Friday, November 04, 2005

Municipal Elections: Ballot Questions

When voters go to the polls in towns all over Connecticut next Tuesday, many won't just be selecting municipal officials; a myriad of ballot questions and initiatives will also be up for their consideration. Sometimes these questions can have just as great an impact on the city/town and its future as elected officials. Ballot questions usually take one of two forms:

Bonding Issues

This is the most common sort of ballot question. If a town needs a lot of money for a project, in many cases the town charter will require that a referendum be held on the matter. The November elections are often the best time to hold these referenda, because the town won't have to spend extra money on another election.

Big projects like road reconstruction, new municipal facilities (this can include buildings like schools, firehouses, town halls, etc.) and large-scale economic development often end up as ballot questions.

Charter Revisions

The second type of ballot question has to do with the way the town is governed. Some towns, like Bristol, want to tweak the way government functions. Others, like Stonington, could change it altogether.

Small changes to town government, like redrawing district boundaries, imposing term limits or changing the number of signatures required to force a referendum on an issue, are not uncommon. Wholesale changes, like Stonington's proposal to scrap the selectmen/town meeting form of government in favor of the more stable and apolitical but less democratic council/manager form of government, are much more rare and generate a lot more controversy.


What interesting ballot questions do you know about?

5 comments:

Aldon Hynes said...

I've been especially interested in charter revision questions. In Shelton, there was a charter revision proposed that I've been told the Democrats opposed as well as some municipal union and the charter revision questions were removed from the ballot. There isn't much online that I can find about this other than brief articles in the Huntington Herald and The Valley News.

There is a similar issue in New Canaan with a charter revision that the Democrats are opposing. Apparently the Board of Finance in New Canaan is an appointed board and the charter revision makes the Board of Finance even less accountable than it currently is. Unfortunately, I cannot find any additional online details about this.

On a different topic, Sunday night will be the live Santos Vinnick debate on West Wing. If any of you are West Wing fans, I would encourage you to come visit us on the DeStefano blog where we will be unwinding from a good weekend of municipal campaigning and will live blog the debate.

Man in the Middle said...

Meriden: Current Democratic mayor running against a perennial gadfly, and is virtually re-elected, but is cross-endorsed by Republicans who also endorsed for City Council the former Democratic mayor, defeated by current mayor. Schizophrenia reigns in the Republican Town Committee leadership.

No questions at this time, but a Charter Revision Commission petitioned into being will provide a report in January. Main question is requiring referenda on city projects over $1 million, but also discussing a governance change from city manager/city council form to a strong mayor/city council.

Genghis Conn said...

Man in the Middle:

Large cities like Meriden seem to be trending towards strong mayor/council forms of government. Hartford made the switch a few years ago, and some good things have come out of the change.

Man in the Middle said...

Not sure that Meriden is "trending." The petition for the charter commission only asked for the question on referenda. Discussion took place on the strong mayor, but historically it has not been favorably considered since Abe Grossman destroyed the position in the 80s. Hartford needed the change because local government was so dysfunctional...Meriden is not in that state. But we'll see what the people want...

Man in the Middle said...

Not sure that Meriden is "trending." The petition for the charter commission only asked for the question on referenda. Discussion took place on the strong mayor, but historically it has not been favorably considered since Abe Grossman destroyed the position in the 80s. Hartford needed the change because local government was so dysfunctional...Meriden is not in that state. But we'll see what the people want...