Groton RTM is the elected body most entwined with the voters

In an article published Sept. 16, Groton Right To Vote (GRTV) PAC president Robert Frink fails to provide accurate information in his advocacy for the proposed Groton charter revision.

Primarily, he neglects to mention that on Nov. 28, 2017, the Town Council rejected the Charter Revision Commission (CRC) final report. On Oct. 3 at the charter revision public hearing, those who spoke against it outnumbered proponents 20 to nine. Six were members of the CRC.

It is false for Mr. Frink to claim “virtually no change to the core of our town government is proposed.” The elimination of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) would be a radical restructuring of the most powerful legislative body in the town. It is the one elected body most intimately entwined with the voters. By state law, the RTM is required to provide seats for minority-party representation. The volunteers who serve on the RTM are our friends and family. They live in our neighborhoods. They know what matters to us because the same things matter to them.

It is false to claim charter revision would “create a transparent annual budget development process.” Groton already has an open, extensive, line-by-line budget development and review process that includes “formal settings for citizen input.” The monthly RTM agenda has a standing item allowing for discussion of the town budget at any meeting, should any RTM member or citizen choose to do so.

It is false to claim the proposed charter would “require that residents vote annually on a … budget.” Not all residents are voters and no voter is “required” to vote. However, every taxpayer would be required to cover the $25,000+ cost of operating all the polling places for each of the potentially unlimited number of budget referendums every year.

To be fair, Mr. Frink is accurate on one point: “The proposed charter [revision] entails more changes than outlined here.” Indeed, it does include a lot more changes than he outlined. Ironically, he states that he wants “to make sure the voters are fully informed” but leaves out critical considerations. Here are three key points:

1. Taxpayers are not “empowered” when terms of office are increased from two to four years. A two-year term keeps office holders directly and regularly accountable to voters. Extending terms only insulates office holders and diminishes the power of voters.

2. Taxpayers are not “empowered” when the statute requiring minority-party representation shifts to the town and city councils due to the dissolution of the RTM. Minority-party representation requirements will remove the voters’ authority to “sweep out” members of a political party as they did in the 2017 Groton town election cycle. It should be the ultimate power of the voters to demonstrate their deep displeasure in such a manner. If the charter revision succeeds, this power of the voting electorate would be lost. The RTM is the proper legislative body for a minority-party representation requirement.

3) Taxpayers are not “empowered” when they can only vote for one member of the seven-member Board of Finance. Voters are especially diminished when one considers this Board of Finance would not be granted any vote or veto power over the Town Council. There would be no regular and readily accessible “check and balance” authority over the council such as the RTM possesses now. 

Mr. Frink’s description of the proposed charter is, at best, neglectful or, at worst, intentionally deceptive. The proposed charter revision does not serve the interests of Groton residents, voters and taxpayers.

For more information on reasons to Vote No Charter Revision, please attend our open discussion sessions on Oct. 3 and 10 at the Groton Public Library. We are online at Vote No Charter Revisions on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter (@charterno). We invite all inquiries, comments, questions or suggestions to be sent via email to votenocharterrevisions@gmail.com

If passed, this charter revision will drastically transform Groton. Quite simply, there are too many changes, and all result in massive reductions of our diverse, dynamic and community-rooted representation.

On Nov. 6 we recommend you vote no on the charter revision.

Jean-Claude Ambroise is chairman of the Vote No Charter Revisions-PAC.

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