Charter Commission Meeting 1-25-17

Charter Commission Meeting

January 25, 2017

Attending:  Josh Krintzman (Chair), Rhanna Kidwell (Vice-Chair), Bryan Barash, Jane Frantz, Howard Haywood, Anne Larner, Brooke Lipsitt, Karen Manning, Chris Steele

Approval of Minutes:  Minutes from January 11th approved unanimously.

Public Comments:

Mark Alpert:  speaking against proposal to eliminate Ward Councilors; is anti-democratic proposal, goes against things have studied about our country; will have no one representing the neighborhoods—may live there, but won’t have to go door-to-door to find out about special needs and how to represent them; could have the city taken over by an advertising campaign funded by a single person or company to get eight people elected and get control over city; some rich real estate developer must have invented this; suspects that some real estate developers are behind this—what if some rich person in Chestnut Hill gets a slate elected—who will listen to people in other parts of the city?  Doesn’t know if anyone on the Charter Commission is a real estate developer—can’t imagine they are not if supporting this—how much easier to get something like Austin Street passed; allows some right-wing group to get elected, or some left-wing group; nothing that anyone can do about it; [interruption here about comments being personal; Howard wants on the public record that these comments are offensive; conversation gets quite heated]  3 arguments:  reducing the size of the city council could be done differently; this portion of it could sink the whole project—organized efforts to block it.

Sally Lipshutz:  speak on behalf of the Waban Area Council—voted to speak out as a council on two important issues.  1.  Support of retention of ward councilors; 2.  Inclusion of language in transition article on complete functioning of Area Council until new ordinances are drafted.  Wants to read into the record from the Newton Upper Falls Area Council:  supports the same thing.

Sally (now speaking for herself):  deep idealogical differences with the proposed charter revisions.  Process if open an non-confusing; asks for revision in draft letter addressing the major changes (and her she gives specific language).  Feels that some language obfuscates the meaning intentionally and wants to keep it open.  Would like to see it on page 1

Joy Huber:  Newtonville Area Council:  supports the same things as Waban Area Council.  Concerned that could take up to two years to get new ordinance and need to know what they are doing in the meantime.

Lynn Weissberg:  finds the comments of the first speaker about the committee being associated with developers is inappropriate.  Heard a well-reasoned argument about reducing the size of the city council.  Feels that the new proposal is more democratically elected—that way every voter will have an opportunity to vote for every single member of that 12-member council.

Kathleen Hobson:  echo was Lynn said, but express gratitude for the work that you’ve done. The level of intelligence and conscientiousness seen when working through these articles—haven’t seen work like this in city hall.  Doesn’t agree with everything proposed, but has seen them arrived at in a well-reasoned way.  Thank you very much.

Fran Godine:  commend the charter commission for the thoughtful, transparent process.  Urges them to hold firm for the good of the citizens of Newton.

Nathanial Lichten:  opposes the charter but thanks them for their hard work.  The Newton Highlands Area Council oppose removing the Ward Councilors and support the same things as the Waban Area Council.  In the provision on ethics, prohibit members of multi-member boards from attempting to sway those in City Hall on an individual level—should have the same opportunity to have their voices heard as regular citizens.  Hopes that will reconsider that.  This excludes constituent services by City Councilors.

Don Ross:  not in favor of proposals, particularly because of his support for Area Councils.  Want to raise the point that area councils have been doing a good job and “they’re not broke” so why change it.  Important, especially if ward councilors are going to be removed.  Does support keeping them, too.  Ward councilor issue will be an issue that will cause people to vote not.

Nancy Zollers:  Waban Area Council does not represent her point of view.  Used to read all the research—impressive and overwhelming. Know that come to decisions with a lot of background material—grateful that they are doing all this work.  Happy with where you ended up.

Next public hearing March 15, 2017.

Draft of Revised Charter:  Going through the draft and making revisions.  Topics include:  defining an emergency; idea of city officer—defined in state law; moving definitions to a separate part of or after the preamble; whether or not to add a definition of “ad hoc” committee; how to clarify the conflict of interest clause; some wordsmithing, clarifications and reorganizations.

This led to a discussion on the conflicts of interest clause to clarify the meaning.  They specified what was meant by actions that lead to a conflict of interest by different groups (elected officials v. members of Boards and Commissions, for example.)  A new draft will be available for the next meeting.

Draft of Report:  Should the report be persuasive, educational, or provide a rationale?  It can do all three—by providing a rationale and educating people, that will hopefully persuade people to support it.  It is up to a campaign to provide the persuasion.  The CC provides the education and rationale upon which the campaign will be built.  The commission split up the work to re-draft or create parts of the report and the final draft of the charter.


Meeting next Wednesday, February 1.  Then February 15th for next meeting.  Will try to work out a final draft next week and then vote on February 15th.

Respectfully submitted by Sue Flicop.

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