Charter changes would send Groton backwards
In 1955, the Town of Groton commissioned a study to examine the structure and function of municipal government. In the 1950s, Groton was, “the second largest town in Connecticut still operating under the general town meeting — board of selectmen — board of finance form of government.” The study noted that with Groton being so large, at 25,000 people, the peoples’ “interests would be better served by substituting a relatively small popularly elected legislative body for the town meeting.”
The study recognized that with the growth of population, there was the need to adapt to new realities and implement a change to Groton's government structure — an adaptation to reflect our nation’s republic with popularly elected representatives governing.
A “town meeting — board of selectmen — board of finance form of government…is designed for a small town where the duties of office are simple enough to be performed adequately by part-time officials. But Groton is no longer a small town and as it continues to grow its administration will become more time-consuming and more complex. The management of the ttown’s affairs will then require the full-time services of technically trained personnel.”
This was in 1955. In 2017, we should not regress to a reliance on non-professionals for financial advice and guidance in the form of a Board of Finance. The high stakes of our current economy demand non-partisan professionals providing the advice and guidance to elected officials.
Along with the elimination of the Board of Finance, a new form of government was adopted with a system of checks and balances. The RTM serving as a check on the Town Council, with the town manager providing full-time, non-partisan professional management of town matters. For 60 years, Groton has functioned efficiently and enjoys a hard-earned reputation as being well managed and fiscally responsible. With a population of 40,000 and the town’s revenues over $100 million, this is not the time, nor is there a need to change the structure of Groton's government.
Keeping the RTM is in the best interest of the whole town of Groton. By its very nature, the body is truly representative of every corner of town. Throughout the year, the members live and work with their constituents, driving the same roads, playing at the same parks and visiting the same classrooms with their children. These elected officials are the voice of the people in each of our seven districts. With guaranteed minority party representation, the RTM is the essence of our republic. Just as you send a representative to Washington, DC to tend to national matters, you send your neighbor to tend to town matters.
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. Every budget will be a political battle and does not need to be.
Elections are not cheap. According to the Registrars of Voters, a municipal election in Groton costs $22,590. The revision says, if the initial budget referendum does not pass, “Additional referenda, as required, will be held every other week on Tuesday thereafter until a Budget is approved.”
There is bipartisan opposition to the changes put forth in the Charter Revision Commission Report because adopting these changes will not make Groton government better. With a nod to the late George Edwards, don't turn back the clock on what's "Good for Groton."
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