NEW BRITAIN â€“ The cityâ€™s Christopher Columbus statue will remain in McCabe Park after all.
After seven months of city discussions, community protests, and a City Council vote to remove the statue, Mayor Erin Stewartâ€™s veto against the resolution to remove the statue was sustained in an 8-6 vote on Wednesday. Aldermen Willie Pabon, Robert Smedley, Howard Dyson, Kris Rutkowski, Michael Thompson, and Daniel Salerno voted against overriding the veto. The council voted 10-4 in December to remove the statue. Ten votes were needed to override the veto, according to the cityâ€™s corporation counsel.
Thompson, who voted to remove the statue in December, referenced to the insurrection that happened at the U.S. Capitol last week and stated that the division in the country and the city has to stop.
â€śThis has gone too far. Dividing the city, dividing the people, this has got to stop,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m going to uphold the mayorâ€™s veto tonight. Iâ€™m sorry but Iâ€™m not going to be divisive in this country anymore. We need to come back to the middle before people get hurt.â€ť
In a veto letter, Stewart stated that while she generally disagrees with the removal of the statue, she would â€śrespect the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives on the Common Council, provided some critical questions were answered first.â€ť Some of those questions include the cost of removal, what would replace the statue, and the precedent of cancel culture.
Alderman Chris Anderson said the cost of removal cannot be determined until there is a process to actually remove it. As for the funds needed to pay for the removal, that would be an administrative and finance department decision, depending on what makes sense based on the expenditure, he said.
â€śIt has been clear from the get-go that the intention was to replace the statue with a monument that symbolizes the Italian Americansâ€™ contribution to the city that does not offend other members of the community,â€ť he said. â€śThat intent still stands, but we donâ€™t have to complete the full process to know that what we want to do today is to remove the statue. In fact, I donâ€™t think we can because a lot of those productive conversations canâ€™t happen until the statue is removed.â€ť
This story will be updated.