Charter Revision? Town will need some volunteers
Time to rethink how Ridgefield governs itself — that time-honored system with town meetings where anybody can talk, and everybody can vote, but often nobody shows up.
“I’m getting prepared to do the Charter Revision Commission — it’s that time again,” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi last week.
The town charter currently calls for a revision every four years. The last one was in 2013-14, and before that was the 2009-10 charter revision commission.
He’s inviting Ridgefielders to contact him if they’re interested in serving, or learning about what being a charter commission member might involve.
He hopes to appoint a commission this fall, to give ample time — a year or more — to hold required hearings and consultations, prepare proposed charter changes, hold more hearings, and get the revisions on the ballot for judgement by town voters.
“We want to be on the 2018 vote, in November,” Marconi said
There are a lot of required steps.
“The Board of Selectmen needs to adopt a resolution to constitute a Charter Revision Commission,” he said.
After that commission members would need to be interviewed, appointed, given direction.
“We’d need to give them their charge, give them issues, plus whatever issues come up in the public hearings. There’ll be several public hearings in the process,” Marconi said.
A timeline of steps and procedures that need to be followed is spelled out in state statutes.
“They have to hold a public hearing as soon as they are constituted, as required by state statute,” Marconi said.
While citizens can suggest charter changes for the commission to look into, the selectmen will also make recommendations.
“There’ll be some technical language changes, I’m sure,” Marconi said. “But I don’t know. The Board of Selectmen is going to have to discuss this to see if there are any substantive changes they would like to make, and then of course we need to hear from the people.”
Previous charter revision commissions have proposed changes such making the Board of Finance elected, rather than appointed by the selectmen as it had been for years. There was a proposal to separate the functions of the Planning and Zoning Commission from those of the Inland Wetlands Board — but that didn’t pass.
There’s usually at least talk of big changes.
“Do we change the town meeting form of government because our attendance is not great?” Marconi said.
There are concerns with the system.
“Number one, attendance at town meetings. And number two, a town meeting is usually composed of people who are 100% against something or 100% in favor of it,” he said.
“Are we at a point in the evolution of our community where we need to look at, perhaps, an alternative form of government? I don’t think we’re quite there yet,” Marconi said.
So: Any volunteers for the charter revision commission?
“I ask anyone who may be interested in giving back to the community to let the first selectman’s office know, either by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, 203-431-2774.”