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Hybrid School Board Makes The Ballot

by Thomas MacMillan | Aug 6, 2013 11:39 am

(26) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, True Vote

When New Haveners step into voting booths in November, they’ll get to vote not just for mayor and alderman, but on changes to the city charter, including shaking up the school board and whether to drop the “man” from “alderman.”

That’s the result of a Monday evening vote by the Board of Aldermen. City lawmakers voted unanimously to send two ballot questions to voters in the Nov. 5 general election.

Question 1: School Board

The first question to appear on the November ballot is whether or not to move to a hybrid, partially elected Board of Ed, with two non-voting student members. The second question concerns a host of other comparatively minor changes to the charter, including a provision that the word “aldermen” be changed throughout to the gender-neutral “alders.”

The ballot referenda are the result of the months-long process of charter revision, the decennial process of revising the city’s foundational legal document, the charter.

Thomas MacMillan Photo Alderman Michael Smart (pictured), chair of the special commission that reviewed and drafted proposed changes to the charter, said the commission decided to separate the Board of Ed question from all the others since it’s a more controversial matter.

The Board of Ed question will read: “Shall the Charter be revised to establish a seven member Board of Education comprised of the Mayor, four members appointed by the mayor and two members elected by two districts, supplemented by two non voting student representatives?”

All members of the school board are currently appointed by the mayor (the mayor himself also sits on the board). Supporters of appointed boards of education say they ensure mayors are involved in public schools—and held accountable for them. Supporters of an elected Board of Ed say elections would increase the transparency and responsiveness of the board.

If voters approve a hybrid Board of Ed, the city would be split into two new voting districts, each comprising half the city. Candidates would then run for those two seats in an election in November of 2015.

The charter revision commission had initially proposed removing the mayor from the Board of Ed, but reconsidered this at the request of the Board of Aldermen.

Question 2

The second ballot question will read: “Shall the City approve and adopt all other Charter changes as recommended by the commission and approved by the Board of Aldermen?”

Click here for more info about the proposed changes, which include:

• Aldermanic approval of all the fire and police chiefs, as well as the “coordinators”: chief administrative officer, head of economic development, head of community services, and the budget director. Aldermen would also approve all mayoral appointments to all boards and commissions.

• Revising the charter’s preamble to include language on gender identity and expression in the preamble, which now expresses the city’s intention to include people “in all aspects of city life” without regard to things like race, color, religion, sex, and age.

• The charter would include language on the Civilian Review Board, which would make that police-oversight body an established and permanent part of city government.

• The charter would allow the city to create “best practices” standards for job qualifications required of mayoral appointees.

The revisions do not include several changes that were initially suggested, like giving aldermen a raise, changing the number of wards, and extending term lengths for mayor and aldermen. Those were all abandoned after discussion by the commission.

Term limits, which were also suggested, are also not part of the proposed changes. Under state law, the city doesn’t have the power to enact such limits on its own.

Aldermen also voted Monday to create a set of politically neutral explanations of the proposed charter changes, to be distributed to voters throughout the city, in Spanish and in English.

The matter passed with very little discussion. Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen said he is “proud of the city of New Haven” for moving to the gender-neutral term “alders.”

East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker, who’s running for mayor, said he supports having a hybrid Board of Ed, as a way to balance transparency and accountability.

“Congratulations,” Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez said after the unanimous vote. “We’re going to have charter revision in November.”

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posted by: Threefifths on August 6, 2013  12:03pm

Again the people have been sold out by the Judas Goat leaders.Hybrid School Boards are not good.the mayor is still in control.

posted by: robn on August 6, 2013  12:20pm

So we get to YES or NO vote a name change to to the BOA and the “comparatively minor changes to the charter” tacked onto this YES or NO vote is a MASSIVE transfer of power from the mayor’s office to the BOA?

GIVE ME A BREAK!

More union coalition gerrymandering. This group has an unquenchable thirst for control.
this can’t happen and Harp mustn’t be allowed to take office or we’ll be doomed to suburban control.

posted by: robn on August 6, 2013  12:23pm

NHI.. Pull the poll. Its essentially advocating a charter vote that has much more significant things attached.

Poison pill amendments in my mind but surely more significant than a name change.

posted by: dorothy25 on August 6, 2013  12:27pm

Great work to everyone involved in the process - the Commission, members of the public who testified, BOA, etc.  I look forward to voting for these proposals in November.

posted by: Paul Wessel on August 6, 2013  12:42pm

Is the actual text of proposed changes available?  Would be good to post.

[You can read an earlier draft of the charter revisions here. I updated the story with a bit more information (see bullet points above). And you can read part of last night’s official submission to the Board of Aldermen here.—TM]

posted by: David S Baker on August 6, 2013  12:47pm

I can vote to change a title word, but NO VOTE FOR TERM LIMITS?!  As a Mayflower descendent and WASP male ancestor of Ethan Allen, I find this incredibly offensive to my cultural heritage and the memory of my ancestors who suffered hardship fighting off monarchs who over taxed and regulated us, while providing the bare minimum of resources, all while they stayed in power for life.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 6, 2013  2:02pm

Given that we live in New Haven, I think a Board of Elms is more botanically correct than a Board of Alders.

posted by: FacChec on August 6, 2013  2:32pm

After nearly a year and a half and $150,000 the alders and the charter revision commission have delivered thirteen recommended changes, more than half dealing with the action of the mayor and the BOA.

They propose to offer to the voters two questions, one regarding the change to the BOE, which in reality is zero change, since the appointed members continue to hold a five to two majority in all voting matters. Two students, who have no vote. Thankless change.

The second question is presented in generic form binding 12 proposals in one to appear on the ballot Nov.2, 2013. Again, 12 thankless proposals which do little to improve upon the operation of the government.

One of the more important charter provision did not even make consideration, that is the budgetary and reporting procedures. Did not make the cut.

So there you have it, two years to finalization, $150K later, and this weak representation for change.
I vote no!

posted by: lawrence st on August 6, 2013  2:35pm

I’m excited to vote for both of these things. And I’m glad that numerous public hearings and thoughtful discussion have created this output. I appreciate all the hard work that went into this.

posted by: Paul Wessel on August 6, 2013  3:16pm

Would be great if the Independent could produce an analysis of the proposed changes.

posted by: Curious on August 6, 2013  6:09pm

Why not City Council and Councilman or Councilwoman, or City Councillor?

Half the people in this city don’t know what the hell an alder is, man, woman, or tree.

posted by: alex on August 6, 2013  8:33pm

“Aldermanic approval of all the fire and police chiefs, as well as the ‘coordinators’: chief administrative officer, head of economic development, head of community services, and the budget director. Aldermen would also approve all mayoral appointments to all boards and commissions.”

This is the underrated change mentioned in the article.

Who decided that the students shouldn’t get a vote? Disappointing

posted by: robn on August 6, 2013  8:55pm

VOTE NO.

Embedding a BOA powergrab (approving the mayor commissioner appointments) into a long list of changes and then selling it under the auspices of gender neutrality is probably one of THE most CRASS moves yet by this union coalition. Their ability to lie by omission is surpassed by this doozy.

This suggestion should have stood by itself because its a seismic powershift and the public shouldn’t be suckered into it.

posted by: anonymous on August 6, 2013  9:40pm

Can the Mayor’s office get another new armoire, constructed out of boards of Alder?

posted by: Eddie on August 6, 2013  10:33pm

Robn,

Person after person in the public hearings called for decentralization of power.  The proposed reform that you oppose was extensively discussed.  A long-time community activist whose only union affiliation was the teacher’s union years ago praised this particular reform as decentralization of power.  She also noted that it is an important corrective measure from the power grab of Dick Lee.  The reform dovetails the decentralization of power on the board of education.  Moreover, it was approved by unanimous approval from the BOA.  I know that you did not care to participate in any of these meetings because you were too busy.  But to claim that this is a crass move by the union coalition discounts the countless hours of many individuals who participated in this process in good faith.  They also lead busy lives, but found the time to volunteer their thoughts and suggestions.  So, I guess some people choose civic engagement.  Others claim they are too busy, while taking the time to trash this engagement on an internet forum.  I apologize, but I find the advocacy of the former group more persuasive.

posted by: TheMadcap on August 6, 2013  10:43pm

Vote yes, because a power shift from the executive to the legislative is generally preferable, especially if you don’t like the person who is going to be the next mayor.(who will then probably be mayor for another 15 years)

posted by: dorothy25 on August 7, 2013  7:02am

alex,

According to state law, you can’t vote on the BOE if you’re not an elector (i.e. not of voting age).  The Commission initially tried to allow at least the voting age student to have a vote on the BOE.  The problem was that even if someone begins their term under the age of 18, then turns 18, the position cannot change from a non-voting to a voting position.

posted by: Curious on August 7, 2013  7:11am

This sounds like the very definition of gridlock, if a mayor gets in that the Union Machine doesn’t like.

“Aldermanic approval of all the fire and police chiefs, as well as the ‘coordinators’: chief administrative officer, head of economic development, head of community services, and the budget director. Aldermen would also approve all mayoral appointments to all boards and commissions.”

posted by: Atwater on August 7, 2013  7:28am

Alderman Hausladen is incorrect, the word Alders is not a gender neutral form of Alderman. Alder is a type of tree. This suggestions is ridiculous. Alderman is a historic word that reflects this city’s long history. While I understand the intention behind the suggestion, it is just PC nonsense. There is no reason a female alderman cannot be called an Alderwoman. Much like we have Congressmen and Congresswomen.

posted by: robn on August 7, 2013  7:55am

EDDIE,

What’s crass is bundling distinct dramatic changes with rather benign changes (gender neutrality of the alderman title).

Major changes should stand alone so they’ll be clear to voters.

Your camp (masters of marketing) bundled the major changes with the gender neutrality change because the latter is easy to sell and most voters won’t read the fine print. Crass.

posted by: K Harrison on August 7, 2013  9:03am

@Robn,

Come on. The gender neutrality plank is clearly a minor one, and if anyone’s confusing things it’s the Independent. As Thomas writes, the question is going to read:

“Shall the City approve and adopt all other Charter changes as recommended by the commission and approved by the Board of Aldermen?”

You can argue that the second ground of changes should have been broken out into more than one question, but no one is going to be able to sell this as the “gender neutrality plank.”

(Which, let’s be honest, lots of people would disagree with as well, for the same reason plenty of people on this board are sputtering at the mouth about “an alder is a tree.” I’m over it, conservative grammarians.)

posted by: robn on August 7, 2013  9:23am

KHARRISON,

I wouldn’t be suspicious were it not for the union supermajority’s track record of propagandizing voters by omitting critical information (LIKE THE EXISTENCE OF THE UNION COALITION).

There’s no reason why these unequal measures should be bundled. They should stand on their own merit.

posted by: dorothy25 on August 7, 2013  9:34am

Curious,

There’s a provision included to prevent gridlock (Article IV, Sec. 1).  If the Board takes no action after 60 days, the nominee is appointed.  Also, if the BOA rejects a nomination, the Mayor can resubmit that name once.  In the meantime, that nominee may preform his or her duties in an acting capacity.  The Commission did its homework on this one.

Keep in mind that these confirmations will be in the form of public hearings, where any of us can voice our support or concern for the nominees.  I certainly welcome the opportunity to weigh in on the appointment of the Mayor’s cabinet and the city’s pubic safety chiefs.

posted by: Threefifths on August 8, 2013  3:26am

posted by: robn on August 7, 2013 10:23am

KHARRISON,

I wouldn’t be suspicious were it not for the union supermajority’s track record of propagandizing voters by omitting critical information (LIKE THE EXISTENCE OF THE UNION COALITION).

There’s no reason why these unequal measures should be bundled. They should stand on their own merit.

You keep saying union.Democratic Party which was way before the so call union take over has been propagandizing voters and people for years.Your point.

posted by: robn on August 8, 2013  8:36am

3/5,

My point is that in the past, union were a means of preventing exploitation. Now (in New Haven anyway) they’re a means of exploitation.

posted by: Threefifths on August 8, 2013  11:52am

posted by: robn on August 8, 2013 9:36am

3/5,

My point is that in the past, union were a means of preventing exploitation. Now (in New Haven anyway) they’re a means of exploitation.

And unions are still a means of preventing exploitation.You and others keep talking about this union take over.From what see and people I have talk with Nothing has change from when the so call union took over.Case and point look at how Garth Harries got the job as school superintendent,The union was not at the table.Who was at the table was Democratic political machine.You all keep saying Harp is back by the union.but if you look at were most of the campaign money that harp and fernandez is geting,It is from the Super Pac and corporate plutocracy which is the real control not the unions.

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