Please remember that everything on this website is unofficial.   NEW CHARTER APPROVED 2012.  HOW LONG WILL IT BE VALID?  TEXT HERE


L I N K    T O    2 0 1 3    C H A R T E R   R E V I S I O N    C O M M I S S I O N    F I N A L    R E P O R T    H E R E
TIMELINE OF EVENTS:





Re-establishment of Charter Revision.
Why are we having a quicky Charter Revision? For answer, refer to our photos of ATBM 2013 quorum debate.  NOTE: New Charter Revision Commission planned to miss deadline...

As the Forum editorial reads - noting the sharp devisions on the Charter Revision Commission 2013
EDITORIAL: Blessing in disguise
Weston FORUM
By Kimberly Donnelly on September 21, 2013

The fact that the Charter Revision Commission’s recommendations can’t go on this November’s is a disappointment — but it may be a blessing in disguise.


The town was trying to push through the charter revision process quickly in order to get any changes to voters, but it still missed the state-mandated deadline for including any questions on the Nov. 5 ballot. While perplexing that this deadline wasn’t known sooner, it really doesn’t matter. The deadline was Sept. 5, and there’s no way the commission could have had a report done by then.

Even if the town had until this Friday, Sept. 20, as it originally thought it did, that still did not leave any time for the selectmen to thoroughly and responsibly discuss the report, to hold another public hearing and possibly suggest further changes if it so desired; it could only have quickly reviewed and then either accepted the report as is or rejected it in its entirety. Frankly, either of those options would not have been the best option.

The best option is now before the selectmen: Take time to review the commission’s report carefully and thoughtfully. Discuss it. Discuss a minority opinion that was also submitted that sharply contrasts with some of the “official” recommendations. Hold a public hearing within the state-mandated time frame. Come back and discuss what is said at that hearing and, maybe, make some further requests of the Charter Revision Commission.

Let the process play out as it was meant to, taking full advantage of the timeframe allotted for making these major changes to the town’s equivalent of a “constitution.” The town will survive anther year with the charter in place as it is, and people will have ample opportunity to reflect on all the issues.



BREAKING NEWS!

DIDN'T WE JUST DO THIS?  WAS "ABOUT TOWN" CORRECT?  YES.  SINCE THERE WILL BE SO FEW MEETINGS, WE WILL SUMMARIZE OUT REPORTS HERE
BORN AGAIN CHARTER REVISION - PLAN IS TO HAVE A VOTE ON CHANGES ON NOVEMBER 5, 2013...missed the deadline.





Commission votes 5-2 to approve final report (effective 2014). 

Full attendance at Charter Revision final meeting Nov. 6, 2013...what do the CT Statutes say about how long you can take between appointment and vote?  The way I read it, the Commission is out of business as soon as their final report is accepted. 

Placing the question on the ballot is whose responsibility?  Do you think another boo-boo will be made by the Board of Selectmen?  Should "About Town" make sure no one forgets about the little details, like how the ballot is structured, and the implications of the Sec'y of the State's timeline, in 2014? 


Our bet is that the problem may be solved by a large turnout, perhaps 150, at ATBM 2014.  During additional comment not included on this special meeting agenda, the Chairs. made it clear that politics had been played on this latest Charter Revision, faulting the Board of Finance for causing the Charter Revision Commission to ignore the public, too.



Final meeting unless the Board of Selectmen asks them to make changes...
CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION SEPTEMBER 11, 2013 AT 7:30PM, COMMISSION ROOM AT TOWN HALL.




CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 6, 2013, almost 2 hour meeting, full attendance, 1 via speakerphone.

Chair. notes that About Town was correct in pointing out the fatal flaw in using the "elector" definition as it was worded.  So they made clear that the quorum could include Grand List voters..  Other members just simplified it by picking a number (100, then 130).

Two critical votes taken re: quorum.  After discussion, 5-2 vote in favor of numerical quorum of 100.  After even more discussion, a different motion passed 5-2 making the quorum 130.  Go figure! 

In any event, we were pleased that at least there will be a number that people will know in advance as the necessary threshold for ATBM action.






PUBLIC HEARING WED. AUG. 28, 2013, 7:30PM, TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM - WATCH IT IN FULL HERE



HOW WE SAW IT...FIRST, KUDOS TO THE PEOPLE OF WESTON FOR SHOWING UP!!!

How did it go at the second public hearing?  Seven (7) to five (5) against a quorum with the others six (6) still either on the fence or seeing all sides of the issue.  Everyone didn't speak - although strong statements from candidates for the Board of Finance favored the quorum. 

Definitely worth roasting the popcorn and watching again - go to the Town of Weston website here. 

Five (5) Charter Revsion Commission members present and another on speakerphone, one absent.  
Probably 30 Westonites showed up (in addition to commissioners) and there were 16 public statements, 3 statements read into the record, and report of one more not received in time...plus comment from previous member of the Charter Revision Commission re-submitted for the record (see notes from first public hearing) after one speaker claimed that the reports of "quorum abuse" or "quorum control" were not true in her observation - not having received any e-mails or texts herself.


SCHEDULE OF MEETINGS GOING FORWARD TO KEEP TO HAVING A VOTE NOV. 5
No meeting August 21, Public Hearing August 28, Sept. 6 meeting to consider comments and also Sept. 11 if necessary.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 meeting notes:

Back in the Town Hall Meeting Room...changes to draft minutes, approval of language - quick meeting!  (Speakerphone attendance from across the pond this time, instead of Martha's Vinyard).

First, Chair. noted that the First Selectman was OK with not changing the online advertizing for managerial positions.  And one might consider it something of a change to have a quorum of only registered voters (perceived as easier to get - if you add in the property owners of $1000 on Grand List and the property owners not registered to vote who might not be residents for voting purposes in Weston - it is a somewhat smaller, altho' no one determined yet exactly how many people we're talking about - the number to get 2% from...).

Also, the Charter is proposed to have included in it that there will be one quorum called at the beginning of the meeting (I am not sure whether that will also include automatic recessing to the machines if there is no quorum).  The new language/old language plus the Commission report "draft" will be posted on the Town website...soon.  We will update this report once we see the actual text - which we asked for but were refused until it is released officially.

In our opinion, this is not legal - but then, as it happens, this whole Charter Revision seems to be going on because we spoke up about the propriety if not legality of the quorum call at 2013 ATBM.

------------





WRITTEN COMMENTS FROM THREE MEMBERS.
Rescheduled to the Commission Room because Board of Finance had special meeting.


BACK FROM VACATION CHARTER REVISION DIVIDES ON PARTY LINES...



FULL HOUSE OF OPINIONS IF NOT PUBLIC ATTENDANCE...
Charter Revision is a lonely task again.  Majority of the previous commission reappointed, news faces have experience in finance, state government and attendance supporting school budget at ATBM.

NEW MEMBERS PARTICIPATE JUNE 27, 2013

After Wednesday's Public Hearing the new Charter Revision Commission reviewed the items brought up and wrestled with the ATBM/quorum matter for a total of 90 minutes.  There will be another meeting July 2...
rules for moderators perhaps to be revised as a result of the ATBM of 2013 where someone (About Town) asked who said that there would only be one quorom called at the beginning of the meeting.- and couldn't that be the moderator, if he sees a large group coming in, determine that a quorum was now present, and then there could be voting on the budget? 

Actually, Commission member Bliss reported that Roberts Rules refers to the "point of no quorum" motion - when a meeting must pause until it is determined that there is a quorum present.  This motion does not require a second.  (I knew this - having joked many times over the years in many venues that so long as no one asks, a meeting without a quorum can continue!)

Late in the meeting the Commission basically decided to leave thing alone for a few years, and that the Moderators will probably revise their procedures accordingly.




TESTIMONY AT PH:
There were five (5) speakers and one written comment at the Public Hearing 6-26-13.  The next meeting is 6-27-13 at 7:3p0pm in the Commission Room.  Board of Educations requested excepting them from the "election in January" for their board, WFFR defended keeping the Referendum, the quorom was questioned vigorously by three others.  About Town was one of these plus we spoke a second time regarding ATBM incident.  Former member of the Charter Revision Commission sent in a letter saying he thought the quorum was being manipulated and should be eliminated.

Ever wonder why the moderator reads the "penalty for fraudulent voting?"
WE NOTE THE FOLLOWING, FROM ONLINE STATE STATUTES, CHAPTER 90 SECTION 7.6:  And further, the Statutes in particular relating to Sec. 7-6 are here.




WESTON MASS. HAS AN ELECTION FOR MODERATOR OF TOWN MEETING...THEY BRING UP THE ISSUE THAT THEIR HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM IS NOT LARGE ENOUGH FOR MORE THAN 7% TURNOUT OF VOTERS...
http://www.wickedlocal.com/weston/news/x63476890/Weston-moderator-candidates-offer-differing-views?zc_p=1#axzz2T0SAY1md




Blake Hampton's  - Town of Weston Seal - used online for 2003 Charter;  Charlie says "Did someone say 'seal?'"   Distinguished invited guests, new Charter draft is polished and then public - for this and other things, Co-Chair. Citizen of the Year.  And on another note, the short session brought passage to the bill below and a prompt veto from the Governor...see below.

Discussed by Board of Selectmen June 21st - did the Selectmen themselves ask for a change in May 17th document, and if so, what was it???  I'm confused!  June 21st minutes not online yet...
ON TO THE SELECTMEN FOR BALLOT PLACEMENT, ETC. DECISION - IN PUBLIC (i.e. "Yes" or "No" on whole Charter, or separately, on certain specific items)?

The Charter Revision Commission met Tuesday at Town Hall for the last time. Their terms of office run until August 1st.  They had in their possession written comments from the Selectmen (which we did not ask to see).

Members present voted 6-0 to change Referendum to cover all three major parts of budget (Town, School and Capital). 
Commission not able to get the seventh vote because access to telephone hook-up not available as room originally posted for meeting was taken by C.E.R.T. training session.

Change requested by Selectmen at their meeting after their Public Hearing.  Altho' previous non-meeting conversations might have indicated an alternative position.

NOTE:  This is actually the way the Charter Revision Commission had stated Referendum process in the first place, if memory serves!  It was reported at this last meeting that some towns do not have referenda on the Capital Budget - but they assume that ATBM makes that decision.  No longer would work here since the Charter Revision Commission established a quorum for action at the ATBM - possible that no action could be taken (this year, for example, no quorum would have been present).



SELECTMEN'S
JUNE 14, 2012 PUBLIC HEARING:  CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION'S RECOMMENDED NEW CHARTER

JUNE 14, 2012
WFFR member reads another WFFR member's statement.  People listen, especially Charter Revision folks, and former editor-publisher of FORUM sets things straight, some history...of a previous Charter Revision proposal (turned down by a previous Board of Selectmen).

How did the Public Hearing go?  Were the Selectmen, minus one who recused himself, listening?  About an hour and a half of familiar points and some new ones.
"About Town" presented results of a special piece of research on CT towns holding referenda in 2012.  Please click here for our testimony.  It became clear to us that people will be voting without fully understanding how the Charter has been altered to give more power to the Board of Selectmen.  "Scrubbing clean" the old language is actually an insult to those who labored over the 1979 version - who carefully balanced the powers of Town Meeting and Board of Selectmen, favoring Town Meeting.  This charter proposal does the opposite - the opinion of more than one speaker. 


Former Selectman Dan Gilbert hit the ball out of the park on a few things.
Co-Chair. of the Charter Revision Commission says that the Commission compromised in order to gain unanimity.  That deal?  Elected-appointed Town Clerk and Tax Collector to allow only one reversal...oh really?  Dan then got the answer re:  hiring their own counsel - P&Z still has the right, under State Statute, to hire its own attorney!!!  Who knew?  Thanks Dan!!!



How about the Tax Collector? ( Argument for elected Tax Collector)  Home Rule?  Whither or wither Town Meeting?  Who need's ATBM?
You can't say Westonites don't do their homework!  Awesome argument re: Tax Collector.  And where are we heading regarding our regional planning process and shouldn't Town Meeting make that decision?  Answer from the First Selectwoman:  done by an ordinance (with a public hearing).   Lover of Town Meeting expandes eloquently on this point.  And then counter argument to get rid of ATBM because "no one attends."


WFFR members open and close this Public Hearing
Reading another's testimony by request (l), WFFR leadership points out that if nothing else, Town and School leadership has chosen reasonable budgeting without increases.  With Referendum built into the Charter, this should continue.  Our question, which we did not ask, was...so how are the Schools and the Town managing to do this without undercutting road maintenance?


"About Town" research project:  Hypothesis - "More CT Town Meeting Towns go to Referendum than not."
We studied the budget process in CT towns this season and came up with results that prove that the hypotheseis is TRUE.  Read about the research here.

2012: In a town with more than 16,000 people, going to Referendum #4 on the School Budget;  Referendum #1, @1100, Referendum #2, @1500, Referendum #3, @1600 voted.  (Weston has 10,000 people, and 370 voted in Referendum 2012)
Seymour OKs town budget, rejects ed plan
Peter Kirby, CT POST
Updated 11:33 p.m., Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SEYMOUR -- Voters narrowly approved the town's 2012-13 municipal budget but rejected its education budget in a third referendum Wednesday.

There were two questions on the ballot. The first asked if the $21,160,166 municipal budget should be adopted. The second asked if the $30,548,026 education budget should be adopted.

The municipal budget was approved in an 844-833 vote. The education budget was rejected 938-737.

The budget represented a 2.23 percent increase in municipal spending and a 2.53 percent increase in education spending, figures that the town finance board reached after voters rejected two higher proposals.

Kurt Miller, Seymour's first selectman, said that he was pleased that voters had at least passed the town's municipal budget, even as he recognized how close the vote was.

"I think people were a little hesitant," he said. "It's a tough economy, but I think people are very interested in seeing that the town continues to grow, that the town continues to move forward."

Meanwhile, Yashu Putorti, chairman of the town's Board of Education, said the rejection of the education budget means cuts must be made, though he said he couldn't determine specifics until after a budget was passed.

The mill rate with the combined $51.7 million budget would have risen to 32.95 from the current rate of 27.62, though town officials pointed out that this increase was largely due to the town's recent revaluation.

"The reval has really confused things," said Doug Thomas, the town's finance director. "It's made it look like there's a lot bigger increase then there actually is."

According to Seymour officials, revaluation meant that the town would have been forced to raise the mill rate to 31.95 simply to maintain current levels of spending. Considering revaluation, they said, the new budget would have required a tax increase of just under a mill.

A one-mill increase would mean that the owner of a house assessed at $200,000 would owe $6,590 in taxes, $200 more than the lower rate.

On May 3, the vote was 632-505 against the then-proposed $21.59 million municipal budget and 732-455 rejecting the then-$30.99 million education package. The Board of Finance revised their proposal, cutting more than $533,000.

In the second referendum on May 17, voters rejected the revised municipal budget 856-710, and rejected the revised education budget 919-644. The Board of Finance cut an additional $346,000 to reach the budget under consideration Wednesday.

Seymour faced similar difficulties passing a budget last year, requiring two referendums to pass a municipal budget and three to pass a budget for the school board.

The date of a fourth referendum will be set Tuesday by the Board of Selectmen.



Discussed by Board of Selectmen June 21st - did the Selectmen themselves ask for a change in May 17th document, and if so, what was it???  I'm confused!  June 21st minutes not online yet...
CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION:  AGENDA FOR THE TUESDAY AT 8PM IN THE COMMISSION ROOM, JULY 10:
Item 1 – Consideration of the Comments of the Selectmen on the Commission’s Report.
Item 2 – Any other business of the Commission.



The compromise made and other justifications...

THURSDAY MAY 10, 2012 UNANIMOUS VOTE TO APPROVED
THIS VERSION:  Language on Tax Collector made similar to Town Clerk - if the people want to switch then there is room in the  Charter to wiggle out of situation - is this legal???   Does this indicate that there are other switcheroos that we've missed?  We'll have to look into this...




MEETINGS TO REVIEW PUBLIC HEARING COMMENT AND POSSIBLE CHANGES:  GOOD NEWS SATURDAY, GONE BY SUNDAY, BACK ON THURSDAY?
THURSDAY MAY 10th at 7:30pm, Town Hall Meeting Room - unless it is changed back to Wednesday...and with a tweak or two, it was!


Such is the fate of compromise...the gulf widens and deepens, the decision to cut the baby in half has no good result for anyone (especially the baby).
Weston Charter Revision update:  Compromise language off the table for now - next meeting (the last prior to sending draft to Selectmen) Thursday...
Charter Revision Commission met Wednesday, Saturday and again on Sunday at but did not confirm new wording of adjustments and compromise on major point of contention.  All was not agreed (using a phrase from across-the-pond), so the final version of the proposed Charter to be voted upon Thursday is not available as a public document before Thursday's 7:30pm Special Meeting of the Charter Revision Commission, at which they will officially raise their hands and vote, hopefully, unanimously (I believe I heard that Saturday but the consensus fell apart Sunday) at 7:30pm in the Town Hall Meeting Room.



sHB5318 as noted below, awaits the Governor's signature.  Town Attorney comments on Charter.
Weston Charter Revision is not affected by the bill just passed, which might have limited its actions had it been in force last year!.


PASSED BY BOTH HOUSES YESTERDAY (BY CONSENT) - GOV. MALLOY VETOES IT
AN ACT CONCERNING THE REVISION OF MUNICIPAL CHARTERS.

We've been following this one since February.  Read the bill history here.

Guess what? 

Now that our hardworking Charter Revision Commission rewrote the whole thing, it turns out that beginning October 1, 2012, any town can rewrite parts of their Charter as specified by this new section of state statute:  Any commission appointed on or after October 1, 2012, may only consider other items for inclusion in the proposed charter, other
changes to the charter or home rule ordinance and such other items as it deems desirable or necessary if authorized by the appointing authority.



Wednesday, May 2, 2012
at 7:30pm, Town Hall Meeting Room:  Review of Public Hearing
Charter Revision Commissioners reported that 26 speakers, 14 of whom addressed the Town Clerk issue made their point!  Our summary of what else we heard:

Voting on the Charter will be at the Thursday, May 10 meeting - changes will be made after discussion Saturday at 1pm in the Town Hall Meeting Room.  They discussed these items tonight:


2 - PLUS HOUR CHARTER REVISION PUBLIC HEARING CLOSED - "ABOUT TOWN'S" STATEMENT HERE
There seemed to be a nicely filled Town Hall Meeting Room  and maybe two dozen people spoke.   We started it out and then took the job of microphine handler - racing around to speakers who Co-Chair. Ken Edgar called from a signup list and at times the Co-Chairs. spoke to ask for more infromation or explain the purpose of some sections.

There were arguments made for and against changes to the ATBM process:
Who, other than the general public, spoke?  The present First Selectman and a former First Selectman, as well as a former member of the Board of Selectman.   Also two members of the Board of Finance - one to ask questions about the perceived tightening of the limits of activity of the Board of Finance (explained by Co. - Chair. that this was not intended - power kept elsewhere, as is).  The other spoke in favor of doing away with ATBM.  A Planning and Zoning member asked about alternates.  Library Board Chair. asked about submitting wording to refine that Board's description in the new Charter.

SUMMARY:
What we heard was thanks to the Commission for their hard work but some difference of opinion regarding Town Meeting/ATBM/Referendum and NOBODY stood up to say they wanted an appointed Town Clerk or Tax Collector - in fact, lots of people said they thought the Town Clerk and the Tax Collector should be elected!!!




HERE IT IS!  WED., APR. 25 7:30PM PUBLIC HEARING, TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM

Our first reading, preparing for the Public Hearing April 25, 2012 on the proposed Charter Revisions (please remember this is only About Town's opinion): 
Our second reading:  How will the Annual Town Budget Meeting function under the proposed Charter?  Some things have really, really changed!
ABOUT TOWN REPORTS:  "WORKING" MEETINGS OF THE CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION WHERE A QUORUM IS PRESENT

Informal public meetings recorded prior to official Public Hearing on April 25, 2012 at 7:30pm, Town Hall Meeting Room:


NO PUBLIC PRESENTATIONS, SO MEETING SATURDAY MARCH 31, 2012 IN COMMISSION ROOM - TAPED BUT NOT LIVE VIDEO.
Here on Saturday, March 31st, we've seen a nice summary of what the Commission feels are major changes.  All of which About Town does not agree wit (some are OK).  FIRST LETTERS TO THE EDITOR SALVO:  Two letters from Board of Education members March 29 complaining that the mandated Referendum makes the ATBM unnecessary (our words here)...did the letter-writers show up and reconfirm their opinions and suggest alternate language on March 31?  Nope.


Town TV recorded the meeting for later broadcast and release over the Internet.  This was a really big meeting for the group - discussion of Town Clerk issue at length and in detail - after they had thought about the points made at previous meeting Wednesday, March 28 at Library.  No mention specifically of the letters to the editor, but it was noted that they had been getting telephone calls.  Discussion of time schedule ahead.  Our question not asked:  Who makes up the question (s) for the November ballot?


CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION VOTES TO APPROVE FINAL DRAFT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE
DOCUMENT TO BE ON THE TOWN WEBSITE A.S.A.P. (AS EARLY IN THE WEEK AS POSSIBLE) ANNOUNCEMENT AT ATBM WEDNESDAY APRIL 4th AT 8PM

The Charter Revision Commission members present plus one more on speakerphone and another having given his OK to Co-Chair. already take the step to vote approval of release of document, their final final draft.  The public will have an estimated three (3) weeks to review the Charter.  "Release" means to their subpage on the Town of Weston website.

It will be interesting to see what develops from here!  It is proposed that the Charter Revision Commission meet before Wednesday April 25 to coordinated things (perhaps on the Sunday prior - April 22).



CHARTER:  "Throwing the baby out with the bathwater" comparison?

Charter Revision Commission gets an earfull in the newspaper from members of the Board of Education
"Listens" but is not convinced about elect/appointed Town Clerk;  It is ultimately up to the voters in November to make the decision about proposed changes to the existing Charter. 


CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION MEETS IN WESTON LIBRARY CONFERENCE ROOM
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Town Clerk Donna Anastasia makes the case for elected Town Clerk.  She also suggested splitting the Town Clerk and Tax Colllector elected/appointed issue into separate votes in the Revision.  About Town left after 2 hours.  No final version of a new Charter in sight yet - maybe on Saturday, March 31st at 11am in the Town Hall Meeting Room? 

Our prediction:  no one will come to the Public Hearing on April 25, preferring to read the complete complex legal document at their leisure, using the Selectmen's Public Hearing as the preferred place to plead their case...

WARNING:  The Selectmen can only ask the Charter Revision Commission to make changes, but cannot themselves make those changes.  How much pressure will the two Selectmen who will be participating in the vote bring to bear on the Charter Revision Commission?  Does the Board of Ethics get involved in any way and if so, under what conditions?  Is perhaps the work of the Charter Revision Commission doomed to suffer the fate of illustration above, right?




CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION'S FINAL REPORT - BY WHICH WE MEAN THE ENTIRE TEXT OF THE CHARTER BEING PROPOSED, NOT FINISHED YET

Saturday found one citizen, who had previously spoken, take advantage of the opportunity to remind the Charter Revision Commission that all its new ideas are not favored.

At the Sunday morning public meeting the public wasn't present to chip in their thoughts.  When will people turn out in droves to speak on this vital matter?  I think people won't chime in until the Commission says "Here is our final draft - what do you think?" 

Considering that the plan seems to be to produce a document that includes both the existing Charter as well as the proposed one, how will people have the time to review this seriously? 

As "open" as the "process" has been and however complete the documentation about what was discussed when and by whom, there still is not a written draft Charter document for the public to see. 

To add some interest, it is noted here, in addition, during discussion on Sunday, it was revealed that the power to change any wording in the draft lies with the Charter Revision Commission itself - so the Selectmen cannot make any changes themselves.  The Selectmen can only accept or reject a draft.  Unless the Charter Revision Commission agrees to make the change, it is  possible that the entire exercise my end up as a wasted effort.   Or not.




A few tweaks and the now 14-page or so executive summary is done!
SATURDAY MORNING DRAFTING SESSION FOR
THE NEW O'CHARTER:  It was  a beautiful St. Paddy's Day in Weston as the Board of Finance presented its case for six (6) year terms for Board of Finance members.  Photo:  One Finance member at each end of the long table...

READ PROPOSED SUBSTANTIVE CHANGES IN THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY HERE -
OUR COMMENTS ON MAJOR CHANGES...BOARD OF ETHICS, CODE OF ETHICS INCLUDED


FINAL DRAFT TO COME OF THE @100+ PAGE CHARTER DOCUMENT (plus items to be removed or relocated in red) - EXEC. SUMMARY ONLY (FOR NOW)

No member of the public has seen the whole, new , proposed Charter yet.  It, the document with the new language and indications of where and how changes were made (in red, we think), will be let out from under wraps after the informal "public hearings."   This "public hearing-like" group of four (4) sessions is to be televised on Channel 79.  If you want to come and say a few words, the Charter Revision Commission will be there to receive them in the Town Hall Meeting Room.

THE SCHEDULE OF INFORMAL PUBLIC HEARINGS:


  1. March 24 Sat. 1pm,
  2. March 25 Sun 11:30am,
  3. March 28, Wednesday, 7:30pm,
  4. March 31, Saturday at 11am.
  5. Then, as required by State Statute, a  PUBLIC HEARING will be April 25, Wednesday, we assume at 7:30pm.

After the public weighs in, the Commission has set aside May 2 & 10 for adjustments (if necessary) and then delivering the final document to the Selectmen, who have up to 45 days to consider the Charter Revision Commission's proposed changes...

Major changes we noted, based upon reading only the Executive Summary this weekend (for the first time), are:
Our extra comment:

BOARD OF FINANCE
Why should Weston's Board of Finance seek to stand before the voters more frequently?  Because everybody else does? My view:  I'm for insulating these elected officials from politics as much as possible - maybe change the number of members to an even number (8) might do the trick??? 

Consider the vital role that the Board of Finance is going to play in the new Budget Process scheme of things, with a Referendum and referral back to that Board (without a stop at Annual Town Budget Meeting a second time - WE THINK)...if other changes from the present Budget Process are made.

The feeling expressed was that every one of the 4 major Boards and Commissions (Selectmen, Finance, Education and Planning & Zoning - not the Police Commission [note that no former Police Commissioners were on Charter Revision]).  Changes to the Finance Board's term (from 6 to 4) would begin the earliest time possible without interfering with those already holding office today. 

Despite the Board of Finance explanations why a six year term is necessary, the Charter Revision Commissioners didn't change their mind and left it as a four year term.  Two members of the Charter Revision Commission had served on the Board of Finance more than twenty years ago.

TOWN CLERK AND TAX COLLECTOR
Proposed to no longer be an elected position.  This same principle (i.e. current occupant of the office serve our his or her term) applied to the Charter Revision Commission's recommendation to have appointed Town Clerk and Tax Collector (instead of elected - just re-elected in 2011). 

SELECTMEN

It was felt by those on Charter Revision who are or have been members of the Board of Selectmen, 2-year terms work.  (That way the electors, if they have "buyers remorse" can remove Selectmen more frequently.)  Three members of Charter Revision are or were members of the Board of Selectmen.

BOARD OF ETHICS
Until we see the final language of the Executive Summary, not to mention the entire Proposed Charter itself, we will not know what powers if any the Board of Ethics will have.  A former Chair. of that Board sits on Charter Revision.  Plus the fact that, including him, there are three members of the  Commission who are members of the League of Women Voters.  That organization studied and took a position on the need for a Board of Ethics to enforce a Code of Ethics.  The League's positions taken after study
recommended, among other things, that no member of a Town Committee sit on the Board of Ethics.(mid to late 1990's).The League study inspired the Town of Weston to have a Board of Ethics Study Committee.

Minor corrections were proposed by Charter Revision Commission members, either in writing or reported by telephone; some had been incorporated already.  Now corrected, the Town of Weston website contains all relevant documents produced by the Charter Revision "Committee" or Commission (the former was the official title given to this group by the Board of Selectmen's action - by State Statute, it should be called "Commission."


MARCH 14, 2012 DRAFTING MEETING PUTS FINISHING TOUCHES ON 13 PAGE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - ONCE EDITS COMPLETE, IT WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC - THIS SHOULD HAPPEN ON SATURDAY AT 1PM MEETING MARCH 17TH.

DRAFTING SESSION LEADER MARCH 14, 2012 COMES CLOSE TO...THE FINISH LINE: 
Charter Revision Commission adapted language from Brookfield to address ethics in the new Weston Charter draft.  How is the Charter Revision Commission like IDITAROD #40? WOMAN POWER:  One has three of eleven at the top and the other two of seven - both long-distance activities are winners!!!


CHARTER REVISION WEEKENDERS (Saturday Mar. 10 and Sunday Mar. 11, 2012) - DRAFTING SESSIONS WE ATTENDED

SUNDAY
Proposed series of meetings coming up:  Working sessions Wednesday March 14 (7:30pm) and Saturday March 17 at 1pm - to prepare document for publication in the FORUM and elsewhere by March 22.


TELEVISED MEETINGS INSTEAD OF PUBLIC HEARING:  March 24 Sat. 1pm, March 25 Sun 11am, March 28, Wednesday, 7:30pm, March 31, Saturday at 11am.

Then, required  PUBLIC HEARING will be April 25, Wednesday, we assume at 7:30pm;  after public weighs in, May 2 & 10 for adjustments if necessary and to the Selectmen, who have up to 45 days to consider the Charter Revision Commission's proposed changes...

The new Charter proposal is supposed to be on the ballot in Novermber, so there are other deadlines to be met once the Board of Selectmen, with one member recused, decides on what to recommend to the town.



SATURDAY
Minutes approved from last meeting - which we missed but apparently was quite significant re:  Board of Finance


On another less basic level, the intricacies of rewording the Weston Charter to make government more open to the people hits a snag, as the Charter Revision Commission is concerned that no one knows what they are up to, and that they need public exposure!  Before they get accused of orchestrating a coups d'etat*.
  

This would be unfortunate, because they have met in public and all but drafting sessions were televised and on Vineo on the Town website.


And with the recommendations about Referendum, giving more power to the Board of Selectmen over Town Meeting, taking away voting for Town Clerk and Tax Collector, substituting appointments by the Selectmen, and various proposals to dis-empower (be careful how you pronounce that) the Town Committees in favor of the Board of Selectmen...such as getting to fill vacancies on both Elected and Appointed Committees by themselves, we think they need to get some buy-in from the public...


* = definition something like - overthrow of government usually by a small group of the existing state establishment

CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION REALLY LIKES THE COMMISSION ROOM - HOPED TO BE DOING WEEKEND SESSION FEB. 11 (1PM) AND FEB. 12 (11:30AM) THERE - COMMISSION HAD TO CANCEL SATURDAY FOR PERSONAL REASONS;  MET SUNDAY (WE DID NOT ATTEND). 

Drafting Sessions:
Feb. 1 was the first, Feb. 8 the second, and there will be two on the weekend, Feb. 11 & 12.  "About Town" has attended the Feb. 1 & 8 meetings and intends to be there at the rest, as well.  We follow along using the 1979 Charter and figure out where they are by following discussion.  On Feb. 8 one member was on speakerphone and another could not attend.  There is still a difference re:   Town Clerk and Tax Collector (elected v. appointed) and there very well may end up being a minority report when this goes to the Board of Selectmen -- unless the Charter Revision Commission changes its mind at their Public Hearing on the draft.

Stay tuned!!!




Feb. 4th Speak Up appearance,
At Speak Up 2012, Co-Chairs. explained how they have proceeded, and what they are planning re: procedure.


NOT TELEVISED

NEXT DRAFTING MEETINGS:  IN TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM UNLESS NOTED OTHERWISE...
Feb.8 Wednesday at 7:30pm, Commission Room
Feb. 11 Saturday at 1pm
Feb. 12 Sunday at 11:30am
Feb. 15 Wednesday at 7:30pm
Feb. 29 Wednesday at 7:30pm
-------------
Tentative Public Hearing March 21, a Wednesday (to be televised)



Drafting session number one, Feb. 1, 2012, Town Hall Meeting Room, 7:30-9:30pm

With all of the members of the Charter Revision Commission present, the draft created after the content of all previous meetings and the excellent minutes taken of discussions, authored by the Co-Chairs. was reviewed through Town Meeting and Board of Selectmen chapters.  NOTE:  We listened to the discussion and related it to the 1979 Charter (we are familiar with the changes made in 2003), so altho' we did not see the draft, we are nevertheless pleased to report that there are no changes of significance so far that we heard.


(We think it will be) New ARTICLE 1 - drop a lot of the legalese
Get rid of some of the comas describing who runs the Town Meeting so that the Home Rule status with all its special language is still there - and does not punt to C.G.S.

Same for New ARTICLE 2
Town Meeting and ATBM now split in two sections nowhere near each other - this new version will try to read better.  Then they went over the details of the Town Meeting, petitions, Roberts Rules, "When Action By the Town Meeting Is Required.

GENERAL DUTIES OF THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN - they decided "If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It."

At this point, the Commission was losing focus, so they stopped for the evening.




DRAFT AGENDA, SPECIAL MEETING TUESDAY, JAN. 17, 2012, 7:30PM, TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM.

Five of seven members present to finish off Article 8 and some other outlying issues.  "About Town" thinks that someone will have to do a really good job of explaining the "new" Charter to the public.  T

The Charter Revision Commission is finished with open, televised meetings.  The expense was considered excessive to continue during the "drafting" phase.  I would think that there is nothing to prevent anyone from coming with a tape recorder or a video camera.
 
BROADER TIMELINE/NOTES

Beginning in February they will be meeting on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings, editing a first draft of a new version of the Charter that the Co-Chairs. have already put together. The working draft will not be available to those who attend the meetings.These will be posted meetings, but didn't have the specific dates and times yet.  Also, the meetings will probably be somewhere in Town Hall, but they don't know where yet.  Since they are all planning to all be there, there will have to be public notice given.
Ken Edgar Chaired the meeting and said he wanted to finish the drafting and I think inform the public about what was in it before school was out for the summer.  He also is looking for a ballot "yes" "no" on the whole thing, I think.  The question of whether or not the budget could be raised during the process if the process had a referendum mandated was brought up and this determination was left to the drafting activities in February. 



A QUORUM OF COWS:  How many potential residents of Weston would it take to make a quorum at ATBM if this number were represented by a percentage?  This is a trick question. 

NEXT MEETING A SPECIAL ON TUESDAY, JAN. 17. 2012 - CLOSE TO FINISHING A TOTALLY NEW FIRST DRAFT - HOW WILL THIS WORK WITH VOTING ON IT IN NOVEMBER?
HAPPY NEW YEAR  and another Charter Revision Commission Meeting on Jan. 4, 2012:  AGENDA
We stayed untill @9pm, but there still was more to go on Article 8.  They worked back from a date the first week in May for ATBM, then discussed how the Referendum would play out - decided that the Board of Finance would have to be written into the process if the Referendum voted down the ATBM numbers for School and Town operating budgets.  Role of Panel of Moderators discussed re: deciding on "substantial amount" definition for reduction.  We watched the second hour or so and in italics are the notes from the later part of the meeting.



WEDNESDAY, DEC. 21, 2011, WESTON CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION, TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM, 7:30PM 
Conceptual discussion of the annual budget process.

But first a review with Chair. of the Building Board of Appeals (shown above, left) about what they do and why they are in the Charter...Ans.  because CT Statutes requires a B.B.A.!

The Commission discussed the following questions regarding the budget:  NOTE:  there will be another more specific discussion after the new year.

When should the Annual Town Budget Meeting (“ATBM”) be held? In early May, everyone agreed.  "About Town" not so sure that this will not create even more voter ennui if the earlier part of the schedule says the same...

Should the ATBM be allowed to increase or decrease the proposed budget?  Increase, NO (no other town does this, or at least the 4 being used as models), decrease, YES.

Should a quorum be required in order for the ATBM to act?  Yes.  Percentages discussed, with an eye to finding around 130 or so electors as the right number.

Should any vote on increasing or decreasing the budget at the ATBM be conducted by secret ballot?  Yes.  Two Panel of Moderators members on the Charter Revision Commission suggested ways to do this, but it is difficult to keep things moving along if every item on the "town" side gets voted on (reduction).  The main point that everyone agreed to was that the "vote" in public to have a vote in private is really a "proxy" or functions as one; and perhaps 50% plus one is not the correct proportion - since all those who do not stand (my observation over the years) for this vote should probably be among those who WANT the secret ballot!

Should the budget then go to a referendum for approval?  Everyone except maybe one thinks so.

Should the referendum be mandatory or by petition only?  Not discussed yet to my satisfaction - considering that this complicates some of the "concepts" discussed above.

What happens if the budget is not approved?  Ah!  Yes.  The question that will have to be worked out in detail re:  the cost to the town of holding referenda related to the timing of the fiscal year.

Minutes of previous meeting approved with changes.



EXCELLENT  PRESENTATION OF CHARTERS SINCE 1967 explained at December 7, 2011 meeting.  Click above to Budget Process FY'13, perhaps the last under present Charter...
Co-Chair. shows his version of a power point.  Weston is a "home rule" town with a Charter (which has been amended and rewritten a few times).  Televised and online on demand (some meetings of the Commission are uploaded now - look for Dec. 7 eventually and watch on your computer).

OR...Fully explained and will be in pdf form on the Town Website soon.  To look more like Ridgefield than some other charters reviewed - we think.





Autumn leaves can be a very melancholy background to what happens in plain sight.

ON THE AGENDA:  Or, what is the "agenda" of the Charter Revision Commission, anyway?
Historic District Commission Chair. questioned by Charter Revision Commission, and wins the day by pointing out that her Commission operates under direct responsibility to State Law (regarding number of members, for example).  Library Board Chair. gets the message that the Charter Revision Commission might recommend making it an elected board instead of an appointed one - or change the number of members, or...and the Registrars of Voters give details on manditory voting procedures after ATBM.

Then discussion turned to changes in the remaining articles of the Charter and public input.  A member of the public asked if the Town Clerk and Tax Collector changes the Commission took a straw vote on changing to non-elected staff positions from elected ones could have its own public discussion session.  His recommendation was misunderstood, as the Commission Co-Chair.assured him that there would be a public hearing as designated in the Statutes (to be held by the Board of Selectmen at the end of the process). Or was this a misunderstanding?

NEXT MEETING:  To be held at Weston Library at 7:30pm with perhaps a sub-committee meeting first at 7pm (or were they going to have an executive session - about WHAT?)




Elections for 2011 over, the situation on the Charter Revision Commission has changed
Three of four were elected to office, and in the time between its June creation and now 5 months later, the balance carefully designed into State Statute is gone.


At the November 2, 2011 meeting, a preliminary vote was taken on the subject of whether the Town Clerk and the Tax Collector be elected or appointed.  The vote was 4 in favor of elected, two opposed and one, who previously indicated that he was in favor, commented that he had gotten many phone calls explaining why his vote was wrong.  His Co-Chair. stated that the vote was still 5-2 and there was no further comment.

The question of a seven-member Police Commission has yet to be consdiered finally for recommendations to the Board of Selectmen.

The elections of Nov. 8 now have produced the following changes in status of members of the Charter Revision Commission, 5 months into their two-year terms (according to State Statute):

Dennis Tracey is now a Selectman;  Ken Edgar is now a member of the P&Z;  Nina Daniel is now a member of the Board of Education.  Which makes the seven-member Charter Revision Commission a majority of elected office holders (Dick Bochinski is on the Board of Education).



October 19, 2011:  TOWN CLERK AND TAX COLLECTOR AS WELL AS POLICE COMMISSION CHAIR AND VICE-CHAIR COME IN ON REVISED AGENDA FOR COMMENT
Town Clerk and Tax Collector explain their duties and responsibilities, and Commission notes later that of their 4 same Charter towns, Town Clerk is elected in 2, Tax Collector in one.  Police Commissioners react to suggestion that their Commission have fewer than the seven members it has now. 

Charter Revision Commission gets through its Chapters planned for review, and About Town wonders a what point there will be a draft of a new Charter...it seems as if no major changes planned yet...




October 5, 2011:  ACTUAL CHARTER REVISION DISCUSSIONS BEGIN!
This well run meeting began with more testimony.  This latest from Town Attorney Pat Sullivan...who answered specific questions and generally thought the Charter of 1979 works well - she is available to discuss anything the Commission would like to discuss in the future.

After which the Charter Revision Commission got to work reviewing Articles two and three ("Town Meeting" and "Board of Selectmen").  It was determined that Annual Town Budget Meeting should be separate discussion and Referendum should be considered.  It was also discussed that specificity of some recommendations by P&Z at an earlier meeting were not needed in the Charter.  It was decided to have a definitions section (we think that is what happened).


Sept. 24 Special Meeting


"IF IT AIN'T BROKE DON'T FIX IT" and the converse "IF IT IS BROKE, FIX IT" - Woody Bliss hands out "CHEER FLIP SIGNS" (not pictured) with the same message.
The Charter Revision Commission interviews continued in a special Saturday morning-afternoon session...with Selectman David Muller (l) first up Saturday...after his presentation, it should be no surprise that George Guidera was elected six (6) times!  Woody Bliss, who was elected four times to the same post stepped to the mic to give his take on town government and the Charter.  From the point of view of both Board of Finance on which he served previously, as well as his business experience and recent long service as First Selectman.


Town Administrator Tom Landry and former First Selectman George Guidera (1987-1999) spoke.  David Muller had gone first and submitted written testimony as did Woody Bliss, going last, who gave us a copy, which we uploaded here.  Meeting lasted three and one-half hours.

COMING UP
Four towns' Charters will be basic reference, altho' any others may be referenced, too (the four - Brookfield, Canton, Ridgefield and Wilton).  NEXT:  Oct. 5 Wednesday, Weston Town Attorney invited - after her testimony, work will begin in earnest.  Former First Selectman Hal Shupack provided the minutes of all 1979 Charter Revision Commission minutes to Ken Edgar and it is noted that that Commission me every week for a year.




NEXT:  Saturday, September 24th at 11am, Commission hears from Town Administrator Landry, Selectman Muller and former First Selectmen Guidera and Bliss.

Very thorough and excellent responses by First Selectman at Charter Revision Commission.
Back and forth fencing on some issues brings a smile to First Selectman Weinstein's face in an otherwise serious discussion.  Serious divergence between opinion of Board of Education Chair. Schaefer on need for the Town Meeting.  Issues of appointed Town Clerk and appointed Tax Collector v. elected, Board of Education elections ("no safe seats") come up.

Q. and A. continues from previous Saturday, with Board of Education Chair. and First Selectman:  Guests asked to address specific questions circulated in advance of appearance.
After grilling the above named officials, Charter Revision Commission does Article One (first shot at this piece of boiler plate).  First Selectman put her responses in writing.  Short version:  System works as is (part-time First Selectman and Town Administrator - good for continuity) but budget process needed work (maybe budgets should be permitted to be increased?) plus clean up of old out of date items in 1979 Charter.



Stephan Grozinger, Chair., P&Z, testifies.

Special Meeting 9-17-11
The Town of Weston Charter Revision Commission, fresh off its first meeting and two Public Hearings, called a Special Meeting (ran from 11am to 1:45pm) on Saturday, September 17, 2011. 

On the agenda were presentations  in response to previously distributed questions for Planning and Zoning, Selectman (minority) and Board of Finance Chair.  Planning and Zoning Chair. Grozinger distributed OPM (or is it OLR) report on various ways CT was considering altering the boundaries, powers and responsibilities of regional planning organizations. 
Planning & Zoning on regional planning and zoning exemption issues;  Selectman Dan Gilbert expresses strongest feeling that Weston needs volunteer government and the desire to do public service;  Chair. Mike O'Brien, Board of Finance responded to questions from the Commission.  Don Saltzman, P&Z speaks.

"About Town" testified on matters pertaining to 1983-1990 experience as a member  of P&Z  re: Town Exemption as it related to 3rd Fire House proposal; as well as service on the first Tower Committee, actions taken as they related to having such use only on Town property (i.e. Tower One at Town Hall, proposal for Tower Two at Transfer Station).




All members present

THE EXCELLENT CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION MET WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2011 AT 7:30PM IN  THE TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM - AGENDA (from the Town website)

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" was how Co-Chair. Ken Edgar opened the meeting.  The next 90 minutes were all about defining whether something is "broke" or outdated.

What happened?  "About Town" called out of order and told not to speak during the meeting.  This is correct procedure.  So we took notes and asked three questions at the end of the meeting, based upon what we heard.  They were:
In fact, this matter of "the public right to know" and contribute its thoughts is perhaps something that should be discussed in revising the Charter - does the public remain only as observers unless there is a formal public hearing? 

Another discussion at the meeting concerned the fact that now that the regular meetings are being televised, should special meetings, held to hear from town employees and/or office holders be televised as well?  We think not in this case - so long as they are posted 24 hours in advance with the Town Clerk.




SECOND PUBLIC HEARING WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2011 AT 7:30PM IN THE TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM

CT IN THE DARK:  CL&P graphic of power outages @Friday

Having just recently gotten power back, (map above from Friday, Sept. 2) members of the Charter Revision Commission held the second Public Hearing the next Wednesday, Sept. 7, after Labor Day weekend.  There had not been a print edition of the FORUM in advance (because the newspaper's printing plant was without power) to remind the public of this second and perhaps last opportunity to get in the record at a public hearing.  "About Town" attended this hour-long event, broadcast on Channel 79.  Six (6) different members of the public either testified or submitted comments in writing, which were read into the record. 

The plan is for the Charter Revision Commission to interview present and past office holders (not Public Hearings) at open meetings
on Sept. 17th at 11am (P&Z and Finance), Sept. 21st at 7:30pm (Bd of Ed, Selectmen, Tom  Landry), and Sept. 24th at 11am (previous Selectmen).



REPORT ON FIRST OF TWO (2) PUBLIC HEARINGS...

First Public Hearing sees 10 people making comments plus two in writing read into the record.  On Ch. 79
.

Dick Troxell leads off with great ideas...
First Public Hearing gets turnout of thoughtful Westonites, some proposing larger and some smaller changes, but good will shown by all.  More than one spoke in favor of Town Meeting, some questioned need for increased pay for First Selectman or lengthened term - and some took the opposite position.

Letters read into the record by Dennis Tracey, Co-Chair.  Second Public Hearing September 7, 2011 (Wednesday);  it will be the intent of the Committee to allow participation (questions?) from the audience at future meetings (first and third Wednesday of the month) even tho' they are not formal Public Hearings.  Those citizens who spoke or responded by letter were:

1.  Dick Troxell - suggested going to non-partisan local government (as in his former home of Walpoll, Mass.
2.  Helen DeKeijzer - suggested "ombudsman" position to work out difference between local Boards and Commissions.
3.  "About Town" wanted to know if all meetings would be on Town TV (and asks to keep Town Meeting in some form).
4.  Dana Levin - agrees with "About Town."
5.  Don Saltzman - speaks at length about present Charter strengths and weaknesses, effectiveness of Town Administrator, impact on town volunteers since unionization of staff.  Favors 2 year term for First Selectman.
6.  Harvey Bellin - submits comments in writing as well as making plea for Referendum as part of changes to Charter.
7.  Barbara Reynolds - favors full time First Selectman.
8.  Stephan Grozinger - "Ombudsman" comment found interesting.
9.  Laura Smits - lays outs costs for Referenda - and discussion leads into need for not using State Statute as much as previous Charters did.
10.  Amy Sanborn - sums up what she has heard, makes points re: efficiencies of smaller government (I think this was her point agreeing with others)
11. & 12. Pat Heifetz sent a letter as did Martha Diamond - which were read into the record.

PUBLIC HEARINGS TUESDAY, JULY 19, 2011 AND WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2011 AT 7:30PM, LOCATION MOST LIKELY TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM - THEY ARE TO BE TELEVISED AND RECORDED WITH PUBLIC NOTICES.

What are some of the questions raised since last time there was Charter Revision in 2003?  That time the changes were to increase the time for ATBM and start 30 minutes earlier and end 30 minutes later as well as requiring a higher number of signatures in order to Petition for a Special Town Meeting (from 50 to 5% [several hundred]). 

Here is a link to what the 2003  Charter Revision Commission heard during its Public Hearings as suggestions.


SOME IDEAS CIRCULATING IN 2011:

Mandate a budget Referendum - perhaps if the increase is above zero?
Referendum on budget in secret ballot automatically.
Why don't we call the top job "First Selectperson?"
Length of term for First Selectman - increase to 4 years?

Why can't the budget be increased during the budget process?
How about a mandated secret ballot on the budget?
How do you get more people to participate in Town Meetings?

Since the Charter is open for broader changes to its structure, here are some ideas that might come up...

Why do we need a Charter at all?
Why not go to a Representative Town Meeting, like Westport (or Greenwich)?
How about a Council-Manager form of government?
If we have a full time First Selectmen, then why do we need a Town Administrator and a Finance Director as well?
How can Town Meeting exercise some control over the Board of Education budget lines?




THE FORUM ARTICLE ON CHARTER REVISION IN STATUTES HERE
JUST OUR THOUGHT:  WHY THE CHARTER REVISION COMMITTEE MIGHT EXPAND TO 15...OR NOT!  AT LEAST NOW THEY ARE CALLING THEMSELVE "COMMISSION" AS WE THOUGHT THEY WERE CALLED ALL ALONG.  IF THOSE MEMBERS ALREADY APPOINTED TO THE CHARTER REVISION COMMITTEE GET ELECTED IN NOVEMBER, THEN ALL THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN HAS TO DO IS ENLARGE THE COMMITTEE SO THAT NO MORE THAN ONE-THIRD HOLD PUBLIC OFFICE IN THE MUNICIPALITY.

CT GENERAL STATUTES ON CHARTER REVISION

Sec. 7-187. Definitions.
Sec. 7-188. Initiation of action for adoption, amendment or repeal of charter or home rule ordinance.
Sec. 7-189. Form of petition.
Sec. 7-190. Commission: Appointment, membership, duties, report, termination.
Sec. 7-191. Charters, charter amendments and home rule ordinance amendments: Hearings; draft and final report; public notice; referendum; effective date; filing of copies with Secretary of the State; file maintained by State Library.
Sec. 7-191a. Adoption of home rule ordinance.
Sec. 7-192. Existing provisions not affected. Amendments to charters. Amendment or revision of home rule ordinance. Supersedence of certain special acts by municipal ordinance. Termination of certain parking authorities and boards of health.
Sec. 7-192a. New tax not authorized by general statutes prohibited. Provisions affecting elections and electors not to be adopted.
Sec. 7-193. Required provisions. Organization of government.
Sec. 7-194. Powers.
Sec. 7-195. Consolidation of governments.
Sec. 7-196. Form of petition.
Sec. 7-197. Consolidation commission.
Sec. 7-198. Duties of commission.
Sec. 7-199. Referendum.
Sec. 7-200. Consolidation of school districts. Charter revisions in consolidation process.
Sec. 7-201. Receipt of funds. Appropriations.     


Sec. 7-190. Commission: Appointment, membership, duties, report, termination. (a) Within thirty days after such action has been initiated by vote of the appointing authority or by certification of a petition, the appointing authority shall by resolution appoint a commission consisting of not fewer than five nor more than fifteen electors, not more than one-third of whom may hold any other public office in the municipality and not more than a bare majority of whom shall be members of any one political party, which commission shall proceed forthwith to draft a charter, or amendments to the existing charter, or amendments to the home rule ordinance, as the case may be.

(b) The appointing authority shall direct the commission to consider those recommendations included in the petition and may make other recommendations to the commission. The commission may also consider other items for inclusion in the proposed charter, other changes to the charter or home rule ordinance and such other items as it deems desirable or necessary. The commission shall in its reports comment on each recommendation which it has been directed to consider, if any, and on such other changes or items. The appointing authority shall specify by resolution when the commission shall submit its draft report, which shall be not later than sixteen months from the date of its appointment.

(c) The commission shall terminate upon acceptance or rejection of its final report by the appointing authority.

(1957, P.A. 465, S. 4; 1959, P.A. 678, S. 4; 1967, P.A. 76; P.A. 75-179; P.A. 81-451, S. 4, 10; P.A. 83-188, S. 2; P.A. 85-253, S. 4, 10.)

History: 1959 act added home rule ordinance provisions; 1967 act made minor change in wording; P.A. 75-179 distinguished between charter commissions and charter revision or home rule ordinance commissions re report deadlines; P.A. 81-451 divided section into subsecs., clarified language of existing provisions, required consideration of recommendations in petition and recommendations of appointing authority, changed deadline for report from 18 to 16 months from date of appointment and added Subsec. (c) re termination of commission, effective October 1, 1982; P.A. 83-188 made minor change in wording of Subsec. (b), requiring submission of draft report rather than of final report; P.A. 85-253 replaced the words "revision of" with the words "amendments to" and made certain technical changes.

Cited. 150 C. 27. Cited. 184 C. 30. Cited. 188 C. 276. Interpretation of statute not unconstitutional. Id. Cited. 193 C. 1. Cited. 196 C. 623. Cited. 234 C. 513.





Weston's Charter Revision Commission: Final report is complete
Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 16:06

The Weston Charter Revision Commission unanimously approved its final report on Tuesday, July 10, and sent it — along with the completely revamped version of the town charter it is proposing — to the Board of Selectman on Thursday, July 12.

"I think I can speak for all of our commission members when I say that we were honored to have been chosen for this important task, that we have enjoyed each other's company for the last year or so and that we have appreciated this opportunity to serve the town," said Ken Edgar, co-chairman of the Charter Commission, in an email to the selectmen.

Under state law, the Board of Selectmen — minus Selectman Dennis Tracey — has until Friday, July 27, to approve or reject the commission's final report. Mr. Tracey is recusing himself from the board's discussions and decision on the charter proposal because he served as the commission's co-chairman with Mr. Edgar.

The regular Board of Selectmen's meeting scheduled for tonight was canceled, but a special meeting will likely be set between now and July 27.

Upon acceptance or rejection of the final report, the commission will automatically dissolve. Other members, who were appointed by the Board of Selectmen in June 2011, include Woody Bliss, Richard Bochinski, Nina Daniel, Arne de Keijzer and Susan Moch.

"I'm amazed at how smoothly, how professionally, and how well the commission members worked together," said First Selectman Gayle Weinstein. "We chose the members very carefully. They were chosen for their diversity of thought. We wanted to make sure the entire community was well represented. To be able to get those [with such] diverse viewpoints to work together so collegially — I just think they did an amazing job."

Mr. Edgar said he, too, was impressed with the manner in which the commission was able to function.

"If you look at the composition of our commission, it's easy to say it crosses a lot of political and other interests in town. But we were able to agree unanimously on basically everything, and that's extraordinary... That's not to say people didn't compromise ... but it's one of accomplishments I'm most proud of," Mr. Edgar said.

Exhaustive

The charter revision process has been nothing if not exhaustive. The commission met 36 times over the past year, conducting interviews and public hearings, collecting comments and suggestions, and discussing and revising the entire charter, section by section and article by article.

In the end, the commission created three separate documents: the proposed new charter; a word-by-word comparison of the old charter and the proposed new one; and a report on the changes, which details the reasons behind the substantive changes being recommended.

An initial report was presented to the Board of Selectmen in June. First Selectman Weinstein and Selectman David Muller had only one change they wanted the commission to make.

In the commission's initial proposal, it recommended changing the charter to require the annual budget go to a referendum after the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM), but at the machine vote, the new charter would have voters vote for the school budget and a combined town operating and capital budget.

Ms. Weinstein and Mr. Muller agreed that they do not want to see the capital and town operating budgets voted on as one item.

Instead, they wanted to see three items on the referendum ballot: the town operating budget, the school operating budget, and the capital budget, which includes both town and school projects.

The commission agreed to the selectmen's request. Mr. Edgar told the selectmen when he submitted the commission's final report, "we adopted your suggestion that the town operating budget and the capital budget be approved separately in the annual town budget referendum, and amended the proposed charter accordingly," he said.

Mr. Edgar said while the question of whether to keep the town clerk and the tax collector as elected positions or change them to appointed ones probably took up the most time, he believes the most important change the commission is proposing is to the town's budget approval process.

"We all knew going in it needed to be revisited, and I think and hope our suggestions are very sound," Mr. Edgar said.

Presentation to voters

If the Board of Selectmen accepts the commission's report — and Ms. Weinstein said earlier this week she expects it will — the selectmen then need to decide how to present the proposed changes to the voters on the Nov. 6 ballot. She expects that decision will be difficult.

Mr. Edgar said while he has "nothing to do" with how the charter is presented to voters, his personal opinion is that it should be an all or nothing vote — accept the proposed new charter or reject it and keep the current one in place.

The final proposal is not limited to changes in language — although there is some of that — or rearranging of existing elements of the charter — although there is some of that, too. Mr. Edgar said he believes what the commission is proposing is an integrated system of government, and therefore it should be voted on as such.

It would be difficult to separate out each piece of the charter, he said, because the many elements the commission agreed upon work together "to produce a coherent integrated system." With few exceptions, "each part is related to another part," he said.

"I believe we ought to vote on the system of government we've proposed, and if you don't like it, then someone has to put together another system of government," Mr. Edgar said.

The commission's final report and the proposed new charter is available for review at town hall and also in the town website, westonct.gov.


We'll be there, and will not bring a video camera.  We trust them.  Feb. 1 at 7:30pm in Town Hall
Charter Revision Commission begins drafting, stops televising its meetings

Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Friday, 27 January 2012 00:00

The Charter Revision Commission has finished reviewing the town charter in its entirety and is moving on to the "drafting" phase.

Ken Edgar, co-chairman of the commission, said the group has "worked its way through" the 34-page document and has gotten a good sense of how the members feel about a lot of issues.

"I certainly anticipate there will be issues that may be revisited, but it's time for us to move to the drafting phase," Mr. Edgar said.

The town charter is the final word on how Westonites govern themselves, tax themselves, and, in some cases, conduct themselves.  For the past five months, an appointed seven-member commission has been reviewing the charter, discussing what it says and what it doesn't, and touching on what works and what doesn't.

As the commission begins to draft a new and improved charter — many of the changes they will suggest are simply a matter of language and improving clarity, Mr. Edgar said — its meetings will no longer be televised on public access, which means they won't be available for viewing on the town's website, either.

The main reason for that decision, Mr. Edgar said with a laugh, is the meetings "are going to be pretty boring."

The public is still invited and encouraged to attend, he added. But the commission members are going to be looking at and discussing draft documents that won't be distributed to the general public because they are just working drafts.  The commission will quadruple its regularly scheduled meetings from twice a month to twice a week — on Wednesdays and Saturdays — through February. Those meeting times and places will be posted. Mr. Edgar said he anticipates wrapping up by early March.

A draft of recommendations is due to the Board of Selectmen for review no later than Aug. 1, but Mr. Edgar said he thinks a draft report will be completed before then. Once it is, a public hearing will be held and there will be an extended period when public comment will be accepted on any proposed changes.

Final recommendations will go to the Board of Selectmen for approval, and then ultimately to the voters — likely at the same time as the Nov. 8 presidential election, which historically has a very high turnout in Weston.

Mr. Edgar said the commission has not yet decided whether voters will be asked to approve the revised charter in its entirety or if there will be individual questions on the ballot.


Weston Charter Revision Commission: Working out how to work
Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 11:22

[From left, Charter Commission members Richard Bochinski, Susan Moch, Co-Chairman Dennis Tracey, Co-Chairman Ken Edgar, Woody Bliss, Arne de Keijzer, and Nina Daniel at their Aug. 17 meeting. —Margaret Wirtenberg photo]

From left, Charter Commission members Richard Bochinski, Susan Moch, Co-Chairman Dennis Tracey, Co-Chairman Ken Edgar, Woody Bliss, Arne de Keijzer, and Nina Daniel at their Aug. 17 meeting. —Margaret Wirtenberg photo
At its meeting last week, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, the seven people appointed to review and revise the town charter focused on how, exactly, they are going to conduct business moving forward.

One of the first things the group did was to change its name from the Charter Revision Committee to the Charter Revision Commission in order to conform with state references to such bodies formed by municipalities.

Even though the Board of Selectmen officially formed a “Charter Revision Committee,” members did not see a need to get permission to change the name. They agreed to change any references to a “committee” in previous meeting minutes.

Co-chairman of the commission Ken Edgar then led the other members through discussions on both general and specific ways in which the group should proceed in its review of the charter.

Mr. Edgar said while the commission should look at the entire charter, “my basic philosophy is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ meaning, if in fact something is working well, it’s not necessarily a good idea to revisit it and try to make it better.”

The challenge for the commission, Mr. Edgar said, is first to determine what parts of the charter are “broken,” and then come up with ways to fix them.

He said he will be looking for several things:

    If something is out of compliance with current law
    If parts of the charter are not being administered in a way that’s consistent with the its terms
    If something is “antiquated, ambiguous, or technically incorrect”
    If someone has a “demonstrably better” idea or way of doing something

Commission member Arne de Keijzer added the commission should “pay attention to clarity” in the charter, and member Nina Daniel said the commission should also look for “what’s missing form the charter.”

Given the choice of reviewing the charter either “thematically” or article by article, Mr. Edgar recommended the latter. The sense of the meeting was this would be a much easier and more logical approach.

By proceeding one article at a time, Mr. Edgar said the commission can: look at specific language in each section, making sure it is plain and understandable to all; then look at whether it’s being “administered the way it reads;” look at ways in which other towns deal with a particular issue; garner public input on each section; and “finally, consider what items we might like to amend.”

Other topics the commission discussed included the following.
Televising meetings

The commission ultimately decided it will televise its regular meetings and public hearing on Cablevision’s town TV station. Mr. Edgar said it seemed like “a no brainer,” since the commission wants public participation and it would be a good way to get information to more people.

Commission member Richard Bochinski suggested that if the commission were to interview town officials and employees, some might feel more comfortable if the proceedings were not televised.

The commission decided, however, all of its meetings are public, and therefore those who speak before the commission will be doing so publicly.
Whom to interview and how

Commissioners spent a good deal of time discussing whom they might want to get information from, and what the best way to do that might be.

Ideas ranged from interviewing people at regular commission meetings, interviewing them at special meetings, asking people to submit thoughts and ideas in writing, asking board and commission chairmen to submit comments or come before the commission, asking all relevant board and commission members for comments, and sending invitations to people to attend scheduled public hearings.

In the end, the commission decided on a combination of some of those ideas.

Mr. Edgar said he and Co-chairman Dennis Tracey will draft a letter inviting former and current members of the boards of selectmen, education, and finance to either come to a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 7, or to submit written comments to the commission.

The group then wants to interview separately the finance and school board chairmen, current and former selectmen, the town attorneys, the town manager, tax collector, town clerk, and the registrars of voters.

The commission decided to set up, if possible, at least two special meetings for the interviews, rather than doing them during its regular bi-monthly Wednesday night meetings.
Specific jobs

Several members of the commission were assigned specific tasks.

Mr. Edgar suggested he, Mr. Tracey, and Susan Moch — all attorneys — be in charge of coming up with the draft language for any re-writes of the charter as a way of ensuring things are legally correct.

Mr. de Keijzer joked, “clarity and straightforward legalese are not necessarily the same thing.”

Ms. Daniel and Mr. de Keijzer were asked to be a “subcommittee” of sorts that will look into other town charters. They are both members of the League of Women Voters, which already has been doing its own research into other town charters and how others deal with charter revision. Mr. Edgar said as co-chairman, he will be an “ex officio” member of this subcommittee.
Public comment

The question of public comment was addressed.

Ms. Daniel suggested holding public comments until the end of each meeting to allow the commission to do its business more efficiently.

Commissioner Woody Bliss, a former first selectman, suggested instead allowing public comment after each agenda item has been discussed so comments could be weighed as issues are being considered.

All agreed that would be the best way to go forward, as long as comments were kept germane to the discussion at hand. It was noted that written comments submitted to the commission before its meetings should always be encouraged.
Public hearing

The commission’s next meeting is a public hearing, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7, in the town hall meeting room.

The public is invited to share any thoughts on any portion of the charter at this time.


Weston charter revision: Selectmen choose committee
Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 08 June 2011 11:22

Seven people have been chosen to review Weston’s town charter and to make recommendations regarding possible amendments to it.

On Thursday, June 2, the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to appoint the following people to the Charter Revision Committee: Woody Bliss (Republican), Dick Bochinski (Democrat), Nina Daniel (R), Ken Edgar (D), Dennis Tracey III (R), Arne de Keijzer (D), and Susan Moch (D).

By law, the committee must have minor party representation. The selectmen said they were hoping they would be able to appoint at least one unaffiliated member to the committee, but none came forward.

In addition, a maximum of two members may hold elected office. While several candidates serve on appointed committees, only Mr. Bochinski, a member of the school board, holds elected office.

The Charter Revision Committee members have terms that expire in one year, on June 30, 2012. The selectmen have said if possible, they would like recommendations before the next budget vote in April 2012.

By law, the Board of Selectmen may not limit the scope of what can be done or offer the committee any parameters when it comes to examining the charter — the committee must decide which parts it wants to examine.

The mission with which the committee was tasked is to review the existing charter, get input from elected officials, the public, and the town administrator, and to draft any recommended amendments to the existing charter.

Even though the selectmen may not tell the committee exactly what to look at, First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she intends to offer suggestions regarding topics she thinks it should consider, and she expects the other selectmen — as well as other members of the public — will likely do the same.

Ms. Weinstein said there are two types of issues she believes the committee should deal with.

The first are housekeeping issues, such as how the charter is organized and how certain things are worded. Many parts are outdated, she said, and some of the language may be simplified or cleaned up to increase clarity.

“The harder part” of the committee’s job, Ms. Weinstein said, is going to be to review the larger concepts and procedures spelled out in the charter and look at what may amount to major revisions. For example, the committee may address whether the Board of Selectmen should have more members and/or longer terms, or it may weigh the concept of a referendum vs. an Annual Town Budget Meeting to vote on the budget. That will take far longer to vet, Ms. Weinstein noted.

“It all needs to be looked at and discussed,” she said, “but we put together a great committee. I’m very confident in the work they can do.”

The selectmen agreed it was very difficult to narrow the field from the 10 candidates who were interviewed (two additional candidates, Hal Shupack and Amy Sanborn, withdrew their names from consideration before the second round of interviews was conducted).

“I’m so excited by the talent that applied,” Ms. Weinstein said.

Selectman David Muller said he was impressed with the wide range of views, opinions, and expertise the candidates brought with them. He said he hopes those who were not chosen will still contribute to the process.

Selectmen Dan Gilbert called those who stepped up to apply “very engaged and extraordinary people.”

Ms. Weinstein said since all of the candidates were so well qualified, she tried to look at the overall composition of the committee.

Ms. Weinstein began by recommending Ken Edgar, a Democrat, and Dennis Tracey, a Republican.

Mr. Edgar has a strong legal background and has worked on revising the DTC’s bylaws. “He is truly impressive,” she said.

Mr. Tracey, also an attorney, has worked with the town before as chairman of the appointed legal review committee, and he has been instrumental in negotiating with the town and the Nature Conservancy on a separation agreement for the Lachat property. “He’s done a fantastic job,” she said.

Dr. Gilbert recommended Republican Woody Bliss and Democrat Arne de Keijzer. Mr. Bliss is a former first selectman, and Mr. de Keijzer is chairman of the town’s Board of Ethics.

Selectman Muller said Republican Nina Daniel “deserves strong consideration... She is a very thoughtful member of the community who brings forth issues that are [important but] not political in nature.”

Mr. Muller also advocated for Democrats Dick Bochinski and Susan Moch as the final two, “even though the other three [candidates] are eminently qualified as well,” he said.

Mr. Muller praised Mr. Bochinski, who has worked on teacher negotiations as a member of the school board, as a “tough negotiator” who is able to bring people to the table and build consensus.

Ms. Moch, a town moderator, has a wry sense of humor and her “attention to the clock” and ability to work to a schedule will make her a valuable addition to the committee, Mr. Muller said.

Dr. Gilbert said he plans to reach out to the other candidates to make sure they know their input is still important, even though they were not chosen to be on the committee.

Joking with one of the candidates at the meeting, P&Z member Don Saltzman, who said he plans to stay involved and stay vocal, Mr. Muller said, “Frankly Don, I’m not sure the committee is going to know you’re not a member.”

Ms. Weinstein said earlier this week that all the members chosen for the Charter Revision Committee have been notified and have received initial packets of information, which include charters and changes to charters from other towns.

“I want them to take the opportunity to explore what others have done,” she said.

She said she is working with Ken Edgar and Dennis Tracey on some “ground rules” for the first meeting and is recommending — although the committee is free to decide for itself — that they be named co-chairmen.

The committee is expected to call its first meeting within the next month.



SELECT COMMITTEE ON CHARTER REVISION APPOINTED (June 2, 2011) BY SELECTMEN:



Seven (7) members for one year;  4 Democrats, 3 Republicans (no unaffiliated voters applied): 
Ken Edgar (2011-running for Planning and Zoning)
, Dennis Tracey (2011-running for Selectman), Woody Bliss, Arne DeKeijzer, Nina Daniel (2011-running for the Board of Education), Dick Bochinski (not running, but already a member of the Board of Education), Susan Moch, (2011-running for the Police Commission).





Charter Review 2011-2012 gets underway:  chronological comments by "About Town."


First Charter 1967, Revision of 1975 (begun then) and 1979;  Revision in 2003 on Petition
IN TOWN CLERK'S OFFICE: NEW CHARTER REVISION COMMITTEE MINUTES, THE OLD CHARTERS, SOME INFO ON 1976:
GO TO PRESENT CHARTER ONLINE HERE.

FIRST CHARTER CAME AFTER THIS QUESTION WAS ANSWERED...



DATES TO BE AWARE OF FROM TOWN CLERK

Town Seal prior to Blake Hampton's version



Charter Revision Commission of 2003: three lawyers on board! 
We think we remember correctly:  No one holding office when appointed or during the course of deliberations (only March until May) held office in Weston.  Left to right:  One was a former First Selectman (of Fairfield), another Weston Board of Education service background, Chair. had management expertise, lawyer (who served as Town Chairman of a Policial Party and ran for State Representative later), lawyer now on the Board of Ethics).

Charter Review 2003 (we were there for this one!)

A  C  T  I  O  N  S :
As approved at a Special Board of Selectmens' Meeting Tuesday, September 16, 2003 at 8am in Town Hall Meeting Room...revisions made by Secretary of the State's Office for clarity.

C H A R T E R     R E V I S I O N    Q U E S T I O N S :

Shall the Charter of the Town of Weston, Section 2.2 Annual and Special Meetings, be amended to change the Annual Town Budget Meeting starting time to 8:00pm and the ending time to 11:30pm.

Shall the Charter of the Town of Weston, Secion 2.7 Petition for a Special Town Meeting for Enactment of Ordinances or Other Action, be amended to change the required personal signatures to not less than 5% of qualified voters.

Shall the Charter of the Town of Weston, Section 2.7 Petition for a Special Town Meeting for Enactment of Ordinances or Other Action, be amended to give the board of Selectmen the discretion to reject a petition that is materially the same as a matter that previously has been voted upon by referendum.


T H E S E  A R E   T H E   C H A N G E S   S E N T   T O   S T A T E  O F   C O N N E C T I C U T   F O R   N O V .  4 t h     B A L L O T :


T H I S   I S   T H E   R E P O R T    S U B M I T T E D   B Y   T H E   C H A R T E R    R E V I S I O N    C O M M I S S I O N :



 



The Board of Selectmen sent along changes to the State as per vote at meeting of August 21, 2003 as recommended by Charter Revision Commission.

Previously...after the Board of Selectmen voted (item added to the August 7, 2003 regular meeting agenda), the Charter Revision recommendations on 2.2 and 2.7 go to the State of Connecticut...

Weston LWV statement (originally made for the Charter Revision Commission's Public Hearing) placed in the record of the Board of Selectmen's PUBLIC HEARING.
Board of Selectmen's Proposed Charter Revision PUBLIC HEARING, Thursday. August 7, 2003 at 7pm, Town Hall Meeting Room - took ten minutes.

P U B L I C   H E A R I N G - C H A R T E R   R E V I S I O N    R E S C H E D U L E D
Now JULY 31st (instead of July 24th), 2003, 7:30pm, Town Hall Meeting Room

Weston Charter Revision Commission Proposes the following changes (text to come):

    * Section 2.2 - Increase time for Annual Budget Meeting by one hour
    * Section 2.7 - Raise minimum number of petitioners to call for enactment of an ordinance or ather action from 50 persons to 5% of qualified voters
    * Section 2.7 - Give Board of Selectmen discretion to reject petition for special Town Meeting to vote on the petition if the object is materially the same as a matter that had been previously voted on by referendum.


On June 26, 2003, the following changes were approved:

Section 2.2

(Change starting time of town meetings  [we assume this refers to "Annual Town Budget Meeting" - which is Section 2.2] to 8P.M. and ending time to 11:30PM.)
 
 

Section 2.7

Except as provided in Section 2.4, 2.5 and 2.6 of this Charter, not less than five percent of qualified voters may at any time petition over their personal signatures for the enactment of any proposed lawful ordinance or other action by filing such petition including the complete text of such ordinance, or proposed other action with the Town Clerk.

....

The Board of Selectmen shall call a special Town Meeting, to be held not less than ten nor more thirty days from the date of such filing, unless prior to such meeting such ordinance shall have been enacted or such action taken by the Board of Selectmen. Provided, however, that if the proposed ordinance or other action which is the object of the petition is materially the same as a matter that previously has been voted upon by referendum, than the Board of Selectmen, in their discretion, may reject such petition and not call a special Town Meeting.



and on the jump page...


MEETINGS ATTENDED IN CHARTER REVISION PROCESS BY "About Town":
Read left to right (below) for text of sections up for revising.  NOTE:  Article Seven to be updated to reflect new Boards and Commissions as well as renaming, if such has occurred since 1979.  Copies of the Weston Town Charter 1979 are available at the Town Clerk's Office.  HIGHLIGHTS OF MEETINGS RELATED TO CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION:





Town to vote on charter changes
By JENNIFER CONNIC, Staff Writer, Sunday August 10, 2003 Norwalk HOUR on-line:
WESTON -- Residents will have the opportunity to vote on changes to the town charter during the November election.  The Board of Selectmen approved the Charter Revision Commission's recommendations during a meeting Thursday night, but questions for the ballot still need to be finalized.
The proposed changes to the town charter include increasing the number of petitioners necessary to call for a town meeting from 50 residents to 5 percent of the town's qualified voters.

Additionally, the Board of Selectmen would have the discretion to decide if a special town meeting was needed to vote on the petition if the item is the same as a matter that had previously been voted on by referendum.  Another proposed change in the charter would move the Annual Town Meeting to 8 p.m. rather than 8:30 p.m. and close the meeting no later than 11:30 p.m. instead of 11 p.m.

First Selectman Woody Bliss said residents continued to express concern about the 5 percent figure instead of a definite number during the board's public hearing, but he hopes a future charter revision study would address the matter.  "We are making the charter more consistent by having the number at 5 percent," he said.  He said having the number at 5 percent also allows the number of petitioners to grow as the town's population grows.

"If you have a set number and your population grows over time, that number won't be growing," he said.  The town attorney will now review the recommendations to form questions for the selectmen to approve, Bliss said.  He said he hopes the questions are ready for approval by the next   Board of Selectmen meeting on Aug. 21.  The November vote on the changes, however, will not be the final charter revision, Bliss said.

A second Charter Revision Commission will be formed in November, he said, to review further recommendation from the current commission and additional issues.  The additional recommendations for further study include the term length for the selectmen and appointing a town clerk and tax  collector rather than elected them.  Bliss said he hopes the second review would be completed in time for the 2004 regular election because he would not want to hold a special election.



SECTIONS OF THE CHARTER BEING DISCUSSED (SO FAR):



Charter Revision in CT going on at the same time as Weston's...and other communities have some of our new language!


Charter revision vote disappoints writers
Nanci G. Hutson, CT POST
Updated 10:40 p.m., Thursday, November 8, 2012

BROOKFIELD -- The nine questions about charter revision on Tuesday's ballot here seemed to pit the town's current citizen government against professional management overseen by citizen leaders.

Voters decisively opted against making major changes in the town charter.

This result was hailed by Republican Town Committee leaders, who had unanimously opposed hiring a town manager and expanding the Board of Selectman from three to five members.

The defeated changes were derided by the Charter Revision Committee, a mix of Republicans and Democrats who worked to create them.

Republican Town Committee Chairman Marty Flynn said he believes town residents do not want to relinquish their ability to elect the person who runs their town every two years, nor do they wish to expand town government.

Flynn said based on the numbers -- more than 5,000 votes against seven of the nine questions, including hiring a town manager -- Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters were against the changes.

"I think people are happy with the system the way it is," Flynn said.

Republican leader Matt Grimes said he hopes the resounding vote against hiring a town manager signals the end of the issue.  The votes against the majority of the proposed revisions "exceeded our expectations," he said.

First Selectman Bill Davidson, who is unaffiliated but twice led the Democratic ticket, was in favor of having a town manager.  He said he takes some blame for not narrowing the field of questions to allow more scrutiny of that idea.  Davidson added that the people have spoken, and he and his fellow elected officials must respect their voices.

Charter Revision Commission Chairman Larry Miller declined comment, except to say, "I'm done with it."

The politics surrounding the issues, he added, proved to be "nasty."

Commission member Joni Park, a former Democratic selectman and Democratic Party chairman, said she thinks the town is the loser in this battle.

"The first two questions were important for the growth of Brookfield and, unlike statements made, (a town manager) does not take power away from the people or elected officials," Park said.

"A town manager in my mind has continuity to understand the inner workings of government, the budget and the way the town should run, and has information to share... (but) the Board of Selectman always makes the final decision," she said.

"We (Charter Revision Commission members) thought we gave the community our best, but people are fearful of change, and they're not ready to take a look at what that means."



IT WENT DOWN TO DEFEAT ON Nov. 6.
Charter panel proposes greater mayoral powers
Tim Loh, CT POST
Updated 08:16 p.m., Saturday, May 19, 2012


BRIDGEPORT -- The Charter Review Commission on Friday submitted its first draft of recommended changes to the city's constitutional document, recommending full mayoral control over the Board of Education, 10-year term limits for various commissioners, a fleshed-out removal process for elected and appointed officials and better City Council oversight of the budget.

The 133-page document will come before a public hearing Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at City Council Chambers. The following night, the commission will send its final draft to the City Council, which can either approve the recommendations outright or send back portions of it to commissioners for reworking.

Ultimately, the council-endorsed proposed changes will appear on November's ballot for public vote.

Under the draft released Friday, the mayor would begin appointing school board members, four of them, in December 2013. The mayor would appoint the remaining five members in December 2015.

Appointees would have to clear two hurdles: First, they would have to pass a newly formed Board of Qualifications, consisting of five mayor-picked members, and then the City Council.

Both the school board and qualifications board would be subject to minority-party representation, as well as standards set for diversity and general "attributes" -- such as knowledge of current issues and best practices in urban education, or the ability to exercise a leadership and governance role, the proposed charter states.

Cathleen Simpson, the commission chairwoman, said Friday evening that the two sets of mayoral picks should stave off the potential misuse of power.

"The mayor is responsible now for the Board of Education and for the way the board is run and is responsible for picking qualified people that represent diverse qualifications," she said, adding that any qualifications board that approved unsatisfactory school board members would look foolish. "If the mayor doesn't (pick qualified people), he takes the risk of not being re-elected."

The proposed charter expands the mayor's power under emergency situations, too. Currently, upon declaration of an emergency, the mayor is allowed to spend up to $100,000 of city funds. The draft proposal raises that amount to 1 percent of the city's annual tax levy, an increase of at least 20-fold.

The proposed charter also establishes a framework for removing elected or appointed officials who act out of compliance with city standards, such as if they commit a felony or violate the city's conflict of interest policy (as determined by the ethics commission). The current charter provides that power but never explains how it should take place.

Across the board, any commissioner or board member who's served for 10 consecutive years would now be prohibited from getting reappointed to that post.

But the proposed charter lifts the current 10-year cap on the police and fire chiefs' tenure, effective after the two current chiefs leave office.

The proposal requires the City Council to conduct quarterly budget hearings, at a minimum, with city officials to stay better apprised of finances around the calendar. Each spring, it would expand the council's time frame for scrutinizing the mayor's proposed budgets: The mayor would be required to submit a budget proposal by April 1, and the council would have until the middle of May to recommend cuts.

Attorney Steven Mednick, who's worked closely with the commissioners and drafted their proposed changes, said they also tried lumping everything in the current charter that resembled an ordinance into Chapter 12. A future revision commission, he said, should begin with that chapter when considering what to change in the constitutional document.

"That sounds boring, but it's innovative," he said. "It allowed us to focus on structural stuff."

He added: "This commission has been outstanding. We've met over 30 times since January and already had two or three public hearings. They've met as much since January as many commissions (I've worked with) met in 16 months."




LEGISLATURE PASSES THIS BILL, WHICH MAKES POSSIBLE PARTIAL CHARTER REVISION - GOV. MALLOY VETOES IT (AGAIN)


One related to Charter Revision statute
No plans to override Malloy's vetoes
Associated Press
Article published Jul 25, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Democratic leaders of Connecticut's General Assembly say they won't try to override any of fellow Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's six vetoes.

The legislature is scheduled to convene its annual veto session on Monday.

Democratic leaders are particularly concerned with Malloy's veto of a bill that imposed new requirements for individual and small group health insurance companies regarding rate increases, such as expanding the amount of time before a new rate can take effect.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams said lawmakers are working with Malloy to find a way to expand public involvement in the rate approval process for health insurance.

Some Republican lawmakers say they're disappointed the legislature will not try to override Malloy's veto of a proposed tax credit program to encourage development around Oxford Airport.



Simsbury Residents To Discuss Proposed Charter Changes
The Hartford Courant
By HILLARY FEDERICO, hfederico@courant.com
3:49 PM EDT, April 24, 2012

SIMSBURY —Residents next month will discuss whether to amend the town charter to allow the town's first selectman to appoint a personnel director and change the term lengths of some boards and commissions.

Those recommendations are among six major changes proposed Monday night by the charter revision commission, which presented its conclusions after a series of public meetings and discussions.

If approved by the board of selectmen, the proposed changes may appear on the ballot in November. A public hearing on the proposed changes is scheduled for May 14.

Changes to the town charter, which is revised every five years, last went to residents for a vote in November 2006. Proposed changes that year included an amendment requiring advance notice for capital improvement projects and alterations to some town boards and commissions.

Among the items up for consideration up this year is whether the town's design review board – an advisory board that works with the planning and zoning commissions – should be recognized as a permanent group.

According to charter commission review board Chairman Bob Heagney, the changes give the zoning commission the authority to appoint a design review board consisting of six regular members and up to four alternates, and determine the necessary qualifications.

"We believe it should be a permanent board recognized by the charter," Heagney said.

John Carroll, a member of the design review board, urged the board of selectmen to endorse a permanent design panel. He said the board is integral to the process of land acquisition and construction of new buildings.

"You have before you two versions of how the design review board should be in the future," he said Monday. "This [proposed] document was not done off the top of somebody's head."

Another proposal calls for the elimination of constables, a largely unused position.

"Simsbury has never appointed a constable [in recent memory]," said First Selectwoman Mary Glassman.

Though the proposed change would eliminate language in the charter pertaining to the hiring of a constable, Heagney said it would not impede the first selectman's ability to appoint a constable if he or she chooses to do so. Rather, he said, it gives the town the opportunity to appoint someone to the position after 30 days from the day the first selectman is appointed.

Another proposed change would allow the first selectman to appoint another town official to the position of personnel director. Currently, the personnel director's duties are assumed by the first selectman.

Other changes include extending the period between charter revisions from five to seven years; allowing the town to appropriate up to 50 percent of the town's undesignated fund balance for the current fiscal year in the event of an emergency; and altering the powers of town officials at town meetings.



Passero: Mayor oversteps his authority on budget
New London DAY
By MICHAEL PASSERO
Article published Jun 5, 2012

The myriad emotions expressed by folks following this year's City Council budget deliberations is nothing short of amazing.

Bewilderment, confusion and incredulity seem the most prevalent. My guess is that the community's emotions mirror the torment of city councilors as they very publicly wrestled through the process for weeks.

For councilors, the principal emotion has been frustration. Unfortunately, the frustration boiled over into anger during the council's attempt to finalize the appropriation ordinance for its third reading May 29.

The budget process is governed by the City Charter. The first step requires the administration to deliver a proposed budget to the council and Board of Finance containing an estimate of expenditures and revenues for each city department.

The process was crippled at the outset this year when the administration irresponsibly delivered a proposed budget that supposedly required an unrealistic 20 percent increase in property taxes. I say "supposedly" because so much of the information later turned out to be so inaccurate that the dramatic announcement of a budget requiring a 20 percent tax increase proved to be more theater than reality.

Nonetheless, the council immediately took on the ambitious goal of whittling the surreal tax increase down to a palatable 2 percent. The biggest challenges during the budget cutting process were the administration's apparent inability or unwillingness to provide accurate estimates of expenses and revenues and its constant manipulation of the numbers given to council throughout the process.

It was like playing a game of football when the goal post is moved farther out every time one's team gets within field goal range.

Despite the administration's refusal to recognize the charter's mandates and unrelenting frustration of the council's role, on April 30 the council finalized and passed the first reading of the budget. In the process, the council abandoned the goal of limiting the tax increase to 2 percent, swallowed hard, and passed a budget with an 8 percent tax increase in a compromise intended to save jobs and services.

Unfortunately, the council's apparent success at adopting a budget proved as ephemeral as the administration's numbers.

Three weeks after the first reading of the budget, two weeks after the public hearing on that budget and more than a week after the Finance Board's approval of the budget, the administration made a dramatic announcement that the budget passed by council would require draconian cuts in personnel.

Even worse, the administration decided to decimate the public safety departments with layoffs and spare the multiple administrative positions that had been newly created since the current administration was installed.

The surprise announcement at the 11th hour understandably shook the community's confidence in our government. Mistrust now reigns.

Once again, the council was not consulted before the administration's unilateral action. Once again, the administration's explanation seemed disingenuous. Once again, mistaken information provided by the finance department and built into the first reading of the budget was the root problem.

Characteristically, during a news conference following the third and final reading of the budget, the administration accused the council of overestimating revenues.

The real problem appears to be a mayor who has either no respect for or no understanding of the charter and who refuses to recognize the authority and role of the council.

The council is the check to a mayor with a pattern of impulsiveness and recklessness. His latest threat, to effectively dismantle the emergency response system July 1, is so irresponsible that it would be laughable, except that now people's lives are at risk.

I have a lifelong commitment and love for my city. I have served in many civic roles throughout the years and I have had the honor to serve as a firefighter for 28 years.

As blessed as my life has been in this city, the highest honor of all has been to be entrusted with a seat on the council.

Every action I take on the council is motivated solely by a desire to honor the people's trust, to honor the oath I took, and to do what is right for my city. In this, my only master is my conscience.

There is no challenge that this great city cannot overcome and we will certainly overcome the challenges we face now.

Michael Passero is the president of the New London City Council.



FORMER MAYOR OF NEW LONDON (under the old Charter)
Then Sec'y of the State Bysiewicz swears in Hon. Wade Hyslop

NOTE:  In November of 2011, New London Charter Revision created a popularly elected position of Mayor  Previously, the elected Council chose from among its members the appointed "Mayor" of the city)
Hyslop: 'I will not be intimidated' on firing

Councilor maintains his silence on Mayo decision before NAACP, firefighters
By Kathleen Edgecomb Day Staff Writer
Article published Apr 17, 2012

New London - A defiant Wade Hyslop rebuffed people who demanded Monday night that the city councilor explain why he supported the firing of the city's first black firefighter in more than 30 years...

While there was also a call for the New London City Council to investigate Finizio's decision, council President Michael Passero, who is a firefighter, said the City Charter precludes it from doing so.

Reading from Section 40 of the charter, Passero said the council cannot dictate or interfere with the hiring or firing of any city employee.  Full story, including one about the 2011 charter revision, here.



Oxford owed more than $10 million in back taxes
Anne Amato, CT POST
Updated 12:13 a.m., Wednesday, February 15, 2012

OXFORD -- Who owes back taxes and who doesn't is a task that may take years to unravel in this town that is trying to balance books left by former Tax Collector Karen Guillet, who is currently facing larceny and forgery charges.

Town officials said Tuesday that there are more than 40 pages of names on its delinquent taxpayer list and an amount of more than $10 million owed.

First Selectman George Temple, who requested the list, said unacceptable business practices over at least the past 15 years had left the town with the huge gap of $10,288,423 owed in back taxes. But the number of those showing up as having taxes past due isn't totally accurate, according to Tax Collector Cayenne Spremullo.

Spremullo took over the office in November and has been trying to balance the books left by Guillet who is accused of misappropriating more than $670,000 from town coffers.

Temple said while some of that amount is money actually owed, some of it is the result of clerical errors and poor accounting and other mistakes.

Temple said the amounts can "only be explained by past dishonesty."

"It's a disgrace for whatever reason the account was allowed to go into arrears -- for poor business practices, bad accounting or for stealing," Temple said. "It's definitely a mess."

Spremullo said the purpose of the list was to alert people that they might be showing up as delinquent on the list.

She said they are going through each account to find the valid delinquents.

"We look for red flags," she said.

Unraveling the mess is going to take a long time, she said. A big issue is having people on the delinquent list prove they paid their taxes.

But Spremullo acknowledged that most people don't keep receipts going back years.

The list goes back 15 years, the amount of time the office can collect any past due bills, Spremullo said.

Temple said he wanted to make it perfectly clear that none of the problems with the accounting in the tax collector's office has to do with the Spremullo or her staff.

"Quite the contrary, they are doing everything they can to straighten out this outrageous situation," he said.

Guillet resigned her job in June 2010. A three-member committee appointed by then-First Selectman Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers found that $671,768 appeared to have been taken by Guillet between July 2003 and December 2009.

Guillet was arrested last November and her case is pending in Milford Superior Court.

Temple said that, while Spremullo will be implementing an aggressive collection program to bring the town up to date, it doesn't mean the town will "embark on a heartless rampage against people who may be victims of the economy."

Temple said he plans to meet with Spremullo on a monthly basis to examine the delinquent accounts and "monitor our progress."

He said he has full confidence in Spremullo and her staff to take the necessary steps to restore confidence in the tax collector's office and in the town.



Angela Carella: Revise the Charter, revamp the city
Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 10:33 p.m., Saturday, June 16, 2012

Stamford residents have their work cut out for them when they hit the polls in November.

They will select candidates to represent them in their city, state and federal governments. They will choose the nation's next president. They will vote yes or no on a bunch of questions such as:

Should Stamford residents be limited to serving on one elected board at a time?

Should constables serve four years instead of two?

Should Stamford set up a commission dedicated to historic preservation?

Should Stamford have a Citizen's Bill of Rights?

Should Stamford create a single fire department instead of the six it has now?

Voters' responses to such questions will change Stamford's governing document, the city Charter, which must be revised at least every 10 years.

The volunteers on the Charter Revision Commission have spent the year reviewing the document for errors, conflicts with state law, practices that no longer work and rules that need clarification. They considered changes that could make city government run smoother.

The members of the commission recommended more than 70 revisions, big and small, to the Board of Representatives' Charter Revision Committee, which has voted to accept or reject them.

Before the committee turns over its recommendations to the full Board of Representatives -- which decides which questions go on the ballot -- you the voter will have a chance to weigh in.

You are invited to a public hearing slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday in legislative chambers on the fourth floor of the Stamford Government Center, 888 Washington Blvd.

The members of the Charter Revision Commission, which met five or six dozen times, want to hear what you have to say. Co-chairmen Jay Sandak and Vincent Freccia, Stamford natives and attorneys, said few things are more important for Stamford.

Candidates come and go but the Charter lives on, they said.

"The Charter is the Constitution for Stamford," Freccia said. "We often get asked to explain the relationship between the Charter and city ordinances. Ordinances are laws made by the Board of Representatives. The Charter takes priority over everything in the city."

Tuesday's public hearing is a good place to start understanding what choices you will be asked to make in November, Sandak said.

"The Charter is the framework of our city government. This is the opportunity for people to express their opinions about how it works or doesn't work," Sandak said. "Amending it is a very democratic process. By state law, there cannot be one change to the Charter that the electorate doesn't vote on."

Representatives on the Charter Revision Committee will consider points raised by residents during the hearing and submit them along with their own thoughts back to the Charter Revision Commission.

"They can approve our recommendations, reject them, or send items back to us and ask us to tinker with them," Sandak said.

The commission, for example, recommended reducing the size of the Board of Representatives. Now there are two representatives for each of the 20 districts, for a total of 40 board members. The commission wants to make it one representative for each district, for a total of 20 board members.

But last week three members of the board's Charter Revision Committee voted for the idea, three voted against it and one abstained.

"A tie is a failure, at least in committee," Freccia said. "It's still up to the full board."

If you feel strongly about the size of the board -- Stamford has one of the largest representative boards in the country among cities with similar populations -- speak up at Tuesday's public hearing. You may sway the thinking of committee members.

After the public hearing and a final report from the commission, the committee will report to the full Board of Representatives, which then chooses the items to put before voters in November.

"The Board of Representatives is the gatekeeper for what goes on the ballot," Sandak said. "In theory, they can reject everything we recommended and decide not to put anything on the ballot. Or they can put all of our recommendations on the ballot."

Most agree that the biggest item you're likely to decide at the polls concerns Stamford's convoluted, controversial fire service, made up of one career department and five volunteer companies.

The commission recommends that the Charter be changed to create a single fire department with one chief who would have jurisdiction over all fire services. The chief would have two paid assistants, one to oversee career firefighters and one to oversee volunteers.

"What we proposed for the Charter is a framework, not a plan," Sandak said. "It will be up to the decision-makers, if this is adopted, to take the framework and design a plan that works within it."

Another important recommended change to the Charter would resolve a conflict of responsibilities between the city and the Water Pollution Control Authority, which operates the sewage treatment plant. For years the plant has been plagued with foul odors, spillages into Long Island Sound, questionable equipment installations, management failures and financial problems, all while sewer fees skyrocketed.

"The question of who's in charge has created a lot of uncertainty," Sandak said. "Our hope is that some of the management issues that have haunted us for the last few years will get clarified."

The commission also wants to establish in the Charter that Stamford always have an internal auditor to check the finances of city departments, and a Citizens Service Center. Such functions are too important to fall to the budget ax, as the internal auditor already has, Freccia and Sandak said.

You rejuvenate the city when you redo the Charter, they said.

"Process changes. Attitudes change. State and federal laws change," Freccia said. "There will always be a need for Charter revision."

One of Stamford's strengths is that "it doesn't remain static," Sandak said.

"As demographics have changed, as economics have changed, as the workforce has changed, city government has reinvented itself. I think it's really healthy," he said. "It's a renewal. It keeps the city on the cutting edge. But it only works with informed voters."


Commission to overhaul Stamford Charter
Charter revision could alter many facets of city government

Kate King, Staff Writer, Stamford ADVOATE
Published 09:30 p.m., Saturday, December 17, 2011

STAMFORD -- Stamford has embarked on its 17th Charter revision, an in-depth review of the city's core document that gives officials and voters a once-in-a-decade opportunity to change the way municipal government functions.

The Board of Representatives appointed a commission comprising 15 volunteers to oversee the review, which will tackle a plethora of issues including several stemming from recent controversies at the Government Center. The process, which will end at the polls in a voter referendum, could potentially affect Stamford's fire department organization, legal representation for city officials and government oversight of environmental contamination in North Stamford.

"The decennial review of the Charter is of utmost importance to the citizens of Stamford because the Charter forms the framework for how government works," Charter Revision Commission Co-Chair Jay Sandak said. "As times change, new issues arise. It's a living document. In many, many ways it has a direct effect on whoever lives within the community."

The commission, which includes six Republicans, seven Democrats and two unaffiliated voters, is on a deadline crunch. Stamford law allows 16 months for the Charter review, but city officials are hoping to include the proposed changes on the 2012 ballot, which is a presidential election and likely to attract higher voter turnout than the 2013 municipal elections.

Commission members have already received more than 100 suggestions for Charter changes from members of the Board of Representatives, Board of Finance, Mayor Michael Pavia's administration and the public. The commission has splintered into three committees and is in the process of whittling down the list, Sandak said.

"The Charter itself is important," Sandak said. "And the process of reviewing its provisions is very important to the community."

The upcoming revision may get to the root of several controversial debates. The topic likely to spark the most heated discussions will inevitably involve any proposed changes to Stamford's fire services.

Pavia has proposed consolidating four of the city's five volunteer-run fire departments into a new organization called the Stamford Volunteer Fire Department, which would share resources and newly-hired paid firefighters. Unionized firefighters strongly oppose the mayor's plan, and instead support bringing all the city's fire services -- paid and volunteer -- under the purview of one paid fire chief. Pavia has said the union's plan is not possible under the current Charter.

It is not the Charter Revision Commission's responsibility to reorganize Stamford's fire services, said city Rep. John Mallozzi, D-12, who headed the Board of Representatives committee that appointed the commission. The commission could, however, recommend eliminating or changing the fire service districts and boundaries outlined in Stamford's Charter, thereby giving city officials more flexibility to reorganize the fire department.

"It is not for the commission to come up with a plan," said Mallozzi. "I'd rather see the commission allow the mayor and the Board of Representatives to negotiate a solution. To eliminate the roadblocks that prohibit a more comprehensive solution."

Another topic the Charter Review Commission will tackle involves governmental oversight of environmental contamination in North Stamford. Friday marks the three-year anniversary of the release of an Environmental Protection Agency report that revealed PCBs and pesticide pollution in the soil at Scofieldtown Park. The report sparked further investigations, which uncovered contamination at the Bartlett Arboretum and in residential drinking water.

Former Mayor Dannel P. Malloy, who is now governor, rushed to install city water mains to several North Stamford homes after the polluted water was discovered. Malloy then created a seven-member panel, dubbed the Scofield Town Area Remediation Task Force, to oversee Stamford's environmental issues.

Mayor Michael Pavia disbanded the task force in November 2010 over protests from representatives from the neighborhood group North Stamford Concerned Citizens for the Environment. Shortly after, Board of Representatives President Randy Skigen formed a special committee charged with overseeing the city's environmental remediation efforts and the development of a city-subsidized water testing program.

City representatives have asked the Charter Review Commission to clarify which government entity -- the Office of Public Safety, Health and Welfare, the Health Commission or the Office of Operations -- has oversight of North Stamford environmental contamination issues. Jay Crutcher, a NSCCE spokesman, said he hopes all three departments will work together with the Environmental Protection Board to address environmental and public health concerns.

"The NSCCE believes that oversight of environmental contamination and remediation is extremely important," Crutcher said in an email. "(All departments) should all be responsible for working together to address issues of environmental contamination and public health -- they each have specific expertise that can play a critical role."

The Charter Revision Commission will also review the roles and responsibilities of the Board of Finance and Board of Ethics, which were at the epicenter of several bitter and divisive debates over the past two years. City representatives have suggested the commission consider eliminating the Board of Finance altogether and transferring its financial oversight responsibilities to the Board of Representatives' Fiscal Committee.

In the event the Board of Finance remains intact, city representatives have also recommended the commission consider increasing the number of board members, narrowing the board's scope to "strictly financial matters" and lowering the voting approval threshold for contingency appropriations.

Recent investigations by the Board of Ethics also inspired several recommendations for Charter review. The Commission may tackle the question of legal representation for elected and appointed officials, a controversial debate which is still ongoing.

Director of Legal Affairs Michael Larobina has issued contradictory decisions on whether elected officials facing civil lawsuits or ethics complaints should be represented by the city. Larobina's department reimbursed former finance board member Bob Kolenberg $30,000 for legal expenses after an ethics complaint against him was dropped, but city Rep. Sal Gabriele, R-16, who saw an ethics grievance against him withdrawn this summer, is still seeking compensation from the city for nearly $200,000 in legal fees.

Other suggestions submitted to the Charter Revision Commission for consideration include:

- Budget: Require the mayor to hold a public hearing before submitting his budget to the elected boards for approval and empower the Board of Finance and Board of Representatives with the ability to add -- not just slash -- budgetary spending.

- Ethics: Add a provision requiring recusal of any elected or appointed official on any board or commission from voting on items related to the Board of Ethics if he or she is involved in an ethics investigation, permit the Board of Representatives to provide funds for ethics investigations, allow the ethics board to accept anonymous complaints or file its own complaints, require ethics training for city officials and employees, mandate a whistleblower hotline.

- Administration: Reevaluate keeping the Director of Public Safety job as a cabinet position and consider requiring background qualifications, consider making the Director of Legal Affairs -- currently a part time position -- full time, consider requiring the Director of Administration to report to the Board of Representatives Fiscal Committee.

- Board of Education: Change the number of candidates for Board of Education elections from six to four, allow the education board to prioritize and direct the spending of authorized capital funds, change timeline of budget process to allow for September hiring needs, empower the mayor as a voting member of the board.

- Boards and Commissions: Limit elected officials to serving on one elective board at a time, increase length of terms for city constables from two to four years, implement term limits, require background qualifications for members appointed to boards and commissions.

- Water Pollution Control Authority: Outline the relationship between the WPCA and city and clarify to whom the WPCA Executive Director reports.

The Charter Revision Commission will hold a public hearing before submitting a draft report of its review to the Board of Representatives, said co-chair Vincent Freccia. The Board of Representatives will hold public hearings on the commission's draft before voting to accept or reject the final report.

Stamford residents will have the final say on any alterations to the city Charter at the ballot box next November. Proposed changes must be approved by a majority vote.

During the last Charter revision in 2004, voters approved six out of 10 proposed changes. A suggestion for changing the terms for the Town Clerk from two to four years passed, but a similar term length extension for city constables failed by about 1,000 votes. The 2004 Charter revision also created the city's "rainy day" fund and the Parks and Recreation Superintendent position.




Eight open seats up for grabs on Westport RTM this fall
Westport News
Paul Schott, pschott@bcnnew.com
Updated 09:48 a.m., Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Westport Representative Town Meeting will have open seats in seven of its nine districts in the November municipal election, after eight incumbents declined to seek re-election, according to filings with the Town Clerk's Office.

Those not seeking new two-year terms on the 36-member legislative body are: Judy Starr and Liz Milwe, District 1; Linda Bruce, District 2; Bob Galan, District 3; Gene Seidman, District 4; Barbara Levy, District 5; Michael Rea, District 8, and Kevin Green, District 9. Rea, the chairman of the RTM's Finance Committee, is a Republican nominee for the Board of Finance this fall.

Rea has served six terms, Starr has served five terms, Seidman has served three terms, while Milwe, Bruce, Galan, Levy and Green have each served two terms.

In 2009, four RTM members did not seek re-election. But this year's turnover is more representative of long-term trends, according to Town Clerk Patty Strauss.

"Over the last eight years, it's anywhere from a quarter to a third of the RTM members who do not seek re-election," she said. "2009 was not normal; 2011 is back to being in the average again."

The four highest vote-getters in each of the nine districts are elected to the RTM. In 2009, four districts had more than four candidates.

The five longest-tenured RTM members will each run for re-election. Bill Meyer, District 3, and Stephen Rubin, District 7, have both served eight terms. Dick Lowenstein, District 5, Jack Klinge, District 7, and Lois Schine, District 8, have each served since 1997.

"We've got a lot of seniority in this group, but there's always room for new members," Strauss added. "New members bring new ideas to the table."

Several former RTM members have gone on to other elected positions.

Current state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg and his predecessor, Joe Mioli, both served in legislative body, while First Selectman Gordon Joseloff was the RTM moderator for 10 years. Other past RTM members include Board of Finance Chairwoman Helen Garten and Selectman Charlie Haberstroh.

The RTM is a nonpartisan legislative body with four representatives from each of the nine districts. Members have a range of legislative responsibilities, which include voting on every appropriations request of more than $20,000 and approving ordinances and the town's budget.

During the last year, the RTM has debated and voted on several major town issues. Last November, members voted to reject new contracts for the town's fire and municipal employee unions. The legislative body has also reviewed two appeals of P&Z decisions. Members voted last December to uphold a pair of zoning text amendments for affordable housing, but struck down new residential building coverage regulations in January.

This fall, the RTM is set to review a tentative agreement with the firefighter union, which was announced last week bJoseloff. The RTM will also likely vote this fall on a proposal from Joseloff for Westport to join a regional government body called the Council of Governments.

Residents interested in running for the RTM must obtain the signatures of 25 voters registered in their RTM districts and file that petition in the Town Clerk's Office by Sept. 13. This year's election for the RTM and other town boards will take place Nov. 8.

For more information about the RTM election and running for town office, call Town Clerk Patty Strauss at 203-341-1110.



Public Hearing Set On Proposed Charter Revisions
Would Have Town Council, Manager
The Hartford Courant
By KAT J. MCALPINE, kmcalpine@courant.com,
July 17, 2011|

CROMWELL — Residents will have a chance to comment at a public hearing on proposed charter revisions that would change the town's form of government from a board of selectmen to a town council and town manager.

Committee Chairman Vincent Faienza said he wanted to make it clear these changes are not the same as those proposed in 2003, when a town council and town manager style of government failed at referendum. "That charter failed because it took away a lot of the people's power," Faienza said. "We want the people to still have a say in who their elected officials are."The public hearing will be held Tuesday, July 19. The charter commission hopes to put the changes on the ballot in November's municipal election.

The revisions replace the board of selectmen with six town council members and a mayor, who will run for office separately from the council members. The revisions also add a town manager, who will hold the position of chief executive officer in town, will report to the town council, and will be hired by an independent search firm. Although the town manager will have the power to remove or hire department heads, although any decisions must be approved by a majority of the town council.

The charter committee explored the option of adding two members to the town council and eliminating the board of finance, but opted to keep the council to seven members, including the mayor, and keep the board of finance in place.

Faienza said in June that he felt that keeping the board of finance provided an extra measure of "checks and balances."

One likely topic of discussion at Tuesday's public hearing will be whether to keep the police commission. Police Chief Anthony Salvatore, who suggested abolishing the commission and allowing the chief to report to the manager for approval of hirings and terminations, said he will address the committee on Tuesday.

The committee initially agreed with Salvatore's suggestion, but later rescinded its decision based on the recommendation of Town Attorney Jack Bradley. The proposed charter now states that the police commission will remain intact.  Salvatore had said that eliminating the police commission would streamline the hiring and termination process. Now, he must seek approval for personnel assignments at board of selectmen meetings, which are held once a month.

"The police commission's main function is to hire or terminate [police personnel] based upon the chief of police's recommendation," Salvatore said.

Tuesday's public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. in Room 224 of town hall.



How another form of government works in CT
Steps taken toward referendum in Groton
Voters will decide on borrowing $2.7M for water facilities
By Chuck Potter, The Day
Published 07/06/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 07/06/2011 12:07 AM

Groton - It took the three meetings Tuesday, but ultimately, the Town Council moved closer to a September referendum so voters can consider borrowing $2.7 million to upgrade the town's water pollution control facilities.

As much as a third of the money could be returned to the town by a grant from the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection's Clean Water Fund. The balance would be covered by 2 percent, 20-year loans.

Tuesday, as part of a 23-step fast-track process, the council recessed its regular meeting, held a mandatory public hearing and then a Committee of the Whole meeting to address comments from the public hearing. Because there were no comments, the committee meeting was promptly adjourned after explanations by Public Works Director Gary Schneider, outlining the use of the funds.

Schneider said the money would be used for three projects, including upgrading a pump station that moves treated wastewater from the treatment plant to the Thames River.

He said the old pumps have been in place for 26 years, and if one failed, allowing wastewater to contaminate unauthorized estuaries, the town would face fines of $25,000 per pump, per incident. The state funds would also be used to maintain and repair compacting machinery that saves the town about $750,000 per year in disposal fees.

At the conclusion of the committee meeting, the mayor reconvened the Town Council meeting. During that meeting, the council formally adopted the ordinance calling for the referendum and referred the ordinance to the Representative Town Meeting, which is expected to take up the matter next week.

The council's work must be completed by Aug. 12 to allow a referendum Sept. 13. It would be the town's fourth special election of the year.

The matter was intended to be on the November ballot, but expedience became necessary when officials were told that the money, thought to have been secured last fall, was in jeopardy.

State officials told town officials that waiting until November might put the Groton request in peril because there would be more competition at that point.



2011 - attempt to raise the school budget



Pomfret votes to keep selectmen elections the same

By ALISON SHEA, Norwich Bulletin
Posted Dec 31, 2010 @ 12:10 AM

Pomfret, Conn. —

The voting process will remain the same after voters resoundingly rejected a measure to change the way selectmen are elected.

The proposal, which failed by a vote of 60-27, would have asked selectmen to write a new ordinance to change town voting procedure to allow three votes, rather than two, for the three-member Board of Selectmen.

Residents supported the existing method, where they cast one vote for a candidate for first selectman, then a second for one of the candidates for selectman. The top three vote-getters join the Board of Selectmen, and the winner for first selectman becomes the town’s chief executive.

With each of the major parties putting up only two candidates — one for first selectman and another for selectman — minority representation is ensured.

A petition filed Dec. 13 by resident Ford Fay and 19 others sought to change the system to permit voting for all three candidates. Fay told the crowd Thursday that it was their basic democratic right to vote for all three if three were to be elected.

“It’s about democracy, where people have a full voice in the election of their officers,” he said. “Without the full vote, we have a limited voice.”

Residents John Lewerenz and Nicholas Gardner echoed the sentiments of many in their reasons for opposing the measure.

“I don’t see a reason to change,” Gardner said. “The way they’re elected now seems to work.”

Much of the discussion about what such a change could do was hypothetical Thursday, because no ordinance was before voters. The vote was whether to ask selectmen to write an ordinance permitting the change.

The vagaries were part of the problem for selectmen, who said the lack of a timeline or specifications for the ordinance they would be writing could leave petitioners dissatisfied.



Montville Eyes Charter Changes 
DAY
By Megan Bard 
Published on 11/10/2008

Montville - Fourteen months after beginning its work, the town's Charter Revision Commission has completed its review of the document that governs how the town operates.

On Friday, commission Chairman Richard Wilson submitted to Town Clerk Lisa Terry a proposal that includes 14 of 23 revisions originally suggested.

The Town Council could receive the recommendations at its meeting tonight. If, over the coming months, the council approves all or some of the revisions, voters will have the ultimate say. A vote on the proposed changes could be held in November 2009...full story here.

AN EARLIER MONTVILLE STORY HERE