Weston Ballot Question No. 2: Voters to decide on charter changes

GOV-cupolaWeston voters have a lot of decisions to make on Nov. 4 — including whether to make changes to the town’s charter that were recommended by a Charter Revision Commission and accepted by the Board of Selectmen nearly a year ago.

Last year, a missed deadline kept the charter question off the 2013 ballot. Rather than hold a special election, the selectmen opted to wait and include the question on the 2014 ballot.

The Yes or No question reads: “Shall the Weston charter, as amended and restated by the Charter Revision Commission, be approved?”

A Charter Revision Commission formed in 2011 essentially rewrote the town charter, and it was approved by voters in November 2012.

One of the changes made at that time was an added requirement that a quorum of at least 2% of registered voters at the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) was necessary in order for reductions in the budget to be made before it goes to referendum for a final vote.

Many objected to the quorum requirement, which was one of the reasons why a new Charter Revision Commission was formed in 2012 — to revisit the quorum issue.

When the latest commission reviewed the matter, it voted to keep the ATBM quorum requirement, but to change it to a fixed number (130) rather than a percentage to make it easier to know when a quorum exists.

The commission also recommended making a few minor language changes to the ATBM sections to improve clarity.

Other changes to the charter that have been recommended include:

  • Elimination of a requirement that the selectmen give public notice of the expiration of terms of town officers.
  • Changing a requirement that school board officers be elected in January to requiring they be elected no later than Jan. 1.
  • Changing a requirement to elect chairmen and vice chairmen of newly constituted boards and commissions in January to requiring they be elected by their second meeting.

All or nothing

The charter question on the Nov. 4 ballot is all or nothing — voters do not have the option of voting on separate recommendations. If the question passes, the new charter with all of the commission’s amendments will be approved. If it does not, the current charter approved in 2012 — including the 2% ATBM quorum requirement — remains in place.

The “explanatory text” for the charter revision question is available at the town clerk’s office at town hall. It includes the exact language of changes that have been recommended. This information will also be available at the polls on Nov. 4.

Once inside the polling place at the gymnasium at Weston Middle School, voters will see the question only as it reads on the ballot — essentially, shall the amended charter be approved.

“I encourage people to become well-informed,” said Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, adding that the Board of Selectmen supported the proposed charter changes unanimously.

The current Weston Town Charter in its entirety may be found on the town website, westonct.gov, under the About Weston section.

The Charter Revision Commission’s entire final report on its charge, recommended changes and the process it went through to reach them, as well as the entire amended charter as it will read if voters approve it, is also available on the town website. Click on “All News” on the Home page and scroll to “Charter Revision Commission Final Report – November 7, 2013.”

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