The West Haven Charter Revision Education and Outreach Committee has begun its public education effort regarding the Charter Revision question on this years ballot. There is a web site ( www.whcharter.org) voters can go to and review the final report, along with written excerpts from the power point report, and the live video feed of that presentation made at the July 1 2019 public hearing. In addition there is a Q&A drop box within the site that interested voters can submit questions and receive a response from a committee member.
Restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, limited resources ,and the shift towards mail in voting by A/B that begins in early October have forced the committee to adjust its approach and timelines of this effort. In addition to the website there will be a bi weekly ad campaign along with a city wide mailing on the issue. The following FAQ are also posted on the website for your review ( www.whcharter.org )Frequently Asked Questions
Why bring in a city manager? A city manager is an educated and experienced professional trained in all aspects of municipal operations. A certified C/M is an employee who reports to and is accountable to the Mayor and the City Council.
Do we still elect a mayor? Yes. Under the new format the Mayor is still elected city wide by the voters and becomes the leader of the City Council.
Why change to (4) year terms? It takes years to bring about significant change in any community. Elected officials serving two (2) year terms spend half their time and efforts campaigning for the next term. This tends to force our elected officials to concentrate on the short-term instead of the long-term health of the city.
Why restructure the city council and the voting districts? To better serve every citizen within the entire community. Three (3) large districts with four (4) representatives per district creates a powerful voting block on the City Council. A lone Council member in our current micro-district format can easily be isolated, ignored, or dismissed. An elected group of four (4) from the same district cannot. The days of any one area of town feeling neglected or ignored would be over. The new format includes a majority/minority party requirement that is legally governed by state statute.
Would this change in our district voting system affect the board of education? Yes and No. It would not affect the current 9 member format or the majority/minority party requirements currently in place. However under the new format, each voting district would now elect three of its own representatives that would serve in consecutive terms instead of the current staggered term at-large only set up. This way every school has three representatives on the BOE to call upon who reside within their respective district, and no one area of town can be left out of the educational decision making process.
Why are you changing the tax collector, city clerk, and treasurer to appointed positions? These positions have evolved over the years and now require a specific skill set in order to meet the industry standards of excellence. This requires a level of training and education in order to be certified in those respective fields. In Connecticut it is illegal to require credentials for candidates to run for elected office hence the change.
What does it mean to require professional credentials for all city department heads? The response is similar to FAQ # 6. All city department leaders require a specific background in order to meet the industry standards of excellence. We added this requirement to the city charter to ensure those standards are met when hiring/promoting someone for one of these key positions in city government.
What does the creation of an “independent ethics and compliance commission” mean to me? It means there will be an independent body, not tied to any city, political, or elected body that is responsible for the oversight of our city’s code of ethics along with compliance of the city charter. As a commission, they will have the authority, within a limited scope, to take appropriate action if deemed necessary, on behalf of the citizens of West Haven. Any member of this body can only serve for one term and cannot be re-appointed to the position. The expectation is that this person is doing what is right by the city, not doing just what they believe will get them reappointed.
What will the city manager cost? The average salary for city managers in the state of CT is approximately $150,000/year. However, with the new savings built into the charter, the additional cost is estimated to be $20,000. This is before any cost savings initiatives, consolidations, implementation of “best practices” etc., that would certainly be a large part of the city manager’s objectives.
Will a city manager be required to live in West Haven? This decision was intentionally left up to the City Council to handle on a case by case basis. Since this position will require an employment contract, the CRC believed the City Council should have a level of flexibility in this matter. A residency mandate defined with the charter could significantly hinder the city`s ability to recruit a top flight candidate for the positions.
Why wasn’t this proposal broken up into individual ballot questions? This is a (60) sixty year old document that over the years has barely been tweaked. The CRC took a comprehensive page by page, paragraph by paragraph approach that included thousands of research hours, including conversations with other communities all across the country by its members. There are a lot of sweeping changes being proposed that if adopted require hundreds of subtle changes within the charter in support of those changes in order for it all to work and flow together. Pull out one critical component and five can be affected. In addition there were a number of legal changes that were long overdue to be updated due to changes in the state and federal statutes over the years. The City Council along with the City`s legal team deliberated extensively on this issue but decided in the end it was too comprehensive to break up, making the single question format the best choice.