By Ed Granfield
Former CRC Chairman
The Charter Revision Education Committee has been very pleased by the feedback received from the public both pro and con. The dialog has been steady and thoughtful, and we hope our responses have been helpful. That said, I stand by my previous concerns about misinformation being posted on social media platforms. They can quickly dominate public opinion and potentially influence a voter’s decision on Election Day.
In a true/false format, these are a few examples that were brought to our attention:
Comment: The city is trying to slide this by us, there has been no public input, no transparency
Response: False! This effort began in April 2018 and ended in October 2019. During that time there were four public hearings, 28 public meetings, a dozen press releases, and quite a bit of debate on social media. By the time the City Council ratified the final report, the deadline for the November 2019 ballot had passed, hence the long delay.
Comment: This report has been a clandestine effort to increase Republican seats on the City Council.
Response: False! This bi-partisan volunteer commission did not spend 18 months, hundreds of hours per member researching, debating and designing a new city charter with dozens of updates and legal changes in support of sweeping reforms, all over the addition of two (2) minority party seats on the City Council.
Comment: One of the hidden agendas within the report is to privatize or close city departments like Public Works.
Response: False! There was no such discussion along these lines at any time, a quick review of the minutes of our meetings will verify that. We did build in some flexibility and updated the management structure of the city. We also added industry standard credentials for all city department leaders.
Comment: The CRC and the City Council wants to shut down the public libraries.
Response: False! If adopted, the new City Charter will increase the level of scrutiny and accountability of all city departments and affiliated organizations. At no time was there an effort to specifically target any one individual, city department, or affiliated organizations like the Village Improvement Association. All of these claims are baseless and should be ignored.
A City Charter is not an all-encompassing, perfect document. It is the foundation or blueprint of how a community has chosen to govern itself and manage its business. So much of what takes place in City Hall is mandated by State or Federal statutes, it would be impossible to document every contingency within this proposal.
Our current Charter has been tweaked over the years, but it is 60 years old. The City of West Haven has changed so much economically and demographically since our incorporation in 1960, but our current Charter remains a relic from the past.
While change is inevitable, it is also a difficult process, especially in a close-knit community like West Haven. It is discussed often and openly, but when proposed, is rarely embraced. This proposal, if adopted, will bring about significant change in how our city functions.
At the heart of this proposal is the addition of a Certified Professional City Manager. This concept is not new, many communities in Connecticut and across the country operate with a City Manager. This person is educated, trained, and experienced in municipal operations, by all accounts a specialist. He/she would be an employee of the city and would report to the Mayor and City Council.
The CRC discussed this issue for weeks and conducted hundreds of hours of research on this topic. But don’t take our word for it, take a look at Manchester (pop. 58,000). They have an elected mayor, West Haven native Jay Moran (D), an elected legislative body that Mayor Moran serves on, and a duly-appointed city manager who reports to the elected legislative body. If you have any doubts about our opinion on this format, reach out the City of Manchester and find out for yourself how this system is working out for them.
Twenty-first century governing requires accountability, flexibility, and ingenuity for cities like West Haven to succeed. As complex as this proposal appears, in the end it all boils down to a fundamental choice: Protect the status quo or embrace real change.
We can spend another sixty (60) years discussing change or we can vote on it. Once again, the CRC Education Committee hopes you visit the website www.whcharter.org. Review the PowerPoint or watch the live presentation. Study the final report, or breeze through the FAQ’s. And by all means, submit any questions you may have for the Committee, we will do our very best to respond. On Nov. 3, we ask everyone, pro or con, to make an informed decision based on the facts of the matter, not hearsay. In the end, I think we can all live with that.