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Ansonia Charter Revision to consider minority party representation

August 18, 2018

ANSONIA-Moments before he recommended appointments to a new Charter Revision commission Mayor David Cassetti dropped a bombshell.

He charged the new members to study the possibility of minority representation on the Board of Aldermen.

“I think its healthy for the city government and offers a second perspective,” Cassetti said.

That comes from the city’s first ever three-term Republican mayor who has led Republican landslides the last six years after a dozen years of almost complete control by the Democrats.

“When Mayor (James) Della Volpe was in office most of the time he had an all Democrat Board of Aldermen,” Cassetti said. “Now we have all Republicans. That’s not healthy. And I think the voters will agree.”

However Cassetti does not believe adding another aldermen in each ward which would turn the current 14 to 21 is the way to go. Instead he suggested aldermen at large as an option. But he left the decision to the Charter Revision commission to determine how to enact minority representation.

“I have to say I concur with what he is suggesting,” said Gary Rose, chairman of Sacred Heart University’s government department. “It lends itself to compromise and inclusion. It shows the minority party they will at least have a seat at the table and a chance to be heard.”

But minority representation is not the only controversial issue the commission will study.

Corporation Counsel John P. Marini, himself a former Ansonia aldermen, said the commission will consider increasing the term of mayor and alderman from two to four years and reducing the number of voting wards from the current seven. The commission may also consider putting the city and school board budgets out to a vote by the residents—something nearby Seymour does.

“It’s clearly up to the commission to do the studying and come up with ideas before finally making a recommendation to the Board of Aldermen,” Marini said. “No one is in favor of building a bigger bureaucracy. But we see a lot of political division in this country that is exacerbating. Maybe by permanently carving out a space for minority representation and giving them the opportunity to be heard, we can reduce that here.”

As to increasing the years a mayor serves, Sheila O’Malley, the city’s economic development director and grant writer, said it will allow an administration to see their projects through.

“Most projects take more then two years to complete,” O’Malley said. “The life of a grant cycle is at least three years.”

Cassetti nominated 10 members to the newly revised Charter Revision Commission. The four Republicans, four Democrats and two unaffiliated voters were unanimously approved by the Board of Aldermen.

The new members include Republican Aldermen Lorie Vaccaro and Domenico Filippone as well as former Alderman Pat Henri. The fourth Republican is Kristopher Milardo.

The Democrats are former Town/City Clerk Beth Lynch, Jason St. Jacques, Robert Knott and Sharon L. Voroschak, the mother of Republican Town Chairman David Papcin.

Unaffiliated voters Robert McDowell and William Luneski also were appointed.

No organizational meeting has been scheduled. One is expected to take place sometime in September or early October.

The appointments are for 16-month terms. Once the commission makes its recommendations to the Board of Aldermen, the aldermen will then vote on each. That vote decides which goes on the November ballot as a referendum.

A reduction in the number of wards from seven to three and aldermen from 14 to nine was voted out during the 2014 election. That proposal combines the first, second and third wards, the four and fifth wards and the sixth and seventh wards. Each ward would have three aldermen instead of the current two.

The Registrar of Voters contend that less wards means less money spent on manning seven polling places

Anthony Giannattasio, the Republican minority leader on Milford’s Board of Aldermen and James Richetelli, a former Milford mayor, believe minority representation is important.

In Milford, three aldermen are elected from each of its five wards. One must be from the losing party.

“I don’t believe in one-party rule,” said Giannattasio, who has sat under Republican and Democratic mayors during his 14 years as an alderman. “The minority voice needs to be heard—give them their say and then let the public decide during an election.”

Giannattasio believes minority representation has helped Milford prosper while other municipalities like West Haven which has been ruled by one party for years have been “held back.”

“The minority view helps keep the majority in check,” Giannattasio said.

Richetelli saw compromises being made and coalitions being built in Milford based on opposition raised by the minority party during his political years which included five terms as mayor.

“I thought it was kind of cool seeing people work together,” he said. “The majority still has the two-thirds vote but it adds a check on one party becoming too powerful.”

In Ansonia some Republican aldermen would argue there already is minority representation on their board of 14 Republicans.

Phil Tripp, the former aldermanic president and vocal opponent to Cassetti, often leads an opposition group that includes Aldermen Richard Kaslaitis and Kevin O’Brien. Tripp was voted out as president in January.

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