Tonight’s public hearing on the proposed changes to the town charter should not be so much about making one’s opinion known about a specific issue; it should be about letting the selectmen know which issues voters would like to see appear as separate questions on the ballot rather than lumped in with the many language, clarity, and common sense changes the Charter Revision Commission has formulated.
Any change to the town’s charter will affect life in Weston for every resident for decades to come. This is the document that describes how town government operates. It’s complex and should not be blanketly changed by an up or down vote on the entire document — especially because the commission took such care in recommending so many detailed changes.
For those not familiar with the changes the Charter Revision Commission has proposed, the full document and several explanatory ones are available online at the town website, westonct.gov. Changes will also be reviewed at tonight’s hearing, set for 7:30 in the Meeting Room at town hall.
One of the most talked about proposals so far is a recommendation to make the tax collector and/or the town clerk appointed rather than elected positions. After holding its own public hearing, the Charter Revision Commission compromised and recommended the town clerk remain elected while changing the tax collector to appointed; both can be changed by means of petition under the new proposals. The question of whether to alter the way both posts are filled should appear as two separate questions on the ballot.
The commission has also recommended many changes to the budget process. Each of these changes — timing, the amount of electors necessary, petitioning requirements, how votes are taken, referenda vs. Town Meeting — every change to every step in the budget process should be considered as a separate question on the ballot.
This may seem unwieldy and time-consuming, to have lots of questions about charter changes on the ballot. But to do otherwise is to assume ahead of time that a majority of voters — thousands of people — agree with the opinion of sometimes just four people (a majority of the seven-member Charter Revision Commission). Charter change is extraordinarily important. Weston voters deserve a chance to decide on each and every part of it.
Ask the selectmen to present the voters with as many choices as possible in November. It may be harder administratively, but it’s the right thing to do.