Letter: Accountability through Checks and Balances

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The Second Continental Congress purposely rejected a model of single, unchallenged leadership and formed a government based on checks and balances. The constitution they created was hotly debated—as it should have been. As charged by the Town Council, the Charter Revision Commission took a look at our own Town Charter, and after extensive research and discussion, recommended 5 Charter–related questions to be put to town vote.

Unfortunately, recent press coverage on a FOI challenge has been a distraction to healthy debate. The most controversial Charter question seems to be whether the first selectman should also chair the Board of Finance. Should someone who already has great power over community decisions also control the agenda for the people s/he appoints to effect final decisions on the community checkbook? Does this concentration of power make sense for any first selectman now or in the future?

While elections are a form of accountability, their effect can be too late, especially when important agenda items, such as long-term investments in our schools or public infrastructure, are at stake. Founded on accountability through checks and balances along with separation of powers, our forefathers took sound arguments from their careful debate and designed a system that has endured for centuries. Having identified an area for improvement, the CRC’s recommendations clearly have this in mind. I invite you to vote for checks and balances in our government and a stronger Charter by casting ‘Yes’ votes on the five questions.

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