Charter Commission Meeting 2-1-17

Charter Commission Meeting

February 1, 2017

Attending:  Josh Krintzman (Chair), Jane Frantz, Howard Haywood, Anne Larner, Karen Manning, Chris Steele

Tardy:  Rhanna Kidwell (Vice Chair, 7:25 pm)), Bryan Barash (7:10 pm)

Approval of January 25th Minutes:  Approved with minor changes.

Public Comments: 

Nancy Tenor:  Last night CC members presented to Ward 6 Newton Dems.  Appreciates time and good intentions.  Felt intention was less than convincing…would vote no if voted today.  First, proposed term limits—already have them in elections.  Why force a capable and skilled office holder out?  Second, proposed 12-member council—why shrink representation to 12 people—they are twice as far from electorate.  Not be able to represent diversity in city.  Third, city-wide councilors—subsumed to the tyranny of the majority.  Wants to vote for own councilor in own ward and connect with person as they go door-to-door.  Wide ranging discussion is needed—waste vs. deliberation?

Howard Shrut:  resident in Newton for 69 years, rather apolitical; shrinking the size of the Board of Aldermen rubs him the wrong way.  Having ward councilors is more personal—Newton is made up of neighborhoods—gives you a sense of closeness of who’s going to represent you.  Smaller is a coterie and less democratic body.  Would vote for old method rather than the new.

Sallee Lipshutz:  where was presentation made and who made it?  Josh:  Newton Dems—4 members there?  Not in violation of open meeting, weren’t deliberating.  Discussion about whether or not or how to make meetings public.

Nathaniel Lichten:  Article 2—transition provisions.  Thanks for taking comments seriously.  Still have a couple of concerns.  Looked up influence on state government website—saw only one reference to lobbyists.  Dictionary definition—quoted.  In the absence of some more specific interpretation—means to effect or sway or impel to action.  This would include public comment, meetings behind the scenes, a parent talking to a principal.  Be very, very careful about restricting the rights of people who volunteer for the city who are acting beyond the scope of their volunteer duties.  Many work on very narrow issues—i.e. Angino Farm volunteer should not be barred from contacting a principal or superintendent since it’s not their role.

George Mansfield:  attended the Ward 6 meeting last night.  Appreciated presentation and discussion.  His position on article 2 has not changed, and neither has the Charter Commission.  Thinks it would be unfortunate if the recommendations and the whole of the charter were carried on the vote by recommendnations in Article 2, specifically changes to Ward Councilors.  He’s played that role—it has a real place in the city and has for 150 years in the culture, structure and governing of the city.  Doesn’t believe that comments will change recommendation, but does have to say that he will find himself in a position of opposing the charter vote in November.  When this comes up for a vote at a regular city election, there are going to be seats for the next term not affected by the charter (which will take effect in 2020).  Already there is evidence that people who hold Ward Councilor seats will run at large to avoid having seat taken away.  Can’t see any reason that someone would run for Ward Councilor—only hold seat for two years.  Different from running for Charter Commission, which is limited in scope.  He wouldn’t run for seat that lasts only two years on City Council.  Also:  looked at public presentation on website—slide that says the benefits of reducing the size of the City Council—1st benefit is that reduces the size of the Board.  Thinks should not have that there.  He feels that is likely to reduce transparency, accountability and responsiveness.  Would be much lower with a smaller board.

Jen Abbot:  Personally feel that reducing the size of the Board is a great benefit and would increase responsiveness and accountability.  Would increase some competition.  If larger council were more responsive, then we would see them all over the state.  Newton is an outlier.  Strongly in support of work and seems really well-researched.  Other great benefits.  Not being able to vote for all that represent her in a place the size of Newton is very troubling.  Every voter will have a voice in choosing.

Review Clean Draft of Charter: 

Discussion on the following topics:

  • What does full council mean? What about quorum? Majority and two-thirds are based on the number then in office.
  • Section 11-2b—what mean by “influence?” What is undue influence and what is proper advocacy?  Tonya from Collins Center presented more specific language from Oakland, CA.  Discussion about whether part b clarifies or makes things more vague.  Discussion of whether or not there is value in keeping this section in the charter—reaffirm concerns about conflict of interest and gives a value statement?    Motion to remove 11-2b fails.  Motion that tweaks the proposal—motion fails with a 4-4 vote.  More tweaking, some removing of language…all trying to get to a clear language on what influence should not be allowed, but not to replicate what is in the state law.  New motion with slightly different language:  passed 5-3.
  • Section 11-2c—add “appointed” office?
  • Section 10-3—change another ”may” to “shall”. Some concern over Section 10-3 a and b: concern about confusion from the language in “a.”  Concern in “b” from David Olson about petitions.  Members will look at it before vote in 2 weeks.
  • Section 3-10 on permanent vacancy in the office of Mayor—add a line that/ succession order could be determined by ordinance? Wasn’t resolved from last meeting.  Add language that if the President of the Council is unwilling or unable to serve, then the Vice-President, and if not, the Council will choose among its members.  Motion made and passed.
  • Section 5-2—just confirming changes, which are slightly different from notes. Need to keep in “all funds subject to appropriation.”
  • Section 12-7m—recommending insertion of “Council” to resolutions. No preference…
  • Back to Section 11-2c—what about if someone advocated for removal of someone from a position? Add “unduly?”  yes…

Read it carefully and will go through again in 2 weeks.

Review Draft of Preliminary Report: 

New version adds rationale for major changes, specifically the changes to the City Council and to term limits.  Changes came rather late this week, so go through tonight with general requests.  The members went through the document sentence-by-sentence, making some changes in preparation to review the final draft in two weeks.

Respectfully submitted by Sue Flicop (who left at 9:45 pm with the review still going on.)


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