Shuffle opposition object to proposed referendum timing
Though the Board of Selectmen aren't set to discuss and vote on a possible date for the referendum on the Shuffle at a special meeting until this Monday, the debate has already begun.
The proposed timing is Wednesday, Dec. 14 from noon to 8 p.m. The town charter requires polls be open for a minimum of 2 to 8 for a referendum.
Petitioners calling for a town-wide vote on the $7-million facilities Shuffle met the signature requirements to force a referendum, the town clerk confirmed last Wednesday morning. The vote is expected to happen in December.The Shuffle, as it is known, would move the senior center to Town Hall and the Board of Ed to 35 Leroy Ave.
Town Clerk Donna Racjzewski told The Darien Times Wednesday morning that she verified the 631st signature just past 11 a.m. She planned to stop verifying at about 700 signatures.
Democratic Selectman David Bayne took to Twitter to voice his objections to the proposed timing Saturday night, saying "if approved, this will be the first time since the 1980's that referendum polling dind't occur between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
"For those of us who do not normally get home from work before 8 p.m., it may be hard to vote in the Shuffle referendum," he Tweeted.
Stop the Shuffle, the group behind the petition calling for a referendum, posted an "urgent" update on its web site Sunday regarding the proposal, asking for help.
"There have been five rerferendum votes over the past 22 years, and every time, the polls were open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. What makes this referendum different?" the web site wrote.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, in response to questions about the proposed timing of the referendum, said the noon to 8 p.m. slot was "drafted after much dialogue between teh registrar of voters, the town clerk and the Board of Education."
Stevenson said the noon start was chosen to "minimize the negative impact on the education day."
"Because as I understand it, if you start the vote at 6 a.m., you have to get into the polling places the day before for set up," she said.
Stevenson also pointed out that the proposed timing was not a done deal — the Board of Selectmen still had to discuss it on Monday night and would come up with a resolution.
If, though, the vote begins at noon, Stevenson said absentee ballots would be readily available in advance of the vote for anyone who was unable to make it to polling places during designated hours.
A Political Action Committee in favor of the Shuffle was formed late last week called "Vote Yes Darien," with Joe Pankowski, chairman of the Commission on Aging, a Democrat, serving as the PAC's chairman. Debra Hertz, chairman of the Social Services Commission, serves as the PAC's treasurer.
Stop the Shuffle reportedly filed papers as a PAC last week, but no further information was available on its membership, according to Kathy Finnegan, who has been the only public spokesman behind the petition efforts.
"The PAC will make its announcements," Finnegan responded in response to an email from the Darien Times.
The Shuffle was conceived by previous first selectman Dave Campbell, and was approved close to along party lines by the Board of Selectman and the Board of Finance this fall, before the Representative Town Meeting approved it in the beginning of the month with a 58-28 vote.