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Give system a chance

Published July 31. 2012 4:00AM

Recent guest commentaries published on the opinion pages of The Day have called for creation of yet another charter revision commission in New London.

Former city councilor Charles Frink, who adamantly opposed the move from a city manager system in the city to a council-mayor format, has urged citizens to petition a charter commission into existence. Mr. Frink wistfully yearns for the quick return to city manager governance, with a non-elected bureaucrat once again serving as the chief executive, answerable not to the voters but to a seven-member council. That system diluted responsibility and perpetuated a leadership vacuum. But Mr. Frink apparently considers it safer and less controversial and wants it back.

More recently, former city councilor and 2011 mayoral candidate Michael Buscetto III wrote a commentary urging that the council approve creation of a charter commission. His primary goal is reducing the mayor's office to a two-year term. If voters are unhappy with a mayor's policies, Mr. Buscetto wants them to be able to make a change, and quickly.

We recognize these views do not exist in isolation. Certainly others in the city agree with Mr. Frink that a city manager system is preferable and with Mr. Buscetto that four years for a mayor is too long. Fueling the calls for once again changing the charter is the performance of the first mayor elected under the revised mayoral system - Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio.

His has been a controversial, provocative, exacerbating and sometimes peculiar first few months in office. But the challenges Mayor Finizio faced have been substantial. As the first mayor elected under the charter change, he had no blueprint. Conflicts between a council, used to telling the manager what to do, and a mayor representing a co-equal branch of government, were probably unavoidable. And the mayor faced serious fiscal problems from the start, leading to his unpopular proposals to cut services and raise taxes.

But the answer to a tumultuous few months is not to abandon the new mayoral system. And we strongly oppose the idea of reducing the office to a two-year term (which in any event could not take effect until the current occupant finished the four-year term to which voters elected him). A mayor needs time to implement policy, set a strategic direction and move it forward. Having to face election every couple of years can undermine those efforts.

In two or three years, and after a couple of budget cycles, it may be time to create a commission to tweak the new system of government - clarifying roles and addressing conflicting language, but now is much too soon. Give the new system, and the mayor, a chance.

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