Charter Changes Should Be Set Up As Separate Ballot Questions

For the past year, a special task force has been painstakingly combing through Wellington’s charter, discussing possible changes. Last week, the Charter Review Task Force, headed by former County Commissioner Ken Adams, held a meeting to update the public on its findings. A few dozen residents listened as Village Attorney Laurie Cohen went section by section through Wellington’s governing document, highlighting the areas that the task force is eying for a change. It was a fascinating exercise for constitutional scholars.

Wellington’s charter can only be changed by public referendum, and only if the Wellington Village Council agrees to put the changes out to a vote, probably next March. So, we’re a long way from a final decision, but there was one portion of the task force’s presentation — which is available for viewing and download from Wellington’s web site at — that demands immediate commentary. At the tail end of the presentation was the note that the task force “will also be considering whether to recommend that voters approve a revised and integrated charter or simply approve individual ballot questions.” If that is really up for debate, allow us to make a prediction: if set up as separate ballot measures, most of the changes will probably pass; if set up as an all or nothing up or down vote, it will almost certainly fail.

There is not one single change being proposed by the task force that is without some merit, but several of them are quite controversial. While proposals that simplify election procedures to provide more say to voters in filling vacancies and creating a new section that protects the Equestrian Preserve Area are likely to be very popular, suggestions that make it easier to raise council compensation, hold non-emergency meetings with less notice (the Town-Crier will not support that change) and eliminating referendum language regarding the 5 mill cap and the creation of police/fire departments are likely to find strong opposition from some people.

Individually, each of these ideas might find a voter majority, but taken together, with a single up or down vote demanded, the cumulative opposition is likely to sink the whole effort. Each voter rejecting the document might have a different reason to do so, but the end result is the same.

The Charter Review Task Force has done a lot of hard work and has come up with some good ideas. It would be a shame if those ideas are not enacted because of how the referendum is set up. While it might be easier to serve up a single document for an up or down vote, that idea is not in the best interest of the task force, the village or the voters.