Residents urge Groton commission to keep Representative Town Meeting

Groton — Speakers told the town's Charter Revision Commission on Monday that replacing the Representative Town Meeting with a Board of Finance would place more power in the hands of fewer people and potentially disenfranchise voters in Groton’s diverse community.

“We look around this room right now, does this room represent Groton? I don’t believe so,” former RTM member Jean-Claude Amboise said during a public hearing before the commission. Decisions will end up in the hands of a few, he said.

The commission's recommended changes would dissolve the Representative Town Meeting, install a seven-member Board of Finance and hold an annual budget referendum, with town and education budgets voted on separately.

The changes also call for electing members of the Town Council and Board of Finance to four-year, staggered terms, with limits of three consecutive terms. Employees of the town and Board of Education would be restricted from serving on town elected bodies under the recommended changes. Minority representation would apply to the Town Council and Board of Finance.

Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick said minority representation doesn’t ensure that all districts in Groton have a voice. One section of town could take over the boards and make decisions for everyone, he said.

RTM member Lian Obrey said the RTM also familiarizes people with the budget, gets them involved and provides an entry into town politics.

“Don’t take away the RTM. That’s the heart of this town,” she said.

The recommendation to eliminate the RTM was approved 7-2 by the commission. Commissioners were also split on a budget referendum, supporting the change 6-2.

In the minority report, Commissioners Patrice Granatosky and Darcy Peruzzotti explained their view.

“The informed decisions made by the RTM represent the people in every neighborhood in town, unlike a budget referendum, where a very small special interest group could form and drive the outcome to suit their specialized needs,” they wrote. “Every budget will be a political battle and does not need to be.”

But others supported the proposed changes, including dismantling the RTM.

“I think there is a reason why the RTMs have fallen by the wayside,” said Diane Barber, a town councilor. “There’s only a few communities left that still have an RTM."

She said she also agrees that residents should vote on the budget.

The commission must formally submit its report to the Town Council by Sept. 2. The council will then hold a public hearing and offer comments back to the commission. Once the council receives the commission's final report with any revisions, it will decide what recommendations, if any, go to voters at referendum.

 

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