Sunday, November 09, 2014

Aldermen by District Charter Language

After a flurry of campaigning led by John Murray, publisher of The Waterbury Observer, the Charter Revision establishing Aldermen by District was passed by Waterbury's voters. So what happens next?

We're changing from a system in which Aldermen are elected at large to a system in which they are elected from within set districts. This requires rewriting a portion of the City Charter, as well as drawing up the boundaries of five districts.

The Final Report put forth by the Charter Revision Commission on August 25, 2014 proposes the following charter description for the Board of Aldermen. Read this closely. This is what is supposed to happen.



Section 3A-1. Board of Aldermen vested with the Legislative Powers of the City

(b) Composition of the Board of Aldermen. The Board of Aldermen shall consist of fifteen (15) Aldermen and Alderwomen (collectively referred to as "Aldermen") with three (3) Aldermen from each of the five districts as approved by the Board of Aldermen. The three candidates with the highest votes in each district will be elected. Of the three Aldermen elected by each district no more than two shall be from one political party.

            (1) Voting Districts. The City shall be divided into five (5) voting districts. Said voting districts shall each contain substantially equal population. Voting districts shall be established in as compact and contiguous form as practicable and boundaries must follow geographical divisions and currently existing State Representative Districts wherever practical. Such city districts must conform to applicable state and federal laws.

              (2) District Reapportionment. On or before the fifteenth day of February next following adoption of this charter revision, the Board of Aldermen shall appoint a District Reapportionment Commission to determine the five (5) districts. The District Reapportionment Commission shall be comprised of eight (8) electors, no more than four members from any one party selected by the majority leader and the minority leader of the Board of Aldermen. The District Reapportionment Commission shall report to the Board of Aldermen within sixty (60) days after appointment, and may utilize demographic data assembled by the planning Board, computer resources of the City, and such other resources, facilities and funding as the Board of Aldermen may deem desirable to carry out the purpose of this section. Within sixty (60) days after receipt of said report and after a public hearing thereon the Board of Aldermen must either accept or modify the report and enact any necessary ordinance to implement the proposed districts, in compliance with this charter and all state, federal and general laws.

             Thereafter, within sixty (60) days after any new decennial federal census figures are made available to the City, the Board of Aldermen shall use this same procedure to appoint a new District Reapportionment Commission to review and, if necessary, revise said districts to conform to the new census, and state, federal and general laws. No elected official shall have his or her office vacated by reason of a district boundary change until completion of his or her term of office.

               (3) District Aldermen Eligibility. In order to be eligible to be a District Alderman the candidate must be an eligible elector in the district. Any District Alderman who moves out of the district which he represents during his term of office, shall be rendered ineligible and shall cease to hold his office as of the date of said removal. The vacancy shall be filled in accordance with Section 2B-4 and paragraph four (4) of this section, below.

                (4) Vacancy. Vacancy of an office of any Aldermen is to be filled according to Section 2B-4. With respect to any District Aldermen, any vacancy, from whatever cause arising, including ineligibility from ceasing to reside in the voting district he represents or by reasons of expulsion or removal as set for in Sec. 3B-3(c) of the Charter, will be filled according to Section 2B-4; however, said vacancy must be filled with an eligible elector who is from the same district and party as the incumbent.

[Note: "elector" is any person who has the right to vote in an election.]

This next part clearly establishes the "supermajority" as eleven Aldermen. Some of the current Aldermen apparently neglected to read this section (as reported in the Rep-Am article, What's Minority To Do?), perhaps because they assumed/hoped the Charter Revision wouldn't pass.

Sec. 3A-2. Powers of the Board of Aldermen.

The Board of Aldermen shall have the following powers:

(c) to oversee and adopt legislation pertaining to the finances of the City, including, but not limited to the following:

               (2) to manage, regulate and control the purchase of real property, subject to the approval by an affirmative vote of eleven (11) members of the Board of Aldermen;

(d) to adopt ordinances, by a majority vote of the Board of Aldermen, pertaining to the management, regulation and control of the finances and property, real and personal, of the City, including the disposition of the improvements thereon, including, but not limited to the sale and lease thereof ("Disposition");

                (1) All said Dispositions shall be subject to the approval by an affirmative vote of eleven (11) members of the Board of Aldermen;

...and so on. Every place where the charter specifies a majority vote, that majority is defined as eleven (11) members of the Board of Aldermen.

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