Charter Commission Meeting 2-15-17

Charter Commission Meeting

February 15, 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:  approved with minor changes

Public Comments:

Nathaniel Lichten:  First, in Article 11-2c, add “coerce” to unduly influence.  Second, in Article 9-1, doesn’t like suggested language—has the potential of narrowing scope of what area councils can do to citizen engagement, but do have a broader role.  Article is very broad and vague—asks that it be narrowed.  Third, in Section 9-6, agree that first sentence is really confusing—get rid of two “providing for”—read recommended language.

Edie Wayne:  Against reducing the counselors to 12 members.  Will be representing 90,000 residents—can’t imagine having that word doubled.  Now have more diversity and opinions.  Want to keep ward counselors…get into the minutae of each village, know better that if represented entire city.  Don’t know the reason for term limits—if not doing a good job, won’t be re-elected.

Sallee Lipshutz:  speaking for herself.  Comment on draft report language with suggested language.  In charter, misleading terms of counselors—councilors by ward is wrong, recommend counselors at large by ward residency.  Recommends 8 at-large by ward and 8 by the ward—people would vote for only 9 counselors.  Commented on term limits—arbitrary for counselors and Mayor.  Term limits for school committee are less arbitrary.  Article 9-1 purpose:  NACs are the only officially represented elected people with the purpose of citizen engagement who follow open meeting law.

Draft of Revised Charter:  Went through proposed changes as marked in the document prepared for the meeting.  Most received clear consent of the commission, with the following discussions on only a few.

  • Section 9-1: BL:  language implies that Neighborhood Area Councils are THE way to engage the community.  Discussion had included neighborhood associations and other groups not codified in charter.  Would prefer to rewrite language as suggested in document—takes away the exclusive-sounding language.  CS:  want to call out the unusual nature of NACs…discuss comments made in public comment section of the evening.  Reluctant to add more language, but did want to address it.  JF:  how would “citizen engagement” restrict NACs?  Have unanimous consent to change it to Brooke’s suggestion.
  • Still same section—just specify types of citizen engagement. CS:  Doesn’t limit their current activities, but did want to talk about it and be sure everyone felt the same way.  AL:  thinks this is a broad term, not meant to be used to limit NACs.  BB:  sees current language as very board, gives a huge amount of latitude.  JF:  worked with Karen on this section—wanted to use the most inclusive language.  All in agreement that language is fine and won’t expand that further.
  • Section 9-6: what about specifying open meeting law to apply to NACs?  BL:  then need to apply it to other bodies as well…why just NAC?  Decision is to leave as is no mention of open meeting law, but with the current suggestion in the draft.
  • Section 10-2b and f: should be the same—election commissioners or city clerk?   Should be the same body referred to.  Change both to election commissioners?  This is a legal question—as a practical matter, it’ the City Clerk’s office.  But…the election commission has a role.  Tanya researched as the meeting continued—should be Election Commission.
  • Section 10-3 was shown to David Olson, City Clerk, for comments. Some changes recommended, but agreed to by Charter Commission.
  • Section 11-2c: based on public comment to add “coerce” to the sentence.  BL:  no way that a member of a multiple body could coerce hiring or firing, so sees this an unnecessary; BB:    Made a motion to add language, seconded by CS.  Discussion:  AL:  what is the problem with adding the word…is there a consequence?  BL:  don’t believe that this can happen—how do you coerce?  Can unduly influence but can’t coerce someone to hire or fire someone.  BB:  can argue that in some sister cities, it can and did happen.  Vote:  7-2.  Passed.
  • Section 11-12d: concern that some bodies aren’t fully seated; Collins Center recommends that if concerned if worried about having quorum, keep language in there.  Otherwise, take out.  CS:  value question that if have language, bodies can continue to operate even without full membership.  BB:  does also say that they need majority of the full body to exercise powers—mainly dealing with advisory role, which is a more limited question.  Is comfortable with keeping language.  BL:  gave a hypothetical example using planning board and then with a group interacting with the city’s attorneys.  Keep language in twice.  No objections.

AL:  motion to accept the whole charter as corrected tonight.  BB seconded.

Discussion:

  • BL: things in charter that make her unhappy.  Believes ballot box is the best term limits.  Doesn’t believe NAC should be enshrined in the charter just because they are in the last one.  However, on balance, this proposal represents a significant improvement to our current government structure, will facilitate participation in the community and will hopefully receive passes.  Will vote to support it.
  • BB: thanks to whole commission—appreciated everyone’s input and worked well together.  Agrees with Brooke that is not what he would have written himself, but will vote yet.
  • HH: has been a real privilege, struggled to come back after his illness and time missed.  Felt that hadn’t make a significant contribution, but felt he had a responsibility to continue.  Amazed that all have done miraculous work and is proud to have been a part of the process. Wish he could have been more productive. Will support, but doesn’t agree with everything.  Agrees with process and is a better charter and will move the city forward.
  • JF: reiterate comments, been an honor and a pleasure.  What struck her is that all have a part that they are not in agreement with, but see the totality as a significant improvement and look at that as the most important element.  Will vote yes.

VOTE:  9-0!! Unanimous!

Thanks to Marilyn and Tanya, without whom they CC wouldn’t have gotten this far.

Draft of Report:  Jane presented comments in her memo about comments that she heard.  Lots of discussion and wordsmithing, some toning-down of the language, some clarification.

Respectfully submitted by Sue Flicop, who left at 10pm with wordsmithing and rewriting still continuing.

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