For a second time the City Council’s efforts to empanel a Charter Revision Commission next year failed, this time by one vote in a Monday night standoff with Mayor Joe Ganim who wants to put off a vote on proposed charter changes until 2024.
The council needs 14 votes, or two thirds of the 20-member legislative body, to approve a commission to examine government structure for a vote by city electors.
Council members supportive of a charter review see the timing as a means to address critics who assert they must bolster independence from the executive branch.
Charter reform can be controversial so Ganim prefers pushing it off to the 2024 presidential year rather than featuring it during next year’s municipal cycle.
The clash with Ganim has several council members irritated as the mayor faces voters for another four-year term in the upcoming municipal cycle.
After the failed vote majority members bit back by rejecting Ganim’s appointment of Nessah Smith, who served on the council, to the Police Commission, an act of retribution according to councilman Marcus Brown who is heading to the state legislature in a few weeks after defeating incumbent State Rep. Jack Hennessy. In addition to Brown, Mary McBride-Lee, Alfredo Castillo and Samia Suliman voted no.
Will the council try again to bring the issue back to the floor? Timing becomes problematic because the commission’s work must be done by July to place a vote by city electors on the November 2023 ballot.
Unclear the precise focus and areas of examination the charter 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.
Power grab by council? Or reasonable to push a charter vote in 2023?
In the short term at least, a scratchy relationship between Ganim and a majority of the council that could spill over into the municipal election with Ganim opponents weighing in.
It can be spun both ways. The mayor’s opposed to government reform. Or there’s no rush for a power grab, so put off until 2024.
Ganim critics–paging Bridgeport Generation Now Votes–will certainly try to leverage his charter pushback as a cudgel during the mayoral election.
Former Assistant Chief Administrative Officer John Gomes is the only formally announced opposition to Ganim. State Senator Marilyn Moore, who scared Ganim in a 2019 Democratic primary, is also expected to enter the race.