Charter Revision panel needs to answer a simple query
The Charter Revision Commission conducted its organizational meeting last week, and if the first meeting is any indication of the path the panel is taking, we might see the first real revision of the city’s working document in our history. This isn’t the first charter revision attempt, but it might be the most independent. We hope so.
The biggest story to come out of the meeting was the election of former Republican Councilman Edward Granfield as chairman. Let that sentence sink in: “former Republican Councilman Edward Granfield.”
In a city that sees most every act as a matter of politics, whether one has a “D” next to one’s name or an “R” has been the difference between utilizing talent or letting it sit on the sidelines. The irony here is the current political climate is the reason for such a move.
Prior to last week’s meeting, Granfield’s name was pushed not only by Democrats in support of the Rossi administration, but by those in opposition. The tripartite factions of the city’s ruling party are so distrustful of each other that no common candidate could be agreed upon, paving the way for Granfield.
This is a situation that will be advantageous toward the goal of charter revision. The committee has taken a step toward its own independence from the pressures that will certainly be exerted upon it by politicians of all stripes. This committee must move on those revisions it believes will be in the public interest and in the smoother operation of the city’s business.
Over the last several attempts at charter revision the process was taken over by politicians and changes that would have been beneficial to the city – but not the political classes – were left out of the final report or never got out of committee.
Granfield and the committee have made it their goal to keep the influence of those in power in check. They have said so publicly and we hope that remains the case. But influence cannot be exerted from other outside forces, either.
In its recent meeting the Municipal Accountability Review Board broached the subject of consolidation of the city’s three fire departments. While a case can be made that one department might be more efficient or cheaper – arguments that have been made in decades past – the issue of consolidation is not and cannot be one of the Charter Revision Commission without the consent of the voters in the districts. The commission cannot by fiat will consolidation into existence. We’re not sure the MARB understands that.
Also, the city’s financial situation is not such that it should be looking to put yet another service under its auspices. Yes, tax money that is collected for the West Shore and Center fire districts will go to the city, but the concurrent costs are massive. Does the city really want to take on more financial responsibility during a time it is looking to save not dollars but pennies? We think not.
The work of the Charter Revisions Commission is to listen to all voices, come up with reasonable and responsible changes to the document, and put those matters before the voters by July, 2019, when it makes its final report. The voters will then decide on Election Day what questions pass and what does not.
Politicians, agencies, department heads, and the public all have a role to play in the matters to be considered over the next 16 months. The Charter Revision Commission is charged with listening to all sides.
We urge the members to follow the example they set last week by keeping their independence during the process. Some will attempt to exert pressure. Some may attempt to push the process in a certain direction.
The question simple: what is best for the city and the residents, and how can we make the city run better?
Anything that strays from that question should be rejected.