In a town as overwelmingly Democratic as Hartford, most of the competition for state offices takes place in the primary rather than the general election. While that has proven true for the most part this year and Hartford’s endorsed Democratic candidates are expected to win with little or no opposition, there are still key votes to be made next Tuesday, November 7, Election Day.
City voters will be asked to chime in along with the rest of the state on a race that has attracted attention across the country. Incumbent U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman is trying to stave off challenger Ned Lamont, who defeated Lieberman in the Democratic Primary, Republican Alan Schlesinger and two other candidates. The vote is seen as a referendum on President Bush and the War on Iraq, which Lieberman has supported and Lamont opposes (see Editorial, page 2).
In the race for Governor, incumbent Jodi Rell is facing a challenge from New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Green Party Candidate and Hartford native Cliff Thornton and Concerned Citizens candidate Joseph Zdonczyk.
The other key vote involves a question, not a candidate. At issue is funding for a massive sewer upgrade project by the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC). The question that will appear on the ballot reads: “Shall the appropriation of $800,000,000 be financed by the issuance of bonds for the District’s combined sewer overflow, sanitary sewer overflow and nitrogen removal programs to decrease levels of pollution in the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound to comply with a Consent Decree of the United State District Court of the District of Connecticut and a Consent Order of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, be approved?”
In addition to Hartford, the question will also be on the ballot in the MDC’s seven other member towns: Bloomfield, East Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, West Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor.
The MDC has a government mandate to end overflows in the sewer system within 12 years. If that mandate is not met within the specified time, federal and state regulators can use the court system to force implementation of the Clean Water Project, according to an MDC fact sheet.
Ordinarily, there are no overflows in the system. But during heavy rainstorms the system overflows, dumping untreated sewage in Wethersfield Cove, the Connecticut River and its tributaries and streets and basements.
Such heavy rainfalls occur about 50 times a year and, according to the MDC, about 1 billion gallons of untreated sewer water goes into the region’s rivers and streams each year.
Hartford’s sewer system was originally built in the 1840’s to serve 15,000 people. It now serves approximately 400,000 people.
The $800 million being voted on next Tuesday is the first of three such referendums. In 2012, the MDC plans to request another $630 million and another $300 million in 2017 to finish the project.