About Town: Charter

About-Town-Margaret-WirtenbergYes, it is summer. Yes, the tradition is that nothing much happens in Weston government during this time of school recess. But what have we here?

The Charter Revision Commission reborn! Some of the same faces from the previous commission and some new ones are meeting for work this month.

This latest commission held its first public hearing before school was out, along with a subsequent meeting to discuss the comments that were offered by the public.

Then they went on hiatus for July. An early September date was set for the second public hearing that is required by State of Connecticut statutes.

Fresh from vacation, they soon discovered that a meeting in September will not be possible. Conflicts with religious holidays fought with tight deadlines for placing a question or two on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 7:30 p.m. in Weston Town Hall is the new date for the second required public hearing.

What to change in the document? A modest proposal: Let’s base it upon the role of the Board of Finance, which is the only body presently empowered to raise the bottom line of proposed budgets.

Let’s decide for ourselves. Should the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) only be allowed to lower funding requests? Section 9.5 (d) (i) of the charter presently specifies with respect to ATBM that “no appropriation shall be made exceeding that for the same purpose recommended by the Board of Finance, or for any other purpose not recommended by the Board of Finance.”

Perhaps the Charter Revision Commission should suggest revising that provision to simply state that “no appropriation shall be made for any purpose not recommended by the Board of Finance.” And, correspondingly, revising the wording of Section 9.5 (d) (ii), beginning on line two, to read “…reduced or increased from the amount recommended by the Board of Finance.”

Let’s put this to the voters once and for all, please, this November!


Then there is the question of how to define what constitutes a quorum at ATBM. At the recent meeting a “sense of the meeting” show of hands (or voice, in the case of a member participating by speakerphone) endorsed the present 2% quorum requirement — on a party-line vote.

It was good to see, but not surprising, that the first selectman attended part of this 2.5-hour session. Her presence was also required at the Special Board of Finance meeting being held at the same time elsewhere in town hall.

Section 9.5 (d) (ii) of the recently updated charter specifies that ATBM may reduce the Board of Finance’s budget recommendations “if, and only if, at least two percent of qualified voters are present.”

It seems clear to me that this new quorum requirement was being “played” by supporters of the school budget at ATBM. I would like to see this question put to a vote on Nov. 5: Do the people of Weston want to have a quorum requirement at ATBM? “Yes” or “No.”

NOTE: “About Town” is also a television program. It appears on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88 (Public Access). Or see it at aboutweston.com. This week we offer an “end of session” report from Rep. Gail Lavielle, state representative from the 143rd District. 

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