New Britain Mayor
There are two questions encompassing the proposed changes to the city‚Äôs Charter that will appear on the Election Day ballot on November 8. Over the past couple of months¬†I have used this column to provide an in-depth explanation of different proposed¬†changes that are included in these questions in hopes to fully inform residents on what¬†changes the Charter Revision Committee are seeking and why I support them.¬†¬†
The first Charter Revision question that will appear on the ballot will read: "Shall the Common Council be comprised of 15 members, consisting of three members elected from each of the five common council districts, with the¬†minority party requirements of the Connecticut general statutes applying to each of¬†the five common council districts separately?"¬†
Now this may initially feel like a long, complex question, but it is actually much simpler¬†than it sounds so let me help break it down.¬†
Right now, the Common Council is made up of 15 members, 10 representing five different¬†neighborhoods or wards from around town and five elected at-large by all New Britain¬†residents. Currently, there is no requirement for minority party representation, which¬†means that the entire Council could be comprised of all Democrats or all Republicans.¬†¬†
Additionally, there is no geographic determinant for the at-large members, so¬†technically all five at-large council members could come from the same Ward. The¬†current system has historically has led to an over representation on the Council of¬†residents in Wards 1 and 5.¬†
Here is what the proposed Charter change is hoping to do to address this.¬†
First, it aims to more evenly disperse Council members among the neighborhoods. It¬†would provide additional representation to each Ward by adding one Council member¬†to each Ward through the elimination of the five at-large positions.
Secondly, this proposed change will also encourage institutional bi-partisanship by¬† requiring that at least one Alderman out of the three elected in each Ward comes from a¬† minority party. That means if you live in a traditionally Democratic ward, like Ward 3,¬†you are going to get a Republican or Independent to serve alongside the two Democrats¬†elected in your Ward. If you live in a more Republican leaning Ward, like Ward 1, you¬†would have a Democrat or Independent to serve alongside the majority party.¬†
In my opinion, this positive change would foster healthy debate and better political¬†discourse. It was the belief of the Charter Revision Commission that this change would¬†encourage political parties to work together and embolden differences of opinion on the¬†major issues facing the New Britain community. It would also make sure that one political party can never hold a monopoly on the local political power.¬†
It is my belief that New Britain has always worked best when we work together. This is a¬†commonsense reform that ensures the successful bipartisanship of the last decade stays¬† here and the progress continues. I encourage you to vote Yes on Charter on November¬†8, and to find out more information about the proposed changes to the City Charter¬† please visit voteyesoncharternb.com.
Erin Stewart is the mayor of New Britain