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Nation's Most Legendary Mayor Announces Budgetary Comeback for Local Community
“I am here tonight to present my Mayor’s budget to all of you,” is how the live feed to New Britain residents started on April 14th, 2021. “I’m going to be putting forth a budget this evening that proposes to lower the tax rate in the City of New Britain by one mill.” When Mayor Erin Stewart first took office, she was staring at a $30 million operating deficit. “That was really scary,” Stewart said while expounding that she came in as a new mayor and looked at that type of debt that we were facing.“ From trying to figure out okay how do we fix it to here, [where] we are now, [eight] years later… I can sit here and say that I’m finally at a point where we can lower taxes for our residents, and honestly, it couldn’t come at a more important time and for many of us who are in desperate need of some assistance no matter how small at it may be.” The one mil reduction will amount to a 2% tax cut on personal property, real estate, and motor vehicles. That means property taxes will go down from 50.50 to 49.50 mills, and the rate on vehicles will go down from 45 to 44 mills. That amounts to around $350 a year in savings for the average family of four. However, what exactly led to the decrease in the mill rate? Where did the extra revenue come from? The answer is growth, new anticipated major development, and added state dollars. Over 1,400 new businesses were created under the public administration of Erin E. Stewart. Mayor Stewart has been notably one of New Britain’s most entrepreneurial mayors, often saying that “businesses invest in cities that invest in themselves.” That has proven to be a sound political theory that has increased our city’s Grand List substantially; the Grand List has grown for eight consecutive years. Essentially, a grandlist is the basis for the amount of all taxable property within New Britain. Also adding to our new revenues is the expected sale of City property for major private developments off of Hartford Rd. and Osgood Avenue. Additionally, as a direct result of aggressive lobbying by the Mayor, the City is expected to receive an additional $3.8 million in PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) monies owed to the City. Mayor Stewart’s proposed budget also makes an increased investment into New Britain Schools. Included in her budget is an additional $500k to place into the Education Savings Account she created as another source of revenue for the Board of Education to utilize towards student needs. This investment into our City’s education system comes at no additional cost to taxpayers. The Mayor also devotes $1 million in this budget to Anti-blight. This money will be used for projects such as the demolition of Saint Thomas Aquinas High School, which is a building that is crumbling and has become a hazard to the neighborhood of Kelsey and East Street. It’s clear that the Mayor takes a holistic approach in her budget to meet the needs of the City in this time period and keeps the taxpayer in mind.
Open Letter to Candidate Strong
Dear Democratic Candidate for Mayor Alicia Hernandez Strong, You have made serious, false, and defamatory allegations about the New Britain Journal. According to a Facebook post you stated that, “The New Britain City Journal is a straight-up propaganda paper. It has almost always been funded by New Britain’s wealthy landlords, developers and real estate agents. It’s reappearance just before a municipal election and it’s commitment to exclusively targeting those who challenge Stewart makes this quite obvious. Wealthy landlords in the state are politically organized and and extremely powerful, even at the municipal level. They feel threatened by me because I dare to call out the ways they use their money to influence politics and oppose the rights of renters. I am not talking about working people who own a few properties for extra income. I’m talking about landlords that own 100+ units who involve themselves in state and local politics. Many of whom don’t actually live in the city themselves. But y’all know me. I’m a fighter. I will not stay quiet while working people are silenced and disregarded by politicians who are funded—directly and indirectly—by absentee landlords. If you ready to take on this fight with me donate and sign up to volunteer for my campaign.” Just to be clear the New Britain City Journal was a newspaper written by Robin Vinci, who has since retired. In fact, the New Britain Journal has no relation to Vinci’s paper. We are a politically independent online newspaper, with no ties to the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party. Still, our authors may share their political beliefs in association in their respective authorship. As well, we are not funded by any landlords and will not be going away after any election. We ask you, Candidate Strong, to do what is right and retract your defamatory allegations in as public a manner as that in which they were made. Sincerely, The New Britain Journal
Letters to the Editor
Dear Editor, After reading the article “'New Britain Schools Deserve Better' is rallying cry as city leaders defend district, want more funding from city”, I am wondering why it fails to mention the additional $78.3 million the Consolidated School District will be receiving next year? The Democratic Town Committee’s press conference about public school funding conveniently did not address the very public knowledge that the School District will be receiving $23 million in CARES Act funding to be used towards integrating students back into the classroom. It was also announced by our federal delegation that the School District will be receiving an additional lump sum of $55.3 million in American Recovery Act funding to be used at the Board of Education’s discretion. Where is the article regarding how the School District plans to spend these additional resources which could theoretically increase per student expenditures by almost 60%? Is it because there is no plan? New Britain’s residents are struggling, and the financial and emotional hardships that came along with the pandemic have just exacerbated these challenges. Now is not the time to raise taxes for families who already may not know how to make ends meet to fund a School District that will receive an additional $78.3 million in financial help from the federal government. Mayor Erin Stewart is making financially sound decisions based in care and compassion for the hard realities she knows so many of us are facing, as she has done since Day One of taking office. -Alden Russell Dear Editor, The tired and trite argument that the Consolidated School District of New Britain does not receive enough money is simply not doing it for me. Where are the hard working residents of New Britain who are already facing challenges, including a worldwide pandemic that has severely altered our daily lives, supposed to find the money for the School District that is already receiving a total of $75.3 million in federal assistance? Like many of us in our day-to-day lives, Mayor Stewart has had to make a do with much less than that from the moment she took office. Mayor Stewart inherited a $30 million operating deficit when she started her first term, but instead of looking to others to fix the City’s financial challenges she rolled up her sleeves, and made the tough, but necessary decisions that lead the City back to eight straight years of balanced budgets, a return to an “A” credit rating, and a commercial grand list that has grown year after year. That was all certainly without over $75 million in extra money from the federal government. When are the School District administrators going to make the hard decisions to improve their financial challenges instead of simply complaining and continually asking from more money from City residents? I hope the leaders of the School District take Mayor Stewart up on her public offer to use her extremely relevant fiscal management experience to help right this ship that has so clearly veered off course. -John Buckley
New Britain Board of Education Spends More on Administrators and Teachers; Surpasses That of Mayor
Have you ever wondered where your money is going once it reaches the coffers of the New Britain Board of Education? Well, the New Britain Journal knows. We have recently received some documentation showing the names and salaries of everyone employed by the New Britain BOE. Our city’s mayor, which rakes in only $99,407 after the 13% Raise slated to take effect on November 9, 2021, is, much to our dismay, less than most of our Board of Education Administrators and even most teachers. See the Entire List Here:
Candidate Alicia Hernandez Strong Engages in Conspiracy Theories, Targets a Marginalized Landlord
As of 6:26 PM on Thursday, April 1, 2021 Democratic Mayoral Candidate Alicia Hernandez Strong posted to Facebook regarding a victimized landlord in Bristol, CT. According to the post by Strong, “The guy whose apartment was trashed in Bristol has a history of opposing tenants’ rights. It’s disturbing the way the media is hyping up these claims and buying his narrative, especially when the tenant is denying the charges.” Strong went on to say that, “I just think it’s curious that he sued Lamont in summer over the rent moratorium and then this happens...all of a sudden the media is pushing the narrative that the eviction moratorium is to blame. Don’t believe the hype. Especially since this comes when a number of bills to protect tenants have been introduced in the legislature. Even if this incident is legitimate, one bad tenant does not negate the rights of most good tenants who are often taken advantage by landlords.” The issue Strong is referencing is regarding a Bristol landlord, whose home was destroyed by a tenant after the landlord was not able to evict said tenant during the pandemic. Note: Alicia Hernandez Strong, is a Graduate Student of Yale University, who has previously caused trouble around town by not pulling permits for campaign events on city property during a raging pandemic.
John McNamara Endorses Greater Spending for Adjunct Faculty Amidst Massive CSCU Budget Deficits
The Former New Britain Democratic Town Committee Chairman and Director of Institutional Advancement at Capital Community College, and occasional author of the New Britain Progressive, Jonathan McNamara, is endorsing a bill that would “require the Labor Department to consider specific circumstances when determining whether an individual who performs instructional, research, or principal administrative duties at an institution of higher education is eligible to receive unemployment compensation.” According to Public Testimony, Mr. McNamara states that “The year-long pandemic has caused more job insecurity and uncertainty for individuals who teach part-time at our colleges and universities. Many adjunct faculty provide instruction at more than one institution as they pursue a teaching career that comes without the guarantees of benefits and tenure. As enrollments fluctuate, adjuncts may go from one semester to another without knowing where needed income will come from. During the pandemic and after the pandemic adjuncts should be entitled to unemployment compensation, a system they contribute to as wage earners.” McNamara goes on to say, “Because of the fiscal constraints of hiring full-time faculty, adjuncts are essential to ensuring academic quality and serving students at the campus where I work and others in the CSCU system. I urge Connecticut to follow New Jersey’s lead. Our neighbors just enacted legislation that opens unemployment compensation to adjuncts. In signing the act that in all respects is similar to HB6582 here in CT, New Jersey Gov. Murphy said: “Our adjunct professors have too often been caught in limbo in terms of their eligibility for unemployment benefits. This legislation will provide adjunct instructors and other employees the clarity they need to receive full unemployment benefits so they can get back on their feet.” However, here is the problem: severe budget deficits. Due to a drop in community college enrollment and lower occupancy of university dorms that have fueled a $69 Million deficit at Connecticut’s state colleges and universities, “The state system has been under significant budgetary pressure. In September, the Board of Regents imposed a hiring freeze on CSCU colleges. On October 7, a presentation by the board projected that the total net reserves for the community colleges would decrease from $32.1 million in June 2020 to $15.7 million in June 2021. Six of the 12 colleges projected to have negative reserves. A staff report from the board’s Finance and Infrastructure Committee also warned that further budget reductions could mean a loss of tutoring services, lab assistants, and course offerings. Yet from 2017 to 2020, the budget for the System Office, the colleges’ administrative branch, increased by 46.5 percent, according to documents from the same meeting. This year, System Office reserves are projected to reach $16.04 million. At the October meeting, Board Chair Richard Balducci suggested lowering costs at the universities by decreasing funds directed toward student work positions, part-time lecturers and graduate assistants,” according to a publication known at the CTexaminer. With a combination of a lack of revenue and more lavish spending, one has to ask if there is any inkling of fiscal responsibility left to ensure unemployment benefits for all.
ARKX Space Exploration ETF Enters Wall Street
The ARK Space Exploration & Innovation ETF’s (“Fund”) investment objective is long-term growth of capital. ARKX is an actively-managed exchange-traded fund (“ETF”) that will invest under normal circumstances primarily (at least 80% of its assets) in domestic and foreign equity securities of companies that are engaged in the Fund’s investment theme of Space Exploration and innovation. The Adviser defines “Space Exploration” as leading, enabling, or benefitting from technologically enabled products and/or services that occur beyond the surface of the Earth. This Exchange Traded Fund holds 39 stocks and is listed with the ticker symbol ARKX.
CT State Rep. Emmanuel Sanchez Sponsors Anti-Hair Discrimination Law
There are many bills up for passage this session of which one really takes the cake: An Act Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. According to an Office of Legislative Research Bill Analysis HB 6515, Emergency Certification was granted by Emmanuel Sanchez and Robert Sanchez, “This bill makes it an illegal practice to (1) discriminate based on a person’s hair texture and protective hairstyle in employment, public accommodations, housing, credit practices, union membership, and state agency practices or (2) deprive any person of any rights secured or protected by the Connecticut Constitution or the United States Constitution. It does so by specifying that the term "race" includes ethnic traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles. Under the bill, “protective hairstyles” include wigs, headwraps, and hairstyles such as individual braids, cornrows, locs, twists, Bantu knots, afros, and afro puffs. It adds this protection to those afforded under the existing human rights law under the jurisdiction of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). CHRO has the authority to investigate complaints of discriminatory practices. The bill also applies to the laws that govern the awarding of agency, municipal public works, and quasi-public agency project contracts. Not a single individual gave public testimony for this new law.
State Sen. Rick Lopes Supports Unequal Voter Access Across Entire State, Voter Confusion
According to our sources, State Sen. Rick Lopes is sponsoring House Bill No. 5883 of Session Year 2021. This bill would grant those who have reached the age of 16 but are not yet 18 the right to vote in some municipal elections for all elected municipal offices and vote on local issues if the municipality adopts an effective ordinance, effectively creating a two-tiered voter system across the State of Connecticut. According to the Public Testimony, the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut has also taken concern with H.B. 5883. The ROVAC stated that this bill would create “election uncertainty” and “misunderstanding at a time when we need to clear things up and make elections more open.” Further, it is according to ROVAC that “Allowing towns on an individual basis to decide whether 16- and 17-year-old can vote will, in ROVAC’s opinion, confuse.” For example, according to ROVAC, “Imagine if the City of Norwalk adopts such an ordinance, but Wilton and Westport do not. Kids, as well as parents, interact across town lines. [ROVAC] can see a scenario where 16- and 17-year-olds show up at a Wilton or Westport polling place wanting to vote because their friends in Norwalk have told them they can vote in the election. Imagine a 16- or 17-year-old who moves from a town that adopted the bill to a town that opted out. Moderators will have to deal with this confusion and, as we have learned, often, these discussions in polling places become, shall we say, animated. As Registrars, it is our job to ensure that our polling places are free of distraction.” Another issue here is that the bill calls on the Registrar’s to ensure that proper ballots are given to those under 18 years of age, increasing costs to towns.
Today in Nutmeg History: Staffordville Dam Burst Causes Cascading Chaos
As the number of mills and factories along the Willimantic River's northern branch in eastern Connecticut increased in the second half of the nineteenth century, a group of factory owners banded together to create the Stafford (or Staffordville) Reservoir Company with the intention of controlling the flow of water that powered their manufacturing machinery. The company paid for upgrades to an existing dam five miles outside of the bustling village of Stafford Springs in late 1876, enlarging the reservoir behind it to over 1 1/4 mile in length and 600 acres in area. Following several days of heavy spring rain, the new earthen-and-granite dam constructed to hold back this newly expanded reservoir proved inadequate just months after it was built. Observers found a number of leaks in the sides of the earthen dam on March 26, 1877. To stop a total failure, engineers were forced to completely open the dam's floodgates. Despite the engineers' best efforts, the Staffordville Reservoir dam burst around 6:45 a.m. on March 27th, sending a wall of water down the narrow, winding Willimantic River valley. As the floodwaters raged downstream into Stafford Springs, they overwhelmed a series of eight smaller dams that lined the river, allowing the wall of water to rise to a height of 20 feet by the time it smashed into the village's center. The roaring torrent washed away bridges, tenements, farms, stables, and factory outbuildings. The floodwaters poured under the venerable edifice, which “rocked for two or three moments on the flood like a paper boat, and then, toppling over, went entirely to pieces,” according to newspapers the next day. A freight depot for the New London Northern Railroad was also destroyed on the other side of Stafford Springs, with many freight cars and miles of track destroyed. As the floodwaters eventually receded, two people had died and the city had been damaged to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. As local factories, many of which were textile mills, scrambled to recoup their losses and rebuild, nearly 1000 workers were laid off. Today in Connecticut history, a wall of cascading chaos washed away homes and livelihoods in eastern Connecticut. Source:
CT Sen. Rick Lopes Approves of Marginalizing New Britain Landlords, Underfunding Municipal Mandates
It has come to the New Britain Journal's attention that State Sen. Saud Anwar of the 3rd District has introduced a bill in the State Legislature. Senate Bill 194 will establish a right to housing, including housing affordability, rehousing assistance for people who become homeless, and protections from housing loss. The problem is that this bill further marginalizes the landlord occupation and is supported by State Sen. Rick Lopes, who chairs the Housing Committee at the State Capitol. While S.B. 194 would establish a right for every resident in the state to obtain adequate housing, this bill would require municipalities to consider the right to housing and other mandates found in the Senate bill, which could overwhelm local public housing authorities that provide Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. As it currently is drafted, the intent of this bill is faulty. It is written vaguely and potentially opens the door to "burdensome unfunded mandates," according to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. That then begs the question, as New Britain has many multifamily homes and apartment complexes, how could our city even accommodate and enforce such a mandate? How can other towns with fewer resources than New Britain even fathom such requirements?
Apparent Violation of City Code § 17-37 by Mayoral and Common Council Candidates
Alicia Hernandez Strong, a Democratic Mayoral Candidate and self-proclaimed socialist held an event in New Britain’s Central Park yesterday, on March 20th, 2021. While the event only generated a handful of spectators, Strong held the event without filing for a permit. According to New Britain City Code § 17-37, Strong needed to obtain a permit from the Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners or its authorized agent for the following purposes: (1) Reservation of any area or place in any park for special or private use. As Strong wants to defund the police and end the school to prison pipeline, she broke the law for her gain. It might also be an ethics violation if Strong is indeed elected and continues said behavior. Alicia Hernandez Strong should have been aware that she needed to pull a permit. Still, at the New Britain Journal, we would think that individuals running for the top office in town and the legislative body would have respect for the city's ordinances. In addition, Democratic Council candidate Richard Lacourciere also did not think first before joining in on the event when he spoke to the same crowd of more than 25 people. Essentially, one plus one makes two violations, yet the fact of the matter is that ignorance of the law is not an excuse to break the law.