When Middletown voters come to the polls on Tuesday, they will be faced with 6 local ballot questions: Question 8, which relates to the fire department, and Questions 9-13, which are all proposed amendments to the Middletown Town Charter. I am urging all Middletown voters to reject these proposed Charter amendments because of the Town Council’s failure to adhere to its own past practices and outright disregard for the intentions of the people they serve.
Beginning in December 2010, Councillor Ed Silveira proposed the formation of a Charter Review Commission to review several proposed amendments, as well as perform a comprehensive review of the Town Charter. After some discussion, and dissent from Vice President Long and Councillors Semonelli and Viveiros, a motion to form a Charter Review Commission failed to pass. Not to be deterred, the Council then “directed the administration and legal counsel” on January 18, 2011 to “review the Town Charter, identify provisions which impact the collective bargaining process, and propose changes” (memo from Town Administrator dated May 23, 2012). After these proposals were crafted, and with no input from members of the community, the Council received them and scheduled a public hearing for April 4, 2011.
At this first public hearing, 6 residents got up and spoke to the Council; 4 of them specifically asked the Council to drop the proposed amendments. The fifth spoke in favor of the amendments, and the other noted that he felt the charter was “being held hostage.” At this same meeting, Mr. Long, Mr. Semonelli, and Mr. Viveiros all voiced their support for the proposals, less than six months after stating that now was not an appropriate time to review the Charter. The public hearing ended with no action being taken by the Council.
More than a year passed before the Charter amendments again came up at a Council meeting on April 16, 2012. "At this time, an additional amendment, proposed by Vice President Long, was submitted to the Council and reviewed by Attorney Dan Kinder. A second public hearing was scheduled and was held on May 21, 2012. At this meeting 7 people again got up and addressed the council, 6 of whom spoke out against the changes, noting that the Council made no attempt to involve the citizens in the process. Council President Weber stated that night that the amendments “would [give] more control” to the Council with regard to labor and budget matters. Once again, there was no action taken by the Council.
On June 4, 2012, the Council again discussed the proposed changes, and voted to remove one proposed change that the majority felt overstepped the bounds of the Council’s authority. All of the other changes were passed by unanimous vote and forwarded to the Secretary of State’s office for approval to be included on the November 6 ballot.
At no point during this entire process did the Council seek to have the citizens involved in reviewing and amending their governing document; even when their opinions were heard at 2 separate public hearings, the Council ignored the majority’s request to drop the changes and form a Charter Review Commission. This is a process that the citizens of Middletown have always been a part of, yet this Council seems to prefer leaving matters in the hands of lawyers who do not even reside in the town. I again ask all Middletown voters to stand up for their right to be a part of their government and reject the proposed Charter amendments. Please vote NO on Questions 9-13 on Tuesday.