New Britain City Journal

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Connie Wilson Collins Honored, Public Participation Approved at Council Meeting

Council members will now be looking at longtime Council woman, union president and well-recognized former City resident Connie Wilson Collins in Council Chambers as a portrait of her will be installed on the Council wall.

Wednesday night the Council approved the portrait which follows Collins death this year.

Collins was born in 1928 in New York and spent most of her life in New Britain. She was a Harvard University graduate receiving her Master’s Degree in Education and became the first union president of the United Electrical Workers of America Local 207 of Landers, Frary and Clark. She later worked for the John Driscoll United Labor Agency and was co-founder of the Opportunities Industrial Center along with Emma Pierce.

Collins was the first African-American elected the City Council of New Britain serving for three terms. She led a drive to re-name Hartford Avenue to Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

Collins won praise and respect as a coalition builder, negotiator and advocate for social justice.

“She was a phenomenal person and strived in every aspect of her life,” said Alderman Michael Trueworthy. “Her accomplishments speak for themselves, but it is the intangible side that reaches so many people.”

“She didn’t always get up to speak, but when she did, what she said was heard by everybody,” said Alderman Carlo Carlozzi. “She was a woman of integrity and honor. She earned respect the old fashion way and was a gracious lady. Connie was bigger than life.”

Carlozzi said people across the country knew of Collins.

Her daughter Tonilynn Collins, who is presently an Alderwoman, thanked everyone for approving the resolution for the portrait.

“You have no clue what it means to me and my family. My mother loved this City,” said Collins. “Her passion for the City was there until the day she passed away. This is truly and honorable tribute to her and my family will never forget this.”

Public Participation at Special Council Meetings

Council members unanimously voted to approve an amendment to ordinance 2-22 that will now allow public participation at any special meeting of the Common Council.

“City business sometimes dictates that there are special council meetings. The ordinance, while it does not forbid participation, it has been practice of the council to not allow it at special council meetings. This will now allow public participation at all of our meetings whether they are regularly scheduled or a called meeting,” said Carlozzi. “We do want the public to participate and hear what they have to say. This will now clarify it and there will not be a debate in the future of if it will or will not be allowed.”

Carlozzi said he is glad this will be cleaned up so there will be no debate in the future as there has been in the past.

The present Common Council led by Mayor Tim O’Brien has had 12 Special Council meetings since Jan. 2012.

Special meetings without public participation included landlord fees, hiring a grant writer, a contract for Oktoberfest, budget requests, bonding, capitol improvement items, contracting an agreement with COVANTA and more.

Many people claimed some of these items were not time sensitive and could have been done in a regular meeting when the public was allowed to speak.

“To me this is a no brainer. Getting more people involved in the process is good,” said Alderman Jamie Giantonio at a previous meeting. “Often due to timing there is a need to have special meetings to get work done by a special deadline. I think affording the public another chance to address this council is a no-brainer.”

The resolution states, “There shall be public participation sessions held prior to each regularly scheduled common council meeting from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and for thirty minutes prior to each special common council meeting at which time members of the public shall be afforded the opportunity to address the members of the common council on any matters concerning the operations of city government as well as on matters on the agenda of the meeting. Such sessions must be attended by the respective department heads, or their designee, who will respond to any questions concerning the operation of their respective department. Individuals who insist on making slanderous remarks, in engaging in or behaving in a disruptive, disorderly or discourteous manner will not be allowed to continue in attendance at such a meeting. If such behavior cannot be contained, the meeting for that date will be terminated. No placards, slogans or banners shall be allowed into the council chambers at such a meeting.”

Besides Carlozzi, also named to the resolution were Aldermen Manny Sanchez, Willie Pabon and Giantonio.

Flowering Trees Approved

The Council was also told at the meeting that an emergency purchase order had taken by Mayor Tim O’Brien for 22 flowered cherry trees at the entrance of AW Stanley Park across for Alexander Rd. to celebrate Hispanic Month in October. The 22 trees represent Latino Countries of Citizens who live in the City. The cost was $4,378 and donations are expected to eventually cover those costs.

According to Carmelo Rodriquez, of the Latino Coalition, the idea of the trees was not approved by the coalition. Alderman Pabon, who is Hispanic, questioned whose idea this was and was told it came from the Mayor’s Office.