For the next several months, the newly installed Charter Revision Commission will sift through the city’s “constitution” and determine if any changes are necessary. The commission, approved by the City Council via a binding resolution earlier this year, has until July 2019 to complete its final report.
In an unusual turn of events, the nine-member panel made up of five Democrats and four Republicans, chose Republican Edward Granfield as chairman. Granfield and Democrat John Carrano had been mentioned as the possible leaders, but in the voce, Carrano ceded his support to the Republican. The vote was 7-0 with Republican Commissioner David Riccio absent, and Granfield abstaining.
Following the vote for chairman, Iris Diaz was nominated and approved as vice-chairman by an 8-0 vote. Diaz is a former member of the Allingtown Fire Commission and served as its chairman.
Granfield set the tone for what he hopes will be the way the commission works over the next several months. He knows sitting members of the administration, including Mayor Nancy Rossi and Council Chairman Ronald Quagliani (D-at-large) have offered their own suggestions and will do so formally during the process, but he wants the public to be a part of the deliberative process.
”The first step is to gather feedback from the public. Then we’ll move on to elected officials, department heads, then the business, political and community leaders as we get further in the process,” Granfield said.
A public hearing is in the works, where ideas from residents will be offered and put on the docket for discussion.
Granfield’s major concern is keeping political influence to a minimum.
“My job as chairman is first and foremost to insure and protect the integrity of the process. Any attempt to politically influence our efforts will be met head on,” he said.
Granfield, who served on the City Council as its minority member in the early 2000s has been out of city politics for more than a decade, dabbling in some state issues for the state GOP, and seeking a state assembly seat as his most recent attempt at politics.
“Otherwise, I’ve stayed out of the fray,” he said.
He credits Carrano for his accession to the chairmanship, saying the Democrat had been working behind the scenes to make it happen.
The unprecedented move has been cited by some as a reason this charter revision attempt may be different than its predecessors, where politicians attempt to commandeer the process.
The election of Granfield is also a manifestation of the fractured nature of the city’s Democratic Party. The factionalism that sees the party broken into three warring camps made the election of a party outsider necessary.
Several issues will confront the panel over the next 16 months. A revamping of the terms of office for the mayor has been suggested, from two to four years, as well as term limits for mayors and council members.
Other ideas are expected when the commission sets its public hearing. Once the commission sifts through the matters up for consideration, a report will be issued to the City Council, and specific changes offered.
The questions will be addressed by the council and then put on the ballot in November 2019 for approval by the voters. The changes take effect once the new administration is sworn in the following December.