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Newly Appointed Commissioners Poised To Make Charter 'User Friendly'

In two swift motions with minimal discussion, a new nine-member Charter Revision Commission was unanimously seated and charged by the Legislative Council June 18.

The new charter panel consists of two former council members, Jeff Capeci and Dan Wiedemann, who both worked with previous charter initiatives in their elected capacities. George Guidera, Kevin Burns, Thomas Long, Eric Paradis, Deborra Zukowski, James Ritchie, and Robert Hall round out the list of appointees.

According to Mr Capeci, Mr Hall was the original architect of the charter document.

Councilman Paul Lundquist, who chaired the committee that interviewed and qualified the newly appointed commissioners, told The Newtown Bee that the council and the community are very lucky to have a group with impressive resumes reflecting their experience as executives in the private sector, working in finance, technology, and communications.

“The public sector is also represented, including the former first selectman from a neighboring town, and a number of individuals who currently or have served as high level education administrators, including a former school superintendent from nearby Connecticut school district,” Mr Lundquist said.

“Also included in the group are a number of lawyers, who can certainly help understand and maintain the legal intent of the charter, while allowing the commission to untangle some of the current language and help make it a document that’s more easily referenced and understood by the public,” he said.

In addition to their private sector lives, Mr Lundquist pointed out that a majority of the new commission has also spent much of their free time as community and town volunteers, including one who served as a state senator. 

“Three of the folks here have served on a Charter Revision Commission in the past, including one who helped author much of the language that serves as the basic framework of the document today,” Mr Lundquist said. “This Charter Revision Commission is lucky to include a couple of people who are former Legislative Council members, including the past chairman.”

He said newcomers will be balanced by a “good core group that really understands the charter revision process from an insider’s perspective, which will be incredibly helpful. All in all, we know this is a group that knows how to get things done. And I’m very happy to see this group appointed to take on this important work.”

George Ferguson, who chaired the Charter Charge Committee, said his panel received a wealth of input from town staffers, as well as from many elected and appointed panels. After sifting through the many suggestions to improve Newtown’s constitutional document, he said the charge committee welcomed most of the ideas submitted for consideration.

“We allowed almost everything,” Mr Ferguson said. “The only things we would not consider as part of the charge were points not related to the charter.”

The charge chairman said that during the examination of the dozens of suggested changes, there may have been differences of opinion on the committee about whether certain ideas should be supported for inclusion in the process. But Mr Ferguson said it is up to the charter commissioners to consider every point submitted, and then to make final recommendations back to the full council to examine at the end of the review process.

Both Mr Lundquist and Mr Ferguson agreed that the ultimate goal would be to see a revised charter with consistency and flow that is easy to understand.

“My wish would be, at the end of the review, to see a user-friendly, plain language document that citizens can understand and go to as a resource when they have questions or issues with town government,” Mr Ferguson said.

More stories like this: 2014 Charter Revision Commission
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