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Beware Of Charter Changes By Bruce Walczak

Published: October 26, 2016

To the Editor:

According to The Newtown Bee, the Charter Commissions and our elected officials do not feel the elimination of the town meeting is a big deal, nor controversial. Perhaps that’s because it takes the final approval of appropriations out of the hands of the voters and puts it solely into their own pockets.

I believe the truth is just the opposite. The town meeting allows taxpayers to weigh in on a number of issues before important spending and financial issues are finalized. The town meeting has a long New England history of serving the taxpayers and Newtown well, especially on controversial spending plans. The proposed charter will allow the Legislative Council to approve special appropriations up to $1.5  million without approval of the taxpayer. This is compared to the current charter, which limits their approval to $500,000 without a vote of the taxpayers. That’s a threefold increase in their power to spend. It also eliminates the town meeting’s role in the sale and leasing of town property.

The town meeting has long been the last chance for concerned residents to object to controversial spending. Attendance is low on some popular appropriations and over 100 on key contentious issues. That’s its role and it works well. The town meeting does not add a burdensome step to the process, but it surely forces the Legislative Council to be careful that what they are spending is supported by the taxpayer.

I am not sure the elected officials have yet to earn the right to spend $1.5 million on the vote of 12 individuals. This proposed change takes this final power away from the taxpayer and places it in the hands of a few. Trying to slip this major change to how Newtown approves appropriations and spending by suggesting it’s not a big deal lacks transparency, accountability, and appropriate checks and balances. They will argue that it simpler, but “whose ox is really being gored.”

I am voting No for Question 2, because it reduces the voters input, increase the spending power of a few elected officials, and prevents a full and final vetting of the appropriation process.

Bruce Walczak
12 Glover Avenue, Newtown         October 26, 2016

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