Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Why Voting Is Important: Charter Revision - VOTE YES

There are two Charter Revision Questions on the ballot this election A bipartisan Charter Revision Commission met over the course of eight months to consider changes that needed to be made. 

 The Commission met with city leaders, residents and leaders from other communities who had dealt with similar issues. Let's consider both questions. 

 QUESTION ONE: Shall the Charter be revised and reorganized to facilitate public understanding and access to local government by instituting: (a) clear standards of ethical conduct for local officials; (b) uniform procedures enhancing board and commission operations; (c) greater accountability and standards of compensation in the budget process; (d) nonpartisan council leader positions; and, (e) equal employment opportunities? 

 A lot is packed into this question. Much of it is cleaning up old terms that are no longer used, and making sure that the charter reflects the way city government operates now, and will operate into the future. There are some specific changes to consider that are new and different in this charter. There are new ethics regulations, and methods for removing city officials who are convicted of serious wrongdoing. There are stronger and broader regulations for hiring people who might not otherwise have access to city positions. There are term limits on appointed commission seats to open up the potential for involbement to more residents. The position of City Treasurer will be eliminated after the current term because the commission came to understand that the duties of the treasurer when the position was first established, are now handled by other city employees and departments. Also, the leadership structure of the Common Council will change as leaders will now be elected by the membership of the Council (as happens on the Planning and Zoning Commmission for example), and those leaders will be called Council President, and President Pro Tem. Finally rules for submitting budgets will require that all voting members, and the public will have advance knowledge of budget items and adjustments before they are voted upon. 

We urge you to vote YES on QUESTION ONE to move Middletown strongly into the future.

Question Two deals with the relationship between the city and the Board of Education. 

 QUESTION TWO: Shall the Charter be revised to transfer hiring and supervision responsibilities for custodians, secretarial and cafeteria staff, tradespersons, central office staff, and other employees who do not require State Board of Education certification at Middletown Public Schools from the Mayor to the Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools? 

 Today, the mayor is responsible for hiring all non-certified (non-education-related) positions at the Board of Education. That means whether the BOE wants to hire custodians, cafeteria workers, school secretaries or the director of Human Resources, it's the mayor, and not the BOE who has the final say. We acknowledge that with the current administrative issues in town that some voters might be reluctant to give more power to the. However, this charter change will not only apply to the current administration and BOE, but to all in the future. At the core of the sometimes debilitating strife between the BOE and the city is the inability for the BOE to hire the staff they need, and want to have the ability to choose, in a timely manner. This charter revision will give them that ability. The city's education unions have opposed this change, seeing it as an attempt to split the unions. However, the unions will retain the ultimate power of organizing their unions that they have now through their collective bargaining agreements. In addition the union membership will retain their participation in the city pension plan, and will be eligible for city benefits. 

We urge you to vote YES on QUESTION TWO to end the decades-old conflicts between the city and the BOE.

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