Charter Commission – Issues & Process

city-Hall

The establishment of a Charter Review Commission is a rare opportunity for Newton citizens to step back and review how effectively and efficiently our governing bodies are operating. All stakeholders should be welcome to participate in assessing what is working well and what is not.

The Charter Commission, if approved by the voters, operates under State guidance.

The Current Charter

The Commonwealth sets out parameters and guidelines, bu t the Commission determines specific processes within the guidelines and decides what will be reviewed in depth. I believe the following are important to a successful Charter Commission:

  • Membership of the Commission is representative of the community at large.
  • The Commission seeks maximum input from citizens, staff and elected officials in determining what parts of the Charter ought to get particular focus in its review and deliberations.
  • All input is provided in public session and is available to the public by podcast or in writing. Transparency should be the rule – with sessions televised and a website that is kept current.
  • The Commission discusses criteria for determining the efficacy of current practices and the potential impact of proposed alternatives so the public can understand what is driving decisions.
  • The commission investigates other models for structuring our governing bodies and designing processes for citizen input
  • Proposed changes to the Charter get maximum reasonable exposure and opportunity for feedback to the Commission within the financial constraints and mandated time limits the process allows.
  • That the City provides funds adequate to insure thorough, unbiased research and analysis, open discussion, and easy accessibility to all proceedings by the public.

libraryI come to the process with an open mind about all charter issue that have been highlighted during the campaign to put the charter review question on the ballot (size of the Board of Aldermen, term limits, staggered terms, a periodic charter review process).

Nevertheless, I believe the four issues highlighted by the League of WomenVoters in its signature drive deserve the attention of the Commission along with other concerns yet to be raised by citizens, staff and elected officials.