Kupchick 'disenheartened' by Fairfield charter revision strife

Brenda Kupchick speaks during a meeting with the Connecticut Post Editorial Board, in Bridgeport, Conn. Oct. 9, 2019.

Brenda Kupchick speaks during a meeting with the Connecticut Post Editorial Board, in Bridgeport, Conn. Oct. 9, 2019.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

FAIRFIELD — When she appointed equal numbers of both parties to the Charter Revision Commission, First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said she had hoped the community would feel empowered to bring forth ideas and suggestions.

Instead, Kupchick said she has been discouraged by the recent comments and concerns voiced about the makeup of the commission and the process of updating the town charter. Some residents have called the process “tainted” while even some elected-officials have voiced their concerns about the commission’s membership.

“I was very disheartened by the recent politicization regarding the Charter Revision Commission by some elected officials and members of our community,” Kupchick said. “I hope that we will all keep an open mind throughout this process and listen to all ideas that come forward. I certainly will, because this is a genuine effort to improve Fairfield's governing document.”

Kupchick said while she was not under any obligation by state statute, it was her decision to appoint a commission made up of three Democrats and three Republicans, with one unaffiliated member. For some to suggest that the process is somehow tainted when it just started, she said it is “unfortunate.”

During the commission’s public hearing on Wednesday, most of the concerns residents voiced were less about the political parties of the commission than about their previous history.

Sarah Keitt and Karen Wackerman pointed out that some commission members had previously belonged to other boards or commissions. Keitt suggested that those members be put into an advisory role rather than actually being on the commission. Both residents urged the commission to keep an open mind.

William Gerber, who is represents District 2 on the Representative Town Meeting, echoed Keitt and Wackerman. However, he directly spoke towards members of the commission that have had a history with the Strategic Planning Committee, which has recommended moving Fairfield to a town council/mayor form of government.

“Reading the strategic plan, it is pretty clear that the leadership of the strategic planning committee wants to do away with the RTM and transition to a different form of government,” Gerber said. “I think that view is pretty strongly represented on this charter review committee. So starting off, there are three maybe four members who are looking to do away with the RTM.

Gerber said the commttee seemed to be “stacked” and that he doubted anyone’s mind would change.

“This is more than just making things that already exist more efficient this is probably doing away with generations of experience with town government,” he said.

Kupchick said that the point of this commission is for everyone within the community to bring forth ideas and suggestions.

She said she will also be making recommendations to the commission based on her experiences over the last two years. Some suggestions include making sure the charter aligns with the town code, re-examining purchasing and contract oversight and ensuring that Fairfield has the government the town needs.

“You may feel there are no changes needed, and that's okay too,” Kupchick said.

While the Board of Selectmen will be presented recommendations to vote on from the charter revision commission, the final decision on any changes to the town charter will be up to the residents of Fairfield. The potential changes will be presented on the 2022 Election Day ballot.

The commission’s next scheduled meeting is Thursday evening. Comments can be emailed to the commission at CRC@fairfieldct.org.