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Charter Revision Flyer Printed, Forum Organized

An information mailer and community forum have been put together to get residents involved in November's charter revision vote.

The Board of Selectmen (BOS) approved a finalized version of the November 6 ballot on Friday, including nine revisions to the Town Charter that will appear with the federal and state elections in three weeks.

Voters will have the opportunity to review an explanatory text before casting their ballots on Election Day, however in an effort to provide as much information as possible, the selectmen decided to create an information brochure to send out as a mailer and a community forum has been organized for October 22 in the Brookfield High School (BHS) auditorium.

The information flyer [see attached] will be sent out next week, according to First Selectman Bill Davidson, and will include a sample ballot for voters to familiarize themselves with. (Residents can also find the explanatory text, sample ballot and the Charter Revision Commission’s final report on the town’s website.)

Davidson said that the flyer was sent to the Secretary of State’s office to be cleared for neutrality and that a single line was deemed potentially subjective and removed.

On Monday, residents can gather at BHS at 7 p.m. to hear from former Charter Revision Commission (CRC) members on why each alteration is being proposed and ask questions in a moderated format, led by local resident and WestConn political science professor Chris Kukk.

Each question will be introduced one at a time and a CRC member will explain the reasoning behind it. Afterward, Kukk will summarize the rationale and ask any necessary questions for clarification before opening it up to the audience for questions.

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All nine questions might be considered, but there will be a focus on appointing a Town Manager, electing the First Selectman separate from the Selectmen pool, allowing residents to add to a budget at the Annual Town Meeting, the ability to petition an action of the Board of Finance and increasing the number of signatures needed for certain petitions.

The original intention was to allow time for a response in opposition to each proposal after the CRC member spoke, however, according to Selectman Howard Lasser, one of the organizers of the forum, “no one has come forward to present the alternative view.”

LFerrara October 16, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Just to be clear, the location has changed from the library to BHS for Monday? Correct?
Mary Davis October 16, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I've studied these charter revisions and have decided to vote NO on items 1, 2, 3 + 8. Very bad ideas.
Ray DiStephan October 16, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I will be voting "YES" on all the well-researched revisions that were proposed by the non-partisan committee that included Democrats, Republicans, and independents and that was unanimously supported by every member of that committee.
Aaron Boyd (Editor) October 16, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Yes, the location was changed to the high school auditorium.
Brookfield Steve October 16, 2012 at 04:54 PM
May I suggest that everyone read the Charter Revision Committee final report and pay careful attention to what is being deleted and replaced in the town Charter (Town Constitution). Please avoid spending too much time on the Explanatory Notes on the town website and the Brochure being sent out next week. The source of our government is specified by the Charter itself rather than by the explanatory notes and the brochure. The Town Constitution should set a level playing field for the selection and limitation of the power of town officers from either party in power. It is a platform for building the laws of the town. Trust the original document for what these changes might do. For example, do these changes affect minority party representation in the Board of Selectman? Do these changes give the First Selectman more direct power? Is it easier for the majority party to resist the influence of the minority party? Does a Town Manager isolate the management of the town from the will of the people? What do these changes do to our taxes? How difficult will it be to find 5 qualified selectman and a town manager? How quickly could rules for finding and recruiting a town manager be developed? Please take the time to vote in an informed manner by reading the original document. It is well worth the time to be thoroughly informed. We have to live with these changes for a long time.
Steven DeVaux October 18, 2012 at 03:22 AM
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
barb norman October 18, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Good advice, Steve!
Rob Gianazza October 22, 2012 at 12:58 PM
"The original intention was to allow time for a response in opposition." I received an invitation from Selectman Lasser after three o'clock on Friday afternoon. I responded that I would consider it and let him know later this weekend. Three days to prepare to discuss opposing points against a team that has been working together for fifteen months. I was unaware if I would be alone or if others would be joining me. I carefully weighed my options and responded "I have considered your offer and have decided to decline your invitation. Thank you for considering me." What I was not prepared for was the response I received from Selectman Lasser. This was not a private response, but one that was shared with several community members and members of the press. "Thanks for considering it. I am disappointed that those who oppose these proposals do not have the respect for the community to actually participate in any forum where the public can ask questions and hear both those positions for and against in an objective way. To me it diminishes them substantially. I hope the media will take note of their reluctance." Howard, it's clear that inviting me at the last minute was an act of desperation, not respect. I will now boycott this forum and encourage others to boycott it as well. Members of the media, please take note. I encourage everyone to vote NO on questions 1, 2, 3 and 8.
Brian October 22, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Rob, a boycott of this meeting is not in the best interest of the town. I will not defend Mr Lasser for the last minute request or the tone or public nature of his response and can see your point in turning down the invitation to be a spokesperson for an opposition viewpoint. However, for this meeting the more peopl in attendance the better. Having you or anyone who opposes the CRC recommendations present and taking the floor as a citizen, not "thee representative" of the opposition to raise questions/concerns as you see the CRC worded recommendations is an important part of the process. Please reconsider attending and encouraging everyone to attend to have a meaningful discussion on the topic.
Brian October 22, 2012 at 04:20 PM
While I would hope the Explanatory Notes and the Brochure do represent the intent of the CRC recommendations, a full read of the CRC final notes with the strikethrough and addintions tracked is a good thing. First question after spending a few minutes is around Minority Representation on the Board of Selectmen. It seems that the text was striken from C3-2A(2) and there is a circular reference between C3-2A and C2-4. It would appear that neither really calls out how Minority Representation on the board is ensured. Is this by intent or is this an oversight? I have not read thru all 33 pages as of yet, so it ti covered elsewhere? This should be one topic to address in tonight's meeting.
Rob Gianazza October 22, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Very good question Brian. There are examples of where there are conflicting messages between the Charter, the explanations and the CRC Final Report. It is my understanding after discussing this very specifically with a member of the CRC, that his objections were over-looked. Apparently Mr. Davidson believes that whatever the opinion is of the Town attorney is the final word. Again, that is why I will be voting NO on questions 1, 2, 3, and 8.
Rob Gianazza October 22, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Brian, I am not naive. I have been to many public meetings where the citizen speaker on the floor has his or her words turned around or the question not answered. The citizen speaker does not have the opportunity for rebuttal or follow-up. Mr. Lasser is quite talented in his management of soliciting comments and answers. Because of this, I see no purpose to be exploited nor participate in this sham of a forum.
Howard Lasser October 22, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Regarding the format for the forum, of course it is up to the moderator as to how he will proceed but the format is not a debate. The format as originally proposed is for the CRC to present their rationale for each question. If there was someone who agreed to represent an alternative that person would be given an equal time to offer that view. Then there will be Q&A. There was no intention of offering the floor for opposition views or discussion. As I say, though, that was the original intent. At this point since none of the individuals who were invited several weeks ago, Rob not withstanding, decided to forego participation, it will be up to the moderator to decide how best to proceed in a way that offers clear understanding of the proposals.
Howard Lasser October 22, 2012 at 05:49 PM
One point to clarify the CRC report and the ballot. The Selectmen had two choices, to send the CRC recommendation (or any part of it) to a vote or not. The Selectmen are not empowered to change the recommendations in any way. So what we are voting on in each case is the CRC report as cited in each question. No wording may be changed. If a particular ballot question passes the wording in each section as include or stricken in the CRC recommendation is what the charter will be amended to.
Rob Gianazza October 22, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Howard, thank you for that clarification. So there is no misunderstanding, the wording in the CRC Final Report (stricken and adjusted) is what the Town's people will be voting on?
Howard Lasser October 22, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Yes
Brian October 22, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Rob, I guess we will have to agree to dis-agree on this one. For me, any question or concern that is raised by someone for, against or undecided has merit and for those in attendance, we are smart enough to clearly see if the words are being twisted or if the question itself goes unanswered. This should not be set up like a debate with For vs Against. This should be a Q&A where any question from the floor should be entertained and responded to.
Brian October 22, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Actually, not having any representing an alternative may actually help ensure this is not a debate on phylisophical differences. A simple introduction of the issue followed by Q&A from the floor. Q1: With the Charter revisions, how is the issue of minority representation ensured?
Rob Gianazza October 22, 2012 at 07:43 PM
I won't get into the philosophical differences, but I would like some technical concerns addressed. From Question 1a) C5-1 The First Selectman, during his or her term of office, shall not hold any civil office that provides compensation under the government of the United States, the State of Connecticut or any subdivision thereof, except that of notary public or Justice of the Peace. Why was this stricken? What does this have to do with a Town Manager? Note the old C5-4 and C5-5 have been renumbered C5-3 and C5-4 respectively. They both contain changes, but are not identified in any of the ballot questions. Removing the text "the remaining member of the Board of Selectmen" appears to be in reference to Question 2, however is not referenced. C5-3B. In the event of absence or disability or should the Chairman Pro Tempore be unable to carry out said duties, another member of the Board of Selectmen, elected by his fellow members, shall carry out all of the duties of the First Selectman.
Rob Gianazza October 22, 2012 at 07:44 PM
From Question 1c) C6-11A The Board of Selectmen may appoint an interim town manager during the absence, disability or resignation of the manager. Said interim manager may be an elected town official who may serve as interim town manager for a period not longer than one (1) year. In the event that a current town official is appointed, such appointee shall resign from the town office held before appointment as interim town manager. So if there is a two month interim period, an elected or appointed town official must resign inorder to accept a short term appointment? Why couldn't they do this concurrently? Since the Board of Selectmen can appoint this person, isn't this a means to remove someone from an elected office?
Rob Gianazza October 22, 2012 at 08:14 PM
More from Question 1c) C8-5. Special appropriations and transfers of appropriations. Many of these changes are associated with questions 6 & 7. The reference needs to be more specific in regards to 1c. C6-1 Should be better defined as what is attributable to Question 1c and Question 9f? Section C5-4 is not referenced, nor is it stricken. However it is frequently cited as the means for paying the Town Manager. Unless this language is stricken, the First Selectman can be paid any amount deemed by the Annual Town Budget. C5-4 The First Selectman shall receive such compensation as may be determined by the approved Annual Town Budget.
Rob Gianazza October 22, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Final concerns. The CRC Final Report has changes in C4-12 and C9-1c that are not referenced on the ballot. I believe they should be associated to question 1a and question 4 respectively. Also, the CRC Final Report has the word "adequate" and the ballot has "Appropriate". What, if any, are the legal ramifications of these omissions?
Steven DeVaux October 22, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Look at it another way, like Obamacare - if the language is so convoluted as to put the same face on a person as biting into a lemon....then the answer is it wasn't done right and should be dismissed as too complex. Great ideas are simple ones that need no great expository to explain. If you have to hold a tutorial as to how people want you governed, say no and make them start over again. The answer is simple, you don't have to 1) compromise 2)be insulted as incapable of understanding your government and 3) go to a public hearing to hear other peoples opinions. You are a child of the universe and you have an opinion. Express it in the privacy of the voting booth where the Delphi Technique can't be used on you.

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