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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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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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