Tag Archives: Peter Gold

The ABCs Of The RTM

Thinking of running for the RTM? Petitions are due September 14.

Have no clue what the RTM is? Read on!

Peter Gold explains it all. An RTM — that is, Representative Town Meeting — member, he is writing for himself, not in an official capacity. 

The RTM is Westport’s legislative body — sort of like a town council. Every 2 years, each of the 9 districts in town elects 4 representatives.

The RTM is non-partisan. Candidates are not nominated or endorsed by a political party.

The RTM has the final say on 2 budgets: the town, and the Board of Education.  It can approve the budgets submitted by the 1st Selectman and Board of Ed.; it can restore cuts to those budgets made by the Board of Finance, or it can cut those budgets.

Note: While the RTM can cut specific line items on the town side of the budget (for example, road paving, paper clips or secretarial services), it can only cut the total amount of the Board of Education budget. It is then up to the Board of Education to decide exactly how to allocate the reduction among the specific line items in its budget.

The RTM also approves all town expenditures of $20,000 or more. This fiscal oversight is perhaps the most important function of the RTM.

The RTM oversees all town budgets. They approve new plows, and requests for sand.

The RTM also adopts or rejects proposed town ordinances; revieww certain decisions of the Planning and Zoning Commission; reviews certain fees charged by town departments for various services; appoints some members of town institutions (such as the Library and Westport Transit District), and approves or rejects collective bargaining agreements with unions representing town employees.

In addition to these formal responsibilities, the RTM provides oversight of the operations of town government; represents the interests of residents, and makes sure their concerns are brought to the attention of the appropriate town bodies.

Members serve on subcommittees, such as Education, Employee Compensation and Information Technology.

When residents have an issue with something in town, their RTM representatives are among the first people they go to for help.

All of these functions contribute in important ways to keeping the town’s taxes low, improving services, keeping the quality of life in Westport high, and making Westport the place we want to live.

The full RTM meets monthly, usually on the first Tuesday of each month. During COVID, the meetings are via Zoom.

Members of the public are welcome to attend, and speak on any topic on the RTM’s agenda.  Meetings can also be viewed live on the town website, and on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 99.

RTM meeting agendas are posted on the town website in advance of each meeting; minutes can be found there too.

(Click here for a petition. Click here for a map of all 9 districts. Click here for a list of all members.)

RTM Condemns Racism

This is the first of Peter Gold’s regular reports on the Representative Town Meeting’s monthly sessions. He is an RTM member writing for himself, not in an official capacity.

October’s RTM meeting was one of the longest on record. It began at 7:30 p.m. yesterday, and ended at 2 a.m. this morning.

Six of the 7 agenda items were disposed of quickly. The last item — a 2-page sense of the meeting resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, and asking the town to help combat it — led to 5 hours of debate.

The final version was adopted unanimously (28-0). It says:

The Westport RTM condemns racism in all its forms and hereby commits to actively working toward combating racism and valuing all people as deserving of equitable treatment. We see the world around us and recognize racism as a crisis, having negative effects on the public health, welfare and lives of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). Racism diminishes us all. Therefore, we ask the Town of Westport to commit to continue work already begun, and we ask the Town of Westport to develop means to evaluate our community’s progress in the areas of racial equity and justice.

All RTM members spoke out against racism, while acknowledging it exists in Westport.

A primary area of discussion focused on whether or not the resolution should be limited to condemning racism, or if it should be expanded to condemn sexism and all other forms of discrimination as well.

While many RTM members felt that expanding the resolution diluted its impact by taking the focus off racism, many others felt that all forms of discrimination, including sexism, anti-Semitism and discrimination against LGBT people are equally reprehensible, and should be condemned too.

Other areas of concern involved the appropriateness and accuracy of several of the “whereas” clauses in the original resolution; whether or not the original resolution was too “partisan,” “political,” or otherwise beyond the scope of the RTM’s powers; and the feeling that the original wording was a one-size-fits-all resolution adopted by many other towns, instead of being tailored to Westport and expressing Westport’s values and concerns.

Many RTM members spoke eloquently and passionately on both sides of these and other issues. The full debate will be posted on the town website.

The other votes were also unanimous, and straightforward:

  • Ratification of the Conservation Commission’s approval of bridge replacements for the Cavalry Road and Bayberry Lane Extension bridges over the Saugatuck River (work begins in the spring, and will last 6-8 months).
  • Approval of $310,000 for new lights at the Greens Farms Elementary School softball field; replacement of the 30-year-old lights with new LED lights will save the town approximately $185,000 over the next 25 years in electricity and maintenance costs.
  • Approval of $150,000 for an uninterruptable power supply for Town Hall and the Parks and Recreation Department. Town Hall had 3 major power failures leading to IT problems in the last 5 years — most recently during Isaias. The new power supply will provide “clean” power.
  • Approval of $349,000 for several Public Works Department requests, including designing a replacement for underground fuel and storage tanks with above-ground tanks to address environmental concerns and meet state requirements; replacing garage doors at the Public Works Center and old, non-functional doors at the transfer station to improve safety and security, meet state requirements, reduce maintenance expenses and improve efficiency in storms; upgrading the waste oil storage shed to meet state spill standards, and replacing an aging truck and excavators.

Coming soon: An uninterrupted power supply at Town Hall.