Charter Commission Meeting
February 10, 2016
Attending: Josh Krintzman, (Chair), Bryan Barash, Jane Frantz, Howard Haywood, Rhanna Kidwell, Anne Larner, Brooke Lipsitt, Karen Manning
Absent: Chris Steele
Minutes from both January meetings: amended and approved
Person 1: favor term limits for Mayor, keep ward councilors, opposed to shifting permitting from council to staff person,
Article 11—General Provisions: Discuss existing provisions and comment on them: Overall was a hodgepodge of items—maybe need to move some to other sections and “neaten” this up.
11-1—Certificate of Election and Appointment: could be placed elsewhere; maybe move to Elections Chapter (8) or to (3). Very common in charters to have this section—question is where. Discussion of oaths—wording doesn’t come from charter; general agreement that oaths are fine to keep.
11-2—Appointments and Removals: fairly common section in charters, but thought should be moved to Article 3 (powers and duties.) Newton must never have adopted the “strong police chief” option that allows the chief to make appointments—therefore the power of approval goes to the Mayor and is in the charter. (same for Fire Chief, btw.) Keep this, but move it to a different part of the charter. Will do more research to see what other communities are doing, and see if should recommend to change this last issue.
11-3 Rules and Regulations: Most other charters specific how many days before a rule or regulation becomes effective after being approved—most common period of time is 5 days from approval to when filed, and 5 days after that to going into effect. Recommendation is to put in a time period—say 2 weeks between approval and filing, and 5 days between filing and effective date and made available electronically.
Section 11-4: Reenactment and Publication of Ordinances: basic to many charters; not sure it needs modification; consultants recommend adding a section about periodic review of charters (to be discussed later in meeting); in this city, review has always been done every five years by law department and City Clerk—more of a technical exercise and not a legislative one. Charter says that City Council should do it—is seen as a legislative function.
Section 11-5 and 11-6: Liability of City Officers and Agencies and Prohibitions; refer to state laws that override local law; do we want to keep this in the charter or not? Is it good to have the references when they are part of state law? Can be more conscious of them at the local level. Recommendation is to leave them there.
Section 11-7: Meeting of Qualified Voters: not been invoked at all, going back to the 1970s. Dates back to original city charter in 1873, based on idea of town meeting? Seems like an anachronism, but is this a method voters would use to get the attention of the City Council? Recommendation is to remove this—its redundant and have other provisions that do the same thing (in Article 10, which gives a process.)
Section of 11-8: Construction of Public Facilities: sets up the charge to Councilors to create designer selection and review committees. The former works well; the latter could be improved. Is there potential to give more direction—maybe ask in discussions from city employees and elected officials if there is something that could be added in the charter to make the process better? Is the design review advisory or controlling? Balance of power between consultative body and city staff. Will meet with others to get their input on this section and potential changes—invite to a public meeting.
Section 11-9: Severability: common standard provision; keep as is
Section 11-10: Specific Provisions Shall Prevail: also fairly standard
Section 11-11: References to General laws; also fairly general and standard
Section 11-12: Computation of Time: language was arcane and out of date; should discount Saturdays, since city offices aren’t open; use term “business days.” Change ‘7 days or less’ to ‘7 days or fewer’. Change “secular” to “business?” Looked at language in Pittsfield charter—consensus to adopt that language.
Section 11-13: Definition; should be at beginning of the charter—Section 1. This is true for most charters.
Additional sections to be considered: potential areas of addition or consolidation. Looked at comparable cities across nation—size, socioeconomic data
- Periodic review of charter: separate process from a charter commission—more advisory committee that puts together a report and the City would follow the process—amend charter themselves or call for a Charter Commission. Why do this—isn’t it making work when it isn’t necessary? Keeps the charter modern; recommends changes that the City Council might not normally bother with on their own. 10 years (proposed time) is a long time—some updating would be necessary, i.e. technology. Also a great opportunity to get citizens thinking about how our government works and how it could be improved on; engages people in recommending changes and improvements. Have ability to evaluate if parts of the charter accomplished the aim that was intended. Gives a structure and discipline to make sure you look at the charter. When to start? Every ten years, starting with? Or specify that reviews happen years ending in “5.” Committee voted to recommend that they happen every year ending in “5.”
- Public Records: all city records shall be public (example from Ann Arbor), does this conflict with public records law? In a number of charters, there are statements to local community that this is important. Will add statement that will reference Mass Gen Law, which is about to change to address things like personnel records, etc. Does include info about destruction of records.
- Prohibitions: two sections from other parts of the charter—2-4 and 4-5. Felt they should be consolidated. Also discuss section from Manchester NH charter about acting as a whole and not individually—i.e. put pressure on a city employee because you are an elected official. Discussion about limiting communications—does state conflict of interest cover this? Should the charter keep the restrictions about elected officials working for the city? Looser restrictions are given by the state than what is in the charter. Motion to substitute the state ethics commission info for 2-4 and 4-5—city has stricter rules in 2-4 and 4-5. Discussion as to whether stricter rules are necessary and whether this is a chance to reiterate the values of the community. Vote is against making this change. Will add a clause about employees needing to following the state conflict of interest law. Vote to change 2-4b to Manchester clause, without the “shall act in all matters as a body.”
- Public Participation: board and committee have public comment. Will pass on and possible revisit.
- Uniform Procedures Governing Multiple Member Bodies: fairly standards rules governing these bodies; change “minutes” to “proceedings” and instead of “by email” change to “electronically.”
Straw Vote on Article 8: reconsider the optional filling of seats—eliminate the possible filling of the seats on City Council in the last 9 months? Something to be revisited after looking at the size of the City Council? Unanimous in favor of Article 8, with noted areas of discussion.
Consultant Update: Still working on formal agreement. Will try to have that for the next meeting.
Rank Order Voting: More complex issue and is significant change—need more thought and research. Expecting to use consultants in this area, getting biased info and want a fuller picture, put on agenda for future meeting.
Communications Update: Facebook and twitter are up, mailings will post and be sent through these two media outlets. Seem stable now, with list of 826 people. Josh encourages members to send updates to people’s individual lists—get info out, get people comfortable with changes.
Finances of Commission: Haven’t heard any response to request for funds. Mayor is aware of request; the request needs to get on docket and funding source needs to be identified.
Commission Office Space: no final answer from city as to available space. Jose needs space, but no clarity on this. Question about whether Jose will have a laptop available. Printing documents has also been difficult and confusing.
February 29th Hearing: expecting a number of officials to come, including Mayor Cohen. Are inviting people to come and participate in the discussion. This is not a public hearing, but is a public meeting—open to the public.
Next Meeting: February 24th: beginning of article 3—have an initial discussion to figure out if/what the problems are that they are trying to fix.
Public Hearing on March 9th—focus on articles 3 and 4