On Wednesday evening, the public was invited to contribute our two cents on the discussion regarding the Hartford Charter Revision. Commissioners include Richard Wareing (Chair), Monique Rowtham-Kennedy (Vice-Chair), Sara Bronin (Secretary), Marcia Bok Anderson, Alex Aponte, Heather Brandon, Yvonne Duncan, Matt Fleury, Mathew Jasinski, Marquita McElya, Julian Pelaez, Jeff Stewart, and Edwin Vargas. The meeting was held in the downtown Hartford Public Library, which despite its recent bad press, has been accommodating to community events; in this case, they are maintaining a web page devoted to providing information about the Revision Commission and its proceedings. It, however, can’t bear to fix the acoustics in the large room where panels are frequently held. As a result, it becomes a challenge to hear speakers (who use microphones) if the heating system is on (check) or if audience members use this kind of function as a social gathering (check). Beyond the poor sound and failure to introduce members of the Charter Revision Commission, this meeting was disappointing because it was not doing what it said it would. Over the course of the two hour meeting, eight people addressed the commission. Of those, four were from City Council, one was the mayor, one was a state senator, one on the Connecticut State Board of Education, and one was an actual member of the public (though he has served on City Council in the past). On one hand, it makes sense to have officials go first, to present their researched ideas. But their expertise should not be permitted to fill the space of two hours in such a disorganized manner. The meeting came to a screeching halt at 8pm when the library closed, which cut off the ability for the public to actually contribute. The meeting will resume on December 18th at 6pm in City Council chambers.
With that said, the positions presented were interesting. Councilmen Ritter, Kennedy, Deutsch, and Cotto presented their viewpoints, along with Mayor Perez, Connecticut State Senator Fonfara, chair of the Connecticut State Board of Education and former City Councilman (1981-1987) Allan B. Taylor, and Mike McGarry, a newspaper columnist and former City Councilman. There was some disagreement over why the City Charter was even up for discussion. According to information provided by Councilman Ritter in the 2008 Charter Reform Public Hearing Summary Report, the City Council “can offer guidance on what items should be considered, but ultimately the commission can decide what areas of the charter it wishes to review.” It appeared that several members of the Council were offering guidance and/or directives for the Commission tonight.
During the summer of 2008, four hearings were held in different locations of the city–Farmington Avenue, Park Street, Main Street, and Coventry Street–so that the public could get an understanding of the charter revision process. Ritter claimed that during these meetings, the possibility of switching to a district electoral system was the most spoken about issue. Right now, Hartford has at large representation, which means that it is possible for three City Councilmembers to live in one district, while other districts may have only one member residing there; this is the case in Hartford, where there are even districts without their own representation. Councilman Cotto said, “If you start on Broad Street (at Maple Avenue) and draw a line due north connecting to Garden Street (until Love Lane), you have a North-South line splitting the city almost exactly in half…no elected official lives east of that line. The poorest sections in the city are the NorthEast and Southeast.” Senator Fonfara concurred, “It’s not by accident that there is no representation of the East side of the city.” Continue reading '“Take as long as you need to complete this task” —Mayor Eddie Perez'»