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ABOUT TOWN: Home rule

What is the difference between baseball and local government? For one thing, local government never gets days off. But this is the time of year when we are more used to hearing talk of “home runs” than “home rule.”

Saturday, Nov. 10, 10:30 a.m. at the town hall Meeting Room promises to be a breath of fresh air. Hot on the heels of the upcoming election, the League of Women Voters of Weston will boldly challenge Westonites to step up to the plate and refocus on local issues.

The first selectman, superintendent of schools, and chairman of the Board of Finance will be there for a “Town Activity Update.”

Weston has its own “field of dreams.” That is the Juliana Lachat Preserve. Joint purchase in 1997 and 1999 by the town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy saved it from development. We have a chance now to complete that dream, and the Lachat Oversight Committee has been invited to fill us in on its progress.

In addition, if charter revision passes, there will be an opportunity to ask a former co-chairman of the Charter Revision Commission to expound upon what a “yes” vote really meant to the functioning of boards, commissions, and all of us who participate in, follow, or are affected by local government.

The meeting will include ample opportunity for questions from the public.

The league hopes this event will put us all in a mood to party. You are invited to continue the discussions over lunch in the Commission Room afterward — and to think about joining the league, which has long welcomed male as well as female members.

Charter revision

Connecticut has 169 separate towns and one state government and nothing having power in between. Those towns that have charters are places that particularly favor “home rule.”

Remember charter revision? It was started in June of 2011. After two public hearings and several dozen other public meetings, all of which were televised and documented on the town website, a proposed new charter was approved by the Board of Selectmen for placement on the Nov. 6 ballot.

You will be asked on Election Day to vote either “yes” or “no” on whether to adopt the new charter.

An overall “up or down” vote on the new charter is a necessity in this case, in my opinion. The Charter Revision Commission, in its words, “scrubbed” the old charter language, rewriting virtually every page, and moving sections around to make them flow more logically.

Many significant substantive changes were also made. I do not agree with all of them, although I am respectful of opposing viewpoints. And the most serious concerns I had were listened to, as the proposed new charter was developed.

The Charter Revision Commission was not a wishy-washy group. They were firm in their belief that the existing budget process was broken. So they “fixed” it.

Specifically, there will now be a required referendum on the town and school budgets and the capital budget. If voters reject all or some of those budgets, the Board of Finance has the power to make cuts before submittal to a new referendum.

The current process is so complicated that few fully understand it. My take is that a basic intent of the present charter is to keep the power of the purse directly in the hands of the Town Meeting (ATBM). The new charter proposes to do away with the need to stand up and be counted at ATBM but instead champions the principle of “secret ballot.”

In the next two weeks, this column will summarize and discuss other notable changes that are contained in the proposed charter.

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Check out Margaret Wirtenberg's website: http://www.aboutweston.com/

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