A new charter for the town of Hamden is not dead – at least not yet.
A week after the Legislative Council rejected a proposal for a 10-year charter review, more than 50 people in town take to the streets in a long-drawn-out attempt to collect signatures to put the proposed changes on the November ballot after all .
The city is required by law to consider updating its charter at least once every ten years. This year, that process involved hundreds of hours of volunteer work, tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and numerous legislative workshops and heated debates. He produced a document containing proposed changes to be presented to voters to accept or reject them on November 2. But first the approval of the Legislative Council was required. On August 11, the council vetoed the entire proposed 145-page charter after virtually no public explanation for why.
Read more about it here.
There is one more way to get the proposal to voters: collect 3,657 signatures from registered voters within the next month, or within 45 days of August 11.
The proposed charter would have included four-year mayoral terms (rather than the current two-year terms), a new finance committee, a diversity, equity and inclusion (DCI) committee and a lane towards a civilian review board with subpoena power. . It contained measures aimed at professionalizing administrators, controlling the budget and strengthening the accountability of the police. Click here to read an overview of how important the Hamden Charter review process – or how important it is.
“The charter is like the constitution of our city,” Sarah Gallagher repeated as she circulated petitions at the gates of Carmel Street on Wednesday night alongside mayoral candidate Lauren Garrett. “It’s the only thing you have the chance to vote on other than your elected officials.”
This is the first time that Gallagher has run for elected office, as the DTC-approved council representative for District Four. His first foray into local service was last year, through the charter review board.
She said she was “shocked and disappointed” when she learned that the council had voted against the charter. “It is an attack on democracy,” she said.
The morning after the news broke, she created an infographic and in-depth guide outlining what the proposed revised charter meant.
In his eyes, this meant greater fiscal responsibility, protections for fairness and steps towards professionalizing government offices. It also provided more opportunities for the public to participate in local politics, such as increased time for public participation in municipal meetings and additional official volunteer groups, such as finance and diversity committees, equity and inclusion.
While the charter review process included important expert advice on local government and in-depth legal advice, it began with a series of public input sessions in which residents told the commission what they were waiting for their city.
“It was developed by the residents and we want to give it back to them,” Gallagher said.
“It makes me want to make sure that the Legislative Council is functioning and accountable, and that it listens to the people of the city and not just pursues a separate agenda,” she said. “And it reminded me to be responsible to myself. If I vote for or against something, I can explain why.
“I wouldn’t give up on improving our city and I won’t let seven or eight people ruin it for everyone,” she said. “Hamden, in a way, represents all of Connecticut and all of our country. So if we are successful, we can really be a role model. “
When registered voters repeatedly tell her at the gates that they want more honest budget practices, she switches from campaign speeches to petitions.
It’s the routine that everyone follows on their slate. Row A Democrats – or those approved by the Democratic City Committee ahead of a party primary on September 14 – have been the biggest force in favor of the charter. When canvassing for the primary, they bring a clipboard containing information about the document and collect signatures.
“Everyone I asked has signed,” said Lauren Garrett, despite the fact that the majority of people don’t know about the charter when she talks about it.
She said the DTC printed 100 petition papers two weeks ago. About 30 to 40 volunteers, in addition to the entire DTC roster, which includes candidates for the board and the board of education, pull out these papers every time they knock on the door.
Because of this, Garrett said, it’s impossible to know how many signatures they’ve collected so far. As of Wednesday evening, she and Gallagher collected nine names in the span of about two hours. No one refused to sign his name.
Last Saturday, several members of the list gathered in the Fifth District to pick up materials for the DTC campaign – and the charter.
Jennifer Pope, co-founder of the Hamden Progressive Action Network and a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, said the charter includes many of the policies and practices outlined in the DTC’s municipal platform, such as increased police accountability and fiscal surveillance.
In the council, moderate Democrats like Kathleen Shomaker and Berita Rowe-Lewis, who are running for election on a list with incumbent mayor Curt Leng, voted against the charter, as did Republicans. Members who come forward with the DTC-approved list, such as Dominique Baez and Adrian Webber, voted in favor of the document.
“We were going to talk at the gates anyway, but now it’s a little different,” said Laurie Sweet, a DTC-approved general council candidate. In an alternate universe, the DTC would have urged people to vote in favor of the charter. Now they are asking them to sign in favor of the right to vote – and use it as a political tool to distinguish between their campaign’s values and those put forward by Leng’s list.
Mayor Leng told The Independent that he “plans to sign the petition and collect signatures as he talks to voters in the Democratic primary.” He has previously noted that while his list includes people who voted against the charter, it also includes Frank Dixon, the chairman of the charter commission. He said he would like to attempt to pass several provisions included in the proposed charter through ordinances if it fails the ballot.
It’s not just Democrats who are in favor of moving the charter forward.
The petitioners include Jay Kaye, the 2019 Republican mayoral candidate and also a member of the charter committee who is running for general council this year as an Independent Party candidate. Kaye plans to hold an event to collect signatures on September 4 at Villano Park. Anyone interested in signing the petition, who has not been invited to come to their door, can do so right away.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Gallagher said of the charter controversy on Wednesday. “It’s a question of democracy.
posted by: Hamdenresident August 27, 2021 at 10:12 a.m.
OK, folks, if you weren’t mad at me already, you can get mad now. I was asked to sign and get signatures for the petition. I refused to sign and, also, to solicit signatures.
If the Charter is passed, it will be approved. Voters invariably vote in favor of such things. I would sign the petition if I had the slightest hope that more than 10% of voters would have any idea of what is in our current Charter and what is new.
Also, our current charter is so ignored by a lot of time that a new and long charter, in my humble opinion and after seeing how this city works, will give many more opportunities to ignore it.
I am categorically opposed to a four-year term as mayor and a new paid job in finance at mayor. And etc.
I am an old lady. If the younger generation wants to work to get the Charter passed, that is their choice. But I’m sitting this one outside.
Ann M. Altman
posted by: MomKarma August 27, 2021 11:36 a.m.
Again, the Hamden Liberals would rather change our charter than stick to the guidelines. Typical battle cry. They create a mess for the taxpayers in Hamden and then instead of fixing it they kind of think that by changing the rules and regulations it makes them look good. There should be no one in power, for 4 years, and if the Democrats thought a Republican could come in, they would find a way to oust them, because they would never tolerate a Republican in power, for 4 years. Maybe if these Dem’s were actually working for the good of the taxpayers, instead of themselves, Hamden wouldn’t be in trouble!