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Old Lyme Selectmen Say Racism Isn't A Public Health Emergency In Town

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Old Lyme town hall

The state Senate has passed a bill declaring racism a public health crisis in Connecticut. However, not every community in the state agrees. The town of Old Lyme just rejected a resolution to do the same.

Resident Steve Jungkeit was disappointed that the first and second selectmen chose to reject the resolution.

“I think it’s a very simple thing to do,” said Jungkeit, the senior minister of First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. “I don’t think it’s a controversial thing to do.”

The town is 96% white, but Jungkeit said he’s afraid Old Lyme won’t become more diverse if people don’t feel supported.

“I think not to pass a resolution like this sends a really clear message to the folks that are residing here that we just aren’t interested in thinking about this issue with you, and we aren’t that interested in what you may be feeling about it,” said Jungkeit. 

Democratic Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal brought the resolution before the board last August. The resolution is based on a template created by Hartford-based Health Equity Solutions that has already been adopted in 21 towns across the state.

“I felt that Old Lyme could be one of the leaders on the shoreline by signing this resolution, because it is basically a value statement with actionable steps,” said Nosal. 

Republican First Selectman Tim Griswold sees it differently. 

“I think the town has a very good posture on race relations, and I think that the characterization depicted in the resolution is painted with a broad brush and unfair, so I personally cannot support that,” said Griswold.

Griswold said that the resolution implies the town has a racism problem and that classifying something as a public health crisis shouldn’t be used freely. 

Nosal plans to bring up the resolution again at future board meetings. 

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