CONECT led the fight back in 2011 to force the state Department of Insurance to hold public hearings whenever insurance companies asked for major rate increases, expecting the public scrutiny would be a damper on rate increases. Our Healthcare Team won a deal in 2011 for up to four hearings per year on rate increase requests of 15% or greater. After using this deal for the first time in 2014, our team improved upon it by getting the Department of Insurance to agreed to hold hearings on rate increase requests of 10% or greater. In total, after hearings in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018, which resulted on lowering the rates approved, CONECT’s pressure and scrutiny have saved CT consumers $150 million in total!
CONECT has played a key role in the Do Not Stand Idly By campaign, which we developed in collaboration with sister organizations in the Metro IAF network. Rev. Anthony L. Bennett has represented CONECT in the national leadership of this campaign. To date, 123 cities, counties, and states around the country have signed on to the effort to press gun manufacturers to prevent illegal gun sales and to invest in developing safer, smarter guns. In Nov 2016, after a year’s worth of pressure and work, the Obama Administration issued the first-ever specifications for “smart guns,” creating standards for purchasing to further move the industry to respond to their public-sector customers (local, state & federal law enforcement & military).
First, in 2011, CONECT led the successful campaign to allow undocumented young people to access state universities and colleges at in state rates. This change made college accessible for the first time to many immigrant youth, and hundreds, if not thousands, have enrolled and graduated since this law was passed.
Then, in 2013, CONECT led the successful Safer Driving Campaign to allow undocumented immigrants in CT to get a Driver’s License. This law took effect in 2015 and since that time 80,000 have gotten licenses, allowing them to register their cars, buy insurance, and drive legally and safely.
CONECT supported and organized with St. Rose of Lima and others to dismantle the racist East Haven Police Department, which was profiling and abusing Latinos and immigrants. Ultimately, four officers were criminally convicted and a Justice Department Civil Rights Division investigation led to a 54-page consent decree to improve their practices and training. This consent decree became a model used by the Obama Administration’s Commission on 21st Century Policing.
During this last year, CONECT has worked to support immigrant, Muslim, and other vulnerable communities, organizing two solidarity assemblies, a prayer vigil, letter writing drives, legal consultation sessions, and more. These efforts have been aimed at both resisting anti-immigrant policies, but also at supporting immigrant families and communities as they weather these threats.
Alarmed by studies documenting the use of restraint and seclusion more than 30,000 times in CT schools, disproportionately with autistic and minority children, in early 2015 CONECT's Education Team began investigating and taking action on this issue. Working with the state's Child Advocate, CONECT leaders lobbied for Senate Bill 927, which limits the use of these tactics, requires training of teachers and administrators, and mandates parental notification within 24 hours. The bill was signed into law in June 2015.
In 2010-12, CONECT worked to support individuals and families fighting to save their homes and to gain easier access to banks and mortgage companies to make this happen. Bank of America opened a servicing center in CT for the first time, due to our pressure, and dozens of people saved their homes.
Beginning in June 2015, with a 300-person public dialogue on policing at Bethel AME Church with then Mayor Finch and then Chief Gaudett, CONECT has been pressing for more transparency, accountability, and responsiveness from the Bridgeport Police Department. CONECT followed this dialogue with a 300-person Candidate Assembly in September 2015 just before the Mayoral Primary, where we got commitments from all the major candidates around police hiring, training, and community policing strategies. Then at our 650-peron Winter Assembly in January 2016, we pressed newly elected Mayor Ganim to make good on these commitments. CONECT leaders redoubled these efforts after 15-year-old Jayson Negron was shot and killed by a Bridgeport Police Officer in May 2016. In a series of meetings with Chief Perez and others, CONECT has pressed for a transparent and thorough investigation of the tragedy, Body Cameras for all officers, and de-escalation and racial / cultural competency and anti-bias training for all officers, including veterans. Bridgeport is now implementing an initial Body Camera pilot program, is training all veteran officers in De-Escalation Tactics. CONECT leaders are still reviewing their racial / cultural competency training to scrutinize its quality and effectiveness.
After hearing dozens of stories of hate speech and bias-based bullying in greater Norwalk areas schools over the last year, CONECT leaders began engaging the Superintendent of Schools, the Police Chief, and the Mayor to press for effective action in the schools. In Nov. 2017, 188 people turned out to a local assembly where CONECT leaders pressed for clear commitments for action. Most importantly, the School District agreed to a daylong teacher training session on hate speech, anti-bias awareness, and effective interventions. CONECT leaders are working with the district to do an initial pilot of the training at one school this February.
CONECT leaders worked to stop violence and mayhem at Slyce Pizza Bar. Unfortunately, CONECT only learned about this problem after tragedy struck: the April 2016 murder of Jonathan Cooper, the 24 year-old son of Odell Cooper, a long-time CONECT leader from Mount Aery Baptist Church. Jonathan was home for the weekend to visit his family and celebrate his cousin's birthday. Tragically, he was shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity, when patrons leaving Slyce Pizza in Hamden mistook him for someone they had been fighting with earlier in the night. In her grief, Odell wanted to prevent another family from suffering like hers, so she spurred fellow CONECT leaders from Hamden, Bridgeport, and New Haven to work together to fight the renewal of Slyce's liquor license. Slyce and its patrons were connected to 5 other shootings, numerous assaults, sexual assaults, and loud, rowdy, and littering late night crowds in a residential area. Slyce’s license renewal was denied in April 2017, and it closed a few weeks later.
In the Fall of 2012, CONECT played an important role in educating Bridgeport voters what was at stake in the Charter Revision Referendum vote on the November 2012 ballot. Mayor Finch had engineered to have the charter revision commission to propose a Board of Education appointed by the Mayor after the state Supreme Court had ruled against his earlier attempt to take over the Board of Education. The wording on the ballot, however, was very vague and many might have voted to give up their right to vote for the Board of Education without knowing it. CONECT leaders worked to educate Bridgeport voters about what was actually at stake in the Charter Revision referendum on the ballot. Voters ultimately rejected the change by a wide margin, despite more than half a million dollars spent by those supporting the change.
CONECT has trained hundreds of clergy and lay leaders in the concepts and skills of relational organizing and provided hundreds of opportunities to put these skills and ideas into action and learn in the process. This impact is harder to quantify, but it is just as important as the policy impacts or campaign victories themselves.
CONECT believes in the importance of its member congregations and looks to support them, when needed, on internal organizing efforts. Whether congregations are working on stewardship, strategic planning, or re-organizing a ministry, relational organizing tools and strategies are often helpful