Mayor Bill Finch Tuesday night urged the Charter Revision Commission that he empaneled to modernize the city charter with an emphasis on transforming the Board of Education from an elected body to either one appointed or a hybrid of the two. Whatever the commission decides must be cleared by the City Council and submitted to voters for approval. From Mayor Finch:
“I would like to see our Charter become a more streamlined, Constitutional document, which will allow us to be more nimble in our governance of the City,” said Mayor Finch.
Among the topics he will cover is a need for greater accountability, a more modern government and business practices, and broader citizen involvement in the future of the City.
The Mayor also plans to discuss his views on education reform and how the current system can change to the benefit of the students. The Mayor has previously stated he would like to see the current model change so elected officials would have more accountability and responsibility for the success of the City’s schools.
“I look forward to sharing my views with the Charter Revision Commission tonight, and working with them to create a new, more modern document to help us govern the City,” said Mayor Finch.
The Charter Revision Commission is comprised of seven Bridgeport residents who serve in a volunteer capacity. The members of the Commission are:
· Florisca Carter, Unaffiliated
· George Estrada, Republican
· William J. Marshall, Democrat
· Ruben Felipe, Democrat
· Cathleen Simpson, Democrat
· Charles Valentino, Sr., Republican
· Harry Weichsel, Democrat
The Mayor initiated the charter revision process on December 19, 2011 when he presented two resolutions to the City Council calling for a Charter Revision Commission.
The last time there was a major update to the City Charter was in 1993.
The outline of the Mayor’s testimony follows:
· We need a new vision for our government which will only come from an overhaul of our current charter
· I want to thank each of you for giving your time to craft a new charter for the City of Bridgeport
· I look forward to working with you to create a new, more modern document to help us govern the City
· I want the charter review/reform process to assure the citizens of Bridgeport that their city government will be more “user friendly” and will function with higher levels of efficiency, accountability and responsibility throughout City government
· We need a new vision for Bridgeport governance, a modern efficient charter will help us realize that vision
· A new charter will provide us with a path to the future a path that:
o Gives us greater accountability;
o More modern business and government practices; and,
o Greater involvement by Bridgeport citizens in what will be a prosperous future
· In regard specifically to education there are some things I do know:
o The current model allows for two bodies of elected officials. One has spending authority without any taxation authority (BOE) while the other (City side) is responsible for half of the spending but all of the taxation. That does not allow for accountability or responsibility to those electing the officials.
o Adults can point fingers under the current system and the children are often forgotten
· I don’t know what the right model will turn out to be. It could be:
o Chancellor model, if allowed by Connecticut law, like in NYC
o A mayoral appointed Board of Education
o Or some sort of hybrid as we see in New Haven or Hartford.
o Whichever model you recommend must optimize student achievement reforms
· Before making that decision, I hope that the committee will request to speak with others who have studied and experienced different solutions to these challenges. They should include:
o Policy makers
o Educational leaders
o Governmental leaders in other communities
o And of course, our own community leaders
· These experts can help all of us become more educated about the differences and benefits of each of the potential solutions.