Norwich City Council delaying action on charter revision commission

Norwich - The City Council Monday postponed action on whether to form a charter revision commission, but expects to vote on the issue Nov. 18 - the last meeting of the current council before the winners of the Nov. 5 election take office in early December.

Mayor Peter Nystrom proposed a resolution to create a charter revision commission, but the wording did not list charter issues to be considered. That prompted Alderwoman Sofee Noblick to propose postponing the vote until Nov. 18.

City Corporation Counsel Michael Driscoll said if the council approves the resolution - a two-thirds majority would be needed - it could either appoint members to the commission that night or give the incoming City Council the task of naming members. State law calls for members to be named to the commission within 30 days of the vote to establish it, Driscoll said. Once formed, the commission would have 16 months to report its recommendations.

Aldermen heard varying opinions from the several residents who spoke during public comment session of their meeting Monday. Resident Andy Depta, a strong supporter of charter revision, said the biggest issue is to allow voters the chance to bring the city annual budget to referendum. Currently there is no mechanism for a budget referendum in the city charter.

Depta said whether the referendum would be automatic or by petition, he would call for a maximum of two referendums, and if the budget is defeated twice, the council's original budget would be adopted.

Resident Richard Caron objected to budget referendums as time-consuming and costly. He said the council should retain the authority over the budget. But he is in favor of forming a charter revision commission.

Three residents objected to the timing of Nystrom's proposed resolution, coming one month before he faces re-election Nov. 5.

"You're the wrong council to be voting on this," Keith Ripley said. "I am in favor of charter revision at the right time."

During their brief discussion, aldermen too differed in their opinions on whether the city needs to consider charter changes. Democratic Alderwoman and mayoral candidate Deberey Hinchey said she was prepared to vote against the resolution. She said last week that she would wait to hear whether residents were strongly advocating for the commission, and did not hear that from the several speakers Monday.

Alderman H. Tucker Braddock also said he opposed forming a charter revision commission, meaning the remaining five aldermen would have to vote in favor for it to pass on Nov. 18.

At least three seats on the council will change when the new council is sworn in. Nystrom and Hinchey are vying for mayor, along with Libertarian candidate William Russell. Braddock is not seeking re-election, and Democratic Alderman Charles Jaskiewicz will depart after having lost the mayoral primary to Hinchey.

c.bessette@theday.com

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