We will defer to the good judgment of the charter revision commission that labored for more than a year in coming up with a series of proposed changes to modernize the City of Groton charter and align it with government operations in the 21st century. Voters should approve the charter revisions, grouped in a single question, when they go to the polls Tuesday.
Of most substance is language that gives the City Council the "authority to revise the proposed budget by increasing or decreasing the amount in budget line items" before it is sent to voters at the annual city budget meeting. This repairs a void in the charter that largely left it to the mayor whether to include the council and to what degree. The current mayor, Marian Galbraith, backs this needed check and balance.
Another significant change extends from two years to four years the term of the city clerk. We question why an election is held for city clerks at all. It is a non-political position and the clerk is compelled to follow specific rules and regulations. The chief executive should be appointing clerks. But if the position is to be an elected one, better to have that election only every four years. It takes much training to be an effective clerk, and starting over every two years is not a good idea.
Added to the charter would be an ethics board and code of ethics. There is certainly a need to hold elected officials and city employees to ethical standards and those rules need to be specific. We question, however, whether there is enough ethical misconduct in this small borough to keep a board active. We have advocated for creation of a regional ethics panel, and the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments is preliminarily looking at the idea. But in the meantime, this measure provides a format for handling ethical issues in the city. Whether there may be a better way is not reason enough to block all the necessary changes contained in the charter revisions.
The intent of other proposed changes are to update and clarify the charter, lining it up with how city government works. These changes are needed given that it has been 25 years since voters last approved revisions.
If we had our druthers, the city subdivision would be dissolved in favor of a single Groton. Having needless multiple layers of governments within governments is a luxury that taxpayers should not have to pay for. But we recognize that such change is not on the table and probably will not be for a very long time.
And so in the meantime, The Day urges a yes vote on the charter revision question.