This is the first in a series of stories looking back at the top news events of 2017.
By Skyler Frazer
Politics, controversy and a series of natural disasters all brought significant changes to New Britain in 2017.
An election year
This city’s biggest story of 2017 was the municipal election in November.
On Nov. 7, residents re-elected Republican Mayor Erin Stewart to a third term over Democrat Merrill Gay and petitioning candidate Al Mayo.
New Britain residents voted 35 people into office on Nov. 7, including seven new aldermen and three new members of the Board of Education.
The Common Council’s Democratic caucus now holds a 9-6 majority and Democrat Eva Magnuszewski was elected president pro tempore at the council’s first meeting after the election.
The Democrats chose Carlo Carlozzi as majority leader and Emmanuel Sanchez and Richard Reyes as assistant majority leaders. Robert Smedley was announced as the Republican minority leader, with Kristian Rosado assistant minority leader.
Hurricane relief efforts
In September and October, a series of hurricanes devastated all or parts of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The community turned out in full force for the areas affected by these storms.
After Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area, city officials, the New Britain Bees and local business owners joined Houston Astros All-Star George Springer, a city native, in setting up a collection. After the collection, several 52-foot moving trucks brought supplies to Houston.
Weeks later, when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. Virgin Islands, the New Britain community got back to it and began several initiatives to help the people displaced.
Several collections in September and October helped send crucial supplies to the region, and the school district collaborated with Central Connecticut State University and the Ana Grace Project to organize a welcoming effort for families coming to the city after being displaced.
In September, the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain and the American Savings Foundation established the Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico Relief Fund, which is still running and has eclipsed $31,000.
Fire department controversy
Allegations of racism brought by a city firefighter led to the investigation, and eventual resignation, of Fire Chief Thomas Ronalter earlier this year.
The allegations came to light after Firefighter Daylon Hudson was disciplined for removing the photos of former white chiefs from the wall at NBFD headquarters. Hudson said he removed the photos because Ronalter stalled in putting up the photo of the city’s first black chief, Mark Carr, who retired in 2012 and died in 2014.
Mayor Erin Stewart called for an investigation into Hudson’s claims that the department was rife with racism. The findings revealed the atmosphere at the Fire Department could lead minority firefighters to perceive that racism was occurring.
Ronalter was placed on administrative leave in August and resigned in October. The city is conducting a national and internal search for a new chief.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.