Hartford Council Sends Some Charter Changes To Voters
JEFFREY B. COHEN
July 22, 2009
HARTFORD — - For the second time in less than a decade, the city council on Tuesday rejected a proposal to grow its ranks and include some district-elected council members.
Since late 2008, members of the charter revision commission considered changes to the city's governing document. On Tuesday, the city council met to decide whether to approve some of the commission's proposed changes and send them to the voters in the fall.
Of all of the changes considered, the composition of the city council was by far the biggest. With only six of its nine members present, the council was split — with three Democrats voting to approve the measure, and the council's three minority-party representatives voting against it.
The council did, though, accept other proposed changes, including: putting the city's freedom of information advisory board and ethics commission into the charter — and giving the council the power to appoint some, if not all, members of each; giving the city council the power to appoint people to boards and commissions should the mayor neglect to; and mandating that the corporation counsel's office file a detailed annual report on its activities.
The council also approved a change that the mayor could serve only as an ex-officio, nonvoting member of the board of education. In 2005, Mayor Eddie A. Perez appointed himself to the board and became its chairman.
"My position is that all of these things should have gone to the voters, so I'm glad that most of them are," said Richard Wareing, the city attorney who led the charter revision commission.
Wareing also said he was "extremely disappointed" that the council voted, again, against letting voters decide whether to have a bigger council with district elections. He said he was "baffled" by council Minority Leader Larry Deutsch, from the Working Families Party, who proposed the hybrid council — eight elected at-large, five elected by district — only to vote against it Tuesday.
Deutsch, though, said his views had evolved and that district representation would have fragmented the city.
Still, even had Deutsch voted in favor of changing the council's makeup, it would have failed by a 4-2 vote. Three council members were not present for the meeting — council President Calixto Torres, Democratic Majority Leader rJo Winch and Councilman Kenneth Kennedy.
The measures approved by the council will appear on a city ballot this fall.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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