To the editor,
I read the comments about the proposed Charter revision changes made by Mayor Bob, Diane Lauber, Mr. Abarzua and others in the Prospect Pages. I saw Mayor Bob’s signs around town asking residents to vote “No” on all five changes. Unfortunately, this “Vote No” campaign came as a surprise to me and several members of the Town Council, as the Mayor had not communicated his blanket opposition to all of the Charter changes prior to the publication. My chance to speak up could not be published before the election, and so now the results are in, but I feel it is important to share this letter anyway.
The Charter Revision Commission, which consisted of a group of diverse and educated volunteers who live in Prospect, reviewed the Town Charter for nearly eight months (the minutes of their meetings are online) before submitting recommended revisions to the council. Plenty of thought, discussion and even some conflict was dedicated to this process, and when it was submitted to the council, we kicked back some of the proposed revisions, and the commission went back to their review, but in the end, it was clear.
These volunteers dedicated hours to make changes that they felt would improve the town they live in and love, and they were passionate about it. The council supported the commission’s efforts and voted to allow their proposed changes to go to the residents to make up their own mind. The council voted to have explanatory text added to the proposed changes to help the residents of Prospect understand the proposed changes. Further, the council voted to have the proposed changes published twice in the Prospect Pages so that the people could be informed and could form a decision based upon their own choice, not someone else’s rhetoric.
The proposed changes are relevant, the changes correct some errors in the old Charter and bring many of the outdated clauses up to snuff so they are workable in current times. For instance, the current Charter limits elective town positions and appointments to residents only. The [proposed changes] removed that restriction in order to allow the most qualified candidates to serve and to allow current appointees who are not residents to continue to serve. For example, the Board of Recreation Director and the Prospect police lieutenant are not residents of Prospect. Wouldn’t residents want to ensure these qualified people can continue to serve our town?
While Question 1 did propose a change that will affect the way the town clerk, tax collector and town treasurer are chosen, residents could either accept this proposal, or vote no. The Charter changes were broken down into five questions so residents might chose to vote “Yes” on some and “No” on others, without being bound to a single decision.
The efforts of the commission should be commended, regardless of the results, but I find it offensive that the Mayor would campaign against all the revisions, especially after these volunteers dedicated so much time and effort, and thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent on legal fees and costs through the process.
I stand up for the intelligence and right of our residents to make up their own mind. Unlike some others, I think our residents can make up their own minds, and whether I agree or disagree with the changes, is only my opinion based on my beliefs, and it is really irrelevant because each resident has his or her own choices and they are valuable.
I’ve lived in Prospect over 40 years. It is a great town, but it isn’t so small anymore. We are proud to have a Charter that provides a framework for our town government, but as I’ve discovered in reading it over and over through this charter revision process, many of the mandates and provisions are outdated, and aren’t even followed. The Charter needs an update to provide a workable structure to guide our town in the present and into the future, because the current one has gaps. I regret that certain opinions may have foreclosed this valuable opportunity for an improved Charter for the residents of Prospect.
Carla Perugini Erickson
Town Council member