NEW BRITAIN - Paul Manafort Sr. Drive is staying Paul Manafort Sr. Drive.
The Democratic majority on the Common Council failed Wednesday to override last week’s veto by Mayor Erin Stewart of a resolution that would have changed the street’s name. The council’s vote was 9-6 to override, but 10 votes were needed.
In September, the council voted to change the name of Paul Manafort Sr. Drive to Ebenezer D.C. Bassett Way in honor of first African-American graduate of Connecticut Normal School, which became Central Connecticut State University.
In her initial veto letter, Steward said Manafort Sr., a former mayor, also had served the city for decades on boards and commissions.
Stewart referred to the testimonies of former Mayors Bill McNamara, Don DeFronzo, Lucian Pawlak and Tim Stewart, all of whom were against renaming Paul Manafort Sr. Drive.
Others have brought up the alleged wrongdoing of Manafort Sr. while he was mayor. Manafort Sr. was investigated for corruption and his ties to organized crime after he left office.
Democratic council members began the effort to change the street name after Manafort Sr’s son, Paul Manafort Jr., became embroiled in controversy for tax evasion. Manafort Jr. served for a time as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.
According to a profile on the Manafort family published in The Atlantic in March, he was charged with perjury over his testimony in a corruption investigation. Ultimately, Manafort Sr. was never convicted of anything and a statute of limitations prevented prosecutors from filing charges against him over his alleged wrondoing.
Alderman Carlo Carlozzi said the mayor’s veto was filled with lies and inaccuracies. Stewart’s veto message stated, among other things, that this was all that the Democratic majority had been focusing on for the past few months. She called the name-change attempt a “political maneuver.”
Without naming the suspected author, Carlozzi insisted that the veto message had been written by somebody attempting to use “Kellyanne Conway-esque” rhetoric, a reference to President Donald Trump’s adviser and former campaign manager.
“I was shocked, I was saddened and I was outraged that the mayor would sign this. I know these are not her words. This is not how the mayor speaks,” Carlozzi said. “He’s (Bassett) certainly a far more honorable recipient of a name that should go near the college.”
Alderman Kristian Rosado, who is unaffiliated but caucuses with the Republicans, said the city should stop dividing itself by participating in tribal politics. He said most residents he’s talked to are against the name change, and since Manafort Sr. wasn’t convicted, he remains innocent until proven guilty.
“There are people that I’ve talked to that have been helped out by the Manafort family in a lot of different capacities, whether it’s through nonprofits, et cetera,” Rosado said. “The voters in society today are much more open-minded than we give them credit. There are people who can vote for a Republican mayor and a Democrat city council - they cross-party vote and can think for themselves.”
Though Democratic Brian Keith Albert voted to override, he said he has a serious problem with the whole premise of the proposed name change.
“I’m upset because a black man who served this city, who was the first black person to graduate from Central, has to receive a hand-me-down - that is disgusting,” Albert said. “To hell with this Manafort thing. He should have his own building.”
According to a member of the Ebenezer D. Bassett Memorialization Committee, people at CCSU are fighting to name an academic building after Bassett.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.