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Connecticut may not have any statewide ballot questions this year, but there are plenty of local ballot questions that will be decided on November 6. At least 60% of these are charter revision questions, and most are fairly trivial. But there are also some interesting and important issues at stake -- here are some highlights:
1) Bridgeport "education governance reforms." If this charter revision is approved, Bridgeport would join New Haven as the only municipalities in the state with a completely appointed school board (Hartford has a hybrid elected/appointed board). Hugely controversial, this proposed change follows on the heels of a state takeover of Bridgeport schools and a contentious school board election earlier this year. Unions and their allies have lined up the "no" side of the issue and Mayor Finch, "education reform" groups like ConnCAN and business interests have been pushing hard (and spending big) for approval. Controversy has been generated not only by the substantive change but also by procedural questions related to the charter revision commission's composition and conduct, and even the ambiguous language of the ballot question, which the Connecticut Post called "vague" and "misleading."
2) New Haven "Bring the war dollars home" referendum. Many cities across the country have passed city council resolutions asking Congress to re-direct military spending toward domestic priorities, but New Haven would be among the first jurisdictions in the country with voters approving a "bring war dollars home" agenda in a public referendum. A similar nonbinding but symbolically important effort is occurring right now in Massachusetts, where a coalition of community, labor, and peace groups have put the "Budget for All" referendum on the November 6 ballot in 91 cities and towns across the Bay State. According to the coalition, one million Massachusetts voters will have a chance to voice support for an agenda of preventing cuts to entitlement programs, closing corporate tax loopholes and reducing military spending. More information on the New Haven referendum can be found at the Peace Commission facebook page, facebook.com/NewHavenPeaceCommission.
3) Huge MDC bonding measure. Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Rocky Hill, Bloomfield, Newington, and Windsor -- accounting for nearly 1 out of every 8 Connecticut residents -- will all have the same referendum on approving $800 million in new bonding for new stormwater management infrastructure, as constituent towns of the Metropolitan Disrict Commission. Stormwater managment has been a huge issue in Connecticut since the late 1980s, when hypoxia in Long Island Sound reached record levels, devastating local fisheries. The problem has mainly to do with the prevalence of early 20th century combined sewers that mix sewage with stormwater runoff and "overflow" into waterways in major storm events. This is a huge (and massively expensive) environmental problem for the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, another example of aging infrastructure that will require massive public investment over the coming decades. If the referendum passes, MDC customers will continue to pay a "special sewer service charge," which was instituted in 2007 to pay for the first phase of the 15-year, $2.1 billion project. It's unclear what would happen if the bonding isn't approved -- it could leave the MDC and its constituent towns open to legal action, since it is currently under a consent degree to address nitrogen discharges under the Clean Water Act.
Some other interesting ballot questions have to do with approval of $10 million in bonding for open space preservation in Rocky Hill, and implementation of a "Goldilocks" system for nonbinding ballot questions in Brookfield that would allow voters to rate budgets as being "Too Low," "Appropriate," and "Too High."
You can read all of the local ballot questions at the Secretary of the State's website: http://www.sots.ct.gov/sots/li...