Letter: Charter revisions would eliminate minority party voice

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

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To the Editor:

As a five-term member of the Shelton Board of Education first elected in 2009, I am writing to ask fellow citizens of Shelton to vote no on the charter revision question on Election Day. This is not what is good for Shelton. Revisions that are proposed eliminate ways the public, and in particular the minority party and independently voting citizens, can maintain a voice.

The recommendations of the Charter Revision Commission eliminate the checks and balances upon which our nation is founded and put too much power in the hands of a few with little or no way to stop them. What are checks and balances? They are a principle of our constitutional government in the United States that were developed to ensure that no one branch of the government (in this case the mayor and/or the Board of Aldermen) can become too powerful. Elimination of the Board of Apportionment and Taxation as proposed eliminates a filter in the budget process. It hands all fiscal decisions directly to the Board of Aldermen which is currently comprised of aldermen solely of one party, only one of whom currently appears to be a free thinker not under the thumb of the mayor.

I addressed the Charter Revision Commission on two different instances, advocating for the Board of Education. One issue I promoted was maintaining the 5-4 party split on the Board of Education. Many important votes rely on a two-thirds majority vote to pass. With a 5-4 split, the Board is forced to collaborate and compromise to come to decisions that are in the best interests of our children. Yet the current proposal changes the charter to a 6-3 split, which means that all such decisions are handed to the majority party. I am a proponent of a nonpartisan Board of Education with each member representing no particular party. That suggestion fell on deaf ears.

In addition, by limiting the number of candidates running for particular office (only six per party in the case of the Board of Education, the same number that can be elected), it limits voter choice in selecting candidates who can do the best job to represent their concerns. All citizens of Shelton should have the right to petition to run for office, such as I did in 2019. Exclusive power would also be placed in the mayor’s hands to appoint members of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Inland and Wetlands commission, again eliminating voter choice.

A final point I wish to make is with regards to the proposal to form a technology committee to plan for purchase of tech needs of the city, including the Shelton public schools. We do not need a charter revision to obtain the technology needed for students and teachers. We do not need a charter revision to specify that the Board of Education should work together with the city. In the past, a citywide technology committee comprised of members of both the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Education, as well as representatives from schools and the community with technology expertise, worked together to move the schools forward. Furthermore, putting technology decisions in the hands of a city-appointed committee does not allow the technology experts hired by the schools to make decisions in the best interests of the schools. In order to obtain the technology we need for the schools, we need to be properly funded and trusted that our administrators and technology staff will make appropriate decisions to meet our needs.

Again, vote no on charter revision on Nov. 3.

Kate Kutash

Member of the Shelton Board of Education