Fairfield residents, selectwoman question makeup of Charter Revision Commission

Old Town Hall in Fairfield, Conn.

Old Town Hall in Fairfield, Conn.

File photo / File photo

FAIRFIELD — The makeup of the Charter Revision Commission raised concerns at the panel’s recent public hearing, both due to the “lack of diverse voices” and the fact that several members were familiar faces.

The Charter Revision Commission is made up of seven town volunteers. The group consists of three Republicans, three Democrats and one unaffiliated member. Selectwoman Nancy Lefkowitz expressed her concerns at the commission’s public hearing Wednesday night suggesting that the board be aware of diversity in the town.

“The lack of diverse voices on this commission is a concern,” Lefkowitz said. “I hope you will take into account the racial equity and justice lens as you are making your comments and recommendations.

“I understand that the public will have plenty of opportunity to way in, but for the record I just wanted to state that this is something I hope you will very seriously take into consideration,” she added.

Lefkowitz said while she had the opportunity to discuss the commission around the board of selectman table she wanted to thank them for their work and the undertaking of the Town Charter. The diversity lens was simply an important tidbit that the commission should take into consideration going forward, she said.

Meanwhile, town resident Sarah Keitt suggested certain charter review members who have served on other commissions or boards be replaced with fresh eyes, although she didn’t specify which members she was speaking about. While it it was neither a “personal or political” thing, she said in the interest of transparency those members should instead become advisers and provide background to the commission.

Town resident Karen Wackerman echoed Keitt’s opinion by addressing the members that have previously belonged to other boards.

“I do have concerns and again this is not personal at all to anybody, but there are at least three members who presumably are coming into this already with changes,” Wackerman said. “It’s a part of the discussion because it has to do with what the form of government will be and I’m just really begging that everyone keeps an open mind.”

She said that she wanted to speak in front of the commission because she loves that there are so many unelected volunteers working on commissions in the town, but she was concerned about their previous civic involvement.

“I know this is going to be a big job and very time consuming,” she said. “One of the beautiful things in Fairfield is that we have so many volunteers and so many people involved who are civically engaged and I think it makes for a more open, transparent and maybe not the most efficient, but I think the benefits of the openness, transparency and engagement far outweigh any benefits of smaller government.”

Bryan Cafferelli, chairman of the commission, said each member of the commission has agreed to approach the charter revision with an open mind. He also said each member lives in Fairfield and has vested interest in creating a town charter that will benefit everyone in town.

“All seven members of the commission are residents of Fairfield who have a vested interest in the community and who come from I think very different walks of life and backgrounds that will put their heads together to listen to the public and consider all of the options that are out there on the table,” Cafferelli said.

“This is part of the process to make sure it is equitable and everyone is represented,” he added. “There is going to be a lot of time and a lot of thought and a lot of effort and a lot of input put into this and I certainly don’t think any aspect or any member of the community will be left out.”