Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Charter Revision Referendum Questions At Common Council Tonight

The Common Council will vote tonight on very important revisions to the Charter that determines how our city is governed.  The ultimate decision on Charter revisions is made by voters in a referendum in November, the Council is the gate keeper, it determines what questions residents will be able to vote on. The resolution before the Council does not follow all of the recommendations of the Charter Revision Commission.

A Council-appointed Charter Revision Commission held six public meetings to discuss the Charter, it discussed 29 possible changes, and recommended 14 (draft report). The Council gave feedback to the Commission, rejecting some of its recommended changes and recommending one of its rejected changes.

The Commission has now reconsidered those Council recommendations, and submitted its final report. The report includes the following substantial changes to our governance:

  • Mayor's Term: 4 years (it is currently 2) (this was widely supported on the Commission and the Council)
  • Council's Term: 4 years (currently 2) (this received only very narrow support on the Commission and the Council)
  • Eliminate Treasurer as an elected position (this was the only question that generated wide-spread public opposition, it was rejected by the Council, but remains in the final report)
  • Increase Mayor's salary to $100,000 per year, and add Tax Shelter Annuity of $15,000
  • Raise Council's borrowing limit to $1M
In its final report, the Commission explicitly recommended that the first two questions be separated on the ballot. They did so because the level of support for each was so different.

The Resolution that the Council will vote on tonight separates the questions in a different manner than was recommended by the Commission:

  • “Shall the Charter be amended to provide for a term of four years for the following elected officials of the City of Middletown: the Mayor, Common Council, Treasurer, Board of Assessment Appeals and Registrars of Voters?
    YES NO"
  • “Shall the Charter be amended to raise the bond limit for which the Common Council can approve spending without going to referendum to $1,000,000?
    YES NO”
  • “Shall all other amendments to the Charter as stated in the Final Report of the Charter Revision Commission and adopted by the Council at its September 2, 2014 meeting be approved?
    YES NO”
The proposed first question does not give voters the option of changing the Mayor's term without also changing the terms for all of the other elected officials (even if it passes, elections would still need to be held every 2 years, as the Planning and Zoning Commission, and Board of Education, members are required to have staggered terms by state law).

This proposed third question does NOT make the changes obvious to voters, and it combines several different types of changes into an "...all other amendment to the Charter as stated..." category. One received general support but is a categorically new item for the Charter (the Mayor's salary is not currently set by the Charter and this would increase it), one was met with public opposition (the elimination of the Treasurer as an elected position), and the others might be considered technical ("City Attorney" would now be called "General Counsel", there would be only 3 polling places for off-year elections to the Board of Ed and P&Z, etc). 

The Council meets at 7PM in Council Chambers, City Hall. There is a public hearing at the beginning of the meeting, at which all residents may speak. 


Anonymous said...

I suppose those three polling places would be most advantageous to the democrat in the race - ie district where they do well-

Dan said...

Spending $100,000 on the Mayor position?, I think for the benefit of the town it would be wiser to hire a professional City Manager.

To spend that amount of money a popular vote position, which requires no past education or experience on running a town is very short sighted.

Anonymous said...

Well said Dan. Compensation levels have no place in a Charter.