Shelton charter commission public hearings set for June 17
SHELTON — The public can now weigh in on the Charter Revision Commission’s first version of proposed changes.
Most notable modifications call for eliminating the Board of Apportionment and Taxation, expanding the Planning and Zoning Commission to seven members and aligning majority party maximums — highlighted with a Board of Education shift from a near even political split — 5 to 4 — to a heavily weighted 6 to 3.
The commission also proposes increasing the level of bonding the Board of Aldermen can do without a referendum from 2 percent to 3 percent, with the option to move to a 4 percent cap with a two-thirds vote of the aldermen.
The commission will hold two public hearings June 17 — one will be live at City Hall at 1 p.m., the second on Zoom at 7 p.m. To sign up for the Zoom call, people should email their name to email@example.com and they will be sent the Zoom link via e-mail. The commission hopes to have final revisions to the Board of Aldermen by July 4.
Residents interested in downloading drafts of the charter to review, can visit http://cityofshelton.org/charter-revision/
“The commission considered about 50 ideas in total and adopted 20 of them,” said commission Chair Dan Debicella. “We gathered the proposals based on public input and an analysis of charters from 20 other towns we completed — trying to take the best ideas from wherever they come.”
Debicella said he would categorize the commission’s recommended changes into three buckets — giving more power to voters, standardizing and aligning language and creating more operational flexibility for the city.
In seeking to offer more power to voters, Debicella said “the theory here is to take power away from the Republican and Democratic town committees and give it to voters.
“For too many offices, the voters are offered little or no choice … for example, everyone nominated for the Board of A&T wins and in most years nine of 10 Board of Education candidates win,” said Debicella. “We have changed structures to give the voters more choices and limit the powers of parties to ‘appoint’ elected officials.”
In that vein, the commission reached consensus to eliminate the Board of A&T and transfer responsibilities to the Board of Aldermen and expand the Planning and Zoning Commission from six to seven members.
Debicella said the commission also chose to align the majority party maximums with state statutes and what many other towns do and allow political parties to nominate up to the number of seats they can win.
The most notable impact of this move allows for no more than six from one party on the Board of Education and no more than five from one party on Planning and Zoning.
“This has the impact of more candidates running for these positions — 12 people will run for nine Board of Education positions instead of 10 — and increase voter choice,” said Debicella.
Debicella said in a number of areas the commission’s revisions standardized how the city runs into a single process based on best practices.
Among the most notable revisions allow, for most appointed boards, the mayor to nominate with the Board of Aldermen granting final approval. Before, there had been multiple ways of making nominations.
The Planning and Zoning and Inland Wetland administrators will also be appointed by the mayor, not by their respective boards; a new Technology Committee will be established to have a single vision for technology in the city and Board of Education; and term lengths for most appointed boards and commissions — and the elected Library Board — have been standardized to four years. The Board of Education will remain at two years.
Debicella said several revisions focused on creating more operational flexibility in the city.
The Board of Aldermen would be allowed to create rules for virtual attendance at meetings for all boards and commissions, the Board of Education will have more time to submit its budget annually and the aldermen would be able to create standards and levels for bids of items less than $25,000 instead of writing them into the charter.
“We are also having corporation counsel review the charter in parallel with getting public input, to ensure everything is aligned with state statute and there are no wording issues,” Debicella added.