Letter to the Editor: Correcting Charter misinformation

| Penny Hilton |

I would like to correct the misinformation put out recently in a political mailer against the creation of a Town Charter Commission in New Gloucester.

First, the people who put this out imply that the Charter effort is being supported by “9 or so” people.

Not true. The matter is coming to a vote only because 632 certified voters in New Gloucester signed the citizens’ petition requesting it. There is no way you can honestly interpret that as a lack of support.

Second, they imply that a Town Charter will inevitably result in our town switching from a Board of Selectmen form of government to a Town Council.

This is totally false. Under a Charter, our form of town government may remain exactly as it is: Board of Selectmen, Town Manager, and Town Meeting. The only way it could be changed is if the majority of the Commissioners (most of whom will be elected by NG voters) agree that another form of government would be better (there is absolutely no evidence that this is likely), AND a majority of the voting townspeople agree by approving this recommendation in a ballot vote. THE VOTERS ALWAYS HAVE THE FINAL SAY, and the Commission would be dumb to put forth something they think the voters truly don’t want.

Third, they imply that the Charter will have to be changed “every time the wind blows a different direction.”

Exactly the opposite is true. Changing with the wind direction (or rather, selectmen’s whim) is what we have now. Sometimes we don’t even know the changes they are making! Once a Charter is in place, any change to it will have to be made by a town-wide ballot-vote, after much open discussion. The point is that the BOS won’t be making the changes, the voter will.

Finally, they claim that with a Charter, more authority goes to “the Government,” which in this case means town government.

Wrong again. That is what we are trying to stop. A Charter puts the people in charge and brings coherency, predictability and verifiable accountability to our town government process.

Q.  Why would anyone want to stop a process that allows the community full and open discussion of how they would like this town to run, and gives ultimate authority to the voters?

A.  The people who would rather keep their power to do what they want to do without townspeople necessarily noticing or having a manner of redress.

Penny Hilton, New Gloucester

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