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The Charter Political Power Grab



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To the Editor:

Readers might recall that some of the Charter Commission processes were structured to avoid the Freedom of Information Act. That resulted in some of the important discussions about changes happening out of sight of the voters.

No agendas or minutes of any working discussions were posted. This increased the likelihood that the voters would be confused as to what and why changes were being recommended. Was this the mushroom theory of management, keep them in the dark and feed them a lot of manure? Vote no on The Charter question.

Next, the one party dominated Legislative Council would like the Finance Board function to be their own. They are recommending the Board of Finance be abolished. That provides voters with less voice in the budget process. It’s an arrogant Partisan power grab.

Our budget and taxes have been well managed thru the Llodra and Rosenthal administrations thanks to the oversight and expertise of the Finance Board. It’s a lot of work to understand and review budgets in detail each year. The Legislative Council has little time to take on that obligation. Voters deserve more elected officials not less to review town expenditures. Vote NO on the Charter question.

Another Political Power decision was the method of filling midterm vacancies on appointed boards and commissions. Appointed boards are originally filled based on individuals’ skills, open to all registered voters regardless of party of registration. When there is a midterm resignation and a position needs to be filled, the rules change, and partisan politics begins.

One political Party’s members are automatically eliminated from considerations. No Independent voters nor Minor Party Members need apply. Now Political party membership is all important, and the skills of the replacements are secondary. The Charter Commission had the chance to make all appointed commissions open to all registered voters, and they failed. Vote NO on the Charter.

When you see the Ballot questions in November you will see two questions, eliminate the Board of Finance, and approve all the other Charter changes. Don’t ask what those changes really say, the Legislative Council said they are minor. Yet it took a year and a half for the Charter Commission to recommend those changes. I guess they feel they can “fool all the people all the time” for the sake of political power.

So, if you’re a mushroom go ahead and vote yes for changes. Changes you don’t even know about or vote no and tell the politicians to stop the Bull. Keep our taxes as reasonable as possible and get as many residents involved on our governing process. This proposed Charter is a power play, taking the power away from you the voters and taking it into the political partisan backroom.

Vote the Charter down, vote no in November.

Bruce Walczak


Editor’s Note: In April 2021, Charter Commission Chair Andrew Buzzi assured The Newtown Bee and the public that the practice of creating two-person, closed workgroup meetings was permitted after seeking guidance from the state Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC), and providing documentation the last time the practice was challenged and deemed to be legal in a recent court case.

Comments are open. Be civil.
  1. bw.reloconsult@snet.net says:

    The editor missed the point. Mr. Buzzi purposely structured the workgroups to avoid FOI sunshine rules. This allowed them to not have agendas nor published minutes of the work group’s meeting. The public was not allowed to view these work groups proceedings. The voters were deprived of useful insight into the revision process. By setting up 2 person workgroups The Chairman also deprived other Commission members from hearing and participating fully these proceedings. The Newtown Charter is the backbone of our home rule status. It is never advisable to shield parts of the decision process from the voters, it breeds district and results in voters not being fully educated on the issues being considered.

    1. nb.john.voket says:

      Your opinion that the chairman willfully obstructed public access to the latest Charter Revision process – versus establishing one that served it — is your own. Before it started, the state FOIC provided guidance that permitted this workgroup initiative. And all the appointed charter commissioners (which included 5 lawyers) all agreed to it at the onset. While we are curious why you didn’t object when this process began, we know similar sessions happen elsewhere locally, so we look forward to publishing your letter of consternation after the next Board of Education “non-meeting”!

  2. bw.reloconsult@snet.net says:

    The editors is trying to divert discussion of the issue. No one is saying government entities can’t set up workgroup. The real issue is when entities decide not to publish an agenda nor take and share minutes. We are currently discussing the Chairmen of the Charter Commissions decision not to hold the meeting open nor to take minutes. It was a choice he made.

  3. bw.reloconsult@snet.net says:

    I suggest the Bee readers check what The Bee said about the Purpose of The FOI as recently as Mar 17, 2022
    https://www.newtownbee.com/03172022/shedding-light-promoting-truth-are-right-in-our-wheelhouse/?q=sunshine ie
    It certainly set a different tone than what the editor is saying above.

  4. ryan knapp says:

    I have a lot of respect of Bruce’s engagement and advocacy, however he is damaging his credibility here with mischaracterizations of this bipartisan action as a “political power grab” by the “one party dominated Legislative Council.” The Charter Revision Commission was also an even split politically with several well respected local attorneys appointed. The dramatic language in this letter may be effective in national politics (the author did unsuccessfully run for congress last cycle,) but a simple reading of the Council minutes will show the charge to remove the BOF from the Charter, reverting to a simpler form of Government we had in the 90s that is more in line with our peers in neighboring towns, was a charge put forward by a Democrat led council. After the majority party on the LC changed with the last election, the Republicans as well as minority members recognized the good sense in that action and endorsed the CRC’s recommendations. Both major parties have a track record of putting forward unaffiliated and minor party candidates to appointed boards. The voters always have ultimate choice in the budget process and elect the Legislative Council, which is and has been the Town’s fiscal authority. There may be a discussion to be had, but misleading voters with a false narrative is not constructive. My comments are my own and not on behalf of the Legislative Council of which I am a member.

  5. bw.reloconsult@snet.net says:

    When you have an elected body of a town trying dissolve another duly elected board your ears have to go up. Especially when the elected Commission trying to eliminate another board has a super majority of 75%. Both ears go up. Remember the voters created the BOF over 20 years ago, are we going backwards.

    1. nb.john.voket says:

      The vote 20 years ago, as articulated again in our Bee information session last night, created a hybrid Board of Finance different that any other in Connecticut because it was only vested with advisory and not policy-making power following a split referendum outcome. The elected commission (the duly elected Legislative Council) that recommended examining eliminating the Board of Finance was majority Democrat. That Democrat majority council also staffed the Charter Commission with 3 Dems, 3 Republicans, and 1 unaffiliated member (including 5 lawyers). The Republican dominated council that was most recently seated only accepted the Charter Commissioners’ recommendations and unanimously endorsed the charter questions voters will consider on Election Day. There is no conspiracy, no wrongdoing, and for someone who has both ears up – it appears you are the only one who isn’t listening.

  6. qstorm says:

    BoF – Buh Bye

  7. bw.reloconsult@snet.net says:

    I have reviewed all the minutes of the Charter commission, votes were constantly partisan’s, with 3 republicans often voting as a block.
    The overall recommendation was not a clear endorsement by all, and a “let the voters” decide move.

  8. peterschwarz says:

    Interesting food fight. Yes, we can argue about the process and whether it was universally regarded as fair and balanced, but that’s politics. I have my opinions, too, and I probably wouldn’t do it the same way. And please, just because people on the Commission are lawyers doesn’t give them good judgment. I’ve been a corporate attorney for thirty five years and every lawyer I’ve ever met (and I include myself) looks through the wrong end of the binoculars sometimes.

    BUT, the issue for the voters is whether abolition of the BOF is in the best interests of the town. Whether the LC is run by Republicans or Democrats, getting rid of an elected board to concentrate power in a different elected board (especially when how that will be accomplished is not explained and also vetted by the voters) is NOT in the best interests of the town and must be denied. What goes around comes around in partisan politics and this is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of a flawed revision process putting forward a flawed recommendation, regardless of the affiliation of those involved. I hope my several letters to the Editor explain this to anyone who wants to go through them. Let’s keep the BOF and work on the underlying issues. We’ll have regret as a town if we don’t.

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