Mayor Erin Stewart Calls State Of New Britain ‘Fragile’


City of New Britain

Mayor Erin Stewart addressed New Britain in her "State of the City" address earlier this month.

Isabella Chan, Assistant News Editor

With Governor Ned Lamont’s new budget proposal asking for cities and towns to do more with fewer finances, New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart stated that the city was “fragile” under the financial pressure and warned residents of changes during her sixth State of the City address last week.

“The governor’s proposed budget slightly decreases our municipal aid from last year, and in addition, several proposals will create new and large obligations,” Stewart said. 

Stewart pinpointed how some of Lamont’s plans will impact and influence New Britain’s current developments, such as New Britain’s Energy and Innovation Park and the progress the Public Works Department has made in the streets and brownfield sites.

“At a time when our residents are facing a host of new state taxes and tolls on the highways, I am doing everything in my power to compose a budget that will not ask any more from our residents,” Stewart said.

“But let’s be real, and I’m speaking directly to the ever-growing list of people looking for additional funding, the fact is that – right now – we simply don’t have enough new revenue to offset increases in existing expenditures,” she continued.

Stewart claimed the city’s Grand List, which is used to calculate the city’s tax rate, increased by 1.17 percent and is likely to shrink to $800,000, according to the New Britain Herald, due to “reductions in state funding, the imposition of new expenditures from the state and the year-over-year contractual increases in labor and service costs.”

Throughout the address, Stewart also highlighted some of New Britain’s successes in the past year, including over two dozen new businesses opening, the unemployment rate dropping down to 4.3 percent and the hiring of new Fire Chief Raul Ortiz, as well Acting Chief Christopher Chute and Acting Deputy Chief Jeanette Portalatin of the Interim Police Leadership Team.

Stewart said she hopes to continue to make such improvements to New Britain despite financial restrictions, saying that improving the physical infrastructure and human infrastructure will lead to long-term investments in the city

Stewart said she believed the best way to do so would be by eliminating political division amongst the city council.

The Hartford Courant wrote that Stewart explained her frustration with the divide in her address and said she was feeling it “due to partisan rifts that divided the council over debt restructuring and other issues last year.”

Stewart labeled the council’s inability to communicate, lead and lack of trust as its “biggest threat to fragile stability” and “the political games need to end.”

“We are now entering another election year and my fear is that the rhetoric and posturing will only increase as people fear for their re-elections over doing what is right,” Stewart said.

In the end, Stewart closed the address with encouraging words for unity and hope for New Britain’s future.

“Let us embrace that change, be a visionary, have the courage to tackle the unknown and strive to prepare ourselves for a successful future. I will continue to work hard to not merely keep our city afloat, but to keep it sailing toward the horizon, prepared for what may come and poised for future success,” Stewart said.