Decision 2020

Voters to Decide Fate of Statue, Riverfront, and More on Tuesday

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You’ve studied up on the candidates, but what about the issues?

Depending on where you live, there may be local ballot measures for you to approve.

That vote could change everything from where your student goes to school to how much you pay in taxes.

Voters in more than 20 Connecticut communities are choosing more than just names on a ballot, there are also measures, referendums, and questions for them to answer. 


Removal of Christopher Columbus Statue

On the 4th of July, the Christopher Columbus statue that stands outside Waterbury's City Hall was decapitated.  While money has been raised to fix it, voters are being asked whether the statue should be removed permanently.

"Even though we cannot erase history, that is part of history, we shouldn't be having a statue of somebody who basically enslaved people,” said Tomas Olivo as he turned in his ballot outside Waterbury’s City Hall.

As she went to drop off her ballot, Alicia Hayre told us she voted to keep the statue where it is.

“I've been a resident here for 48 years all my life, I've came (sic) in this area all the time, and it's always been here,” Hayre said.


Use of Military Funds for Other Obligations

In New Haven, the question being posed to voters is, "Shall Congress prepare for health and climate crises by transferring funds from the military budget to cities for human needs, jobs, and an environmentally sustainable economy?"

"We are giving our opinion to Congress about the spending priorities in our country -- how our tax dollars are spent,” said Joelle Fishman, acting chair of the New Haven Peace Commission.

The Peace Commission led the push to put this non-binding resolution on the ballot.  Fishman said a similar measure passed 15 years ago. This one adds climate change and the COVID crisis, and asks Congress to prioritize its discretionary spending differently.

"More than half of that right now is spent on military, 55%, and just small amounts, everything else has to compete -- housing, education, healthcare,” Fishman said.


$55 Million Economic Development Bond

The $55-million bond vote in Middletown is getting some attention.

“Too much money, it’s a waste of money,” Mike Pellegrini said.

City leaders want to borrow money to acquire land for the planned riverfront redevelopment, which could include apartments, restaurants, retail, and recreation.

“They’re not doing nothing at this river. I’ve been hearing promises for 10, 20, 30 years.  They don’t do nothing down there,” Pellegrini complained.

“We’re trying to change that narrative and to actually start getting things done,” Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim said.

Florsheim said if approved, the money the city borrows would be spent gradually over the next decade.  Some of those funds would be invested downtown too, including a new parking garage near the police station, known at the arcade, to support future housing projects.

“Definitely need more parking downtown cause I’m tired of having to park so far away from where I have to go,” said Gage Davis, a first-time voter.

The city also wants to purchase the old Citizens Bank building to relocate City Hall, and sell the current building along Route 9.

The mayor said a yes vote will put these projects in motion while a no will cause more delays.

“Everybody has been trying to figure out for years how to do these really big ambitious things without having to pay for them, and we do have to pay for them,” said Florsheim.  “What we know now is that what the local economy needs is more parking, better roads, more housing downtown, and more attractions in the riverfront area.”


School Replacement Project

Voters in at least two communities are being asked to approve school construction projects.  In Torrington, a $160-million bond would cover the cost to tear down and replace the high school and build a new middle school and central office. 


School Renovation Project

Newington’s superintendent, Dr. Maureen Brummett, said the 56-year-old Anna Reynolds Elementary School is in desperate need of a facelift.

“The school is in significant need and is inequitable to our other three elementary schools because they’ve all had renovations and this school has not,” Brummett said.

Although the school’s ventilation system was upgraded in light of COVID-19, she said it still lags behind the other buildings in the district.

“We’ve had to do different modifications, like open windows and turn the air handlers on at different times,” she explained.

The $35.5 million bond would also cover the cost of modernizing the classrooms, making the school ADA compliant, and replacing the leaky roof. Brummett said the school’s footprint wouldn’t change but it would look brand new.

She said if the school opens in December of 2023 as projected, the burden on local taxpayers will be no more than $64 per resident per year.  Brummett said she’s optimistic the bond will pass because she’s heard very few negative comments about the plan.

“I think the only thing I’ve heard is we’re in the middle of a pandemic and perhaps this isn’t the right time, but the project costs won’t go any lower,” she said.

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