Charter Commission Meeting Observer Notes 4-13-16

Charter Commission Meeting

April 13, 2016

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

Public Comment:

City Councilor Lisle Baker: Upcoming discussion is about the most important decision they’ll make. Important to focus on what’s going right. Newton is an outlier in many ways, makes us the open community we are. Lots of people participate in lots of ways. Greater efficiency & effectiveness are not the automatic outcome of a smaller council.  A large council has served the city well, will continue to do so.

Ernest Lowenstein – Would like to draw attention to the word “efficient.”  Asks the commission to at least be willing to define it, don’t just throw it around. Democracy is not designed to be efficient.

Matt Hills, chair, School Committee: Current 8 year term limit helps form the culture that makes it the effective body that it is; no one owns it. Troubled by idea that longer limits will ensure more competitive races. Also, there is more history of competitive races than we think. This year, he and Margie Decter Ross will be leaving; 2 strong candidates have emerged. But they wouldn’t likely have emerged or been willing to run against Matt and Margie. Term limits go to the culture of the committee; turnover is good, new blood is good. Wants to see straw vote changed and return to 8-year limit.

Don Ross. Has always felt we should keep council to 24. Never heard a good reason why it should be reduced. In favor because is working well; easier to find a ward or local councilor for constituent services. Also provides more entry points to politics. Wants to be clear there are people just as passionate on the side of keeping a larger council as there are who want to downsize.

Article 4 Draft Discussion:

Begin by looking at draft of article 4 that was sent around. Frantz: great draft. One concern re: term limits. We focused on election, incumbency, opposed elections, etc. Didn’t focus on impact the extension would have on the entire system. More important the vote was 4-2-2, one absent. Not wise to let a very important decision stand when it didn’t pass with a majority vote, wants to table that vote and return to issue.

Steele concurs. Was absent for vote, is concerned re discussion, thinks we don’t have enough data to feel comfortable concurring with it. Return when discussing term limits in general?

Larner: we know the topic will arise again, and there is some connectedness between term limits between the two bodies. Might be good to save, look at the pieces together. There is a system, worth looking at the whole.

Barash, Manning also agree would like to leave for now and return to the discussion when discussing term limits in general.  Kidwell, echoes Larner, and Barash, and Manning.

Frantz: wants to be sure have a really robust discussion, re specifics of the school committee in particular.

Barash: asks if Frantz is saying there are factors we didn’t consider at last discussion? If so, please tell the commission what those are before we return to the discussion; Frantz said yes, there are, and she will get that information out.

Krintzman notes he added placeholder language in the draft re: date of residence in the instance of filling a vacancy.

Discussion of the language in 4.1a “The school committee shall be the judge of the election and qualification of its members.” Krintzman sees it as a final check – if the school committee isn’t the ultimate arbiter of who’s a member of its body, then who should be?  Election commission certifies the vote, but they couldn’t and shouldn’t be the body that judges, say, that a member should be disqualified because of some conduct unbecoming or something – confer how the Massachusetts House once removed of its own.

Article 2 Discussion – Led by Rhanna Kidwell and Howard Haywood

Haywood: we all recognize how important this section is, and that there’s a need for careful consideration. Struck by Penta’s comment [at last night’s meeting where there was testimony from legislators from surrounding communities] asking what prompted this charter review. If asked most people, they would say it’s about the size of the council.

We’ve looked at benchmark cities; the model cities recommendations. Those give lots of reasons why a smaller board works best, and also that is should be an odd number.  So, we need to consider at that, consider what we’ve hear from constituents, and also consider how we assess the performance of our existing Council. We should seek empirical evidence that change would improve matters. He notes that we are way outside the norm for the whole country –  not just our benchmark cities.

What are some of the reasons why people think should be smaller? With 24 members, relatively easy for someone elected repeatedly but not contributing much to just float; not accountable. Also, In Newton, having 24 to vote for at a time contributes to bullet voting; if you look at the actual records, can see it happens.

Kidwell: we also need to be clear about terminology: what we call “at large” is not the usual meaning of the term: we have “at large by ward.”

Suggestion, and agreement, to go around table, let each commissioner speak:

Frantz: We need to set priorities. Accountability to voters keeps rising to the top. Her priority is to look for a scenario that best keeps councilors accountable.

Lipsett: hears issue of accountability as important. Her own opinion about size of board has varied a lot. When she was a member, she felt v strongly should retain 24 because she wanted everyone to know an alderman they could go to, and the large number preserved the best access to the board. As communications have improved, with reverse 911, 311 calls, lobby operators – she feels that is less critical. Also, she doesn’t care how long meetings run – that’s the council’s choice; they can control things, and adjust things if meeting length is a problem.  Sure, once every year or two there is an Austin St debate, and the public gets very annoyed with meeting length etc.  But, that was a really important debate for the community: a long debate was a GOOD thing.  Feels it’s important not to base a decision on the occasional, hardest instances. On other hand, re accountability, more convinced as time goes by that having 2 at large councilors run simultaneously is not a good idea. Leaning toward 4 year terms for at-large, alternating, so no one gets free ride against the incumbent. Wants every race to be contested every time – that’s her goal in life. But it doesn’t encourage competition when have 2 incumbents against a challenger. That has become the key issue to her.

Barash: when first heard about Charter Commission, wondered why we should have one. All seems to work reasonably well etc. But as he examined things, it became clear there were a lot of people who felt things were not working well. During campaign, as he knocked on lots of doors, he frequently found a visceral reaction to size of board, that Newton is an outlier, large number doesn’t seem necessary.  Reading model charter and recommendations for charter commissions was struck by how strongly the commentary favors trying to get a smaller board, with at-large representation whenever possible. Seems clear these people, who’ve spent a lot of time researching, really think that’s the ideal.  Doesn’t mean they’re right, but worth considering.

Manning: appreciates Barash’s historic perspective on his own evolution through the campaign process. Entered without preconceptions, truly. Have heard so much persuasive and heartfelt testimony from important, wise people in community, but have started to form instincts. At-large-by-ward representation strikes an important balance for our city. Believes in term limits. Unambiguous data supports having smaller board – very clear we are outlier, other places have well designed systems to take care of business better. If put more focus on that – on staff etc to run city better: clearly can be done well. At same time, on her work reviewing the School Committee, can understand arguments that Newton is unique, don’t conform to other communities. Respects that point: Newton is special.

Krintzman: Many thanks to Haywood, Kidwell for the hard work and excellent information they’ve provided. Have heard from lots of people – hearings, emails, etc.  & commission has  obligation to represent the people, and to let people choose their government. One big part here is what the role of the council is. Lot of conceptions. Constituent services is one part. Though as an FYI charter commission already limited constituent service role of council in review of article 11. It was sense of commission that constituent services had a place, but not necessarily as big as some think. Clearly no single right answer. Debate is good. Whatever we do will be unhappy people. Our obligation is to provide very clear reasoning for decisions we come up with. Jobs city council does can be done with fewer people, and still preserve people’s access to the council and councilors. Can certainly come up with a way to represent the whole city, with fewer people. Then council could hone its responsibilities.

Steele: echo and expand on Krintzman. We were elected to represent, but also to bring experience, expertise to table. Re geographic representation – in communities where he’s worked where parts of a community aren’t adequately represented is clearly a bad outcome. At-large-by-ward really helps. Re: having 2 at large per ward, not only does that make it easier for someone to skate by, but, as former candidate, most people assume you are going after one or the other of the sitting people: great misunderstanding of how the system works; few know they can vote for 2.  Core principal is to create clarity about how the system functions – and accountability for elected officials. Still need conversation about actual role. Can’t rely on councilors to take up failings of city’s ‘customer service’ function – really masks a deficiency in the system, need to be careful of that.

Kidwell: did come with biases: she undertook signature campaign, obviously wanted to see change. But truly committed to seeing what voters wanted. Did a tally of comments: out of 55,000 voters in Newton, 43 people have weighed in. In favor of status quo: 19; downsize: 24. Arguments for status quo most speak re: importance of accessibility, opportunity for more to participate.  Proponents of downsizing speak more strongly, and there are more of them. Voters have repeatedly asked for smaller council, it’s time to give them the option to vote bindingly for that. Also large number of people who’ve served on council to agree we don’t need 24: that speaks really loudly. Not persuaded downsizing would increase workload. Current structure makes job unattractive to many candidates (long meetings, large group).  Size of ballot absurd, doesn’t increase participation, accountability, etc. Also no clear mandate when have 2 people from each ward, who’s running against who/what.  Almost more bothered by composition — 3 per ward just makes no sense. Automatically leads to redundancy. No one in state – probably not in country – does that.  Putting more people on a job than you need is built-in redundancy, just wasteful. Support some councilors truly at-large – just running for office, not against a specific person. Re ward councilors – everyone says job shouldn’t be different if ward vs at-large-by-ward, so why the distinction? School committee members all say they prefer being accountable to whole city.

Larner: not part of LWVN movement; skeptic about having a charter commission. Started doing a lot of reading, talking over summer. Has learned a lot, head has moved over past 8-9 months. Probing deeper re size of board. Consistent thread from active community members: that complexity of ballot and system is consistent theme.  It can be easy to pass off complaints and say people just aren’t trying to understand things, but heard from so many people who are active and respected, really have to listen.  The undervotes is a fallout from that complexity. Even if you look at which ward appears last on ballot you see fewer votes…!  From that piece alone, something has to be done to make ballot simpler, more accessible. To encourage participation. And to also give people who are interested a sense of the lines of accountability. On the other hand, issue is effectiveness. Not so concerned about efficiency – but effectiveness is the question.  Is a smaller body more effective? After lot of reading, comparing, listening: comes down that a lot of evidence shows that less than 24 would probably be far more effective. Also believes shouldn’t be too prescriptive re: constraining powers; let the council decide for itself. Broad geographic representation is important; open to some truly at-large, but do want also at-large-by-ward.

Haywood: last speaker. When came to run, considering whether his biases would prevent having an open mind, still concerned as began process. But as began, less concerned.  Austin St. process – some people say size of board created a better process, hear more ideas. He thinks size made the process redundant – could have same community input, same meetings etc but 24 people to make decision didn’t mean better discussion or argument.  Having a lot of different voices didn’t add any value – in his opinion. In fact, with a smaller board with strong opinions would have made process work better. Newton is an outlier, sure, but really, we’re just people like everyone else.  We shouldn’t be holding on to our notions of being so special. “we’re Newton” doesn’t make us better – makes us stagnant.  Takes too long to get things done. Smaller, 4-year terms, staggered; have term limits, or not — be consistent with school committee.  Are we proud of a dysfunctional system??  When we tell other people about our system, they don’t think we’re special, they think we’re nuts! We should be arguing about what we want from our gov’t. Responsibility of ward vs at-large have no difference in responsibilities.  If a ward councilor were only considering my ward, I wouldn’t vote for him: I want them to have same interest in other wards. That’s how we make a better city! You can tell votes are frequently purely political — can hide in the 24. Wants people to speak their mind. If different from constituents, fine – stand on it.  Tons of respect for Lisle, but just doesn’t convince me should stay w status quo.

Krintzman: could make a motion; or Kidwell and Haywood have identified composition, could talk about that.

Frantz: wants to say important to have at-large-by-ward, but only 1 per ward. 4 year terms allows to stagger, helps shrink ballot.  Very concerned that with such a large board it’s easy to “slip through the cracks,” when that happens, people aren’t held accountable .

Lipsett: her concern about reducing size has been how exactly you do it: the balance between the ward representation and the at-large. How reduce size without changing the weight, the preponderance of citywide over ward.  Preference for combo of true at large and at-large-by-ward – scenario D. Not sure of number truly at large. Has thought one approach is to reduce number of wards, say to 5, but just gets too complicated, don’t want to change wards.  Thinking more, some portion, not a majority, truly at large is the way to go. Last night, there was a question re truly at-large people: did it get focused on one location – did one geographic area get too much power? Doesn’t seem to be the case.

Barash: feeling similarly – scenario D. Clearly not A; a number originally though B maybe, but it seems no longer right. With 8 wards, a proper balance will require a larger number of at-large, should be at least 4 or 5.

Manning: scenario D, with 13 total.

Krintzman: prefers truly at-large for whole council, but in the end, leans most toward D. Has come to point where 1 per ward at large is great, but not whole council – add others truly at large.

Steele: also scenario D.

Kidwell: scenario D.  Willing to consider E, but the downside but somehow that adds layer of confusion, just not great.

Larner: exactly. Parts of E nice, but too complex, and point is to reduce complexity. Wants D.

Haywood: Scenario D.

Frantz: leans to D. questioning effect of 3-5 at large – 3 vs 5.

Barash: have been thinking something specifically bad about the 2 at large, when a 3rd person runs – more poisonous. Not as much an issue with a larger pool. Much better understanding of how it works, that it is a pool – than way it currently works.

Lipsett: delighted to see coming to consensus so easily.

Kidwell: before making a motion, let’s go ahead and spell out the specifics re: number of at-large.

Frantz: concerned about 3: might favor certain wards. Just a supposition. Larner conflicted. 13 feels right. But concerned that a larger number increases risk there could be a geographic cluster. What tends to happen with pools is a challenger will ask voters to bullet vote. Much easier for a challenger to actually get elected when in group of 5, not 3.

Krintzman: if 3, even if all 3 from one ward, still aren’t in the majority.  If we have more than 5, that does become a possibility.

Lipsett: likes 7. Larger number would improve frequency of turnover – more opportunity to break in. But sees issue of unlikely but possible geographic cluster coming to dominate means leans back to 5.

Haywood: moves to adopt D, with 5 at large. Lipsett seconds. Krintzman caveat: this is based on assumption we keep 8 wards.

Lipsett: only reason we looked at changing # of wards was if going all by wards, to get to the right numbers.  And would push any change out to 2020 census. Let’s leave the wards alone.  General agreement.

Barash: 5 people at large, risk of clustering: doesn’t think necessarily a bad thing, an ill-intended cluster just isn’t going to last for long.  And fine if happen to have cluster of people who voters like… self-correcting.

Vote: 9 in favor, 0 against.

Move on to Eligibility, length of term, term limits.

Go around table again.

Barash: typically inclined against term limits, but thru these conversations and talking w voters, is a strong appeal at local level. Lot of people aren’t as engaged.  Clear consensus we want to keep term limits for school committee, which plays into it. Don’t think they should be wildly different. Council could have a somewhat longer terms perhaps, but similar. Something along lines of last meeting’s vote, ie. 12 years total.

Krintzman: staggering terms helps with ballot. If stagger, probably want 4-year terms. Can see wisdom in 4-yr staggered terms, allowing more directed opportunity to vote for fewer positions. Definitely argument for imposing term limits: have heard a lot of good info. If went for 4 years, 12 seems about right. Acknowledges if we do alter or impose new term limits, need to discuss transition, how to deal with incumbents. But not a huge problem. Surprised to say wants term limits on city council

Steele – unsure about term limits.

Kidwell – [observer had to leave room].  Supports 4 years staggered terms.

Larner – leans toward term limits, 4-year staggered.

Haywood: 5, 4-year terms, 20 years total.

Frantz: definitely term limits. This day and age, only time we see contested elections and strong candidates is when seats are open. Don’t have a number, open to suggestions. If do staggered, it’s a concept, wants to see models, test things out.

Lipsett: dislikes term limits intensely. Staggered terms: strong proponent of 4-yr staggered terms if we maintained 24.  With new structure, needs to rethink. 4-year terms fine. Wants to hear from members of council – some have said that first year or 2 is a steep learning curve, and then having to mount a campaign so soon, really tough.  Likes competition. Spent time today on city website looking at last 8 municipal elections (that’s what’s available).  To surprise, turnover on school committee no greater than for council, which has no term limits. Not sure term limits really help. Did quickly, not a deep analysis, but expected much greater turnover as percentage of school committee vs council. Not sure if goal is to promote turnover that this is the way to go.

Barash: in terms of staggering, makes sense that it would just be the pool of 5; the 8 wouldn’t run in the same election.  Mayor + 5; other year, council and school committee, one per each ward.  Much interest from whole commission in idea of separating truly at-large from ward-based. Also, given they have such strong consensus on this issue, it changes some other conversations; incumbent upon us to reach out again to community, experts and ask again, given this current context.

Krintzman: Takes Kidwell’s point re term limits taking power away from voters, limiting pool of candidates. Currently school committee limits only consecutive term– not lifetime.  Happens to like that – gives more power back to voters. Wants to add that to council, too. Many councilors concurred.

Lipsett – concerned about making it too difficult to move between the two bodies and/or between ward-based and at-large.

Krintzman: asks Kidwell, Haywood to put together set of options re staggered terms/length of terms/overlap of offices.

Haywood wants to discourage people flopping back and forth between at large/ward-based.

General agreement that we don’t want incumbents to have a favored position… Everyone wants to see and think about scenarios.

—————-

Calendar:

May 4 –  re: planning, testimony from officials from other communities. Public comment/hearing too?

Add’l meeting: May 18th: wrap up article 3 & 4, Rm 205, 7pm. Also discuss city manager form of gov’t, and term limits.

 

Respectfully submitted by Lisa Mirabile

Charter Commission Meeting Observer Notes 4-6-16

Charter Commission Meeting

April 6, 2016

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

Public Comment:

Sue Flicop: Citizens’ Assistance Officer for City Council? Ombudsman for School Department

Susie Heyman: retain 2-year terms—keep them accountable to the public; thinking about term limits—isn’t equitable between City Council and SC—term limits for each group might be helpful, provide a good mix of energy, good for the city, keep things open, make it possible for people to run. Discussion point about what happens if a SC member moved out of the ward—could they continue to serve? Doesn’t think that is a good idea—if retain 2-year terms, people are elected at-large. Clean up residency language—happy if there is an exact date for residency requirement.

Sallee Lipshutz: charter should show that if any schools are closed, they should be leased, not sold—regardless of whether the school population decline is permanent or temporary.

Claire Sokoloff: support of term limits for School Committee and City Council. Researched the topic and observed local government in action. SC is better off due to term limits—does take time to get up to speed. 8 or 10 years gives time for ample productive contributions. Was difficulty to separate—facilitated departure and bring new people in. Allowed Claire to use her skills and knowledge in other ways. Found term limits weaken hold on power and facilitate democracy. Advantages of incumbency—fundraising and reluctance to take on the “establishment.” Low turnover on our City Council—people rarely voluntarily leave. Resistance by office holders to new thinking—do the voters really decide? Hold Council to same standard as SC—not sure of perfect number, but feel that democracy is enhanced by term limits.

Margaret Albright: in favor of finding way to stagger terms of SC members. Dangerous to have possibility of all 8 SC members be new. Please stagger the terms.

Minutes to be approved: all approved.

Article 3 Discussion: preserve strong Mayor form of government with 4 year term

Motion by Jane: retain strong Mayor form of government. Some discussion about support for other forms of government. Several members felt that there isn’t the support in the community for a city manager form of government—big change but not willing to pursue at this time. Disappointed that Charter Commission hasn’t spent any time talking about the pros and cons or why the city should stay as it is. Plan to come back and discuss this more explicitly? No more discussion on Article 3 until ready to talk about city manager form of government. Motion failed. Jane: table discussion of form of government until a later date when can have a more robust discussion. Motion passed.

Article 4 Discussion: Role of SC has changed so dramatically over time. Various perspectives about how article should be written: sparely or more language to reflect core values of NPS. Propose language from existing documents; propose adding in language from mission statement in two places; recommend that revised charter continue to include a section on new school buildings.

Review of data: from Collins Center, interviews of current and past SC members (members of a 30-year period)

Section 4-1a: Modify first sentence as written in annotated article for discussion. Most SC members across the state are at large. Current SC members unanimously felt that the current method of at-large election but residency requirements was the best method. Many felt that the size should not go beyond 8, plus we have 8 wards. This is unique to Newton, and the current members feel that it works for them. Like geographical representation. Possible model of adding on a few extra truly at-large SC members wasn’t discussed, though felt that shouldn’t go beyond 8. Even with former SC members, felt that 8 is a good size, and that the current method of election is working.

Have someone from City Council as ex officio—with or without a vote? Allow them to work more closely together. Was discussed—one person cannot be liaison between the City Council and SC. Needs to be worked on by a team of people.

Ombudsman? Not in the charter, though would be good for the School Department to have.

Section 4-1b: felt that people should be able to read the charter and know if they are eligible and what they need to do—shouldn’t have to go to the state website.

Current charter: if move while serving in office, can continue to still serve. Elected by entire city, will continue to serve the entire city. Special election is unnecessary.

Defining residency: has been defined by Massachusetts courts. Leave that and then focus on date for residency. Don’t give “the day papers are available” since that can change from year to year. Much better to pick a date. Is Election Day too late? Maybe when filing of signature papers are due or somewhere around there…July 1st? Approved.

Section 4-1c:

  • Most communities have a term length of 2 years. Strong consensus from interviews to keep it to 2 years. Running for office is difficulty, but is a necessary part of the job. Helps to communicate with electorate—forces elected officials to keep in contact with constituents. Able to challenge someone every two years and not wait for 4.
  • Think about terms for SC, for City Council, and for Mayor. See argument for longer terms for City Council, especially if staggered terms.
  • Reality is that still get few challengers…going to four year terms eliminates risks of drastic turnover—loss of institutional knowledge and few people would qualify to serve as chair. Also can stagger terms, shorten ballot.
  • How would staggering work—certain wards will be in certain years—some would always run with the Mayor and others wouldn’t. Four year terms seems like a very long time, especially when have children in the school system.
  • Bigger constituency than just parents of students in the schools.
  • Question for Collins Center: any research on whether term length or staggered elections brings out more people and stimulate participation/turnover? Since advent of 4-year term for Mayor, off-year elections have low turnout. Have a lot more uncontested races. Attract different candidates if have a 4-year term.
  • Big boost in turnout is when Mayor’s seat is open, not just contested. 16K for Mayoral elections; 8k for non-Mayoral elections; overrides 32% and 47%. Not everyone votes in all the other contests when the Mayor is running.
  • Two-year terms compel you to run again—don’t feel you’ve been as effective as you could be. Might not run after 4-year term.
  • Smaller the elected body, the more important to have turnover. Current system seems to be working. Maybe extend the number of terms. Eight years seems doable—if extend it longer, might find people might leave earlier.
  • Also SC member play a part in education discussions around the state. Longer terms means they have more input/influence.
  • Motion to retain 2-year term lengths. Passed 5-2.
  • Motion to remove term limits. Fails for lack of a second.
  • Motion to retain the 8-year term limit. Motion to amend it to 12 years. Discussion on proposed amendment: observe that SC members are not challenged because someone will wait out the SC members. So make the term limits long enough to make it more tempting for people to challenge sitting SC members. Discussion—how to encourage more people to contest seats? Vote on amendment: 5-2. Now motion is to change the term limits to 12-years. Vote: 4-2-2 Final result: recommend term limits of 12 years.

Section 4-2a: recommend accept Collins Center language with the exception about the terms. SC chair is officially chosen on Swearing In Day in a public session—usually same as vote taken informally in a November caucus with new SC.   Does this comply with the law or is this circumventing the law by calling it a caucus? Decision is basically made before the SC members are sworn into office. Has been looked at by AG and abides by the Open Meeting Law.

Comfortable with possibility of Mayor being chair of SC? Is not prohibited in charter. Is unlikely to be an issue—no need to put it in the charter.

Section 4-2b: no change or deliberation.

Section 4-2c: suggest accept Collins Center alternative provision. One change—an “and” left out. Discussion about putting a time limit on updating policies—concern that putting an unnecessary burden on staff.

Section 4-3:

  • Used language from Ed Reform Act as closely as possible, but made specific to Newton. Divergence from Collins Center recommendations—very different approaches. Whatever language is chosen, like format from proposed part.
  • Mission statement can be revised by SC—maybe refer to mission statement, but not put in exact wording. Change so reflect this reference without the specific language.
  • Collins recommendation (ii)—“making all reasonable rules and regulations etc.”—is part of requirements of Ed Reform. If going to capture 80% of Ed Reform act in charter, should add all of it. Should reflect laws that the SC has to work under.
  • If something is in Ed Reform laws, it already rules. SC must work with those—so why have it in the charter? Put things in if we want to modify or expand something or if we want to emphasize something. Put it in to be a comprehensive document for city government. Any resident can read it and basically know how things work.

Section 4-4: Revisions to reflect current process and add new principles. SC determines when a new school building/major renovation is necessary. SC approves the educational specification for new building. Comply with state guidelines. Representation from SC will serve on committee on constructions/renovation.

Comments: Not consistent with two-year terms. What is SC is off SC but a rep to a construction project that could last more than 2 years. Part of the process—if unhappy with project, person might be voted off. Rep is not involved in planning, designing, etc. of new building.

Section 4-5: Stays in—comparable one in Article 2 (was dropped from Article 11). Either needs to stay here or be transferred to 11.

Add principle of not holding a second elective office when already holding seat on SC (two office simultaneously). State law focused on two compensated offices—insert that we don’t allow them to hold two offices even if uncompensated. Motion goes under prohibition or eligibility? Will look into where it belongs.

Motion: Add language into Article 11 that no elected official in newton can simultaneously hold elective office, including charter commission. Collins Center: Barnstable has a similar provision, specifically related to Charter Commission. Add this to the list of things to address….

Section 4-6: table this discussion to talk about when fresh—don’t leave it to late in the meeting.

Calendar: pick up loose ends in June—when some open meetings are planned. Discussion about how/when to address Article 2—move other topics back or stick to schedule? Decided not to change calendar right now—will discuss in future.

Finances: Monday night budget approved by Finance Committee.

Charter Commission Roundtable Discussion Observer Notes 3-31-16

Charter Commission Roundtable Discussion on City Council

March 31, 2016

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

Panel criteria: diversed and experienced, representing 5 different wards, split between ward aldermen and aldermen-at-large, represented different committees, and various opinions on city charter.

Cheryl Lappin: supporter of charter reform for a long time; the board should be smaller—how small is the issue. Lot of work that the city council does—other communities have councils that spend a lot less time with same responsibilities. Have worked to streamline the work the board does, but still has work to do. Thinks two reps from each ward would suffice. If reduced size, definitely get rid of land use/special process—way to retain control over larger projects, but other towns have appointed or elected board to deal with this—less politics involved. Several items that come before multiple committees—way to make it more streamlined. Right now rep from every ward on every committee—important, but can consolidate committees.

Scott Lennon: all about serving the city and making it the best for everyone. Supports the work of the charter commission—important to look at how all things operate.

George Mansfield reading Lisle Baker’s statement: Board’s judgement has been good for Newton. 24 is good for Newton. People are honorable who serve. Board is democratic—no single person or group controls what they do. Board adds value to community—made Austin Street better, saved Commonwealth Golf Course, for example. Large number means all points of view are represented. Smaller Board could shift balance of power to the Mayor if the Board becomes dysfunctional—people jockeying for power or position.

Brian Yates: Biggest issue facing commission is the size of the Board. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Agree with that concerning the size of the Board. Newton is the 4th best place to live, so it’s not broken. [Same comments as last night’s meeting.] People value accountability.

John Stewart: discussion in 1980s to cut the Board from 24 to 16; felt it would not work unless accompanied by other changes in the structure in city government—city manager with Mayor as Council President. Fan of charter reform, but the study that would show how a smaller board would be more effective hasn’t ever been done. Requires a very detailed study with in-depth case studies. Should look at who serves on the BoA and why. A few people who don’t contribute as much as other people—some coast along and don’t contribute a lot. Challenges of serving on the BoA—interfered with his full-time job and so gave it up. Constituent services—should be looked at . Some aldermen spend a lot more time at it than others—is this a proper function? There are people in the Executive branch—citizen’s assistance office, etc.

George Mansfield: comparison with communities of similar size—not much in common with those communities. Size of BoA helps keep Newton a special place. Can solve problems without changing the basic structure of the city government. Keep the city Council with same structure. Ward Councilors—2 year terms; Councilor at Large—4-year staggered terms (not run in tandem and can run against one person in particular); Mayor—6-year term with 2-term limit. Bring new blood and ideas. Term limits are unnecessary for City Council. Comments on filling vacancies as well.

Ruth Balser (arrived late): comment about executive branch: read about an incident in Cambridge when running for Mayor in 2009—feels that city manager is not right for Newton—we should elect our executives—electing a leader who expresses the values of the community. In Cambridge, with city manager, no outcry about incident. Electing leader, spokesperson, representative of our values, as well as someone who can manage the city. Important to maintain strong mayor form of government.

About size of City Council—in favor of a smaller Board. Pushed for this in her elected capacity as an alderman—not so much about efficiency. More concerned with accountability and representation—only people on City Council can remember the names of all 24; hard to hold people accountable. Confusing ballot—hard to hold reps accountable for their actions. For example, if you wanted to run against someone or vote against someone because of the way they voted, it is difficult to do.

Questions:

  1. How did role/focus/approach change when going form a Ward Councilor to an at-large Councilor?
    1. Lennon: didn’t change at all. Constituent service is a big part of the job—tried to take the same focus and bring that citywide. Residents don’t feel that they are getting the responses/answers from City Hall, so turn to councilors to get action.
    2. Yates: respond to people in “base” ward but responsive to anyone in city. At-large with the soul of a Ward Councilor.
    3. Lappin: is a Ward Aldermen—never puts the interest of the ward ahead of the city. Swears oath to the people of Newton, not to the people in Ward 8. Look at what’s best for the city, even if not best for her ward. Thinks most of her colleagues do the same.
    4. Stewart: no written distinction between aldermen—only the manner by which they are elected. Differences were a matter of style and attitude in his ward when he served. Problem not knowing people at large from other wards.
    5. Mansfield: no difference in responsibilities. In recent years, the leadership of the board has been predominantly from Ward Aldermen seats. Difference comes for familiarity with people, neighborhoods in your ward. Three aldermen from any ward tend to work together and try to very hard.
  2. If all have the same responsibility and same job, why elect some by ward? What is the purpose? At large live in same ward.
    1. Stewart: some members should be well-known within each ward. But communication is so easy, it doesn’t make much difference.
    2. Lennon: on board with suggestion that would prefer it to be two ward councilors from each ward. Not true representation if lose ward but win citywide—residents aren’t represented by the person they choose. Is helpful with intimate knowledge of particular plans—more citywide might mean less knowledge.
    3. Yates: connections of ward aldermen with their villages (i.e. John Rice)
  3. Why 24? George said can last a long time with vacancies. Why is 24 perfect?
    1. Mansfield: 24 since 1897—real question is why three from each ward. Based on getting the work done. Isn’t work left on the table when they go home—is done as efficiently as possible. Is effective. Don’t need more, but don’t need less.
    2. Lennon: nice to have benefit of colleagues from ward who can attend a variety of different meetings. Share notes, etc. Works when they all work full-time jobs. Having multiple people helps with coverage—stuff goes on outside chamber. Sometimes required to have other obligations.
    3. Yates: works well with committee structure that has evolved. 3 major committees—finance, land use, and zoning and planning. Then the other 3—the 3 ps—meet on the same night. Can choose to attend meeting of other committees.
    4. Stewart: appeal to look beyond Massachusetts. Lots of other city councils that are structured in other ways—can get some ideas. Whole idea of a bicameral legislature? More legislators know more people—have some personal connection. Inefficiencies related to 24 members—some things that could get done faster and better by a smaller number. Some decisions made by 8 people, others by 16, others by 24—can meet less frequently for some decisions.
  4. If people think Newton is broken, does that mean it is?
    1. Yates: No. Strongly for accountability—not related to the number of people. A valid charter change would be to have staggered four-year terms so people can run against particular people. If at-large, no accountability—focus on visibility.
    2. Lennon: complaint was that things take so long. So took a look to see what was inefficient. Eliminated three committees of the council. Special permits went from 9 months to 6. Due diligence leads to good decisions.
    3. Mansfield: Not size of board or staff—nature of petition and the available info to evaluate the petition. Can be changed by better rules and regulations and holding people accountable. But size of City Council doesn’t have anything to do with it.
  5. Have any of you been inspired by other communities and the special permitting process?
    1. Yates: worked in city of Lowell. Got send of Council Manager type of government. Generally not a bureaucrat—most were state reps, state senators, former Mayors who brought their experience from other municipalities.
    2. Lennon: difficult since don’t know what other communities have as their responsibilities
    3. Mansfield: can’t come up with a community better than Newton
  6. Thoughts on reducing the number of wards? What if keep 3 reps per ward, but reduce the number of wards?
    1. Lappin: if were to change the number or area of wards, would have to take into consideration the villages. They are very distinct—would have to encompass what already exists.
    2. Lennon: haven’t given it a lot of through. Echo Cheryl Lappin.
    3. Balser: issue is about representation and how democracy works. That suggestion doesn’t help. Should have a system where someone can be voted out of office. Suggstion to reduce wards seems to go in the opposite direction of accountability. Want to elect people who share your values—so you will trust their judgement. Maybe total number is not the point, but instead who is running against each other.
    4. Mansfield: does charter establish the number of wards? [Rhanna—yes it does, just not the boundaries. Based on census, need to wait to make change.]
  7. If had magic wand to change special permitting system to work for citizens yet be efficient, what would you do? Also thinking of large v. complex…
    1. Lennon: be extremely clear where delineation should be if divide up into small and large projects. Not City Council slowing things down—is executive branch process that is slow. Then council gets same review regardless of size. Prefer to see larger projects stay with City Council. Smaller projects could be done administratively. Need to have clear threshold in criteria between small and large (or complex).
    2. Mansfield: distinction between complex and less complex—should be made in ordinances, not in city charter. If taken away from Council, special permitting body should be elected body. Planning staff should report to permitting body—now reports to the Mayor and advises to the permitting body.
  8. Can you help with the definition? How would you distinguish between simpler and more complex projects?
    1. Yates: can’t really draw a line around this. Somerville uses something more fine-grained with a pattern book.
    2. Lappin: not clear that could be a dollar amount. Complex is a relative term. Must be lots of examples of good ways to do it.
    3. Lennon: depends on whether leave the responsibility with the Council. Council has definitions and approaches spelled out.
  9. How do you handle special permits in Carlisle?
    1. Mansfield: works for a 7-member planning board. Some process is controlled by state law. Most of the time is done efficiently, hope fairly all the time.
  10. City Council role is different from SC in terms of constituent services. Is that role appropriate for City Council?
    1. Yates: It damn well is appropriate. Why is a pothole falling apart? Advocating for constituents that they have paid for is a big part of their role.
    2. Lappin: why they are elected to represent citizens. Supposed to be the voice of the citizens. Deals with more than potholes—things like problems at major intersections. City couldn’t handle all those calls. Think that the School Committee should have the same role—should be a conduit for residents.
    3. Lennon: One of the biggest reasons why got involved.
    4. Balser: theoretically—should respond to people’s needs. If something breaks down, elected official can facilitate communication. Why would this be different for School Committee?
    5. Mansfield: don’t run unless interested in constituent services, otherwise won’t last very long. City Hall is a faceless place; councilors have faces and can provide the services.
    6. Stewart: agree with Ruth Balser. Problem is that operating departments should be handling these things. If they are not set up to do so, they should be made to. In the charter is the citizen’s assistance officer. That office over the years has become just another staff person for the Mayor. Look at that again—should produce a report every year according to the charter.
    7. Lennon: average citizen looks at the city as under one umbrella. Wouldn’t tell someone that it wasn’t their job. Average citizen doesn’t care which role you have—they see them as a part of the city.
  11. With combined experience, how many contested races have you run in?
    1. Balser; ran four times, contested once. 9 times for legislator, contested 2
    2. Mansfield: 3 out of 13
    3. Lennon: lost first time; ran again
    4. Lappin: contested 4 times out of 7 (includes first time)
    5. Yates: 5 out of 10
    6. Stewart: ran 6 times; had opponent 5 times. 1975 was probably the last time where there were contests in every ward every race (including School Committee.)

Charter Commission Public Hearing Observer Notes 3-30-16

Charter Commission Public Hearing

March 30, 2016

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

Speakers:

Rick Lipof: started back in 1977, goes up to 2007 with Rick and Verne Vance. 250 page book with history of the reduction in the size of the Board of Aldermen (BOA). Last real debate in 2006-2008, sparked by Rick and Verne’s proposal. Will leave summary and response with Charter Commission (CC). This reason is why we have the CC. 10 Aldermen signed on in 2006, with 3 others for a reduction in the size of the Board, but only by CC. Had 13 people who were in support. Twice the public overwhelmingly agreed in a reduction in the BoA. Number 1 question—how are you going to restructure the work? Many ways to do this—will hear about this tomorrow night at the next hearing. Can combine committees, work that doesn’t need the BoA to do—rubber stamping, etc. #1 thing is the special permit authority that the CoA has. As a real estate professional, knows that other communities handle things differently. Should be done differently here—with the Planning Board.

Sue Flicop and Lisa Mirabile: LWVN statement (see LWVN website)

Ernest Lowenstein: Believes should be the present size due to special permits. If in the hands of an appointed Board, Austin Street would never have been publicly discussed. Keep the ward aldermen—closer to their neighborhood and neighbors…whether to have two at-large aldermen from each ward? If reduce the aldermen, hands go into “the big money guys.” About the Mayor working with the aldermen, how about Charlie Baker and state legislators? President Obama and the Congress? At-large Aldermen run one-on-one, instead of way it is now (??) Citizens of Newton don’t know what the size of the Board is and how it is elected. Teach the children of Newton how it works.

Lynn Weissberg: Support the LWVN statement. First, size of the Board needs to be drastically reduced. Materials that commission has prepared that compares Newton to other cities show that Newton is a complete outlier. No need to have 24 people in the legislative body…leads to hearings that are far too long. Whatever the number, no justification for maintaining 24 or exceeding 13. Yes, the House and Senate of the US have 535 members—dealing with a range of issues that is far greater than our Governor and our Mayor deals with. Comparison doesn’t mean anything. Size of Newton, issues that the legislative body has to deal with can be handled by a smaller group. Second, should be elected at large—residency requirements like School Committee. Important to have representation from areas around the city. The decisions on special permits should not be the province of politicians. Process that is not needed, plays into worst instincts of politicians—should be handled by professionals. Other communities have qualifications for these decisions.

Cathy Laufer: in favor of a reduction in the size of the Board of Aldermen. Some things before councilor is should be done by staff—paid by the city and have some expertise to bear. Appreciate thoughtfulness of LWVN and Councilor Lipof considering the history. Look more creatively; size of the Board has contributed to divisiveness. A smaller board will hopefully work together and with a better process.

Kathleen Hobson: Agree with LWVN and Lynn Weisberg and Kathy Laufer—aldermen should be at-large; land use needs to go to a professional board. Most influenced by a master’s thesis (‘battle of victory’ field). Cites the large size of the board and decentralized and fragmented decision-making. [From Brooke: who should be determined to select the qualifications? No need to reinvent the wheel—follow other communities.]

Jonathan Code: speak against shrinking the size of the City Council. Invites others to look at juries—why twelve? Streamlining government makes him nervous—tool of autocrats, despots, etc. What other communities do is irrelevant; other than Cambridge, few other communities have a population like Newton. Current City Council has experts on many topics. Should be grateful that 24 people are willing to serve; many hands make light work—many hands lessens the burden that falls on any one of them. The smaller the Council, easier to be manipulated or influenced. Would recommend two ward councilors and one at-large per ward. Taking away land use favors developers. Professionals look at how to tweak the project but evaluate it. City Councilors are more responsive to residents than City employees.

Ruthanne Fuller: Guiding principles that she is considering: deep belief in democracy—power of people to elect those who are making the decisions is powerful and essential—tempting to put important decisions in hands of professionals. But would lean towards giving them to elected officials. Question of term limits—leave it up to the voters to re-elect someone. Length of service helps deliberations. Land use and special permits—prefers a hybrid. In past, a traffic council was established to deal with traffic issues—staffed by professionals with one elected official. Decision-making was turned over from elected officials to this group. Decisions are appeal-able back to the City Council; the professional group does such a good job, they only get one or two appeals a year. Another principle: diversity of opinion: city is extremely diverse—having that show up in elected officials is really important. Third principle: are we 13 villages in one city or one city with 13 villages? Goes with the latter.   Lose the one-city perspective when voted on by only one section of the city. Another principle: strong Mayor, strong staff, volunteer City Council. Keep it volunteer, part-time, power with the Mayor (accountable to everyone.) Size of the Council—isn’t the key question though is on the mind of voters. Let it fall out of the other decisions—not opposed but let it be driven by other decisions. Issue of effectiveness is dependent on who is elected—size affecting effectiveness is a red herring.  Essential functions of a City Council: finance, writing the zoning ordinances, public facilities, land use. Other things are more routine.

Rob Gifford: strongly favor scenario D—7-9 at-large councilors. Strongly in keeping with National Civic League and benchmark communities. Will better serve residents, bring them closer to the city. Hard to get a timely work in when have an agenda with 24 councilors who need to speak; reduces incentive to come again and speak—contributes to lack of engagement. Most residents don’t understand the structure of government—tough to get people engaged unless involved. Size and complexity of Board is a deterrence to broad-based citizen engagement. By eliminating ward councilors—found that ward at-large councilors are very aware of issues and responsive to their ward voters. Need to have staff to support the board. Recommend lightening the load by using professionals for land use decisions.

[From Brooke: meetings of full board don’t have public comment, so how would reducing the size of the city council change that? Public comment happens in smaller meetings. Ruthanne—for a controversial item, a committee might hold public hearing in council chambers where many, many members come and are allowed to ask questions long before the public is allowed to comment.]

Sallee Lipshutz: important to maintain current size of city council. Oversees important function of city, with 8 on each committee. Gives them time to focus specialized oversight of important city functions and to become competent. Study in detail, ask relevant questions of administration and professionals. Fewer would lead to less competent and less effective oversight. Arguments are slowed down, but they are also clarified and honed, allowing for consideration of multiple views. Better chance at solid regulation by having to have so many people agree. Gives the public the opportunity to speak and be heard. Should take a concerted effort to make change and not be made by an unelected body. Ward councilor is nearest to the people. Chooses scenario A as ideal…have the at large councilors run independently of each other. Two-year terms are too short for candidates to “learn the ropes.” Three year terms would be an ideal change, with 5-term maximum limit. Refresh body but allow competency. Advertise the elections with voter education to encourage voting. Salary review should be required every 15 years.

Deb Crossley: was President of LWVN when the referendum happened. What is the Board charged to take on, versus what has it assigned to itself? Much of the work done by the Council is small stuff. Florence Rubin would say that if you reduce the size, you reduce the workload. Very important work that the Council does and it is a time sacrifice (among other ways). Duties and responsibilities that could give up without harming the City. Some are quite small. Would prefer to focus on zoning, land use, more strategic issues. If can take the land use decision-making from the City Council, incumbent on group as to how that should be done. Would be better not to have the responsibility on elected members—pits neighbor against neighbor. Item before the City Council to try to draw a line between small and large projects. Boards and commissions: section in the charter that the Mayor appoints the members, but there is one with appointments from numerous voters. A number that are extremely useful, and it might be useful to require that some of them have seats appointed by the City Council. One paragraph at the end of the charter—about the comprehensive plan. Should be updated. A lot in the charter that is not being observed. Smaller legislative body—easier to figure out how to vote. No term limits for either the City Council or the School Committee. If make the ballot more legible, make responsibilities clearer, then get a bigger turnout at the ballot box. [From Bryan Barash: change the commissions and board—list them in the charter? Too many, but a one is not fully appointed by the Mayor.]

Claire Sokoloff: Once in a generation opportunity to really think about if we are doing things as well as we can. People try to engage, but still have difficulty understanding and then don’t engage. Need less cumbersome system. People have to wait to hear 24 aldermen, redundant and not productive. Likes geographic diversity and representation. Thought the SC system worked well—person had the pulse of that ward but a city-wide focus. Challenge of handling issues—was easy to divert people who came to the SC to professionals. Current BoA system adds a layer of management (talking about potholes, etc.). Term limits—felt that had a lot to offer even was term limited out, but felt it was good for the system. People who stay too long can amass too much power and can be intimidating to other people.

Brian Yates: Newton was ranked as the 4th best place to live in country—good place to live. LWVMA successfully passed a reduction in the size in the House of Representatives—can’t think of any standards that have improved with a smaller body.

Jay Walter: land use should be taken out of the hands of politicians. Problems on boards and commissions can be solve by mayoral and council appointments. Should be addressed by professionals dedicated to work of a certain commission. Some project that perfectly align with comprehensive plan require a long term response, not a project by project discussion.

LWVN Statement on the Size of the City Council

Sue Flicop and Lisa Mirabile, LWVN President and Board Member, read the statement below at the March 30th public hearing on the City Charter:

In our experience helping collect the more than 8,500 signatures required to establish this Charter Commission, the opportunity to reduce the size of our City Council was by far the most compelling reason Newton voters chose to sign that petition. Ask any signature collector, and you will hear that the quickest way to gain a voter’s interest was to mention that a Charter Commission would be able to propose a change to the size of the then Board of Aldermen. Across the city, pens were seized with gusto.

This enthusiasm for change is no surprise to anyone, of course: the size of Newton’s legislature was the key unaddressed change left over from the last charter review. Newton voters also overwhelmingly supported a reduction in the size of the City Council in not one but two non-binding referenda, in 1996 and 2000. In 2006, 10 sitting legislators (many of whom are still sitting) supported a proposed reduction of the board’s size, to no avail.

We hope this Charter Commission will propose a reduction in the size of the City Council for some very specific reasons:

  • The unusually large size of Newton’s City Council means a diffusion of responsibility and low accountability. Voters must cast ballots for 17 aldermen every two years (16 at-large plus 1 ward councilor) – a very large number of candidates for even the most civic-minded voter to stay informed about, especially when you add the need to evaluate an additional eight school committee members and sometimes a mayor.
  • That information burden on voters, however, is reduced because so few seats are contested. The sheer number of people needed to fill all 24 seats on the City Council, coupled with the residency requirement, means that we sometimes have members who aren’t eager to serve. Many of us in this room know of instances where candidates have had to be pressured to run because no one else showed any interest.
  • The size of the City Council costs our legislators and our residents untold wasted hours. Just finding the time for all 24 councilors to speak on a topic and ask questions extends the process of governing substantially, with meetings often running so late that even highly interested members of the public leave before the discussion is over. Anyone who has sat through these meetings can attest to the rarity of original comments after the first 5 or 6 Councilors have spoken.
  • The size of the City Council is a burden to the rest of Newton’s government, as well as to its citizens. In your recent hearing on the executive branch, for example, the Mayor of Braintree couldn’t fathom how a single Mayor could work with 24 legislators in a productive and efficient manner. In your last public hearing, one citizen described the impossibility of advocating effectively for her cause: she simply did not have time to communicate with each and every one of the 24 Aldermen, because she also had a job.

What would a smaller City Council have to offer? A smaller City Council could choose to focus on policy matters and delegate administrative details to professionals. It could devote its time to the larger picture, and delegate smaller, less-controversial decisions to appropriate staff. Constituent services are, and will always be, important, but it is neither efficient nor effective for constituents to believe they must contact their own councilor to be sure a pothole is filled. A smaller City Council could clarify roles, improve service, and devote more time to long-term strategic thinking.

Those who want to keep a 24-member Council often argue that if something isn’t broken, we shouldn’t try to fix it. Newton certainly isn’t “broken,” but just as certainly, there’s room for improvement. All change carries risk. But to refuse to change out of fear is just as risky.

Another frequent refrain is that voters want to continue to be able to contact their representatives. Reducing the size of the Council will not somehow mysteriously remove Councilors’ ability to answer calls or emails. Residents who are passionate about an issue, whether it is dog parks, leaf blowers, development or anything else, will still be able to advocate with their representatives. Fewer councilors will make it easier to meet each and every one.

What seems to fuel this argument is the fear that a smaller group of councilors means less chance of finding a sympathetic ear. Which, of course, it will. But how many representatives can a body have before it becomes mired in mud, slowed to a crawl by the unimportant, and ineffective in tackling important issues, especially the unpopular and the controversial? Government is not, and should not be, about efficiency only, but some level of efficiency is necessary to be effective.

For the record, we note that Newton’s City Council is by far the largest in the Commonwealth; the next largest is 15, and Boston itself manages with only 13.

Fewer councilors will inevitably mean individual councilors will have to field more calls. It will also reduce a citizen’s choice of councilors to approach about an issue. We are confident that these are not fatal burdens – in fact, we believe they are strong advantages. A smaller Council would offer the opportunity for a more engaged electorate and more accountability for councilors. A reduction in size would necessitate a review of how and why our Council works the way it does, and a chance to align it with the realities of the present day. Our current Council structure of 24 aldermen, three residents from each ward, two of them elected by the whole city but one by the residents of that ward only, was concocted in 1897, when Newton became a city and “streamlined” its legislature from a bicameral Board of Alderman (one per ward) and Common Council (two per ward) to a single body. Then, as now, politicians were no doubt reluctant to put any of their fellows out of a job. The two bodies were combined into one without reducing their numbers. Today, nearly 120 years later, in an immeasurably different world – one with automobiles, telephones, radios, televisions, computers, cell phones, and the internet, not to mention reverse 911 call systems –we think it is time to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our government by reducing the number of legislators.

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