- Administrative divisions of Connecticut
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 sometimes results in 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.
Connecticut is divided geographically into eight counties, but 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 marshals through a ballot measure attached to the 2000 presidential election. Counties are, however, still used by the state to organize its judicial and state marshal system. Connecticut's court jurisdictions still adhere to the old county boundaries, with the exception of Fairfield, Hartford, and New Haven counties, which have been further subdivided into multiple court jurisdictions due to their relatively large populations.
The dissolution of county governments in 1960 created a vacuum of power at the regional level, which created 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:
- Capitol Region (Hartford area)
- Central Connecticut Region (Bristol-New Britain area)
- Central Naugatuck Valley Region (Waterbury area)
- Connecticut River Estuary Region (Old Saybrook area)
- Greater Bridgeport Region (Bridgeport area)
- Housatonic Valley Region (Danbury area)
- Litchfield Hills Region (Torrington area)
- Lower Naugatuck Valley Region (Derby/Shelton area)
- Midstate Connecticut Region (Middletown area)
- Northeastern Connecticut Region (Danielson area)
- Northwestern Connecticut Region (Sharon area)
- South Central Connecticut Region (New Haven area)
- Southeastern Connecticut Region (Norwich-New London area)
- Southwestern Connecticut Region (Stamford-Norwalk area)
- Windham Region (Willimantic area)
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.
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 had the town meeting form of government, which is still used by some of the 169 towns. Under Connecticut's Home Rule Act, any town is permitted to adopt its own local charter and choose its own structure of government. The three basic structures of municipal government used in the state, with variations from place to place, are the selectman–town meeting, mayor–council, and manager–council.
Nineteen towns are also incorporated as cities, while one 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 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.
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" 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 villages and named sections of towns and cities were formerly incorporated as boroughs. Some villages are associated with historic districts which can serve to preserve some part of their more historically well preserved areas.
Some village and section names are also used as post office names or as the basis for naming census designated places (CDPs), although the postal delivery area or CDP associated with the name often is considerably larger than the associated village or section. Some examples of villages, neighborhoods, and sections that have given their names to post offices or CDPs are Falls Village, Mystic, Niantic, Quaker Hill, South Kent, Stafford Springs, and Whitneyville.
Top elected officials by municipality
Town Official Position Party Population (2004 Census estimate) Bridgeport Bill Finch Mayor Democrat 139,910 Hartford Pedro Segarra Mayor Democrat 124,848 New Haven John DeStefano, Jr. Mayor Democrat 124,829 Stamford Michael Pavia Mayor Republican 120,226 Waterbury Michael Jarjura Mayor Republican 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 Michael Rohde 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 Benjamin G. Blake Mayor Democrat 54,482 West Haven John Picard Mayor Democrat 53,087 Stratford John Harkins Mayor Republican 50,256
- ^ a b "The Relationship Between State and Local Government," page 22 in Connecticut: A Guide to State Government, The League of Women Voters of Connecticut Education Fund, Inc., 2003. Accessed January 31, 2010
- ^ Counties, Section VI of Connecticut State Register and Manual, accessed January 31, 2010
- ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation Violent Gang Task Forces
- ^ The "Post Offices in Connecticut" list in the Connecticut State Register and Manual lists the state's post offices and their associated towns.
- Local Government, Section VII of Connecticut State Register and Manual
State of Connecticut Topics Regions Counties Cities Places Local government in the United States by political division States
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Federal district Insular areas
- American Samoa
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Puerto Rico
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- Bajo Nuevo Bank
- Baker Island
- Howland Island
- Jarvis Island
- Johnston Atoll
- Kingman Reef
- Midway Atoll
- Navassa Island
- Palmyra Atoll
- Serranilla Bank
- Wake Island
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