Panel sends changes to charter to Council

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
Despite criticism from members of public in attendance, the Charter Revision Commission unanimously approved several changes to the city’s charter. This included hiring a city manager, in addition to a mayor and council.
The commission held its last public hearing last week before sending the proposals to the City Council for approval. If the council approves the proposals, they will be listed on the November ballot for the public’s vote. The council does have the ability to send the proposals back for revisions, and then the commission would need to submit them again.
The majority of speakers at last week’s public hearing spoke against the proposal to hire a city manager. This proposal came up in 2008, and Mike Petosa, president of the Greater Bristol Labor Council, said the public voted it down then, so they will again.
“I said last time that the proposal for a CEO is fiscally irresponsible,” he said.
The Charter Revision Commission is considering proposing a “mayor-city council-city manager” kind of operation, where the mayor would continue to be a voting member and chairperson of the council, joint board and other boards that the mayor currently chairs, and would continue to make appointments to boards. The city manager would be responsible for running day-to-day operations like hiring department heads, supervising department heads and employees, and conducting annual written appraisals of all non-elected department heads, a press release from the commission said. The city manager would not be involved in voting on city issues, would prepare the annual budget, be responsible for long-term strategic planning, and would implement the budget, policies and procedures of the city.
Petosa said Bristol has been fortunate in the way it currently operates, and has a “strong mayor type of government” that needs to continue the course it is on.
Former City Councilor Tom Ragaini is also opposed to the proposal to implement a city manager, and said the cost of hiring another administrative position needs to be considered. He said the current operation allows for the “people to vote us in, the people vote us out.”
Democratic candidate for council Tim Gamache said the people of Bristol enjoy having a “representative government.”
“This is not a government that is for or by the people,” Gamache said.
Another possible proposal considered by the commission would allowing the public to vote on a proposed budget if it is more than 3 percent higher than the current budget. If the budget failed, it would be decreased to a 3 percent hike. If a budget approved by the joint board (which is the City Council and Board of Finance combined) that carries a 3 percent or less increase, there would be no referendum.
Other proposals under consideration include term limits for councilors, mayors, and Board of Education members, removing constables as elected positions, as well other minor revisions. The proposals were due to the council by this week, and are available on the city’s website.
Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver. com.