Charter Revision Commission looks for ‘constructive recommendations’ at public hearing Monday

The clockworks of Ridgefield’s local democracy — town meetings and public hearings, boards and commissions, elected and appointed officials — is time-tested. It’s functional. Could it work better? Looking into ways Ridgefield’s town government might be improved is the Charter Revision Commission’s task. It starts taking suggestions next week.

The 2017-18 Charter Revision Commission’s first public hearing will be Monday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. in Town Hall’s downstairs conference room, off Bailey Avenue.

“We really want to get the word out and encourage people to participate,” said Charter Revision Commission Chairman Jonathan Seem. “They don’t even have to attend a meeting. They can send a recommendation by email to town hall, or a question.”

He sent First Selectman Rudy Marconi a request to be forwarded around to all officials and public agencies of the town:

“We look forward to participation of all boards, committees, commissions and residents that have constructive recommendations for refinements to our town charter,” Seem said.

We also welcome and encourage those that wish to address the commission directly to contact us at,” he said.

People may email to set up times to meet the commission.

“In the event our regular meeting schedule conflicts, we will make every effort to accommodate an alternative special meeting date,” Seem said.

The nine-member Charter Revision Commission was appointed by the Board of Selectmen last fall, after two interview sessions with people interested in serving.

Seem, who served on the town’s last Charter Revision Commission, in 2014, was elected chairman at the commission’s first meeting. Ellen Burns was elected vice chair.

The commission also set a schedule, with meetings on the second Monday and the last Monday of each month — Jan. 8 and 29, Feb. 12 and 26 — through August. The exception is May, when the last Monday is Memorial Day, so the meeting is Tuesday, May 29. All meetings are at 7 p.m. in town hall.

The commission won’t really get to work until after it hears what townspeople would like looked into.

“It’s required by statute that we hold a public hearing before we begin to have any substantive discussions about issues,” said Seem.

“Broadly, I think the charter is in pretty good shape as it is,” he said. “And it’s structured in a way that really provides the checks and balances in town government that are important. …

“However, state statutes require that the commission is convened every four years to look at the charter, to ensure that no further refinements are necessary. And if they are, we make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen. And if they agree, the Board of Selectmen can put those suggested changes to a vote in November — they appear on a ballot for everyone in town to cast a vote on.”