The proposed overhaul of the city’s charter, the document that outlines how the municipal government operates, went down to defeat on Nov. 3, with more than 14,000 votes cast on the question. Final totals published by City Clerk Patricia Horvath certified 7, 621 opposed the changes, while 7,182 were in favor.
The proposal put forth by the Charter Revision Commission was a dramatic alteration of the municipal make-up. It would have changed the city from a Mayor-Council form of government to a City Manager-Council, with most of the day-to-day operation going to the manager, while the mayor would become chairman of the council.
Other changes included adding professional certification for many city officials, while consolidating the city’s 10 council districts into three, with four representatives for each district.
Though the report from the CRC was filed in the summer of 2019, the City Council decided to postpone the vote on the question until the Presidential Election date, thus saving the financially strapped city money for a special election.
The matter lay dormant until this summer, when an Education Committee attempted to reintroduce the changes to the public via on-line sessions and a presentation outlining them.
Though the alterations received mixed reviews originally, a concerted effort by a group called Concerned Citizens of West Haven mounted an anti-proposal effort. The group charged the alterations would cause voters to “lose their vote.”
Former CRC Chairman Ed Granfield and his Majority Leader John Carrano attempted to explain the proposal in several columns. The two were especially frustrated by what they believed was a misinformation campaign with many myths. Among the “myths” was the allegation the new charter would revamp the departments and eliminate positions. Both tried to counter that claim.
In the end, the negative publicity gave the anti-charter group the margin of victory.