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The primary political subdivisions and administrative divisions of Connecticut are its towns. New England towns are conceptually similar to civil townships in that the entire territory of the state is completely covered by them. However, they differ primarily in that New England towns, particularly in Connecticut, have broad home rule, and have powers comparable to those that a city in other states would normally have. There are advantages and disadvantages to this system: residents have a greater voice in the decision-making process over local issues. On the other hand, the state's delegation of broad powers to the towns has created a modern-day feudalist-like system in Connecticut, with numerous bitter rivalries between towns stemming from projects and programs that encompass multiple towns. Decades of legal battles between Bridgeport and Stratford over the expansion of Sikorsky Airport and political fighting between Norwalk and Wilton surrounding construction of the US-7 Freeway are two such examples, but many more exist.

Contents

County

While Connecticut is divided geographically into eight counties, these counties do not have any associated government structure. The Connecticut General Assembly abolished all county governments on October 1, 1960. The counties continued to have sheriffs until 2000, when the sheriffs' offices were abolished and replaced with state marshalls through a ballot measure attached to the 2000 presidential election. Counties are, however, still used by the state to organize its judicial and state marshall system. Connecticut's court jurisdictions still adhere to the old county boundaries, with the exception of Fairfield, Hartford, and New Haven, which has been further subdivided into several jurisdictions due to their large populations relative to the remaining five counties.

Regions

Regional Council of Governments of Connecticut

The dissolution of county governments in 1960 created a vacuum of power at the regional level, which created huge problems when it came to land use and infrastructure planning. Because the power once reserved for county governments was now in the hands of municipal administrations, major land use, environmental, and infrastructure issues often pitted one town against another, resulting in little or no progress. Complicating this, the state constitution delegates a large portion of the state's authority to the towns. That means a major multi-town project could be completely derailed if only one of the affected towns opposes the project, since the project would require each affected town to issue its own permits for the portions within its territory. This has often led to long and costly lawsuits between towns that support a regional-scale project and those opposed.

In an effort to resolve these conflicts, the State of Connecticut passed legislation in the 1980s establishing 15 regional councils, which cluster towns with similar demographics into an administrative planning region, instead of adhering to the old county structure. These regions are:

Unlike county governments, the authority of regional councils is limited to land use policymaking, infrastructure development, emergency preparedness, and long-term planning for population and economic changes for the communities within their respective jurisdiction. The regional councils have no taxing authority; they are financed by funds from the state and member towns.

Regional councils also have some limited law enforcement authority. If approved by the regional council, member towns can put forth a portion of their law enforcement resources to create regional task forces to combat organized crime and drug trafficking. With assistance from the Connecticut State Police and FBI, several regions have established such task forces. The Northern Connecticut Gang Task Force, Bridgeport Violent Crimes Task Force, and New Haven Safe Streets Gang Task Force are such examples.[1]

Town

The 169 towns of Connecticut are the principal units of local government in the state and have full municipal powers including:

  • Corporate powers
  • Eminent domain
  • Ability to levy taxes
  • Public services (low cost housing, waste disposal, fire, police, ambulance, street lighting)
  • Public works (highways, sewers, cemeteries, parking lots, etc.)
  • Regulatory powers (building codes, traffic, animals, crime, public health)
  • Environmental protection
  • Economic development

Towns traditionally have the town meeting form of government and is still used by many of the 169 towns. 19 towns are also incorporated as cities, while 1 town (Naugatuck) is also incorporated as a borough. The 20 consolidated borough-town and city-towns are classified by the Census Bureau as both minor civil divisions and incorporated places, while the other 149 towns are classified only as minor civil divisions. Some of the larger, urban towns are also classified in their entirety as Census designated places

City

City incorporation requires a Special Act by the Connecticut General Assembly. All cities in Connecticut are dependent municipalities, meaning they are located within and subordinate to a town. However, except for one, all currently existing cities in Connecticut are consolidated with their parent town. Note that towns in Connecticut are allowed to adopt a city form of government without the need to re-incorporate as a city. Connecticut state law also makes no distinction between a consolidated town-city and a regular town.

There are currently twenty incorporated cities in Connecticut. Nineteen of these cities are coextensive with their towns, with the city and town governments also consolidated. One incorporated city (Groton) has jurisdiction only over part of its town. All cities are treated by the Census Bureau as incorporated places regardless of the settlement pattern.

Borough

In addition to cities, Connecticut also has another type of dependent municipality known as a borough. Boroughs are usually the populated center of a town that decided to incorporate in order to have more responsive local government. When a borough is formed, it is still part of and dependent on its town. There are currently nine incorporated boroughs in Connecticut. One borough is coextensive and consolidated with its town. The other eight boroughs have jurisdiction over only a small part of their town. All boroughs are treated by the Census Bureau as incorporated places. Since 1989, the Census Bureau has also listed Groton Long Point as a borough even though it has not been incorporated as a borough but is only a multi-purpose special services district within the town of Groton.

Village, neighborhood, section of town

Connecticut also has a fair number of non-incorporated communities that are known locally as villages (usually in more rural areas), neighborhoods or "sections of" (phrasing particularly popular in Stamford, Connecticut) a city or town. "Villages" in this local Connecticut sense have no separate legal/corporate existence from the town they are in, although a taxing district or volunteer fire department sharing the name of the village may exist for specific services. With some exceptions, people who reside within a village often identify with the town rather than the village. Some of these villages are associated with historic districts which can serve to preserve some part of their more historically well preserved areas. Also village names are sometimes used by the Census Bureau as a basis for naming census designated places which happen to include one, although the CDP often is considerably larger.

Top Elected Officials by Town

Town Official Position Party Population (2004 Census estimate)
  Bridgeport Bill Finch Mayor Democrat 139,910
  Hartford Eddie Perez Mayor Democrat 124,848
  New Haven John DeStefano, Jr. Mayor Democrat 124,829
  Stamford Dan Malloy Mayor Democrat 120,226
  Waterbury Michael Jarjura Mayor Democrat 108,429
  Norwalk Dick Moccia Mayor Republican 84,401
  Danbury Mark Boughton Mayor Republican 78,263
  New Britain Timothy T. Stewart Mayor Republican 71,699
  Greenwich Jim Lash First Selectman Republican 62,240
  West Hartford Scott Slifka Mayor Democrat 61,254
  Bristol William Stortz Mayor Republican 61,005
  Meriden Mark Benigni Mayor Democrat 59,136
  Hamden Craig Henrici Mayor Democrat 58,409
  Fairfield Ken Flatto First Selectman Democrat 57,809
  Manchester Louis Spadaccini Mayor Republican 55,544
  Milford James Richetelli Mayor Republican 54,482
  West Haven John Picard Mayor Democrat 53,087
  Stratford Jim Miron Mayor Democrat 50,256

External links

See also

List of municipalities of Connecticut by population








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