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Bethel Charter - May Have Promising Revisions But There is Debate

This is going to be one of those important, long-impact, citizen involvement, get out the vote, issues. If you plan to raise your family in Bethel, you might want to keep an eye on this one.

Charter Revisions - Keep your eye on this.
Charter Revisions - Keep your eye on this.

It appears Bethelites may be in for some interesting changes. 


UPDATE: Bethel Action Committee issues Taxpayer Alert ahead of Charter Revision Town Meetinghttp://www.scribd.com/doc/198609082/Charter-Revision-Taxpayer-Alert-From-Bethel-Action-Committee

1. Increase Board of Selectman (BOS) from three-members to five-members

Pros: A five-member BOS Will allow selectman to confer with one another in pairs so that information and idea flows can exists without violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As is currently, if either of the Selectmen were to have a conversation about the town, which was not properly noticed, and recorded, they would be violating the FOIA. Some argue a three-member board is less efficient and moves too slowly.
A five member board allows for greater debate, discussion, and consideration of all issues which come before the Board of Selectmen. 

Cons:
Cost? Are we adding two more people to the taxpayer funded pay roll? If so, what is that cost?

2. Four-year election term instead of two-year term. 

Pros: Reduces the period, impact, distraction, and cost of two-year election cycles. 

Cons: The State of CT has no recall provision and the Town of Bethel has no method of enforcing its charter (outside of a regularly scheduled election) therefore a four year term would leave the town with an elected Board of Selectman for 4 years and would leave the residents without the ability to remove them (for any reason) until the next election. 

3. Clarify that the Board of Finance can change the bottom line of a town department's budget, but the first selectman would have the ability to make line item transfers within a department as long as they are revenue neutral and do not change the number of staff.

Arguments in favor of this: This stops the micromanagement of department budgets and allows the Board of Finance (BOF) and Board of Selectman (BOS) ultimate bottom line authority prior to going to public for a vote. 

Arguments in Opposition of this: This new language leaves the Board of Finance with limited checks and balances over spending. 

This is going to be one of those important, long-impact, citizen involvement, get out the vote, issues. If you plan to raise your family in Bethel, you might want to keep an eye on this one. 

Here is the link to the overview of Charter Changes: http://www.bethel-ct.gov/filestorage/1190/136/148/Summary_of_Charter_Changes_1-7-2014.pdf

Here is a link to track the changes and review the commissions votes: http://www.bethel-ct.gov/controls/NewsFeed.aspx?FeedID=64

To better understand how these changes were agreed upon, review the Charter Revision Commission minutes from April 25th, 2013 and May 13th, 2013 Below:

http://www.bethel-ct.gov/filestorage/1190/83/7085/7115/2013-04-25m.pdf
http://www.bethel-ct.gov/filestorage/1190/83/7085/7115/2013-05-13m.pdf

Bethel Action Committee issues Taxpayer Alert ahead of Charter Revision Town Meetinghttp://www.scribd.com/doc/198609082/Charter-Revision-Taxpayer-Alert-From-Bethel-Action-Committee

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

efiddes January 10, 2014 at 07:15 AM
Our town meeting form of government works well! It allows all voters in Bethel to participate in a real and active way. A bigger city like Danbury might want a mayor/town council, but I think Bethel should stick with our current format.
Dan Gaita January 10, 2014 at 09:44 AM
efiddes, I agree that a Town Meeting form of government works well. However, unless I am mistaken, the proposed charter revisions do not change our form of town government. It still remains a Town Meeting form under the new charter revisions. What does concern me with the proposed charter revisions is electing a person to a four year term that you are then unable to remove if he is a liar, a criminal, or negligent. CT does not allow its citizens to remove an elected official until the next election….For a small town like Bethel, 4 years with a jackass, could be painful for years to follow. I'd like to see the debated issues of the Charter Revisions separated from the unanimously agreed upon changed language so that the Bethel voters can keep what they like and avoid what they are concerned about. If the BOS puts it on the ballot as an all or nothing vote, I am concerned that the months of work by the Revisions Committee will have been a waist of time… There is no reason why this has to be the case as the BOS can break out the items on the ballot for individual approval. Thank you for your input.

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