Lame-duck chicanery

The Norwich City Council should either reject or amend Monday the attempt by three members - two of them vanquished in the Nov. 5 election - to direct the makeup of a proposed charter revision commission.

The best choice would be to leave this to the incoming council, with three newcomers among the seven members, including a new mayor. The new mayor and council take office Dec. 3.

The current approach stinks. The three who put together the seven-member charter commission list are Mayor Peter Nystrom, a Republican, and Democratic Aldermen Charles Jaskiewicz and Mark Bettencourt.

Alderman Jaskiewicz and Mayor Nystrom have something in common, they both were defeated by Alderwoman Deberey Hinchey in the mayoral race - Alderman Jaskiewicz in the Democratic primary, and Mayor Nystrom in the general election. Alderman Bettencourt, meanwhile, was a Jaskiewicz supporter in the primary. Only Alderman Bettencourt returns to the council.

What this appears to be is a couple of defeated politicians making one last attempt to leave their imprint before the person the voters preferred as mayor takes office. By proposing changes in the rules of governance, charter commissions can have a major influence on a community for many years.

This is not a criticism of the list of people the three men came up with to serve - the names are on Monday's council agenda - instead, it is a criticism of the process.

The trio provides rationales. Mayor Nystrom, who came late to the idea of forming a new charter commission, said he is following up on his stated intention to get the process started this term. The three amigos note that the commission needs a delicate political balance with one party - in Norwich, Democrats - having no more than a one-vote majority. Mr. Jaskiewicz said the three did a good job coming up with a qualified, diverse group.

None of that explains or justifies these three casting themselves as a self-appointed nominating committee.

Mayor-elect Hinchey wants to follow past precedent, with each council member making a nomination. The council can work out political balance on the commission. The four councilors who were not part of the unofficial selection committee should put the brakes on this, either pushing for nominations from the floor or, better yet, leaving nominations to the new council and mayor.

Norwich has not had a charter commission since 2001. This can wait a couple of weeks.

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