Dear Mayor Mark Boughton and Members of the City Council,
I would like to speak to item 15 of this month’s City Council agenda regarding the Council vote to pass the bond referendum. The bond referendum was originally scheduled to go to a public vote on April 28th then re-scheduled to June 2.
While I agree in principle that given these extraordinary times there should be no public assembly that would put people at risk of exposure and possible infection of the COVID19 virus, I am not in favor the City Council voting on this tonight. Although it makes sense for the city council to vote on the bond (it is the right thing to do under the circumstances) is it fair to voters/citizens to make this decision tonight?
As Council members you likely know how you are going to vote, but do you know how your constituents feel? The public was going to weigh in on June 2nd to let you now what they think and no they can not. Instead, they have less than 35 hours to respond to this change. Clearly, this is not a scenario where the public has enough time to weigh in.
Mr. Mayor, you are citing the Governor’s Executive order as the reason to move forward in this way. The intention of the Governor’s Executive Order is to facilitate budget approvals in the 160 plus municipalities that take that process to referendum. To allow for public input during the pandemic, the public has 30 days to weigh in. If the city is using this Executive Order as a basis for the bond, then let’s maintain integrity in the process by allowing public input before a vote. A vote on June 2 was the public’s way of weighing in on the matter and that has changed. To allow a time period time to listen to your constituents BEFORE you vote is the right thing to do – even when you predict the outcome will be the same.
A massive spending plan, the largest general bond in the history of Danbury, is happening on your watch and it’s important to get it right. Yes, these are unprecedented times but I caution against setting any precedent that undermines your duty and your obligation to represent what residents of Danbury want.
We know that people want transparency in local government. Transparency was a big campaign issue in 2019. As members of the City Council, please do not acquiesce to a lack of transparency in government. To vote on the bond on tonight is supporting a lack of transparency in the Mayor’s office. The Mayor is ‘Live at 5’ throughout the week and he did not make his intention to put the bond to a city council vote known and ignored questions that were posted. This is not about being political; it’s about honest civic engagement and local governance – the reason why I am taking the time to submit a comment for tonight’s meeting.
Especially during times of duress, and more so because you are elected to serve as our representatives, you need to look outside yourselves and not default to what is easiest but aspire to what is best in the public’s interest.
Please defer your vote on the bond until the next City Council meeting on June 2nd which was the scheduled referendum date. In the meantime, you can publicly and broadly reach out to your constituents and invite them to comment. In doing so, your actions will reflect the spirit of the Governor’s Executive Order that you are using to cancel the referendum. Otherwise it feels like an opportunistic play in the worst of times to move the largest general bond in Danbury’s history forward with as little oversight and public input as possible.
Here is a link for public comments and how to get into the council meeting virtual session.