By Ryan Knapp"/>

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Don't Give Up Right To Choose
By Ryan Knapp



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To the Editor:

First, I would like to be clear that these comments are my own and are not on behalf of the Legislative Council of which I am a member.

This is quite the election year with everything that is going on at the national level and Connecticut's woeful fiscal situation, so it would be easy to overlook Newtown's Charter Revision. Please don't. Notwithstanding the separate minority representation question, I believe the proposed charter is an example of great work by our municipal volunteers that will improve how our local government functions. However, I have major issues with limiting how many members of either party may be on the Board of Education beyond what the State Statute provides, as it would limit voter choice and give more power to the Republican and Democratic Town Committees.

The intent of this was to reduce partisanship on the BOE; however, with a two-party system in practice this will have the opposite outcome as it institutionalizes partisanship on a board where we do not have a partisan problem. Votes on the BOE almost never split along party lines. The voters just seated a 4-3 BOE and had more choices because of the number of contested seats. If we voters want a 4-3 BOE we can elect one.

With less spots to win, town committees will put forward fewer candidates and we voters will have fewer choices. A moderate candidate willing to serve who may have otherwise been on a ballot with more contested seats may not be put forward by the Candidates Committee if they choose to put forward a more party-oriented option.

Giving more authority to the RTC and DTC before an election is a slap in the face to the 38 percent of our population who are unaffiliated. They are the ones who will pick the most moderate candidates and swing elections. If they do not like something, they can change it, as we saw with turnover at the last election. With one more automatic seat, the town committees will be less inclined to put forward candidates that can win the middle. Why would they if they know they are going to get at least three? Some may feel strategically that three extremely partisan candidates could do more for a party agenda than four moderate candidates.

Here is the scariest part: Moving to a 4-3 with staggered terms can result in a year following a four-seat sweep from one party where the other party automatically gets all three. That is not an election, that is an appointment. Forty-two percent of the board would be picked by one party with essentially no input from the voters. With any contentious issue on the horizon you could expect those to all be partisan members and most voters would have no choice.

Voting is fundamental to democracy. On November 8, let's not give up our right to choose.

Thank you,

Ryan Knapp

11 Jeremiah Road, Sandy Hook         October 5, 2016

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