Now that he hasn’t been re-elected, he’ll be working to advance a very similar agenda (in the sense that the Mayor will have the final calls and Smith won’t have the power of a vote) as the Legislative Liaison to the Board of Aldermen.

American politics is filled with people who lose their races and go work under an officeholder with whom they agree.  Is it “unconscionable” that Richard Cordray, the former Attorney General of Ohio, took a job working in the Obama Administration after endorsing Obama in 2008 and losing his reelection campaign in 2010?  Was there a problem with Rahm Emmanuel actually resigning from Congress to take a job with the Obama Administration after—you guessed it—endorsing Obama in 2008?  Was there a problem with Kathleen Sebelius resigning as Governor of Kansas to take a cabinet post in the Obama administration after endorsing Obama and despite Obama losing Kansas by over 15 points? 

While this is great news for Matt Smith, who has an opportunity to continue to serve the people of New Haven, and for the DeStefano team, which has added an exceptionally capable and dedicated public servant to its staff, this is wholly unremarkable when you look at the big picture.  Any effort to make this into a scandal seems to be indicative of some dysfunction, whether it be some desire to make everything that happens in New Haven into an operatic drama of endless scheming and intrigue (to borrow from This American Life), or an almost creepy obsession that drives people to accuse John DeStefano and his administration of corruption at literally every turn.

posted by: Noteworthy on December 5, 2011  9:46am

Professor:

All those paragraphs amount to this: It’s not a scandal. It’s a payoff.

While you are correct, it happens all the time, that doesn’t make it right, or honorable or frankly preferable from a taxpayer’s point of view. They rejected his leadership and now, he will be helping to cook the decisions from the top. Joining with the rest of them in a time honored tradition, just makes Matt part of the rogue’s gallery of people who would rather work in the warm womb of public expense than the private enterprise.

posted by: Disappointed on December 5, 2011  10:20am

Alan Brison writes: “During his campaign last year, Matt had many East Rockers thinking that he would be a mayoral critic on the Board.” 

This for me is the root of why this leaves a bad taste in my mouth—it’s certainly not unheard of for an alder to rotate into a job in the administration (just as the equivalent happens on the state and federal level as a normal course of affairs, as previous commenters have pointed out).

However, as a member of the ward during the very contentious election, I recall accusations that Smith was the “rubberstamp DeStefano” candidate (particularly given the mayoral staffers on board with his campaign), and the assurance to the neighborhood that he was focused on the ward and was not another cog in the Mayor’s consent-machine.  (And I don’t think DeStefano is all bad by any means—but I do want an independent board of Aldermen). 

In light of that, this is all quite jarring—and Smith just resigned before even finishing out his full term as Alder.

posted by: Mike Slattery on December 5, 2011  1:01pm

The news was a surprise to me, and I hate to wade into this but I can’t pass the story by without saying that Matt Smith is a good guy, and I don’t think he automatically becomes a bad guy by taking on this job.

It looks like Matt jumped into politics with both feet and didn’t get an easy ride in either election.  In his new situation he’ll have to work alongside the folks that bested him in the last election.  If anyone is questioning Matt’s choice here - I’ll offer mine and wonder why he’d want to do that.  I’m betting/hoping it is because he wants to learn something about what makes this city tick, and the current situation may offer a better view than at any time since he became eligible to vote.

It is an interesting opportunity for someone who wants to stay in the game and learn.  From the Mayor’s office on down to us in the bleachers, we’re all going to be students of the incoming class of Alders.  Matt gets a front row seat.  If he doesn’t come away hardened one way or the other, and he stays involved I think the city gains. 

That’s what I hope for Matt and the rest of us too.

posted by: Curious on December 5, 2011  1:36pm

Was this job ever publicly posted?  Did they ever seek out candidates, post the job online, or did this happen on the sly?

@ Mike Slattery, that;s great that Mike gets to learn politics and all, but I don;t think it should cost taxpayers.

posted by: to Streever on December 5, 2011  1:45pm

Dave, you served as his most recent campaign manager, where he lost the aldermanic primary to Jessica Holmes. Since you usually comment on political issues in New Haven, what do you think???

posted by: The Professor on December 5, 2011  2:05pm

Noteworthy,

A “payoff?”  Really? 

It’d be a payoff if Matt Smith somehow cashed in handsomely.  It’d be a payoff if he took a job as “government relations director” for some construction company.  Moreover, the term “payoff” implies that you’re paying someone to do something that they otherwise wouldn’t do.  But as we’ve made pretty clear here, Matt Smith would be working towards a remarkably similar agenda as a member of the Board had he won reelection, so I’m not sure what the trade was here. 

Taking your statement to its logical conclusion, serving in political office and endorsing someone who is running for a higher office should automatically disqualify anyone from serving in any Mayoral, Gubernatorial, Presidential, etc. administration. But why would that be a good thing?  Why would we want to disqualify people who are active and interested in politics and policy from working under people whose ideas they support? 

That’s the problem with DeStefano haters. You’re all so blinded by your own irrational hatred for the man that you’re incapable of recognizing how patently untenable your positions are when they’re drawn out and applied generally.

Bottom line: Matt Smith used to serve the city as an Alderman, now he’ll serve the city as the administration’s liaison to the board he used to serve on.  Congratulations to him and to the City.

posted by: Ben S. on December 5, 2011  3:07pm

It seems to me that:

1) This is a job that would need to be filled regardless as it is fairly important that the Mayor’s office have an official dedicated to interacting with the legislative body of the city.

2) That this position has an associated salary fo $53,000 that is paid to whoever fills the position.

3) That Matt Smith, having recently served on the Board and is therefore intimately and directly familiar with the issues at hand, is well-qualified for said position.

Given these three things, I congratulate Mr. Smith on his new role and his desire to continue serving New Haven.  As evidenced by the vitriol on this page, you will need a sharp mind and a thick skin to cut through the negativity and work to make New Haven an even better place to live.  Good luck to you, Mayor DeStefano and the rest of the Mayoral staff.

posted by: westvillelocal on December 5, 2011  3:09pm

Wow! didn’t see that coming!

posted by: anon on December 5, 2011  3:18pm

Congratulations, Matt!

posted by: Charter revision on December 6, 2011  6:40am

Why is anyone surprised that King John pays people back with taxpayer money when he has a long history of doing so?  You need to look no further than New Haven’s Board of Education ( Reggie Mayo, Charles Blango, Garth Harries, “The Reverend"Donald Morris, etc, etc, etc).  When as the last time anyone used the services offered by the BOA’s legislative aide? 

Those who attempt to intellectualize away King John’s improper behavior should be ashamed of themselves.  He either buys people or bullies them.  No one has ever been inspired to support King John because they actually believe in him.  He intimidates and coerces people, or uses the multiple million dollar budget at his disposable to buy them.

Instead of giving out raises to his non unionized employees and filling positions the city does not need, perhaps he can use that money to hire assistant
teachers, or to fund more after school programs.  This position is wasteful.

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