Plymouth saw charter changes in 2017; mayor stayed on

Published on Wednesday, 27 December 2017 21:06
Written by SUSAN CORICA

@coricaBP

This year the town of Plymouth saw a town charter change, and David Merchant secured a third term as mayor.

Town charter change

This past year marked the third in a row that town residents voted down the proposed budget. This sparked a charter change to limit the circumstances by which the budget would be put to referendum.

After budget proposals failed twice in referendum last May, the Town Council in June approved a $41-million budget for fiscal year 2017-18, the same amount as the second referendum. The approved budget was a 3 percent increase over the previous year.

A change to the town charter made in 2016 meant the council only had the authority to increase or decrease the budget by up to 3 percent, instead of being able to make changes to line items as in past years.

In September, the council approved the final wording for three Charter Revision Commission proposals to put on the November ballot, plus an advisory question to see if people want the town to move to a town manager form of government.

One of the questions allowed the council to directly approve a budget that is not more than 3 percent more or less than the previous year without a referendum. If the proposed budget exceeds the 3 percent limit then it would go to one referendum. If it fails at referendum then the council could adopt a final budget as long as it was within the 3 percent up or down formula.

The question passed by a narrow margin.

Previously, the charter allowed up to two budget referendums each year. Only if the budget was rejected a second time the council was authorized to adopt a budget no more than 3 percent up or down.

A second charter change approved in the November election allows town boards and commissions to include on their agendas public comment on agenda and non-agenda items, and adopt a time limit for speakers. It passed easily.

Mayor David Merchant has said it would not change anything the council does now, but it may change how some of other boards or commissions handle public comment.

The November ballot also included an advisory question that read: “Shall a Charter Revision Commission be established to consider a town manager form of government?” Voters answered “yes” by 1,145 to 1,102.

Town Attorney Bill Hamzy has said that there are many different forms of town government that include a town manager but the only way to move toward that is by changing the charter.

Mark Malley, chairman of the previous commission, has said that the members were willing to do the work of revising the charter to accommodate having a town manager, but he wanted to see if voters were interested first before they took such an “astronomical job.”

Merchant wins a third term

The November election saw Merchant win a third term as mayor by a wide margin after a contentious campaign, and his Republican party retain all five Town Council seats.

Incumbents Dan Gentile, Sue Murawski, John Pajeski and Tom Zagurski were re-elected to the council, and Roxanne McCann won her first council term. A charter change approved in referendum the year before meant 2017 was the first year all five council members ran at large.

“This is our third campaign and we have swept every single campaign, it’s amazing,” Merchant said when the results were announced.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who supported the CFRG slate and me. Your kind words of support and your appreciation for the truth and light we tried to bring to Plymouth means so much to us,” said his opponent, Pattie DeHuff, on Facebook.

She was a petitioning candidate who ran on the Citizens For Responsible Government slate, which also included four candidates running for council and one for tax collector.

Democrats didn’t have a candidate for mayor

Local Democrats did not run a candidate for mayor in 2017. Paul Gianesini, Democratic Town Committee chairman, said his party tried hard this year in competing for other offices, but Republican voters showed up and voted the party line.

He also attributed his candidates’ relatively poor results this year to people being mad at Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, for the long delay in approving the state budget. Also, voters generally being turned off by the conflict between local Republicans and petitioning candidates.

Gianesini noted that on Facebook he supported Merchant in the mayoral race.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or scorica@bristolpress.com.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Plymouth on Wednesday, 27 December 2017 21:06. Updated: Wednesday, 27 December 2017 22:07.