Democratic First Selectman candidate Mary Beth Thornton’s position on charter revision—that the current process is fatally flawed and should be voted down, could not have been made clearer than it was on Monday, when a forum on the topic was sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
In the forum, three Republican supporters of the proposed revisions claimed that opponents of the process don’t trust voters to make key decisions, and that the document hands more power to the residents of town.
This is not true. The Thornton team and all opponents of the revision as currently drafted oppose the sloppy and poorly-thought through provisions. They oppose the budget referendum as written, which could cause financial chaos for the town. What’s more, the explanatory text, which accompanies the document to absentee-ballot voters and others, is similarly riddled with errors and understates the sweeping nature of many of the provisions.
The process was doomed from the beginning when First Selectman Tim Herbst chose to create an imbalanced Commission with four Republicans and two Democrats. Then, the Commission went too far in proposing sweeping changes in the make-up of government. In making those changes, the Commission failed to articulate its reasoning in a timely fashion. The public was not sufficiently engaged in the process and the Commission has done only the minimum with respect to communication with the public. The document now likely to go to the voters is riddled with errors and inconsistencies and may violate state statute because of lapses in following the state-mandated process and timetable.
The Thornton team supports sensible, limited charter revision, including the following:
- Liberalizing the current referendum requirements for the annual budget but rejection of the current recommendations of the Commission, in that they are confusing, serve no real purpose, are expensive and the results will not reflect the will of the people, but rather, of the well financed and organized few.
- The make-up of any commission should be non-partisan, so that compromise can be reached and even the appearance of partisan politics is removed.
- Actively engaging the public in the process to ensure that they are fully informed.
- Clearly explaining the reasoning behind any recommendations and putting such explanations in writing and making them available before every public hearing.
The Thornton team believes First Selectman Herbst has failed the community with respect to the charter revision process for the following reasons:
- He appointed an unbalanced Commission in direct contravention to prior practice and of his promise to act in a bi-partisan manner on this subject.
- He failed to publicly articulate any position on the more radical proposals of the Commission.
- The Commission put forth radical ideas as part of the process that Mr. Herbst sanctioned. These radical ideas are outlined in the Democratic members’ Minority Report.
- He failed the public by not insisting on a more open and transparent process rather than accepting the bare minimum.
- He failed the community when, as a candidate, he neglected to articulate the scope of changes he was willing to accept.
- He failed the community by not demanding a clear and timely explanation for the Commission’s reasoning.
Approved by Mary Beth Thornton and
the 2011 Thornton Team