Reject Resolution on Racism and Public Health

Town Clerk Christine Halloran today released the official results of the May 4 referendum. The polling went well and more voters turned out for the referendum than was typical in recent years, she said.

Last year, an executive order by Gov. Ned Lamont to keep people safe during the height of the pandemic prevented the referendum vote from occurring. Instead, the Board of Finance set the 2020-21 budget.

Halloran said that more than 2,000 voters — 36% — turned out at the polls on May 4. For the last seven years or so, budget referendums typically brought out 800 voters at most, she said, or roughly 14% of registered voters or fewer.

Voters approved municipal and school spending for 2021-22 by a vote of 1,310 to 713. They approved the Region 9 budget for Joel Barlow High School, which Easton shares with Redding, 1,313 to 715, and they declined to support a Resolution on Racism and Public Health by a vote of 761 to 1,259.

Easton has 5,575 registered voters. The breakdown of voters according to political parties is as follows:

  • Democrats: 1,611 
  • Republicans: 1,597 
  • Unaffiliated: 2,287 
  • Other Parties: 80

Following are the poll questions and official results, including Redding’s tally on the Region 9 budget.

1. Shall the Town of Easton appropriate the sum of $46,249,385 for the annual budget for the fiscal year July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022?  (This includes Easton’s share of the Region No. 9 budget.)

YES:  1,310        NO:  713

2. Shall the Regional School District No. 9, composed of the Towns of Easton and Redding, appropriate and authorize the expenditure of $24,595,254 as the operating budget of the district for the period of July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022? (Easton’s share is $11,921,320 and Redding’s share is $12,673,934)

Easton       YES:    1,313   NO:  715
Redding     YES:   837     NO: 282
Passed overall by 1,153 Votes.

3. Shall the Town of Easton approve the Easton Resolution on Racism and Public Health?

YES:   761       NO:  1,259

You can read more about the 2021-22 budget at the link below:

Proposed 2021-22 Budget Heads to Annual Town Meeting

You can read more about the Easton Resolution on Racism and Public Health at the links below:

The Connecticut Health Divide: How Racism Contributes

Op-Ed: Easton Resolution on Race in Public Health

Officials React to Polling Results

First Selectman David Bindelglass said that with the May 4 referendum “the town has concluded the business of the annual town meeting. 

“The Town Meeting is the legislative body of our town, so public debate and excellent turnout at our referendums indicates that our  form of government which we all cherish is working,” Bindelglass said. “I am very pleased with the approval of the town budget. I realize the increase is more than we are generally used to, but the people of Easton realized the value that would come to the town from these increases.”

Bindelglass said that on the town side, the major increase was adding to the staff of the Department of Public Works  to continue to improve the department’s service to the town. The Board of Education was able to return vital staff and programs to the students as they recover from a difficult year of the pandemic, he said. 

“Finally, I believe there was an understanding of the need to absorb our proportional increase of the Region 9 budget as we gain a greater percentage of the students at Joel Barlow. The budgets were accepted by a wide margin, and I am grateful for that.”

As for the question of  adopting the resolution on race as a public health issue, Bindelglass said he was disappointed. “As you may remember, this was a lengthy and complex resolution initially adopted unanimously by the Board of Selectmen in the wake of the George Floyd killing,” he said. “A number of months later my colleague Kristi Sogofsky asked the BOS to consider rescinding the board’s resolution and putting it to the town meeting for approval. We voted again unanimously to do this. The vote was put off to the annual Town Meeting because other business was more time dependent.”

As first selectman, Bindelglass said it was his job to organize the Town Meeting and present the resolutions.  “Although there was a lot of spirited  discussion about this resolution, I have to admit I did a poor job of communicating what was actually being considered,” he said. “The resolution was available to be read. It was lengthy, and  from conversations I had at the polls, it was clear to me that  many people still did not understand what the resolution said, or even what we were actually voting on. I consider that to be my fault. I apologize for not doing a better job of presenting it. The resolution was not adopted as per the decision of the Town Meeting via referendum.”

That being said, Bindelglass said he thinks he and others learned a lot from the discussions they had with each other. He said it seemed to him that everything he heard or read from people demonstrated agreement with the fact that there were definite differences in the health of different groups of  the population, and  that it should not be that way.

“How this affected Easton, and if we had any role or responsibility for dealing with these differences was, in my mind, the real subject of the debate,” he said. “The prevailing answer was that we did not. As my colleague Kristi suggested in the Courier, ‘This resolution does not apply to our community.’”  

Some of the issues Easton faces will be controversial going forward, Bindelglass said. “It remains my hope that we can continue to have honest and open debate as new issues arise. Given that we are our own legislative body, civil discourse is a necessity.”

Selectman Bob Lessler also said he was disappointed that the resolution on racism was defeated. “However, the people of Easton have spoken,” he said. Moving forward, he said he was pleased “a serious conversation about race has begun in our town. The issue of race in our society is too big to be ignored anywhere, and so, I am proud of our community for its willingness to engage on this difficult and fraught topic. Let’s continue the conversation.”

Selectman Kristi Sogofsky had this to say, “The turnout for this referendum shows that the community is thoroughly engaged in this issue. While everyone agrees that racism should not and will not be tolerated, the vote shows that the way in which this resolution was drafted did not meet the town’s needs. I fully support efforts to examine areas where we can make improvements and encourage community involvement in those efforts.”

Sogofsky said she was pleased to see such overwhelming support for the town and Region 9 budgets. “It shows a commitment to education and the importance of providing the necessary financial resources to support our kids, both of which are top priorities to me,” she said.

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