Why so much interest in charter review?
By Ted Hayes
Nearly 30 Warren residents are seeking a seat on the Charter Review Commission, a board that attracted so little interest the last time it formed that the Warren Town Council had to appoint residents to fill two of its nine seats.
Twenty-nine residents filed paperwork at town hall last week declaring their intent to run for the commission, which is non-partisan. It forms every six to eight years to review the Warren Town Charter and make recommendations to the Warren Town Council. From there, council members can accept or ignore those recommendations before passing an amended charter on to voters for final approval.
In 2006, the last time the commission convened, only seven Warren residents sought a seat. One of them was Judy Fardig, who ended up serving as chairwoman. She has applied for a seat this time around, too, and if she makes it it will be her third time serving on the commission.
Ms. Fardig said several things could be driving the marked increase in interest this year, but she believes much of it comes from the Financial Town Meeting in May and a general sense of anger among many residents over the town’s rising taxes and financial position.
“The meeting had a lot to do with it,” she said. “That, and I think the fact that people are really upset” with town government. “They think they can make a change by changing the charter.”
Getting to that point is a long road, she said. The commission has two years to review the entire charter and must get any proposed changes approved by the town’s attorney. When the review is complete the commission hands off its recommendations to the town council, though the council can accept or reject the recommendations.
Ms. Fardig said she doesn’t know what the big topics of discussion will be this time around, but suspects some will have to do with the Financial Town Meeting (there are some who want to do away with it); the powers of the town council over personnel matters (which currently falls to the town manager) and other matters, including the future of Warren’s tree commission.
Ms. Fardig said she is surprised at the turnout this year.
“I knew there would probably be a lot, but I didn’t think it would be that many. But there’s a lot of young people, and that’s good. It’s a tough job but I’m hoping there’s some people on there who really care about the Town of Warren.”