Charter Commission Meeting January 14, 2016
Public Comments: changes of meeting announcements to be in line with open meeting law and to make in line with City Council Friday packet, etc. Use CC email list. Write weekly announcements in TAB and weekly article? Use Village 14…distribute meeting announcements to other organizations?
Recommendation of rank choice voting for council, might mean stagger elections, appropriate to non-partisan election—picking preferences in order—have to do it with single voting (voting for one candidate). Why not work to choose two candidates? End up with candidates who don’t have majority support (even if add up support for two candidates.)
Consultant RFP: scope as proposed—communication between consultant and Charter Commission (CC), research, (collecting benchmarks on good practices as directed by the CC) facilitation of consensus on issue or set of issues. Add in advice from consultant—used Collins Center at UMass Boston. Structure discussion by article—1-2 meetings to organize which to discuss, facilitate process (provide info, what is allowable, provide structure/template about decisions to be made, ideas,), can do other research,
Trying to find the balance between a consultant and the CC in terms of handling meeting facilitation.
Doing research is cumbersome-might be a good thing for a consultant/Collins Center to do. Take advantage of expertise and focus on deliberations, not on gathering info. Looking nationwide gets even more cumbersome. Already two months into process, need to really get moving. UMass doesn’t have to go through RFP process, since government agency.
CC wants to do interview of elected officials or former elected officials, and will communicate with Collins Center on this. Other interviews maybe will be done by the Collins Center—would look to them for advice on the topic. Get their advice on work plan. Some members will talk to the entire group, not just a few people (i.e. the Mayor.)
Next step: Hear from Collins Center on new scope—get comments. Have to request funding from city, but easier if know how much everything would cost. Contact person is Bryan Barash. Have resolved by next meeting.
New clerk: Jose Morgan, former NNHS student, current UMass Boston student. Jose would attend meetings, compile minutes (notes and audio), compile packet, set-up meetings, other clerical responsibilities. Discussion about how long meetings will be, how many there will be, strategy of asking for money….Request is for $6000. Josh submits a letter to the City Council—empower him to write letter once hear back from Collins Center. Need estimate on printing and mailing.
Motion: empower chair to make a request of the Mayor and City Council for funding to support operations of charter commission: $6000 for funding clerk’s efforts, plus x from the Collins Center, plus y for printing and required mailings plus $1000 for miscellaneous costs. Approved unanimously.
Project Plan: allocating one meeting for everything for executive and legislative. Gets up through this year—then review organization. Not a lot planned for summer due to potential vacations. Green is regularly scheduled meetings…could add more public hearings, testimony from public officials. All be prepared to move forward even if not full attendance. Discussed what expectations would be by publishing plan and agenda…not feel constrained to make changes, but get info out about what direction they are going in. Won’t be finalized, but will be plan subject to change. Changes to plan—another public hearing, a change in topics for a couple of meetings. How to handle meetings with key regular citizens or with city employees (i.e. appointed people), can’t be the same as with elected officials, but not a public hearing either. Leave meeting topics open for now, and then figure out how to handle the topics and presenters. Could be done in context of regular meetings, but need to get space on calendar. Also how to handle snow dates? Might end up pushing whole schedule back—or maybe find new places to meet? Move the meetings around the city?
February 10th—Articles 2, 3 and 4. Info in table—look at the table, should anything be moved or add more checks and balances? Maybe look at and eliminate items that didn’t need changing or was not contentious…not make decisions, but decide what needs discussion, narrow scope for next meeting.
Article assignments to each member so they can start preparing now. NOTE: Current charter is now gender neutral (done by the state.)
Article 8: Holding elections in November—overlaps with other articles. –see document.
Just starting discussion—straw vote and can go back and change things if they need to.
Section 8-6: application of state laws to election, abide by state law. Not controversial—no discussion.
Section 8-1: non-partisan elections; every benchmark community has non-partisan elections. Most Newton voters pull democratic ballots, but have high number of unenrolled voters—people resent having to choose one ballot over another. Could get around that in Section 8-2, by requiring people to put their party affiliation. Help some people make a decision who, but could put a republican at a significant disadvantage, especially when local decisions aren’t make on a partisan basis. Becomes a binary system. Consensus is to keep non-partisan.
- Date of elections—keep as is.
- Ballot position—alphabetical is unfair. Keep as is.
- Info for voters—“candidate for re-election”—need to be consistent between preliminary and general election—this is about incumbents; creates a bias (good or bad), but is hard to unseat incumbents; benchmark communities all include this, but their charters are very dated. Several CC members feel that it should be removed—maybe replaced with a short statement? Consensus is to remove incumbency statement and make whatever replaces it (if at all) on both ballots. Want info to voters, but don’t want to protect incumbents. Can deal with issue of different statements later in charter, and make it consistent.
- Straw vote: remove 8.2.c from charter: unanimous
Section 8-5: Number of wards: put off for now. Table it.
Section 8-3: Preliminary and Special Elections: system is that there is a preliminary, but it’s cancelled if there aren’t enough candidates—opportunity for reorganizing this.
- Preliminary election for mayoral election (if vacancy) or for regular election. Wording is awful and needs to be redrafted. How minimize number of preliminary elections we have? Why can’t we set up something so that if we don’t have preliminary election, and top candidates reach a certain threshold, there could be a run-off election? Would have to separate out two at-large seats. Talk to David Olson, since would need to squeeze in another election between November and Inauguration Day. Would need voter education, make system more approachable and participatory if shortened season….could save money for candidates and encourage people to run. Preliminary season is very short—eliminating candidates based on short period of time. Disadvantages would go to lesser known candidates. Rank order voting—interest from the group, so not make a decision, but get more info. Table and research.
- Signatures required: other communities did have requirement for 1% of signatures of elected voters for Mayor or a certain number of voters from each ward for at-large seats; a large number doesn’t encourage people to run for office. Sense is to maintain the number, but can revisit it later.
- Ballot position—already agreed upon.
- Info to voters on a ballot: currently not more than 8 words on positions they have held—is this campaigning language inside the polling location? Is it user friendly for the voters, or is it campaigning? Eliminate language other than name and address of candidate—7-0-2 (abstentions)
- Proviso on preliminary elections—tabled for now
Section 8-4: Special Elections for Vacancies: duration of time between when calling the election and holding it. Longer times benefit lesser known person; shorter dates favor the more well-known person. Have tried to do it in conjunction with other things like override votes, etc. Person gets sworn in immediately. Leave this, and put in discretion as to when the election is called.
Section 4-6: Vacancy on School Committee: when call a special election—1st 15 months of term. Felt was fine, but maybe specify a minimum number of members to trigger an election. Lots of ideas discussed—maybe not have any special elections for council or SC, but have them appoint someone who can’t run in the next election—is this a constitutional issue or a conflict with other parts of the charter? Is it an advantage to have this person—what do they bring to the table? Or establish a special election, with the possibility of the council being able to stop it (by a high number of votes?) Ideas might change if terms become 4 year terms. Maybe provide some flexibility?
Move that make it a 9-month max of open seat, with City Council required to call special election for a vacancy on the SC and City Council up until the last 9 months of the term. After this point, they may or may not call a special election. Leaves open the length of the terms. City Council can already go around it by going to the state, so this adds flexibility without causing them to go to the state. Vote 6-3 (but straw vote)
Section 3-10: Mayoral Vacancy: present language calls for special election for the first 3 years, 3 months. Last nine months—City Council elects one of their own to the be Mayor—if can’t agree within 90 days, it goes to the President of the City Council. Should go to the president of the council automatically instead of chaos for 3 months. Current president serves at the pleasure of the council, so it’s pretty much the same thing. If vacancy falls in first 3 years, 3 mo., the President becomes acting mayor until an election. President becomes Mayor if vacancy happens in the last 9 months. Special election for first 3 years 3 months.
Submitted by Sue Flicop, 1-16-15