The City Council Monday night is scheduled to vote on empaneling a Charter Revision Commission to update the document guiding Bridgeport’s rules and regulations that must be decided by a vote of city electors.
At issue is timing. City Council leadership wants the unforeseen commission’s recommendations placed on the November 2023 general election ballot while Mayor Joe Ganim sides with a broader timeline for November 2024. Ganim and all members of the council are up for election in 2023.
Charter change can be controversial such as the last time it was presented to voters in 2012 seeking to abolish an elected Board of Education with one appointed by the mayor.
The charter question came on the heels of then-Mayor Bill Finch’s lobbying efforts in favor of a state takeover of city schools that ultimately was reversed by the Connecticut Supreme Court. Opponents successfully attacked the measure as a means to dampen voter rights. Black voters in particular came out strongly against it during Barack Obama’s reelection for president.
Unclear the precise focus and areas of examination the panel would pursue. Items being kicked around by council members include more legislative body independence from the executive branch, hiring of its own legal team, the council president chairing meetings instead of the mayor, converting $9,000 city stipends for each council member into paid elected positions. In lieu of compensation council members receive stipends to cover expenses in the performance of duties, as well as travel allotments.
Empaneling the commission requires a two thirds vote of the council. If successful then the questions become who will sit on the commission as well as the swath of its charter examination.
Most city elections in Democratic-dominant Bridgeport are decided by September primaries. Even though the charter questions won’t reach city voters until November, controversial issues could provide a platform for primary opponents to attack incumbents.
If empaneled the work of the commission must be completed by July 2023. Council leadership certainly wants this done sooner rather than later.
Full agenda here.