Public forums necessary
In the next several weeks, the City Council will schedule public forums to discuss the proposed charter revisions as laid out by the Charter Revision Commission. The commission, appointed in 2017, worked for 18 months reviewing the present charter, and seeing where revisions and amendments should be made.
What the panel did, ultimately, was not a revision, but an overhaul – in our view a much needed one – as to how the city does its business. The forums will be conducted by members of the former commission, which ceased to exist by law once the report was presented to the City Council.
These former members will answer questions, give rationales and generally bring the public up to speed as to what it was thinking when it re-wrote the document. These discussions were mandated in order to help give residents the opportunity to inform themselves before a final vote is taken. That vote, still to be determined, will be pivotal as it will decide if the commission’s work is worthy of implementation.
The forums are important. The revisions made by the commission in its proposed overhaul will change the way the city does its business, alter the form of government the city employs, and reallocate the powers distributed to the executive and legislative branches. Put simply, it is a whole new ball game if passed.
Under the new proposal the City Council will become primary, with the mayor’s position becoming a “first among equals” position on that body. Somewhat in the vein of the selectman system, the mayor will have some executive powers, but only insofar as there needs to be an ultimate authority.
Much of the executive powers will be allocated to a city manager, who will be hired by the council, and under its authority. This professional will move the city toward a more streamlined operation, and will have the know-how and understanding that takes mayor’s months or years to acquire.
Department heads will be hired based on credentials. There will be expertise in the various departmental categories, giving the city a more professional outlook. These will be handled through attrition, eventually giving the city expertise sometimes lacking in its current structure.
The genius of the document cobbled together by the Charter Revision Commission is the interwoven connection between one section and another. The restructuring of the city’s government is constructed in such a way that one section of the document is dependent on the others. It stands or falls as one piece.
The public’s understanding of the revisions, then, is vitally important toward making an informed decision. If passed, there are going to be necessary changes made almost immediately. And, what the City Council, city attorneys, and the commission itself realize is that it cannot be broken up into several questions. It must be given an up-or-down vote as a whole in order for it to work.
This publication will list the meetings and times. We urge the residents of the city to take part in one or more of these forums in order to gain a working knowledge of the revision, and then make an informed decision.
The Charter Revision Commission has offered to the city a new way of doing things – one that will alter forever the sometimes clunky way things get done. It won’t be easy, but the electorate should know the details before it is asked to vote on it. It is the most important vote electors will make in the history of the city.