Petition effort over Groton charter proposals has opposition

Groton —  A group of residents collecting signatures to petition the Charter Revision Commission report to referendum made a visible showing in town this week, while a separate group formed to oppose the drive.

The Charter Revision Commission proposed several changes to Groton's government, including eliminating the Representative Town Meeting, creating a board of finance and holding an annual budget referendum. The former Town Council rejected the commission report in a 5-4 vote last month, so the report will not go on the ballot unless it is petitioned to referendum.

The petitioning group, which calls itself Groton’s Right to Vote, must collect signatures from 10 percent of the town’s roughly 19,000 registered voters to place the charter commission report on the ballot in November 2018. The group plans to collect 2,000 signatures.

In recent days, members have stationed themselves outside shopping areas, near pharmacies, outside Aldi food market and in downtown Mystic. The group was expected to collect signatures outside Groton Public Library on Wednesday and announce after its meeting Thursday the number of signatures collected so far.

On Tuesday night, a separate group calling itself Neighbors Representing Groton met for the first time and started a Facebook page to oppose the petition effort.

Mayor Patrice Granatosky said she could not take a position on the petition drive as the town mayor or as a town councilor. But as a resident and former Charter Revision Commission member, she opposes the effort, she said.

She wrote on the Neighbors Representing Groton Facebook page: "Right now, a small group of Groton residents are trying to turn back the clock on good government in the Town of Groton. The petition being circulated implies you do not have the right to vote, which is false. The voters of the Town of Groton just had their municipal election and chose their representatives as they have done for the past 62 years. The overwhelming change in philosophy demonstrated by the election results is being ignored."

Granatosky authored one of two minority reports that disagreed with the majority recommendations about changing Groton’s government.

“I would caution people to know what they’re signing,” she said, adding in an earlier interview that she’s heard complaints that signers aren’t receiving complete information.

Former Town Councilor Bonnie Nault, who is part of the drive, said that is untrue. She has a summary of the commission’s major recommendations for voters and others do also, Nault said.

She added that the purpose of the petition is to get the commission report on the ballot, so that voters themselves can accept or reject it. Groton’s residents, not five members of the Town Council, should decide whether the charter commission changes go forward, group members said.

"We’re absolutely not trying to hoodwink anybody,” she said.

The deadline for filing the signatures is Jan. 12.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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