The former chairman and chief proponent of the Charter Revision Commission’s proposal, set for vote Nov. 3, has come out swinging to those who are spreading disinformation concerning the panel’s review of the city charter, and the revisions it has put on the ballot.
Edward Granfield, who served a chairman of the CRC, recently resigned as head of the City Council’s Charter Education Committee because he believed the position hampered his ability to defend the 18 months of work put in by the panel.
Voted by the City Council in early 2017, the commission finished its review of the charter, the documents by which the municipality does its business, and handed off its final report in the summer of 2018. The council reviewed the document, and determined to put it before the voters in the 2020 election, as a means of saving money.
Over the summer, the council formed an Education Committee to review with voters the recommendations as outlined in the question on the ballot. Since then, opponents have attempted to spread what is seen as disinformation in an attempt to scare the public into voting the measure down.
As a member of the committee, he was constrained by the city to be “neutral” in how he would defend the commission’s recommendations. He determined to resign two weeks ago, to “unshackle” is defense of the documents.
“Perfect strangers walk up to me singing its (the revision’s) praises. But I cannot stand by shackled by an impartiality agreemen,t while detractors confuse voters with incorrect and inflammatory statements. As chairman of the Ed committee I was limited in my ability to respond, as an ordinary citizen I am free to respond accordingly. I did pledge to the members that I would continue to assist John Carrano, the majority leader of the CRC in handling the Q&A on the education website (whcharter.org) if they wish and promised to remain impartial when doing so,” he said..
According to Granfield, he has been approached at coffee shops and other places and told about things that are not in the revision.
Those incorrect provisions include staffing cuts (there is not provision), loss of representation and votes (the revision calls for three districts with four representatives each, rather than the current 10); hiring a city manager, while reducing the mayor’s role to chairman of the City Council, and professional certification of department heads, which will be accomplished by attrition; and redesigning the Board of Education similar to the council..
The supposed loss of representation that galls Granfield.
“Instead of one representative, the voter gets to choose four. What’s wrong with that?” he asks.
One change would make one of the four a minority candidate, giving the minority party at least three on the council. The current charter allows for only one. This has been a problem for years, as single minority reps cannot get a second on any motion to allow for discussion of issues.
Granfield says the effort to inform the public and hold off detractors is hampered by a combination of the decision to stall the vote until 2020, and the effects of the pandemic, limiting access to the public.
“This is probably the most comprehensive charter revision proposal in West Haven history, we understand that, and believe me in a perfect world this would have happened last November or this Spring, but it didn’t for the two reasons already stated. When the City Council unanimously ratified the report in October 2019, two clocks started ticking: the first belongs to the state government. Once the report was ratified, by law the city only has so much time to send it to the people for a vote. The second clock belongs to the city: The longer we put off this vote of, the shorter the window of implementation becomes if it passes, since the majority of the proposed changes will go into effect at the November 2021 election cycle,” he said.
Meanwhile, social media has been a problem in the disinformation campaign, according to Granfield, who sees outright untruths passed off as provisions in the charter revision.
“I was limited as Chairman of the Ed Committee in my ability to respond in order to set the record straight. I wish to add that I have no problem whatsoever with folks who, after learning about the proposal decide it’s not for them, based on the facts But I cannot stand by shackled by an impartiality agreement while detractors confuse voters with incorrect and inflammatory statements.” he said..
Grandfield thanked the administration for allowing himself and his committee to do the work needed on the charter revision.
He says he realized the decision will be made by the voters. But, he wants that decision to based on what the documents actually says, not by opponents who are looking to maintain the status quo with scare tactics.