After four years of serving as more of a doormat than a check on Mayor Eddie A. Perez, incumbent candidates running for Hartford city council last year promised charter changes that would give the council more leverage.
The changes included district elections; the right to hire the council's own lawyer; and a greater say in appointments to boards and commissions.
It's time for those candidates to deliver on their promises.
They took a step in the right direction recently when they agreed to put a resolution on the council agenda calling for the formation of a charter revision commission. But in a show of ambivalence about challenging the mayor, the council also signed off on a counterproposal by Mr. Perez to form a task force to solicit recommendations on areas to be reviewed by the commission.
The council should just skip the task force and go straight to the charter revision panel. Under the mayor's scenario, the commission would in effect be rubber-stamping the suggestions of a task force, which, unlike the commission, has no basis in law. A task force might so delay the latest revision process that there wouldn't be time to put proposals on the November ballot for voter approval.
The charter was last revised in 2002 to establish a strong-mayor form of government that should now be balanced with more council authority and perhaps a more democratic way of electing council members. But the current council needs to move quickly if it wants these sensible changes. They need to decide that they want a charter revision and then quickly design a process for selecting commission members. The commission would have to move smartly to get proposed changes on the November ballot.
That is critical because at least 15 percent of the city's electorate must turn out to vote for the charter changes to be adopted, and this threshold is more achievable in a presidential election year.
Every effort should be made to meet the November deadline. The revisions under consideration are not so numerous or complicated that approving them needs to drag on for a long time.
CORRECTION: A minimum 15 percent voter turnout is required only in special elections to adopt changes to Hartford's city charter. The threshold does not apply to general elections. The April 10 editorial "Make Charter Fixes" incorrectly suggested that the 15 percent threshold would apply in the general election this fall.