Guilford weighs RTM form of government

Rachael Scarborough King; Register Staff
December 27, 2007

GUILFORD – A final public hearing on proposals to revise the town charter drew only a handful of people Wednesday night, but proponents say they hope the changes will result in greater participation in town government.

The biggest change the Charter Revision Commission has proposed is a move to a representative town meeting form of government.

Currently, Guilford holds periodic town meetings – at which any registered voter or taxpayer over the age of 18 can cast a vote – to decide issues such as bonding and the town budget. The commission is proposing a system where residents would elect 25 representatives to serve two-year terms each.

Based on the commission’s proposals, each of Guilford’s five voting districts would elect five representatives and they would not have any party affiliation. One resident who spoke at the public hearing said he agreed with that concept.

“I don’t want it to be a strongly two-party system that the representatives are going to come from,” Joe Newton said.

Frederick Trotta, chairman of the Charter Revision Commission, said that the proposal includes a requirement that anyone interested in running for the representative town meeting obtain 50 signatures from registered voters in his or her district.

First Selectman Carl Balestracci said he agrees with that plan, but thinks there might be room for the involvement of the Democratic and Republican town committees as well.

“For a Democrat or Republican, you (could) go the extra step and become the endorsed candidate for your party,” Balestracci said. “I don’t think some of us are ready to set aside the town committees’ role in this process.”

Doug Newman, another resident, said he thinks the Charter Revision Commission should have considered amending the charter to make the Board of Education nonpartisan.

The charter review has been in the works for almost 18 months. Other recommendations include the creation of a public works commission, the elimination of the office of town treasurer and a move to four-year terms for the Board of Selectmen from the current two-year terms.

The charter recommendations will eventually be presented to residents for a referendum. Balestracci said that, after the close of Wednesday’s public hearing, the Board of Selectmen has 15 days to make recommendations to the Charter Revision Commission. After that, the commission has 30 days to present its final proposals back to the Board of Selectmen.

“We’re going to have a major educational project in front of us to educate the voters about the enormity of the change, if in fact we recommend going to an RTM,” Balestracci said. “It is a major step.”

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