Category Archives: Public Health

CT’s Regionalization: Cost-Savings and Service Sharing

Originally published at Global Site Plans

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Unlike most of the United States, Connecticut has no system of county governance. While a regional, “county” government once existed (ceasing in 1960), it didn’t hold much power and had very few functions. Under the laws of the state constitution, 169 towns hold powers similar to that of a city and manage their own administration. To meet the cost-sharing, regional needs of local governments, Connecticut passed a law in 1947 “allowing two or more contiguous towns with planning commissions to form a regional planning authority.” The statute called for these regional planning authorities to be:

“Based on studies of physical, social, economic and governmental conditions and trends and shall be designed to promote with the greatest efficiency and economy the coordinated development of the region within its jurisdiction and the general welfare and prosperity of its people.”

In 1948 the first new regional planning authority, covering New Haven and a few of its suburbs began operation. Planning authorities would gain more importance in Connecticut in 1954 when new federal grants for projects in cities and regional areas became available, but required that administration be done by official regional agencies. Within twelve years of creation, New Haven’s Regional Planning Authority of the South Central Region served all of the towns in its region, fifteen in total. However, there were holdouts to regional planning authorities and a reluctance to mandate all towns to participate in one.

After the state outlined boundaries for fifteen different planning regions in 1957 in an attempt to make them “logical and economical,” there was often contention and negotiation about which planning region a town was allowed to belong to.  Before that legislation, town contiguity in a planning region could theoretically stretch across Connecticut. To encourage participation, incentives were offered, and in some cases, sanctions imposed. Very often, the state would mandate specific activities be regionalized, or perform the project planning itself, overriding the input of the non-participating towns.

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Two state-wide groups supplement the regional planning agencies and provide cities and towns with management and technical assistance, research, and lobbying efforts. The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), founded in 1966; and Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST), founded in 1975, are governed by boards of elected officials of the member municipalities. CCM currently represents roughly 90% of Connecticut towns, and is a powerful lobby at the capitol. COST, represented by first selectmen, mayors and managers, has also been successful, writing and lobbying the legislation which established the state’s Small Town Economic Assistance Program.

Over time, three types of regional planning organizations have evolved under Connecticut General Statutes: the regional planning agency, the regional council of elected officials, and the newer regional councils of government (COGS), which provide cities and towns a wider ranges of services than the earlier regional planning agencies.  The state has recently consolidated the fifteen regional planning agencies into nine, as part of recommendations negotiated with CCM, COST, and the COGS. As of January 1, 2015, the municipalities within these nine regions must adopt local ordinances to join a single Regional Council of Governments in each of these nine regions.

How is regionalized planning approached where you live? What is the role of government?

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WW1: Spanish Flu Pandemic

spanishflu

The flu pandemic of 1918 is called the Spanish Flu because the Spanish media were the ones reporting it. Coverage of the flu was censored elsewhere, and the Spanish Flu was likely to have started in the United States.

It had a high mortality rate and its victims were usually between the ages of 20 and 40. It also spread quickly, infecting 1/5 of the world’s population. People died from it died very quickly.

The battlefield conditions of WW1 were ideal for the spread of this flu.

The close proximity of soldiers along with the confining nature of trench warfare allowed the spread of the Spanish Flu among beleaguered soldiers. A side effect of war is disease, and the “mass movements of men in armies and aboard ships probably aided in its rapid diffusion.”

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“The Great Stink” & Cholera Containment

The prevailing scientific theory the time of the cholera outbreak in London was that cholera was transmitted by foul odor (miasma theory).  The concept of ‘bacteria’ wasn’t understood—many people thought if they couldn’t “see” illness causing bacteria, it wasn’t really there. People trusted the advice of “medical quacks,” instead of common sense cures to tackle the dehydration.

Faraday testing the waters of the Thames, 1855 Punch Magazine, volume 29 Westminster City Archives

Faraday testing the waters of the Thames, 1855 Punch Magazine, volume 29 Westminster City Archives

It was felt that cholera was a socioeconomic disease, associated with those of lower morality and the “poor, stinking masses.” As cities grew in population, the pre-industrial waste infrastructure was unable to handle the excess excrement.  Cities lacked the modern resources we take for granted, such as recycling and safe sewage removal.  Leaky cesspools were the standard method of waste disposal, and these compromised fresh water sources.

The Great Stink ushered in new sanitation laws. In part because the Parliament could no longer tolerate the smell of the Thames River, a new sewer system was constructed which is still in use today.  Public spending increases, which brings new parks into cities to provide fresh air.  By 1875, the Public Health Act would require all houses to have their own sanitation and water.

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