Ask the Registrar

Your place to get questions answered about voting and local elections in Stratford.

By Registrar James Simon. July 2021

From the Mailbag:  How is voter identity proven on an absentee ballot? Anyone can fill it out. When you go to the poll to vote, you have to show your picture ID to get a ballot to vote.

To ensure the proper use of absentee ballots (AB), Connecticut has several safeguards that are lacking in some other states.
• Most people register through the DMV process, which produces a picture ID via your driver’s license. If you don’t show a picture ID when you first register to vote, you are flagged, and you are required to show a picture ID the first time you actually vote.

• To vote via AB, you must submit an AB application to the town clerk and certify why you qualify for it under state law (reasons include illness or physical disability, serving in the military, being out of town on election day, religious restrictions, etc.). The town clerk mails you back an actual ballot, with a unique bar code, at the address in your registration file. You must sign a statement, under the penalty of perjury, stating you yourself completed the ballot, then return it to the Town Clerk. The outer envelope, which identifies you from the bar code, is removed so ballot counters don’t know for whom you voted.

• Connecticut also allows voters to seek a “permanent” absentee ballot, due to a person’s chronic inability to make it to the polls. But even here, such voters are mailed a letter every January, asking them to verify they are still alive and living at the same address, in order to continue to use the process.

Due to the COVID emergency, Connecticut allowed all voters to use the AB process in 2020, even if they did not qualify under the standard reasons. In Stratford about 10,000 people voted via AB, three times the normal number. The emergency is not expected to be extended to this fall’s balloting. A referendum that would allow more widespread use of ABs is expected to be on the Connecticut statewide ballot in 2024.

Registrar James Simon worked as a political reporter for 10 years with The Associated Press, then taught courses like political journalism for 18 years as a professor and dean at Fairfield University. He was elected as the Democratic Registrar of Voters in Stratford in November 2020.

More Questions? Please Send them to Registrar Jim Simon: This is not an official publication of the Town of Stratford. (Vol. 1, No. 7; July 2021)

Plug in Savings

Electric Car Rebates Expanded

Beginning this month, Connecticut will sweeten financial incentives to buy or lease electric vehicles, hiking rebate amounts and broadening eligibility to include used cars, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday.

The additional incentives are a temporary supplement to an existing rebate program called the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate. Since 2015, the CHEAPR program has provided a rebate of between $500 and $5,000 for the purchase of a new EV, depending on the type of vehicle.

The traditional rebate amounts jump to between $750 and $7,500 under the expansion announced this week. It also creates two new rebate programs, offering as much as an additional $2,000 for a new vehicle and a rebate of as much as $7,500 for a used vehicle.

Lamont called the rebate a “remarkably successful” program that had provided more than $12 million in cash back to electric vehicle consumers. “Today, I’m proud to announce that we’re making CHEAPR even better by adopting new incentives under the Rebate+ program for folks who may have a difficult time affording a new electric car and we’re also excited to become one of just a few states to expand EV incentives to used vehicles,” Lamont said.

The rebates apply to vehicles that cost $42,000 or less. Currently there are about 30 vehicles eligible for the incentives. They include Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs).

The increased rebate amounts will continue through the end of 2021 or until funds are exhausted. The program is funded by a fee on new vehicle sales and online vehicle registrations.

State officials hope the initiative will put Connecticut closer to its electric vehicle goals. The state has committed to having between 125,000 and 150,000 electric vehicles on its roads by 2025 as part of a Zero Emissions Vehicle understanding with seven other states. As of Jan. 1st, there were 13,800 electric vehicles registered in Connecticut.

“These new and increased incentives will go a long way toward expanding the pool of consumers able to invest in an electric vehicle,” Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “This is an important step in the state’s pursuit of a zero-emission transportation future that promises cleaner air and will create new jobs in Connecticut’s green economy.”

The incentives now include for new vehicles:
–As much as $4,250 for a new Battery Electric Vehicle, up from $1,500.–Up to $2,250 for a new Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle, up from $500.
–As much as $9,500 for a new Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle, up from $5,000.

For eligible used vehicles the incentives include:
–$3,000 for a Battery Electric Vehicle.
–$1,125 for a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle.
–$7,500 for a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle.

During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers on the Transportation Committee pushed another initiative aimed at boosting the number of electric vehicles on the roads. The bill, which died on the Senate calendar, would have allowed a handful of exclusively electric vehicle manufacturers to bypass state dealership laws and sell cars directly to consumers. Connecticut auto dealers have opposed attempts to change the law.

Bag Ban

It’s About the Environment!

Save our lands and seas.

The ban on plastic shopping bags in Connecticut went into effect on Thursday, July 1st. It’s the second step of the state’s single-use plastic bag law that triggered a 10-cent tax in August 2019. You won’t be able to get a plastic bag at grocery and retail checkouts starting Thursday, not even for a fee.  Plastic bags in produce and meat departments are exempt.

Before you begin complaining take a good look around your neighborhood and waterways and think of the degradation these plastic bags contribute to.

FYI:  Only 20% of the plastic used on earth is actually recycled despite an increasing amount of production. Unfortunately, it takes centuries for plastic to breakdown, causing a tragic case of damage and pollution in our oceans.  Most of the plastics end up in the ocean. Unfortunately, occurrences of dead fishes turning up on our shores with the cause of death being ingestion of some plastic waste beg to differ. Even the ones that eventually get broken down (the so-called photo degraded plastic bags) do not do so to a safe, absorbable form.  Photo-degraded plastic, even after waiting centuries for plastic to finally breakdown, it doesn’t disappear nor become safely absorbed. It just becomes teeny weeny bits of plastic. These micro plastics are still as harmful as plastics that are yet to be broken down. They contain environmentally toxic chemical constituents that are harmful to both water and land animals.

What’s New In CT? New Laws On The Books

A number of bills have made their way out of the House and Senate and onto Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk, where they were signed into law in the past few weeks after the state’s General Assembly 2021 Regular Session adjourned on June 9th.

They did convene a special session this week to tackle the legal marijuana bill, which was passed and signed and goes into effect on July 1st.

Bills signed into law in the past few weeks are:
Senate Bill 1019: Called the “clean slate bill”. This reform bill wipes out the records of criminal convictions after 7-10 years, including some felonies. The provisions do not apply to class A, B, or C felonies, some unclassified felonies, family violence crimes, or certain crimes requiring sex offender registration.

During the first full session after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis in May 2020, Connecticut legislators passed a slew of bills aimed at reforming the state’s justice system.

• They passed a measure that automatically clears certain convictions from a person’s record if they stay crime-free for seven or 10 years.
• They approved a bill that curtails the Department of Correction’s use of solitary confinement.
• They gave final passage to a measure that enables free telephone calls for the incarcerated.
• They expanded the definition of domestic violence to include “coercive control”.
• Broadened the crimes for which people can ask the court to vacate if they committed that crime while they were a human trafficking victim.

Misdemeanors become eligible for erasure after seven years, and class D and E felonies, or unclassified felonies with prison terms of five years or less, can be wiped after 10 years. The records are erased automatically for offenses that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2000. For offenses before then, the records are erased when the person files a petition. This law was signed on June 10th, and becomes effective Jan. 1, 2023.

House Bill 5158 addresses nursing employees. Existing law requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location near a nursing employee’s work area, other than a toilet stall, so the mother can express her milk in private during a meal or break period. That law’s been upgraded, and effective October 1st, that designated nursing area must be free from intrusion and shielded from the public, include or be near a refrigerator or employee-provided portable cold storage device in which the employee can store her breast milk, and have access to an electrical outlet.

House Bill 6105: When a child born in Connecticut gets adopted, the Department of Public Health seals their original birth certificate and creates a new one, substituting the adoptive parents’ names. Persons adopted prior to October 1983 would have to get a court order if they wanted to obtain their original birth certificate. If either of their birth parents were still alive, it would become more difficult. House Bill 6105 obtaining a copy of an original have been mostly removed, regardless of when the adoption took place. The new law, effective July 1, also moves most of the paperwork associated with obtaining the document away from the state Department of Health and over to the town registrar.

House Bill 63880, requires employers to provide both their existing employees and job applicants with the wage range of the positions they have or for which they are applying. Included in the bill’s definition of “wage range” is the pay scale, previously determined wage ranges for the position, actual wage ranges for current employees, and the employer’s budgeted amount for the position, as applicable. The law goes into effect on October 1st.

House Bill 6491, “An Act Concerning Electronic Weapons,” allows those age 21 and older to carry an “electronic defense weapon” if they possess a valid firearm credential, such as an eligibility certificate or permit to carry or sell handguns or long guns, or an ammunition certificate. Currently, such a weapon will score you a class D felony if carried in a motor vehicle, and a class E felony if you’re just carrying it.

Senate Bill 840 allows certain aquaculture operations, including farm, forest, open space, and maritime heritage land to be taxed based on current use value rather than fair market value. The bill also expands Connecticut’s shellfish restoration program by allowing the state to acquire, and not just purchase, the cultch material necessary to deposit on and build out state shellfish beds. The bill also makes some tweaks to the Connecticut Seafood Advisory Council and renames it the Connecticut Seafood Development Council. The new law is effective October 1st.

Senate Bill 908, which goes into effect on October 1st, mandates that employers must provide the union with every new employee’s name, job title, work address, work phone number and home address within 10 days of the hiring. The employer must also allow the union access to new employees’ orientation, and government buildings and facilities to hold union meetings.

Senate Bill 1093 now makes it a crime to “entice a juvenile to commit a criminal act”. You will have committed this class A misdemeanor if you are at least 23 years old and knowingly cause, encourage, solicit, recruit, intimidate or coerce a minor to commit or participate in a crime. This bill also does away with “no knock warrants,” whereby law enforcement officers could enter certain premises without first knocking and announcing their presence or purpose. The law will also allow a judge or jury to draw an “unfavorable inference” from a police officer’s deliberate failure to record the use of physical force on their bodycam. All these go into effect October 1st.

House Bill 6107. The new law requires that zoning regulations, among other provisions, be designed to address disparities in housing needs and access to educational and occupational opportunities. It also requires zoning regulations to provide for, rather than merely encourage, the development of housing opportunities for all residents of the town, including opportunities for multifamily dwellings. The law was signed June 10th, and went into effect immediately.

Senate Bill 1083 instituted changes to current public health statues, including:

• Health clubs must maintain at least one automatic external defibrillator, and employ someone who knows how to use it
• 16-year-olds, with written parental consent, may give blood. The existing law, which remains unchanged, allows a person age 17 or older to do so without consent.
• Hospitals may provide the written discharge materials and document acknowledgement of them solely through electronic means
• Marriage license applications and certificates must replace references to “bride” and “groom” with “spouse one” and “spouse two,” and remove references to a spouse’s race or ethnicity.

More than 40 bills on environmental issues – most of them related to climate change – were proposed during the session, but relatively few made it through.

One of the casualties was the Transportation and Climate Initiative. Proponents called it the most important climate change legislation in a decade. Opponents called it a gas tax. It would allow the state to develop its plan to cut carbon emissions in the transportation sector as part of a large regional strategy. Gas prices would likely go up slightly as a result. It didn’t get a vote in either chamber, but advocates, who say the votes for passage are there, are pushing to include it in the upcoming special session.

Another emissions bill that could wind up in the special session would start a process to tighten emissions on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. It passed the Senate but was not taken up in the House.

After years of contentious hearings and demonstrations, the General Assembly succeeded in passing a bill repealing Connecticut’s religious exemption from mandatory school vaccinations. Under the new law, the religious exemption will be erased starting September 1st, 2022. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade who currently claim the exemption will be allowed to continue using it for the remainder of their academic careers, while those in pre-kindergarten, day care or who are new to the school system will no longer qualify.

Lawmakers also adopted broad health equity reforms, declaring racism a public health crisis, requiring better data collection on race and ethnicity in health care, mandating that hospitals conduct implicit bias training for employees who provide direct care to pregnant or postpartum women, requiring that the public health commissioner study the development of a recruitment and retention program for state health care workers who are people of color, and directing the health department to explore whether to create a certification process for doulas.

Other ambitious health care reform efforts, however, failed to cross the finish line.

Legislators failed again this year to pass legislation that would expand government-sponsored health insurance. The latest version of the public option bill would have extended that coverage to small businesses and nonprofits, and also expand access to Medicaid and add an assessment on insurance carriers that would fund additional subsidies on the state’s health insurance exchange.

A bill that would let terminally ill patients access medication to end their lives did not come up for a vote in either chamber

Housing insecurity was considered by the legislature with several reforms that aimed to address the state’s longstanding issues surrounding segregation and housing insecurity. With an onslaught of evictions expected in the coming months, legislation ensuring that low-income tenants have access to an attorney was signed by the governor this week.

Ambitious changes in state law aimed at remedying the high housing costs and the segregation that festers between poor and tony municipalities were not approved.

Legislation that would have made it easier for those with Section 8 housing vouchers to use it more places — as well as allow housing authorities the ability to develop public housing in neighboring suburban towns — was not approved, despite the threat of the federal government forcing Connecticut to make the change.

In an effort to respect local control, but not allow towns to ignore their obligations under the Federal Fair Housing laws, another bill that failed to win approval would have left it entirely up to municipalities to determine how to provide their so-called “fair share” of affordable housing but would have attached strict enforcement mechanisms if a town’s plan or implementation was not ambitious enough.

Language was scrapped from another bill that would have required towns to allow the construction of multi-unit housing around some train stations and suburban towns’ commercial centers. Instead, legislation was signed by the governor that would require towns to allow single-family homeowners to convert parts of their dwellings or detached garages into so-called accessory dwelling units, nicknamed “granny pods,” without needing special permission from local officials — but it allows towns to vote to opt out.

The bill places limit on how many parking spaces a new home or apartment must have — but also allows towns to vote to opt out. That bill also strikes current state law that requires zoning regulation to consider the “character of the district” with “physical site characteristics” that local officials must prescribe.

Education: In the wake of the pandemic that caused trauma in the lives of so many children — and with many more children showing up in hospital emergency rooms in crisis — scaling up social-emotional learning in schools and addressing children’s mental health was a top priority this legislative session.

Legislation an influx of state and federal aid to help local school districts and cities and towns respond and recover from the pandemic is headed for municipalities.

A bill that would allow Connecticut college athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses, as well as make money through endorsements and hire an agent, passed out of the General Assembly this session and is awaiting the governor’s approval. If signed into law, Connecticut would join several other states with similar legislation in place, but a pending decision from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) could also create a nationwide policy.

Legislation was passed that would require college campuses to distribute a sexual misconduct survey to students every two years has to date not been signed by Gov. Lamont. It would establish a council that would be required to submit a report about survey results to the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. The measure would also provide amnesty to those who report an assault so that they will not be subject to disciplinary action for violating a college’s drug or alcohol policy. Another bill heading to Lamont would require colleges and universities in the state to include campus accidents resulting in death or serious physical injury in each institution’s annual crime and safety report.

Crumbling foundations: Gov. Ned Lamont has signed into law a comprehensive crumbling foundation bill that aims to protect unsuspecting buyers from purchasing affected homes. It also establishes a low-interest loan program for repairs, allows condominium owners to participate in the captive insurance company, and develops more cost-effective methods for repairs.

The bill makes permanent the Connecticut Foundation Solutions Indemnity Company (CFSIC), a captive insurance company created to distribute money to homeowners with faulty foundations as a result of the mineral pyrrhotite. The CFSIC will also study the damage related to pyrrhotite in nonresidential buildings, an attempt to keep track of further incidences of decay.

The legislation will direct up to $175,000 from the Healthy Homes Fund for the CFSIC study’s expenses, and it authorizes the commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to adopt regulations for the testing of pyrrhotite in aggregate held in quarries.

Concrete aggregate quarries in the state will submit an annual operations plan to the state geologist and DEEP commissioner, and they will also submit a geological source report (GSR) every four years to keep tabs on the status of the concrete that is used.

The bill removes a five-year maximum on reduced assessments for properties made with abnormal concrete. Homeowners will benefit from the reduced assessments, and they can rest easier knowing some of the burden has been lifted from their shoulders.

Sports betting: A bill legalizing sports betting and online casino games and lottery sales in Connecticut won final passage, an effort to boost state revenues and help casino employment rebound in the state’s struggling southeastern corner. Passage came after a relatively brief debate, an anticlimactic ending to a multi-year push to expand the customer base of Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun, two tribal casinos squeezed by competition in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts and a temporary closure forced by COVID-19.

House Passes State Budget

 State Representatives Phil Young (D-120th) and Joseph Gresko (D-121st) are thrilled that the budget has passed and anticipate that it will have a positive impact in Stratford.

The Connecticut House of Representatives has approved the state budget for the next two years.

“This comprehensive budget heavily invests in Stratford as well as other towns and cities around the state,” said Rep. Young. “The agreed upon budget was able to provide much needed funds to institutions without raising taxes or dipping into the rainy-day fund. It was an excellent achievement that focuses on the present while simultaneously prepping for the future.”

“This fiscally responsible budget pays down long-term debt and keeps our robust rainy-day fund while providing middle class tax relief in the form of an increased Earned Income Tax Credit,” said Rep. Gresko. “The investment in Stratford’s Education Cost Sharing formula and increase in town aid means our community will continue to receive the funds it needs to thrive.”

The $46.4 billion budget, an agreement worked out between Governor Lamont and the Democratic majority, will increase funding for municipalities, nonprofit organizations and working families. The budget also contains additional funding for institutions impacted by the pandemic, such as hospitals, local health departments, and tourist destinations.

Below is a breakdown of some of the provisions included in the budget:

Tax Relief for Individuals and Businesses
Certain businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, and bars are permitted to keep 13.6% of the 7.35% sales tax they collect on sales of meals and beverages for Fiscal Year 2022. This tax relief will be beneficial to local businesses that suffered during the pandemic.

Through the budget, financial relief will be provided to culture-based institutions, such as museums, art centers, and tourist hotspots. Similarly, the admissions tax has been eliminated for entertainment venues.

The budget also increases the state’s earned income tax credit to 30.5% of the federal credit. This will provide tax credit for qualifying low-income working families with children.

Finally, the budget expands state income tax exemptions for seniors on social security and pension.

No Tax Increases
The budget does not include any new taxes or tax increases on increases on gasoline, insurance policies, or large Connecticut households.

Support for Our Communities
Hospitals, local health departments and nonprofits were allocated additional funding to ensure that they have resources necessary to combat any public health emergency in the future.

Additionally, state agencies will be given the tools to reopen safely, allowing them to serve Connecticut’s residents to the best of their ability.

Finally, because of an expansion, 40,000 residents now have access to affordable healthcare.

Financial Stability in the State’s Future
Connecticut did not have to utilize any of the $3.5 billion in the Rainy-Day Fund. The state is able to maintain one of the largest Rainy-Day funds per capita in the country. The balance of the fund has allowed the state to keep interest rates low on debt service and allows for the growth continued growth to our state bond cap. These factors have led to Connecticut’s first credit upgrade in nearly two decades.

Jumpstarting the Economy
There is a great amount of investment that aims to resurrect the Connecticut economy– the budget includes funding for debt free college and workforce training programs. Funds will also be allocated to the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC) and to minority-owned businesses around the state. These provisions were included to bolster the state’s economy while promoting equitable business practices.

The 2021 Legislative Session ended June 9.

Councilmember Spotlight: Greg Cann

Fifth District Councilman Greg Cann

Stratford Crier’s mission is to inform and update Stratford residents on various categories of interest, community events, pertinent information, and/or input into specific tasks or project. We would like to highlight the work, dedication and projects of our elected officials, beginning with town council members. Stratford Crier is posing the following questions to each of these elected officials to find out more about what inspires them in this position and what they hope to accomplish in their term.

My family has resided in Stratford for 30 years and four generations. We’ve volunteered with Sterling House, Nichols Elementary and a multitude of other public schools, community groups and faith-based organizations. Civics is very core to our values. Stratford is our home.

1. What do you see as the needs of your district at the present?
District 5 (D5) is a diverse community, located in the area west of Broadbridge and north of Boston Avenue. There are a few small businesses, but primarily D5 consists of low and moderately priced residences—perfect entry-level homes for young families.

The town’s recent re-evaluation of residential property resulted in an average 20% increase in homeowner property taxes with all multifamily and duplexes increasing by 40%—note the town-wide average was 4%. The tax burden has now shifted to entry-level workers, young families and seniors; this means an extra $800-$1600 per year in property taxes for these homeowners and renters. Furthermore, the town is increasing taxes on used automobiles by 15%. The primary need of residents is a safe and secure residence that is also affordable.

Residents have also expressed needs for:
a. Improved traffic controls, especially speeding. Success and Canaan Avenues experience high traffic as drivers move between Bridgeport and Stratford.
b. Town-owned trees, pruning and upkeep, as safety of sidewalks is compromised unless completed.
c. Maintenance of the district’s three neighborhood parks to assure public access to recreation.
d. Public safety, law and order, and enforcement of rules and regulations.

2. What is your vision for your district’s future?
I want to see improved maintenance of town-owned neighborhood parks, roads and sidewalks as well as better enforcement of traffic regulations (one factor in public safety). Increased interaction between residents will increase their mutual sense of community. I would like to see more awareness of and participation in how the town creates a budget and allocates its own resources. Improved employment and job security through economic development is also needed.

3. What is your vision for the town?
Stratford is a highly diverse community. Students in our public schools speak over 50 different languages with a similar range of cultural backgrounds. From Forest to Shore, we need a town that reflects and represents this diversity. Every organization is exposed to politics, but only the successful ones rise above politically motivated “excuses.” True leaders will build an organization that meets the needs of its customers; in our case, this would be the taxpayers and public school students. I see complete streets and greenways connecting our neighborhoods and business districts, facilitating the interaction of commerce and recreation.

I see Stratford becoming a regional destination with its many museums, and revitalized athletic and cultural arts programming attracting visitors to our retail and restaurants. This improved dynamic will entice employers. Stratford has been very slow to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century, and our municipal leaders must step up their game, else our town will not realize its competitive opportunities.

4. What is your vision of collaboration between administration and residents in making Stratford a great community?
Unfortunately, Stratford’s municipal administration retains its fondness for resolutions and reports but has not successfully implemented solutions. Our town is increasingly reliant on state and federal grants to balance its operating budget, while we should be growing organically.

• The town-managed Center School and Contract Plating projects are each three years behind schedule.
• Despite a 40% increase in per student expenditures, 50% of our public school students continue to perform “below grade level.”
• A $20 million theatre burned down a few months after the town expended $1.5 million to “secure” the building.

When something great happens, such as the new Stratford High School, the re-engineering of I-95 Exits 32 and 33, or the property tax credits for residents whose homes are in flood zones, it’s been due to the intervention of the state and federal governments.

Stratford residents are not powerless; encouraging them to adapt the civic responsibilities of public advocacy is probably the highest role of a town councilor. Once Stratford is able to demonstrate “local control” and the ability to deliver on its promise, then I believe residents will recognize that “you can talk to town hall” and will be further encouraged to participate in the administration of our town.

5. How do you see town residents’ role and participation in making Stratford a great community?
I’ve always been a firm believer in the ability of residents to organize and create improvements. From a District 5 perspective, neighbors cooperate with neighbors to help each other, and to coordinate solutions for their mutual benefit. People have so many ways to participate; when each of us finds our niche, that is the basis of a great community.

Working with the municipal government of Stratford has been a challenging and sometimes rewarding endeavor for me personally. There is inertia at the start of every project; I’ll forever encourage each of us to adapt this Kennedy-esque adage: “Ask not what your town can do for you, but rather, what can you do for your town.”

We Should Be Doing Better

Stratford Designated a Distressed Municipality

Did you know Stratford has been designated a Distressed Municipality by the State of Connecticut?
Do you know why?

Other than reading information posted on Facebook and other social media sites, including news publications, is all you know is that because of this designation Stratford was awarded over $4.7 million?

A recent Letter to the Editor authored by Stratford resident Rachel Rusnak clearly presented Stratford’s “Dis-honor” of being designated a Distressed Municipality.

“In a blow to the residents of Stratford for the second time in 15 years, we have the unfortunate distinction of landing on the State of Connecticut’s Distressed Municipalities list. A dis-honor I’m sure most of us would have rather avoid; we find ourselves among the top 25 impoverished communities out of 169, and one of only two in Fairfield County.”

Rusnak also noted “Stratford last appeared on the list in 2012, under the guidance of former Mayor Harkins. Since then, in 2018 the Yankee Institutes’ “Assessing Municipal Fiscal Health in Connecticut” identified Stratford as the third worst-off municipality in the state, based on general fund balances, long-term obligations, pension contributions, and changes in unemployment rates and property values.”

Stratford ranked #24 out of 25 municipalities (out of 169 towns and municipalities) in the State that are considered Distressed.

Updated annually, the Distressed Municipalities’ lists identify the state’s most fiscally and economically distressed municipalities and are used by state agencies to target funds for needs which may include housing, insurance, open space, brownfield remediation and economic development programs, among others.

The lists develop statistical indicators measuring the fiscal capacity of each municipality based on:

  • Tax base
  • Personal income of residents
  • Residents’ need for public services

According to C.G.S. Section 32-9p, a distressed municipality should be based on “high unemployment and poverty, aging housing stock and low or declining rates of growth in job creation, population, and per capita income.

Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Methodology:

Weighted components are summed to measure the rank of the 169 towns. For each component, every town is ranked from 1 to 169, with the best town scoring 1 and worst 169. The top 25 towns with highest total scores are designated distressed municipalities.

DECD’s components and weight:
1. Per capita income for 2018, weight 1;
2. % of poverty in population for 2018, weight 1;
3. Unemployment rate for 2019, weight 2;
4. % change in population from 2000 to 2010, weight 1;
5. % change in employment from 2009 to 2019, weight 1;
6. % change in per capita income from 2000 to 2018, weight 1;
7. % of house stock built before 1939 in 2018, weight 1/3;
8. % population with high school degree and higher in 2018, weight 1; and
9. Per Capita Adjusted Equalized Net Grand List in 2020-2021, weight 1.

DECD additionally included:
(1) Level of Per Capita Income
(2) % of population with high school degree and higher and
(3) .Per Capita Adjusted Equalized Net Grand List (AENGL) to arrive at its ranking.

Data sources: Census 2000, Census 2010, 2014-2018 Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates, DOL, DOE

2020 Distressed Municipalities Rankings
Ranked by Score

Ansonia 1417 1
Waterbury 1378 2
New London 1366 3
New Britain 1359 4
Derby 1347 5
Hartford 1309 6
Bridgeport 1304 7
Bristol 1292 8
Windham 1283 9
Torrington 1281 10
Sprague 1275 11
Norwich 1238 12
East Hartford 1228 13
Montville 1216 14
Griswold 1212 15
Voluntown 1203 16
East Haven 1202 17
Winchester 1184 18
Meriden 1180 19
New Haven 1180 20
Putnam 1165 21
Preston 1159 22
West Haven 1153 23
Stratford 1151 24
Chaplin 1150 25

Prepared by DECD Research September 2020

Thanks to our distressed status Stratford is on track to receive an additional $4,719,720 from the Distressed Municipalities pot, which is funded via state bonds, and in this fiscal year through the Cares Act. (The Mayor’s Proposed 2022 Operating Budget misidentifies this revenue as “State Covid Funding”, however, the Governor’s budget is very clear that this funding is a result of Stratford being identified as a “Distressed Municipality”.)

Question: As a Stratford Resident is this how you want our Town to be labeled?

What do you think we should do to move Stratford Forward?
Please comment via:
Thank you.

Meet Your Councilman” Dave Harden, District 4

Editor’s Note: Councilman Dave Harden was contacted multiple times, and did not submit answers to our questions, or respond to repeated attempts to interview him.


Ask the Registrar – Stratford, CT

Your place to get questions answered about voting and local elections in Stratford

By Democratic Registrar James Simon.

Q. Why are there more Independent voters in Stratford than Democrats or Republicans?
There aren’t. In Connecticut, “Independent” is the name of a political party. Only 485 of the 35,150 Stratford voters were registered with ANY of the minor political parties, as of May 11, 2021.

If you don’t belong to a party in Connecticut, you are labeled as Unaffilated. There were 15,159 Unaffiliated voters in Stratford, compared to 13,191 registered Democrats and 6,315 Republicans, as of May 2021.

Q. Is there any disadvantage to being an Unaffiliated voter?
You must be a member of the Republican or Democratic Party in order to vote in that party’s primary. If you are Unaffiliated, you can vote in a party primary as long as you join the party by noontime on Monday the day before the primary. If you already belong to one of the major parties and want to switch and vote in the other party’s primary, you need to act 90 days before the primary election.

Q. Why does Stratford use public schools as polling places?
Tradition, availability, and the high visibility of schools. To maintain polls in all 10 districts, Stratford needs our schools!

Stratford school officials also have been very cooperative in making their facilities available. Elsewhere, Registrars of Voters have had to threaten to use a state regulation that allows them to “commandeer” part of a school in order to use it as a polling location.

Q. Will I be able to use an Absentee Ballot to vote in the Stratford town elections this fall?
We don’t yet know.

In Connecticut, Absentee Ballots have always been permitted for people who say they are unable to go to their assigned polling place on Election Day because of illness, physical disability, military service, and absence from town during all hours of voting (such as a business trip). Other reasons are religious tenets that forbid secular activity on the day of the election, or if you are an election official working at a polling place other than your own during all the hours of voting.

Last year due to the Covid-19 virus, the governor used his emergency powers to have an Absentee Ballot application sent to all voters statewide; you could automatically use the Covid-19 virus as a reason to vote by mail, if you so desired. Some 10,000 Stratford voters used an AB in November 2020, triple the normal number.

This year, Gov. Lamont extended that policy to cover the municipal elections that were held in May 2021, although the political parties had the task of mailing out Absentee Ballot applications if they so desired. It is not yet known how the process will work for any Stratford party primary election Sept. 14th or for the general election Nov. 2.nd.

Q. Can I get a permanent Absentee Ballot sent to me every election?
Dozens of Stratford voters who are permanently disabled have an AB sent to them automatically for every election. The voter must file an absentee ballot application together with a doctor’s certificate stating that they have a permanent disability and are unable to appear in person at their polling place. Contact Town Clerk Susan Pawluk (203-385-4020) to see if you qualify.

As one of the many safeguards in the AB process, the Registrars send such voters a letter every January, asking you to certify you are still an active voter and want to continue to receive a ballot in the mail.

More Questions? Please send them to Registrar Jim Simn; This is not an official publication of the Town of Stratford. (Vol. 1, No. 5; May 2021)

Flag Day June 14th

I’m pleased to share I will once again be co-hosting a worn American flags collection for Flag Day alongside fellow State Representatives Dave Rutigliano (R-123) and Laura Devlin (R-134) and in cooperation with American Legion Post No. 141.

This flag collection has been an annual tradition for the past five years, and we’re happy to continue it again this year just in time for Flag Day on June 14th.

The drive-by flag collection will be outside Middlebrook Elementary School at 220 Middlebrooks Avenue in Trumbull on Saturday June 12th from 9:00am-11:00am.

Other Drop-off Locations:
Trumbull Town Hall, 5866 Main Street, Trumbull
Trumbull Police Department, 158 Edison Road, Trumbull
Drop-off locations will receive flags from May 10th – June 11th.
Following the collection period, worn American flags will receive proper ceremonial disposal according to the U.S. Flag Code.

For additional information please, contact my office at 1-(800)-842-1423.