Weston charter changes will be on ballot as single question

Selectman Dennis Tracey and Arne de Keijzer, both members of the now dissolved Charter Revision Commission, Democratic Registrar of Voters Laura Smits

Back row from left, Selectman Dennis Tracey and Arne de Keijzer, both members of the now dissolved Charter Revision Commission, along with Democratic Registrar of Voters Laura Smits, listened to the Board of Selectmen discuss how the question of changes to the town charter will appear on the ballot Nov. 6. —Margaret Wirtenberg photo

When it comes to approving the many proposed changes to the town charter recommended by the Weston Charter Revision Commission, it’s going to be all or nothing.

The Board of Selectmen decided on Thursday, Sept. 6, to add to the Nov. 6 ballot a single question asking voters to approve the town charter as amended and restated.

The Board of Selectmen appointed a Charter Revision Commission last year. Over the course of the year, the seven-member commission met dozens of times before presenting its draft proposal to the Board of Selectmen in June, and then its final report in July.

At a special meeting July 23, the board accepted the “amended and restated” charter, subject to final approval by the voters on Nov. 6.

All that was left was for the board — minus Dennis Tracey, who recused himself from the discussions because he served as co-chairman of the Charter Revision Commission — to decide how, exactly, to ask voters for their approval.

Selectman David Muller said last Thursday they could opt to ask voters to approve changes “line by line,” or they could ask them to approve or reject the document as a whole.

Voting on each line, subsection, or even section by section “would be a long, cumbersome process,” and he said he “strongly disagrees” with going that route.

“We have individuals who spent a lot of time creating a coherent and cohesive document that has internal integrity,” Mr. Muller said. Something in one section might be referenced in another, so if one part was not approved by voters, it might have unintended repercussions in another.

For that reason, Mr. Muller said he recommended asking just one question.

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she had two areas of the charter she felt might be worth breaking into separate questions because the changes were significant and had garnered the most discussion during the charter revision process. Those questions would be about changing the tax collector to an appointed position and changing the budget vote process so that it goes automatically to a machine vote.

But, Ms. Weinstein said, she agrees with Mr. Muller that what the commission did was to come up with a document that is “one organic whole” and it “reflects the involvement of the entire community.”

While she said she is “100% behind the changes made” to the charter, she considered separating out certain questions because “I want to make sure people understand all of the changes.”

However, she ultimately agreed with Mr. Muller that asking voters to either approve or reject the new charter as a whole is preferable. “I feel comfortable presenting [this document] to the public,” Ms. Weinstein said. “If the majority don’t support it, I can’t control that, and I can’t micro-manage each part.”

The selectmen agreed they should find ways to make supplemental information about the revised charter available to the public before the vote in November, as well as at the polls.

The amended and restated charter was printed in its entirety in The Weston Forum’s Aug. 30 edition and is available online at theWestonForum.com.

Ms. Weinstein also asked Mr. Tracey to create a succinct summary of the substantive changes for public distribution, and he agreed.

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