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Trumbull Resident: No to Charter Changes

by Tracey Lapore

To the Editor:

I am writing to urge voters to Just Vote No on the proposed Trumbull charter revisions. The revision process has been flawed from the start.  The Herbst administration insisted on seating a partisan commission, which proceeded to propose 175 changes to our town’s governing document. Many of those changes were drastic and not what anyone reasonably anticipated. In fact, several Town Council members, from both parties, have stated that if they knew the charter revision commission would propose so many alarming changes, they would not have voted for charter revision in the first place!

Although the Charter Revision Commission spent quite a lot of time on the proposed revision, it failed to comply with state statutes and did not provide comments on its proposed changes. This made it extremely difficult for the public and the Town Council to understand why so many of the changes were needed. For the Commission to fail to follow state statutes is just unacceptable.  The proposed revisions also contained so many typographical errors and other errors that the Town Council had to spend hours just fixing typos—hours that it should have spent focusing on the substance of the revisions. The resulting document, which comes before the voters on Election Day, contains errors, inconsistencies, and provisions that could lead to legal challenges. Is that good for our town?  Why wasn’t this done the right way?

Now the voters are faced with three charter revision questions on the ballot. Do the voters have even a basic understanding of the changes that are presented for their vote?  I think the answer is No. These changes have not been adequately explained to voters to enable them to make an educated decision as to whether these changes are good for Trumbull. The revisions change the term of office of the Board of Education, how we vote for Town Council members, and even how we determine our annual budget. Referendum procedures have been changed so that a very small minority of voters can overturn just about any decision that is made in town. These changes are far too drastic and sweeping, and voters have not been given sufficient information for them to fully grasp how the basic governance of Trumbull will be changed.

The answer to all this is simple: Just Vote No on charter revision on Nov. 8!

Tracey Lepore

Trumbull

Ennis B October 13, 2011 at 09:18 PM
Also--to the charter scholars out there, Is there a threshold number of "yes" votes needed to pass this dud?
Tiredof October 13, 2011 at 09:35 PM
I love how democrats say they are not informed there are 3 weeks before an election there is no reason you can't get informed. To the blinded Democrats on this tread....will the charter provide oversight on projects in excess of 500k...meaning there needs to be a bid process in order to win a project....where today no such thing exsists? or how about allowing the people of Trumbull to vote on the budget. YOu woudl say no to enpowering the voters of Trumbull?
J Strouse October 13, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Tiredof - I agree with you. I will try to learn as much about it as I can so that I can make an informed decision and vote yes or no accordingly. But if I don't take it upon myself to do that... I should abstain from voting...I think that is the morally right decision in this case. Thank you.
Joan October 13, 2011 at 11:56 PM
I don't think something as important as revising our town charter should be partisan, pitting Democrats vs. Republicans. We're all living in this town, under this charter, together. I think the First Selectman showed poor judgment in making this a partisan issue by not balancing the makeup of the charter revision committee.
Bill Holden October 14, 2011 at 12:31 AM
For all who want to vote "NO" or complain about the commission makeup because the commission had 4 members from one party and 2 members from the other party, look at the 1981 Charter. You'll see that it was a six member commission with FOUR DEMOCRATS and TWO REPUBLICANS. There was no bickering in the recent commission. There were some differences in opinion (and I had them with members of my party and expressed them openly at meetings...everyone did). Every member of the recent commission has been around long enough to know that no attempt should be made to favor an incumbent or challenger, because roles are subject to change each election. Among the six members of the commission there were about 150 years of collective experience dealing with one version or another of Trumbull's Charter.
Joan October 14, 2011 at 01:08 AM
Good to know. Thanks.
Kathleen McGannon October 14, 2011 at 01:48 AM
Bill, I would hope that we would have learned something in thirty years. Some of the BOF's best work was done with a 3-3 make-up. I was proud of the level of compromise we were able to effect with a 3-3 board. Passed a budget each time! It forces a level of compromise that would not otherwise exist--no matter which party was in "control". Perhaps 1981 should not be looked at as a shining example. Since I was not here, how many, and how sweeping, were the changes made in 1981?
J Strouse October 14, 2011 at 02:01 AM
Joan, I agree. But I get the sense that I'm being told to vote No only b/c this was a Republican initiative. And I hate that. I also hate that I'm being told to vote No due to spelling and punctuation errors. Instead, tell me why substantively the Charter revisions are not good for this town. Again, I don't know enough... And that's my own fault. But I think at some point, we have to rely on the people of this town to determine on their own, based on the merits of the proposed changes, whether a Yes or No vote is warranted. Simply voting No for the sake of voting No makes no sense to me, is morally lacking, and reeks of political game playing. And frankly, I am tired of the political nonsense in this town. So to my fellow citizens who hopefully love this town as much as I do... don't vote NO just b/c you're being told to vote No. If you care about it, research it; ask questions; inform yourself. Then, and only then, cast your vote. Whether you vote No or Yes, at least you'll know that your vote was informed and honest. Thank you, Trumbull. Good night.
Bill Holden October 14, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Kathy, 1981 was the year I started my involvement in local government. I don't know how many changes were made to the Charter that year. The only major change I am familiar with (which doesn't mean it was the only one) was granting the first selectman veto authority over the budget. I don't even know how many changes are proposed in the Charter we will be voting on. Someone criticized me for not knowing that. Well, I didn't keep count, nor did I care how many changes were proposed. I tried to focus on the proposals, not the number of proposals, to make the Charter better; making local government more open to the voters (such as real elections for board of education and letting voters choose all Councilmenbers from their district). Everyone on the CRC compromised. However, compromise is not always laudable. Dedication to principle is at least as valid as compromise, often more so.
J Strouse October 14, 2011 at 02:22 AM
Well said, Bill. I wonder what life would have been like in 1981 if the Trumbull Patch existed then. I wonder how many Democrats would have cried foul over the 4 Ds to 2 Rs...I guess we'll never know.
Cindy Katske October 14, 2011 at 02:28 AM
The explanatory text that goes along with the ballot questions identifies 64 areas of change relating to the first ballot question, and then one change each for questions 2 and 3. That's 66 changes pointed out (not necessarily explained) in the explanatory text, and many of those comprise separate changes that are grouped together for convenience. Also, according to the minutes of the Charter Revision Commission meetings, 181 separate ideas for revisions were considered.
Kathleen McGannon October 14, 2011 at 02:41 AM
Bill, I think you know that I have a great deal of respect for your historical knowledge of this town as well as for your work as registrar of voters. I hope I always displayed that respect when you came to the Board of Finance. I do, however, disagree with what came forward for charter revision. Certainly not all of it, but the BOE change concerns me, and the thresholds for referendum. I have always believed that people should have a say in major projects. I do not have a problem with that. But the thresholds for petition and the thresholds for voter turnout are too low. One or the other needs to be higher. It should not have been as difficult n the last charter but should not be as easy in the proposed one. I have a gut felling that this revision did not turn out the way you would have liked it. :)
Bill Holden October 14, 2011 at 02:45 AM
Thank you Cindy for providing a realistic approximation of the number of changes, for those fixated on the number of changes rather than the substance of changes. As you know from attending several meetings, many proposals were "housekeeping" and "updating." If 181 ideas were considered, it wouldn't surprise me. Chairman Chiota tried to be as fair as anyone could be and made sure all ideas presented by the public were considered. Again, I didn't keep count, but a think a fair estimate of the public's proposals would be approximately 33% of all proposals. Your count of about 66 changes is far different than some claims we have seen of 150 and 175 changes, for whatever that's worth.
Bill Holden October 14, 2011 at 03:45 AM
Kathy, I think and hope you agree that we have displayed a mutual respect for one another. RE: the BoE proposal, we all agreed on each member elected at the same elecion for a two year term. "Continuity" was not a concern. (Presently 3 members are appointed by their political party to a 4 year term every 2 years-- staggered terms. If 6 people are willing to commit to a 4 year term, there would be 6 incumbents running each election and at least 3 of them would win. Our disagreement was over the "type" of majority limitation to provide for. The Republicans opted to follow state statute 9-167a while the Democrats preferred to allow no more than a bare majority. While the two differing positions only mean a POTENTIAL difference of one seat to the majority or minority party, there is a big difference in the choice afforded voters. The plan proposed allows any Party to nominate 5 candidates and each voter to vote for up to 7 candidates--10 candidates, 7 elected. Bare majority proposal would only allow 4 candidates per party & voters could only vote for 4--8 candidates , 7 elected, but voters only vote for 4. Several BoE statutes & each is different. Referendum need to be made easier--haven't had one since 1973ish. We didn't want them every month or every year. But the bar was too high. Where the bar is set is a personal judgement. We compromised where the bar should be.
Kathleen McGannon October 14, 2011 at 12:24 PM
Bill, We will have to agree to disagree on this one. Kathy
Kathleen McGannon October 14, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Somehow this didn't appear under your response to me. Not sure how to move it up!
Thomas Tesoro October 14, 2011 at 06:02 PM
The best way to empower the voters is to get them informed and involved. A Stacked partisan commission, virtually no citizen particiaption, virtually no citizen communication, possible violations of state law, a poorly presented product and questions that are at best vague. VOTE NO
Patty Sheehan October 14, 2011 at 06:32 PM
While I appreciate the time & effort that the CRC put in, in my opinion, the end result did not provide a clear and understandable document outlining: 1. What the current charter states ("what is") 2. What is proposed change 3. What difference or impact the proposed change will make Voting "yes" under these circumstances would be difficult, at best, for me.
I Love Trumbull October 14, 2011 at 06:48 PM
Patty, Please see the link below. It will answer all your questions that you asked above. http://www.trumbull-ct.gov/filestorage/7112/8075/Explanatory_text_of_proposed_Town_Charter_Revisions.pdf
Patty Sheehan October 14, 2011 at 10:06 PM
Thank you.
Cindy Katske October 14, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Unfortunately, the explanatory text doesn't provide what Patty is looking for. It says it provides "the intent and purpose" of the revisions, but it doesn't. For example, under "Intent and Purpose of Proposed Revisions," in one place it says, "The proposed revisions require the Town Treasurer to sign off on reimbursements to the First Selectman and the Superintendent of Public Schools." There is no statement of the intent or the purpose of the revision, rather, it's just a regurgitation of the proposed revision. What did the original provision say? Why does it need to be changed? Who knows? As an aside, this proposed revision may be contrary to CT law, because the BOE has exclusive jurisdiction over its budget. The law would arguably be violated if the Town Treasurer refused to sign off on a reimbursement to the Superintendent of Schools.
I Love Trumbull October 15, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Cindy and Tom, Please give the citizens of Trumbull a little more credit as to the level of intelligence. Cindy, Curious...What qualifications do you have when it comes to CT law? I know I don't have any. I rely on attorneys to give me legal opinion.
Cindy Katske October 15, 2011 at 12:48 AM
ILoveTrumbull, I am an attorney licensed to practice law in CT. Is that good enough for you?
Cindy Katske October 15, 2011 at 12:59 AM
I might add that my statement was not intended as a legal opinion. I was, however, disappointed that the attorney hired by the Charter Revision Commission did not respond to criticism that state statutes had not been followed. It was disappointing also as a citizen following the process to be denied written comments about the proposed revisions as called for in the statutes. With the magnitude of changes proposed, it became very clear why the statutes require such comments to be made with each report by the Cimmission.
TrumbullProgressive October 15, 2011 at 02:26 AM
J, people are not saying vote NO just b/c you're being told to vote No. It is very simple. The CRC did not follow state statutes. They were told they were not following state statutes. They ignored this fact and they still have not followed state statutes. It is mind boggling that we are looking at 66 changes to our town constitution with no explanation of why each change was proposed and what effect it will have. So don't vote No because someone told you to vote No. Vote No because the CRC failed in it's duty to follow the state law. Let's start over and this time let's follow the law. If we do, then the public will have a fighting chance to evaluate the proposals being put forth. Without this, only a small minority of voters will have sufficient knowledge to cast a vote and abstaining will only give outsized power to those who had a specific political agenda on this issue from the start. Send a message: JUST VOTE NO!
Bill Holden October 15, 2011 at 03:09 AM
http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Trumbull-charter-changes-explained-2166360.php Copy & past the above for an independent review of the the present charter & proposed changes. The reporter went through both documents line-by-line with fromer CRC member Russ Friedson and had the Democrate members of the CRC, Jim Cordone & Paul Timpanelli review her explanations for accuracy and objectivity. Note that the Democrats of the Commission only mentioned two concerns. One was whether an inflation related "trigger" regarding a referendum petition could withstand a legal challenge. The other was a different opinion they had about "minority representation" should be applied to the Bd of Ed. The majority felt the State's standard "minority rep." should apply, while the minority felt a more stringent standard should apply. The significant difference, imo, is "how much input should the voters have?" The adopted recommendation allows for at least 10 candidates to seek election to 7 seats (more candidates if there are minor party or petition candidates). The 4 person from any one party limitation would have allowed only 8 candidates competing for the 7 seats (unless there were minor party or petition candidates). I think the difference is clear; voters electing of 7 out of 10 candidates and being allowed to vote for 7-- or electing 7 of 8 candidates, with each voter only being allowed to vote for 4 candidates.
Bill Holden October 15, 2011 at 03:22 AM
(ran out of space above) There are about a half dozen statutes offering different ways to elect Bds of Ed. That is why the number of candidates running and the number people can vote for is different. There was no way to eliminate "guaranteed seats" if all members were not elected at the same time. Everyone on the CRC agreed guaranteed seats were not desirable. There was no disagreement over the number of people on the Bd of Ed or concurrent terms. Just a difference of opinion on "minority reprsentation" which winds up dictating whether voters would have choices and how many candidates people could vote for.
Thomas Tesoro October 15, 2011 at 03:24 AM
Bill, Very interesting but how many voters know anything about that? Also, the question on the BOE is buried in the general question " I agree with Charter Cahnges" (or some similar language. Not the way to give the voters voice on this important change. VOTE NO!!
Bill Holden October 15, 2011 at 03:47 AM
Tom, first read Ms Singh's article. I didn't favor everything the CRC compromised on, but went along because it was better than in the current charter. I also didn't agree with some of the changes the Council made to the CRC report. And, I certainly didn't have any input into the questions the Council decided to put on the ballot. 8 years ago I suggested to the Council that they list the change to the Bd of Ed (at the time) be a separate question as there was some concern about changing from 6 to 7 members. I thought it was a good idea and that voters wanted it. Funny thing about voters, they like to have influence in elections. I couldn't believe Councilman Meisner (D-6) objected to voters being able to vote for all the Council members to be elected from within their district.
CTPati October 15, 2011 at 04:13 AM
TP, if you believed in LIBERTY rather than the TYRANNY of BIG government, you would understand that "progressive" is a dirty word, as in follower of the *racist and eugenicist* Woodrow Wilson. YOU were the one who took off on tirades defaming Republican presidents and candidates, after I simply mentioned Obama as being elected in the context of uninformed, emotional voters. Btw, McCain was a *terrible* candidate, and I had to hold my nose to vote for him---but at least he believes in defending our nation, respects its "exceptionalism" and would not have bowed to foreign dictators!! You must be either a naive Obot, or else you like BIG government *DICTATING* what others must do. Maybe you are a member of a privileged class reaping special benefits as a *crony* of the corrupt *statist* types. Those corrupt "cronies" of PBO include Jeff Immelt of GE, UNION bosses, and the TAX CHEAT *billionaire* "bundler" of a Quarter MILLION $$$ in campaign donations to Obama Brian Harrison, who squandered more than half a billion dollars in government loans to his bankrupt company, Solyndra, while paying NO TAXES!!! The corrupt/incompetent career politicians in congress set up a "loan guarantee" program through DOE that PBO has used to PAYOFF his cronies--and now we TAXPAYERS have been *shafted* for hundreds of BILLIONS of $$$$!!

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