There is controversy in Colchester after the city’s new first selectman rescinded a proclamation issued in 2020 declaring racism a public health crisis.
The overthrow was one of the first actions of the new head of the city on his first day in office.
The first Selectman Andreas Bisbikos, a Republican, wrote in a new proclamation that the old proclamation implied that the city was a racist community. Bisbikos said there were no facts or data to support a claim to this effect.
NBC Connecticut has reached out to Bisbikos for a statement on the change.
“The new proclamation released yesterday is sufficient in its explanation,” Bisbikos wrote in an email to NBC Connecticut.
The original statement claimed “that racism is a public health crisis affecting our city and all of Connecticut.”
Bisbikos’ decision receives mixed reception.
“I read it and was just a little saddened,” Denise Turner, member of Selectman’s Colchester board of directors, said of the change. “My family has been here for over 80 years, I grew up in this city, there are stories I can tell.”
Turner, a Democrat, said the purpose of the original proclamation was to assert that there is no room for racism in Colchester, not to categorize the town as racist.
“I think there is a lot of misunderstanding and I hope people take a step back and try to figure out exactly what’s going on,” Turner said.
Census data estimates that more than nine in ten people in Colchester are Caucasian.
The change created a lot of conversation in the community.
“It’s a small town and even though we had some discrimination, I think we could talk about it and fix it,” said David Pear.
“I’m a registered Republican. What is good is good. And we have to do what is right and we have to put politics aside and start listening to us,” Krista Kardys told NBC Connecticut.
Bisbikos said in the latest proclamation that any proclamation “intended to label and divide” would be doomed.
He claimed racism has no place in town and said his administration will support a number of diversity and inclusion efforts.
The new proclamation issued on November 15 reads as follows:
Elimination of the public health crisis on racism issued on July 16, 2020
WHILE, on July 16, 2020, Colchester’s First Selectman issued a proclamation that unfairly and falsely came to “assert that racism is a public health crisis affecting our city” without facts or data to support this claim;
WHILE, by implied proclamation that the Town of Colchester is a racist community or a community where racism has been allowed to grow to the point of being viewed as a public health crisis – without facts or data to support said assertion;
WHILE, on July 15, 2021, the findings of the Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and Inclusion were presented to the Board of Directors and concluded that institutionalized racism does not exist in Colchester;
WHILE, Colchester state hate crime data has shown that there have been no hate crimes in the past five years or as long as the state has documented hate crimes;
WHILE, proclamations intended to label and divide will be strongly condemned;
WHILE, Colchester has a long history of accepting people from all walks of life, including (but not limited to): race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexuality;
WHILE, the newly elected Bisbikos administration believes that racism has no place in Colchester;
WHILE, the newly elected Bisbikos administration will support diversity and inclusion through (but not limited to): a review of HR policies and practices at town hall, reaching out to diverse communities, ensuring that all of our employees undergo awareness training and meeting our state’s affordable housing goals.
WHILE, our community lives by the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr. where we “judge a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character”. This quote is extended to all walks of life including (but not limited to): race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.
NOW THEREFORE, on behalf of the Town of Colchester, Colchester be it resolved, I commit to:
1) Eliminate the proclamation on the public health crisis against racism that was officially issued on July 16, 2020 by the previous administration;
2) Place this proclamation, issued on November 15, 2021, in its place.
Dated this November 15th.
Andreas Bisbikos, first manager
The text of the original July 2020 proclamation is below.