Shelton’s new political action committee envisions derailing charter revisions

Lorraine Rossner, former Shelton schools assistant superintendent, chairs the Envision Shelton political action committee.

Lorraine Rossner, former Shelton schools assistant superintendent, chairs the Envision Shelton political action committee.

Brian Gioiele /Hearst Connecticut Media /

SHELTON — City Republicans and Democrats are putting their political differences aside to try to derail proposed charter changes.

Envision Shelton, a bipartisan political action committee, was created, according to its membership, to oppose charter revisions now under consideration — including eliminating the Board of Apportionment and Taxation and increasing party maximums for elected positions — designed, they say, to strengthen the mayor’s power.

Supporters deny the accusation, saying the changes will give more power to the voters.

“Our purpose is to give people information to make an informed decision,” Envision Shelton Chair Lorraine Rossner, a Democrat, said. “Something has to be done. These revisions would only further solidify the mayor’s hold on power over activities of the city and school system.”

Changing the charter will be on Shelton’s Nov. 3 ballots, along with choosing a president. The exact wording will be: “Shall the charter of the city of Shelton be revised in accordance with the report and recommendations of the charter revision commission?”

Rossner, known for her decades with the school district, is joined by fellow Democrats Matt McGee, Mandy Kilmartin and Diana Meyer. Republicans Alderman David Gidwani, Mark Holden, Anne Gaydos and Jimmy Capra also are part of the PAC. Other Envision Shelton officers are Chris Jones, David Eldridge and Shelton Police Union representative Mike Lewis.

“I feel these revisions give too much power to the mayor,” Gidwani, a vocal opponent of the charter changes, said. “This is not about Democrats, not about Republicans ... we are one city, and we need to take care of each other. This charter is totally wrong for our city.”

Gidwani said he believes the bipartisan nature of the committee will show residents that there is a unified belief that the proposed charter revisions are ill-conceived and have the potential to hurt the structure of city administration for years to come.

“The charter has been in place for decades … revisions are needed, but this is not the way to do it,” Rossner added.

The grassroots group has already taken to social media with its message, posting videos and letters from those who oppose approval of the revisions. Rossner said, thanks to donations, the group will soon be putting up signs throughout the city, dropping off literature to residences and making calls.

“We just need to tell people why this is wrong for the city,” Rossner said.

The revisions call for eliminating the Board of Apportionment and Taxation and transferring all financial responsibilities to the aldermen, the city’s fiscal authority.

Revisions also call for increased 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 Planning and Zoning Commission would also be expanded from six to seven members.

The level of bonding the Board of Aldermen can do without a referendum would also be increased from 2 percent to 3 percent.

“It is long past time for us to come together for the common good of our great city. It is our shared love and respect for our town and our community that has brought us together against this revision, which is simply bad for Shelton,” Envision Shelton officers state in a joint letter to the editor.

Rossner said the group believes that the revisions, as proposed, would put the city’s low tax rate at risk by eliminating A&T; encourage partisanship on the Board of Education; reduce voter choice by limiting the number of potential candidates that can run for public office, and put far too many city appointments in the hands of one individual, removing that power from the Planning and Zoning and the Inland Wetlands commissions.

Charter Revision Commission Chair Dan Debicella, in a published opinion piece, said the revisions give more power to voters and increase voter choice on Board of Education and Planning and Zoning Commission.

Debicella said the proposed charter creates new checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches.

“The current charter allows the mayor to appoint certain boards and commissions, while the Board of Aldermen certain others,” Debicella states. “To create more accountability, we now have the mayor appoint and the Board of Aldermen approve all nominations (similar to our federal and state government). We also standardize the terms of boards and commissions to four years.”