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Charter Revision Commission Proposal Nixed

Council fails to get two-thirds majority necessary for new revision of New London's city charter

The City Council fell a vote short of the majority needed to establish a Charter Revision Commission on Monday.

The council voted 4-2 in favor of creating the commission. According to state statute, the measure needed a two-thirds majority—or five votes—in order to pass.

An affirmative vote would have established a seven-member commission, with each councilor appointing a member. Councilors also would have recommended areas of the charter for possible revision and recommended dates for the commission to submit a draft report.

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Voters , with the most notable change being the transition of city government from an appointed city manager to an elected strong mayor. Councilor John Maynard said that he opposed this charter revision in 2010, but that the proposal for new revisions will not alter the form of government. He said he spoke with Mayor Daryl Finizio, who agreed that clarifications are needed.

“I think there’s a lot of language in the charter that needs to be fixed,” said Maynard.

Councilor Adam Sprecace said the council will have a final say on the charter commission recommendations. He said he would like it to address matters such as the definition of a contract, the question of whether the council can remove a law director appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council, and the provision that a mayoral veto can only be overturned by the vote of six of the seven councilors.

Sprecace said he was also concerned with vague language such as the provision allowing the mayor to call a special council meeting due to “public necessity.” He said this leads to differing interpretations of sections of the charter.

“My intentions in supporting this are to be more specific,” said Sprecace.

Councilor Anthony Nolan said he was concerned with the possibility of changing the charter only two years after the last change.

“I think it’s premature into the year,” said Nolan. “We haven’t given ourselves or the administration a chance to settle in and see what can be done.”

Sprecace’s initial motion proposed a five-member commission, but this number was later amended to seven to allow each councilor to recommend a member. Council President Michael Passero proposed increasing the number to 14, but an amendment to do so failed 1-6 with only Passero in favor.

Councilor Donald Macrino was absent, and a vote to table the measure until a full council was available failed in a 3-3 tie with Maynard, Passero, and Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran in favor and Nolan, Sprecace, and Council President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop opposed.

In the final vote, Friess-McSparran, Maynard, Passero, and Sprecace were in favor while Hyslop and Nolan were opposed.

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Thomas Cornick June 05, 2012 at 11:11 AM
A change that addresses the conflict of interest that results from having current city employees serve on the council by barring them would be sensable .
Max June 05, 2012 at 11:42 AM
I suspect this was motivated by other factors. The issue you mention and others needs to revisited. The charter is being tested - live. It may be creating some dysfunctionality in how it addresses roles, etc. However the political climate is such that one wonders if now is the best time to do it.
loves animals June 05, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Making the language of the charter so all can understand it would be a small step in helping all involved know what they can do. I suspect Nolan does not understand the charter by listening to his questions and should not be on the council again. It is important to know what the charter says . Referendum here we come .
Kenneth R. Lewis June 05, 2012 at 11:56 AM
The charter review will pass next council meeting I expect
Kenneth R. Lewis June 05, 2012 at 12:00 PM
The meeting was a complete farce. Councilor Nolan and Councilor Hyslop have both joined the ranks of the union hater administrators in New London. The mayor is anti union and is working hard to undermine these hard working people. These two councilors have doomed themselves and their political careers, they have the same chance as Finizio of getting re-elected, NONE. I think that Councilor Nolan is a member of the police union and he does not stick with his brothers in blue nor does he back the other union members in the community. Damn Councilor Nolan resign from the police union today and then you will not come across as such a fool and backstabber. Councilor Hyslop you did a great wrong to the NAACP with your backing of the termination of Mr. Mayo. You and Mr. Nolan are two peas in the same pod following the mayor blindly and not standing for the people that elected you.
William Desmond June 05, 2012 at 12:06 PM
The really good news is that a speedy charter review can put the mayor out the door very quickly. That is good for New London.
Sue P. June 05, 2012 at 01:04 PM
How? We can't add a recall. I sure hope your right though.
loves animals June 05, 2012 at 01:49 PM
i do not think that a charter revision will recall the Mayor .The revisionmight be for the next election go to a two year Mayor or back to a city manager . The day pushed for this strong Mayor but the language of the charter was never explained and it was passed in a second referendum .My understanding is the revisions if made would have to be done by the next election? is that 2013 for coucils members or 2012? and it takes a long time. The council will not pass a revision if you listened to them last night. i think it will have to be a petition by the people of New London.The Mayor got to them early and some agreements were broken befor the vote.
lion king June 05, 2012 at 02:05 PM
i believe councilman maynard is being told what to do at some meetings and down the road he will not have a good chance to be voted back to council ,i have known john all my life and i see he has nl at his best intrest,mr passero plug at the meeting last night to tell people to read the paper in the morning was a low point ,im sure people would have read it anyway ,
Greg Bryant June 05, 2012 at 02:25 PM
People need to become educated about the rules and regulations that govern our city. The Charter is that set of rules and regulations. Read the charter people, it is all there in pretty plain and simple language. The City Council by Charter determines the number of police officers and the number of fire fighters that the city will have. The mayor has no hand in that per the charter. If you read the charter you will know who is being honest with you as a taxpayer and who is not being honest with you. If a charter commission was to change the form of government back to a city manager form of government effective on January 1, 2013 then the mayor is done as of December 31, 2012. The mayor has no guarantee of four years in office. One question that the people need to consider. If the mayor is as popular as he and his supporters would have people believe then the mayor would fully support a charter commission. If he is as popular as he and his supporters would have people believe then the results of the ballot questions of any charter commission would be overwhelmingly supported or defeated by the throngs of mayoral support, depending on his position. The absence of support from the mayor demonstrates that he knows his days are numbered. The harsh comments by the dozen or so remaining supporters of the mayor only exist because they now realize that the people of New London would throw this mayor out on his butt first chance that comes up.
Greg Bryant June 05, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Put it to the people Mr. Mayor if you believe that you have the support, that will shut the naysayers down for good. Stand on your record and let the voters decide.
David Irons June 05, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I tend to think it is too soon to consider giving up on this charter. While there are many unhappy with the election results, this is the first election since the new charter has been in effect and the feelings are more the result of voter remorse for their mistakes in who they supported in the election than in how the charter is written. Give it a chance. Amend it if it becomes necessary but do not consider a rewrite this soon. I fully expect there were those in the 1790's who were not happy with President Washington. But we did not hear calls to scrap the Constitution, that I am aware of. If we did have such calls, they were not supported and passed. That Constitution, while amended a few times, stands as a beacon to the world to this day. And the changes that have been made to it are difficult to accomplish and take a much larger that 50 percent majority to pass.
loves animals June 05, 2012 at 03:13 PM
The strong mayor is a social experiment that is not a modern form of Government. If the people of New London want a strong Mayor you have except that most who run will have strong personality, a big ego and a will most likely be the Village idiot . The mayors staff is also in this case very in effective in telling him the truth of what is happening and they feed his fear of past members of New Londons Government. What Glover is doing seems not to be helping him. Maybe he could get rid of her and save money.
Ken June 05, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Michael Passero wrote a well-reasoned opinion piece in The Day about the current state of affairs between the administration and the council. Clearly there are problems. The relationship between the two is contentious. It is easy to imagine the mayor making more than a few missteps in dealing with the council simply on the basis of not being grounded in NL politics. Add to that mix ego, an intensely competitive spirit, a frequent cycle of elections, and a fish-bowl existence---and one wonders how that relationship could ever be anything approaching "cooperative." The council is right to want to examine the charter for ambiguities. Those ambiguities at best result in misunderstandings, at worst they provide opportunities for exploitation and hidden dealings. However, I believe the council dodged a bullet by voting the charter revision commission down. It costs political capital to put such a commission in place and act on its recommendations. Done once, it is unlikely to be done soon twice. I have no doubt that further problems with the charter will be revealed with time. So, wait at least a year, or two, before starting a revision process. I tend to agree that an increase in informal discussions between the administration and council would be helpful. Surely, no one expects such talks to be amicable. But, held on a weekly basis they can eliminate honest misunderstandings, and help relieve some of the frustration residents feel toward their government.
Greg Bryant June 05, 2012 at 04:36 PM
NEW LONDON CHARTER Sec. 73. - Composition of police force. The police force of the city shall consist of a chief of police and such number of other officers and patrolmen as the council may, by ordinance, prescribe. The mayor shall appoint the chief of police and the services of the chief of police and the other officers, members and employees of the police force shall be under his control in the performance of his duties as chief executive of the city.
Greg Bryant June 05, 2012 at 04:37 PM
NEW LONDON CHARTER Sec. 77a. - Fire department. The paid fire forces of the City of New London shall consist of one chief and such other officers as the council may from time to time designate, and such number of regular and substitute firemen and other employees as the mayor, with the approval of the council, may from time to time determine. The chief shall be appointed by the mayor.
Greg Bryant June 05, 2012 at 04:39 PM
NEW LONDON CHARTER Sec. 39b. - Duties and responsibilities of the mayor. The mayor shall: Enforce the provisions of this charter, city ordinances and all general laws applicable thereto; report annually to the council and to the public a statement of the finances and general conditions of the affairs of the city; submit to the council for its consideration and adoption not later than ninety days before the end of the fiscal year an annual operating budget and a capital budget; see to it that the city does not, except in case of unforeseeable emergency, incur a deficit in any fiscal year; establish schedules and procedures to be followed by all municipal departments, offices and agencies in connection therewith; direct and control all departments of the municipal government and require each department to make an annual and such other reports on its work to council; supervise the care and custody of all municipal property, institutions and agencies; make recommendations concerning the nature and location of municipal improvements and execute improvements determined by the council.
Greg Bryant June 05, 2012 at 04:44 PM
The charter says that the council determines the number of police officers and fire fighters. The charter says that The mayor shall: Enforce the provisions of this charter So the mayor has to enforce the charter and make sure that the city has the number of fire fighters and police officers that the council establishes. Pretty simple actually. The mayor shall: see to it that the city does not, except in case of unforeseeable emergency, incur a deficit in any fiscal year. We have had no emergencies. Again pretty simple. So the mayor should have made sure that no departments overspent at all after the mayor took office. Has the mayor done that?
Sue P. June 05, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I was told that if the Council does not approve the Charter revisions commission We the people need 1200 signatures to reopen the charter and make changes. Hmmm I could have 3000 signatures by noon tomorrow.
Jeff Brown June 05, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Then put your money where your mouth is and do it.
Sue P. June 05, 2012 at 08:02 PM
I will Jeff when it's time. I guess I have to wait till the next vote. Will you be signing?
Alan Green, Jr. June 05, 2012 at 08:50 PM
'not being grounded in NL politics' was one of the reasons Mayor Finizio was so popular with voters.
Ken June 06, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Alan, Sure, if by grounded you mean, “Associated with the group of families that have dominated NL politics over the past half-century or more.” I believe it was the insular behavior of that group—combined with the problems faced in NL’s hinterland—that created an opening for candidate Finizio. However, by grounded I meant understanding the political mores of NL politics rather than being part of it. Missteps caused by being an ‘outsider’ are understandable and will diminish with time. If the mayor wishes to build political capital, then I suggest he use the time between now and Columbus Day wisely. First, offer an olive branch to the council by informally meeting with them weekly. The key word is informal; make it a lunch date. That would help create an impression of cooperation between the administration and council and may lead to less head-butting. Second, hold at least 4 town hall-style meetings during that period, and spread them throughout the city. NLHS, Winthrop Magnet School and NL Public Library would be great venues. That would serve 2 purposes: it would be an opportunity to get the mayor's agenda out and it would provide him an opportunity to hear the public’s point of view.

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