By Josh LaBella
The City Council tried to navigate its way through the changes suggested by the Charter Revision Commission in meetings last Wednesday and Thursday.
The major changes seen in the revision will require approval or further recommendations from the city’s legislative body. The responsibility will then transfer back to the commission, who will submit a final draft for approval back to the City Council. Then it will be voted on a final time and sent to the state for approval.
If the state approves it, the city will put the changes on a ballot. It is not likely residents will see the revised charter on November’s ballot.
“There is an incredible amount of work that needs to be done for the council to do its due diligence,” said Council Chairman Ronald Quagliani. “It’s quite possible it won’t be on November’s ballot.”
While there are a number of changes in the revision, the main three are the ones the council debated the most. The addition of a city manager, extension of terms from two years to four, and the reduction of voting districts from ten to three are central parts of the commission’s recommendations.
Frequently, all roads led back to the addition of a city manager. Several council members said they wanted the city manager to either be a West Haven resident or for it to be mandated that the person hired for the position to be required to move to the city.
Commission member John Carrano said that was the most controversial issue the body discussed, but they decided not to include that in writing so as to not limit the applicant pool. He said for that reason they gave the council the ability to create the employment contract.
Third District Councilman Aaron Charney said he was concerned adding that provision would limit the pool of applicants. He added that the position is central to the new charter.
“The most important issue, which we should have tackled first but didn’t, is the City Manager,” said Charney. “This provision impacts a lot of other charter provisions. If the council would recommend its removal, which I feel would be unwise, then the council would have to make significant changes everywhere else.”
Quagliani asked Carrano about the commission’s rationale for switching government types – saying that even if it was to avoid political decision making, the manager would still need to bring their proposals to a very political body.
“It’s time for a professional,” said Carrano. “We are under state control for a second time. This isn’t Sim City. People go to school to run a city; there aren’t a lot of them.”
Carrano said it was clear that something was not working so the commission is trying to give the city something that does.
The council spent the time asking questions to Carrano and, occasionally, Commission Chairman Ed Granfield. They also had Corporation Counsel Craig Sullivan sit in on the meeting to answer any legal questions. The council requested data which supported the recommendations the commission made.
Quagliani said the topic was very complicated and took the commission a year to work on.
“I am fine if tonight is just a question and answer,” said Quagliani, adding this was not something they should rush. “I’m okay with getting our feet wet.”
In a series of articles, the commission has attempted to lay out its case for the structural changes it proposes. This week it is calling upon the council to put the block of changes before the voters in November as one question (See page 5).
The chairman, Ed Granfield, and majority leader, John Carrano penned a column this week saying they understand the council’s treading lightly because of the state-mandated deadlines, but to postpone the vote will cost the taxpayers money and not be good for the process.
“The CRC remains steadfast in its support of our proposal,” Granfield and Carrano wrote. “The legal review is complete, the back and forth between the two committees will be opinion based but can potentially kick the can down the road far enough that this may not be on the November ballot. Whether you may love it, hate it, or you may not be sure about it, this proposal is ready to go and in our opinion its fate should be decided by the voters in November.”