Ending 20-month odyssey at the request of the City Council, the Charter Revision Commission ratified its final report in a special meeting held Monday night. The report now goes to the council, which will review it, and then schedule a referendum on the recommendations.
After spending two weeks deliberating over the recommendations put forth by the City Council, the CRC took positive action on a dozen of those motions, and included all or part of their requests. The rest were either not allowed by statute on already part of the proposal in some manner,
”I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome,” said Edward Granfield, the commission chairman. “As we prepared the final draft, in the end, the majority of the City Council’s recommendations were worthy of discussion and inclusion.”
On Sept. 27 the CRC will submit the final report to the City C through the City Clerk’s Office. At that point the clock starts ticking for the council. It has 15 days to call a special meeting to decide the fate of the report: adopt and send it to the people for the vote, or reject it. The body cannot modify it, but it does have the option to extract components the panel might not like.
Granfield has strongly advised against that option because of the inter-related nature of the recommended plan.
”That would be a dangerous scenario,” he said. “So much of the proposal is integrated throughout the new charter, extracting, for example Section 2 Item 1, could/would affect a half dozen other items and sections. Attempting to do so without a comprehensive understanding of the cause and effect of that action could cripple city government instead of improving it.”
Granfield and his commission did not make changes that were cosmetic, according to the chairman, but completely altered the way the city would do business if accepted.
“This effort was not your simple every day charter revision exercise, our proposal is a comprehensive restructuring of city government. West Haven has been operating under the same model for almost 60 years, with basically the same results and common complaints heard over and over again,” Granfield said.
Politicians have promised change and a better way of doing things for decades, according to Granfield, and it was time to put together a plan that would force changes to be made.
“The promise of change takes place every two years, but never becomes reality,” said Granfield. “The Charter Revision Commission took it upon itself to bring forth a bold new initiative supported by facts and figures from successful communities similar to ours from all over the country including right here in Connecticut. For those Westies looking for a real change, this is as good as it’s ever going to get.”
Once the report is filed with the City Clerk’s office, the work of the commission ceases by law. Though it will no longer have standing as a body, Granfield, along with his other members have made it clear they intend to watch how the process proceeds.
Here are some of the major alterations in the proposal:
* Appoint a professional City Manager to run the day to day business operations of the city;
* Re-configure the city council to 12 members with three voting districts; the job of the mayor is reduced to part-time, but still elected citywide, who then becomes voting member 13 and the legislative leader of the City Council;
* Change the Board of Education to a district based format, with nine members from the three voting districts, no more at-large only;
* Four (4) year terms for all elected officials;
* Add professional qualifications as a requirement (credentials) to the City Charter for all appointed department heads.
* Change three current elected positions to appointed, due to the professional credentials required for each position: City Clerk, Tax Collector, City Treasurer:
* Recognize ERS as a city department (it is not outlined in the current charter);
* Empower an independent city ethics and charter compliance commission with oversight authority;
* Updated dozens of outdated clauses, provisions , and language within the charter in order to improve city operations.