Mayor's Corner: Charter revision needs involvement of all citizens

Published on Thursday, 7 April 2022 20:17
Written by Jeffrey Caggiano

The Charter of the City of Bristol, CT, acts as the constitutional document for citizens of our All Heart City. The Charter contains 65 different sections and is set up much like our U.S. and State Constitution. As time passes, the citizens of Bristol and the Bristol City Council have the ability to suggest topics to be amended to ensure that the Charter reflects modern times and continues to be a guide for proper governance.

In 2022 the Charter Revision Committee was asked by the City Council to consider changing the term length for the Mayor’s Office found in section 38, section 14 and section 12A of the Charter from two years to four and keep an eight year limit. This topic was supported by the previous administration and by myself last year. It is complicated by a special act provision that Bristol was granted in 1911 for a recall provision for Mayor. (In my opinion recall/and or an opportunity to change direction with a new council every two years are an appropriate check on a longer four-year term and are covered by Home Rule.) I think that most would agree that four year terms, like the chief executives on the State and Federal level, is a more appropriate time for the City’s CEO to carry out an agenda.

Since, there has been no minority representation in the past two administrations the City Council felt the Charter Revision Committee should explore minority representation. Finally, since the 2020 Census has changed State Representative Districts we need to redraw Bristol’s City Council maps found in section 12 of the Charter, to match the newly redrawn State of Connecticut maps.

The current Charter Commission is comprised of three Republicans, three Democrats and one Unaffiliated voter. Five of the seven commissioners have prior Charter Revision Committee experience and have the ability to add items to review and change. They have been tasked with issuing a report on these three main items and can accept or reject any of them. Their final report goes back to City Council and any items approved will be put on the 2022 ballot for the voters to vote on in November. My hope is that with early notification and continued publicity about the process that any potential referendum questions on the November ballot will be well-known to the voters.

I am pleased and encouraged to see that the amount of public engagement with the latest revision of the City’s Charter has dramatically increased. The committee’s chair Jon FitzGerald acknowledged the increase in attendance at the most recent meeting on March 23rd. It is very important that the citizens of Bristol get involved and have their opinions heard. The Charter is crucial to how the City of Bristol operates and is and should be an apolitical process.

The committee will submit their recommendations to the City Council in June. They are currently pursuing legal advice, listening to public opinion, and looking at the successes of the other cities who made similar changes. The next committee meeting will take place on April 14th, 2022 at 7pm at the Main Library on 5 High Street, in Conference Room 3. Future meeting dates can be found on the City’s website: www.bristolct.gov .

We also encourage citizens to sign up for city meeting notices and other important messages from the City, by visiting: http://www.ci.bristol.ct.us/list.aspx?Mode=Subscribe



Posted in The Bristol Press, Column, Editorials on Thursday, 7 April 2022 20:17. Updated: Thursday, 7 April 2022 20:20.